First we are greeted by the image of Joe Hockey and Mathias Corman kicking back looking very pleased with themselves as they sucked on fat cigars. The imagery is wrong on so many levels – a satisfaction enjoyed by the rich after a fine meal or a more intimate dalliance, which leads inevitably to ‘we just got screwed’. It sends the wrong health message to kids and the wrong message to workers who I thought couldn’t smoke within a certain distance of a building.
Then we see Hockey dancing around his office. I can certainly understand him being happy to see his family but one would have thought that he may not be in a ‘dancing’ mood considering what he was about to deliver. If he was expressing relief that the process was over, I think that may have been premature. This is going to be a hard sell and we must all keep the pressure on as Sarah Ferguson did with Christopher Pyne on the 7:30 report last night.
As Hockey was making his Budget speech in Parliament I watched Tony Abbott. He was like a naughty kid in school assembly, talking behind his hand, smirking, looking around, paying no attention to what was being said and showing no respect to the speaker (Hockey, not Bronwyn). Straight afterwards he went to have a beer with the Murdoch boys from the Telegraph.
I then watched a very serious Joe Hockey being interviewed by Laurie Oakes. Gone was Jocular Joe. In a remarkably similar performance to his tearful “no child will be sent offshore on my watch” speech in Parliament, we had immigrant Joe who, with quivering lip, refused to saddle his children with Labor’s debt.
Every day, in fact every hour of every day, new information emerges from the budget, all of it bad.
Except for defence.
As job losses keep mounting up in mining, manufacturing, the public service, and countless agencies and charities, defence are in fact recruiting an extra 2744 people. Whilst new jobs are crucial, so is productivity and I want to know, since we are investing such huge amounts, what does defence add to productivity? Surely research and education and health initiatives and infrastructure like public transport and the NBN provide better for our future than more soldiers and armaments?
Many people seem convinced that we must increase defence spending and that we need a stronger armed forces. Why? We all know the power of global corporations. The armament guys might be happy but they can’t make their stuff without resources. China can’t get rich without markets. There are still terrorist organisations active in the world but huge armies don’t fight them. They are defeated through intelligence gathering by computer nerds and targeted unmanned drones.
As they cut spending on health and education, they bring forward an extra $1.5 billion for defence spending from 2017-18 to earlier years. What’s the rush? Are we under threat? Has there been another fishing boat with 15 refugees on it spotted? Why must defence spending keep increasing to 2% of GDP? Is getting the military to do their own white paper wise? How will spending $50 billion a year on defence improve the lives of Australians?
As they increase the efficiency dividend for the public service from 2% to 2.25% every year for the forward estimates, any efficiencies found in Defence costs will be reinvested back into Defence. I am not sure how that represents a saving. It must be like the PPL levy where a 1.5% surcharge on some businesses coupled with a 1.5% decrease for all businesses is supposed to raise $22 billion in revenue. I guess I must be missing some nuance here.
We meet with John Kerry and all of a sudden billions is going out of our economy to buy lots more American planes. Not only are these things very expensive to buy, they are very expensive to maintain and very expensive to fly. Exactly what contribution is this huge investment making to our country? How is it helping us transition our economy or get the debt and deficit down which I though was the number one priority and only promise that mattered?
South Korea jumped on the bandwagon making Tony agree to buy their guns. These two transactions will not have gone unnoticed by China. I wonder how much of their military hardware we will have to buy to get their signature on a Free Trade agreement.
For those who say we need the protection, I ask from who? Our Navy is currently employed guarding against asylum seekers and searching for missing planes. War is different nowadays. I seriously doubt that we will see a navy attack force heading for the Coral Sea with our submarines patrolling the reef.
This predilection for the military shows in so many areas of the Coalition – appointments of people like Jim Molan, Peter Cosgrove, Angus Houston, using the armed forces for civilian operations, naming the Operations, warlike secrecy, photos in cockpits. Even our slave labour ‘work for half the minimum wage’ workforce is called the Green Army.
Slashing Foreign Aid and supporting regimes who commit human rights abuses such as those in Sri Lanka and West Papua, seems very short term thinking if you want less asylum seekers and a peaceful world. But perhaps Tony wants to emulate his Thatcher/Reagan models in more than just economics.
Having these people in charge is truly terrifying.