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Tag Archives: 2014 Budget

The Senate Is “Feral” And Tony Abbott Sure Can Use Words Good!

Photo: Penguin Books

Photo: Penguin Books

(especially of an animal) in a wild state, especially after escape from captivity or domestication.
I was going to pick on Tony for his St Patrick’s Day message, but I see that the Irish have already done that. However, I can’t let the occasion pass without at least a passing raised eyebrow at his comment that St Patrick’s Day is “the one day of the year when it’s good to be green”! So it’s not good to be green any other time? Well, of course not, it slows down that friend to humanity, COAL. Thankfully Coleslaw doesn’t contain any green veggies.
And speaking of veggies, apparently Abbott told the joint party room meeting (joint party room? another green occasion?) that the Budget would be balanced within five years in spite of the “feral” Senate blocking all these great barnacles, sorry, savings measures.
So, I decided to look up the meaning of the word “feral”, because I know that someone as educated as Tony would have been using it in its correct sense and not in that I-don’t-like-something-so-it’s-feral sort of way that the common swill use it. Unfortunately, the meaning suggests that the Senate has entered a wild state – possibly as a result of all the PUPs growing up to be their own dogs and snarling at the Liberals in ways not orchestrated by Palmer.
But it was upon reading his desire for his party to be salesmen for Australia that had me worried. Where will we go when they’ve sold it all? I wondered. Then, in spite of the Budget crisis, the Intergenerational Report, the slackers, the backers, the unions, The Greens, the Red Tape strangling us, Bill Shorten and the politically correct sipping their lattes through straws as a lifestyle choice like those who live in communities more remote than Canberra and Kirribilli, he had this to say:
“We have to be full of confidence and optimism for our country’s future,”
I’m not sure if he’s planning to pass legislation to this effect, then check our metadata to find out if we’re accessing too many sites which are negative about Australia or just negative full stop, but I’ve listened to Tony’s message and I find it so hard to be positive when Australia is so full of people who aren’t getting behind him.
Still, when it was mentioned yet again about we must stop using the credit card that I had an epiphany. One of my credit cards gives rewards points which can be used to pay off the balance. Given how often Labor used the “credit card” then there must be a large number of rewards points there. Perhaps we could use them to get the Budget back into surplus.
Or does the government credit card that the Liberals always talk about work differently? If so, then they should probably switch. (And possibly get a special rate on a balance transfer… Haven’t they seen the ads?)
Somebody (who clearly knows nothing about economics) tried to tell me that government debt had an even lower interest rate than my home loan something like three percent. But that couldn’t be right. Don’t they put it on the “credit card” at a really, really exorbitant rate of interest. Otherwise, they could borrow an extra few thousand lend it to me to pay off my house and I’d give them an extra fifty basis points and we’d both be ahead!
Nah, they’re putting it on the credit card. You know, buy now, pay later. (Sort of like the “You pay nothing up front for a Uni degree” ads that Liberals, sorry the Government Bureau of Information was running!)
Thank God we’re paying cash for those jets that haven’t been built yet!#
It’s far better to pay now, and receive the goods later…
Which seems to sum up the entire Liberal philosophy when in government. If we have a harsh Budget in our first year, then you’ll receive the goods in the Budget later. Probably just before the next election.
#(Yes, I know before some pedantic wretch points out we have actually paid for jets yet, we’ve just put in an order… This is hyperbole. Sort of like a Joe Hockey economic explanation, the facts shouldn’t get in the way of a good story!)

Joe Hockey, which planet do you live on?

To Joe Hockey.

The news that a young homeless couple were found dead in their car was news that you would, in an indirect way, find offensive.

It was not their death that offended you, but a certain reaction to it.

But first to the young couple:

Police say the 27-year-old man and 24-year-old woman, both from Ballarat and believed to have been living in the car, were using a butane gas heater to keep the chill away when they died.

Most decent people – upon hearing of these tragic deaths – would have in all likelihood been deeply saddened. The life situation of this poor young couple was also tragic. As too it is with thousands of young Australians living like this. Jobless. Homeless. Penniless. Desperate.

