If ever Tony Abbott had an opportunity to become the infrastructure Prime Minister he boasted he wanted to be, right now it is staring him in the face. Right now he could authorise a massive capital spending program that would literally electrify the nation and elevate it back to near full employment.
It could be an economic revival to exceed anything our country has ever experienced. All it needs is leadership of the Whitlam and Chifley kind. The sort we haven’t seen since the early 1970s.
As Peter Martin demonstrates in The Age this morning, the money is there for the taking at an historic low interest rate (2.55%), the projects are numerous, the workforce is available, with resources able to be sourced locally and the prospect of multiple auxiliary contracts being let out to small and medium sized manufacturing plants.
What an opportunity! This is what visionary governments do. It is the stuff that future generations would look back upon and say, “That’s what I’m talkin’ about!” But where are those who could place their imprimatur on such an undertaking?
They are counting pennies, robbing the elderly, depriving the sick, forsaking proper educational opportunities for the young. They are engaging in the regressive, conservative, miserly, backward thinking of Dicken’s Ebenezer Scrooge; of bean counters intent on consolidating what they think is a finite resource.
The Abbott government could become the most far-sighted in our history. But they won’t. Neither Abbott nor anyone in his cabinet has the foresight. His words are meaningless, his vision worthless, his cabinet full of backward thinking, thought deprived, mediocrity.
While a score of major national projects sit expectantly on engineer’ and architects’ desks, begging to be commissioned, these so-called leaders are all looking the other way.
The current 10 year target bond rate in Australia is higher at 2.5% than practically anywhere else in the world. In the US it is 1.81%. In Britain it is 1.54%, in Germany, 0.40%, in Japan, it is 0.24%. Investors all over the world are looking for government bonds that offer a better rate than that.
They have mountains of money to invest and would jump at the opportunity to bring it down under. We have mountains of projects we could kick-start. We have a serious unemployment problem destined to become worse as our economy contracts.
We have an inflation rate of 2.3% which is certain to fall further with the present slump in oil prices. The timing for a massive infrastructure program is perfect. There is the Brisbane to Sydney to Melbourne fast rail project, we could restore the NBN to its original specifications; the Sydney WestConnex road project and Melbourne’s North South Metro Rail tunnel are major infrastructure projects waiting to be given the nod.
So where is the pretend infrastructure Prime Minister? He’s still counting the repeal of the carbon tax as his greatest achievement.
Any number of projects up to a combined cost of $100 billion whose benefits exceed their cost could be undertaken, all of which could be financed with government bonds locked in at 2.55% for 10 years. It is a golden opportunity but with a limited window in which to take advantage. The bond market is set for a correction sooner, rather than later.
But what chance is there that a government that rails against debt and deficits, would grasp such an opportunity? What chance is there that a government that is determined to strangle our economy as it tries to produce worthless surpluses, could see the benefits that would result?
What chance is there that a government whose only plan was to stop the boats, repeal the carbon and mining taxes and whose leader thinks coal is good for humanity, would have the intellectual capacity to seize their moment in history?
What chance? None.
Saul Eastlake, economist with Bank of America Merrill Lynch says, we could speed up the commercial availability of battery technologies that could power solar panels on our roofs and enable them to be removed from the grid.
Where are the visionaries that could create such a project? Where are the visionaries that have the potential to put half a million people back to work, increase tax revenues accordingly, reduce welfare costs and improve the overall health of the economy?
They would much rather have those overseas investment bodies own those projects such that the wealth they produce would remain in the hands of the 1%. The future prosperity of Australia could never be realised while under the management of neo liberal thinking conservatives whose leader thinks coal is good for humanity.
Not here. Not now. While The LNP are in power, the computer says no.