For an organisation to run successfully, they must identify goals, prioritise them, examine alternative ways to achieve them, then decide on a co-ordinated approach to move forward.
Nothing could be less descriptive of government in this country which seems to actively work against itself, flip-flopping around to appease interest groups resulting in policies that contradict each other.
For example, take the latest decision to fiddle with the skilled visa program. Employing Australians first is a good idea but cutting funding to TAFE and universities leaves us with skills shortages. If you want to be self-sufficient then you need to invest in education and training but this recurrent expenditure will no doubt be put in the “bad debt” basket by our shallow Treasurer.
We are similarly self-defeating when it comes to action on climate change. We had the carbon price that everyone agrees is the best way to create changed energy behaviour but it was axed because, according to the Coalition, it made energy prices too high. Except abolishing the carbon price did nothing to curb rising energy prices and led to increased emissions for the first time in a decade. There is no longer any incentive for polluters to pay for the research and development into more sustainable practice.
We had a bipartisan renewable energy target. Until we trashed it and cut ourselves off from billions in private investment. Policy uncertainty has made investors wary so, instead of letting the market decide, we now find ourselves in the ridiculous position of the government paying polluters, shelling out for new coal mines and gas plants and for a grand scheme to pump water uphill, all at the same time because their own indecision has made private funds dry up.
Under a barrage of evidence of aggressive tax avoidance, the government has made some token attempts to pursue guilty corporations. But at the same time they cut thousands of jobs from the ATO and greatly reduced their capacity to investigate. Then they hired some back to make a special taskforce, at the same time as they are fighting to reduce taxation even further for these companies.
The government has repeated the mantra of jobs and growth ad nauseum, signalling hundreds of billions will be spent on building defence materiel to create a couple of thousand jobs (maybe). Or railways to nowhere for a couple of hundred jobs (until it gets fully automated). At the same time, they have cut over 15,000 public service jobs with the likelihood of many more to go as continued efficiency dividends cut to the bone. Many of these were forced terminations costing the government a fortune in redundancy payments and the public the frustration of severely curtailed services. Try ringing Centrelink.
We are told over and over again anecdotes about small business and how they are the backbone of the country but the government’s competition laws and purchasing policy are killing small businesses. The local store can’t compete with the supermarket chains. The local chemist can’t compete with the discount warehouses. The farmer is at the mercy of monopoly distributors. The government insists on buying as cheaply as possible so gave the contract for military dress uniforms to a Chinese company. Not to mention the reporting burden placed on small businesses by the introduction of the GST. Doing monthly Business Activity Statements is an onerous task let me tell you.
Uncertainty about funding has hamstrung many government agencies. Funding for the CSIRO was slashed causing many scientists to be lost and programs to be cut, and then funding was increased again. Funding for ASIC was slashed and then partially restored. Same with funding for Community Legal Centres and domestic violence programs – slashed in one budget, restored a year or two later. We had future funding agreements for schools and hospitals until Abbott tore them up, only for Turnbull to slowly dole out dribs and drabs to cover short term funding crises. It might sound good when you announce the new funding but only if you ignore the previous cuts and the damage they caused in lost expertise, reduced services and uncertainty causing stagnation.
The government says it wants to invest in productivity-enhancing infrastructure yet they have completely ignored the advice of Infrastructure Australia and refused to do cost benefit analyses in many cases or to release them in others. Barnaby tells us they don’t matter. Instead their priorities seem to bear the stench of pork-barrelling and grandstanding – literally – you can count on getting an upgrade to the local grandstand come election time. Oh and some CCTV cameras.
The prime example of the government working against its own goals is the sacrosanct property tax concessions. Their hysterical defence of same has seen the government contradict themselves so many times it’s hard to keep up. Negative gearing doesn’t inflate house prices but it will send them tumbling if reined in. Morrison says that more investors will mean longer term leases and rental security but the evidence shows that investors are more interested in the capital gains which are realised when the property is sold.
If you want to create jobs, you don’t create conditions that skew investment away from productive enterprises and into existing housing.
Morrison is now saying that downsizing helps to free up housing supply but it was his government which scuttled Labor’s program encouraging older Australians to downsize their homes announced in the 2013 budget only to be scrapped the next year.
Seniors over age pension age who have lived in and owned their home for more than 25 years, who then downsize to a home of lesser value, will be able to place at least 80 per cent of the excess sale proceeds (to a cap of $200,000) from the sale of their former home into a special account.
This special account will be exempt from the pension income and assets tests for up to 10 years, or until a withdrawal is made from the account, whichever occurs first.
Superannuation is another area where the government is all over the place. In 2014 they abolished the low income earner co-contribution only to reinstate it two years later. They promised no adverse changes to super and then froze the superannuation guarantee at 9.5% instead of it increasing incrementally to 12%. They also made retrospective changes that affect wealthy superannuees instead of grandfathering the new rules to allow for future planning without adversely affecting those who invested under the laws of the day.
With concerns about an aging population, freezing the SG and considering allowing young people to raid their superannuation for the deposit for a house are bad ideas. The first decision lessens the retirement income of all workers, particularly the young who would be even worse off if they withdrew early from their account. Adding more buyers into an overheated market will do nothing to curb rising prices.
Increasing the retirement age to 70 is also a very questionable decision. When they increased it from 60 to 65 it just resulted in a spike of people on the disability pension. Keeping older people in the workforce reduces the number of jobs available to young people and families. Delaying the age at which they can access the pension sends people in their 60s on the soul-destroying job hunt when they could be helping to care for their elderly parents and their grandchildren.
And let’s not forget the NBN which could have facilitated the decentralisation that Barnaby wants to impose on us. Now we have a hotch potch of technologies which rely on inadequate infrastructure and insufficient technicians to cater for the many different required skills.
These are just a few examples of the directionless flip-flopping that is dished up by our politicians who follow rather than lead so can never be sure of where they are headed.
Businesses and investors need stability. They are not getting it. The vulnerable need support. They are not getting it. The environment needs protection. It’s not getting it. The country needs vision and leadership. It is most definitely not getting it.
Instead of focusing on good policy, our Treasurer is spending his time working out how to sell pork-barrelling and handouts to the rich as good debt and recurrent expenditure on health, education and welfare as bad debt.
Digging policy holes and then filling them in is not productive. Just make up your bloody mind.