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Tag Archives: Howard government

The Truth about Debt and Deficit

Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au

Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au

A guest post from John Kelly, putting the complexity of debt and deficit into simple English and exposing the hypocrisy of Joe Hockey’s references to Labor’s economic management.

Why Joe Hockey will rue the Howard Government’s fiscal mis-management.

Have you ever thought what would happen if everyone in Australia went to their bank and asked to withdraw all their money, all on the same day? Ask Joe Hockey. He will tell you the crisis such an event would kick start doesn’t bear thinking about. He’s right about that. The first customers to arrive would be successful but somewhere down the queue the rest would be told the money had run out. Surprised? No, and you shouldn’t be, but that is just the beginning. Have you ever asked why the banks could not pay out their customers’ deposits? No prizes here; the answer is relatively simple: they lend most of our money to entrepreneurs like you and me so that we can build houses, start businesses and so on. In turn, they receive interest on those loans some of which comes back to us as interest credits.  All sounds good doesn’t it?

In fact, it isn’t good. It’s nothing more than a smoke screen cleverly masking something far more sinister; something that makes fools of all of us and which, if we wanted to, we could collectively act to bring undone. We won’t, of course, because in destroying this obscene arrangement we would also destroy ourselves.

Over the latter half of the 20th century the money game has become incredibly sophisticated. It has evolved to a point where, today, it is so complex and difficult to understand, only a few at the core actually know what is driving it and only those at the core know what disastrous consequences await the world should it ever be dismantled. Yet, dismantled it should be because it offers nothing but misery and uncertainty for generations to come. Why? Because  today, we are living off the expected profits of future generations and they will only have to do the same when their time comes or suffer the same fate we are desperately trying to avoid. One thing is certain: it has a use-by date.

It’s all to do with debt and deficit and where the money that funds debt and deficit comes from. We call it money but it is really currency. Money is something of value, something that can be bought and sold. Coal is money. Currency is the transfer of securities posing as money.  Issuing bonds to finance infrastructure, social services and wars, is currency. What we deal with today is currency. When a government wants to undertake a project that it can’t pay through taxation revenues it issues bonds that are usually snapped up by banks. Banks love bonds because they are a cash cow in ways the average man or woman on the street doesn’t understand. If they did, they would be outraged. When a bank buys government bonds it receives interest on those bonds but it also uses those bonds as collateral to receive currency from the Reserve Bank. So, it wins twice, because it calculates its asset value by including both the value of the bonds as well as the currency it receives from the Reserve Bank. That currency is then used to lend to other interest producing sources. The thing to understand here is that the Reserve Bank doesn’t have the money to do this either, so it also borrows or simply creates money by writing a cheque to finance the deal with the banks. In turn it gains interest on the deal which it uses to pay a dividend to its depositors. All along this weird currency trail, debt is building up for all the players. In fact, none of them are solvent in the true sense of the word. They are all hedging on the future. It’s a vicious cycle where each institution is receiving currency and passing it on while receiving and paying interest along the way. None of these institutions actually has the money in their vaults to support their transactions. Their borrowings expose them in ways that make a mockery of the true value of money. This could be demonstrated easily if everyone went to their bank on the same day and withdrew their money. It would expose a flawed system that lives off credit to a point where, one day, this paper thin economy will collapse. When that collapse comes, as it most certainly will, the hammer will fall hardest on the countries who have the highest national debt levels. The US is the most vulnerable right now and the only way it can avoid total collapse is to continue borrowing and printing currency. It is gambling on future generations creating wealth, i.e. money. But those future generations are going to be so overburdened by debt inherited from what is happening today, that they will not have the capacity to create real money. They will simply opt to continue borrowing. There’s a well known saying that if I owe the bank $100,000 and I can’t pay, I’m in trouble. The bank will sell up my home. But, if I owe the bank $1,000,000 and I can’t pay and my home is not worth $1,000,000 then the bank is in trouble. Now multiply that by trillions of dollars, money that has no security to support it and what is the outcome? This, as everyone knows now, was the blueprint for the GFC. There was a time when a country’s risk value was based on its gold and silver reserves; real wealth…money. Today it is based on pure speculation of short term return. Value today, is no more than numbers in a computer. It is not backed up by hard cash.

