Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Institute of Public Affairs produces yet another dodgy study


Pearls and Irritations - Public Policy Journal, 30 January 2021:

The Institute of Public Affairs has scored an epic “own-goal” by calling out the slide in quality of life. A new report by the Liberal Party think tank identifies the drop in home ownership, high incarceration rates, the low level of skills training and debt as the main culprits but declining living standards are a direct result of Liberal Party policies.

It was to much fanfare (at least in some areas) that the Institute of Public Affairs announced the hiring of Tony Abbott to “lead a new movement to defend and revive traditional Australian values”. Such a movement was deemed necessary by the release of the IPA’s report titled “The Fair Go – Going, Gone: The Decline of the Australian Way of Life, 2000 to 2020”. The report and The Australian’s accompanying editorial lamented the “collapse of living standards over the past two decades”.

However, the “collapse of living standards” is the culmination of near two-decades of policy driven by the Coalition and the Institute of Public Affairs and with The Australian as cheer-leaders in chief.

The authors analysed 25 aspects of Australian life that they believe give a representative account of the quality of life of individual Australians, across five major categories: home, work, enterprise, governance and lifestyle. Each measure is tracked across the past two decades in comparison to 2000 standards.

According to the report, major contributors to the fall in living standards include housing affordability, household debt, government debt, underutilisation rate, vocational training, and the incarceration rate.

All part of the Coalition’s plan

But such falls in living standards are all part of the Coalition’s plan. The under-utilisation rate has been driven up, and the vocational training rate down by, in particular, the deregulation of Vocational Education and Training (VET) and TAFE: apprenticeships have fallen from 446,000 in 2012 to 259,000 today……

Housing is less affordable than ever, as the government steadfastly refuses to make key policy changes such as ending negative gearing, introducing the long-promised money-laundering reforms and increasing the capital gains tax…..

Meanwhile, the increasingly punitive justice system of recent years drives the incarceration rate ever higher. In 2018 a Victorian Liberals backbencher even criticised his own party’s “law and order” campaign, warning about the dangers of populist tough-on-crime policies.

Not to mention reductions to penalty rates, and further attempts to strip rights from casual workers through the proposed industrial relations reform, which further contribute further to household debt…..

The report can in fact be summarised as a damning indictment of Coalition policy over the past two decades…...

The report was co-authored by Research Fellows Cian Hussey, Kurt Wallace, and Andrew Bushnell, and Director of Research Daniel Wild.

In research, the title “Fellow” is typically bestowed on employees of university who 1) have a PhD and 2) have a job at the university. None of the four researchers meets the first criteria; the highest degree among them is a Masters, awarded to Bushnell. The highest degree conferred on the Director of Research Daniel Wild, according to the IPA website, is an honours.

Consider the career track for a researcher in academia. It would involve first completing an undergraduate degree, then an honours degree, often followed by a stretch as a research assistant, then applications to PhD programs – which are ever more competitive as government funding falls ever lower. Then comes three years of formal research training completing said PhD, followed by a gruelling search for a job. When successful, only then might one term themselves a “Research Fellow”.

The irony is apparently lost on the Institute of Public Affairs that the Coalition has been the party in government for 14 of the past 20 years during which there has been this “collapse in living standards”.

On this report’s own measures, it makes the IPA’s decision to hire Tony Abbott a strange choice to herald a new movement for “saving the Australian way of life”. 

Read the full article here.

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