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Tag Archives: Chris Bowen

Chris Bowen misses an opportunity.

Yesterday Chris Bowen addressed the National Press Club to announce a Labor initiative to have the independent Parliamentary Budget Office prepare the forecasts to be used in government budget and fiscal statements to allow for greater transparency, accountability and rigour.

He started well by talking about the Charter of Budget Honesty and how Joe Hockey has manipulated the figures to inflate the debt and deficit. He mentioned Hockey’s decision to give $8.8 billion to the RBA which was designed to maximise the deficit, attribute it to Labor, whilst hoping for increased dividends in the future.  He also mentioned the effect of Hockey’s manipulation of assumptions about key projections like unemployment, inflation, terms of trade, and GDP growth.

Bowen briefly ran over the comparison of PEFO projections with MYEFO – the former being prepared independently by the secretaries of Treasury and Finance, the latter being a propaganda sheet prepared by Hockey and Corman.

I was optimistic for once. This is exactly what needs to be highlighted in the media because it is what this government is basing all its rhetoric on.  The attack on the ‘leaners’ is necessary to avoid saddling our children with an unpayable debt.  Apparently we don’t mind burdening them with an unpayable personal debt to pay for their tertiary education but we can’t have public debt because…ummm…we are the knights of No and we want a surplus.

But it went downhill from there.

Instead of continuing in this vein, Chris Bowen then went to great lengths to explain that this was not a criticism of Treasury for whom he has the highest regard. He backed away from direct criticism of Hockey’s lies, concentrating on what the PBO would do and who they would collaborate with.  This was what stuck in people’s minds.  The introductory part of the speech, by far the most important aspect, was forgotten and not one question by the ‘journalists’ afterwards related to Hockey’s deceit.

Straight afterwards on ABC24, Lyndall Curtis interviewed Matthias Corman who had already been out that morning pre-empting Bowen’s speech. In his usual fashion, regardless of what he was asked, Corman repeated his preprepared lines like a doll having the string in its back pulled.  “Layboor’s debt and deficit disaster leaving us with $123 billion in deficits, debt spiralling to $667 billion, and no credible path back to surplus.”  Despite Chris Bowen’s introduction, Curtis, like all other journalists, allowed this to pass without question.

So there we were, back where we started with Corman’s mantra ringing in our ears.

Bowen’s answers to the questions that were asked was entirely inadequate.  Having admitted there was a budget problem, Bowen was asked how Labor intended to address it.  His response – “I’m not going to reveal our policies today.  We are in the process of carefully developing them and rest assured you will all know them well before the next election and they will be fully costed.”  What a fizzer.  Where was the vision for the future?  Where was the promise of a better way?  Where were the ideas even if the detail was still to be determined?

When asked about negative gearing, Chris nearly got a hernia twisting away from the question and talking instead about housing affordability whilst making it clear that he was not suggesting specific changes to taxation. When pressed further about the very low numbers of first home buyers, he waffled on unconvincingly about stamp duty and construction.

The speech was the wrong way around. He should have started with the changes he wanted to make with the PBO and then outlined why he wanted those changes by listing the duplicity engaged in in the preparation of MYEFO.

Just for the record:

PEFO gives independent predictions using Labor policies. MYEFO gives Hockey’s assessment using Coalition policies.

PEFO shows a cumulative deficit of $54.6 billion over the forward estimates with a predicted surplus of $4.2 billion in 2016-17.

MYEFO shows a cumulative deficit of $122.7 billion with no surplus predicted over the forward estimates.

PEFO states, in 2013-14, net debt for the Australian Government general government sector is estimated to be $184.0 billion (11.7 per cent of GDP) and is projected to return to zero in 2023-24.

Hockey’s MYEFO predicts, nay BLARES, a debt of $667 billion. This figure is quoted ad nauseum every time you press the button on Matthias Corman’s belly.  This is a projection of the GROSS debt in a DECADE under COALITION policies.

Let me make that absolutely crystal clear…this is a projection of the future with the Coalition’s decisions to axe the carbon tax which, according to MYEFO, “will reduce receipts by $6.3 billion over the forward estimates period” and the repeal of the minerals resource rent tax which “reduces receipts by $3.4 billion over the forward estimates period”. Add in the decisions to repeal the changes to the FBT and superannuation taxation and to gift $8.8 billion to the RBA, and also the payment to Rupert Murdoch of $882 million from the tax department, as well as the PPL that won’t go away and billions for Direct Inaction, and I would contend that Hockey and Corman OWN that projected debt.  Increased spending on defence, searching for missing planes, attending memorial services whenever and wherever you can…these are all discretionary decisions made by this government.

