Turnbull’s GQ Interview Borders On Leadership Treachery

A PROFILE ON Communications minister Malcolm Turnbull in chic magazine GQ — containing just enough foolish hypothesising to raise eyebrows — borders on disloyalty to the present Liberal leadership; minor as it may seem, Turnbull has indirectly sanctioned a resumption of leadership speculation through the timing and substance of an inadvisedly given interview that serves no purpose other than to posture for the Prime Ministership.

Another relatively brief piece from me today, as I have a lot of work to chew through this weekend (although I am heading across to the MCG this afternoon to witness what I hope will be a regulation belting of the detested Essendon Football Club, dished out by my beloved Carlton, but we will see).

But in what is being billed as “The Power Issue” — quite — Turnbull’s latest appearance in the trendy GQ magazine can really only be interpreted as a tacit green light to ongoing speculation that he will replace Liberal leader Tony Abbott, becoming Prime Minister, and I think it is fair criticism that when all factors are considered, Turnbull’s participation in the GQ feature borders on an act of disloyalty against his leader.

It is no wonder his critics accuse him of compromising the political and electoral interests of the Liberal Party, for they are causes that will receive no advancement as a consequence of this latest media foray.

POWER ISSUE...Turnbull's GQ feature makes it clear he remains a willing contender for the Prime Ministership.

POWER ISSUE…Turnbull’s GQ feature makes it clear he remains a willing contender for the Prime Ministership.

Already badly damaged by the abortive putsch against him in February, Abbott and his Treasurer Joe Hockey now face a difficult imminent budget that appears to be a losing proposition whichever way you cut it; snookered by an exceedingly hostile Senate in which an irresponsible Labor “leader” marshalls votes against virtually any constructive legislation put to it, Hockey and Abbott have spent months trying to suggest the coming budget will be mild, uncontroversial, incremental at best, and not “scary:” all bywords for a damp squib that will eschew meaningful action on the increasingly urgent redress the national finances require.

Already, Abbott in particular is backtracking from tough action to fix specific issues — the GST being the most prominent at present — at a time those issues are virtually exploding in the Coalition’s collective face, suggesting instead that others (in this case the state Premiers) sort them out instead, in a distasteful and confused double actin which Hockey seems to be posturing over the need to get moving with reforms over the very same issues.

The outrage lobby to the government’s Left is pre-emptively attacking the Coalition for even daring to contemplate tough action; the government’s critics on the mainstream Right are  voicing disapproval at best that Abbott’s government appears hellbent on avoiding any further attempts to do what it was elected to do after last year’s disaster, which is to fix the federal budget.

And all the while, the Coalition — which has been very poorly served by its recruitment of so-called “tacticians,” “strategists” and “communications” personnel — continues to drift dangerously toward the political oblivion of a first-up election loss when next it faces the people.

Yet none of this bothers Turnbull, who posed for GQ in the sort of (admittedly impressive) outfit reserved for power pics of the up-and-coming.

His admission, when asked if he would have stood for the Liberal leadership if the February spill attempt had succeeded, that “people would have been astonished if I hadn’t” breaks the cardinal political rule of not fuelling destabilising chatter against the leader of the day — unless, that it, destabilisation is exactly the desired effect.

And whilst Turnbull himself may not be directly responsible for GQ‘s provocative headlining of the “Primed Minister” or its crass assertion that his “next stop” would be The Lodge — “maybe” — Turnbull should have had the brains and the judgement to have realised that co-operating with GQ at this time and for this type of feature he would merely fuel unrest against Abbott’s leadership — and declined to participate.

Tellingly, his office is said to have refused to comment when contacted and asked whether Turnbull was happy with the finished article GQ is publishing next week after its most recent interview with him.

And I think Joe Hildebrand, writing in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph today, has it about right with his satirical interpretation of the Turnbull interview.

I have said it before and I will share the piece with readers once again, and I am prepared to do so until the cows come home: Malcolm Turnbull is no solution as Prime Minister, and no amount of glib posturing or smugly provocative media appearances will change that.

In an ideal world, Abbott would sack his minister for disloyalty, for certainly Turnbull has honoured his obligation not to undermine his leader in only the most literal sense: his activities and his utterances within cooee of leadership chatter make it painfully clear that not only is Turnbull agitating to become Prime Minister himself, but that he considers himself more than ready to join the battle the moment it begins.

Alas, such a decisive confrontation is too fraught with risk for Abbott to contemplate, for in the febrile world of Coalition politics and the government’s still-dire (if improved) standing in reputable polling, there is no guarantee he would emerge victorious from such a contest.

Turnbull will therefore carry on with his mischief-making and his subterranean intrigues, and these will in turn continue to damage the government and the Prime Minister personally irrespective of Turnbull’s protestations otherwise.

In the meantime, nobody wins, except perhaps for the disreputable and vacuous specimen leading the Labor Party at present. If Turnbull does not want to help facilitate a Labor triumph at next year’s election, stunts like his GQ appearance are an odd way of proving it.

AND ANOTHER THING: with an eye on some of the attacks I have been fielding on Twitter of late from the lunatic trolls of the Left, there is a grotesque irony in the fact that cretinous tweet-bombers who rail against “people like me” for daring to advocate low-tax, workplace flexible policies designed to maximise incentive and encourage reward for old-fashioned hard work are also the sort of people who tell pollsters with reckless abandon that not only do they support Turnbull as preferred Liberal leader, but that (unbelievably) they would vote for the Coalition were he to be restored to the position he lost in 2009 as a result of his disregard of the Liberal base and non-existent political judgement.

These people will no more vote Liberal than I would propose Communist Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon as president of the HR Nicholls Society, and it amazes me that even in the interests of mischief-making, these types would advocate for one of the richest men in Parliament to become Prime Minister: a man who admittedly had a severely compromised upbringing, but who has made millions of dollars through hard work and is the epitome personally of the cultural change I would like to see take hold in this country, even if his political utterances and ideas are not reflective of this.

It’s yet more evidence that the iron sulphite promise of Turnbull as Prime Minister is preposterous and fanciful bullshit. The same stellar opinion numbers that propelled Kevin Rudd back to the Prime Ministership in 2013 would as surely disintegrate beneath Turnbull’s feet the moment he was elevated to the post as they did for Rudd. Turnbull is an election loser in the making, and it is the very people who agitate for his ascendancy now who would guarantee it at the polls in 18 months’ time.

 

Washed Up: With Nothing To Offer, Wayne Swan Should Quit

THE UNPLEASANT NEWS that useless, sanctimonious former Treasurer Wayne Swan will contest next year’s federal election adds nothing to the ALP’s case for a return to office; a divisive failure in the Rudd-Gillard years, Swan is largely responsible for the reprehensible mess Labor left the budget in, and revelled in fomenting hatred and class envy. He has nothing to offer and no value to Australian politics. He should quit Parliament.

