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Kaye describes herself as a middle-aged woman in jammies. She knew Tony Abbott when they both attended Sydney University where she studied for a Bachelor of Science. After 20 years teaching mathematics, with the introduction of the GST in 2000, she became a ‘feral accountant’ for the small business that she and her husband own. Kaye uses her research skills “to pass on information, to join the dots, to remember what has been said and done and to remind others, and to do the maths.”

A walk down memory lane

A walk down memory lane, with a cast of all too familiar characters.

Saved for prosperity.

We begin:

Our Prime Minister

Our Treasurer

Our Defence Minister

Our Attorney General

Our Minister for the NDIS

Time to bid this rabble farewell.

 

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The judiciary takes on Scott Morrison – “We must act now to rein in corruption in Australia.”

Scott Morrison has made it patently clear that he thinks he is above the law and that public money is his to spend as he sees fit without having to answer to anyone. The judiciary disagrees.

Scott Morrison:

“I have serious criticisms of the NSW ICAC model, I’ve never been a fan of how it’s conducted itself.

And I don’t care barristers and lawyers and others up there in Macquarie Street – I don’t mean in the Parliament, I mean sitting around in the barristers’ chambers – disagree with me.

They disagree with me all the time. I’ve never had much truck with them over the course of my entire political career.

It’s just not about having any integrity division, one that is driven by populism, one that’s just been driven by the latest thought bubble.

If we are going to so disempower our elected representatives to do things about what is needed in their communities, then what is the point?

We can’t just hand government over to faceless officials to make decisions that impact the lives of Australians from one end of the country to the other. I actually think there’s a great danger in that.

It wouldn’t be Australia anymore if that was the case, it would be some kind of public autocracy.”

31 former Australian judges:

“We are retired judges who believe that a National Integrity Commission is urgently needed to fill the gaps in our integrity system and restore trust in our political processes. Nothing less than halting the serious erosion of our shared democratic principles is at stake.

There must be conferred upon that commission a broad jurisdiction and strong investigative powers, including the power to hold public hearings, and respond to bona fide complaints from the public, so that serious or systemic corruption and misconduct can be adequately investigated and exposed.

Despite recent criticisms of anti-corruption commissions, the widely accepted case for a well-designed national integrity commission remains impregnable.

This is public money, held on trust for the nation as a whole, to be spent in the national interest and not for unethical political purposes or illegitimate private gain.

Where billions are to be spent and significant power is available to dispense it with little oversight, greedy people with convenient consciences and powerful connections will ensure that, with the manipulation of their influence, they will obtain illegal or unethical advantage to the detriment of the interests of the general public.

And they will do so by means which only a specialist anti-corruption body will have the skill and power to detect.

Institutions of democracy are being eroded. Important roles in government are being given to political friends. And there is no proper scrutiny of ministerial decision making. We must act now to rein in corruption in Australia.”

 

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“Labor haven’t released their costings”

I, like millions of others, have already cast my vote at an early polling booth.

As I walked past the many volunteers (and the Liberal and Labor candidates), I politely declined their proffered How to Vote cards saying I knew what I wanted to do. They just smiled and moved on to the next person – until I got to a very noisy older woman who, when I refused her Liberal HTV, loudly called after me, Vote Liberal. I smiled and replied not a chance as I joined the line.

Obviously not happy with my answer, she stepped forward to shout “Labor haven’t released their costings”.

When I replied that Tony Abbott did the same when the Liberals were last in Opposition, she said “Tony Abbott? That’s ancient history.”

As the line was moving forward, and out of respect for someone volunteering their time to be involved, I said no more. As I moved away, a Greens volunteer gave me a thumbs up and the Labor candidate quietly said “On that note…”, before engaging with another voter about Labor’s plan for aged care.

As I left the booth after voting, another volunteer approached me to express their thanks, saying how that woman had been yelling the same thing at everyone who went past and how annoying it was.

Under different circumstances, there are many things I would have liked to say.

A party that has run up a trillion dollars in debt has no right to ask how are you going to pay for it.

A party that is predicting hundreds of billions of dollars in deficits over the next decade and beyond should not be fixating on Opposition policy costings.

A treasurer whose December fiscal outlook was wrong by $100 billion only a few months later is not to be trusted about projections for the future.

