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Bright and shiny things

While the former Coalition Government was never one to consider the frail, elderly, unwell or jobless as full members of society, you would expect better from an ALP Government. Perhaps we are expecting too much.

Various Ministers have crowed from the rooftops that social security payments have risen, which they have, but only because they are indexed every six months. We’ve also had Ministers tell us that various requests made to them to increase social security payments to a level where people can afford to pay the ever-increasing rent as well as put meals on the table the same week are unaffordable. Similar responses have been made about some of the funding requested for the Olympic Games in Brisbane, renewable energy, medical services or drugs that will either prolong life or make whatever life people have left more bearable, and the list goes on.

Anyone who drives a new car out of a showroom will realise sooner or later there are newer cars around with a greater level of technology, better fuel economy, different features or more comfort. Once the realisation has been made, there are in reality two options, either trade the car in on the newer one with the desired ‘better’ feature and be forced to rinse and repeat consistently or accept that the newer model may be able to do something better than the car you drive. It’s the same with electrical appliances. The latest model television may be able to do something faster or produce a better picture and certainly will have more acronyms on the box than the 10 year old television in your lounge room. But economically is it worth upgrading when you can still see Opposition Leader Dutton routinely saying ‘no’ regardless of the question on the ol’ faithful? Of course, you might have to purchase a new television if you throw something at it when Dutton is being completely obnoxious.

Apparently it’s the same with submarines. It seems that in the typical thought process of those who like the latest ‘bright and shiny thing’, our former Coalition government and some in the defence community have for the past decade been playing games rather than making a decision and sticking with it. First, we were to buy Japanese submarines, then the ‘better’ French ones and now apparently we are getting some really schmick ones from the US until a jointly designed submarine is conceived and built in the 2040s that must be better still – but no one knows because it hasn’t been built yet! One wonders if there is a notion that if anyone really wants to invade Australia have they have agreed to wait until the 2040s as well?

The Monthly suggests that

We all surely shared a sense of inner glow at this implied prosperity, but then as The Australia Institute’s Richard Denniss points out, “Australia is an incredibly rich country, our GDP per capita ranks eighth largest in the world … our public debt to GDP ratio remains way below the OECD average. Likewise, we are a low-taxing country, even before we blow another quarter of a trillion dollars on the Stage Three tax cuts.”

More on tax in a moment, but even if it turns out that we can afford submarines, did we really want them? Was there public debate? A series of rigorous green and white papers leading to a full-throated and exhaustive parliamentary examination of the proposal? Not quite. It was a deal hatched in the cabinet-of-a-secret-handful presided over by the member for Walter Mitty, Scott Morrison. A deal then ratified and made concrete by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese without even the superficial consensuality of a Labor partyroom vote. These are the quiet wheels of “democratic” power, acting in our best interest without ever investigating our sense of what that interest might be.

The Monthly goes on to quote the author of the (generally ignored) 2010 review on taxation in Australia, Ken Henry

“Right now, Commonwealth tax revenue should be at least 2 per cent of GDP higher. That’s about $50 billion a year in today’s money. And, given the pressures of accelerating spending on defence, healthcare, aged care and disability support, among others, we are clearly going to have to raise the tax-to-GDP ratio even higher over the decades ahead.”

While Albanese’s Government can always claim that the AUKUS submarine decision was made before they came to power, there is clearly a need to have a conversation with Australia that discusses why half a trillion (or thereabouts) dollars spent on nuclear submarines and tax cuts is acceptable, while spending on health care, transport, energy security, genuine attempts to mitigate climate change and the host of other initiatives that could make Australia a far more equal, healthy and caring society are subject to budgetary pressures.

Sadly, the magic pudding always was a fiction.


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  1. Hotspringer

    I do not get :The Monthly”. but I like “The Shovel”‘s suggestion we pay China $300 billion not to invade us and save $68 billion to spend on Australians.

  2. Kerri

    Does Anthony Albanese even realise that if we had wanted all the things Scott Morrison was planning to happen we would have voted for Scott Morrison?

  3. Michael Taylor

    You said what needed to be said, 2353. Many of us feel the same as you.

  4. leefe

    ” … when Dutton is being completely obnoxious.”

    Is he ever not?

  5. New England Cocky

    “[S]pending on health care, transport, energy security, genuine attempts to mitigate climate change and the host of other initiatives that could make Australia a far more equal, healthy and caring society are subject to budgetary pressures.”