It’s been some time now since this column has had to burden itself with talk of Wayne Swan, that emblematic embodiment of just about everything wrong with the legacy of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government; but just like the proverbial bad penny, it appears that Swan — quite literally — refuses to go away.

Lest it be lost in all the excitement over Labor’s stunning reinvention of the economic management practices of John Cain and Joan Kirner in Victoria, Brisbane’s Courier Mail is reporting that Swan is set to recontest his inner Brisbane electorate of Lilley once again at next year’s federal election, and it is difficult indeed to ascertain any positive benefit that might be reaped by either the people of Lilley, the Australian Labor Party, or the Commonwealth of Australia from the continued retention of Swan’s dubious services as a member of Parliament.

Swan — who will be 62 by the time the next election is held — has held his seat since 1998, having first won Lilley in 1993 before losing it to a Liberal in the Howard government landslide of 1996; having already served as deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer it seems inconceivable that he would return to a ministerial role were Labor to win office, and should the ALP remain in opposition would most likely stay on the backbench, selfishly denying a younger, fresher, and arguably more talented individual an opportunity in Parliament.

Any Treasurer who can promise on more than 600 separate occasions that he will deliver a budget surplus and, between 2009 and 2013, fail to make good on any of those assurances is either an incompetent, a liar, or both. Yet Swan, as Treasurer, boasts precisely that record.

I say he has a nerve even contemplating standing again next year, let alone pressing ahead with plans to do so.

We have talked an awful lot about Wayne Swan over the four years I have been publishing this column, and a small selection of Swan’s greatest hits can be accessed here, here and here. More can be accessed — for those so inclined — through the tag cloud at the right-hand side of this column.

But one of my favourite memories of Swan’s career to date was the revelation of himself as a man of music, and — happy to call things as they are — we got into the spirit.

And the highlight of political life in this country (for the past 30 years anyway) belonged to Swan as well, named International Finance Minister of the Year in 2011 in a crowning moment of glory that amounted to a one-fingered salute to Swan’s (many) critics both at home and abroad.

The reality, however, was more mundane than some jumped-up “look at me” award from an obscure European journal.

For Wayne Swan was, in fact, easily one of the worst federal Treasurers to ever hold the post in Australia; Labor sycophants point to his “record” of keeping Australia out of recession during the Global Financial Crisis, and they perhaps have a point.

But it is hardly an onerous undertaking to stimulate an economy into positive territory on paper when the ill-gotten booty of tens of billions of dollars of borrowed money is at hand; even then, the wastage that occurred on Swan’s watch was horrific, as cheques for $900 being posted to dead people and foreigners at overseas addresses became an early pointer to the utter incompetence Labor exhibited in matters of economic management.

Blame for the present structural ravine in the federal budget — perhaps permanently mired in deficit — and the accompanying mountain of government debt, presently totalling almost $400 billion and rising, can be sheeted home directly to Swan; as the one minister in Labor’s government who could have put a brake on profligate spending programs, he didn’t. As the one minister who could have imposed responsibility over Labor’s pre-election machinations and its grand plot to sabotage Australia’s finances and render them unmanageable by a Liberal government, he didn’t.

And when it came to the politics of old-fashioned class envy, jealously and hatred, Swan was and is a master of that execrable dark art, taking aim at the wealthy, the entrepreneurial and the successful in a jaundiced and belligerent campaign to tear them down to the level of anyone who couldn’t make it, couldn’t be bothered, or simply wanted to be content with their own modest lot in life and be left well enough alone.

With this sort of record, Labor can ill-afford any return by Swan to its frontbench. He is, put bluntly, an unmitigated political liability. Then again, with Labor “led” by its incumbent figurehead, this probably isn’t in itself a bar to Swan’s future prospects. But even so.

As a symbol and the architect of just about everything that Labor did wrong where economics were concerned during its last period in power, there is nothing to be gained from keeping Swan around the parliamentary ALP as any kind of mentor: the very notion is abhorrent, and Labor-inclined swinging voters would be right to take a dim view of Swan being used to provide guidance and development to the ALP’s next generation of MPs; whatever principles a career in Parliament might entail, systemised dynasties of failure and mismanagement are not among them.

Perhaps Swan simply wants to “enjoy being a local member,” a sentiment I have heard from other long-term MPs wishing to spend a final term in office simply attending to their constituents after lengthy frontbench careers.

But these would be far better individuals than Swan and in any case — where his electorate of Lilley is concerned — virtually anyone could service a base of constituents if astutely preselected; there is no particular reason it should be Swan, and with a track record like his as a minister, it most definitely shouldn’t be Swan at all.

Should he go through with his plan to seek re-election, it would surprise nobody if — even if a heavy overall swing to Labor were to appear at the next election — Lilley swung toward the Coalition, perhaps enough to cost Swan the seat.

At the end of the day Swan is a has been who never “actually was” in the first place: washed up, finished, of no meaningful use to the Australian public as a political servant, this pious, self-important bubble of smouldering self-delusion and festering prejudices against the competent has nothing further to contribute.

Wayne Swan has nothing to offer in Australian politics. There is no value in the continuation of his tenure in a parliamentary sinecure. And if he had any decency or self-awareness at all in the context of the spirit of public service and elected office, he would leave Parliament at the coming election, if not sooner.

Victoria: Cain-Kirner Mentality Brings East-West To A Costly End

SCANT REGARD for taxpayers’ money — with a reckless embrace of state debt, and indifference to Victoria’s investment reputation — saw the Andrews government piss almost $1 billion up against a post yesterday, finally axing Melbourne’s East-West Link road project for $339 million plus associated costs. The episode is reminiscent of the ruinous Cain-Kirner regime of the 1980s and 1990s. Other reminders of that time will soon follow.

One of the ugliest episodes of governance in Victoria since — well, since the Labor government that held office between 1999 and 2010 blew billions and billions of dollars on over-budget debacles and white elephants such as myki, the North-South Pipeline, and a desalination plant at Wonthaggi — has come to a costly end, with Premier Daniel Andrews announcing yesterday that his government had “reached agreement” with the consortium contracted to build Melbourne’s East-West freeway project to terminate the arrangement for $339 million in compensation.

I use the word “compensation” very deliberately; prior to the state election in November, Andrews claimed the contract “was legally unenforceable” and “not worth the paper it was printed on;” an Andrews government, he said, would not pay compensation to the consortium under any circumstances.

Yet his government — elected, he says, on a statewide mandate not to build the road — has nonetheless handed over more than a third of a billion dollars in compensation money: Andrews tried to spin the payment by saying the consortium was merely refunded the monies it had spent to date.

But had the contract been invalid, unenforceable, not legally binding or any other formulation of “void,” its beneficiary would not have been paid hundreds of millions of dollars for its termination.

No government — even a recklessly irresponsible one in the classic Labor mould, as the Andrews government is fast proving itself to be — shells out those sorts of dollars just to be nice. The contract was binding, and some form of settlement to compensate the consortium was required.

