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Tag Archives: Peter Costello

A Whale of a Taylor – too.

“People aren’t spending” sighs Fran Kelly at the end of ABC Insiders Sunday, blaming us for the government’s epic failure to manage the economy. It’s always the victim’s fault. Yet if you don’t have it, you can’t spend it.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) records a snail’s pace in the latest increase in household incomes. ABS data shows a healthy increase from 1995 through until 2012, the period of the Howard and then Rudd/Gillard governments. Then it collapses in 2013. It is yet to recover. No wonder 9,300 retail stores will close their doors this year.

Average wealth per adult Australian, also fell by $US28,670 in 2018-2019 reports Credit Suisse in its annual global wealth report. Although Credit Suisse’s calculation includes falling house prices and a falling Australian dollar – and despite Australians remaining among the wealthiest in the world, the report confirms economic mismanagement.

We are one of a tiny minority of countries with wealth per adult lower in 2019 than back in 2012.

Vast amounts of wealth are being shunted offshore with little or no benefit to the people of Australia.

“There is no mineral resources rent tax, no other scheme to retain wealth in Australia, tax avoidance and evasion are rife, the Tax Office’s audit and enforcement divisions are severely understaffed and the Government keeps giving handouts to its foreign corporate mates,” writes Alan Austin.

What is improving is the Coalition’s strangle-hold on the media, helped in the ABC’s case by $84 million budget cuts, intimidating calls to head office, stacking of the board and a PM’s captain’s pick of Ita Buttrose as ABC Chair. AFP raids on working journalists help to increase the state’s pressure on everyone not to criticise; step out of line.

Journos pick up the vibe. Last week, Kelly’s love-in with work experience kid, Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg aids and abets Coalition’s lies about its comprehensive, colossal failure to manage the Australian economy.

“When we came to government, unemployment was 5.7%. Today it’s 5.3%. We have a record number of Australians in jobs. We have just produced the first current account surplus since 1975 … the budget is back in balance, already delivered, for the first time in 11 years. And we’re going to deliver a surplus. That means paying down Labor’s debt. Right now we have an interest bill of around $19 billion a year …”

“So what we need to do is build the resilience of the Australian economy and face those domestic and global economic headwinds that all countries are facing, particularly the trade tensions,” Frydenberg lies.

OK, Josh. Perhaps you’d like to take credit for at least half of that debt and rising interest yourself. Hey Big Spender, your government spends like a drunken sailor. Since March, Australia’s gross debt was $543,409,430,000. Double all debt accumulated by every government from Federation to the 2013 election. Just tell the truth.

Global headwinds? Mathias Cormann – who’s never been the same since his arithmetic failed him as Dutton’s numbers man in the Liberals’ last leadership coup – has been wearing out this excuse since he become finance minister. Luckily, he need suffer no longer. He’ll quit politics at the end of this parliamentary session according to Paul Bongiorno. Cormann should go. Ten years ago, the nation was praised for its success during the GFC.

Now we lag the field. Global wealth grew during the past year as the five-year international boom in trade, jobs, investment, corporate profits and government revenue continues, although Alan Austin reports some easing with the new record high adult wealth reaching $70,850 or just 1.2% below last year’s record.

There are no global headwinds. The excuse is invoked whenever jobless figures rise, interest rates are cut, GDP per capita is lower than last year and declining productivity, among other factors, show our local economy stalling.

We’re all at sea. The mutinous dog in the captain’s rig may have seized the helm in last year’s dirty double, double-crossing of Turnbull. But the usurper has no charter; no vision. His first mate can’t read a compass and the crew are frigging in the rigging or sleeping in a cabin far below. No wonder Chief Purser Cormann is about to jump ship.

With Fran’s help, Frydenberg’s farrago of lies includes his party’s whopper that it has a record number of Australians in jobs. Yet Australia’s population growth of 1.7 million people (over 15 years old) during the same period, “created” those jobs. And a record number of deaths, too, not that you hear any boasting on that score.

