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Tag Archives: budget

Open letter to Simon Birmingham

The Weasel often writes letters to elected officials… as the dictum goes: If you smell something, say something.

The most recent pronouncement by our erstwhile federal education minister that creative careers were a lifestyle choice had a particular odour. The lack of response from the reigning opposition parties also left much to be desired. So while the intended recipient for below missive was originally for Mr Birmingham; I encourage you, good reader, to freely appropriate the text and send to all those elected officials you believe would benefit from my educational inquiry.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Dear Minister Birmingham  [or insert name of senator or MP here]

I am writing to you regarding recent comments [by the Federal Education Minister] that described creative careers as a lifestyle choice.

I would like to enquire why the government of the day is ignoring the actions of most other technologically developed nations. In the UNESCO Science Report: towards 2030, creative industries are identified as key drivers in revitalising manufacturing sectors, and on-shoring production or services that in previous decades been shifted to less expensive markets.

The U.K., France, South Korea, and Germany all have policy that explicitly links creative industries to programs designed to build or enhance innovation; and gain competitive advantage in the shift to Industry 4.0. Many countries now have dedicated creative industry hubs to create and enhance networks and connectivity between creative professionals and other industries.

To state that creative careers are a lifestyle choice ignores the essential function of cultural events in our society. It ignores the economic contribution. It ignores the contribution to the expression of the Australian character by thousands of actors, painters, dramaturges, designers, editors, architects, writers. Finally, it ignores the contribution that trained creative’s deliver in innovative thinking to thousands of Australian businesses. You can read more about how vibrant and vital creative professionals are on the AusTrade website.

If the current government is truly serious about innovation, then engagement and investment in creative careers and industries is essential. Design thinking is inherent in all creative pursuits, and those are exactly the structured innovative skills Australia needs to regain economic strength.

In the new knowledge economy, superior creative thinking can conquer limitations of scale or distribution. The emerging decentralised, interconnected, and data-rich manufacturing landscape has opportunities waiting to be discovered and exploited; and it is creative professionals who are best positioned to think outside the box, make use of limited resources, and take advantage of connectivity to drive innovation.

In light of all this, I would like an answer to the following questions:

Why does the Education Minister consider creative careers non-essential to the Australian economy?

How does the government plan to succeed with an innovation agenda without using design thinking, or input from creative professionals?

I have included links to some of the sources to which I refer in this letter. I encourage you to investigate them further.
I look forward to your reply

Yours Sincerely

The Weasel

 

austrade.gov.au: Creative-Industries

thecreativeindustries.co.uk/

creative-industries-worth-almost-10-million-an-hour-to-economy

Deutschland creative industries

UNESCO Science report: creative industries driving innovation

https://en.unesco.org/USR-contents

forbes.com: what everyone must know about industry 4.0

Let’s talk about privilege and single parents

The Social Discourse and Welfare

Whilst doing my research for my most recent blog post,  I analysed a range of opinions throughout social media on the topic of contraception and welfare. Naturally, these threads across various pages gathered the opinions of those not on welfare and those who are. Comments on social media give one an insight into the thoughts of a wide and varied demographic. Often thoughts on social media are contained to a particular thread on a particular topic; so it is always interesting to view the differences of opinion from many on that particular subject.  This is particularly evident when it is a newspaper forum, or another general page which attracts a diverse range of people.  People will group together on opinion and often there are long debates from those for or against a particular opinion. I love reading the opinions of people on social media, as narrative or discourse, gives us a glimpse of the social psyche.

Social discourse is a key element to social change.  Many of the comments from people, as per my last blog post, painted those on welfare in a very negative light.  In fact, the ones highlighted were of the very strong view that those on welfare “should not breed”. The Liberal National Coalition (LNP) Government has a very strong discourse on punitive measures aimed to punish people on welfare and sets this standard, through their unfair cuts to welfare and treatment of jobseekers.

Newspapers and media also seem to slant their stories to the negative. There were many comments highlighting that Sunrise had posted the ‘welfare and contraception’ story three different times on their Facebook page. In my local regional newspaper today, there is an prominent article with the headline “Hard-working Australian culture fading away” which has a 20 year old mechanic front and centre telling people to “not cry poor and go out a get a job” and “I don’t believe for a second there’s no work out there”.

This is in spite of the unemployment rate being 6.3% nationally, youth unemployment sitting nationally at 14% nationally and being as high as 29.3% in outback South Australia, 26.7% in south east Tasmania and 21.3% in Cairns. This is also in spite of skills shortages in 2014 identified in specialized and professional fields as external auditor, surveyor, sonographer, phsysiotherapist, midwife, software engineer and construction estimator. The jobs listed as skills shortages are not jobs that would be likely to match young people seeking employment, or unskilled jobseekers. This means that contrary to the social discourse occurring at present, job search is a highly competitive environment and those with little to no skills or experience, or who face any barriers to employment (including sole parenting), will find securing employment very difficult.

This does not even take into account age discrimination or Indigenous unemployment, which sits at 17.2% nationally and the Government’s changes to programs that will greatly affect this group. These changes show blatant changes which target people through race, which are discriminatory as compared to other parts of Australia.

What about Sole Parents?

The blog post I researched most recently discussed the argument that ‘People on welfare should be forced to take contraception.’  Single mothers were certainly a group raised for discussion. In particular, young mothers featured prominently, as did women from certain suburbs in Australia and another prominent single mother group attacked negatively were those ‘assumed to be refugees’ or from an ethnic minority background or non-white people.

Single Parents have only had to seek employment as part of Mutual Obligation since the 2005 – 2006 Howard Budget. This has continued to be evolved by successive ALP Governments since 2007 and remains as a focus for the Abbott Government.   There have been calls from ACOSS that the inclusion of single parents in mutual obligation contravenes Human Rights Obligations.  I strongly agree with ACOSS, not only for the economic affects outlines, but especially for point 2, which discusses discrimination against women:

The Bill violates the rights of single parents to non-discrimination under Art 2, paragraph 2
of the ICESCR and Art 11(1)(e) of the International Covenant on the Elimination of All
Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). Since the majority of recipients are
women, they will suffer indirect gender discrimination should the Bill become law. In
addition, sole parent families, identified for special measures due to their greater
vulnerability, will suffer discrimination through the loss of these measures.

As I delved into people’s conversations on social media whilst researching my last blog post, I noticed something quite prominent and thematic with  young mothers and their arguments.  I was becoming increasingly aware of the amount of young women (single mothers) who felt the need to defend their space in society. These young women felt the need to list every single effort they make to work in paid work, volunteering, job search or furthering their education through study or training.  Often, they would write a long list of work and study they were doing at the same time, as well as caring for their child or children.

What this is saying to me, is that young mothers and single others feel the need to ‘reaffirm’ or establish themselves in the eyes of the privileged (those not a single parent) to be deemed worthy or accepted in society.  My position is difficult here as I can only view the conversation and not seek clarity or construct any dialogue with these young mothers to further develop understanding; but I feel that these young mothers feel that there are societal pressures that say that being a mother 100% of of the time is not enough as set by the standards of society and in the eyes of those who view them as ‘sole parents.’

One theme that was quite prominent was when young mothers did list the whole range work or study activities they were undertaking as well as motherhood, people congratulated them on their efforts and ‘becoming a productive citizen.’  The comments resonated that being a mother was not being a productive citizen. Raising other little good citizens is being a productive citizen in itself.

I for one second do not take away any single parent’s choice to undertake any activities to better their future for employment etc., The key word there being choice. However, I question the need that there may be mothers who feel they cannot be a mother only, due to the strong social narrative that drives this pressure, which is enabled by the Government view of single parents. Something afforded by privilege to those who have this choice in a partnered relationship. I know many may argue that even women in partnered relationships need to go to work; but if a woman strongly wanted to be at home, they have the choice, through that partnership to adapt their lifestyle, so this can be supported on one wage in many cases.  The fact of the matter is single parents do not have this choice even to contemplate, as that second wage is simply not there.

Some of the privileges afforded by those in partnered relationships or single people with no children, who set to condemn single parents are thus:

  • Single parents do not have the option to share the workload.
  • Single parents often have to do more than partnered parents, as all work, child raising and decision making are their sole responsibility
  • Single parents bear the brunt of sole financial responsibility.  If they get sick, there is no second wage to fall back on.
  • There are forced expectations by the Government of mutual obligation on single mothers or fathers that is not enforced onto partnered mothers or fathers.
  • There is a great social stigma still towards, particularly single mothers being a purposeful burden on the system
  • Economic burdens, not affording take away, making all food, not affording childcare, or adequate medical care, including dental as compared to middle to upper classes
  • There is a great social stigma about child spacing for single parents “they just pop another one out when the youngest turns six” Child spacing is a privilege afforded to partnered parents.
  • Single parents have more likely high instances of low self-efficacy and low self-esteem than partnered parents
  • Illness is a privilege afforded to those in partnered relationships. A single parent who falls ill still has to maintain all responsibilities
  • There are many labor market constraints for single parents, including transport, available education, flexible work hours. In some cases partnered parents may face these barriers, but they have another partner to work with to reduce these barriers.
  • Often stigma is also with the ex-wife/ex-partner that if the father is raising them, there is something wrong with the mother, but that is rarely questioned about the father
  • Fathers are often perceived as heroes and pitied for abandonment, women are scorned, slut shamed etc.,
  • In most cases the onus of blame is placed on the woman in a relationship breakdown.
  • Single mothers experience stigma with employment, housing, applying for benefits, and community assistance afforded to most partnered couples (racial and disability discrimination acknowledged)
  • Balancing custody and career.  Often promotion means more work and more time away from family sole parents, both male and female risk custody if they are not seen to provide enough care an attention to the child/ren through absence to the home.  This is intensified if the other parent has another new partner who can does paid work. There is little research if this is more particularly burdensome for single mothers or single fathers. Career and progression is something afforded to parents in a partnered relationship, without the risk of losing custody of their child/ren.

I will break out of the bullet points to direct attention to one that I am most passionate about.  I will speak to this for mothers only.  I would value input from how single fathers see this in the comments below.

Forced removal of the right to care for children.

Due to the mutual obligations forced upon single mothers by the Government, single parents have no choice but to have another person spend critical and valuable time with their child.  They do not have the option that this may be the person they are in an intimate relationship with as a privilege afforded to partnered mothers who desire to return to work and have a stay at home father. Single Mothers are forced to pay strangers to spend critical and valuable time and input in the rearing of their child.  Not only does this take away from critical and valuable parenting time, but places an extra financial burden on women as it cuts into money earned from employment.

This also places an additional burden on women fleeing domestic violence relationships and fleeing violent partners. It forces a woman to be engaged in employment (sometimes with no phone contact as enforced by the employer’s rules) and it creates more worry, stress and strain on a woman already experiencing heightened anxiety and concern for the safety of herself and her children.

I find this absolutely abhorrent that this choice is taken away from single parents by force, rather than by choice.  It takes away one of the most important and most treasured days of a woman’s life by force.

Single Fathers

Although the majority of single parents are mothers, single fathers make up 12% of single parents in Australia.   Single fathers also face particular burdens based on how society positions gender and parenting, based on the notion that only women are the natural nurturers and men are the breadwinners.

