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A government at war with itself

One could be forgiven for thinking this government doesn’t have a clue what it is doing. Take tourism, for example.

According to Richard Colbeck, tourism now accounts for 3 per cent of our GDP, supports one million Australian jobs and drives $30.7 billion in exports. It has been identified as one of five super-growth sectors that will create new jobs and growth in the economy over the next decade. As such, it was rightly put high on the agenda in the early days of the Abbott government.

In October 2013, Andrew Robb, in a speech lambasting the Labor government’s actions, announced a freeze on the Passenger Movement Charge (PMC).

“The previous government saw the PMC and increases to tourist visa charges as an easy way to raise revenue, with no consideration to its undermining effect on the competitiveness of our tourism sector. Freezing the PMC will make Australia a more competitive tourist destination for international travellers which will help to grow the Australian industry.”

Despite the Commission of Audit recommendations to slash Tourism Australia (TA) funding, the industry was one of the few winners in the 2014 budget from hell which included $130 million in base funding for TA and $13.5 million towards the Asia Marketing Fund.

Then along came the 2015 budget which removed the tax free threshold from all working holiday makers, due to become effective July 2016. They would now all pay 32.5% in income tax from the first dollar earned. The government also increased the working holiday visa (WHV) fee from $420 to $440.

This was a stupid move. It would affect around 200,000 youth travellers who visit Australia each year and spend an average of $13,000 during their stay according to ATEC Managing Director Peter Shelley. Young tourists carry out important work in rural areas that young Australians don’t want to do. The WHV is a cultural exchange between people of nations. It is not intended as an earner for a government on a tight budget.

Nevertheless, Scott Morrison kept the backpacker’s tax in his 2016 budget which announced some “key measures” to support tourism:

  • Record funding for Tourism Australia of $629 million over four years. That’s a lot of money for bureaucrats when the industry could probably promote itself.
  • Maintaining the current freeze on the Passenger Movement Charge. They increased it by 9% to make up for the messy September backdown on the ill-thought out backpacker’s tax.
  • No increases to fees for Visitor or Working Holiday Maker visas. They increased it by $20 in the last budget.
  • The announcement of a premium clearance service to international travellers within international airports, on a user-pays basis. Rich queue jumpers?
  • A trial of three-year, multiple-entry visitor visas for India, Thailand and Vietnam to be implemented by July 2016 and for Chile by December 2016. Interesting choice of countries.
  • Extending countries eligible for user-pays fast-track premium processing to include India and United Arab Emirates by December 2016 (subject to a preliminary evaluation of the trial currently underway for China). What checks are being “fast-tracked” here?
  • Providing $115 million to Western Sydney Airport to fund preparation work – including $26 million on concept design for rail access and $89m for critical preparatory activities at the airport site. When the Commonwealth sold Sydney Airport in 2002 it included a 30-year first right of refusal to build and operate any airport within 100km of the existing terminals at Mascot. They are still waiting for the government’s Notice of Intention regarding Badgery’s Creek before they can finally evaluate if they want to invest in it.
  • Doing more than ever before to protect our great tourism asset the Great Barrier Reef by providing a $171 million boost to the Reef including an additional $70 million to the Reef Trust, bringing it to a total $210 million. Whilst pushing ahead with increased production and shipping of the fossil fuels that are killing the Reef.
  • Providing $50 million over 4 years to promote Australian wine overseas and wine tourism within Australia. I am sure enterprising producers, marketers, and tourist operators could achieve this without us having to pick up the grog bill for endless dinners for politicians and their mates.
  • Tax cuts that will benefit tourism operators – including a cut to the company tax rate for small businesses to 27.5 per cent from 1 July and in recognising that not all small businesses are companies, the unincorporated tax discount will be increased from 5 per cent to 8 per cent from 1 July 2016. Tax cuts don’t bring customers.
  • Over the next decade the small business tax rate will be extended to all companies and then progressively reduced to 25 per cent by 2026. The unincorporated tax discount will be progressively increased to a final discount rate of 16 per cent from 2026. Once again, tax cuts for businesses don’t make tourists come and it is highly unlikely that they will get through the Senate anyway.

Considering this is such an important industry for Australia, one would think our government would be eager to seek expert advice on planning for the future. But that isn’t the way this government works.

In May this year, UNESCO produced a report titled World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate. Instead of heeding their warnings so we can adequately prepare, our government insisted that all mentions of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef, the Northern Territory’s Kakadu national park and Tasmania’s forests be removed from the report. Their argument was that the report was “negative commentary” that “impacted on tourism”. The approach seems to be maintain the lie that everything is just fine and dandy. I guess they figure that the reef will finally die on someone else’s watch so ‘not my prob’.