A treasurer who brags about a $100 billion windfall just by changing his guesses, and rather than banking it, then proceeds to spend $70 billion of it (and counting) in more promised spending is not in a position to be pedantic about Labor costings.

The election table is groaning under dead cats as the Liberals look for some traction on the dung heap they built and are rapidly sliding down.

I don’t want to hear any more.

Five more sleeps and we wake up to find out the result of what I think will be the most important election in my lifetime. A choice between profit or wages, between greed or saving the planet, between transparency or secrecy, between democracy or the cult of Morrison.

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The Morrison government abandons the working poor

The Morrison government justifies its horror about the idea of the minimum wage keeping up with inflation by lamenting that it would lead to the death of small business.

What they neglect to mention is that over 60% of small businesses don’t employ anyone and a further 30% have between 1 and 4 employees.

The minimum wage is currently $40,286 a year. A 5.1% wage rise would increase that to $42,341 but, as Michael Pascoe points out, once tax is taken out, their take home pay only increases by 4.6% from $35,284 to $36,908.

Business would have to come up with an extra (tax deductible) $5.63 a day, of which $4.45 would go to a minimum wage employee to help cope with the soaring cost of living.

A business with 4 employees would have to come up with an extra (tax deductible) $157.64 a week.

So, to sum up, the 60% of non-employing small businesses wouldn’t be affected at all. The 30% who employ 1-4 people would have to come up with less than $40 per employee per week which they could then further reduce by claiming it as a tax-deductible business expense.

As for being inflationary, this paltry wage rise would go nowhere near covering the increased cost of petrol, electricity and food. And any small business that cannot absorb that small outlay wasn’t viable in the first place.

Now to the promise that “A re-elected Coalition government would help create 400,000 new small businesses by 2027.”

The government refused to specify if this was a net increase but, either way, it’s nothing special.

In 2020-21, the ABS reported that there were 365,480 entries as new businesses. With 277,674 exits, this meant an annual increase of 87,806 in the number of businesses.

It’s a bit like their promise “to create 1.3 million new jobs over the next five years”.

The labour force is projected to grow by 1.5 million over that time.

Let’s be clear – a Coalition government will never support employees regardless of the economic case for doing so. As with everything, they claim credit for things that happen in spite of them, not because of them, and wash their hands of any responsibility to do anything meaningful to address the plight of the working poor.

 

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The extraordinary plea from Liberal moderates

Under threat from Independent candidates, so-called Liberal moderates have chosen a new and rather extraordinary campaign pitch – if we want action on climate change or protection of gay rights or gender equity, we need to send more moderate Liberal MPs to Canberra.

We tried that before and the Liberals themselves booted them out.

Malcolm Turnbull had his leadership rolled in 2009 over action on climate change and again in 2018 for the same reason. Moderate Julie Bishop’s long service as deputy leader meant nothing to the big swinging dicks who apparently hold sway in the party.

Kelly O’Dwyer, Craig Laundy, Jane Prentice, George Brandis, Arthur Sinodinis, Christopher Pyne, Sharman Stone, Judi Moylan, Sue Boyce, Judith Troeth, John Alexander, Scott Ryan and Tony Smith – all gone.

The leaders of the so-called moderates who are left – Simon Birmingham, Marise Payne and Paul Fletcher – all spew the party line and have been silent on the issues the independents are campaigning on. They obviously have no influence, seemingly unwilling or unable to stop the party’s lurch to the right where candidates like the odious Katherine Deves are championed by the PM and climate change denier Jim Molan is chosen as the second-best Senate candidate the party can offer in NSW.

They claim credit for marriage equality when, instead of just legislating it, they dragged the country through a hateful campaign where we publicly debated the legitimacy of people’s very existence. Having soundly lost that argument, we have had homophobic religious culture wars ever since.

They claim credit for the government’s 2050 commitment to net zero, knowing full well that they don’t have a plan to get there or the will to try. I’m not sure exactly how long this latest iteration of a plan lasted before being declared dead – buried along with all the other acronyms. Meanwhile, we stick with Tony Abbott’s 2030 targets.

I’m also not sure that a plea to re-elect moderates is helpful for Josh Frydenberg who has shown himself to be thoroughly dishonest in his last two portfolios. Pork-barrelling and dodgy grants and contracts have flourished under his watch, something he certainly doesn’t want scrutinised by a federal ICAC. Distancing yourself from your leader in the midst of a sinking election campaign smells more rat than moderate.

