A Timely Reminder: Bill Shorten Is Not A Leader

THREE DAYS from an election he is almost certain to lose, Bill Shorten is thrashing around in desperation — saying literally anything he thinks will frighten voters into voting against the Coalition — in a mad lunge for power designed to achieve his delusional lifelong “destiny” to be Prime Minister: and little else. With the passage of time, people can forget who it really is they are dealing with. Tonight, we offer them a timely reminder.

Near the end of one of the most uninspiring and visionless election campaigns seen in Australia for some time, I think it is safe to say there will be a lot of let-down people in this country on Sunday morning, irrespective of their political stripe; terrified of upsetting the delicate relationship with the conservatives in his party, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has offered a tepid and limited agenda that will do little to redress the critical structural problems that are becoming endemic in the governance of the Commonwealth — and this, combined with an upper house campaign likely to cede, rather than gain, ground — probably means that most of Turnbull’s offering will never be legislated anyway.

Bill Shorten, however, is a different proposition altogether.

It used to be the case in conservative eyes that despite political differences, the Labor Party produced leaders worthy of the title and deserving of cross-party respect; even the ones who never made it — the Beazleys, the Creans, and even the Lathams of the ALP — were decent and thoughtful individuals dedicated to what they believed in and to what their party stood for (even if, from the other end of the political spectrum, many of us thought they were wrong) and who could rightfully claim to have upheld traditions of public service that befit those elected to perform it.

About a decade ago, this fine history was shattered — perhaps irrevocably — with the ALP leadership becoming the plaything and the preserve of faceless factional thugs and other hoodlums with no known connection to the national interest; from the imbecilic cretin Kevin Rudd (with his coterie of adolescent advisers and his vile, abusive, micromanaging narcissism) to shyster and union cat’s paw Julia Gillard, nobody could accuse Labor of producing leaders in recent years who merit and/or warrant public respect.

But Shorten — currently lying to Australia for all he is worth about some fictitious Liberal Party plot to privatise Medicare — takes the biscuit.

Shorten’s goons actually had the temerity to complain in social media last week that the panel for the ABC’s lamentable #QandA programme — the week he appeared on the show solus — was “stacked” because three of the five panellists were not fully owned, completely controlled mouthpieces of the ALP and/or the wider Left; “ABC bias” was the catchphrase, and aside from the fact host Tony Jones could be seen as automatically squaring the ledger 3-all, the idea of the ABC (and of that God-forsaken programme in particular) ever exercising wilful political bias toward the Coalition ranks as the dumbest pronouncement on Australian politics this year to date.

The reason I raise this story is because organising squads of goons — to hit social media, or to turn up as rent-a-crowd ballast at ALP-sponsored demonstrations to provide “community” support, or to rig the questions at a Labor members’ forum on his way to securing the leadership against Anthony Albanese in 2013 — is not a mark of a leader.

It might make Shorten adept at organising people and persuading (or forcing) them to do what he wants them to do: this is not leadership.

And in every aspect of Shorten’s performance of his duties as “leader” — the lies, the distortions of opponents’ words and statements, the bloody-minded obstruction, and the fantasy of his entitlement to the Prime Ministership — this lack of leadership has been palpable, tangible, and is likely to prove the ultimate difference between Turnbull being re-elected or losing on Saturday evening,

Tonight’s article is intentionally brief; I want to share with viewers a very short trip down memory lane, to the last (and only) time any serious attempt was made by the Coalition to tear away the myth of Bill Shorten the “leader.”

Clearly, there are many things I could add — as I have in the past few days, and will likely also do in the next — but the problem with fast-moving 24/7 media cycles these days is that all too often, things get swept away in the rear view mirror: and rather than them never be seen again, the proper use of certain materials is to ensure they are recycled, placed once again before the target audience, and repeated whenever appropriate.

With Bill Shorten expecting to become Prime Minister on Saturday, now is indeed such a time.

I would like to urge readers to not only spend the three minutes reacquainting themselves, through the video posted this evening, with Shorten’s dubious rap sheet since entering federal Parliament, but to consider distributing it throughout their networks (along with this article) to ensure that as widely as possible, this message on the dreadful specimen masquerading as a suitable candidate for the top job in Australian politics is heard, shared, and recirculated.

If Turnbull indeed wins this election — as consensus now indicates he will — it is to be hoped the ALP can break with the dubious “modern” tradition it established a decade ago of identifying the least electable shitbag in its midst, and making him or her the leader of the party: I might be archly partisan, and it is true I oppose the ALP with every fibre of my being. But I wouldn’t mind having an opponent led by a decent human being for a change. The tone of my critiques would temper considerably were it to occur.

But I have heard, like everyone else, that Shorten thinks he should be given a second chance to win for Labor if he goes down, as expected, on Saturday; the national interest will be well served if his political career is instead terminated altogether in three days’ time, and to this end, let’s all get busy — and start spreading the word.