Even if you take figures at face value, ABC, you could query the quality of those jobs. As in the US, many Australian workers are waiting up to a decade for a pay rise, income inequality is at record levels, working hours are long or unpredictable and penalty rates are being cut or do not exist. Conditions are also rapidly getting worse.

Wage theft is becoming the new normal as every month another corporation is found underpaying its workers.

“For many workers, there is no on-the-job training or chance for career progression, stress related illnesses due to intense work pressures are common and large sections of the workforce live in fear of being sacked without notice or redundancy pay because employment security provisions have been eroded,” reports the ACTU.

Above all, as The Australia Institute’s Richard Denniss asks, “… if the Coalition is managing the economy, why did they grow the population rather than create jobs for those who were already unemployed?” We need to explode the pernicious myth of the coalition as good economic managers. And as Denniss puts it, the economy’s effect on the budget vastly outweighs the effect of any budget on any economy.

Budgets are important but budgets are not central to the management of the economy.

Context matters. Unemployment was indeed 5.7% at the end of the financial crisis or global recession of 2013 but that rate still put us eighth in OECD rankings – as contrasted with our 21st place today at 5.3% as shown in last month’s ABS data. That’s our lowest ranking since records have been kept. But no-one holds Josh to account.

The budget is not back in balance. As Finance Dept data reveals, the deficit at the end of October is around $14.7 billion. A surplus is predicted for next June. Alan Austin spells it out, that’s seven months away.

Above all, as Ross Gittins and others point out, any surplus requires a series of heroic assumptions which include expecting government spending to grow by just 0.1% in real terms – as opposed to 4.9% last financial year.

Then there are the decidedly unheroic calculations and assumptions of this government. Helping create a sacred surplus are cuts to NDIS, although the preferred term is “underspend”. Chief amongst these is the $4.6bn that has not been spent on NDIS, or to use the bureaucrats’ jargon, the “… slower than expected transition of participants into the NDIS and lower utilisation of participants’ individual support packages”.

In other words, our most vulnerable experience delay or denial as more stringent assessments reduce the numbers who qualify for NDIS. Wheelchair Basketball and Tennis, Paralympian Dylan Alcott is disgusted.

“I see the heartbroken families of people who try and try to get funding but can’t, robbing them to be independent, contributing members of society. Fix it.”

Then there’s the timing of receipts. Bringing forward the collection of tobacco excise collections, for example, Shane Wright reminds us, boosts the bottom line by several billions in the new financial year. But wait!

Look over there! In an “explosive allegation”, a Chinese spy ring, exposed by Nine’s 60 Minutes, Sunday, may involve the late Bo “Nick” Zhao, (32) a former luxury car-dealer in leafy Glen Iris in Melbourne’s sleepy eastern suburbs who was offered one million dollars to be a Chinese agent of influence in Australian federal politics.

Or so the self-professed Manchurian candidate, Bo told ASIO a year ago. Is Glen Iris the den of sedition, our ex-pat local sage and dramaturge Barry Humphries, has always warned us about? Sandy Stone now a suburban guerrilla?

A nation is shocked to learn of the plot to parachute Bo into the Liberal seat of Chisholm. Bo would then be injected like a bacillus into the fibrillating heart of our body politic, our parliament, like Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov (Lenin) in the train to the Finland Station in April 1917. Seriously? More panic from Canning MP, Andrew Hastie.

“I heard that he was a 32-year-old Melbourne resident cultivated by the Chinese Government to run as a Liberal Party candidate,” Chair of Parliamentary Joint Subcommittee on Intelligence and Security Hastie breathlessly tells Channel Nine whose chairman is former Liberal Treasurer and current chair of the Board of Guardians of our $148 billion (that won’t be invested in education, health or welfare) Future Fund, nest-egg, Peter Costello.

Sadly, it turns out Bo’s in jail awaiting trial for fraud in October when Chisholm’s preselection takes place. Gladys Liu, who also boasted she could raise a million dollars for the cause, takes his place. Bo’s bid would be a Chinese Communist Party long-term strategy, helpfully suggests Alex Joske, Australian Strategic Policy Institute analyst.

