What is the Hockey budget all about?

Does anyone out there know? Does Hockey know? Does Cormann? Does Abbott know? Do his Cabinet and his backbench know? The commentators and the voters have their ideas, but do they really know what is behind the Hockey Budget?

Readers will not find a definitive answer here; I don’t know more than anyone else. Rather this piece presents some plausible reasons why Hockey would bring down such a budget. I will leave it to you, the reader, to reach a conclusion, and if you are so inclined to make your suggestions in the comments section.

There is a surprising consensus among political commentators, economists, the Federal Treasury and the people about the effects of the budget, namely that it disproportionately penalises the middle and lower income earners. Proportionately, the wealthy are penalised less. Why is this so? What ideological position finds this acceptable? What economic argument supports this approach?

A superficial answer to the question: ‘Why would Hockey bring down such a budget?’ — the answer the government has used from the outset — is that there is a ‘budget emergency’, that the nation’s finances are ‘in crisis’, a ‘debt crisis’, and therefore radical corrective measures are needed, and now. Yet from the outset this was seen as the charade it is by economists and all but the most sycophantic Coalition commentators. There is no crisis, no emergency demanding immediate and drastic action.

Politicians, economists and journalists alike do agree though that structural defects exist in the budget that have their origins with several previous governments, defects that need correction to enable the delivery of the services that Australians want to be continued into the decades ahead: universal health care for an ageing population, disability care, a good education for all, jobs for all who can work, and infrastructure to support our growing population. Almost universally, the same people agree that corrections need to occur over the years ahead. While some agree that the corrections might usefully be commenced now, the majority does not see that they need to be corrected urgently, in a single budget, and certainly not by draconian measures.

The ‘crisis’, the ‘emergency’, was no more than a political strategy devised by the Coalition to soften up the electorate for the punitive budget it intended to bring down. There was no emergency or crisis, but the strategy served to preemptively answer the question the people were bound to ask: ‘Why would Hockey bring down such a destructive budget’? The Coalition hoped the answer would be obvious.

For the history of the so-called crisis, re-read the excellent piece by 2353 Debt crisis: what debt crisis?

If any reader still needs convincing that the ‘emergency’, the ‘crisis’ was fictitious, read Hockey’s own words, uttered in a radio interview during his July visit to New Zealand: ‘…there is no crisis in the Australian economy, nor is it in trouble.’ He made no mention of a ‘budget emergency’.

Even Tony Shepherd, the hand picked chair of Abbott’s pre-budget Commission of Audit, whose task it was to find budget savings, said there was no budget emergency. Most economists agreed.

So let’s look for what might be behind Hockey’s budget. What would motivate him to bring in such a punitive one?

The possibilities canvassed here are:
1. The budget reflects the Coalition’s political ideology.
2. The budget reflects an economic position.
3. The budget reflects a political intent to reorient the social order.

Proposition 1: The budget reflects the Coalition’s political ideology
The Liberal Party website mirrors its ideology in the statements of beliefs in its Federal Platform. Among the many laudable beliefs listed there, the following are relevant to this discussion:

We believe:

‒ In the innate worth of the individual, in the right to be independent, to own property and to achieve, and in the need to encourage initiative and personal responsibility.

‒ In the creation of wealth, and in competitive enterprise, consumer choice and reward for effort as the proven means of providing prosperity for all Australians.

‒ In the principle of mutual obligation, whereby those in receipt of government benefits make some form of contribution to the community in return, where this is appropriate.

In the section on the economy, we read:
Liberals want an economy that provides quality jobs and high living standards across the nation. Achieving these goals in a competitive global marketplace means we must have on-going economic reform.

Liberals believe the best strategy for jobs and prosperity includes:

‒ giving priority to sound economic fundamentals, including responsible fiscal management, low inflation, low interest rates, rising employment levels, low net debt and high real business investment;

‒ supporting the role of small business
‒ encouraging workplace reform…

Note the words: ‘we must have on-going economic reform’ and ‘workplace reform’.

So is the budget a reflection of those beliefs and preferred strategies? Possibly, but the extreme nature of the budget hardly reflects these benignly stated beliefs.

To get a deeper understanding of Liberal ideology, take a look at the wish list of the extreme right wing think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs, which has an acknowledged and profound influence on Coalition thinking.

It is not afraid to state its views brazenly; it does not sugar-coat them as does the Liberal Party platform.

Among the first seventy-five wishes the IPA published are the following:

‒ Eliminate family tax benefits
‒ Legislate a cap on government spending and tax as a percentage of GDP

‒ Legislate a balanced budget amendment which strictly limits the size of budget deficits and the period the federal government can be in deficit

‒ Allow individuals and employers to negotiate directly terms of employment that suit them.

That comes closer to explaining Hockey’s harsh budget. The IPA loathes government spending and taxes, adores a balanced budget, hates deficits, despises the ‘nanny state’, and advocates economic and industrial relations reforms, born of its fervent advocacy of free markets, minimal government oversight and regulation, and industrial relations that favour the employer.

If you have any doubt about the influence the IPA has on the Abbott government, read the article in Crikey, which reported that the IPA has added another 25 items to its wish list, and that almost half of them are on Abbott’s agenda.

Abbott himself said at an IPA function: ‘So ladies and gentlemen that is a big “yes” to many of the 75 specific policies you urged upon me.’

Crikey reported that in a Sunday Age article last year, John Howard acknowledged the influence of the IPA: ‘…the IPA is a Trojan Horse for scorched earth neoliberals trying to “condition the public attitude on these [policy] matters.”’

It is reasonable to conclude that although the Liberal Party platform reads benignly enough, innocently enough to allay fears about its intent, the Coalition is really following the radical neoliberal free-market ideology of the IPA.

The IPA advocates lower taxes, especially for the wealthy. It wants a return of income taxing powers to the states. The preferential treatment given high-income earners in the budget, and the penalties imposed on the less well off, are consistent with IPA wishes. The Treasury analysis of the budget released early in August starkly revealed the extent of the imbalance between the treatment of the wealthy and the less well off.

It showed that the combined effect of the budget’s saving cuts which disproportionately penalised the lower income earners, and the changes in tax that benefit the wealthy more than the poor, is that ‘an average low income family loses $844 per year in disposable income (earnings after tax and government payments) due to the budget. Middle-income earners forgo $492; while a high income family is down by $517.’

Hockey’s angry response to this revelation in Fairfax Media was: ‘That story is wrong because it fails to take into account a range of things like the fact that higher income households pay half their income in tax, low income households pay virtually no tax’. He went onto say that each wealthy taxpayer pays for the benefits enjoyed by four on welfare — his ‘lifters’ supporting the ‘leaners’. In other words, he is saying that the progressive tax system that this nation has had in place for many years is unfair to the wealthy. Clearly he is opposed to progressive taxation, at least to what we have in Australia. Moreover, are his assertions correct? Do high-income earners pay 50% tax? No. For the current financial year, it is only when taxable income exceeds $180,000 that the taxpayer pays the maximum of 45c for each additional dollar over that figure. The ‘effective tax rate’ for such people is 30 to 45% depending on how much above $180,000 the total taxable income is. So Hockey is exaggerating and is therefore misleading, a misdemeanor for which he chides his own Treasury. Remember that these Treasury figures about the effects of the annual budget on taxpayers are the ones usually revealed in the budget papers, but not this year. With the assistance of ‘Freedom of Information’, we now know why.

In an online survey accompanying the Fairfax article, people were asked: ‘Does Joe Hockey's budget hit the poorest the hardest?’ The options were: ‘Yes’, ‘Yes, but that is fair because they pay less tax’, ‘No’, and ‘Not sure’. 90% answered ‘Yes’. The other figures were 4%, 3%, and 3%. Even allowing for the unreliability of online polls, this result is hardly equivocal; the people (17,292 of them) had made up their minds. Only 3 and 4% thought the budget was fair.

It is reasonable to conclude that political ideology is behind the Hockey budget, an ideology shared by Abbott, Cormann and most of Abbott’s Party Room, and that the more strident version of it, the IPA version, is the real ideology rather than the party platform so soothingly replete with motherhood statements. They seem unaware that the people do not approve of the budgetary manifestation of their ideology, if the above online poll and other polling feedback is any indication.

Proposition 2: The budget reflects an economic position

This follows from the Coalition’s ideological position. It favours free-markets, private enterprise, light government regulation, industrial relations that favour the employer as grossly exhibited in WorkChoices, low taxes for the wealthy, and ‘mutual responsibility’ for those receiving benefits, crudely captured in the words: ‘dole bludgers’ must work for the dole, should be forced back to work, should receive no support for six months, and, more recently, must apply for forty jobs a month. The ‘lifters’, those hard workers who have been doing so much laborious heavy lifting for so long, can no longer support the ‘leaners’, the bludgers who sit around all day watching TV and boozing their welfare money.

What is Hockey’s preferred economic model? We don’t know. We hope he has given it serious thought.

