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Tag Archives: Paul Keating

A restless muddled class

With one word – zeitgeist — Germans manage to describe two complex metaphysical concepts:- time and spirit.

Zeitgeist as adopted by the Anglophone world means the spirit of the age and defines seminal points in history.

I detected a shift in the zeitgeist over these last few weeks and I suspect the middle class to which I belong noticed the flux as well.

But the majority, who aspire to a middle class life, seem more muddled than middle. The outcome of the last federal election underscores the point.

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating focused on Australia’s middle class during an interview on the ABC’s 7.30 Report. Among topics raised by Laura Tingle, Keating outlined the ALP’s woeful failure to communicate with the middle class, a corps largely created by him and Bob Hawke.

As Keating’s band of baby boomer brothers and sisters retire from the work force at an unprecedented rate, they take with them swags of money unimagined by their parents.

Baby boomer wealth, enterprise and business acumen, underwrite the success of the Australian economy, and the stellar performance of the ASX – Australian Stock Exchange.

And so to the second shift in the zeitgeist; the extraordinary attack on China by Andrew Hastie, Federal MP for Canning.

So powerful is Hastie within conservative ranks, Prime Minister Morrison laughed off his comments as the observations of a mere back bencher. If this is so, perhaps the PM might check whom Hastie voted for in the recent Liberal Party nastiness.

Trade Minister Simon Birmingham’s appeal for reticence by his colleagues on ABC TV Insiders on August 11 2019, is too little, too late.

A recent essay published in The AIM Network by Dr Binoy Kampmark, illuminates the vacuity of Hastie’s intemperate remarks.

Hastie’s comments underscore the inability of the current government to manage the national economy, let alone conduct cordial relations with a significant trading partner.

Indeed the government’s misreading of China per se, date back to Andrew Robb’s mind boggling rubber stamping of the 100 year lease of the Port of Darwin to China.

South Australian Labor MP Nick Champion attempted to revive the Port of Darwin fiasco, but to no avail.

Of the two criticisms of Chinese dealings with Australia, we know the issue to which Beijing responded.

The conservative Liberal Party is fiscally clueless, and the nation’s muddled middle class is finally realising its wealth is under threat from a Wunch of Bankers who came together last week for a right wing back slapping orgy known as CPAC.

Keating’s critique of Labor’s failure to communicate its policies with all Australians but especially the middle class, flushed out an old left wing warrior who sprang to the party’s defence.

But Kim Carr’s swipe at Keating proved that neither the right nor left wings of the ALP know how to craft a meaningful dialogue with a bemused middle class.

This conundrum is a major challenge for both Anthony Albanese MP and the trade union movement which conducted one of the worst political campaigns in its history during the last federal election.

Thus it is fair to ask where to now for an increasingly restless middle class.

The answer might be found in another German word, Mittelstand, which roughly translates as “a statistical category of small and medium-sized enterprises”.

In German Mittelstand is expressed as kleine und mittlere Unternehmen or KMU.

Mittelstand companies typically have a maximum of 499 employees.  According to an internet definition, “the term is not officially defined or self-explanatory, hence in English linguistic terms, SMEs are not necessarily equivalent to the Mittelstand. In fact, even larger, and often family-owned, firms claim to be part of the Mittelstand”.

In his heyday Prime Minister Bob Hawke touted European social and economic models. This admiration, aided and abetted by Paul Keating as Treasurer, led to the Australian society we enjoy today.

Perhaps a shell-shocked ALP might deploy its brightest thinkers to evaluate Mittelstand as a way forward for both the Party and the nation.

Sadly the non-aligned Dr Andrew Leigh  has a lot of spare time on his hands.

Dr Leigh possesses the intellectual clout to craft an Australian model of Mittelstand which is increasingly popular in a faltering United Kingdom where it is known as Brittelstand.

Perhaps the ALP might scrape up some money for a couple of air fares to send Dr Leigh and Paul Keating to a Brittelstand symposium next month at the University of Reading.

As changes to the spirit of the age develop, Australia’s muddled middle class will again look to the ALP for answers. And if Labor manages to craft a new way of doing business with business – including Howard’s Battlers — and communicate simply and clearly with a suspicious middle class, it can win government.

But if Labor fails to craft policy for the future, the nation remains at the mercy of a conservative clique, who for no apparent reason, is determined to bankrupt and impoverish every class of Australian society.

Henry Johnston is a Sydney-based author. His latest book, The Last Voyage of Aratus is on sale here

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My Thoughts on the Week that Was

Saturday 17 October

1 Cambodian officials say one of the refugees who arrived in Phnom Penh from Nauru in June has quit Cambodia and returned to Myanmar. The Rohingya Muslim man in his early 20s had been given refugee status on the basis of a fear of returning to Myanmar, where Rohingya say they have long been persecuted in the majority Buddhist government country.

keating2 Paul Keating has come out of the shadows to back a treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, describing it as the “unfinished business of the nation” and suggesting it could precede Indigenous recognition in the constitution.

And the former prime minister also says he would back any move by Malcolm Turnbull to revive the minimalist model for an Australian republic that both men crafted in the early 1990s, conceding this might be the “last and best opportunity” to secure the model.

Bring him back, insults and all.

3 Abyan, the Somali refugee who fell pregnant after allegedly being raped on Nauru has been secretly flown back to Nauru in what looks like an extraordinary attempt to avoid Australian law. Ruthless bastards.

The Minister needs to explain why immediately.

4 This week’s Crikey BludgerTrack poll aggregate has Labor bridging the gap on the back of a weak result for the Coalition from Newspoll. 51.2-48.8.

In a redistribution Joel Fitzgibbon will lose his seat of Hunter in NSW but is guaranteed another.

5 The innovation minister, Christopher Pyne, has told crossbench senators the government will only provide extra assistance for the car industry if they back down on their opposition to cuts to family tax benefits paid to low income families. The style of government hasn’t changed.

Sunday 18 October

aust car1 Amazing to think that Australia is one of only 13 countries in the world who can build a motor vehicle from start to finish but will stop doing so within 12 months. The impact on jobs will be enormous. Have we planned for it? What is the future of jobs? I will be writing about it soon.

2 Voters across the board have high expectations of Turnbull, and crucially, they want him to act. It means he is already behind the eight ball. However Turnbull’s strategy seems to be to make no commitments and announce no policies while speaking in vague platitudes with a velvet fog voice while smiling a lot.

An observation:

“Instantaneous gratification is a byproduct of greed be it for materialisms sake or for power itself”.

3 The PM says the 23-year-old Somali woman Abyan, who was brought to Australia and moved to Sydney’s Villawood detention centre this week an abortion, was returned to the island because she decided against it. She says she wanted some counselling before committing.

Two observations:

‘Telling the truth should not be delayed simply because we are not sure how people might react to it’.

“The ability of thinking human beings to blindly embrace what they are being told without referring to evaluation and the consideration of scientific fact, truth and reason, never ceases to amaze me. It is tantamount to the rejection of rational explanation“.

Monday 19 0ctober

1 There is a “strong moral case” to proceed with Adani’s $16 billion coal mine, Resources Minister Josh Frydenberg claimed on Sunday. There is also a higher moral principle not to. If coal is good for humanity then the sun the wind and the sea are better.

gough2 The term “must read” is often used but rarely satisfying phrase. However I can recommend a “must read” you should not miss. A four part series on THE AIMN coinciding with the 40th Anniversary of the dismissal of Gough Whitlam and his government, to be published 8,9,10 and 11 November. More to come, but it’s electrifying.

3 Gerard Henderson on Insiders was of the opinion that Bill Shorten had done little wrong in his dealings with Theiss. Never thought I would find myself agreeing with him. But it’s still a bad look.

4 Where did all the voters go, and why?

Mysteriously, 3.3 million eligible voters went missing at the last election. That is a whopping 15% more than the previous one.

There is something fundamentally wrong when, despite a huge recruitment drive by the Australian Electoral Commission, 1.22 million citizens failed to enrol to vote, and 400,000, or one third of the non-registrants, were aged 18 to 24. Additionally, 760,000 House of Representatives ballots were informal – about 6 percent – up more than 0.3 percent from the 2010 election.

