Aylites ring hands over the rise of “populism”

By Leith van Onselen

The AFR is today hosting a business summit, where panelists have been asked to explain what is behind the rise of so-called “populism” and whether it could come to Australia. Below is a sample of the answers:

Here’s veteran Liberal party operative, Brian Loughnane:

“Immigration and political correctness have alienated people,” he says. “I think the core of this has been the static and then declining real growth in wages for the better part of 20 years.

“People are dissatisfied with their personal situation in a globalised world. They feel they aren’t getting ahead and no one is listening… In my view, we are at the beginning.”

Here’s ANZ director and former senior public servant, Jane Halton:

“People don’t feel that they are doing ok,” she says. “Actually understanding that that is a real concern from a policy perspective; if your income has been going backwards for quite a long period there is quite a disconnect”…

And here’s ACOSS CEO, Casandra Goldie:

“Business needs to be seen to lead in the reform debates that are seen to be against its self interest, such as negative gearing and capital gains tax debate”…

“If we have a growing consensus that inequality is a core risk economically then socially, then I am keen for us to roll up our sleeves, with business, to genuinely tackle that.”

For mine, the best single explanation of why voters are feeling alienated, and explain the underlying factors behind Brexit, Trumpism, and Hansonism, is summarised by the below charts showing the shocking decline of national income going to workers, which has bred growing inequality:

ScreenHunter_16360 Nov. 29 13.36
ScreenHunter_16361 Nov. 29 13.37

In 1975, two thirds of Australia’s GDP was in the form of wages, whereas in 2014 it was just 53%. Accordingly, real wages have flatten despite significant improvements in labour productivity.

In short, the growing voter disquiet both here and internationally is about the hollowing-out of the working/middle classes who have been largely left behind by the globalist agenda.

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Unconventional Economist
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  1. fitzroyMEMBER

    Add the BS of constant BAS, the payments that go with it and the compliance, the overheads and the unbillable hour eating into home time makes employment a lot less pleasant than it once was.

  2. They would all probably benefit from watching Mark Blyth’s ‘Global Trumpism’ presentation, reading Michael Hudson’s ‘Killing the Host’ and having a good hard look in the mirror.

    • Rational RadicalMEMBER

      Yep agree. In my view Michael Hudson has presented the single most convincing set of reasons and analysis on where we are, how we got here, and where it’s heading. Killing the Host is a sensational thesis to this effect. It would great if MB had a peer into his work and made at least occasional reference.

      He really explains so well the nature and failures of both neoliberalism (the fake left) and neoconservatism (the fake right), being the failure to address economic rent in the modern age, the broken monetary and financial super-structure, and the emergence of finance as a means of waging war in place of traditional ground invasion, which no empire can afford in this age. Which all goes to the heart of global geo-political and macro-economic vectors – a top remit of MacroBusiness.

      He also provides an excellent rational evidence-based salve for those on the Left AND Right suffering from Sino-Ruso-Phobia….

      • Rational RadicalMEMBER

        Indeed, he’d need a suitcase full of cash to qualify…. I’d also be worried that he’s no spring chicken, and that politics in this country might knock him off his perch! 🙁

      • Rational RadicalMEMBER

        Plus his infamous “Doctor Doom” moniker is just so damn cool. A real James Bond villian, which in this new Orwellian age, means that he’s actually a hero…!

  3. Always nice to see wealthy people being asked to comment on why poor people are unhappy.
    They are of course the best placed to understand the common mans concerns.

  4. Leith I agree here. Additionally, if we deconstruct the data within those graphs to overlay income and wealth inequality, the situation looks much worse.
    As real wages fall and middle class jobs consolidate, there are fewer people with savings that can be invested. If 70% of people basically consume all they earn, then they have no opportunity to invest in fixed assets or equities. Over the past 16 years, low interest rates have inflated the price of assets. Those who have been locked out of owning any assets, have missed out on any appreciation in value. The wealthiest 10-20% of the community have seen their income and wealth expand since they own equities and other appreciating assets while the less fortunate 80% have seen the gap expand between their wealth and that of the wealthiest 10%.

    The Trump/Hanson factor is more widely seed among those who would “normally” have been middle class, but are now locked out and those who fall into the category of the working poor.

  5. TailorTrashMEMBER

    ..business can “lead”all it wants but until it refinds some moral compass and sense of social responsibility
    most of the people are not interested in what they dribble at their 5 star conferences …….Another example of why people are pissed off………..http://ab.co/2mTYLq7

  6. It is basically economic. In the past, there would have been a rise in support for left wing parties (which is what happened in Greece despite the media’s hyperventilation over Golden Dawn) but nowadays it far easier to blame migrants and political correctness (whatever that means).
    The other thing is the support that the populists are getting is never more than a third. Trump won because he was on the Republican ticket and got non-populist support. Hanson got less than 5% of the vote Australia wide at the last election and looks at most to have barely doubled it. Brexit was a slightly different issue as exiting the EU or at least the amount of involvement of the UK in the EU had always been a mainstream issue since they entered the ECC.

  7. “Immigration and political correctness have alienated people,”

    The latter is bollocks, and is just the catch-cry of the Right. Right wing virtue-signalling. What it really means is “we are pissed off we can’t be even more openly nasty to vulnerable people”. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the populism we are seeing (inequality of course being the main cause).

    Personally, I am by no means a natural supporter of political correctness. But I fail to see the real damage it causes other than being a minor annoyance. Yet for some of these wingnuts its like all the problems of the world could be put to rights if we could just be more openly abusive.

    • Double standards are appalling.