Did Bo know too much? Tragically, he is found dead of a drug overdose in a Mount Waverly motel after tipping off ASIO that Chinese intelligence operatives would give him a million dollars to run for Chisholm. What could possibly have gone wrong? The party would even have given him a hand with the odd fake AEC polling booth or two.

Mandarin language electoral booths in Chisholm and Kooyong and in several other electorates with Chinese speakers instruct unwary voters to unwittingly tick the box to elect the Liberal candidate. These appear to be authorised by the Australian Electoral Commission. Prove they affected one vote say government lawyers.

Cases have been brought against the two candidates by climate campaigner Vanessa Garbett and unsuccessful independent Kooyong candidate Oliver Yates. The fake poll booth case is currently before the full federal court.

Former acting Victorian Liberal party state director, Simon Frost, has testified that signs written in Chinese at polling booths on election day were designed to look like official Australian Electoral Commission signage. Preliminary comments from the bench are not encouraging. At least the spy scandal gets our PM’s attention.

“Deeply disturbing”, Scott Morrison finds the spy claims, he says, while Liberal MP for Canning, first talent-spotted by Greg Sheridan, and an Abbott, captain’s pick, former SAS Captain, Andrew Hastie, cranks up the hysteria.

A state-sponsored attempt to infiltrate our Parliament using an Australian citizen and basically run them as an agent of foreign influence in our democratic system,” cries Andrew “handy Andy” Hastie, who chairs the Australian Parliament’s oxymoron – its intelligence and security committee.

It seems to give Hastie a lot of prominence if not power.

Incredibly, another self-proclaimed Chinese spy, Wang Liqiang, who also comes to Hastie’s attention, is the star of a 60 Minutes’ show when he comes forward with sensational allegations. Wang claims he worked as a secret Chinese operative for five years. Worse, Beijing has directed overseas assassinations, including on Australian soil.

Yet barely a week passes before our spooks conclude the self-proclaimed Chinese spy is not a highly trained intelligence operative dispatched by Beijing to wreak havoc on China’s enemies. At most, they suggest, he may be a bit player on the fringes of the espionage community. But what a star. Let’s hope he’s awarded asylum.

“We develop friendly co-operation with Australia and other countries based on mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit,” a foreign ministry spokesman says. “We have not interfered and are never interested in interfering in other countries’ domestic affairs.”

That settles that, then. Meanwhile, it seems Wang may have some charges to face should he return to China. The Chinese Embassy insists he is merely a “self-proclaimed intelligence agent” and a convicted fraudster who was sentenced to one year and three months in prison, with a suspended sentence of a year and a half.

The embassy cites a Shanghai police statement of an investigation into Mr Wang they opened in April, after he allegedly cheated 4.6 million yuan ($960,000), in a “fake investment project”, involving car imports in February.

Chinese spies is the latest episode of Morrison’s Police State which stars our fearless anti-hero the PM as daggy-Dad, a NSW copper’s son, making yet another dud judgement call. Rather than get his Minister for Energy, Emissions, water-rorts and Round-Up, Angus Taylor, to explain who cooked up the dodgy document Taylor used to falsely impugn Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore – he rings Mick’s mobile. Is Mick’s number on Scott’s speed dial?

So our PM phones a friend; his former neighbour and bin brother, top cop, Mick Fuller. Mick’s NSW Police Commissioner, a passionate advocate of strip-searching minors, the separation of powers and augmenting the rule of law with a little bit of fear.

Young people should have a “little bit of fear” of police he tells the fear-mongering Sydney tabloid The Daily Telegraph. It’s a view which former AFP chief Mick Palmer does not share. He says it is frankly frightening.

Morrison tells parliament that Strike Force Garrad (SFG) won’t be going anywhere. He implies Mick’s told him.

SFG is the NSW police investigation of Gus Taylor’s use of doctored documents to ridicule Sydney’s Lord Mayor, Clover Moore for declaring a state of climate emergency over some forged travel figures, Gus swears were downloaded from Sydney City Council’s website, a claim contradicted by the council’s website metadata.

Doubtless, no crime will be found to have been committed but no-one will believe Morrison hasn’t leaned on Fuller to back off.

