MYEFO: Labor Must Pull Its Head In – And Get Out Of The Way

TREASURER Scott Morrison’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook shows falling revenues and rising debt, but Australia will keep its AAA credit rating despite recession risks; the Coalition may be too tactically inept to hold the ALP to account for damage it caused in office and now perpetuates through Senate obstruction, but unless its aim is to win power in Australia by first wrecking it, Labor must pull its head in, and let the government govern.

The Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) released by Treasurer Scott Morrison today (and you can read some of the coverage of it here and here)  paints a slightly rosier picture than many observers (myself included) might have expected; despite falling revenues and increases in both deficits over the next four years and overall government debt, Morrison’s projections nonetheless show the budget remaining on track for a return to surplus in four years’ time.

They have also elicited firm indications from all three of the international economic ratings agencies that Australia remains in a sound enough position to retain its prized AAA credit rating, and to be completely blunt, this news will devastate Labor types, who have spent three years talking Australia down and virtually daring ratings agencies to downgrade its investment rating, in a perverse approach to chasing cheap political gain through national misfortune.

In this sense, today’s announcement is a wake up call to the Labor Party under the charlatan Bill Shorten, which flatly refuses to permit the Coalition to fix the damage the Rudd/Gillard government inflicted on the national finances in office through its obstructive marshalling of anti-government forces in the Senate. More on that later.

But whilst the proof will be in the pudding with MYEFO — as is usually the way with these things — Morrison’s announcement, despite the histrionics and hysterics of shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen, is little more than a minor tweak on the figures presented at budget time. Barring anything unforeseen, or a second consecutive quarter of negative growth in February confirming a recession, there is very little that is exceptional in today’s announcement.

Government spending falls slightly, from 25.8% of GDP to 25.2%, as do both employment growth and GDP growth; Morrison is forecasting that no recession will hit Australia which — given the 0.5% contraction for the September quarter was at the upper end of expectations — might yet prove rather heroic.

Nett debt is forecast to peak in 2020-21 at $364bn, which in raw terms equates to gross debt of more than half a trillion dollars; in historic terms, this is a national embarrassment, for in my view it doesn’t matter how well able to service debt the country might be, borrowing to fund recurrent government spending is the wrong kind of debt altogether, and produces no lasting economic benefit whatsoever.

In short, the country should be living within its means. It still isn’t.

And the $1bn+ that will continue to be shelled out every month, in perpetuity, to service that debt would pay for an awful lot of schools, and roads, and hospitals, and dams, and railways if it wasn’t going to line the pockets of international financiers: a fact seemingly lost on Labor, which seems hellbent on stopping the Coalition from balancing the budget through Senate shenanigans for as long as it is physically able to do so.

But the real story here, yet again, is that three years after the Coalition took office with an explicit mandate to fix the federal budget, Labor — in cahoots with its favourite whore, the Communist Party Greens, and other undesirables in the Senate — apparently remains on a mission to prevent precisely that, using various fatuous semantic formulations (such as “fairness” and “cruelty”) to justify its brazen actions in allowing the budget to still be haemorrhaging red ink.

Make no mistake: the Global Financial Crisis is over, and whilst nobody blames Labor for the GFC (even if its response to it was overcooked), the only reason the Coalition has been unable to deliver a surplus budget by now, or to start paying back government debt, is that the insidious Shorten simply refuses to permit it to occur.

To be clear, the Coalition has deeply entrenched shortcomings that don’t help; the woeful inability to sell anything or to frame a convincing narrative for mass public consumption is one of them. The utter inability to pin Labor’s economic vandalism squarely on Shorten, and force him to carry the can for his actions, is another.

But Labor seems content to try to destroy the economy from opposition in is mad lust for power at any price, and whilst that might sound harsh, it’s the only logical conclusion to draw from its behaviour in the Senate. The ALP is prepared to wreck Australia for the criminally petty reason a majority of its people had the temerity to vote it out of office.

The exceedingly low level of regard in which most Australians hold politicians of all partisan hues is increasingly well deserved, and is starkly illustrated by the fact that at the election held on 2 July, almost a quarter of voters cast a ballot for candidates other than the major parties in the lower house. In the Senate, the figure was 35%.

Quite aside from ALP recalcitrance in the Senate — the masquerade of “principle” that is really a fulsome expression of contempt for Australia’s national interest and the betterment of the people who live in it — there are all sorts of other things Labor has done, now and in the past, that feed into the numbers Morrison has released today.

The “booby-trapping” of the federal budget, for instance: a reprehensible scheme cooked up on Julia Gillard’s watch as Prime Minister to load the federal budget up with so much new recurrent spending as to render the budget unmanageable, and that wouldn’t appear on the books until Labor was safely out of office and able to cast indignantly righteous stones at the Liberal Party.

Or the final year of the so-called Gonski education money, which was set to exponentially inflate the Commonwealth’s obligations to the states and which was (rightly) abandoned by the Coalition under Tony Abbott.

Or — with an eye on economic growth figures that are now decidedly treacle-sluggish — the Fair Work regime instituted by Gillard, in payback to the unions for bankrolling the anti-WorkChoices campaign that swept Labor to power in 2007, which has introduced rigidity and inflexibility into the labour market that is now flowing through to tepid employment growth and diminished returns from the small business sector.

And all of this is before we even get to the blatant Labor lies about Medicare being privatised, which would be the most disgusting campaign tactic ever pursued in Australia were it not for other Labor schemes (such as sending fake firefighters to polling booths, and calls from “nurses” to scare hell out of people) to rival it.

It’s little wonder people have nothing particularly nice to say about politicians when this kind of thing is symbolic of their best performance: and whilst the blame in this case lies at Labor’s door, the average voter simply dismisses both sides with a “pox on both your houses” mentality — and is increasingly turning away from the major parties as a consequence.

If Labor truly believes it is a force for responsible government, it has a very big opportunity now to prove it.

If the Liberal Party and its prescriptions are wrong, they will be seen to be wrong, and aggrieved voters will have another opportunity to vote them out of office at an election that could be no more than 18 months to two years away, courtesy of the double dissolution that was held in July. It isn’t as if Labor has to wait for decades for another shot at the title.

But if there is to be a clean fight, and the Liberal Party made to account for what the ALP blathers is “unfair” or “cruel” or whatever other diarrhoea Shorten cares to verbalise, Labor has to get out of the way — and allow the Coalition’s budget repair measures to pass the Senate.

Average voters, in contrast to the way Labor treats them, aren’t stupid: they are capable of making their own judgements and their own decisions, and they should be able to make decisions based on how a particular program works once implemented rather than on the basis of distorted and hysterical screeching about what might happen if the ALP wasn’t there to stop it.

And if Labor isn’t prepared to do that — to let the government pass its budget measures in full — then perhaps we are having the wrong conversation altogether; maybe we ought to be talking about how to reform the Senate in a way governments are able to actually govern once and for all.

Or if that simply proves impossible, about abolishing the Senate altogether.

 

 

Libs Better Off In Opposition Than Minority Government

AS FALLOUT from Saturday’s election continues — and with counting set to resume — the prospect the Coalition will lose its majority in the House of Representatives is growing; with an even less hospitable Senate than the one dissolved before the election, a leader whose authority has been obliterated, and considering history, the Liberal Party would be better served going into opposition than trying to survive the quagmire of minority government.

In my article yesterday — suggesting his poor election showing meant that Malcolm Turnbull was finished as Prime Minister, and all but calling for his resignation — I relayed the anecdote of a handful of private conversations with well-placed Liberal Party identities across the country last week, in which I observed that it might be better for the party (and the country) in the longer run if we lost what at the time was the imminent election; now the smoke from the figurative nuclear blast of Saturday’s vote is beginning to clear, it seems those remarks might have been even more prescient than I realised at the time.

For the second consecutive day, Australians have waited in frustration to learn the results of their handiwork at the weekend; just as this effort could still see the Coalition emerge with a majority in its own right in the lower house, it now seems clear that’s just as likely that it won’t.

In my view (and this has nothing to do with my historic support or otherwise for Tony Abbott, Malcolm Turnbull or anyone else), in some respects it doesn’t really matter if Malcolm manages to fall across the line with 76 of the 150 seats for the barest of majorities: it is clear that what little authority he had as Prime Minister — if, indeed, he ever had any at all — has been smashed to pieces in a stunning electoral rebuke that might not in the end prove sufficient to tip the Coalition from office, but which is more than adequate to show that Turnbull does not command support from the voting public in his present office.

If the government somehow manages to scrape through to a majority, the desirability of retaining Malcolm Turnbull’s services as Prime Minister is now an idiocy that will remain the delusion only of the most naive remaining members of the Liberal Party’s moderate faction, and of those on the political Left who last year drove Malcolm’s polling numbers to stellar levels of absurdity despite their utter disinclination to vote for him: a phenomenon we can now recognise as a fact in the aftermath of Saturday’s election.

