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Tag Archives: Hockey

Amanda Vanstone, “Illegals” and the stampede of elephants

A few weeks ago, I talked about The Elephant in The Room in relation to the lack of women in Abbott’s Cabinet. The idea of the elephant in the room is, of course, something very obvious which nobody seems to be mentioning. Well, I’m beginning to think that before Abbott’s term is over, we’ll have such a large herd that we can start making piano keys out of ivory again.

Let’s start with Joe Hockey’s comment on Wednesday.

Well that’s because Labor created the debt. It’d be the height of hypocrisy for the Labor Party which started the fires in relation to the debt, to complain about us trying to stop the fires, to start to pay down the debt, to start to back-burn and get back to surplus.

Adam Bandt was attacked for trying to link the bushfires to climate change. Yet here we have Hockey trying to link the ALP to the fires and I haven’t noticed any criticism. Or aren’t we meant to draw any link between the NSW fires and his metaphor? Is it just an unfortunate coincidence that there happened to be bushfires and Hockey had forgotten all about it? Or was it a deliberate, pusillanimous statement from a man who now wants to distract us all from his “budget emergency” rhetoric. Back-burning? Next we’ll hear that a rise in unemployment is because the economy is doing so well that more people are seeking work!

Then we have Scott Morrison’s determination to have asylum seekers referred to as “illegals”.

Now, for just one second, I’d like to accept Scott Morrison on his word, because being a Christian, I know that he wouldn’t be deliberately lying. After al,l in this article from Misha Schubert on February 15, 2008, he declares his views on “righteousness”, which surely would mean a reluctance to lie.

“Declaring his faith was not a political agenda, he said it would, however, shape his political agenda based on values of kindness, justice and righteousness.”

The Liberals often present themselves as being tough on “law and order”. Yet apart from some time in “remand” (the detention centres), not one of these asylum seekers has been charged with a crime. Yet – we’re told – they have entered the country “illegally”. Why are they not being charged with this “crime”.

It seems strange to me. Surely, if they’ve done something illegal, there should be charges. Perhaps someone should ask Morrison about this failure of our justice system. After all, he does say his political agenda is based on justice. But he also says it’s based on kindness, so perhaps he’s just confused.

As for the committee of audit, there have been some eyes raised at the inclusion of Amanda Vanstone and querying her qualifications to be there. (She does have a column in a newspaper, and as Andrew Bolt will assure you, that makes you an expert on everything!) So let’s have a look at Vanstone’s career.

Prior to politics, she attained both Law and Arts degrees, and further qualifications in Legal Practice and a Marketing Studies Certificate, and she was as a retailer in a large department store. She ran her own business selling prints and pictures frames, before working as a legal practitioner.

As a politician, she held numerous portfolios none of which where in Treasury or Finance. But she was Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Status of Women. Her achievements as a minister included abolishing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC). As Immigration Minister, she was showed her humane side by overturning a deportation order and granting a visa to Francesco Madafferi, in spite of alleged criminal connections, and, in spite of alleged donations to the Liberal Party from members of his family. She was twice dropped from Howard’s cabinet. But she did show her creative side in February 2007 with Under Southern Stars.

So why would Amanda Vanstone be chosen to be on the Commission of Audit? Well, when she was Minister for Family and Community Services, her opposite, Wayne Swan described her as “a political hyena who takes delight in attacking society’s most vulnerable”. And this audit commission certainly needs someone with that sort of expertise in looking at Centrelink.

As for the inclusion of Peter Boxall, you might find this quote from an interview with him which appeared in The Canberra Times in 2006 instructive:

Asked if in cutting the first deficit there was anything that caused him anguish, he says, “No. I don’t recall actually. It was quite interesting that the public service didn’t seem well prepared for it and a lot of it was driven by the new ministers.” In doing this he says they met resistance, including from central agencies. He agrees that he has wielded the knife for a fair bit of his career and, when asked if he prefers this to doling out money he says, “I would not prefer to be doling out money because I have great respect for taxpayers’ money and I don’t like supporting programs which I don’t think are good value for the taxpayer.”

I guess it reminds me of “Yes, Minister.”

Minister, two basic rules of government: Never look into anything you don’t have to. And never set up an enquiry unless you know in advance what its findings will be.’

Let me just cautiously predict the Audit Commission will recommend selling Medibank Private, Australia Post and one of two other things. It will also find that the Government needs to cut spending in some sensitive areas. It will not use the words “cut spending” preferring to talk about “eliminating waste”. Hockey will say this means that we need to be harsh in the Budget, but it’s Labor’s fault.

I also predict that the “back-burning” may get out of control.


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The Economy is Like a Giant Blancmange, Except that it’s Not.

Many people see the economy as like a household budget. You need to keep it all neat and orderly and manage it. Others see it as like the weather. There’s nothing you can to do change it, so you just have to adjust as it happens. I could find plenty of analogies for what the economy is like, but I think it’s worth quoting George E. P. Box here: “All models are wrong; some are useful.”