The only upside to this depressing story is that here in Australia, we have a very low debt . . . for now. But, Joe Hockey knows only too well that the present situation is going to change. By 2016 our national debt will be around $400 billion up from $244 billion as at the end of August 2013. The Treasurer acted quickly to increase the debt ceiling to $500 billion in full knowledge that forward projected revenues will not be sufficient to cover what we intend to spend. He doesn’t want to do it again, but he may well have to if China continues to take less and less of our coal. The tragedy is that it could have been a good deal less if the Howard government had been more fiscally responsible; the government in which Joe Hockey was a minister. Back then, China was our best friend generously contributing a windfall of money to our revenue stream that, had it not been wasted in unnecessary vote buying in the form of middle class welfare programs, could have been deposited in the future fund and placed us in a much stronger position than we are now. The Howard government, to its credit, did pay off our national debt, thanks to China, but had a lot left over. It opted to spend that excess to make itself look good. It rode on the wave of a private debt bubble that ended with the Global Financial Crisis. Long term management was overlooked in favour of political expediency. Hockey will be reflecting on this lost opportunity now as he grapples with the reality of having to increase national debt in the absence of a wave of private debt that kept our economy on such a firm foundation in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. And, while he will do everything in his power to convince us that Rudd and Gillard’s Labor is the culprit, it is his own former government’s actions coupled with the international abuses of real money, present and past, the constant merry-go-round of currency trading between banks and governments that must assume the guilt. When the GFC hit, private borrowing stopped and only government debt saved us from disaster. Nothing has changed. If Hockey doesn’t know this now, he will soon. Six years is no more than a blink on the horizon in currency trading.

John Kelly

 

Australia Cannot Afford the Coalition

australia

This isn’t an article about economics.  This is an article about something far more precious  – Culture.

Australia is losing the best parts of itself and at the speed, this slide is happening we’re going to be culturally bankrupt before we get a chance to save the farm.

Things started to go bad during the Howard years.  Australia’s most reactionary leader and government sought to unravel the fabric of the social reforms of the Whitlam era, particularly in regard to the rights of women, whose proper station in life had clearly been forgotten.

What he couldn’t achieve in that specific respect he made up for with his own ideas on how to reverse the progressive trend of the Nation’s growth pattern.

He took our famed and admittedly somewhat exaggerated “egalitarianism” and thoroughly trashed it with middle-class welfare programs.

He is the progenitor of the modern illness of a sense of entitlement amongst the not-so-badly-off classes.  He is the force behind the demonisation of people seeking asylum in this country.

He took the long-standing and genuine humanitarian impulses of thinking Australians  – from all parts of the political spectrum – and threw them into the frothy wake of a ship called Tampa.

He took the children of moral decency and reason and threw them overboard like so much burly and watched the sharks of racism circle.

He ignited the anxieties of the more conservative and insecure elements of our society with jingoistic rhetoric about border control and who should and should not come to this country.

He openly and brazenly traded in fear and loathing.

It wasn’t just desperate foreign people using desperate measures that he sought to demonise. He managed to do it to all sorts of Australians as well. 

First, it was single mothers, the perception of whom he changed to lazy sluts (with a lot of help from pathologically sanctimonious media types like Ray Martin).

Single mothers in the worst financial positions (getting little or no maintenance) received less GST compensation than any other families.

During this time single mothers were perceived as a threat to the institution of marriage itself.  Not merely symbolically, but quite literally, at least in Conservative terms.  Fifties’ Conservatism.

Then there was the welfare class more generally.  Howard gave life and breath to a deranged individual by the name of Pauline Hanson, whose single greatest contribution to Australian culture is the sickly pious and demented mentality of “downward envy” – envy and judgement directed at people who get something that you don’t, even if they have nothing in the first place, or as one analyst put it, “The unhealthy desires of some people to ensure that anyone they deem to be lower on the social and economic scale than themselves, stays there.”

The Liberals let Pauline go soon enough, only to enthusiastically embrace the worst characteristics of her social policy and sell them wholesale to a public keen for a cheap deal.

Howard also allowed greedy, profiteering insurance companies all across this country to make it nigh on impossible for community groups to continue with publicly staged events.

Fairs, fetes, festivals, concerts and markets closed down all across the land.  Many have never returned.  This particular loss to Australian culture is still being felt today.

Far too little has been made of it.  It is a hugely significant matter to communities everywhere because it is precisely these sorts of events that make communities; these are the things that bind and unite.

Howard’s complete inaction with respect to insurance company profiteering was nothing less than cultural vandalism.  No effort was made to protect communities legislatively.

Then along came Kevin Rudd and a couple of moderate Coalition leaders and it seemed for a second that things might turn around a little.

But by this time Labor had shifted so far to the centre-right that nothing much was going to change.  Some of us thought that at least we might have some respite from the cultural and spiritual decline.  No such luck.

Tony Abbott and the Mainstream Media were soon on hand to ensure that no such respite was to be had.  There was work to be done.  There were institutions to sully, minds to manipulate and demons to exorcise.

If you thought the Howard years were an exercise in abject cynicism, you hadn’t seen anything yet.

Six years of incessant Opposition negativity, mendacity, manipulation, backed, promulgated and codified by a sycophantic media, has reduced this Nation’s heart and soul to a lump of cold, dark charcoal.

No-one can possibly engage in such scurrilous behaviour for an extended period of time and not expect that it will have social repercussions.  Political apathy is a real problem in this country and it’s been made worse by the political environment of the last six years.