 

Budget 2016: Cautious, Constrained, Responsible Without Sass

SHORT OF BORROWING billions to bankroll reprehensible recurrent spending — as Labor spent six years doing in office — the 2016 budget is probably the nimblest item that could have been fashioned from almost non-existent means; hemmed in by high deficits and an opposition that has flatly blocked all attempts by the Coalition to fix them, Treasurer Scott Morrison has offered the government a bauble when there is literally nothing better to sell.

If you expected very little from Scott Morrison’s first budget as Treasurer, then this morning you are probably not disappointed; that’s not to say the budget was bad, but that it represented the product of the best fist that could be made of the task in difficult economic circumstances and walled in by oceans of budgetary red ink.

The Labor Party is crowing today about mythical unfunded tax cuts and other programs — and we will come back to them — but on face value, Morrison has done all that could be asked of him in delivering a budget that charted a middle course between the increasingly urgent need to put a scythe through unfunded and wasteful Labor spending programs on the one hand, and to provide the government with a benign (and even modestly generous) document that would allow it to fight an imminent election as a responsible manager on the other.

And in fact, with an eye to deteriorating opinion polls and the very real danger of election defeat, the budget appears as oriented toward neutralising ALP advantage as with any concern for the implementation of any orthodox program of Coalition initiatives.

The truth is that there is very little for most people to get either excited or angry about here, although there are exceptions; smokers (and I’m one) are just about ready to tell governments of all stripes to insert their taxes where the sun doesn’t shine: nobody denies smoking is bad for you, but the fatties who are eating their way into an obesity-initiated diabetes epidemic that will soon dwarf the impost of smoking-related illness on the health system, or boozing types who cause so much social damage in addition to the costs of treating alcohol-related illnesses, have been left alone once again, and any righteous prat who thinks rising tobacco taxes are clever in that context ought to recognise that this is no health measure in any way, shape, or form.*

Similarly, families — waiting on the government’s much-hyped childcare revamp in the face of ballooning costs — have been made to wait another year; some decry this assistance as “middle class welfare” and perhaps it is, but the hard truth is that no childcare usually equals no second income in most lower and middle class families: the costs were compounded under Julia Gillard by Labor’s carer ratios, as accredited centres are required to have one qualified professional for every five kids in attendance, and it’s parents who pay for this in rocketing day fees.

And some high income earners will surrender several billion dollars in cuts to superannuation concessions that I would suggest most will barely notice, or miss.

But for the most part, the initiatives in the budget — whilst mostly welcome — are unexceptional, and are largely a shuffle of relatively small amounts of money.

Abolishing the high income surcharge for those earning more than $180,000 per annum is welcome, and should be applauded; this impost — not supported by this column in any way when announced in 2014 — was “sold” as a temporary measure and as such, the government deserves acknowledgement for keeping its promise in the face of calls from Labor and the Communist Party Greens for it to be retained permanently.

The modest tax cut for average wage earners, lifting the threshold for the 37c tax bracket from $80,000 to $87,000 has merit, removing a bar to incentive for this cohort to work harder without incurring higher levels of taxation; it should be emphasised that both the value of the tax cut and its cost to the budget are modest, whatever Labor “leader” Bill Shorten and his shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen, have to say about it.

And just on that point, Bowen’s lament that there is nothing in the budget for the lowest income earners should be ignored: if you earn less than $20,000 you pay no tax as it stands, and with the various offsets, subsidies and other income support measures provided for low income earners, those on $35-$40k pay no net tax. If you don’t pay tax it’s an oxymoron to suggest you deserve a tax cut. What Labor really wants to give to low income earners is a handout to purchase their allegiance, and with the budget still in the state Labor left it in, there’s no money for that even if Morrison wanted to oblige (which I doubt).

I do think — as we’ve discussed over the past month or so — that the government has taken a calculated risk in straying onto Labor’s preferred turf with this budget: tobacco tax hikes, superannuation changes and a “crackdown” on multinational tax avoidance are all issues the ALP has rabbited on about since it lost office in 2013, having failed to solve in six years the very problems it immediately began to insist were so urgent.

And the small amounts of extra money earmarked for Health and Education will buy the Coalition little favour among the lobbies who fret over raw dollar amounts as symbols of adequacy in these portfolios, however well targeted they are, and will fuel Labor’s attempts to trump the government in these areas.

But the tax relief for small businesses — cutting the applicable rate from 28.5% to 27.5%, and on a scaled basis eventually to 25% for all businesses within a decade, is to be lauded: business taxes in this country are among the highest in the developed world, and any relief that can be delivered is an investment in future jobs and opportunities for growth.

Similarly, tightly targeted measures for low income workers — including mothers returning to the workforce after childbirth — offers the government tools with which to appeal to the “battler” constituency often identified with the Howard government, and which the Turnbull regime desperately needs to keep onside if it is to have any hope of retaining office.

And the “jobs plan” announced by Morrison to target youth unemployment — PaTH — appears, whilst cumbersome at first glance, to represent a new (or new-ish) strategy to package more meaningful vocational training with incentives to employers to trail young people before deciding whether to hire them permanently, with additional incentives wherever they do.

There are some heroic assumptions in the budget: the price of iron ore, for one thing, remaining at or near $55/ton; if that collapses further (as it did last year) then Morrison’s revenue predictions are going to have a huge hole punched into them.