Their Country

The love of wealth and power, of coal seam gas and mines,

Of working without unions or carbon output fines.

Strong love of Gina Rinhehart, Murdoch and their IPA

We recognise who’s talking in government today.

 

Scourge of my heart, my country, being sold for a pot of gold,

For flood and fire and famine, will now increase threefold –

Over the thirsty paddocks, watch, after many days,

The filmy veil of pollution that thickens as we gaze.

 

Scourge of my heart, my country, ignoring the experts cry

When sick at heart, around us, we watch our planet die –

But rather than take action, to protect our country’s health

You sell us to polluters and think that money’s wealth.

 

Our wealth lies with our children and Nature’s beauty that we share,

With safety and security. clean water and clean air,

With caring for each other and helping when we can.

With tolerance and kindness and love for fellow man

 

An open-hearted country, a welcome, caring land

Where all can find safe haven and someone to understand

Though life holds many setbacks, and troubles for us all,

We must care for each other and pay heed to Nature’s call.

 

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17 comments

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  1. flohri1754

    S’truth ……

  2. johnlward010

    Misleading and deceptive representations, leading right up to election day 2nd July 2016,

    There is now clear evidence of fraud, misleading and deceptive conduct by members of Cabinet.

    This crookedness needs to be exposed. The sectional interests of our Government Ministers’ Corporate donors are taking precedence over the national interest, and the sustainability of financing for the Renewable Energy Industry.

    In 2015,Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann directed the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to exclude investments in household and small-scale solar from the $10 billion fund in the future.

    The draft investment mandate called for “mature and established clean energy technologies … including wind technology and household small-scale solar” to be excluded from the Corporation’s activities.

    Interestingly, the authority to make such changes can only come from the Parliament, not the Executive.

    The Executive cannot change an Act of Parliament. The Parliament also authorises the Executive Government to spend public money (not the other way around).

    Any change such as the revocation of a part and/or a new investment mandate to the CEFC Act 2012 may only be modified by amendments made, requested or agreed to by the Senate.

    Stephen Keim QC has provided advice to environmental groups about the Government’s ability to direct the CEFC. He said the Government had the power to put in place an investment mandate but it had to “tread a fairly thin line”.

    During 1998, American Petroleum Institute (API), the USA’s largest oil trade association (member companies include BP, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, Exxon-Mobil and Shell) planned a “roadmap” for a climate of deception, including a plan to have “average citizens” believe that the realities of climate science were vague and uncertain.

    Australians have been subject to fraudulent and misleading representations, regarding climate change over the past ten years by the people we elected.

    The direct effect of the CEFC ‘Responsible Ministers’ acting as de facto or shadow directors of the CEFC has been to create the perception that Australian policy support for clean energy is uncertain or diminished.

    These are the same negative outcomes envisaged by the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) 1998 campaign.

    A third entity involved in this deception is the pressure group, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA).

    The IPA was founded by a conglomerate of like-minded groups at the same time as the Liberal Party formed in 1943-44 after the break-up of the United Australia Party. The policy agenda of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) has been linked directly to LNP policy ever since.

    To put these linkages in context: The law frowns on the abuse of authority by any elected official i.e. to act with the intention to dishonestly gain a benefit for another person and/or cause detriment to another.

    This behaviour is defined in law as ‘Misfeasance’ In most cases, the essentials to bring an action of misfeasance in public office are; that the office-holder acted illegally, knew he/she was doing so, and knew or should reasonably have known that third parties would suffer loss as a result.

    The last Parliament (2013-2016) twice declined to allow the Executive’s Bill to Abolish the CEFC to become law. Subsequently, the Executive arm of Government had tried for two years to change the CEFC investment mandate.

    Recently, while in caretaker mode, the LNP created a different investment mandate directive (in order to appear to the electors to have authority) to modify the intent of the CEFC Act, without returning to the Parliament (which BTW no longer existed).

    So apparently they were preparing to seek such an alteration to the CEFC Act in (the next) the 45th Parliament.

    During the election campaign Prime Minister Turnbull purported to have the authority to redistribute $1billion from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC) to fund his new Clean Energy Innovation Fund (CEIF).

    $1 billion was also set aside to finance a ‘Better Cities Fund’ announced two thirds of the way through the campaign.

    And a further $1 billion ‘drawn ‘ from the “Green Bank ” to clean up the Barrier Reef ($0.6 Billion) is mentioned in an advertisement in the Australian newspaper for jobs to deliver higher water quality in farm runoff in what looks like a subsidy to sugar / ethanol industry.