Here’s a tip for the so-called moderates – if you, like the rest of us, think your party is going in the wrong direction, change parties. Or go teal next time.

 

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But wait, there’s more

ScottyfromCasting is now pleading with the electorate to re-elect him because there are more characters he hasn’t yet had a chance to show us.

Daggy DIY curry-cooking ukulele-playing dad and number 1 Sharkies fan, high-viz and hard hat spokesmodel, apprentice welder, hairdresser and barrista, has “a lot of other gears” he promises to show us should his season be extended.

“I know Australians know that I can be a bit of a bulldozer when it comes to some issues and I suspect you guys know that too,” said Scott.

It’s not a description I have heard others use. Bullshitter, yes. Arrogant, yes. Asleep at the wheel, yes. Perhaps he was referring to his ability to wreck relationships in record time.

Scotty assured us that, “as we go into this next period on the other side of this election, I know there are things that are going to have to change with the way I do things.”

A 54 year-old man (happy birthday BTW), who has been in parliament for 15 years, is promising to change and be nicer? But not till after the election.

I find myself looking up the signs of an abusive relationship.

 

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If integrity doesn’t matter, nothing does

I used to think climate change was our most urgent problem. Now I think it is integrity – in government particularly.

If you don’t think integrity is important, then it’s easy to lie.

It’s easy to use your position to dole out rewards to supporters who will keep you in power.

It’s easy to transfer public money to mates.

It’s easy to cover up what you are doing.

It’s easy to attack and undermine those who would hold you to account.

It’s easy to claim credit for things you didn’t do and point the blame at others for things you should have done.

It’s easy to gloss over corruption.

In trying to suggest that Anthony Albanese is too weak to lead, Scott Morrison said being in government isn’t easy.

I dunno. I think it’s been pretty easy for him.

 

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Morrison’s religious discrimination act is a sop to homophobes – pure and simple

Scott Morrison has announced his determination to go ahead with his failed religious discrimination act, without the promised concurrent amendments to the sex discrimination act to protect gay and transgender students.

According to Morrison, there is no problem.

“We’ve been having this conversation for about the last four years, and on each occasion, it has been presented that apparently students are being expelled each and every day, each and every week, or each and every year. There is no evidence [of that] because the religious schools themselves don’t wish to do that. They don’t wish to do it. This is an issue that is actually not occurring in these schools.”

They may not want to expel students, just threaten them with burning in the fires of hell unless they give up their perverted, evil ways.

And that’s what this bill is designed to do – to protect the right of the religious to abuse and discriminate.

Back in 2017, Morrison revealed the true beginnings of this bill – a payback for losing the marriage equality plebiscite.

“There are almost five million Australians who voted no in this survey who are now coming to terms with the fact that they are in the minority. That did not used to be the case in this country for most, if not all, of their lives. They have concerns that their broader views and beliefs are also now in the minority and therefore under threat. They are seeking assurances from this House and this parliament at this time—whether one agrees or disagrees and whether rightly or wrongly—that the things they hold dear are not under threat because of this change.”

Malcolm Turnbull, as kind of a consolation, commissioned Philip Ruddock to do a “religious freedom” review which found Australia did not, in fact, have a religious freedom problem and that there was evidence of only very low levels of intolerance towards Christians.

In December 2018, the Morrison government promised a Religious Discrimination Act, observing that Australians of faith felt “the walls have been closing in on them” despite the fact that no-one was asking religious people to change their lives or views or beliefs in any way.

Introducing the revised third draft of the bill late last year, Morrison told Parliament it would bring “clarity” and “confidence” that “Australians of faith would be protected from discrimination”, noting how people from “various religious traditions” were concerned about “cancel culture”.

Morrison originally told the Parliament the core idea of the bill was to give legal protection against discrimination for people of faith, including in employment and education – a problem that the review showed doesn’t exist.

What the bill actually does is provide protection for people of faith to discriminate against others.

Most controversial are the provisions that override all other federal, state and territory anti-discrimination laws so that “statements of belief” are immune from legal action.

