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Tag Archives: politician’s entitlements

Pollution and bombs or hospitals and schools?

Scott Morrison has said he wants to hear from anyone with ideas on how to cut government spending.

Here’s a few.

Fossil fuel subsidies

The OECD said its 34 members plus six of the biggest emerging economies – China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Russia and South Africa – were spending up to $200bn a year supporting the consumption and production of coal, oil and gas.

That’s twice as much as was needed to meet the climate-finance objectives set by the international community at climate change summits, which have set a target of mobilising $100bn a year by 2020.

Defence spending

In the 2015–16 Budget, the Government reaffirmed its commitment to growing the Defence budget to two per cent of GDP within a decade.

The Government will provide Defence with $31.9 billion in 2015–16 and $132.6 billion over the Forward Estimates.

That does not include defence materiel whose 2014-15 Budget Estimate was $12.6bn. Why do we need strike force capability? I would have thought a car industry would be a better investment than at attack force.

We have just signed a $665 million contract for a new “telecommunications provider to the battlefield that will increase flexibility and interoperability in the field, giving commanders increased capability to share information and increased responsiveness. “

Meanwhile the rest of us endure copper broadband and mobile blackspots.

Politicians’ entitlements

At about half a billion dollars a year, this is one area that can surely come up with some savings and, considering recent scandals, would be well received by a cynical public.

It should not cost half a million to fit out an office. Use telecommunications more rather than flying hither and yon for a chat and a photo. Build an accommodation wing at Parliament House and save on comcars at the same time. Family reunions should be paid for by the family. Catch commercial flights rather than summoning private jets. And stop wasting so much money on spin doctors.


The hundreds of billions shelled out for these things do nothing to improve productivity so let’s get genuine about looking at the benefit for what we spend.

Pollution and bombs or hospitals and schools?

 

The less they know the better

The Age of Entitlement may be over for pensioners, students, sick people and the unemployed, but it is alive and well for our fearless leader.

Aside from his salary of $507,338 a year, Tony Abbott has claimed $628,736.33 in expenses for the first 6 months of this year.

In April Tony travelled to Japan, the Republic of Korea and China.  The trip, which lasted from April 5 to April 14 cost us $219,857.04 with the following breakdown.

Accommodation and Meals $56,881.13

Additional Equipment Allowance $410.00

Basic Equipment Allowance $450.00

Fares $30,813.70

Ground Transport $16,746.81

Minor Official Expense Advance $504.00

Official Hospitality non Portfolio related $58,803.98

Related Travel Expenses $51,813.18

Travel Advance $3,434.24

Almost $60,000 for non-portfolio related hospitality?  Party time, drinks are on us.

His trip to Switzerland to attend the World Economic Forum from January 19 to January 25 cost us $120,309.22 comprised of

Accommodation and Meals $43,694.63

Additional Equipment Allowance $820.00

Basic Equipment Allowance $900.00

Fares $8,109.36

Ground Transport $43,515.63

Medical Costs $230.32

Minor Official Expense Advance $315.00

Related Travel Expenses $20,426.65

Travel Advance $2,297.63

Switzerland is a fairly small country but their “ground transport” must be hellishly expensive at over $7000 a day.

The trip to PNG for a couple of nights in March only cost us $5,549.63 which included $835.15 Medical Costs plus the ubiquitous Basic and Additional Equipment allowances adding to $860.

On the domestic scene, Tony charges us $558 per night travelling allowance every night he is away from home, on average 5-6 nights per month.  No wonder he was so keen to have his photo taken at the cancer clinic before he flew back to Canberra after the private function in Melbourne.

We paid $6,984.86 for the lease and petrol for Tony’s private vehicle on top of the $59,140.27 for Comcars.

It may seem nitpicking to go through the almost $150,000 we spent on office stationery, printing and phones during that six months but the three $15 late payment fees really aggravate me.  Not only is it showing disregard for their creditors and our money, they have thousands of employees but they can’t manage to pay a bill on time?

But don’t get used to having access to this sort of information.

After embarrassing details of Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s lavish trip to London and Rome with his wife were revealed by Fairfax Media in September, the Abbott government decided to refuse to release documents detailing the cost and purpose of overseas travel by Coalition ministers, claiming they could “cause damage to Australia’s international relations” if made public.

