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Chris Bowen misses an opportunity.

Yesterday Chris Bowen addressed the National Press Club to announce a Labor initiative to have the independent Parliamentary Budget Office prepare the forecasts to be used in government budget and fiscal statements to allow for greater transparency, accountability and rigour.

He started well by talking about the Charter of Budget Honesty and how Joe Hockey has manipulated the figures to inflate the debt and deficit. He mentioned Hockey’s decision to give $8.8 billion to the RBA which was designed to maximise the deficit, attribute it to Labor, whilst hoping for increased dividends in the future. He also mentioned the effect of Hockey’s manipulation of assumptions about key projections like unemployment, inflation, terms of trade, and GDP growth.

Bowen briefly ran over the comparison of PEFO projections with MYEFO – the former being prepared independently by the secretaries of Treasury and Finance, the latter being a propaganda sheet prepared by Hockey and Corman.

I was optimistic for once. This is exactly what needs to be highlighted in the media because it is what this government is basing all its rhetoric on. The attack on the ‘leaners’ is necessary to avoid saddling our children with an unpayable debt. Apparently we don’t mind burdening them with an unpayable personal debt to pay for their tertiary education but we can’t have public debt because…ummm…we are the knights of No and we want a surplus.

But it went downhill from there.

Instead of continuing in this vein, Chris Bowen then went to great lengths to explain that this was not a criticism of Treasury for whom he has the highest regard. He backed away from direct criticism of Hockey’s lies, concentrating on what the PBO would do and who they would collaborate with. This was what stuck in people’s minds. The introductory part of the speech, by far the most important aspect, was forgotten and not one question by the ‘journalists’ afterwards related to Hockey’s deceit.

Straight afterwards on ABC24, Lyndall Curtis interviewed Matthias Corman who had already been out that morning pre-empting Bowen’s speech. In his usual fashion, regardless of what he was asked, Corman repeated his preprepared lines like a doll having the string in its back pulled. “Layboor’s debt and deficit disaster leaving us with $123 billion in deficits, debt spiralling to $667 billion, and no credible path back to surplus.” Despite Chris Bowen’s introduction, Curtis, like all other journalists, allowed this to pass without question.

So there we were, back where we started with Corman’s mantra ringing in our ears.

Bowen’s answers to the questions that were asked was entirely inadequate. Having admitted there was a budget problem, Bowen was asked how Labor intended to address it. His response – “I’m not going to reveal our policies today. We are in the process of carefully developing them and rest assured you will all know them well before the next election and they will be fully costed.” What a fizzer. Where was the vision for the future? Where was the promise of a better way? Where were the ideas even if the detail was still to be determined?

When asked about negative gearing, Chris nearly got a hernia twisting away from the question and talking instead about housing affordability whilst making it clear that he was not suggesting specific changes to taxation. When pressed further about the very low numbers of first home buyers, he waffled on unconvincingly about stamp duty and construction.

The speech was the wrong way around. He should have started with the changes he wanted to make with the PBO and then outlined why he wanted those changes by listing the duplicity engaged in in the preparation of MYEFO.

Just for the record:

PEFO gives independent predictions using Labor policies. MYEFO gives Hockey’s assessment using Coalition policies.

PEFO shows a cumulative deficit of $54.6 billion over the forward estimates with a predicted surplus of $4.2 billion in 2016-17.

MYEFO shows a cumulative deficit of $122.7 billion with no surplus predicted over the forward estimates.

PEFO states, in 2013-14, net debt for the Australian Government general government sector is estimated to be $184.0 billion (11.7 per cent of GDP) and is projected to return to zero in 2023-24.

Hockey’s MYEFO predicts, nay BLARES, a debt of $667 billion. This figure is quoted ad nauseum every time you press the button on Matthias Corman’s belly. This is a projection of the GROSS debt in a DECADE under COALITION policies.

