PERHAPS FEARFUL of a Liberal government no longer prepared to brook its left wing bias — or perhaps awake to the fact it can no longer deny the ALP created a problem – even the ABC is now being candid about Australia’s dire financial straits. Voters reacting to the budget have an excuse; they listened to irresponsible politicians of the Left to hear what they wanted to hear. Labor, the Greens have no excuse for trashing the country, or for lying about it.
The savage, vicious and personal slugfest our polity has turned into in the past few years is an unedifying spectacle at times, and is hardly conducive to constructive or meaningful outcomes of governance; such a torrid political climate is always sure to leave in its wake a trail of casualties, and too often, the first one is the truth.
I’m not going to bog down in some rant over who promised what at elections, who reneged on what, and who’s a disreputable bastard for pissing on someone else (who, incidentally, is also most probably a disreputable bastard). There is enough of that going on everywhere you look. God knows, we have done it here from time to time too.
I’m not even going to indulge readers with a trip down memory lane to re-examine how much red ink Labor left on the books when the Keating government was booted out of office. Suffice to say, there were gallons of the stuff.
But one of the issues that has been central to Australian politics for some years now — and which, frankly, demands to be taken far more seriously than all political parties are taking it — is the issue of the so-called “budget emergency,” and why failing to tackle it (or even trying to deny that it exists) can only set this country up for hard times and falling living standards unless something changes quickly.
I am heartened (and very surprised) to note a web report last night from ABC News, reporting extensively on the hole the Senate is busily kicking in the nation’s finances; its source is Chris Richardson from Access Economics — an entity traditionally ridiculed by the Left as a mere propaganda arm of the conservative parties — and it makes no attempt to disguise or ameliorate the figure of $300bn Richardson nominates as the cost over the next ten years emanating from what Labor, the
Communist Party Greens, Palmer United Party and other Senate minnows are doing in their cynical quest for popularity and votes.
It’s true that the ABC report isn’t a feature, and it doesn’t build on Richardson’s case that the $300bn hit the Senate is inflicting on the budget is an emergency situation (although there was a report on 7.30 last night apparently that I missed, and so — for now — I will let that sit until I can catch it on review).
But we’re talking about the ABC; for years now, this is a “news” outlet that sanitises issues it deems to be politically inconvenient, fails to report on others altogether when they might cause embarrassment to the Left, and at times amounts to little more than a partisan cheer squad for Labor and the Greens. You only have to watch QandA every week to know that if you aren’t possessed of a bleeding heart social conscience that governs your every syllable and action, the ABC has nothing for you.
In that sense, it is noteworthy the ABC is reporting on this at all; a small point perhaps, but the ALP legacy of a comprehensively pillaged and trashed federal budget is very much the kind of thing the ABC isn’t usually interested in oxygenating.
It might be concerned at the funding cuts rumoured to be headed its way; after all, there is no justification for taxpayers bankrolling a left wing propaganda machine that purports to be impartial. Or it might be that — finally — the ABC has realised that it can’t sweep the misdeeds of its political wing under the carpet any longer, and that even if it isn’t prepared to ram the message home, it can at least acknowledge the existence of the problem.
Labor, on the other hand, is simply playing its usual dishonest game of semantics to hoodwink what it believes — and has always believed — are stupid voters.
It isn’t good enough to talk about “cruel cuts” and run silly, sloganeering lines such as “you don’t heal the sick by taxing them” when Labor’s own recent record in office boasts the most abysmal act of economic vandalism Australia has ever witnessed.
Denying the problem is one thing but deliberately refusing to allow any attempt to be made to fix it is quite another, and whilst we have discussed these things many times now, we continue to do so because the story from Labor never changes.
The Greens are just as culpable; for the entirety of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government, they supplied the Senate votes to legislate Labor’s incompetence in exchange for getting some of their own rancid socialist medicine down the throats of an Australian public that mostly never voted for them.
And Clive Palmer’s party, with its erratic, populist contortions to deify Palmer to the exclusion of anything government is actually there for, is beneath contempt in my view. I know the hardheads in my party don’t want to attack Palmer, but I’m going to call it for what it is. And Palmer is no better than Labor or the Greens: by his (and his Senators’) actions, he is literally making the problem worse.