Mr Pyne’s trip from April 23 to April 30 to the UK and Italy to “conduct a series of high-level meetings, attend ANZAC Day commemorations and represent the Government at the canonisations of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII” cost us $30,661.76.

Taxpayers were billed $1352 to “day let” a room at a swish London hotel before the minister and his wife, Carolyn, flew back to Australia on the same day. More than $2000 was spent on VIP services at Heathrow Airport for the Pynes.

The documents revealed Mr Pyne had got around guidelines that prevent spouses being funded on overseas trips unless in certain circumstances with a special letter of approval by Mr Abbott’s chief-of-staff, Peta Credlin.

Considering the number of junkets that have been exposed and travel allowances repaid, the decision to not release their claims for travel expenses is perhaps not surprising from this “transparent, accountable, trustworthy, adult” government.

Actions speak louder than words

Joe Hockey has been making noise about tax avoidance.

“They’re stealing from us and our community,” he told the Nine Network on Friday, labelling tax cheats as “thieves.”

Tony Abbott told us we should judge the Coalition on their actions rather than their words – sound advice considering their words bear no resemblance to what they actually do – so it would be timely to consider what they have done to address this growing problem.

While other countries are closing their tax minimisation loopholes, the Abbott government has spent the past year opening them up.

One of Treasurer Joe Hockey’s first acts in office was to roll back Labor’s measures to tackle profit shifting and improving tax transparency – effectively handing back $1.1 billion to big global firms.

As it pushes for a G20 summit agreement this weekend to crack down on corporate tax evasion, the Abbott government has set a timetable for action that is about one year behind the biggest European economies including Britain, France and Germany.

The “early adopters” in the global program will begin exchanging information in September 2017, however, the exchange of information with Australian authorities will not take place until September 2018.

In March this year, the ATO announced an amnesty for offshore tax cheats.  For those who come forward before the end of the calendar year, there is a guarantee of no prosecution and only four years of offshore income is assessed with a maximum shortfall penalty of 10 per cent.

“For lots of people, their forebearers came from war-torn Europe”, tax lawyer Mark Leibler told the ABC’s AM program.  “They wanted to keep nest eggs overseas, not primarily in order to avoid or evade tax, but just as a measure of security.”

So these people and their families have been avoiding tax since they arrived here after the war but let’s not worry about that.

Around $150 million worth of assets is the most declared by one person so far. The money has come from 40 countries including Switzerland, the UK, Hong Kong, Israel and Singapore.

Australian Tax Office deputy commissioner, Greg Williams, said new migrants with limited knowledge of Australia’s tax system and people that have deliberately sent money offshore are also among those coming forward.

“You’ve got that whole gamut from old money, new money, recent migrants and people sending the money offshore,” he said.

These ‘people’ include our own government.

Australia’s Future Fund has revealed it has invested more than $20 billion through offshore tax shelters, including the Cayman Islands, warning of lower returns if it does not minimise its tax bill.

The $77bn fund for federal public-servant pensions has revealed that 14.4 per cent of its assets, worth about $11bn, are invested in subsidiaries based in the Cayman Islands (a tax haven in the Caribbean) and a further 1.3 per cent is in its subsidiaries in the British Virgin Islands and Jersey.

On top of this, the fund has tipped 12.6 per cent of assets, about $9.6bn, into private market vehicles based in these tax shelters and a small fraction is invested in a vehicle based in Luxembourg.

Answers to a Senate inquiry revealed that, at June 30, the fund held stakes in 15 tobacco manufacturers including a $55.4 million stake in British American Tobacco in Britain, $44.5m in Lorillard and a $44.9m investment in Philip Morris in the US.

Individuals within the government also embrace the benefits of tax “minimisation”.

In July, it was disclosed that Malcolm Turnbull, Australia’s second-richest parliamentarian, has invested in a ”vulture fund” based in the tax haven Cayman Islands.

Mr Turnbull, who has divested himself of shares and switched his investments to managed funds and hedge funds since being elected, updated the register of members’ interests on June 18.

The IPA, not surprisingly, is against any moves to tighten up the laws.

“Inspired by the sensationalist headlines, the emerging policy agenda for a clamp down on tax avoidance should be seen for what it truly is: a ploy by indebted countries, with overgrown public sectors, to hoover up more cash from productive people and enterprises, stifling tax competition in the process.”