And predictions of GDP growth of 2.5% in the coming year, rising to 3% for the remainder of the forward estimates period, seem hopeful against the backdrop of a softening economy and the threat of a second global financial crisis just as world markets have barely recovered from the first.

In this context, the prediction of a $39 billion deficit this year, falling to $6 billion in four years’ time, may prove heroic indeed.

Do I think this is a good budget? It’s OK, but as I said at the outset, Morrison has fashioned this document from virtually non-existent means: it isn’t quite a case of making a silk purse from a sow’s ear, but it is cautious, responsible without being flashy or sassy, innocent of the multi-billion dollar pork barrels that too often get wheeled out this close to an election, and gives the government an inoffensive blueprint to take to the people when yesterday it had nothing substantial to offer.

Do I think the electorate will buy it? It should, if Morrison and Malcolm Turnbull are the astute salespeople we were promised they were back in September last year, when Turnbull rolled Tony Abbott out of the Prime Ministership, but the precedent of their efforts on tax “reform” earlier this year hardly inspires confidence.

For if they aren’t — and this is a certain bet — when the full fury of Labor’s outrage and fear campaign cranks up to top gear today and tomorrow, the government will sustain enormous damage; already trailing in the polls, Turnbull and Morrison are going to need to be on their game if this budget really is the spearhead of the Coalition’s electoral positioning for a win on 2 July.

As for the ALP, it has no right to talk of unfunded policies — it was the greatest practitioner of this contemptible political art under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard — and it has no right to try to blame the Coalition for continued high deficits, given the problem was created on its own watch, and it has gone out of its way ever since through marshalling opposition in the Senate to ensure any attempt to fix those deficits has proven impossible.

At the end of the day, voters’ judgement of this budget may come down to a contest between the sales skills of the Prime Minister and his Treasurer, and the capacity for Labor to make its latest barrage of bullshit convincing to enough swinging voters to get it across the line.

For now at least, the government has something to sell that has some merit. What kind of shape it’s in after a day, a week, or two months of the coming ALP onslaught will determine the Coalition’s fate — and the political future of Scott Morrison with it.

 

*Comments about the positive aspects of more tobacco tax will be deleted. Not today, thanks.

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.

 

Exposing Shorten: Economic Neanderthal, Wrecker, And Thug

WHETHER OR NOT the budget delivered on Tuesday by the Abbott government is popular or adequately sold, a powerful developing theme coincidentally crystallised in Labor “leader” Bill Shorten’s speech in reply; there have been ample recent signs Shorten is no more than a wrecker, a thug, and — economically — a Neanderthal. His real value to Australia, or lack of it, has been exposed: and with it, his party to a snap election it will lose badly.

It didn’t take long, watching Bill Shorten’s address in reply to the 2015 budget this week, for the game to be given away; the horde of cheering morons packed into the public gallery at Parliament was in full flight before Shorten even uttered a word — in flagrant disregard for the convention that silence is to be observed in the gallery, as the Labor apparatchiks who organised their presence well know — and the fixed smirks worn by MPs behind Shorten, as he began to speak, more or less confirmed that this was just another of the vacuous, vapid stunts that characterise the ALP these days, and which are apparently Labor’s answer to the serious problems facing this country under its present puerile “leadership.”

This week has been one that has found me too stretched for time to have commented in a timely fashion on Shorten’s budget reply speech, but in some ways that only feeds into the argument I was going to make of it anyway; back on Tuesday I published a teaser to the effect that he had signed his own death warrant: and the Shorten budget speech on Thursday, with its coterie of simpering Labor stooges breaching parliamentary rules with the explicit sanction of their “leader,” should alarm and disgust any floating voter looking to the ALP to provide an alternative vision for government, or to anyone who expects their political representatives to advocate responsible, affordable and realistic programs for public evaluation.

Nothing that emanates from the ALP these days could be characterised as responsible, affordable, and/or realistic.

But first things first: seeing this article will deal at least in part with Shorten’s response to the 2015 budget, those readers who didn’t see the speech on Thursday night might as well watch it here; make yourself a cup of strong coffee before you get started with it, for this is not the kind of “theatre” likely to stop you from drifting off into a daydream and/or to sleep.

To say that it is offensive in the extreme that Shorten could deliver this particular speech with a straight face — and no apparent sense of irony — is to understate the matter; replete with haughtily and righteously pious drivel, this “attack” on the Abbott government seeks to make a virtue of the disruptive conduct Labor under Shorten has engaged in: and to turn it against the Coalition.

Nobody is naive enough to think that politics is anything other than a contest to win power; as readers have heard me say multiple times, the sole purpose of the existence of political parties is to win elections, for without the ability to govern, it is (obviously) not possible to implement platforms of policy that are built on the ideas that win and lose elections in the first place.

But with governing comes responsibility, and the last Labor government — in which Shorten was a minister — was a poster pin-up of precisely what not to do in this regard; with a vicious class-based attack on anyone disinclined to vote for the ALP came the legislation of tens of billions of dollars in additional recurrent annual expenditure, and this money (characterised before the 2013 election as a “booby-trapping” of the federal budget) has resulted in a structural chasm in the budget to the tune of about $50 billion per year.