As far as the economy goes, here in Australia, we’ve often been encouraged to see it similar to the “weather” model: Lots of things beyond our control dictate how well it performs and beyond having an umbrella handy, there’s nothing much we can really do about it. We’re a small country and we don’t have the scale or clout to affect things very much.

Of course, this is partially true, which is what makes it compelling, but let’s not forget that all models, all analogies, all comparisons are arbitrary and man-made.

An economy is – well, an economy. And while there are various ways we can look at it, break it down into sub-sections and individual parts such as the local economy or the world economy, in the end these are just to give it meaning and structure. When Margaret Thatcher said that there was no such thing as society, she may as well have added that there is no such thing as “the economy”.

I make this point, not as a sort of first year philosophy discussion, but because a lot of convention wisdom about the economy is just that. It’s an agreed set of beliefs that economists generally agree about (and disagree, within certain parameters). A few years ago, for example, I heard an economist explain that China was doing the wrong thing by not floating their currency. Apparently, the reason China wasn’t doing this is because it was to their advantage. But it was the wrong thing to do.

Australia has been doing the “right thing” for years – opening borders, privatising, floating the dollar, reducing Government spending in certain areas. And it could be argued that this has served Australia well, but that’s a rather large debate and not completely relevant the point I’m making.

The Labor Government copped both praise and criticism for the way it responded to the Global Financial Crisis. The strongest comeback for Labor is that Australia was one of the few countries in the world that didn’t go into recession. To counter this, the argument that the Liberals have been running for years is that the money they spent was too much, and mismanaged. Of course, it’s always easy to argue hypothetically about something past. (I can argue that if Melbourne Football Club had appointed me coach two years ago they’d have been in the finals now, rather than near the bottom of the ladder. Nobody can prove me wrong!)

Labor did what it did, borrowed what it borrowed and spent the money on identifiable things. But let’s not take up the politics of this, or the conventual economic view that Labor were wise to get into as little debt as possible, let’s take a totally “irresponsible” view. What if Labor had borrowed twice* as much, and awash with funds set up a state of the art, world class research facility which would have attracted the best scientific minds in the world. Or something long-term to help our competitiveness in the future. Like improving the availability and speed of the internet. Oh, yes, I forgot. When’s that stopping again?

The thing is Labor were in Government. They had control. They could have spent more, or less. They could have lowered taxes, or raised them. They had lots of ways in which they could affect the economy. The debt itself wasn’t the issue. …

The debt was political. The Liberals would have squawked about things getting out of control under Labor. Whereas now, a 66% increase in the debt ceiling is ok. Except that we’re not meant to be hitting it for ANOTHER THREE YEARS. That’s three years of “responsible” economic management.

Responsible economic management that may include the sale of Medibank Private, which was mentioned before the election, and the sale of the HECS debt, Australia Post and a range of things that weren’t. Imagine if Labor had tried even selling one of these to pay off debt or to bring in the NDIS.

Of course, the real reason that Hockey is increasing the debt ceiling by so much, I suspect, is so much that he expects to hit it, but that he doesn’t want to have raise it again before the next election, and that not hitting it will be used as “sign of good, responsible management” as in Labor raised the debt ceiling more that once, but we just did it the once and look we haven’t hit it, aren’t we good?

I think that’s about the size of it, economically speaking. As the economy is like the weather, I’ll end with this analogy:

Labor was blamed for the rain. They then bought too many sand-bags to use in the levy bank to protect us from the flood. We didn’t need that many sand-bags because no water got over the levy bank, so we put the Liberals in charge. It’s stopped raining. We put in an order for nearly twice as many sand-bags. When the next lot of rain comes, the Liberals will claim credit for the fact that they didn’t use all the sand-bags.

So Labor went $285 billion into debt to save us from the GFC, what’ll be the Coalition’s excuse?

*Someone I’m sure will point out that funds were not easy to obtain in the GFC, even for Governments. I’m conveniently overlooking that because it’s not relevant to the points I’m going to make later on, and as this is hypothetical, I can – like Tony Abbott – completely ignore reality when it doesn’t suit me.



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Hockey To Lift Debt Ceiling by 33%, and the Hypocrisy Level to an All-time High

If you search really hard, you’ll find some reporting of this:

“The Federal Government’s debt ceiling could be raised to $400 billion in a bid to head off the financial tremors facing the US.

Treasurer Joe Hockey has used a speech in the US to signal the debt ceiling – currently $300 billion – would be increased to take account of the Government’s required borrowings.

Mr Hockey will have to increase Australia’s debt ceiling by Christmas. Total debt is expected to peak at $370 billion by April 2016.

Mr Hockey said yesterday the ceiling was likely to be well above the bare minimum required.

“We believe the debt limit needs to be set at a level that provides sufficient headroom to accommodate likely events but also to provide discipline to budgetary management,” he said.