Happily, our spooks are up to snuff. The Australian even suggests that Morrison could learn from their approach. Don’t turn crisis into catastrophe. Spymaster, ASIO Director-General Mike Burgess looms up late Sunday night to assure all loyal Australians that not only is ASIO aware of the matters but is “actively investigating them“.

A former Telstra information security chief, Mike’s a top bloke says Peter Dutton. Last August Mike “moved across” to head ASIO after heading the Australian Signals Directorate, (ASD). He was on deck to News Corp Annika Smethurst whose scoop, April last year busted an ASD plan to spy on all Australians. Mike says it’s bollocks.

Mike Burgess and two departmental heads, (always better than one) issued a rare public statement disputing the report. Later Smethurst’s home was raided by the Australian Federal Police, reports Michelle Grattan, looking for anything which would lead them to her source.

Since then, there’s been a lot of fuss and bother about the role of the free press, a debate in which News Corp is handicapped by the baggage of having urged Coalition governments to increase state powers to spy on us all.

News of the Chinese plot is enough to put a nation off its Uncle Toby’s Weeties, Monday morning and quite upstages Evangelical Stuart Robert’s frantic attempts to hose down the government’s dumpster fire which erupts when, as it knew would happen, its Robodebt assessment or extortion of the poor is ruled illegal Wednesday by the Federal Court. The Morrison government may have to repay hundreds of millions of dollars.

While MSM faithfully report that it’s a shocker of a week for Morrison, it is, in fact, a very positive week for the Australian worker. Bill Shorten also is in top form. He raises the following matter in parliament. He asks

“Given that the government has now suspended robodebt after three years of operation, is it because the Coalition government at the time of creating it either, a) didn’t seek legal advice, or b) had inaccurate legal advice or c) received legal advice but just didn’t think that Australians would notice the government unjustly enriching itself at the expense of the most vulnerable in Australian society.”

It’s a bad week for Scott Morrison chorus Nine Newspapers following News Corp’s lead. But it’s far from that. It’s a good week or at least a hopeful week for ordinary Australians. What is bad is that Ensuring Integrity and repeal of Medevac are not remotely necessary.

Worse, Jacqui Lambie and Pauline Hanson note the hypocrisy, the double standard applied to workers and Westpac bankers who have just been called out by AUSTRAC on twenty-three million counts of money-laundering.

“The Prime Minister himself came out and said ‘it’s not up to us to deal with it, it’s up to the board to deal with the banks’ – but that’s not good enough,” senator Hanson says.

In the end, the Morrison government’s just not good enough, Pauline Hanson nails it. Or big enough.

One bill before the senate extends the government’s campaign to cripple unions; reduce further the power of workers to organise and exercise industrial action while the other is more a fit of pique – a sure sign that petty political point-scoring matters more than the human rights of asylum-seekers – or our compassion, humanity – or our doctors’ Hippocratic oath. Morrison’s government hates any law that Labor may have had a hand in.

Finally, there’s the robodebt debacle. The government has been happy to connive at extortion but even when called on it’s illegal averaging to raise a debt, all its Government Services Minister Stuart Robert can offer is;

“This government does not apologise -” Yet apologise it must. And fitting restitution must soon follow. No government can treat its people with such contempt; nor in reversing the onus of proof put itself above the law.

As for Yellow Peril 2.0, its spy drama, cooler, wiser heads must prevail. Andrew Hastie’s Sinophobia has all the hallmarks of an orchestrated diversion, designed to distract us from a government in deep trouble.

This week Scott Morrison reveals he understands neither the separation of powers nor the rule of law in our democracy; he acts the can-do PM; markets himself as a man of action. Yet this does not give him permission to ring the NSW Commissioner of Police in the midst of a parliamentary sitting to seek details of an investigation it is not his business to ask nor the Commissioner’s business to tell. Both parties are now irrevocably impugned.

Viewed in conjunction with his eagerness to silence dissent and his government’s passage of at least eighty laws increasing the powers of the state to spy on its citizens, his behaviour is not only entirely inappropriate it is truly alarming. The road toward a police state is paved with such incursions into liberty, democracy and justice.

