Credlin As Sex Discrimination Chief? Better A Shark Running A Wading Pool

THE PROPOSAL of Peta Credlin for a five-year term as Sex Discrimination Commissioner — and paid millions of dollars — is obscene; coming after attempts to make husband Brian Loughnane Ambassador to the Vatican, hiring Credlin would reek of cronyism, rewarding an approach that masked incompetence by lashing “sexism” among critics. This insidious hack deserves no cushy sinecure. A better hire would see a shark running a children’s pool.

As we have opined many times in this column, former Chief of Staff to ex-Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Peta Credlin, was given the most powerful unelected position in Australian politics, and fucked it up completely: the irrefutable evidence of this lies in the two tumultuous years in which the Abbott government comprehensively lost the support of the Australian public, culminating in the termination of Abbott’s tenure, as Liberal MPs prepared to support Abbott deserted him on the basis that if he wouldn’t remove Credlin from the government then Abbott himself would have to go to ensure she did as well.

Credlin had oversight and control, with Prime Ministerial imprimatur, of virtually every aspect of government operations: political strategy, parliamentary tactics, policy decisions, media relations, personnel hires (as far out as junior shitkicker roles in electorate offices) — the lot. Had Credlin’s way worked, nobody would criticise her; the fact, however, is that it was a disaster, and she stands forever condemned by the hard realities of the consequences of her methods.

Perhaps most offensively, Abbott spent a lot of time arguing that if she was P-E-T-E-R Credlin rather than P-E-T-A, there would never have been a problem: this moronic formulation ignores the reality that had Credlin been male, it simply would have meant that a bloke presided over the ruinous mess that was made of the post instead of woman.

Anyone who thinks the Abbott government was a model of efficiency and a monument to good government is delusional. Putting a bloke, who did exactly as Credlin did, at its epicentre would have changed nothing.

Today, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph is carrying a story that notes Credlin is being touted as a candidate for the vacant post as Australia’s Sex Discrimination Commissioner, and aside from the fact she went on something of a media offensive in the wake of Abbott’s dumping to argue she, herself, had been unfairly discriminated against, there is no logical basis on which to connect her to the position at all.

This revelation comes soon after Abbott’s attempt to have Credlin’s husband — former Liberal Party federal director Brian Loughnane — appointed as Ambassador to the Vatican, and when it is also considered that Loughnane’s right hand man and 2IC at the Liberals’ federal secretariat, Julian Sheezel, recently pursued an abortive attempt to snatch the top position on the party’s Senate ticket (disappearing on minister Kelly O’Dwyer just weeks after she made him her Chief of Staff in an appalling show of poor faith) it becomes patently clear that whatever else the people in the Abbott cabal are, one thing all can be accused of is a healthy entitlement mentality, with them or Abbott (or both) apparently believing they deserve cushy sinecures at great public expense when they don’t.

Sheezel, who enjoys negligible support for his ambitions across the Liberal rank and file, quickly climbed down from his plot to sail straight into guaranteed election to the Senate when the story broke last month; I have neither any particular animus nor enthusiasm toward Sheezel, whom I’ve known since university days in the early 1990s. But simply installing faceless machine operatives into unloseable parliamentary positions is no better than the behaviour of the ALP opponents we so regularly (and vigorously) pillory for doing the same thing.

Loughnane, for his part — an executive at oil company Shell prior to arriving at the Liberal Party — likes to claim his record as federal director at elections was “two wins (2004, 2013), one loss (2007) and a draw (2010);” this purported record is hardly exceptional, including as it does the loss of government at the end of the Howard era. But it ignores the one result Loughnane doesn’t want discussed: the near-apocalyptic disaster of the 2002 state election in Victoria, at which he was the Liberals’ state director, and at which the Liberals’ return of 17 seats out of 88 was the worst result in the party’s history in this state.

In any case, why he would seem a suitable choice as an Ambassador — to anyone, that is, except Tony Abbott — is anyone’s guess.

But this now-unmistakable pattern of looking for comfy jobs for mates — and undeserving mates, at that — takes on a whole new complexion with the suggestion Credlin should be installed in a five-year term as Sex Discrimination Commissioner, an appointment that attracts total remuneration over the tenure of between two and three million dollars.

It reeks of cronyism, of preferment, and of an insidious insider culture that says that irrespective of the degree of abject failure they achieve, those in the loop should simply be shuffled on to trinkets of even greater prestige, at enormous public expense, with any notion of consequences for their real failures that adversely affected people (in Credlin’s case, the millions of Australians depending on a Liberal government to better their lot in life) simply dismissed out of hand.

When it is also remembered that Credlin was hardly a harmonious or unifying figure — running vendettas against individual staff and others in the wider Liberal organisation, or bullying those she wanted removed from the seat of power in Canberra, or having the bare-faced effrontery to dictate to elected representatives of the Australian public from her unelected and unaccountable bunker next to Abbott’s office — it’s difficult to argue she is a suitable candidate for anything.

And nobody who Credlin enraged by suggesting, directly or through the proxy of remarks by Abbott, that she was a glittering example of a highly successful employee whose efforts were little short of brilliant, but who had been hobbled by accusations of “sexism” — the taunt of both first and last resort when it comes to women gifted senior roles and who then make a complete botch of them — could ever sanction her appointment to such a powerful and influential post.

Not now, not ever.

Frankly, this proposed appointment is so utterly devoid of merit that a better hire would be to put a great white shark in charge of the local kiddies’ swimming pool. At least with a great white, there are no pretensions about the intended eventual outcome. It’s as bad as that. At least a great white can get it right. Credlin didn’t.


Daniel Andrews Has No Right To Change Asylum Seeker Policy

NEWS Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews “offered” to house, educate, medicate and throw welfare at 267 asylum seekers cleared by the High Court to return to Nauru is an outrage; Australia’s border regime has been repeatedly endorsed by voters, and the consequences of changing it can be seen with a quick glance at Europe. Andrews should concentrate on running Victoria, a task at which he is proving spectacularly, but unsurprisingly, inept.

No doubt the Chardonnay drunks and the finger shakers and the bleeding heart bullshit artists of the Australian Left are quietly congratulating themselves tonight, but the other 95% of the population should be alarmed — and outraged.

And if ever an ostensibly innocuous gesture represented the thin edge of the wedge, this is it.

The news that Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews has written to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull with an “offer” to house, educate, medicate and throw welfare money at 267 asylum seekers facing return to Nauru — in the wake of this week’s High Court ruling that mandatory detention of asylum seekers on that island is constitutional — must be condemned in the strongest possible terms, and not just for the obvious reasons upon which those compassion babblers from the Left will seek to justify it.

You’d think the ALP and the Communist Party Greens would have learned their lesson by now, but apparently not.

When Labor managed to sweep away its detested, loathed, hated Howard government in late 2007 — described by some in its ranks as “evil” — one of the first things the Rudd government did, with the explicit support of the Greens, was to abolish the highly successful “Pacific Solution:” that suite of policies that brought the arrival of asylum seekers by sea to a total halt.

The next thing anyone knew, 50,000 asylum seekers were arriving every year — in addition to well over a thousand who didn’t survive the journey, drowning en route at sea — with the costs of (you guessed it) housing, educating, medicating and throwing welfare money at them running to well in excess of $10bn per year.

The longer it went on, the faster the boat arrivals came; the more it cost, the more people turned up as word spread back to the Middle East that Australia was a soft touch that would let anyone claiming to be a refugee into the country: so long as they made it through the trip.

To Labor and the Greens, however, this was the “compassionate” and “humane” way to deal with them.

