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Make up your bloody mind

For an organisation to run successfully, they must identify goals, prioritise them, examine alternative ways to achieve them, then decide on a co-ordinated approach to move forward.

Nothing could be less descriptive of government in this country which seems to actively work against itself, flip-flopping around to appease interest groups resulting in policies that contradict each other.

For example, take the latest decision to fiddle with the skilled visa program.  Employing Australians first is a good idea but cutting funding to TAFE and universities leaves us with skills shortages.  If you want to be self-sufficient then you need to invest in education and training but this recurrent expenditure will no doubt be put in the “bad debt” basket by our shallow Treasurer.

We are similarly self-defeating when it comes to action on climate change.  We had the carbon price that everyone agrees is the best way to create changed energy behaviour but it was axed because, according to the Coalition, it made energy prices too high.  Except abolishing the carbon price did nothing to curb rising energy prices and led to increased emissions for the first time in a decade.  There is no longer any incentive for polluters to pay for the research and development into more sustainable practice.

We had a bipartisan renewable energy target.  Until we trashed it and cut ourselves off from billions in private investment.  Policy uncertainty has made investors wary so, instead of letting the market decide, we now find ourselves in the ridiculous position of the government paying polluters, shelling out for new coal mines and gas plants and for a grand scheme to pump water uphill, all at the same time because their own indecision has made private funds dry up.

Under a barrage of evidence of aggressive tax avoidance, the government has made some token attempts to pursue guilty corporations.  But at the same time they cut thousands of jobs from the ATO and greatly reduced their capacity to investigate.  Then they hired some back to make a special taskforce, at the same time as they are fighting to reduce taxation even further for these companies.

The government has repeated the mantra of jobs and growth ad nauseum, signalling hundreds of billions will be spent on building defence materiel to create a couple of thousand jobs (maybe).  Or railways to nowhere for a couple of hundred jobs (until it gets fully automated).  At the same time, they have cut over 15,000 public service jobs with the likelihood of many more to go as continued efficiency dividends cut to the bone.  Many of these were forced terminations costing the government a fortune in redundancy payments and the public the frustration of severely curtailed services.  Try ringing Centrelink.

We are told over and over again anecdotes about small business and how they are the backbone of the country but the government’s competition laws and purchasing policy are killing small businesses.  The local store can’t compete with the supermarket chains.  The local chemist can’t compete with the discount warehouses.  The farmer is at the mercy of monopoly distributors.  The government insists on buying as cheaply as possible so gave the contract for military dress uniforms to a Chinese company.  Not to mention the reporting burden placed on small businesses by the introduction of the GST.  Doing monthly Business Activity Statements is an onerous task let me tell you.

Uncertainty about funding has hamstrung many government agencies.  Funding for the CSIRO was slashed causing many scientists to be lost and programs to be cut, and then funding was increased again.  Funding for ASIC was slashed and then partially restored.  Same with funding for Community Legal Centres and domestic violence programs – slashed in one budget, restored a year or two later.  We had future funding agreements for schools and hospitals until Abbott tore them up, only for Turnbull to slowly dole out dribs and drabs to cover short term funding crises.  It might sound good when you announce the new funding but only if you ignore the previous cuts and the damage they caused in lost expertise, reduced services and uncertainty causing stagnation.

The government says it wants to invest in productivity-enhancing infrastructure yet they have completely ignored the advice of Infrastructure Australia and refused to do cost benefit analyses in many cases or to release them in others.  Barnaby tells us they don’t matter.  Instead their priorities seem to bear the stench of pork-barrelling and grandstanding – literally – you can count on getting an upgrade to the local grandstand come election time.  Oh and some CCTV cameras.

The prime example of the government working against its own goals is the sacrosanct property tax concessions.  Their hysterical defence of same has seen the government contradict themselves so many times it’s hard to keep up.  Negative gearing doesn’t inflate house prices but it will send them tumbling if reined in.  Morrison says that more investors will mean longer term leases and rental security but the evidence shows that investors are more interested in the capital gains which are realised when the property is sold.

If you want to create jobs, you don’t create conditions that skew investment away from productive enterprises and into existing housing.