Just as the incessant repetition of party propaganda and lies mask a grave unwillingness to consult others, let alone fairly and effectively manage our nation’s economy and resources whilst elevating illusion over truth.

Yet this tyranny is not inevitable. Armed with knowledge we can resist. We must. Our democracy depends upon it.

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Abbott without Costello is starting to look like one of The Three Stooges

WorditAbbott

“It’s a so-called market in the non-delivery of an invisible substance to no-one.” Tony Abbott.

Sometimes one can use too many double negatives and try to sound far too clever by making a statement which when it fails to be analysed is all right but because of the overly complicated nature of the said statement one suspects that the person who made the statement didn’t not ask someone else to look at it and tell said person that it was clever.

Or to ask the obvious questions:

1. Why is it a “so called market”? Are things not bought and sold? In what ways does this fail the test of being a market.

2. If a substance is one which is not delivered, and it’s not delivered to “no-one” does that mean that it IS delivered to someone? Or does it mean that it IS delivered to everyone?

3. Are we to presume that the fact it’s invisibility somehow makes it somehow less real? Are we to apply this standard to other invisible things and dismiss them because no-one can see them? Australia’s borders, honesty, carbon monoxide, God, radiation, the Internet, friendship, Liberal policies, love, the intelligence of Andrew Bolt fans, family, and so on?

4. Will we see an opinion poll taken in the days after that comment?

5. Has the several billion dollar cost (variable depending on which Shadow Minister was talking) been factored into the Liberal’s alternative budget, given they were saying that it’ll leave far too big a hole in Labor’s budget?

6. How long will it be before someone asks Turnbull why the “inventor of the Internet in Australia” hasn’t taken his invention overseas?

7. Three weeks ago you could get odds of 10-1 about Labor to win. Now it’s less than 2-1. Has Abbott backed them and is he deliberately throwing the election? If this were Racing, the stewards would be launching an inquiry.

Without Peter Costello, Tony Abbott really is starting to look like one of The Three Stooges. (No offence to The Three Stooges intended). Cheers!

 

Mr Abbott Stark Raving Naked in Collins Street!

Peter Costello, May 24th 2013: “Unless Tony Abbot gets caught stark raving naked in Collins Street, I think it’s over and even then he might win.”

Tony Abbott, Budget Reply Speech: ”We won’t back a so-called national education system that some states don’t support, especially as this government has a history of spending more while schools’ performance actually goes backwards.”

This was Tony Abbott’s response to Gonski in his Budget Reply Speech. Part of the difficulty with looking at education is that nearly everyone agrees that the system could be improved, so that it’s easy to say that anything that’s actually being done is a failure. It’s easy to suggest that we’re going backwards, but the data is nearly always ambiguous.

Someone I spoke to – a person in their seventies – assured me that when he went to school everyone could read and write, and that spelling was taught much more effectively than now, leading to everyone being able to spell. The fact that he himself was a poor speller seemed to be completely irrelevant to the discussion.

The subtext of what Mr Abbott and Mr Pyne have been saying is quite terrifying for anyone in education. Whenever I hear things about it being the quality of the teacher that’s the most important thing, I shudder. Of course, an excellent teacher can overcome enormous obstacles and still have success, but a well-resourced excellent teacher will have even greater success. No-one suggests that a clever CEO doesn’t need to have access to technology, or that air-conditioning is just a needless expense for the company.

Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps this suggestion that increased spending doesn’t actually improve the quality of teaching and learning isn’t code for: “Let’s ignore Gonski and keep the current model.” I certainly hope so. When Liberals say that education isn’t about money and cut funding, I notice that it’s never private schools that have their funding cut. That’s class warfare.

(The mining industry can spend millions saying that they shouldn’t pay any more tax, that’s free speech, but when Wayne Swan says that they aren’t paying enough tax, that’s class warfare. Or to put it another way, when a country starts sending missiles into another country that’s ok, but if the second country says that they’ll fight back, they’re the ones starting a war.)

