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What Living Within Your Means Means! Advice For Scott And Malcolm…

A few days ago, we were treated to a photo of Scott Morrison getting a lift in the PM’s car. Apparently Malcolm was going to the same airport as Scott and because they’re such good mates, they thought that the press should be called because – even though, as buddies, they must be sharing things all the time – this sort of moment was exactly the sort of “living within your means” example that was worth a photo opportunity.

A few nasty people in the media suggested that this was to prove that just because Malcolm never tells Scott what’s about to be announced, there’s no serious rift and that the photo opportunity was more about making it look as though there is enough room in the PM’s limo for both their egos. And it’s definitely not true that once the car was out of sight, the driver pulled over and Malcolm told Scott to call an Uber driver.

Anyway, today I’m not at all concerned about that. Neither am I concerned about Peter Dutton’s claim that he’s removed all children from detention in Australia – even the ones that he’s he told us that he’s planning to send back to Nauru as soon as the election’s over.

No, I’m most concerned with the Liberal government’s assertion that the state’s need to “live within their means” after they rejected outright Turnbull’s proposal that they could raise their own income tax to pay for things on the understanding that they weren’t to actually get any more money than they have now.

To recap last week’s events. Turnbull offered the states the chance to get a definite share of tax, in return for getting a reduction of Commonwealth grants equivalent to any money raised. In return for this, they’d have to agree that they were responsible for the running of hospitals and schools and roads and anything else and the Federal government would only be responsible for things like Defence and the sale of CSIRO once it had stopped all that research which it’s been doing for the “public good” and becomes a profitable entity that can be floated on the stock exchange or sold to Liberal donors for half its value. The states rejected this, claiming that two days wasn’t enough time to consider agreeing to one of the biggest changes since World War Two, at which point Turnbull turned the tables and cried: “Aha, you fell for my dastardly plan. Now we can just blame you when hospital waiting lists are longer than the average lifespan and schools are in disarray!”

Anyway, I heard the phrase that the states need to “live within their means” so many times that it began to sound strange. You know that feeling you have when you repeat some words over and over. And I thought to myself do I even know what means means? That’s the second “means”; I know that the first “means” means to express or indicate.

The “mean” in statistics is the average, but I doubt that the Liberals have been telling everybody that they need to live within their averages. And then I realised that they’d be using it in the sense of “resources or income”.

So living within one’s means is to live within one’s resources or income.

Which I find a rather strange thing for the Liberals to be suggesting.

Imagine, for example, when a young unemployed person refuses to go to a job interview because the fare on public transport means that he’s no longer living within his means. I can’t see the Liberals applauding his restraint. Neither can I see them supporting an attempt for an unfair dismissal claim if a hospitable worker wears the same shirt for a week in order to save money on washing to help his quest to live within his means.

Imagine even, Adani refusing to borrow for their coal mine, because, well, they need to live within their means… Actually this last one may be a bad example because there doesn’t seem a bank ready to lend them money for a project where it costs more to extract the coal than they can sell it for. We haven’t seen that sort of logic since OneTel. The banks may insist that Adani live within its means!

Sometimes it’s only by deciding to extend one’s resources and/or income that one actually improves one’s situation. If we go back to the rhetoric surrounding Labor’s negative gearing restrictions, it seems that the Liberals were happy for people to borrow for investment, even though some might suggest that this doesn’t fit the definition of living within one’s means.

In any event, I was pleased that last week, Mr Turnbull was at pains to tell us that the Commonwealth would still need to fund private schools because any suggestion that they need to live within their means was just – as Education Minister, Simon Birmingham, told us – “class envy”, and that we couldn’t have them being neglected by state governments who’d be more concerned with their “own schools”. Of course, Birmingham added later that money doesn’t really make a difference to education, so why government schools should need extra funding was just nonsense. Perhaps it’s just me, but those two concepts seem at odds with each other.

Well, must stop. I think I may have used up my electricity ration for the day and I need to live within my means.


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  1. Glenn K

    so why do 49% of the population (after preferences!) not notice the idiocy of this government? Perhaps it’s not idiocy, perhaps it’s the meanness of Bronnie’s “individualism” – though that hasn’t stopped her using the collective money for personal pleasure and gain….

    Deeply saddening that your entertaining satire is so accurate and to the truth.

  2. Jaquix

    Brilliant, thank you Rossleigh! Can I just squeeze in here another little story from this week – when Malcolm took a ride on public transport out to the western suburbs (media in tow of course) the Comm car C-1 was spotted waiting around the corner to whisk him away to his next media opportunity. Hard to keep up with all the nonsense, spin and hot air which passes for “good government” these days.

  3. kerri

    And Turnbull suggests we should give those who want to start a new business more rope and not restict their ability to “have a go” by refusing to finance their egpfforts whether they be brain farts, outright rorts or reasonable business propositions? How is that “living within our means”?
    Again Turnbull proves that he does think the common folk are ignorant, gullible and stupid!