That problem has been cogently, eloquently and forcefully articulated today by Business Council of Australia head Jennifer Westacott, who writes in Melbourne’s Herald Sun that “this (the Senate’s machinations over the budget) is not a game” and that Australia’s future — not least, the security of the high living standards we presently enjoy — is at stake.
And she’s right.
Australia is now looking down the barrel of government debt blowing out to $700 billion by 2023-24, courtesy of the silly and deadly games being played in the Senate having wiped out the entire sum of projected budget savings, and then some. It is as crazy as it is perverse, but a rapidly deteriorating budget situation will now actually worsen despite the “horror” budget in May. In practice, it isn’t a “horror” at all; in round terms, it’s now nothing. The Senate has seen to that.
But at $700bn in debt, the annual interest bill to service it alone will stand at about $30bn in today’s money: an obscene prospect, which beggars belief it should even be in consideration.
At $700bn in debt, Australia’s debt to GDP ratio will be above 50% and rocketing into Eurotrash territory.
And at $700bn in debt, the handouts and “entitlements” and all the other “free” goodies merrily being put on Bankcard by Labor spending legislation will be totally unaffordable, and when it’s entire benefit programs of pensions and unemployment benefits and sickness benefits in the gun for abolition rather than debating about how far the welfare disease can be spread through the community or whether it can be trimmed a bit, it is certain that as night follows day, Labor will be nowhere in sight when voters are looking for someone to blame.
I have been broadly supportive of the government’s budget in this column; I’ve kicked hell out of some of its constituent parts and lavished praise on others, and it is true that I haven’t been circumspect about the political costs to the Coalition that could flow from some of the measures in the budget if they ever get legislated. Yet right now, almost none of them seem likely to be.
And I make the additional point that the budget might be seen as something of a hotchpotch; there are dozens of initiatives in it that collectively aim to deliver the savings required to repair the bottom line and put the nation’s finances back onto a sustainable footing.
In trying to “spread the pain” and ensure “everyone pitches in,” the antics of the Senate have shown that Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Treasurer have simply handed dozens of customised targets to their opponents to lie about and frighten the living daylights out of people. And they are paying the price in opinion polling, despite the fact most of those scary grenades are never going to be permitted to explode.
The simpler approach might have been better: abandon the National Disability Insurance Scheme, abandon the co-called Gonski reforms, and lift the GST to 15% whilst providing some targeted relief to pensioners and low-income earners.
Anecdotally, there is some Senate support for scrapping the Gonski funding, which is not tied to any deliverables in terms of educational outcomes; anecdotally, there is some Senate support for scrapping the NDIS, which Labor’s own figures cost at $22bn per annum once fully operational to benefit just 130,000 people at an average cost of $170,000 per annum, per head. This is not value for money, it is not affordable, and it is not justifiable in the context of a federal budget falling apart at the seams.
And there is, anecdotally, some Senate support for raising the GST, which would have the critical effect of solidifying government revenues as receipts from income tax goes into decline, whilst spending on goods and services will continue to increase in real terms well into the future.
Whether that Senate support for any or all of the three changes is adequate to get them legislated remains an unknown. But even one or two of them would go a long way toward achieving what the Coalition’s budget won’t achieve because it will, mostly, never become law.
People have a right to be angry if they choose; after all, half the politicians in Canberra are saying what anyone who dislikes the idea of reduced government spending wants to hear when it equates to less (taxpayer-funded) money in their pockets.
The problem is that those who perpetuate such messages are committing a fundamental breach of faith with the very people they claim to be defenders of; unless something drastic is done, and quickly, there won’t be any money to shovel out. When that point comes, the options to fix the mess will be positively draconian compared to what the government has tried to do now.
In ten years’ time — if the worst projections of the state of the budget become reality — the option of kicking the problem down the road for someone else to deal with, as Labor, the Greens and the Palmer crowd seek to do now for their own purposes, simply won’t exist.
Australia might not be in dire straits today but the fact is that unless the undeniable structural flaws in the budget are fixed now, desperate times loom only just beyond the horizon.
This is why I am prepared to give the ABC some credit for finally reporting on the scope of the problem where it had previously sought to suggest none existed. It is to be hoped that others, to date blinkered by their advocacy of the Left, now follow suit.
In the final analysis, the national interest is far more important than that of any political party. There are too many spheres of influence in this country who should start to behave accordingly.