Convenient Demonologies: Stopping Migrant Caravans

President Donald J. Trump has been engaged with berating human caravans, a…

Hell hath no fury: The makings of a…

By Dr Strobe DriverNormally I restrict my opinions to international relations issues…

Remembering the Peace Makers: What the Armistice Commemorations…

Those in the war industry and the business of commemorating the dead…

Morrison's latest prop

So the Liberal Party has hired a bus as a new toy…

Concepts of Nonsense: Australian Soft Power

Soft power was always a term best suited for eunuchs. It relies…

What does a minute's silence mean?

It means, "shut the f*ck up!"It means, make no noise!It means let…

According to the WEF, the planet is 'on…

The Global Risks Report 2018 produced by the World Economic Forum lays…

When is it OK to lie ? Don't…

It seems that in politics telling lies, fabricating half truths and being…

«
»
Facebook

Tag Archives: Carbon tax

Labor’s Scare Campaign . . .

“This morning, we’ll be talking to prominent Coalition supporter, Mr Con Server-Tiff. Good morning.”

“Now, if I can just correct you, I’m not a Coalition supporter, I’m an independent commentator.”

“Yes, but you have been supporting Coalition policies, haven’t you? I mean it would be accurate to describe you as Right wing, wouldn’t it?”

“No, that’s the sort of bigotry that you people on the ABC indulge in!”

“But this isn’t the ABC!”

“Well, it might as well be if you’re going to attack people and suggest that they’re political views are irrelevant just because you don’t agree with them.”

“I wasn’t actually attacking your political views, I was just attempting to describe them.”

“This is the sort of stuff that the Christian Right have to put up with all the time! People describing them as the Christian Right, you don’t have the left wing described like that.”

“What about references to the ‘loony left’?”

“What about them?”

“Well, isn’t that an attack on them?”

“Go on, defend your left wing mates!”

“Can we get back to the purpose of this interview – the proposed rise in the GST?”

“An excellent idea.”

“But isn’t the Liberal Party supposed to be opposed to raising taxes, I mean, don’t they always spruik themselves as the party of lower tax?”

“Well, the important thing here is to ignore Labor’s scare campaign. This won’t be increasing taxes because the overall tax take will be the same. We have Scott Morrison’s word on that and if you can’t trust the word of a Liberal minister then they might as well be Julia Gillard who promised us that there’d be no carbon tax!”

“If you’re not increasing the overall tax take, then why is it necessary to make any changes at all?”

“To make it fairer, of course!”

“And how will raising the GST make the system fairer?”

“Well, for one thing, the government will be able to do what the Business Council asked last week and use the money to reduce company tax.”

“How is that fairer?”

“Companies will be paying less tax. You don’t get much fairer than that.”

“Yes, but how does that benefit the man in the street?”

“Well, nothing can really be done to help the homeless. If people want to sleep in the street, that’s their choice.”

“I meant the average family man. How does increasing the GST help the average family man?”

“Well, it won’t be just companies that pay lower taxes, I’m sure that Mr Morrison can find an extra billion or so to cut everyone’s tax.”

“What about the unemployed?”

“They’ll have an incentive to get a job now.”

“But if they don’t get a job, won’t the increase in the GST hit them harder than anyone?”

“Yes, but if they don’t get a job its their own fault. I mean it’s easy to get a job. Even a dud like Amanda Vanstone found work writing a column for Fairfax. And Joe’s going to be ambassador to the US. You just have to look.”

“With respect, I don’t think that the average unemployed person would find it as easy as those two to get that sort of job.”

“I was just using them as examples. Obviously not everyone can become an ambassador but there are plenty of jobs about. Why just the other day I saw a help wanted in a shop window.”

“You said something before about a scare campaign, but didn’t your side of politics run a scare campaign about the carbon tax and how Whyalla would be wiped off the map and lamb roasts would be $100 each?”

“That wasn’t a scare campaign, that was just a series of possible scenarios under the GST.”

“Rather far-fetched ones I might suggest.”

“Hey, are you here to ask questions or commentate?”

“Do you concede that those were rather far-fetched?”

“Not at all. The Liberal Party had already started printing maps with no mention of Whyalla and sooner or later lamb roasts would have got to $100.”

“Yes, how is it reasonable for you to say that the carbon tax was a great big tax on everything and not to expect that Labor would try the same tactic with the GST?”

“There’s a fundamental difference there!”

“Yes, what is it?”

“Well, Labor started running a scare campaign before the last election suggesting that if we got in we’d raise the GST.”

“But you are planning to raise the GST!”

“No, we’ve simply put it on the table. We need to have a clear, level-headed discussion without the hysterical commentary from the opposition saying that when it was first introduced Howard promised that it could never go up. That was last century and as if ‘never’ refers to a new century.”

“I think you’ll find that ‘never’ means ‘not ever’, in much the same way that ‘no’ means ‘none’ when someone says ‘no cuts’ to things.”

“If you’re refering to the so-called “no cuts to pensions, health and education” comments that Tony Abbott was alleged to have made.”

“There is film of him saying it right before the election.”

“Allegedly.”

“Are you denying that there’s film of it?”

“Look we can get bogged down by what people did or didn’t say and whether the film’s clear, but I think that it’s more important to look to the future rather than argue about a leader who’s long gone.”

“It’s only been two months!”

“Allegedly.”

“Are you saying that you don’t believe that Mr Turnbull only became PM two months ago?”

“No, I’m saying that Tony Abbott was gone a long time ago. After that Prince Sir Duke thing, nobody let him make any decisions.But let’s not talk about Mr Abbott he did some excellent things while he was PM and I’m sure that history will judge him much more kindly than many other leaders.”

“What are his achievements?”

“Well … um, he stopped the boats, and … um, he introduced knights and dames and even though, that’s been thrown out, there are a number of people who wouldn’t be knights or dames if it wasn’t for him… and… ah, he got rid of the mining and carbon taxes … and he … um, he stood up to Putin and told him that we were really cross … and did I mention stopping the boats?”

“But he didn’t get the ‘budget emergency’ under control!”

“Ah, yes, he produced a chart showing us that by 2050 Labor’s debt would be twice that of Liberal’s debt!”

“That’s all we have time for. Thank you.”

“Typical! Cut me off just when I start to talk about this government’s achievements!”

 

Tax And The Bleeding Obvious!

Ok, most of the focus on discussions about the GST has been about how it’s a regressive tax and how it affects the poor more than the rich.

But there’s one other thing in this debate that hasn’t been prominent in discussions or commentary. If the GST is widened to include items currently exempt, how will that affect Health spending?

Given that a large chunk of health spending is paid for by the various governments, will they just be charging themselves more, or will the rebates stay the same and it’ll be up to the patient to make up the difference. In other words, will it be a “price signal” by stealth?

Even if the government does the right thing and increases its share by the increase in the GST, this will obviously lead to a blowout in Health costs which, of course, will have politicians arguing that it’s just not sustainable. (Interesting that the blowout in the costs of offshore detention never leads to screeches of how this spending isn’t sustainable. On a state level, one never hears that the massive increase in the cost of running prisons doesn’t mean that the “tough on crime” policy isn’t sustainable!)

Either way, it fits in well with the Liberals’ plan to destroy Medicare. Why they want to do this is a mystery to me, but it’s always been their policy either explicitly or part of their hidden agenda since Gough first introduced it.

Of course, the likely scenario is that widening the GST base will be discussed, but dismissed on the grounds that it would make it unfair on those struggling with their grocery bills, health costs or school fees. And when, Malcolm magnanimously rejects broadening the base, then a mere extra five percent will seem the reasonable alternative – in much the same way that removing Abbott led to the big poll bounce. “Gee, Malcolm answered that question by talking on something vaguely related to the actual subject and he didn’t way anything about stopping the boats. He’s so much better!”

Of course, the Liberals do some very strange things. I’ve never been able to fathom why they stop any increases in the superannuation guarantee every time they get into government. Howard froze it when he got in, and Abbott did the same. Given their rhetoric about people needing to plan for their retirement and the government not supporting them, one would have thought that increasing everyone’s super would be something they’d be right behind.

When it comes to superannuation, I’ve always wondered why it’s subject to a flat tax of fifteen percent. I’ve always thought that it would be better if there was a threshold before it was taxed. For example, imagine the first five thousand dollars was exempt from tax and the rest was taxed at twenty percent. This would be a big boost to the lower income earners and people would need to be on an income of more than $100,000 before they were paying more. The tax on super earnings could also work on a similar arrangement.

But I don’t expect we’ll hear much about changing the taxes on superannuation. It’s about as likely as the government using the phrase “a great big tax on everything” when refering to the GST.

 

Poor people have it. Rich people need it. If you eat it you die. What is it?

As the snake oil salesman and his happy clapper gear up to sell us on their compensation for a higher GST, it is worth remembering how much we have already given up in the last couple of years.

When Joe Hockey decided to forego $6.5 billion revenue from the mining tax, workers paid a heavy price through his decision to freeze the superannuation guarantee at 9.5% until 2021. Labor had scheduled incremental increases reaching 12% by 2019.  This will now happen 6 years later.

The cost of this for someone on $50,000 a year is $7,500 less deposited into their superannuation over the next decade which would compound over a lifetime of work to a significant amount.

The income support bonus and schoolkids bonus will both cease at the end of next year and the low income superannuation co-contribution the year after that.

The low income superannuation contribution gives up to $500 a year to help those earning $37,000 or less save for their retirement.

The schoolkids bonus is a $430 boost to family tax payments for primary school students, and $856 for families with children at high school.

The income support bonus is a payment of $221.20 if you are single, $184.20 if you are partnered, to people who are on benefits.

The Mature Age Worker, Dependent Spouse, and Net Medical Expenses tax offsets have all been phased out.

The proposed increase of the tax free threshold to $19,400 has been canned, costing us an extra $228 in taxation, and the income thresholds used to calculate Medicare levy surcharge and Private health insurance rebate will not be adjusted for three years.

From 1 July 2015, the primary earner income limit for Family Tax Benefit Part B is $100,000 instead of $150,000.

New mothers who receive parental leave benefits from their employers will no longer be able to also collect the government scheme from July 2016

Unemployed under 25-year-olds have to wait four weeks to get the dole.

Add to this the cuts to health and education, fuel levy indexation, proposed changes to university fees, working till we are 70, stagnant wages, and the loss of FttP NBN, and we are a long way behind where we were a couple of years ago.

Getting rid of the carbon tax was supposed to ease our cost of living but all it has done is rob us of about $7 billion a year in revenue.

And now we look like having an extra 5% added to every bill we pay (with the possible exception of fresh food), and 15% added to health and education costs. It kinda makes the GP co-payment look good.

Oh but low income earners are to be compensated.

I wonder how close that compensation will go to making up for all that has been taken from us in the last two years let alone the estimated $2500 (or $4000 according to Curtin University) an increased GST will cost the average family every year.

It’s all very well to suggest that businesses need tax breaks but if their customers have no money to spend, what’s the point?

Instead of trying to squeeze blood from a stone, how about tapping into the rivers of gold flowing to offshore tax havens.

