Everything this government does is designed to achieve one of two goals: to get the budget into surplus or to get themselves re-elected.
And that is the problem. These are not goals. They may be methods to achieve a goal but they are meaningless without a specific idea of what you hope to accomplish.
They say they want to boost the economy but they fail to look at the opportunity cost of their decisions because they are made for the wrong reasons.
Politics is causing this government to flounder along down an ideological path that leads to nowhere because they have no ultimate destination in mind.
Christopher Pyne as Minister for Education has been a disaster. His current threats to further cut funding to research groups if he doesn’t get his way on the deregulation of university fees beggars belief.
Research and education should not be an either/or proposition and bullying threats should not be the means of negotiation, but that is this government’s modus operandi. Whether it be threats of what they will take away, or direct bullying as with Gillian Triggs, or the aggressive theatrics of Question Time – there is no substance behind it because they have no goal, they make their decisions for political reasons.
The government says we must have a surplus. Why? So we can reduce the debt. Why? So we don’t have to pay so much interest. Why? And that’s where their thinking ends. They seem deaf to all rational discussion about viewing that cost as an acceptable investment to allow us to achieve our goals.
In its 130 year history, BHP has never been out of debt. When their income was highest during the mining boom they significantly increased their debt to expand their business.
Considering interest rates are at record lows and that we can fix that rate for 10 years, it would be a lost opportunity to not borrow and invest in things that will not only increase productivity and prosperity in the future, but also improve our standard of living now.
Whilst the US and the UK have both significantly reduced their defence expenditure, Tony Abbott gleefully announces more and more military and security spending with a plan to increase it to $50 billion a year in the near future (and that’s not counting his war toys).
What are we giving up to buy 58 fighter jets and 12 submarines? What are we gaining?
Another supposed goal is to become a “small” government. Why? So market forces can direct the economy. Why? Once again, they fail to make their case. Governments are the only bodies strong enough to protect us against the greed of profit driven corporations through regulation. But this government boasts about deregulation. Profit is its only motivation.
They seem unable to grasp the importance of addressing things like domestic violence that destroys many more Australian lives than terrorism ever has or will.
Mental health problems cost the economy over $10 billion every year yet this government has slashed funding for health, homelessness, and crisis support groups whilst repealing the gambling reform laws and disbanding the Alcohol and Drug Advisory Agency.
If action on climate change costs anything then we won’t be part of it which is like saying I won’t have a life-saving transfusion because it’s against my religion.
Slashing foreign aid, an approach Jacquie Lambie and Clive Palmer endorse calling for even further cuts, ignores the effect that will have on increasing poverty, violence and oppression hence adding to the global refugee crisis.
When Tony Abbott sneers at the Victorian government for spending $1 billion to not build a road, a trap set by the previous Coalition government, consider how many tens of billions he is spending to not help asylum seekers and to create more refugees.
We will hear today about the burden of our aging population. This government’s solution is to cut the pension indexation rate and make us work longer.
Because they are averse to modelling, they once again have not thought through the implications.
People who are retiring now did not have the benefit of compulsory superannuation for much of their working life. This is not the case for the current workforce. Instead of continuing with the planned increases to the superannuation guarantee and topping up the most needy with the low income supplement, they wail about how much the aged pension costs whilst ignoring the fact that we will have more self-funded retirees in the future.
As has been pointed out by literally everybody, overly generous superannuation tax concessions are growing much faster than the aged pension, but this government does not make policy for economic reasons. Politics is more important than sensible fiscal management.
With youth unemployment rising to alarming levels, now is not the time to be insisting that older people stay in the workforce longer. The last time they increased the pension age it led to a big increase in people on the disability pension. There will be many people between the ages of 65 and 70 who will be unable to work and so will presumably be placed on the DSP.
The government boasts about its infrastructure budget but refuses to listen to Infrastructure Australia about priorities and cost benefit ratios. Why do we need roads? To employ people building them. But more roads means more cars and more pollution and more traffic jams and parking problems when those cars reach the city. Building the NBN has countless productivity gains and no negatives except the cost. As I have argued before, building high speed rail would give ongoing employment to thousands of people, revitalise regional areas, and take the burden off housing in the cities.
Whether it is health, education, welfare, security, the environment or infrastructure, this government has no goals. They don’t know why they are doing what they are doing other than it is “in their DNA”.
A goal without a plan is just a wish, but a plan without a goal is futile.
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