  • Single fathers are the loneliest and socially isolated of all types of household situation.
  • Single fathers are deemed incompetent by others, due to the ingrained belief that women are the natural caregivers and nurturers.
  • As per listed above, it is also unfairly assumed that the father is not the best option for care of the child, but must be by default. Society seeks to lay blame on either the mother primarily, and pities the father, but does not ever assume that this may be an amicable solution or what has been decided as a matter of choice between the former partnered parents.
  • Single fathers have generally lower self esteem and depression issues than men in other households
  • Affect on single fathers with balancing work choice, decision making, key provisions for the family, restrictions in childcare availability and shift work for many labouring / trades jobs

Gay and Lesbian single parents – there is more of a story to be told.

There is also appears to be an absence of research on single parents from a breakdown of a same sex relationship.  Statistics included for single parents are inclusive of gay and lesbian parents as statistics do not specifically also target sexual preference.

There appears to be an abundance of literature on same sex parenting as a dual couple. However, the absence of literature on gay and lesbian single parents, makes for a gap in understanding the full picture of single parents and their lived experiences.

Government Responses

The Howard Government in 2005-2006 budget papers set forth the foundation for including single parents in mutual obligation.   Successive ALP Governments since, have not sought to enable single parents by repealing this legislation, but have sought to tighten this legislation and provide even more restrictions and obstacles for single parents.

The Abbott Government’s response is hinged on ‘family values’ but defines this family as the predominantly white, dual parent family, with more than likely Christian values.   Often classified as “The traditional family.”  This is not representative of all families in Australia.

The Abbott Government has injected 20 million to “strengthen relationships and help improve personal and family well-being—it makes social and economic sense.” Because, you know single parents are a burden on society and a factor for social decline.

The Abbott Government has chosen to fund only Christian Chaplains in schools as a pastoral mechanism. Christian Chaplains would only advocate for traditional heterosexual relationships and traditional forms of family through marriage.

There is a lack of investment from the Abbott Government on Domestic Violence and funding for shelters and other programs for both women and men and an absence of understanding of the need for shelters for men who have experienced domestic violence or intimate partner violence.

There is an agenda of stigmatisation from the Abbott Government for those on welfare, adding to the layers of stigmatisation experienced by single parents, indigenous, the disabled, immigrants, people from low socioeconomic backgrounds and people in other minority groups.

Where to from here

If this blog post has resonated with others, I would encourage everyone to write to the Government and to both the ALP and the Greens to advocate to have mutual obligation as a forced measure removed from single parents and be implemented as a voluntary measure only, with no penalties.

One of the reasons behind me writing this blog post, was that I get so disheartened from reading harsh and judgemental comments from those in a position of privilege.   The other reason was that I really want people to start assessing their own narrative when it comes to passing judgement of others on welfare.

The Abbott Government through their agenda of stigmatisation has really created a strong narrative to enable and encourage others to stigmatise those on welfare.  If you oppose the Abbott Government, but contribute to this stigma by adding your voice, you are really supporting the Abbott Government by becoming a part of their agenda.  Their agenda for stigma is strong as it paves the way for even more harsh cuts and unfair treatment of the disadvantage as the discourse becomes more widely sociably acceptable.

“Stigma is a process by which the reaction of others spoils normal identity.”
―Erving Goffman

 

Originally published on Polyfeministix

Message of the day

As Lenore Taylor reported on Friday, every morning the major parties send out the “messages” of the day. These aren’t really super-secret documents since ministers and MPs dutifully recite them into any available open microphone.

At the media briefing after the Coalition’s party meeting the assembled journalists were told, “The prime minister said 2014 had been a very good year for the government and he’s confident next year would be at least as good if not better.”

And last night on Lateline we saw Steve Ciobo dutifully relaying the “message”.

The Abbott government’s plan is THE ONLY PLAN to improve economic growth and repair the budget – regardless of what question is asked, this is to be the reply.  They are to repeat over and over again, what a good year it has been.

Look how Scott has stopped the boats.  (But don’t look at the offshore gulags where children are locked up in appalling conditions.)

Look at how many Free Trade Agreements Andrew has signed.  (But don’t ask for the detail about what we sacrificed for those signatures.)

Look at Julie – isn’t she pretty? (But don’t ask us for foreign aid or any contribution to global action on anything that doesn’t involve bombing people.)

Look at Matthias – there’s a man who knows how to repeat the lines (But any deficit blowout is most definitely not his fault – it’s Layboor’s debt and deficit disaster and when you get sick of that it’s Joe’s fault for not selling the message).

Ciobo slipped right into the script we knew was coming.  He said that the Coalition has already cut Labor’s debt by over $300 billion.

That would be a spectacular feat if true since gross debt when they left office was about $280 billion.

PEFO showed that gross debt was expected to climb to $370bn by the end of 2016/17.  In Hockey’s MYEFO that figure had grown to $430 billion and then to $450 billion in the budget, and by all accounts it is still growing as we shall see in Hockey’s next MYEFO in a couple of weeks.

So where is Ciobo getting his figures from?  This little piece of number gymnastics from Hockey’s budget.

“The published 2013‑14 MYEFO face value of CGS on issue figure of $667 billion in 2023‑24 did not include a cap on tax receipts. The projection for MYEFO in Chart 1 includes a 23.9 per cent of GDP cap on tax receipts, increasing the face value of CGS on issue projected to $748 billion in 2023‑24.

In comparison, at 2014‑15 Budget CGS on issue is projected to be $389 billion in 2023‑24, an improvement of $359 billion. By 2024‑25, the projected end‑of‑year face value of CGS on issue is expected to reach $362 billion.”

When Emma Alberice pointed out that using MYEFO as a basis of comparison was ignoring the Charter of Budget Honesty, and that it contained Hockey’s spending and revenue cutting measures like gifting the RBA almost $9 billion and foregoing the revenue from the carbon and mining taxes and wasting billions on Direct Action, Ciobo just spoke over the top of her saying Labor had left the RBA in a vulnerable position.  Tony Burke then tried to point out that the Coalition had taken $1.24 billion in dividends from the RBA this year, something they roundly criticised Wayne Swan for doing, he also was interrupted and spoken over.

The first instalment, over $600 million, has already been paid back to the government in August.

As reported in Crikey:

“When Wayne Swan took a dividend of just $500 million from the RBA in 2012-13, he was accused of “raiding” the bank, by Hockey among others. It was subsequently revealed that Treasury, after consultations with the RBA, didn’t believe there was any imperative to increase the Reserve Bank’s capital buffers. But if $500 million is a raid, over $1.2 billion looks more like open plunder. How dearly Swan would have liked being able to get another $700 million that year. So as some of us predicted back in 2013 Hockey, having blown out the 2013-14 deficit with his $9 billion gift to the RBA and blamed it on Labor, has got his first repayment to bolster the 2014-15 budget bottom line.

Curiously there is no mention of the dividend in RBA governor Glenn Stevens’ foreword to the report, despite discussing how the $8.8 billion had replenished the bank’s capital reserves; you have to go down to page 77 to get an explanation of the dividend. It’s particularly curious given that the dividend — whether one is to be paid or not, and how large it will be — is regularly mentioned in the forewords of previous annual reports. The omission doesn’t help the impression that the whole business of the $8.8 billion has undermined the perception of RBA independence.”

This politicising of independent bodies like the RBA, Infrastructure Australia, NBNco, the CSIRO, the AFP and the ABC, is a very worrying trend designed to keep even more information from the public.

So my “message for the day” is stop the crap Joe and co.  If MSM journalists are incapable of exposing the bullshit then step aside – you have made yourselves redundant.

Risk assessment

Life is a series of choices and decisions.  Within the constraints of time and finite resources, decision makers must learn to prioritise – to decide what is most important.

If you listen to anyone outside Australia, the greatest challenges facing us at the moment are climate change caused by anthropogenic global warming, income inequity leading to poverty, the Ebola crisis, pollution, peak resources, health and education in developing nations, the growing tide of refugees, providing enough food and clean water, sanitation, overpopulation, unemployment, species extinction, human rights abuses, affordable housing….and a fair way down the list would be a group of some tens of thousands of disaffected testosterone-filled teenagers that someone has been crazy enough to give guns and rockets to.

When faced with these global problems, the response of the Abbott government brings into question their ability to assess risk and respond appropriately.

On climate change, our Prime Minister tells us that “coal is good for humanity” while our Treasurer denies the fact that we are the world’s largest per capita emitter and that does not even take into account our exports.  (When you hear the phrase “I deny the premise of your question” that is Coalition for “I can’t hear you, here comes the Party line”)

As reported in the Guardian:

“Australia’s coal is one of the globe’s fourteen carbon bombs. Our coal export industry is the largest in the world, and results in 760m tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. The urgent goal of Tony Abbott’s government, and his environment minister Greg Hunt is to ship as much climate-devastating coal as possible, as quickly as possible.

Every day, this Liberal-National government, led by Tony Abbott, provides new examples of its nastiness, its short-sightedness, and its willingness to destroy livelihoods, communities and the environment to enrich coal barons.”

A new report by The Australia Institute “The Mouse that Roared: Coal in the Queensland Economy” demonstrates that the coal industry’s risks and damage completely outweigh its benefits.

Felicity Wishart the AMCS Great Barrier Reef Campaign Director said that the Queensland Government was prepared to risk the Great Barrier Reef, its international reputation and its $6 billion tourism industry for a coal industry that employs less people than Reef tourism, exports most of its profits and provides just 4% in royalties.

“The Australia Institute report reveals that there are under 25,000 jobs in coal mining in Queensland and 80% of the profits go overseas. This compares with 69,000 jobs in the tourism industry, and almost all the profits stay in Australia.”

When the world’s leaders met to discuss climate change, our leader couldn’t make it due to a prior engagement with Rupert to get his lines about why the war is good straight. Our deputy leader couldn’t make it because he is too busy planning thousands of kilometres of bitumen heat islands to carry millions of fossil fuel burning imported cars.  Our environment minister didn’t even seem to be considered or mentioned which is hardly surprising when he points to his plan for the Great Barrier Reef as a success.  Ignoring ocean acidification, warming, and salinity while approving the dumping of dredged silt and the expansion of coal ports is considered a success?  Oh that’s right, you removed a few starfish by injecting each one by hand.  Instead we sent Julie Bishop because she is good at stonewalling and death stares.

As representatives from the Philippines and Kiribati make heartfelt pleas about the damage being done to their nations, we have reneged on our promised contribution to the Green Fund to help developing nations deal with the havoc we cause. As marathon runners in Beijing choke on the pollution, we tell them that burning more coal will make them richer.

Everyone from the Pope to the head of the IMF has pointed to poverty and income inequity being a growing scourge, yet every action taken by this government will have the effect of increasing poverty and widening the gap. Internationally we have slashed Foreign Aid and domestically we have hit the poor with the budget from hell.

Joe Hockey and Mathias Cormann say, because the poor get more government handouts, they have more to give back when looking for spending cuts. Raising revenue will not be considered.  The poor, the sick, the elderly, the disabled, the students, the unemployed, single parents, low income families – these are the people to provide Mr Hockey with a surplus to brag about.  In the meantime, one in seven Australians live in poverty with that number predicted to rise.

Austerity and trickle-down economics are failed experiments which this government seems intent on pursuing despite the mountain of evidence and advice warning against such measures. As the majority of people get less disposable income, demand will dry up, production will fall, unemployment will rise, and the downward spiral will continue.

