20 reasons why the Turnbull Government is gutting the ABS

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Trust me, I'm a former lawyer banker (Image via @bsivc)

Why has the Government axed 500 jobs from the ABS? Could it be to hinder its ability to track the Government's economic failures? Alan Austin reports.

Nearly 500 jobs will be axed from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in coming months. Will this hinder its capacity to churn out the data it does to such devastating effect?

The Turnbull Government desperately hopes so. Here are 20 reasons why, drawn from recent reports in Independent Australia:

1. Economic growth

During the Rudd years, Australia’s annual economic growth was in the top three in the OECD. In 2012 and 2013, it was still in the top seven.

After four years of the Coalition, growth now ranks 25th out of those 35 countries.

2. Wages

For the last four quarters, annual wages growth has been jammed at 1.9%, the lowest rate ever recorded. Adjusted for inflation and population rises, that is a significant wage cut.

3. Workers’ share of national income

Share of gross domestic product enjoyed by wage earners has recently tumbled dramatically.

For the third consecutive quarter employees’ share has been below 46.9%. This is the lowest since the ABS began recording this data in 1959.

4. Household disposable income

This has tumbled disastrously under the Coalition to just $29,840 per household, well below the 2013 level of $30,840.

This calculation uses two vital ABS datasets: gross household income for the whole economy and number of households.

5. Household savings

Increase in savings for the June quarter was just $4,758 million, the lowest amount in nine years.

Total increase in savings for the 12 months to the end of June was just $57.98 billion, the lowest increase since 2008-09, during the global financial crisis.

6. People unemployed

The latest figures show 711,500 people unemployed. For 11 months now, the total has been above 710,000. The last time that happened before the Coalition was elected was in 1997.

7. Monthly hours worked per adult

Through the Howard years this averaged a creditable 87.0.

Hours worked grew through the Rudd/Gillard period to an average of 87.8 per person per month, reaching an all-time high of 90.9 at one point.

Since the 2013 election, it has been all downhill. The average during the Abbott/Turnbull years has been a dismal 85.3.

8. Part-time and casual jobs as a percentage of all jobs

At the time of the 2013 election, only 30.2% of workers were part-time.

This exceeded 31% for the first time in August 2015, then breached 32% in September 2016.

It reached an all-time high of 32.26% earlier this year.

9. Workers without leave entitlements

More than 2,527,500 workers were reported in August to have no holiday, long service or sick leave entitlements provided by their employer, including 848,200 full-time workers.

The percentage of workers without leave has been above 25% for five out of the last six quarters — the worst level since the late Howard years.

10. Underemployment

Workers who need more hours than they currently work breached 1 million in August 2014.

It has remained above that level ever since, now 13 quarters. It is currently 1,115,300. That’s up from 8.1% of employed persons when the Coalition took office to 9.1% now.

11. Workers unemployed for more than a year

Workers unemployed for more than a year now number 166,600. That’s up 23.0% since 2013, compared with a 5.9% population rise.

For 42 months straight, this has been above 155,000. This never exceeded 136,000 during Labor’s entire regime.

12. Average weeks the jobless spend looking for a job

Four years ago, at the time of the 2013 election, this was 38.6.

It is now 11 weeks longer, at 49.7.

13. Housing approvals

For August these were just 18,514. That is 15% below August last year and 3% below August 2015. It is below the average monthly approvals for the last four financial years — 18,689.

Australia is now at a dismal four-year low.

14. Private sector construction

Construction in the private sector – where 80% of output occurs – decreased in the 2016-17 year for the third consecutive year — for the first time ever.

The rate of the decline has increased each year. It fell by 4.9% in 2014-15, then by 6.5% in 2015-16. It collapsed this year by 8.0%.

15. Government infrastructure

Engineering construction by the government sector over the last four years has averaged just $28.5 billion. That is disastrously down on the final four years of the Rudd/Gillard administration, where the average was $33.5 billion.

The states are doing their share. The Federal Government has downed tools.

16. Construction worker fatalities

The 19 fatalities in the construction sector to June 30 this year represent more than 44 deaths per 100,000 chain volume units of construction. That is up from 35.8 for all of 2016, 31.3 for 2015, 25.5 for 2014 and close to double the 24.7 average for Labor’s latter years.

Construction deaths increased further to 27 by 16 October.

17. Retail sales

As happens when wages are cut, retailers suffer first, then wholesalers, importers and others along the chain. Retail turnover fell in August for the second month in a row.

Turnover increase in the financial year to June 2017 was just 3.2% — the lowest outside a global recession in decades.

18. Company profits

ABS figures show gross profits for all sectors to June 2017 reached a new record $304.9 billion.

That is up an impressive 21.9% on 2015-16 — the highest annual percentage increase since 2002, when the economy was recovering from the early 2000s global recession. Wow!

19. Booming trade

Trade figures for August – an impressive $989 million – confirm exporters are enjoying huge revenues. This makes nine healthy surpluses in the last ten months.

20. Capital outflows

The capital and financial account for the June quarter was $3,798 million. That’s the second lowest since 2001, during the early 2000s recession.

The lowest was $3,606 million, last December. Net money flowing in is now close to an all-time low, as expected if mega profits are being offshored at an unprecedented rate.


The ABS sends a clear message of two economies: one where the rich are enjoying unprecedented prosperity and the other where the majority are progressively disadvantaged.

Definitely time to shoot the messenger.

You can follow Alan Austin on Twitter @AlanAustin001.

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