You have to give them credit for never letting morality or ethics interfere.  They were no doubt impressed when their much-loved patron, Rupert Murdoch, single-handedly blew an almost billion dollar hole in our budget when the ATO chose not to appeal a court ruling condoning Murdoch’s tax avoidance practices.

In a 1989 meeting, four News Corp Australia executives exchanged cheques and share transfers between local and overseas subsidiaries that moved through several currencies.

They were paper transactions; no funds actually moved. In 2000 and 2001 the loans were unwound. With the Australian dollar riding high, News Corp’s Australian subsidiaries recorded a $2 billion loss, while other subsidiaries in tax havens recorded a $2 billion gain.

By last July that paper “loss”, booked against News Corp’s Australian newspaper operations, had become an $882 million cash payout.

Under a legal arrangement when the company was spun off last June, News was forced to pass all of the tax payout to Mr Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox.

News Corp said it had retained $A81 million because it faced income tax charges on the interest payments by the Tax Office. However it seems unlikely to actually pay these funds: News Corp Australia carried another $1.5 billion in tax deductions from a separate paper shuffle that it made when News reincorporated in the US.

The Australian Taxation Office says its $882 million loss to Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation may just be the tip of the iceberg.

Tax Commissioner Chris Jordan and deputy Neil Olesen told a parliamentary inquiry the Tax Office has recently lost even more valuable cases against individual taxpayers.

“There are others bigger than this one,” Mr Olesen told a parliamentary hearing in March. “There were significant amounts at stake that we were also unsuccessful with through the courts.”

In a current case, Australian tax authorities allege multinational oil giant Chevron used a series of loans and related party payments worth billions of dollars to slash its tax bill by up to $258 million. The claim is now being heard before the Federal Court of NSW.

Despite growing pressure to crack down on multinationals reaping massive profits in Australia each year and paying little tax, the ATO has been scaling back its technical ability to force the “transnationals” to pay up.

After cuts of $189 million in the May budget, the ATO announced that they had to cut staff by 2,100 people by the end of October.

Community and Public Sector Union (CPSU) deputy national president Alistair Waters said “The tax office has provided evidence to the Senate that for every $1 spent on resources by the tax office, that collects $6 in tax revenue.  Obviously if you are pulling resources out of the tax office that makes it easier for people who might want to avoid paying their tax.”

Public servants with hundreds of years of combined technical know-how have left the ATO’s “Internationals’ Group” in recent years, with the process accelerated by the present massive cuts to the agency.

Private advisors hired by “transnationals” to minimise their tax payments know too much about internal workings of the ATO and are using their insider knowledge to profit their clients.

Case deadlines of 90 days imposed on audit teams by ATO bosses eager to increase the number of cases covered have allowed transnationals to simply “wait out” the Taxation Office or to have low-ball settlements accepted.

Swedish furniture giant IKEA paid just $7.7 million in tax in Australia in 2013-2014, despite banking an operating profit of $92 million for its Australian activities that year.

Even the government’s domestic decisions belie their stated willingness to crack down on tax rorting.

Repealing the legislation regarding novated car leases and FBT cost us $1.8 billion in revenue and the only people to benefit are those who fraudulently claim business usage of their car, and the salary-packaging industry that has sprung up to service this perk.

But what can you expect from a Prime Minister who keeps caucus waiting for an hour – his excuse being “he had to schedule an early morning visit to a cancer research centre in Melbourne on Tuesday so that he could justify billing taxpayers to be in the city for a “private function” the night before”.

Or a Treasurer who defended “his practice of claiming a $270-a-night taxpayer-funded travelling allowance to stay in a Canberra house majority-owned by his wife” as did the Communications Minister who “rented a house from his wife Lucy when in Canberra.”

In Canberra, MPs are not required to show a receipt to prove they stayed in a hotel because the blanket $270 rate applies whether you stay in a hotel or a house owned by yourself or another person.

Because of the rules, many MPs purchase property in Canberra to provide a base during parliamentary sittings and use their travel allowance to pay off their mortgage.

We also have our Prime Minister, Attorney-General, Foreign Minister and Agriculture Minister defending their practice to claim travel and accommodation costs to attend weddings whilst grudgingly refunding the money only after it was exposed in the press.  Attendance at sporting events apparently still constitutes official business.