For example, a childcare provider could tell a single mother that childbirth out of marriage is evil, a doctor could tell a patient that their disability is punishment for sin, a boss or colleague could tell a gay employee that they would go to hell for their sexuality.

The bill would also allow religious bodies – including schools, hospitals or aged care services – to seek to preserve their “religious ethos” by ensuring all employees are of a particular faith. In reality, religious institutions such as schools can already discriminate in hiring and firing under special exemptions from existing discrimination laws.

This whole exercise is not to fix any existing problem of discrimination against people of faith – it’s a sop to homophobes. Pure and simple.

 

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Albanese should stop trying to play the presidential campaign

Somewhere along the line, election campaigning moved from being about vision and policies to being a hotchpotch of funding promises, a festival of pork-barrelling announced by leaders who are marketed as celebrities.

We are bombarded with an ignominious display of our prospective PMs’ personal lives. Photos with the dog are a must. I always wonder who actually looks after those poor benighted creatures since their owners are so rarely at home. Who is feeding the chooks and cleaning out the pen that DIY Scotty built at the Lodge since they live at Kirribilli?

Jen and the girls live with the constant presence of an official photographer. Consequently, we live with a constant stream of photos of Jen and the girls. When I visit the Prime Minister’s social media pages, I am greeted not by policy discussion but by photos of what he (supposedly) cooked last night.

Not to be outdone, Albanese is dragging his girlfriend by the hand along the campaign trail. Barely a press conference or interview goes past without him telling his log cabin story.

Anecdotes about disabled relatives abound. Encounters with individual constituents are recounted to show that our leaders are “in touch” with the people but, instead of solutions, they are offered a selfie.

We follow our leaders to church and the footie. We watch them exercise.

So ridiculous has this become that Morrison tries to convince us that, because he hasn’t changed glasses or lost weight, that is proof that he is best suited to offer a steady hand to steer the ship.

Someone needs to remind these two men that they are not vying for supreme leader. They will be the spokesperson for government should they gain or negotiate majority support.

Albanese is playing the wrong game.

Rather than ceding the stage to reporters asking gotcha questions, he could so easily say “My job is to communicate our priorities and goals and our strategy to achieve them. The strength of the Labor Party is a team of very capable ministers in every portfolio to answer questions about policy detail or relevant statistics. I am not a one-man show.”

Why do the two leaders spend so much time and money flying around the country to stage managed photo shoots with hand-picked crowds to make local announcements? Does the entire entourage really have to fly to Corangamite to announce a swimming pool or a few solar panels for the local bowlo?

Very few of us will have the opportunity to vote for either Morrison or Albanese. We need to hear from our local candidates if they are to be the ones representing us but they are sidelined in this celebrity circus of presidential style campaigning – a nodding head providing background for the aspiring star of the show.

Neither of these men are inspirational individuals. Instead of trying to sell themselves, they should be concentrating on explaining the what and how rather than the who.

After all, this is not an autocracy – yet.

 

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“Who do you trust?” asks the Liar from the Shire

Scott Morrison is asking the Australian people “Who do you trust?” – a gutsy approach from a man who has earned the sobriquet ‘Liar from the Shire’.

Do you trust the man who draped his arm around his leader, grinning innocently as he proclaimed “I’m ambitious for this guy” whilst his backroom boys were organising a coup?

Do you trust the man who left the country in flames to sip cocktails poolside in Hawaii, had his office deny it, and then excused it by saying he doesn’t hold a hose, mate?

Morrison claims he is the better economic manager. This was initially based on false claims of having delivered a surplus. Instead, we got the first recession in thirty years and debt levels unprecedented outside of wars.

After having said “governments don’t create jobs, businesses do”, Morrison is now claiming credit for creating 1.9 million jobs since they were elected in 2013.

Between September 2013 and February 2022, Australia’s population increased by 2.7 million people so that growth in jobs is basically just population growth.

Morrison also claims credit for an unemployment rate of 4%.

Antipoverty Centre analysis of ABS and Department of Social Services data shows that while the unemployment rate has not been this low since before the global financial crisis in 2008 when it was also 4%, the proportion of working age people who rely on an unemployment payment has nearly doubled – from 3.3% in mid-2008 compared to about 5.9% today.

The lack of skilled migration and temporary visas due to the borders being closed as well as the neglect of domestic skills training has led to a labour shortage. This, combined with supply chain disruptions, pent up demand after lockdowns, soaring energy prices, and huge government spending, has led to inflation rising quicker than expected.

