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Why Labor Are Like The Romans!

Some of you will undoubtedly be familiar with the film “The Life Of Brian” where Reg (John Cleese) rhetorically asks what have Romans ever done for us, only to have one of his followers pipe up with: “The aqueduct”. A minutes later:

“All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?”

“Brought peace.”

“Oh. Peace? Shut up!”

I was reminded of this the other day when someone tweeted a list of Labor’s achievements in the first ten months in office which included the national anti-corruption commission, the increase in the minimum wage, cheaper childcare, commitment to the Voice, etc.

Ok, I won’t go on with the list because I’ll start to sound like Reg’s followers. However, I would just like to point out that two of the major criticisms of Labor are things bequeathed to them by the dead Coalition government: the Stage 3 tax cuts and AUKUS. While it’s true that they’re in government and they could stop the Stage 3 tax cuts, AUKUS is a little bit more problematic for them. Were Albanese to stand up and announce that we’re cancelling another submarine deal then he’d leave Australia looking like it really has no idea what it wants in a submarine and by the time we work that out, we’ll have missed the war that we need them for and it would be a shame to be left out because – like the Olympics – when it comes to wars we’re there any time we’re invited.

As for the Stage 3 tax cuts, it’s generally agreed that they’re far too generous, potentially inflationary and the money could be better spent on a whole range of things. The difficulty is that tinkering with them requires the sort of political will that Sir Humphrey would describe as “courageous”. This is not to say that Labor shouldn’t do something courageous; merely that they’re concerned about squawking over broken promises after Labor changed the superannuation rules for balances over $3 million was bad enough because apparently when they said “no SIGNIFICANT changes to superannuation” that included a change that only affected half a percent of the wealthiest accounts.

The question all political parties frequently ask themselves is: Do I want to do the right thing or do I want to get elected? Of course, one could take the view that – long term – doing the right thing should lead to you being elected more often than not. However, this completely overlooks the fact that even when politicians get it right, it may not be until several years later that this becomes apparent. For example, when the Whitlam government approved the purchase of Jackson Pollock’s “Blue Poles” for $1.3 million they were not only attacked for such a waste of money on something as silly as a modern art piece, but, even worse, it made them the subject of ridicule. The fact that the painting is now worth at least $500,000,000 hasn’t led to any of the critics saying that they were wrong… Possibly because a lot of the critics are dead, but the point remains.

There’s hardly anyone who’s trying to justify keeping the Stage 3 tax cuts and refusing to raise the rate of the unemployment benefit on any other grounds than: We promised not to touch the tax cuts and we still intend to keep our promise no matter how silly it is to do so because we remember how much criticism Julia Gillard copped because of the “No Carbon Tax thing” even though she only said it once. But Stage 3 tax cuts aren’t an issue for this Budget because they don’t come in till after then next one, so Dr Jim can just keep saying that, “We have no plans to change them,” and leave it at that.

No, I suspect that the reluctance to raise the rate has to do with something that the Liberals call “sound fiscal management”, which is all about balancing the Budget and that’s the thing about Labor is that they’re all about spending. And tax. Spending and tax. Whereas the Liberals are all about Jobs and Growth, which they had a plan for even if that plan was never explicitly stated beyond the fact that they were in favour of both and opposed to taxing and spending. (Of course, most people would think that if you want to balance the Budget that raising taxes is one way to do it but I’m not the expert here…)

Anyway, I did go out on a limb a few months back and speculate that it would be funny if the Liberals could drag those “Back In Black” mugs out of the warehouse and sell them to Labor if Labor were to actually do the impossible and actually deliver a surplus.

As someone once observed: “Making predictions is hard… especially about the future.” And I once said that I don’t make predictions and I never will.