Tony Abbott had promised to lead an honest government that would respect taxpayers’ money and end the age of entitlement.

Joe Hockey has “vowed to give the Tax Office whatever laws it needs” and is “determined to use all available resources to close tax loopholes.”

Sorry boys – your actions make me doubt your sincerity.

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world

In the months leading up to the last election, the mainstream media lost the respect of many people.  Murdoch headlines became stories within themselves.  All news seemed to be about Labor’s leadership tension and polls.  Scrutiny such as we are seeing now from some sections of the media was sadly lacking and many of us turned to online sites such as The AIMN.

Whilst I have learned a great deal here, it must be acknowledged that many of our articles are inspired by information in the MSM, or from source documents quoted in articles we read.

In our disgust with Murdoch, we rejected MSM and decided they had no journalists worth listening to, but that has never been the case.  Tony has been extremely successful in perfecting the ‘look over there’ technique.  Well, I am sure it wasn’t Tony, but people more schooled in the art of mind manipulation through the media who decide what we will be told and how.

Throughout this time journalists have been providing us with information, but it gets drowned out by the sensationalism being directed, presumably, by Credlin and Loughnane.

In light of the horror budget of all time I would like to remind you how tough Tony is doing at your expense, courtesy of just a few stories from the MSM.  The thing that struck me as I put these few articles together was the secrecy, lies, and detachment from whether something is right or not, just whether he is “entitled.”

Canberra Times

Staff in Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s office have blocked the release of information on the year-long restoration of The Lodge, fearing “negative comments” about the $4.45 million project.

Last week’s federal budget included more funds for maintenance and the refurbishment, but the total amount was deemed commercial-in-confidence.

Taxpayers forked out $65,000 in lease-termination fees in April after it was revealed Mr Abbott wouldn’t use a $3000-a-week rented home in Forrest chosen by the PM&C during the pre-election caretaker period.

Daily Telegraph

John Howard’s unprecedented decision to live in Kirribilli House citing continuity for his children’s education cost the taxpayers $18.4 million in flights between Canberra and Sydney.

news . com

“Tony Abbott has spent more than $120,000 overhauling Kirribilli House since winning the election – including $13,000 on a family room rug.”

news . com

The Abbott Government will seek a truce with media outlets and taxpayers so it can buy or lease larger VIP jets to fly politicians, officials and journalists overseas on the same aircraft.

According to senior government sources the new plan would involve aircraft such as the Airbus A-330 or Boeing 777 that can fly hundreds of passengers over long distances with fewer stops.

The Boeing 777 and Airbus A-330 each cost about $250 million and both can carry in excess of 200 passengers in VIP configuration.

Sydney Morning Herald

The top-of-the-line Holden Caprice was recommended by the Attorney-General’s Department in 2012 as the preferred option for a fleet of nine specialised blast-proof VIP vehicles to be used by the Prime Minister and other dignitaries, according to confidential government documents.

The revelation appears to contradict reported Abbott government sources as saying Holden had not even submitted a bid in the tender because the car-maker simply ”was not interested”.

The report also cited government sources revealing the multimillion-dollar contract to replace the ageing fleet of Caprices, was about to be filled with ”off-the-shelf BMW High Security 7-Series vehicles” worth $525,000 each.

news . com

SOME OF TONY ABBOTT’S EXPENSES:

Derby Day with family travel November 2012 – $2271.61

AFL Grand Final with family travel September 2012 – $2150.89

Coffs Coast Cycle Challenge, Coffs Harbour August 2012 – $1002.24

Hervey Bay surf life saving pier to pub swim April 2012 – $2372.81

Charter jet to Tamworth Country Music Festival January 2012 – $8800

Australian Open Men’s tennis final Melbourne January 2012 – $1639.82

Tour Down Under Adelaide January 2012 – $2174.82

Pier to Pub swim Lorne January 2012 – $1444.24

Port Macquarie Ironman November 2011 – $1290.10

AFL Grand Final with family travel September 2011 – $5663.58 (flight Bris-Syd included in the fare for Melbourne return)

Melbourne Cup November 2010 – $2154.40

news . com

PRIME Minister Tony Abbott has again defended claiming a travel allowance from taxpayers for a charity bike ride.

Over the past few years, he has claimed thousands of dollars in allowances for overnight accommodation and flights for the time he’s participated in the Pollie Pedal fundraising bike ride through regional areas.