Poor people have it. Rich people need it.  If you eat it you die.  What is it?

Nothing.

 

Forget the carbon tax – politicians are killing commercial airlines

According to the Telegraph, during the height of Choppergate, Warren Truss got a private charter flight from Port Macquarie to Sydney after a sod-turning ceremony last week as NSW MPs at the same event boarded a commercial flight.

Tony Abbott chartered a flight from Port Macquarie to Sydney on 24th of March 2010. He charged us $5,490 for it. Being five years ago I would assume the price has increased.

In fact, after becoming LOTO, Tony took quite a shine to private charter flights – one presumes because he could. The following, along with the Port Macquarie flight, are his claims for charter flights from 2010-12.

Canberra to Sydney 3 Jun 10 $5,170.00

Sydney to Hervey Bay 9 Jun 10 then Hervey Bay to Mackay 10 Jun 10 $18,660.00

Avalon Airport to Sydney 18 Jun 10 $283.64

Sydney to Melbourne 18 Jun 10 $9,968.00

Brisbane to Sydney 8 Jul 10 $10,300.00

Sydney to Lismore to Brisbane 15 Jul 10 $10,780.00

Canberra to Melbourne Essendon Apt 28 Oct 10 $5,318.00

Sydney to Forbes return 4 Nov 10 $8,855.00

Melbourne Essendon Airport to Echuca to Sydney 8 Nov 10 $11,445.00

Cairns to Normanton 9 Nov 10 then Normanton to Brisbane $32,545.00

Melbourne Essendon Airport to Warrnambool return 6 Dec 10 $6,013.00

Melbourne Essendon Airport to Wagga Wagga to Sydney 14 Dec 10 $10,719.00

Emerald to Emerald 3 Jan 11 $1,125.00

Canberra to Melbourne Essendon Airport return 25 May 11 $6,150.00

Oakey to Dalby return 5 Jan 11 $1,800.00

Darwin to Newcastle Waters return 26 Jun 11 $6,500.00

Canberra to Maitland to Melbourne 11 Jul 11 $11,381.82

Townsville to Proserpine 25 Jul 11 $8,900.00

Rockhampton to Tamworth 26 Jul 11 $11,085.00

Sydney to St George 1 Sep 11 then to Brisbane 2 Sep 11 $12,133.00

Coffs Harbour to Brisbane 28 Sep 11 $5,060.00

Sydney to Bathurst return 9 Oct 11 $5,622.73

Sydney to Griffith return 15 Dec 11 $8,900.00

Sydney to Tamworth return 25 Jan 12 $8,800.00

Sydney to Bendigo to Horsham 5 Mar 12 then to Adelaide 6 Mar 12 $23,560.00

Perth to Kojonup return 11 Apr 12 $6,500.00

Cairns to Aurukun Mission 10 Aug 12 return 12 Aug 12 $9,636.36

 

Total in charter flights 2010-12: $262,700.55

Now Tony just summons the RAAF.

 

Abbott the Dragon Slayer: The art of making scary mountains out of molehills

Unless you’ve been on a desert island or in a coma, you’ve heard Tony Abbott boast over and over and over again that:

“We’ve had a lot of really significant achievements over the last year: We stopped the boats. We scrapped the carbon tax. We scrapped the mining tax“

These three issues were a key part of Abbott’s 2013 election campaign. According to Abbott, the mining and carbon taxes were devastating the nation. And stopping asylum seekers was imperative to save lives and protect our borders. These were his top priorities – the dragons threatening our nation must be slain. On day one he would stop the boats and introduce legislation to repeal the carbon tax – to be followed by the mining tax within 100 days – thereby single-handedly saving us all.

Abbott obviously believes that the Australian people still value his dragon-slaying skills today – threatening a few weeks back:

“if Labor came back, the boats would be back; the mining tax would be back; and now we find out that if Labor were to come back, the carbon tax would be back”

It seems fairly clear that Tony Abbott is staking both the credibility and the value of his government around these three key actions, and that he believes they are the criteria by which we should judge his success for the next election. So let’s have a look at what he has really achieved – and who the real winners and losers are.

Axing the Taxes

In his interview with Leigh Sales on the 7:30 report last week, Tony Abbott promoted what his government has done in the last two years, saying:

“The carbon tax, gone. When was the last time a government abolished a tax? The mining tax gone. When was the last time a government abolished a tax?”

Slaying not just one tax dragon – but two! Certainly sounds good – and according to Tony Abbott, it’s a BIG win for the Australian people. But does that stand up to scrutiny?

Slaying the Mining Tax (Killer of  investment and jobs)

“This tax is a great big cudgel that will blow the brains out of the West Australian economy if it goes ahead.” (Tony Abbott, July 2010)

The Mining Tax – a quick primer:
The Minerals Resources Rent Tax was a levy on ‘super profits’ from the mining of iron ore and coal.  It was only applied to companies whose annual profits – profits, not revenue – were in excess of $75 million. It was introduced on 1 July 2012 by the Labor government and repealed by the Liberal government on 2 September 2014.

Abbott’s Claim: repealing the mining tax would lead to Australia being ‘open’ for investment again and more jobs . . .

Prior to ‘axing’ this particular tax, the Abbott government argued that the mining tax had to go because it destroyed foreign investment and cut jobs. Once repealed, Abbott stated that the “big flashing red light over investment in Australia” is now gone. So if Abbott was right, investment in Australia should both have dropped during the time of the mining tax, and picked up since it was repealed.

Not so much.

It turns out that this was just another piece of Abbott-Speak or ‘truthiness’ that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. In fact, as ABC business editor Ian Verrender argued recently, if the very similar Petroleum Resources Tax introduced over 25 years ago is anything to go by – which had minimal if any impact on jobs or investment – the Mineral Tax would also have had little or no impact on either investment in Australia or Australian jobs had it been left in place. The reality is that mining companies aren’t all that mobile in their location choices – unlike car companies who can manufacture anywhere, mining companies have to mine where the resources are.

So who are the real winners and losers from the repeal of the Mining Tax?

The winners: the LNP and Big Mining companies

Ironically, one of the biggest winners from the introduction of the mining tax was the Liberal Party themselves. Crikey reported in 2012 that ”the mining tax saw an extraordinary increase in donations to the Coalition that has opened up a huge funding resource for the Liberals” as shown in the following graph:

Crikey1

Data from Crikey article (2012)

The largess of the mining sector towards the LNP continued post 2012. There was over 1.8 million given to the Liberal and National parties in the 2013/2014 financial year from resource and energy companies. By way of contrast, around $450,000 was donated to the Labor party from the same sector over the same period.

And then, of course, the other obvious big winners from the repeal of the Mining Tax are big mining companies themselves. Certainly, if the level of their donations is anything to go by, there were a lot of mining companies (and related suppliers like marine dredging operators) out there who were very happy to see the LNP – with their commitment to the repeal of the mining tax – win the 2013 federal election.

The Losers: The real owners of the minerals (AKA The Australian People)

There is a fairly simple but often misunderstood fact about Australia’s mineral and resource wealth, and that is that with limited exceptions, mineral (and other) resources under the soil belong to the Australian people. They’re ours. Well technically they belong to ‘the crown’ (or in this case, the state governments) – but same thing.

Unlike in countries like the USA, where a gold nugget you dug up in your backyard would belong to you, in Australia, everything under the ground belongs to all of us. ‘We’ then licence the rights to mining companies – like Shenhua and Hancock Prospecting – to extract those minerals (or other resources).

This arguably makes taxing mining (and resources) profits different to taxing other companies, because they are making profits from something that belongs to us. It’s literally Australia’s family silver. Once it’s sold, it’s gone.

When you take that into account, you could argue that the mining tax is closer to a profit share arrangement than a tax – because it’s about what portion of profits made from our mineral wealth should go to mining companies (who are 83% foreign owned), and what portion should go to us. In 2001, the split was roughly 60/40 – 60% to the mining companies and 40% to us. But now, it’s closer to 80/20 – 80% to the mining companies and 20% to us. The mining tax sought to redress some of that imbalance – although arguably not as well as it could have, thanks to the watering down it got prior to its implementation – but that’s another story.

Conclusion:  The Abbott government – with some help from the Mining companies themselves – demonised the Mining Tax.  It was the economic terrorist that would kill investment and jobs according to Abbott, and he and his government promised to come in and save us from this terrible mountainous dragon of a tax.

But in the stark light of day, looked at this through the eyes of the average Aussie, the slaying of the mining tax is not something Abbott should be boasting about. It may have been a win for the LNP and some of their major donors, but for everyone else, we’re letting mining companies sell off the family silver without giving us our fair share.

Slaying the Carbon Tax  (The tax that would devastate a nation)

“I say to Julia Gillard, what have you got against the people of Gladstone? Why are you trying to close down Gladstone with your mining tax and your carbon tax?”
(Tony Abbott, March 2011)

The Carbon Tax – a quick primer:
The Carbon Tax was introduced on 1 July 2012 as part of the Labor Government’s Clean Energy plan. It only impacted 260 large carbon emitters, who had to pay for their carbon emissions. The goal of the tax was to incentivise a reduction in carbon gas emissions – which it did. The tax was repealed on 17 July 2014.

Abbott’s claim: The sky was going to fall down 

According to Abbott, the mining tax and the carbon tax were going to ruin life as we know it in Australia:

There’s hardly a region in this country that wouldn’t have major communities devastated by the carbon tax if this goes ahead” (April, 2011)

Of course that didn’t happen – this was yet another piece of Truthiness. Abbott took the tiniest of molehills and created a massive mountain of fear about what the Carbon tax would do. Not only did Gladstone not close down, but there was even a great article in the Gladstone Observer in March this year entitled ‘Bring back the carbon tax‘.

Leigh Sales questioned Abbott about this last week – asking him to comment on the fact that places like Gladstone, Whyalla and Geelong weren’t actually wiped off the map as he said they would be. In a rare moment of honesty, Abbott briefly conceded that Sales had a ‘gotcha’ moment, which seemed to shock even him briefly, as he then mumbled something about trying “to be as good as we possibly can be going forward”.

Moreover, not only did the carbon tax not cause wide-spread job loss and economic problems while it was in place – following its repeal, we have not seen the promised increase in investment or jobs. In fact the opposite has occurred. Unemployment has continued to climb and investment to drop. So if scrapping the carbon tax was to have fixed those problems, it has been spectacularly unsuccessful.

The winners: Every household gets $550 a year! Ok, not $550 – but nearly enough to buy an extra cup of coffee every week.

No longer able to link the repeal of the carbon tax to increased investment and employment growth, Abbott and his ministers now focus primarily on the savings to households and businesses created by the tax’s demise:

“We scrapped the carbon tax and that meant that every Australian household on average was $550 a year better off.” (Abbott, March 2015)

This is partially true. As a result of the repeal of the carbon tax, prices did drop, and households will have saved some money. However, according to ABC Fact check, the amount is only $280 per year in 2015/16 and $424 per year over three years. Now before you get too excited by these savings, remember that they are expressed ‘per household’. If you convert that to a saving ‘per person’ it is closer to $110 per year next year and $165 per year over three years – or around the price of a coffee once a week.