Of course, the media has been telling us about Mr Positive, but when it comes to education, Mr Abbott has told us what he won’t back. When does he plan to tell us what he will back? Closer to the election has been the refrain from the LNP for the past three years, but how much closer can you get?

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Savings, savings, savings

Image from abc.net.au

Image from abc.net.au

“Human beings cannot comprehend very large or very small numbers. It would be useful for us to acknowledge that fact.” Daniel Kahneman, Nobel prize-winning psychologist.

Numbers have always fascinated me. Or rather, I’ve always been fascinated by people’s inability to understand them. If that sounds arrogant and as though I seem to think I’m better than everyone else, so be it. That seems to be a way of making oneself popular these days. For the past few years, the Liberal Party have been saying that they’re just so awesome and that the current government is just a pack of losers, and that they should be government and that they were robbed. Strangely, if they were the team that lost a Grand Final nobody would be impressed by their behaviour, but in politics, it seems to be a way to win people’s hearts and minds.

But I digress. Numbers. Really big ones. Like the budget deficit. It’s really, really big. It’s scarily big. Until you break it down. Then it just becomes mildly scary. Or as one News Limited paper told us last week, the total interest on the Government’s deficit with cost every working Australian about $5 a week. Or $250 a year. Mm, that’s about a day’s wage for some people, an hour’s wage for others, and if Gina gets her way, a year’s wage for anyone in her employ.

Of course, the figure that fascinates me today is the $75,000,000,000 dollars of savings the Liberals have identified over the next five years. That’s a lot. But the first thing that they’ll do, of course, is add to the bureaucracy. From the Liberal Website:


Commission of Audit
For the 1st time in 16 years, we’ll immediately establish a Commission of Audit – to identify savings and efficiencies in all areas of government so we can start delivering real and sustainable budget surpluses into the future.

Mm! So they’ll spend money working out how to save money. Or to look at it another way, they’ll create a new bureaucracy that’ll work out how to get rid of the other bureaucracies.

Perhaps, the Liberal slogan could be: We guarantee that we’ll take more off you in tax than we’ll give back in services, because that’s what a surplus means!

Or

Over the past forty years, Labor have given you Medicare (bank), Superannuation, the NBN, the NDIS, and next they’re trying to implement Gonski. Compare that to our proudest achievement: the GST! And we promise we won’t put that up in our FIRST term of Government.

Or (to break down a really big number).

Over the next five years, we promise to take $15,000 off every Australian! Sorry, we promise to save $75 billion.

Keep your hands off the poor, Joe Hockey

In a speech to the Institute of Public Affairs yesterday, Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey warned that a Coalition government would implement drastic welfare cuts, finger-pointed that “attacking spending and looking for structural saves was increasingly urgent”. With a deficit of anything up to $15 billion likely this year, and federal revenue forecast to be between $60 billion to $80 billion lower than expected in the next four years, Hockey needs someone whose hide he can take it out of.

Hit the poor. The IPA would have loved that. It’s the Liberal meme they’ve been hearing for years.

The LNP have it in their veins. To attack those on welfare because a few deficits are forecast is not a new policy issue, and the deficits are a fairly shallow excuse. Deficits are irrelevant. Attacking the poor is something that the LNP just likes to do.

Let’s look at a few interesting announcements from their last great purge on welfare recipients, which occurred during their failed Welfare to Work reforms of 2005-06.

  • “In May, PM John Howard unveiled a “Welfare to Work” package of changes to pensions for people with disabilities and single parents. These were part of the annual budget proposal, which also included tax cuts for the rich”.
  • “A new round of tax cuts for 9 million Australians, worth $21.7 billion over four years, is the main giveaway in Peter Costello’s 10th budget, which also aims to push 190,000 people off welfare and into work. The biggest winners are higher income earners, who are set to receive new tax cuts in addition to those they had already been promised from July 1 this year. People earning $125,000 or more will now be $42 a week better off from this July, and a further $45 a week better off from July next year”.
  • “The Government is likely to usher in a new wave of tax reforms by the time of the next election, promising relief for middle- to high-income earners and changes to the welfare system to encourage people into work. Mr Costello yesterday pointed to the need for continued tax relief – even beyond the changes to come into effect in July which will reduce the impact of the top tax rate of 47 per cent by raising the income threshold at which it applies from $70,000 to $80,000. The Government is also looking at cutting benefits for disability pensioners, with estimates that 150,000 recipients could be moved into the workforce”.
  • “Howard’s May budget, now passed, features some of the harshest reforms yet. They will be implemented starting July 1, 2006, to the detriment of an estimated 300,000 people. They affect all welfare recipients of working age, but impact the most gravely on people receiving disability and sole-parent pensions”.

