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Tag Archives: Australian Greens

Dark days ahead

Image courtesy of smh.com.au

Image courtesy of smh.com.au

A guest post by John Kelly

He’s a relieved man today. The debt ceiling will be abolished. He has been given the breathing space he needs. But, deep down, Joe Hockey knows the problem hasn’t gone away; getting rid of the debt ceiling won’t get rid of the debt. In fact, the Greens may have added to his woes. Each quarterly budget update will now, by agreement, bring the national debt to the forefront of parliamentary and press gallery scrutiny. And, as the debt keeps rising, the sweat on Joe’s brow will intensify. Joe Hockey thinks he’s won a small scrap here, and he has, but it is minor when compared with what’s coming. Christine Milne has placed climate change and the Coalition’s ‘Direct Action’ policy right in the firing line by forcing the quarterly budget updates to include reporting on monies spent on climate change initiatives, i.e. Direct Action. It sounds like she doesn’t believe it will ever happen. And I’m inclined to agree. She says, “Direct Action doesn’t exist, it has no shape, it’s not an alternative to what we have in place,” she said and added, “It is not a plan, it’s basically an idea and that is all.”

But that is not all that’s happened.

The debt ceiling event in the early life of the new government has firmly embedded one crucial economic fact in the mind of the electorate: that the national debt, prior to the Coalition coming to power, was less than $300 billion. This will be important when the voters come to judge the economic credibility of the new government in 2016 when the national debt will be in excess of $400 billion. They will have an undeniable reference point. Normally your average voter hasn’t a clue how much the nation owes when they go to vote. This time, however, they will remember that figure.

The debt ceiling deal has also revealed the hypocrisy of earlier statements by the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott when in opposition. “No real friend of the workers of Australia would want to do a deal with the Greens. We can never build a better future by doing cheap and tawdry deals with the Greens”, he said in August.

Well, now it appears, we can.

So, just four months into the new government, an interesting scenario has developed. Joe Hockey is on the record as saying Labor will never produce a surplus. That opportunistic call will most certainly come back to bite him. It is entirely conceivable that Joe and his government won’t deliver a budget surplus either; possible for ten years, should it still be in government. But, the bigger issue will be the likelihood of a recession and the resulting unemployment.

Australia has had a stunning run of good economic fortune resulting in 22 years of uninterrupted growth since the last recession in 1991. It has been brought about for two reasons. It was the Keating economic reforms of the 1980’s and 90’s coupled with the mining boom of the first decade of this century that have made us the envy of the world. The first was a master stroke of forward planning and pragmatism, the second was the rise of China as an economic power and our capacity to be ready for it. In reality, China was just a stroke of good luck. We were in the right place at the right time. But it is pretty clear the good days are over now. Unless we suddenly experience a resurgence in manufacturing or another country’s industrial expansion creates a shortage of ‘stuff’ we have in the ground, there’s not much else that we have to offer to avoid dark days ahead.

The previous Labor government saw this coming. Revenue from the mining boom was in decline. Treasurer Wayne Swan tried to cut back on some of the Howard/Costello excesses, including the $300 private health subsidy. The then Opposition would not support that. Perhaps now, Joe Hockey wishes they had. To his credit Joe has moved to end some of the Howard/Costello vote buying excesses, but they won’t amount to much. Christopher Pine tried to contribute by flip flopping on the Gonski education reforms only to make himself and Tony Abbott look stupid. Cory Bernardi wants to cut funding to the ABC and Scott Morrison is finding new ways to persecute asylum seekers but as yet is not offering any cost savings. In the meantime we waste billions trying to keep asylum seekers from coming to our shores when economic pragmatism says managing the problem on our own shores is the better option.

The danger facing Joe Hockey now is that the government might inadvertently hasten those dark days by a savage reduction in spending without a corresponding increase in private investment from overseas. Their obsession with debt and deficit and the fear of being seen as the very architects of the economic vandalism they attribute to Labor, could result in a premature recession of their own doing. When you combine this with the closure of Ford, the likely closure of Holden, and the parlous position of Qantas, the small manufacturing businesses that these giant employers support are the ones that will take the hit. These small industries are the home of Howard’s battlers, the very people who kept the Coalition in power for 11 years. If Holden stays, it will, most likely, be as an importer, similar to Nissan. Ross Gittins in the Melbourne Sunday Age (Sun. Dec. 8) says “Hockey is right when he says retail sales, building approvals, business and consumer confidence – have improved since September. And it’s reasonable to hope this will lead to a modest improvement in consumption, home building, business investment and other aspects of the non-mining economy.”

Well, Ross might reasonably be ‘whistling dixie’ on that last suggestion but he goes on to say, “But we know there will be big falls in mining investment, which could offset most of the gain. There’s not a lot Hockey can do about that between now and then. Even infrastructure spending takes a long time to get going.”