From what we can see, he is not Keynesian. He opposed the second and larger tranche of the stimulus during the GFC, all the time lambasting expenditure on the Home Insulation Program, which the Coalition classed as a catastrophic disaster that killed people and burned down houses, as well as roundly criticizing the Building the Education Revolution Program, which was labeled as a grossly mismanaged, overly expensive and an unnecessary exercise. Clearly Hockey would not have used such stimulatory measures.

If you asked him whose economic model he prefers, which would he chose? Is he a follower of the Chicago School of Economics, a neoclassical school of economic thought that rejected Keynesianism, (which favours higher government spending in a recession to help the economy recover quicker, rather than waiting for markets), in favour of Milton Friedman’s ‘monetarism’, (which emphasises the importance of controlling the money supply to control inflation). Monetarists criticize expansionary fiscal policy arguing that it will cause inflation and therefore will not help. Does Hockey subscribe to the thinking of Friedrich Hayek from the Austrian school, who advised Margaret Thatcher, and later joined the Chicago school? His seminal book, The Road to Serfdom, became widely popular among those advocating individualism and classical liberalism, a position close to Hockey’s.

Does Hockey subscribe to the trickle-down theory of economics that proposes that supporting the wealthy with tax breaks and incentives will create jobs and grow the economy, the benefits trickling down to those at the bottom of the pile? If so, does he realise that ‘trickle down’ has been debunked by hard data that shows that it increases inequality? The poor get richer along with the wealthy, but at a slower rate, so that the gap widens. John Quiggin has shown this in his book Zombie Economics: How dead ideas still walk among us (Princeton University Press, 2010), described in the TPS piece Joe Hockey should read about John Quiggin’s Zombie Economics.

Ronald Reagan and his economics adviser David Stockman were ‘trickle down’ believers. Renowned economist John Kenneth Galbraith rejected it, noting that ‘trickle-down economics’ had been tried unsuccessfully in the United States in the 1890s under the name ‘horse and sparrow theory’: 'If you feed the horse enough oats, some will pass through to the road for the sparrows’.

There is ample evidence that inequality results in discord, civil dispute, and when gross, revolution. Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz has documented this in The Price of Inequality, reviewed in the TPS piece Focus on political ideology: Joseph Stiglitz More recently, Thomas Piketty, in Capital in the Twenty First Century traced the path of inequality as far back as the eighteenth century, proposed that it results from the growth of income from capital exceeding the rate of economic growth, and described its adverse effects.

Does Hockey think inequality, increasing inequality, is acceptable in this country?

Already in Australia we are seeing the harmful social effects of a budget that is bound to increase inequality, one judged by a large majority of the people as simply unfair.

So what is Hockey’s preferred economic model? Does he have one? Does he know what it is? We can judge only from his actions, and they point inexorably to a belief in trickle down economics. We seem to be headed for another version of Reaganomics, this time Hockeynomics. That is what his budget advances: more inequality and more unfairness, unless his extreme budget can be stopped in its tracks.

Proposition 3: The budget reflects a political intent to reorient the social order

This is a plausible proposition. We know how vindictive Abbott is. We know how he delights in punishing his enemies. In the piece, Say no, no, no to Tony Abbott , it was predicted that if elected he would be vengeful and weak. We have now seen both attributes on display. His vengefulness has been exposed in his Royal Commissions into the HIP and unions, and more recently the Bill Scales inquiry into the NBN. He is determined to pillory his political enemies. Is this budget another act of vengeance against his traditional enemies — the workers, those on lower incomes, those on welfare? It looks like it.

Abbott operates in George Lakoff’s ‘Strict Father’ mode, as it seems does Hockey and Cormann too. Even when Hockey seems reluctant to do so, he goes along with Abbott — his future depends on it!

Take a glance at the TPS piece about Lakoff’s book Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think titled The myth of political sameness to check the words used habitually by those who use the Strict Father model of political morality: ‘discipline, tough it out, get tough, tough love, strong, self-reliance, individual responsibility, authority, competition, earn, hard work, enterprise, property rights, reward, freedom, punishment’, and so on. Recognise this language?

Look at the Hockey budget and ask yourself if it is an act of vengeance, an act of retribution against those who are not traditional Coalition voters: the workers, the less well off, those on welfare; and a leg up for those who are: the wealthy, the elite, the business people. It looks that way.

It looks like this Hockey budget accomplishes the Abbott agenda of hurting those he despises, those who don’t support him, those who are not in his camp. Is this at least part of the answer to ‘What is the Hockey budget all about?’

Where does all that leave us?

I don’t know. I don’t know why Hockey brought down the budget he did, and why he continues to defend it so strongly despite opposition from much of the Senate, disapproval among commentators and economists, and dismay in much of the electorate? We can only surmise.

Does Hockey himself know why he has produced such a budget?

Is it partly because of his Liberal political ideology, one influenced by the extreme neoliberal position of the IPA? Is it partly influenced by his preferred model of economic thought, perhaps the views of Friedman, Hayek or the proponents of trickle down economics? Is he familiar with these economic models? Has he studied them closely? If so, has he reached a rational conclusion about the most appropriate for this nation at this moment in time? Or is he wedded to one no matter what the nation’s economic situation, like so many mainstream economists?

We hope he has studied economics. We hope he knows about and understands the various models that exist. We hope he has selected one rationally after careful consideration. We hope his actions are not ad hoc, carelessly adopted to match his political position, or his prime minister’s agenda.

Is Hockey’s budget partly the result of the intent to reorient the political order to one more in tune with his and Abbott’s political philosophy? Where everyone works hard for whatever wage is available? Where those who don’t, the bludgers, the leaners, are punished, forced into work or suffer the consequences of their reluctance, their resistance? Where those who provide employment, the lifters, are held in high regard, and supported with tax breaks and enticements?

I don’t know the answers to the questions I pose. I can only surmise, only hypothesise. But I suspect that all these propositions are valid, and operate in varying degrees.

I do hope, perhaps vainly, that Joe Hockey — not your ordinary Joe — has thought deeply about what his budget is all about, that he has arrived at his budget conclusions after searching his mind and his soul about what his budget is intended to achieve, why this is so, and whether his fashioning of it is likely to achieve its purpose.

I hope too that he has reflected deeply on his budget’s fairness, and whether it is consistent with what the majority of the electorate appears to want for this nation, an egalitarian society where the ‘fair go’ reigns supreme, where opportunity is available to all, where harmony pervades and unites our people.

What do you think Hockey’s budget is all about?

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17/08/2014This week is special. Ad Astra, this blog's owner and founder, returns to question the first Hockey budget. It is interesting that the Federal budget is presented in May - yet there is still significant levels of criticism some three months later - and no guarantee that some of the more odious measures will ever be approved by the Government. With the comments by Hockey this week about the petrol excise (an implied carbon tax), and subsequent apology, it seems that next week will again be discussing something that should have been settled months ago (and until recently it was). As always, your comments are welcome.

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17/08/2014Folks If Joe Hockey needed anymore evidence that his approach to economic management is flawed, built as it is on unsound economic theory, he should read Warren Mosler’s fascinating book [i]The 7 Deadly Innocent Frauds of Economic Policy (MMT – Modern Monetary Theory)[/i]. The ‘Deadly Frauds of Economic Policy’ that are particularly relevant to Hockey’s ideological approach to the current Federal Budget are: - The government must raise funds through taxation or borrowing in order to spend. In other words, government spending is limited by its ability to tax or borrow. - With government deficits, we are leaving our debt burden to our children. - Government budget deficits take away savings. - It’s a bad thing that higher deficits today mean higher taxes tomorrow. Readers will recognize that these frauds are the very ones that Joe Hockey and Mathias Cormann have propagated, frauds dutifully echoed by economic dilettante Tony Abbott. The frauds were meant to convince the people that we have a ‘debt crisis’, a ‘budgetary emergency’ that required immediate, urgent, and drastic budgetary action. Fortunately, economists, and more and more ordinary people, have picked these assertions as frauds, to the chagrin and dismay of Hockey and Co, who now have a serious and widening credibility gap. His book of 117 pages is obtainable by download onto Kindle from Amazon for $1.04. It is well worth that modest price. It takes the readers by the hand and walks them at an easy pace through the complexity of the applicable economics. http://www.amazon.com.au/Deadly-Innocent-Frauds-Economic-Policy-ebook/dp/B00BGWOXEK

