Davos, G20: On Economic Matters Labor Should Keep Very, Very Quiet

BRIEF REMARKS on domestic politics made by Tony Abbott at a forum of the G20 in Davos need to be kept in perspective; for the past six years, this country — through those who governed it — sent the rest of the world the message that Australia’s “miracle economy” was being trashed, and held out the prospect of sovereign risk to those who invested here. If Abbott wishes to drive home his “we’re open” message to a wider audience, so be it.

The tiresome, hypocritical, troublemaking rabble that the Labor Party has reduced itself to knows no low too low to steep to; not only does it deny any and all responsible for the mess it left others to clean up — or that a mess exists at all — but increasingly, it seems determined to stifle that clean up effort for reasons best known to itself. It lost the election last year, after all; one might expect the ALP to wait until after the tough elixir has been administered before trying to score political points from it.

By now, I think everyone knows that the Prime Minister touched, e’er briefly, on domestic political matters in his speech to the G20 today.

To some extent, he had to: this was his first address to the G20 both since assuming office and since Australia assumed the group’s rotating presidency. And whilst a little vision (as melodramatically demanded by opposition “leader” Bill Shorten) may be a nice thing on such an occasion, the reality is that the government still doesn’t know the exact scope of the budget problem it’s inherited, and thus precisely how to proceed as a result.

What it does know, however, is that Labor’s mining tax — despite raising two-tenths of diddlysquat in terms of revenue — sent a dreadful message to Australia’s trading partners, cruelling investment in mining and sending a shudder through other sectors, and signalling a very real prospect of sovereign risk to anyone prepared to invest here on Labor’s watch.

And what the leaders of the G20 countries and their economics ministers know — even if the rest of the world doesn’t glean this from their consumption of news media, and certainly if Australian voters don’t as a result of the best efforts of the ALP to hide it — is that the previous government chewed through close to half a trillion dollars in spending outlays, more than $300 billion of it now sitting on Australia’s balance sheet in debt to creditors, in an unprecedented exercise in pissing money up against a post with next to nothing to show for it.

What the Labor Party does not want Australians to know is that it acquired, through its “negotiations” to win Australia a seat on the United Nations Security Council, an international reputation for wanton profligacy, throwing money at delegates in the form of promises of “special aid” and other bribery, that did the image of the country no favours behind the closed doors of the very international partners Abbott was addressing.

What the Labor Party certainly does not want Australians to know is that it had 80 new taxes in various stages of development when it was thrown out of office: taxes designed to fund even more crazy and unrestrained spending had it been re-elected, but which would have pushed huge numbers of ordinary middle-class families into unsustainable financial territory.

And what it really doesn’t want Australians to know is the huge number of stalled trade and investment deals that were left on the table, mired in red tape, the benefits of which it comprehensively failed to deliver.

In this sense, comments by Abbott that “governments can be like addicts in search of a fix” and the allusion to the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government using the Global Financial Crisis as a pretext to “change the rules and…spend our way to prosperity” are not simply appropriate or reasonable but importantly, were delivered to precisely the audience needing to know, and quickly, the attitude of Australia’s new government to its old where matters of economics and financial management are concerned.

Of course Wayne Swan — that petulant, odious, self-important brat who presided over virtually the entire debt and spending binge as Treasurer — would race out with a self-serving and moralising column in the Fairfax press to waffle on in his own defence.

And of course Shorten would paint Abbott’s speech as “embarrassing,” and he’s right: the track record of the last government was, to be sure, an international embarrassment; far from simply guiding Australia through the GFC six years ago, it went much, much further, squandering the handsome position it inherited and ultimately raising questions in international circles about Australia’s long-term direction.

Yes, that is embarrassing, Bill.

It’s just unfortunate that the real message at the heart of the Abbott speech — the need for developed countries to recommit to free trade with each other, and to refocus on removing trade barriers in the aftermath of the GFC rather than erecting new ones — was completely ignored by Shorten, Swan, and the rest of the shysters at the ALP who want to be taken seriously as candidates for government.

The irony is that in accusing Abbott of offering nothing, they have shown themselves utterly bereft of new ideas of their own.

And whilst Labor is unprepared to own the consequences of its own incompetence, it is happy to shoot the messenger who brings word of fundamental change in the way things are to be done.

The ALP has neither the moral authority nor any record of substance when it comes to economic matters, and not certainly those involving Australia’s international partners at the elite level the G20 represents.

It would better serve its own interests — and that of Australia — by keeping very, very quiet indeed.