Gross debt was approx. $280 billion when the Coalition took over. It is now $337.686 billion.  Since September 30 2013, they have been borrowing over $157 million extra a day.

This article quotes the numbers presented in recent fiscal documents. I wish Chris Bowen had rammed it home a bit harder because Joe is setting us up to say “look how much I have saved” when the numbers tell a different story.

Operation Sovereign Borders. Doubly Disillusioned.

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Over the past several years Tony Abbott has electioneered on two platforms:  that climate change is crap and that asylum seekers arriving by boats are “illegals”. Abbott also chose to create a sense of urgency, a sense of fear, the fear of the other and an impression that somehow the Australian people were under threat. The nationalistic name which Abbott conjured up, Operation Sovereign Borders consists of the same overblown rhetoric reminiscent of the Bush/Howard era, and is described in the Coalition’s Policy document as a response to “a national emergency”.

With the coming of Tony Abbott to power, Operation Sovereign Borders was described as “gearing up”, and as endorsed by The Australian newspaper, put into action by immediately “shutting down the flow of information on the arrival of asylum vessels and the transfer of people offshore”:

All requests for information from Customs and Border Protection and the Department of Immigration – on issues ranging from boat arrivals, to detention centre capacity levels, the numbers of detainees on Manus Island and Nauru, or violent incidents in the detention network – are now directed to the mobile telephone of Mr Morrison’s press secretary.

This is of such importance, such an emergency that all enquiries must immediately be directed to . . . a press secretary?

The Sydney Morning Herald hence reports:

The public might never be told whether the Coalition is meeting a key election promise in having the navy turn back asylum seeker boats, Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has said.

The above is the entire crux of the matter: we might never be told whether or not Tony Abbott is meeting a key election promise and the very promise which for many, won him the election.

It was 27th April 2012 when the headlines from were ablaze with the following:

TONY Abbott will tell Indonesia that people smugglers “disgorging” asylum seekers are like Australians smuggling drugs into Bali should he win government.

The Opposition Leader today said that, if elected Prime Minister, he would fly to Jakarta in his first week to explain his policy of turning back people smuggler boats.

And he would call a double dissolution election if he can’t get his tougher border security measures, including re-introduction of temporary protection visas, through Parliament . . .

“Every illegal boat marks a failure of foreign policy, a failure of security policy and a failure of immigration policy.”……..

Then Immigration Minister Chris Bowen responded with the statement that Abbott was putting relations with Indonesia at risk by again pledging to turn boats back.

“Mr Abbott’s claim that he will have a ‘Jakarta focussed’ foreign policy is questionable as he rides roughshod over the repeated and clear message from Indonesia that they would not agree to towing back the boats,” said Mr Bowen.

It seems that as a matter of public information this issue no longer exists with the urgency now relegated to weekly information sessions or via Scott Morrison’s press secretary, that every illegal boat which “marks a failure of foreign policy” will be information disseminated perhaps accurately but certainly not in a timely manner. Urgency has drifted to once a week information sessions.

Is it that Prime Minister Abbott has  little desire to fulfill his previous commitment to call a double dissolution election on this issue? “Failures” may or may not be known by the public, or even more suspect:  Is it that the Abbott government intends to set its own asylum seeker policy up for failure?

By making conditions so onerous and insulting for the Indonesian government is it that Abbott has a ready-made fall guy?  The vast majority of Abbott’s rhetoric is that he will tell Indonesia what he intends to do with their country – from turning boats back to their shores, to buying fishing boats (en mass it is assumed) from Indonesians, to setting up “transit ports” on their soil. All rhetoric speaks of infringements against Indonesia’s sovereign rights to do what they want in their own country. For Operation Sovereign Boarders to succeed it needs the cooperation of the Indonesian Government, which has not, and will not be forthcoming. For their failure to comply with Abbott’s infringement upon their sovereignty I can see that they are nicely being set-up as the fall guy.

That is only one are of failure. There are possibly more.

Again from the Sydney Morning Herald:

Under Operation Sovereign Borders two frigates, seven patrol boats and numerous Customs vessels will patrol the seas between Christmas Island and Ashmore Reef and Indonesia.

Anzac Class frigates cost about $207,000-a-day to operate compared with $40,000-a-day for Armidale Class Patrol boats.