While we seem to have endless money to bomb countries, the money to help build infrastructure and provide humanitarian aid has dried up.

Our response to the Ebola crisis is hugely inadequate. The excuse about evacuation of affected health workers just will not wash.  We already have in place agreements with the US about medical evacuation of military personnel to Germany should they become critically ill.  Australian doctors and nurses are highly-trained and if they feel that they have adequate protective regimes in place then It is unlikely that we would be talking about a large number of people needing evacuation.  Considering the urgency of addressing this emergency, I cannot believe that the US or the UK or Germany would deny health workers the same service they offer to our military personnel.

Our Immigration Minister smugly claims success for his quasi-military war on refugees. He tells us this has been the humanitarian thing to do because he cares so much about asylum seekers that he can’t have them risking their lives at sea.  Unfortunately, he also cut our humanitarian intake by 7000 and has failed to successfully resettle anyone.  He would rather spend billions on OSB and offshore gulags and bribes to corrupt officials of other countries to absolve us of any responsibility at all rather than a cent on helping refugees.  All he has done is bottle refugees up in other countries while we sit back and refuse to help.

In response to growing unemployment, this government has removed restrictions on 457 visas encouraging employers to hire people who will work for less than award wages, no workplace entitlements and no job security. They have removed industry assistance from manufacturing to help them during a time when the high Aussie dollar hit the industry hard while giving billions of dollars in subsidies to the mining industry which caused the problem in the first place.

When Toyota, Ford and Holden leave the country for good in 2017, around 50,000 people who work in the automotive supply chain, mostly in Victoria and South Australia, will face the risk of unemployment.

Despite Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane telling us that ”Australians are smart, innovative and creative. We have the ability to remake our industry sector and the time in which to do it.”, according to European Union data from 2011, only 2.3 per cent of materials shipped out of Australia are high-tech – far less than the US, where the figure is closer to 20 per cent.

The OECD found in 2012 that Australia’s investment in high-tech industries was lower overall than other advanced economies yet the latest budget has slashed funding for research and development and decimated bodies like the CSIRO.

Remy Davison, the Jean Monnet Chair in politics and economics at Monash University, says despite the talk little has been done to create a realistic transformation scheme for industry.

”We talk about investing in smart industries and moving into high-tech industries, but nobody actually does it – not state governments, not federal governments, and to be fair the private sector doesn’t really invest in it either.”

When it comes to the war against ISIL, this is where the Abbott government steps up with seemingly unlimited resources to provide military assistance and to conduct over-the-top raids and surveillance at home, but where is the discussion about what led to the rise of this group? Where are the questions about how we are failing members of our own society so badly that they can be lured into this conflict?  Where is the strategy to help young people here to feel like they belong and encouragement to help them become productive members of our society?  Where is the support for our Muslim community?

Risk assessment is part of life and a crucial factor for all businesses. How much more so for a government when the consequences of their decisions are so far-reaching?  We have a government who came to power with a specific agenda to which they are determined to stick.  They are deaf to the advice of experts other than their hand chosen sycophants and choose to ignore the risks.  On all counts, in the most pressing problems facing the world, Australia has been found wanting.

Before casting your vote at the next election, Australians should consider the risk of allowing the Abbott government to continue down the path of nationalism and corporate greed at the expense of our duty as global citizens and our responsibility to protect the vulnerable.

Where is Labor?

The despair at the inaction of Labor is growing louder. The groups they are supposed to represent are under attack and all we hear is endless support for Tony Abbott’s warmongering.

Labor have been gifted a first year of Abbott government that has been so bad that they should be seizing the opportunity to reshape themselves as a viable alternative but all we hear is “our policies will be revealed in good time before the next election and they will be fully costed” or “we aren’t the government”.

A quick look at the last few days news stories provide endless material that, for some unknown reason, Labor seems too ineffective to capitalise on.

Our Prime Minister for Women has delivered a budget which modelling shows that the worst hit – by far – will be women in low-income households.

Just as Tony Abbott releases one of his ‘earnest and sincere’ videos saying that his government’s main motivations in future will be “protecting the vulnerable”, it might be opportune to point out that analysis, conducted by the Australia Institute, shows women in the poorest 20 per cent of households will be $2566 worse off in 2017 as a result of the budget.  Women in the wealthiest 20 per cent of households will be only $77 worse off on average in 2017.

Or perhaps, as our Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs jets off on his long-awaited trip to Arnhem Land, it might be worth mentioning the report in the SMH saying

Tony Abbott’s takeover of indigenous affairs is in “disarray“, public service insiders allege, with hundreds of specialist public servants retrenched, funding and programs stalled and staff morale in the “doldrums”.

Senior leaders in the Prime Minister and Cabinet department’s Indigenous Affairs Group have based themselves in Canberra’s dress circle, nearly 10 kilometres away from their rank-and-file workers, who are still reeling after repeated restructures to their workplaces.”

Now would be a good time to remind people of how much Tony Abbott has cut from the Indigenous Affairs budget and how many services are closing.

“For decades the North Australian Aboriginal Justice Agency (NAAJA) has been providing legal aid in the remote town of Nhulunbuy, on the northern tip of Arnhem Land, as well as in the nearby community of Yirrkala and surrounding outstations.

But the agency is set to close its doors in Nhulunbuy at the end of the year, in anticipation of severe budget cuts, and is seeking a meeting with the Prime Minister during his visit.”

With the revelations from ICAC proving just how endemic corruption is in our political system, now would be a good time to push for a Federal ICAC.

As Errol Brandt points out at nofibs

“there is a deafening roar from social media calling for the establishment of a federal ICAC. Not because the public wants cheap entertainment, but because the revelations in NSW confirm what many have long suspected: entrenched unethical and illegal behaviour is festering in our the nation’s political shadowlands.”

Does anyone believe Bill Shorten when he says

“I think we’ve all been shocked at the revelations that have come out in NSW ICAC… I don’t believe the same case has yet existed to demonstrate these problems are prevalent in the national political debate in Australia.”

Rob Oakeshott certainly thinks otherwise as he calls for reform in the area of political donations.

“THE rules are simple: fight the bastards, bankroll the other side of politics, cause them damage until they learn to ignore treasury and finance advice and start listening instead to that grubby leveller in politics – money.

Whether it’s tax or carbon or gaming, this is the policy inertia of Australia today. Money is beating our long-term standard of living to death. It has sent many necessary policy reforms to the doghouse, and it keeps many others on the short chain.

Our key decisions for the future of Australia are now being outsourced at a level never before seen. Parliamentary democracy is going through its own sort of privatisation….”

Oakeshott points out the undue influence that wealthy people exert on political decisions which are no longer made in the best interests of the people. This is underlined by Gina Rinehart’s latest call for assistance as iron ore prices fall.  Rather than facing business risk like the rest of us, she wants the government to change the rules to increase her profits.

“Mrs Rinehart singled out red tape, approvals and burdens as addressable bureaucratic policies.

“Each one of these adds costs and makes it harder to compete successfully, risking Australian jobs and revenue,” Mrs Rinehart told The Australian.  “The government needs to better recognise this and world conditions, including various falling commodity prices and the contraction in jobs in Australia’s ­mining and related industries – and urgently cut bureaucratic ­burdens.”

The government needs to act to help reduce the costs placed on Australian miners, who are disadvantaged against international competition, Mrs Rinehart said.

Mrs Rinehart has previously warned that Africa is a much cheaper investment option, with workers willing to take jobs for $2 per day.

It was estimated at the time that while Mrs Rinehart was talking about pay rates for African workers, she was earning $600 a second.”

Andrew Wilkie is also angry at the influence of vested interests with Barnaby Joyce promoting the interests of his mates.

“The Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce is reportedly set to exempt Saudi Arabia from the Exporter Supply Chain Assurance System, which would be the first step in undoing the modest animal welfare reforms of the last parliament.

“This is the government saying loud and clear to overseas markets: `we don’t care how you slaughter our animals’,’’ Mr Wilkie said. “This will have horrendous consequences for Australian animals that will be sent overseas to cruel and shocking deaths with the blessing of the Australian Government.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Australian Government is a pack of sadists who seem to get some sort of unholy thrill out of knowingly promoting animal cruelty.

Barnaby Joyce in particular is beholden to money and his mates in that tiny part of the red-meat industry which exports livestock. But even there he is incompetent because the only way to ensure the red-meat industry is commercially sustainable over the long term, and have broad public support, is to end the cruelty.”

As Tony Abbott woos the Chinese in search of a Free Trade Agreement, someone should warn him that they are likely to impose tariffs on our exports as they move to an ETS.

“Just two months after Australia trashed its carbon price because it was “too high” and would “trash the economy”, China has flagged that its planned carbon trading scheme will cover 40 per cent of its economy and be worth up to $65 billion.”

Tony Abbott keeps telling us that repealing taxes will create jobs but, on so many fronts, his actions show little regard for creating employment.

The main public sector union is demanding urgent talks with the Australian Taxation Office over a proposal to move outsourced backroom functions to Asia.

The CPSU says it is “deeply concerned” after revelations that a giant multinational contractor wants to take ATO work to the Philippines and that Health Department work has been going to India for years.

Support for mining and agriculture will do little to help as, at its peak, the mining sector employed less than 2 per cent of the workforce, and agriculture, forestry and fishing employs about 3 per cent.

Withdrawing support for the car industry will see a huge number of job losses with even more for South Australia if the government chooses to buy Japanese submarines to replace the Collins class fleet.

But at present, the only policy the government has to tackle unemployment is lowering wage rates by, for example, getting rid of penalty rates and introducing low junior wages.

As Paul Malone points out

“The conventional response that our tradeable services will compete successfully on the world stage, significantly adding to our export income and keeping large numbers of our population employed, is laughable. If we can sell architecture services via the net, so can lower paid Indians.

The currently much vaunted sale of education services is in reality an immigration marketing program, where many students study here in the hope that they can win the right to live and work here.”

While our students become increasingly concerned about changes that will see them saddled with huge debts, Scott Morrison is busy announcing a new type of visa that will allow foreign students to come and study diploma courses at private colleges like the one Frances Abbott attends which has benefited from a great deal of favourable government legislation since they gave her a scholarship.

‘The number of international students seeking to study in Australia continues to rebound positively, with an increase of over 27% in the number of visas granted to offshore applicants in the 2013/2014 programme year,’ he pointed out.

‘Extending SVP arrangements will help capitalise on these trends, reducing red tape and helping to attract further students from overseas,’ he added.

Invitations to participate will be sent to eligible providers in the second half of 2014. The government proposes to implement this extension by early 2015, under the stewardship of Michaelia Cash, Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.”

Even though small business is a huge employer, they too have been attacked by the Abbott budget.  It seems only billionaires and global corporations rate a mention nowadays.

“The Coalition has scrapped the tax concessions linked to the mining tax, including the company loss carry-back provision, which allowed loss-making businesses to claim back tax they’d paid in previous profitable years. Also cut were accelerated depreciation allowances or asset write-offs.

“The Coalition have said that they would be small business-friendly, they understand we are the backbone of the economy, that we employ a lot of people – all those sorts of things – and they would do anything they could to make sure our lives were easy enough so we could run our business, and they’ve done the opposite with this decision,” said Peter Strong, the executive director of the Council of Small Business of Australia (COSBOA).”