Who carried the loss? Our democracy did.

5 Remiss of me not to mention Albo’s put down of Chrissy Pyne during Question Time last week. The Government was suggesting he was claiming responsibility for all infrastructure for the past few years. Much laughter prevailed until Albo to a “point of order” “The only hole you’ve dug is the one for the former PM”. That shut them up.

Tuesday 20 October

1 Malcolm Turnbull’s popularity is not in the least surprising. John Howard once remarked that the Australian electorate was less inclined toward ideology than it once was. What they are saying is that they just want a decent leader. One in whom they can trust. After the revolving door leadership of the past few years that’s what they see in Turnbull.

The IPSOS Poll shows the TPP in favor of the Coalition 53/47. With the Election 12 months away it is but a reflection on the current thinking of the population. The onus is still on the PM to show he has policies that would warrant his popularity.

The Morgan Poll followed up with Coalition leading 56/44.

An analysis of the last election result suggests that fifteen of the Coalition’s new seats are held on very thin margins. Eleven seats have margins of less than 4000 voters. In essence, the election was a lot tighter than was first suggested. Theoretically, this means that it would only take about 30,000 people to change their vote to change the government.

2 Peter Dutton is a former policeman. Whilst I have great respect for the force, he is one of those you would not like to meet at the end of a dark ally. The secrecy surrounding all things to do with border protection and asylum seekers is so draconian that it is often impossible to know where the truth lay. However, in the case of the women on Nauru seeking an abortion, I don’t think it is with the Government. Whatever happened to compassion?

3 NBN Co expects the national broadband network to be rolled out to an extra 7.5 million premises in the next three years. However, chairman Ziggy Switkowski says that achieving the target of making the network accessible to more than 11 million homes by 2020 would be an “heroic outcome” given the current state of the rollout. The Australian Government is confident that the rollout will be completed by 2020. It raises the question as to why they would come out with that schedule if the chairman thought it would be heroic.

4 The following is a comment on my post for THE AIMN last week on the Future of Faith.

“Everywhere that religion is stronger you will find an accompanying increase in the amount of social problems — murder, divorce, abortion, infant mortality, sexually transmitted disease, teen pregnancy. All these problems are more common in religious societies and less common in atheist (or less religious) ones. What is most surprising is that these are exactly the things religion claims to help.”

I can attest to the veracity of this statement based on USA research.

5 If we look around the world, wealth has become the measure of success and the rich are becoming wealthier at an alarming rate. The top one percent will soon own 99 percent.

An observation:

“In the history of Australia the rich have never been so openly brazen.”

Wednesday 21 October

1 What are we to make of people like Michael Lawler and Kathy Jackson? Only the investigation into his affairs and her trial will tell us but the stench of corruption hangs oppressively in the air. Yet another example of the need for a national ICAC.

2 It has to be said that the proposed overhaul to the financial services sector arising from the David Murray inquiry will be welcomed by the electorate. Excessive credit fees will be banned. More efficient superannuation. Safer banks. Lifting standards in financial advice. Innovative finance to be encouraged.

3 The difference in style and substance between Turnbull and Abbott is daily becoming more obvious. 4 I’m eagerly awaiting the proposed new rules to Question Time.

5 Tuesday’s Essential Poll has the Coalition on 51% and Labor on 49%. Makes the IPOS figures a touch fragile.

This is Bob Ellis’s take on the IPOS Poll:

They ring with machines those at home on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights and willing to talk to a machine. Seventy thousand are not, fifteen hundred are, and the seven million without landlines or out of the house are not rung at all.

And a lot of octogenarians are.

This accounts for the figures, 30 percent for Labor, 45 for the Coalition, which Fairfax published today. The idea that 800,000 voters went from Shorten to Turnbull after Shorten attacked his opponent’s tax-dodging wealth is unlikely, since few swinging voters like tax-dodgers any more than they like queue-jumpers.

So the probable figure for Labor is 51.5 or 52; but the publication of Ipsos, which has never got anything right (its method predicted Rudd, Swan, Clare, Burke, Bowen and Dreyfus would lose their seats) puts wind in the sails of the early-election desperates who do not want Turnbull’s despoliation of the Solomons and rorting, in tens of millions, of the tax laws better known.

The caveats in this Ipsos report are significant. The margin of error in NSW, we are told, is 4.6 percent; in Queensland 6 percent; in South Australia 8.9 percent; in WA 8 percent; in Victoria 4.6 percent; but, overall, in all the nation, only 2.6 percent.

How can this be? How can the overall be lower than the lowest, less than two thirds of the lowest of the states? Is fraud involved here? Perish the thought. And the 5 percent who are ‘uncommitted’ (that is, uncommitted about Turnbull) were redistributed 3 to 2 in his favour.

One must be suspicious of the other figures, therefore, that are to do with strength, openness to ideas, trustworthiness and so on.

And — oh yes — the margin of error among 18-24 year olds is 7.9 percent (!); among 25-39 year olds 5:5 percent; among 40-54 year olds 4:9 percent; and among the over-55s 4:2 percent. If only half of these error-margins leaned Labor’s way — that is, 3.9 percent, 2.25 percent, 2.45 percent, 2.45 percent and 2:1 percent — its vote would be not 47 percent but 49.3 percent. If it went two thirds Labor’s way it would be 50.2.

Is it right therefore that Fairfax print the headlines it has? Don’t think so.

Looks pretty dodgy to me.

Or perhaps you disagree.

Thursday 22 October

1 The Essential survey on “Institutional Trust” showed the following:

State Police 68% AFP 67% ABC 55% Reserve Bank 51% Charities 49% Environmental Groups 42% Local Councils 40% Public Service 38% State Parliament 32% Federal Parliament 32% Religious Organisations 30% Business Groups 30% Trade Unions 27% Political Parties 19%.

Tony Abbott certainly didn’t enhance the bottom line. And to think that the church was once so well respected.

2 The revisions to Question Time are hardly newsworthy. There is still no compunction on anyone to tell the truth. Let alone answer the question. It is devoid of wit, humor, words of intelligence and those with the eloquence and debating skills to give them meaning. Mostly it embraces a maleness that believes in conflict as a means of political supremacy over and above the pursuit of excellence in argument.

justin3 Canada has rid itself of its own Abbott. His replacement Justin Trudeau is sure to turn his countries Environmental policies upside down further illustrating just how backward we are. We still have a PM who knows what he should do but is being told what to do by the extreme right of his party. Come November we might well be the laughing stock of the world.

4 A former Australian prime minister is on a list of “alleged pedophiles” that Liberal senator Bill Heffernan claims forms part of a police document.

This from a notorious nutter who once accused a well-respected former high court judge of picking up boys for sex and then had to apologise.

5 The Jackson Lawler saga reads like a work of criminal fiction except that it’s all true.

6 According to the Climate Council solar panels with home battery storage could be the cheapest way to get electricity within three years. The advance in battery technology has been nothing short of remarkable. Turnbull shouts innovation and technology at every opportunity so long as it’s not associated with renewable energy. Coal is still God’s gift to humanity.

An observation.

“We dislike and resist change in the foolish assumption that we can make permanent that which makes us feel secure. Yet change is in fact part of the very fabric of our existence”.

7 Now Joe Hockey says he wanted to tax the rich all along. It wasn’t what he told us when he was the treasurer. “The last thing you would want to do to people relying on investment income is to hit them with a new tax” he said.

8 The Government has finally backed down on its unfair Family tax benefits proposals. Whether the new proposals are any fairer is yet to be determined. One thing is for certain they will have some harsh consequences for families – including for single parents and grandparent carers. If they cannot get Labor on board the Senate may again reject them.

An observation.

“The left of politics is concerned with people who cannot help themselves. The right is concerned with those who can”.

9 Lastly the Labor Party gained concessions on the Free Trade agreements. Many words spoken about an inevitable outcome.

Friday 23 October

1 Train wreck interview. When asked on Sky News about the proposed changes to Family Tax benefit B, the new Social Services Minister Christian Porter got in a muddle.

Speers: Labor asked today will grandparents raising a 15 year old child will… be $2,500 a year worse off, will they?