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17/08/2014Folks As earlier today I posted Part 4 of [i]Heil the adult government[/i] on the last piece, to save you having to hunt for it, I have posted in again below. For your convenience, I have compiled all four parts in one place, which you will find in the Page List in the left panel. [b]Heil the adult government! A play in several parts[/b] [b]Joe Hockey, Federal Treasurer[/b] There are few in government more senior than the Treasurer; many see him as second only to the Prime Minister. Such seniority ought to attract people of maturity, gifted with a profound knowledge of economics and national finances, free from the iron grip of ideological shackles, open-minded, circumspect, reasonable, competent, and above all ‘adult’. This is no game for kids. Yet sadly for this nation the current incumbent exhibits the converse. Let’s follow his trail of missteps, mistakes, faulty judgement and loud bellowing. [i]Prologue:[/i] Joe Hockey enjoyed being the jovial man; in a comical way his rounded frame added to the aura of good-naturedness. He was a hit when he appeared regularly with Kevin Rudd on morning TV. He was ‘hail fellow, well met’. As the opportunity approached for him to affirm his role as Treasurer, he became more verbose, more assertive, more sure of himself, more convinced of his ability to do the job. His bellowing in the House amplified as he targeted the enemy, the profligate spenders opposite whom he insisted had no idea of how to manage money let alone a 1.3 trillion dollar economy, who, like drunken sailors, perpetually spent and lived well beyond their means. [b]He[/b] was the one who should be doing the job. [b]He[/b] was the one who could drag the nation out of the financial mess that he insisted Labor had created. Over the months before the election he set the scene: a budget disaster of Labor’s making was imminent, one that he could and would fix. Hockey was right to expect he would be Treasurer. [i]Act 4 Scene 1[/i] [b]The debt crisis sham[/b] The Abbott government assumed power and soon the annual federal budget was looming. But our big man was not satisfied that he has sufficiently terrified the people that our nation was in crisis, that it had an unsustainable debt ‘stretching as far as the eye can see’, and getting worse. So he concocted a ‘debt crisis’, and for good measure, a ‘budget emergency’. Maybe because Australia has three triple A ratings and our debt to GDP ratio is so low, he decided that he must ramp up the rhetoric to utterly convince the electorate that our nation’s financial position was dire, and therefore in need of radical repair. The only economists who were of like mind were those at the IPA and a few News Limited sycophants. All the others wondered what Hockey was on about. Hockey was smart enough though to realize that it was not the economists but the ordinary people he had to convince, those who he was going to strike down in his budget. The debt crisis and the budget emergency were a sham from the outset as the last [i]TPS[/i] piece by 2353 [i]Debt Crisis – what debt crisis[/i] shows. Hockey played games with the people, needlessly frightening them. Why did he? Was he afraid that if they were not sufficiently scared he could not bring down the nasty budget he planned? If that were so, that was disingenuousness writ large. But if he really believed his own rhetoric, that was worse – incompetence writ large. Take your pick. Whatever the answer, his behaviour as a member of an ‘adult’ government was childish. [i]Act 4 Scene 2[/i] [b]The budget bomb[/b] We may never know what it was that propelled Hockey to bring down the punitive budget he did, to bring down a budget that disproportionately penalized lower income earners and let the high flyers off the hook. Was it political or economic ideology, or sheer Abbott-induced cussedness? The piece: [i]What is the Hockey budget all about?[/i] explores these possibilities. Whatever the reasons, Hockey was immensely proud of his budget, so proud that in celebration he smoked a fat cigar with his Assistant Treasurer, the loquacious Mathias Cormann, in full view of prying media lenses – a childish mistake that has forever earned him the irreverent moniker of ‘smokin’ Joe’. Hockey behaved childishly when someone as senior as he ought to have been in adult mode. We expected the man in charge of our large economy to be very adult, just as his boss promised all his ministers would be. All who understand economics and the Australian economy acknowledge that there are longstanding structural defects in our budget, ones that derive from long past decisions about superannuation such as the perks enjoyed by the wealthy, negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions that favour the well-off, and tax cuts and welfare handouts to those who did not need them. These [b]do[/b] need correcting to enable the nation to provide to its people the services a growing and ageing population needs in the decades ahead. But they do not need correcting in one fell swoop, in one harsh, punitive and grossly unfair budget. Adjustments need to be made gradually so that all affected have time to adjust, adjustments that should occur steadily over the next decade or two. But our Treasurer could not, or was not permitted by his masters, to take this approach. He was a man in a hurry who needed to act immediately, and with a heavy hand. Whatever the real reason behind the Hockey budget, the skeptics reasonably asked why a mature man would behave in this way – needlessly panicking the people, just as bullyboys scare the wits out of the little kids in the schoolyard to assert their authority and show their intent. And why would he bring down a budget that was so manifestly unfair? The one feature of the budget about which there is almost universal consensus is that it is grossly unfair. In a very large online poll, nine out of ten respondents rated it unfair; almost every commentator agrees. In presenting his budget Hockey failed the ‘adult test’. And he still fails. Months after its presentation his budget remains largely unlegislated. It has turned out to be a bomb, one still in the process of exploding. His critics are many. Even his traditional allies have distanced themselves. The crossbenchers, whose support he needs, remain firmly opposed. Hockey’s reaction to his opponents was to whine about being unfairly treated. ‘Nobody likes me’ he wailed. ‘I’m the most unpopular man’. Even his traditional allies: business and the media deserted him. The rotund man needed cuddles but none were forthcoming. All he got were hollow reassurances from his front bench that he was doing a great job, a job the nation desperately needed. [i]Act 4 Scene 3[/i] [b]Budget bombast – Poor people don’t drive…[/b] Time dragged on. Hockey eventually realized he would need to consult with those on the crossbenches whose vote he needed to pass his budget measures. All the time his bombast was on show. He was confident these Senators would ‘come to their senses’ eventually. Slowly it began to dawn on him that he would have to do better, would have to be more convincing. His focus fell on the mooted changes to the fuel excise. He felt the need to rebut all the whingeing he had heard about the adverse effects on low-income families of indexing the excise. So he drew some statistics from the ABS, which he used selectively. In pushing the line that it was the wealthy who have the highest fuel costs and therefore pay more excise, he made the extraordinary announcement: “[i]The poorest people either don't have cars or actually don't drive very far in many cases.”[/i]. Even a schoolchild could have nutted out that the fuel bill of the wealthy would be high. With a Merc sedan in their inner city garage alongside the boat, a BMW RV in the driveway, and a beach home they visit most weekends, of course their fuel bill would be high. What Hockey failed to reveal, either deliberately or in ignorance, was that as a proportion of their weekly income poorer people spent more on fuel. An ABC [i]Fact Check[/i] showed that fuel costs “[i]…ate up 4.5 per cent of the incomes of low-income households, but only 1.4 per cent of the incomes of high-income households.”[/i] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-15/joe-hockey-poor-people-cars-claim-misleading/5671168 Moreover, it found that almost 90% of the lowest income families [b]did[/b] in fact own a car. Another quoted study showed that the average travel distances for people who live on the urban fringe of Melbourne (where many of the poorer people live) was 16.4 kilometres each trip. For inner area residents, which are typically higher income, it was 6.4 kilometres per trip. Motoring Enthusiasts Senator Ricky Muir pointed out that poor people often have old cars with poor economy and no public transport when living out of town. He quipped that they can’t ride a cow to work. He could have added: ‘How many wealthy put only $20 of fuel in at a time to ensure there is enough money left over for food?’ The [i]Fact Check[/i] concluded: “[i]Census data and research from independent experts shows that people on lower incomes have enough cars and drive far enough to feel the impact of raising the fuel tax more than those on higher incomes. "Mr Hockey's statement is misleading.”[/i] So our adult Treasurer, in charge of our 1.3 trillion dollar economy, was wrong on almost every count. The only thing he got right was that the wealthy had higher fuel costs – a fact that hardly required a Rhodes Scholar to discover. [i]Act 4 Scene 4[/i] [b]The Apology![/b] A disturbing aspect of this saga was the persistence that Hockey exhibited in pursuing his spurious case that it was the wealthy who would be bearing the burden of the excise hike, and his argument that the excise was therefore a progressive tax, a claim that the [i]Fact Check[/i] rebutted. For days his denial of what almost everyone was telling him went on. His tin ear was stone deaf. He seemed unable to accept that his words were insensitive, hurtful, politically alienating, stupid, and misleading to boot. He denied being pushed to apologize, but when deserted by both Abbott and Pyne who declined to support his ‘poor people don’t drive’ banter, even the tactless Joe must have seen the writing on the wall. So days later than it should have been, we saw the groveling apology on commercial radio, after which observers debated how many times he said ‘sorry’. It was as humiliating as it was avoidable. Had he apologized days earlier, it would not need to have been so profuse. If you missed it, you can see the sorry saga here: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/im-very-sorry-joe-hockey-apologises-for-comments-about-poorer-people-not-driving-cars-20140815-3drpn.html In an online poll of over eleven thousand, 86% voted his apology as ‘too little, to late’. So here is a very senior minister in this ‘adult’ government, who may have been genuine when he claimed in his apology that he did not wish to hurt anyone and that he was always supportive of those in need, totally unable to perceive his lack of commonsense, and the political stupidity of his original outburst, and for so long! He has done serious, perhaps irreparable damage to his image, to his political credibility, and to any aura of economic expertise that he professed to have. Can he survive as Treasurer? Can Abbott afford to sack his Treasurer? What do his colleagues think of him? Some of their comments to date are unflattering. Whatever else one can say about Hockey’s performance since the beginning of the budget story, there would be little argument that it has been incompetent, disingenuous, belittling for him and the government, childish, and above all not what we deserve from a senior minister of an ‘adult’ government. [b]Heil, the adult government![/b]


17/08/2014Ad I think it is clear that all three of your propositions played a part in the Hockey/Abbott budget: the only question is which may have had more influence than the other. In my view propositions 1 and 3 are the more important, and proposition 2 is merely a justification. Out of 1 and 3, the political ideology probably comes first and drives them to reshape society in accord with the image of that ideology. Unfortunately, this is not the ideology of LNP past but more closely related to the neo-liberal and Tea Party approaches. It is entirely counter to the Australian ethos which I think Hockey and Abbott are discovering. I say, let them continue this way because that will ensure that this is a one term government.