But, with the Budget only eight days away, I’m prepared to make a series of bold calls :

  • In the next week, while some in the Coalition will lambast Labor for reviewing the spending that they set up under the Infrastructure Fund, Angus Taylor will call for restraint and demand that Labor rein in their spending to reduce the deficit and ease pressure on inflation. Nobody will ask about the apparent contradiction here.
  • The Pharmacy Guild guy will continue to wear his white shirt everywhere, as though he’s just come out of the pharmacy where he works as a pharmacist even though it’s highly unlikely that he has. He will call for greater support for pharmacies and talk about all those bankrupted by a decision that’s yet to have an impact.
  • Malcolm Turnbull will announce that it’s about time that someone did a Menzies, by which he means that an ex-PM forms a new political party from the remnants of the conservative parties.
  • Tony Abbott will remind people that he was once PM and if it hadn’t been for his removal we’d all be a lot better off now because he’d have fixed everything.
  • Malcolm will say that he didn’t mean Tony because he’s too divisive.
  • Tony will say that Malcolm’s the divisive one.
  • Labor will announce a surplus for the first time since the GFC.
  • Peter Dutton, Angus Taylor and Michaelia Cash will all say that they would have delivered a bigger one. This – not the surplus – will be the front-page story in The Australian.
  • Someone will ask the obvious question that if you can deliver a surplus why couldn’t you raise the rate? It won’t be anyone from the Murdoch Misleaders.

Ok, I may be wrong but I did predict Malcolm Turnbull knocking off Tony a year before it happened, Scott Morrison doing the Bradbury when everyone was talking about whether Dutton or Julie Bishop would be PM and one or two other things… All right, two or three good predictions out of thousands may not be a perfect record, but it’s better than the Reserve Bank and most economists.

Finally, just so I’m not called a Labor sycophant, I would like to point out that there is a flip side to the “What have the Romans ever done for us?” scene. While they may have done all those things, in the end, they were still an occupying army so the good that they brought did come with a price… although when I think about it, they may still have been better than Herod who, by all reports, didn’t like children very much.

“Stwike him, Centurion, vewy woughly!”


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  1. New England Cocky

    The point that I find galling is that ”occupying army” bit. We have an American occupation force in Darwin and Tindal and Pine Gap and other locations that are outside Australian control, indeed, Australians are rarely advised about what happens in those locations.
    Perhaps the pollies hiding under the ”Canberra bubble” have determined that Canberra is closer to the USAF bombers based at Tindal NT than the alleged enemy, PRC China, so are acting with restraint rather than defending Australian sovereignty.
    This is understandable given the poor record of allies for the USA (United States of Apartheid), but does exactly nothing to endear the LABERAL pollies to the Australian voters who expected their elected representatives to focus on improving egalitarianism in Australia.

  2. pierre wilkinson

    I wonder if by saying that they have no plans to scrap the stage three tax cuts it is because they don’t need a plan to simply postpone them indefinitely
    after all, the coalition were remarkably adept at such acts when it concerned increases in super or reviewing/implementing wage increases

  3. Terence Mills

    Oh, and by the way, during the coronation of our new Head of State and King of Australia the Archbishop of Canterbury will be pulling the colonies into line.

    the Archbishop of Canterbury will call upon:

    …all persons of goodwill* in The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and of the other Realms and the Territories, to make their homage, in heart and voice, to their undoubted King, defender of all.

    And you lot will be required to go down on one knee, tug your forelock** and repeat after his eminence, out loud :

    I swear that I will pay true allegiance to Your Majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.

    There will be no exceptions to this demonstration of our fealty to our Lord and Monarch and Tony Abbott will be taking the names of any treasonous subversives who try to skive off and reporting directly back to his glorious majesty.

    Rule Brittania !

    *for the purposes of the coronation we will all be considered to be persons of goodwill and that includes Peter Dutton – yes, I know !

    ** artificial forelocks for those follicly-challenged will be available from Coles and Woolies – due to our lack of manufacturing capacity these will be made in China.

  4. Clakka

    In the universe of the ‘Bubble’, there’s a limitless stock of ‘woulds’ and ‘shoulds’ in orbit, and come budget time, there’ll be a pile of ‘cans’ and ‘can’ts’. Including the cans that will be kicked down the road.

    I predict quite a number of sore toes.