The Losers: The Planet and the Budget (AKA the Australian people. Again.)

Before you start celebrating, there’s two big things you traded your extra cup of coffee per week in for:

  1. We’ve no longer got a workable climate change policy to help keep us in clean air, dry land and livable weather.
  2. We’ve gone from collecting revenue from heavy carbon emitters to paying companies for possibly, maybe, doing something about reducing carbon emissions at some point in the future.

Australia’s world-first climate change policy – increase carbon emissions

It’s no secret that Abbott is at best sceptical about the need to do something about climate change. In 2009, he said that climate change was ‘crap’. In his autobiography, he indicates that he is a fan of Australian geologist Ian Plimer whose own book argues that ‘the climate has always changed‘ and that humans are not responsible for current global warming. Interestingly, Plimer is a director on the boards of several of Gina Rinehart’s mining companies.  And even more interesting, it seems that Plimer is also a fan of Tony Abbott’s – having donated a total of $97,000 to various branches of the Liberal and National parties in 2013/2014.

Given Abbott’s philosophy on climate change, it’s no wonder that once elected, he set about implementing a world first – a climate change policy that actually resulted in a serious increase in carbon emissions. In fact, since the repeal of the Carbon Tax, Australia’s carbon emissions have been increasing at one of the highest rates since records started in 1990.  This suggests that Abbott still doesn’t believe that cutting carbon emissions is a priority, despite the clear consensus amongst scientists that it should be. Some even think that it may already be game over.

Here’s a graph of data published by our Department of Environment earlier this year showing total Australian carbon emissions just prior to when the carbon tax was introduced along with projections through to 2020. The graph shows that there was a clear drop in carbon emissions following the introduction of the Carbon Tax (the green bars). This drop in emissions immediately reversed (the red bars) after the tax was repealed, and the stark increase in emissions is expected to continue through at least 2020.

AustraliasCarbonEmissions2015

Let’s stop raising revenue and start paying companies instead

The other thing that happened as a result of the carbon tax being repealed was that we went from a scheme which raised revenue by taking money from companies with high emissions via the carbon tax (some $6.6 billion in 2013), to one where we pay companies $2.5 billion via the Direct Action Scheme to commit to reducing their emissions. At some point in time. But not necessarily straight away. In fact, only 1.5% of companies who are currently participating in the Direct Action scheme are committing to reduce emissions in the next three to five years.

Scrapping the Carbon Tax and introducing Direct Action has left a $7.6 billion hole in budget revenue – which is going to have to be made up somewhere. So don’t spend that $110 too quickly.

Conclusion:  Given Abbott’s historical position on climate change, and that his actions since being elected support increased rather than decreased carbon emissions, it’s difficult to believe his stated position last year, that he takes climate change ‘very seriously‘. Climate change is arguably the most important challenge facing our nation – and the whole world – right now.  And yet our Prime Minister is making things worse and not better. The potential consequences of this, not just for future generations, but for current generations are staggering, and make the $280 per household savings seem insignificant. What use is money in the bank if the bank doesn’t have a planet to live on?

But instead of focusing on the very real problem of climate change, Tony Abbott created a mountain out of a carbon-tax-molehill to scare the Australian people into believing that Australia needed to be saved from the carbon-tax, rather than from the true foe – carbon emissions themselves. He convinced people that he was the man to slay the mythical carbon-tax dragon, and completely distracted people from the thing that we should really be afraid of – climate change.

Stopping the Boats – a quick look

Space prohibits me from doing justice to a discussion on the winners and losers from Abbott’s Stop the Boats policy. But just some quick points to consider when thinking about molehills, dragons and mountains:

The only winners I can see from the Abbott government’s Stop the Boats policy are politicians, who have turned the plight of a small number of asylum seekers coming here by boat into another mythical dragon to be slain for their own political ends. The biggest losers are of course the world’s most vulnerable – asylum seekers. Asylum seekers who have nowhere to go, or worse still – are stuck in the torturous hell-holes that are Manus island and Nauru. Or even worse, forcibly returned to the country they were fleeing persecution from – as happened this week.

Yet again the Abbott government has diverted billions of dollars into conquering a molehill that their spin doctors have turned into a dragon-shaped mountain.

Molehills aren’t mountains. Or Dragons. Mountains are mountains. 

By @Fyfetoons

By @Fyfetoons

Abbott really does seem to specialise in terrorising the Australian people by making mountains out of molehills. He finds a small but ‘credibilish’ fear and uses rhetoric to fan it into fully fledged terror. He then portrays himself as the only possible saviour of the Australian people from this mountainous mythical dragon.

The three so-called ‘achievements’ discussed above are not the only ones Abbott has created dragons out of – look at the fear he has managed to generate around terrorist attacks.

It’s the ultimate political spin doctoring – create a mythical dragon, fight it, and claim to have saved us from it. And the thing with dragons is that they are far easier to slay – what with them not being real and all – than actual problems. It’s much simpler to be a dragon slayer than someone who actually rights real wrongs or solves real problems.

And let’s face it – it has worked. The good people of Aus have by and large been successfully hoodwinked into buying the myths. As have the media, who on the whole let Abbott’s talk of dragon slaying go largely – not wholly, but largely – unchallenged.

When you look at the winners and losers from the three policies that Abbott boasts so much about – the only consistent winner is the LNP. Abbott’s main achievement has been distracting the Australian people with insignificant dragon-shaped molehills so that we won’t look at the truly mountainous problems we should be focusing on.

This article was first published on Kate M’s blog Progressive Conversation.

Still being lied to

So it seems that Bill Shorten will be taking a proposal for a 50% renewable target by 2030 to Labor’s national conference in Melbourne this weekend. Accordingly, climate change is shaping up to be a major battleground for the next election – probably much to Abbott’s chagrin. On this argument, the Coalition starts from behind. Tony Abbott would prefer the discussion to be neutralised and as a result the government is stepping up the rhetoric to attack Labor’s history and position on the climate change front. As a result, the laughably-named Minister for the Environment, Greg Hunt, has been working the airwaves furiously to poison the national consciousness.

Shorten’s laudable goal, as those who have been watching the development of renewable energy and its increasing prevalence in the energy mix of countries and even Australian States will know, is technically not difficult. Labor describes the proposal as “ambitious”, but the main challenge with achieving this is political. The primary difficulty is that the Australian people are skeptical about the ability of renewable energy to be a practical, economical choice for energy generation, and consecutive conservative governments have sought to play up on that uncertainty at the behest of their backers and overlords, the existing fossil fuel oligarchies. The Australian people have been lied to from the outset.

They’re still being lied to now. Greg Hunt has been given saturation coverage on news media outlets, parroting the Government’s official response to the reports of this labor policy proposal. The detail of Hunt’s interviews and discussions has varied slightly from broadcast to broadcast, but the salient points remain the same. Unfortunately but predictably, the Government’s official stance – and thus Hunt’s answers – is a farrago of lies and mistruths that often pass without challenge. The ABC is not immune to this mistreatment: in several ABC news interviews Hunt has made the same baldfaced statements without being challenged. The ABC can’t be blamed for this. In an already fraught environment with the national broadcaster under continual threat, challenge and attack by our government, it is vital for the ABC to retain an appearance of impartiality for its news arm. Rather, the problem is with our laws and systems that contain absolutely no penalty for a Government Minister to lie to a reporter, and to lie to the Australian people, so long as they can get away with it. A Minister can lie with impunity – as long as their lie goes unchallenged.

This is a problem, as we head into an election year in 2016. Standard practice in news reporting is to describe the news item of the day, interview appropriate persons involved with the policy or proposal or scandal, and drill into the detail to as shallow or deep an extent as time allows. Then, in the interest of “balance”, journalism will often seek a response from the other side. In politics, this brings us to a situation where the Coalition, with the benefit of incumbency, can coast with few policy announcements, leaving Labor few opportunities to respond. Labor’s situation is more challenging. Winning back government from opposition is difficult and requires a constant stream of policy announcements. When the last word in a news report comes from a Coalition minister in response, far too often the sound bite the audience will remember is the government’s position. If that position is in error, the voters have been misled.

A news reporter is not in a position to challenge a statement made. That comes down to us – the concerned public. It is incumbent on us to be informed, and to inform others who might otherwise be taken in by the lies.

Because the Coalition adheres to the concept that repeating a lie often enough will convince people to take it as truth, their talking points in response to Labor’s proposed policy are consistent and we will hear them trotted out regularly over the coming weeks. Each one of them is demonstrably untrue and the best response progressives can make is to have ready clear, concise explanations as to why each Coalition argument is based on a falsehood. With that in mind, what follows is a precis of the Coalition’s talking points on Labor’s proposed renewable energy target and ETS.

The centrepiece of the policy will be a new carbon tax.

“Carbon tax – they’ll call it an emissions trading scheme, but it’s the same thing, with the same effect, the same hit on electricity prices…” In a recent interview, asked several times for clarification, Hunt fell back on the government’s agreed attack line: that an ETS is just a carbon tax by another name. This was not true the first time around and it is certainly not true now. The reason why is very simple.

Under a carbon tax, every emitter pays for their emissions. Every tonne of carbon carries a cost. The incentive is obvious for the business to reduce its carbon emissions and pay less tax. All taxes raised go to the government, for use in whatever way it deems appropriate. The government may choose to return some of the taxes to companies in the form of incentives and subsidies, but to do so is to devalue the impact of the tax. Over time, unless you force changes to the tax rates through parliament, the price of carbon remains the same.

In contrast, under an ETS, businesses are permitted to release carbon emissions up to a cap, without any cost to them. If a business holds sufficient carbon permits, it can emit as much carbon as it likes with no financial cost at all. If it emits less carbon than it holds permits for, it can trade the excess permits on the market, allowing other businesses more latitude to emit carbon. This brings you to the question of how the business gets the permits in the first place.

Under the Gillard government’s ETS, initial permits were allocated for free to relevant industries to shield them from the immediate impact. Other organisations were forced to purchase initial permits. Over time, under an ETS, the number of permits available is regulated to decrease, providing incentive to companies to reduce their carbon emissions over time: as time goes on, carbon permits become more expensive, increasing the benefit to the company if it can trade its excess permits on the market, and increasing the cost of permits if it does not.

Due to compromises with the Greens required to get the legislation through a hostile senate, the price of permits was set for an initial three year period and the permits were not eligible to be traded, thus making the scheme’s initital appearance close enough to a “tax” to make it unworth arguing the semantics of “tax” and “ETS”. This led, in short order, to Labor being lambasted as a high-taxing regime (ironic, coming from the party which would soon implement a much more oppressive tax regime) and Julia Gillard as a liar.

Labor has learned its lesson on this front. It is fair to assume its new ETS will not commence with a set price and untradeable permits. For the government to claim that Labor’s new ETS will be “exactly the same” as a carbon tax is misrepresentation of the highest order. The ETS will be a different thing, with a very different effect, working in a very different way.