By the time anyone at the Labor Party noticed there was a problem, this running sore had already filled millions of acres of opinion and comment in those organs of record so decried by the Left as illegitimate; every one else in Australia knew — and so did the good burghers at the Murdoch press — that whilst this country isn’t filled with cruel, hard-hearted arseholes, the capacity to cope with this level of unannounced immigration (many of whom were not “refugees” at all, but economic migrants seeking to jump the queue) had already far transcended Australia’s ability to do so.

And when the Labor government, by then led by Julia Gillard, tried to do something about it, there was an East Timor solution, a Malaysian solution, and a Regional Processing Centre: none of which ever happened, of course, and the suspicion the promises were nothing more than a macho PR exercise was borne out by the fact the East Timorese government made it known that the first they’d heard of any solution involving their country was when it was announced in the media.

Tony Abbott and his three-word-slogan opposition was looking like it was onto a winner with a pledge to Stop the Boats; naturally, when Rudd was reinstated to try to undo some of the looming electoral carnage his party faced for its misadventures in office, he solemnly declared, po-faced, that with Labor in office, no asylum seeker arriving by boat would ever be permitted to settle in Australia. Tony Abbott, by contrast, would start a war with Indonesia over the issue, he said.

The rest is history: the Liberal Party won the election; the Abbott government stopped the boats; no war with Indonesia was either in prospect nor occurred; but Labor and the Greens used their numbers in the Senate to frustrate and disrupt the reinstatement of the Pacific Solution — voting, for example, to disallow the reintroduction of temporary protection visas — and whilst the boats have stopped completely, the ALP and Greens still have not a shred of credibility on the issue.

Yes, you’d think the Left might have learned by now: Australian people will not tolerate an endless flow of largely economic migrants through open borders.

Not coincidentally, whilst these parties were in power, hundreds of children were placed into detention in Nauru: and as cynical as it might sound, it is tempting to regard this aspect of Labor’s mismanagement of the asylum problem as an investment in the day it was eventually booted out of government, for the ALP — and the wider Left, notably the Human Rights Commissioner, the contemptible Gillian Triggs — have played politics with children in detention ever since, seeking to hold the Coalition to account for a problem entirely of Labor’s and the Greens’ making.

This latest frolic on Andrews’ part — using the desperation of others for political ends — comes as the High Court struck down a bid this week to have mandatory detention on Nauru declared unconstitutional by a 6-1 majority; knowing no shame, part of the pretext for Andrews’ approach to the Prime Minister was that 37 babies born in Australia were among the 267 facing deportation to Nauru: claiming residency by right of birth has long been a tactical play of both asylum seekers and their advocates in the Australian establishment who think they know better than the rest of the country, and merely underlines exactly why it is necessary to stop it in its tracks.

According to Andrews’ office, the Victorian Premier’s letter was posted to Turnbull yesterday prior to its appearance in social media earlier today, and Turnbull’s people say they are yet to sight it; but given postal services between Melbourne and Canberra occur overnight at the minimum (and in this case, over a weekend) such a claim on Andrews’ part is fatuous: even if a paper copy was dispatched yesterday, it’s fairly clear the intention was to kick some sort of own goal on Twitter — and to force the PM to play catch-up on the hop and with no advance warning whatsoever.

The tactics are appalling. The claim that this stunt shows how “compassionate” Andrews and his government are is sickening.

Andrews’ letter was as follows:

Embedded image permalink

Embarrassingly, this document looks like campaign paraphernalia: it is jingoistic, pompous, and entirely innocent of any grounding in either common sense of the wishes of the Australian public.

“Victoria stands ready…” well, I don’t, and neither do a considerable number of intelligent, decent people in Melbourne I have been discussing this with today. Most are horrified, for far from being some magnanimous gesture of generosity, this is exactly the kind of thing tough immigration laws were repeatedly introduced to stamp out: and abandoned once already by a Labor-Greens cabal to disastrous effect, this silly stunt could well have the same practical outcome now — with consequences that would be nothing short of cataclysmic.

Triggs, for the non-existent value she represents to this country in exchange for an obscene monthly pay cheque, opined that children are scared at the idea of returning to Nauru — and therefore should remain in Australia — to which I say, what about their parents? It is not this country’s fault their parents put them in a position by which mandatory detention on Nauru is their fate for the foreseeable future. But the Left (and Triggs embodies it in all its repugnant malignancy) have never bothered themselves with the concept of personal responsibility.

If Victoria is permitted to get away with this — because Andrews “wants these children and families to call Victoria home,” and because sending them back to “a life of trauma” on Nauru “is not a fair solution” — then as sure as night follows day, Queensland will follow suit; once that happens, the ACT will try it on; and before you know it, and South Australia gets in on the act, every Labor-controlled state and territory jurisdiction will be running an illicit parallel immigration racket to undercut and sabotage the legal (and constitutional) one in place at the federal level.

It should be noted, of course, that immigration is a federal government responsibility: but if you are Andrews, the ALP and the Left generally, that doesn’t matter.

The end result of Andrews getting his way on this will be, with neither exaggeration nor hyperbole, to send the signal to people smugglers that Australia is once again open for business; and when that occurs, the flood of boats will resume: the only difference will be that instead of making for the Western Australian coast, the intended points of landfall will be in Victoria, and Far North Queensland, and along the Limestone Coast in SA.

And should that occur, a cursory glance in the direction of Europe is enough to send a shudder down the spines of all right-thinking folk: the 1.1 million asylum seekers who arrived in Germany last year are more or less tearing the place apart; another 50,000 arrived in January alone, and as one scribe today noted, 50,000 in a month actually represents a big slowdown.

Whether you like it or not, the capacity of Western countries to absorb literally endless numbers of people who just don’t want to live in their own countries any more is actually quite limited; it is a question of resources, affordability, and the capacity to integrate new arrivals whilst preserving social structures and the cohesion of existing communities.

Whether you like it or not, and whether it is right or not, there is ample and growing evidence that when it comes to large numbers of Muslim asylum seekers — because that’s who we’re talking about, let’s be honest — this simply isn’t possible, and with no disrespect to the ones who simply want to live in peace, there are too many in their ranks who want to blow the place up and terrorise the women who live here to justify taking the risk on any of them.

And with the article from the Fairfax press I’ve linked today confirming that each asylum seeker would require at least $10,000 per annum in state support (a figure that seems suspiciously low, frankly) for the 267 in question here, the few million it would cost to have them mightn’t seem like much at first glance.

But where there are some, there are more — many, many more — and just as Labor swore in 2008 that its abolition of the Pacific Solution would not lead to a flood of asylum seekers (which it did, directly) it will make similarly empty pledges now.

There are three main points to make in closing.

One, the High Court — the highest in the land since Labor abolished the right of appeal to the Privy Council — has ruled that the intended handling of these people is constitutional: but just like personal responsibility or public opinion generally, the law is only of interest to the Left when it says what the Left wants it to say; for the Left, in the end, thinks it knows better than everyone. It doesn’t.

Two, just who in hell Daniel Andrews thinks he is — seeking to usurp immigration laws that are the domain of the Commonwealth — is anyone’s guess, but in trying to interfere in the fate of these 267 asylum seekers he is playing with a particularly dangerous barrel of dynamite. Asylum seekers, in the hundreds of thousands if not millions, will recommence their bombardment of Australia’s shores in a heartbeat if they think they will be received here; I, and dozens of other conservative commentators, said at the time of the 2013 election that if the flow of asylum seekers was not halted, millions more waited ready to test their luck. That contention has been proven in recent months in Europe. Germany and Sweden in particular are finding they have imported gang violence, the rape and other sexual assault of their country’s women, and a lawlessness that shows neither respect nor heed for Western values. We do not need this here. But this is the danger Andrews is flirting with as he grubbily tries to score a point against the federal Coalition on behalf of the Chardonnay drunks and finger shakers of the Left who urge him on.