    Obviously the expenditure side of the Australian budget will have to be restricted to pay for the Scummo USUKA debacle. Free money to the following areas will have to be cut and re-directed to USUKA: Oil Exploration handouts, Fuel rebates for use by corporations off state roads, Government funding of private schools, Tax cuts for the rich in 2024, and Parliamentary Allowances scheme tightened up so that MPs cannot claim return home flights from overseas weddings pandering to international coal barons.

  6. Uta Hannemann

    I wonder who we vote for now!

  7. totaram

    Kerri: We did not vote for Albo as opposed to ScoMo but I’m sure you know that. We vote only for our local representative.
    There are lots of things that ScoMo wanted (but didn’t tell us about as usual). I think most people suspected those things were on the agenda after the past 9 years, so they voted against them. I certainly hope so.

    NEC: let’s see how they (Labor) try to sell this now. It will be interesting to watch. Budget deficits appear to always be a problem, except when they aren’t! This is truly hilarious, until you see that most of the public don’t see this. 🙂

  8. andy56

    i have a suggestion, pay everyone a decent UBI and get rid of super. Over a certain amount of income , the tax man claws back the UBI. I can hear the nay sayers but nobody has done real modelling to show it wont work. I for one can see right through the stupidity of creating a parallel system of providing for retirement whilst using fear as its main driver. Fear that will create a whole generation renting. Plus its distorting our economy. Costs the gov $50b this year and takes $120b out of the real economy into investments, ie housing and banks. Government policies should be driven by efficiency with a direct connection to stated objectives. A retirement fund means nobody touches it till retirement, that includes the government. Which begs the question, if your going to be fair, just tax and pay everyone the same, ie a pension.
    Another waste of money is the job agency model. If robo debt ended up costing the government $1.8b, what are the savings to be had using mutual obligation? I suggest it adds to the cost so another $16b in savings can be had by scrapping all the punitive penny chasing. Over payments can be delt with via the tax office once a year. There are means and ways we could streamline our economy and governments that just are not on the agenda. And i have a list a mile long.

  9. Michael Taylor

    That’ll work, andy. But it’s too logical for an Australian government – any government – to give consideration to.

  10. Douglas Pritchard

    We need to check that Albo did, in fact, sign the box in the Aukus agreement that asked “Are you a robot”?

  11. wam

    Sadly, 2353, your ‘we’ is keatingish and not enough to be elected. ps In 2015 japanese or german subs ready for SA to start building cost $20b while a french sub would be based on an unbuilt nuclear sub which the french announced ” l’« accord du siècle ».” THEY would adapt the design for small deisel subs and build with a new 4k workforce in the Mayor, ‘une victoire pour la France et pour Cherbourg’) cost $50b. Why did the frogs get picked? My theory was downer wanted to destroy the SA union workforce which would struggle to exist if the subs took 10 years.

  12. Terence Mills

    I’ve noticed in recent days that the hawks who are forecasting – and perhaps even relishing – the prospect of war with China in the next few years frequently refer to the ‘need to protect democracy in Taiwan’ – this was mentioned several times on Insiders today by Greg Sheridan (the Australian) and Peter Hartcher (Nine publications).

    I’m very wary when people talk about protecting or promoting democracy as the prime rationale for us going to war. Does anyone remember why we went to war in Iraq and why we went to war in Afghanistan ? It was to protect and promote democracy (WMD in Iraq was a red herring) and to ensure the freedom of the people from oppression and to ensure that girls got an education and were treated with respect.
    Have you had a look recently at these two countries ? If so you may have noticed that democracy has not taken root and may never have been the real reason for us invading them in the first place and girls certainly aren’t getting educated !

    Paul Keating has been ridiculed for his comments at the Press Club the other day but, as he pointed out, the Chinese are not threatening to invade Australia and if they did make such a declaration tomorrow we would have to ask them to hold off until we get our Virginia Class clunkers in ten years time or the first of our AUKUS Class in twenty years time.

