5 more things you didn’t know you liked about the Greens

After such strong interest in the previous post, here’s another 5 things you might like about the Greens. Budget responsibility, cost of living, and employment, all areas where thoughtful policies often outshine the other two parties.

Fiscal Responsibility

The Greens had their policies fully costed weeks ago.

While other parties have tried to dismiss the Green’s promises as the product of fanciful unaccounted spending, the Greens election platform has been fully costed through the Charter of Budget Honesty, a mechanism introduced by the coalition to enable honest assessment of the financial viability of election promises. It is also a mechanism the coalition has never used.

As Greg Jericho of the Guardian put it “You might be able to accuse the Greens of a few things, but avoiding scrutiny is not one of them.”

Fiscal responsibility has been the key focus of this election, so it’s a real shame that this key difference between the Greens and the other parties hasn’t been more clearly highlighted – particularly in comparison to the coalition.

Last election the coalition mislead the public, claiming to have their costings independently verified by the fifth biggest accounting firm in Australia. It was only after the election that it was revealed that the coalition’s carefully worded agreement with the firm ensured that the review was “not of an audit nature”. The firm was fined and reprimanded by the Institute of Chartered Accountants for taking part in such a misleading venture.

Joe Hockey has not learned his lesson, but this year has tried even harder to avoid being truthful with the electorate. Releasing costings at the last minute like a disorganised student who had done their assignment the night before, the costings do not match the urgency of their rhetoric of a “budget emergency” – saving a mere 1.5 billion per year over 4 years or 0.375%.

After accusing both Labor and the Greens of being addicted to spending, Mr Abbott alone has promised over 600% more spending than Mr Rudd during the campaign.

It is perhaps, no surprise then, that unlike the Greens, coalition has shown no interest in the Charter of Budget Honesty this election or last. At close of business on the second last working day before the election - thy still have not had all policies independently costed.

A fair price for groceries

The Woolworths and Coles duopoly costs consumers and suppliers.
Photo: Triple Pundit

The duopoly of Coles and Woolworths in the grocery market gives them incredible power over prices.

The two giants are able to use their clout to drop prices in order to squeeze out small business and other competitors. Once the competition is gone, they are then free to set the prices, and have been accused of price gouging in more than one instance and are being investigated by the ACCC.

A fair price also means a fair price for producers. Dairy farmers are among many suppliers that have suffered from the supermarkets demanding contracts. The power of Coles and Woolworths puts them in the unique position of being able to demand suppliers pay for discounts offered to consumers rather than wearing the discounts themselves. This allows the bizzarre situation where the two can go into a price war without any financial pain for themselves.

Long term however, our food production will suffer as more farmers, unable to meet the demands, walk away from the farms, allowing the big two to buy up even more of the supply chain.

The Greens plan to strengthen competition law, and have the ACCC review previous competition decisions on the grocery market. The purpose of the “ex-post” review is to look back with hindsight if the decision was the right one and determine how better decisions can be made in the future. This is a common practice in other countries (including Europe and the United States) to ensure the long term quality of decision making by their competition watch dogs.

Labor and the coalition have had little to say on this cost of living issue. This is particularly strange of the coalition.

One of the tenants of a Liberal policy is a belief in free markets and strong competition, yet with these two companies preventing competition and freedom of the market, the coalitions policy is outgunned by a party they accuse of being anti-market.

A system that enables people to work

Health funding enables people to get medical attention when they need it, preventing future sick days.

The vast majority of evidence available from both Centrelink, and modern behavioural research, is that people want to work. Work gives a sense of purpose, self worth, belonging and pride. I’ve discussed this in a previous post.

In line with this, the Greens have rightly identified that when someone is prevented from working, either due to illness or retrenchment, the job of Government is to enable them to return to work.

The Greens propose a $50 per week increase to Newstart allowance – still a substantial pay cut for most people who would find themselves turning to Newstart.

Current Newstart benefits amount to approximately $17 per day. After someone pays for their rent – barely enough for food and utilities, let alone the travel and other costs associated with job hunting. A Four Corners report discovered much the same.

Even conservative economists agree that Newstart is too low.

The coalition and Labor have both blocked more than one attempt to increases Newstart. Labor previously cut support for parents. The coalition has chosen to ignore the evidence and go with their gut feel ideological view of being against a culture of entitlements (except for parents earning in excess of $100,000 per year).

Similarly, pressures from health care payments can prevent people seeking early attention for medical conditions. This causes costs and time off from work to increase later down the track as their condition worsens.

The average Australian pays over $1000 directly from their pocket to pay for rising medical costs. The Greens propose an increase in medicare funding to ensure bulk billing remains viable for GPs.

Tertiary education

Investment in University pays good dividends for economic growth
Photo: The Australian

Investment in University is one of the best long term strategies for the Australian economy. The Government’s own advisory body, the Australian Workforce Productivity Agency, found that every $1 invested in tertiary education grows the economy by $26 and grows tax revenue by $8.

Our competitors in China, India and Singapore realise this, and are investing heavily in their tertiary education.

I would be the first to agree that money isn’t the only ingredient in quality education, but the doubling of class sizes presents a serious barrier to teachers providing quality support for every student.

The Greens opposed the University funding cuts that are supported by Liberal and Labor. They plan to not just block the cuts but to increase funding per student by 10%.

This policy is based on recommendations made by reports commission by the Labor Government – the Bradley Report into Higher Education.

Sensible transport investment

High speed rail could deliver $1000 in benefits to regional household income.
Photo: Treehugger

Demonstrating more fiscal responsibility, the Greens plan to put their transport money where it will make the most return and where it can best prepare us for the future.

High speed rail is expected to deliver $2.30 in benefit for every $1 spent. Compared this to a loss of $0.50 for every dollar spent on the proposed Melbourne East-West tunnel.

High speed rail would link 11 major cities. In other countries where high speed rail exists, regional centres benefit economically from the tighter connection to major hub cities, and even airlines benefit as they are able to code-share with train line to reduce the number of planes they need to put in the air.

The benefit to regional household annual income could be increased by $1000 per household. (almost enough to cover the current medicare shortfall)

On employment, high speed rail is estimated to create in excess of 200,000 jobs (eight times the number of people directly employed by the coal seam gas industry).

A high speed rail cost benefit analysis was part of the Greens deal with labor in 2010. With the benefits now discovered by the report, the Greens continue to back high speed rail development.

 

The policies of the Greens and those discussed here show that the Greens are much more than the left wing hippies they are accused of being. Often they’ve taken a far more thoughtful and evidence based approach to policy making than the other major parties.

About Chris Jensen

Chris Jensen is the lead trainer for WOW Kampung, the education arm of Ground-Up Initiative, where he works on character and leadership development. He is interested in how the environmental and social issues currently faced by society are interconnected with character and social development.
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