  5. Canguro

    Terence, I imagine that if the Archbishop’s message, poor man, that he’s devoted his life to archaic ceremony not that far different from voodoo rituals amongst the more deeply ‘primitive’, if his message should happen to filter down to that element of the Australian community that’s comprised of the various diaspora from Asian communities – the Buddhists, Hindus, & others along with the Catholics and other non Anglican believers, as well as the significant quota of native-born Australians who’ve managed to free themselves from the grip of archaic ritual, that he’ll get a very brisk and direct two-fingered response, as in f^ck off ya idiot!

    The recent article in the Guardian on how protestors against the coronation and the ongoing phenomenon of even having a king shows just how different the English are to the people of this country, just as an earlier piece examining the social attitudes of the French cf the English – how the French consider themselves citizens and holders of egalitarian right & privilege along with the freedom to fight for their rights as contrasted with the British who see themselves as subjects and rarely raise a peep even when they’re being bulldozed and screwed over by tyrannical governments.

    Meanwhile, back on the ranch, Australia’s second-worst prime minister, the galah known as Anthony Abbott, he who bestowed a knighthood on Phil the Greek, and who no doubt would do the same to his sprog, Chuckles, in a classic display of Freudian projection lamented that if the Voice comes to pass then Australians will be ’embittered and divided’. I really wish he would learn that his use-by date has well and truly passed, and that he should do this country a huge favour by keeping his moronic trap shut.

  6. New England Cocky

    @ Terence Mills: Terence, you are terrible!! You have omitted a supplier for cabbage tree hats, the crowning glory of first generation Australian borne English immigrants from 1788 onwards.
    It would be much more patriotic for Australians to toss their hats in the air and shout, ”Long love the Republic of Australia”.

    @ Canguro: You are very rude to equate galahs with Toxic RAbbott because they are almost diametric opposites. Galahs are very intelligent birds. Toxic RAbbott has done too much boxing with subsequent damage.

  7. Rossleigh

    I think it’s lovely when a group of people join together. As Tony Abbott said today it’s very divisive when people don’t agree with him…
    Song is one of the best ways of promoting community.

  8. Rossleigh

    Apologies to Mark Latham, who must be very triggered by this song because it makes him imagine all sorts of things…

  9. Canguro

    Going a bit OT here, apologies to Rossleigh, but NEC’s reply got me a little curious about this man who I may have unfairly maligned, not to mention insulting the galahs of this nation, fine intelligent birds as Cocky has reminded me. Apologies to them also.

    Anyway, Wikipedia served up a treat: On the question of Abbott’s views on our indigenous First Nation people, it had this following quotation:

    “Australia is a blessed country. Our climate, our land, our people, our institutions rightly make us the envy of the earth, except for one thing—we have never fully made peace with the First Australians. This is the stain on our soul that Prime Minister Keating so movingly evoked at Redfern 21 years ago. We have to acknowledge that pre-1788 this land was as Aboriginal then as it is Australian now. Until we have acknowledged that we will be an incomplete nation and a torn people … So our challenge is to do now in these times what should have been done 200 or 100 years ago to acknowledge Aboriginal people in our country’s foundation document. In short, we need to atone for the omissions and for the hardness of heart of our forebears to enable us all to embrace the future as a united people.”

    He spoke these words in ‘support of the passage of the Gillard government’s historic Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples Recognition Bill through the House of Representatives in 2013’.

    What happened in the following decade? Has his bastardising bullshitting bike-riding boxing blustering bullying budgie-smuggling take on life finally caught up with him, to the extent he doesn’t even remember that he apparently was fully on board with whatever it took to give the First Nation’s peoples their due respect? I suspect that when he has his morning stand in front of the bathroom mirror he sees something along the lines of a Picasso Cubist image, pixellated, dissolved into a fractal nightmare…along with a moment of terror where he silently cries out, ‘Where’s Tony?’… but Tony is nowhere to be found, instead, only increasingly disturbing ramblings that speak of disintegration.

  10. margcal

    Terence, I suggest we make it easier for Tones to keep tabs by sending him our names on a postcard.

  11. leefe


    Why two fingers, when one will suffice?

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