So I have no truck with Andrews’ claim to have “delivered” on a promise not to pay compensation: such a suggestion is an insult to the intelligence of a reasonable person, and is complete bullshit in any case.

There has already been countless articles written on this subject in the last 18 hours or so (see here, here, here and here for a handful of them) and part of the problem is that there are so many ways to sift and dissect the issues at play — not least, who is culpable and who is not — that I don’t profess to resolve such a discussion any more than the extra reading I’m sharing from the mainstream press does.

To me, the issue boils down to an evaluation of two aspects of the entire East-West disaster.

On the one hand, the former Liberal government of Denis Napthine — which signed a contract to build the road eight weeks before a state election — augmented that contract with a side letter guaranteeing compensation of up to $1.2 billion if the contract was invalidated and/or if the project was otherwise not proceeded with.

And on the other, the incoming Labor government wantonly abandoned a legally binding document to pursue a major infrastructure project that is sorely needed in Melbourne, and at a cost to taxpayers of almost a billion dollars — for nothing in return — once so-called “sunk costs” and other ancillary expenses associated with the project over and above the $339 million compensation payment are factored in.

There is a strong, and almost compelling, moral argument to suggest that Napthine’s government should not have signed a side letter to the contract, knowing as it did that Labor had pledged to tear the contract up anyway if it won office in Victoria; I have been speaking to a few legal people around Melbourne over the past few months, and the consensus seems to be that even if the side letter did not exist, the consortium would still have eventually received compensation anyway: by the messy, protracted and potentially much more expensive route of litigation — possibly for years — as it pursued the state of Victoria through the Courts to obtain recompense.

In that sense, the fact there was a side letter at all may, ironically, have saved time, money, and further damage to Victoria’s reputation as a safe place to invest. But should that letter have been signed? On face value, probably not.

But I think it is necessary to consider the political imperatives faced by the Napthine government in any assessment of its decision to sign a side letter to the contract, rather than moral considerations, because whilst I readily admit the whole matter of the side letter bothers me greatly, it is the political aspects of its existence that are the key to understanding why things have played out as they have.

And yes, time to bash the ALP.

“Modern” Labor, whenever it finds itself in opposition these days, has adopted an explicit strategy of preventing conservative governments from governing where it can in any way possible, at any cost, and irrespective of the damage it causes in any way: be that to the Liberal Party, institutions of governance, the reputation of Parliament, or collateral damage to what ought to be respected pillars of the community.

One look at the present Senate — where the ALP under federal “leader” Bill Shorten heads up an effort to defeat any government bill that might undo profligate spending from Labor’s last period in office, or repair the damage to the budget that was caused in the process — illustrates the point: obstruction to the point of rendering the Abbott government powerless to govern is the obvious objective.

The use of health and emergency services workers (or union ticket-holding impersonators of them) in Victoria and Queensland to help destroy the legitimacy of conservative governments in those states is another pointer to the same strategy.

And far from simply opposing (as it claims) and working to advance its case for a return to government at the ballot box, Labor these days embodies the obscene mantra that if it isn’t elected to govern, it will nonetheless see to it that its opponents are prevented from doing so until its strategy of strangulation kills them off.

Where this ties into the East-West Link and the charade over compensation that was played out yesterday comes relates to the idea that governments in Victoria are elected to govern for four years: not three years and nine months, or some other arbitrary period deemed by the ALP to represent the end of an effective term in office where the Liberal Party is concerned.

Labor has complained that the Napthine government signed contracts to build the East-West Link without taking it to an election first, and that is right; but Victorians had elected the Coalition to govern for four years in late 2010, so the decision to commission the road was wholly appropriate.

In any case, Labor can ill-afford to be making such arguments when its own federal government, in 2010, introduced a carbon tax after an explicit election promise not to do so.

And Labor itself won state elections in Victoria in 1999 and 2002, in part, with a promise to build the Scoresby Freeway in Melbourne’s outer east without tolls…

…and then unilaterally proceeded to build the road as a tollway anyway, calling it “Eastlink” instead and trying to argue that it was a different road project altogether to justify the deception, so arguments from the ALP of this nature should be dismissed with the contempt they deserve.

And it’s not as if the Coalition exhibited undue haste in commissioning the East-West Link, or could be tarred as unduly partisan in doing so, for an infrastructure audit commissioned by the Labor state government in 2008 identified the need for (and recommended) a road link between the Eastern Freeway at Clifton Hill and the Western Ring Road at Laverton, interconnecting with CityLink along the route.

This link — the East-West Link — was adopted as a project by Labor before it lost office under John Brumby two years later, and remained ALP policy until Andrews announced in September last year that his party would not build the road if it won the state election in a desperate attempt to stop the Coalition signing the contract to do so.

In other words, Andrews’ tactic was to bully the Coalition out of governing, and to bully it out of being responsible for starting work on a desperately needed piece of road infrastructure: Melbourne is grinding to a halt, as population growth sees tens of thousands of additional cars pour onto a road network each year that has been largely unchanged for a decade.

But in truth — not that any Labor figure will ever say so publicly — this stunt (which is all it was) was aimed solely at sandbagging four inner-city Labor electorates at risk of falling to the Communist Party Greens; there is no credible research into voting at the November state election that suggests the East-West Link was even a contributor to Labor’s victory, which it owed more to the havoc created by miscreant MP Geoff Shaw in a finely balanced knife-edged Parliament and to the reprehensible emergency services campaigns.

So there you are: for the eventual cost of some $900 million in sum, Labor held onto the seats of Northcote, Brunswick and (only just) Richmond, whilst losing Melbourne to the Greens anyway.

And that, if you live in Melbourne, is what your taxpayer money ultimately is going to pay for. There sure as hell won’t be a road. It’s a hell of a price to pay just for that.

In this sense, the perfectly legal side letter to the contract to build the road becomes understandable, if not entirely desirable or even defensible; when it is remembered that the East-West Link was only ever abandoned as a priority by the ALP to save a few seats, to the ongoing and compounding detriment of hundreds of thousands of road users further afield (and domiciled mostly in Liberal-held electorates) the moral outrage of Andrews and his Labor Party over the contract, the side letter, and the concept of the road at all is reduced to nothing more than cynical and negligently misleading partisan blather.

And on balance, it points the finger of blame squarely at the ALP for the waste of hundreds of millions of dollars on a road that isn’t going to be built: taxpayers will get nothing in return for their hard-earned, and as much as Andrews has played a game of smoke and mirrors by arranging for other funds associated with the axed project to be diverted to other schemes, the hard reality is that Labor has pissed almost a billion dollars up against a post for nothing.

Fair-minded Victorians (and observers elsewhere) can and should be aghast at the eerie similarities of this episode to some of the worst excesses of financial mismanagement under the Labor government of John Cain and Joan Kirner more than a generation ago: then, state-backed enterprises such as Tricontinental and the VEDC played fast and loose with Victorians’ money under the auspices of picking winners in new industries.