Three years ago, Tony Abbott said of Kevin Rudd’s response to the GFC:

“He has saddled us with years of higher interest rates, higher taxes and higher debt to avert a disaster that never was.”

Apparently the GFC was not a disaster but our recently reaffirmed AAA credit rating portends doom for the nation unless something drastic is done right now.  The situation is so dire that the politicians have agreed to forego a pay rise they weren’t being offered.

In comparison, the Sydney Morning Herald informs us:

“We find that people on benefits do the heaviest lifting. An unemployed 23-year-old loses $47 a week or 18 per cent of their disposable income. An unemployed lone parent with one eight-year-old child loses $54 per week or 12 per cent. Lone parents earning around two-thirds of the average wage lose between 5.6 per cent and 7 per cent of their disposable income. A single-income couple with two school-age children and average earnings loses $82 a week or 6 per cent of their disposable income.

Compare this to the $24, or less than 1 per cent of disposable income, paid through the deficit levy by an individual on three times the average wage – close to $250,000 by 2016–17. High-income couples could together bring in up to $360,000 a year and not contribute an extra cent.

These calculations are conservative. They do not take into account the proposed abolition of the ”schoolkids bonus” because this is not a new budget initiative. They do not deduct rent or childcare. Nor do they include increased costs of health care and fuel or changes to education.”

But never fear … we have jets, lots of jets … or at least we might have, sometime in the next decade, so we will just sit on those billions until they are ready.

“The $12.4 billion cost of the RAAF’s 58 new Joint Strike Fighters plus another $12bn to keep them operational is not new money” Tony Abbott says.  The Prime Minister said the money had already been provided for in the budget as “money which successive governments have carefully put aside to ensure that our nation’s defences are strong’’.

We will also sit on the $20 billion raised by our co-payments for medical services.  Why we aren’t using those billions to reduce our debt or to make Medicare and pensions sustainable is something only Mr Hockey can explain.

It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world.

Shining a light on dark places

image

 

The attempt to sell the repeal of Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act has led to a new page in the “phrases to repeat” Coalition script. Everyone from Tony Abbott and George Brandis to Tim Wilson is saying that it is the responsibility of the community to “shine a light on dark places”.

I realise they are referring to bigotry and racism but I think it is a laudable sentiment which should be embraced and extended.

I would like a light shone on Manus Island and Nauru and “on-water operations”. I would like to see a cost benefit analysis of our offshore detention policy. I would like to see a total bill for Operation Sovereign Borders and the incarceration of innocent people.

Add up how much we are spending on orange life rafts and unmanned drones and having a naval fleet patrolling. Add up how much we are spending on flights for politicians, aid workers, guards, journalists, asylum seekers etc to fly backwards and forwards to Indonesia, PNG, Nauru, Christmas Island, Cambodia, Solomon Islands and everywhere else we are trying to make complicit in this inhumanity. Add up how much it is costing us to keep 30,000 people locked up in limbo.

Next, this government is carrying out a concerted campaign to discredit unions using the Craig Thomson case to justify spending hundreds of millions on a Royal Commission and the re-establishment of the ABCC. I find this hard to understand as Mr Thomson is going to gaol – doesn’t this show that we already have a system of oversight by which corrupt officials can be prosecuted? Aren’t the police and ICAC better suited to deal with bribery, corruption and intimidation?

The $24,000 that Mr Thomson misappropriated pales into insignificance compared to the amount of money that politicians have been forced to repay for fraudulent expense claims that are brushed off as “mistakes” if someone questions them. I would like a light shone on parliamentarians’ entitlements and for the Finance department to exercise better governance.

I would like to shine a light on who is actually running our government. Every time Tony Abbott meets with world leaders Peta Credlin is sitting at the table. I know she runs his office but surely there are some diplomats, economists. cultural, trade or defence experts that deserve a spot in front of her.

I want to know why Cardinal Pell and Maurice Newman feel empowered to advise the government on climate change. I want to know why Mark Textor feels empowered to wade into foreign affairs on Twitter. I want to know who are the puppet masters. (see Andrew Robb video).

Speaking of puppet masters, I want to shine a light on political donations, and on paid political advertising which is banned in the UK.