Leaders today get elected on the basis of three-word slogans; they become the people’s choice for the time being. They use catchy little phrases to attract ignorant voters. They borrow most of them from past, equally unimpressive, leaders and have nothing original to contribute. But, we anoint them as our Prime Minister until their weaknesses surface and we look to someone else. Few can show the courage and conviction of a Paul Keating when they know what is needed, even if it costs them government. Few have sufficient intellect for that and those that do, like Keating, are generally despised for it. John Stuart Mill once wrote that not all conservatives are stupid, but most people who are stupid are conservative. That is probably because they are afraid of what they don’t know. They seek guidance at every turn and accept the time honoured practices and formulae of the past; they view such a strategy as safe. In short, they don’t know any better and don’t want to. They just want to be reassured. Conservative politicians are good at offering policies of reassurance. But that is not going to work in the present and near future economic environment.

The challenges of the near future require something of the Paul Keating brand of courage. Joe Hockey has not shown us yet, that he is up to the challenge, but if he is, he will have to cast off the conservative Coalition mindset and risk being very unpopular. His decision to block the sale of GrainCorp on the grounds that it would have been very unpopular shows that he is, thus far, not willing to do this.

John Kelly is 68, retired and lives in Melbourne. He holds a Bachelor of Communications degree majoring in Journalism and Media Relations. He is the author of four novels and one autobiography. He writes regularly on his own blog site, covering a variety of social, religious and political issues.

John Kelly

 

Worse than disrespect

On the face of it, Joe Hockey’s statement that talking about things like “costings” in this election campaign will bore everyone to death seems like run-of-the-mill disrespect for the electorate. After all, we’re in week two of an official election campaign, and spin and mistruths are par for the course regardless of your poison of choice. (Actually, this is not quite true: I cannot find any examples of egregious mistruth or deliberate spin in any statements by the Australian Greens. This may simply reflect that they have such a low proportion of the media coverage.)

An obvious reason that might explain their reluctance to pony up the details is that they don’t want to spend the next several weeks addressing and rebutting the queries and accusations the media and Labor might bring against them. If they had trust that their numbers were robust and correct, this would be about the only legitimate fear, but it’s a short-sighted one. Large swathes of the electorate are tired of continual negative politics, personal attacks, and three word slogans: not sufficient, but a decent proportion of the all-important swing voters. Defending your own policy position with trustworthy numbers could become a very good thing. Hockey’s statement – “…about costings, rather than about policies…” – seems to indicate that they want to keep the focus on their policies at a very superficial level. Naming a policy and giving a one-line abstract of it may be sufficient to get the immediate sugar hit of a positive attitude, but digging into the details and the numbers risks actually finding out the limitations and caveats behind every policy. I can see why they might want to avoid that, when they’re ahead in the polls.

But I think that the Coalition’s attitude towards revealing their costings to the Australian people (and the media) in advance of the election is about more than avoiding contention. Taken in combination with the coalition’s approach to climate change the NBN the carbon price/tax Labor’s budget everything, there’s a repeated and demonstrable pattern here. The real world doesn’t match up to the Coalition’s worldview; the facts are too inconvenient to be borne. So we don’t trust those facts, and we’ll instead rely on (or make up) our own.

As a scientist, I find this thinking to be actively offensive. As a member of Generation X, I find it to be profoundly arrogant. And as an Australian, I consider it to be morally repugnant.

It’s also astonishing that they’re getting away with it. When you’re driving towards a cliff, redefining your reality to insist that the road to riches continues forever won’t save you from a crash. When you’re falling off that cliff, a blind insistence that there’s a truck full of mattresses at the bottom isn’t much help either. So by all means argue about the terms of measurement of the height of the cliff. Have your political argy-bargy about the effectiveness of the brakes and when you need to start applying them. But don’t discount the reality just because it’s inconvenient for your agenda.

In May, Joe Hockey said he didn’t believe the government’s figures in the budget: “they don’t tell the truth“, he said.

In July, Joe Hockey said he didn’t believe the government’s figures in the revised economic statement: “I don’t believe these numbers“, he said. The Coalition would not be drawn into revealing its costings. It needed to see the state of the federal budget – in numbers they could trust, and they didn’t trust anything the government had any involvement in.

Fair enough.

Even though Treasury Secretary Martin Parkinson went to some lengths to confirm that the numbers had not been influenced by the government, that the numbers in the Economic Statement (ES) would be the same as in the PEFO, the Coalition reserved their right to doubt the figures. Labor has no input into the PEFO and most analysts feel the revised ES was an attempt to pull the government’s figures into line with the Treasury numbers if had no control over, but the Coalition is within its rights to suspect that governmental interference is at least possible. Still, it’s starting to sound less like a reason and more like an excuse, but OK.