And three, little over a year since winning office in Victoria, Andrews has pissed more than a billion dollars up against a post — cancelling the East-West Link he said the contract to build wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on, and that tearing it up would expose the state to no compensation — and has turned a $2bn budget surplus into a $250 million budget deficit in the space of a single financial year; beyond these dubious “achievements” there is nothing of any value to show for 14 months of Labor government in the Garden State.

Maybe Andrews should concentrate on his own job — running the State of Victoria — and leave federal matters to the federal government.

After all, the policies in place on immigration and asylum seekers were endorsed at the ballot box in 2001, 2004 and most recently in 2013; and after all, for a man who campaigned on putting an end to a “circus” he claimed had played for four years on Spring Street, the nicest thing you could say about Daniel Andrews is that he’s a clown — and he has proven it today with this stunt.


Keating, GST, Spending Cuts, And A Budget Debate Worth Having

THE TARGET may be awry, but its objective is not: former Prime Minister Paul Keating yesterday said government spending could be slashed by $90bn per year — or 20% — to fix the federal budget without endlessly lifting taxes; Keating is not only right, but his words are a siren call to the spineless minnows on all sides of politics who live in perpetual fear of electoral doom, lest efforts to rein in haemorrhaging red ink produce so much as a single loser.

It really does say something — and render horrific judgement in passing on the 226 individuals sitting in elected sinecures in Canberra, along with their thousands of mostly useless advisers — that the clearest message to date on fixing the stinking mess that is the federal budget should come from a former Prime Minister booted out of office 20 years ago, and whose heyday and (deserved) reputation as a reformist Treasurer was at its zenith a decade before that, but there you have it: like him or not, Paul Keating can still cut through the bullshit.

I have been thinking about his remarks yesterday (predictably seized upon by the government and opposition in Question Time to try to bludgeon each other into submission) and they form a useful starting point not just for a debate about how to fix the budget, but also to consider additional reforms beyond that (and yes, I’m talking about lifting and broadening the GST) that keep it sustainable into the future whilst enabling massive cuts across the board in direct taxes and the elimination of some of them altogether.

And in that vein it says something, too, that what I say today will likely never form the basis of any mainstream political party’s blueprint; the ALP, Communist Party Greens, and all the other state socialists who think taxing hell out of everything in sight in order to shovel largesse out to “the underprivileged” as a way to buy elections is the way to perpetuate a “civilised” society will leap down my throat. Those on the Right (or who claim to be) will simply distance themselves from the points I make: for them, cutting into the Labor-woven social spending infrastructure is a path paved with peril, and these gutless types who are incapable of selling an idea (let alone come up with one themselves) will simply dismiss me as a crackpot.

But let’s look at a) what Keating has had to say; b) how his initial $90bn in savings could be redeployed; and c) how this could form just the first stage of a two-step process for comprehensive reform of Australia’s tax system, which is cumbersome, uncompetitive, labyrinthine, and ripe for evasion and abuse.

Keating’s central (and I would have thought, obvious) point is that “what the world pays us” — i.e. the proceeds from exporting things like mineral commodities — has fallen, which in turn is eating into both personal and company tax receipts, and that rather than simply jacking up taxes in whatever way possible to enable the shortfall to be covered, cuts in spending are the logical and requisite path to budget repair.

Too much has been said, on both sides of the political divide, about whether Australia has a “revenue problem” or a “spending problem” and it should surprise nobody that both sides are capable of producing immaculately sourced and referenced statistics, pie graphs, bar charts and other impressive-style (but worthless) paraphernalia to “prove” their case and debunk that of their opponent.

But as a small-government conservative with a philosophical distaste for the idea that government not only knows better than its citizens but that it should be the arbiter of what monies are spent and where, it is hardly a generalisation to suggest that too much of the money doled out by federal governments is tax revenue being stolen from the Australian public and abused in the form of electoral bribery that is tantamount to institutionalised corruption.

Federal governments pay for “black spot” road programs in local council areas in which they have no road funding responsibilities. They promise a few million dollars to help revamp a local sports stadium. They cough up $10,000 to first home buyers for a grant that makes minimal difference these days to the affordability of housing but which still soaks up billions in outlays. They provide funding to propaganda-peddling groups like this one that ought to be community-funded (or not exist at all, ideally). They gift money into low-income earners’ superannuation accounts, from a defunct tax that raised no money, for no other reason than to bribe to poor.

On and on it goes.

This is a problem that has existed for decades, but which has really taken on a life of its own in the past 20 years: ever since the Howard government introduced modest levels of so-called “middle class welfare” which in themselves have driven up the costs of everything they were meant to alleviate — the home owners’ grant is a case in point; the “baby bonus” is another; there are plenty of others — and all of it, all of it, is money taken from Australian residents and citizens to be arbitrarily pissed up against a post in whatever politically expedient fashion best suits the government of the day.

This country is in real — perhaps where its fiscal arrangements are concerned, existential — trouble, unless drastic steps are taken to bring the avalanche of unaffordable and unjustifiable spending to a shuddering halt; I’m politically pragmatic enough to acknowledge that there are limits to what might be done, and that any systemic program of cuts is more likely to be a process rather than some wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am king hit. But unless that process starts very soon, the prospect of fixing Australia’s debt and deficit spiral may well evaporate altogether.

But to go down the path Keating alludes to (and to which I’m a ready subscriber), whoever forms government in Canberra will need a few attributes that are conspicuously lacking at present: ideas that target the problem at its core, rather than reshuffle it and perpetuate it by creating “new” spending from “identifying savings” in a zero-sum game. The ability to communicate and sell those ideas in the form of policies to an understandably jaundiced and cynical electorate, which has rightly come to expect nothing from politicians in order to avoid disappointment. The backbone to take risks, to make decisions, and to pursue policies that are actually right in the knowledge that inevitably, some people will lose out. And above all, the intellectual honesty to concede publicly that governments of both political stripes have been playing fast and loose with taxpayer cash for decades, and to admit that the vicious spiral of largesse simply has to stop.

Keating talks of sitting in the Expenditure Review Committee for 10 hours per day for ten weeks of the year, looking for ways to cut government outlays and in the process slash government spending by 6% of GDP: this is exactly the approach that must be taken now, with spending running at or near historic highs. So much is now handed out by the federal government for no credible reason that Keating’s target of $90bn in annual savings should be a cinch: his target figure might be awry to whatever degree, but the sentiments and objectives that underpin it are not.

If it means a whole lot of people all lose a bit here and a bit there, then so be it; they will also get something back, as I will discuss shortly. But government isn’t meant to be your big brother or your nanny, who gives you cash and tells you what to buy with it, just like it shouldn’t tell you what to say or think or do. Government in Australia is guilty of doing all of these things, and it’s time it stopped.

So without bogging down in the minutiae (which in any case is impossible: I don’t have thousands of hours to go through the budget line-by-line on my own time), let’s accept the Keating figure of $90 billion per year is correct.

Remember, at this point, we’re talking about $90bn in expenditure cuts which won’t affect revenue in any meaningful sense; for the purposes of my point, we’ll divide that $90bn into three chunks.

The federal budget deficit is currently running at about $45bn per year: the first half of Keating’s $90bn in spending cuts eliminates it altogether. Hey presto, the budget is balanced, or even slightly in surplus over a four-year estimates period.