Coincidentally, in a recent freedom of speech ruling in the European Court, the UK government successfully argued that the ban on paid political advertising was necessary to achieve the “legitimate aim of avoiding the distortion of debate on matters of public interest by unequal access to influential media by financially powerful bodies.”

The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights held, by a majority of nine to eight, that the long-standing ban on paid political advertising on television and radio in the United Kingdom does not contravene the right to freedom of expression in article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Wealthy corporations, organisations and individuals have unusual access to, and influence over, the parties and politicians to whom they donate. Hundreds of millions of dollars are donated and then spent on advertising. Not only is this a ridiculous waste of money, it makes our political parties beholden. They are focused on chasing sponsorship so they must appease those with the means to bankroll them. People back winners so they must concentrate on being popular rather than governing.

The media must have a good relationship with a politician to gain access and to be fed the leaks. The politician must have a good relationship with the media because they choose what the next headline will say and which stories will be reported. This symbiotic arrangement has degenerated so far that politicians and journalists are amongst the least respected professions in the country.  The following arrangement doesn’t add to the public’s trust.

“The $600 million lease on the current RAAF fleet of two Boeing 737 business jets and three smaller Challenger 604 aircraft will expire next year and the government will seek agreement from media companies to limit criticism of any decision to opt for bigger planes

According to senior government sources the new plan would involve aircraft such as the Airbus A-330 or Boeing 777 that can fly hundreds of passengers over long distances with fewer stops. The Boeing 777 and Airbus A-330 each cost about $250 million and both can carry in excess of 200 passengers in VIP configuration.”

And why should the media not report on this? Because the current planes “are too small to carry a full complement of press gallery journalists and crews” so let me spend my hundreds of millions in peace and you get a free ride to come film me. The taxpayers are footing the bill for Tony’s tame journos to be flown around the world presumably for free.

I would like to shine a light on corporate lobbyists and the deals they make with politicians. After leaving Parliament, an inordinate number of ex-pollies secure plum jobs with corporations they dealt with in their portfolio.

After bugging the East Timorese cabinet rooms under the guise of building them as a foreign aid project when he was Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer became an adviser to Woodside Petroleum, the company that was negotiating to exploit the oilfields. Peter Reith was appointed as a consultant to defence contractor Tenix immediately after resigning as defence minister. Health minister Michael Wooldridge signed a $5 million building deal for the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and days later, after resigning as health minister, was employed by the college as a consultant.

I would like to shine a light on the truth about debt and deficit. Between PEFO and MYEFO, under the Coalition government, the projected deficit for the year blew out by $17 billion. $10.2 billion of that was due to spending decisions made by the Coalition, notably an $8.8 billion gift to the RBA, an extra $1.2 billion for offshore processing, and tax breaks for those with super balances over $2 million.

Quoting from the Coalition “phrases to repeat” sheet, you will hear every one of them say Labor left us with a debt of $667 billion. Well to quote Joe Hockey’s own MYEFO document which he produced in mid-December:

“Net debt is forecast to be $191.5 billion in 2013-14 and reach $280 billion in 2016-17.”

The figure of $667 billion comes from Hockey’s MYEFO estimation of the possible gross debt in ten years’ time. Surely between now and 2024 he will be able to come up with a solution or will we still be hearing about Labor’s debt?

Where we need a glaring spotlight is on the free trade agreements that we are rushing headlong into. With Peter Dutton insisting that our health system is unsustainable why on earth would you enter into agreements that will unquestionably send our PBS into a death spiral? Allowing the evergreening of patents and other measures to benefit the pharmaceutical companies (who just so happen to be generous sponsors of the pollie pedal) will potentially spell the end of generic medicines with a huge increase in the price we pay for our drugs.

I could go on but all this light shining is burning me out. We need all of you to be torch bearers for our country. Do as Tim Wilson urges us to do – shine a light on the dark places where this government is trying to lead us.

Things we CAN afford

I know times are tough and that we will all have to tighten our belts (well so the government keeps telling me).  The list of things we can’t afford grows longer and more depressing every day.

But take heart.  The list of things we can afford is also growing.

We can afford to spend $9.5 billion over the next four years locking innocent people up in offshore detention camps (though that figure might lower as we kill them off).

We can afford to use a naval flotilla to ward off a few fishing boats.  Under Operation Sovereign Borders two frigates, seven patrol boats and numerous Customs vessels will patrol the seas between Christmas Island and Ashmore Reef and Indonesia.  Anzac Class frigates cost about $207,000-a-day to operate compared with $40,000-a-day for Armidale Class Patrol boats.