It is a sad reality that some jobless, homeless, penniless people die. Thankfully, the numbers are small. The welfare system in Australia has always provided something for those desperate people; a fortnightly dole payment which could ensure they at least could have access to the most basic of human needs; food, shelter, medications and clothing.

But now back to you.

You were offended that Wendy Harmer (of ‘The Hoopla’ fame) tweeted that this incident (the deaths in Ballarat) may not be the last as your budget starts to bite. You fired back, with this ignorant, pathetic response:

Really, which planet do you live on?

So it is your opinion that Wendy doesn’t think before she tweets. Well I think she does. She obviously thinks more about the social horrors that your budget will cause than you yourself have given a moment’s thought to.

If you cannot fathom that people with no money for food or shelter may die of hunger or exposure then you live on a different planet to the one I do, Wendy does, or anybody I could care to name.

There is something else you don’t seem to understand: desperate people do desperate things. Sleeping in a car is a measure of desperation. As is by need going without food or medication.

None of this bothers you. If it does then I’m yet to see, read or hear any indication of such. Yet you’re offended over a tweet though: a tweet that spells out the bleeding obvious.

It’s not as though Wendy’s claim is any revelation. Since the budget was handed down (and even before it was handed down) to a shell-shocked nation the media has been filled with the predictions this horror budget will cause. People could die. People could also turn to crime if their survival depends on it. You can read such predictions on Or here on Or here from the Or on dozens of other sites, if you care to look, as I have.

And don’t just stop at the articles: have a look at reader’s comments. They have been predicting the same social destruction echoed by Wendy.

If you had been alert to what people were saying then I can assume that you would have been offended long before Wendy’s tweet. I can’t find any indication that you’ve been aware of not only how people feel, but of the tragic fate that awaits many of them. I’m guessing that you haven’t listened to anyone, except of course, the highly paid bureaucrats that are paid to tell you what you want to hear.

That you should only now stop to listen, and in response spew forth the shock and horror of being offended at the cold hard truth, is behaviour I find difficult to comprehend.

If the ‘age of entitlement’ is over – as you have been constantly trumpeting in an effort to justify your cruel budget – then I guess it means that people are no longer entitled to secure and basic needs. I find that truly offensive. Repulsively so.

Mr Hockey, brace yourself. Your days of being offended have only just begun.

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Compare the pair

Joe Hockey’s budget has been widely rejected by the Australian people. And he knows it. How do I know he knows it? Because why else would he ramp up his rhetoric about welfare bludgers to desperation levels in such a whiney and pathetic tone?

This week Hockey’s been promoting hatred of welfare recipients by telling Australian workers that one month of their annual salary is being sucked away by these sub-human, leech-like, lazy, good for nothing dole bludging sloths. Ok, he didn’t exactly use these words, but this is the image he’s clearly trying to conjure up.

It is moments like these that I am reminded how important it is for independent media sites like this one, and independent voices, to get an alternative message out there. Because Hockey’s hobby of blaming Newstart and Pension recipients for all the world’s problems is not only bully-boy lazy, but it also completely misrepresents the situation to make it appear that the only people in society who benefit from government spending are those receiving welfare payments. And the mainstream media, on the most part, support this lazy myth.

The inconvenient truth for Hockey is that all Australians benefit from government spending of one kind or another, because without government spending there is no civilisation. And as I wrote recently, the key fact that Hockey will do his best to supress because it doesn’t fit his ‘let’s-blame-welfare-recipients-while-we-bring-about-an-ideologically-inspired-small-government’ narrative is this: it’s the rich who benefit most of all from the very existence of government. You don’t believe me? Well how about we compare the pair? Who’s really benefiting most from Australia’s publically-funded civilisation?

