“Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.” – Mark Twain
Among the disturbing things about conservatives is their constant push to cut taxes with the inevitable and wholly foreseeable result of reducing community services which the conservatives say can be passed over to the private sector should they see a profit in taking them over. These warriors for private enterprise frequently confuse the rest of us with their disdain for universal healthcare but their insistence that private health insurance companies receive massive public subsidies, their dislike for publicly funded education and their demand that private education facilities be substantially funded from the public purse, their dislike of public broadcasting while they quietly slip millions of public money into the pocket of a US based mogul. They are also obsessed about cheaper electricity but have no energy policy, don’t like renewable alternatives and they will not talk about climate change yet bemoan the impact of drought. And it seems they are still annoyed with Malcolm Turnbull for allowing a marriage equality plebiscite (despite it being the brainchild of Tony Abbott and Peter Dutton). So, why did they get rid of Malcolm ? Because he was Malcolm.
Part of their ideology is sometimes that small government is a panacea to all of our woes and they rush headlong into cutting taxes but fail to acknowledge that the taxes we pay at local, state and commonwealth levels are part of our social fabric : we understand and expect that we will receive in return for our taxes services in the form of national infrastructure, education and health services and that’s why we don’t object to reasonable levels of taxation.
Did you note that the only policies that Peter Dutton was able to offer us in his quest to become our leader was a cut to the GST on electricity. What he doesn’t seem to acknowledge is that GST is a tax collected by the commonwealth on behalf of the states. It is not meant to be a punitive measure, it is part of the necessary imposition that we accept as part of the social contract to ensure our community services are retained and enhanced. The states have very few means of collecting revenues as most have been subsumed by the commonwealth over time and whilst it may be popular to selectively cut GST to favour particular constituencies the inevitable result is less in the way of state services.
The other rather odd thing that Dutton promised was a cut in immigration, this coming from a man who has been our titular immigration minister for the past five years : it was his job to oversee the national immigration program and come up with policies that were appropriate to the nation’s growth and in line with our capacity to provide the necessary infrastructure to accommodate our growing population. Instead, he uses immigration as a dogwhistle !
Whilst on Dutton, you may recall that his part ownership of child minding centres through a trust was questioned relative to our constitution which, by section 44 (v) precludes a person from sitting in our parliament if they have an agreement whereby they receive any benefit directly or indirectly from the commonwealth : in other words a conflict of interests. In a hasty opinion put together by the Solicitor General Stephen Donaghue he states that Dutton is “not incapable” of sitting as a member of our parliament, but that there is still “some risk” the high court might find he has a conflict of interests : not a ringing endorsement !
The Solicitor General in noting that there is “some risk” that the high court might find Dutton has a conflict of interests is in part due to the “substantial size of the payments” from the commonwealth in the form of subsidies to the childcare centres. He said it “is impossible to state the position with certainty” on Dutton’s eligibility as he had “been briefed with very little factual information.” Have a look here.
From July of this year there were significant changes to the child care subsidy arrangements including the payment of these subsidies directly to child care providers rather than to parents – I can see no record in Hansard of Dutton abstaining from the parliamentary vote on this legislative change considering his obvious and apparent conflict of interests. I again refer you to the observation by the Solicitor General concerning the substantial size of the payments from the commonwealth to the Dutton child care centres.
It now seems that Dutton will get another cabinet position under the brand new Morrison government and whilst these positions have not at time of writing been revealed, it has been hinted that Dutton will return to Home Affairs and yet his eligibility to sit in our parliament remains untested by the high court : why is that ?
If Dutton does return to the cabinet what does that say about cabinet loyalty and the chaos he brought about in our parliament and the damage to our reputation internationally as a stable democratic nation. Is that all forgiven so easily ? Remember it was he and Abbott who sought to bring down the prime minister of Australia and they are not above doing it again when it suits them.
This conservative quest for cutting taxes and resultant lower revenues to government was brought home to me recently, when our local council advised that an important road bridge [built originally in 1932] would not be maintained and would be closed to public access and when funds permitted, demolished. When there was a public outcry they could only say that austerity at all levels of government meant that there was no longer money available from state or federal sources to look after this type of infrastructure, and of course private enterprise was not interested as it was not a profit generating asset : so the community loses an amenity at the altar of conservatism !
Ironically, this bridge was built in 1932 as a government funded project to provide economic stimulus and work for those unemployed as a result of the global depression prevailing at that time.
I only mention this because, as we see government revenues diminished well into the future as income and other taxes are reduced we will hear from the conservatives that they no longer have the funds for social infrastructure and, confusingly, they will tell us that Labor is all about increasing taxes.
Nothing it seems has changed !
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