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The world has undergone a significant globalisation era within the last decade. National economies for different countries have expanded their network to operate in the international arena. Expansion of markets to foreign nations implies a number of changes in both the regional and global economic, social, cultural, and political sectors. These changes include variations in the order of trade dynamics where traders move goods, services, labour, and capital freely across countries and continents. With the development of free market policies in the 1980s, governments expanded their capacities to claim the global economic share.
The technology revolution has led to the enhancement of neo-liberal globalisation through the invention quicker transport means such as the aeroplanes and ships as well as faster means of communication that includes advanced telephony, instant and email messaging, and online banking among other computer-related services. In the light of neo-liberal globalisation, this paper aims at providing a discussion on how the transformation of the state reflects specific class formations and contestations in Australia.
Neo-Liberalism in Australia
Australia is renowned for embracing a peculiarly open-minded approach to public policies before the 1980s. The Australian government experienced high levels of economic regulation through the enactment of tariff policies and control of imports. These practices significantly offered protection to the local manufacturing industries. Besides, the Australian approach to public policy enhanced the determination and centralisation of wages as per the living standards of the Australians (Harbridge & Walsh 2002). Obligatory negotiation and appeasement of industrial disputes ensured the reduction of unemployment rates and protection of wages.
The overall goal is to embrace the distinctive approach to create and sustain high rates of employment and favourable compensation schemes for employees. Public policy mainly aimed at standardising working regulations based on payment and work conditions rather than mere profitability and compensation capabilities of the bosses. However, during the 1980s, Australian government abandoned the open-minded approach to public policy to embrace a deregulation and marketisation approach that led to the adoption of neo-liberal policies. Quiggin (1999) agrees with the Marxism economic and social theory that explains the influence of scientific advancement and education on social life and market trends.
Neo-liberal policies represent a set of rules that privilege people to gain influence on the development agenda of the country. The Australian government is one of the many worldwide governments that have embraced the neo-liberal policies in an attempt to transform the Australian status quo. Neo-liberalism is a broad concept that explains ideologies such as liberalisation, deregulation, and privatisation of the economy.
Essentially, neo-liberalism enables people to relate the state and the market. Gardiner (2009) classifies neo-liberal globalisation into three interrelated ideologies. First, the author theorises neo-liberalism as the establishment of free markets in an attempt to ensure adept and equitable distribution of state resources. Undoubtedly, the author’s intention is to address the government’s interposition in the market dynamism, and hence its influence on the overall economic outcomes. Secondly, the author perceives neo-liberal globalisation as the government’s role to exercise regulations on the functioning capabilities of the free markets. Lastly, the author supports the ideology that the applicability of free market solutions extends to socio-economic arms of the state such as economic welfare, health, and education (Gardiner 2009).
Employment and the Work Choices Act
The nature of contemporary globalisation has led to inevitable implementation of neo-liberal policies in Australia. Neo-liberal globalisation has dramatically changed the Australian industrial relation systems in a way that has led to a review of its policies. Neo-liberalism leads to practices such as liberalisation, privatisation, and deregulation of markets. These neo-liberal orthodox practices have created some compelling economic forces that have raised the need for the country to sustain global competitiveness in all spheres of the economy. Wooden (2006) reveals that neo-liberalism has forced the generation of apolitical technocracy in Australia to manage the booming globalisation of the twenty-first century.
The Australian government has remained in control of many fiscal policies due to the influence of political powers. As a result, there is lessened arbitration of employment terms and enterprise dealings. According to Robison (2006), this situation has caused inflexibility of job and trade markets, a situation that has led to increased chances of underemployment and elevated unemployment rates in the country. In addition, neo-liberal policies have increased socio-economic inequalities. This case has led to fragmentation of the regional economic state of Australia.
Based on neo-liberal assumptions, there has been an imbalance between the social, political, and economic systems of Australia. This phenomenon challenged the policymakers to amend the Workplace Relations Act of 1996 that culminated into the newly versioned Work Choices Act of 2005. The Australian government enacted the Work Choices Act in 2005 in an attempt to modernise the country’s workplace relations system.
This legislation was an amendment of the Workplace Relations Act of 1996 (Wooden 2006). The author reveals that the government implemented the Work Choices Act of 2005 to improve the general working relations of the Australian fraternity. The embracement of the neo-liberal policies implies the government’s involvement in the control of industrial projects. For instance, Robison (2006) reveals a case where the Australian government instigated the ‘Green Car Initiative’ under the establishment of the 6.2-dollar auto industry project. The government’s aim was to control the funding of the private industry by introducing the development of ‘green cars’ (automated and fuel-efficient cars).
Sheldon and Junor (2006) reveal that the creation of employment opportunities was a major role of the Work Choices Act of 2005. According to the authors, creation of jobs occurred through the limitation of increasing wage and non-wage outlays and/or a reduction of productivity effects. There were claims that the Work Choices Act would create favourable conditions for employment such as harmonised wages and ratification of arbitration. However, the Act has had many implications on the employment sector. Frequently, Australian employees have faced unfounded sackings that arise from the Act’s unjustified dismissal laws.