Labor is certainly not innocent in this, but their role is far less sinister than that of the Coalition and the Mainstream Media.

But lack of political engagement is not something any political party has to fear when the media is on your side. In fact, it’s in the interests of such a party to try and increase it.  An ostensibly passive audience can be told most anything and have it be believed. 

You simply have to be the one in control of the message.  The Coalition has offered the electorate what amounts to a policy vacuum and many have been sucked into it.

Over the last six years, the Coalition has debased the Parliament by their actions and behaviour within those very chambers.  Labor’s leadership problems were unfortunate (and not entirely of their own making), but they had nothing to do with the Parliament or the Government per se.

They functioned perfectly well on the Government’s side of things despite the dramas happening in the Party Room.   The tragedy is that the Coalition will not be punished in any way for their abject disregard for this Nation’s most significant institution.

The deep cognitive dissonance that has been engendered by a long and consistent campaign to demonise successive Labor Governments will likely be successful. They honestly think they are Pavlov and we are their dogs.

Sadly, the bell will toll for far too many Australian electors.  Conservatives use demonisation at every turn.  They know this taps into the worst parts of the Australian psyche and they don’t care – or perhaps more accurately don’t see it because that’s precisely the realm they inhabit themselves.

Like an emphysemic lung, the soul of the Nation has been gradually darkened by this mentality and the only available oxygen is laced with a toxic blend of Conservative Carbon and Murdoch Monoxide.

Political cynicism and passivity, a rampant sense of entitlement by those who have no cause to feel it, xenophobia, downward envy, loss of charity, loss of our egalitarian spirit, loss of sense of community, loss of trust in important institutions, loss of tolerance.

These are all facets of the cultural decline Australia has been suffering since the Howard Government.  They are all consequences of the Conservative mentality.

It seemed for a moment in 2007 when the Nation flushed the Howard Government down the toilet we’d done so in a moment of genuine insight into what had befallen us.

It’s as though we woke up briefly, but have now returned to our default state of somnambulance.  At this election, we have the opportunity to slow the cultural slide or to add lubricant to it.

Be in no doubt, an Abbott led Coalition Government will be a return to the Howard brand.  A Coalition loss would instead see a movement in their ranks to something more reasonable and moderate, with Malcolm Turnbull at the tiller.

Be in no doubt also that a vote for the Coalition will be a vote for nine months of political and policy chaos.

There is no chance that the Coalition can govern effectively given that the current make-up of the Senate does not change until July next year.  The Greens have the balance of power in the Senate.

Just how much of the Coalition’s policy agenda is going to see the light of day?  Are we headed for a full election of both houses early next year? The Coalition is certainly chest-beating about that prospect.  I guess that’s part of their plan to Stop the Waste. 

Will Abbott instead back away from his policy agenda and tear up his “contract” with the Australian people? 

Will he indulge in the mammoth hypocrisy and contradiction of doing deals with the Greens?   No-one knows. 

What we do know is one of those scenarios will unfold and nothing resembling stable governance will happen for the first nine long months of a Coalition Government.

By contrast, the re-election of the Labor Government will mean a neat segue from a static carbon price to a floating carbon price, and in most other respects, business as usual.

The 2016 Election

Let us indulge ourselves and assume that Rupert Murdoch’s shonky Newspolls are correct and the incompetent, gaffe prone Tony Abbott wins the job of leading us after Saturday’s election and look ahead three years: what would happen in the 2016 election?

What would have voters learned after three years under Tony Abbott (and his moguls)?

The first thing they’d have learned would be the obvious: the Tony Abbott Government they voted in will in no way resemble the government they voted for. What they wanted, looks nothing like what they got. But I don’t think this will be the key issue so I will not address it here. The issue will be about where the country is going, which would be nowhere, rather than how bad Abbott has been in guiding it.

His term as leader would have reinforced our perception of him as he was in opposition. Tony Abbott would not have provided one tiny morsel of evidence that he had any plan of moving this country forward, let alone managing it. This was apparent in his term as Opposition leader. The preceding Labor Government focused fairly and squarely on moving forward but it was stalled not just by sorting through the mess left by the Howard Government, but also amid screams of horror from the opposition that the government was doing absolutely nothing. And as the government’s term progressed during a period when it could have meeting its commitments to the electorate and moving this country forward, it was further stalled by an obstructionist opposition, again, amid screams of horror from those causing the obstructions. Plus of course a fair amount of chest beating.

And by 2016 we would have learned that chest beating about stopping the boats (which will not be stopped) does not move the country forward. Unplugging the national broadband network does not move the country forward either. Nothing he has offered will.

There will be a different demographic in three years time and they will want to see the country move at a pace that keeps up with the rest of the world. And this new demographic is the key. In the three years leading up to the 2016 election youth will have become a powerful electoral tool. Boxlid, who has been a guest poster here commented that:

Our current youth is far more aware than generations before us, they don’t fall for spin and media proclamations, they know how to access information and share it between everyone else.