    $100 million was set aside to prevent the closure of the Steelworks in Whyalla SA, and the University of Tasmania’s Northern Campus in Launceston received a pledge of $150 million to be extracted from the CEFC.

    These monies are part of the proposed omnibus legislation meant to wedge the ALP.

    Prime Minister Turnbull is fundamentally saying to Tasmanians and UTas, “you can have an expanded Northern Campus or a renewable energy industry, but you cannot have not both”.

    Malcolm promised money he cannot access, with the total pledged so far being $5.6 billion.

    Cabinet Ministers have conspired to remove all funds from the CEFC by pledging the total amount left in the CEFC account to other ‘good LNP causes’.

    At the same time Malcolm Turnbull is subsidising the fossil fuel industry with $24 billion of taxpayer funds.
    This includes exploration funding for Geoscience Australia and tax deductions for mining and petroleum exploration.

    Prime Minister Turnbull, Deputy Prime Minister Joyce, Former Prime Minister Abbott, Ministers Pyne, Hockey, Cormann and Hunt are attempting to falsely convince the public that the Cabinet can “re-purpose and re-direct the Act” without going back through the Parliament.

    These attempted changes to the CEFC Act 2012 are still to be legislated.

    Let’s consider the limits the Clean Energy Finance Corporation Act 2012 imposes on the responsible Minister’s mandate.

    Section 65: The responsible Ministers must not give a direction under subsection 64(1):

    (a) that has the purpose, or has or is likely to have the effect, of directly or indirectly requiring the Board to, or not to, make a particular investment; or
    (b) that is inconsistent with this Act (including the object of this Act).

    The object of The Clean Energy Finance Corporation Act (2012) is to facilitate increased flows of finance into the clean energy sector.

    Joe Hockey and Mathias Cormann attempted to skirt around the law. If this gross ideological interference had not happened, the growth and jobs in the clean energy industry might have delivered some real balance to the downturns in other parts of the economy.

    The LNP Cabinet is in contempt of Parliament. Its Ministers have betrayed our trust.

    The LNP and the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) are still using the same script and still following the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) line of climate deception.

    In a move away from API policy, in September 2014, Shell CEO Ben van Beurden in an interview with the Washington Post said: “Let me be very, very clear. For us, climate change is real and it’s a threat that we want to act on. We’re not aligning with sceptics” (Mufson 2014), Mufson is a director of Shell USA.

    Fraudulent representation means making of a false statement about a material fact, with the knowledge that such statement is false, to another person with an intention that such other person to whom that statement is made must believe it as true and must act upon it resulting in an injury to the person to whom such false representation is made.

    Conclusion

    There are strong connections between the API and the IPA’s disinformation and the LNP campaign aims.

    The links are there.

    The wrongs have been done. Let us join together to promote public debate on this matter.

  3. Kaye Lee

    The approach to the reef is the same as the banks – hush up problems rather than take action. We are supposed to have confidence in what they tell us – perception is far more important than truth

  4. Ginny Lowndes

    The hated Creative Industries bring in about $86B per year. Tourism around $30B. Both tourism and creative industries experience unrelenting attacks from LNP. Then add renewable &green industries and…

  5. Phil

    A great article and beautifully expressed poem to end it. But. One bone to pick.

    You say “Young tourists carry out important work in rural areas that young Australians don’t want to do”

    That is a huge generalisation about young Australians – it needs to be qualified.

    Backpackers working the rural areas are not usually young Australians – they are invariably tourists seeking a low cost Australian experience for a short period. It is not about the daily grind to survive in our neoliberal economy that sheds secure employment at an ever increasing rate. The temporary rural work of tourist backpackers may be unattractive to young Australians because it is short term, commonly exploitative, poorly accomodated and socially dislocating.

  6. Kaye Lee

    Phil, I must agree, I felt uncomfortable writing it. What you say are very important considerations. I would, nevertheless, like to see a government initiative that offered that work, albeit temporary, to unemployed Australians, with buses provided to transport them there and accommodation organised, just to give people the option should they choose it. I agree it would not be of long term benefit but it could give some people an experience that motivates them and gives them short term funds. The grind of constantly applying for jobs and being rejected can really knock their confidence.

  7. JohnB

    @ Kaye Lee October 22, 2016 at 7:59 pm

    Re ‘backpacker’ work in rural areas:
    From a commenter on The Guardian
    “If your receiving a Newstart benefit you cannot move to a rural area to find work, or cheaper accommodation, otherwise you loose 3 to 6 months of your benefit.
    When that clause was brought in by the government that’s when farmers started to hire backpackers.
    Nobody in their right mind is going to loose their benefit for six weeks work”

    This link detailing ‘Seasonal Work Preclusion Period’appears to verify the accuracy of the above statement.