But if the government falls short, as seems increasingly probable — winning perhaps 73 or 74 seats, more than the ALP, but insufficient to command outright control of the House of Representatives — the Liberal Party would be best served going into opposition instead of attempting to cobble together a minority government.

I say “the Liberal Party” as opposed to “the Coalition” because, thanks to his overthrow of Tony Abbott and the residual historic enmity felt towards him by the National Party, Turnbull’s flaccid electoral performance has probably turned the junior Coalition partner into just another unreliable variable were Turnbull to unwisely continue in his post.

Turnbull’s ranting, almost deranged post-election speech at Sydney’s Wentworth Hotel — for which he kept the country waiting until well after midnight, despite the clarity hours earlier that no definitive result would be forthcoming — has, it has become clear in the 48 hours since, done nothing to underline his credentials as a viable ongoing candidate for the Prime Ministership.

He was right to rail against the ALP over its so-called “Mediscare” campaign, but with that sole exception, the speech was a graceless exercise in lashing out against everything and anything that could be blamed for an unspinnable election debacle.

The “Mediscare” campaign was unleashed fully a fortnight prior to polling day; it is an indictment on the hand-picked stuffed suits who formed Turnbull’s election war room, and upon Turnbull himself, that none of them — with time aplenty and adequate resources — could lay a glove on it, let alone puncture it.

I believe “Mediscare” was little more than an exercise in electoral fraud, and it is fitting the Federal Police are to investigate it; I should add that if former Treasurer Wayne Swan — not content with having left the nation’s balance sheet in an unparalleled state of disrepair — thinks bringing up his offspring to believe that lying to millions of Australians is somehow clever, or something to be proud of, then he is even more deserving of the contempt non-Labor types have for years levelled at him.

“Mediscare,” it transpired this morning, was the “brainchild” of Swan’s 24-year-old daughter, Erinn, who works for Labor in Melbourne. Frankly, and irrespective of whether the AFP even formalises its investigation, the Swans have invited upon themselves only deep shame, the tawdry profit the exercise conferred upon the ALP notwithstanding.

But I digress.

The Liberal Party is at its best when it embodies what it was established to deliver: mass-based policies that reflect the best of liberal and conservative traditions that are aimed at advancing the lot of all Australians, rather than pandering to sectional interests and obsessing over minorities as the Left in this country is invariably wont to do.

It’s why the Howard government was so effective, and so durable; living standards and national prosperity have rarely risen more sharply than they did during the Howard years.

By contrast, the slogan the Abbott government was initially elected on — hope, reward, opportunity — at least talked the talk, even if it singularly failed to deliver: largely on the basis of a hostile Senate that refused to allow it to govern.

And today, the party confronts the prospect of an even more destructive Senate — whether in majority or minority government — and the very real prospect that the upper house will prevent it from implementing its agenda at all.

The early estimates of the composition of the new Senate are for 30 Coalition seats (-3), 27 Labor (+2), 9 Communists Greens (-1), 3 Xenophon (+2), 2 Jacqui Lambie Network (+1), 3 Pauline Hanson’s One Nation (+3), plus Derryn Hinch in Victoria and one more Senator whose identity remains at the mercy of preference flows. Those numbers could move, of course, but only very slightly.

The only “class” in the new arrivals to the Senate is Hinch; Lambie’s only discernible positions are to attract as much attention for herself, whilst masquerading as the champion of groups that eschew association with her, and whilst causing as much damage to the conservatives as she can; Hanson — that great agitator who is so adept at whipping up resentment about problems she claims to act on without ever advocating rational or workable solutions — has long been known to hold grudges and has already been alienated by Turnbull, who told a national television audience that she had no place in political circles in Canberra.

Nick Xenophon is, of course, a more reasonable beast do deal with, if left-leaning; a quick back-of-envelope tally shows that even if the Coalition were to carry the Xenophon Senators and Hinch in 100% of cases, and if we assume the final Senate seat went the Coalition’s way, it would still be wanting for four additional votes to get anything through the Senate, ever: and when the only places those votes could come from are Labor, the Greens and Pauline Hanson, the scope of the problem any Coalition government will now face in the Senate becomes clear.

If we add, for the hell of it, Hanson’s votes, the bottom line is that Labor or the Greens still must vote with the Coalition at 100% of Senate votes for bills to pass. After the vicious and dishonest election campaign we have witnessed, the realistic prospects of that are remote indeed; and even if Coalition bills were to be permitted to pass, the likelihood is that the amendments needed to secure support would emasculate them so badly as to render persisting with them pointless if the objective is to deliver truly Liberal measures through Parliament.

Labor and the Greens claim that Abbott and Turnbull were terrible negotiators with the Senate; the fact is very simply that they didn’t want to be negotiated with at all. Lambie, for the little she is worth, now wants to be consulted on all legislation before it is even presented to Parliament — a position one suspects is at least partly contrived as an attempt to humiliate Turnbull (or whomever leads the Coalition) into a grovelling relationship that she alone is in control of.

So let’s be clear: the Abbott-Turnbull government faced hell in the last Parliament; this time around, it would be worse.

In the past 50 years, across federal government and the states, there has only ever been one instance of a minority government formed by the Coalition parties that was followed by an outright election win: Colin Barnett in Western Australia, elevated from opposition into minority government in August 2008 and re-elected in a landslide in early 2013.

In that time, no other minority conservative government — starting with the government of Angus Bethune in Tasmania (1969-72) through to the Napthine government in Victoria in 2014 — has ever been re-elected (and if readers know of any examples to the contrary prior to the late 1960s, feel free to note these in comments).

And the only governments to have moved from majority to minority status in that period to have been re-elected at all, albeit to an additional term in minority, are the current Labor government in South Australia and the Labor/Greens government in Tasmania of 2006-2014.

In fact, incoming Labor governments who take office for the first time in minority seem to fare much better than their conservative counterparts, with the ALP in Queensland (1998 and perhaps again now), SA (2002) and Victoria (1999) all going on to be thumpingly re-elected at the subsequent election; there is a very real risk federal Labor could follow this pattern if allowed to govern now, although based on the likely impact of its policies, I highly doubt it.

But the point is that if the Coalition goes into minority government this week, it will almost certainly achieve absolutely nothing on account of the state of the Senate; and if historical precedent is any guide, it will almost certainly face electoral annihilation at the election presently scheduled to occur some time before mid-June in 2019.

The National Party — known to have been ready to break the federal Coalition, largely as a result of disillusionment and latent anger stemming from Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership of the Liberal Party, by the time Tony Abbott became Liberal leader in late 2009 — has already achieved a numeric strengthening of its position on the non-Labor side of politics as a result of the 2016 election; Turnbull has shown a tin ear where the concerns of the Nationals’ constituencies are concerned to date, and it takes little imagination to foresee circumstances in which Coalition relations might become problematic against a backdrop of tight numbers and under the same autocratic figurehead from the inner-Sydney latte establishment Turnbull’s pitch is primarily fashioned for.

And this brings me squarely back to Turnbull.

Does anyone seriously believe this entitled, patrician symbol of upper-class fancies has the temperament or the inclination to knuckle under to the dour grind that minority government would impose upon him? Even with the whacking 30-seat majority he inherited from Abbott, it is well known that the absence of a Senate majority was a great frustration to Turnbull; for a man used to making decisions in business and simply making things happen, such a methodology was impossible in the last Parliament. In the coming one, it will be even more so.

I don’t think there is any public mood for the retention of Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister — in majority or otherwise — and if there was, the Coalition would have secured more than 50% of the two-party vote. As things stand, the likely eventual result will be that it didn’t. Yet even if it does, Turnbull’s personal satisfaction ratings across reputable polling were averaging in the high 30s before Saturday’s election, and if it is good enough to claim Abbott had no legitimacy on that basis (as many, including those around Turnbull, did three years ago) then it is good enough to apply the same criteria to Turnbull now.

If the Coalition somehow ends up with a majority, then a new leader might help restore its standing, for Turnbull still has some way further to fall in public estimation to fully descend to the depths of opinion he was held in by the time he lost his leadership the first time: and as sure as night follows day, with his authority destroyed by the election result and his government on its knees, he will almost certainly continue that fall.

But if the choice is between forming a minority government — under Turnbull or anyone else — or opposition, then the better choice would be to gamble against Labor being re-elected in 2019, and to go into opposition now, for the one certainty I am prepared to predict is that if the Coalition tries to govern in minority, it will be decimated next time it goes to the polls.

Three years in opposition would allow it to anoint a young-ish leader for three years, and let him or her grow into the post — my choice would be Victorian MP Josh Frydenberg — whilst Labor under Shorten finds that its promises add up to nothing but contradictions, and that implementing them is a recipe for guaranteed electoral doom.

The Liberals could use their time in opposition to finally clean out their support structures, replacing nepotistic and entitled staffers with people who, on merit, would bolster the party’s prospects rather than fatally compromising them; in turn, the time could also be used to develop not just a comprehensive slate of credible reform policies, but also the tactical and strategic mechanisms with which to sell them.

