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Abbott, Hockey, Procrustes and 21st Century Australia!

image “Procrustes was a host who adjusted his guests to their bed. Procrustes, whose name means “he who stretches”, was arguably the most interesting of Theseus’s challenges on the way to becoming a hero. He kept a house by the side of the road where he offered hospitality to passing strangers, who were invited in for a pleasant meal and a night’s rest in his very special bed. Procrustes described it as having the unique property that its length exactly matched whomsoever lay down upon it. What Procrustes didn’t volunteer was the method by which this “one-size-fits-all” was achieved, namely as soon as the guest lay down Procrustes went to work upon him, stretching him on the rack if he was too short for the bed and chopping off his legs if he was too long. Theseus turned the tables on Procrustes, fatally adjusting him to fit his own bed.”

An interesting thing to contemplate is the fact that someone turning thirty after June 30th this year will have spent more of their life in the twenty-first century than the twentieth. I only mention this because I’m sure that many of the reports quoting the year 2030 or the year 2050 seem a long way off, but we’ll be there before we know it. Just like those memes on Facebook telling you – in many cases, incorrectly – that it’s the day that Marty McFly goes to in “Back to The Future”.

Joe Hockey’s right about one thing. We do need to start planning for the future. After that, he begins to sound more and more like Procustes. In order to adapt to the future, he seems to be arguing we need to lop off the odd limb. And, of course, I’m sure we need to stretch many things to make our bed fit. However, it seems to me that the main thing that Abbott and Hockey seem to stretch is the truth.

Now some of you will have noticed Mr Hockey’s suggestion that people should be allowed access to their superannuation for such things as buying a house and job training. On the face of it, the idea has a certain appeal, but before I point out the basic flaws in the concept, I’d like to spend a few moments questioning whether we should doubt the intelligence or the motives of the Treasurer. Being generous, I prefer to question his ability to see a relationship between cause and effect, and his time in politics has led to his decision-making only taking into account how something sounds when making the statement; the result of actually doing what he proposes is of no consequence. And anyway, it was Labor’s fault!

My basic problem with any actions the Liberals have taken on superannuation over the past twenty years is that it fails to line up with any of their rhetoric about what they expect from the future. While telling us that the government won’t be able to fund generous age pensions, it cuts back any increases to the super guarantee. First Howard passed legislation to stop the increases that were part of Keating’s plan; recently we had the Abbott government freeze the proposed increases at 9.5%. And now to cap it all off, we have a Treasurer who seems to be saying, you don’t need to fund your retirement because we don’t intend to let you have one. As the Sydney Morning Herald put it:

“Mr Hockey said on Saturday that Australians ought to start thinking seriously about the way in which their super savings can be used in the future, because we are all going to be living for longer and therefore working for longer.”


So, we’ll give you access to help you buy a home. And this has gained widespread support… Well, the Real Estate Industry liked it, claiming that it would make housing “more affordable”. It was only people like the superannuation industry, unions, Labor, economists and Saul Eslake that thought the idea dafter than Mr Hockey’s claim that the GST and company tax would probably be gone in forty years. (He didn’t seem to suggest anything to replace them but maybe we could have a tax on voting. Well, he does seem to like attacks on voters!)

Ok, what’s so bad about it?

Well, the first point is that first home buyers who are struggling to raise the deposit to buy a house in most cases won’t have spent that long in the workforce, so they won’t have that much in super, so it’ll be of limited value to those on a low income. Higher income earners would be able access their super, then salary sacrifice their salary back into their super accounts at a later date, taking advantage of their higher income to minimise their tax Which raises the question, would people be taxed for accessing their super early? If not, it would make this much more attractive to someone on the higher marginal tax rates than low income earners.

The second point is that once you give a large number of people access to extra funds to buy a house, something very interesting happens in a free market. As more funds become available then it increases demand. The extra demand created is likely to drive the price of houses up, potentially leaving the poor first home buyers no better off.

As far as the job training goes, one has to wonder whether it would actually lead to someone gaining a qualification where they earn a higher income, as opposed to paying dodgy operators for training that led nowhere. Think what happened with many of the private operators who filled to void left by TAFE closures. And one has to ask how many times would a person be able to access their super to ‘retrain”? As often as one wanted until there was none left?

And, of course, once the restrictions on accessing super before retirement age are loosened, then they can be loosened for all sorts of things. Say, unexpected medical expenses, so there’s really no need for a universal health scheme.

