Thursday, May 17, 2018

Doubts aside, one million more jobs was never a big ask

The biggest myth surrounding the Tony Abbott’s pledge of 1 million jobs in five years is that he reached for the stars.

Welcoming the 1 million mark several months ahead of schedule Malcolm Turnbull said it “seemed pretty ambitious at that time”.

It didn’t, because at the time Abbott made it, in November 2012 a year before the election, it was unexceptional.

His full commitment was to create “1 million new jobs within five years, and 2 million new jobs over the next decade”.

The previous five years had been pretty unimpressive. They included the financial crisis. But the five years before that, during the mining boom, had been stellar. Over the entire 10 years employment had climbed 2,106,500.

Which is why Abbott promised 2 million.

Early in his term a Coalition insider told Fairfax Media there had been no modelling or detailed calculations behind the pledge.

Abbott had looked at what Howard had achieved and “assumed they could achieve the same outcome”.

Population growth would help. It would be easier to boost the workforce by 2 million with the larger population we would have in 10 years time than with the smaller population Howard had.

For a while, unusually low jobs growth during Gillard’s last year and Abbott’s first made it look as if the target would be hard to beat. Calculated decisions to deny lifelines to Holden, Ford and Toyota forcing them to close made the target harder.

Labor’s Chris Bowen succumbed to the pessimism, saying at the time that all the evidence was that Abbott would “fall well short”.


But an improving international economy and a gift from Julia Gillard turned things around. So big is the National Disability Insurance Scheme that it’ll cost $20 billion per year when fully operational, two thirds as much as defence.

The Productivity Commission believes it will create one in five of all the new jobs in the second half of this decade.

Abbott is odds on to get his second million, whether or not he or his colleagues are around to deliver it.

In The Age and Sydney Morning Herald