Porter answered: Errr, well, that depends on their capacity to access childcare and re-enter the workforce.

Mr Porter, 15 year-old children aren’t going to childcare.

Is Mr Porter seriously suggesting a 70 year old grandparent carer go back to work to make up for the Government’s cuts to his family payments?

2 Liberal National MP Warren Entsch has presented Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with a proposition for a fresh parliamentary vote on same-sex marriage.

Under the new plan, Mr Entsch wants politicians to vote on amending the Marriage Act before the next election, but only ratify the outcome if it is supported by a “Yes” vote in a plebiscite that followed. It seems to me to be a complicated way of achieving an outcome that has been consistently endorsed in poll after poll, year after year. And spending around 150 million to confirm it is just a tad expensive. How about we choose 150 hospitals most in need and give them a million each.

Turnbull’s problem is that he has been compelled to embrace a formula to deal with the issue that he did not support while Tony Abbott was in charge. A problem wholly owned by the extreme right of his party.

Quote Senator Fierravanti-Wells

“I reject the assertion that those who argue for the retention of the definition of marriage are somehow homophobic, bigoted or are opposing equal rights. It is about maintaining a tradition—a tradition that has been the bedrock of our communities, our society and the world as we know it.’’

From an article in THE AIMN in which Kaye Lee addresses her assertions.

3 Australia has fallen outside the top 10 clean countries in an annual global corruption index, prompting calls for a federal body with a broader reach than the NSW Independent Commission against Corruption. There can, in reality, be only one reason why politicians refuse to submit themselves to scrutiny.

4 The Labor Party needs to rid itself of an outdated socialist objective and invest in a social philosophical common good instead. And recognise that the elimination of growing inequality is a worthwhile pursuit.

Midday thoughts.

1 As bad as it was, Senator Eric Abetz’s offensive ‘Negro’ jibe to describe the conservative African-American Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, during a radio interview on Thursday wasn’t offensive enough to win my new weekly ‘Bad Mouth’ award. It must surely go to Benjamin Netanyahu who distorted history with his claim that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, was the one who planted the idea of the extermination of European Jewry in Adolf Hitler’s mind.

Week That Was_68

And this is the week that was.

Leave you with this thought:

Humility is the basis of all intellectual advancement. However, it is truth enables human progress’.


Never-ending story

In April I wrote an article about the Coalition’s history on superannuation.  This is an updated version.  Keeping up with their ever-changing promises is turning into quite a saga.


Compulsory national superannuation was initially proposed as part of the 1972 Whitlam initiatives but up until the 1980s superannuation was solely the privilege of predominantly male professions, clustered in the public sector or available after a long qualifying period in the private sector.


In 1985 then Leader of the Opposition, John Howard, said this:

“That superannuation deal, which represents all that is rotten with industrial relations in Australia, shows the government and the trade union movement in Australia not only playing the employers of Australia for mugs but it is also playing the Arbitration Commission for mugs”.

Howard was commenting on the deal between the government and the ACTU which saw the trade union movement forfeit a claim to 3% productivity improvement as wages to instead be paid in compulsory superannuation – endorsed by the Arbitration Commission and managed by superannuation funds with equal representation of the unions in the industry and the employers.

The Coalition has steadfastly opposed every increase in compulsory superannuation since that time, whether it be from 3% to 6%, or the 6% to the current 9.25%.


In the 1995 budget, Ralph Willis unveiled a scheduled increase in compulsory super from 9% to 12% and eventually to 15%. It was to be one of the Keating government’s major legacy reforms.


In its superannuation policy for the 1996 election, Super for all, the Coalition, which had hitherto been implacably opposed to Labor’s policies, promised it:

•Will provide in full the funds earmarked in the 1995 — 96 Budget to match compulsory employee contributions according to the proposed schedule;

•Will deliver this government contribution into superannuation or like savings;

•Reserves the right to vary the mechanism for delivering this contribution so as to provide the most effective and equitable delivery of the funds.


So why don’t we have 15% superannuation now? Because John Howard and Peter Costello nixed it in the 1996 budget barely six months after it released its policy, insisting it was too expensive. They didn’t “vary the mechanism” so much as halted it.


Significant changes were also made to superannuation policy in 2007. The majority of workers could now withdraw their superannuation tax-free upon reaching the age of 60. Most self-employed can claim their superannuation contributions as a tax deduction. In addition, semi-retired people can continue to work part-time, and use part of their tax-free superannuation to top up their pay.

Despite the relatively generous tax treatment of capital gains, the new superannuation tax treatment led to the selling off of some assets, particularly rental housing, as people sought to take advantage of the opportunity to add funds to their superannuation accounts and claim them back later tax-free.

People were allowed to transfer up to A$1 million into their superannuation accounts before the June 30, 2007, after which an annual maximum of A$150,000 of after-tax contributions could be made. The effect of this change in the rules was enormous. In the June quarter of 2007, A$22.4 billion was transferred to superannuation accounts by individuals. This compares with A$7.4 billion in the June quarter of 2006. June 2007 was the first time in Australia that member contributions exceeded employer contributions.


The Coalition’s superannuation policy  has drawn mixed reviews, with several major industry bodies expressing disappointment at the policy for being unsubstantial.

The Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia (ASFA), the Australian Institute of Superannuation Trustees (AIST) and the Financial Services Council (FSC) said in a joint statement that a failure to increase the superannuation guarantee (SG) to 12 percent, the failure to raise the concessional caps for individuals over 50 and the failure to provide a super tax contribution rebate for low-income earners would adversely impact Australian workers.

ASFA chief executive Pauline Vamos said that the majority of Australian voters would be disappointed that the Coalition’s only plan for superannuation was the promise of more reviews and delays.

AIST chief executive Fiona Reynolds said: “Australian voters are entitled to expect more than a policy document that has no concrete plans or even fresh ideas on how to address retirement income adequacy and the challenge of Australia’s ageing population.”


OPPOSITION leader Tony Abbott has pointedly put down Victorian Liberal MP Kelly O’Dwyer after she questioned his controversial decision to keep Labor’s higher superannuation guarantee if a Coalition government inherits it.

Ms O’Dwyer asked at yesterday’s party room meeting about the process by which the Coalition’s previous position was reversed – saying it was her understanding such issues should go to the party room.

Mr Abbott said the party room had the right to change policy at any time. But there was no rule – and there should be no expectation – that every policy decision be brought to the party room.

“Mr Abbott, who several times made it clear he did not want to talk about the backflip, said the Coalition would have more to say on superannuation later, but repeated that it would not rescind the higher guarantee.”

Feb 2013


So you would cut all those initiatives?


Absolutely, you can’t afford them.

So there it was in black and white – the Coalition was cutting the increase in the super guarantee.

Except, apparently not so: a couple of hours later, Hockey was complaining on Twitter about being misrepresented. “What an MRRT debacle… Despite Govt’s failures we remain committed to not rescinding the increase in compulsory superannuation from 9-12%.” Hockey tweeted. After the Nine Network had accurately reported his remarks, he followed it up with:

Would be nice if Nine News had checked the facts…Coalition remains committed to keeping increase in compulsory superannuation from 9-12%.

Crikey understands Tony Abbott’s office moved immediately after Hockey’s doorstop to indicate there was no change in the Coalition’s support for the move from 9-12%

May 2013

Tony Abbott’s plan to delay the compulsory superannuation guarantee increase for two years and do away with top-ups for low income earners sets the tone for the Coalition’s policy on retirement savings to be announced in coming months.

The Liberal Party’s superannuation policy is likely to encourage individuals to make more voluntary contributions while scaling back government-directed super contributions.

The Coalition seems to be struggling with the concept of superannuation. The Coalition has lost a lot of their super knowledge over recent years with the retirement of many senior MPs, including Peter Costello, who was the architect of the 2007 changes that brought in tax-free super for over-60s, introduced caps on non-concessional contributions, reduced the caps on concessional contributions, and removed limits on the amount of super that you could withdraw at concessional rates. They have promised not to make any unexpected negative changes to super, but hey, a few weeks after making that promise, they announced they were freezing the Superannuation Guarantee increase for 2 years.