There were none, of course, and the financial collapses presided over on Labor’s watch left the state tottering on the brink of bankruptcy, until Jeff Kennett’s Liberal government spent most of the 1990s fixing the damage.

The comparison gains additional currency when it is pointed out that as part of its settlement of the East-West issue, the Andrews government has taken on a loan of some $3 billion from the consortium for reallocation to “other projects:” and this lack of transparency, coupled with the transfer of billions of dollars in debt from the private sector to the state, should ring alarm bells in the minds of Victorian voters.

And the Andrews government is soon to shell out another half a billion dollars for no return, this time to fix the mess it made of a botched tender for the state’s lotteries when it was in power under Brumby, in a mess presided over (in a delicious irony) by Andrews himself when he was gaming minister.

There are other financial bombs already primed by this government waiting to explode, but even the half-billion dollars in compensation for the lotteries debacle and the $900 million wasted on East-West means Labor has already taken $1.5 billion and more or less flushed it down the toilet — in addition to increasing state debt by $3 billion at a stroke — in less than six months in office.

At the bottom line, the Liberal Party emerges from the East-West quagmire smelling less than fresh, and deserves some criticism for the manner in which it went about commissioning a much-needed infrastructure project that will now have to wait, at the very minimum, for a change of government before works can even commence.

But the real villain is the ALP, with its brutal and uncompromising refusal to accept the verdict of the electorate when it loses, and the vicious tactics it uses to seize power at literally any cost — and yesterday’s events neatly proved it.

It seems any lessons the ALP learned from the train wreck it presided over in the 1980s and early 1990s have been lost, for the methods and outcomes of that time are well and truly back in evidence in the state of Victoria.

To the detriment of anyone living in this fine state (and, regrettably, to others in Australia who are adversely affected by what happens south of the Murray River), the necrotic, pustulent political ghosts of John Cain and Joan Kirner are alive, thriving, and again walking the corridors of power in Spring Street and Treasury Place, reincarnated in the form of the Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews.

The events of the past 24 hours show that if Victoria is to avoid being once again bankrupted by a Labor government, Andrews’ defeat at the state election due in three-and-a-half years’ time is crucial.

The imperative for the Liberals to win next time got that bit more urgent yesterday. The red ink in Victoria is spreading fast.

Sort It Out: Ridiculous GST Posture Could Finish Abbott

A RIDICULOUS SUGGESTION by Tony Abbott — that the states should “sort out” how GST revenue is carved up — shows to an appalling lack of leadership; with a risky budget due shortly from a Treasurer whose record in the job is poor, Abbott’s GST gaffe could yet sound the death knell on his leadership of the Liberal Party. ALP “leader” Bill Shorten, meanwhile, deserves to be crucified for typically filthy point scoring that is bereft of alternative ideas.

First things first: I have, as readers know, been a staunch supporter of Tony Abbott’s for many, many years, and have mostly defended him to the hilt in this column in the face of almost unprecedented levels of unpopularity, dysfunctional in government that apparently nobody is responsible for, relentless and unjustifiable abuse from the Left, and — most importantly — own goals from his own boot or worse, things he says that on reflection, simply, he shouldn’t.

That defence is getting more difficult to maintain.

This morning we looked at the scathing attack launched by Peter Costello in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph on management of the federal budget by Treasurer Joe Hockey, but through the prism of a constructive way forward on both tax reform in Australia as the way to address the (valid) criticisms made by Costello.

What a difference half a day or so makes in politics.

Tony Abbott’s unbelievably crass assertion that because the GST is a tax that “belongs to the states,” “grown-up adult” state governments should “collectively…make a decision” shows an appalling lack of leadership at a time he and Hockey should be trying to get control of the government’s economic management responsibilities ahead of a make-or-break federal government, not abrogate those responsibilities in favour of the states.

The fraught issue of how to distribute GST revenues has reared its head lately on account of recommendations from the Commonwealth Grants Commission that Western Australia’s share of the tax should fall to below 30 cents in every GST dollar raised in that state; for some years — courtesy of the impact of the mining boom in WA, and the windfall it has received from mining royalties — that state’s share of GST monies has fallen, offset by royalties receipts, with the difference being redistributed to the so-called “mendicant states” (read: South Australia and Tasmania) whose economies are too small and weak to sustain their bloated bureaucracies and deliver an acceptable level of government services to their constituents.

It’s become a tug-of-war: larger states capable of raising more revenue in their own right (but which nevertheless face a backlog when it comes to infrastructure requirements and the funds to deliver them) increasingly resent handing money away to “mendicants” that should be swimming in money, but are so addicted to the torrent of tax revenue they receive that it’s spent each year before they even get it.

The big states increasingly resent giving away more and the “mendicants” refuse to countenance being denied a cent of it: a fire fanned, cynically, by Bill Shorten and his Labor cohorts, with their taunts that Abbott and Hockey will “rip billions of dollars” out of Tasmania and SA in a glib attempt to snooker the government and make it impossible for it to resolve the problem.

More on Shorten — and his fatuous rhetoric — shortly.

But for Abbott to effectively throw up his hands and walk away is a poor look, and one that does not befit a leader; for all the difficulties the government faces and for all the obstacles Labor seeks to put in its way, the issue of GST allocations is the government’s problem to fix: and a tart decree that the states can sort it out for themselves is an almost unforgivable lapse of judgement.

Perhaps — with an eye to the “strategists” and “tacticians” who populate the Prime Minister’s Office — someone thought it would be half-smart and a good idea to handball the whole matter of Commonwealth grants to the states; perhaps they thought the states would be wrong-footed. Perhaps they thought it would render them more pliable in any future discussion about increasing or broadening the GST rate. Instead, it seems merely to have encouraged them to dig in.

Or perhaps it was more prosaic: over a few beers, somebody simply decided that for once they couldn’t be bothered. Either way, it is not a good look.

I read an excellent piece on this issue by Judith Sloan in The Australian today, and Sloane notes that just as WA’s share of the GST revenues it generates is set to fall below 30%, South Australia’s is about to increase to 135%, and that state’s (Labor) Treasurer has had the nerve to try to blackmail the (Liberal) Abbott government against reducing his state’s allocations by suggesting that to do so would necessitate the end of Federation.

We’ll come back to that too.

But I tend to think that if Abbott’s view (or the view of the clearly brain-dead individuals who devised his GST stance in the interests of astute political strategy) is one the Prime Minister is welded to, then the resumption of public muttering over his leadership of the Liberal Party must be imminent; already I hear that far from being silenced by their failure to engineer a spill against Abbott, the mutterers for the time being merely retreated behind closed doors having been repelled, but by no means beaten.