But the whole rationale of the current government for what we need to do seems absurd as soon as one starts to pick it apart. In order to maintain our standard of living, we need to remove the things that make up part of that standard of living – like Medicare. And we need to live within our means so the Government can’t afford certain things, but no we can’t put up any taxes because you can’t afford that, it’s better that we cut the service and/or let you pay for it yourselves which you clearly can afford because well, it was just absurd that when Joe Hockey’s son broke his foot, Mr Hockey was only $40 out of pocket because he could afford to pay more. (I notice that he didn’t suggest how much more!) Of course, when Labor tried to means test anything, didn’t they realise that people on $150,000 are struggling? And anyway, making people on higher incomes pay more is just “the politics of envy” and “class warfare”. Then, because our Budget isn’t balancing we need to get rid of the Mining Tax because it wasn’t raising a lot of money, while simultaneously sending Mining Companies overseas because it was costing them too much. The carbon tax was an enormous drag on the economy and since its abolition, unemployment has hit figures not seen since Peter Costello was Treasurer in the early part of this century.

Yep, there’s not a lot of consistency in the current government’s rationale for what they do. Then again, perhaps they think that logic, consistency and rational thinking are vastly overrated.

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  1. Dagney J. Taggart

    If this gets up, I’ll quit my current job and become a real estate agent. Cos they’re the ones that will benefit from this.

  2. CMMC

    He is more Krusty the clown than Procustes.

  3. silkworm

    Yes, it will push housing prices up, thereby making sellers and agents even richer, ultimately making housing less affordable overall. But isn’t that the Liberal way?

  4. Rosemary (@RosemaryJ36)

    Having, many years ago, worked in the superannuation and insurance area and now being the beneficiary of astute advice which gives me a not generous but still comfortable income post-full-time work, I believe Hockey should resign as Treasurer yesterday.
    Superannuation works on a compound interest basis (did he do any arithmetic courses at school? I taught maths on and off for over 50 years!) and withdrawing funds in the early years is a total no no.
    In fact if you start a superannuation scheme in your 20s or early 30s, you should put as much as possible in and can let the amount of your payments taper off a bit as you near your chosen retirement age as they will not provide much growth.
    If governments want to reduce the number of people qualifying for the age pension, they should maximise the tax benefits associated with superannuation for those under, say 45. That would also maximise the amount in the fund earning interest, hence an increased amount of interest, hence more interest on the interest! Which is what superannuation is all about! Letting your money earn your eventual pension.
    Another important issue is the statistics about the number of the people on the age pension. My income allows me a tiny amount of the age pension, so ensuring I am also eligible for pension related benefits like bulk billing and other price reductions. But I am counted as a pensioner in the quoted numbers, implying a much greater drain on the public purse than is in fact the case.
    After divorce and as a single parent with only one child still at school, another at university and the third semi-independent, I started buying my house – admittedly courtesy of a very good scheme and with fortnightly payments more rapidly reducing my debt. I increased my payments with every pay rise so paying the mortgage off in just over 9 years. I then went on saving at the same rate (by now the children were off hand) and could upgrade the house over the next decade.
    Harder these days with higher house prices but properly packaged finance arrangements would assist lower income people to achieve something close to that. Something for Joe’s successor to think about structuring.
    When it comes to training costs, my early education in England, up to the end of an honours degree in Mathematics straight after school, was covered by the state, who even subsidised my travel from home in the London outskirts to Imperial College, London University as well as my textbooks.
    In Australia in 1975 I started (but did not complete) a Diploma in Accounting (or free) and subsequently I obtained a Graduate Diploma in Education (for free) in 1978/79, and completed a Master of Science (Science Education) (actually Maths education but they lumped maths under science!} by thesis, (also free). That was undertaken between 1993 and 1996.
    The only tertiary studies I have had to pay for were from August 2004 to February 2008 while I completed a law degree and a Graduate Diploma in Legal Studies, and also completed the LEADR course to become an accredited mediator.
    I still work on a casual basis as a mediator for the Community Justice Centre, give occasional pro bono legal advice and very occasional do some maths tutoring.
    In bringing up 3 children, all of my previous education was useful and I still think that all education should be for free as it is actually investing in a population which will be more self-sufficient and better equipped to put back into society.
    OK – sometimes people start a course but do not finish it. They still will have derived some benefit, however small. There are many areas – engineering, architecture and teaching spring to mind – where alternating the theory and the practice, as you do in an apprenticeship, could help weed out (and save wasted time for) those who find it is not really what they want to do.
    The total lack of imagination displayed by this government, stolidly implementing the IPA agenda with blinkers on and ear plugs in to avoid seeing or hearing complaints and suggestions would leave me seething if I were not a born optimist!
    I am not alone and between us we will get rid of this mob and educate their successors to use experience and imagination to create a more just society where helping those in need is not a sign of weakness and being different makes life more exciting!

  5. john o'callaghan

    You make a good point about people accessing their super to pay the medical bills,so where will it stop?
    A bit short of cash”’, no worries,just pinch some from your super,she’ll be right mate.”’