November 2013

Labor went to the election promising a 15 per cent tax on superannuation pension earnings over $100,000.

Treasurer Joe Hockey said on Wednesday the policy was too complex and it would be scrapped.

The Treasurer has also decided to cut superannuation co-contributions for low income earners

According to the chief executive of Industry Super Australia, David Whiteley, this would result in 3.6 million Australians on low incomes being out of pocket $500 a year, while just 16,000 of the nation’s top earners will benefit from the scrapping of the 15 per cent tax.

May 2014

Mr Hockey said the discussion on what age people should be allowed to access superannuation had begun inside the Coalition.

When asked if raising the superannuation access age was being considered, Mr Abbott said the government was keeping its commitments regarding superannuation.

”We went into the election saying that apart from a couple of very small already announced changes we weren’t proposing to make any changes to superannuation in this term of Parliament,” he told reporters in Canberra.

”We think that there have been lots and lots of  changes to superannuation over the years. Some which we were enthusiastic about, some which we were unenthusiastic about, a period of stability in respect of superannuation is right and proper and there won’t be any changes in this term of Parliament.

September 2014

Under a deal negotiated with the Palmer United party to repeal the mining tax, employer superannuation contributions will be frozen at 9.5 per cent until 2021 when they increase to 10 per cent.

After that, contributions will increase by 0.5 per cent annually until they reach 12 per cent.

As a result, Labor claims that a 25-year-old Australian earning $55,000 a year will be more than $9000 worse off by 2025.  Industry sources say the impact over a 40-year working life could be as high as $100,000, taking into account compound interest.

With the rise of influence of the IPA within our current government’s policy making, this article by John Roskam from 2012 should sound warning bells to us all.

“Compulsory superannuation offends practically every principle of what should be Liberal Party philosophy. If an Abbott government does keep compulsory superannuation it must, at a minimum, make drastic changes.”

The master of deception

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

I’m growing increasingly and unbearably exhausted by the track one reckless and irresponsible man is taking our country.

The man: Tony Abbott.

A man I would consider to be one of the most destructive and deceptive politicians in our history.

I’ll make my case and you can make your own judgment.

Tony Abbott is dangerous and completely captured by corporate interests.

He’s a populist politician with no policy interest or conviction. A “weathervane” that does and says whatever he thinks he needs to to acquire and keep power.

It’s not just me saying this. Ask those who have seen him up close.

John Hewson, Malcolm Fraser, Paul Keating. The list goes on. Their views are on the record.

I’ve spoken to people who went to university with him. The stories are true. He’s a complete and utter disgrace.

I’m not sure if he knows what he’s doing but he must be removed democratically as soon as possible.

He is ripping up all the hard work of the last 40 or so years.

Ripping up the progress that has made us the envy of the world

But first we need to go back a few steps.

Since he was first elected in the mid 90s he has developed a reputation for being an aggressive brawler and his history up until his time as Opposition Leader serves as witness to this.

When he became Opposition Leader in 2009 his quest for power ramped up dramatically as he sensed his preordained destiny.

He lurched the Liberal Party to the far right and all of a sudden you are hard pressed to find a moderate among them.

They all fled knowing Abbott’s Liberal Party was not the Liberal Party they once knew and loved.

Menzies must be rolling in his grave.

Abbott ran around the country like a mad man spouting cheap and tacky three word slogans for years.

Anything he thought would play well in the public’s mind he used.


The ultimate master of deception.

He was and is ably assisted – as we know – by the likes of Alan Jones, Steve Price, Ray Hadley and their fellow far right shock jocks. They too spouted and continue to spout his lines as if they are being fed to them by the Liberal Party.

Rupert Murdoch was onside with him from day one. News Corp Australia never wavered in its support and Murdoch irresponsibly used his vast media interests to create a sense of chaos in Labor’s ranks.

Tony Abbott was given a free pass by the Murdoch press.

The spotlight always firmly on Labor.

It was a highly successful smash and destroy campaign by big media vested interests.

Murdoch, however, didn’t do this for no reason. He surely, as with previous governments, expects something in return.

The Tony Abbott recipe has a few main ingredients.

Create fear of asylum seekers, as Howard did successfully in 2001. Make them a ‘border security’ threat and a financial burden, not a humanitarian issue. Stop the Boats!

Attack the Labor Party for introducing a price on carbon after allegedly knowingly lying. Big New Tax!

Attack the mining tax in order to look after rich mining interests and keep his donors on side. Axe the Tax!

Attack Labor relentlessly everyday and say “no” to everything no matter what, making it as hard as possible to govern the nation.

Create chaos and dysfunction by constantly suspending standing orders during Question Time, in order to rant and rave as he ran his focus grouped political lines for the day.

He used his media friends to ramp this up of course. They willingly obliged.

Chaos! Dysfunction! Tainted vote!

He desperately sought to take down the government with his blind recklessness but he failed.

The confidence of the nation in politics was damaged and remains so. It is now at record lows and shows no signs of bouncing back.

He destroyed the joint.

Labor aren’t faultless but Tony Abbott conducted himself in his own interests, not the nation’s. He should be condemned for such deplorable conduct.

Now he’s reached his goal. He has his own government. He quite frankly has no clue what to do next.

What do you do when you finally catch the seagull?

What does a dog do when it catches its tail?

He has wasted no time continuing his seek and destroy mission. Going after Labor Party policies vindictively, attacking and smearing unions relentlessly, making international news for all the wrong reasons and severely weakening key international relationships.

The carnage is intimidating but this is the man people supposedly voted for.

It’s my opinion people naively voted against Labor to restore stability.

Sadly they didn’t research this man as I have.

If they had informed themselves we might not be enduring this nonsense.

All of us who did do their research are shaking our heads, shrugging our shoulders knowingly, looking at each other and sighing in exhaustion.

This isn’t news to us.

Many who made the foolish decision to vote for Tony Abbott are starting to feel regret.

Social media of all kinds is full of anger and people at breaking point.

I see hardly anybody inspired now this man is our leader.

Sir Tony Abbott is yesterday’s man for today’s Australia.

His government so far has been an omnishambles. He has barely managed to keep his caucus in line. Lurching from drama to drama, crisis to crisis.

The 18C Brandis “Right to Be Bigots” line repulsed the nation.

Members of the government backbench have been actively speaking out against the stupidity of the proposed changes to the Racial Discrimination Act.

Some are willing to cross the floor for the vote on the issue and some government members are drafting their own changes to put to the caucus because they reject the draft exposure amendments completely.

The community are rightly outraged at this ideological and unnecessary change. 88% are against it. It won’t pass muster.

The issue of GrainCorp being taken over by US multinational Archer Daniels Midland showed up fault lines in the National Liberal Coalition. Hockey was forced at last minute to reject the bid as Truss and Joyce ramped up their public dissension. The Nationals are completely disregarded with the Coalition ordinarily. A rare win for them.

Numerous critical leaks have occurred from caucus and anonymous critical assessments of the Abbott Government and it’s processes are common place.

Tony Abbott unilaterally deciding that he wants Sirs and Dames again sparked incredulity among colleagues. Even John Howard called the move “anachronistic”.

Peta Credlin, his Chief of Staff, controls the entire government media message. Abbott leaves it to her. She’s the most powerful woman in the nation. Leering over Abbott at all times. She decides who speaks to the media and when.

More often than not they aren’t allowed to speak, allowing the Opposition willingly into the void.

When it comes to not speaking Immigration Minister Scott Morrison has made it an art form. Every part of the Operation Sovereign Borders policy is secretive to try and kill it as an electoral issue.

Despite their best efforts to avoid accountability of what they are doing to the world’s most vulnerable in our name, leaks are occurring.

People are speaking out. I’ll bite my tongue on this issue because I think Morrison is a scourge.

He uses chest beating, thinly veiled racism and bullying rhetoric to attempt to achieve acceptance within a tragically bigoted section of the community.

Somebody died at Manus on his watch. The truth will come out. He will face his day of truth in good time.

I could go into all the crises of this government – and thus the country – has endured but the list is incredibly long.