It was put to me in one of those insiderish telephone conversations last night that allowing Shorten to become Prime Minister — and allowing Labor to legislate a program that would be disastrous for Australia — would be irresponsible, and that the Liberal Party had a duty to prevent it occurring at all costs.

However, if the only way to do so is to take up the cudgels of minority government for three years, the Liberal Party will be blown away at the end of it anyway: and Labor will, later rather than sooner in that instance, go ahead and legislate whatever it likes; probably over multiple terms in office, rather than the single term a minority Shorten government might plausibly be restricted to now.

And were the Liberals to go into opposition now, they would face the opportunity of an election in 2019 not merely poised to regain government, if the time in the wilderness is used to best effect, but to do so at an election that will include a half-Senate election, with the attendant prospect of whittling away some of the most undesirable crossbench Senators by way of the doubled re-election quotas they would face.

We will know in the next few days where the ongoing count of votes is headed, and at that time it will be appropriate to speculate further about the likely course of events.

But if it’s a choice between governing in minority and the opposition benches, the opposition benches are probably the best choice right now: for the long-term future of the Liberal Party, for its ability to deliver sound and prudent governance for all Australians when it returns to power, and — ultimately, and not least — for Australia itself.

I encourage all readers, but especially those with links to the Liberal and National Parties, to canvass these scenarios with those in a position to make final decisions on such matters should it become necessary to do so within the coming days or weeks.

 

Class War? Enter Wayne Swan, Shorten’s Ancient, Ugly, Trusty Crony

LABOR’S UGLY crusade against success and enterprise took an equally ugly turn on Tuesday, as ex-Treasurer and self-important toad Wayne Swan entered the mix; Swan’s — like the “ancient, ugly, trusty crony” in Burns’ Tam O’Shanter — is an insidious voice, with no right to preach economic virtue. Even so, one ALP policy will set up “the rich” it so hates over ordinary workers and families. One day — hopefully before 2 July — that penny will drop.

As a third generation Australian from an ancient Glaswegian family (and one, after its arrival in Australia in the late 1800s, that was most enterprising), it pleases and amuses me to liken Bill Shorten and Wayne D. (for “dickhead”) Swan to Tam O’Shanter and Souter Johnny from the Robbie Burns poem entitled in the name of the former; no insinuation of excessive drunkenness is inherent in this allusion, of course, but the intrepid Labor pair are so aimless, brainless and downright dangerous that figurative parallels with Burns’ characters are not only compelling, but irresistible.

Perhaps at some time a more exhaustive exploration of the relevance of Robert Burns to Labor’s dastardly duo would be highly amusing indeed, but for now, readers will have to content themselves with sharing the work itself through the link provided.

I begin thus this morning because the unrelenting rhetoric of Labor’s ridiculous, hatred-fuelled (and potentially economy-killing) crusade to screw business, “the rich” (whoever they are) and other enemies of the ALP’s neo-socialist and flat Earth world view is now bordering on the truly farcical, with Swan’s dramatic entry to the election campaign to bolster Shorten’s attack on those who generate wealth and opportunity in this country stinking of puerile undergraduate politics and serving no purpose other than the dubious self-aggrandisement that a bit of undeserved press attention might permit him to feel he has achieved.

Labor is fond, like the rest of the global Left — to the point of outright confrontation with anyone who is white, of Anglo-Saxon background, and Protestant (and male to boot) — of reminding people that Australia is a country of migrants any time it seeks to defend not just high immigration (which rose to record levels under the supposedly racist conservative Howard government) but also to justify the importation into this country of unauthorised arrivals from dubious backgrounds, whose bona fides are never properly checked or established, at tremendous financial cost to the taxpayer and in some cases at high social costs as pockets of violence and cultural anathema to Western values take root.

And no, we’re not having a debate on immigration policy today.

But having arrogated to itself ownership of this cherry-picked aspect of Australian history, it conveniently ignores the other great Australian tradition: the inclination to “have a go,” to engage in enterprise, and merchant adventurism: it is not without reason that small business is described as the “backbone” of the country, but for all its emphasis on those elements of our past that suit its increasingly illiberal, increasingly socialist policy fancies, the ALP simply couldn’t care less about businesses, the business community, or the culture of enterprise itself.

Other than to tax the buggery out of it, of course.

On Monday, we included an article from The Australian that featured former Queensland ALP Treasurer Keith de Lacy describing Shorten Labor as anti-business, and the party’s tax policies as the most anti-business program ever taken by federal Labor to an election; yesterday key ALP figures more than returned fire, ripping into de Lacy on the basis of the executive career he pursued after leaving the Queensland Parliament and accusing him of being a mouthpiece and a patsy for the corporate sector he had had the temerity to join.

Going into business after politics and actually being good at it — as one-time ACTU chief and senior ALP identity Martin Ferguson would attest — is the ALP’s equivalent of a capital offence these days, it would seem.

But if you’re from the ALP nowadays and you expect to succeed, it’s an article of faith that no monetary good can ever be doled out to the hated forces of capital — the business sector — whether it be modest adjustments to penalty rates, cuts to corporate tax scales, or any other incentives or advantages designed to stimulate their growth and encourage them to hire more workers.

Instead, “modern” Labor talks about the gross annual turnover of major corporations (shock, horror) and uses these numbers to argue that corporate Australia is all but shirking its taxation obligations completely: if a company turns over $1bn every year, the ALP under Shorten is uninterested that its outgoings might be $975 million and that it consequently is assessed on the remaining $25m to determine its company tax obligations: it turns over a billion dollars per year, so the fact it only (legitimately) pays about $7.5m in tax it an absolute outrage to Shorten and his goons.

It’s an argument designed to provoke envy and rage among the resentful have-nots that a company “making” so much money pays so little when the reality is that if it paid tax on its total turnover, it would probably take no longer than one full financial year for that enterprise to go broke and be liquidated — throwing however many employees it had on its books onto the street.

This is Economics 101, Shorten style: present irreconcilable paradoxes as the rationale for “policy” settings, and once sufficient numbers of the gullible and the stupid have fallen for it, skip off quietly to a new ruse (like negative gearing, for example) to gather further additional votes from a different cohort of the gullible and the stupid.

Enter — like the jerking of the proverbial chain in a lavatory — the sanctimonious, pious, self-important economic vandal Wayne Swan, whose useful political career (if there was ever anything “useful” about it) came to a shuddering halt somewhere in the middle of an unbroken run of budget deficits as Treasurer, despite no fewer than 600 solemn pledges (some delivered in tandem with then-PM Julia Gillard) to restore the federal budget to balance, and a comprehensive fiddle to artificially produce one in 2012-13 that still fell a woeful $18bn short and which would shame even the most hardened criminal con artist.

It’s little surprise that with a track record like his, Shorten finds a sudden philosophical soulmate in the form of the member for Lilley.

Yet the notorious tweet that placed Swan at the centre of a shitstorm on Tuesday was leapt all over by people with no obvious sympathy for Shorten’s divide-and-conquer approach to wringing enough votes to win office out of what Labor believes is a gullible electorate; on Twitter — easily the social media forum most densely populated by the sycophants and bullies of the Left — it came as something of a surprise to see the overwhelming condemnation Swan attracted: with very little of the usual rent-a-crowd back-up such fatuous remarks are usually able to rely upon.

Swan idiot tweet

“The working people are the 85% of people not in trade unions,” wrote one; “the ALP only represent (sic) the other 15%. Pack of socialist pricks.” “Still having a love affair with Marxist utopia of Sodom and Gomorrah,” rejoined a second. “Businesses earn money, government takes some of that money. Government plans to take less of it = a gift? You’re a bright one,” chided a third.

Making it easier for business to hire people is not a “class war,” and reining in Australia’s uncompetitive regime of business taxes — already among the highest in the Western world, and higher than the plethora of European basket cases Shorten Labor seems desperate to emulate — hardly puts jobs at risk, nor compromises the capacity of business to pay wages.

Then again, the ALP-Trades Hall model of business relations met its inevitable end in the car industry in 2014: shovelling billions of dollars in government subsidies out (not a gift, apparently) to clear the way for unions to extort “enterprise” agreements out of companies that elevate wage growth far beyond increases in the cost of living and price their workers out of their markets: and, ultimately, that kill off industries altogether.

It is noteworthy that Shorten has made it starkly clear that unions will again be central to any government the ALP forms — arguably more so than even under Gillard — and it will be fascinating to see how this dynamic plays out if Labor wins in four weeks’ time.

But the unreasoning and unthinking (and downright brainless) attempts to link everything to Health and Education — which Labor is really interested in only to pander to the heavily unionised workforces that exist in those verticals — must at some point stop registering with even the most easily influenced voters, who Labor clearly thinks would swallow the state takeover of every business in the country if only some health/education slant could be put on the act to somehow make it appear palatable.

Yes, it’s as bad as that.