Greg Hunt knows this very well. This is the same Greg Hunt who won an award for co-authoring a thesis about implementing an ETS in Australia. Until recently some on the left held a grudging respect for Mr Hunt, being forced to toe the party line against his own documented beliefs, and pity, for being one of the few realists in a cabinet laced with flat-earthers. His recent performances have shown that he is a thorough convert to the Coalition’s paradigm that somehow a market-based scheme is far inferior to direct governmental intervention. As a result, his respect has died, leaving him only with pity.

Regardless of his personal beliefs, however, Greg Hunt knows very well that an ETS is not remotely similar to a carbon tax, and to claim that it is is to deliberately mislead Australian voters.

A higher renewable energy target will increase electricity prices

The talking point that a renewable energy puts upwards pressure on power prices seems an article of faith for the Coalition. This also is demonstrably untrue. ETS or carbon tax aside, all experience in Australia to date disproves the idea that renewable energy competition can push the price of electricity up. All models and analysis, including the government’s own modelling, show clearly that renewable energy puts competition and downwards pressure on energy prices. The only group that this hurts is the big energy generators and distributors, who coincidentally are big benefactors of the Coalition.

An ETS did have the expected outcome of pushing up power prices from carbon-heavy power generators. Gillard’s government allowed for this and overcompensated consumers for the expected price increases.

The one thing likely to place significant upwards pressure on energy prices is the effect of Queensland’s previous, liberal government opening its gas markets to export. The result is that gas, one of the major energy sources for much  of Australia’s eastern seaboard, will now be traded at the significantly higher international price rather than the domestic one.

The carbon tax “didn’t work”

Perhaps the most egregious lie of all is the continued insistence by the Government and Greg Hunt as their mouthpiece that the carbon tax was ineffective. It has been claimed that during the carbon price, emissions continued to increase. This is true. What is wilfully ignored in that discussion is that, under the influence of the carbon price, emissions rose less than they would have otherwise done. In fact, the carbon price was restricted to a relatively small part of Australia’s economy. In sectors where the carbon price applied, carbon emissions decreased markedly. (And, unsurprisingly, upon the repeal of the carbon price, carbon emissions in these sectors immediately increased again). Hunt has argued that Australia’s carbon emissions were already falling prior to the introduction of the carbon price and that the ETS had little effect. This also is untrue. In short, the government’s overblown claims about the carbon tax are almost universally deliberately misleading or even entirely untrue. The carbon price, even at a high price per tonne and acting like a tax, had little effect on the overall economy, destroyed no country towns, and was being remarkably successful at reducing Australia’s emissions.

A new ETS could do the same again.

Labor is inconsistent

Greg Hunt foamed that the parliament had “…just voted for stability in the renewable energy sector…”, referring to the recent passing through the parliament of a reduced renewable energy target for Australia. This criticism popped its head up but has now subsided; perhaps the Coalition has decided that talking about “the politics” is a little too fraught to be a certain winner. In any case, the fact that Labor reluctantly supported the government’s cut of the renewable energy target to 33,000 GW does not mean that Labor is inconsistent. Labor was able to forge a compromise position for the sake of settling the argument in the short term and giving certainty to the existing renewable energy market, but it was clear that this figure was not Labor’s preference.

Frankly, it seems amazing that Labor was able to secure any kind of a compromise from this government, after more than a year of the government steadfastly refusing to budge from its original position. As this government has shown, any policy agreed to under one government is not sacrosanct to the next.

The truth shall set you free

Armed with the facts, it becomes easier to counter the government’s wilful misinformation. Not easy, of course: there are none so blind as those who will not see, and for many in the Australian public the prevailing narrative being told by the government is emotionally compelling. But there are some who may be persuaded by actual facts and evidence. It is for these people that we must be prepared to call it out when we see the government deliberately distorting history and building straw men on Labor’s commitments. We must be able to point out that they have been lied to, and they are still being lied to.

 

Premature congratulation

The Abbott government suffers from a bad case of premature congratulation.

We have had a parade of Hockey, Cormann, Frydenberg, Abbott and others telling us that they have halved Labor’s debt – which is a rather bizarre claim considering the gross debt has increased by $83 billion (and counting) since they took office.

Joe Hockey tells us that “job creation across the economy is running at around 15,000 new jobs a month. This is three times larger than the average of around 5,000 jobs a month last year.”

Aside from the fact that there is no measure of “new jobs” (job ads do not differentiate between new and existing jobs), comparative figures show that, in the 19 months from August 2013 to March 2015, there was a rise of 52,300 in the number of people employed and a rise of 56,200 in the number of people unemployed.  The aggregate monthly hours worked fell from 1,647.3 million hours to 1,628.7 million hours.  In other words, employment has not kept up with population growth and those who are working are working less hours.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister Christian Porter informs us that cuts to red tape have delivered $2.5 billion in savings in compliance costs since coming to Government.  To arrive at this figure they have done some very creative accounting.

People buying prepaid mobile phones will only have to go through the identity check once, not twice, saying that will save $6.2 million.

He said rejigging the e-tax website so the data entered the previous year shows up would save time and cut costs by $156 million and he said there was a $17 million saving in scrapping regulations that banned people using mobile devices on take-off and landing in planes.

The costs were partly calculated by working out how much time people or businesses would have spent complying with the rules and then what their time was worth.  Who would have thought that turning off your phone for a minute would have cost so much?

Andrew Robb has been showered with praise for completing several free trade agreements.  The secrecy surrounding these negotiations makes it very hard to understand the full implications but the FTA with Japan alone led to a $1.6 billion write down in revenue.  One must wonder why these countries, after years of negotiation, were all willing to sign off so quickly all of a sudden.  I fear our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme will be under attack very soon, along with our plain packaging laws, and that manufacturing will have no future in this country.

We have also been barraged by a litany of self-congratulation for “stopping the boats”.  Whilst the number of boats is less, they certainly haven’t stopped, even under the threat of incarceration and torture at the other end.  But more to the point, what has this policy achieved in helping the growing tide of displaced people around the world?  We pretend to care about deaths at sea but apparently don’t give a toss about what is happening to those we turn away.

The gold award for premature congratulation, however, must surely go to Greg Hunt who, in one day, would have us believe that he cut our emissions by 4 times what occurred under carbon pricing and for 1% of the cost.  This unbelievable statement is so wrong on so many counts it is hard to know where to begin.

A study by the ANU showed that emissions reductions directly attributable to the carbon price in the electricity sector alone had achieved an abatement of between 11 and 17 million tonnes over its two year life while raising around $6 billion in revenue.  Abatement would have been even higher had the industry believed the carbon price to be permanent.

Whilst it’s true that demand has been falling for some time, 2013’s 0.8 per cent economy-wide fall in emissions was the largest annual reduction in the 24 years of monitoring. In the power sector, the industry most directly covered by the carbon price, emissions fell 5 per cent.

Hunt’s ridiculous statement that the carbon price was $1,300 per tonne has been lambasted by experts for the lie that it so obviously is.  The real price was in the 20-odd dollar range, and if the carbon tax had been allowed to develop into an emissions trading scheme, which it would’ve by now, the price would be linked to the European system which is trading at around the $10 mark.

Hunt’s other glaring omission is that while the Coalition’s policy is a cost, the carbon tax raised revenue.

What the government has actually done is spend $660 million of taxpayers’ funds buying a possible 47 million tonnes of carbon abatement – 25% of their total budget for 15% of the required abatement.

As reported in New Matilda, there’s also no guarantee the contracts companies won in Thursday’s ‘reverse auction’ will be discharged before the 2020 deadline. Many of them extend for seven or 10 years, and the government has not provided information about when the abatements need to be achieved.

“The experience with grant-based mechanisms is some of the projects proposed or actually contracted don’t happen in actual fact,” Professor Jotzo said. Even if they do, the types of projects contracted so far are largely land-fill and agriculture abatements, many of which may have been occurring already under ‘carbon farming’ initiatives, or would have occurred anyway.   Hunt is very much counting his chickens before they have hatched.

A very excited Andrew Robb also informed the Mines and Money Conference in March that “Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt has quickly approved 145 projects worth over $1 trillion in economic value; the majority of which are in the resources and energy sector.  Federal project approval times have been slashed to below 200 days from an average of 470 days in 2012.  We have created a ‘one-stop shop’ for environmental approvals that eliminates duplication between states, territories and the Commonwealth, saving business $426 million per year.”

The trouble with fast tracking approval is that companies lie and it takes expensive court cases to prove it.

A Queensland court has heard expert evidence from Adani’s own witness that the Indian company which wants to build Australia’s largest ever coal mine has drastically overstated the project’s benefits to the Queensland public.  And in other explosive evidence, a senior company official said he “could not comment” on speculation the company had been structured to siphon profits off to Singapore, Mauritius and the Cayman Islands, to avoid Australian company taxes.

Adani’s claims about the number of jobs the project will create have already been referred to the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission by the Australia Institute, which argues they have been inflated by 300 per cent.

Adani has also claimed that the mine would generate “$22 billion in mining taxes and royalties in just the first half of the project life”.   Even their own expert belies this claim, estimating that royalties will actually amount to just $7.8 billion and corporate taxes will add around $9.96 billion over the 30-year period under consideration.  This too is being challenged as they apparently used a company tax rate of 32% rather than 30% and have been actively structuring their company to “optimise” their tax obligation.

Earlier this month, as part of the Land Court proceedings, the mining giant argued that the world is on track to a 3.1 degree temperature rise and if they don’t dig up the proposed 60 million tonnes of coal annually, another, potentially foreign, company will. Such a rise in temperatures, Adani’s expert witness conceded, would ultimately destroy the Great Barrier Reef.

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, considered to be a close friend of Gautam Adani, attended the G20 conference in Brisbane last year, he announced a $1 billion loan for the Adani project from the State Bank of India.  Apparently, this offer is being withdrawn, adding to the growing list of banks and financial organisations refusing to offer finance for the proposed mines.

So despite all the back-slapping and self-congratulation indulged in by the Coalition, it is hard to find any tangible benefit from having the adults back in charge.  The reality is that the debt and deficit are worse, unemployment is worse, our sovereignty to make health and environment laws is at risk, our emissions are increasing, investment in renewable energy has ceased, we are endangering the Great Barrier Reef, and we have done nothing to help asylum seekers.

But rest assured, by keeping your phone on during take-off and landing, you are saving the country millions.

First speaker in the mature debate

imageDear Mr Abbott,

I welcome your call for a mature debate on taxation. I too deplored the “screaming match” that surrounded the introduction of carbon pricing and am pleased you realise how counterproductive that sort of approach is to constructive governance.

As a concerned citizen I would like to make a few suggestions to get the ball rolling.

Your opening gambit is to increase the GST. This is a regressive tax which will, once again, disproportionately hit lower income earners.  Treasury modelling done for the previous government showed that even a modest increase in the rate to 12.5 per cent – along with removal of exempted items such as food, health, childcare, and school fees – could hit a two income two-child family by as much as $205 per fortnight.

Perhaps there is a better way.  For example:

Fossil fuel subsidies.

