When Tony Abbot gave his address to the 58th Liberal Federal Council in June he said
“From ‘Menzies’ forgotten people’, to the ‘Howard battlers’ and ‘Tony’s tradies’ – we have always been the party that ‘turned on the lights’; that stood ‘for all of us’; and that seeks ‘hope, reward and opportunity’ for everyone. Today, I can report to you that our plan is working.”
I wonder if the 745,200 unemployed people or the 8.5% of the population who are underemployed or the more than 2.5 million Australians who are living below the poverty line agree.
Tony goes on to tell us that “Since you elected this government, almost 290,000 new jobs have been created.”
Unfortunately, since they were elected, the population has increased by about 600,000 so, if true, this a pretty poor result.
Tony assures us that “Economic growth is now stronger than in most developed nations – and stronger than during the last year of the Rudd Gillard Government.”
In December 2013 we read that “Australia’s economic growth has fallen short of forecasts, with the nation’s gross domestic product edging up by 0.6 per cent in September quarter. The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show the annual growth rate is now at 2.3 per cent.”
In June 2015 we read “Bureau of Statistics figures show gross domestic product (GDP) grew 2.3 per cent over the year to March, coming in ahead of most economist forecasts.”
The only difference seems to be in expectations.
And as for doing better than the rest of the world, the IMF said that “Global growth in 2014 was a modest 3.4 percent, and is projected to be 3.5 percent in 2015.”
He tells us that “business confidence continues to strengthen” whereas St George chief economist Hans Kunnen said “Despite historically low interest rates, businesses are reluctant to invest and are waiting to see a sustained pick-up in demand. The process has become somewhat of a vicious circle, as lacklustre economic growth and slow wages growth are keeping consumer demand in check.”
Seemingly unable to help himself, Tony tells us that “Projected long-term debt and deficits have been halved because of the difficult, but necessary decisions we made in Joe Hockey’s first Budget.”
That line is so utterly false that it got the golden zombie award for the lie that just won’t die.
According to Tony, “the Budget is finally on a credible path back to surplus – with the deficit projected to fall by half a per cent of GDP every year.”
The Federal budget in 2015 contained the worst cumulative deficits in 60 years.
Australia’s gross Commonwealth government debt-to-GDP ratio is now at the highest level since the ABS’s quarterly records began 27 years ago and exceeds the 22.9 per cent record set in December 1995 after the 1991 contraction.
The household debt-to-income ratio is 154 per cent, which is above its pre-GFC climax because families haven’t deleveraged. Even more toxically, the most heavy household debt levels in history have coincided with the cheapest loan costs borrowers have ever seen, which is fuelling unsustainable credit growth.
Australia suffers, therefore, from a potent combination of unprecedented public sector and household debt.
Of course, national security featured large in Tony’s speech.
“At home, we have provided more resources and more powers to our security and intelligence agencies – because they need whatever it takes to keep you safe.”
The phrase “whatever it takes” comes far too easily to this Prime Minister’s lips. We now have ASIO, ASIS, ASD, AFP, ADF, DIBP, and the newly formed ABF all apparently keeping us safe from a terrorist invasion. But don’t ask what they actually are doing or what they are spending the billions on because it’s a secret that they most definitely will not be talking about on the ABC. If you turn to Skynews however, you will find photos of Tony with departing forces or films of us bombing other countries or the AFP raiding homes, and if you listen to Parliament Tony will read out evidence of any pending court cases.
Interestingly, a recent Senate Estimates hearing was told 15 elite senior staff had left the Immigration Department since new secretary Mike Pezzullo was sworn in late last year. After seeing his responses to Gillian Triggs I am hardly surprised.
Tony says “The foundation of the next quarter century of prosperity won’t be bigger government, higher taxes or more debt and deficits. It will be unleashing the entrepreneurs of our country, particularly our small businesses to have a go.”
The IMF disagrees. In view of the weakness of the Australian economy, it advises the federal and state governments to slow their pace of fiscal consolidation. It advocates a higher rate of public investment, financed by government borrowing, to support aggregate demand. Increased public investment would help support the economy in the short to medium term and, if the projects were genuinely good investments, it also would help raise productivity over the longer run.
But Abbott isn’t interested.
In one of his come-to-be-expected terra nullius statements, Abbott said
“Since the days of the early settlers, through the gold rushes, the wars and successive waves of immigration, Australians have always been willing to work hard, lend a hand to neighbours, make sacrifices for children and look over the horizon to a better future.”
I doubt the asylum seekers incarcerated on Manus and Nauru would agree that current day Australia is following this tradition.
Tony informs us that “Our Budget childcare measures should encourage more than 240,000 families to earn more, including almost 38,000 jobless families.”
Because all they need is encouragement. The fact that there are no jobs seems to escape him.
Families with one stay-at-home parent and a household income of $65,000 or more, will lose all childcare subsidies. Under the new proposals, both parents must do at least eight hours a fortnight of work, training or study to qualify for any childcare payment subsidies. This comes into effect on July 1, 2017. Households with a stay-at-home parent and earning less than $65,000 will still receive 12 hours of subsidised childcare.
As of next year, we will be spending $246 million on a two year pilot programme subsidising nannies who will not be required to have job-specific educational qualifications and will typically have less training than the typical childcare worker.
As suggested in the Conversation “Will we allow long day care centres to hire less qualified workers than they now do, call them “nannies” rather than “childcare workers”, and still have access to subsidies? Subsidising nannies looks more like an appeal to a particular demographic rather than a well-thought out attempt to improve outcomes for children.”
Despite having an appalling track record on these type of statements, Tony said “I have said what we will do – let me also tell you what we won’t do.”
“We won’t increase taxes on superannuation or increase the restrictions on superannuation because your retirement savings belong to you and not the government.
We won’t change the rules on negative gearing because Australians have made decisions based on the rules as they stand – and the last time a government fiddled with negative gearing it caused a crisis in the rental market.
And we won’t be putting a tax on electricity because there are smarter ways of reducing emissions than whacking everyone with a new carbon tax.”
The IMF suggested that tax reform should target superannuation and capital gains tax concessions in order to cut company and personal taxes. While the Fund supported the concept of taxing capital gains at a lower rate than other income, Australia needed to ask whether the present 50 per cent discount was “the best use of taxpayers’ money”. By fueling real estate investment, it was helping push up house prices.
Told that the Australian government has ruled out reform of the tax breaks for superannuation and negative gearing, the Fund’s assistant director for Asia and the Pacific, James Daniel, noted that a tax review was underway and said that it was important for the entire system to be considered together.
Which makes one wonder why we are having a tax white paper where “everything is on the table” except all the things Tony is ruling out.
As Tony was building to a close he enthusiastically appealed to the party faithful.
“If you’re a young Australian looking for a good job and working for a deposit on your first home – we’re for you.
If you’re a small business person who wants to employ people – we’re for you.
If you’re a young parent trying to balance work and family – we’re for you.
If you’re a migrant who came the right way to build a better life for your children – we’re for you.
If you want to spend less time stuck in traffic to get to work or to pick up your kids – we’re for you.
If you’re working more to get ahead and to provide the best opportunities for your children – we’re for you.
If you believe superannuation is your money and want certainty in retirement – we’re for you.
If you’re on the land despite the ravages of drought – we’re for you.”
It seems to me that leaves a lot of us out.
But never fear
“The choice is clear.
They’re for boats, we’re for none.
They’re for a carbon tax, we’re for lower tax.
They’re for taxes, we’re for jobs.
They do union bidding.
We stand for all of us. “
Ever the master of reducing complex problems down to slogans.
No Tony, you most definitely do NOT stand for me.
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