People have a funny way of looking at numbers. I remember during the GFC, people were expressing concern that China’s growth rate had dropped to a mere 8%. I commented at the time that it was still a pretty good growth rate and, unless it kept dropping, then it was probably more sustainable at 8% than its pre-GFC growth rates. It’s still growing at 8%, I remember telling someone, trying to convince them that this wasn’t going to lead to a contraction in the Chinese economy. At least now until it fell several more percentage points.
And so we have Tony “I find economics boring” Abbott asserting that the Liberals have halved the debt. Actually, they’ve halved the projected debt for 2055. The actual debt has increased by billions of dollars. But halving the projected debt counts as halving the debt because debt is half what it would be if Labor had stayed in power for the next forty years and made no attempts to rein in debt, so that makes our debt half what it would be, not half what it was. Still that’s halving the debt, isn’t it?
This is almost as good as when Abbott, Hockey et al tried to argue that the Paid Parental Leave Scheme was completely paid for because they were going to add one percent to the company tax of the biggest companies after reducing company tax by one percent. I remember suggesting at the time that they could cut company tax by three percent then add a three percent to the top companies and pay for a few other things. A Liberal supporter told me I was an idiot because simply taking something away then adding it back didn’t raise any money at all…
Which was sort of what I was suggesting, but irony is lost on Liberals.
One thing that’s not lost on Liberals though, is a sense of urgency. We’ve have various emergencies since Abbott came to power, and I’m not just talking about the Budget emergency which is under control now that we’re only heading for half as much debt in 2055 (even though it’d be a much, much greater percentage of the GDP than when Labor spent all the money to shield us from the GFC, which was silly when it didn’t hit us hard as the rest of the world!).
And the latest emergency isn’t the rise of groups which are mimicking the rhetoric and behaviour of the early Nazis – which Abbott has been strangely silent about – but rather it’s the ice epidemic. As our PM said in his announcement:
“As a citizen and as a parent I am appalled at what is happening on our streets and in our homes,
“Ice is far more addictive than any other illicit drug. It does far more damage than any other illicit drug.
“The propensity for violence, the propensity to subsequent, very serious mental illness, the propensity to disfigurement which ice produces means that this is a drug epidemic way beyond anything that we have seen before now.”
Excellent. He also told us that he was going to ensure that every state and territory took “the menace of ice” seriously, which makes me wonder which states or territories had been making jokes about it.
So, thanks to Mr Abbott, we now have a task force developing a national action strategy to tackle this growing problem. And it’ll deliver an interim report to him by the middle of the year.
Now I don’t want to pre-empt the report but I suspect that it’ll recommend that we put more time and money into cracking the criminal gangs, more support for the ice addicts trying to kick the habit and more education about the dangers of ice. On the last point, perhaps they could join it to the domestic violence campaign, we could have an advertising blitz that warns us that both crystal meth and domestic violence are bad for us, which might save on the advertising budget until just before the election, where government ads can point out how awesome the current goverment is… In a totally non-partisan way.
And they’ll need it when some of the finer detail of their Energy White Paper hits the mainstream. For example:
“The Australian Government does not support reserving gas for domestic use. Reservation would result in less profitable production, attracting less investment, thereby reducing supply and raising costs.”
So we’ll be competing with all those countries who want to access our gas, but somehow that’ll increase supply rather than demand leading to lower costs. Strangely, this a point of view no economist I’ve read seems to share… Actually, I suspect it’s a point of view that nobody actually holds.. including the person who wrote the Energy White Paper!
And they’ll probably need to explain their Asset Recycling Initiative, which describes how they intend to “recycle assets” in the energy sector into private hands, so that the state governments can afford to “invest” in infrastructure. I reckon they’ll need a really, really big campaign to explain that this is not simply privatisation.
And they’ll probably need to explain how, in spite of their constant arguments about the free market and how companies like Holden, Toyota or SPC should stand on their own two feet, they’ll be spending almost a billion dollars on the following:
“INDUSTRY GROWTH CENTRES
$188.5 million Industry Growth Centres, which will lift competitiveness and productivity by focusing on areas of competitive strength, including the oil, gas and energy resources sector and the mining equipment, technology and services sector.
INDUSTRY SKiLLS FUND
$476 million Industry Skills Fund, which will enable Australia to have the highly skilled workforce needed to adapt to new business growth opportunities, rapid technological change and market-driven structural adjustment.
ENTREPRENEURS’ iNFRASTRUCTURE PROGRAMME
$484.2 million Entrepreneurs’ Infrastructure Programme, which will provide Australian companies with structural and strategic support to capitalise on growth opportunities.”
And then they may need to explain that the reason why there’s hardly any mention of climate change in the Energy White Paper is that their Direct Action Strategy has fixed the problem and we don’t need to worry about that any more.
Because, well, with the Ice Epidemic we have more than enough to worry about!