Whether he likes it or not, the Commonwealth Grants Commission is a federal body answerable to the federal government and responsible for (in this case) apportioning the share of GST revenue each state receives. Perhaps a public conversation — or argument — to till the ground and win over voters to the case for change might better serve Abbott’s government in this regard.

But such conversations have proven not to be the Abbott government’s forte. Winning arguments of this nature have proven next to impossible. And not because there is no case to be made, or because the arguments cannot be won, but for the deadly reason that the wrong people in the wrong jobs are the ones charged with making and winning them.

In a few weeks’ time, Hockey will deliver his — and the government’s — second budget; bugger this one up as badly as he did the first, and Hockey will have signed the government’s electoral death warrant, and it won’t matter whether Liberal MPs manage to dump their leader or not (although you can bet your life they will do it: faced with electoral doom, these days dumping the leader is fashionable, and rhetoric about “not being Labor” won’t stop it a second time from happening).

And I find myself questioning Hockey’s sincerity about GST reform just hours after remarking that it was “refreshing” that he at least put it on the table: one has to wonder whether talking a little about the GST is intended to make the government appear serious about economic reform, trying in the process to extract some mileage from the Liberal Party’s traditional reputation as the party best suited to manage the economy — just to set the scene for Abbott to come along behind him and declare, in effect, that it’s all too hard.

I have two points to make.

One, that GST is merely presenting as the latest in a long list of issues that point to the states having completely outlasted their use-by dates; perhaps their abolition — reaping savings in the tens of billions of dollars — and the disbursement of monies from a central government to a decentralised network of local provincial authorities on a per-capita basis or something very close to it, would resolve this idiocy of who gets what, on what basis, and who wins at whose expense.

After all, the only real role the states perform these days (aside from the digestion of billions of dollars duplicating bureaucracies) is to play themselves off against each other, and — depending on their political complexion at any given time — act either to antagonise the government sitting in Canberra, or to “stand up” to it to extract more money that is, usually, spent with no regard for accountability or for any tangible benefit.

And two, it is about time the contemptible specimen charged with “leading” the ALP is crucified by the mainstream press, and ripped into so many pieces that a sparrow wouldn’t fill its beak at a peck; as usual, Shorten has been out name-calling and landing tawdry cheap shots over the conundrum Hockey (in particular) finds himself in: unable, through political reality (largely formed at the hand of Labor and the Communist Party Greens in the Senate) to overhaul the GST (or much else), but more or less doomed to fail as Treasurer unless he somehow manages to do precisely that.

Hockey, like Abbott, and like the lackeys who serve them who were recruited primarily for compliance and not performance, deserves censure for his performance as Treasurer since assuming the role, and I have been more than fair (lovely term) in handing out criticism in this column where it is due in the case of the Coalition.

But Shorten — seeking to be taken seriously as he twists the knife in Hockey — should be given no quarter.

Labor presents no alternative vision for economic reform; it refuses to even acknowledge a problem with the budget, let alone that that problem is its own fault and responsibility.

Shorten’s ideas (when he has any) are vague, vapid, contradictory, and the few that can be pieced together at all — like the half-arsed plot to unilaterally abolish the private health insurance rebate — would cause monumental crises in public service delivery, and in that particular case, the collapse of the healthcare system in this country.

Shorten is no leader, and whilst Abbott and Hockey might have their problems, Shorten has been allowed to behave like a schoolyard smart-alec — but without the inevitable smack in the face such conduct invariably (and justifiably) elicits out in the sandpit.

Abbott might be flirting with his tenure as Prime Minister, and Hockey with the government’s electoral mortality.

But if the media simply stopped reporting the puerile rubbish that passes for Shorten’s contribution to policy debate, he would be neither seen nor heard — and maybe, if that happened, his parliamentary colleagues would realise the liability they saddled themselves with 18 months ago, and sign a petition for his removal.

60% of them, anyway. After all, that was the threshold set down by Kevin Rudd, in the confident expectation it would never be breached — or at least, not until the next guy came along.

 

Tax And Oblivion: Costello Highlights Hockey Dilemma

CONTRIBUTIONS TODAY in the Murdoch press by former Treasurer Peter Costello highlight the bind the Abbott government finds itself in with a tricky federal budget looming, and the degree to which it has surrendered the debate to economic vandals in the ALP and the Communist Party Greens, who block most constructive measures in the Senate. Treasurer Joe Hockey has a tough but clear path to walk. Whether he does remains to be seen.

Today’s article is aimed at sharing two items from Sydney’s Daily Telegraph — an op-ed piece by Howard government Treasurer Peter Costello, and the paper’s editorialisation of his argument — to highlight what ought to be a no-brainer for a responsibly calibrated government (and especially one moulded by liberal and conservative thought) in contrast to the high tax mentality that underpinned current Treasurer Joe Hockey’s loathsome 2014 federal budget.

The old adage that “no nation ever taxed its way to prosperity” seems to have been honoured in the breach to date under Hockey’s approach to budget repair, relying heavily on a mixture of bracket creep, additional income tax slugs aimed at the core Coalition voter base, and a sympathetic view of various band-aid measures such as new bank taxes, multinational taxes, a populist increase in GST from online purchases by lowering the threshold at which it applies that is uneconomical to collect, and so forth.

Add in the clamour for other taxes from those who are the enemies of both the Liberal Party and Australia’s best interests — Labor and the Greens — on superannuation, individual companies (read: their detested News Corp) and, incredibly, the besieged mining sector, and what we have is a recipe for taxing Australia into economic oblivion in the name of taxing it into economic security.

It is true that this column has, once or twice, advocated a windfall tax on banking profits (built, it must be said, on reaping obscene fees, penalties and charges from the banks’ customers) as a way of effecting redress upon the budget deficit.

But that advocacy, made with no enthusiasm whatsoever, was born of sheer frustration with the inability of governments — first led by Julia Gillard and now, it seems, stewarded by a Liberal Treasurer apparently bent on perpetuating the “tax as salvation” myth — to find the appetite for serious structural reform of Australia’s tax base, and to build on and expand the foundations of an efficient and simple tax regime as laid down by Costello over 12 successful federal budgets between 1996 and 2007.

The idea that taxes that are as broad as possible and levied at relatively low rates is counter-intuitive only if it is accepted that businesses will pocket profits rather than hire people if their taxes are cut, and the proof that such a conclusion (even now, 40 years after it first gained prominence) is wrong can be seen in the “Thatcher miracle,” the “Reagan miracle,” and everywhere else so-called supply-side economics were implemented in the 1980s, leading to employment growth, steady rises in prosperity, and budget surpluses achieved from — surprise, surprise — rising revenues off a base of taxation measures levied at lower rates as broadly as possible.

It is refreshing of late to see that Hockey is showing signs of at least putting the GST (and possible increases to it) onto the table, for consumption taxes are an efficient and straightforward way of raising significant revenues to enable the business of government to be carried out.