Olivia’s life
Olivia is 32 years old and rents a one bedroom studio apartment in western Sydney for $140 a week. Olivia has been out of work for two years ever since the manufacturing company she worked at sent all their factory jobs to China, and since then she’s been sending out resumes via the computer at her local library but hasn’t had a single call back. She completed a qualification in production systems at TAFE while she was working five years ago, but very rarely sees a job advertised requiring this qualification. Each week she receives a Newstart allowance of $255.25. After her rent and household power and water bills are paid, she is left with $90 a week for food (three meals a day across a week equates to $4.29 per meal, so sometimes she skips meals). Some of the food she buys includes GST so a portion of her spending goes back to the tax office. Olivia can’t afford to go out and walks everywhere as she can’t afford public transport. She avoids seeing a doctor as she can’t afford to go to the chemist to fill a prescription. She hasn’t bought new clothes in the two years she has been unemployed – when her clothes wear out she goes to the local op shop. Her TV broke eighteen months ago so she doesn’t have any entertainment at home, except when her elderly neighbour invites her over for a tea and they watch the ABC news headlines together. Olivia is an only child and her parents live on the Central Coast of New South Wales and don’t own a car, so she only manages to see them every few weeks when she has enough money for a train ticket. She has friends who call her sometimes to chat, but she can’t afford to call them as her phone never has any credit. Her friends don’t ask her out anymore because she can’t afford to do anything. Her life is lonely and miserable and most of the time she is depressed.

So let’s recap the benefits Olivia receives from government spending in an average week. She completed her education at a public school and co-funded her government funded vocational training at Tafe. She sometimes sees a bulk-billing doctor and if she got seriously sick or injured, she would have access to a public hospital. She could also call the police if ever she needed to. And she has received a Newstart allowance for two years, and hopes one day to find a job. So this hypothetical Olivia doesn’t exactly sound like someone who is really enjoying their ‘welfare Queen’ status while screwing tax payers, does it? She doesn’t sound like she’s benefiting that much from the civilisation she lives in.

Now let’s compare Olivia to Mark and Jenny:

Mark and Jenny’s life
Mark and Jenny, both 32 years old, live in a three bedroom townhouse in Wollstonecraft on Sydney’s north shore that they bought for $750,000 four years ago with help from both of their parents and the first home owner’s grant. Their home has appreciated by 4% each year since they bought it. Mark works as an accountant at a large pharmaceutical company in North Sydney, which sells many of its products via the government funded Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Mark takes the publically-subsidised train to work every day. Jenny works as a physiotherapist in a public hospital and drives to work every day on publically funded roads. Together they take home a weekly household salary of $3,000 after tax, and after they’ve paid their mortgage, they have around $2,000 each week to spend on life’s necessities like energy and water bills, insurance, internet, car payments, petrol, Foxtel, groceries, gym memberships, take away food, wine, beer, spirits, Friday night drinks, Saturday night dinner parties or movies, tickets to sporting events and concerts, designer clothes, books, magazines, gifts, pet toys, home wares and furniture. Each week they put money away in a savings account to pay for their yearly overseas holiday. Both Mark and Jenny needed a university degree to work as an accountant and a physiotherapist and they both contributed to the cost of their degrees through the HECS system, whilst most of the investment in their education was made by the government. Mark attended a public school and Jenny went to a private school, with the cost of her education partly funded by her parents and partly funded by the government.

Mark and Jenny have a good life and much to be grateful for. They are content in their work and have busy and enjoyable lifestyles. When you look closely at the lives of Mark and Jenny, you can see that government spending has not just influenced much of their success, but it has been at the very foundation of the civilisation where they enjoy their affluent lifestyles.

Joe Hockey (image from

Joe Hockey (image from

So back to Hockey. He is clearly trying to make the Mark and Jenny’s of the world resent Olivia. He wants Mark and Jenny to think about all the hard work they do each day (and no one is questioning that they do work hard) and to resent that some of what they earn is taken away from them and given to someone else who needs it. But what Mark and Jenny need to also understand is that they did not reach their level of happiness, comfort and first-world lifestyle on their own. The government funded civilisation that they live in enabled their lives and continues to enable their lives every day. It’s the fact that there are so many government-enabled lifestyles in Australia that makes Australia a rich country – a place where so many people make money by relying on others being able to afford whatever it is they sell. If there really is a class war going on in Australia as Hockey says there is, Mark and Jenny are winning and Olivia is clearly losing.

