Opportunity Lost: how successive government policies disadvantaged young Australians

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Illustration - Alex Anstey

Each year, we put a call into the minister responsible for money-laundering, reports Michael West. Each year, we get the same answer. Besides, franking credits, negative gearing, the gig economy, IR and superannuation settings, and climate change, even Federal money-laundering policy has been skewed in favour of older, wealthier Australians vis-a-vis the younger and poorer. Being born wealthy is not opportunity, it is chance, yet this has become a greater determinant of personal prosperity than ever.   

Each year, we put a call into the minister responsible for money-laundering. It used to be the Minister for Justice, or the Justice Department in one of its perennially reshuffled guises, but the responsibility for protecting Australia from money-launderers and those who would finance terrorists has now been lobbed into Peter Dutton’s mega-ministry, Home Affairs.

So, this year, we didn’t bother.

It is always the same answer anyway. The question is: could you please tell us what is happening with the Anti-Money-Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing laws (AML-CTF) which the Government solemnly pledged to introduce in 2008? What is the delay?

Yes, 2008, long before Instagram, Apple’s iPhone 4 and the prime ministership of Tony Abbott, these laws were supposed to come in.

The response is inevitably that “stakeholders are being consulted”, it’s on track, it won’t be long now. Twelve years later …

The last time it was put to the Government, a spokesperson for Minister for Justice, Michael Keenan, responded:

“A cost/benefit analysis of extending AML/CTF regulation to certain non-financial business (lawyers, conveyancers, accountants, real estate agents, trust and company service providers and high-value dealers) is well progressed and will be completed by July this year.

“The outcome of the cost-benefit analysis will inform the Government’s decision on the regulation of tranche two entities under the AML/CTF Act.”

At least Keenan disclosed the culprits, which are typically referred to as simply “stakeholders”. The legal, accounting and real estate lobbies, the very same culprits which, along with the musclebound fossil fuels lobby, have managed to arrest any significant reform in this country for two decades, not to mention entrench a status quo which plays to the disadvantage of younger Australians against large corporate interests.

Australia has dithered so resoundingly on AML legislation that international regulators (FATF) have put us on a watch-list and basically described the process as deplorable.

Slated anti-money laundering legislation is comically overdue

The response from money-laundering authorities is redolent of everything which is wrong with Australia’s political system. It is a system so contaminated by money and the influence of lobbyists pushing their agendas, that politicians don’t have the collective will to execute decent reform.

It is also a system whose credibility is shot, particularly among young people who have rejected mainstream media in droves and simply don’t believe politicians or what their political proxies in the media are telling them.

In the case of the AML laws, the upshot of failing to introduce Tranche II of the legislation, has led to a flood of black money from China into metropolitan property markets, pushing up the price of real estate and helping to shut an entire generation out of owning their own home.

Add to that franking credits, negative gearing, superannuation policy and other government settings and subsidies and we have a problem. Disenfranchisement on a grand scale.

It is for this reason, amid rising inequality and the present economic disarray of the coronavirus, that MWM commissioned the Boomer v Millennials series.

Not all Boomers, all governments

BVM is designed to give younger Australians a voice in a media dominated by corporate interests and run by older people representing those corporate interests. The series has indeed had its detractors, boomers who say we are whipping up generational disquiet, rabble-rousing irresponsibly.

We would lump the blame for “intergenerational inequity” – as academics describe it – squarely at the feet of successive governments who have acted in the interests of their donors and assorted stakeholders.

Millennials ought to recognise too that this is not a one-way street. The Baby Boomers was the generation which fought against the repression of women and minorities, campaigned in the streets against useless wars like Vietnam and drove myriad social changes which have made their lives so much more comfortable today.

Still, the subsidies and unfair policy skews remain: the subsidy of multinational tax avoiders by PAYG workers, the subsidy of franking-credit pensioners by younger workers, the subsidy of big negatively geared property investors by the same, and health and other subsidies.

The Boomers vs Millennials series hit the decks here on April 9 giving a voice to the young generation about which government policies and historical circumstances rendered them less fortunate than their elders. We have provided a run-through below. Topics include the gig economy, climate change, house affordability, industrial relations policy and failure to support youth arts.

Now, amid the coronavirus, the clear message from our government of Boomers and Generation X is that “reform” means corporate tax cuts and industrial relations deregulation. Yet this is the same neo-liberal recipe for economic management which has forged generational disadvantage, inequality. It is more of the same, driven by the same vested interests who finance our major political parties with their donations.

Despite the neo-liberal catch-cry of “opportunity”, the series demonstrates that opportunity is not what it used to be. Being born to wealthy parents is more important than ever.

Geordie Wilson

No.1 in #BvM series, April 9: the series kicked off with this piece by young Melbourne lawyer, Geordie Wilson explores how the gig economy has been infecting even the public service via his investigation of work practices at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and its dubious labour hire arrangements. 

Boomers vs Millennials: the gig economy breaks & enters the Australian Public Service

Angad Roy

No. 2 in #BvM series, April 10: university honours student, Angad Roy, writes about the devastation of the arts scene thanks to coronavirus with 255,000 events cancelled — on top of the Federal government cuts which have favoured “high brow” arts funding over youth arts.

Boomers vs Millennials: arts funding dropped, hits young artists over high-brow establishment

Sian Perry

No. 3 in #BvM series, April 15: Sian’s research studies focussed primarily on gender equality and environmental policy. Here she writes about the cost to younger generations of successive governments in Australia failing to tackle climate change.

Boomers vs Millennials: failure to act on climate is costing Australians their future

Lachlan Gray

No. 4 in #BvM series, April 16: Federal funding policy has made it far more difficult for younger scientists to gain experience and stable employment. Lachlan, a masters research student, contemplates his own future after $328.5 million was cut from the 2019-2020 Federal budget’s expected research funding and a freeze placed on funding increases for research, facilities and training programs such as PhDs. 

Boomers vs Millennials: Federal funding leaves young scientists under pressure

Brett Flower

No. 5 in #BvM series, April 24: written by “borderline” Boomer, Brett Flower, this story demonstrates how historical circumstance and government policies have disadvantaged many older Australians too. Brett, despite a wealth of management experience and qualifications (including an MBA), writes,  “it wasn’t supposed to be like this”. 

Boomers & Millennials: never mind the kids, try finding a job when you’re over 50

Daniel Anstey

No.6 in the #BvM series, April 26: millennial lawyer, Daniel Anstey, looks at the JobKeeper scheme, the centrepiece of the Government’s coronavirus rescue package, which favours established businesses over poorer workers, particularly casuals.

JobReaper: flaws in JobKeeper Scheme leave businesses and workers high and dry

Noah Corbett

No. 7 in #BvM series, April 28: Noah reckons it will be hard for the Government to ratchet Newstart back to where it was, after 25 yrs of policy neglect for poorer Australians. He reports on social welfare and the pension, and decades of economic policy decisions which have reduced the social welfare safety net.

Boomers and Millennials: better a pension than Newstart … until the virus

Michael Tanner

No. 8 in #BvM series, May 6: Michael Tanner, who is currently completing a Doctor of Medicine/Doctor of Philosophy at Monash University, reports on economic policies which favour older and wealthier Australians to the detriment of younger: franking credits, negative gearing and tax-free super.

Boomers & Millennials: an aftermath of austerity will kill Australians too

Callum Foote

No. 9 in #BvM series, May 12: Callum looks at Australia’s biggest market, real estate, exploring how the young and the poor have been locked out of the Australian dream of owning their own home thanks in part to negative gearing and capital gains concessions. 

Boomers & Millennials: young and poor miss out on Australian dream of owning a home


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