Budget Surplus Fantasy: We’ll Deliver In 2017, Says Wayne Swan

LIKE a delusional sycophant refusing to acknowledge a reality he has already admitted, self-important bubble and Treasurer Wayne Swan has wasted no time returning to form, and is now talking up the Gillard government’s “credentials” to deliver a budget surplus — in 2017. Get the sick bucket.

After three years of “rolled gold” guarantees and promises of delivering a surplus in next week’s budget — a “guarantee” now blown to bits to the tune of at least $20 billion, probably more — it seems Swan is embarking in a repeat of the process.

In an interview reported by Fairfax for tomorrow’s papers, Swan made the faintly ludicrous claim that next week’s budget would ”a clear pathway back to surplus commensurate with supporting jobs and growth.”

It defies belief that even Swan — so arrogantly sure of himself, despite his clear limitations as Treasurer — could possibly believe that his utterances about budget surpluses could ever be taken seriously by the electorate he has spent several years trying to hoodwink.

Yet it seems some in the Labor Party really do credit the voting public with absolutely no intelligence whatsoever, and in what is obviously the opening shot in another attempt to waste years on another snake oil sales campaign, Swan has proven exactly that.

Readers should remember that of Labor’s many baseless promises since 2010, those that have detonated most violently in its face are those it deployed to stave off almost certain electoral defeat and to steal three additional years in office: the carbon tax promise, and the budget surplus promise.

The point is relevant because in the Fairfax interview with Swan, he was asked — directly — whether making spending cuts so close to an election might hurt the ALP politically.

”It’s not about them or us, it’s about the country,” Swan is quoted as responding.

The thing that makes me roll my eyes about this new timetable to deliver a budget surplus is that it is predicated on a) winning this year’s election, and b) the one due in 2016 as well, before the ALP would even have to be held to account for another “rolled gold” promise.

And far from it not being “about them or us,” as Swan so delicately puts it, it has everything to do with them or us — at least wherever Wayne Swan, Julia Gillard, and the Labor Party generally is concerned.

The present incarnation of the Australian Labor Party operates with an eye on politics to the exclusion of virtually all else — not electoral politics, mind, but the sort of politics designed specifically with Tony Abbott in mind and with an explicit ongoing obsession with trying to wrong-foot him taking precedence over all other issues of governance.

It’s one of the reasons the ALP finds itself in such a mess: it has spent so long trying to tear down a Liberal leader who is far more intelligent and resilient than its henchmen give Abbott credit for that this fatal misjudgement has come at the cost of effective governance in the orthodox sense.

Swan at least has the grace to concede that savage budget cuts, to be formally announced next week, will not be popular.

And the budget coincides with a rapid junking of other 2010 election commitments and sweeteners; the imposition of a levy to fund the NDIS was explicitly ruled out, and will now be added to the Medicare levy; and just this week, the ALP has abandoned further tax cuts announced as part of the compensation package for the carbon tax on the grounds that a falling carbon price means the tax won’t raise enough revenue to pay for the tax cuts.

It tends to ruin Labor’s hit-and-run attempts on Abbott for removing superannuation concessions for low-income earners meant to be paid for by the mining tax — on the basis the mining tax isn’t raising enough revenue to pay for them.

And it puts one hell of a dent in Labor’s campaign “scare” that in repealing the carbon tax, an Abbott government would also remove the compensation package attached to it: Labor has now announced it isn’t going to proceed with paying a hefty portion of those compensation monies in the first place.

Swan gets it half-right when he asserts that ”it’s certainly not a typical election budget…” but ruins his argument by adding the qualifier that the reason the budget is atypical is because ”you’ve got the sort of enormous complexity that we’re coping with here, but we’re going to get the settings right for the long term.”

Well, quite.

Clearly, the ALP is in no position to dole out largesse and pre-election pork, chiefly due to its own mismanagement of the national finances, irrespective of anything Swan might offer as an excuse.

And any voter tempted to be swayed by spending promises outlined by the government at any stage, from the budget next week until polling day on 14 September is, quite frankly, an idiot.

If there is one thing this government has proven beyond doubt, it is that any commitment received from it should be regarded as meaningless.