Seven frigates at $207,000 a day means that Operation Sovereign Boarders would cost the taxpayer over $520M a year for the Navy’s contribution alone. Then there are the Global Hawke Drones, if he decides to go ahead with them, at a cost of $US218M each. How many might he want? In an environment of a budget emergency, how long before the taxpayers rest a little uneasy about the enormous expense of detecting or intercepting the boats that are apparently going to stop coming?

Then there are other logistics. Officials would conduct health checks on the ship or at the port, and the smuggled people would be taken to nearby airports for charter flights direct to Nauru and Manus Island. They can’t go to Indonesia, of course, because Indonesia have sensibly rejected Tony Abbott’s invasive plan.

And which port, by the way?

So we are now back to where we were at any period over the last six years, but at a higher cost to the taxpayer. However, Tony Abbott can no longer blame Kevin Rudd or Julia Gillard so he will directly blame Indonesia. Will this be an excuse to not call a double dissolution? We’ll see.

Operation Sovereign Borders will not only go down as Tony Abbott’s biggest policy flop but one of great expense.

But we’ll never hear about it.

* A post by Michael and Carol Taylor

John Lord’s Election Diary Update No. 5

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My Election Diary has gathered a large number of loyal followers. I appreciate your comments and I am encouraged to keep going with it. Any suggestions are welcome.

Thursday, August 3

The Banks

“Australian Financial Regulators” all agree a small impost to safeguard the banks against future problems is a good idea. The banks are most upset and say they will pass on the cost despite the obscene profits they are making. I cannot help but wonder why it is always socialism that bails out capitalism. “Never in the history of this nation have the corporate and privately rich been so openly brazen”.

Friday, August 4

I Give a Gonski

“As far as school funding is concerned, Kevin Rudd and I are on a unity ticket. There is no difference between Kevin Rudd and myself when it comes to school funding,” Mr Abbott said.

I absolutely hate being taken for a fool. If he and Pyne think I’m going to fall for this nonsense he has another thing coming. It makes me so bloody angry.

The fact is, that, the proposals are entirely different. There is no requirement for the states to chip in. There is no requirement for the states to distribute according to need. And there is no long-term commitment. This is nothing like Gonski. This is just a 4-year plan to spend an extra $2.8 billion over four years. The Government’s plan is the full package $10 billion over 6 years. And most of the funding is in the final two years.

Where is a guarantee of equality of opportunity in Abbott’s policy? There isn’t. It’s just bullshit aimed at placating the electorate. In the space of three weeks, the Coalition has changed policy three times.

“There is no difference between Kevin Rudd and myself when it comes to school funding.”

It’s just more lies. See what Politifact think.

Saturday, August 5

More on the opposition Gonski con job. And what a con job it has turned out to be. Dennis Napthine the Victorian Premier on the eve of signing sold out the kids of Victoria. And for political purposes. Conservatives really couldn’t give a stuff about our kids’ education.

In a nutshell, here are the key differences between Labor and the Coalition as of today. If you want some more detail, see this short interview explaining the day’s events what an impact we’re making! — with Kylie Stoneman.

The Way Things Are

In the Governments ‘’Economic Update’’ Chris Bowen has opted for reality rather than Wayne Swan’s elusive hope of stronger growth and a budget surplus. This is, I think, commendable. We like things stated the way they are. With honesty. In doing so he draws attention to the difficulties of economic forecasting. For any government, Treasury has the best methodology available to it and still can’t get it right. Joe Hockey, on the other hand, intends using outsiders and reckons he will.

The point of the Economic Statement is to recalibrate the argument and in the process restart it. Rudd and Bowen will argue that the economy is going through a transition and is not in crisis as Hockey keeps saying. And this is the reality. Blind Freddy can see that the revenues aren’t there. In Costello’s time, treasury used to get it wrong the other way. Surpluses were continually increased as commodity prices went up and up.

I can recall when I was in business and I would produce an annual budget based on a number of assumptions. Then I might lose an order or a client and it would be shot to pieces. That might sound simplistic but budgets are just economic guides. That’s all.

In such circumstances, the Coalition usually employs a philosophy of slash and burn and it remains to be seen what they intend doing if (God help us) they are elected.

They now have the economic statement and 10 days after the election is called they will have PEFO. There will be no excuse not to fully cost their proposals and in plenty of time before the election. And the savings and policy decisions will have to be based on the now known Labor bottom line.

It must be remembered that there is little money in the kitty to make rash promises. Labor has $500 million in funded but unannounced policies so it will be an election with very little in the way of handouts. The Coalition will have to be front on and center as to where they will cut to pay for their promises. $11 billion for their direct action environment policy for example.

