For those of us who wonder what this government has actually achieved, the Liberal Party have provided a handy list of “key achievements”.
They begin by telling us that “403,100 more jobs were created in 2017.”
Aside from using the seasonally adjusted figure rather than the more commonly used trend estimate (393,400), they left out the part that says “The number of unemployed persons was largely unchanged, increasing by 100.”
Next comes the small business tax cuts “for 3.2 million businesses employing 6.7 million Australians.”
Firstly, according to the ABS, at the end of 2016-17, there were 2,238,299 actively trading businesses in the market sector in Australia in total, not 3.2 million, and they aren’t all small businesses as that would imply.
Secondly, 61.2% of all businesses don’t employ anyone else. Of those who do have employees, 70.1% employed between one and four people.
As Adam Creighton pointed out, those small businesses created 5% of the growth in private sector employment since 2010, while businesses with more than 200 employees (0.5% of employing businesses) created 65% of that growth.
Small business tax cuts might sound nice, but they do little to boost employment.
The next “achievement” on the list was the instant asset write-off “used last year by 300,000 small businesses to invest in new equipment and machinery.”
According to Treasury data, in the first year of the scheme, 99,000 businesses took advantage of the write-offs, claiming a total of $415 million, up from the $165 million claimed in write-downs before the scheme was introduced.
In October 2017, then Small Business Minister Michael McCormack said the most recent Treasury data revealed another 50,500 businesses took up the scheme in its second year, with the average amount claimed increasing from $4000 to $9000.
Aside from 300,000 being a fabrication, if it’s such a good idea, why are they scrapping it on July 1 this year?
The next claim of “affordable, reliable energy” is more a wish than an achievement.
“National Energy Guarantee will ensure reliability and reduce bills. More gas supplies have been secured. Snowy Hydro 2.0 feasibility study has been completed.”
Anyone’s electricity bill gone down yet? And how are those emissions going? One part of the “trilemma” seems to be missing.
Then comes the “record infrastructure investment” of “$75 billion” which hasn’t actually happened yet but is sure to some time over the “next decade”.
Do promises count as achievements?
Next, they claim to be “fixing the budget” by “halving the growth in spending”.
That is double-speak for we are still running deficits and increasing the debt.
Then we move on to “more exports” which are “locking in benefits from landmark trade agreements with China, Japan and South Korea.”
Budget papers estimate the loss of revenue from tariffs over the forward estimates to be $6.375 billion.
The Productivity Commission released a scathing report on the value of free trade agreements, saying they just added to the “complexity and cost of international trade through substantially different sets of rules of origin, varying coverage of services and potentially costly intellectual property protections and investor-state dispute settlement provisions.”
They were harshly critical of “the continuing absence of two critical areas of transparency. First, the lack of contemporaneous transparency of the provisions being negotiated. Second, the absence of any rigorous and transparent assessment of the negotiated text of an agreement before signing.”
The report also contains specific criticism of the TPP, which the achievements list boasts “Australia took a lead role in negotiating”, over the risks it poses around issues such as intellectual property.
Of course, what would a Liberal list of achievements be without reference to “tackling union lawlessness”.
“Australian Building and Construction Commission restored to protect small businesses and the economy from CFMEU lawlessness. Secret payments banned between businesses and unions.”
It only cost us a double dissolution election to establish the ABCC whose boss then had to quit for breaching the Fair Work Act, but not before taxpayers coughed up $400,000 to cover his legal bill.
Unsurprisingly, there is no mention of the Banking Royal Commission. Nor any attempt to stop “secret payments” between businesses and politicians or government and media moguls.
They then remind us how they are keeping us safe through “secure borders, fighting terror, deporting criminals, tackling the scourge of ice, a stronger defence force, and cracking down on paedophiles.”
They are good at imposing very expensive reactionary punitive measures but not so good at the compassion and support necessary to forestall problems or to help victims.
Next achievement – “more affordable child care” with “Landmark reforms targeted to working parents.”
The kicker is that, under the new package, to qualify for subsidised care both parents must be working, studying, training or volunteering for at least four hours a week. Families earning less than $65,000 who do not meet the test will be able to access 12 hours a week of subsidised care but anyone earning over $65,000, regardless of their circumstances, must satisfy the test every week or they are ineligible for subsidised care.
The early childhood sector wanted the 12-hour limit increased to 15 hours and wanted the activity test to only apply to families earning more than $100,000 a year. After wide consultation and providing compelling evidence for their stance, they thought they had agreement with Simon Birmingham, but they were sorely disappointed.
Simon Birmingham also claims the next achievement, “more schools funding”, which is a fairly easy claim to make because, due to increasing population, schools get more funds every year anyway. As we have seen, making claims about funding in a decade’s time is meaningless.
His other claim that “Our agreement replaces 27 secret deals and will provide needs based funding for all students” has already been shot out of the water with many disadvantaged schools being worse off whilst a secret deal with the wealthiest schools has already been struck to ease the shock.
The Liberals then claim to have provided “better health care” with “86% of GP visits bulk billed last year, hospital funding at record levels and new reforms introduced to improve private health insurance.”
But according to RACGP President Dr Bastian Seidel, the percentage of patients who had all their GP visits bulk billed during 2016–17 was actually around 66%. While the Federal Government’s Medicare spend has risen, so have patients’ out-of-pocket cost for GP visits, reaching an average of $34.95 over the July–December period in 2017–18. This represents a 4.5% rise in out-of-pocket costs compared to a 0.5% rise in bulk billing over the same period.
Between 2012–13 and 2016–17, additions to public hospital elective surgery waiting lists (patients placed on a waiting list) increased by 3.2% on average each year.
And private health insurance costs continued to soar while the things they covered got less.
The Libs also spruik their immunisation program, saying that “From next year all 12 and 13 year olds will get free protection against HPV virus and cervical and other cancers.”
It wasn’t that long ago that their leader was saying he wouldn’t get his daughters immunised because it might lead to promiscuity.
We are next regaled with the wonders of the Work for the Dole program, new compliance rules, the cashless welfare card and drug testing of welfare recipients, all of which participants and welfare groups agree are soul-destroying.
They then congratulate themselves for removing gambling ads “during televised sports before 8.30pm on free-to-air television.”
This from the party who, as one of their first acts on winning office, wound back the modest gambling reforms introduced by the previous Labor government. This from the defenders of poker machines as demonstrated in the recent Tasmanian election.
Rupert Murdoch will, of course, still be free to cash in on the lucrative advertising dollars on his pay tv.
And to round out the list of “achievements”, we have same sex marriage where they wasted over $100 million dollars to appease the hard right Christians and homophobes in their own party room.
All in all, we are given a list of aspirations, promises, exaggerations, lies and waste.
If that’s the best they can come up with after two terms in office, they certainly do not deserve a third try to get it right.