Morrison is now saying that downsizing helps to free up housing supply but it was his government which scuttled Labor’s program encouraging older Australians to downsize their homes announced in the 2013 budget only to be scrapped the next year.

Seniors over age pension age who have lived in and owned their home for more than 25 years, who then downsize to a home of lesser value, will be able to place at least 80 per cent of the excess sale proceeds (to a cap of $200,000) from the sale of their former home into a special account.

This special account will be exempt from the pension income and assets tests for up to 10 years, or until a withdrawal is made from the account, whichever occurs first.

Superannuation is another area where the government is all over the place.  In 2014 they abolished the low income earner co-contribution only to reinstate it two years later.  They promised no adverse changes to super and then froze the superannuation guarantee at 9.5% instead of it increasing incrementally to 12%.  They also made retrospective changes that affect wealthy superannuees instead of grandfathering the new rules to allow for future planning without adversely affecting those who invested under the laws of the day.

With concerns about an aging population, freezing the SG and considering allowing young people to raid their superannuation for the deposit for a house are bad ideas.  The first decision lessens the retirement income of all workers, particularly the young who would be even worse off if they withdrew early from their account.  Adding more buyers into an overheated market will do nothing to curb rising prices.

Increasing the retirement age to 70 is also a very questionable decision.  When they increased it from 60 to 65 it just resulted in a spike of people on the disability pension.  Keeping older people in the workforce reduces the number of jobs available to young people and families.  Delaying the age at which they can access the pension sends people in their 60s on the soul-destroying job hunt when they could be helping to care for their elderly parents and their grandchildren.

And let’s not forget the NBN which could have facilitated the decentralisation that Barnaby wants to impose on us.  Now we have a hotch potch of technologies which rely on inadequate infrastructure and insufficient technicians to cater for the many different required skills.

These are just a few examples of the directionless flip-flopping that is dished up by our politicians who follow rather than lead so can never be sure of where they are headed.

Businesses and investors need stability.  They are not getting it.  The vulnerable need support.  They are not getting it.  The environment needs protection.  It’s not getting it.  The country needs vision and leadership.  It is most definitely not getting it.

Instead of focusing on good policy, our Treasurer is spending his time working out how to sell pork-barrelling and handouts to the rich as good debt and recurrent expenditure on health, education and welfare as bad debt.

Digging policy holes and then filling them in is not productive.  Just make up your bloody mind.

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19 comments

  1. Mark Lucas

    Well said Kaye

  2. Michael Taylor

    His mind is already made up: it’s Labor’s fault.

  3. Kaye Lee

    That is the one constant message Michael.

    The only time there was any wavering from that message was one month before the 2013 election when Joe Hockey said “I’m not afraid to accept responsibility and I’m not afraid to be accountable. We will own it from day one. We will be responsible for the Australian economy.”

  4. Jaquix

    Truly depressing. Another example this week about immigration/visas – Dutton told us they will now have to join the queue and wait 4 years, from now. Then Turnbull pops up and says Kiwis are different, their existing setup continues, Ive made a deal with the NZ Prime Minister (who last week had never heard anything from either of them).

  5. Jaquix

    Kaye – great article. One more thing, slightly off topic. the latest announcement by Morrison about “good debt and bad debt”. I knew I had heard of this concept before, and coincidentally last night I came across a video of Paul Keating being interviewed by Jon Faine. He said “When I had a rare conversation with Turnbull (this term) I mentioned to him the idea of dividing the budget debt. So you have RECURRING debt on one side (welfare, infrastructure such as bridges which dont turn a profit) and on the other CAPITAL (where you put all infrastructure like toll roads, airports, which has a return on investment).” So it seems Turnbull/Morrison may well have filched the Keating Concept, for their own. The trouble is, they then add their own special touch to it and call it, childishly, bad debt (thats spending on us) and bad debt (building infrastructure with an income). And of course wouldnt it be a great idea to changeover to a new system to hide the barefaced and embarrassing facts of their gross financial mismanagement? Smoke and mirrors.

  6. Terry2

    They had an English bloke on ABC RN Breakfast the other day bemoaning how the cut back on 457 visas would damage the horse racing industry in Australia as evidently they rely on apprentice jockeys and stable-hands from overseas to support the industry as Australians won’t do the work and don’t like getting up early.