Let me make that absolutely crystal clear…this is a projection of the future with the Coalition’s decisions to axe the carbon tax which, according to MYEFO, “will reduce receipts by $6.3 billion over the forward estimates period” and the repeal of the minerals resource rent tax which “reduces receipts by $3.4 billion over the forward estimates period”. Add in the decisions to repeal the changes to the FBT and superannuation taxation and to gift $8.8 billion to the RBA, and also the payment to Rupert Murdoch of $882 million from the tax department, as well as the PPL that won’t go away and billions for Direct Inaction, and I would contend that Hockey and Corman OWN that projected debt. Increased spending on defence, searching for missing planes, attending memorial services whenever and wherever you can…these are all discretionary decisions made by this government.

Gross debt was approx. $280 billion when the Coalition took over. It is now $337.686 billion. Since September 30 2013, they have been borrowing over $157 million extra a day.

This article quotes the numbers presented in recent fiscal documents. I wish Chris Bowen had rammed it home a bit harder because Joe is setting us up to say “look how much I have saved” when the numbers tell a different story.

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25 comments

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  1. John Fraser

    <

    Is he still running down the back alleys of parliament house delivering messages for Rudd ?

    Or is he keeping Shorten there ?

  2. Letitia McQuade

    Kay, you are national treasure

  3. cowper133

    I agree! I thought he was doing brilliantly at beginning of speech.What is it with ALP? They never follow through with their strong message to counteract the Libs lies and obfuscation!
    The interview with Lyndal Curtis that followed was farcical. Not once did she correct Corrman on his debt & deficit,budget our of control rhetoric.She even let him get away with blaming Labor for PEFO! We can no longer trust journalists at the ABC to get to the truth! Only one who has bothered recently was Sarah Ferguson and she was moved on before her stint was up!!

  4. Kaye Lee

    cowper133,

    Rumour (from a very credible inside source at the ABC) has it that Leigh Sales insisted that Chris Uhlman take over from Sarah Ferguson because Sales did not want the direct comparison between her and Sarah…she needed the limp lettuce leaf Uhlman in between so she didn’t look inadequate in comparison.

  5. Andrew

    You call yourself the independent media, wow, what a load of bs. The ALp didn’t get one budget forecast right in there 6 years, why would you believe anything they forecast now.

  6. All's Not Lost

    Oh God, it’s deja vu all over again.

  7. John Kelly

    By the time of the next election, we will have a clear comparison of Labor’s debt ($180 billion) and Hockey’s debt (estimated to be around $500 billion). That will take some explaining.

  8. randalstella

    Kaye,
    I cannot say your source is wrong definitely, but I would doubt Sales having any say in who fronts the non-report. They do what they are told. Being in front of the camera gives you little clout with admin. decisions – unless you have been keyed in with their longterm political aims, to be small target to the LCP. Tinny Jones has some such power. He’s pompous, ignorant and brazen enough.

    It doesn’t amount to a hill of beans anyway. Look at the ABC online headlines on the useless, aimless interrogation of Gillard this past week. You would think she had been grilled – into submission to some semblance of admission of guilt. The opposite was the case. There are so many louses at the ABC who style themselves crusaders for the truth.
    And never overlook lazy stupidity as the prime morality-warper. Lies are easier because they can be simplistic at will.

  9. Florence nee Fedup

    It will be interesting to see how many predictions that Hockey gets correct. The day will come, in fact has come, when blaming Labor no longer works.

    They are only predictions, that depend on everything thing else in the economic environment remaining the same. Sadly, the economy across the globe is forever changing. One does as Swan did, make adjustments, as the changes showed up.

    Trolls seem to be out this weekend, especially on twitter.

    Yes, we are Independent. Do not see Murdoch anywhere in sight.

    Yes, most here lean to the left. Is allowed in a democracy. One is allowed to follow their own beliefs. As Abetz is said to have said, there are no facts, just interpretations.

    Do not know about that, but what is true, results of politicians actions are only too real.

  10. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    I am a grassroots economist: unashamedly learning to count the numbers and getting my head around what the difference is between millions and billions.

    Same goes for deciphering acronyms, like PEFO and MYEFO. I did some research on Google and discovered the difference. I appreciate your article Kaye for making me aware of the difference and your explanation.

    I agree Bowen should have developed his speech so that the merits of PEFO were highlighted and the shortcomings of the MYEFO were obvious. What about a bit of creative thinking and using a whiteboard for us mere mortals that hear the blurr of words but not the meaning? This could be written on the board with the camera focussing as the words are written. It would be educative for the audience and the journalists. (Is he scared of being depicted as an inferior teacher?)