Based on his track record, however — and the woefully inept record of the Abbott government to date in selling anything — it is doubtful this conversation will progress very far.

Instead, great attention is being paid by the government to the favourite hobby horses of the Left — slugs to superannuation, making it harder for the self-funded to continue to pay for themselves in retirement without government handouts, and chasing multinationals to reap a windfall no Western country has, in fact, reaped to date — and this merely shows how far control of the economic debate has been surrendered by this government, and the degree of real influence the economic vandals and wreckers in the ALP and the Greens still retain over a conservative administration elected, in part, to explicitly end such madness, not perpetuate it.

Remember, too, that both Labor and the Greens are pledged to the reintroduction of carbon and mining taxes as soon s they are restored to office.

Even extending the current GST at its present rate to cover everything except healthcare spending (remembering that at present it applies to just 48% of all goods and services in Australia) would be enough to fund offsetting increases to pensions (thus insulating the less well off from its effects) and to enact modest cuts in income and company taxes, and without the complicated fancies being bandied about for new and inefficient taxes.

Doubling the GST, to 20%, would enable benefits for the needy to by increases further, alongside a program of slashing other taxes rather than raising them.

But I think Hockey — were he truly ambitious — ought to contemplate going further again, with an even greater program of cuts to personal income and company taxes sitting alongside a broadening and lifting of the GST.

The experience of such a program of tax realignment internationally has been that businesses — far from simply banking fatter profits — will hire a lot more people, simultaneously cutting welfare expenditure and increasing PAYE tax collections; those employees would obviously spend more on goods and services, increasing GST revenues, and the collective impact of these measures would be an overall increase in government revenues from a regime that imposes lower rates of taxation generally.

Yet the flat Earth proposition put by the Left — that only higher taxes can fix the criminal negligence inflicted on Australia’s finances by its own hand when last in office — is doggerel.

If Hockey took the road less travelled (in Australia) of far broader but overall lower taxes, he would provide the Abbott government with a powerful point of difference, and a compelling proposition to sell electorally.

He would also be able to equip the Liberal Party with a series of double dissolution triggers based around tax cuts (the compulsory Labor scare of a GST rise notwithstanding) as the package is inevitably blocked by an opportunistic Senate, controlled by Labor with the Greens, and bent on obstructing their way back into office so they can get on with the job of taxing Australia into economic irrelevance.

And the end destinations of this process?

On the one hand, a double dissolution election based on slashing taxes, raising pensions, and a program for low tax torpedoed by Labor and the Greens. The idea of an election to confront the Left over its petulant torpedo of wholesale tax cuts is a delicious one.

On the other, capitulation: continuing down the route of higher taxes, bracket creep, the Left’s populist new taxes, and a likely electoral hiding from angry voters who rightfully feel betrayed.

I know which is the better option, and it isn’t throwing new taxes around like confetti.

Hockey should listen to Costello, confront the government’s opponents head on, and press ahead with the broader, lower, more efficient tax plan that would boost economic activity and — crucially — fill the government’s coffers by increasing the size of the economic pie, not taxing it into disincentive and disrepair.

 

President Hillary? God Help Us, And God Help The United States Of America

THE WORST PROSPECTIVE CANDIDATE as President of the United States has declared, with an announcement by former Secretary of State and New York Senator Hillary Clinton that she would seek the Democratic Party nomination as President; the development should galvanise conservatives and more reasonable figures in Clinton’s own party, for she would be a domestic liability and international menace if ever elected to office.

At the outset — to answer the charge my trenchant opposition to a “President” Hillary Clinton is motivated by opposition to women, which it most certainly isn’t — I should like to simply observe that there are several capable, high profile women on both sides of American politics who would theoretically make very good Presidents, and that anyone whose politics are dictated by gender rather than a rational assessment of the best candidate for office should identify one of the other women in the field of potential contenders, and get behind her instead.

For Hillary Clinton, to be completely blunt, is just about the worst candidate going around for the Presidency, and should she ever be elected to that office the consequences for both the United States and the wider world are likely to be dire.

For someone who has spent decades at, near, or adjacent to the edifices of real power in the United States, Clinton is someone the US public has gotten to know all too well; there can be no doubt hers would be the most recognisable name on the ballot should she win the nomination of her party as President — which she has now announced her intention to seek — but name recognition and suitability for office are two very different notions.

In some respects, it is possible to feel some admiration for Clinton’s stoic determination; after all, this high-profile liberal lawyer (and no intellectual slouch) was forced to play bridesmaid — literally — to her husband Bill through stints as Governor of Arkansas in the 1980s, two terms as President himself, and what seems to have been a virtual lifetime of dealing with her husband’s philandering and infidelity, with a string of affairs and humiliations an unwanted bequest in life from the contemptible specimen to whom she is married.

I don’t propose today to embark on some forensic analysis of Bill Clinton’s tenure as President, although it is safe to assert it was helpful that it ended when it did, and equally helpful that the Democratic Party was moved on from the White House after eight years lest his deputy — who, among other things, “invented the Internet” and forecast polar ice caps would have melted by last year — be elevated to an unmerited and equally unpalatable stint as the US’ Commander-in-Chief.

Clinton is, to coin an idiom only ever deployed to demean its target, a Washington insider; this scion of the Democratic Party establishment, left-leaning social activist and hypocritical champion of the status of women is synonymous to many Americans with the interests of big business, lobby groups, and not concerned with the lot of the “little guy.”

And I say “hypocritical champion” of women because there is ample evidence Clinton is nothing of the kind; in recent weeks the US has been swept by rumours — neither denied nor, tellingly, responded to by the Clintons, even through recourse to legal proceedings — that Clinton was the enforcer who bullied and harassed and heavied husband’s conquests to keep them from going public; affairs and even rapes are said to have been hushed up and their victims bought off, intimidated, or thuggishly ground into submission.

Clinton has form for this, as we saw last June, as a report emerged in the US press of her boasting and laughing about getting a child rapist acquitted on a legal technicality; this is not conduct becoming of a putative President, and it is to be hoped Clinton’s Republican adversaries make great use of this — and other items from Clinton’s cavalier and wilful past — to explode the myth that she is in any way the candidate for women and families.

But her problems do not stop there.

Her age, for one thing, is a liability that can and should be turned against her; Democrats have form for making merry over the age of some of the candidates their opponents have run for the Presidency (one of the best Presidents in Ronald Reagan not least) and she deserves to be fair game as a 69-year-old by the time Americans vote in November next year.

As I said last year of the Democrats’ age-based crusade against Reagan, also 69 when first elected:

At 69 by the time the election is held in 2016, Clinton will be the same age Ronald Reagan was when he won in 1980, and despite the spectacular successes of the Reagan era, Democrats have spent the 30+ years since lampooning him as a senile gerontocrat whose administration was run exclusively by his wife and his advisers.