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17/08/2014Ken I suspect you are right. I doubt if Abbott, or for that matter Hockey, has an in-depth understanding of economics and economic theory, so proposition 2 is likely to be less influential that 1 and 3, namely relentless pursuit of their political ideology, and sheer cussedness in wreaking havoc amongst their enemies and those who do not support them. We can only hope that their ineptitude, so obviously on display month after month, will dissuade voters from electing them again - 'once bitten, twice shy'.

Catching up

17/08/2014Yes, but why such a badly formed and unprofessional budget. No minister seems to know what is in it. All talk it generalities, nothing specific. Yes, they have sat down, saying all NGOs. committees and advisory boards to go. Ministers being allowed to put in place their misguided beliefs. Expert opinion not sought. They no all. One cannot even call this budget a curates egg, good in parts. It is rotten all the way through. All spin, no reality. Trouble is, they cannot see the truth They believe their own spin. Watching the ANZACS GIRLS. Not picking up the war, that Abbott described today, as a just war.

Catching up

17/08/2014Abbott will dump all, if it means saving his own skin.


18/08/2014I think you are too kind to Abbott and Hockey. I don't see any sings of a rational economic ideology. What I do see is an opportunistic political strategy that has proven impossible to deliver good governance. It seems to me that Abbott had a 'win at all cost' attitude to governing (pre-election). The approach was to 'curry' favour from as many influential people/organizations as possible to get him elected. Obviously, these people/organizations were looking for a 'quid pro quo' for their support. As he has demonstrated in the past ("I will do anything to get your vote") Abbott has obviously given assurances that he is now finding impossible to deliver, and some of these people are rightly feeling duped (eg Bolt, IPA etc). I find little evidence of any overarching ideology guiding this government's actions. It appears to me to be base, opportunism, 'win at all cost' politics that achieved his elevation to the title, prime minister. The fight's over. He won. Governance wasn't a part of his objective. The prize was to win. He got that, now it's someone else's problem to sort out that governing stuff.

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18/08/2014Woody pear Winning by any means at any cost was the Coalition's strategy. Most of its rhetoric was about the terrible mess Labor had left that it would fix, and the things it was going to stop - boats and toxic taxes! No vision was painted of the Australia the Coalition would create. So finding a well articulated political ideology that underpinned the Coalition strategy was impossible. It was only when we saw what they wanted to do, as expressed in the Hockey budget, that we could hazard a guess as to the underlying ideology. This is why I have put forward three propositions that could explain the government's actions. The Coalition will not explain the basis of its actions other than 'fix the mess Labor left'. We are left to deduce this ourselves. The saddest aspect of all of this is that there is no vision that might inspire the people. Months after the budget, a year after the election, we are still asking 'What is the Hockey budget all about?'

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18/08/2014Woodypear Did you hear Julie Bishop this morning on AM? There she was regurgitating the Coalition's pre-election rhetoric about the awful mess Labor had left and how the Coalition had to make tough decisions to 'get the budget back on track'. Nothing had changed. The Coalition is still in pre-election mode. Presumably the minders have told ministers to crank up the attack on Labor's record to justify its budget actions. They know no other way. Although the people are awake to the 'debt and deficit' charade, although they now know there is no 'debt crisis' or 'budget emergency', the Coalition clings to the belief that it has made this case, and has only to repeat its tired old lines to convince the people that all its nasty budget measures are necessary. The people are not buying the Coalition story, but the Coalition has a tin ear and can't hear what the people are saying.

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18/08/2014Catching up The Coalition's lack of consultation with stakeholders characterises almost every move they make. They didn't consult widely enough about the budget, nor its component parts. What consultation did they have with the medical profession over the $7 co-payment? How much did they consult with the universities about their plan to deregulate higher education? How much did they consult with ACOSS about the effects of their punitive plans to reduce welfare? Did they ask business how it would cope with 40 job applications a month? And so on it goes. Their egos lead them to believe that they have all the answers. After all, Father knows best.

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18/08/2014Swan now at NPC. This government sees everything Labor has done since the last great war, as being wrong Their whole aim is to dismantle all. No need to put anything else in place, as government involvement is not necessary. Why they are also dismantling the few g0od things that Howard did, is harder to explain. We now have this government saying foreign aid s there to serve big business. Yes, Julie is now their chief saleswoman. No need for governance, of any kind, if you are only interested in demolition.


18/08/2014As far as i can see, if you win government on the back of lies ('budget emergency', 'border emergency', debt and deficit, 'Juliar') then your subsequent government will have no credibility. They are playing opposition games whilst they are governing. It's very dangerous (should something happen suddenly they would be totally unprepared for it) but totally predictable from the way the acted when in opposition. They are completely unprepared to handle the economy of this country. They really don't have a clue about the budget, because they relied on IPA talking points for its detail. I wouldn't be surprised if the LNP has done no planning at all in this budget. Many other aspects of this government are in a similar predicament. Abbott is beholden to Murdoch, and had no plan of his own other than to be PM. Now that he's there, he needs Murdoch to tell him what to do next. The media have a lot to answer for; why is it now they are looking at what Abbott does all wide-eyed and incredulous? Why didn't they examine the Coalition's policies (or lack thereof) when they had the chance?


18/08/2014... and Ad Astra, in your comment above re their egos, I don't think their egos led them to believe they have the answers. I believe they farmed their thinking out to the IPA and Murdoch. Trouble is, the IPA and Murdoch didn't give them detailed enough talking points. And so they blundered on trying to make them up, and convincing nobody.


18/08/2014Ad Astra, Thank you for coming back to us! As usual, a well-argued piece. I really don’t know the answer. I just think this “born to rule” mob are cruel, punitive bastards, the lot of them. Perhaps, instead of going after the most vulnerable in our society, maybe they should have focused on something like this http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-03-06/tax-expert-explains-how-apple-pays-193m-tax-on-27b-revenue/5303426 and Apple is not the only culprit either! There would be the darling surplus they so desire as far as the eye could see! But that would upset their business backers. On a lighter note (not really, sadly) we have this from IA: [quote][i]“Has there ever been a Government like Australia’s? One more prone to gaffes and stumbles, mind melts and the utterance of utter inanities and idiocies; one more arrogant, asinine and absur[/quote]d?”[/i] http://www.independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/the-abbott-gaffernment,6786 I am truly enjoying watching this stupid Government implode, but I’m desperately sorry for my country

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18/08/2014Ian If what you say is so, that the Coalition hasn't got a clue what to do without the prompting of the IPA and Murdoch, we don't have a government capable of governing, except as an agent of the forces that control it: business, the fossil fuel industry, the miners, the IPA and the Murdoch media. It certainly looks as if that is so. Where is the vision the Coalition has for our country now and in ten and twenty years time? Where is their plan to attain that vision? Where is their overarching narrative? They harassed Labor incessantly for its narrative. Now it's the Coalition's turn. We're waiting!


18/08/2014I'm not so sure about that - "Although the people are awake to the 'debt and deficit' charade, although they now know there is no 'debt crisis' or 'budget emergency'" I am constantly not amazed at the lack of interest the average citizen has in their country's politics. It appears that the only time that they get any interest is when they HAVE to vote. Then, they are susceptible to the catchy 3-word slogans and fear/smear campaigns. I'm always amused at the clever maxim - 'in social settings, don't discuss religion and politics'. Works brilliantly. Look at the trouble we have with both areas. There needs to be an engagement in political discourse amongst the bewildered herd. On another note, Swan was brilliant today. Must get his book.

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18/08/2014Libbyx33 How good it is to have you back with us. Thank you for your comment and the links, which l enjoyed reading. David Donovan has spelt out in unambiguous terms his opinion of Coalition ministers and his disdain for them. After all their promises to be a 'grown up', 'adult' government, to turn out to be so inept, incompetent, insensitive and innane has come as a revelation to those who voted them in. Their nastiness and ill will towards the most vulnerable is especially distressing. Their performance and their behaviour ought not to have come as a surprise. This blog and many others warned about what to expect should they be elected. Not enough listened. Now we have to suffer the awful consequences. Let's hope it will be for only one term.