  13. New England Cocky

    @ andy56: There is data from the Canadian study of UBI that was abandoned by the Harper Conservative government before being recovered and fully analysed. In brief, the study found that UBI paid for itself by reducing demand for health services by A GREATER AMOUNT THAN THE UBI COST.
    Rutger Bregman (2017) ”Utopia for Realists” and how we can get there; Bloomsbury, 317pp, ISBN TPB: 978-1-40988-9027-1

  14. Clakka

    I guess I ask myself, “What is the ratio of politicians truly and diligently aligned to community wellbeing and democracy vs those politicians that are self-seeking try-hards that manipulate biasses and dwell on corporate and departmental corruption while diminishing the citizen’s democratic franchise?”

    Like most things in politics the devil is in the detail, and the unsaid.

    It is well understood in the defence materiel business, that the ‘Gold Braid’ are a well practised internecine band of death and destruction dealing fantasists, whose learned gravitas is often a carapace inuring them against the vicissitudes of human development and the nature of constructive collaboration. This is exemplified in the strictures of their m.o. and predominant in the way in which they obtain their machinery of war.

    The un-planned ‘scattergun’ method of obtaining from the global lollie-shop often disparate technologies and multiplicity of function that are responsible for the usually massive blow-out of time and cost of their procurements. Of course producing machinery to the ‘nothing but the best’ mil-spec procedure is mind-blowingly rigorous, complex and expensive at the best of times, but subjecting it to the whims of the Gold Braid’s never-ending ‘scattergun’ wish list puts management of the design and construct process at large, and usually results in an exponential growth of cost and time for delivery.

    Most politicians opt to blame the contractors and/or the tradespeople involved. Just so they can maintain their patsy with the Gold Braid.

    Given that both US-Virginia and UK-Astute class subs are old tech and way behind programme and substantially over budget, to contemplate the strategy and need, and the time and cost profile of any AUKUS SSN, not even devised yet, and some 20-30 years out, is in my opinion a beguiling fantasy.

  15. andy56

    new england cocky, i rest my case. Most Gov policy is ideologically based. Lots of it bares no resemblance to what its supposed to do. The war on drugs is another stupid idea. Trying to control inflation through interest rates is another one that just seems crazy on close inspection. Building 90days petrol storage is just another one. wouldnt it have been better to have a gov corp run a distillery? too late now but as an interim, make us all run to EVs asap and update the grid asap. that way we ARE masters of our own destiny. Providing back door subsidies to dying industries is our forte’. Industries that are important, that employ lots of people are told to fuck off. As one scribe writes the other day, isnt it time we stopped governments from provideing largese to well off people. The role of government is to set the direction, the fact the country is rather screwed up says a lot about where we have been going and reflects on those wilfully incompetant ideologues that have led us.
    If you ever get a chance to see Jon Steward interview Larry Summers, you will get a true picture of what the beast is thinking. The only way to control inflation is to put people out of work. A true capitalist where only capital is allowed to win.

    The RBA emperor has no clothes, are you reading this Mr Lowe. The RBA is in my sights again. They have three very diferrent objectives. They want pay rises and they want to control inflation. Thats all fine if one controls the other. However, statistics show wage rises havent been the cause of inflation. So WTF goes on in this guy’s mind? The only thing I see is ideology. “I am going to create pain because without pain the pain you will suffer will be greater pain.” you just couldnt write the script.
    The solution is right in front of us. UBI at a decent rate so unemployment isnt the road to self destruction. Most of us will want to do a bit more on the side, its our nature. But the protestant ideology can’t see past its own self fullfilling selfish BS. The low hanging fruit way is to raise unemployment benefits to something that isnt soul destroying.

  16. andy56

    Clakka, you confirm by theory that governments do whats ideological rather than the smart thing.
    Forward projection of our defence is a real contradiction in terms. We, as a well isolated nation have nobody on our door steps. Our neighbours do. A better form of defence in our region is a kind of NATO. Lets face it, a strong neighbourhood is cheaper than 8 nucs parading in the sth china seas.
    That means we have to be more integrated in our area. SOCIALLY integrated more than anything else.. We have to make an effort. Can start by making it easier for people from this part of the world to come and go. And thats not to be only for the RICH asians. Everything is geared for the rich, but i tell you the humble and poor will tell their village a story. The rich will keep it in house. After WW11, we had a great story to tell. Today ,as keating so rightfully said, white asian trash. People in ASIA are ripe for a feel good story from us, they dont want to see this trashy “turn back the boats”. They expect more from us and we too should expect more from ourselves.
    I should be in marketing.

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