    Then Bowen would have had something to point to when asked about where the money would come from for any possible policies being planned even if he wasn’t specific on what those policies are going to be.

    I suggest Bowen could remedy his failure to sell his Charter of Budget Honesty message by advocating it on primetime tv, so that the $000’s savings and sensible expenditure that his forecasts offer (as opposed to dishonourable Hockey’s), are obvious and hit home to the voters.

    Finally, while he’s promoting his message to the voters, he can tell us those policies that are under consideration and allow feedback from interested members of the community, including the grassroots. This would be a great political move and who knows, it might provide some valuable raw material for the Opposition’s projected budget policies!

  11. Kaye Makovec

    Labor miss the boat in many ways over the last 7 years and continue to do so.
    And in doing that showed me the system needs to change as party politics now is for the party and not the people.
    Many people like me, who used to be called swinging voters because we voted on policies we considered best for us, ours and the country, have turned to alternatives.
    And at the moment I can’t see any reason to vote for either party and will continue looking for Independents, failing that, The Greens 🙂

  12. Kaye Lee

    Jennifer,

    Numbers are my thing. I am crap at cooking and housework but I run a business, I can read a balance sheet, I understand about investing for future gain, I know how to budget and live within my means and that includes serviceable debt…..but most of all….I HATE being lied to. It infuriates me that the people who actually get out of their jammies and get paid to ask questions of our politicians never ask the right ones.

    For example….

    Do you think the Australian people realised that when you campaigned to axe the carbon and mining taxes that they would be giving up over $10 billion in revenue from mining superprofits and polluters which would be paid for by the loss of many benefits like the increase in the superannuation guarantee, the Schoolkids Bonus, the Low Income Superannuation Contribution, the Income Support Bonus, a more generous asset writeoff for small businesses and accelerated depreciation for business vehicles, lowering the rate of increase in pensions from average male weekly earnings to CPI, paying $7 a visit to the doctor and more for their medication, and cutting young unemployed off from any support for six months of the year?

    The people who make the billions and cause the damage are given a boost while the poorest in our society are made to pay for it.

  13. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Kaye M, I agree. The Greens are the obvious choice for me too because I’m sick of the scared little rabbits in Labor who run terrified in the spotlights. The good people such as Cameron are outnumbered. Too much trying to compete for the conservative middle ground with the heathen Liberal National Party.

    Kaye L, I agree. I hope that was obvious!?!

    The trouble with the “Born to Rule” Neanderthal LIBERAL NATIONAL PARTY is that they think they are so superior to the rest of us that they fail to understand that WE see their blatant socioeconomic fraud committed by their despicable reversal of the Mining Tax and Carbon Tax, and how those closures have denied the much needed and entitled $000,000,000’s that would have ensured your various listed social and welfare benefits for the community.

    Their deliberate fiscal destruction also frustrates other worthy initiatives never mentioned, like effective MICRO-FINANCING initiatives that are fully ACCESSIBLE grants and loans for sole-practice or small business entrepreneurs. (Not just a piddly few hundred dollars but thousands if need be depending on the venture.)

    Such grants and loans would provide real and sufficient economic support to get people out of the poverty of unemployment on Newstart and back into self-employment, economic security, as taxpayers.

  14. Kaye Lee

    Jennifer…sorry bout the vehemence, it was not directed at you at all 🙂

    Hockey’s lies make me angry, and the inability of journalists and the Labor Party to point them out makes it so much worse. The numbers are there…stop the theatrics and push the truth. Knock Hockey and Corman’s $667 billion debt and $123 billion deficit figures on the head right now. Expose that loud and long and drown out their rhetoric.

  15. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    No worries Kaye.

    Is there any evidence that Smokin’ Joe and his underling Corman read your blog? I hope so. You speak economic and socially responsible sense to me!

  16. Florence nee Fedup

    What is worse about Hockey, is not that he lies, but he paints scenarios that have no connection to reality. He is into fairy land stuff.
    If he really believes what comes out of his mouth, we are really in trouble.

