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.