While Abbott talks of growth, he seems to have little idea of how to achieve it and is actually working against measures to reduce inequality.

“The federal budget took active steps towards increasing inequality and that sits in stark contrast to the discussions held at the G20 and now the L20 meetings. Youth unemployment is a critical issue for the Australian economy but has largely been ignored in favour of a crackdown on ‘dole bludgers’ and ‘welfare queens’.

There is a clear disconnect between our federal government and the L20, who are promoting a return to more inclusive growth, which benefits workers across the income distribution. The L20’s focus is long overdue — the national income share from wages has been declining for decades — but it’s a message that has clearly fallen on deaf ears in Australia.”

Abbott tells us that we must be innovative but at the same time cuts funding to research and ignores the advice of scientists, much to the chagrine of our chief scientist Ian Chubb.

“In the space of a fortnight we were encouraged to be advocates for science and then rebuked for “whinging” by a minister who in the same breath claimed to be on our side. That came as something of a shock.

Much has been said and written about how Australia punches above our weight in research and innovation in the past and present. We have in no way reached our capacity. We need long-term research funding, clear translational mechanisms and strong links with business. We need more blue sky research, not less, and we need to figure out smarter ways of funding and translating it.

Most of all, scientists need allies in parliament, and increasingly it appears we have none. Acknowledging that isn’t being a “precious petal”, and it’s not whingeing. These are big-picture issues, these are long-term issues, these are dreams and ideas about what we think our country can do and how we can bring it into the future.”

These are just a few of the stories from the last few days yet the nation, including the Labor Party, have been mesmerised by talk of terrorism even though there is no discernible threat other than “tens” of angry young men who our police force already seem to be watching.

If Shorten cannot man up and start presenting some credible alternatives to the disaster that is our current government then I am very fearful for our future.

Sweeteners

porkbarrel-e1409295205387“Australians don’t want another election”, says Tony Abbott. Naturally, this reflects both his own achievement of the goal – personal power – and the government’s standing in the polls. For Tony Abbott, elections are not about fulfilling the will of the people. They are about putting the right people into government. The “right people” are already there, job’s done, so there’s absolutely no call for another election – even one that might strengthen the government’s own standing.

In any case, a new election at this point in the cycle would not suit the Coalition. It is standard political operating procedure. In your first year in office, you do the “Mother Hubbard” trick and use it as an excuse to bring in the most unpopular and difficult of your priorities. To some extent you can still trade off this dialogue for your second budget as well.

By the time you get to the third year in office, you need to start thinking about another election, which means you focus on what little tidbits you can feed to a battered population. John Howard was a past master at this cycle and it bought him three terms despite the most egregious betrayals of the electorate – including a “never, ever” GST. It was only the continued focus on Workchoices – introduced midway through a cycle and still “alive” at the time of the 2007 election – that ended his run. This was despite Howard’s late attempt, in mid 2007, to introduce a “sweetener” to his toxic IR platform, in the form of a fairness test.

This is actually a crystal clear example of the way the Coalition works: impose your ideological position early, and if required, water it down slightly by the time of the election. You still end up with most of your goals intact.

A couple of days ago Kaye Lee related the experience of a senior government official, who was confident the Coalition would win the next election: “The sweeteners are coming and that is what they will remember.” If this is true, then Australia needs an election NOW – before the Coalition gets the chance to bring about its full electoral cycle of “hit hard, then give ’em back some of what you took to win votes”.

This statement leads to consideration: what kind of sweeteners can the Team Big Australia realistically offer come 2016?

It is certainly true that the toughest changes in the recent budget are expected to come to pass later rather than earlier – either ramping up over the next few years, or budgeted to become active after the next election. In part, this is Tony Abbott’s self-limitation: his unwarranted promises not to impose changes to education, health, the ABC or seemingly anything else before another election. Those promises force Abbott to adopt a largely status-quo approach: no major changes for the first few years. How that must smart.

Politics operates on a long-term forward-planning basis, but it’s often not good at communicating that. See, for example, Labor’s MRRT, the proceeds from which are expected to ramp up significantly in the next few years. That won’t save it from the Coalition’s “barely any revenue” rhetoric or its intractible desire to repeal it.

Therefore, much of the pain of Joe’s budget, the budget that we’re all squealing so loudly about, doesn’t actually kick in until after the next election. Notable exceptions are the changes to Newstart / Youth Allowance eligibility, which start on 1 January 2015, and the medicare co-payment, scheduled to begin 1 July 2015. (Both dates presume the legislation can be successfully passed before those deadlines.) But many of the most painful elements, including the indexation changes to the age pension and the $80bn cuts to health and education payments to the States, aren’t expected until after 2016.

All of this indicates that come 2016, the Coalition has more pain in mind, not sweeteners. But lately, the conversation has notably changed tack.

Joe Hockey has previously stated that the 2014 budget is just the start. We don’t hear much said about this any more – the idea that the Coalition wanted to go further, cut more harshly. Instead, the promise of doing more, with the implication that this is necessary and good, has transmuted to an amorphous threat that more will come if Labor and the Greens don’t play ball and pass this budget. The conversation has changed. Instead of being the first step in a long-term dialogue with the Australian people, “starting a national conversation about how we can live within our means” as Hockey said at the time, the 2014 budget is now the magic pill that tastes bad but will make it all better by the time the next election comes around.

It seems like not too far a stretch to expect that the Coalition plans to begin handing out its incentives by the time the next election comes around. Again, what kind of sweeteners can it actually offer? And is there any possibility that they might be successful? Will the Coalition really “romp home” in 2016?

Having run so hard on the concept that “Nothing is for free… nothing can continue to be free,” it seems unlikely that they will offer to restore the social support structures they’re currently fighting so hard to dismantle. Changes to unemployment benefits, healthcare funding, and pensions are long-term structural changes. The intent is good even if the methodology is not; these are areas where ongoing expenditure must be controlled for fear of them outstripping the government’s ability to support them. It would be counterproductive for the government to offer to retreat from its changes, so it’s fairly certain that, once legislated, the six-month furlough of payments, the medicare co-payment, and the changes to eligibility and indexation of support payments will be here to stay.

They could offer more infrastructure. But Tony Abbott’s repeated mantra of being “the infrastructure Prime Minister” appears to be falling on deaf ears. This is partly because of the Coalition’s intent to artificially restrict the kind of infrastructure projects it will engage in, and partly because of a range of State Liberal governments backing unpopular or inefficient projects that lack the populist chops except amongst people who are already their strongest supporters.

Thus the Coalition is likely to find itself constrained by the time of the next election. Building more schools and hospitals will not be helpful if the funding for existing schools and hospitals has been gutted. By the time of the next election the promise of more toll roads is unlikely to be a big draw-card, and the Coalition doesn’t want to be engaged in building rail.

This leaves tax cuts: the perennial stopgap of conservative governments and darling of John Howard’s appeal to the battlers. Tax cuts are within the Coalition’s DNA – their raison d’etre is to reduce taxes, reduce government offerings, and reduce community support. For those who can’t prosper under those conditions, the Market Will Provide.

Past Coalition election sweeteners have included a succession of income tax cuts, company tax cuts, and bonuses – for instance, the baby bonus was introduced by Howard in 2001. The 2007 election campaign carried all manner of sweeteners – 9 billion dollars worth – if we would only give the Coalition another chance. In many cases these offerings were “me-too” responses to promises already made by Labor.

So any incentives the Coalition can offer are likely to come in the form of tax cuts. They might be named “bonuses” or “supplements”, and they might be one-time only, but effectively the government will offer cash, hand over fist. Labor’s offer to increase the tax-free threshold to $18k and adjust the tax brackets, effectively giving tax cuts to large portions of the electorate, will be entirely forgotten in the rush of joy we will all feel at the government’s largesse. Expect many congratulatory statements from Team Abbott about how we all “pulled together”, bore the pain, took our medicine and reached a point, thanks to the Coalition’s careful management of the economy, where we can afford the rewards.

But will sweeteners be enough to secure the Coalition another term? It’s been repeatedly said that elections are lost, not won. It’s certainly true that the past two changes of government have occurred in spite of offered sweeteners, rather than because of them. In 2007, as mentioned above, Howard offered more incentives to electors in addition to a concession of watering down his beloved WorkChoices regime, but that didn’t save him; public opinion was far too set against his government and Kevin Rudd led Labor to a resounding victory. In 2013, too, Labor had far more on the table than the Coalition, including the aforementioned adjustments to income tax that would have seen millions of Australians no longer needing to pay tax at all. Ironically, Tony Abbott’s repealing of this legislation means that many more people are paying more tax than they otherwise would. Regardless of the sweeteners on offer, voters resoundingly voted Labor out of power. Unfortunately, the corollary is that they voted Tony Abbott in, without ever necessarily being won over by his ideological intentions on policy. Labor warned the electorate, at length, about the likely outcomes of an Abbott victory. Tony Abbott blithely dismissed these warnings as political alarmism and promised that he wouldn’t be like that at all. So now that his reassurances have proven hollow, could the Australian people be hoodwinked a second time?

We’ve never seen a government with the trajectory of the Abbott government. Already it languishes in depths of unpopularity not traditionally seen until several terms into government and, usually, preceding an electoral loss. It would seem at least possible that One-Term-Tony could be a predictive term. Historically, Australians don’t vote governments out after only one term, but this government may prove the exception. It seems likely that the only thing that could save them would be an electorate that still thinks that Labor is unelectable by the time of the 2016 election, which is why rejuvenation and reform of the Labor party is so critically important.

If the Coalition is able to retain government at the next election, the faint consolation will be that it won’t take long after the election for them to tighten the screws further. Then we’ll be having this discussion again, three years later, and with each successive election the chances of Labor regaining power improve.

The question then becomes, how much damage will Tony Abbott and his fellows do to Australian egalitarianism and society?

Malevolent

redactedfamilyoutcomes

 

The 2014 budget omitted the table of adjusted family outcomes that had been in every previous budget since 2005. The analysis was done by treasury and available for inclusion but that it was not there indicates it was deliberately omitted. The figures went to Cabinet, so they were fully aware of the allegedly inequitable outcomes. Was it omitted for political reasons? The Coalition and its budget already have a problem with the public believing (and increasingly, and justifiably so) that it is unfair. Long-term observers have held the suspicion that the Coalition governs for its mates, the well-to-do, the elite, the born-to-rule set, and nothing in the budget, nor the Coalition’s rhetoric and off-budget policies since, have given cause to doubt this. For just a few examples, consider:

The perception that the budget is unfair is widespread and even having an effect on business support for the Coalition’s policies. Could the Coalition cope with further documents showing that the poor would pay disproportionately for the Coalition’s fictitious “budget repair process”, and that the Coalition knew about it and went ahead anyway?

Fairfax and other outlets have sought this information, and failed to receive it. Accordingly they and other analysts have done their own sums on the basis of published figures. The analysis confirms that the poor will be harder-hit than the wealthy.

Joe Hockey has been up in arms about Fairfax publishing this analysis. “It doesn’t tell the whole story,” he says. “It doesn’t reflect the fact that the rich pay more tax, and that the taxes of the average wealthy person pay the social support for an average four recipients of welfare.” Fairfax’s reporting “failed to take account of the higher rate of income tax already paid by higher-income households”. “Fairfax reporting has been malevolent,” he says.