Of the remaining $45bn, half of it every year should go directly to paying down the principal component of Commonwealth debt; in 15 years’ time, the government debt pile is approaching zero (or, if it’s possible to renegotiate those obligations, combined with ongoing reductions in interest payments, it may in fact have reached zero). The progressively falling interest on the debt is a secondary source of budget savings that will grow over the 15 year period as it did during the Howard years.

My reasoning in setting this out over 15 years is simple; the debt burden we face today — accounting for inflation — is roughly double what the Howard government inherited in 1996; it stands to reason that it will take roughly double the time to get rid of it if the hard calls on cutting spending are made. Many people remain blissfully unaware that whilst the Howard government left the Commonwealth debt free, that milestone was only reached in late 2004: almost a decade after the Coalition was elected. 15 years to get rid of some $400bn in debt in today’s dollars seems a realistic timeframe.

The remaining $22.5bn should simply be handed back to where it came from: the taxpayer.

With such a large amount of money to play with, big changes that would otherwise be prohibitively expensive become possible. The tax-free threshold could be lifted from $19,200 to $25,000, for example; that $50 per fortnight everyone clamoured to have added to pensions and unemployment benefits a few years back might be possible. The PAYE tax scales could either be indexed to end the scourge of bracket creep and/or flattened, thresholds lifted, or the rates reduced. The options are almost endless. But for the whole thing to become possible, a government must first find a spine: and an opposition (in the present circumstances probably a forlorn if not utterly pointless hope) would need to behave responsibly, and desist from mindlessly opposing everything simply for the hell of it.

Yet even for those who say the number of losers would be too punitively high to make such a wholesale overhaul possible, I’d counter very strongly that most of those people would get back the money in their own pockets to make the decision to pay for whatever was taken away themselves; this is how it should be, and even if a zero sum game in the end, what we’re talking about — ultimately — is curbing the lethal culture of government being involved in things it shouldn’t be, and empowering people to make their own decisions on how to spend their money.

I would point out that for those who are wont to crap on about “Tory tax cuts for the rich” and similar melodramatic twaddle, I have included measures that would benefit the least well-off in my list of possibilities.

But once we get this far, I think there’s a strong case to go even further.

It is a fact — whether your political outlook permits you to like it or not — that taxes on consumption are more efficient, more sustainable and more straightforward than taxes on income; this is why many countries (not least the economically glittering jewel three hours’ flight east of Sydney and Melbourne) have in recent decades enacted the “tax switch.”

The application of Keating’s thesis, as I have theorised above, is just the first portion of what can and should be a two-tier process for a colossal overhaul of this country’s taxation arrangements.

If I haven’t lost readers just yet (and if people aren’t screaming at me for advocating, once again, a healthy dose of orthodox Tory finance), I disagree utterly with those who claim there is no case or reason not to lift the GST and to expand the base of goods and services it covers.

Most comment on the issue of broadening the GST base notes that healthcare and education should be exempt; I agree, and believe financial services (or at least that section of the financial services industry that applies to retail banking and consumer items like car insurance, home and contents insurance, personal loans and so forth) and residential rents should also be added to that list.

All other goods and services should be subject to GST — yes, that means food too — and as comment in the Courier-Mail observes today, the bulk of the GST burden on fresh food would disproportionately fall on wealthier consumers. There goes the “smash the poor” counterpoint, although in any case, I will deal with that, too, in a moment.

I think the rate of GST should be lifted to 15%; and as consensus seems to dictate, those changes would raise a further $35 billion in consumption tax receipts. A program of closing existing tax loopholes (I mean actual loopholes like deductions, not arbitrary imposts on “the rich” or other ideological gobbledygook) would probably push that pot of additional revenue billions higher still.

In return, the states could abolish stamp duty on residential property and/or payroll taxes; the company tax rate could be cut from 30% to perhaps 25%; PAYE scales could again be adjusted — one of the ideas I’m leaning to here is to align a 25% company tax rate with a 25% PAYE bracket that covers income up to $250,000 per year — thus eliminating the avenue for tax avoidance through incorporation; fuel excises could be slashed; another $50 per fortnight could be added to pensions…and of course, a fair chunk of the money would end up with the states, whose unfunded liabilities to provide health and education services should, finally, be resolved, although I must note that whether or not state governments behave responsibly, and not go on spending sprees with their newfound GST booty as they did in the 2000s with nothing in the end to show for it, is a question for them.

The end destination would be a debt-free federal government within ten years that does not throw money at everything in sight to buy it off: the sort of irresponsibility that will never be excised from electoral politics, I know, but which right now needs to be quite literally attacked with an axe.

It could see people earning less than $30,000 taken out of the income tax system altogether; it would realign Australia’s personal and company tax rates to make them competitive with most comparable countries; it would target more direct aid to those who most need it, whilst studding the system with incentive and reward for effort at the other end; and it could render redundant a raft of state taxes and charges that might be incremental in scale, but which all add up to overrun the capacity of the individual to make ends meet.

These do not need to be complex arguments, and if set out clearly and logically, do not need to sound the death knell for any party proposing them.

Indeed, I may have been a little muddled in recording my thoughts and I apologise: one, it’s already 3am and I’m tired; and two (and more to the point), I’m very passionate about this stuff, and the temptation to let it just to flow into print is one I have to temper with oversight of what the reader will see. Sometimes, that gets to be a difficult line to navigate.

One thing I would like to emphatically point out is that I have refrained from ripping into either major political party today, and to the extent I have criticised, both sides have received a bit of the treatment: today’s post isn’t to score political points, although it is obviously an expression of conservative economic principles. I just wanted to run with Keating’s comments, and apply them to some ideas for real tax and budget reform that are positive in outlook even if the hard political courage and determination to enact them is in short supply at present.

But were a program like this to be set out as a two-term economic reform strategy by, say, the Turnbull government — with the first stage presented to the electorate this year, and the second subject to a further mandate three years hence — and were that program explained clearly, sensibly and logically, and capably sold by the government’s communications people in the proper execution of their duties, then I think the reservoir of public support would run very deep indeed.

What do you think? I didn’t come down in the last shower, and I have been around politics long enough to comprehend just how hard this kind of fundamental change can and would be to implement.

But with one eye on the country’s problems and the other on the Senate (and how to get control of it at an election, or close enough to it to render it functional), if anything could kill both birds with the one stone, I think an integrated tax and budget management package along these lines is almost certainly it.


Unions: ALP Just A Cat’s Paw For Criminal Thugs

AS the Turnbull government proceeds with bills to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission and enact Registered Organisations laws to force unions to higher standards of governance, Labor is consumed by incandescent rage opposing them. Populated by those who excuse criminal acts and the lawlessness exposed by a Royal Commission, the “modern” ALP is a cat’s paw for thugs masquerading as a pretender to govern.

The unions — now covering just 15% of the adult Australian workforce, a figure that falls to single digits if applied purely to private enterprise, and even then bloated by virtual closed shops in some industries — are, today, little more than a fringe group.

Yet that fringe group can and does wield far more influence and power than its representation entitles it to; senior union figures sit on the boards of major Australian companies; anyone whose superannuation savings (inadvisedly) sit in an industry fund are channelling money into unions’ and union officials’ coffers; and whenever an elected conservative government even considers doing something the unions disapprove of, their minions bring whole cities to a standstill until brute force and bully tactics force a backdown.

Readers know I am no friend to the union movement, and the sort of lawless behaviour uncovered at Dyson Heydon’s Royal Commission provides some inkling as to why; if an employer (or employer group) attempted half the things that unions have gotten away with in this country for far too long, the unions would see to it that the government of the day — of whatever complexion — shut their businesses down by whatever means legally available to do so.