The ongoing spending in the budget was a contributing factor in a larger than expected interest rate rise – the first of many according to the RBA signalling bad news to those who overcommitted to get into a red-hot housing market.

Morrison’s government has overestimated wages growth in 53 out of 55 predictions. Three years ago, then Federal Finance Minister, Mathias Cormann, described low wage growth as “a deliberate design feature of our economic architecture.” And now we find real wages going backwards.

Do you trust the man who advocated for getting rid of penalty rates but says he can’t advocate for wage rises in the care sector or a rise in the minimum wage?

Do you trust the man who oversaw the illegal Robodebt program but who wouldn’t recoup JobKeeper paid to profitable businesses?

And then there’s national security.

Do you trust the man who has alienated Pacific leaders due to his arrogant dismissal of their concerns on climate change and patriarchal assumption that we are their best friend?

Do you trust the man who has chosen to declare a hairy-chested media war on our biggest trading partner?

Do you trust the man that has spent billions on cancelled defence contracts?

Do you trust the man that the French leader labelled a liar?

We are told that Morrison’s strength is his confident focus on message. But which message?

Do we trust the man who, in April 2018 told us that “The days of subsidising energy are over whether it’s for coal, wind solar, any of them. That is the way I think you get the best functioning energy market with the lowest possible price for businesses and for households and that is what the national energy guarantee and our energy policies are deigned to achieve.”

Or do we trust the man who, less than five months later, said “The Neg is dead, long live reliability guarantee, long live default prices, long live backing new power generation,” and promptly started throwing money at gas companies, even deciding to build his own gas-powered generator.

Do we trust the man who said electric vehicles would “end the weekend” because they would not “tow your trailer”?

“It’s not going to tow your boat. It’s not going to get you out to your favourite camping spot with your family… I mean if you have an electric car and you live in an apartment, are you going to run the extension cord down from your fourth floor window?”

Or do we trust the man who, when he rolled out his own policy two years later, denied he attacked electric vehicles before the last election, stating “new technology” led to his newfound interest?

Do we trust the man who said equity loans were a good thing, or the one who rubbished the scheme saying “every time you go to Bunnings” to improve the home you would need to inform Canberra?

Morrison certainly has chutzpah, I’ll give him that.

But trust him?

YGBSM

 

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Five reasons not to vote for a Coalition government led by Morrison and Joyce

Five reasons not to vote for a Coalition government led by Morrison and Joyce

One: It is patently obvious the Coalition are not serious about taking action on climate change. Morrison and Joyce fondled a piece of coal in parliament telling us not to be afraid. Angus Taylor is gifting our money hand over fist to keep the fossil fuel industry going whether for expansion of mining or unproven technologies like carbon capture and storage. Matt Canavan has told us the commitment to net zero is expendable if there are short term profits to be made.

Two: Transparency and accountability are in a death spiral under this government. They have walked away from freedom of information obligations, characterised anti-corruption bodies as kangaroo courts, consistently criticised, ignored or appealed court rulings, used funding grants as political slush funds, and handed out contracts without tender to associates and donors.

Three: Whilst company profits have soared and businesses have been given tax cuts and concessions, real wages have gone backwards. Penalty rates have been cut, workplace entitlements and job security eroded. The government claims they have no control over wage rises which are determined by the Fair Work Commission but that’s not entirely true. They could increase wages for public servants thus providing competition for labour. They could advocate for an increase to the minimum wage. Rather than just lavishing them with praise, they could present a case to the FWC for wage increases in the care sector and regulate for better working conditions.

Four: Cost of living pressures will not be eased by one-off payments. It is true that some of the drivers are out of the government’s control but their response is entirely under their control. If power prices are too high, they could embrace the research that shows encouraging investment in renewables will decrease prices and insulate us against foreign supply disruptions. Or they could make it GST free. They could subsidise a local EV manufacturing industry, providing jobs, reducing reliance on foreign oil, and cutting emissions. They could make childcare and university free since investing in both of them brings a positive economic return. They could do a lot to affect housing affordability – make property investor tax concessions only apply to new dwellings, expand the National Rental Affordability Scheme, build more public housing, or back Labor’s suggestion of equity loans as Morrison once supported himself. They could stop looking to sheet blame and start doing something to help.