Summary: reduce tax to the high income earners and cut benefits for disability pensioners. Budget surplus – $8.9 billion.

  • “New legislation will slash welfare payments for thousands of new claimants, and force single parents and the disabled into low-wage jobs. By driving down the living conditions of some of the most vulnerable members of the community, the government intends to create an enlarged pool of cheap labour available for exploitation”.
  • “From July next year, those on parenting payments – mainly women – will be expected to look for at least part-time work when their youngest child turns six and is ready for school. Their welfare payment will be switched over to the lower Newstart unemployment benefit” (my bold).

Summary: introduce legislation to slash welfare payments despite a $8.9 billion surplus.

There’s a lot to be worried about when Hockey talks of welfare reforms. As with the massive axe taken to welfare recipients during the Welfare to Work reforms, are we going to see policies based on class warfare ideologies ahead of social justice? Hockey lends us further insight. His speech in London last year included an unambiguous statement about the age of unlimited and unfunded entitlement to government services and income support being over in the Western world. As Patricia at Café Whispers reported at the time, he then made the mistake of appearing on Lateline that same evening and answering very pointed questions from Tony Jones about exactly what that might mean under a Coalition government.

Patricia wrote:

He repeated again his statement that “with an ageing population and an entitlement system that has seen extraordinary largesse built up over the last 50 years, Western communities, Western societies are going to have to make some very hard and unpopular decisions to wind back the involvement of the state in people’s lives.” At the same time he talked about Australians riding on the back of significant growth in Asia and the Government, if serious about their much vaunted “Asian Century, should start comparing us with our Asian neighbours when it comes to understandable levels of economic growth, inflation, employment and so on, rather than comparing us to countries in Europe and North America”. He then agreed with Tony Jones this included “entitlements . . . a significant issue”.

Having got this beautiful “Gotcha!” out of him, Jones did his best to tie Hockey down as to exactly which benefits he had in mind but got a lot of squirming and waffling in reply about it all depending and case by case issues! It’s worth watching! He wouldn’t be pinned down as to exactly which Asian countries he’d compare us with on social benefit entitlements, but he mentioned statistics for Hong Kong, Korea and Japan. You’ll have to forgive my poetic license in using India and Malaysia for rhyming reasons. After all, they are our neighbours in Asia and millions of people in all of those countries and elsewhere in Asia are currently living in abject poverty.

I was appalled to hear Joe Hockey talk about how we should look to our region for a model on welfare spending! Not so! We need to maintain and improve our mutual support standards here so that we can be a beacon to other countries around us! We are an example of what they can strive for! I can’t imagine living in a modern state which hasn’t found a way to look after its weaker and poorer members. Medical, educational and other social benefits should be fairly available to all regardless of economic status, and yes all need to make a fair contribution to their cost where they can.

Listening to the man who could be our next Treasurer I feared for our future more than ever before. He was talking as if he had no real understanding or appreciation of the enlightened society most of us are beginning to enjoy only now after centuries of struggle from the earliest days of organised labor in Western Europe. Almost a thousand years ago journeymen and their craftsmen employers were striving for improvement in their lives through the Guilds. In the 18th century ‘Scottish Enlightenment’ economist, Adam Smith noted the imbalance in the rights of workers in regards to owners or ‘masters’ in The Wealth of Nations.

The well-being of our society, its economy and its environment, is such that the fair entitlements of all its citizens are protected. Especially the poor and those on welfare for no fault of their own. For their sake at least, this Coalition team led by the likes of Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb must not come to power.

For their sake, keep your hands off the poor, Mr Hockey.

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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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