It takes a certain chutzpah to maintain a position whereby others must be squashed into oblivion at the earliest sign of activity that unions dislike, only to insist that Trades Hall remain unfettered, unregulated and above the law where its own enterprises are concerned: and especially when that freedom is repeatedly abused, the law ignored, and union coffers filled at the expense of both the workers they claim to represent and the wider community they purport to serve.

I’ve been following the goings-on surrounding the Turnbull government’s attempts to pass legislation — already once defeated — to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the accompanying bid to enact Registered Organisations laws that would hold the union movement to the same standards of conduct and governance as the business community, and some additional reading can be found here and here; it seems inevitable the bills will be voted down, which is a shame, for any right-minded person who believes in the rule of law and the principle that it applies equally to everyone has a stake in seeing those bills passed.

Those caveats, clearly, exclude the ALP.

The Labor Party is horribly, horribly conflicted on this issue, even without the government’s bills on the table; millions of dollars flow from unions directly into ALP coffers every year, and its parliamentary ranks (and, notably, a good portion of its MPs’ advisers) are bloated with former union officials as well; its current federal “leader” has been enmeshed with the unions for decades, albeit without the broad respect and community goodwill enjoyed by the Bob Hawkes and Simon Creans of the world; and its official policy on union corruption and criminal misconduct — to the vacuous extent it has one — amounts to little more than a promise to hear no evil and see no evil.

It is in the ALP’s direct interests for the unions to be permitted to do whatever they like, and anyone who believes its mouth-foaming rage against measures to bring the unions into line with reasonable community expectations of decent and lawful behaviour is born from any other “principle” than the need to keep the cash and resources rolling in is delusional.

What makes it worse is that Labor’s charge against the Royal Commission, its findings, and the measures proposed by the Turnbull government in response has been and is being led, in no small part, by its employment spokesman Brendan O’Connor — the brother of notorious CFMEU supremo Michael — and whilst this column does not suggest impropriety on Brendan O’Connor’s part, it merely underlines the point of just how conflicted the ALP really is.

How credible is it to have the brother of the leader of the most lawless union in the country spearheading the attack against measures to bring it to heel?

Labor says bills to reconstitute the ABCC — in its previous incarnation established by the Howard government, and promptly abolished when Labor won office — are “rotten to the core,” and that the ABCC was “hostile” and “coercive” in fulfilling its brief, but of course it would say that: the ABCC existed solely to stamp out the very criminal misadventures the Heydon inquiry found have again flourished in the years since its abolition, and which logic dictates will continue to do so until or unless beefed-up measures to eliminate them are legislated.

O’Connor, for his part, says the mooted laws are “draconian” (and again, he would say that) and claims the Coalition’s intention to restore the ABCC belies a determination “to return to WorkChoices” which is neither true nor a valid conclusion to draw: re-establishing the ABCC was a Coalition policy that was implicitly endorsed at the ballot box in 2013, and in any case, Labor’s true beef with WorkChoices lay in the fact it desperately didn’t want employees to bargain with their bosses directly, as any mass move to such arrangements would render the unions irrelevant to the process (although beyond the handful of industries and silos in which they are dominant, the unions are more or less irrelevant now anyway).

As we discussed on Tuesday in the context of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s threat to call a double dissolution over the bills in question, Labor and the Communist Party Greens (who also take buckets of union cash, and are just as compromised on this as Labor is) are up in arms over the fact the secret sections of Heydon’s report are to be made available for viewing by the crossbench Senators on whom the fate of the legislation rests, whilst the ALP and Greens will not be provided with even redacted access to those volumes.

I reiterate my deep discomfiture with even the crossbenchers being shown the secret portions of the report; Justice Heydon marked them as secret with good reason, detailing as they do the identities of brave whistleblowers and witnesses whose damning inside testimony made the exposure of widespread wrongdoing at the unions that were examined possible in the first place, and the crossbenchers — some of whom exhibit a complete disregard for notions of propriety, discretion, or conduct becoming elected representatives — can hardly be relied upon to maintain the secrecy of those pages.

But by the same token, the only conceivable reason for Labor in particular to want access to them is to obtain the details of those witnesses and pass them to union enforcers for “further action:” and this very real risk — not a fantasy, not a game, and certainly not an unreasonable conclusion to draw based on the violent actions of some of the most militant union thugs — is one no Australian of goodwill would countenance taking, and no elected representative of good conscience would ever capitulate to ambit demands for them to do so.

As I said on Tuesday, the issue of allegedly responsible members of Parliament refusing to enable steps to be taken to stamp out criminal behaviour at Australian unions is the central point here, and Labor’s proposed fig leaf of increased fines for breaches (and no ABCC or regulatory regime) simply lacks all credibility.

Take Brendan O’Connor’s brother’s own union as a case in point: it has in recent years ignored Court directives, repeatedly been found in contempt of Court, and thumbed its nose at judicial attempts to haul it into line on account of its militant, thuggish, and occasionally violent activities. Part of this pattern has been a refusal to pay Court-ordered fines and restitution in the wake of its path of industrial anarchy.

Labor’s “solution” of bigger fines (which CFMEU policy seems to be not to pay anyway) is a joke, a kite of contrivance flown before the public in a blatantly deceptive attempt to con voters to believe the ALP is serious about cleaning up the rotten union edifice.

And here’s the rub.

The unions virtually own the ALP; I’m not talking about the historical construct that the Labor Party is the political arm of the union movement, but rather a takeover of one by the other. Labor’s people, to a large and increasing degree, come from unions. Labor money, increasingly, comes from unions. Labor MPs, mostly, do not get preselected in the first place without the explicit imprimatur of the unions. And Labor’s agenda, increasingly, is the agenda of the unions, not one that has any relevance whatsoever in the lives of the great majority of Australians who have no truck with the union movement, for it is an agenda that has little to offer anyone who truly wants to get ahead and improve their lot in life.

To use the vernacular, the unions have got the Labor Party by the balls.

Anyone who wants to see the unions cleaned up and refocused on doing what it says they do on the packet is not going to see any attempt from a Labor government — ever — to clean out the stinking pustules and corrupt filth that have tarnished the image of the wider union movement and contributed to the ongoing rejection of union membership by the overwhelming majority of the Australian public.

Stories of what the unions might have achieved and delivered in years past are irrelevant, for that was then, and this is now; and right now, it is the union movement that is “rotten to the core” — not the measures being pursued by the federal government to weed out the toxic miscreants in their midst.

If the government’s laws are voted down in the Senate, this column reiterates its support for the calling of an immediate dissolution of both Houses of Parliament, and in an election fought over union corruption and criminal behaviour, I think Labor would be in line for a nasty shock when the votes at such an election were tallied.

Right now, by its words and actions, and on account of its iron-clad determination to do everything it possibly can to ensure the legislation before Parliament is defeated — an undertaking likely to succeed, thanks to some of the unprincipled wreckers sitting on the crossbench, who merely seek to damage and/or destroy the Liberal Party (and yes, Jacqui Lambie, I’m looking at you, you toad) — the ALP, whether it comprehends it or not, has shown its hand to the Australian public.

And that, very simply, betrays an ugly picture indeed; “modern” Labor has reduced itself to being an apologist for illegal actions, a cheer squad for the continuation of lawless industrial outrages in perpetuity, and nothing more than a cat’s paw for criminal thugs whose only priority — despite claiming to exist and operate for the betterment of their members — is to advance their own fortunes and interests by literally any means conceivable.

Yet the ALP has the nerve to masquerade as a pretender to govern Australia — a privilege utterly at odds with its determination to shield the crooks it is beholden to from the law at any cost — and with a “leader” so deeply entrenched in the union movement as Bill Shorten is and the signposts of CFMEU control over the Labor Party lying everywhere you look it seems, the charade of Labor’s suitability to hold office in this country is one that should simply be ignored.

