I recently spent a day with my extended family, one of whom is a ‘senior government employee’ who has served ministers in several different portfolios and governments including the current one.
When we found ourselves standing together at one stage, in a very non-confrontational, non-interviewing way (he doesn’t know I write here), I asked him a few questions.
He is a very intelligent, astute man who has the diplomatic talk down pat so I knew I wouldn’t hear any dirt – he isn’t the type of person who would do that and it doesn’t interest me either. He is a pragmatic man who gets things done under whatever constraints are set and is rarely critical of whoever he may be working for. I admire him for that and he is truly an asset for the government of the day regardless of their ideology.
He describes himself as being in ‘the centre’ – I would describe him as slightly right of there and he certainly lives a lifestyle more akin to the right. But he is a realist and too smart to bother prevaricating so I found his comments both interesting and disturbing.
I asked about the carbon tax – he said it was never going to work. I assume he meant politically though I did not have the chance to ask further. He, like so many others, said Labor made themselves an unelectable train wreck.
He believes the free trade agreements with Japan and Korea are good things but said we are nowhere near an agreement with China.
When I asked about Tony Abbott he was surprisingly dismissive as if he wasn’t important to the conversation saying off-handedly “I could never vote for him though Malcolm Turnbull would probably get my vote.”
On Peta Credlin, he said somewhat resentfully “She wields an enormous amount of power for someone that no-one ever voted for”. Everyone has to ask permission for everything they do and then plead for the money to do it – even down to ‘may we please have the airfare to get to the conference we are attending on the government’s behalf’ – pre-approval only, no private jets or ‘make a claim’ entitlement stuff for the people who are actually doing the work.
None of the above is particularly surprising. You may disagree with it but there are no revelations there. But what he said next flummoxed me.
He very confidently stated that the Coalition will “romp home” next election. I spluttered in obvious incredulity. He said “The sweeteners are coming and that is what they will remember”. He has no vested interest in saying this and he has sufficient experience and inside knowledge that I must take his opinion seriously.
It is so blatantly obvious how crudely we are being played. Every economic parameter is compared to Hockey’s MYEFO, in which Hockey added $68 billion to the deficit over the forward estimates through his government’s decisions, rather than with the PEFO prepared under the Charter of Budget Honesty.
Of the total Commonwealth securities on issue, the $19.7 billion increase on the Coalition’s watch above what had been predicted, represents 6 per cent of the Treasury Indexed Bonds for the 12 months to June 2014. Add a few hundred billion to a projected debt in a decade and then cut money from the “leaners” to say look how much we have saved.
The refrain has returned to the “$1 billion in interest every month” mantra. When interviewed on radio recently, Mathias Cormann repeated it and “debt and deficit disaster inherited from Labor” so many times I thought I was hearing an infinite loop replay. The interviewer asked why, if we have such a problem, would you not use the GP co-payment to pay down the debt? Cormann then revealed the Coalition’s true agenda by saying “it will be an asset that improves the budget bottom line.” In other words, they don’t care about the interest being paid at all, they just want a number on a piece of paper.
We have been hit with the worst budget in living memory, attacking the very fabric of our society under the guise of “sustainability”. It’s surprising that this government only applies that word to pensions, healthcare and education spending. We never ask whether tax concessions for the wealthy are sustainable. We never ask if subsidies to the mining industry are sustainable. We never ask if pinning our economy on the mining and burning of fossil fuels is sustainable – ok 97% of sane people do ask that, sadly none of them advise our government who is apparently preparing for global cooling on the advice of their senior business advisor who is being avidly quoted on denial sites like wattsupwiththat. (I mean seriously….sack the fossil).
There will be some compromises from this budget passed off under “we listened to the people”, but the mining tax will go. Then will come the company tax cut. There will be adjustment to the top tax bracket to save those unfortunate high earners who have “crept” over the $180,000 mark through no fault of their own. The temporary levy on the highest bracket will go. The amount you can invest in superannuation will continue to rise.
But what crumbs will be thrown to the rest of us? If we get back a few of the conditions that have been stripped from us will we be happy to be only a bit worse off? Because we have been so battered and broken by this budget will we just be grateful to not get hit again?
Beware of Treasurers bearing gifts.