Recently the Australian Labor Party (ALP) has announced a few economic policies that are a worrying sign for free-market advocates and libertarians. Given the policy failures of the Liberals (tax’n’spend; Iraq war; strict gun laws; expanded drug war; ASIO act; heavy regulation etc) it is easy for libertarians to consider the ALP as potentially the lesser of two evils. But it seems that Kevin Rudd is trying hard to establish himself as the bigger enemy of free-markets.
In March the ALP announced their plan to spend billions of our money on a telecommunications strategy to increase broadband speed. The ALP hoped the scheme would cost around $8-9 billion (with half coming from taxpayers) but some experts claim it could cost around $15-16 billion or more. That’s a lot of money to spend on an industry that should have no government involvement.
The ALP followed up with Julia Gillard’s grand plan to increase industrial relations regulation. This has provoked a backlash from business who fear the loss of flexibility in the labour market. Rudd says he wants to get the “balance right”, which includes unfair dismissal laws and forcing employers to give employees certain penalty rates, overtime pay, redundancy pay, holiday pay, maternity leave etc. By driving up the effective cost of employment this policy will either lead to reduced alternative benefits (reduced work flexibility or pay or fringe benefits) and/or lower demand for labour (and therefore a relativley higher level of unemployment).
Now we hear that the ALP wants businesses to take on social and enviornmental obligations instead of focussing on the interests of the shareholders (ie owners). Once again, the private property rights of Australian citizens are being squeezed as the ALP argues that “society” has a claim on the property rights of shareholders.
So we have huge government spending, increased regulation and weakened property rights on the ALP agenda. And given that the ALP agrees with many of the Liberal party mistakes (tight gun control; war on drugs; tax’n’spend; heavy regulation) and the Iraq war is now less of a political issue, the Liberal party looks like it might be in a position to re-gain some libertarian support as the better of the big-two.