Ask the teachers in high school about their level of understanding of the students they are teaching. From what I hear, they have to spend extra time to keep up because they don’t have adequate resources available to them.

Our youth are adults at a younger age and capable of making decisions for themselves regarding their own lives. Difficult to accept isn’t it?

Our younger generation are not dumb and stupid. They are creating our future and from my interaction with them in many ways they are remarkable, skilled, talented and forward looking not just two years, not just five years or ten years: they are looking at fifty years or more and embracing all of the potential opportunities that the future has to offer.

The Abbott Government hasn’t offered this new demographic the possibilities of the future. By 2016 there will be hundreds of thousands of new voters demanding it. Hundreds of thousands of voters unhindered by the influence of a declining media and discontent with the country’s stagnation. They will have a voice.

Tony Abbott would have given no indication that he has any idea of what’s happening in the rest of the world. He would have shown also he has no idea that the mind-set of most people in Western world has been dragged out of the 1970s. The world is not flat and we now live in a global society.

Furthermore, we are in a new environment of border-less or global economies and markets. One major challenge he faced in this global economy was to think, plan and act globally as well as domestically. He will have failed. He remained entrenched in his 1970s mindset. He failed to develop an international focus amid the diminishing influence of domestic markets in the face of the competitive global economy and global ideas (think technology and climate change). This global village provided an opportunity he overlooked. In 2016 we would have expected that a successful government recognised it as an opportunity and would have initiated changes in response to those opportunities.

Mr Abbott didn’t have a global mindset and he failed to move the country forward. The new demographic will recognise this far more than the rest of us and their vote will be influential. More so than ever before. The older demographic that Tony Abbott has appealed to will have diminished significantly.

What, then, would happen in the 2016 election?

My prediction: possibly Bill Shorten to lead Labor to a win over an out-of-touch Tony Abbott.

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A dog that’s had its day

John Howard

A guest comment by R James

In a week when the Federal Opposition has accused the Government of resurrecting Kevin Rudd in the hope that he will restore the government’s electoral prospects, the conservative opposition has itself turned to former Prime Minister John Howard in the hope that he can save the Coalition under the weight of Tony Abbott’s stewardship.

John Winston Howard appeared Saturday June 29 2013 at the Federal Coalitions American style electoral rally in Melbourne, preaching from the conservative bible to the largely converted, offering nothing but slogan’s and contradictory reviews of the Labor Governments performance. It was only a few weeks ago that this former Prime Minister weighed into the economic debate with full praise for Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her treasurer Wayne Swan’s management of the country and its finances. In view of his attacks on the Federal Government at Saturdays rally, is it possible that the former Prime Minister is developing dementia in retirement? History does record that he has suffered memory loss in the past (along with some of his senior ministers and coalition partners) – during the oil for food fiasco; the now former Liberal Prime Minister (and others, like Mr Vaile – who is nowadays a strong advocate for CSG and fracking in northern NSW) declared (at the time) that they had no memory of selling wheat to Iraq, while our boys and girls (along with the sons and daughters of our allies) were over there fighting in a war that was started over a lie. The man was extremely lucky not to have been detained and charged with war crimes . . . his role in declaring war against a sovereign state on the flimsiest of evidence, when others were telling him that there was no conclusive evidence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, lead to the ongoing slaughter of thousands of innocent people and the removal and execution of a head of state.

In an effort to counter the return of Rudd, the Opposition turned to a man who was only the second Prime Minister in history to lose his seat in a federal election. A man who the major credit agencies and the IMF have identified as Australia’s ‘Spend thrift’ Prime Minister: the most excessive and reckless manager of Australia’s finances in living memory. He lavished taxpayer dollars on his own interests, while telling the electorate that it was in their interest; such as $8,000 on a wine connoisseur to educate him on what wines should be served when entertaining visiting diplomats and dignitaries; new décor for the Lodge and in his last term of office; thousands of tax payer dollars to refurbish the recently upgraded commonwealth jet which he used to ferry him back and forth across the country while holidaying in Broome, Western Australia . . . concurrent to all of this, his government introduced ‘Work for the dole’ (citing that the unemployed must not sponge off the taxpayers . . . that is the reserve of politicians). This was the man who burdened the people of Australia with the all invasive GST – with the pledge that it would destroy the black economy . . . along with the promise that with its introduction his Government would remove a raft of other levies and hidden taxes (but none were ever removed) and there at their rally, they the Liberal’s had the bare faced gall to wave placard’s declaring that they represent ‘lower taxes’ and a fairer society. History tells that their concept of a fairer society is the wealthy exploiting the poor at every opportunity. Conservative corporate heads strive to strip their workers of all entitlements and safety provisions so that their company can run on the smell of an oily rag . . . its all about profit, not philanthropy . . . they aim to have one man working and six waiting at the door to fill his place, when he collapses through exhaustion or ill health.