And if there’s one good reason I’ve diverted down the path of Scottish poetry today, it’s the deluded, imbecilic and laughable drunken hallucination Tam experiences on his way home, with warlocks and witches and naked wenches: the fairy stories Labor figures like Swan and Shorten tell about evil Liberals starving workers to fatten the coffers of business are that ridiculous, and in any case, anyone who can read and is inclined to do a little digging can easily discover just how hypocritical — and baseless — Labor’s posturing as the champion of the oppressed really is.

Remember that other “rort” of “the rich?” The one Labor says it will end to stop ordinary workers propping up the investment strategies of “rich” investors? Never mind 75% of property investors earn less than $80k per annum, and never mind that 90% of them have just one or two investment properties to their name: these people can hardly be described as “the rich,” but this is beside the point.

Buried in Labor’s own website sit three key lines in its negative gearing policy that, if enacted, will permanently skew the residential property industry toward those with the most money and the greatest capacity to carry losses on investments forward indefinitely: and rather than me simply spelling it out, readers should perhaps have a chat to their local real estate agent, or a financial planner, so there can be no accusation that this column has provided biased advice.

ALP NG Policy Loophole

That snapshot is directly from the page in question on the ALP’s site, and I have highlighted the section of its negative gearing policy synopsis that makes an absolute mockery of the divisive, class hatred fuelled rhetoric that underpins almost all of Labor’s election communications.

There is no more a concern for “the little guy” in anything the ALP says than the time-honoured ruse of telling one group of people one thing whilst burying an assurance to the rest somewhere else that everything — to use a cliché — will be all right.

Wheeling Swan out to belt the can and vilify business certainly puts him to work at a task he has demonstrated over long years that he is adept at, but it’s just another prong to the old Labor strategy of power at any price, saying whatever to whomever is necessary to achieve it, and with an arrant disregard for the consequences of its actions once that objective has been realised.

A bawdy fairy story like Tam O’Shanter has more credibility than anything Labor has offered up in the course of this election campaign, and more credibility than Shorten and Swan to a greater degree than most.

But the snapshot from the Labor website is no fairy story (and if the web page disappears, the pictographic record of it obviously won’t). Yet again, it shows Labor has no authority or right to preach and lecture on economic virtue, for it has none. Yet again, it reveals Shorten and his cronies as liars: to the Australian public, if not this time to their caucus colleagues. And yet again, it should inspire fear in anyone contemplating voting for them over whether anything Shorten says is remotely grounded in reality, let alone to be believed.

Against this backdrop, Swan fits right in, and it isn’t hard to see why Shorten — as one bullshit artist to another — has seemingly co-opted the failed former Treasurer back into the election frontline.

But unlike the loose women and plentiful spirit that fuelled the rampage of Tam O’Shanter, the intoxicating liquor Shorten and Swan are peddling is snake oil: and the warnings of catastrophe — ignored by the hero in the Burns piece — are portents Australian voters should dismiss at their peril.

 

“Black Hole” Or Not, Labor Simply Can’t Manage Money

THE INTERNECINE brawl over whether the ALP has a “black hole” in its policy costings — and if so, how big it is — represents a cynical, over-used (and abused) feature of elections in this country; even so, for all but three of the past 30 years, Labor has never delivered a balanced federal budget: and its record of debt accrual at both state and federal levels is unrivalled. Even the deficit and debt increase under the Coalition is directly Labor’s fault.

I am off to Brisbane again for the day today, and whilst I have to spend a day there next month this is the last one until late July: so with some luck, that particular impact on our discussions here will lessen considerably in the next little bit.

But you know it’s election time in Australia when the Liberals and Labor are throwing around barbs about black holes and blowouts; this time-dishonoured practice is in full swing, with a tick over five weeks until polling day, and the danger of this insidious practice is that by the time voters march wearily into the polling booth they will have been so bombarded with bullshit as to disregard the matter altogether.

They shouldn’t.

It is one of those ironies that three years ago, Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan accused the Coalition of having a $70bn “black hole” in its policy costings: it didn’t. Not unless you count the apparently predetermined Labor position of blocking every Coalition spending cut in sight to try to wreck the federal budget if it lost the election as expected, that is.

This week, of course, Treasurer Scott Morrison and Finance minister Mathias Cormann have levelled the same charge at Labor, and in eerily similar terms — $67bn — and whilst there will inevitably be some dispute over the quantum, the balance of probabilities based on Labor’s form over decades is that they are onto something.

Readers will recall the unprecedented program of tax rises totalling $102bn set out by Bill Shorten last month, which was almost immediately discredited as falling between $20bn and $30bn short; wild estimations of the money to be had from slugging smokers yet again in excise imposts were the main culprit, and the episode was reminiscent of another fatuous justification for hitting smokers by another fatuous ALP leader.

At the time of the last election, the idiotic Kevin Rudd ran around proclaiming that smokers cost the health system $31.9bn per year to treat smoking-related illness as a justification for slapping on an extra $5 per packet in tax; in something of a breath of fresh air, it was one of Rudd’s own health bureaucrats who publicly contradicted the then-PM, stating that not only had Rudd exaggerated the figure tenfold (the actual cost was $3.19bn) but that the regime of excise collection, as it stood at the time to reap $6bn per year, more than paid the cost of smokers’ healthcare.

Demonising smokers might be fun, but at least do it honestly.

The record of the Rudd-Gillard-Swan government — whilst withdrawing some Howard-era measures — was to lift expenditure on social experiments and welfare addiction measures targeted at the most vulnerable under the cover of the Global Financial Crisis; contrary to the ranting of Rudd and Swan in particular, revenue never fell during or after the GFC, and increased on average during the six years of Labor governance by 7% per annum.

But this didn’t worry Labor then — as it borrowed heavily overseas to fund its mad obsession with locking selected constituencies onto the Labor teat — and it won’t worry Labor now; its Treasury spokesman is the same Labor Treasurer who was a party to Rudd’s mad pronouncements on the state of the budget in 2013, and there is no reason to believe he has changed his spots.

And to some extent, serial embarrassment David Feeney — already a source of negative headlines for Labor over his failure to remember he has negatively geared property, contradicting Labor’s plans to abolish negative gearing — has let the cat out of the bag with his “inability” to say whether the ALP will continue the $1.6bn annual Schoolkids’ Bonus introduced by Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan, abolished by Tony Abbott, and set to expire after this year.

Feeney, of course, ought — by the usual debased standards of an election campaign — to be disendorsed; many better people than him have been booted off the cart by both sides over the years for a lot less.

But he is a union and factional thug with clout, which means Labor is obliged to carry his festering carcass all the way into the next Parliament: if he doesn’t lose his seat to the Greens, that is.

My point this morning is that where there is smoke, there is usually fire, and this commodity is not in short supply where Labor’s election effort to date has been concerned.

Already, Shorten is promising tens of billions of extra dollars in health and education spending with at best a dubious story as to how it will be paid for: never mind, of course, that more and more money won’t fix a health system carrying too many bureaucrats, consultants, advisers and other hangers-on, nor an education system currently consuming record levels of money in real terms, and in which deficient teacher training and not education funding is the true culprit in generating unsatisfactory outcomes.

According to Shorten, GP consultations will fall by up to $24 under a Labor government, which is the biggest pile of manure seen outside a proctologist’s office in some time: for bulk billed patients, how much less than “free” can you get? And for those who are not bulk billed,  the volume of money required to deliver this unbelievably crass pledge is horrific.

But let’s not forget that this is the same party which insisted government borrowings were low “by international standards” — as it merrily racked up $300bn in debt in less than six years — and which has shown such cavalier disregard for the national good as to have spent three years playing fast and loose with Australia’s future, blocking every Coalition bill aimed at reining in the tens of billions of dollars in annual recurrent expenditure it legislated before leaving office in what we now know was an attempt to blame the whole lot on the Coalition.

Labor has governed this country for 16 of the last 30 years; of those it has delivered surplus budgets just three times, and even then more than quarter of a century ago when Paul Keating was Treasurer.

By contrast, 11 of the 15 Coalition budgets in that time have delivered surpluses.

The past three (and especially the unmoving trend in the bottom line) arguably have far more to do with Labor’s misuse of the Senate as an instrument to prevent the delivery of election promises by its conservative opponents than with any real charge of mismanagement on the Coalition’s part.

(Political stupidity a la the 2014 budget and fiscal incompetence are not the same thing).

In other words — with debt now at the half trillion dollar mark — Labor has effectively spent somewhere in the order of $200bn on the public purse from opposition, in the form of borrowings that might not have been required, and that is the price Australia has paid for a Shorten government before such a contemptible entity has even come into existence.

God willing, it never will.

And when it is remembered that every Labor state government that has been kicked out over the past 30 years left a huge pile of debt behind that wasn’t there to begin with — and in at least two of those bequests, in Victoria in 1992 and South Australia in 1993, those states were left all but insolvent — the charge I regularly make about Labor being rotten to the core becomes difficult to convincingly refute.

Is there a “black hole” in Labor’s election costings? Who in hell knows, if we’re being honest. But based on past form and on balance of probabilities, betting your house on the suggestion Labor’s sums don’t add up is probably a guaranteed way to hit paydirt.