Let’s just say it’s not all “methodical”, “calm” or “considered” as Abbott tries to claim unconvincingly.

No matter how many times he tries his doe-eyed, slow talking plea for people to accept the words out of his mouth people know better.

This brings us to the latest development: the Commission of Audit.

Tony Abbott once again appointed mates and sectional interests to give him the big bad scary report he wanted.

He has done this in other areas of government.

He appointed vested interest climate sceptic friends, Maurice Newman and Dick Warburton to key extremely high paying roles, in this the end of the “Age of Entitlement”.

Tony Shepard, Amanda Vanstone and a few other acolytes make up the Commission of Audit.

The report, dropped recently, was a complete and utter stitch up.

Hidden from view until after the Tasmanian state election and WA Senate by-election. Having read it, I can see why.

It’s a blueprint for the destruction of the social safety net in our nation.

Who’s surprised? Tony Shepherd is the former head of the Business Council of Australia. A big supporter and ally of the Liberal Party. He has donated to them before.

One donation was to a fund being investigated by ICAC in NSW.

The least well off are told to take the full burden of what the Abbott Government term “heavy lifting”.

The reason? We’re in a supposed “budget emergency”.

Once again, they use fear to herd the masses. Or so they hope.

The “distinguished” panel of the Commission of Audit loyally delivered the exact outcome they were told to deliver by the Abbott Government. This is Liberal Party 101.

I won’t go into all aspects but it can be read at Brace yourself to be stunned if you dare read it.

They will use this “independent” report to say how supposedly bad things are. A cover for massive cuts to the least well off that will risk recession.

In a rare episode, the big business community has spoken out about massive cuts. Why? Concern for the community? Nah. They are worried about their bottom lines and recession.

Oh well, I’ll take what I can get.

The government – supposedly scared about the state of economy – is now at risk of plunging us into recession by cutting too hard and too fast against all the best advice.

Why? They are reckless and deceptive ideologues.

Let’s go into the idea of a “budget emergency”.

It’s a calculated lie.

No rational economist believes this to be true. Not one!

For goodness sake! Even Tony Shepherd admitted there is no emergency. Begrudgingly.

The facts point to there being a revenue problem, not a spending problem. The roots of which go back to John Howard.

John Howard blew the income from the mining boom with eight consecutive tax cuts.

He created the “Age of Entitlement” and “middle class welfare”.

The only reason his government left “money in the bank” was because of the sale of public assets.

In 2004, Costello, flush with mining boom money created the Baby Bonus in an election year to keep voters happy.

It was manageable when times were good but when the GFC hit and revenue plunged, you have another huge black hole.

People became accustomed to this payment and it became hard to take off them or even reduce.

What was also politically very difficult was the massive Howard tax cuts floated in the 2007 campaign. A blatant wedge issue by Howard.

Labor was all but forced to match them against their better judgement.

This was another massive black hole when the revenue vanished during the GFC.

I have spoken to an opposition federal MP who thought that was  one of Labor’s biggest mistakes.

Labor has no doubt contributed to the need to raise increasing revenue but Howard contributed substantially to the so called “budget emergency”.

Don’t forget this fact.

A recent International Monetary Fund report said that the Howard government was the most profligate government in Australia’s history. The IMF know what they are talking about.

All the Abbott Government’s blatant lies are being used once again to create fear so people will hopefully swallow the poison pill of attacks on their way of life.

Attacks on the very people who voted the Abbott Government into power. What gall. What arrogance.

A true nightmare for those of us that saw this man and his ways coming a mile away.

After years of saying politicians should never lie and breach faith with the people he has done just this.

He is further eroding people’s trust in politicians.

He will be mucking with the disability support pension and the aged pension despite specific commitments to the contrary.

He lied.

You can’t make not lying such a virtue before an election then flip around after you win and say “Yeah but  . . . “. It won’t fly.

The biggest betrayal is that he now looks like he’ll be imposing a  “levy” or tax on incomes over $80,000 of $800.

A complete and utter broken promise.

He ran on the mantra of “lower taxes”, scrapping certain taxes and imposing no new taxes.

$80,000 is not a lot these days. These people aren’t rich. They are middle Australia.

Imposing a tax on them to pay down debt unnecessarily and in a rushed manner is foolish and highly resented.

The “budget emergency” is spin and this new tax will hurt our economy.

They knew the situation before the election and made pledges in that light. They have no excuse for breaking commitments or backflipping.

It is indeed frustrating to see the level of debate online. Liberal supporters are on high alert and highly defensive.

They refuse to acknowledge that this government is a shocking display and highly unpopular.

At every opportunity they spout the same lines they have used against Labor for the last 6 years.

It’s time they acknowledged they were elected based on certain specific commitments.

They will be held to account for the years they spent spouting populist talking points instead of engaging in constructive debate.

People are offended. People are indignant. People are mad as hell.

Myself included.

Those who love our country and do not want Abbott destroying the middle class based on blatant lies, while giving the rich a free pass, will be publicly standing up to him and his disgracefully inept government at every single opportunity. Every single one.

Hopefully Abbott’s deceptive and offensive betrayals that are by far worse than anything they claim Labor ever did will be a bad memory after the next federal election.

Here’s to this happening sooner rather than later.

Matthew Donovan (pictured) is a former Labor candidate for the seat of Surfers Paradise in Queensland as well as a political commentator and freelance journalist. He’s an active Labor campaigner from Burleigh Branch on the Gold Coast. His interests are progressive politics, policy development and media/social media strategy. Matthew’s studied Journalism, International Relations and History at the University of Southern Queensland. He plans to study Political Science in the near future.


Exposing the lie of politics

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It is no surprise that when it comes to trust, collectively politicians rate very lowly. And individually there are many politicians that we definitely do not trust. Yet they continue to win our votes, if not our trust. In this guest post, Sir Scotch looks at this baffling phenomenon.

The well-known and quite rightly often maligned Readers Digest, over several years, have surveyed Australians, for the 50 professions they trust most. The list goes like this from the 2013 survey:

1.   Firefighters26. Builders
2.   Paramedics27. Alternative health practitioners
3.   Rescue volunteers28. Plumbers
4.   Nurses29. Mechanics
5.   Pilots30. Accountants
6.   Doctors31. Shop assistants
7.   Pharmacists32. Truck drivers
8.   Veterinarians33. Charity collectors
9.   Air traffic controllers34. Professional sportspeople
10. Farmers35. Bankers
11. Scientists36. Financial planners
12. Armed Forces personnel37. Airport baggage handlers
13. Police38. Clergy (all religions)
14. Dentists39. Lawyers
15. Teachers40. Tow-truck drivers
16. Childcare workers41. CEOs
17. Flight attendants42. Taxi drivers
18. Bus/Train/Tram drivers43. Journalists
19. Locksmiths44. Talkback radio hosts
20. Hairdressers45. Real estate agents
21. Postal workers46. Sex workers
22. Waiters47. Call centre staff
23. Computer technicians48. Insurance salespeople
24. Security guards49. Politicians
25. Cleaners50. Door-to-door salespeople

What does the list say about us as a country, as voters and as human beings? What are we able to learn from the way people vote, compared to the way people give credit, to people who would generally interact with them at some stage in their lives, though not necessarily, all that often, that politicians are only above door to door salesmen in those “trusted professions”?

Likewise, the most trusted people list, has several politicians in it, and that really is what we are about here. Why do Australians vote for folk they don’t trust, enough to admit to a survey taker, that they don’t trust them?

The first on the list is Malcolm Turnbull, at number 68, who is more trusted than Julian Assange. A funny outcome considering the normalcy of us, as voters expecting politicians to also be liars, since the two go hand in hand, and on any reading of the work of Julian Assange, who if one is to be completely fair, is the exact opposite, despite what is said by Rupert Murdoch and his tame typists, doing everything they are told.

It was Assange who brought to us the actual truth of the governments we elect in terms of their activities, after having spent years being told by politicians what they think we want to hear. Kevin Rudd appears just after Assange, again, a supreme obfuscator and liar, certainly in league with the Murdochracy, yet his trust rating is below that of Assange. Do punters actually know what Assange represents or are they dependant on the lies of the tame tabloid typists? The answer to that in simple terms appears to be a resounding “yes”. Without Murdoch and his co-conspirators, we are uninformed as a country. What a worrying situation!