We can afford orange life rafts which cost about $70,000 each to leave on Indonesian beaches after one use each.

We can afford to make a gift of two patrol boats to the Sri Lankan Navy and even spend $ 2 million refurbishing them first.  Tiger shooting anyone?

We can afford $14 billion in fossil fuel subsides over the next four years because Lord knows they need our help.

We can afford to give $3.2 billion to the worst polluting companies.  This is not to save or create jobs, it’s a handout so they can upgrade their factories and lower their bills.

We can afford to give $5.5 billion a year to new parents.  The richer you are, the more you will get.

We can afford to spend $40 billion? on a fast internet system that very few people will be hooked up to.  Greenfield developments just became a whole lot more attractive.

We can afford $1.5 billion for the east-west link without seeing the full business case because the state government has refused to make it public (even to Tony).  This is despite the pre-election promise that no infrastructure project over $100 million would go ahead without a CBA.

We can afford to give Rupert Murdoch $882 million because he knows how to shuffle money between companies to avoid paying tax.

We can afford to spend about $600 million on two new bigger planes for Tony so he can accommodate the Murdoch press and his personal film crew in VIP luxury.

We can afford to buy a fleet of bomb proof BMWs for Tony at a cost of about $5 million.

We can afford to pay $300 million a year interest on the money Joe Hockey borrowed to gamble on the foreign exchange market.

We can afford two Royal Commissions at God knows what cost (the 2001-03 Cole royal commission into the building industry cost around $100 million) because 8 investigations into the Home Insulation Scheme weren’t enough – we want to get Kevin and Peter.  The other one is so we can get Julia and Craig and shut the unions up.

We can afford to give Cadbury $16 million because they sponsor the Pollie Pedal ride.

We can afford to give the Manly Sea Eagles $10 million to upgrade their oval because it is in Tony’s electorate and he is the number 1 ticket holder.  We can also afford to give the Brisbane Broncos $5 million because they are owned by Murdoch’s Newscorp.

We can afford $4.3 million for a research company to trawl through millions of Australian social media posts to advise the government on its immigration policies.

We can afford $2.2 million legal aid for farmers and miners to fight native title claims

We can afford to pay Tim Wilson, a man with absolutely no relevant qualifications or experience, $320,000 a year to be an extra Human Rights Commissioner appointed by George Brandis without interview or consultation.  To pay Tim, the programs that may have to be cut on anti-bullying and education for older Australians were just a doddle anyway compared to what Tim can bring to the table.  The fact that Brandis was present at the IPA 70th birthday bash is just happy coincidence.  What a guest list that was.

We can afford to pay Price Waterhouse Cooper to do a study into childcare while the Productivity Commission finishes its study into childcare because Sussan Ley had to have something to talk about first week on the job.  I have no idea how much that would cost but, as they are fondly known as Pick Wallets Clean, childcare workers who were asked to give back their payrise may be a little perturbed.

In fact we can afford countless reviews and audits and consultants and committees and investigations.  I think we are up to about 50 so far but that could be old news.  Considering each of the panel on the Commission of Audit get $1500 per day (and that’s only one review and doesn’t count their office and staff expenses) collectively this has to be in the hundreds of millions.  The cost of white papers and green papers makes red tape look attractive.

As Opposition leader, we could afford to pay Tony Abbott well over $1 million a year in claimed entitlements.  This is on top of his wage and does not include any staff wages.  It’s travel and office expenses.  I can’t wait to see how much he claims as PM.

We can afford to pay for Members of Parliament to go to weddings and wineries and book launches and football matches and real estate hunting tours.  We can afford to buy books for them and build furniture for them and hire private jets for them.

We can afford to pay for Kirribilli House, the Lodge, the other place we rented for Tony and his family that no-one is living in, and the digs at the police barracks (what’s that all about??) as well as being away from home allowance.

We can afford for Parliament to spend two weeks asking about a convicted Egyptian jihadist terrorist kept behind a pool fence and I don’t know how many weeks on AWU slush fund, Slipper, Thomson.  If we took out the daily boat count, there is very little left to justify what we paid them to be there running our country.

We seem to be able to afford a lot of things.  The question is….

Can we afford this government?

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