The Work Choices Act of 2005 has privileged employers with wilful powers against their employees. Consequently, employees accomplish their goals in work environments that do not assure them job security. Any little mistake is highly punishable by the companies or institutions in which they work. In addition, Sheldon and Junor (2006) claim that the Work Choices Act also affected the arbitration freedom that was used by employees to negotiate for their wages and employment terms in the previous Act. Endowed with pronounced powers in the new Act, employers now have the power to reduce employee wages and worsen work conditions at will. Wooden (2006) attests that there is no known estimate of workers who suffer wage reduction because of the negative implications of the new Act.
In reality, the Work Choices Act faces criticism from the Australian media, scholars, and the civil society. Sheldon and Junor (2006) noted that many Australians perceive the Act as a class-founded legislation that favours the employer’s policy. The Australian Workplace Agreements (AWA’s) enabled employers terminate the contracts of workers without adherence to labour protocols.
Inequality and Neo-Liberal Reform
Regardless of the anticipated benefits of neo-liberal globalisation, the practice has led to the development of structural inequality in Australia. Robinson (2010) reveals that the formulation of the policy captured an assumptive perspective of globalisation. As a result, the occurrence of irresistible change in the Australian community assumes an undirected economic projectile. The implementation of the Work Choices Act of 2005 has created an imbalance of economic, social, and political structures of the state. Sheldon and Junor (2006) reveal that there is an unequal distribution of wealth and income for both groups and individuals.
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Therefore, a large wealthy-poor gap exists between persons of different classes in the country. Australian neo-liberal reform has led to inequitable tax and welfare systems, which have further resulted in retrogressive revenue creation and unsecured social systems. The unsecured public systems have contributed to the development of inequality in the labour market (Sheldon & Junor 2006). According to Perry (2007), the Work Choices Act exhibits favouritism.
The author claims that the Act is employer-centred and creates unequal opportunities for both highly skilled and less skilled workers. There is a bias in the distribution of wages amongst these two classes of workers whereby employers increase the salaries of skilled employees whilst reducing the earnings of less skilled employees. Moreover, the Act has been structured without prior consideration of the inconsistent relations between genders. As a result, the new Act has pushed women away from exposing their distinctive experiences in the labour market. Robinson (2010) expounds that the reorganised Work Choices Act failed to define the participation of women in industrial activities. The author notes that there is a lot of theorisation of women in the award sector instead of putting more emphasis on initiative pacts (Waugh 2010).
Deregulation of Trade Unions
Deregulation refers to a neo-liberal marketisation approach where governments construct laws and institutions that sustain markets and/or stimulate their effectiveness. Deregulation encompasses practices that avoid rules and procedures that derail the stability and capabilities of markets (Robison 2006). Some of the deregulation measures include price and remuneration control, tax, and subsidy regulation on both businesses and individual income, and inflexible exchange rates among others. However, despite the qualifications that have accompanied the implementation of neo-liberal policies in Australia, contemporary debates on the matter has remained controversial for many scholars and policymakers, as the conclusions drawn remain diverged between the enthusiasts and challengers of the neo-liberalism.
A considerable emphasis is evident on the intellectual trends of neo-liberal globalisation rather than the appreciation of the empirical aspect of contemporary neo-liberalism that prevails in Australia (Perry 2007). The contemporary nature of neo-liberalism in Australia has forced companies to consider casuals and part-time employees to reduce operational costs.
The Australian government should initiate a favourable regulatory framework that suits the interests of its people whilst maintaining positive revenue margins and reputable markets for its industrial products and services. Some authors have recommended a combination of Marxism and neo-liberal approaches to economic and social development. Tonkin (2002) suggests that a blend of the two approaches provides a better ground for understanding the dialectical nature of the relationship between Australia and its market trends.
While the Marxist approach provides knowledge on capital accumulation based on social, political, and economic concepts, neo-liberal theorists use this knowledge to predict and devise better ways through which the government can exercise regulation without pronounced limitations on the entrance into the markets. Moreover, the Australian government should consider revision of the Work Choices Act of 2005 to redefine gender relations in an attempt to propagate the Australian economy. Specifically, the government should redefine the role of women in the workplace.
Despite the unfavourable implications, deregulation of some sectors of the economy has sustained the competitive advantage of Australia in the international arena. For instance, Robinson (2010) notes that deregulation of the Australian dollar and the overall finance industry has enhanced the control of capital inflow and outflow. Therefore, Australia should abide by certain neo-liberal practices that have uplifted it to become one of the dominant contributors to foreign markets. The government should strengthen the stability of the Australian dollar to sustain security for the Australian economy and stability of the overseas markets. In this manner, the deregulation of the financial industry will indirectly create employment opportunities for Australians both locally and globally. In addition, the deregulation of the money industry in Australia will boost the freedom of acquiring grants and loans from international banks (Waugh 2010).
This essay has offered a socio-political understanding of neo-liberal globalisation in Australia. Neo-liberalism assumes a broad dimension depending on the government’s influence on the free markets through liberalisation, deregulation, and privatisation. The balance between the three socio-political aspects determines the intensity of neo-liberalism within a country. In Australia, the implementation of neo-liberal policies has faced implausible resistance over the years owing to the limitations imposed on the entrance to free markets. Neo-liberalism remains a debatable issue on the face of the Australian community. Nevertheless, Australian policymakers should engage in more research on the negative implications of neo-liberal globalisation in an effort to come up with amicable solutions that relate the state and its market.
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