Worrying, I’m thinking? Perhaps that’s why ethical politicians feel some control over media access makes sense.

Less ethical politicians of course, who tend to pop off to New York on the Murdoch cheque account, from both sides of the political divide it has to be said, don’t see it as an issue if the only paper/s in a whole state, come from one single self-absorbed egotistical octogenarian nabob, who isn’t even an Australian, (to avoid taxes not because of some high moral objection to Australian law or system), and the punters (you and me it could be said but I don’t buy his bullshit rags), is the framing device used to manage the entire Australia Conversation. And we accede to this? We are fools. Another correspondent a couple of weeks ago took me to task on the subject of the hyper generalisation inherent in “we get/have the government we deserve”. I have thought long and hard about how to assuage his disquiet at my generalisation, especially when I talked about the “water cooler conversation”, when we who see ourselves as “activist” in terms of our displeasure at the work of that failed priest currently occupying The Lodge, are given an opportunity to actually have a say to colleagues about the state of the nation.

My view is we don’t care to expose our distrust in case someone reports us to the boss, or holds us up as “agitators”, though in reality, that is what we need to be. We need to expose the negativity of a government for the corporations, such as we have had since Paul Keating first wound a French clock in an Armani double-breaster.

Lincoln, at Gettysburg opined, “. . . and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” But what are we, Australia, left with of that great hope?

Government by people we don’t trust, of people they don’t know, for people they don’t care enough about, to listen to, or ask what do we want from them. And we fail to call them to account!

Rather in secret little circles in darked back rooms in carefully managed blogs and fora, we cry out for “justice” but fail to act for those afflicted in PNG as a direct result or our inaction. We call for transparency, but ask little of the plans for the “TPP”, which stands ready to strip away more of our rights as members and citizens of a sovereign state. We ask for honesty, and then vote for Clive Palmer “because he offers some alternative to conservative politics”. I am yet to see an example of that.

We lie to ourselves as Australians. We lie to others, wearing the same cloak of humanity we had earned after Vietnam, failing to see the similarities between two wars fought for the US, with no other purpose, than to feed the industro-military swamp, which is the American economy.

Even our national anthem is a lie, but we still sing it at the football. We are afraid of change, a normal state for a conservative voter.

We are afraid of the pitfalls a new direction may bring. We are afraid of everything, but we still vote for people we don’t trust, who have proven themselves to be liars, time after time, we allow the same biumvirate of accession to the will of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to “guide” us on our way to hell.

Some vote Green, but the vote is meaningless we are told, even though almost 12% of the population vote for them. Why is the 12% so meaningless? Labor gets into bed with Bob Brown and
others with ethics and vision, and are immediately held up as some sort of traitors. But no one, even Antony Greene, of the ABC, can explain why that vote is wasted.

It appears to me that there is seems no offence that can be committed by our current government and opposition, which can be held up as an example of outrageous and egregious conduct. We are now seeing some of the minutiae of the goings-on in foreign affairs in the Carr/Gillard regime, where it was important enough to diarise that the carrier of choice had the effrontery to not provide pyjamas. We find the old Foreign Minister holds himself up as the success of the day when Australia got a spot on the Security Council of the United Nations. He fails to mention in his memoir that the process of getting that seat took longer than the time that the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd process was in play, but is happy to accept responsibility.

I am moved to remember, that Rudd himself also held up his hand as being responsible. All lies.

So we’re left with the question “what does the government have to do to get to a point where Australia realises that we’ve been had?” The short answer is exactly what they are doing now, without having to worry about the question being asked in the first place.

At what point will Australians realise that government is not being conducted for them, for their families, for their futures, for their country or for much else with anything approaching value. Government is in fact being conducted for the betterment of United States corporate interests and the re-election of the main offenders and little else.


Dark days ahead

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A guest post by John Kelly

He’s a relieved man today. The debt ceiling will be abolished. He has been given the breathing space he needs. But, deep down, Joe Hockey knows the problem hasn’t gone away; getting rid of the debt ceiling won’t get rid of the debt. In fact, the Greens may have added to his woes. Each quarterly budget update will now, by agreement, bring the national debt to the forefront of parliamentary and press gallery scrutiny. And, as the debt keeps rising, the sweat on Joe’s brow will intensify. Joe Hockey thinks he’s won a small scrap here, and he has, but it is minor when compared with what’s coming. Christine Milne has placed climate change and the Coalition’s ‘Direct Action’ policy right in the firing line by forcing the quarterly budget updates to include reporting on monies spent on climate change initiatives, i.e. Direct Action. It sounds like she doesn’t believe it will ever happen. And I’m inclined to agree. She says, “Direct Action doesn’t exist, it has no shape, it’s not an alternative to what we have in place,” she said and added, “It is not a plan, it’s basically an idea and that is all.”

But that is not all that’s happened.

The debt ceiling event in the early life of the new government has firmly embedded one crucial economic fact in the mind of the electorate: that the national debt, prior to the Coalition coming to power, was less than $300 billion. This will be important when the voters come to judge the economic credibility of the new government in 2016 when the national debt will be in excess of $400 billion. They will have an undeniable reference point. Normally your average voter hasn’t a clue how much the nation owes when they go to vote. This time, however, they will remember that figure.

The debt ceiling deal has also revealed the hypocrisy of earlier statements by the Prime Minister, Tony Abbott when in opposition. “No real friend of the workers of Australia would want to do a deal with the Greens. We can never build a better future by doing cheap and tawdry deals with the Greens”, he said in August.

Well, now it appears, we can.

So, just four months into the new government, an interesting scenario has developed. Joe Hockey is on the record as saying Labor will never produce a surplus. That opportunistic call will most certainly come back to bite him. It is entirely conceivable that Joe and his government won’t deliver a budget surplus either; possible for ten years, should it still be in government. But, the bigger issue will be the likelihood of a recession and the resulting unemployment.

Australia has had a stunning run of good economic fortune resulting in 22 years of uninterrupted growth since the last recession in 1991. It has been brought about for two reasons. It was the Keating economic reforms of the 1980’s and 90’s coupled with the mining boom of the first decade of this century that have made us the envy of the world. The first was a master stroke of forward planning and pragmatism, the second was the rise of China as an economic power and our capacity to be ready for it. In reality, China was just a stroke of good luck. We were in the right place at the right time. But it is pretty clear the good days are over now. Unless we suddenly experience a resurgence in manufacturing or another country’s industrial expansion creates a shortage of ‘stuff’ we have in the ground, there’s not much else that we have to offer to avoid dark days ahead.

The previous Labor government saw this coming. Revenue from the mining boom was in decline.  Treasurer Wayne Swan tried to cut back on some of the Howard/Costello excesses, including the $300 private health subsidy. The then Opposition would not support that. Perhaps now, Joe Hockey wishes they had. To his credit Joe has moved to end some of the Howard/Costello vote buying excesses, but they won’t amount to much. Christopher Pine tried to contribute by flip flopping on the Gonski education reforms only to make himself and Tony Abbott look stupid. Cory Bernardi wants to cut funding to the ABC and Scott Morrison is finding new ways to persecute asylum seekers but as yet is not offering any cost savings. In the meantime we waste billions trying to keep asylum seekers from coming to our shores when economic pragmatism says managing the problem on our own shores is the better option.

The danger facing Joe Hockey now is that the government might inadvertently hasten those dark days by a savage reduction in spending without a corresponding increase in private investment from overseas. Their obsession with debt and deficit and the fear of being seen as the very architects of the economic vandalism they attribute to Labor, could result in a premature recession of their own doing. When you combine this with the closure of Ford, the likely closure of Holden, and the parlous position of Qantas, the small manufacturing businesses that these giant employers support are the ones that will take the hit. These small industries are the home of Howard’s battlers, the very people who kept the Coalition in power for 11 years. If Holden stays, it will, most likely, be as an importer, similar to Nissan. Ross Gittins in the Melbourne Sunday Age (Sun. Dec. 8) says “Hockey is right when he says retail sales, building approvals, business and consumer confidence – have improved since September. And it’s reasonable to hope this will lead to a modest improvement in consumption, home building, business investment and other aspects of the non-mining economy.”

