Malcolm Turnbull once spoke of a trust deficit. Is it any wonder when he changes his mind so often? This is a selection of his past views.
The Prime Minister hasn’t, cannot even summon up the courage to try to fix this mess. His threat of a double dissolution and an early election prove to all of us what this budget is really about.
It isn’t about protecting the jobs of Australians, least of all the 1 million Australians it says will soon be out of work. It is about the job security of one man, and one man only. A Prime Minister frightened of the consequences of his mismanagement now wants to cut and run before he is found out.
The reality is that Tony Abbott and my position on gay marriage is very close. Both of us believe the party room should decide whether there should be a free vote, a “conscience vote”, so-called – and I have no doubt that if a private member’s bill comes up, I’ve got no doubt the party room will decide there will be a free vote: that is actually the long-standing Liberal tradition.
The reason I haven’t advocated a plebiscite after the next election is that it would mean, it will mean, that this issue is a live issue all the way up to the next election. One of the attractions of a free vote is that it would have meant the matter would be resolved in this Parliament one way or another in a couple of weeks.
While the purported intent is that only metadata – data about data – will be available to law enforcement, security and intelligence agencies, there is no explanation of how metadata will be distinguished from data (the two are often commingled, as in the ‘subject’ line of emails), why both would not be readily available once a message has been handed over and decrypted, and indeed how readily in an IP world it is possible to keep a record of the time, date, size, sender, receiver and possibly subject of an email without also retaining the contents.
Nor has there been an explanation of what costs and benefits have been estimated for this sweeping and intrusive new power, how these were arrived at, what (if any) cost was ascribed to its chilling effect on free speech, and whether any gains in national security or law enforcement asserted as justification for the changes will be monitored and verified should they be enacted.
…Leaving aside the central issue of the right to privacy, there are formidable practical objections. The carriers, including Telstra, have argued that the cost of complying with a new data retention regime would be very considerable with the consequence of higher charges for their customers.
Direct Action vs ETS
Now, all of us know in this House that industries and businesses, attended by an army of lobbyists, are particularly persuasive and all too effective at getting their sticky fingers into the taxpayer’s pocket.
Having the Government pick projects for subsidy is a recipe for fiscal recklessness on a grand scale and there will always be a temptation for projects to be selected for their political appeal.
In short, having the Government pay for emissions abatement, as opposed to the polluting industries themselves, is a slippery slope which can only result in higher taxes and more costly and less effective abatement of emissions.
The proposed ETS is a balanced, substantive and timely step forward on an issue of immense importance. And by relying so heavily on market forces to address this challenging problem, the ETS is far more in the great traditions of modern Liberalism than any other available policy response.
The ETS allows Australian businesses to make their own decisions as to how to reduce their emissions – Government sets the rules and in part sets the cap on total emission and then lets the market work out the most efficient and effective result.
Schemes where bureaucrats and politicians pick technologies and winners, doling out billions of taxpayers’ dollars is neither good policy is neither economically efficient and nor will it be environmentally effective.
If you want to have a long-term technique of cutting carbon emissions, you know, in a very substantial way to the levels that the scientists are telling us we need to do by mid-century to avoid dangerous climate change, then a direct action policy where the Government, where industry was able to freely pollute, if you like, and the Government was just spending more and more taxpayers’ money to offset it, that would become a very expensive charge on the budget in the years ahead.
Negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions
In his 2005 tax policy paper, Malcolm Turnbull described negative gearing and the CGT discount as a “sheltering tax haven” that is “skewing national investment away from wealth-creating pursuits, towards housing”, and has caused a “property bubble”. Turnbull also acknowledged that “Australia’s rules on negative gearing are very generous compared to many other countries” and that “the normal deductibility principles do not apply to negatively geared real estate such that the taxpayer is not obliged to demonstrate that the negatively geared property will generate positive cash flow at some point in the distant future”.
In 2014 he said “Looking at Australia’s tax regime you would say that it is too tough on people earning income… but is incredibly concessional to older people who have made their money…”
The urgent need for honesty
How often do we hear Australian politicians discuss these challenges in a genuinely open, honest, spin-free and non-adversarial way? Where the intention is to clearly explain the problem, accept responsibility for past misteps if appropriate (rather than apportion as much blame as possible to the other side), allow a non-ideological discussion of possible remedies, and see if there is any common ground for bipartisan work?
Seldom, and even more rarely if a camera is rolling.
If you love your country, have an interest in politics or policy, and care deeply about our nation’s future, there is nothing more certain to arouse your fury and invite your contempt than listening to an entire House of Representatives Question Time.
Increasingly too the journalists who cover politics are drawn into the game – often praising politicians for their skilful use of spin, their cunning ability to avoid a difficult question or their brutal ability to misrepresent and destroy their opponent’s arguments. Commenting on the play takes a lot less time than painstakingly pointing out where the spin has misrepresented an issue.
The politicians and parties that can demonstrate they can be trusted, that they will not insult the people with weasel words and spin, that they will not promise more than they can deliver, that they will not dishonestly misrepresent either their own or their opponents’ policies – those politicians and parties will, I submit to you, deserve and receive electoral success.