Even if, by some miracle, Shorten and Bowen have added mathematical prowess to the thin list of problems the ALP has resolved since being flicked by voters three years ago, their party doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.

My great fear is that voters have grown so accustomed to a federal government haemorrhaging red ink and mortgaging future generations’ living standards for the dubious benefit of Labor’s election prospects that such considerations register with fewer and fewer people who take such matters seriously.

Certainly, most of the many people I talk to every week have no comprehension of how the debt disgrace afflicting this country can be Labor’s fault after three years of government by someone else.

But once I explain it — and clarify anything that might unduly bias the point — there’s no problem understanding it at all: and in this sense, Bill Shorten can probably feel grateful that when it comes to the TV soundbites from which most swinging voters get their political insights from, their usual attention span is less than that of a gnat.

Is there a black hole in Labor’s numbers? It would be a miracle if there wasn’t, but the greatest shame of all is that you only have the word of a politician for that: and as the politician in question is on the record as a self-confessed liar, his word isn’t worth all that much at all.

Is it, Mr Billy Bullshit?

Big Labor Spend-Up From Empty Coffers On Gonski, NDIS

JUST IN TIME for an election at which bribes, fear, empty populism and reckless irresponsibility collectively offer its only viable path to victory, Labor has wheeled out a stunning double whammy of almost $100bn in uncosted, unfunded promises and the arrant stupidity of its pious, self-important, utterly useless former Treasurer Wayne Swan to sell them. Plenty of options exist for Australians to vote for. Labor does not deserve to be one of them.

Here’s a fact: there is not some bottomless well of money for governments in Australia to plumb and throw largesse from like confetti; there never was.

Here’s another fact: there is an endless list of things political parties would like to promise to give voters if they win elections, and endless lists of things voters want from governments if they do: some of these are undeniably worthy; some are dubious, designed to buy off sectional constituencies depending on political stripe; and some are simply downright ridiculous.

But the kicker in this short statement of facts is that with gross government debt now approaching half a trillion dollars — or almost 40% of GDP — over the four-year budget outlook period, this country is no longer one whose debt is “low by international standards,” as ALP politicians like to proclaim; debt at 60% of GDP reaches the lower outskirts of the structurally unsound economies in Europe, whilst debt at 80% of GDP lands squarely in Eurotrash territory that sees several of those economies unable to fund their way out of chronic debt and borrowing.

Here in Australia, we have gone from gross debt levels of -5% of GDP to almost 40% of GDP in less than a decade. It’s now just a virtual hop, skip and a jump now until we hit real trouble: the sort of Armageddon the Liberal Party warned about prior to its return to government, and was ridiculed by the ALP for its trouble.

But just in time for a federal election at which dishonest, unprincipled and magic pudding money management offer its only viable option to puncture the apparent Turnbull juggernaut, the ALP yesterday dusted off its cudgels over two of its most beloved — and least affordable — relics from the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd era, with “leader” Bill Shorten promising to sluice $37 billion in new spending around the education system over the next decade if it wins office, and its insidious, contemptible standard bearer for maladministration and unaffordable largesse getting out and about again in the form of one Wayne Maxwell Swan.

Swan — for the negligible value he represents in Australian politics beyond being a Labor machine henchman — has been spruiking the tired and deluded fantasy of his adequacy and skill as Treasurer, insisting that the National Disability Insurance Scheme (set to cost $22 billion per year within eight years) was left fully funded by the ALP in office: it wasn’t, and as this column said at the time, the “transitional” arrangements put in place were only ever enough to cover part of the start-up phase, and initially until 2018.

It took months — and a change of government — for the true eventual annual cost of the NDIS to be revealed, the original figure of $8bn declared by Swan having been comprehensively shown to be a gross understatement; so desperate was the ALP to conceal the true cost of the program before voters kicked it out of office, it was “sold” on a claim its cost was only a third of the true figure.

But Labor, despite its machismo about being responsible managers of money, was more concerned with sabotaging and booby-trapping the budget at that time to render it completely unmanageable by an incoming Liberal government than it was by any genuine regard for the lot of disabled people.

You’d have to say that that dubious project, against a backdrop of entrenched $50bn annual deficits, was an unqualified success. But remember, Swan was the man who, in tandem with former Prime Minister Julia Gillard, was party to no fewer than 600 solemn pledges of a budget in surplus under Labor, even going so far in 2012 to talk in Parliament of “the four years of surpluses I announce tonight.”

Needless to say, no surplus ever materialised.

But just like a solitary swallow well before the Spring, Swan has decided to emerge from whatever hole he has spent three years skulking in to proclaim that NDIS costs were covered for an initial ten years when he was Treasurer, despite independent Treasury advice to the government that from this year it would be forced to find an extra $5bn per year to cover them over and above the funding already legislated, rising to $11bn per year by 2022.

The pot of money that was supposed to pay for the NDIS until 2018 is already exhausted, which is no surprise given the growth in people accessing welfare provisions for disability has continued to balloon under the Coalition, which — remember — has been prevented by a ragtag assortment of ALP, Communist Greens, Palmer (and subsequent stand-alone troublemakers) and other crossbench Senators from passing almost every budget saving it has tried to legislate in a desperate (if to date misdirected) attempt to push public finances back onto a sustainable footing.

In other words, the NDIS wasn’t fully funded when Labor left office, a situation compounded by the fact that measures attempted by the Liberals that might have made it so now have been relentlessly voted down in the Senate. Rises in the Medicare levy to 2% and then to 2.5% were only ever a fig leaf (and I said that at the time, too).

But this doesn’t bother Labor, which credits average voters with such absolute stupidity as to be queueing up to bombard them anew with — you guessed it — more unfunded, unaffordable spending measures, with solemn (albeit meaningless) statements of fiscal rectitude and promises that every cent of the proposed new money is paid for.

Warming to this irresponsible agenda, Shorten recommitted the ALP this week to fully funding not just the final two years of spending contained in the Gonski report commissioned by Gillard — which Labor failed to legislate, and which the Coalition was upfront about its refusal to pay for before the last election — but to go further, committing the ALP to $37bn in new education funding over a 10-year period in the unlikely event it wins government later this year.

According to Shorten, the outlay on education was “in the black” on account of increased taxes on tobacco consumption, increased taxes on superannuation, increased taxes on multinational companies, and abolishing the (unexpectedly successful) Coalition policy on Direct Action to combat emissions growth.

Taxes on tobacco are likely to impede Labor’s ability to win an election, disproportionately impacting its own lower-class electoral bedrock as they do; taxes on superannuation will push more self-funded retirees onto at least partial pensions as their ability to support themselves in retirement is eroded, wiping out any savings this red herring might deliver; and taxes on multinationals is a hoax currently being used by left-wing parties not currently in government everywhere in the Western world to hoodwink voters into believing there is something grievously amiss with the sector that provides hundreds of thousands of jobs. There isn’t.

Just this week, ultra-socialist British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was singing from the same vinegar-stained songbook about Google in the House of Commons as Shorten does in Australia; no concrete details of how this purported crackdown might be effected were given, of course — because it never will be — and no explanation for why, when Labour held office in the UK for 13 years until 2010, no attempt to fix the “problem” was made in government.

New Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used the same tactic ahead of his election win late last year but of course, now ensconced in office, any mention of “forcing multinational companies to pay their own share” has predictably evaporated.

And so it is with Australian Labor, which didn’t do anything to remedy this alleged outrage of public administration of the business sector — under the astute and competent stewardship of the nation’s finances by Swan, no less — and won’t if, God forbid, it should ever win another election in this country.

But the grab bag of taxes doesn’t end there, with Labor committed to reintroducing not one carbon tax, but two, if restored to office: and with its flat refusal to countenance the cutting of so much as a cent from lavish social expenditure programs that might or might not be worthy, but which simply can’t be justified at a time the budget is haemorrhaging red ink in the tens of billions of dollars per annum, only a fool should believe that a Labor government would usher in anything less than unprecedented, massive, and crippling new taxation measures to pay for it if it makes any attempt at all to balance the budget.

Which, of course, it won’t: responsible economic management, with the partial exception of the Hawke-Keating years, simply isn’t the Labor way.

And anyone who believes Shorten’s latest protestations to fiscal prudence — based on the extremely dodgy nature of his “revenue” measures and on his party’s record in office — should seek urgent psychiatric assessment: the re-emergence of Swan to help hammer out the Labor message in this regard merely underlines the point.

I have been attacked, viciously, for merely suggesting in this column a re-examination of the arrangements for the NDIS and a recosting of the program to look for efficiencies whilst not compromising service delivery; any single social spending program whose first-up slated operating costs are $22 billion annually simply must be capable of yielding several billions of dollars in annual fat without compromising its objectives. But even the mention of looking for savings in a scheme that is a Labor sacred cow is jumped on and disgracefully attacked as somehow an attempt to cast disabled people into abject poverty.

Those attacks, of course, are horse shit, to use the vernacular: but it’s as bad as that when any fair consideration of Labor’s economic responsibility is considered; you can’t even look for ways to deliver the same outcomes for less money without being screamed down as a nasty bastard.