So rather than resent the tax that the likes of Mark and Jenny pay, and begrudging people like Olivia who benefit so little from our civilisation, how about everyone ignore Hockey and instead offer some gratitude for the opportunity they’ve been given to be part of a civilisation that gives them so much benefit? And how about some empathy for the Olivia’s of the world who exist day to day in poverty? Because the truth is, Olivia isn’t lazy. Olivia doesn’t bludge. Olivia just survives. And Olivia would love to pay as much tax as Mark and Jenny do, so as to reap the benefits of the position in their society that their highly-paid government enabled lifestyles affords them. Think about that next time you see Hockey blaming Olivia. Think about that next time someone talks about lifters and leaners.

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The Budget: All cruelty springs from weakness

Image source:

Image source:


It can’t be denied any longer, conservatives really do believe they have no responsibility to the vulnerable, and it is perfectly acceptable to the Abbott government that those who can least afford it endure the most harsh of financial limitations.

This piece in the Sydney Morning Herald reveals that while high income couples stand to lose scarcely at all, families on benefits may lose up to 10% of their income. Known as “Detailed family outcomes,” this information was withheld from the budget, contrary to custom, by Joe Hockey, obviously because it reveals the Abbott government lie that everyone will be doing their fair share of the heavy lifting allegedly required to get the budget back on track.

Abbott also stated in an interview with Alison Carabine on Radio National Breakfast this morning that the highly paid, such as politicians, judges and senior public servants, will suffer a pay freeze for twelve months, costing Abbott something like a $6000 addition to his $500,000 plus benefits salary package. Not even the most witless among us could possibly believe this can be in any way comparable to the situation of a young person without resources denied Newstart benefits, and low-income families and pensioners having to choose between a middy, a treat for the kids, the doctor’s bill, and medicine, for which they will also have to pay more.

Pensioners also stand to lose extras such as free car registration, and reductions in rates, water and electricity. These concessions were made available to the people in the community who were recognised as vulnerable and needing assistance by governments unlike this one, governments who were capable of making such acknowledgements.

The question I am waiting for a journalist to ask the Prime Minister and the Treasurer is, why are they placing an intolerable burden on the most vulnerable while the wealthy are called upon to do comparatively very little?

What is it in the conservative psychology that makes such unfairness acceptable to them?

No country can afford to be governed by people who hate and fear vulnerability, as do these Australian conservatives. Far from being adult such people are dangerously immature, incapable of understanding any life experience other than their own. Convinced of its superiority, this government asks little or nothing of those best placed to contribute to the country’s needs, while demanding that those least able, relinquish what little they already have. In other words, the Abbott government is determined to punish the vulnerable for their vulnerability.

All cruelty springs from weakness, declared the philosopher Seneca. Wealth and power do not guarantee strength of character, and it’s hard to detect that quality in Abbott and Hockey. Strength of character requires the ability to identify vulnerability and refrain from taking advantage of it. Hockey and Abbott have indeed identified the vulnerable, and have proceeded to take the most appalling advantage, of the kind they would never dream of imposing on the wealthy and comfortable.

Conservatives are, in general, weak and cruel. Our government is weak and cruel. We are in dangerous times, with this weak and cruel government. As we have seen with the treatment of asylum seekers in this country, (and this has been demonstrated by both major parties) once the bar has been lowered for the treatment of a particular group of human beings, it is very easy to escalate ill-treatment.

This budget is devastating for the vulnerable, and pays no mind to their survival. This budget will lower the bar on the treatment of vulnerable people in our society. It will become easier to treat them even more harshly, to consider them even less worthy, to demonise them as threats and parasites, just as has been done to asylum seekers in the last fourteen years. And in the way of things, as history has demonstrated over and over again, ill-treatment becomes normalised, and scapegoats become the bitter focus of a community’s fears and discontents.

Beware of cruel governments. They will only become more cruel. Because they are, at their heart, cowardly and weak, and when the cowardly and weak attain power, the vulnerable will be the first they destroy.

This article was first posted on Jennifer’s blog “No Place For Sheep” and reproduced with permission.