Well, Ross might reasonably be ‘whistling dixie’ on that last suggestion but he goes on to say, “But we know there will be big falls in mining investment, which could offset most of the gain. There’s not a lot Hockey can do about that between now and then. Even infrastructure spending takes a long time to get going.”

Leaders today get elected on the basis of three-word slogans; they become the people’s choice for the time being. They use catchy little phrases to attract ignorant voters. They borrow most of them from past, equally unimpressive, leaders and have nothing original to contribute. But, we anoint them as our Prime Minister until their weaknesses surface and we look to someone else. Few can show the courage and conviction of a Paul Keating when they know what is needed, even if it costs them government. Few have sufficient intellect for that and those that do, like Keating, are generally despised for it. John Stuart Mill once wrote that not all conservatives are stupid, but most people who are stupid are conservative. That is probably because they are afraid of what they don’t know. They seek guidance at every turn and accept the time honoured practices and formulae of the past; they view such a strategy as safe. In short, they don’t know any better and don’t want to. They just want to be reassured. Conservative politicians are good at offering policies of reassurance. But that is not going to work in the present and near future economic environment.

The challenges of the near future require something of the Paul Keating brand of courage. Joe Hockey has not shown us yet, that he is up to the challenge, but if he is, he will have to cast off the conservative Coalition mindset and risk being very unpopular. His decision to block the sale of GrainCorp on the grounds that it would have been very unpopular shows that he is, thus far, not willing to do this.

John Kelly is 68, retired and lives in Melbourne. He holds a Bachelor of Communications degree majoring in Journalism and Media Relations. He is the author of four novels and one autobiography. He writes regularly on his own blog site, covering a variety of social, religious and political issues.

John Kelly


The Coalition and Financial Management . . . an Oxymoron

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Will the Coalition lead us into a recession, asks John Kelly, who puts their economic credentials under the microscope.

Poor Joe Hockey! One could be sucked in to feeling sorry for him . . . not! The Government’s election promise, the much touted public service staff cuts of 12,000, has vaporised. Joe can’t implement this promise because Labor beat him to the punch. The public service efficiency dividend, a mechanism governments of both persuasions have been using for the past 30 years, has already factored in cuts of 14,500. There is no more efficiency room left unless huge chunks of government delivered services are contracted out to private companies. What a blow! You would think Joe would be happy about that. Labor has inadvertently fulfilled one of the Coalition’s election promises. Is he happy? Not our Joe. He now has to look for other cost saving measures to avoid an increase in the budget deficit and further borrowings. You would have thought the Coalition, these economic gurus, would have known this long before they announced their pre-election promise. It’s not as if it was a secret. It was in the previous government’s budget papers. Someone in the Coalition was sleeping on the job.

So, where to now?

Sooner, rather than later, Joe and the Government are going to have to own the budget. They will have to accept responsibility for the state of our finances. By next May when the next budget is handed down it will belong to Joe and blaming Labor just won’t wash anymore. Then we shall see the cut of his jib. The May budget will certainly show yet another deficit of around $40 billion; one similar to what we have become use to under Labor. I suspect, also, it is going to contain some unpopular cuts involving broken election promises for which there will be a myriad of excuses. Why? Because Joe and the Coalition will be seen to be no better at raising revenue than Wayne Swan and Labor and that’s going to hurt him, personally. Joe spent a lot of time and energy telling us about fiscal mismanagement, budget emergencies and other bits and pieces. To be cast as just another Wayne Swan won’t go down well.

Economics is not an exact science. It relies on a whole host of uncertainties. There’s a lot of guesswork, estimating, crystal ball gazing and most important of all, events not yet known. Kevin Rudd learned that the hard way; his unexpected event was the GFC. Perhaps another GFC-like event is just around the corner, who knows. But whatever happens, it will belong to Joe Hockey. He won’t be able to blame any subsequent economic ills on Labor. It will be a good test of the false public perception that the Liberals are the better economic managers.

Who started that rumour anyway?

Matt Wade from the Sunday Age in his article, ‘Our National Journey to Prosperity‘ (24 Nov ‘13) highlights the beginning of Australia’s rise to world prominence in wealth, health and education which began when Bob Hawke became Prime Minister in 1983. Just prior to that, we were a basket case under the former Coalition Treasurer, John Howard. Paul Keating became the new Labor treasurer and over the next decade restructured our economy in five critical areas. It was the floating of the Australian dollar, which Reserve Bank governor Glen Stevens recently described as, ‘‘one of most profound economic policy decisions in Australia’s modern history’’, together with tariff reductions, de-regulation of the banking system, the trade union and labour market accords and the independence of the Reserve Bank that changed the Australian economic scene and our way of life, generally.

When talking about events, the next foreseeable one is the Indonesian Presidential elections in 2014. By the time that is decided, Tony Abbott will know just how good a friend President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was to us and how difficult it is going to be with the incoming president, whoever that might be. None of the candidates are particularly disposed toward us. This will create additional problems for Joe Hockey because he will have to re-visit all of our foreign aid commitments and find some grovel money albeit after just cutting the foreign aid budget to the bone. Tough times lay ahead for Joe and they have nothing to do with the six years Labor was in office. The repeal of the carbon tax might get through the senate next year although that is not a certainty. If it does, all revenue from that will cease as will the pittance coming from the mining tax. This is, of course, the government forsaking revenue to honour a promise they think helped win them office. But, most painful of all, as the Indonesian economy continues to gather strength and our near neighbour becomes the third Asian tiger, Australia will be denied access to valuable markets in favour of other friendlier nations. That is going to hurt us . . . big time.

So let me do a little crystal ball gazing of my own. Joe Hockey is the new John Howard (the 1982 version). Over the next six years the Coalition is going to systematically stuff up the Australian economy and re-define the parameters of fiscal ineptness pushing the national debt out beyond $500 billion. Why? Because they don’t have a vision for the future. They govern for today; they think tomorrow will take care of itself. Well, this time they won’t have a mining boom to mask their collective lack of ability which will translate economically into a probable recession and massive unemployment. Consequently, around 2019, if not before, Australia will be back where it was in 1982 and Labor will once again be invited back into office to clean up the mess.

And those misguided voters who thought the Coalition were the better financial managers, will scratch their heads and seek psychiatric counseling. History doesn’t lie.

John Kelly


A New Narrative


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It’s really frustrating to find that respected commentators like Jonathan Green persist in suggesting that there are no material differences between the LNP and the ALP. Writing in Mamamia, in an otherwise thoughtful article about Julia Gillard and the importance of gender, he said ‘our parties are in broad agreement’ and that ‘heartfelt views that test the status quo are out of favour in a mannered modern politics that is an often loud contest for whatever unique but slender toeholds might be found in the narrows of the middle ground.’ I think that the few short weeks since the election show how shallow this view is.

On one hand, we have an Abbott government doing exactly what we thought it would; denying the reality of climate change and championing the unfettered free market’s right to exploit Australia’s natural resources without let or hindrance by government. Sacking the Climate Commission and supporting fracking  – despite having said during the election campaign that they favoured restrictions – are only the beginning. I

t’s true that the LNP’s ‘small government’ rhetoric hasn’t always played out in practice in the past, and it will be interesting to see how they react to the small government right wing nut jobs that have, perhaps inadvertently, been elected to the Senate.

Will the blocking of such ‘big government’ initiatives as direct action to meet the carbon reduction target, or Abbott’s signature paid parental leave scheme lead to a double dissolution? Will we see an Abbott election campaign supporting the intervention of government into the free market? I won’t be holding my breath.

Don’t get me wrong; Liberals – and especially Nationals – don’t really believe in ‘free’ markets – they are perfectly happy to distort markets through things like fuel subsidies and negative gearing, to say nothing of state aid to private schools. They want interventions that protect the already privileged. They just don’t want interventions that make society more equal, and, heaven forbid, use government to do anything that could possibly be done by private enterprise, no matter how inefficiently or inequitably.