An almighty brawl over these laws is likely to end with an election. Its outcome is almost certain to be much different to what the union movement expects.


US Elections: Iowa Caucuses Resolve Nothing

A VERY short post to acknowledge today’s primaries in Iowa, as the US begins to select a new President; with Barack Obama barred from seeking a third term by the constitution, one of the candidates who featured today will become President of the United States in November. Whilst Democrat Bernie Sanders and Republicans Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz fared better than expected, today’s results shed little light on who the eventual victor will be.

It really is a short post this evening; operating on ten hours’ sleep in three days, I’m not going to be conscious very long. But I wanted to make some remarks on the first of the nominating contests that took place in the US state of Iowa today (AEDT) as Americans begin the process of selecting a new President.

I have always had a sense that the next President of the United States would be a Republican, but just who that ends up being remains a matter for conjecture; despite the weight of money, Establishment endorsements, and unrivalled name and personal recognition factors all running in her favour, I would be stunned if a majority of American voters could bring themselves to stomach four more years of the Clintons in the White House: and Hillary Clinton, in particular, being in charge.

Today’s vote within her own party sees her make virtually no progress toward sealing the nomination of her party whatsoever; with 49.9% of the votes cast in Iowa by registered Democratic voters, she couldn’t even win outright, which in turn echoes eerily the omen this state delivered on her prospects when she first stood against Obama eight years ago. It’s hardly a ringing endorsement.

By contrast, ageing “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders has reason to be pleased; despite falling short of Clinton by just over a quarter of a percentage point of the vote, Sanders has done better than anyone predicted or thought, although the “Anyone But Hillary” camp is every bit as alive and well in her own party as it is over at the GOP.

Some weeks ago I saw a supporter of Donald Trump attending a rally with a T-shirt that proclaimed “Hillary for Prison 2016” (and if anyone knows where I can get one of those shirts, do please drop a note in the comments section): all jokes aside, the Clinton camp is unable to proceed with any confidence that Hillary won’t be indicted at some point over any number of scandals (email servers, Benghazi, preferment, arcane relics from her legal career, et al) and the prospect she may in fact be charged can and should be sending prospective supporters scurrying in almost any other direction but hers.

The bottom line is that of the 44 delegates that were on offer today to the Democratic National Convention later this year, Clinton pocketed 23, and Sanders 21: and how the Clintons make any kind of triumph out of that is anyone’s guess.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the political ledger — and speaking of Donald Trump — conservative republican Senator Ted Cruz topped the polling with 27.7% of the vote; outspoken loudmouth and “anti-candidate” Trump came second, with 24.3%; and in something of a surprise, Florida Senator Marco Rubio came third with a solidly respectable 23.1%, with nine also-rans rounding out the table and collecting a quarter of the votes cast by registered republican voters between them.

For the stats junkies, a link to the results from both the Democratic and republican primaries held in Iowa can be accessed here.

There’s not a great deal of point making any definitive predictions at this earliest of junctures, and quite aside from the fact I’m completely exhausted tonight (and don’t have the energy) this is a theme we will obviously be covering in increasing detail over the next nine months.

I had thought, as far back as 18 months ago, that former Florida Governor Jeb Bush — the “competent” Bush, as some call him — was the likeliest to emerge from the Republican pack with his party’s nomination, and a good chance of beating (as I then thought) Hillary Clinton to follow his father and older brother into the White House.

How politics changes: today, Bush scored less than 3% of the votes from Iowan Republicans; it could be that Americans have “had enough of Bushes” generally (much as many of them are heartily sick of the Clintons); it could be, given Jeb was a mentor as Florida Governor to the GOP’s boy wonder in Rubio, that the apprentice has merely stolen a march on the master.

One thing I am sure of, however, is that today’s results do not spell the end of the Trump campaign: he was always likelier to prevail later this month in New Hampshire than in Iowa, and unlike many of his rivals is flush with cash and enjoys a popular underpinning that none of the other candidates on either side of the ledger enjoy.

One will say, however, that a rash of drop-outs should be expected in the next week on the Republican side: starting with Rick Santorum, whose 1% today embarrassed the almost one-third share he pulled in this state four years ago, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, whose “endorsement” of Obama three days before the 2012 presidential election arguably swung the result behind Obama, and who must surely be regarded as unelectable after a corruption scandal in his state a few years back and after only polling 1.8% of the vote today.

The only conclusive takeout from today’s result is that despite the overwhelming advantages she arrived at this contest with in her arsenal, Hillary Clinton — one of the most unbackable favourites to win the Presidency in decades — couldn’t even garner half the vote.

This process has a million miles to run, and as it evolves the story will become clearer. But if I were a betting man (which, in small bier, I can be) I wouldn’t be putting any money on Clinton now, and it will be interesting to watch whether voters in other states take their cue from the Iowa result, and now begin to desert her in favour of Sanders.

On that note — goodnight…




Turnbull Double Dissolution Threat: Bring It On

REPORTS that Malcolm Turnbull has threatened a double dissolution if bills to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission and stymie lawless unions are defeated is welcome; there is no justifiable rationale for unions to be exempt from standards enforced upon the business sector. If the Senate refuses to pass enabling legislation yet again this month, elections for both Houses of Parliament are the only appropriate response.

The Murdoch titles are carrying a story this morning that details a threat by the Turnbull government to call elections for both Houses of Parliament, if legislation to restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission and accompanying Registered Organisations laws — already voted down by the Senate — are again defeated when they are reintroduced to federal Parliament this month; this column not only approves, but encourages the Prime Minister to take such a step in the best interests of restoring responsible government in Australia.

I’m not going to speak at great length on this today, for so much of the ground where union thuggery and bastardry, the culture of lawlessness and entitlement revealed by the Heydon Royal Commission at certain unions, and the plethora of accusations that that inquiry was a witch hunt has already been well and truly covered.

The two key issues here are the refusal of supposedly responsible members of Parliament to take steps to stamp out criminal behaviour on the one hand; and the entrenched dysfunction of an elected government, serially and systematically frustrated by a deeply hostile Senate, on the other.

The reasons for the ALP (and the Communist Party Greens) for frustrating attempts to clean up the union movement are obvious enough; Trades Hall not only pours millions of dollars into these parties every year — and the Greens are on that particular gravy train, much to Labor’s chagrin — but is increasingly the main source of candidates, training and extra-parliamentary resources for a party that has correspondingly declined into a shell of its once-proud past, and which is dependent on union money to even continue to exist.

The reasons for crossbench obfuscation are less clear-cut, albeit nonetheless partisan; as the Daily Telegraph notes, Jacqui Lambie and Glenn Lazarus — elected to the Senate on Clive Palmer’s ticket, which time has shown had no real objective beyond trying to destroy the Coalition if it won office — are simply doing what was printed on the packet they came in, although in Lambie’s case, her wont to make everything and anything conditional on ridiculous demands merely underlines the point.

Yet in any case, Senators Lambie, Lazarus, Palmer stooge Ricky Muir and DLP traitor John Madigan have all confirmed they will vote the bills down: and that’s enough, in cohort with Labor and the Greens, to ensure they are defeated.

I think it’s entirely reasonable for the government to refuse to allow the ALP and the Greens, who both benefit financially the union movement, to peruse the secret sections of Heydon’s final report containing identifying information of witnesses who were instrumental in enabling the Commission to uncover the pattern of wrongdoing at certain unions that it did; to me, the only possible reason the ALP in particular could have in seeking access to those sections is to pass the identities of witnesses along to union enforcers for “further action” — something that obviously ought to be avoided at all costs.