  4. Otto von Heidelberg

    Actually, the meaning is so clear that it has definitely shot over to the other side and become virtually meaningless. If “living within one’s means” applies to over 50% of the population being unable to educate their children without going into debt for $100,000+ and not seeing that their health needs are met (because it’s cheaper and more affordable to ignore that cracked tooth or pain in the chest), then it is obvious that the majority of Australians are definitely living within their means and slightly under. These same people will obviously agree(NOT!) with this PM’s sentiment and vote for the party that says they are doing exactly that, which is living with their means. Nothing is further from the truth. Lets be totally honest about all of this. Being Re-Elected is actually what is paraded in front of the media and the population day to day. It is not what they say or what they think, but how they get re-elected that counts, which is why 5 PMs in 5 years (and counting) has come to pass. It is not that Australia is un-governable, as much as we have an over supply of the wrong kind of people who think they can govern. Here is a good fall-back position. Government of the People by the People, say what you mean and mean what you say and look after the future of the Nation, starting with the children and their health. Doing the right thing by the environment would help too.

  5. John Kelly

    Yes, the states do need to live within their means, but the federal government has the tools at its disposal to ensure that the states always have what they need.

  6. Kyran

    It is becoming increasingly difficult not to have fond memories of the ‘old’ PM. Whilst his never ending mindless chaos has been continued, unabated, by the ‘new’ PM, we are now forced to consider subtle nuances in the delivery of their chaotic message.
    Remember the good ol’ days when we just had to be afraid of everything?
    Gone, forever.
    Now we have the ‘new’ PM, who seems to want us to be alarmed, but not alert.
    Within your ‘means’ means you have develop an argument to convince the many that you have to be mean to them to deliver a larger mean income for the mean privileged few. And try not to mention that the respective mean incomes between the few and the many are a mere few zero’s (which are to the left of the decimal point in the case of the few and, ironically, to the right of the decimal point in the case of the many).
    “Well, must stop. I think I may have used up my electricity ration for the day and I need to live within my means.”
    You see, this is where you lost me. I have the means to use my neighbours electricity and their consent is optional. As in simpler times (ie the ‘old’ PM), isn’t it better to ask for forgiveness in the future than permission now?
    Ahh well. Cause for optimism. I’d previously thought it was only two PM’s till Christmas. The chaos will continue, as will the meanness. Thank you Mr Brisbane. Take care

  7. flohri1754

    Spot on …..

  8. MichaelW

    Just had a thought bubble, on how to end Australia’s debt and deficit and provide enough money to fund all essential services and more.
    Reduce company tax to 2 or 3%, hang on stay with me on this. As we all know companies pay little to no tax while raking in billions upon billions from Australia. So if a government simplified the tax system and taxed these thieves on their ‘turnover’ instead of after expenses profit/non profit imagine how much money would go into the government’s coffers.

    Just a thought.

  9. Rossleigh

    Yep, MichaelW, when companies assert that they haven’t made any income year after year in spite of having millions of dollars of assets tied up in equipment, real estate, etc, then one wonders why they don’t simply sell up and earn a consistent three or four percent by investing it in term deposits!
    Some pensioners used to keep their money in non-interest bearing cheque accounts so that they didn’t earn make enough to lose their pension. To conteract this, the government introduced the idea of “deeming” and decided that any cash that these people had would be deemed to earn a particular rate of interest whether it was doing so or not. Perhaps it’s time to consider something similar based on a company’s market capitalisation or turnover.

  10. Jaquix

    Good ideas Michael and Rossleigh about alternative ways to extract from companies a contribution to the economy of Australia, seeing they dont seem to have to pay tax. There must be others too, but the current government is not interested. The Panama revelations may force some international action, but maybe not.

  11. Shogan

    All last Friday’s performance by Turnbull at the COAG does is prove he is a first class farkwit for thinking a thought bubble could seriously pass for innovative policy.

    So much for continuity & change after the leaders swapped deck chairs on the sun deck of the Titanic, aka the Cabinet Room, looks for all the world to me like nothing has changed as he & the LNP continue to search for the elusive “Decisions 101” handbook.

    Who else could raise expectations with a thought bubble one day & two days later withdraw, or prick the bubble (your choice) & then come out on Monday claiming a victory over the premiers because they wouldn’t do his job for him??

    Then he has the audacity to lecture them about “living within their means” when for the last 2.5yrs the government has blown out the deficit like it’s a badge of honour “because they are better economic managers than Labor”??

    Judging by the concerted “living within your means” attack by TurnBull, Morrison & Ley towards Shorten on Monday arvo I think we can safely say “we’re in for a bit of austerity innovation” if they win the next election to teach us all a lesson about “living within our means” too.

    Trying to equate the federal budget with a household budget is a hollow argument as most households borrow money to achieve the financial security that owning your own home provides which proves debt is not a problem if you can successfully service it & that Mr Turnbull is “living within our means” or as you like to say when trying to be smart “living within the fiscal envelope.”

  12. Gangey1959

    What turdbullshitartist and scooty moronscum et al are REALLY saying is “Australians have to learn how to live within their (the ipa/lnp) meanNESS.”
    What wankers.