Let’s pause for a moment and consider Hockey’s reported statements on the issue of equality, tax and welfare.

“In fact, just 2 per cent of taxpayers pay more than a quarter of all income tax. Maybe these taxpayers would argue that the tax system is already unfair.” “The average working Australian, be they a cleaner, a plumber or a teacher, is working over one month full time each year just to pay for the welfare of another Australian.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-06-11/hockey-tries-to-set-straight-perception-budget-is-unfair/5516718

What does this say about Joe Hockey’s fundamental concept of social welfare? In a nutshell, it suggests that he is either beholden to, or at least panders to, selfishness. In Hockey’s world, it is portrayed as a bad thing that people with resources assist those without. This is a profoundly anti-charitable approach.

Our society has put in place progressive tax systems, effective social welfare structures and a range of subsidies, payments and tax breaks in an ongoing and long-term attempt to find a comfortable middle ground, where the privileged can continue to prosper whilst the downtrodden are assisted to keep their heads above water. Obviously Mr Hockey, and the Coalition, believe that the middle ground has trended too far in one direction. The problem is that society as a whole does not appear to agree with them.

Of course higher income households pay more tax. That’s the whole point of a progressive tax system. To argue that it’s justified to penalise low income workers more because they pay less tax is an attack on the very principle of the sliding scale. That’s an ideological position and it’s a valid choice, but it should be understood as such. Penalising more or less on the basis of tax rates entails an effective change in those rates. In other words, arguing that you can implement changes that hurt the poor more than the rich because the rich already pay more tax, is effectively arguing for a tax cut for the rich, or an extra tax for the poor, depending on how you want to look at it, and it is in no way an equitable outcome.

Let’s take a step backwards and approach this differently. Assume that every Australian is going to pay the maximum $844/pa as a result of the 2014 budget. Now you start handing some of that money back in concessions. $50 to this group, $100 to that, $327 to the top bracket. Why do you do this? Because they’re already paying a lot of tax. You are levelling the playing ground. You are moving closer to a situation where everyone pays the same amount of tax. This is the opposite of a progressive tax system.

Malevolent: adj. “Wishing evil or harm to another or others.”  With his 2014 budget, Mr Hockey is seeking to specifically do harm to those who belong to a different socioeconomic class than himself. Now who’s being malevolent?

Yes, Mr Hockey, the 2014 budget is indeed unfair. It does increase inequity. You’ve known it since well before the budget was announced. And the way you’re talking about it, and responding to the questions about its unfairness, seems to indicate that the unfairness is quite deliberate. I’m not entirely sure that’s the message you were trying to achieve.

Honesty . . . what’s that?

When the Charter of Budget Honesty was introduced by the Howard/Costello government in 1998 it was intended to provide a framework for the conduct of Government fiscal policy.

“The purpose of the Charter is to improve fiscal policy outcomes. The Charter provides for this by requiring fiscal strategy to be based on principles of sound fiscal management and by facilitating public scrutiny of fiscal policy and performance.”

Broadly speaking, the Charter requires that budgets must be in balance over the course of the economic cycle, which means the government can run a deficit in bad times as long as there’s a surplus in good times. But, as Alan Kohler points out, the problem was it didn’t say how big these should be.

Stephen Anthony of Macroeconomics wrote in a report he did for the Minerals Council of Australia last year:

“Essentially, the fiscal strategy objective (of the Charter) provided the wrong diagnostic tool as a benchmark for success over the business and commodity cycle. As a result, governments spent up big in the boom and got caught on the down side of the cycle. Windfall tax receipts were frittered away.”

According to Macroeconomics, commodity boom windfall revenues contributed around $160 billion to the Commonwealth budget bottom-line up to 2011-12. Yet all that the fiscal strategy required was for the government to run a surplus – of any size.

Because the resources boom led to unexpected returns, there was no danger of being in deficit.  Add to this the sale of many assets and there was a motza to play with.  The Charter was still adhered to despite a huge spending spree.

The last five budgets of the Howard government contained net discretionary spending of $133 billion and net tax cuts of $117 billion.  The structural deficit was set up by John Howard and Peter Costello and not corrected by Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan.

Prior to the 2010 election, Chris Berg of the IPA (and ABC) wrote an article bemoaning the leaking of the then Opposition policy costings.

The Charter allows the opposition to give Treasury its election promises to check the policy costs are correct.  If they don’t, the government clobbers them for avoiding scrutiny.  Hockey’s figures were subsequently found to have an $11 billion black hole, and the auditors found guilty of professional misconduct.  No wonder they didn’t want them released early.

Berg suggested that this part of the charter overwhelmingly favours incumbent governments because they:

“have had three years to consult with Treasury’s nearly 1000 staff about future policies, test policy assumptions, and get Treasury’s recommendations. Much government policy is formulated by Treasury in the first place.  By comparison, an opposition is just a few people in a room thinking up ideas.”

From what we have seen of the Abbott government so far, they haven’t expanded their consultative capacity regardless of how many expert public servants are at their disposal and they will sack or ignore anyone who offers advice they don’t want to hear.

In 2004, Ross Gittins wrote ”The government is largely feeding back to the bureaucrats their own costings, whereas the opposition runs a high risk of slipping up somehow and being monstered by the Treasurer.”

To address this problem, in 2012 Labor established the Parliamentary Budget Office.

“The role of the PBO is to inform the Parliament by providing independent and non-partisan analysis of the budget cycle, fiscal policy and the financial implications of proposals.

As set out in the Parliamentary Service Act 1999, the Parliamentary Budget Officer has the following functions:

•Outside the caretaker period for a general election – to prepare policy costings on request by Senators and Members of the House of Representative, with the requests and the PBO’s responses to be kept confidential if so requested by the requestor.

•During the caretaker period for a general election – to prepare costings of publicly announced polices on request by authorised members of Parliamentary parties or independent members.

•To prepare responses (other than policy costings) to requests relating to the budget by Senators or Members of the House of Representatives.

•To prepare submissions to inquiries of Parliamentary committees on request by such committees.

•To conduct research and analysis of the budget and fiscal policy settings.”

One would have thought that the Charter and the PBO would have helped towards keeping the bastards honest but no, both sides still play silly buggers.  They are under no compulsion to release costings by a set date and we have been subjected to the debacle of giving interested voters only a day or two to digest the material on many crucial policies.  Others, like the NBN or Direct Action, are unable to be costed either due to lack of technical expertise or lack of policy detail.  The PPL was based on rubbery assumptions which made the confidence level very low.

And then we have the manipulative approach to reporting that Joe Hockey sells to naïve voters.  He pulled some pre-election stunts by using accrual rather than the accepted cash basis.

Image from facebook.com

Image from facebook.com

“Mr Hockey today admitted to using the accrual rather than cash bottom line for their numbers – which makes any figures Mr Hockey produces look much rosier than they actually are.  The difference between cash and accrual bottom lines across the forward estimates is $16.6 billion.  Were Federal Labor to use an accrual bottom line, it would be in surplus a year earlier, in 2015-16.  What this means is that Australians will never truly know the state of the budget under an Coalition Government.”

And now, rather than using the independent PEFO as the true state of the inherited debt and forecast for the future, Hockey is using his propaganda sheet MYEFO, which included his revenue and discretionary spending decisions, as the starting point for comparison of how the government is performing fiscally.  MYEFO is effectively saying that, under Coalition policies and spending commitments as they stood in December 2013, the gross debt in ten years’ time would be $667 billion.  He then somehow sells that as Labor’s fault.  I would love to see the same analysis done to the Howard government – what the debt would have been in ten years if his spending continued unabated.  Using actual net debt when referring to the Coalition and projected gross debt when talking about Labor is blatantly designed to misinform.

It was interesting to read in the recent Commission of Audit that they recommend the transparency and rules about fiscal statements need to be tightened up.

“Budget transparency allows for a more informed public policy debate, fosters credibility and helps the community better understand fiscal policy. Improved fiscal transparency can assist in highlighting current and emerging fiscal risks, and in driving the necessary change in the community’s expectations of government.

Improved budget reporting requirements would improve transparency and accountability and assist the government in achieving its medium‑term fiscal strategy.”

They also take a veiled shot at Hockey’s forecasts and express their confidence in Treasury figures.

“Recent budget documents have reported large downward revisions to the economic and revenue forecasts. Against this backdrop, a number of concerns have been raised about the transparency of current forecasting arrangements.

The Review of Treasury Macroeconomic and Revenue Forecasting (Australian Government, 2012) found that ‘Treasury’s forecasts are comparable with, or better than, those of official agencies overseas’.”

The report goes on to recommend some changes.

“One option for Treasury to improve the transparency of budget forecasts would be to require a further formal consultation with a panel of experts before budget forecasts are finalised.

Another option which improves transparency about how the Budget forecasts compare with the views of other forecasters could be achieved by requiring comparisons to be published between key economic forecasts and relevant consensus forecasts.

Confidence intervals could also be published for key forecasts.”

All I can say is good luck with that!

I am expecting General Jim Molan (retired) to be brought out of mothballs (if anyone can find him since he was given $1 million to be our ‘Special Envoy’ smashing the people smuggling business) and given Martin Parkinson’s job at Treasury.  Launch Operation Bamboozle where, in the national interest, they will no longer be giving the financial bandits a regular update on fiscal matters.

“The repair job started from day one obviously with the election of the new government but it accelerates from today given that we will see the full extent of Labor’s debt and deficit disaster.” – Tony Abbott, December 2013

MATHIAS CORMANN: “Labor left behind a debt and deficit disaster after completely mismanaging public money over six years in government. We are taking responsibility to fixing up the mess they left behind.”  July 16 2014

Joe Hockey:  “There’s no crisis at all in the Australian economy,”  July 26 2014

Honesty….what’s that?

The Hockey Budget to nowhere, going nowhere

With the government facing a hostile Senate passing all of its Budget measures, John Massam reflects on how wicked and unnecessary this Hockey Budget actually is. And the contrived ‘budget emergency’ – popularly spouted by our Treasurer – also appears to have been adopted by a State counterpart.

The Hockey Budget of May 13 seems to be the most wicked since the budgets of the Great Depression of 1929-41.  Those cheese-paring budgets and large wage cuts left Australia unprepared for the attempted invasion during the Second World War. Global austerity had ruined the lives and psyches of millions throughout the world, and had triggered Fascist and Communist dictatorships. However, when the Second World War broke out, after about a year, rivers of credit then appeared out of thin air, and after the war the cash kept flowing to re-absorb the armed forces and the male workers in the defence industries.

There is a A$97,570,000,000 Australian “Future Fund” earning dividends.  For Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Treasurer Joe Hockey, and the Finance Minister, the future HAS COME – pay off debts.

It is alarming to learn that the Australian national debt is $339 TRILLION (that is, $339 thousand million) and rising; the annual interest bill is $11 trillion, according to the Debt Clock. (Each citizen’s share is A$14,450).

Soon after being elected, in October 2013 one of the new Abbott Government’s silliest actions was to give $8.8 billion (that is, $8,800,000,000) to the Reserve Bank of Australia, which had not requested any money. (See also The West Australian, page 15, Tue May 20, 2014).

That RBA $8.8 billion, plus the $97.57 billion in the Future Fund, ought to be immediately used to pay off some of the $339 trillion debt, thus saving trillions of dollars now and into the future.