                                      We have to change the narrative in this country that the Conservatives are the better economic managers,this bullshit has been flung round for years by the MSM who are beholden to their corporate masters.''
  6. eli nes

    the jokes are wearing thin. Perhaps, the jokers have hit the heights with a document based on the labor economic crisis lie?
    Sadly, little billy’s ‘men only’ joke fell flat.
    Is he capable of opposition?
    Is he capable of exposing the economic lies?
    Is he capable of, not only tying the coalition’s predictions to tonie’s lies, to tonie’s character flaws, to tonie’s ignorance but also to direct the media’s questions to those negatives? Not to tonie directly but to joey, cormann, robb, the copper man, pynenut, the bishops. if the judgement is that the party poliies are of the mind that now is not the time then ‘homilies’ by non catholic laborites, variations of ‘justice and judgement lie often a world apart’ (pankhurst) or backhand compliments bishop has done well with labor’s security council coup but shame she and abbott were so ignorant of the atrocities in china.

  7. flohri1754

    A very knowing column ….. and a very good supplementary comment, Rosemary …. there seems to be no rhyme nor reason to this Abbott government. When is that next election again???

  8. Kaye Lee


    We first have to educate the government to stop being afraid of debt. Money invested to bring future gain should not be considered a bad thing. On the other hand, money invested in wars and war toys is just a drain especially considering the money for Tony’s jets and submarines is going offshore, creating jobs in the armaments industry in other countries.

  9. stephentardrew

    Ar me mates what a wonderful example of deep sophistication. Just when you think the ship is steadying away we go with another list to port as the grand Jester of Whales staggers from incoherence and irrationality to just plain old paradoxical magical-mythical thinking.

    Let me tell you simply Joe. “Super is for retirement.” You know 140 and all that scary shit. Got it. Now if you spend your super you have nothing to retire on. Should we get out the white board and do a wee little diagram. Just as Abbott has his Doyen of wisdom in Credlin Joe has some sycophant hidden in treasury (John Fraser maybe) that falls all over his grand ideas while the rest of the treasury look on in utter bewilderment. Credlin wants to sack all Labor appointees to make the government pure of purpose, bereft of ideas and utterly morally corrupt. Probably a bit late for that I think they have already won the dunderhead prize.

    Just when you think things are settling down they drive their irrational dimwitted ideas further down the rabbit hole. How deep is the bloody thing anyway? Seems like it is damn near bottomless.

    How can you get so much bullshit out of a bunch of vacuous regressive habituated reptilian brains.

    Easy join the conservatives.

  10. Lyle Upson.

    a price signal of $40 on the Hockey kid busting up his foot means the Hockey kid can repeat the event several more times each year. That most certainly if not fair, as not all kids are financially willing to bust up their foot more than once a year … the price should go up to prevent the Hockey kid becoming greedy on the tax paid health care

  11. lawrencewinder

    Be glad Hockey is entertaining the lawyers in a courtroom…. he’s not in Canberra thinking up more economic pearlers for Clarke and Dawe to perform.
    The surreal pronouncements that every day ooze from the mouths of this rabble become more and more bizarre.
    Is this the “Whitey’s” Dream-Time?

  12. eli nes

    spot on rosemary, compound interest has disappeared with log books but imagine your least able maths students being given access to $96000 loans for education expenses at university, tech colleges or private institutes?
    All the employed, the unemployed and school leavers are eligible,
    There are billions of debt-dollars just waiting for a signature.
    Can you contemplate agents for these institutes not falling over themselves gathering signatures. Can you imagine the institutes quibbling about prerequisites or entrance qualifications? Can you blame the advertisers tricking their way into the vulnerable?
    Can you imagine pynenut having mechanisms to check course accredited conditions are met???
    These debts incur a 6%? compound interest calculated, yearly? half? monthly? my research skill cannot find the answers but surely the vast majority of these students will never reach the $5×000 needed to repay the loan.
    Imagine an !8 year woman enrols for a $60000 design course gets pregnant on completion, marries has a family and is out of the work force for 20 years.
    calculated between $192000 and $198000
    if no job after 40 years over $650000. Pyne understands arithmetic he wants the commonwealth to claim from deceased estates because to these people a dollar from a pensioner is worth chasing. I shudder at the thought of these men being in charge of the new centrelink mainframe????

  13. Möbius Ecko

    How come the media is so silent on the latest Newspoll done by The Australian? Except of course that the Australian is selling it as a positive for Abbott thought it’s disastrous for the Libs who have gone backwards.

  14. Harquebus

    Technically, inflation is inflating the money supply. More money, higher prices.
    Inflation erodes savings and proportionally lowers wages and debt. This is why our financial eggspurts and corporate serving politicians will do anything, including the sacrificing of our environment, to perpetuate it. It is a ponzi scheme doomed to failure for the simple fact, we only have one planet Earth to sacrifice in this absurd pursuit.
    BTW: I would compare Joe Hockey to Crusty the clown more than to Procrustes. Joe Hockey doesn’t have a clue and is making it up as he goes along.

  15. gangey1959

    @ lawrencewinder. Apparently the judge was a bit harsher on Jojo that the honorable speaker of the House, and made him stop treating the courtroom like Parliament. Haha. Joey even had to apologise. Weak shit.

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