The Australian Government is set to spend over $40 billion in the form of tax rebates and concessions, foregone revenue and expedited write downs of assets per year from 2013/14 to 2016/17. This assessment only includes tax measures, and does not include direct grants or State Government measures, which could add billions more to the annual totals.

The proposed replacement climate policy, the Emissions Reduction Fund, relies on paying companies as an incentive to reduce their emissions. A fundamental contradiction exists between such a policy and the continuation of a range of existing fossil fuel subsidies. Many subsidies significantly reduce the economic signal for companies to identify efficiency opportunities.

Polluter handouts are also highly inequitable. For instance, the mining industry receives a 32c per litre discount on fuels such as petrol and diesel for off‐road use. So while most Australians are paying full price for their fuel at the bowser, their taxes also cover the cost of a huge discount to the mining industry. In all, this handout costs Australian taxpayers $2 billion each year.

Australia, along with all other G20 nations, committed in 2009 to phase out inefficient fossil fuel subsidies over the medium term. In his recent State of the Union address, US President Barack Obama reiterated the need to phase out tax‐based fossil fuel subsidies. Other organisations like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the United Nations and the International Energy Agency are also calling for nations to end fossil fuel subsidies.

In 2009, the Commonwealth Treasury identified $8 billion in annual savings that could be made if Australia fulfilled this commitment. This money could be used to fund a wide range of nation‐building projects, yet to date we continue to use these funds to line the pockets of polluting, and in many cases highly profitable, industries.

Prime Minister Abbott has said that there is to be an end to corporate welfare. Statements by Treasurer Joe Hockey have warned that “the age of entitlement is over,” and that “everyone in Australia must do the heavy lifting now.” It is critical that this rhetoric, if applied, is applied consistently.

Superannuation tax concessions

A study by the Australia Institute found the rate of growth of super tax concessions is greater than that of the pension despite the ageing population, meaning the cost of the tax concession will soon overtake the pension to become ”the single largest area of government expenditure,” by 2016-17.

”’The age pension currently costs $39 billion and superannuation tax concessions will cost the budget around $35 billion in 2013-14,” the study found.

It notes that the Commonwealth bill for these concessions is projected to rise at a staggering 12 per cent annually to be $50.7 billion in 2016-17.

”The overwhelming majority of this assistance flows to high-income earners,” the report finds.

”Low-income earners receive virtually no benefit. The combined cost of these two policies will be $74 billion in 2014 alone.”

Negative gearing

The Grattan Institute’s report, Balancing budgets: tough choices we need, included a section on abolishing negative gearing, which it claims would save the Budget around $4 billion per year initially, falling to a saving of around $2 billion per year over the longer term.

Grattan highlights a number of non-budget (social) benefits from reforming negative gearing, namely:

1.increasing home ownership rates by reducing returns at the margin for landlords relative to first homebuyers; and

2.increasing investment in other more productive assets.

The report also debunks claims that reforming negative gearing would raise rents, since “for every landlord that sells, there would be a renter that buys and becomes a home-owner. The supply of rental properties would fall at the same rate as the number of renters”. It also does not believe that the construction of dwellings would be materially affected, since “almost all of investment property loans are now for existing dwellings”.

Tax avoidance

A report by the Tax Justice Network – an international group focused on investigating tax avoidance – and the United Voice union says almost a third of companies listed on the ASX 200 pay 10 per cent or less in corporate tax.

This is substantially less than the statutory 30 per cent corporate tax rate.

Some companies, such as James Hardie and Westfield Retail Trust, pay zero tax.

Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox pays 1 per cent tax and casino group Echo Entertainment pays 5 per cent tax.

The report says the government is losing out on at least $8.4 billion in tax each year, which is substantial but may be the tip of the iceberg.

According to the research, 57 per cent of all ASX 200 companies have subsidiaries in tax havens.

Several big-name companies, such as 21st Century Fox, Westfield, Toll Holdings and Telstra, have more than 40 entities in well-known tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, Luxembourg, the British Virgin Islands and Bermuda.

Fourteen in the 20 top companies, including two of the country’s big banks, also hold entities in these locations, according to the report.

“Secrecy jurisdictions play a key role in multinational tax dodging and undermine the ability of democratically elected governments to levy taxes in a just and fair way,” the report’s authors say. “Corporate tax avoidance must be addressed.”

Financial transaction tax

Introduce a Financial Transactions Tax on various categories of financial transactions including: stocks, bonds and currency. If implemented on a global basis, its projected revenue could be as much as US$400 billion a year, depending on the size of the levy imposed, the size of the reduction in trading (if any), and the number of implementing countries/jurisdictions. In the US alone it has been estimated that annually, between US$177 and $353 billion could be raised.

A flat rate of 0.05% has been proposed on all financial market transactions, many experts actually advise vary rates (of between 0.01 and 0.5%) depending on the transaction (stocks, bonds, currency, commodities, swaps, derivatives, etc). The UK stock exchange, one of the largest in the world, already has a 0.5% tax on share transactions.

(1) An FTT will reduce the instability in the global financial system by reducing the volume of trading in financial markets, especially the sort of trading that increases market instability and has led to the turbulence in the financial markets over the last decade.

(2) An FTT will provide an effective way of raising revenues for both domestic purposes, such as assisting governments help pay for the costs of post-financial crisis bailouts, as well as for spending for international public goods, such as the funds needed for climate change adaptation, and to assist countries in meeting the Millennium Development Goals.

The tax is specifically designed to target high frequency traders, especially of securities, where the average holding period is often minutes or seconds. High-frequency traders currently account for 70% of US equity market trading and 30-40% of the volume of trading on the London Stock Exchange.

The tax will only affect financial institutions and funds to the extent that they are involved in this type of high-frequency trading.

Australia is a leading player in global finance in its own right: the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX) is the ninth largest stock exchange in the world. Australian support of the FTT would be a significant boost to the cause of the global campaign. Moreover, Australia is a G20 country and plays a significant role in the group whose endorsement would effectively make the FTT a reality.

 

You could always keep the mining tax and close the rorting of FBT car leases and…dare I say, bring back the carbon tax…if you are mature enough to admit when you are wrong.

So let’s have some mature debate on these issues Mr Abbott before we jump to charging pensioners more for their bread and single parents more for childcare and sick people more for their medicine.

Over to you……

Take up your cameras and fight the good fight.

From the beginning, the Abbott campaign has been waged in the media.  Every move he makes is purely for the media.  The ridiculous photos of Abbott, Hockey, and Corman sitting there looking at oversized graphs, the crews who just happen to be at Manly Beach to catch Tony surfing, the tweets of here I am driving a fire truck, the endless photos of Tony on the factory floor, the purchase of bigger planes to accommodate his burgeoning entourage of film crews, micro-managed photo shoots in Arnhem Land, way too much lycra – all designed to promote the image but woefully short on substance.

Tony doesn’t have time to meet with Ban Ki Moon but he always makes time to go see Rupert Murdoch. When he decides not to pursue the repeal of the racial discrimination laws, he contacts Andrew Bolt before telling Parliament.  Organisations and individuals read about their future dismissal in the Daily Telegraph.

Abbott has used the media effectively and ruthlessly to manipulate the public discourse even to the degree where he convinced the Australian public that, rather than polluters paying for the damage they cause and to move their businesses towards sustainable practices, we should pay for their factory upgrades whilst eliminating their clean competitors.  If they choose not to cut their pollution there will be no consequences.

In fact, Andrew Robb, who just oversaw the deal to sell uranium to India, tells us that coal is the future.

“Instead of thinking brown coal’s day has passed, we need to bear in mind its potential to support new industries and jobs in the future”.

This astonishing thinking, which flies in the face of all scientific evidence and international consensus, suggests that economic growth is a trade-off for action on global warming.

Imagine you were told your child was gravely ill and in need of urgent treatment. Would your reaction be to ignore that advice and pay off the mortgage instead?  Would you tell the doctors they are “talking through their hats”?

Abbott, backed by Gina’s billions, was also able to convince the majority of people that asking mining companies to pay tax on their superprofits made by selling our resources was unreasonable.  So keen were we to protect their record profits, we were willing to give up the increase in the superannuation guarantee, the increase in the tax free threshold, and to slow the rate of increase in pensions.

The beat up about mining jobs has proved to be just that. Since the repeal of the carbon and mining taxes, every day we hear of more job losses in the mining industry with more to come.  They have never been a big employer and show no loyalty to anything except the bottom line.

But perhaps the most disgraceful display of media manipulation was the demonization of asylum seekers. Who could forget the “Egyptian jihadist terrorist kept behind a pool fence” who occupied weeks of parliamentary sitting time, only to turn out to be an accountant who had been a victim of unfair persecution.  This sort of “scary Muslim” rhetoric has seen far right wing groups like the Australian Defence League ramp up a campaign of frightening online harassment against Muslim women and their children.  Politicians like Jacqui Lambie and Cory Bernardi legitimise the xenophobia and discrimination with radio shock jocks and vile people like Larry Pickering whipping up hatred against a section of our community because of their faith.

The dog whistling was lapped up by the ugly Australians, many of whom were themselves migrants to this country. “Economic migrant” became a term of abuse as if these people had no right to seek a better life for their families.  This set the stage for draconian measures that were sold to us as a “humanitarian” measure to stop the drownings at sea.  Had it been accompanied by any increased facilitation of intake through regular channels then perhaps this argument might hold some water.  Instead, they cut the intake by some 7000 and effectively closed the doors while refugees accumulate in their millions in poorer countries.

Morrison and Abbott continually bemoaned the arrival of “50,000 asylum seekers a year”. This is completely untrue.  The government reported only 17,202 asylum seekers in 2012 and a further 13,108 to the end of June 2013, totalling 30,310 arrivals over a year and a half — a long way from 50,000 arrivals per year.  In July last year there was a spike of 4236 arrivals. However, the following month only 1585 arrived — the lowest count for five months at that time. Further, just 3753 asylum seekers arriving by boat between July 19 and September 17, 2013. In other words, the statistic that Abbott keeps referring to simply does not add up.

According to the Liberal Party’s own press release, “over 50,000 people have now arrived illegally by boat since Mr Rudd dismantled our border security policies,” yet Tony Abbott tells us “They were coming in July at the rate of 50,000 a year.”  He repeated that claim in January ”If boats were coming at the rate of 50,000 illegal arrivals a year, which was the case in July and if now they’re hardly coming at all, obviously some things have changed,” and again in July.  This was no slip of the tongue, it was a deliberate falsehood propagated for media consumption.

50,000 refugees in 6 years kind of pales into insignificance when we see 140,000 Kurdish refugees flood into Turkey in the space of a few days while Turkey are already hosting some 1.5 million Syrian refugees from the three-and-a-half year conflict

Despite assuring us they would not engage in “megaphone diplomacy”, Abbott has done just that from day one. We began by insulting Indonesia by telling journalists that we didn’t need their permission to turn back boats.  When Julie Bishop chose to castigate the Chinese and Russian ambassadors, she first alerted the press so they could film their arrival and quote the dressing-down.