  13. Carol Taylor

    Do I notice a certain disconnect from reality happening. To Turnbull et al living within one’s means (not that this will ever be an issue for the vast majority of the LNP), it means having to give the Penfolds Grange Bin 95 a miss and settling for the Penfolds Bin 169 instead . Meanwhile back in the real world, it’s 5 minute noodles until next pay day. Sigh..what the hell does living within one’s means mean anyway when the Abbott/Turnbull government has added massively to the problem of people not being able to live within even modest means, cuts to pension allowances, record housing unaffordability, threats of garnishing repayments for HECS debts sooner, failure to address welfare for the wealthy..and so on it goes.

  14. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    On 3 July 2016, the day after the landslide election defeat of the LNP Degenerates, I want MSM and of course social media to continue the assault on the LNP Degenerates while they lick their wounds reminding them that the Australian people could see their hypocrisy and double standards that made no sense in any socio-economic way.

    To add salt to their wounds, I also want every LNP member or employee or contractual beneficiary, who rorted the public purse to be enforced to repay their ill-gotten gains plus interest plus a fine. More reason to get the Federal ICAC instituted asap.

  15. townsvilleblog

    Jennifer M-S I salute you, how beautifully said:

  16. johnlward010

    The High Court has ruled that the Commonwealth did not have power under the Constitution to fund the school chaplaincy program through direct funding as proposed.

    The case has meant the types of projects approved for the Green Army must now be of a national focus and “ Directed towards meeting Australia’s relevant international obligations” or “conserving matters of national environmental significance”.

    Constitutional law expert, George Williams from the University of New South Wales, said the impact of the chaplaincy ruling was rippling through government.

    “What the High Court has now made absolutely clear is the Commonwealth can only provide money for programs over which it has authority under the constitution,” he said.

    He said the list of federal powers under section 51 of the Constitution “don’t include the environment – there is no environment power, there’s no general education power and health power”.

    He said it was possible the first tranche of Green Army projects was unconstitutional but it would require a challenge to prove.

    Professor Williams warned the chaplaincy ruling “is going to have an enormous impact in a lot of areas”.

    “The Commonwealth was of the view for decades that it could spend money on whatever it wanted,” he said.

    “It used that for a variety of legitimate through to pork-barrelling reasons and moved into areas such as education and the environment, arts – all sorts of things without any visible power to do so. And now the High Court has hauled them back again, and this is a big problem for the Commonwealth.”

    The States could end up with the power to take on all education,health and environment matters ; taxes paid to the commonwealth should return to the states with no strings attached. The Commonwealth should then provide the funds and manage defence, trade and ports, plus marriage and lighthouses.

  17. johnlward010

    I am now convinced that the LNP is only capable of running the nation as if it were a small business. If they we in charge in the days after 1945 for instance the Snowy Mountains Scheme or the ANU would never have got off the ground.

    You simply cannot get nation building projects up without borrowing on a war time like indebtedness. Yet these people refuse to support a car industry with all the skills and knowledge, research and development because an amount they seek as a subsidy was deemed to be black mail while the coal and mining industry get more than a billion dollars in subsidies.
    The car manufacturing industry asked for an amount similar to what is being spent mapping the bottom of the Indian Ocean looking for crash site of the Malayan Airliner. By the way we will never know how much it has cost to turn back the boats, that we have been told had been stopped.
    Shop keepers mentality, is holding us back while ever the Government is too timid, to step out into the turmoil of progress and frozen with fear into balancing books and demolishing debt they have used as the fear factor along with the Unions. SSHHeeeeeeeeesh.

  18. Jennifer Meyer-Smith


    I agree 95% with your comment EXcept the analogy to shopkeeper mentality.

    Confusing macro and micro economics as one being better than the other is not a healthy understanding of reformist grassroots economic policy.

  19. Geoff Andrews

    Re your comment yesterday at 3.45pm:
    I posted the comment in the AIMN item, “Being in Government isn’t a Licence….etc” a couple of days ago. It may not be as whimsical as one would think at first glance if the High Court’s ruling is applied to health etc.

    The state Premiers missed a chance when the PM made his insulting, MT, insincere “offer” to allow the states to raise their own income tax for education. They should have said, “Since we provide the services that directly affect everyone: education, health, police, roads, environment etc, we should collect ALL income taxes and GST and we will give you what’s left over for defence, foreign affairs, customs & border farce and whatever else you actually do. The bemefits to you are that you’ll never have to keep putting things on the table one day before brushing them on to the floor the next. And because WE’VE raised the taxes, we’ll be super careful how we spend them just like you’ve been but YOU can now be as profligate as we’ve been. You can have ,say, royal commissions, plebiscites, dud fighters, offshore detention centres and …. by the way …are you still looking for that plane in the Indian ocean?”

  20. Jaquix

    Geoff Andrews, beautiful suggestion of how the States could have handled MT’s idea. Perfect – the LNP is always claiming to want small government. Lets give it to them. Daniel Andrews is the man to spearhead this crafty plan of yours, and it can fairly be called the Andrews Plan, the most innovative, agile and important reform since Federation.

  21. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Ditto about Geoff Andrews’ suggestion.

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