      The elite demands nothing but complete asceticism from the plebs while their life looks like a Roman Bacchanal.
      The particular turd you quote has the missus sleeping with a PM to consolidate his grasp on power.

      Makes House of Cards look like Sesame Street.

      • You could have just said – “I don’t agree with you but I’m not going to say why”. Would have been easier.

      • What I said was easier than trying to point out what is wrong with the particular type of political correctness infesting society and the language it uses if you can’t see it already, considering how obvious it is.

  8. They should just listen to their own dribble………
    “They feel they aren’t getting ahead and no one is listening” – So it’s just a “feeling” not a reality…….? Also with the meme of ‘getting ahead’ – Of What? Corporates have been the only one’s getting ahead financially, pillaging at the cost of tearing the social fabric. Although he’s right that no one is listening, & the pretense has worn thin!

    ….Business needs to be “seen” to lead – More pretense. You’re not actually leaders then, you just keep up appearances that you’re here to help, while sucking the people dry!

    Things have only got worse since the protest song of the 80’s – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_P0jkTI7UGg
    And 30 years later we are starting to Read About It – Spun as it is! Although most don’t need to read about it, they’re living it despite being shouted down that they’ve never had it so good. No thanks to a complicit MSM!

  9. Unaffordable housing and inequality go hand – in hand … check out this shocker …


    … The GREAT SHAME of the Australia’s thieving political and commercial elites …

    Capital city vacant land selling prices continue to rise in capital cities as prices fall in regional Australia – Core Logic


    … via …

    The hyper-inflation of Aussie vacant land costs -Leith van Onselen – MacroBusiness Australia
    … behind paywall …


    … Australian capital city lot cost … $A250,000

    … Australian regional lot cost … $A151,000


    Houston Association of Realtors … latest Monthly Report


    … Houston single detached median home price … $US210,000

    … Houston townhouse / condo median price … $US138,000

    • … From March 2015 …



      … extract …

      “Moreover, if housing is the biggest source of rising inequality, then the wealth tax Mr Piketty advocates is the wrong response. Policymakers should instead try to reduce the planning restrictions which, by inhibiting new construction, allow homeowners to earn such big returns on their assets.”

      Thomas Piketty’s theory on income equality wrecked by 28 year old … Breitbart


    • I saw what looked like a really nice property going pretty cheap (relatively speaking) in Canberra a few weeks ago. Then I realised it was a computer drawn picture of a house, and the $700K price was just for the land. Something like an 800 sq m block IIRC for $700K!! In Canberra!!

      My Dad as a mid level public servant bought us a 1200 sq m block for about 30% of his annual salary when we moved to Canberra in 1976. Today that $700K represents…I dunno…about 8 times annual salary for today’s equivalent public servant to buy a block two thirds the size. In a country where the one great resource we have is lots of land.

      Bloody insanity. We’re all going to end up living in holes in the ground while a bunch of worthless dogs sit around sipping champagne and wonder why populism is popular. Maybe it’s popular because social justice and equity is…you know…popular. Except among the pontificating oligarchs of course.

      • Yes, Canberra’s land reflects a government which has become addicted to rising property prices and so it ‘plans’ ‘sensible’ land releases to ensure it meets demand.
        Like fck. My Dad bought a proper house on 1000m in Kambah in 1976 for $50k – about 2.5 x his salary at time. When Jerrabomberra was first offered, you could buy a block for $7k on basis that you would need to front up another 7 to get the infrastructure in.
        Many of you do or have lived on the ‘improved’ 400m2. It’s not better

  10. From their website.

    “One Nation believes in balanced, zero net immigration (subject to review depending on economic conditions)”

    Kind of a big get out of it clause there. She’s looking like a bit of a fraud on this. I haven’t seen her once mention our immigration levels.

    • She’s a closet Liberal with an axe to grind since Howard had her thrown in Prison.

      All she wants is tickets to the Polo and a developer boyfriend like Julie Bishop

      • mild colonialMEMBER

        Yeah. My feeling is her focus is on staying in parliament because it’s clearly an addictive lifestyle. There’ll be just the right amount of action to ensure that but ‘don’t actually ask me to be responsible for my words’.
        Nevermind, with no work here and heaps of work in the US, people will shuffle off in that direction.

  11. Interesting article and comments – seems a broad range of reasons are being offered for the rise of populism in the West. The average plebs aren’t quite as apathetic as they’ve been made out to be, it seems.

    The simplest economic explanation is to look at the elephant curve – globalism has occurred at the expense of the Western middle and lower classes.

    Political correctness gets thrown into the mix because of its ties to elitism and Cultural Marxism (undefinable genders and so on) that undermine traditional cultural values such as the family unit. Individuals can be open minded and cosmopolitan, cultures can’t – something that Critical Theory overlooks. The Borg aren’t a culture – they are a collective, much like an ideal commune.

    Finally immigration. Ties into the communistic breakdown of the host culture, obviously. We have a crazy situation where we are fighting a war with Islamic ideals on our borders and then being expected to change to make a softer version of the same ideals feel welcome in our backyards. We have rising unemployment and underemployment (especially amongst the young). We have worsening medical services, insufficient infrastructure and unaffordable housing. It’s not racist to wonder why our leaders don’t put a ‘Fuck off, we’re full!’ sign up until they sort out the problems at home.

    Look at the last 20 years. 911. Oil wars. Bubbles and crashes. The GFC bailout. Unprecedented technological advance. Fear of terrorism. Fear of a climate out of control. Greece. Europe integrating and disintegrating. Safe spaces. Little green ladies on the traffic lights. It’s lucky we are only turning to populism and not cannibalism.