They are and always will be the manipulators of the little man, the average man and are not worth trusting under any circumstances . . . not unless you are blind to what has happened in the past and what is happening else where in the world at these times.

Joe Hockey, Welfare to Work and a pack of damn lies

While researching my forthcoming post ‘Keep your hands off  the poor, Mr Hockey’ (in response to yesterday’s speech to the IPA where welfare cuts were flagged), I dug into my archives and came across this recent post exposing Joe Hockey’s contempt for the country’s disadvantaged. It should make a good prelude to my forthcoming topic. Keep it in mind.

But first . . .

It is hard to keep a lie hidden forever, especially if you don’t dust over its tracks. I’ve uncovered one from Joe Hockey. Not only was it a lie, but it was also an act of contempt from the Howard Government towards disadvantaged Australians, or indeed, all Australians.

The lie goes back awhile, back to the failed Welfare to Work (WtW) program introduced in 2005 to increase workforce participation among single parents, people with disabilities, and unemployed people aged over 50. I won’t bother with the finer details of the policy; it’s not important.

We didn’t hear much about WtW until March 2007; an election year. With the polls turning bad for Howard, success stories of the Government needed to be ‘put out there’. Apparently WtW was a great success according to Joe Hockey:

Welfare changes and a healthy job market are set to deliver the Federal Government a $500 million budget surprise this financial year as the number of people on income support payments falls faster than expected.

The Employment Minister, Joe Hockey, seized on the figures as evidence the Government’s controversial welfare and industrial relations changes were helping disadvantaged people find jobs.

Latest estimates by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations [DEWR] show income support payments will cost $21.76 billion in 2006-07, down from the $22.28 billion estimated in last year’s budget.

The largest savings are coming from a lower than expected number of people on the disability support pension [DSP] under the welfare to work changes and falling dole payments to the unemployed.

Well that was a lie but the media brought it. Let’s look at the DSP numbers for, and surrounding, 2007. Here’s a summary:

DSP Population as at June

2006: 712,163

2007: 714,156

2008: 732,367

If the figures were going up, then what happened to the $500M that was meant to be saved?

The Howard Government wanted it for something else, hence the lie that it wasn’t needed under the WtW program. My source tells me that the Secretary of DEWR, Dr Peter Boxall, was instructed to take $750M from Newstart and DSP payments as it was needed elsewhere, with no explanation given. This infuriated Boxall (a Howard appointee), but he had no option other than to ‘find’ the money, however, could only come up with $500M. My informant attests that this demand came from the top, which could only mean Hockey or even Howard himself.

It was not a political move, although it is easy to assume it might have been given it was an election year. No, it was much more sinister than that.

In February 2007 the US Vice President, Dick Cheney visited Australia and Howard offered more support to the US to help with their war in Iraq. This is what Howard offered:

. . . a strengthening of . . . training effort comprising a dedicated logistics team of roughly 50 personnel, together with about 20 extra Army training instructors to work with the Iraqi Army.

And that, it is whispered, is where the money went. It was ripped away from needy Australians to help America with their war in Iraq. Aided, by the way, with a nice little terrorist alert around the same time to help cushion the blow; to win public support. A terrorist alert, I have on advice, that was fabricated for political gain.

‘Lying and contempt’ is the LNP modus operandi.

Keep this in mind when reading my next post.

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Howard’s golden age: a history lesson

“I’ll recreate Howard’s golden age”.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says he is “wholly and solely” dedicated to recreating the “golden age” of the last coalition government.

We, the electorate who will decide if Tony Abbott gets his chance, need to be reminded of what life was like in Howard’s golden age.

Here’s one from the vault, written by Natasha Stott Despoja in 2002 at the heart of the golden age which prods our memory:

Many Australians are aware of how the Howard Government’s poll-driven rhetoric is reshaping the Australian psyche. But they don’t know how the poll-driven policies are reshaping Australian government.

Over the past seven years Prime Minister John Howard and Treasurer Peter Costello have repeatedly cut support to the poor and vulnerable, and spent taxpayers’ money buying votes. This government is the highest-taxing, highest-spending government in our history. Government spending has jumped from 32 to 38 per cent of gross domestic product while it has been in power. But at each budget it has cut services to the poor.

This year’s budget is the latest installment. People earning more than $85,000 are getting tax cuts in the form of the superannuation surcharge changes, and the baby bonus will pay high-income women up to five times as much as low-income women. Yet this government has no reservations about cuts for the disabled and to poor people’s access to medicine.

The government’s cuts to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme are aimed at the poor. The goal is to cut the number of people using the subsidised medicine scheme by adding $1 to the cost for concession cardholders (who make up 80 per cent of scheme costs). It is the very poor that will make the decision not to get a prescription filled because of a $1 increase.