Five: Scott Morrison “is a hypocrite and a liar from my observations and that is over a long time. I have never trusted him, and I dislike how earnestly [he] rearranges the truth to a lie.” – Deputy Prime Minster Barnaby Joyce, March 2021.

“Morrison is a horrible horrible person. He is actively spreading lies and briefing against me re fires. I’m just so so disappointed. Lives are at stake today and he is just obsessed with petty political pointscoring. So disappointed and gutted.” – NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, 2020.

‘Morrison is about Morrison. Complete psycho. He is desperate and jealous. The mob have worked him out and think he is a fraud.’ – unnamed Cabinet Minister in reply to the Premier

“I don’t think [Scott Morrison’s a liar], I know.” – French President Emmanuel Macron, November 2021.

Scott Morrison is an “absolute arsehole“. – Michael Keenan, who served as justice minister when Scott Morrison was immigration minister, 2018.

Morrison and Joyce may consider themselves good at marketing but they have proven themselves unfit to govern.

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The Prime Minister for Announcements and Photographs

If you are sick of the disappointment and white noise of a presidential style campaign where two rather ordinary men vie to be the chosen one, pre-poll voting starts May 9.

It gets to the stage where there is nothing left to say.

I wrote this two years ago. It’s kind of tragic that, despite the cast changing, the futility of it all remains as stark today as it did then…

Spokesmodel Christian Porter has been all over the airwaves announcing the government’s latest…ummm…announcement, which is that they want everyone else to sort out the “known problems” in industrial relations and to do so, they will form not one, not two, but five new “working groups” to come up with recommendations to add to the kazillion other ignored recommendations from countless previous reviews and inquiries and reports.

Unlike during the Accord, the government is not offering anything. In fact, they are, in advance, very much limiting what the “known problems” up for discussion are.

We won’t be discussing the minimum wage or the superannuation guarantee. We won’t be discussing the level of Newstart or the cutting of penalty rates. And we most definitely will not be considering sustainability in the “Jobmaker” discussion.

The task that ScottyFromMarketing has given the face of the latest advertising campaign is to, in Porter’s own words, “have a product come out of every working group.”

“…the product may in some instances be legislative, it may be budgetary, it may be a policy product, but whatever product there is, the purpose of the working groups is to try and garner as much agreement around that product as possible.”

And just in case you didn’t get the message of what these committees will do, Porter repeated the latest slogan over and over during his interview with Leigh Sales.

“They’re designed to deal with specific known problems in the system”

“There are known problems inside the system”

“What we’re concerned about is known problems”

“What we do have here is a known set of problems”

“why would we not try and limit ourselves to solving known problems”

The trouble with this approach is that the government gets to decide which problems to ignore.

Slogans like “technology not taxation” are not action. They are not even a plan for action. And they aren’t even true.

Spokesmodel Angus Taylor, whilst spouting his three-word script, is also pushing to spend taxation dollars propping up an expansion of fossil fuels. Even the very expensive Snowy 2.0 is to be powered by fossil fuels. The hydrogen industry will be powered by fossil fuels. The gas industry will be ramped up despite that being the major source of rising emissions in this country.

At some stage today, the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources are obliged to publish the December quarter emissions figures. Bushfire emissions will not be included but reductions due to the drought will be. Not that we should be “setting our hair on fire about climate change and all the rest of it” as whatsisname, the Deputy PM, chided recently.

Meanwhile, the Senate inquiry into the recent catastrophic fires is hearing how the “known problem” of a potential disaster was ignored by the government. Current fire chiefs are gagged from linking bushfires to climate change. Limit what they can say and you limit your response to areas that are more politically advantageous. It’s not fossil fuels causing climate change, it’s greenies stopping hazard reduction burning and wholesale land clearing. And those hundreds of arsonists.

When you employ the gas industry to suggest a road map for the future, you aren’t trying to solve a “known problem” – you are looking for affirmation of the irresponsible abrogation of our responsibility to tackle global heating.

When the pandemic hit, we listened to the medical experts and took action. Sure, they have formed countless committees, but they didn’t push decisions down the road six months until the committee published their findings.