But now this obsession with government by media has moved into very dangerous territory.

The decision to send over 800 police to round up a small group of young people could perhaps have been justified by intelligence that we were not aware of except for the way that it has been handled which exposes it as very much a propaganda exercise which is having disastrous consequences.

Since when have ASIO and the AFP released video of covert operations showing suspects and their homes when they have not been charged with anything nor committed any crime? Why do we need new harsher laws if these operations could proceed under existing laws?  If there was evidence that these people had committed or intended to commit a crime, why have they been released without charge?  Why use preventative detention laws which do not allow the detainee to be questioned (or to contact a lawyer, their family or employer)?  Why has the stabbing of a policeman by a teenager been labelled a terrorist act?

Last Monday’s Q&A was an important program in that it gave voice to how the Muslim community are feeling and the victimisation to which they are being subjected by members of the public. Some of these women are truly afraid and with far more reason than “chatter” or a vague intercepted phone call.

The Australian Defence League has been following and photographing Muslim women on public transport, displaying anti-Islamic posters outside mosques and filming at Muslim schools and posting the videos online.

The League, which incites its followers to violence, is a registered not-for-profit organisation led by a former soldier who claims to have support from within the Defence Force.

The national president, Ralph Cerminara, posted this on facebook: “I’m calling for the end of Islam in our country and hopefully the world. If Muslims have to die then so be it. It is us against them.”

His incitement goes further as shown in this interview on 7:30 report in April.

The terrorist rhetoric being brayed in countless interviews by Abbott, Brandis and the like has backfired on them. Their emphasis of local threat and very public heavy handed approach, while failing to address the threat posed to local Muslims, has increased tensions immeasurably.

If the raids had been secret (and far smaller), the young people could have been brought in for normal questioning. It would have been useful to have Muslim counsellors there to speak with them.  By broadcasting it to the world under explosive headlines, it is obvious that it was publicity rather than information that they wanted.

Brandis has jumped on recent incidents in the hope of having his new anti-terror laws rushed through parliament without scrutiny. This would be extremely dangerous as they take away many of our rights.  One can only hope that sanity prevails and the Senate puts the brakes on while cooler expert heads investigate the implications of such laws.

I have come to fear tomorrow’s headlines and a government that seems not only oblivious to the consequences of Murdoch-led opinion but happy to use it to contribute to the hysteria for a boost in the polls.

Short memory

Photo: lifethoughts.com

Photo: lifethoughts.com

I recently spent a day with my extended family, one of whom is a ‘senior government employee’ who has served ministers in several different portfolios and governments including the current one.

When we found ourselves standing together at one stage, in a very non-confrontational, non-interviewing way (he doesn’t know I write here), I asked him a few questions.

He is a very intelligent, astute man who has the diplomatic talk down pat so I knew I wouldn’t hear any dirt – he isn’t the type of person who would do that and it doesn’t interest me either.  He is a pragmatic man who gets things done under whatever constraints are set and is rarely critical of whoever he may be working for.  I admire him for that and he is truly an asset for the government of the day regardless of their ideology.

He describes himself as being in ‘the centre’ – I would describe him as slightly right of there and he certainly lives a lifestyle more akin to the right.  But he is a realist and too smart to bother prevaricating so I found his comments both interesting and disturbing.

I asked about the carbon tax – he said it was never going to work.  I assume he meant politically though I did not have the chance to ask further.  He, like so many others, said Labor made themselves an unelectable train wreck.

He believes the free trade agreements with Japan and Korea are good things but said we are nowhere near an agreement with China.

When I asked about Tony Abbott he was surprisingly dismissive as if he wasn’t important to the conversation saying off-handedly “I could never vote for him though Malcolm Turnbull would probably get my vote.”

On Peta Credlin, he said somewhat resentfully “She wields an enormous amount of power for someone that no-one ever voted for”.  Everyone has to ask permission for everything they do and then plead for the money to do it – even down to ‘may we please have the airfare to get to the conference we are attending on the government’s behalf’ – pre-approval only, no private jets or ‘make a claim’ entitlement stuff for the people who are actually doing the work.

None of the above is particularly surprising.  You may disagree with it but there are no revelations there.  But what he said next flummoxed me.

He very confidently stated that the Coalition will “romp home” next election.  I spluttered in obvious incredulity.  He said “The sweeteners are coming and that is what they will remember”.  He has no vested interest in saying this and he has sufficient experience and inside knowledge that I must take his opinion seriously.

It is so blatantly obvious how crudely we are being played.  Every economic parameter is compared to Hockey’s MYEFO, in which Hockey added $68 billion to the deficit over the forward estimates through his government’s decisions, rather than with the PEFO prepared under the Charter of Budget Honesty.

Of the total Commonwealth securities on issue, the $19.7 billion increase on the Coalition’s watch above what had been predicted, represents 6 per cent of the Treasury Indexed Bonds for the 12 months to June 2014.  Add a few hundred billion to a projected debt in a decade and then cut money from the “leaners” to say look how much we have saved.

The refrain has returned to the “$1 billion in interest every month” mantra.  When interviewed on radio recently, Mathias Cormann repeated it and “debt and deficit disaster inherited from Labor” so many times I thought I was hearing an infinite loop replay.  The interviewer asked why, if we have such a problem, would you not use the GP co-payment to pay down the debt?  Cormann then revealed the Coalition’s true agenda by saying “it will be an asset that improves the budget bottom line.”  In other words, they don’t care about the interest being paid at all, they just want a number on a piece of paper.

We have been hit with the worst budget in living memory, attacking the very fabric of our society under the guise of “sustainability”.  It’s surprising that this government only applies that word to pensions, healthcare and education spending.  We never ask whether tax concessions for the wealthy are sustainable.  We never ask if subsidies to the mining industry are sustainable.  We never ask if pinning our economy on the mining and burning of fossil fuels is sustainable – ok 97% of sane people do ask that, sadly none of them advise our government who is apparently preparing for global cooling on the advice of their senior business advisor who is being avidly quoted on denial sites like wattsupwiththat. (I mean seriously….sack the fossil).

There will be some compromises from this budget passed off under “we listened to the people”, but the mining tax will go.  Then will come the company tax cut.  There will be adjustment to the top tax bracket to save those unfortunate high earners who have “crept” over the $180,000 mark through no fault of their own.  The temporary levy on the highest bracket will go.  The amount you can invest in superannuation will continue to rise.

But what crumbs will be thrown to the rest of us?  If we get back a few of the conditions that have been stripped from us will we be happy to be only a bit worse off?  Because we have been so battered and broken by this budget will we just be grateful to not get hit again?

Beware of Treasurers bearing gifts.

Why Clive Palmer may not be Abbott’s karma! A pattern emerges . . .

Clive Palmer (image by 4bc.com.au)

Clive Palmer (image by 4bc.com.au)

Anyone else wondering if there’s a pattern starting here?

The Government proposes something. Clive creates BIG HEADLINES by suggesting that he’ll block it. There’s a bit of a brouhaha. The Government complains that the Senate shouldn’t block things because after all they have a mandate! (After all, the Liberals have always just waved legislation through – it’s not like they blocked the ETS or anything…)

A few days go by. Then it’s reported – with no big headlines – that Clive Palmer and his PUPpets have decided to let the thing go through. Sometimes, it’s reported that they’ve extracted some concession. Other times, they’ve either just changed their minds or else whatever concession they’ve extracted is not for the public eye.

Now I don’t mean to suggest by that there’s anything untoward in this. After all, it is possible that Clive Palmer just speaks without thinking, and after reflection, he remembers that he is a life member of the Queensland LNP, so really opposing policies he’s always supported just because he’s trying to win a few populist votes is not really a good long term policy. Or it could be that he just likes watching Tony’s face when it looks likely that the Government actually have to say please before it gets its own way.

Whatever, it seems that there are at least two examples of this.

We won’t allow the Carbon Tax repeal, unless it’s replaced by an Emissions Trading Scheme starting at zero. (Haven’t heard much about that lately.)

We won’t support the changes to the regulations on Financial Advice. (Oh, wait the government have promised us that they’ll strength the legislation in the next ninety days.)

There you go. Two things that’s the start of pattern.

All right, two isn’t much of a pattern, but I wanted to get in early. If I wait until it’s an actual pattern then everyone will see it. Like the pattern where Margie doesn’t accompany Abbott when he goes to a foreign country, including Canberra, which Liberals regard as an alien land.

Just like when some of the Liberals suggested that the Labor Party hadn’t delivered a surplus this century. It’s a pattern. The circumstances of the GFC were no excuse – if the Liberals had still been in power, we’d have still had surpluses. And an unemployment rate of “eleventy”, mind you, but things would have been good because we’d have had a surplus.

But that was under Peter “Figjam” Costello. Under Abbott, I’ve noticed a new pattern. Joe Hockey has never delivered a surplus.

Just remember, you read it here first!

A question of balance

JamesCarleton-e1405549218653‘Where’s the balance?’ I raged as I listened to ABC Radio National this morning. In yet another example of a run-of-the-mill interview that you might hear on any news media platform or channel across this country, James Carleton was interviewing a business owner about the Carbon Tax. This interview may as well have been produced and gift-wrapped by the fishing industry’s PR firm, it so reeked of one-sided bias. But that’s the thing about balance that the mainstream media just don’t get. Or just don’t care about. Or both. Balance isn’t the ability to find someone who wants to speak in favour of the Carbon Tax (if these people have been interviewed in the mainstream media over the last few years, I must have missed it) and then to balance the argument, interview someone staunchly against the Carbon Tax, like Carleton’s guest this morning. That’s kindergarten simple thinking on what balance might be, and they can’t even get this right. No, an intelligent producer and interviewer would aim to find balance in the very questions they ask, so to provide an insight into the two sides of an argument within the one segment of news that they’ve given over to a particular topic for a limited amount of time.

So let’s look at how Carleton might learn from this sloppy, unbalanced interview. First of all, it’s important that the audience know who is being interviewed in order to properly frame their ‘well you would say that wouldn’t you’ opinion. Carleton introduced his interviewee Gary Heilmann as apparently a ‘small business’ owner, the managing director of De Brett Seafood at Mooloolaba on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast. Carleton explained that Heilmann’s business includes a tuna fishing boat, a fish processing plant and a fish and chip shop. Fine. But it’s often what is left out of such an introduction which is so lazy on the part of the interviewer and also most telling. Because a quick Google of Heilmann makes it very clear that he isn’t just some random small business owner who the ABC happened to come across to provide his views on the repeal of the Carbon Tax. Here he is quoted in the Sunshine Coast Daily, posted on Liberal Mal Brough’s website, bemoaning the Carbon Tax back in March 2013. Here he is on the ABC’s website in 2011, apparently representing his own business and other fishing operators in lobbying the government to provide $76 million in compensation because of the proposed introduction of a marine park. In this article on the same topic from 2011, the author writes that ‘Fishing operators such as Heilmann say drastic measures are needed because Australia’s waters are over-fished’ and makes the point that since many operators have gone out of business, licenses have been cut back to 115 and Heilmann has slashed his fleet from 10 boats to only 2. This time he’s talking about the Coles fish price-war (aren’t free markets fun?). Here he’s complaining about the Sunshine Coast Regional Council building a roundabout that makes it hard for his fishing trucks to get away from the port of Mooloolaba (how dare the council try to improve traffic conditions for people visiting the beach when Heilmann’s trying to move stock!). And finally, here is Heilmann defending against claims that fishers were raiding Gold Coast recreational fishing areas, in, you guessed it, his role as Managing Director of his company, and a member of a tuna fishing industry advisory committee. Wouldn’t this background as a fishing industry media spokesman have been helpful to the balance of Heilmann’s Carbon Tax interview?