The end result is that federal debt now sits at close to half a trillion dollars — where it was ZERO less than a decade ago — and is rocketing.

Some readers may have heard Shorten on Melbourne radio station 3AW on Wednesday, when he refused no fewer than 13 times to accept any responsibility on behalf of the ALP for the criminally negligent mismanagement inflicted on the national finances during the six years of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government. You can listen to his award-winning performance on Neil Mitchell’s morning programme here. Look for it seven and a half minutes in.

Even so, he was prepared to accuse the Abbott government of “sitting back” and allowing the budget deficit to continue to grow — despite the fact that under his so-called “leadership,” Labor in the Senate has opposed every Coalition measure that cuts expenditure whilst supporting anything that increases it.

Having hounded the Coalition for years over its paid parental leave scheme — “$50,000 for millionaires,” Labor used to rant — Shorten now has the bald-faced nerve to try to rip into the government for abandoning the promised scheme despite making it virtually impossible to introduce, and apparently innocent to the contradiction in his argument that abandoning the scheme is an “attack on families” despite the money effectively being diverted to a package built around childcare: hardly an attack on families at all.

Shorten told Mitchell the deficit inherited by the Coalition was “$16, $17 billion” — an understatement by some 60%.

Inn trying to avoid admitting Labor was responsible for plunging the budget into deficit in the first place, he tried to postulate on the Mitchell programme that Labor sought to get the deficit under control, despite doing everything in its power to blow out spending — and debt — as far as humanly possible thanks to a Senate profoundly hostile to the government.

Shorten “accepts the responsibility for reducing the deficit.” How? He blathers about taxing multinationals and hacking into superannuation for “the rich,” but the first of these ideas has proven impossible to achieve by governments around the world and the latter, if implemented, would pose such a disincentive for better-off people to save as to encourage them to relocate their tax affairs offshore (thus eliminating any benefit from the initiative altogether).

Yet so shallow is his hollow populist pitch — and so brazenly dishonest in view of the megabucks pumped into recurrent social spending by the Gillard government that didn’t even exist a few years ago — that anything that produces a single loser is, in Shorten’s warped and distorted world view, and election-winning issue for Labor to jump all over, making copious amounts of noise in public and causing utter gridlock in Parliament thanks to the complicity of Labor’s ready allies at the Communist Party Greens, the pro-ALP, anti-Australia circus that is the Palmer United Party, and the contemptible turncoats who have slithered from Palmer’s malignant grasp but who nonetheless continue to spit enough of their old boss’ vengeful anti-Coalition venom to poison a nest of tiger snakes with.

I have warned my readers in the past that the only way Shorten can live up to his rhetoric — if he could even be bothered, if and when he managed to get his arse back into a ministerial leather chair — is by legislating enormous increases to income tax; $50 billion per annum is not going to be reaped by shutting off superannuation tax concessions to a couple of hundred thousand wealthy Australians, and it isn’t going to be reaped (on Labor’s own, presumably overblown, figures) from a $7 billion tax on multinationals.

And Shorten’s suggestion he would be better than the Coalition for business confidence when the last Labor government saddled the business community with the union-oriented Fair Work regime, almost untrammelled rights for union access to every workplace in the country, the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission (legislating, in effect, for industrial anarchy on building sites), superannuation guarantee charge increases, and a mining tax that killed investor confidence whilst raising no money, is literally unbelievable.

Are my criticisms of Shorten repetitive? Perhaps. But they canvass sentiments and analysis that the man himself has until very recently been largely spared by the non-ABC/Fairfax press. More on that shortly.

But anyone who still wants to accuse me of simple partisanship in trying to tear Shorten to shreds should reacquaint themselves with much that I have published over the past year about the Abbott government: its budget, its woeful ineptitude selling it, and the malevolent and counter-productive forces that for so long after last year’s budget drove what should have been a competently conservative government into the realm of ineffectual me-tooism and impotent desperation, culminating in a botched move on Tony Abbott’s leadership that has somehow rebooted the Coalition and sparked a revival in its fortunes.

How Tuesday’s budget plays out with the electorate remains to be seen, but the early signposts are positive.

Yet whether the budget ignites a sustained recovery in the government’s poll ratings — possibly leading to an election later this year — or flounders is scarcely the point today.

I decided to launch a fresh attack on Shorten upon seeing an article that appeared in The Australian two weeks ago; if there is any positive at all to the extreme limits my media activities have placed on my ability to regularly post articles in this column over the past month or two, it lies in this case in the fact that this particular article is even more pertinent now than when I originally intended to discuss it with readers, and if anything it makes the case against Shorten and his purported suitability to ever be Prime Minister exponentially more potent.