To be frank, hearing on Melbourne radio station 3AW yesterday that the crossbench Senators would gain access to the secret portions of the report — unredacted — was a cause for alarm: the idea that all six of them could resist being “leaned on” by ALP or union heavies to reveal the contents is one leap of faith too far.

And remember, some of the unions adversely named in the report have a long history of wanton violence when it comes to doing “business.”

The justifications and excuses offered up by both the ALP and its masters at Trades Hall for ignoring the Heydon inquiry’s findings simply do not cut any ice; significant evidence of widespread wrongdoing was uncovered, and a string of consequent prosecutions that will grow longer in coming months is already well and truly under way.

Dyson Heydon’s inquiry looked at only six unions out of scores of them by virtue of its terms of reference. It is implausible at best and inconceivable at worst that the same disregard for the law and entitled mentality as has been shown at those six are not present, to varying degrees, at the rest.

Since when has it been an ideological sycophancy to insist all people and organisations in this country obey the law? At root, this is effectively what those who oppose the unions being held to account and subjected to rigorous scrutiny in future are suggesting. And those Senators who vote these bills down again are, in practical effect, sanctioning and encouraging lawless behaviour.

It isn’t on, and — not least because all of this was a Liberal Party election commitment in 2013, and thus mandated — if the laws aren’t passed this time, Malcolm Turnbull is well within his rights to use that rejection as a trigger to seek and obtain a dissolution of Parliament.

But there’s another issue here: a virtual deadlock between the Houses of Parliament.

Some on the Left will object to me describing it as such, but the only way to get legislation through the current Senate is to agree to amendments that so mangle and bastardise bills as to render them unrecognisable; the Abbott government learned this the hard way when it foolishly opted to deal with Clive Palmer, and saw bills that were supposed to realise savings to the budget passed in such form as to actually compound the revenue shortfall bequeathed to it by Labor.

Some on all sides are being honest about it and some are still parking their heads up their backsides to evade the admission, but there is a budget and debt crisis in this country that will, if left unchecked, seriously diminish living standards as soon as next decade, and lead to permanent and significant hikes in overall taxation just to pay for the damage of the past ten years: the extra monies collected won’t go to trendy social spending measures, or to pay for new infrastructure; they will be rigidly earmarked to pay the price for allowing the federal budget to descend into a structural abyss.

The Coalition has at least tried — even if, under Abbott, its methods and targets were utterly misdirected — to fix this problem.

Yet once again, the Senate — perhaps the most hostile Senate ever faced by an elected government, and I say that knowing that some will mutter “1975” under their breath as I do — has obscenely passed bills that increase spending on individual items but steadfastly refused to pass anything that cuts it to push the overall budget back toward the black.

I have long believed that governments should be entitled to govern; just as I have long believed that the Senate — far from delusionally naive conceptions of it as a “States’ House” or as a “House of Review” — has been so distorted by successive attempts by Labor governments in 1948 and 1984 to rig it against the conservative parties that it barely serves any useful function at all any more.

If there is to be an upper house, there must also be the prospect that in the normal course of events, a government can generally be entitled to expect to be able to govern. I don’t think it’s extreme to say that when all is said and done, this is no longer the case.

A Senate controlled by Labor and the Greens that becomes “functional” when those parties hold power, but reverts to dysfunctionality and chaos when they do not, does not retain any democratic integrity or value; yet this is exactly the intended end destination of the 1984 Hawke government reforms, which enlarged the Senate and introduced group voting tickets for the first time.

Perversely, those laws were passed with National Party support — a folly the country will forever rue until or unless the means to abolish them is identified, and used.

I’m aware that opinion polls at the moment are showing that voters are opposed to an early election. They always are. But if an election date for, say, April is announced, those objections are likely to evaporate as the question — as Bob Menzies said in 1963 — becomes one of who is to serve in government for three years, and not whether the choice should have been postponed for a few months.

And just as the Turnbull government may not improve its own Senate position at a double dissolution (which I don’t believe for an instant) there is just as much chance that it will; but either way (and ominously for the crossbench Senators) NSW Liberal Democratic Senator David Leyonhjelm hit the nail on the head with deadly precision when he noted that even if the government ended up with the same number of crossbenchers after a full Senate election, all the current ones would likely be swept away.

And the risk of not increasing the Coalition Senate tally is distinctly tempered by the prospect that a new batch of crossbenchers just might be more reasonable than the trenchantly anti-Coalition forces currently squatting in the unrepresentative upper house.

One of them got 1500 votes out of almost four million in Victoria, for crying out loud, and goes out of his way to vote down government bills at every opportunity. Enough said.

Irrespective of the bleating and excuses emanating from the conflicted ALP and Greens who are money-bound to excuse illegal union actions, there is neither the justification nor any acceptable rationale for permitting the union movement in this country to evade proper regulation and disclosure provisions of the kind that apply to business.

There is absolutely no acceptable reason for militant and often violent unions to control the economically critical building and construction sector, often flouting the law at will, disregarding any attempt to bring the miscreants in their midst to justice, and costing the country billions of dollars each year through inefficient and featherbedded industrial practices that sit counter to both the letter and the spirit of various laws — as Heydon has also demonstrated.

Should the Senate now move to vote down one final attempt to restore the ABCC and to torpedo the Registered Organisations bills — providing the government with new triggers to call a double dissolution — capitulation, and abandoning these worthy measures in the face of sabotage by apologists for criminal anarchy, cannot and must not be an option.

In response to the expected show of belligerent defiance over these matters by the Senate, the only appropriate course for the Turnbull government to take in those circumstances would be to advise a dissolution of both Hoses of Parliament ahead of elections for both.

This column endorses and supports any move by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull to seek a double dissolution and to fight it on the issues of union lawlessness and criminality.

We will put it succinctly: bring it on.


Newspoll And GST: Summer Break Ends With Coalition 53-47 Lead Intact

THE FIRST NEWSPOLL for 2016 finds that whilst Bill Shorten’s personal ratings are up slightly, his party would be poleaxed at an election; Malcolm Turnbull retains a whopping lead as preferred PM, and although finding resistance to tax changes, the poll confirms that despite high visibility over summer there is no enthusiasm to elect Shorten. At the start of an election year, Labor appears to remain on course for a belting at the ballot box.

An interesting feature of the social media ecosystem is that traffic from one site to another brings readers to this one from all sorts of places; one of those today — and here’s a link — is William Bowe’s excellent Poll Bludger blog in the Crikey! portal, and whilst I don’t have much time for Crikey!‘s usual blatantly biased left wing view of the world, Bowe’s aggregator of polling and his application of it to electoral movements to predict likely outcomes is a valuable resource indeed.

One of his commenters last night posted a link to The Red And The Blue, stating they’d love to come here and see what “real frothing apoplexy” looks like if Labor were to win government later this year, and surely enough, all the lefties have obediently been trotting in to get a pre-emptive look at my site; regrettably for them, there will be no “frothing apoplexy” this year — at least none that emanates from a Labor federal election win.

I am increasingly certain, GST changes or not, that the government will be re-elected, although that comes with the very big asterisk that the longer Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull takes to announce an election date, the less certain such an outcome will grow.

But for now, the highly reputable Newspoll has posted its first results for the year in The Australian and the numbers provide little succour for opposition “leader” Bill Shorten, with the Coalition retaining unchanged the 53-47 result, after preferences, that it recorded prior to Christmas.

Numbers first, and then some comment.

Newspoll finds primary support for the Coalition running at 46% (up one point from its survey in early December, two months ago); it find the ALP also up a point to 34%, with the Communist Party Greens and “Others” both down a point, to 11% and 9% respectively, to produce the headline 53-47 figure that closely mirrors the 2013 election result.