So, Labor will go into this election campaign with not much to offer other than some of the biggest reforms this country has ever seen. The opposition, as yet, is offering nothing and with no money to do so is at a policy loose end. Therefore, it goes into the election agreeing with the government’s reforms (if only in part) which is remarkable in itself.

The advantage for the government in all this is that, (given that all the Governments costings are in the public arena), the entire focus will be on the opposition’s willingness to be open and transparent about its intentions.

The Tax Base

The following is an extract from an article by Laura Tingle in the Financial Times and is most important
‘’A perhaps unintended message from the statement, however, must dog both sides of politics: it is simply not feasible for governments of either persuasion to keep patching over the shortfalls of the existing volatile and inadequate tax base.
A key question for both sides of politics will be how detailed a commitment, now detailed a discussion, they are prepared to have about what must be done about this.’’

And this is a good read about debt.

Alan Austin’s Quiz is not only fun but gives an in-depth analysis of the Coalition. Say hello to Tony.

Thanks for reading my diary. I was going to tip an election announcement today but now I’m not sure.

Carbon Tax Axed – sellout or smart politics?

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From the Age we learn that Rudd dumps Gillard’s carbon tax. Then Treasurer Chris Bowen confirms Government will scrap carbon tax for floating price.

Ok, the headlines are telling us that Labor have “dumped, “scrapped”, and many other words which mean that it’s gone. Predictably the Opposition is outraged. No, it’s not really gone. It’s still a MASSIVE cost to you all. And, BTW, this decision will cost the Budget $15 Billion.

Um, so let me see if I have this right? It’s still too much, but we can’t afford to scrap it. I’m a little confused by the message from the Opposition, but never mind, I’m sure they’ll get their act together and tell us exactly why this decision was wrong.

In the meantime, let’s have a look at what’s actually happening. Rudd is bringing forward the date of moving toward an emission trading scheme from July 2015 to July 2014. This will mean that the price paid drops to around $6 a tonne. Of course, we can’t say exactly what it’ll drop to, because the price will be determined by the market. At the moment, because Europe is still suffering the effects of the GFC (Yes, Tony, I know that the GFC finished in 2007), the price is low, but in twelve months time, this price could be slightly higher than the current $6. Or lower. The price will be determined in a year’s time and as Yogi Berra said, “Predictions are hard, especially about the future.”

Will this decision make a big difference to the overall impact of climate change action? I suspect not. For example, people and companies who’ve installed solar panels on their roof aren’t going to rip them off. Institutions that have found ways of saving energy aren’t likely to say, “Wow, let’s leave the lights on overnight, just so we can waste electricity because it’s so much cheaper.” The Carbon Tax has had some effect on people’s behaviour, and while the incentives won’t be as strong from July 2014, we were always moving to an emissions trading scheme at some point. One year earlier isn’t significant when compared to the Opposition’s policy of no disincentive at all.

I’m sure that some will argue that this is a “backdown” and that Rudd is selling out, but given that an emissions trading scheme was the policy that he took to the electorate in 2007, he can certainly argue that this is HIS policy and that he’s moving from that “awful” carbon tax to a plan that we voted for – only to have it blocked by Abbott. In fact, the Liberals went to the 2007 election promising that we’d get an emissions trading scheme, only to block it in Opposition. Where were the complaints about broken promises and lies then?

So, will this prove smart politics by Rudd? He’ll cop some flak from the Greens and those of us who genuinely want to see action on the environment, but politically, that won’t necessarily be a bad thing. In the end, most of those voters will drift back to Labor via preferences. And the part of Australia who’ve  been listening to Abbott’s mantra about the Carbon Tax being too expensive and that Labor is captive to the Greens (Ha!) will get the impression that Rudd has taken decisive action. The Liberals are saying that this just proves that they were right all along, but claiming credit has rarely meant much in politics. Abbott complained for three years; Rudd came in and “fixed” things. And that’s the problem for the Liberals now: They’ve spent three years ruthlessly attacking Julia Gillard, and when most people think of Abbott they think of the “Dr No” persona. Turning the attack to Rudd creates the impression that all Abbott does is whinge.

Being a winning Opposition Leader is hard. We’ve only had five successful in the last fifty years. None since Gough Whitlam were Opposition Leader at the previous election. And he had a positive agenda, and a promise to end an unpopular war. Abbott had a promise to end an “unpopular” tax. Now he has a booklet and a scowl. It may not be enough.


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