What compounds this consideration is the story — again, never denied by the Clintons — that Hillary some years ago suffered a stroke, and whatever recovery might have been made from that event (and be it one of life’s great injustices or otherwise), anyone who has suffered a stroke is literally not fit to serve in the most powerful office in the world with thousands of nuclear weapons at their disposal and on hair-trigger alert.

Foreign policy is going to be important on the watch of the next President, and incumbent Barack Obama — the worst President since at least the thoroughly useless Jimmy Carter, if not ever — has spent the past six and a half years inflaming global hotspots and imperilling the security of the United States and its allies, a track record neatly if sarcastically itemised in Brisbane’s Courier Mail this morning.

As someone who served for four years as one of the most senior members of the Obama Cabinet and who is deeply enmeshed in Democratic Party governance whenever it holds power, Clinton is as culpable in the representative sense for these failings as Obama is, and as President would face the responsibility of dealing with them.

Yet Americans can have no faith she is equipped or willing to do so, and the evidence of this can be found in the track record of her philandering husband, whose own administration (often said to in fact be influenced and run by Hillary) consistently kicked foreign policy challenges down the road to be dealt with by someone else.

It actually matters who wins this election in the US, with a resurgent and bellicose Russia openly threatening nuclear retaliation if held to account for its outrages, the Middle East seemingly erupting in a firestorm with the tacit imprimatur of Obama, and other hotspots around the world seemingly ignored.

Obama has overseen both the world becoming more dangerous and a diminishing of US power, prestige and reach. His country — and the world — cannot afford another of his ilk to follow him, yet like peas in a pod, Hillary would little different to Obama in his mishandling of international affairs, and America’s role in them.

Like most Democrats, there are few signs that Hillary Clinton has any inclination to address the ballooning US deficit and/or national debt, let alone the ideas and/or the backbone with which to do so; as it is, total US debt has doubled during the tenure of the Obama administration, to $US 13 trillion, and with an agenda heavy on left-leaning social spending and expanding public addiction to welfare, Clinton does not present as a responsible or capable economic stewardess.

Other coverage of the Clinton announcement in today’s press may be viewed here and here.

Clearly, this is no subject that can be summarily dealt with in a single article, and the process for electing a replacement for Obama in a little over 18 months’ time is only now sputtering slowly into motion; we will follow the election races on both the Republican and Democratic sides as they unfold.

But although unsurprising, the formalisation of a Clinton candidacy is the last thing the United States needs, and should be regarded as an invitation to better candidates on the Democratic side of the equation to do what Obama himself did the last time Hillary was said to be a shoo-in for their party’s nomination and to oppose, out-campaign and defeat her.

And I reiterate that at this early stage of proceedings, my own support lies with a hypothetical Republican ticket led by former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker as his running mate: we will see how that dynamic plays out.

But a “President” Hillary Clinton?

Should it ever come to pass, then God help us all, and God help the United States of America; this veteran, inveterate Washington hack is just about the worst prospective candidate either side of US politics could dredge up to inflict on an unsuspecting public.

It is to be hoped, in good time, that even if she emerges with her party’s nomination, her only reward for the endeavour will be a humiliating concession speech — ideally to Bush — which would be neither more nor less than she deserved but which, by virtue of the fact they would have enforced its delivery in the first place, be exactly what the citizens of the US most needed after eight years of mismanagement and neglect by Obama that has made her country and the world around it a far, far more dangerous and less secure place.

 

No Jab, No Play, No Pay: Denying Anti-Vaxers Welfare Is Right

MOVES BY THE ABBOTT GOVERNMENT to strip so-called “conscientious objectors” of childcare benefits and other welfare payments in response to the refusal to vaccinate their children is welcome, highly appropriate, and long overdue; vaccination is arguably the single greatest contributor to increases in human life expectancy over the past 200 years; it is a reasonable expectation of society, and should not be rewarded in the breach in any way.

At the outset, I should like to note that I have a former colleague and dearly valued friend who is one of the smartest and best-intentioned people I know — and if she is reading this, she knows who she is — who is nevertheless adamant that her child should not be vaccinated (and hasn’t been) and is vehemently opposed to any regime of compulsory childhood vaccinations, or indeed to any vaccinations at all, and whilst I respect her right to her opinion, I vehemently and utterly disagree with her (and have told her as much, for those who wonder about such things).

90% of the population — based on a vote of the feet, or in other words the current overall rate of childhood immunisations nationally — agree with me, the medical community, and the overwhelming and irrefutable evidence that vaccinations save lives.

90%, however, is not enough: for “herd immunity” to be truly effective in eliminating dreadful diseases from our communities, that vaccination rate needs to be at least 94%.

I am very pleased, therefore, to see that in joining the so-called “No Jab, No Play” campaign that is seeing unvaccinated children excluded from day care centres, preschools and (ultimately) schools across the country, the Abbott government has announced it will terminate the entitlement to the childcare allowance, childcare rebate, Family Tax Benefit Part A supplement (and the “bonus” payable for vaccinating children) for parents refusing to complete a recommended schedule of immunisations for their children.

With “No Jab, No Play” increasingly excluding children from child care anyway, ending the entitlement of parents to the government subsidies that apply to it are the logical next step, and one with which I have no quibble whatsoever.

The impact of the measures could cost miscreant families who refuse to immunise their kids up to $15,000 per year, although it could hardly be said to constitute a budget saving — which is perhaps why, for once, Labor “leader” Bill Shorten has made supportive noises, although I will believe Labor’s support is forthcoming when and if it votes for the enabling legislation once it reaches the Senate.

A selection of additional articles from the mainstream press on this issue may be accessed here, here and here, and covers both the Murdoch and Fairfax perspectives on the matter.

And we have spoken about the vaccination issue in this column once before, about 18 months ago. I urge all readers with an interest in this issue to reread my original article on it.

I’m not going to labour the point this evening; I suspect readers will have guessed from my silence this weekend I have been otherwise occupied, but I want to make a few general — albeit deadly salient — points in the context of this change.

The single greatest hook the anti-vax crowd has ever had to hang its rubbish on — the “study” by disgraced British doctor Andrew Wakefield linking the MMR vaccine to childhood autism — was motivated, not that the deadbeat advocates of anti-vaccination “skepticism” would care to admit, by a desire by the good Dr Wakefield to promote sales of a rival, measles-only vaccine produced by a company in which he held considerable investment interests.

That reality is a microcosm of the entire hypocrisy of the blather of powerful anti-vaccination advocates; on the one level, they are happy to leap on the suggestion that vaccines — any vaccine, in fact — might cause autism, despite the “research” drawing that link being thoroughly discredited and the link comprehensively disproven beyond doubt.

Yet they are happy to keep quiet about Dr Wakefield’s real motives — to promote vaccine sales — in a classic case of refusing to let facts get in the way of a good story.

A story is all it is; in the same breath, the overwhelming majority of the allegedly conscientious objectors to vaccination (read: people who think they know better than the best medical practitioners in the world) are nonetheless happy to back up for the miracles of modern medicine when there’s something wrong with them.