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18/08/2014Woodypear Distressingly, the Coalition campaign demonstrates the old adage: 'BS baffles brains'. For too many, snappy, plausible slogans beat thoughtful debate. So many are apathetic, unwilling to put any effort into thinking about which party has the most inspiring vision and the most appropriate plan for the nation. But when they choose unwisely in the moment they vote, the suffering is prolonged. I'm looking forward to reading Wayne Swan's book, Greg Combet's, and of course Julia's.


18/08/2014A lot of very relevant questions posed and as many answers offered. There's some truth to them all. I think raw political vengeance is high on Abbott's (and thus Hockey's) agenda. Abbott's strategy in opposition adopted the "by any means" principle - a strategy that suited his temperament, but it led to him being unmercifully harangued - not that that changed his ways because he lusted after power to the point of virtual self-immolation. More the shame he didn't achieve that point - although I hope it is coming soon. Abbott's visceral hatred of progressive thought, of the scientific method, of scepticism and enquiry lead him to attack even the shadows around him - hence the inability to shut his ignorant trap when meeting with anyone who takes a different view to his. The ascension of such a vengeful, non-entity as Tony Abbott proves that the Australian experiment in democracy is bordering on breakdown - that leaves revolution as the only responsible next step

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18/08/2014Phil If you haven't been here before, welcome to The Political Sword family, and thank you for your comment. I believe you are right when you identify Abbott's prediliction for 'raw political vengeance' as a motivator behind the Coalition budget. Time and again, since his university days he has exhibited this nasty attribute. You have read the stories about his behaviour then and since. The way he has sought to wreak vengeance on Labor with his Royal Commissions and enquiries confirm that this vengeful streak persists. In a piece on TPS titled 'Say no, no, no, to Tony Abbott' it wax predicted that he would be weak and vengeful in office. He is both. As I said in the piece, vengeance is a plausible reason the budget is so punitive towards those Abbott would see as his enemies: workers, the unemployed, and the poor and disadvantaged.


19/08/2014Ad Astra, I have been here, "lurking" I think it's called. (Please allow me to thank Ken & 2353 for their excellent contributions of late... I've had something to say to both the last pieces, but time beat me, sorry). Something you might find interesting... [quote]On the eve of the 2013 election I wrote a piece titled, of all things, The 2016 Election. It was my prediction of who would win the 2016 election and why. Twelve months into Abbott’s (first and only) term the predictions have been spot-on. I don’t claim to have a crystal ball or have the ability to glimpse into the future. Rather, the future can be easy to predict when we are dealing with the predictable. The Abbott Government have helped because they are just so damn predictable. Here is the article from September 2013: [/quote] http://theaimn.com/abbott-government-easy-one-predict/ Spot on, to our detriment!


19/08/2014Dear Ad. I was just reading about Margo Kingston's Webdiary when it struck me that I had never complimented you on your willingness to correspond with all commentors. This personal touch (and it must be time-consuming) makes this site stand out from the rest. Whilst I don't expect it (nor should anyone) it is a great feeling to know that someone has listened to you and taken the time to respond. Thanks heaps.

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19/08/2014Libbyx33 I'm glad you have been lurking. There have been superb articles posted here thanks to Ken, 2353 and Bacchus, who are keeping [i]TPS[/i] motoring along, continuing to attract readers via a series of thought-provoking pieces. The initial arrangements set up by Jan Mahyuddin @j4gypsy have worked very well, for which I am most grateful. I enjoyed reading Michael Taylor's piece; he writes so well. He is right. Tony Abbott's performance in government was predictable from his time in opposition, but sadly the electorate did not see what was coming, and so were are stuck with a PM and a government that is trying to take us down the disastrous track that we knew they would.

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19/08/2014Woodypear Thank you for your kind words. We all appreciate having our contributions listened to and responded to. We have a large [i]TPS[/i] family whose members care for each other. Many 'lurk' and comment but occasionally. When they do, we want to make them feel their contributions are valued.

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19/08/2014Ian, Phil In view of your recent comments, you may be interested in an article by Guy Rundle in [i]Crikey[/i] yesterday titled: [i]Tony Abbott, Australia’s most powerful sycophant[/i] that postulates that Abbott is “[i]…a sycophant by nature who seeks out opportunities to please those more powerful than he by being more ardent in pursuit of their interests than they ever asked him to be in the first place. Once you see Abbott as a sycophant seeking out such opportunities wherever they may be found, a lot of things fall into place. Some events — such as his effusive, embarrassing praise for Rupert Murdoch at the Oz’s 50th anniversary dinner — had seemed nothing more than overkill. Others, such as describing Australia as “unsettled” pre-1788, while at the same time pushing for indigenous recognition in the constitution, seemed just odd. Latching onto the US in Iraq seemed just desperate. But now I think with this mad Scotland adventure, we can just call it — Tony Abbott will always shape himself to the service of the highest power around.[/i]” To me, that makes a lot of sense. What do you think? If you are able to access [i]Crikey[/i], the whole article is here: http://www.crikey.com.au/2014/08/18/rundle-tony-abbott-australias-most-powerful-sycophant/?


19/08/2014Ad Astra, Did you happen to watch last night's Q&A? Even Heather Ridout can't see the sense in this bastard of a budget that hurts those least able to fend for themselves. Also, in today's Courier Mail, the wonderful Paul Syvret let's rip: [quote]And for less affluent motorists struggling to balance household budgets, being lectured about transport costs by a bloke in a bespoke suit who is chauffeured around in taxpayer-funded limousines and has virtually unlimited access to a (taxpayer-funded) ComCar, taxi and hire car travel, is a bit, shall we say, rich.[/quote] http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/opinion/opinion-entitlement-only-applies-to-most-needy-in-society-not-the-exclusive-public-trough/story-fnihsr9v-1227028474688 Finally, finally, the message may be getting out to the sheeple.

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19/08/2014I'm another lurker who seldom comments but reads with gusto and shares often with others. I'm really stumped about the whole direction the LNP seems to be taking. Do they really think that their recent behavior will encourage any one to vote for them? Are they trying to set us up for another war? I truly think that the rabbit would dearly love to be a 'WAR' PM and we vassals are being groomed to accept a war. Go Team Australia!!! I came across this and have been sharing it round. A rich person with ideas of social justice and who actually creates wealth. No wonder TED wouldn't put it on their site, steps on too many rich corns. http://business.time.com/2012/05/18/was-nick-hanauers-ted-talk-on-income-inequality-too-rich-for-rich-people/


19/08/2014direct current Glad to see you break from the shadows :-) Can't agree more that Abbott and co. seem to have no idea where they are heading. As many others have said, it seems that they still think they are an Opposition and have no idea what to do as a government. Really enjoyed the article you linked. It is interesting that there are now a number of rich people in the US coming out and saying these things. What they are basically doing is challenging the economic rationalists' view of the world. And coming from successful businessmen, their views cannot be totally ignored.


19/08/2014Really, can you believe this? [quote]Federal treasurer Joe Hockey claims his comments about poor people not driving cars were "misinterpreted".[/quote] http://www.bayfm.com.au/news/local-news/52499-hockey-i-m-not-out-of-touch He just does not get it!

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19/08/2014Libbyx33 Yes, I did see Q&A last night and admired Heather Ridout's strong statement. It was a great edition. Heather's statement featured on ABC news, but Clive Palmer has stolen the media show all day! I always enjoy Paul Syvert's articles. Of course Smokin' Joe claims misrepresentation. That doesn't wash. He knew perfectly well what he was saying. What upset him was the public reaction to his words, a reaction he thought his 'impeccable logic' would avoid!

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19/08/2014direct current Welcome back. I'm glad you are still lurking. Nick Hanauer has an important message to sell. He gave a very articulate interview on [i]Lateline[/i], with which I agree. http://www.abc.net.au/lateline/content/2014/s4068402.htm The pity is that an auspicious organisation such a TED declined to post his address. That was an unwise choice, as subsequent events showed.