53% (+1%) of Newspoll respondents approved of Turnbull’s performance, which is somewhat remarkable given he chose to lie low over the break, only resurfacing in the public eyeline in the past week during his trip to Iraq and the US, with 31% (+1%) disapproving; by contrast, 25% (+2%) approved of the way Shorten is doing his job, with 60% (-1%) disapproving: and as Shorten has done the opposite to Turnbull — maintaining a very visible presence throughout the summer — one would have to say that he might have been better off eating and drinking and spending time with his family than bothering voters at a time they traditionally eschew politics.

On the “preferred PM” measure, Turnbull (59%, -1%) continues to head Shorten (20%, +6%) by almost 40 points, and I would make the observation that almost all of the improvement in Shorten’s number comes from the “undecided” pile rather than taking support from Turnbull, which suggests the rise comes exclusively from intending Labor voters anyway and could hardly be feted as any kind of triumph.

There are two things I want to discuss in relation to these figures, the first being the Newspoll from the same point in the electoral cycle in 2013, which found — unbelievably — that the then-Gillard government had all but closed out a much bigger deficit than Shorten now faces to trail the Tony Abbott-led Coalition by a 49-51 margin; it seems we might have missed commenting on it at the time, although I clearly recall dismissing it as a rogue result in articles following the poll’s publication: and so it proved to be, a fortnight later, when Newspoll saw Labor slip back to 44% on the two-party measure of voting intention.

The reason I raise it is that during the Christmas/New Year break of 2012-13, Gillard and a coterie of her colleagues spent as much of the silly season trying to blaze their way onto the front foot and to seize back some electoral turf as Shorten has done this year; an unkind reading would be to suggest that both enterprises were a waste of effort, given Gillard was dumped in favour of Kevin Rudd five months later (and Labor at an election in a landslide shortly after that), and given Shorten seems destined to suffer one of those ignominiously terminal outcomes later this year.

But however unlikely the Gillard bounce was (and notwithstanding the obvious point that the January 2013 Newspoll was indisputably rogue), some kind of movement in Labor’s favour, however fleeting, seems in hindsight to have been generated from the flurry of activity that took place that year.

By contrast, Shorten’s heavily political “Christmas message” — the man will never learn, as the Kenny Rogers song proclaimed, that there’s a time to know when to hold ’em, and to know when to fold ’em — followed up with a carefully cretinous campaign of accosting supermarket shoppers to talk about lettuce leaves and the GST has delivered, in round terms, absolutely nothing.

It’s just a thought, mind. But the traditional silly season period, historically, is better for (and better used by) the ALP, which in years past has made an artform of translating pictures of its MPs in hardhats and festive costumes at community events into at least transient — if fleeting — support.

Shorten has done very badly, at a time the government had lost a minister (Jamie Briggs), stood another aside pending Federal Police investigations (Mal Brough), and was starting to grapple publicly with the fraught but necessary issue of tax reform, which by its nature will require a recalibration of the GST arrangements as part of any attempt to refashion the national tax base to make it more efficient, more sustainable, and which ignores regressive and piecemeal Band-Aid type “fixes” like airy-fairy hits on “the rich” and allegedly miscreant multinational companies.

This brings me to the second point I want to make in relation to today’s Newspoll.

The survey carried the question “if the government were to introduce tax cuts for all income earners and compensation to low-income-earners (sic) and welfare recipients as part of a package of tax reform, would you be in favour of or opposed to raising of the GST from 10% to 15%?”

37% of respondents were in favour, with 54% opposed; 9% were undecided, and whilst at first blush this appears to sound the death knell on any move to alter the GST, it bears remembering that similar surveys from mid-1997 onwards — when then-Prime Minister John Howard announced an intention to take a tax reform package, including a 10% GST, to an election — found even greater opposition to a GST than these numbers do (from memory, support for the idea sat stubbornly in the low 30s for most of the time until the 1998 election).

It remains to be seen what kind of fist Treasurer Scott Morrison might make of any attempt to sell a GST reform package; changes to taxation arrangements (and the looming budget) will, in the absence of a March or April election, represent his first major tests in his new portfolio.

And it remains to be seen whether the defective communications apparatus that so badly cruelled the Abbott government’s ability to sell anything has been swept away or not (and either way, my door is open where selling GST changes is concerned — I’m very happy to make myself available for that task).

But there are two very big advantages the Turnbull government has in hand from the outset where selling GST change (and corresponding cuts to PAYE and company tax, and compensation for low-income earners and welfare recipients) is concerned.

One is the hard fact that when the GST was introduced in the first place, the sky didn’t fall in; most voters quickly realised they hadn’t been duped or lied to, and notwithstanding the fact that some states reneged on commitments to abolish “nuisance” indirect taxes — nothing to do with the Howard government at all — the vast bulk of precisely what was promised was delivered: and the apocalyptic consequences peddled for years by Labor under Kim Beazley never materialised.

It’s a precedent the Coalition can own, sell, and turn on Shorten like a blowtorch if correctly handled.

And two, only the most rusted-on Labor supporters (and Greens, of course) deny that there is anything other than a massive structural chasm in the federal budget that has to be repaired, and repaired quickly; people are coming to accept — even if grudgingly by some — that either spending has to be cut, or taxes lifted, or a mixture; and with the government already being quite explicit about the fact it does not seek to increase the overall tax burden, it is obvious that budget repair will be achieved (or at least, attempted) through spending cuts: and this means nightmare scenarios of the GST impoverishing people and seeing them thrown onto the street are simply vicious lies.

Just like they were in 1998.

Of course, it remains to be seen what shape the government’s tax package takes, and I suspect it will be a couple of months before this is known irrespective of when an election might be held.

But broadly, and with some knowledge of all of the options being examined, the bottom line is that for almost all voters, a higher and/or broader GST will result in no overall change to their personal circumstances at all.

The two groups of people who will experience change are the very richest people who spend the most — the group Labor has spent years in a mouth-foaming fury of hatred pursuing — who will pay more tax the more they spend; and the poorest people (be they on welfare or just not earning much) who will end up a bit better off once the compensation measures and pension increases filter through.

The challenge Turnbull and his team face is to communicate those basic realities simply, clearly and persuasively, and even with this poll showing 54% of respondents opposed to any change, we already know — from 1998 — that such opposition (or worse) is no bar to winning an election.

Especially against arguably the least suitable candidate to pitch for the Prime Ministership since the 1950s, and against a party whose most recent time in office was marked by sheer fiscal incompetence and an inability to respond to changing economic realities that occurred on its watch, preferring instead to boobytrap the federal budget to cause its conservative successors an exacerbated version of the problems it refused to tackle itself.

One thing I know is that wandering around supermarkets with slogans like “lettuce be free of GST” and claiming that lettuce that is tax-free is delicious, whereas lettuce that is taxed is inedible, is probably not the smartest way of doing things if you aspire to be the Prime Minister of Australia.

Personally, I think the only distinction between Shorten’s lettuce “jokes” and the awful “things that batter” gaffe committed by Alexander Downer in 1994 is the lack of any allusion to domestic violence on Shorten’s part. His performance over summer was that bad. And whilst poor Alex paid for his unfortunate slip with his chance to be Prime Minister himself, Shorten doesn’t have any excuse for offering such vapid arguments, or for interfering with people when they want to get on with their holidays.

In truth, most people would prefer to be mugged with a wet lettuce leaf than see Shorten “leading” the country, and today’s Newspoll contains very little indeed to encourage the ALP that those sentiments will change at any time soon — if at all.