  17. Florence nee Fedup

    If they do not read these blogs, they are wasting their money on the hundred or more media people to keep a eye on what is in the media.

  18. townsvilleblog

    Bowen is a lightweight politician, a would be if he could be much like his dud leader. He resembles a mouse not only in looks. His silly idea diverts attention away from the ” real target” Hockey’s grossly unfair budget.

  19. Wayne Turner

    The sad reality is that Labor are VERY GUTLESS,TOO AFRAID of the MSM,TOO AFRAID to go on a full attack against the LYING LIBS,and TOO GUTLESS to take on the self serving big businesses.THEY ARE WEAK AND GUTLESS.When in government with Rudd NOT getting the ABC back from the Libs,NOT setting up Royal Commissions into AWB,Iraq War,etc… being TOO GUTLESS to call a DD regarding the ETS,then continued with the dumping of Rudd and Gillard being TOO GUTLESS to explain to the public why at the time,to GUTLESS backing down to the mining industry bullying over the mining tax.Labor’s GUTLESS me too on asylum seekers,etc,etc…

    Labor = NO GUTS

    Liberal = NO SHAME

  20. Kyran

    I have been in business, and I have represented various associations. When I run a business, in my opinion, it’s a “top down” scenario. I am the boss, I make the decision’s and the success or failure rest’s with me. When I represent an association, it’s “bottom’s up”. I must understand the need’s and want’s of the members to represent their causes. In my experience, they are “mutually exclusive”. When political parties want to adopt a business model and apply it to a representative model, they immediately become irrelevant. This feed’s in to the mantra of a “mandate”. The “top” decides what every one of their constituent’s voted for. I much rather prefer the notion that your local representative has been in the area for a while and understand what they need to do. Bottom’s up! A population of 23 barely plus million in a land space of some of the biggest continents. We have 8 governments at State and Federal level. At least eight education, health, legal systems at those levels. For what it’s worth, I would prefer political parties were nothing more than social groups and that your local politician tell’s you what they are going to do. I would get rid of “states”, in my direct experience, the greatest impediment of commerce. And for goodness sake, the NBN! Population V land mass. It is a no brainer for health, education and law. As for the ABC, I can only weep at it’s demise.

  21. Manfred

    Funny how the Coalition is prepared to inform us regarding Terrorism but not on Asylum seekers.The reason is because they are political fundamentalist’s.They will do and say anything to suit their political agenda.

  22. stephentardrew

    Kaye and Michael:

    I too have run organizations and have a good grasp of economics and audits however you have done all the hard miles and there is no use repeating your cutting analysis of our economy. My frustration is how the hell can AIMN promote your clear and rational arguments to influence Labor. I know you love your jamas and have no wish to enter the political maelstrom however I wonder if bloggers on this site could be involved with some other type of on-line petition to get the word out more effectively. I m constantly signing petitions for worthy causes and feel that this may well be one method of attack. Know you are all busy, as am I, but maybe some trusted blogger could assist to get the word out. Just a thought.

  23. townsvilleblog

    Wayne, it is difficult to disagree with your sentiments, we must remember that the members of the ALP voted 58.9% for Albanese yet we received $3 bill. This is partially the reason for NO GUTS as $3 was an AWU official, they are union in name only. There are a few good people within the AWU but they never climb the corporate ladder with the “um union”. $3 spends more time on TV agreeing with Abbott than he does opposing Abbott, which is only logical given that $3 is a “right-wing” politician, as is Abbott, though Abbott is ultra right wing, the ALP need “centre-left” management which is very unlikely given the vote where a candidate can achieve 58.9% of the member’s vote and still lose.

  24. mars08

    The mercurial Chris Bowen is damaged goods…

  25. Wayne Turner

    Indeed.Labor are so GUTLESS they couldn’t even give the party members what they wanted: Albo. Instead the Labor pollies with no GUTS rolled over (The union bullying influence) and gave it to ME TOO Shorten,the bore with no GUTS,NO passion, and NO substance.All Labor had to do was pick the correct leader and actually listen to their members,but NO they stuffed up 🙁

    Hence the ONLY party to vote for is the Greens,and has been for years…

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