So what questions might Carleton has asked so to at least challenge Heilmann’s pre-prepared-press-release-like rant about why the Carbon Tax is bad for his business and must-be repealed? What could Carleton have done to provide some balance, rather than offering nothing more than the perfect Dorothy-Dixer-like combination of questions which came off sounding like they had been written by Heilmann himself to keep his flow of ‘I’m anti-Carbon-Tax-and-my-opinion-is-important-because-I’m-a-business-owner’ script perfectly intact? How could Carleton have avoided the same-old-lame-overused-statement that was so perfectly rehearsed it sounded like Abbott himself had planted it in Heilmann’s head, when he said ‘governments… have simply managed to drive the cost up to the point where it’s just not worth being in business anymore because you can’t generate a return on the assets’. I know what you’re thinking. I know you’re thinking it’s not Carleton’s fault that Heilmann so perfectly slotted into the Abbott anti-Carbon-Tax narrative which brought us to this point tonight where the Carbon Tax is, devastatingly for the environment, about to be repealed. But it is Carleton’s fault and it’s every journalist’s fault who has given exactly this sort of interview all the airtime it ever wanted, without once asking a question that challenged the very basis of the argument about pricing carbon. What if he’d tried even one of these questions, just to throw an alternative argument into the mix and to provide some balance for the audience:

‘Being a fisherman, and clearly concerned about over-fishing, you must be concerned with the sustainability of not just your business, but also your family’s safety in the environment you live and work in. Do you worry that climate change will have a detrimental effect on the sustainability of your livelihood and the sustainability of the planet we live on?’

‘Do you think it’s appropriate for a government to put the concerns about business profit for a handful of business owners ahead of their concerns for the safety of our planet in an unstable climate?’

‘What policy would you prefer the government introduce to encourage large polluters to cut down on their carbon emissions instead of the Carbon Price, to change their business practices to ensure we limit the catastrophic effects of climate change? Or do you not believe climate change is real?’

‘Have you considered renewable solutions such as solar energy to cut down on your high electricity costs, in order to improve your margins and to make your business more sustainable as fossil fuels continue to deplete and grow in cost?’

‘If you can’t make a profit running your business in a sustainable way, is it time to think about doing something else and to stop blaming the government for every challenge your business faces? If you can’t run your business without producing unsustainable amounts of carbon emissions, isn’t it better for the community if you do try something different?’

If people like Heilmann don’t want to answer such questions, they can choose not to be interviewed on a national radio station. Someone else can be interviewed instead. How about me? I would be happy to answer balanced questions about a particular topic. But I would never be invited because I’m not a business owner or an industry spokesperson. I guess that’s the thing that’s most disappointing about Carleton’s interview in the first place. Journalists like Carleton never interview a nobody like me who has to actually live in the community where climate change is happening. The Carbon Price was not just some economic burden on large polluters. It was designed to try to save our planet. How about interviewing a member of the community on this topic, rather than a whinging-he-would-say-that-wouldn’t-he-self-interested-axe-the-tax-business-owner. Just for a change.

Waiting For Lefty

Clenched_human_fist-e1405239872603

Tony Abbott’s days as leader of the Coalition are numbered.

Whether or not he takes the LNP down with him remains to be seen.

This weeks Senate debacle was simply another of a long line marked by inept leadership which rests on a conceit that the government has carte blanche to mold Australian society ‘in their own image’ without opposition or accountability.

It is not the failure of Abbott’s efforts to rush the repeal of the Carbon Tax through the Senate, nor is it the government’s inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and the arrogance of the Minister for Immigration Scott Morrison in refusing to reveal information ‘for operational reasons’ that has driven the final nail in the coffin of Abbott’s leadership, although these have certainly been deciding factors in the mind of the Australian public.

The deciding blow fell far more quietly when a panel of leading economists who took part in Business Day’s mid-year survey rejected the government’s claims of ‘a budget emergency’ with former chief economist of ANZ and now senior economist for Bank of America Merrill Lynch Saul Eslake, labelling the government’s claims as ‘an abuse of the English language.’

Eslake was not alone in his condemnation. Chris Caton from BT Financial dismissed the claims as; “Simply absurd.”

Those who took part in the survey ranged from market economists, academics, consultants, industry and unions.

Opinions varied but most like AMP Capital’s Shane Oliver, agreed that “Australia was not facing a budget or public debt crisis.”

While the government’s claims of a ‘budget emergency’ had been challenged even before it was delivered by the Treasurer in May, the added weight of the ‘doyens of the dollar’ such as Eslake and Caton, and academics such as Mitchell and Madsen, have effectively sunk any remaining credibility of what Tony Abbott had hoped to be the showpiece of the LNP’s ‘reforms’.

Faced with the combination of a hostile Senate led by the unpredictable cross-benches, and plummeting polls that reflect the electorate’s dissatisfaction – if not outright loathing of the government and its ministers – the LNP now faces a number of choices – none of them palatable.

In the first instance, the government can back down and attempt to negotiate with the cross benches to pass its bills.

In the face of Abbott’s statements that he would not negotiate with independents or minor parties, the back down would leave the LNP humiliated in the extreme, and effectively neutered in the eyes of the electorate.

In the second instance, the LNP could replace Abbott as leader, modify the budget and attempt to win over the cross benches with a consensual approach.

Once again, this may prove embarrassing but much less humiliating and may serve to shore up electoral support in order to stave off  the very real possibility of becoming a one term government.

The third option carries far more risk.

Abbott can declare a double dissolution, claiming an obstructionist Senate is preventing governance and take his budget policies to the electorate in the hope that the Murdoch machine and to a lesser degree Fairfax, will throw their weight behind his claims.

This can only be done however, if the Senate rejects the Carbon Tax repeal bill for a second time.

The double dissolution option is unlikely due to the fact that it requires both the House of Reps and the Senate seats to be declared open for contest.

Neither Abbott nor Palmer want to risk this occurring.

Abbott for fear of losing the LNP’s majority in the lower House, and Palmer for losing his leverage in the Senate.

What is likely, is that the repeal will be passed with the amendments demanded by PUP.

If not, then despite Minister for the Environmen Greg Hunt’s posturing, it’s a fairly safe bet that the government will shelve the repeal in an humiliating climb down, and attempt to justify this as ‘bowing to the will of the people’ rather than face an election.

Whatever the outcome next week, the results do not bode well for Abbott and his hold on the leadership of the LNP.

The father of modern political strategy Niccolo Machiavelli, observed that if you find your enemy waist deep in a mire then it is prudent to lend aid in helping him freeing himself.

If however, your enemy is up to his neck then it is good sense to push him under.

Abbott is not yet up to his neck in the mire but he’s certainly up past his waist, and while the ALP have largely remained silent and content to give the Coalition enough rope to hang themselves, the time for action draws nigh.

Since coming to office, there have been few Coalition governments that have galvanized the Left, and indeed most of the moderate Right in the way which the Abbott government has.

From its inept and post-Colonial attitudes to foreign policy, its secretive and inhumane treatment of asylum seekers, to its utter determination to create a poorly educated underclass in order to create a ‘market driven’ economy, the Abbott government has been able to alienate Australians  in a manner unlike any government before it.

This has resulted in the majority of voters now ‘waiting for Lefty’ – a political party whose premises rest on social justice and the entrenched Australian notion of a ‘fair go for all’ coupled with intelligent approach to climate change.

In the past, this role has largely fallen to the Labor Party with the Greens as a second preference.

Over the last two decades however, the ALP has steadily become almost barely distinguishable from its conservative counterpart.

Much of this shift can be traced to its abandonment of a commitment to full employment and embracing ‘supply side’ economic theory over the Keynesian applications that had served as the central plank of its policies for nearly four decades.

The current situation enables the ALP to re-invent itself as a revitalized and credible alternative to the execrable policies of the Coalition’s Neo-liberalism agenda.

While there are many fronts that afford the Labor party an opportunity to do this, the primary concerns should be focused on rejecting ‘supply side’ economics in favour of post-Keynesian economics in order to stimulate the economy by a return to full employment coupled with a determination to fully fund the public education system.

Other initiatives should include a humane approach to asylum seekers under the UN guidelines, and perhaps the most important issue that faces us all – climate change – should take the highest priority.

Rarely is an opposition party afforded the opportunity which lies before them at the moment.

With a government in disarray and its leader’s credibility in tatters, the ALP’s best strategy is to carpe deim and take the fight to the enemy while at the same time clearly delineating themselves as a viable political alternative to Neo-liberalism and not simply as the modified version which has plagued them for the past two decades and resulted in a shift of voter preference to the Greens or minor parties.

A total rejection of Chicago School Theory and an embrace of post-Keynesian economics would the most positive step that the ALP could take to cement its reputation as a Party dedicated to progressive political change on the behalf of the community as a whole and not simply as a slightly different version of a tool to serve corporate greed

In the main, it can be argued that the bulk of Australian voters are counting the days until the demise of the Coalition as government, or at the very least, the demise of Tony Abbott as leader.

In the wake of the ‘Marches’ that are becoming more frequent and attracting larger sections of the community, the time grows ripe for the emergence of a new Left; one that is focused on social justice as its raison d’etre.

It’s crystal clear that most of the Australian electorate are now waiting for Lefty.

Let’s hope that we’re not keep waiting much longer.

A plea to the Pups: Do not repeal the Clean Energy Act

Original image by The Telegraph.uk

Original image by The Telegraph.uk

After reading a few similar posts I thought I’d jump on the bandwagon and try something in the open-letter style, in the vain hope that it might make its way to its intended recipients via the magic of the interwebs. Since I don’t have time to provide statistical analysis what follows is very much a matter of opinion. You can either take my conclusions on trust, or do your own research.

Dear Senators Lambie, Lazarus, and Wang,

Congratulations to you all on your appointments.

I write to express my concern about the repeal of the Clean Energy Act which is currently before the Senate. I cannot emphasize enough the significance of this legislation, and the importance of the task before you. As an Australian who plans on living at least until 70, I feel I have a vested interest in this debate, and so I would like to be sure that you are fully apprised of the facts and consequences before you vote to repeal carbon pricing.

Abolishing the carbon tax will not save families $550 a year. In the last 10 years we have seen energy prices double, but only about 3-4% of this increase is due to the carbon tax. The rest is due to over-investment in poles and wires subsidised by taxpayers and paid for by consumers. Demand for electricity has actually fallen by about 13% over the last 5 years. This may be in part due to an increase in rooftop solar PV, in part due to rising prices. My point is that carbon pricing has not been the driving force behind high energy prices. Overall the impact of carbon pricing has contributed an estimated 0.7% increase to cost of living. Compared to a 2.5% hike for the GST, this is negligible.