Yet Swan and his rationalisations continue; he talks of ”unprecedented and unforseen circumstances,” revenue shortfalls, the high Australian dollar, falling company profits and the parlous state of the economies of Australia’s trading partners.

Perhaps some honesty — the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, as I called it in this column the other night — would be a more palatable offering: tell the Australian public Labor got it wrong; that many of the government’s calls on economic policy, made in good faith, have proven erroneous; and as hard as it might be, an admission from the Treasurer that he, Wayne Swan, had made mistakes.

It wouldn’t fix the problem, and it wouldn’t win any votes.

But it might salvage a modicum of credibility and a sliver of respect, and the return from such candour might be that voters — armed with baseball bats and growing impatient of waiting on their verandahs for the ALP — would be a little less vengeful when the day of reckoning inevitably rolls around.

But no — such honesty isn’t the Labor way.

Instead, we have the self-important turd in the Treasurer’s office softening the country up for another tall tale about Labor and the coming budget surplus — in another four years.

And if anybody harboured lingering doubts over the credibility of this government, that renewing promise should dispel them once and for all.

Labor is prepared to say — and do — anything, and to hell with the consequences.

This latest development is another reason, in a long line of good reasons, why the ALP not only deserves to lose the election in September, but to lose it very badly indeed.

They never learn.

A Song For Wayne Swan?

Self-important bubble and Treasurer, Wayne Swan, has been the subject of much discussion in recent days over his bold declaration that he was “Born To Run”; I’ve got another song that fits Swan aptly, and it’s a beauty.

There’s something noxious about a political midget’s self-proclamations of grandeur; in Swan’s case, the delusions of adequacy and of electability in his own right — forgetting the cloak of political partisanship and its “rising boats” effect where quislings like Swan are concerned — sit alongside his malignant proletarian proclamations of working class immortality as downright offensive.

His effective declaration that the working class anthem Born To Run by Bruce Springsteen all but applies to him personally is ridiculous, and underscores Swan’s crusade against the class of Australians whose aim in life is simply to make better of themselves, and of their families (and, indeed, even their country) than the generation that preceded them.

And this applies to a mighty class of Australians, ranging from the billionaires Swan so proudly and noisily detests and seeks to extort tax dollars from, all the way to the humble mum-and-dad shopkeepers who work 100 hours per week to try to get ahead, pay down the mortgage, put their kids through decent schools, and enjoy a comfortable life.

It’s not necessary to dwell long on Swan; we can treat his fatuous utterances with the contempt they deserve; but seeing he has apparently strayed into the fold of being a music critic, I have a song for him.

It, too, is the product of a working class background, emanating from the hard and gritty back streets of Glasgow.

It, too, screams of inadequacy and resentment, as does our erstwhile Treasurer.

And just like that self-important little man’s choice of personal theme song, this, too, fits Swan like a glove — indeed, it’s far more a reflection of the way he carries on than anything Bruce Springsteen ever produced.

You can view a clip for, and listen to, that song here.

Fee-Free ATMs For Aborigines: Wayne Swan Gets It Wrong Yet Again

He’s done it again…Wayne Swan has provided more evidence, were any required, of how out of touch he is with community values; 76 ATMs in remote aboriginal communities will — from December — no longer charge transaction fees. The rest of the country, of course, will just keep paying.

An article appeared in the Fairfax press today, outlining the plan in which the 76 machines — spread across three states and the NT — will no longer charge customers for making withdrawals, balance enquiries, or other ATM transactions that otherwise would attract a fee.

These machines are located in some of the remotest aboriginal communities; often the inhabitants are poor, and have no choice of ATM provider when checking balances and whether benefits have been deposited and, if so, accessing those funds.

The plan sounds great: I’m sure it will make a great difference to aborigines in these towns who are more or less cut off from society.

And for the record, I am very happy for aborigines to have the benefit of this arrangement; it will save them a little money, and give them the sense of having a small win over the banks.

Yet this sort of thing makes me really angry; egotistical bubble of self-importance and Treasurer Wayne Swan — not content with his recent achievements in slugging it to “the rich” in the federal budget — is hailing this as a win for consumers. The scheme is being implemented by the banking sector on the recommendation of a joint Treasury and Reserve Bank task force.