    Here is a classic case of the visa being abused as these apprentices are brought over here from Asia on minimal pay and there is no attempt by the racing industry to offer young Australian apprentices a career opportunity and pay them a living wage.

    Apart from the need to prove that they have advertised locally to fill positions, employers should also be required to show that they have a local apprenticeship program underway, training young Australians.

  7. Clean livin

    Proof of a Government full of cunning stunts!

  8. Wayne Turner

    All this government cares about is winning elections.The times in between them is something they would rather avoid if possible.

  9. pierre wilkinson

    hear hear
    pity the opposition parties cannot get this message through

  10. jim

    A national shame again;… At the same time, they have cut over 15,000 public service jobs with the likelihood of many more to go as continued “efficiency dividends” ? cut to the bone. Many of these were forced terminations costing the government a fortune in redundancy payments and the public the frustration of severely curtailed services. Try ringing Centrelink. And it’s very scary that they the LNP have sacked hundreds of our top scientists at the ADF whom many are most likely to have fled overseas by now.

  11. Miriam English

    Thanks Kaye. This government is truly embarrassing.

  12. diannaart

    Jaquix

    Following on from your comments regarding ScoMo and debt. I do believe it is relevant to Kaye Lee’s excellent summary of the box of rotting vegetables that pretends to govern.

    Finally, I thought, the LNP has realised there is good and bad debt, or investment as I prefer to think of economics. Then ScoMo went to to describe welfare as “bad debt”. Not so good.

    Dear Scotty, investment into the well being of Australia’s people is good debt. Ensuring the health of a nation is future building.

    They know nothing.

  13. RonaldR

    We need a people’s party working for the good of all. We do have one and have one but the LNP & ALP have had the Media place a media blackout on this party for 30 years and elsewhere they have posted lies. The Truth is on their web site and what we need to do to make Australia a great country again, fix our economy without austerity penalty on the population. http://www.cecaust.com.au

  14. Freethinker

    Your good party RonaldR the one with the “Energy Policy: Save People, Industries from Climate Change Hoax”
    There is no point to enter in a debate with you, perhaps we will get better result in educating Pauline.

  15. stephentardrew

    Spot on Kaye.

  16. wam

    The son of a small car will hand a windfall to the ‘for profit tertiary institutions that the rabbott let loose on the vulnerable non-academic students. If unions had any feelings for workers they would release the advertising tactics that lure school leavers into signing for thousands of $s debt. Labor should be asking for a royal commissions into the ‘bums on seats’ (many without any prerequisite knowledge or background) mentality of vicechancellors and CEOs of institutions. A good start is the many thousands of tertiary students who are functionally illiterate and enumerate.
    The massive debt by the people who will never earn much more than the threshold will allow the lnp to suck the debt out of every earnings and disadvantage non-working women who will have debt till their.

    The singapore self education gives the worker the choice of where, how much and why, is the only way forward.
    Sadly labor is sucking up to the right wing arseholes with cashless cards making trusting the dole recipients workers to use money to educate themselves unlikely to find support from labor politicians

  17. king1394

    Kaye touches on something very important here with her mention of the increasing pension age place people in their 60s on the futile hunt for work while receiving the impoverishing $250 per week that is Newstart. I have been in this situation, applying for numerous jobs each week and on the few occasions of making it to an interview walking in to a room where the interviewer/panel clearly assesses me as ‘too old’.

    The pension age needs to be reduced to recognise that there are few jobs available for older people, and employers simply do not want to employ older workers. (This would not prevent anyone from getting a job if they could). Furthermore the Newstart rate needs to be increased as well, and the penalties for earning while on Newstart need to be reassessed. (Currently after earning $62 gross in a fortnight, the payment is decreased by 50 cents in the dollar)

    People in their 60s are at a most productive age for the community to benefit from their contributions as carers for their older relatives, and babysitters for their children. As unpaid volunteers, they often run and participate in a vast number of community services such as school canteens, meals-on-wheels, community transport, Landcare/Bushcare, sporting associations, tutoring, cultural and historical groups, teaching skills and making crafts (often offered for sale for fundraising). One could go on and on.

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