As for education — which isn’t a federal responsibility anyway — the problem far transcends the want of some $37 billion magic pudding handout, and goes to the heart of Labor’s sheer ineptitude in a portfolio it arrogantly and misguidedly insists it owns.

Labor was in office in every state and federally in the late 1980s and early 1990s when the university entry requirements for teachers’ courses were drastically lowered, admitting an army of candidates with severe deficiencies in literacy, numeracy, and critical reasoning to what used to be a noble profession.

I’d say the role of universities is not to teach kids how to think, but the various “education” faculties across the country seem to do a fine job churning out rounded little socialists on a mission to brainwash upcoming generations with their insidious socialist pedagogy.

Once ensconced in classrooms, these teachers — not all of them, mind, for one of the travesties of Labor’s education legacy is that the reputation of good teachers is sullied by the ranks of the incompetents infecting their midst — have presided over the steady fall in educational outcomes that has seen Australia’s international standing as an education nation slip from among the world’s best to the middle of the pack. and have directly facilitated an entire generation of kids that is mostly defective in reading, writing and basic arithmetic: not coincidentally, the same defects as those who should never have been admitted to tertiary teacher training courses to begin with.

Because of the diminished calibre of teachers in the overall pool, it is difficult to justify the continuing employment of a rising number of them on the grounds of merit, performance or outcomes: and also not coincidentally, this has seen teacher unions grow in relevance to the point it’s difficult not to rank them among the nation’s most powerful, if not the most powerful.

Simply throwing money at this problem, in the bucketloads of billions, isn’t going to redress the real problem behind education in Australia: the standard of people entering teaching, overall, is very poor indeed compared to 30 or 40 years ago.

Labor’s education policies are to blame for this — and have created a generation of union-dependent mediocrity that makes it impossible for the best teachers to be paid what they are worth, as the teacher unions insist on equal outcomes for all their members, and which perpetuates an undercurrent of uselessness whose end destination is the generation of Australian kids who simply aren’t equipped by their flawed teachers to face the world when they leave school.

It’s little wonder, when I hear stories of the better state teachers I have known over the years, that so many of them have left the industry, retired early, gone to private schools that pay more for quality hires, or are running specialist and/or remedial private sector educational enterprises based mostly on fixing the faults of state-provided “learning.”

The problem is even further complicated by the fact that to criticise the poor teachers who unfairly sully the fine reputation of the best is to invite abuse from Labor and teacher unions that to criticise the poor is to criticise them all: and this renders the problem impossible to fix. The unions use their muscle to destroy Liberal state governments who try to fix it. Labor state governments, of course, fiddle, but have neither the interest in nor the stomach for slaying the beast their own policies created.

If Shorten, and Labor, wanted to preside over a true “Education Revolution,” biting the bullet and overseeing a root and branch overhaul of the entire Education monolith would be a far better way of doing it than simply throwing money around.

But that’s all Labor knows; tax, spend, tax, spend, borrow, borrow, tax, spend.

In 2016, Shorten Labor is no different, and already, the shamefully irresponsible bribes that only Labor maintains are affordable are already being thrown around, with nary a care as to whether they bankrupt the country, or compromise the living standards of future generations to the point Australia begins to rocket backwards in coming decades relative to comparable Western countries.

Just today, Reserve Bank governor John Fraser has sounded the warning that without budget redress and a hefty cut in the bloated expenditures of the Commonwealth, Australia faces the loss of its AAA credit rating; the consequences of that is that interest on the half-trillion of government debt would rocket, as lending to Australian governments becomes more expensive as global money markets factor in premiums for the risk of default.

There may be a case to argue both Labor and the Coalition are responsible for the mess that must be fixed, but on account of the appearance of $300bn of debt on its watch in government where none existed previously, and more debt-fuelled recurrent spending legislated prior to its defeat — coupled with its stout refusal to allow the Coalition’s savings measures to pass the Senate, content to let the budget haemorrhage, believing this opens opportunities for political attack — Labor is far, far more heavily culpable than anyone could credibly accuse the Coalition.

Some additional material on these themes is available to readers here and here, and it should be noted that — as usual — these articles all come from the Murdoch press simply because the Fairfax titles have published little to nothing where any serious attempt to hold the ALP to account over its incompetence with money is concerned.

There are plenty of options at the looming election for people to vote for; true to type, the Labor offering seems increasingly certain to feature taxes that are either fairy stories or inflict unmanageable burdens on ordinary Australians, whilst promising tens (or hundreds) of billions in bribes that will either never be delivered or which will bankrupt the country.

For those people who actually care about whether the Australia remains a great country in future decades, the ALP is not an option that should seriously be considered as they mark their ballot papers; the risks are simply too great.

And whilst this might mean certain programs are either not delivered or are cut back to make them affordable — even if those programs are, on the face of it, worthy — then that’s the way it must be; the bucket of largesse isn’t bottomless, and there is increasing evidence that it no longer even exists. If it ever did.

Next time Bill Shorten and/or his cronies are in your face promising extravagant spending with supposedly little pain associated with its delivery, readers would do well to bear the points we have covered this morning in mind.

 

No, Labor Did Not Make “Progress” In Government

RESIGNING her seat ahead of the 2016 election, Anna Burke — in a jab at Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull — cited “progress” made by Labor; Australia is poorer, in more debt, more divided and less civil after the Rudd-Gillard years: issues mishandled, unions put above the national interest, and money flung at whatever might buy votes. Most Australians were treated as irrelevant. Labor’s only “progress” was to instil decline in its country.

It send an unmistakable message when the rats start to desert a sinking ship in droves; the news yesterday that former speaker and Labor MP Anna Burke will vacate her seat of Chisholm, in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs, brings the tally so far of lower house Labor MPs either departing or likely to depart Parliament at the imminent election to five, with Victorians Alan Griffin and Kelvin Thomson confirmed as leaving, and New South Welshmen Jill Hall and Laurie Ferguson likely to follow suit.

One wonders how many more of the ALP’s 55 MHRs will decide they’re on a ticket to nowhere under Bill Shorten, and also bail out.

But this morning’s article tackles a couple of issues in one consolidated post, compromised as I have yet again been this week for time to write and publish articles, and Burke’s announcement that she will quit next year provides a nice segue into what was wrong with Labor in office, and why — if the Coalition can finally get its misfiring communications and strategy apparatus functioning properly — any claim to adequacy or competence by anyone associated with the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years should be easily dismissed as the fiction it is.

First, one will say something nice about Burke: her politics are not my cup of tea of course, and she comes from a contingent — union hacks — that is far, far too heavily represented within the parliamentary ranks of the ALP across Australia. Even so, she made a reasonable fist of her time as Speaker, and certainly went some way to restoring some decorum to that office after the farce made of it by the appointment of Liberal turncoat Peter Slipper, although her party remains culpable for sacrificing the respected Harry Jenkins to make way for Slipper in the first place.

It was a deal, to buy a vote, that is so indicative of the mentality of “modern” Labor — more on that shortly.

But as both The Australian and The Age are reporting, a characteristic shitfight and carve-up (between competing rival unions, of course) will determine Burke’s replacement as a Labor candidate, and the highly marginal seat of Chisholm — resting on a margin of 1.6% as it is, and with Labor set to be deprived of Burke’s personal vote, estimated at between 3% and 5% — deserves to fall to the Liberal Party simply on account of the ALP’s insistence on installing union hacks into parliamentary sinecures: the practice is insidious, and voters in Chisholm have an opportunity to signal they are not a convenient rubber stamp for some idiot from Trades Hall.

Yet inadvertently, Burke has handed an opportunity to the Turnbull government to renew its assault on Labor’s abysmal record in office under Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, and their cretinous Treasurer, Wayne Swan; what was meant as a cheap shot at Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott — a jab about them presiding over “the reversal of much of the progress Labor had made while in government” — opens the door to a blistering Coalition assault on the ALP’s credibility and competence, should the government’s spin boffins prove up to the task.

In the wake of the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) delivered by Treasurer Scott Morrison yesterday — showing a $26 billion blowout in forecast deficits over the next four years — such an attack is not only justified, but highly appropriate, given the vast bulk of the problem being wrestled with by the Turnbull government is in fact the result of the utter incompetence of Rudd, Gillard and Swan, and the mess they made of governing the country.

Let’s stop to consider the “progress” Ms Burke might be attributing to that terrible Labor government, whose only rival for the mantle of the worst in Australian history is the one it appeared modelled on in so many respects: Gough Whitlam’s.

Was it the wholesale capitulation to the union movement in not just abolishing the Howard government’s WorkChoices laws — honouring an election commitment in the process — but instituting a regressive, inflexible, union-dictated industrial framework that invited criminal union misconduct (through the abolition of the Australian Building and Construction Commission), deterred businesses from hiring, and made the Keating government’s 1993 industrial relations overhaul (itself decried as regressive) look moderate?