The changes to the disability pension do the same to the disabled. Under the government’s proposal, people who are capable of working more than 15 hours a week won’t be eligible for the pension. They will be treated like any unemployed person. At a time when there are eight registered unemployed people for every job, the disabled face an uphill battle competing for jobs. Discrimination, and the effort required by employers, makes it likely that the disabled will be the ones left on the shelf.

The government wants to compound the difficulties these people already face in their day-to-day lives by removing their supports. Not only will their incomes be cut by more than $52 a fortnight, they will also lose pensioner concession cards and will be subject to penalties if they fail to negotiate the hoops and hurdles of “mutual obligation”.

While such high levels of long-term unemployment exist, these cuts are pointless and cruel.

The government now has a clear choice – and an opportunity to clearly state its priorities. The opportunity for this transparency in the government’s agenda should be welcomed, because over the past seven years the Treasurer has implemented this strategy by stealth. Despite Australia experiencing a once-in-a-generation economic boom, at every turn the Treasurer has argued that he has no choice but to implement cuts for the most disadvantaged.

This year’s diversion is the war on terrorism. The war costs are in the order of just 10 per cent of the deficit. The government’s rhetoric is a poll-driven ploy to distract people from the facts. The budget is under strain due to a blow-out in spending on well-to-do swinging voters.

So far, this strategy has been electorally successful, but we ask the government to consider the Australia it will deliver. Under this government we are losing the Australian ethos of “a fair go for all”. The sort of vision Howard and Costello are pitching is an Australia where the most vulnerable in our community are displaced and the wealthiest are given tax breaks.

Stop attacks on the poor.

(Senator Natasha Stott Despoja was leader of the Australian Democrats).

The Tony Abbott we see and hear today is a mirror image of the John Howard of 2002. Bugger the poor.

For the poor, disabled or disadvantaged, history has provided a valuable lesson of Howard’s golden era: it was miserable. For the poor, disabled or disadvantaged it’s without question that life has dealt them a miserable hand anyway. Many – the vast majority – survive purely because of Government assistance, as meagre as it is. It will never be enough regardless of which political party are in power, but it will be a damn sight worse under Abbott.

When Employment Minister in 2001 during Howard’s golden age, Tony Abbott was:

. . . notorious for describing the unemployed as “job snobs”. On July 9, he went further, blaming the poor for their own plight. He told the ABC Four Corners program: “We can’t abolish poverty because poverty in part is a function of individual behaviour. We can’t stop people drinking. We can’t stop people gambling. We can’t stop people having substance problems.”

This is one demographic which the man has shown absolute contempt, the strugglers in society. He did as a Minister in the Howard Government, and he still does now:

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has dismayed welfare services by telling them that governments cannot stop people from being homeless ”if that’s their choice” and declining to match the Rudd government’s goal to halve homelessness by 2020 . . . “we just can’t stop people from being homeless if that’s their choice”.

The Coalition has today confirmed that they would re-impose a 15 per cent tax on Australia’s lowest paid workers (earning below $37,000) including 2.1 million women. When asked today during his appearance at the National Press Club whether he would maintain the Low Income Superannuation Contribution (LISC) Tony Abbott confirmed the Coalition would not keep this important Labor tax cut.

The Opposition Leader today unveiled his “tough-love” welfare plan to strip away unemployment benefits for people in areas where there are skill shortages, ramp up work for the dole and overhaul the disability pension. In his first big policy announcement since last year’s election, Mr Abbott also calls for long-term jobless to have half their welfare withheld to pay for the necessities of life such as food, housing and clothing.

The Opposition Leader says Work for the Dole should be compulsory for everyone under 50 who’s been on unemployment benefits for more than six months; that young jobseekers in areas of labour shortages should have their dole suspended; long-term unemployed people should have half their welfare income quarantined; with a new disability support pension for people with treatable disabilities.

Natasha Stott Despoja gave us a history lesson of Howard’s golden age. Abbott wants to recreate it. If we haven’t learned from history … it will be repeated.

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Howard’s Golden Years

Do you remember how good life was under the Howard Government? How we were all made to feel safe from terrorists and boat people? Remember too that we had a media – and Howard himself – incessantly tell us how lucky we were? Remember how good the economy was and remember having that message drilled into us? Ah, they were all part of the golden years.

Ministers could be sacked or toss in the towel without a media scandal ensuing. Any Government hiccups weren’t a national headline or publicised as glowing evidence that the Government was in turmoil. In the golden years, the Prime Minister could even wear glasses.

In those days the media let the Government do its job and told us what a good job they were doing.

Aren’t we lucky that Tony Abbott wants to lead us back to those days?

But before you start reminiscing for those days long past let’s recap on the finer points of Howard’s Golden Years before we decide if we really want to return to them.