20/08/2014Comrades. This is a rambling rave. Sorry. (You don't have to read it.) I'm on Dialup until the 23rd. That takes some of the fun out of the Internet. It hasn't stopped me tweeting nor reading hereon, but as for links forget it. Especially it hasn't stopped me following the #ICAC site, (or #icac take your pick), where is being recorded moment-to-moment the disentangling of the most extraordinary intriguings ever recorded in Australian history. And the guts from which dirty deeds are being hauled hand-over-hand like tapeworms are nearly all those of the Liberal Party of Australia. Though the shamings and sackings of those corrupt Liberal MPs is a delight to all who know why they are delighted - like Ewen Mee, Dear Swordster, - the facts are the more appalling the more you think about it. For this is the way things have always been done by Business, by businessmen on Councils, piddling in each others' pockets, gaining and maintaining monopolies, and becoming hyper-rich. And that is what has happened in the Wide Brown Land all over, and it is the basis for all the inequity which everyone has at last noticed. This #ICAC investigation was fondly imagined by Abborrrtt to be going to find all sorts of corruption specifically by Labor. Well what a wondrous awakening he has had! And now, those who pretend that Labor is just as bad as Liberals are either lying Rightists, Greens with an agenda, or just plain stupid. Never mind false equivalence with Eddie Obeid, he was just a crook, and honestly crookedly in it for himself. Plain crooked. Not a bad man. :) He didn't try to use the money he made to win seats for the Labor Party, on the contrary really, he just used the Labor Party for his own self-aggrandisement, to Labor's great loss & chagrin eventually. I mean, you could like a bloke like that. It's merely disgusting. But to use financial chicanery by the hyper-rich to pervert the whole political system, as these scoundrels have done, is profoundly appalling - and the implications frightening. Because, in the Federal sphere, and in every State bar my own, SA,(and then by a mere twist of bee's whisker!), the reality is that these people, or their blue-tied counterparts, ARE in power. And they will [i]never[/i] roll over, just because we see them clear: on the contrary, they have hardened their hearts in every way over the last couple of decades, and will continue to do so. And the Australian People, intent on careers and babies and iPads and Footy, never saw what was coming. Really, like sheep. Eating Murdoch's Famous Fattening Fodder. So many are so woolly of brain that they really don't much care about penalty rates, medical security, workers' rights, or public services - at least, not while they are healthy and doing all right financially. Only when the well runs dry do they suddenly find they need a Union. And even then, they are frightened of standing up for their rights, as in striking, they are just too Sheepish. They'd be prosecuted under legislation enabled by Meg Lees lubricating Lying Rodent's legislation, fined hugely, and probably lose their jobs. So, they'll never do it - let alone actually fighting for their rights, as in say occupying Government buildings, because that is too serious altogether. This is Australia. We wait in queues here. We are so 'polite'! Oddly, our pale pampered people are likely to be 'brave' in obeying "Over-the-top!"-type orders in battle conditions, though of course it's not really bravery, it's actually inverted timidity, gutless compliance to Authority. They would rather run into bullets than disobey an order. It's really inverted cowardice. Sad really, because at the same time they really think they really are being really brave. (Some of my associates from Uni days, unwilling to be conscripted into the Vietnam fiasco, did the really gutsy thing, abandoned their lives and homes and studies, and went underground for months or years - and some conscientiously went to gaol.) In face of Authority, few of those who are ideologically opposed to Government policy actually go on to physical action : again like sheep, running from a pack of dogs, they panic, they fragment, and melt away when things start to turn nasty, leaving the few true staunch unionists to hold the line, exposed as shags on a rock. That's happened to me in times past, and in more ways than two at that. In predatorial societies the world over - from the Nuer in Africa and the Maoris in New Zealand, to the Hells Angels in the USA - warriors [i]coalesce[/i] in time of threat. That doesn't come from orders from above, but from their [i]culture[/i]. The Nuer people live in villages surrounded by similar villages of Tiv people, who are [i]identical[/i] in most ways - same language, they both herd cattle, they share the same gene pool - but the Nuer 'prey' upon the Tiv to a certain extent - they steal some of their cattle and women from time to time, organising raids in which sometimes one or two on either side might regrettably be injured or killed, though this is avoided. The Nuer stage attacks on Tiv in an organised and cohesive way. The Tiv men, for their part, talk about retributive attacks - but they never have much get-together, and if they do get as far as actually attacking a Nuer camp, the Nuer warriors instantly coalesce, while the Tiv resolve evaporates. Typically Nuer say proudly and arrogantly, We are Nuer! ... while Tiv say, resignedly and grumblily, Yep, they're Nuer! But the stolen women are usually content with becoming Nuer: their lifestyle doesn't change, in fact their status may be enhanced. And the funny thing is, when external aggression threatens the whole system, it is the Nuer who rally warriors from all the surrounding Tiv tribes, and lead the defence. And the Tiv unhesitatingly accept their authority. And it's all just a matter of culture. Hell's Angels, as explained by Hunter S Thompson somewhere, have a rule: [b]When an Angel strikes a non-Angel, all other Angels present shall also strike the non-Angel.[/b] You can see that would work! Most Aussies, sad to say, are much more like unto Tiv. We need more Nuer. People who can unite the troops. That's why True Believers wanted Albo. I won't state the obvious.


20/08/2014[b]Abbott and Hockey: Why poor people don't matter[/b] Ross Gittins. August 20, 2014. In a recent paper on policy challenges for the next 50 years, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development warned the growing importance of skill-biased technological progress and the rising demand for skills, will continue to widen the gap between high and low wages...Unless this was corrected by greater redistribution of income, other OECD countries would end up facing almost the same level of inequality as seen in the US today. “Rising inequalities may backlash on growth, notably if they reduce economic opportunities available to low-income talented individuals,” it warns....Christine Lagarde, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, noted in a speech that the 85 richest people in the world control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population - 3.5 billion people....“With facts like these, it is no wonder that rising inequality has risen to the top of the agenda - not only among groups normally focused on social justice, but also increasingly among politicians, central bankers and business leaders,” she said. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/abbott-and-hockey-why-poor-people-dont-matter-20140819-105nyx.html#ixzz3AtzjSxup

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20/08/2014Casablanca Thank you for the Ros Gittins link - another great article highlighting the inequity of inequality. More and more economists are waking up to the perils of inequity. When will Abbott, Hockey and Cormann wake up to that? When will they discover that they are on the wrong economic track?

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20/08/2014TT You say: [i]"...to use financial chicanery by the hyper-rich to pervert the whole political system, as these scoundrels have done, is profoundly appalling - and the implications frightening."[/i] How right you are. When, as Ross Gittins says: "[i]...the 85 richest people in the world control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population - 3.5 billion people."[/i], that is appalling inequity. Read more: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/abbott-and-hockey-why-poor-people-dont-matter-20140819-105nyx.html#ixzz3Av9iZPCp I heard today a quip - "All those at the top are crooks." Sounds right! You may be interested in this piece from [i]The Conversation[/i]: [i]Why treasurers should go back to economics school.[/i] http://theconversation.com/why-treasurers-should-go-back-to-economics-school-29851? It castigates those who use the 'debt and deficit' charade, a fictitious state of affairs used to sell a grossly unfair budget. Yet they persist, even until today. They know nothing else.


21/08/2014http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-21/investigation-into-last-20-years-of-political-donations/5685590 [quote]The Northern Territory could follow the lead of New South Wales, after the Government last night failed to stop a surprise motion forcing it to enact a wide-ranging inquiry into the last 20 years of political donations.[/quote] This is a really interesting development. On the basis the Independent MP in the NT knows something more 'corrupt' politician stories could lead to to a new era in community based rather than party pased politics.


21/08/2014Doesn’t Martin Ferguson have any friends left in the ALP? “Mr Ferguson’s critique of the mining tax saga is contained in Triumph and Demise, a 200,000-word account of the six years of Rudd-Gillard government, including the internal dramas of the Liberal Party, based on more than 60 interviews. Tony Abbott will launch the book, from Melbourne University Press, next Tuesday.” Warning it’s from the OZ http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/treasury/wayne-swan-misled-industry-with-mining-tax-ambush-says-martin-ferguson/story-fn59nsif-1227031334353


22/08/2014Greetings Comrades, We Love Lurkers and Raries all the time, but it's only when you write here that we can really bid you Welcome to The Political Sword. Which is a great place to write. I'm weary right now but I just have to say Ad how happy I am to have ever come here. You have inspired me for years and I'm sure the same goes for many, even those who drop off or even never write but only read. You really are a beacon of sanity and kindness and encouragement. And you are still are on an upward curve of output! Everybody on this particular thread is so sensible ... It's just reassuring. I meant to answer some of you but I'm fading. Goodnight Comrades. Oh do keep Sunday 31st free for the rally in your local centre OK? I think it will be powerful.

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22/08/2014TT I hope you are feeling less weary this morning, and that you will find time later today to read the next episode in [b]Heil the adult government[/b]. The subject this time lives not far from you - The Honourable Christopher Pyne, MP, Leader of the House and Education Minister.