In August, Joe Hockey said he didn’t believe the Treasury’s figures in the PEFO: its policy costings will be based on “a range of other data“, he said.

Now the PEFO is out, and as promised, it’s virtually identical to the ES. And the Coalition has had it for almost two weeks (at the time of writing these words). Mr Hockey, your excuse just ran out of legs.

It’s no longer defensible to claim that the real numbers are not available. So the newest reason given for not providing the numbers is that people are bored hearing about the numbers. (Here’s a little tip, Mr Hockey: the people aren’t bored by the numbers. They’re bored by the continued discussion about the fact that we have no numbers.)

The alternative reason that the Coalition may not wish to reveal their costings is that they don’t believe in their own numbers. That they have no intention of ever putting their election promises into practice. Not trusting the ES and the PEFO is Hockey laying the groundwork, once the Coalition comes into government as they still expect to do, for the time-honoured “The state of the economy is so much more parlous than we had known that we have to go back to the drawing board for our policies”.

All parties in an election will make promises. Most will over-promise and find it difficult to deliver, or will deliver a cheaper/smaller version, or will deliver in tiny chunks that somehow require another term or two to complete. This is par for the course. But if an election is a game of one-upmanship, you need to play by the rules, and the rules include at least pretending to have done the numbers to make your promises affordable. Once you remove the requirement to show that your promises can be funded, you can promise just about anything, and that does not lead to an edifying or fair election.

In an election, the people are entitled to the facts. The parties in contention must be on a level playing field. Once one party starts redefining the facts to fit their own worldview, that playing field is lost. In this case, elections are won and lost on emotion, invective, and the money spent on advertising. This is an assault on democracy, and as democracy is defined as government by the people, you could view it as an assault on the people themselves.

“You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” — attr. Daniel Patrick Moynihan

First posted 15/8/2013 on the Random Pariah.

Vote ‘Yes’ for the News Media (Self-Regulation) Bill

As you are no doubt aware, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy wants his News Media (Self-Regulation) Bill 2013 passed by both houses of parliament by Thursday – the last sitting day before the May 14 budget. While the Coalition opposes the package of six bills, Labor is in talks with the Australian Greens and independent MPs to get it through the lower house. Tasmanian independent Andrew Wilkie has expressed concern about the freedom of the press and there was no change in his public stance after he met Senator Conroy. Mr Wilkie appears not to have much of a grasp on the legislation. If he refers to the Second Reading Speech he might recognise that the Public Interest Test does not suggest that the freedom of the press will be restricted. Do his fellow parliamentarians share his ignorance?

To the undecided MPs I might suggest you listen to Barry Tucker as to why we need this Bill passed (whether you understand it or not). After the disgraceful attempt to compare Senator Conroy with history’s most despised despots, Barry wrote:

The audacity! The hypocrisy! Shame! The Daily Telegraph’s front page protest linked federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy to some of history’s hideous dictators.

Bit over the top, don’t you think?

All because the minister introduced some new Bills to mildly beef up the existing news media complaint procedures. Oh, and some independent review of ownership, or “diversity”, via a “public interest advocate”.

There’s the real rub. Independent overseers are only as “independent” as the government that appoints them — which means “not”. In my opinion, a very dangerous move in the case of media ownership.

In other corners of the community the minister has been criticised for pussy footing on the news media regulation, for giving politicians too little notice, for lack of sufficient discussion beforehand, for imposing a “no bargaining” deal — take it or leave it — and for insisting on a deadline. It does sound dictatorial, for such pathetically weak legislation.

In the UK, where News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch is fighting to save his business interests, it’s worse. UK Prime Minister David Cameron has shut down debate on news media regulation. He will introduce his own measures — by regulation — an amendment to a Royal Charter.

Some say he’s letting Rupert off the hook. It’s no secret that Rupert is universally despised as a muck raker following revelations of the ‘phone hacking scandal in the UK — and fears that the same thing is happening elsewhere in his empire.

It’s also spreading to other organisations, with two journalists and two former journalists of The Mirror group being arrested two days ago.

In Australia, News Limited CEO Kim Williams AO accused the minister of attempting to stifle Press freedoms. What really worries him is the Bills, if they become Acts, will hamper his boss’s plans to expand his already suffocating news media empire in Australia.

News Ltd boss attacks ‘Soviet-style’ media reforms

Mr Williams’ address was also reported in full in News Limited papers and on Michael Smith’s website.

Why wouldn’t any reasonably civilised community want regulation to prevent what was happening in the UK (tapping the ‘phones of murder victims, bribing police, politicians and military personnel) and regulate rubbish newspapers like the one above?

Veteran political journalist and ABC Insiders presenter Barrie Cassidy discussed the irony, or the hypocrisy, of Mr Williams’ bleatings with the ABC News24 Breakfast presenters. Mr Cassidy said Mr Williams had called for a public revolt.