Commenting on the scheme with Indigenous Affairs minister Jenny Macklin, Swan said: ‘‘Indigenous people and residents living in very remote communities often rely on a single ATM located in a community store owned by an independent ATM company to access their cash and check their account balance.’’

And The Age reports that thirteen banks and two independent ATM companies would do away with ATM transaction fees for their customers in “identified remote indigenous communities.”

I reiterate that I think it’s great that aborigines have got this deal; with some luck it will save them some inconvenience and a little money as they go about their lives.

The thing that incenses me about this announcement is that for tens of millions of Australians, this delivers nothing at a time of economic uncertainty and rocketing cost of living pressures; and it confirms Swan’s status — in the words of mining magnate Clive Palmer — as an economic pygmy when it comes to Swan’s dealings with the major banks on behalf of consumers.

Australia’s banks are raking in billions and billions of dollars in profits every year, and much of this comes directly out of the pockets of ordinary domestic consumers.

Many of these people are sensitive to movements in official interest rates, and the impact this has on their residential mortgages.

Over the past couple of years, they have grown accustomed to a few stern words being directed by Swan at the banks whenever they keep part of a cut, or pass on more than an official rise; but never more than that, and certainly never any action.

Now Swan comes out, all smiles, with a deal to abolish all ATM fees — for a few outback towns with perhaps, sight unseen, ten or twenty thousand people between them.

You see, the fact that it is aboriginal communities getting this deal — set up and brokered by Swan and his department — is unimportant on one level; it still leaves millions of people who will be slugged for using an ATM of any provider other than their own bank.

And can I just make the very obvious point that at times, even in urban areas, and even in places like here in inner Melbourne, people are often forced to pay ATM fees for the same reason — there is only one machine located within a reasonable distance.

Try getting money out at the MCG if you’re a Westpac customer — and try avoiding NAB’s withdrawal fee. There is no other machine within a 20 minute walk. It’s just an example, but by no means irrelevant or specious.

But on another level, the fact that it is aborigines receiving this deal is significant: it’s significant in the conceited little story the Labor government, through Swan where money is concerned, is attempting to construct, tell, and sell.

If you’re aboriginal; disabled; on welfare; a migrant; or from any other minority and/or disadvantaged group, this government is good at telling stories.

And as Swan proved in his recent budget, he too is adept at telling such stories.

There was a lot of fanfare about the ALP’s National Disability Insurance Scheme, with an impressive-sounding $1 billion aimed at the 400,000 Australians with permanent disabilities; the only catch is that in two years’ time — halfway through the period to which that money applies — just 5% of those 400,000 people are expected to have access to it.

So it is with this equally impressive-sounding, but similarly empty gesture aimed at aborigines; there are many, many indigenous people in this country who don’t live anywhere near 26 towns flung across three states and a territory who will get nothing from this, and a large number of those people have far more urgent needs of assistance than saving $2 at the local ATM.

You only have to get in a car and drive less than a mile or so from the centre of major regional towns like Broome, and Dubbo, and Kalgoorlie, to see aboriginal kids with their empty spirit bottles and petrol cans, passed out on the side of the road, to know that $2 at an ATM is the last thing they need.

These are just two examples among many that Swan and his colleagues have notched up in four and a half years in government.

And whilst a very small number of people will get some limited benefit from this latest initiative — just like the so-called NDIS — I would say to people in those groups and in those communities that far from helping you, this government is exploiting you; far from championing your issues and your causes, this government is tokenising them.

To the rest of the people who live in this country — who are being gouged at one end with usurious fees and charges, and ripped off at the other by the rocketing price of everyday essentials — a Treasurer who can’t stand up to the banking sector over interest rate rises, when it is pocketing billions of dollars in exactly the type of transaction fees he is trumpeting the waiver of in the initiative outlined here, is a joke.

Sadly, the fee-free ATMs for the rural communities involved present just another photo opportunity, just a little more spin and empty media space, and just another reason to send a press release; the official story is that the government is “helping,” but the reality is rather different.

And if anyone wants to defend Swan, or the government, over this latest half-baked initiative — saying “at least it’s a start” or something similar — I would respond very strongly that this is not “a start:” it’s just a stunt.

But then again, with this government and this Treasurer, it’s always just a stunt.


Comments must keep to the point; anything racist will be deleted as soon as I see it.