Unlike Shorten, I hold the ALP directly responsible for the budgetary abyss that sees Australia borrowing a billion dollars per week to meet its spending commitments, despite yet another revenue increase for the coming financial year of more than 5%; this country doesn’t have a “revenue problem” but a spending problem: and to the extent revenue is responsible for it at all, it’s only on account of the fact that revenue growth has (predictably) fallen well below the magic pudding levels held out by the Gillard government and its snake oil salesman-in-chief, the self-important reprobate and former Treasurer Wayne Swan.

Unlike Shorten, I not only accept the budget needs to be fixed, but believe a responsible government has no choice but to do so: with debt already at the historic half-billion dollar level once the next four years of deficits run their course, Australia is creeping e’er slowly further and further into the red — to the point another five to ten years is all that stands between Australia surrendering her historically robust position and assuming the same basket case realities that state socialism has wrought across Europe, and which Obama socialism has seen infect the USA with the same insidious disease of borderline solvency staved off only by borrowed trillions from countries not historically well-disposed toward Western interests.

And unlike Shorten, I acknowledge that fixing the problem is inevitably going to produce losers, as monies that ought never have become staples of governance in the first place are at least wound back to place the entire edifice onto a sounder and more sustainable footing.

To this end, the worthy but totally unfunded — and completely unaffordable — National Disability Insurance Scheme, with its looming annual cost of more than $20 billion, should be repealed. There is no case for introducing that sort of program, however commendable, when the full equivalent cost must be borrowed abroad to realise it.

What’s left of the First Home Buyers’ Scheme, which has served little purpose other than to help artificially fuel an unstable and unsustainable domestic housing bubble, should also be repealed.

But in his quest to be all things to all people, whilst parading “solutions” that apparently hurt nobody except “the rich,” Shorten has shown himself to be completely divorced from reality.

That reality, simply stated, is that his “solutions” are likely to blow the hole in the budget wider and deeper, and achieve no more than to encourage indolence and a mentality of state dependence.

In turn, that dependence complex means a shrinking band of taxpayers being hit harder and harder to fund the addiction to handouts for the rest of the population; this isn’t a hard-hearted or cavalier sentiment. But when the people targeted are working families, wage and salary earners and other generators of tax cash earmarked for social spending — as they were in last year’s Joe Hockey Horror Show — there is a very big problem when extravagances like the NDIS are insulated from so much as a red cent in expenditure reductions.

Returning to the piece in The Australian, the thing that caught my eye was Labor Party anger (read: Shorten’s fury that anyone outside the Coalition would dare sabotage his imbecilic populist politicking) over the Greens, Nick Xenophon, and others on the Senate crossbench apparently being prepared to consider a new approach to reining in ballooning costs associated with the age pension, whereby indexation remains linked to wages rather than consumer price inflation — preserving increases at the higher rate demanded by the government’s opponents — whilst increasing the taper rate for anyone collecting a part pension with more than $820,000 in assets over and above the family home.

I’d make the point that if those assets are generating returns of 5%, there is no case for the taxpayer to be forking out more on top; and if irresponsible largesse like the NDIS is to be retained intact, this is exactly the sort of budget cut that needs to be made: yes, the people affected will be “losers.” But no-one can plausibly argue that retirees with their own home, the better part of another million dollars in assets and whatever investment return those assets generate on top of that are either hard done by or living on skid row.

Yet the Greens seem prepared to at least countenance a compromise on pensions, and the interesting thing there is that since the article was published, that party has replaced its sanctimonious battleaxe of a leader with an individual whose stated aim is to double Greens support at Labor’s expense, and to make the Greens a more mainstream party of the Left. It remains to be seen whether the hardcore socialists and Communists in his midst will ever permit this to occur, but an attempt to be responsible on territory Labor under Shorten refuses to be can hardly be criticised.

For perspective, Labor has hit out at the government’s attempts to help millions of middle Australians — most in dual income families earning much less than $150,000 per year — with childcare expenses that can easily exceed the monthly mortgage payment or rent bill (even after government assistance has been factored in). It says more about the childcare sector than anything else, and Labor’s cost-inflating fingerprints are all over this as well, with things like legislated 1:5 staff ratios and mandated minimum educational qualifications enshrined on the ALP’s watch in office.

But childcare is a convenient target because it enables Shorten to hypocritically tear into the government for abandoning its paid parental leave scheme which Labor expressly sought to have abandoned. You can’t have it both ways. But for Bill Shorten, it seems he is content to concurrently have his shit on the one hand, and force millions of Australians to eat it on the other.

The man is a political and economic abomination.

And who the hell does he think he is to be angry the Greens deign to potentially deal with the Abbott government?

Shorten’s political position appears to be, “how dare the government attempt to fix the budget?” It’s a contemptible stance — not least on account of the complete lack of ideas that mean two-tenths of diddlysquat that he is prepared to contribute — that deserves to cost him his career.

The additional, economically fatal, problem with Shorten is that he can be counted on to implement most (if not all) of his irresponsible, half-arsed thought bubbles if ever elected, along with massive hikes in income taxes to pay for them.