22/08/2014[b]Joe Hockey gets it too much[/b] Jack Waterford. 15 August 2014 He's quite right too - at least about richer people spending rather more on everything, even water - but I'd be fairly certain that no one in Treasury ever told him that this proved that taxes on the things were progressive. That was the deduction drawn by a person who was mostly being a student politician when basic mathematical concepts were being explained at Sydney University. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/joe-hockey-gets-it-too-much-20140816-104iai.html [b]Learning from the homeless[/b] Andrew Hamilton. 06 August 2014 It will not help if you are burdened with filling in forms to apply for jobs that do not exist and required to meet obligations you are not capable of, and then are stigmatised as work-shy, bludgers, leaners and not lifters, and the other rhetorical tropes that so often serve in the place of a properly thought-out policy. Homelessness does not affect only individuals. It also touches society. The costs of homelessness will be paid in devastated lives and more hospital wards, police cells and gaol beds. Governments neglect their responsibility to people and to society if they do not enable housing for those who need it, encourage people to make connections with society, and help them find work. The economic logic that seeks to cut spending on the unemployed and on job creation will in the longer term lead to increased Government spending to deal with the consequences that are measured in damaged lives.... Those fortunate enough to be able to work are praised cheaply as if their employment were a mark of virtue, not of good fortune. http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=41797#.U_UUY2OIiSo [b] The Government's high fibre diet of legislation [/b] Andrew Hamilton. 13 August 2014 A more concerning quality of the legislation was that it showed few signs of reflection on what kind of a society we want to create, and how far particular legislation will help do so. The arguments for legislation are based on abstractions such as free speech and terrorism. They are not supported by sustained reflection on the way in which human beings interact, and whether the legislation will enhance or weaken respect for human dignity. Even the metaphor of Team Australia invited barracking, not reflection. It has generated fear and loathing of Muslims and of Islam. To ethnic communities the linkage of the racial vilification legislation with community cohesion looked less like an olive branch than payback. http://www.eurekastreet.com.au/article.aspx?aeid=41839#.U_UV_WOIiSo [b]Budget could have been sold better: Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson[/b] Peter Martin. August 22, 2014 "If you start from a presumption that you have a problem on the outlays side, and you have a very highly targeted welfare system and you think you need to take action on outlays, inevitably the people who get most from that system are going to complain," he said. While fairness was important, it was ridiculous to suggest that every element in the budget needed to be fair, he said. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/budget-could-have-been-sold-better-treasury-secretary-martin-parkinson-20140821-106qe5.html

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22/08/2014Casablanca Thank you for your links, which I shall enjoy reading at leisure this afternoon.

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22/08/2014Folks Here is the next edition of [i]Heil the adult government[/i] [b]Heil the adult government! A play in several parts[/b] Part 5 [b]Christopher Pyne, Leader of the Government in the House, Education Minister[/b] [i]Prologue:[/i] For sheer bellowing, Christopher Pyne would run second only to Joe Hockey, but for arrogance, chutzpah, petulance, and verbal diarrhoea, he has no equal. Time and again, as Leader of the Government in the House, he harangued his fellow politicians with his points of order and when speaking to Abbott’s multiple motions to ‘suspend standing orders’ when in opposition, and now as Education Minister when responding to prickly questions from his opponents. He is articulate, but with florid overtones. His plethoric appearance as he explodes into toxic oratory is etched in the memories of the press gallery and those who have seen him in full flight on TV. Far from the image of the mature statesman he would like to portray, he sounds like a schoolyard bully, or an immature precocious student politician pumping up his followers. There’s not much adult on display. Anyone observing his behaviour in and out of the House would agree that it’s apt that the tag: ‘mincing poodle’ has stuck to him. But what of his performance as Education Minister? [i]Act 5 Scene 1[/i] [b]The ‘Conski’ saga[/b] Pyne was never enamoured of the Gonski reforms. Had Labor not set up the inquiry headed by businessman David Gonski into school education and funding, it would never have taken place. The Coalition was satisfied with the funding arrangements that the Howard government had established, arrangements that generously funded independent and Catholic schools. This was rationalized on the grounds that parents had the right to choose a private education for their children, and as taxpayers had the right to taxpayer support for it, support received by parents with children at government schools. Pyne, and many of his colleagues, seemed oblivious to the disadvantage suffered by many government schools, particularly those from underprivileged areas, and where there was a predominance of indigenous students or those for whom English was not their first language. As a private school educated boy, with four girls at private schools, Pyne was satisfied with what he and his family enjoyed. A mature minister would have been concerned about the less privileged, but for Pyne it was a case of ‘I’m alright Jack; what are the others grumbling about?’ The Gonski review identified the funding inequities we all knew existed and drew up measures to correct them, so that no matter where the child lived, or what background he or she was from, funding would match the child’s and the school’s needs. The needs-based funding, which provided additional support for disadvantage, was widely applauded by those who wanted to see equity in the education system. Pyne and his colleagues were unenthusiastic. The Gonski plan had a heavy price tag that would be ongoing. Pyne’s line of attack, echoed by Abbott and Hockey, was that educational standards would not be improved by ‘throwing money at the problem’. He dug up papers that purported to show that teacher quality had a more important influence on learning than such aspects as class size and educational hardware and facilities. While teacher quality undoubtedly is vital, so is the support structure that provides teaching amenities and equipment, and targeted additional support where disadvantage impairs learning. Pyne and the Coalition were focused on the cost, and prepared to allow the [i]status quo[/i] of disadvantage to persist in order to avoid conspicuous and continuing expenditure. Before long Pyne, the schoolyard loudmouth, was calling the entire reform a ‘Conski’, labeling it a poorly framed confidence trick that would drain the coffers but produce little benefit. He felt sure the voters would back him up. He was wrong. The Gonski reforms went down well with the electorate, much of which saw it as at last giving a fair go to the less well off. So strong was the public support that soon the always-opportunistic Abbott, unprepared to let anything imperil his journey to prime ministership, began to voice support. “I’m on a unity ticket with Labor on the Gonski reforms”, he declared during the election campaign, and promised funding support for the first four years, covering the forward estimates. Sceptics noted the absence of support for subsequent years and suspected that funding for those years would be left in limbo by an Abbott government. And so it was. Our Education Minister had to follow his master. His back down was not that of a statesman bowing to political reality, but that of a petulant child deprived of his oft-repeated talking points. When confronted with Abbott’s turn-around he still argued the toss. Not much adult was on display. In government, Abbott and Pyne did their durndest to walk away from the Gonski reforms. ‘They are all very fine, but we can’t afford them; we must live within our means.’ Soon Pyne revealed that the Coalition would not be providing funding after the fourth year. So the Gonski reforms remain in limbo. A beginning will be made, but who knows for how long and to what extent they will be funded? Throughout Pyne has dodged the issues – what was needed, who needed it, and how it might be properly funded in the long term. Abbott’s adult minister went missing. [i]Act 5 Scene 2[/i] [b]Indigenous history ‘overkill’[/b] While we are on the subject of school education, take a quick look at Pyne’s commissioning of Professor Ken Wiltshire and Dr Kevin Donnelly to review the Australian curriculum and examine the [i]“fair criticism” that the curriculum was overly focused on “the way we’ve treated Indigenous Australians” at the expense of illustrating “the benefits of Western civilisation”.[/i] Clearly, Pyne thought too much emphasis had been given to indigenous history and not enough to the glories of our Western heritage. According to an article in [i]The Conversation[/i] by Gary Foley and Elizabeth Muldoon, the history curriculum claims to promote an [i]“…understanding of the past and present experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, their identity and the continuing value of their culture.[/i]” Yet they claim that close inspection of the history curriculum from Year 7 to 10 – the years in which history is compulsory at a secondary level – reveals that it fails in this objective. They write that the “[i]silence on land rights is perhaps the most troubling, as the historic Mabo decision cannot be understood without the history of the land rights movement, from early frontier warfare, to the 1966 Wave Hill walk-off, to the 1972 Aboriginal Tent Embassy. In light of its actual content, the Australian Curriculum’s numerous statements affirming the critical importance of Indigenous histories are rendered hollow and its conservative critics absurd.”[/i] They insist that “[i]when the review of the Australian Curriculum is finally released, we need many voices to demand greater attention to Indigenous perspectives and some much-needed academic rigour.”[/i] http://theconversation.com/pyning-for-indigenous-rights-in-the-australian-curriculum-30422 Will our adult minister, oriented as he is to Western culture, be prepared to give indigenous history a fair, balanced, and comprehensive part in the Australian curriculum? You guess. [i]Act 5, Scene 3[/i] [b]The university deregulation saga[/b] Perhaps Pyne had hoped that after his forced Gonski back down, his next move, deregulation of tertiary education, might earn him accolades. His ideological devotion to the power of the market led him to believe that allowing competitive markets to operate in the university sector would bring about reduced fees as tertiary education institutions vied with each other for students, particularly those from developing countries in our region, from which lucrative returns are made. Contrary to Pyne’s expectations, experts predicted that rather than fees reducing, they would increase substantially for the most desirable courses at the most desirable institutions. When he coupled fee deregulation with higher interest rates for student loans and a more stringent and earlier payback schedule, which would increase and prolong student HECS debt, students protested loudly (and again last night in Adelaide), as did many staff, and the public too. Soon our adult minister was facing student protests, hostility from opponents, and after initial cautious acceptance, emergence of doubt from the university hierarchy. Now even some of the eight top universities, the elite Go8, are beginning to back off. Some of the others saw themselves being left behind. Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Greg Craven made the telling point: “[i]The most important thing is not that you have the best university in the world but the best university system in the world. You don’t want to have one Rolls-Royce and 12 clapped-out Commodores.”[/i] Pyne’s anticipated triumph evaporated. Jamie Miller of Cornell University, writing in [i]The Conversation[/i] said: “[i]The long, sorry saga serves as an ideal case study of how not to go about building support for a controversial reform program.”[/i] Here’s how Abbott’s senior ‘adult’ minister went about it. Pyne first appointed a two-man panel to review the university sector, a Howard government Education Minister David Kemp, and Andrew Norton, his long-time adviser. That was it. [i]Review of the Demand-Driven System[/i] was the title of the review. ‘Demand’ was the focus, not ‘access’ or ‘value’. The belief that the ‘market knows best’ underpinned Pyne’s thinking. Although submissions were invited with a deadline of around a month, and eighty were received, only two were from student organizations, four from faculty members, and only six from classroom teachers. It did not concern Pyne that student and faculty opinion was so scant; he was prepared to proceed without it. Having announced his proposed deregulation policy, Pyne then decided to consult with the universities on a ’listening tour’, which is still in progress. A thoughtful adult might have considered consulting with them before formulating policy. But that is not Pyne’s style. Because he knows best, he works out the policy details, no doubt aligning them with Hockey’s budgetary objectives, fancifully hoping that he had them so right that they would be warmly embraced by all the stakeholders, or at least those he sees as the most important, the big universities whom he thought would leap at the opportunity of making even more money out of their educational offerings. To Pyne’s chagrin, that has not happened. Perhaps an even more telling defect in Pyne’s political approach to policy formulation was his inability to demonstrate how his American-style deregulation would produce better outcomes than does the existing system. To support his case that Australian universities were lagging behind, Pyne produced a grossly misleading table that showed Australia with only five universities in the top one hundred. Writing about this in [i]The Conversation[/i], Jamie Miller said: “[i]Many scholars (including myself) pointed out that the government’s desire to pursue a competition-driven model based on the American system drew all the wrong lessons about why US universities regularly dominate global research rankings. Nevertheless, the government pressed ahead.”[/i] Miller went on: “[i]When compared with countries, not entire continents, Australia has the fourth-most universities…more than France or China or Japan or Russia. It punches way above its weight.”[/i] Again, Pyne was wrong. http://theconversation.com/politics-101-why-pyne-has-failed-to-sell-his-education-reforms-30242 Despite the ‘adult’ appellation, Abbott government ministers have consistently failed to describe their long-term vision for this nation. So it would be too much to expect Pyne to spell out his vision for Australian universities in the decades ahead. He has not. Presumably, he is prepared to leave it to ‘market forces’ to sort that out. Moreover, Pyne did not tell parents or students what they would be getting for the extra money they we forking out. His campaign was simply to denigrate our current university system, hardly prudent when he needed them onside, and propose that an American-styled free market oriented system would be preferable. Almost all the stakeholders, and the community generally, have reacted adversely to what has been styled as the ‘Americanization’ of the Australian tertiary education sector. Pyne is left holding a screaming baby that he is seeking to clothe in American garb, which he is now trying to pacify. Will his parenting skills get him out of the tight spot he’s in? Pyne has been caught on the horns of two ideological dilemmas - how to support Hockey's budget ideology of correcting 'Labor's debt and deficit disaster' so the nation can at last 'live within its means', while at the same time fulfilling his 'market-based' ideology for higher education. Both dilemmas have caused him grief. Throughout the deregulation saga, Pyne had shown his immaturity. He failed to properly consult the stakeholders; he limited his review of higher education to just two of his mates; he solicited far too few opinions; he postponed consultation until after announcing his policy; he has tried to ignore, then talk over the objectors; he seems oblivious to the messages of the protestors; he has been slow to consult with the cross-bench senators who have the balance of power, and yet he displays abounding confidence that in the end all will be well. He is imbued with juvenile enthusiasm, a legacy from his days as a student politician, the success of which he has often boasted about. As Jamie Miller so sharply pointed out: “[i]The irony of this political calamity is that it should have been anything but unanticipated. If Pyne had done his homework, he would know that deregulation of higher education was a central plank in John Hewson’s neoliberal Fightback! program, resoundingly rejected by the public in the “unlosable election” way back in 1993. Pyne would also know that, sobered by this experience, the Howard government repeatedly restricted itself to piecemeal incrementalism, resisting substantial pressure from the right wing to go further, faster.”[/i] Pyne is not an adult politician. This Minister for Education in Abbott's adult government is no more than a child playing dangerous games in a sandpit he does not understand, all the time ignoring history and using ideological tools that do not apply. [b]Heil the adult government! [/b]