WESTERN AUSTRALIA’S CONTRIVED CRISIS

Just like the Federal financial situation, the supposed crisis in Western Australia’s State finances had also been carefully contrived, by taking on unnecessary public works like digging up the Perth Esplanade, and removing the school-children’s tiles at the Bell Tower.  Mr Colin Barnett’s Liberal-National government plans to build ovals for million-dollar-a-year footballers.  Another waste was spending millions removing the Perth tunnel’s emergency lanes, just as a coroner in another state was recommending that tunnel emergency lanes be introduced there as a safety measure.  The ministers sold land worth $90 million at Burswood for $60 million.

To catch great white sharks, blamed for killing several people, the Coalition spent millions of dollars on drum-lines, but though other sharks suffered, no great whites were caught.

Although the Barnett-Buswell government broke election promises such as not building rail to Ellenbrook, the W.A. debt rose from $4,000,000,000 in 2008, to $20 billion by Dec. 2013 (ST, 22 Dec 2013, p 57).

W.A.’s credit-rating fall from AAA to AA should be given a quadruple A award for deception.

The Liberal-National W.A. Government, while building a kind of palace for ministerial offices, even abolished the Government Astronomer.  One wonders if he and his colleagues can be “retrained” to obtain other careers!  Coffee-making baristas, lens grinders, or government “spin doctors”, perhaps?

While the Liberals-Nationals are planning to change the laws to introduce mandatory minimum crime sentences, there is a judge short on the W.A. Supreme Court, prisons are over-full, and a whole police training intake would have been cancelled, except for a public outcry. The compulsory amalgamation of local government councils will be forced through, no matter what the cost, defying the spirit of the W.A. Act.

FEDERAL $7 MEDICAL LEVY FOR SENIORS, SICK, AND CHILDREN

To return to the federal scene, do the Federal Liberals’ partners, the National Party (formerly the Country Party), really intend to saddle the old, the sick, and children with a $7 medical levy?  Do they join in the pretence that some of the money will go into medical research, yet the Federal Government wants to take millions of dollars away from Australian research bodies like the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)?

Image by getup.org.au

Image by getup.org.au

Are our country cousins supporting the trickery of acting as if the medical researchers in our universities and teaching hospitals are not efficient?  The W.A. burns cures discoveries alone prove their excellence.  Yet universities are to have cuts. Are our Nobel Prize winners and their laboratories to be “privatised”? When everything has been sold, how will governments, State and Fedeal, “balance” their budgets then?

Have voters for the National Party already forgotten that the Liberal-National government was willing to allow Shepparton’s cannery to close in Victoria, thus threatening to ruin most of the small fruit-growers in the Goulburn-Murray Valley region?  Have Liberal supporters forgotten that many small engineering enterprises will be ruined as the three car-manufacturers wind down? These metal-fabrication experts could be “retrained”, perhaps, to be prospectors?

Don’t the Coalition know that many overseas governments underwrite and subsidise industry and agriculture?

WASTE, SILLINESS, SELL-OUTS

Without consultation, Abbott’s boys (only one female minister) have ordered a larger number of warplanes than Labor did; these planes have no limit to their final cost, just like the Liberal-National coalition purchase of the F111s decades ago.

Another silliness is to plan to privatise the Royal Australian Mint, although for thousands of years governments have jealously guarded the right to mint coins, and in later centuries they forcibly took over banknote issuing from the private banks.  Will the sell-outs of public assets be accompanied by the corruption that was recently uncovered in New South Wales, causing a Liberal Premier to resign that day?

UNIVERSAL LAND TAX – OTHER TAXES MINIMISED

As was reported in recent months, David Airey, a leading Perth real estate agent, suggested a no-exception land tax (I suggest about 5 per cent for a start, rising to no more than 10 per cent in future) on the land’s value (not the buildings, etc).  A side benefit would be that this would slow down land speculation and the withholding of land.  New home buyers might then have a chance of taking on affordable mortgages for land and houses.

Calculations are that this could pay all the government’s expenses.  As this huge revenue came in, a priority must be to reduce and/or abolish the enterprise-stifling taxes like payroll tax, stamp duty, and the goods and services tax (GST). If the land-site revenue covers the running costs, income tax and company tax could be immensely reduced, moving towards abolition, as debt was gradually eliminated. In the meantime, negative gearing plus company tax evasion and avoidance could be stopped by a few simple laws.

A universal land tax idea, backed by some academics, was recommended in the Henry Report (Australia’s Future Tax System Review) around 2010. However, widening land tax was so unpalatable to the Big End of Town that the recommendation was dropped at once by the politicians.

An alternative is that Federal and State governments introduce the Tobin Tax – a small levy on every financial transaction.  A 0.1 per cent Tobin Tax would collect huge sums from parasites such as those who use sophisticated computer programmes tied to the stock exchange to manipulate share prices by speculative buying and selling of shares, bonds, etc, in microseconds, thus cheating the ordinary Mum and Dad investors. It would raise $135 trillion (about a third of the national debt) at the start, but might decline markedly later.

If that tax is not acceptable, there are billions of dollars worth of minerals being exported, so a reasonable royalty per tonne would bring in millions or billions.  Norway and other countries levy a very large percentage. Don’t charge on profits, because the multinational corporations and some big Australian investors are experts at exporting their profits overseas to places with little or no income tax.

It would be too much to expect that the politicians and their advisers would study how money comes into being, and so adopt credit policies, instead of debt policies.

INTERNATIONAL BANKERS, BUREAUCRATS

This is a nasty bankers’ budget.  Just read the words of Treasurer Joe Hockey, in his speech “The end of the age of entitlement” on April 17, 2012, to the Institute of Economic Affairs, in London, when he said that bankers “have a more active role to play in policing public policy and ensuring that countries do not exceed their capacity to service and repay debt.

“This is playing out most dramatically in Europe where the European Commission and the European Central Bank are either directly or indirectly heavily influencing public policy in Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, to name a few.” (page 14).

In plain speech, he was saying that the EU bureaucrats and the ECB bankers were calling the tune for an austerity campaign. Mr Hockey seems to be in thrall to what he called that mysterious and amorphous group defined as “bondholders” (page 4 of the same speech).

So, Mr Hockey in 2012 thought that it was good for Australia to accept the wrong-headed policies adopted under duress by those countries, even though they have led to higher unemployment plus hardship to small business in those lands, and have driven many people to bankruptcy, crime or suicide.

Wild riots and possible takeovers by dictatorships are quite possible in countries which take the International Monetary Fund’s poisonous medicines.

The brave little country of Iceland refused to take the advice of international funds and bankers, and took firm action.  Icelanders have been saved from the artificial depression planned for them.

A most amazing fact is that when Mr Hockey took over as Treasurer after the September 2013 election win, it was brought to his notice that the Federal Parliament had set a debt ceiling of $300 billion, and this had nearly been reached.

He promptly said that Australia must not have a stoppage of government action like the United States had suffered twice in recent years, and the debt ceiling should be doubled. The high debt level was caused by the Labor Government, he said. Not long after he said that the debt ceiling should be tripled.

Another version in a report of December 5, 2013, said the Liberals wanted a $500 billion limit, but later did a deal with the Greens in the Senate to set it at $400 billion.

Before the 2013 election the Liberals had said they would reduce debt. Voters, another promise broken!

WORK TO 70, PREVENT YOUNGSTERS WORKING

The minor parties have a duty to stop the Government from expecting the old to work until 70, thus preventing the younger generation from starting careers, while ordering the under-25s who can’t get jobs to starve for six months.  At present about 25 per cent of the young are unemployed, and this budget seems certain to increase the number of jobless.

To dismiss 16,000 public servants would turn them out onto the streets, and double the workload of those not dismissed.  Perhaps they could “retrain” to be politicians?

These cruel Canberra federal policies would increase the crime rate and the demand for more prisons – and that would cost money (a State responsibility, no doubt!), and lead to more deaths, nervous breakdowns, and suicides. Will overworked police be less inclined than at present to investigate and prevent petty offences?

FOR 39 YEARS STATE LIBERALS WERE NOT RESPONSIBLE MANAGERS

While in Opposition in 1975 Liberal leader Malcolm Fraser (later that year elected as Prime Minister) said that “those levels of government responsible for spending money should also be responsible for raising the taxes.” (Malcolm Fraser; The Political Memoirs, 2010, M.Fraser and M.Simons, Melbourne University Publishing, Carlton, Victoria, page 278).

So, if this was principled “federalism policy” 39 years ago, why didn’t the Liberal-National Parties, which were at times running the States and the Northern Territory, keep out of debt by levying universal land tax, and/or revert to collecting income/company tax?  Or is it easier to blame the Federal Government when States are reducing the police forces, cutting the number of judges, and under-staffing hospitals and schools?

The Liberal Party has a cheek asking the disadvantaged to stand on their own two feet; this was exposed as hypocrisy in the news-item “Pay your way, backer tells Libs,” The West Australian, page 3, Feb 7, 2014.  The party’s WA branch has been operating rent-free in Menzies House, Level 4, 640 Murray St, West Perth, for decades.  The landlord is now giving them their own medicine.

In the minds of some Australians, perhaps the only Abbott policy that is working is Operation Sovereign Borders, which at present has stopped the ‘illegal’ undocumented clients of the people-smugglers coming in as asylum-seekers. But even those effective government instrumentalities are to be chopped up and the command structure amalgamated, presumably at great cost. Who knows if the new management will be asked to sack people after another demand for an “efficiency dividend”?

A real cost-saver would be to cut out “457 visa”, “student visa”, and “working visa” visitors who in a few year become Australian electors, at least until unemployment goes down to 1 or 2 per cent, not long-term 5 per cent.

Anyone who doubts my statements about the way the Money Lords over-awe nations’ governments ought to read Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, 2005, by John Perkins, Plume Publishing.

For an Australian perspective on deceit by the Big End of Town and the banksters, read Bankers and Bastards, 1992, by Paul McLean and James Renton, Hudson Publishing, Victoria, Australia.

Another eye-opener is The Secret Life of Real Estate and Banking, 2009, by Phillip J. Anderson.

My final word is that the Coalition is breaking nearly all of its pre-election promises, including “There will be no surprises,” just like the Labor Rudd/Gillard/Rudd government did. The latter tried to stave off the unnecessary Global Financial Crisis with its spending on Roads to Recovery (good) and Ceiling Batts (no OHS there! Dr Troy Delbridge was dismissed). Fortunately, the Senate and the States, if they stand firm, might be able to curb the Abbott-Hockey irrational and irresponsible plans that are likely to lead to a trade depression, and a down-spiral of budget deficits.

The Weird World Of Tony Abbott’s Australia

Image from smh.com.au

Image from smh.com.au

While Googling Tony Abbott – now there’s something I wouldn’t have imagined myself doing twenty five years ago – I came across an interesting quote that I thought was refreshingly honest:

“It’s my job between now and polling day to remind the Australian people just what a hopeless, unreliable, untrustworthy, dishonest, deceptive Government this has been. It just doesn’t get democracy.”

Unfortunately, on closer examination, I discovered that the quote was from the Alan Jones program, and it was made in July, 2010. Unfortunate, because I thought this might be the beginning of a more honest approach by the government, where they actually admit that the Budget would be back in surplus if we simply went back to the tax rates of 2007. You know, back when John Howard was in charge, before Labor slashed our taxes.