“It must be the case that debt limits should only be altered when unexpected significant events necessitate a call on the markets.”

The Federal Government yesterday sold $800 million in debt at an interest rate of 3.8 per cent, taking total debt on issue to $284.5 billion.”

The West Australian

Of course part of this, like everything for the next few months, can reasonably be argued as a hangover from Labor. (Although I suspect any fall in unemployment will be claimed immediately!) It’s the sentence sandwiched in between all those other boring numbers that I want to draw everyone’s attention to!

“Total debt is expected to peak at $370 billion by April 2016.”

Now I know that there are various ways in which it can be argued that our net debt isn’t as high as the figures being thrown about. And I am well aware that relative to GDP, Australia is very well off compared to the rest of the world. Economics is rarely ever straightforward, so I don’t want to be distracted from the main point here by all the intricacies of Australia’s debt.

Taking the figure quoted in the article, our current debt in $284.5 billion, then the estimate of $370 billion by 2016 increases our debt by $85 billlion dollars. I’m aware that almost no-one – including me – grasps really big numbers, so let me break this down a little.

After nearly three years of an Abbott Government that was elected to stop Labor’s “wasteful” spending” and to stop putting things on the “credit card”, they will have actually increased our total debt. Of course, it could be argued that this figure is only an estimate, but according to some reports Hockey wants to raise the debt ceiling to $400 billion to cover “contingencies”.

Or to break the figure down a little more, it means that the Government will be borrowing close to $100 million a day for the next three years. Now where have I heard that figure before? Oh that’s right, from here:

“Every year that the budget is in deficit is a year that Australia is living beyond its means,” says the Coalition’s Treasury spokesman, Joe Hockey.

The Coalition’s calculation that Australia is borrowing $100 million a day gives a sense of government excess.

– See more at:

And here:


I think that if the Government wasn’t borrowing $100 million every single day it would a lot easier for the banks to keep interest rates down. Everyone needs to understand that when the Government is out there borrowing $100 million every single day, there is going to be upwards pressure on interest rates. So, the best thing the Government can do to help the Australian people is get its own spending under control.

Just as well the Liberals are there to fix this budget emergency, because borrowing well in excess of $90 million dollars day is apparently no problem at all.

Image courtesy of


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Joe Hockey Manages to Smear Himself

The Courier Mail today ran a story revealing that would-be Treasurer Joe Hockey failed to declare a family interest for most of the duration of his Parliamentary life.

Mr Hockey declared the directorship of Steel Harbour Pty Ltd held by his wife, Melissa Babbage, in May last year among a series of “new positions” under spouse declaration rules. But business records show Ms Babbage was appointed to the role in 1998. Pecuniary interest register declarations are supposed to be made within a month.

What was even more interesting than the seeming disregard for public accountability, was Mr Hockey’s response to the story …

“As I become aware of my wife’s commercial interests I declare them, as is appropriate,” Mr Hockey said.

No, Sir, that’s not good enough. Setting aside the question of what it implies about a relationship that one can go over a decade without knowing about one’s spouses’ Directorships, the rules pertaining to the register of pecuniary interests are such that you have an obligation to ask your wife about them. But what’s most extraordinary about Mr Hockey’s response was his utter petulance, nay arrogance in declaring the revelation to be a Labor “smear campaign”.

Mr Hockey said: “The Labor Party has previously engaged in this type of muckraking and then been forced to correct such unsubstantiated assertions. It is a desperate action from a desperate government.”

No go, Joe. I mean, what “smear”? There’s no indication from you the story is incorrect. There’s no concession from you – at least none reported that I can find – that you erred significantly. No apology. No “oops”. Just a pathetic attempt to pass the buck to those who are simply pointing out that you have failed in an important area of public accountability. Is it too much to ask that you acknowledge the failure and offer at least a smidgen of contrition? It’s not the Labor Party asking this of you, Joe, it’s the Australian public (or at least those that think such things matter).

Earlier this year when Liberal heavyweight Arthur Sinodinos was forced to apologise to the Senate for failing to declare a bunch of Directorships, he at least showed some character. Can you, Mr Hockey, match that? Do you share a similar level of concern and regard for the principle of transparency in Government? It would appear not.

Even if were to come to light that you had expressed some sort of penitence it wouldn’t matter, as trying to make the issue about Labor and “smear campaigns” is a pathetic and cowardly way to attempt to abrogate your personal responsibilities. And you want us to support you as a future Federal Treasurer?

What’s also somewhat tangentially interesting about the Courier Mail’s story, is that despite the fact they were revealing a not insignificant failure on Joe Hockey’s part, they nevertheless saw fit to litter the story with photos clearly intended to show him in a positive way. Happy snaps of him and his wife, culminating in a fantastically irrelevant-to-the-story family shot of the couple and their children.

I don’t know about you, but I prefer my news services, when reporting actual news, to not attempt to emotionally manipulate me, and how else is such a thing to be interpreted?


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