Now I have been alive long enough to know that things don’t always make sense. I’m not just talking about politics here. When Joe Jackson sang, “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” it certainly struck a chord with me. However, listening to Scott Morrison talk about the “Canberra bubble” I couldn’t help but think that I’d sunk a couple of floors in Dante’s levels of Hell.
When Abbott was elected were fearful and there was some hope when Turnbull replaced him that things would improve. I never thought Turnbull was more principled, just more pragmatic; I used to point out that he’s not taking courageous, “left-wing” stands: he’s going along with what most people think. Republic? According to the polls, that had majority support. Marriage equality? Again, majority support. Action on climate change? Majority support. (Ok, he may not have actually done anything, but he would occasionally argue that it was a good idea and that he was prepared to stand on Abbott’s record.) It’s when the rest of the party think that mainstream thinking is radical even though it’s what most people believe, that we really have a “Canberra bubble”. When you think that Alan Jones, “The Australian” and “Sky After Dark” have a grip on the pulse and you’d better listen to them, you’ve really lost touch with the rest of the country.
So last week, I found it rather strange that we were given an opinion poll that showed a boost to the government when all that had happened was that Labor had supported Phelps’ Bill on medical treatment for people on Nauru and Manus.
Yes, I get that most people may not have understood the “nuances”. However, it just seems amazing that so many people would suddenly start to support a government that was looking more and more like a train wreck with each passing day. “We’re reopening Christmas Island because of Labor! We’re not sure exactly who’s going to be sent there, but thanks to Bill Shorten we don’t have money to help with the Townsville floods.” Upon hearing this, we’re asked to believe that a significant number of people forgot about all sorts of things and just went back to supporting the bunch of boofheads, who’ve demonstrated time and again that they have no competence when it comes to… well, just about anything, apart from occasionally framing the debate so that we’re talking about issues of no relevance to the vast majority of Australians.
In the case of asylum seekers, were it not for headlines trumpeting every boat arrival, how many people would have even known the problem existed? Compare it with “illegals” arriving by plane, which is only now starting to get the odd mention in the media. Yet, somehow this meant to be so important that we’ll change our votes because “stronger borders” is the number one issue for Australians.
In the case of franking credits, it’s being framed as taking people’s retirement “savings”. Even if you ignore the fact that some of the case studies had people receiving a larger refund of franking credits than someone on the full pension would get, nobody is having any “savings” taken off them. It simply means that they won’t receive a refund on future income from share dividends. Yes, I know, this is outrageous because some people who’ve worked really hard to ensure that they pay no tax in retirement are now expected to pay tax just because they’re receiving an income that would put them in the middle income earning level if they were still working. As one person at Tim Wilson’s taxpayer-funded outrage sessions put it: “This is a death tax by stealth!” Yes, we’re expecting people who’ve saved for retirement to use some of that money for their retirement and not to simply build a larger inheritance for the kids. (I know that there are some exceptions, but pensioners are exempt so the number of people who’ll actually struggle and not simply be forced to start drawing down more of their super will be smaller than the number of women in the Liberal Party… Ok, maybe not that small after the election!)
In the case of negative gearing, it only applies to new loans, so any current investors will still get their tax advantages. Of course, the fear is that it’ll reduce house prices overall. Given that house prices are coming down anyway, this is a legitimate fear for investors who were planning to sell and people who’ve recently bought their own home. However, for most homeowners, while it’s nice to have a more valuable home each year, this only helps you financially if you’re planning to sell and buy something cheaper… Whether my house is worth three times, four times or five times what I paid for it doesn’t really affect me now that I’ve been living here for more than fifteen years? Nonetheless, falling house prices could contribute to a slowing of the economy and… Oh, wait! They’re already falling. What plans do the Liberals have for any fallout? Oh, a contractionary Budget SURPLUS! Ah austerity, the perfect thing for a looming recession.
And energy prices! ABC radio led with a story yesterday about the Coalition’s plan for lowering energy prices. It was headline news. Yes, energy prices are really, really important and it’s only the Coalition that have a plan to bring them down. In fact, they have several plans to bring them down. First, there was the axing of the carbon “tax”, which saved us all $500 a year apparently. Then there was the National Energy Guarantee, which was dropped because it didn’t do enough to prevent clean energy. It was followed by NEG 2, which was sort of lost in the Canberra bubble. That was followed by some sort of commitment to come up with something at some future date, AND… Drum roll please, that day is now here. We have a new, new plan which will be implemented after the election, but you can trust us on energy because we’re agnostic. The new plan concerns “standing offers” and seems a wee bit socialist to me, but that’s ok because it won’t happen till after the election and then energy prices won’t be so urgent so it probably won’t happen because it’ll be more important to build that new coal-fired power station to use the coal that China won’t take.
I could go on. Free speech and 18C, leadership tensions, quotas… but then I’d just sound like I was in the Canberra bubble. So instead I’ll speculate on the Newspoll tomorrow. I predict that it will be interpreted as a great result for Scott Morrison even if it is moving closer to being the hundredth losing Newspoll for the Liberals. (Yes, we’ve still got a way to go, but I have faith that Scott will go a long way towards getting them there.) After all, we’ve had the Cormann affair, Cash refusing to talk to the AFP, Paladin and other things that all make it hard for the Liberals to actually win one. In those circumstances, it’s amazing that Morrison is still doing so well. And the boats, we hardly mentioned the boats this week. This, we’ll be told, will be a close election.
TOMORROW’S MURDOCH HEADLINE: MORRISON STILL HAS LEAD OVER SHORTEN AS PREFERRED PM
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