Blogger Cuppa has compiled a list of the highlights, taken from a parliamentary speech by Senator John Faulkner, 22 March 2006 when Faulkner recounted a list of the scandals, lies and intrigue that were the real highlights of Howard’s Golden Years.

We remember:

* Minister Jim Short was forced to resign for failing to divest himself of financial interests in his area of ministerial responsibility.

* Industry minister John Moore was exposed for his shareholdings in technology investment and share-trading companies.

* Parliamentary secretary Brian Gibson lost his job because of a conflict of interest.

* Small business minister Geoff Prosser was running three shopping centres while he was a Minister and he was forced to resign. (Geoff Prosser resigned in July 1997 following the disclosure that he was a shopping centre landlord while he was responsible for commercial tenancy provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1975).

* Resources minister Warwick Parer had massive share interests in a coalmine and in other resource companies; he stayed, in breach of the Ministerial Code.

* Acting Minister for Communications Peter McGauran forgot that he owned 70 poker machines.

* Employment Services Minister Mal Brough promoted training courses which were actually Liberal Party fundraisers.

* Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane was involved in a complex scam to rort GST rebates from Liberal Party fundraisers.

* Aboriginal Affairs Minister John Herron kept up his practice as a surgeon, in breach of the code.

Mr Howard himself was found to be in breach of his own code when he failed to resign as a director of the Menzies Research Centre.

Mr Howard misled the Parliament over meetings he had held with ethanol producer Manildra’s boss – massive Liberal Party donor Dick Honan. It was eventually proved that the meetings did occur, and three weeks later the Government increased trade penalties against a Brazilian ethanol producer.

And there’s more:

* Parliamentary Secretary Warren Entsch’s concrete company won a massive Government contract in breach of the code.

* Peter Reith was appointed as a consultant to defence contractor Tenix immediately after resigning as Defence Minister.

* Health Minister Michael Wooldridge signed a $5 million building deal for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and days later, after resigning as Health Minister, was employed by the college as a consultant.

* Senator Coonan, as Minister for Revenue, avoided paying a land tax. She was then exposed and forced to resign as a registered director of an insurance dispute resolution company operating from her own home.

* Wilson Tuckey, then Minister for Regional Services, Territories and Local Government, heavied a state police minister on behalf of a family member.

* Parliamentary secretary Bob Woods retired from politics when he was under police investigation for travel rorts.

* Communication minister Richard Alston’s family trust held Telstra shares.

* Peter Costello, the Treasurer, appointed Liberal Party megadonor Robert Gerard to the Reserve Bank board despite being told by Mr Gerard that he was involved in a 14-year long tax evasion dispute with the Australian Taxation Office.

* Three ministers – John Sharp, David Jull and Peter McGauran – were forced to resign as a result of travel rorts involving false claims, mismanagement or cover-ups.

* Parliamentary Secretary Bill Heffernan was forced to resign over fabricated claims against a High Court judge.

What else have we had over the past 10 years? Ten years of public policy failure. A partial – very partial – list would include:

* The massive pork-barrelling of the $1 billion Federation Fund program.

* The scandal over the budget leak about MRI machines.

* The development of a culture of assumption and denial in DIMIA while Mr Ruddock was minister for immigration, which the Comrie report called failed, catastrophic and dehumanised; the wrongful and scandalous deportation of Australian citizen Vivian Alvarez Solon.

* The wrongful and scandalous detention of Cornelia Rau at Baxter detention centre.

* The utter incompetence of Veterans’ Affairs Minister Dana Vale over roadworks at Anzac Cove.

* The rorting of the $500 million Regional Partnerships program, with massively disproportionate grants being allocated to Coalition seats – not to mention the Tumbi Creek and Beaudesert Rail scandals under the same program.

* Support for the training of scab labour in Dubai to work on the waterfront and the use of dogs and security guards in balaclavas during the waterfront dispute as waterside workers were sacked under the cover of darkness with the loss of all entitlements and, in some cases, personal possessions.

Of course, the Prime Minister introduced the GST after promising he never, ever would.

* The Howard Government have sponsored many attacks on the independence of the judiciary and the courts, including repeated slurs by Senator Heffernan in this chamber and in Senate Estimates.

* They scrapped the free Commonwealth dental health scheme for low-income people.

* They put back the cause of reconciliation irrevocably by refusing to say sorry to the Stolen Generations.

* They blurred the line between church and state by the disastrous appointment of Archbishop Hollingworth as Governor-General of Australia.

Within days of coming to office, the Howard government sacked six departmental secretaries and have since politicised the public service so that officials will never offer frank and fearless advice. In fact, the Government have encouraged a culture where advice of any kind from a public servant is not welcome.

* They have increased Government staffing of Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries from 293 when they came to office to 430 now, many paid above the salary range.

* They cynically manipulated public sentiment about asylum seekers for political advantage.

* They refused to sign the Kyoto protocol to deal with our greatest global environmental challenge – climate change.