I call for a much more severe limitation of the ownership of all newspaper, radio and TV media, in line with some other leading Western countries, and for tougher legislation to enshrine the public ownership and the impartiality of the ABC.

Australia has the most constipated news media ownership (apart from that controlled by a real dictatorship) and our democracy is paying the price for that. The politicians have allowed this to happen and it’s up to them to fix it properly and permanently with some appropriately stiff legislation. If they don’t they’ll pay the price because Social Media and the Fifth Estate is building up a head of steam and already has some victories in its belt.

It’s my bet digital media will be severely regulated long before print media.

Catch up with Mr Cassidy’s comments on the ABC’s YouTube channel

You’d agree that Barry raises far better reasons why we need those laws than the arguments raised by those who oppose it. Barry raises honesty and integrity, whereas the media empire’s argument is clearly based on power and money.

We, the people, want them stripped of that power. We really on you to represent the voice of ordinary Australians.

To everybody else, we can do our bit to get in the ear of the MPs who hold the balance. Tell them what you think. Tell them you support this Bill and the reasons why. Here’s where you can contact them (again, thanks to Barry):

Adam Bandt Twitter @adambandt

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/Adam.Bandt.MP

email adam.bandt.mp@aph.gov.au

Canberra (02) 6277 4775

FAX ACT (02) 6277 8583

Rob Oakeshott Twitter @OakeyMP

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/people/Robert-Oakeshott/1415774696

email http://www.aph.gov.au/R_Oakeshott_MP

Canberra (02) 6277 4052

FAX: (02) 6277 8403

Andrew Wilkie Twitter @WilkieMP

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/andrewwilkiemp

Canberra (02) 6277 4766

FAX: (02) 6277 8579

Tony Windsor Twitter @TonyWindsorMP

emails www.aph.gov.au/T_Windsor_MP |

Tony.Windsor.MP@aph.gov.au

Canberra (02) 6277 4722

FAX: (02) 6277 8545

Craig Thomson @DobellThommo

No Facebook

Website http://www.aph.gov.au/C_Thomson_MP

no email !!!

Canberra (02) 6277 4460

FAX: (02) 6277 2123

Warren Truss

Personal website http://www.warrentruss.com/

PARTY website http://www.nationals.org.au/

Canberra (02) 6277 4482

FAX: (02) 6277 8569

Senator Barnaby Joyce

Email senator.joyce@aph.gov.au

Personal website http://www.barnabyjoyce.com.au/

Canberra (02) 6277 3244

FAX: (02) 6277 3246

Bob Katter @RealBobKatter

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/bobkattermp

email Bob.Katter.MP@aph.gov.au

Personal website http://www.bobkatter.com.au/

Party website http://www.ausparty.org.au/

Canberra (02) 6277 4978

FAX: (02) 6277 8558

Darren Chester

Canberra (02) 6277 4029

Fax: (02) 6277 8402

George Christensen

Twitter @GChristensenMP

Canberra (02) 6277 4538

Fax: (02) 6277 8508

John Cobb

email John.Cobb.MP@aph.gov.au

Canberra (02) 6277 4721

Fax: (02) 6277 8543

John Forrest

email J.Forrest.MP@aph.gov.au

website http://www.jforrest.com/

Canberra (02) 6277 4550

Fax: (02) 6277 8532

Luke Hartsuyker

email Luke.Hartsuyker.MP@aph.gov.au

website http://www.lukehartsuyker.com.au/

Canberra (02) 6277 4447

Fax: (02) 6277 8410

Michael MCormack

Twitter @M_McCormackMP

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-McCormack/100002102184276

Website http://www.michaelmccormack.com.au/

Canberra (02) 6277 4725

Fax: (02) 6277 8563

Mark Coulton

email Mark.Coulton.MP@aph.gov.au

Personal website http://www.markcoulton.com.au/

Canberra (02) 6277 4607

Fax: (02) 6277 8504

Paul Neville

email P.Neville.MP@aph.gov.au

Canberra (02) 6277 4940

Fax: (02) 6277 8559

Ken O’Dowd

Personal website http://www.kenodowd.com.au/

Canberra (02) 6277 4380

Fax: (02) 6277 8495

Bruce Scott

email Bruce.Scott.MP@aph.gov.au

Personal website http://www.maranoa.info/

Canberra (02) 6277 4949

Fax: (02) 6277 8421

Peter Slipper

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/PeterSlipperMP

email Peter.Slipper.MP@aph.gov.au

Website http://www.peterslippermp.com.au/

Canberra (02) 6277 4490

FAX: (02) 6277 8405

Tony Crook

email http://www.tonycrook.com.au/contact.aspx

Kalgoorlie Office

Phone (08) 9021 1241

Mobile 1300 772 061

FAX (08) 9021 1506

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