We have thousands of reviews and reports and recommendations. We know what the problems are and how to go about fixing them. And it certainly is not by creating more committees to produce more reports telling you what you want to hear and coming up with more slogans to announce.

The greatest “known problem” in this country is that we are run by ScottyFromMarketing and his inept band of backup vocals.

Meanwhile, we could pray for salvation … or we could elect people who put the national interest before their own. Enough with the photos and the announcements of tuppence ha’penny for your trouble.

 

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Josh Frydenberg – the smiling conman

When Josh Frydenberg gave his budget speech a few weeks ago, he grandiosely proclaimed “This is what we deliver tonight. The largest and fastest improvement to the budget bottom line in over 70 years.”

Now to most people, an improvement in their budget bottom line would mean they had more money, or at least owed less.

But that’s not the way this treasurer works.

He went on.

“By the end of the forward estimates, the budget is $100 billion better off compared to last year.”

Wow. That’s some achievement. If it actually meant anything.

So let’s have a closer look at that claim.

Firstly, you’ll notice that Josh says “by the end of the forward estimates” and “compared to last year”. That means his guess last year as to how much the budget deficits would add up to in the coming four years was out by $100 billion. That’s a pretty big mistake to make.

It also shows that the Treasurer has no idea what will happen next year, let alone in 4 years’ time.

In the first budget of the Morrison government for 2019-20, Frydenberg told us that, over the forward estimates, we would have surpluses totalling $45 billion. A year later, he was projecting deficits totalling $480.5 billion. That’s a negative turnaround of over half a trillion dollars in the space of a year.

The next year, the cumulative deficit total was estimated to be $342.4 b and now he is saying it will be $224.7 b and claiming the credit for the improvement when he hasn’t been close to being right once in his four attempts so far.

It’s fair enough to use the pandemic as an excuse for the change in fortunes but any suggestion of an improvement in the budget bottom line is ridiculous – it’s based on compounding bad guesses about the future, none of which have come to fruition, and ignores the fact that we have deficit budgets for the foreseeable future.

Josh’s other trick is ‘lowballing’ where numbers are manipulated to present favourable outcomes as explained in this article by Satyajit Das.

“Budget forecasts have repeatedly underestimated revenues, overestimated outgoings and understated commodity prices to make the actual outcome better and demonstrate competence.”

Some might call that being conservative but when Frydenberg then claims credit, it’s just dishonest.

To demonstrate just how “conservative” Josh is being in this budget, you only need look at commodity prices. The price of iron ore was $US134 a tonne – the budget assumes a price of $US55 a tonne. Thermal and metallurgical coal prices were $US512 and $US302 a tonne – the budget assumes US$130 and $60 respectively.

Whilst the prices may well drop from these historic highs, Josh has been doing this in every budget. A similar assumption for iron ore in last year’s budget ensured an upside surprise in revenue this financial year and the next of more than $6.5 billion. Claiming credit for improvements resulting from nothing more than poor, or deliberately manipulated, assumptions is very lazy.

Frydenberg has the smile of a confident man – the heir apparent to the Liberal party leadership representing a safe seat that will always vote Liberal.

The only possible risk to the path Josh envisages for himself might come from taking the people of Kooyong for granted when many of them seem to be more concerned about actual action on climate change and weeding out corruption in politics than they are about rubbery figures that mean nothing real. As Bobby Kennedy famously said, GDP measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile.

Josh has a nice smile. Then again, so do most conmen.

 

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Different year, same campaign

Did you hear that China is building a military base in Vanuatu?

Oh wait, that was 2018 when the headline read China eyes Vanuatu military base in plan with global ramifications.

“While no formal proposals have been put to Vanuatu’s government, senior security officials believe Beijing’s plans could culminate in a full military base,” writes David Wroe in The Age.

Of particular concern was a major new wharf funded by Chinese money because, “while its stated purpose is to host cruise ships, it had the potential to service naval vessels as well.”

“Fairfax Media understands there are senior figures within China’s People’s Liberation Army who would like to move quickly to establish a proper base on Vanuatu.”

One wonders why there wasn’t an immediate police investigation into leaked national security information – unless it was leaked by the government.

And did you hear that Albo is against boat turnbacks?

At least he was when he was outvoted at the Labor conference in 2015.

Once again, we are back to 2018 when Albanese was grilled about the same thing.