Perhaps it was the abolition of the Pacific Solution, throwing open Australian borders and encouraging people smugglers to send hundreds of boats containing thousands of people flooding toward Australia with the signal this country had become an international pushover; the resulting human tragedy — well over a thousand deaths at sea — is one the ALP remains very heavily culpable over, and for which no meaningful contrition has ever been shown by the Labor Party. Nor is it ever likely to be.

It could be the “compassionate” Labor approach to asylum seekers Burke is alluding to: at the cost of tens of billions of dollars and the direct result of the Rudd government’s termination of the successful Howard government policy, hundreds of children were placed in mandatory detention; just this year, Human Rights Commissioner Gillian Trigg — a known socialist — delivered a biased and factually inaccurate report on children in detention, blaming the Abbott government for the incarceration of those kids. Never mind the fact no child was placed into detention under the Liberal government, or that 90% of those detained on Labor’s watch had been processed and released: putting kids into detention then was an investment in the ALP’s gutter politics now.

Could it be the job-destroying (and largely useless) carbon tax Julia Gillard explicitly promised not to introduce, then went ahead and legislated anyway? That measure was an impost on business and on households, and the paltry compensation offered to households was far outweighed by the slug that was added to already rocketing energy bills. If true progress is measured in the difficulty inflicted on people’s ability to pay for essential services, Labor delivered in spades.

Labor in office — like most governments across the world — was blindsided by the Global Financial Crisis, and Australia hit a second time by the collapse in world commodity prices — which commenced on the ALP’s watch.

Yet the tens of billions of dollars thrown around by Rudd and Swan was poorly targeted, inefficient, wasteful in the extreme, and probably had little to do with keeping Australia out of recession: the mining industry, still going gangbusters, largely took care of that.

But Labor had a solution for that too: a mining tax that cruelled investment in Australia’s minerals and energy sector, and which had the practical consequence of helping other resource-rich countries in Canada and South America to encroach on and capture markets that had helped underpin the record boom this country experienced, and which probably contributed (I emphasise, contributed: you can’t blame Labor for everything) to the collapse now being experienced by the very same resources sector.

And when the fall in commodity prices came, Labor was too shortsighted to correctly measure its likely scope (something the current government has also proven guilty of), but unlike the current government, Swan — with the imprimatur of Rudd and Gillard — went on spending money like a drunken sailor.

In that vein, maybe Burke was mindful of the vast increases in spending, on pet Labor projects, that occurred on Labor’s watch.

Yet the simple fact is that within four years, Australian public sector debt is now set to reach $600 billion — 30% of GDP — where just eight years ago it was zero (or -5% of GDP in fact); what is scary is that in just eight years, this country has gone from being the envy of the rest of the world for its sound budgets and prudent management to being halfway toward the 60% to GDP debt ratio that marks the lower reaches of the basket of Eurotrash economies that sit in varying degrees of economic strife, and some of those are close to ruin.

Unless someone gets a grip on the situation in this country, there is only one way to go: and despite whatever vapid bleating to the contrary that emanates from the ALP after two years in opposition, the problem is one entirely of its own making.

Billions of dollars to fund Gonski “reforms”? No worries.

Billions of dollars to boost health funding? No worries.

$24 billion per year (scheduled for a decade after Labor was likely to lose office, of course, to distance itself from the damage) for a National Disability Insurance Scheme? Piece of cake.

Billions of dollars annually to “top up” superannuation accounts for low-income earners? Small fry, nothing to it.

On and on it went, and about the nicest thing that can be said of any of this is that the ALP was prepared to permanently shackle Australia to hundreds of billions of dollars in borrowed money to fund worthy-seeming but entirely unaffordable social programs that just happened to be heftily skewed towards its own electoral constituencies.

The reality, of course, is that it was an open secret whilst Gillard was Prime Minister that Labor, faced with likely defeat in 2013, was hellbent on “booby-trapping” the federal budget and went to great lengths to render it unmanageable to a Liberal government; this “strategy” casts a pall over the rectitude of any of Labor’s social initiatives, and this, coupled with the wholesale obstruction and confrontational, class warfare-inspired rhetoric it has indulged itself with under its present “leader,” has demonstrated that whatever else the ALP might be accused of, being a responsible party of government with Australia’s national interest at heart is not one of those things.

If you have $100, you buy $100 worth of stuff with it; some debt might be manageable, or indeed prudent. But the endless and bottomless debt pit into which Labor legislated Australia is unforgivable. It doesn’t matter what the individual measures were, or how worthy they may have been. If you have $100 every year, and every year you spend $130, then sooner or later you are going to go broke. But permanently spending $130 every year when there is only $100 to spend is the ALP’s legacy to this country.

Labor in office had a long list of intended victims, and it wasn’t confined to “the rich” (although any household earning $150,000 per annum was served notice that “rich” is what Labor thought it was): but families, small businesses, self-funded retirees, the Defence Forces, single mothers, the mining industry…on and on it went. Anyone in these groups was the enemy as far as the ALP was concerned. They were treated as the enemy. If you belonged to any of the groups on the ALP’s hit list, life became an awful lot harder during those six dreadful years.

If Labor thought it could buy you, however, that is exactly what it tried to do. In many cases, it scarcely bothered to disguise the fact.

That isn’t “progress,” and it isn’t even fit to be called “a government” in the proper sense of the word, but if Burke is concerned by attempts to unpick the damage this incompetent, doctrinaire and reprehensible legacy has wrought, then her judgement is sorely wanting.

Today, Australia sits at a crossroads, with rocketing debt as a direct consequence of its dalliance with Labor in power; employment growth is sluggish, and businesses are reticent to hire as a direct result of Labor’s workplace laws; the country is committed to hundreds of billions of recurrent dollars it simply can’t afford, and couldn’t afford when those measures were legislated; and any attempt to fix the situation with piecemeal spending cuts spread as widely as possible to mitigate their impact is screamed down as “cruel” or “unfair” by the very band of charlatans that created the problem to begin with.

Morrison fell right into the trap yesterday: a scattered band of spending cuts to deal with falling government revenues, impacting on frontline health service delivery and some suspiciously semantic-looking revisions to measures such as welfare arrears collection, gave Labor more fuel to blather about slashing welfare and education and health spending whilst doing very little to redress the problem at all.

To be fair to Morrison, until or unless the Senate is overhauled at an election and/or through changes to the voting system that elects it to stop people with a tiny handful of votes getting elected and holding the country to ransom, meaningful attempts to fix the damage Labor inflicted on this country are as good as pointless.

But Labor, which rigged the Senate in 1984, won’t have a bar of that either: the present mess suits it, for cynical reasons that could hardly be described as honourable.

There is a school of thought that the government should slash income and business taxes to stimulate economic activity, the thinking being that revenues would rise overall as more people found jobs and paid taxes, and as more businesses were started; I would bet London to a brick that were Morrison to send a bill through Parliament that duly cut and simplified taxes, it wouldn’t just be torpedoed in the Senate, but that Labor would be leading the charge against it.

Very simply, you can’t win whenever Labor is around the place these days; the only party it believes is entitled to run this country is itself, and it has shown time and again over the past 20 years that it singularly and flagrantly disregards the will of the public whenever that message is that someone else should form a government.

We wish Burke, and the rest of her colleagues who are packing up their toys and leaving the sandpit, all the best in their retirement — whatever they choose to do — but any reference to “progress” under the Rudd-Gillard government is based on a false and deeply defective premise.

Left unresolved, the mess the ALP made of running Australia will plunge this country into decline. The signs abound already. And that’s a hell of a price to pay for self-obsessed, partisan, spiteful incompetence.

Labor, as I have observed in these pages over the years, should be ashamed of itself.

It won’t be. Well all know it won’t be.

 

AND ANOTHER THING: The article from The Australian states “the 49-year-old who has held the seat of Chisholm since 1998, when she wrested it from Liberal Michael Wooldridge…”

She did not: Burke won Chisholm as a vacant seat; Wooldridge, who had been the member for Chisholm since 1987, transferred to the adjacent, safer Liberal electorate of Casey in 1998 before retiring from Parliament three years later. Some effort to ensure basic facts (and idiot-simple points of electoral history) are correct would be well indicated on the part of some of those masquerading as any kind of repository of political knowledge within the journalistic fraternity. I have refrained from picking this sort of thing up for too long — if “political correspondents” don’t know their briefs, we might have to start holding them to account here. These rudimentary errors of fact are too common in both the Murdoch and Fairfax press. It isn’t good enough.

 

Perpetuating Uselessness: Chris Bowen Channels Wayne Swan

AS BILL SHORTEN — rattled by Malcolm Turnbull’s ascension — injects panic into his spiteful, deceitful political “narrative,” shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen has opened a new front in Labor’s quest for power, avowing himself “a Keynesian” and eulogising the self-important but essentially useless Wayne Swan. Australians worried another ALP government would bankrupt the country should heed the unexpected warning Bowen has provided.