Average wage earners are overburdened as it is. Housing and essential living costs have never been more expensive in this country. By the time Labor left office 18 months ago, it was cheaper (on OECD figures) to live in Britain than it is in Australia: an absolute indictment on any Australian government. Should Labor ever be elected on the kind of platform Shorten espouses, the argument for continuing to live in this country will quickly become an emotional and sentimental one only, for there are plenty of first world countries not cannibalising their way of life in the name of the kind of smug expediency Shorten and his God-forsaken party apparently aspire to.

It is for this reason, listening to Shorten accuse the Abbott government of “doubling” the size of the budget deficit when he has directly overseen the blockage of tens of billions of dollars in budget savings in the Senate (irrespective of what you think of the methods used to identify them), the instinct of thinking people to yell obscenities at the moving head on the TV screen is almost irresistible.

It is for this reason that when listening to Shorten’s budget reply speech, pledges to wipe out the HECS debts of 100,000 maths, science and engineering students should elicit a shudder of horror, not excitement; and even if this were a good thing at all, the message such a policy sends to students of the Arts, or Law, or trades such as the manual arts or vocations like being a chef is a terrible one indeed.

It is for this reason that pledges from Shorten to give business a 5% tax cut should be contemptuously ignored: if implemented, such a cut would be unfunded; if reneged upon, Shorten would be proven a liar. Either way, there is nothing in it for Australia, or for Australians. It is just about trying to win power.

It is for this reason that when Shorten talks of ending bracket creep and indexing income tax scales, people can believe it, for even massively raised tax brackets can be indexed. And under Shorten, they would be — once wage earners carried even more of the burden for Labor’s mismanagement and incompetence.

Shorten’s continued ranting about “$100,000 degrees” is ridiculous — there aren’t any — and his blather about an “$80bn cut to education and health” places an obligation on every political  journalist in this country to note that unlegislated ALP election promises are not “funding,” and Liberal Party refusals to match these non-existent monies do not amount to “cuts.”

And when it’s remembered that Shorten’s only other announced policy apart from hitting multinationals (unachievable) and hitting the rich through superannuation (insufficient to fix the budget,  even if feasible) is to abolish the private health insurance rebate, instantly pulling tens of billions of dollars out of the health system through a mix of rebate money and policyholder fees, and causing the collapse of the healthcare sector in Australia as we know it at a stroke, there is no identifiable value to be derived from even having Shorten in Parliament at all, let alone as a candidate for the Prime Ministership.

As I suggested earlier, I think there’s an election coming off the back of Tuesday’s budget; if the reaction is good, and it lasts for a month or so, then once the winter school holidays are out of the way it’s likely to be on.

Despite appearances to the contrary (and earlier judgements based on circumstances that prevailed when they were made), Shorten is ill-equipped to face an election. His party would lose badly, even if a double dissolution failed to clean up the mess in the Senate.

But that consideration is not Shorten’s to worry about. In the aftermath, he would no longer be charged with worrying about it at all.

In the end, the only person Shorten could give a rat’s arse about is himself; the only thing he cares about is becoming Prime Minister. And the millions of people dependent on welfare handouts — most legitimately, as well as some who should be prosecuted for fraud — ought all remember that some day, the endless river of largesse will run dry unless something is done to make sure it’s possible for it to continue to even flow at all.

Happily, some journalists are becoming increasingly open about the cretin Shorten and his faults; these pieces (here and here) are merely the most recent I have seen. Unsurprisingly, neither is from Fairfax or the ABC.

But when you weigh Shorten’s behaviour, the positions his party has taken in the Senate under his “leadership,” and “initiatives” he has announced to date, the truth becomes all too clear: he is nothing more than a wrecker, a thug, and an economic Neanderthal; his “policy” prescriptions add up to a further significant drain on Commonwealth finances at a time they already sit in an urgent, Labor-engineered state of disrepair.

His “leadership,” for the little to nothing it is worth, would guide Australia only so far as further along the path of ruin such luminaries as Rudd, and Gillard, and Swan — and, indeed, Shorten himself — set it on when last they held office.

And yet again, he is a walking, talking embodiment of the old truism that Labor cares about power, not people; the lives of millions of good Australians would be adversely and perhaps permanently impacted by any government ever presided over — God forbid — by William Richard Shorten.

Bill Shorten Budget Reply And Accompanying Article

JUST A SHORT note from me to readers of The Red And The Blue this morning; in the wake of opposition “leader” Bill Shorten’s speech in reply last night to the 2015 federal budget, the article intended for publication this morning in this column has been involuntarily deferred, and will appear on this site by about 9pm tonight, Melbourne time. I do apologise for the inconvenience and for the delay.

Regrettably, a partially written article doesn’t cut it: I have been working on a piece in response to the blather and bullshit that passes for the official Labor response to this year’s budget, but unfortunately, it will not appear on the website until later on this evening.

I’ve had something pop up out of left field this morning and this, combined with a pre-existing commitment last night, means the promised article dealing with Shorten is going to have to wait, although I am sure readers will enjoy it when finished and published tonight.

I simply say that the new term I am using to describe opposition “leader” Bill Shorten — economic Neanderthal — has been proven perfectly apt in the past week or so and, last night, when the occasion called for some semblance of responsibility; instead, all we got was more of the vacuous, turgid garbage that has come to characterise this Labor “leader” and this phase of the ALP’s complete lack of any agenda to meaningfully govern this country if the privilege to do so were to go its way.