If their kids come down with whooping cough, they have the temerity to demand that the medical fraternity cures them quickly, cheaply, and without complication or consequence, despite having thumbed their noses at the safest, best, and most effective treatment medical science can offer: immunity from the infection in the first place.

And whilst it’s a tangential path that I don’t intend to divert too far along, those of the “conscientious” objectors who also spurn orthodox medicine at other times ought to be having something of a wake-up call this year, as assorted frauds and charlatans are exposed for the callous, sooth-saying rent seekers they are.

Belle Gibson and her “miracle” recovery from “terminal” cancer. The so-called “wellness warrior” who secretly accepted chemotherapy treatment when it was too late and at the time her cancer had all but killed her. On and on it goes. Yet there are just enough simpletons and gullible fools prepared to eschew scientific reality to oxygenate the fairy stories and myths peddled by such cruel and cavalier snake oil merchants.

Vaccination is not perfect; no science is. But it is exponentially preferable to the alternatives, such as they are.

Like any medicine, there is a tiny risk of adverse reaction; from itches and runny noses to febrile convulsions and severe allergic reactions, any medicine can cause these (and other) side effects.

Yet the proposed changes to accessibility to child welfare payments will account for these; any kid who experiences such a response will be provided with a medical exemption from vaccination, and that is reasonable.

But “fear” that a child might experience such a response is not grounds for exemption, and nor should it be; if you follow such specious logic to its inevitable conclusion, you’d never get out of bed in the morning.

Ironically, vaccines today are safer than they have ever been; although the countless millions saved from smallpox by a scrape of pus from a cow suffering cowpox in the early 1800s, or those prevented from dying of tetanus through an infusion containing horse blood, would scarcely have complained in the way the anti-vaccination lobby does now.

It’s true vaccines don’t protect everyone; some people’s immune systems simply don’t respond to them, or if they do, generate only partial immunity to the pathogen they are designed to protect against.

This is why the “herd immunity” conferred by 94% or higher being vaccinated is so critical; if the overwhelming majority of people experience efficacious immune responses to a vaccine, they won’t get the disease: and by not getting it themselves, it slashes the risk those who cannot be immunised for medical reasons (or in whom the vaccine doesn’t produce the response) can get infected too.

About the closest thing anti-vax advocates come to a meaningful argument against vaccines is the presence of thiomersal — a preservative containing of mercury — in the vaccines given to children.

Yes, mercury is a poison, that in the right circumstances can cause all manner of health problems in human beings, including mental retardation and death. But the mercury in thiomersal used in vaccines is present in trace amounts only, and reputable medical studies worldwide have been unable to prove it poses a health risk.

In any case, didn’t any of these parents ever get doused with mercurochrome in their own childhood, and live to tell the tale? There is more mercury present in mercurochrome solutions than there is in a vaccine, and that form of medicinal mercury is perfectly safe as well.

Seldom do I advocate what could in any way be construed as the “big hand of big brother” by those who would choose to regard it as such, and even rarer is my insistence that such an action is not only accceptable, but in the best interests of the public good.

But the expectation that parents vaccinate their children before they are then allowed to socialise and intermingle with their peers is perfectly reasonable, and I have no issue at all with a government withdrawing all forms of financial family aid from parents until such time as they do.

Here in Australia we have already seen waves of resurgent pertussis, or whooping cough, which is fast regaining a foothold in infant populations thanks to falling vaccination rates; pertussis has killed children in recent times in a series of high-profile cases, and in most of these the infection was passed from an unvaccinated adult or an adult whose immunity had lapsed.

This, in turn, is another argument of anti-vaxers that is easily shot to pieces: that with the protection offered by immunisation wearing off in time, the whole exercise is in fact a waste of time and money.

Solution? Get a booster shot. Simple. Cheap. And a damned side safer than bloody whooping cough, too.

The frightening thing is that as bad as whooping cough is — and has already killed Australian children, in an era when no child should die from an easily preventable disease — whooping cough is a relative cakewalk compared to some of the other nasties that might be the next cabs off the rank to make a reappearance in Australia.

We have already seen measles clusters appearing with more and more frequency; there are reports elsewhere in the world of the re-emergence of polio. And should diphtheria ever make a comeback, something like whooping cough would seem minor alongside such a dreadful and excruciatingly malevolent disease.

If you have children, it is a reasonable expectation you have those children vaccinated.

If you don’t — electing, therefore, not to allow your child to be a participant in Australian society — it is right and it is fair that payments for childcare, family based tax relief, and even the monetary bonus for completing child immunisation schedules (that, incredibly, continues to be paid to “conscientious” objectors) are all terminated.

There should be no provision for exemption based on religion: as Social Services minister Scott Morrison has said, there are no religions that have registered vaccination objections with the government, and anyone coming to this country must, as far as I am concerned, accept that the immunisation of children (and previously unvaccinated adults too, for that matter) is an expectation of Australian residents that is non-negotiable.

And insofar as any other objection is concerned, unless an individual child has a specific, life-threatening medical reason that is certified by an appropriately qualified medical practitioner, there should be none: “conscience” doesn’t cut it, when the consequences are in fact to aid and abet the spread of insidious diseases that ought to have been eradicated and which in fact only exist in the community at all because of falling vaccination rates.

There are those who will disagree, and to those people I say that they are entitled to their views.

They are also wrong, and nothing I have ever seen from so-called experts in the anti-vaxer lobby withstands even the most cursory scientific scrutiny.

It might be trendy — or “natural” — not to vaccinate your kid, and you might think you would never hurt him/her, or that your motives are the purest and best in the world.

You might also be one of those people who simply don’t care about the (infinitesimal) risk of side-effects other kids might experience from a vaccine so long as they don’t happen to your kid, and that other people’s kids can achieve the “herd immunity” on your behalf that will protect your own little Johnny/Dora, and if this summarises your outlook then frankly you don’t deserve to have children at all, let alone the money the government is about to terminate your access to.

As adults in society, we have an obligation to those too young to decide for themselves, or take action in their own best interests: and in this case, making sure children have all the recommended vaccines for their various stages are development is one of the best ways we can do this, helping to ensure that when they reach adulthood they will have the opportunity to make similar decisions for their own kids themselves.

And as food for thought for the do-gooder types who don’t bother to vaccinate their kids, what will you say to them if — in their 20s — they go off to explore the world and pick up diphtheria, or polio, or God-knows-what in some far-flung third world outpost simply because you were derelict in your negligence of them as a child?

Hmmm?

I think what has been announced is long overdue. No jab, no play, and now no pay.

There will be those who will jib; there always is. But on this occasion — happily, and in the best interests of at least all the other kids, if not their own — the view of those people no longer carries any official weight at all, and will no longer be indulged with stipends of taxpayer money made dependent on courses of action they have no intention of undertaking.