If you’re a politician, and aspiring to a senior Cabinet post at that, profiles and feature pieces in mass circulation news publications are the lifeblood that potentially connects you to an electorate wanting to get to know you, and (with luck) wins people over; the problem is that if you’re really honest — and haven’t got anything of value or substance to sell — you’re just as likely to shoot yourself in the foot.

So it is today with Labor’s shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen; the ALP — looking decidedly silly in the wake of “leader” Billy Bullshit’s declaration that penalty rates somehow enable families earning between $40,000 and $60,000 per annum to send their children to private schools (I’d like to see how) — has been gifted a piece a soft-soap coverage in The Australian today by its Editor-at-Large, Paul Kelly.

Characteristically, but unwisely, Bowen has used the opportunity not to eschew his Rudd government reputation as a mindless slogan regurgitator; the shadow Treasurer — well-regarded personally on both sides of politics, and rightly recognised as one of the ALP’s brighter talents — has instead chosen to parrot the meaningless, delusional drivel that “modern” Labor holds out as the most recent “legend” of its fine service to Australia and its people in office.

People whose decision to eject the sorry Rudd-Gillard-Rudd outfit from office at least partially on account of the disastrous fist it made of the country’s books — with some $300 billion of red ink sitting on them in September 2013, and increasing thanks to the opposition’s opportunistic intransigence in the Senate — will be alarmed to learn that Bowen, who aspires to take control of Australia’s financial reputation and welfare, glowingly ascribes Wayne Swan a place in the “upper echelons of Australia’s Treasurers.”

Brazenly declaring himself “a Keynesian” — not something one might have thought it prudent to trumpet, given the ineptitude Labor exhibited between 2007 and 2013 where its handling of money was concerned — Bowen spruiks the virtue of economic stimulus despite object evidence his party went too far, wasted too much, and never turned off the tap when it said it would: the old borrow-tax-and-spend model historically beloved of socialists the world over proved impossible to resist.

Bowen fails, dismally, to contextualise issues like GST reform and industrial relations reform by eschewing them: far from the right-wing ideological crusades Labor likes to smear both objectives as the embodiment of these days, such change (if it ever proves possible to enact) is about necessary structural economic reform.

This is especially true of the GST, at a time revenue continues to grow but sees expenditure growth (mostly the handiwork of ALP bribes legislated under Julia Gillard and Swan) rocketing away to the point the entire integrity of the Commonwealth budget is at risk.

Of the three broad sources of revenue — income tax, company tax and the GST — the PAYE system is lagging in real terms as the workforces ages and begins to retire, and as more and more income support is channelled out in the form of government benefits; business tax remains vulnerable to a cyclical downturn in the economy, which has to be regarded as better than a 50-50 proposition in the medium term after decades of uninterrupted growth.

It is only by taxing consumption — efficiently, as broadly as possible, and with adequate offsetting compensation to the least well-off — that offers a sustainable river of revenue that can be consistently relied upon to grow.

Similar criticisms can be made of Bowen’s refusal to countenance labour market reform; this is not, despite his attempts to dress it up as some “third way” to realise gains in productivity and workplace flexibility, but an unabashed sop to the thuggish unions that dominate the ALP and demand their interests remain completely unmolested by government (and I use that word most deliberately, for the protection of their rotten sinecure is so personalised by the union thugs who stand to profit from its existence that “molestation” is in no way an inappropriate term to describe the accountability and compliance at law they are so desperate to shun at any cost).

The simple truth is that reforms championed by conservatives — like GST reform, or industrial reform — speak to further liberalisations in the economy that are entirely consistent with the open, market-based reforms commenced by Labor in the Hawke-Keating years; one is about the sustainability of the government portion of the system. The other is about realising improvements in productivity and the cost of labour, which are areas Australia now lags most comparable Western countries, thanks to byzantine strictures of the Fair Work Act. No fairy story or populist deception will fix those problems. And to date, Labor has nothing on the table other than slogans and rhetoric and fairy stories.

Yet just like the effective sloganeer he proved to be during his brief tenure as Treasurer under the reborn Kevin Rudd, Bowen is quoted as seeking “an age of entrepreneurism” that sounds suspiciously like an “education revolution” or a “ladder of opportunity” that exudes the distinct aroma of magic pudding; Bowen claims it is “not the job of Canberra” to determine where jobs come from. But even in a friendly piece such as Kelly’s today, the only thing he offers are a “collection of ideas” and a “sector by sector” approach, whatever that might be in the absence go government intervention.

Ignore those, and you will miss nothing.

But the most alarming aspect of the Kelly piece about a man who aspires to assume control of the national economy is his extollation of the cretinous, self-important, pious, vapid, useless, imbecilic, sanctimonious, gormless, shameless, oxygen-thieving oaf Labor imposed on a trusting public for the better part of six years, and on whose watch great harm was committed against the rigour of Australia’s economic management and the health of its financial fundamentals.

It is true Bowen acknowledges Swan wasn’t perfect — noting the mining tax and the carbon tax failed tests of “political durability” — and as Kelly notes, talk of an “open and broad engagement with business” could be interpreted as an implicit criticism of Swan, who wasn’t exactly noted for seeing any value in Australian enterprise aside from smothering it with regulation and taxing it.

But to place Swan in a pantheon of Treasurers past just one rung below Paul Keating (in his view, our best ever –a subjective call I only partly disagree with) and alongside Peter Costello (which is an outrageous and baseless insult to Costello) is ridiculous.

Talk of stimulus aside, the fact remains that Swan’s the Treasurer who pissed away $45 billion Costello had squirrelled away in sovereign wealth funds — and did so before the GFC had even been heard of — succumbing immediately to the stereotypical Labor temptation to spend whatever money was in the tin the moment it got itself into office.

Swan’s the Treasurer whose “reforms” directly created $300 billion in government debt where none existed beforehand: and whilst protestations of the GFC and “stimulus” are well and good, the fact remains that even the most generous estimate of how much money was spent on it extends only as far as $96 billion.

Swan’s the Treasurer whose legislative handiwork entrenched a gaping structural budget deficit whose underlying quantum seems to be in the order of about $30-$40 billion: hardly the craft of an astute manager of money.

Swan’s the Treasurer who, alone and/or abetted by Gillard, offered no fewer than 600 solemn public assurances that by 2012-13, the budget would be restored to surplus. Yet despite the greatest sleight of hand and creative accountancy on a scale rarely (if ever) seen in this country — pushing out official accounts for expenditure, pulling revenue forward, raising certain taxes and so forth — the target was not only missed, but missed by $18 billion.

Despite a cynical exercise in trying to glitter the turd, Swan’s best efforts didn’t even come close to the mark.

And Swan’s the Treasurer on whose watch a reprehensible effort to “booby trap” the federal budget to ensnare a future Liberal government and render it powerless to properly manage Commonwealth finances was contrived.

None of this seems to perturb Bowen, however, who claims with no basis in fact that Swan “got all of the big calls right.” You’d hate to think of what might have been had he got them all wrong.

And who — for the love of God, who? — implements a tax that raises no money? Even by Labor standards, it’s an errand that should be impossible to screw up. Yet Wayne Swan managed to do exactly that.

What all of this shows is that Labor — and Bowen — have learnt precisely nothing from their mistakes in office: a sobering reality indeed, given Labor remains competitive in polling despite the initial “sugar hit” of a change of Liberal leadership propelling the government into the lead for the first time in 18 months.

It is not inconceivable Labor could form government after the next election: even under the national embarrassment it parades as its “leader,” and notwithstanding the paucity of a meaningful agenda it offers when slogans, thought bubbles and other populist gobbledygook are excluded from consideration.

Those people who concern themselves with the proper management of national affairs — and those mums and dads who worry about an insurmountable burden of debt being bequeathed to their children — will find nothing to allay their fears from the kid-glove spotlight that Paul Kelly shines on Labor’s would-be Treasurer today.

Chris Bowen is a nice enough and decent enough fellow — to whom I have no personal objection whatsoever — but as a potential Treasurer of Australia, he gives every inkling that he would be little better than Swan himself, and that is a disastrous indulgence the country simply can’t afford a second time: and especially not so soon after the last time Labor performed its usual trick of systematically trashing the budget.

But whatever value might be found in getting to know the alternative Treasurer and in the space The Australian has provided him, Bowen’s attempts to capitalise on it falls abysmally short.

Timing, of course, is everything, and whilst the Kelly piece was likely compiled well in advance and over a period of weeks, Labor desperately needed a circuit breaker after Shorten’s latest idiocy over penalty rates.

Today’s article in The Australian is not it.

Institutionalised uselessness and incompetence: even if it sounds like another of the vapid, vacuous, excruciating “modern” Labor slogans this column so vigorously takes aim at so often, it neatly sums up all the ALP has to offer; and far from being soothed or cajoled by Kelly’s profile piece, anyone who reads it ought to be mortified.

With such luminaries as Bill Shorten, Chris Bowen and Wayne Swan at the very forefront of Labor’s loathsome sales pitch for an early return to government, you have to wonder just how much damage the ALP could inflict on itself if the “rats in the ranks” were to find their voices, and to decide to speak out.