  8. Kaye Lee

    Well that’s just silly JohnB. I am a firm believer in changing things that aren’t working. It is hard to understand the rationale behind a rule like that – perhaps there is one that escapes me. I remember when I was receiving parenting allowance and was offered a few weeks work casual teaching which I took and advised Centrelink (though I am not sure it was them in those days?). I was rightly cut off from any payment during those few weeks, but then had enormous difficulty in having any payment reinstated so I understand the hesitation to take short term work. Surely we can make a better system for actually hooking people up with work rather than grinding them into the dirt? The CES seemed to do a pretty good job.

  9. Carol Taylor

    Phil, I would agree. Local young people cannot get work or even holiday jobs when there are armies of backpackers descending on areas such as Byron Bay, often willing to work ‘just for the experience’ and cheap accommodation. All done under the counter of course. Well known is the ploy to hire work experience kids for the holiday period, then sack them and employ backpackers.

  10. JohnB

    @Kaye Lee October 22, 2016 at 9:46 pm
    “It is hard to understand the rationale behind a rule like that…
    I am cynical enough to suggest it is because the employers want workers on the cheap.
    They don’t want to employ Newstart recipients, as being AU citizens they would insist on their rightful and proper/fair pay rates.
    They prefer to employ cheaper more vulnerable backpackers/temporary visa holders who they can stand over so-to-speak. Those who won’t/can’t report payment/conditions abuses and ripoff’s.
    A la the modus operandi of 7 Eleven.

    Would the LNP stoop that low? – I know…..silly question

  11. diannaart

    I too would like to expunge “young Australians do not want to work” – such rhetoric is easy to pick up and use, but is far from the truth, as Phil and others have noted.

    Backpackers, by their nature, are able to travel – that is the point. They are set-up to travel and find work wherever they go.

    Young Australians, if they have homes/rental accommodation, and are on Newstart cannot easily find the money to travel to the regions, possibly lose their rental accommodation (anyone ever have to pay double rent?) and lose Newstart which does not support people with the flexibility accommodation and/or travel expenses requires. Youth remains damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

    As for homeless youth managing to travel from Melbourne to Mildura, find a place to stay while they work and lose benefits because they are working (which is beyond stupid)…. again travel and accommodation expenses remain inaccessible.

    Neither the current collection of nutters in Canberra can think beyond blaming and shaming anyone or thing that even remotely challenges their thinking, Australian youth have not been well served by either Labor of the LNP.

    …and if you are a young single parent… no one really cares at all.

  12. townsvilleblog

    The NSW Liberal Party factions are causing this civil war. The extremist ultra right wing faction v the moderates and it looks like a fight to the death. I can’t envisage this going much further than Feb 17′ before either Abbott or Turnbull has a decisive victory.

  13. townsvilleblog

    DianeOctober 23, 2016 at 11:44 am it seems the age of entitlement is not over for Liberal Party staffers and public servants. How can they defend the indefensible? We pensioners are down to 2 meals per day and they fly people to Paris for a meeting, unbelievable.

  14. cornlegend

    townsvilleblog
    “The NSW Liberal Party factions are causing this civil war.”
    They actually picked a good time to wage the war within.
    Labor are struggling to get their own house in order in NSW , and the NSW Greens also have a shambolic mess on their hands.
    Enough messy shit going on to ensure Baird will get another term

  15. cornlegend

    townsvilleblog
    The Libs vote over the weekend wasn’t decisive enough to shut Abbott up.
    I think it will give him a new lease on life.
    “The state council on Saturday agreed with the joint plan by the prime minister and NSW Premier Mike Baird to move towards more democratic practices within the party, including greater involvement from rank and file members.

    Mr Abbott, who has long campaigned for candidate preselection to be decided by member plebiscites, wanted the issue to be decided this weekend.

    The Sydney meeting voted down the former prime minister’s motion 246 votes to 174 while the slower and broader Turnbull-Baird approach, which called for a convention to discuss the issue next year, was passed by a unanimous voice vote.
    Mr Abbott hailed the day as “very successful”, saying he thought reform was now “unstoppable”.

  16. Miriam English

    Excellent points Kaye, and more from folks in the comments. This government is truly clueless. Somebody will make comedies about them one day, they are so utterly inept.

    Has anybody else noticed that people who enjoy the labels “Honorable”, “Majesty”, or “Excellency” are almost always anything but?

    I just about puke when I have to write letters to extremely dishonorable members of our government and tyrants overseas who are certainly not honorable, excellent, majestic, or eminent, but who are inferior beings in all respects except in their own over-inflated opinions.

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