* They sponsored attacks from the former Communications Minister Richard Alston and from government backbenchers over alleged ABC bias while making partisan appointments to the ABC Board.

* They introduced draconian industrial legislation to strip away the hard-won rights of Australian workers.

* They introduced the flawed Pacific Solution, which has seen detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island remain open without any detainees.

* They have allowed an Australian citizen, David Hicks, to be held overseas without charge or trial for more than four years and left him to face a highly flawed tribunal process without making any efforts to ensure he will have a fair trial.

Then there was the dithering over preferences to One Nation, giving succour, as a result, to Pauline Hanson and tacit approval of her racist views.

* There was the billion dollar bungling of major defence upgrade and acquisition projects. There was the massive blow-out of $2 billion in the Commonwealth’s Consultancies Bill.

* There was the complete fiasco of the family tax benefit debt trap, which has slugged millions of Australian families with over $1.5 billion in debts.

* There is the fiasco of child-care shortages and the broken promise of the Government on the child-care rebate.

* We have had the Minister for Health and Aging, Tony Abbott, presiding over private health insurance premium hikes, which have totally absorbed the government rebate.

* We have had the plunge in bulk-billing rates and the breaking of the Health Minister’s promise not to increase the Medicare safety net threshold.

We really have seen 10 years of sleaze, deception and manipulation. We would be here all night if I had time to list every sorry exploit of the Howard Government, but I do not. A mere sample includes:

* National Textiles, the company headed by the Prime Minister’s brother, Stan Howard, which was bailed out by the government to the tune of $4 million.

* The infamous Peter Reith telecard affair.

* The lies and deceit of ‘children overboard’.

Then this nation was committed to war in Iraq on the basis of faulty intelligence about weapons of mass destruction while the Government claimed that they were not aiming for regime change in Iraq.

But when the government’s claims about weapons of mass destruction proved false, of course regime change became the justification for the war in Iraq. Never before has an Australian government sent our troops to war and lied to the Australian people about the reason for doing so.

We had Federal Police Commissioner Mick Keelty heavied for doing no more than stating the obvious about the increased terrorist threat in Australia after our involvement in Iraq.

* We have had public servants and senior defence officers forced to take the blame over the Government’s denials about their knowledge of the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison.

* We have had an unprecedented amount of public money splurged in advertising campaigns – as the Auditor-General has reported – to promote Liberal Party policies in the lead-up to the last three federal elections when the Howard Government was in office.

* We have even had the government write the name of the Federal Liberal Party into electoral legislation on 33 occasions to strip the Liberal state divisions of public funding. They even now use the Parliament for their own dirty factional work.

Despite the farcical denials that we have heard about Senator Hill’s appointment, he is about to become the 18th former Liberal Party politician to be appointed by the Howard government to a plum diplomatic post.

Mr Howard perverted the accepted definition of an election promise. He broke promises willy-nilly but just redefined those broken promises as ‘non-core’ promises.

What about the Nixonian leaking of a classified document to Andrew Bolt in order to politically assassinate its author, Andrew Wilkie, while not vetoing the leaker from contesting a Liberal Party preselection ballot?

We also had a situation where Mr Howard’s government engineered the sleaziest of deals with a former Labor senator, Mal Colston, to promote Colston to the Deputy Presidency of the Senate in return for Colston’s vote on crucial legislation. How low can you go? Just recently, we had the unprecedented gagging of public servants before estimates committees.

Kickbacks to Saddam.

Mr Howard himself, his senior minister, and his entire government have turned a blind eye to kickbacks paid to Saddam Hussein’s regime to ensure wheat sales. At the same time, we had Mr Howard self-righteously proclaiming that Saddam Hussein is a ‘loathsome dictator’. They turned a blind eye to our single-desk wheat exporter, who practically became the banker of the Baath Party in Iraq. Who knows where that money ended up? Who knows what it paid for?

What we do know is that, under the Government’s own terrorist legislation, if someone acts recklessly and funds turn up in the hands of terrorists, the guilty party is subject to life imprisonment. You go to jail and they throw away the keys if you recklessly engage in an action under our terrorism laws where financial resources end up in the hands of a terrorist. Let us see what happens in relation to the Howard government, which has acted as Saddam Hussein’s banker.

Of course, all these sins mean nothing to the Howard government. After all, how can they repent what they cannot recall? This Government, and its hand-picked sycophants, suffers from the worst case of collective amnesia in medical and political history.

What are the bywords of the Howard government? ‘I cannot recall,’ ‘I don’t recollect,’ ‘I wasn’t informed,’ ‘I can’t remember,’ ‘I have no recollection of that.’

Best of all, we had Trevor Flugge of AWB fame claiming, as his defence, that he is hard of hearing. It seems to me the whole of this government is hard of hearing. They are certainly deaf to the cries of conscience.

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