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The Coalition and Financial Management … an Oxymoron

Poor Joe Hockey! One could be sucked in to feeling sorry for him … not! The Government’s election promise, the much touted public service staff cuts of 12,000, has vaporised. Joe can’t implement this promise because Labor beat him to the punch. The public service efficiency dividend, a mechanism governments of both persuasions have been using for the past 30 years, has already factored in cuts of 14,500. There is no more efficiency room left unless huge chunks of government delivered services are contracted out to private companies. What a blow! You would think Joe would be happy about that. Labor has inadvertently fulfilled one of the Coalition’s election promises. Is he happy? Not our Joe. He now has to look for other cost saving measures to avoid an increase in the budget deficit and further borrowings. You would have thought the Coalition, these economic gurus, would have known this long before they announced their pre-election promise. It’s not as if it was a secret. It was in the previous government’s budget papers. Someone in the Coalition was sleeping on the job.

So, where to now?

Sooner, rather than later, Joe and the Government are going to have to own the budget. They will have to accept responsibility for the state of our finances. By next May when the next budget is handed down it will belong to Joe and blaming Labor just won’t wash anymore. Then we shall see the cut of his jib. The May budget will certainly show yet another deficit of around $40 billion; one similar to what we have become use to under Labor. I suspect, also, it is going to contain some unpopular cuts involving broken election promises for which there will be a myriad of excuses. Why? Because Joe and the Coalition will be seen to be no better at raising revenue than Wayne Swan and Labor and that’s going to hurt him, personally. Joe spent a lot of time and energy telling us about fiscal mismanagement, budget emergencies and other bits and pieces. To be cast as just another Wayne Swan won’t go down well.

Economics is not an exact science. It relies on a whole host of uncertainties. There’s a lot of guesswork, estimating, crystal ball gazing and most important of all, events not yet known. Kevin Rudd learned that the hard way; his unexpected event was the GFC. Perhaps another GFC-like event is just around the corner, who knows. But whatever happens, it will belong to Joe Hockey. He won’t be able to blame any subsequent economic ills on Labor. It will be a good test of the false public perception that the Liberals are the better economic managers.

Who started that rumour anyway?

Matt Wade from the Sunday Age in his article, ‘Our National Journey to Prosperity‘ (24 Nov ‘13) highlights the beginning of Australia’s rise to world prominence in wealth, health and education which began when Bob Hawke became Prime Minister in 1983. Just prior to that, we were a basket case under the former Coalition Treasurer, John Howard. Paul Keating became the new Labor treasurer and over the next decade restructured our economy in five critical areas. It was the floating of the Australian dollar, which Reserve Bank governor Glen Stevens recently described as, ‘‘one of most profound economic policy decisions in Australia’s modern history’’, together with tariff reductions, de-regulation of the banking system, the trade union and labour market accords and the independence of the Reserve Bank that changed the Australian economic scene and our way of life, generally.

When talking about events, the next foreseeable one is the Indonesian Presidential elections in 2014. By the time that is decided, Tony Abbott will know just how good a friend President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was to us and how difficult it is going to be with the incoming president, whoever that might be. None of the candidates are particularly disposed toward us. This will create additional problems for Joe Hockey because he will have to re-visit all of our foreign aid commitments and find some grovel money albeit after just cutting the foreign aid budget to the bone. Tough times lay ahead for Joe and they have nothing to do with the six years Labor was in office. The repeal of the carbon tax might get through the senate next year although that is not a certainty. If it does, all revenue from that will cease as will the pittance coming from the mining tax. This is, of course, the government forsaking revenue to honour a promise they think helped win them office. But, most painful of all, as the Indonesian economy continues to gather strength and our near neighbour becomes the third Asian tiger, Australia will be denied access to valuable markets in favour of other friendlier nations. That is going to hurt us … big time.

So let me do a little crystal ball gazing of my own. Joe Hockey is the new John Howard (the 1982 version). Over the next six years the Coalition is going to systematically stuff up the Australian economy and re-define the parameters of fiscal ineptness pushing the national debt out beyond $500 billion. Why? Because they don’t have a vision for the future. They govern for today; they think tomorrow will take care of itself. Well, this time they won’t have a mining boom to mask their collective lack of ability which will translate economically into a probable recession and massive unemployment. Consequently, around 2019, if not before, Australia will be back where it was in 1982 and Labor will once again be invited back into office to clean up the mess.

And those misguided voters who thought the Coalition were the better financial managers, will scratch their heads and seek psychiatric counseling. History doesn’t lie.

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