Sunday 18 March 2018
I sit before my computer, fingers poised, well two of them anyway, searching for a beginning and I cannot find one. By the time people are reading this the Batman by-election and the South Australian Election will be done and dusted. Or perhaps we will have to wait and see. Both are filled with there own political complexities, intrigues even.
What effect will Bill Shorten’s controversial decision to announce cuts to Franking Dividends make in the Batman by-election?
If longevity of tenure was a measure by which you judge a government then Labor in South Australia, with 16 years consecutive years of governance must surely be applauded.
I shall come back to this later but first, there are a few matters to clear up.
1 Some tweets.
Wayne Swan Verified account @SwannyQLD
“Excessive executive pay drives a further wedge into Australia’s deepening economic inequality. Bank CEOs received 100 times more than average Australians in 2017. We ignore these gross distortions in distribution at our peril,”
“Howard-Costello buy votes with unsustainable spending – middle-class welfare, Baby Bonus, imputation refunds. Falls to Labor to unwind it against trenchant opposition from LNP & NewsLtd. #HandsOffOurLurks”
Bill Shorten Verified account @billshortenmp
“You either think Australians deserve a pay rise, or you don’t. I believe Australians deserve a pay rise.” #realPM
This tweet came to me via Geof Mason. I am an admirer of brevity in writing. This one is impressive.
Tweet by “Queen Victoria”:
So let me get this straight: Dutton wants to bring white South African farmers to Australia who aren’t refugees and don’t want to come, but he won’t let any actual refugees who aren’t white, who want to come, come at all? Makes perfect sense.
Tweet by “Edo Voloder”:
Under Labor’s policy a wealthy person who currently pays $0 tax, won’t get a franking credit refund..for tax they never paid saving the federal budget around $8billion dollars a year, which can be spent on vital services instead.
How is this bad Turnbull and Morrison?”
2 Some other thoughts.
The Tasmanian election is clearing the air and what do we find? Well, it’s certainly historical but who will notice? Tasmania has become the first Australian state to return a female-majority parliament.
Thirteen women and 12 men have been elected to the House Of Assembly as counting is finalised in the state election which was held on March 3. It should have received more media space but you know how it is with women.
3 Peter Dutton’s undoubtedly racist comments about the white South African farmers was totally unnecessary, but as usual, he couldn’t help but take the opportunity to express his white superiority. Most racists tend to want to hide the fact, but not our Peter.
As I thought about it, the plight of the remaining Asylum Seekers on Manus and Nauru came to mind. This Immigration Minister – who delights in showing his toughness – still hasn’t found places for them, meaning he has condemned them to a lifetime of incarceration without ever having committed a crime. What sort of man would do that?
4 On the Franking Credits, it must be remembered that of the $10 billion of franking credits, the overwhelming majority flow to high-income households, 75% going to the top 10%”!
5 I had a thought about those school kids protesting the ridiculous USA gun laws. “It is the children of the USA who lead the need for gun reform. You would think it is the adults who should know better.”
6 The conspiracy theorists are out again with the killing of the two Russians in England. The question is, is it mere coincidence that two weeks prior to the Russian Presidential elections and after Mr Putin says “We are under attack from the West” that these uncanny events take place?
7 It’s rather like if you were Prime Minister of Australia and your deputy had a voice louder than your own, what would you do? The sequence of events surrounding Barnaby Joyce’s resignation were also a touch conspiratorial. What do you think? Notice how there is only one voice speaking for the Coalition now?
8 I have had a bad week on Facebook, being attacked for my perceived bias. After giving it much consideration I thought the best way to describe a biased person is thus …
“I would say it is either an inability or unwillingness to want to understand an opposing point of view.”
9 Now back to where I started; “Why did he do it?”
Why in God’s name did Bill Shorten pick last Tuesday to announce a rather contentious policy? In the full light of day knowing that there was a must-win by-election the next weekend, and a South Australian State election? What sort of basic political thinking was going on in the head of Shadow treasurer Chris Bowen that on the surface at least sounds incredulous?
Was there thinking that a large section of the community would see Labor as progressive on tax reform, even courageous taking on problems that the Coalition didn’t have the guts to? But did it meet the fairness test? Fundamentally, yes.
Was it a risky proposal that they thought worth it, given they were well in front in the polls? Only time will tell if they were right or wrong.
Conversely, why wouldn’t they see the traffic jam of dissatisfaction that would confront them? Sure there would only be a small number of people affected but they would react like kids being stung by a bee’s nest.
Putting aside the fact that this initiative, politically speaking, is a good one what really did they have to gain. It could have waited until a better time. People are intuitively wary of change. Even beneficial change. Tinkering with a policy where the goal posts seem to be moved every week puts people on edge.
But however, you look at it something has to be done. Caitlin Fitzsimmons is the Money editor for The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. She sums it up this way:
“The Howard-Costello largesse is now unsustainable. We have a tax system that can no longer pay for all the services that older people have been accustomed to all their lives.
The deficit in 2017-18 is estimated to be $24 billion. It’s unreasonable to expect working people – many of whom can’t afford their own home – to shoulder the entire burden of budget repair.
It’s also about intragenerational fairness, since it overwhelmingly affects well-off retirees, not all older people.
The fact we have so many retirees chasing fully franked dividends – where there’s a full credit because the company has paid the full rate of tax – is a huge distortion for the sharemarket. It means an excessive amount of money flows into the stocks of the big banks and Telstra.
There are many vested interests who cry foul over the proposals, but there are those in the investment world who acknowledge the status quo is far too generous.
Interestingly the Labor proposal doesn’t really affect pooled super funds – that is, the big industry and retail funds most people are members of. They have enough members paying tax to make the full use of all franking credits.
While the measure is aimed at well-off retirees, it catches some part pensioners and a very small number of full pensioners. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten hinted at some sort of compensation scheme for pensioners, before concluding that “we will make sure that pensioners are OK, full stop”.
My sources suggest a specific scheme is off the mark but there’ll be further announcements closer to the election to make sure pensioners are better off overall under a Labor government than a Coalition one.
Time alone will tell just what if any this announcement will make to peoples voting. Given the hole the Government is in it may not make any difference.
Whether we have the results for these two important elections we will continue to debate the merits of Shorten’s decision.
The Batman by-election will determine the structure of the current Parliament. Will the Greens pick up another seat or will the status quo prevail?
In South Australia will the Government hang onto power after 16 years or will the Nick Xenophon experiment against the major parties work? Or can the Libs form a Government?
Whatever happens, how will we judge Bill Shorten’s decision?
My thought for the day
The word “Frugality” is one of the most beautiful and joyful words in the English language, yet one that we are culturally cut off from understanding and enjoying and a consumption society has made us feel that happiness lies in having things, and has failed to teach us the happiness of not having things.
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