Asked to address concerns about his position on border protection, Albanese said that “circumstances had changed” from 2015 when he opposed boat turnbacks.

“The government’s policies have stopped the boats,” he said. “They’re not coming, so the circumstances of rejecting boat arrivals has been achieved.”

And Barnaby is building heaps of dams.

Perhaps not the 100 he promised in 2013. And not so much building as giving heaps of money to associates to try and rush through some sort of feasibility studies, business cases, cost/benefit analyses, environmental impact statements, inflated employment figures – anything that can justify spending public money on Gina’s dream.

Despite racking up huge debts and a structural deficit that will continue for years, the Coalition are still laying claim to being better economic managers, a claim that is debunked by Alan Austin in his article Worst debt blow-out in the developed world refutes Coalition claims of economic competence

Having lost the battle to stop marriage equality, persecution of the rainbow community has moved to expelling gay students and stopping trans kids from playing sport. Different target, same bigotry.

Oh, and death taxes…again.

You have to wonder what the point is of this travelling circus since we’ve seen and heard it all before.

 

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In the interest of full disclosure – Scott Morrison’s salute to China

With Scott Morrison in full attack mode about comments made by Richard Marles regarding China, it seems only fair to give Morrison’s views equal air time.

The following is an excerpt from his 2019 speech “Where we live“, delivered at the University of Melbourne Asialink conference.

“Like all of us, China and the US have a strong interest, and a special responsibility, to modernise and support the system that has delivered unprecedented growth in national wealth and living standards over the last two decades.

We can support these efforts and outcomes by rejecting the fatalism of increased polarisation and resisting the analysis that only sees these issues through a binary prism.

It is in no-one’s interest in the Indo-Pacific to see an inevitably more competitive US-China relationship become adversarial in character.

All nations in our region, not just Australia, are having to adjust to this period of great power competition. All of us are similarly seeking to balance our interests, our history, our geography, our alliances, our partnerships and aspirations in the context of this new dynamic.

We will continue to lead by example, developing our close web of relationships across and within the Indo-Pacific.

This year we hope to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, an agreement that includes 16 economies and accounts for about one-third of global GDP.

To conclude the agreement when leaders meet in Bangkok in November this year, I would urge leaders to send their Trade Ministers to the meeting next month in Beijing with a clear mandate to deal.

My Government is also committed to further enhancing our relationship with China.

Our relationship with China has many strengths.

Our trading relationship is flourishing, with two-way trade reaching a remarkable $215 billion in 2018, which benefits both countries.

Our cooperation with China through our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership goes well beyond economic issues.

We are working together across fields including health, education, and taxation, where Australia offers world-class expertise.

We’ve also been cooperating successfully to counter drug trafficking through Taskforce Blaze.

There is more we can do. That’s why we established the National Foundation for Australia-China Relations earlier this year.

The Foundation will strengthen areas where we already cooperate, deepen the already rich links across our communities, and help identify new areas for practical cooperation.

While we will be clear-eyed that our political differences will affect aspects of our engagement, we are determined that our relationship not be dominated by areas of disagreement.

The decisions we make in relation to China are based solely on our national interests, just as theirs are towards Australia, and these are sometimes hard calls to make.

But they are designed always to leave large scope for cooperation on common interests and recognise the importance of China’s economic success.

This success is good for China, it is good for Australia.

We welcome Chinese investment.

We have welcomed it for decades.

The stock of Chinese investment in Australia in 2018 was more than 8 times larger than a decade ago, and China is our ninth largest investor behind the USA, Japan, UK and the Netherlands.

Australia has the most liberal foreign investment regime in our region. It is not possible for Australians to invest in China in the way Chinese investments are made here. Perhaps this will change, but our policy is not framed in the context of reciprocity, but national interest.

We retain our sovereignty over these investments, especially in relation to strategic and national security considerations, but where such issues are satisfied, we would be only harming our own economic interests if we were to deny our economy access to this capital.

That is why we operate a non-discriminatory approach to investment screening.

And I note that all nations, including China, screen foreign investment.

The infrastructure needs of the region are enormous and Australia welcomes the contribution that the Belt and Road Initiative can make to regional infrastructure investment and to regional development.

We support regional investments with commercial merit that meet genuine market need and international standards, including on transparency and debt sustainability.”

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