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22/08/2014Casablanca I did enjoy reading your links. Jack Waterford, Andrew Hamilton and Peter Martin are always good to read,


22/08/2014Ad Astra Andrew Hamilton sj and others at the Jesuit Social Justice magazine Eureka Street certainly do not defend either Abbott or Hockey and frequently take them both to task.

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22/08/2014Gonski. sadly was all about living within our means. The committee found the present funding of education expensive and unfair. Gonski was about a more effective and efficient distribution of the education budget. Yes, funding the child and it's needs, not the school or school system.


23/08/2014The independent Parliamentary Budget Office has joined a chorus of voices and institutions querying the Government's economic credentials. [b]Budget office says health not a long-term spending issue[/b] Peter Martin, James Massola. August 23, 2014 The independent Parliamentary Budget Office has called into question claims health spending is spiralling out of control, noting government spending is projected to grow in line with the economy over the next decade and that health will account for only a small amount to that growth. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/budget-office-says-health-not-a-longterm-spending-issue-20140822-107c0y.html


23/08/2014[b]An Open Letter to Joe Hockey[/b] Victoria Rollison. August 19, 2014 Dear Joe Hockey, Back in 2012, when you said the age of entitlement was over, I was so relieved. I was… And oh how I wish I could leave this letter here. But I can’t. And you know why I can’t. Because I am mistaken. I am not mistaken that you wish to end the age of entitlement. What is clear is that you do in fact want to end what you call entitlement. The problem is, your definition of the problem of entitlement in our culture, and my definition, are completely different things. http://theaimn.com/open-letter-joe-hockey/


23/08/2014Team Spin Doctors [b]Team Australia: Patriotism, religion and idiots[/b] Duade Borg. 21 August 2014. Tony Abbott's appeal for immigrants to join 'Team Australia' is simply a crude dog-whistle attack against another religion. Recently, The Federal Government has been attempting to draw attention away from their shambles of a first year in office by putting security on the national agenda. The politics of fear is a tried and true success story for the politically and socially stagnant. Any time the progressive side of politics is having a good run, you can be assured the stagnants will jump at every spook. http://www.independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/team-australia-patriotism-religion-and-idiots,6797 [b]Just what is this ‘Team Australia’? [/b] John Kelly. 22 August, 2014 Once again, it seems, the Liberal party spin doctors are trying to cloud our minds and muddy the waters with yet another two or three word slogan. This time it is ‘Team Australia’...As if we were not already dumbed down enough with the pathetic, ‘stop the boats’ and ‘axe the tax’ not to mention, ‘fix the budget’, here we are, once more, being ask to leave our basic intelligence and our common sense at the front door and enter this extraordinary world of the mystical, unquestioned, not to be doubted, dumb-arse quotes of the day. http://theaimn.com/just-team-australia/ [b]Captain Abbott's Team Epic Failure[/b] Bob Ellis. 22 August 2014 Though the competition is large, Abbott's 'Team Australia' is probably the most idiotic thing he’s said in a fortnight....What Abbott has been attempting lately is what might be called a daily scramble to change the subject. http://www.independentaustralia.net/politics/politics-display/team-epic-failure,6801 [b]Prime Minister's calls for Team Australia 'divisive' and 'counter-productive', former PM Malcolm Fraser says[/b] Deborah Cornwall. 23 August, 2014 Former Liberal prime minister Malcolm Fraser has labelled Tony Abbott's use of the term Team Australia "divisive" and "counter-productive"...Mr Fraser said the larger question before Australians right now is what the country's future will be....There's no direct threat to Australia. We do not need to be a frightened nation," Mr Fraser told AM. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-08-23/malcolm-fraser-calls-abbotts-team-australia-divisive/5691550

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23/08/2014Casablanca Thank you for the links - all most interesting reading . Wouldn't 'What is Team Australia Mr Abbott' be a good question!


24/08/2014Just a few thoughts on Mrs Abbott and Op Shops ... http://wp.me/p3xJZ6-7u


24/08/2014If this Liberal government can sack all the public servants to "save money" and "reduce red tape", how come they are replacing them with 'spin doctors'? I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that the "leadership" of the Liberal Party of Australia are actually carpetbaggers and have such low self-esteem that they need to reduce us all to their level to make themselves feel better. This will also confirm their belief that they are actually better than anyone else and deserve to be seated at the high table of life. Mind you, I think they should be seated well below the Salt, but then where do you go with such a medievalist mindset?

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24/08/2014Curi-Oz The Coalition is a curious and dangerous mixture of arrogance and incompetence. There is scarcely a more lethal mix.
How many umbrellas are there if I have two in my hand but the wind then blows them away?