No doubt you have become accustomed to our Prime Minister’s underhanded tactics, allowing interest groups to dictate policy and appointing climate sceptics to key advisory positions. As much as Abbott would deny it, the time for arguing the point is over. The science has been around since the 1970s. If CO2 levels rise to 450 particles per million then the planet can be expected to warm by two degrees, posing significant risk to life on earth. CO2 levels are already at 400 ppm and the frequency and severity of extreme weather events such as typhoons, floods, droughts and bush fires has increased more rapidly in the last five years than at any time in recorded history. Only those with their heads in the sand have not seen this coming.

It would be foolish to think that our shared desire for the survival of the species would somehow be enough to shake the global economy from its dependence on fossil fuels. On the other hand, a sudden rise in input cost might do just the trick. With crude oil now soaring above $100 a barrel and the Middle East in the grip of war, it looks like we may be seeing the end of an era. As long as demand for energy remains high and shale gas cheap the US may ride out the prospect of a double dip recession for a decade or so, but new sources of energy are desperately needed to drive a new economy. You need only look toward Beijing and Washington to see the reality of this. The fossil fuel industry’s days are numbered, and in what has already been dubbed the Third Industrial Revolution, most significant new investment is in renewables.

What does this mean for Australia? We can only continue to burn coal for as long as it is cost effective to produce it. Once global accords on climate change are reached, coal will face resistance in the market and we will start to see diminishing returns. The future is already looking bleak for the industry, and any amount of foresight would have us steer clear of stranded assets, not to mention the opportunity cost of not investing in renewables sooner.

In spite of Abbott’s best attempts to thwart it, Australia already has a mechanism in place to reduce emissions and provide significant investment capital for renewables. With attendant compensations to taxpayers such as raising the tax free threshold, family tax benefits and other measures, many poorer Australians, including pensioners, are actually better off under the current scheme. In spite of what Abbott would have us believe, the Clean Energy Act is not a toxic tax. Rather it is a well crafted package of reforms which has already lowered emissions by 7% and provides a means to steer our economy out of the cul-de-sac of the resource boom and onto the autobahn of technology and innovation. Who can tell how many new jobs will be created along the way?

With all respect to environmentalists, the legislation currently in place was not designed by a bunch of climate scientists who all got together and decided that preserving things like clean air and water for future generations was a really cool idea, but by shrewd economists who foresaw the need to future proof our economy against global trends. Dismantling this legislation without thinking through the consequences would amount to an act of economic vandalism, or deliberate sabotage, take your pick.

While preserving the planet for future generations is undoubtedly a noble cause, there is a far more cynical truth to consider. Our economic future very much depends on making the transition to clean energy as quickly and smoothly as possible. So while I admire the spirit of the amendments proposed by the Palmer United Party, I would suggest that in the best interest of all Australians the Clean Energy Act should be preserved in its current form. I urge you all to consider this carefully before casting your votes.

Kind Regards

Sean Stinson

Unleash the hounds

image by 2p.com

image by 2p.com

I have often impressed on my children that it is easy to lie, cheat and steal (if I was an Abbott fan I could stop there), but it diminishes you.  You must set your own standards.  You must value your integrity and be honest so others may be confident in trusting you (plus your stress levels will be much lower).  You must respect the rights of others, from their possessions to their feelings.  You must try to make a positive contribution to the world.  And when you fall down, as you must at times, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and learn from the experience.

I have also stressed to them that every person has something interesting about them and if you listen then you will find it.  We don’t all have the same skills or the same interests or opinions but we all have something to contribute.  I often hear people say that respect is earned – I disagree.  One should always start from a position of respect – contempt is earned.

I don’t admire people who can throw a punch – I admire people who can avoid punching, or people who can take a punch and not retaliate.  There is nothing “best and fairest” about hitting someone Tony.  I admire people who do what they can to improve the lives of others and to make other people happy.

I realise this is very idealistic and no-one is perfect but, as a working brief, they are reasonable aspirations.

And then we have this government who, by their language and actions, have gone against these very principles.  They have unleashed the hounds and Australia is the poorer for it.

Let’s start with climate change.

Malcolm Turnbull and Kevin Rudd reached consensus on the need for an ETS and the majority of Australian people supported taking action on climate change.  And then along comes Tone who, in return for a complete turnaround on his previously stated support for carbon pricing, was gifted the leadership by the deniers in the Liberal Party.

In Malcolm Turnbull’s own words:

“the fact is that Tony and the people who put him in his job do not want to do anything about climate change. They do not believe in human caused global warming. As Tony observed on one occasion “climate change is crap” or if you consider his mentor, Senator Minchin, the world is not warming, it’s cooling and the climate change issue is part of a vast left wing conspiracy to deindustrialise the world.”

Tony himself has in just four or five months publicly advocated the blocking of the ETS, the passing of the ETS, the amending of the ETS and if the amendments were satisfactory passing it, and now the blocking of it.

His only redeeming virtue in this remarkable lack of conviction is that every time he announced a new position to me he would preface it with “Mate, mate, I know I am a bit of a weather vane on this, but…..”

Tony then went on an attack dog campaign directed at “working families”, branding Julia Gillard a liar and making wild assertions about $100 lamb roasts and whole towns disappearing, none of which came to fruition.  The effect of carbon pricing on the cost of living was estimated to be 0.7%, far short of the 2.5% increase brought about by the introduction of the GST.

Somehow he was able to make people forget that electricity prices had been increasing rapidly for the past two decades with an increase of 170% from 1995 to 2012 – the carbon price was to blame!

He also studiously avoided mentioning the compensation package which saw the proceeds of the carbon tax redistributed to pensioners, families, and trade exposed industries.  Seniors groups determined that 93 per cent of pensioner households would be at least 20 per cent better off.

“The discussion about carbon tax is very lopsided at the moment, in that all of the emphasis is on the extra costs that will be born through the tax, but not on the money that will flow back to households through other payments,” said Frank Jotzo, director of the Centre for Climate Economics and Policy at the Australian National University.

Tony’s campaign of fear worked even though it was based on lies.  Denialists, sceptics, and conspiracy theorists were given a validity they did not merit and a platform to spout their rubbish.  Tony even appeared at a speaking engagement with that fruitcake Monckton who all of a sudden found the ABC, under Maurice Newman, a willing participant in his bullshit

Since coming to power, denialists have been appointed to every advisory role and, regardless of their lack of expertise, their voice has drowned out that of the scientists.  From Tony’s page:

Tony Burns:  Come on Scott, true believer. In your own words, what is the EVIDENCE that man’s CO2 has caused any of the warming since the Little Ice Age ? … the warming that STOPPED 2 decades ago.

Connie Handbury:  I’m sick and tired of the scientific community being bandied around as if they were gods and must be believed and obeyed. Only a small number of wizards ever got anything right and there is good documentary evidence in the star treck trilogy that they were time travellers.

And then we have the disgraceful unleashing of the racist bigots in our society in a very purposeful campaign.

Demonising asylum seekers for political gain was a new low which began with John Howard and was gleefully taken up by Abbott.  Who could forget the weeks of Parliament devoted to the “convicted Egyptian jihadist terrorist kept behind a pool fence”.  This disgraceful episode is Australia’s version of Peter Greste.

In fact Mr Abdellatif was never charged or convicted on serious terrorism crimes in his native Egypt and turned out not to be a national security threat.  He identified himself immediately on reaching Australia and made them aware of the charges against him and provided evidence refuting them.

But because of the campaign of lies waged by the Opposition, Mr Abdellatif was removed from his family and locked up in high-security at Villawood where he remains to this day despite Interpol agreeing he poses no threat.

“I have been separated from my family in detention for over a year for no reason,” he told Fairfax Media. “The separation has been extremely stressful for all my family including my children. We should be reunited and allowed to live in the community.  The Immigration department has ignored the new information from Egypt that reveals clearly that all the charges against me are politically motivated and are baseless,” he said. “I am as innocent as the Al-Jazeera journalists who are also the victims of a political trial by the Egyptian military.”

We then had the “feisty, sexy” Fiona Scott suggesting that asylum seekers were responsible for clogging up our highways and hospital waiting rooms.

Reporter: So you mention asylum seekers and overcrowding. I don’t quite get the connection.

Fiona Scott: Well, my recommendation is go and sit in the Emergency Department of Nepean Hospital or go and sit on the M4 and people see 50,000 people come in by boat; that’s more than twice the population of Glenmore Park where we just were.

She later qualified these remarks saying she is not blaming the 161 asylum seekers living in the area for a lack of services in western Sydney, but simply reflecting the concerns of a community she seeks to represent.  Rather than allaying the unfounded fears of her constituents, she chose to exploit them.

And of course, we had the concerted campaign by George Brandis and boy wonder, Tim Wilson, to water down racial discrimination laws and champion the rights of bigots to be racist and didn’t the bigots flood out from underneath their rocks.  They have been given official sanction for their hatred and Liberal Party pages are full of their vile poison.  The following is an exchange I had on Tony Abbott’s facebook page:

Mary McIntosh: I don’t consider having gold credit cards, I phones, digital cameras and the like the possessions of desperate “poor” asylum seekers. They then have the hide to complain they were given food that was out of date.

Kaye Lee:  Mary, they are fleeing persecution. It is often the professional people who are targeted…academics, journalists. Seeking asylum isn’t means tested. I am horrified by the selfishness of today’s Australia.

Mary McIntosh: Well if you are so unselfish, how about you take in about half a dozen and fully support them, you know food, clothe them, provide housing, all medical and dental needs etc and show us up as the selfish people of Australia today. But if they are Muslims, don’t forget there will be no more bacon for breakfast, nor roast pork at Christmas. Silly me there won’t be Christmas for you because it offends them. Good luck

Jon. F.Edwards:  Well said Mary McIntosh, but you forgot too mention that because she is unclean they will want too circumcise her, make her wear a Burka.

Not content with stirring up the racists, Tony has also made a deliberate strategy of classifying people as “lifters or leaners.”  People who are disabled or unemployed or on a pension will now be vilified as a burden on our society.

I remember a period after university when my husband could not get a job in his profession so he applied for other jobs, only to be told he was overqualified – apparently they felt he would not stay so they would not employ him.  And we are the lucky ones.  I know of many people who have found themselves unemployed through no fault of their own.  Those who are made redundant may find another job, only to be made redundant again – last in, first out.  Young people with no experience can find it very difficult to get that first break.  Unemployment is no picnic and living below the poverty line is a daily struggle.

So well done Tony.  You have done more to change this country in your time as leader of your party than anyone before you.  You have turned us into a global pariah and a domestic disgrace.  Read the comments on your own Facebook page and understand that YOU are responsible for bringing out the very worst in what used to be a great country which, before you came along, was renowned for its contribution to the world and for lending a helping hand to those in need.

Scroll Up