Indeed, the entrenched sense of entitlement to govern that Labor seems to arrogate to itself these days was well and truly on display.

I will post notice on Twitter when the full article is finished and published — probably at about 9pm tonight — and readers who don’t already follow me can do so at @theredandblue.

In the meantime, I’ll be paying close attention to the fallout from Shorten’s rantings as I go about my business today thanks to the peculiarities of national radio.

See you all tonight.

 

Budget 2015: Politically Smart, Economically Vapid

THE ABBOTT GOVERNMENT has delivered its second budget which, whilst by no means emulating the disgraceful effort of 2014, nonetheless eschews prudent stewardship of the national finances in favour of soft decisions and an eye to opinion polls; despite a more realistic appraisal of revenue and outgoings, this budget assumes far too much of medium-term growth and can only have been framed with an early election this year in mind.

To be clear, I am not going to savage the second budget produced by Prime Minister Tony Abbott and his Treasurer, Joe Hockey, in the emphatic and barely equivocal terms with which I tore into last year’s politically and economically reprehensible effort.

But I am not going to lavish praise all over it either, aside from noting that it is a substantially better offering that is nonetheless as notable for what it omits as for what it includes.

The idea of stimulating small business through the indirect method of providing writedowns against tax for capital equipment purchases of up to $20,000 per item is welcome — provided those businesses who might best benefit from it are able to fund the requisite purchases in the first place — and as a rule, anything that makes conditions easier for the sector upon which real employment growth in Australia rests is a good thing.

Changes to childcare subsidies should, at face value, make it easier for working families with children, as this non-discretionary cost of having two income earners per household has rocketed, unregulated, to the point that even after government assistance some families earning well below $150,000 per annum have seen out-of-pocket childcare expenses surge into the tens of thousands of dollars per year: which probably says more about the nature of the early childhood sector than it does per se about the notion of government assistance in this regard at all.

Changes to age pensions that see wealthy retirees stripped of the stipend whilst providing a little each fortnight more for those with fewer or no assets is a modest but necessary tweak that should slightly rein in the ballooning welfare expenditure associated with an ageing population whilst moving the emphasis of this money ever so marginally more in favour of those who actually need income support as opposed to those who do not.

And moves to cut foreign aid, eliminate “double dipping” on parenting payments for employees with access to employer-provided programs, and to increase Defence spending to place the nation’s armed forces on a more sustainable footing are all worthy of praise.

I specifically want to mention the cut in the waiting time for the dole for young people from six months to four weeks as eliminating a needlessly provocative and ridiculously hard-hearted measure aimed at victimising the young in order to avoid serious spending cuts where they should have been made last year, whilst allowing Hockey to run around presenting as some kind of macho he-man when in fact, his first budget was a stinking turd that was an embarrassment to the principles and objectives of conservative government.

But the second Hockey budget (like many of its recent predecessors) relies on suspiciously optimistic assumptions about economic growth, which it sees accelerating to 3.25% within two years.

In further detonation of the myth about collapsing revenues — peddled by both sides of politics to justify budget deficits rather than tackle spending — this budget forecasts a rise in receipts of some 5%, to $405 billion.

But budget deficits are still forecast to continue as far as they eye can see, totalling some $85 billion over the next four years, and with the national debt pile rocketing past $400 billion and not looking like being repaid at all at any time soon.

A budget surplus is now said to be deliverable in 2020, at least two additional federal elections away, and thus exempt — for now — from any serious electoral consequence.

My greatest criticism of this budget is that once again, it leaves expensive social spending programs legislated as budget traps by the Gillard-Rudd government untouched; Exhibit #1 in this shocking piece of negligence is the National Disability Insurance Scheme, whose outrageously unfunded impost on the bottom line is starting to manifest itself, and which Labor’s own people estimate will cost $22 billion per year in outgoings once the scheme is fully operational by 2022.

The government appears to remain unwilling or unable to slap down or otherwise neutralise the wantonly destructive antics of the Senate: it can’t by virtue of the composition of the Senate and — poorly equipped as the Abbott government seems to be when it comes to the ability to sell anything or win and carry the economic debate — it also seems to have given up trying by way of public discourse and reasoned argument.

Still, the piecemeal and vicious attempt to close the shortfall that Hockey attempted last year — targeting swinging Coalition voters in marginal seats with a mixture of tax rises, cuts to government benefits and increased imposts on essential expense items — has, wisely, been avoided this time around.

I think this budget — with its modest savings measures and big-ticket measures aimed at families and small business is politically shrewd, at least in the short-term sense.

And to that end, it would defy belief were it not to be followed fairly quickly by an early election — perhaps for both Houses of Parliament — and possibly as soon as July or August.

If I were to score last year’s budget out of ten, I would be hard-pressed to give it any more than about a 2; this year’s effort is better — marginally — and I think the bare pass mark of 5 out of ten is probably what it deserves.