Still, we are getting rid of that great big tax on everything, so that should help the Budget bottom line. I did hear a couple of Liberal politicians express the view that balancing the Budget would be a lot easier with the Carbon Tax gone. I wonder if they realise that the government doesn’t actually have to pay the Carbon Tax and that it receives the revenue. In fact, according to Liberal pamphlets, it receives an enormous amount of revenue from this source. But hey, let’s abolish this “King Kong” of taxes (to quote Mr Abbott again) and make pensioners pay to visit the doctor.

Yes, I’m being emotive. After all, some of these pensioners would still be working once the pension age goes to seventy. As Mr Abbott said just last week:

“We think this is right and proper and we think older people should be economic contributors, not just social and cultural contributors.”

But back to the Carbon Tax. In reporting Clive Palmer’s decision to back its abolition, the Herald-Sun – in a straight news story, under the Headline “The Weird Al and Clive Show” – began with: “Climate change scaremonger Al Gore and big polluter Clive Palmer combined  in a bizarre press conference as Mr Palmer revealed revealed he would back the Government’s bid to abolish the carbon tax – with conditions.” (Emphasis added.)

For some reason, we were treated to a list of Mr Palmer’s assets, as well as being told that Mr Gore used the phrase “climate crisis” three times in his “3min 30sec speech” (sic).

Mm, I’m waiting for the article that begins “Budget Crisis Scaremonger Joe Hockey” or when the phrase “Big Polluter” is applied to a member of one of Tony Abbott’s advisory groups.

The article went on to suggest that journalists were wondering whether Mr Gore had been paid to attend. However, it left me wondering, whether the writer of the article, Ellen Whinnett, was paid to put such a slant on it, or whether writing such tabloid rubbish is consistent with her principles.

Et fixa regimen Abbott praeteritum OR Let’s Examine The Respective Plans of The Parties.

Photo: Liberal Party of Australia

Photo: Liberal Party of Australia

Last week, while acting as goal umpire, I signalled a goal to our team. Although it came out of a pack, I had a clear view of the ball leaving the player’s foot and going through the goal. The opposition started screaming that it was touched. I was tempted to ask which of them thought touched it given they were all about a metre away from the ball, but instead simply signalled the goal. (In such decisions, the field umpire will call “Touched, all clear” if he heard or saw anything – he didn’t.)

As the ball was going back to the centre an opposition supporter called out that I was a cheat and that I knew the ball was touched. Clearly, he had a clear unbiased, unimpeded view from thirty metres away, and knew that I must be cheating. His attitude reminded me of the various times I’ve been attacked a “left-wing moorun” or “Labour party supporter”. Logic has nothing to do with the argument. For many, it’s simply: I disagree with you, therefore you’re biased and unable to see this clearly because you’re an idiot, and even though I can’t spell, this doesn’t detract from the fact that I am always right about absolutely everything.

I try to make sure that I don’t fall into the same trap. Perhaps, Andrew Bolt really does have a point when he says that it’s not white people who are racist, it’s Asians and those people with non-white skin that he’s not allowed vilify any more because the law prevents free speech. So, in order to be fair and balanced, I thought I’d just examine the way that both parties approach the future.

Labor 

  • Wanted to improve school funding and adopted some of the Gonski modelling.
  • Introduced the NDIS to ensure that people with disabilities had a better quality of life.
  • Attempted to improve communications through the NBN.
  • Believed that those making “super” profits from digging up our resources could afford to contribute more to the country through taxation.
  • Moved to increase superannuation so that in the future people would be less reliant on the pension.
  • Believes that we need harsh deterrents to discourage people from coming by boat, because if we don’t have them, then the Liberals will frighten people in Western Sydney about “illegal immigrants” causing traffic problems.
  • Has committed to a modest target for renewable energies.

Liberals

  • Pushing for Latin to be studied in schools.
  • Put the Catholic Education Office of Western Australia in charge of schools program on Manus Island. (They do have a proud tradition of covering up abuse.)
  • Believes that everyone should pay their own way and not rely on handouts. (Unless they’re trying to run a court case against a politician such as a One Nation leader or an ex-Speaker.)
  • Thinks that funding public schools may not lead to better results, so let’s give the money to those parents struggling to afford private school fees.
  • Don’t believe that we need faster broadband because it’s only used to download movies and for playing games. 
  • Believes that we should put in harsh deterrents to discourage people coming by boat. If you look at the history of boat people coming to Australia, the first group included convicts, who were poor and not the people of “calibre” that we won’t coming here (or having children). Later groups coming by boat included Tony Abbott, so you can see why Australians are against boat people.
  • Have appointed a diverse group of climate change sceptics to investigate our renewable energy target, and after spending a few weeks looking at the situation, will hand down a report saying that Labor got it wrong and we really should be trying to sell more coal.
  • Have introduced Knights and Dames.

On balance, you’d have to say that the Liberals have a clearer idea of what they want the future to look like.

P.S. I know that some rabid Liberal supporter will accuse me of deliberating ignoring the Budget deficit, but I feel that it’s been well covered in so many other areas. And yes, it is true that while Labor weren’t likely to return the Budget to surplus before 2017, the Liberals promise that they’ll do it within ten years. They also promised that they’d deliver Budget surpluses in their first term.

Also by Rossleigh:

Abbott Government Declares Unity Ticket With Obama on Climate Change!

Abbott’s Groan-Up Government!

Ok, when will someone ask Abbott the obvious question?

Slackers, Slouch Hats, Slaves, Sex Workers and Salacious Winks.

Hockey plays chicken with the back bench

Photo: news.ninemsn.com.au

Photo: news.ninemsn.com.au

Did Hockey really just “threaten” a Double Dissolution? Dare we hope? You can literally hear the collective gasp of anticipation rippling out over social media. The mere possibility we may be able to get out of our electoral contract with “Hobott” (yes I just made a couple contraction of Hockey/Abbott….), before they manage to totally wreck the joint has people right across the nation on the edge of optimism for the first time in months.

Much as I would love to join them in preemptive celebration, I’m fairly certain Hockey is bluffing. It looks to me like “Hobott” are, in the absence of any better plan, playing chicken with their own back bench, and what we have here is an empty threat designed to put the fear of impending unemployment into their own MPs.

Like all new parents, Hobott are deeply proud of their first born budget, and would do almost anything to save its little life; however I believe they will stop well short of a family suicide pact, and opt instead to turn off its life support, and hope their second child might fare a little better.

While Hobott have yet to give up on their first born, (like all good parents, they are prepared to fight like caged tigers to see their child survive, no matter what the collateral damage), Hockey’s recent rhetoric on the senate;

. . . it is disrupting the role of government but if it just continually says no without any capacity to negotiate an improved outcome, then the Senate becomes irrelevant,” he said. “It’s simply a roadblock. We either have to smash through that roadblock or the Australian people get the chance to change the government.

. . . is just their latest desperate salvo in a fight they are now beginning realise they may not be able to win.

Admittedly it’s a brazen move, playing chicken with a DD when the polls are looking totally hideous for them; but I predict Hobott will blink first and abandon their much unloved bruiser of a budget in favor of a more mild mannered progeny.

As Liberal elder statesman Malcom Fraser famously pointed out on QA,”Tony Abbott would do what he needed to do to have power“. According to Fraser Abbott is man who is capable of Olympic level back flips on policy… so watch this space!

More articles by Letitia McQuade:

Abbott’s war on the environment is facing some tough opposition.

Introducing the new “ABC free” AUSTRALIA… now with extra ignorance, selfishness and cruelty

THE CLIMATE OF DENIAL: Why real climate action will NEVER come from big business or government.

Who are the real whingers?

Photo: www.publiclibrariesnews.com

Photo: www.publiclibrariesnews.com

Australia is a wonderful country and we are blessed to live here.  We have challenges that need addressing but the heartening thing is that we also have the means and the time to do that.

What I do not understand is why our government is telling us we have a crisis and making people feel afraid.

They say we have a budget emergency and that the primary goal of this government is to reach a surplus.  What difference will a surplus make to your life?  It’s a number on a fiscal statement.

They say our debt is increasing faster than anyone else’s.  There is some truth in this in percentage terms (the only time they use percentages you will note) but it is because we are starting from such a low debt.  As I have said before, if I spend $10 this week and $20 next week, my expenditure has doubled.

To say our children will have to repay our debt, and to even give it a per capita figure, is a ludicrous spin deliberately designed to scare ordinary people.  No-one will come knocking on your door with a bill from the government accompanied by a foreclosure notice.  That’s not the way it works so why portray it that way?

We have been made to fear asylum seekers (though, sadly, it is they who should be fearful of us).  Some think they will impose their laws on us, some think they will kick back having a fat old time on welfare, some think they will take our jobs, and some politicians are concerned about them clogging up our roads and hospital waiting rooms.

Neither of the major parties have any credibility or decency on this issue.  They should be thoroughly ashamed for not condemning these cowardly, greedy, xenophobic, racist, selfish attitudes let alone pandering to them.

Tony Abbott also used fear in his campaign against the carbon tax.  Towns will be wiped off the map, lamb roasts will cost $100, the cost of living will skyrocket, pensioners will not be able to afford to heat their homes.  None of this eventuated, many low income earners were better off due to the compensation packages, polluters were contributing to the cost of their pollution and being encouraged to invest in more sustainable practice, demand dropped partly due to dirty industries closing down and partly due to more energy conscious behaviour, and investment in renewable energy was increasing.

The mining tax was a no no because it would halt investment in the country and we would go into recession.  That didn’t seem to happen either.

We were told the NBN had no cost benefit analysis and would go over budget and over time and would be a huge waste of our money.  It appears Malcolm’s is forging ahead without a CBA and unfortunately his inferior offering will be over budget and over time and slower than promised.

In the midst of this funding emergency we are able to find countless billions for roads that, contrary to promises in Opposition, need no CBA nor approval from Infrastructure Australia as a priority.

Tony’s slogans and campaign were designed to make his constituents fearful, and anyone who tries to disagree is silenced or called a whinger.

Well who are the real whingers?

The mining companies squealed like stuck pigs when asked to pay a small contribution to us for the right to make billions digging up our finite resources.

The polluters did not want to take any responsibility for the cost to society of their profit-making ventures.  Even though the most trade-exposed industries were given assistance to help transition to cleaner practices, they chose instead to mount a climate change denial campaign, rather than help in any way with co-operative action.

Ask developers to comply with environmental safeguards and listen to the complaints about paperwork.  No-one seems to remember the amount of paperwork that was thrust upon small businesses with the introduction of the GST.

The salary sacrificing and car lease companies had a huge dummy spit when the government had the temerity to ask that people justify their car business usage claims.  We can’t ask people to tell the truth…this tax dodge is an entitlement I tell you!

When the richest 16,000 superannuants were asked to pay a small amount of tax on anything they earned above $100,000 pa it was class warfare!  They had worked hard to avoid paying tax on that money and were entitled to reap the rewards of having good accountants.  The superannuation companies backed their cries saying “it would be too hard to administer”.  When I suggested to Joe Hockey’s adviser that it could be administered by the ATO through a simple tax return he said “that is not my area of expertise”.

Ask Gina to pay tax and she moves to Singapore.  Ask her to pay a decent wage and she imports slave labour.  Ask her to give you your inheritance and you may end up in court.

