Of course Wayne thinks there is no ‘budget emergency’.
A real budget emergency was during the 2008 global economic collapse, when he was federal treasurer.
It’s Sunday and there’s a small crowd gathered in the Community Centre to hear Labor stalwart Wayne Swan talk – it was also the launch of his new book, The Good Fight, a memoir of his six years in perhaps the second most important job in Australia.
As expected, there was much ridicule of the current Abbott government.
‘It’s absurd that this government is out there with this language of “lifters and leaners,”’ he told the audience.
‘It’s straight out of an Ayn Rand novel! They are lunatics.’
Wayne’s main narrative of course centres around the measures implemented to stave off the 2008 global crash: guaranteed bank deposits and the stimulus packages to name a few.
Whatever was done, it worked because we were virtually unscathed while other western countries dipped into recession. Was Wayne just really, really lucky? While the mining boom could have been mentioned, Wyane reckons it was the first stimulus package that did it.
He briefly touches on his unwavering belief in Keynesian economic theory. ‘We went into deficit not because of the stimulus spending, but because of revenue write downs,’ he said. ‘You go into deficit; you spend and you restore confidence. Jobs come back, the economy starts to stabilise and then grow again.’
Of all the developed countries in the last 100 years, he said, ‘we have done a better job of matching economic growth with social equity.’
‘The attack that came upon us [in government from Murdoch and big business] is about dismantling that.
‘It’s about shifting the tax burden from the big corporates onto the average people. And in the middle of all that there’s not enough room to spend money on quality education and healthcare.
‘It’s incredible that we have a government that says it looks to America for its policy inspiration. The Americans are looking at Australia!’
Eating its own
‘There is a big battle going on,’ he says. ‘It’s for the soul of the country, and it’s also a battle internationally.
‘Lady Rothschild recently convened an “Inclusive Prosperity Conference” in London and the governor of the Bank of England said that capitalism is currently going through a period where it’s “eating its own”.
‘And the chairman of the IMF says policies for redistribution of wealth are absolutely imperative if capitalism is to be sustainable. And here? the government says “none of that, we need survival of the fittest”. The US model has hollowed out their middle class and produced the most amazing concentration of wealth, which in itself is a drag on their economic future.’