We will talk an awful lot about the budget and the measures it contains in coming days and weeks, and as the shakeout from Hockey’s second budget becomes fully apparent, I will talk in more detail about the merits (or otherwise) of the program he delivered last night.

But when all is said and done, this was a mildly expansionary election budget, and it would be foolish to draw any other conclusion: which is why an early election this year must now be regarded as a virtual certainty depending on the reaction to the budget in opinion polling.

My hope would be that if re-elected, the government — preferably under a new Treasurer — gets on with cutting expenditures that ought never have been legislated as political booby traps, and to this end, at some point it is to be hoped the government gets its shit together in terms of its capacity to actually sell its initiatives, or even persuasively make the public case for them at all.

In the meantime, this is an economically dubious budget that nevertheless finally provides government MPs with something positive to sell, whatever you might think of those measures as they apply to your own circumstances personally; and to that end, the politically deft touch with which this has been crafted should, on the balance of probabilities, at least secure Abbott the second term required for a more serious attempt at prevailing as a competent economic management outfit.

To put not too fine a point on it, I still think the Abbott government has on balance squandered the opportunity it secured in September 2013. It will probably now win another term in office. Unless better use of that mandate (and better management of the risks and threats ranged against it) is exhibited during that time, a third term is probably a bridge too far: and yes, I use that particular idiom most advisedly today.

 

GST: Hockey Reform Paper To Champion Consumption Tax Rise

IN A U-urn, Treasurer Joe Hockey says he will explore changes to the base and rate of GST in examining possible reforms to Australia’s tax system, and whilst this is commendable — and shows a more realistic approach to budget reform — the probability Labor will scuttle any constructive proposal remains high. Hockey, nonetheless, deserves praise for finally confronting the crucial link in any serious attempt to fix the budget revenue base.

What a difference a few weeks can make.

Today’s post really is a quick one, on the run this morning as I am, but I wanted to revisit the issue of GST reform — something near to my heart where matters of budget policy are concerned — and the apparent about-face the Treasurer has performed on this critical point.

Not three weeks ago, I lambasted Joe Hockey in this column for ruling out anything to do with trying to change the rate or base of the GST — it was all too hard, he said, and there was “no point” — but now, apparently on the pretext that all of the current round of state elections are out of the way, Hockey says he wants to have “fair dinkum discussions” with state Treasurers about broadening and lifting the GST.

A little extra reading from today’s press can be accessed here and here, and whilst these articles may not perhaps address the critical point at the heart of any sensible debate over GST reform, the points they add go some way to fleshing out the case as to why it is this particular tax that potentially holds the key to remedying a gaping (and growing) structural hole in government sector revenue receipts.

Quite simply — and as we have also discussed — the federal government’s reliance on income taxes has become an unhealthy one, to say the least; with an ageing population and a third of the total population dependent on some form of government handout, the capacity of income taxes to contribute adequate revenues to fund government service delivery is shrinking: and the only way to redress this, in isolation, is through bracket creep and lifting marginal tax rates.

In other words, the tax burden is increasingly shouldered by a disproportionate and shrinking contingent of the population: hardly fair, to use a term beloved of Labor, or conducive to savings and wealth accrual (any discussion around “the rich” not on my radar today).

A lifting and broadening of the GST, however — a growth tax that will rise as the economy expands and consumption increases — can fund cuts in income tax and increases to pensions to insulate the less well-off from its effects, whilst also switching the tax mix from emphasising income to expenditure: and partially alleviating the issue of repeated taxation of the same income as savings accrue interest, for example.

It is true that irresponsible Labor and its Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen have flatly refused, at the outset, to countenance any overhaul of the GST; this is entirely consistent with the ALP’s thoroughly irresponsible approach to its politics in the present day and its bloody-minded populism of opposing anything remotely unpalatable in the naked pursuit of winning power for its own sake.

It’s not the behaviour of a party with a well-earned reputation for economic reforms in the 1980s, and is an insult to the Hawke-Keating legacy. But even so.

My point is that tough measures like the GST must be examined if a reasonable and effective solution to the structural hole in the federal budget is to ever be addressed.

Yes, Senate intransigence might very well see any attempt to legislate change sabotaged.

But this government — which to date has mostly slunk away from such defeats, with vague references to the crossbench Senators — needs to play hardball rather than letting the ALP off the hook for its wanton vandalism of responsible government measures.

Yes, it is true the crossbench holds the balance of power. But for it to defeat bills in the Senate, the ALP must first line up against those initiatives as well — and rather than attempt a public discussion over the minutiae of Senate process, the government really needs to be pinning a lot more of the blame for such defeats where it belongs — on the ALP.

I simply note this morning that the GST (and changes to it) are back in prospect: as they rightly should be.

There are other, past discussions on the matter readers can access through the GST tag in the tag cloud to the right of this article.

But if the case for change is adequately made, it should be Labor — and not the government — that is forced into the perennial defence of its handiwork or, in this case, for the ritual sabotage of measures aimed at fixing the very problem Labor presided over and exacerbated whilst in government.

I will be back with something else (and a little more time to talk about it) this evening.