Abbott himself seems confused between populism and the politically correct Liberal free market line, but the weight of neo-liberal opinion in his party and among his big business mates will prevail, and they’ll forget about the carbon reduction targets and the paid parental leave scheme.

Like the conservative parties in Britain and the US, the LNP stands for smaller and smaller government and the broadest possible play of the free market consistent with the interests of their mates. And that’s what we’ll get.

On the other hand, the contest between Bill Shorten and Anthony Albanese for the leadership of the Labor Party has given us the opportunity to focus on ALP policy in a way that wasn’t possible during the election – or for most of the last six years.

The reasons for this failure are complex and include the mainstream media’s obsession with political trivia rather than policy, the difficulties of working in a hung parliament and the ALP’s inability to break free of the daily grind and enunciate a broader vision.

How many times did we hear them criticised for not having a ‘narrative’? (No one seems to criticise the LNP for not having a narrative – perhaps it’s just taken as a given that power is all they care about.) In fact, I think there is a Labor narrative, and it’s just easier to see it when someone – in this case, two people – have to enunciate it publicly.

There are a couple of caveats here. It’s easier to talk about Labor values to Labor Party members who mostly share them than it is to talk about Labor values to swinging voters, who are very likely interested in what’s in it for me. Labor’s not like the Greens. As a major party, Labor needs to appeal to something approaching a majority at any election. They can’t just aim at policy purity for the 8-10% who support them. Thus the rhetoric for the internal audience probably isn’t going to be the same as that for the population at large. One of the challenges for the ALP is, however, to align the two sets of rhetoric.

Second, the Labor narrative has, of necessity, changed in the last twenty years. There might still be references to ‘the light on the hill’, but Chifley wouldn’t recognise the current Labor Party or the political landscape it finds itself in. Paul Keating’s embrace of neo-liberal economics – financial deregulation, dismantling of tariffs, privatisation – has seen to that.

There are now far fewer rusted on Labor voters, far fewer unionists, far less sense of common cause than before economic rationalisation reduced us all to single competing units in a market economy.  It’s because both major parties accept market capitalism that we are told that the parties are the essentially the same. But I don’t think that’s ever been true.

What have the two candidates for Labor leadership been saying about Labor’s narrative? Essentially both agree that the ‘fair go’ is central to Labor’s worldview. Both are committed to improving the lives of Australians in the future.

Now any party could say this. What do Bill and Anthony have in mind? Both seem to be looking at gaps in the current activities of government, in areas like urban public transport, better provision for old age and science and innovation, as well, of course, as defending the gains of the Rudd and Gillard governments in education, disability, and health.

Call this a defining narrative? Well yes. Implicit in Labor’s embrace of economic rationalisation is the promise of an accompanying social wage which ensures that the market does not simply reward the strong or the lucky. It is this social wage that is eroded by small government and low taxes. It is this social wage that requires active government intervention in the market. Only a Labor government can deliver this – the other side doesn’t recognise either the need or the means to achieve it. The narrative is thus government intervention in the market to promote greater equality.

Neither candidate has put their vision in quite these terms; support for greater equality is the nearest they’ve come. I think it’s time for Labor to stop being afraid to say that greater equality can only be achieved through government and that it is the party of government intervention. Given the apparent success of the mainstream media’s anti ‘pink batts’ campaign, they may need to find better ways of saying it. But, thank you Jonathan Green, it’s what makes them different from the winner-takes-all views of the free market Liberal Party.

There are lots of areas where Labor needs to work harder for greater equality than it has so far acknowledged. One stands out: the need to ensure that the rigours of climate changes do not fall most heavily on the already disadvantaged – and this includes many rural communities.

There’s been some acknowledgement that Labor’s agenda has to include sustainability as a core filter for all other policies; for example, there’s no point creating jobs that simply add to the problem of greenhouse emissions. Even the British Conservatives can see that a low carbon economy can create new jobs; Labor’s challenge is to promote growth that is not only sustainable but also equitable. Pricing carbon – which is, of course, a market mechanism – is a good start, but is by no means a sufficient response to the changes that global warming will force upon us.

There’s no doubt lots of other areas where modifying market outcomes is necessary; housing provision and taxation policy come urgently to mind. Labor has time to develop policies in such areas, so long as it is true to its promise to listen to the needs of ordinary people.

The Liberals and their friends in the mainstream media can be relied on to call such policies class war or the politics of envy. This is rubbish. As Warren Buffett says, ‘There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.’ He should know.

Labor doesn’t oppose capitalism, or profit, or entrepreneurialism. Nor, these days, does it want class warfare. But it does want to use the power of government to create a more equal society, and it needs to say so loudly.  And it needs to build new constituencies in support of this.

There is much at stake here. It isn’t just about Labor. It’s about rekindling the belief in the efficacy of government action that twenty years of neoliberalism has eroded. The market, as it is currently configured, is not serving us well. We need to revive the belief that government can, and will make things better. Next time Jonathan Green says Labor and Liberal are the same, can someone please send him this article?

By Kay Rollison

Just don’t give up

Gough C

As readers of The AIMN will know, we encourage people who are not the regular authors to submit an article for publication. It’s always rewarding to us to hear what people have to say and we are privileged that they have chosen us as that forum. And so, here is:

A guest post from Boxlid.

I have to declare at the outset that I am, and always have been a socialist/Labor supporter, first in the Harold Wilson’s UK and then in Australia. Gough Whitlam was Prime Minister when I came to live in this remarkable and wonderful country in the early seventies. Coming to Australia felt like I’d entered into heaven.

Over the years that I’ve proudly been an Australian citizen I have experienced cycles of government that have caused me to question their application; some of which have provided me with hope and some with despair. I can best sum it up here:

My hope always being with the Labor Party; progressive, socially aware yet always struggling against a social tide of “oppositional” media.

I was fortunate, maybe, when I came to Australia I was first housed and housed in leafy Toorak, courtesy of my partner at the time (well, her family anyway). Our next door neighbour was the successful and outspoken Lindsay Fox, known for such statements as:

“Anyone who is not a socialist in there twenties has no feeling and anyone in their forties who’s a socialist has no sense”

Later I heard statements like:

“Who dresses Hazel, obviously no one, just look at her”

However, I still knew little about Australia. I saw Tee shirts in Adelaide saying “The Dingo Did it” and I even had to find out what that meant. I’ve moved around this wonderful country a lot, courtesy of my employment and I have lived in Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane and numerous places in-between. I’ve always found Australia to be a very remarkable, accommodating and blessed with a diverse population of people. I found Australia to be a nation that despite its initial difficulties, just get on with it and adapted and settled in.

It has been much to my dismay, however, that recently our political system in this country has become more like a “Combat” zone and not about representation of its citizenry. I currently despair about our leadership choices.

I know who I will vote for in the coming election, not because I’m a rusted on Labor supporter, but because the LNP is just too a horrendous alternative to the Australia I’ve fallen in love with.

But sadly, I think the Labor Party, in particular on the eve of an election, just seems to have lost its focus.

Instead of campaigning solidly on its achievements over the last three years and taking the LNP to account for itself, we have wishy-washy new policies introduced at this late stage in the election campaign that to me just seem to amount to the Labor Party shooting themselves in the foot.

Why talk about taxing non-immunising parents, putting the price of cigarettes up, or “me too-ing” with Tony Abbott on Asylum Seekers or the NT Development? How about more focus on what Labor stands for, such as the infrastructure that develops our nations and supports our vision?

There’s the NBN, Education, Gonski, Health, NDIS, Expansion of Medicare with the inclusion of dental, increased productivity to business all over the nation with a future framework of communication and new business models and markets. Also, review the asylum seekers policies and any other major policies as they affect our nation. That’s what we want to elect a government on.

Having said that, it’s good to see Labor fighting back, but is it directed in the Labor way? Are they playing LNP politics to try and win the election? This doesn’t sit with us traditional Labor folk and I think we need to let the party know. I can feel the traditions slipping away. Sadly, this no longer looks like the Labor of Whitlam, Hawke, and Keating.

I don’t know. Is it just me? Or does anyone else feel the same?


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