Any inquiry into media ownership laws will hear howls that echo around the world.  “Stalin”, “censorship”, “freedom of speech”, “attack on democracy”…..Rupert has an absolute tantrum at the very idea that the media should be held in any way accountable in presenting the truth.

The introduction of gambling reform laws had the hotel and gambling industry donating millions to political campaigns rather than have their profits hurt by addressing this most destructive social problem.

Financial advisers from big banks, like those exposed in the Four Corners program the other night, point blank refused to accept transparency and regulation.  Expecting them to disclose kickbacks or vested interests is apparently unreasonable.

Parliamentarians from both sides have been dragged kicking and screaming to repay claimed entitlements for personal pursuits.

This government is built on propaganda – slogans, ridiculous analogies, fear and lies.  Call me a whinger if you like, but it seems to me the real whingers are the ones who can pay for lobby groups.

 

Joe Hockey; wealthy complacency

Image by theaimn.com

Image by theaimn.com

If there was any stand-out from Joe Hockey’s performance on Q&A it would have been his ability to permeate the studio with an overwhelming odor of wealthy complacency, with weasel words thrown in for good measure.

It was with considerable smugness that Joe Hockey admitted that the GP co-payment, “. . .is a new tax – or a rabbit.” 

We didn’t say we wouldn’t raise any taxes. That’s absurd because we went to the last election promising to introduce a levy for the paid parental leave scheme“, Mr Hockey said.

Tony Abbott’s original argument was that this addition to upper class welfare, and ‘signature policy’, was the insistence that the PPL was not a tax; it was a levy.  However, and currently in vogue and up until Hockey’s appearance on Q&A, all was but a mere levy and not a tax.  The consequences of Hockey’s statement, is that according to himself, both he and Prime Minister Abbott made deliberately misleading statements, and on numerous occasions.

That is, “We did say we wouldn’t raise any taxes. . .”, (because) the PPL levy is in fact a tax.

It seems that the words ‘tax’ and ‘levy’ are bandied about by the Liberal Party, changed at whim and to which ever circumstances suit.  Those who voted Liberal on the premise that Abbott would get rid of Labor’s “great big new tax” must be bitterly disappointed as we now have an even bigger, great big new tax . . . or series of them.

However, should we care to address the practicalities of this issue, there is a world of difference between a PPL with a proposal that this be paid by “a 1.5% levy on the biggest companies” and a $7 GP co-payment taxed on GP visits, pathology and X-rays, and which would further distort access to medical treatment for those on the lowest incomes.  This is akin to stating that the economic impact of the cost of two beers to an old age pensioner has an equivalent impact as on a business entity, and an extraordinarily wealthy one at that. Abbott and Hockey’s insistence that they be ‘right’ – and all of the time, often leaves logic in its wake.

In Abbott and Hockey-world, business being business and poor people being poor people, it will of course be business who will be compensated for the PPL tax/levy by receiving an equivalent tax cut of 1.5%.  Might there be any equivalent breaks for those having to fork out for Hockey’s other tax – the GP co-payment?  No of course not.  Hockey’s proposition that the PPL tax/levy is therefore equivalent to the GP co-payment therefore falls so flat as to not only be just an illusion, but could be counted as a blatant attempt at deception.

On the debt levy, will the the richest 3%’s contribution/levy likewise put unreasonable pressure on anyone’s ability to feed, clothe and house themselves?  Doubtful, unto too ridiculous to contemplate.  The Liberals have gone to great lengths to ensure the wealthiest that this is a very temporary tax hike.  And what would it matter anyway? . . . this cigar and Moët et Chandon tax will be easily be absorbed through multifarious untaxed lurks – “superannuation concessions, dividend imputation, negative gearing and family trusts”.  Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey have now successfully reinforced the image that to themselves and most of the front bench, that the obscenely wealthy remain as they always have been, The Untouchables.

You can be assured that these changes (with the exception of the debt tax) are not just for a couple of years, but forever.  Along with this decimation lurks in the background cuts to science, Aboriginal health and education, with extreme pressure on the states to privatise almost everything.  And all the while the reaction from both Abbott and Hockey is smirking disregard.  Abbott “Dismisses concerns”, the headlines read and this is apart from the lewd wink aimed at a pensioner forced into working on a sex-line as the only thing available to her.  Any empathy?  Any sympathy?

However, most perplexing was the ‘carrot’ offered by Hockey in the form of medical research.  That is, suffer now and one day if we splash enough cash at the problem so that ‘we’, and where all other countries have failed, will by some act of divine providence cure the world of all of it’s ailments.

Today (17th December, 2013), Treasurer Joe Hockey cut:

•    $100 million in funding for Westmead Hospital
•    $10 million from the Children’s Medical Research Institute and $12 million from the Millennium Institute – one of the largest medical research institutes in Australia working on cancer and leukaemia research, heart disease, eye and brain disease and heart and respiratory disorders.
•    $15.1 million from the life-saving Cancer Care Coordinators program.  Despite knowing that Australians in regional areas have a lower life expectancy and find it more difficult to access life-saving treatment the Government has decided to cut this funding.
•    $6 million for Medical Resonance Imaging service at Mt Druitt, the cutting of the $10 million life-saving Queensland Cancer Package, $15 million from the Flinders Neo-Natal Unit,  the $10 million  Western Australia cancer team, and the $50 million stroke package.
•    $3.5 million from the Biala Health Service, the only free sexual-health clinic in Brisbane.
•    The Coalition will scrap the $100 million committed for the redevelopment of the Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital.

It seems that the Abbott Government taketh with one hand to return ‘who knows what’ at some unspecified time in the future.  Why would anyone cut funding from medical research into things such as cancer and childhood leukaemia, only to siphon it off to be paid to ‘who knows who’ at some non-specific time in the future?  The cynic in me asks the question, who is set to gain from this?  Which multi-national benefactor might it be?  I believe that there are certain hints and clues provided by certain photos of Tony Abbott and his ‘sponsor’.

The Liberal Party’s own website provides that the projected $20 billion will not be achieved until around 2024-2025.  “To establish the Fund, approximately $1 billion in uncommitted funds from the existing Health and Hospitals Fund will be transferred into the Fund at its inception”, which is supposed to be 2015-2016.  But wait a moment; hasn’t the Abbott Government already cut an (estimated) half billion dollars from existing medical research and services?  Hockey’s gushing at the government’s beneficence and commitment to human-kind suddenly loses it’s rosy bloom.

But don’t worry, there is some good news contained in Joe Hockey’s attempt at a budget:  there will be more roads – well, in the cities at least.

Let’s be absolutely crystal clear about this

Photo by The Daily Telegraph

Photo by The Daily Telegraph

If you click on the official Prime Minister of Australia government page the first thing you will read is:

“Over six years, Labor ran up a $667 billion debt on the nation’s credit card.”

Aside from wishing that the Prime Minister of Australia had a more visionary or engaging opening line, it is a bald faced lie and that isn’t a good way to convince people to trust you.

You will be subjected to a rolling slide show of Tony, Joe and Matthias, photographed in various serious looking poses.  Is anyone else getting sick of these photos of Tony sitting at tables with people surrounded by lots of booklets and oversize graphs?  Is that supposed to convince me that he knows what he is doing?  Because he has his photo taking wearing a white lab coat trying to look into a microscope am I to say oh well the $7 co-payment must be a good idea?

But back to the lie.

“Ran” indicates past tense – in fact Tony Abbott specifically states that this happened “over six years”.  What he fails to mention is that the figure of $667 billion was a projection for possible debt in ten years’ time from Hockey’s MYEFO report produced last December, and it included increased Coalition spending decisions like the $8.8 billion gift to the RBA and all the interest that will cost us, and the foregone revenue from the carbon and mining taxes, and changed assumptions about future unemployment – in other words it was a political exercise designed to come up with as big a number as they could so they could then justify draconian measures as they claim to be reducing it.

Using the term “nation’s credit card” is purely designed to cause fear.  The nation doesn’t have a credit card.  In fact we actually print money and can do so if we have to as they have done in the US.  Credit cards can get individuals into serious debt and the interest rate is crippling.  Using that term makes people think of that rather than a sensible understanding of how government finances work.

While the Coalition continues to peddle this lie I will continue to remind people of the truth because the Australian people have a right to know the real state of our finances.  And because nothing pisses me off more than getting lied to about important stuff.

So what is the truth?

The independent pre-election economic and fiscal outlook’s (PEFO) medium term projections, using long-standing methodology, show that on Labor’s policy settings the Budget reaches a modest surplus in 2016-17, surplus grows to 1% of GDP in 2020-21 and net debt returns to zero in 2023-24.

The latest Budget update shows net government debt for 2013-14 of $191.5bn, or 12.1% of Australia’s GDP (not $667 billion Mr Abbott). By contrast, net government debt in advanced economies around the world averages 74.7%, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Gross debt in 2023‑24 is projected to be $389 billion with surpluses projected to build to over one per cent of GDP by 2024-25.  There are no surpluses predicted over the forward estimates, there is a higher debt, and surplus of 1% 4 years later than predicted by PEFO using Labor policies.

After the GFC hit, the deficit peaked at $54.5bn, or 4.2% of GDP, in 2009-10 – less than half the advanced country average.  In 2012-13, the federal deficit was $18.8bn or 1.2% of GDP, compared to an advanced economy average of 4.9%.

The claim that Labor left “fiscal time bombs” and secret cuts and spending is another blatant lie.  In the 2013-14 Budget, Labor took the unprecedented step of releasing 10 year figures for the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Gonski school reforms, demonstrating how they were funded over the long term.  Those figures, as well as the efficiency dividends on the public service, were there for all to see.  The fact is that Tony’s election promises were made knowing this but, as we saw, working out how to pay for his promises was not on his mind.

Australia is one of only 10 economies in the world with AAA ratings from all three agencies – in the company of other countries with strong public finances like Germany, Canada, Sweden, Singapore and Switzerland. This status shows our finances are considered to be stronger than those of the vast majority of advanced economies – including the US, the UK, Japan, France and New Zealand.

Despite headlines to the contrary, and ill-informed statements by the Prime Minister, the agencies have confirmed our credit rating with a stable outlook.

I hesitate to compare government finances with individual or business finances, but I will say this.  When you go into significant debt, you usually aren’t looking to pay it off completely the next week.  The decision to go into debt is made by looking at your assets, your ability to service the debt, and the value of the investment of the debt.

We do need to make some changes.  There will never be a time when fine-tuning isn’t needed because we live in an ever-changing world with an often volatile global economy.  Situations change requiring adjustments to be made.

We are not in any sort of crisis.  We have the luxury to be able to do long term planning to meet the challenges of the future whereas so many other countries are having to make decisions for the short term as a matter of survival.

Tony Abbott is looking for a legacy for himself rather than for our nation.  He wants to say the debt was huge and I made it smaller and he doesn’t care if he has to lie about figures to make this look true.  If he really wanted to reduce debt why on earth would he stubbornly insist on his paid parental leave scheme?  Why wouldn’t he look at negative gearing and superannuation tax concessions and capital gains reductions?  Why would he buy 58 fighter jets that won’t be in service until sometime next decade?

The “Infrastructure Prime Minister” is building the Abbott Highway to Hell to speed up the path to destruction and he is more than happy to sacrifice anyone who can’t help him along his way.

 

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