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Well I suppose it is incumbent upon me as the author here at a blog that is mostly about Australian politics to say something about last night’s budget. Up front I have to say that I have not read the original document or even watched the speech on the TV. I had other priorities last night. So instead I am going to respond to the summary written by the Guardian with what I think about the specifics enunciated there.
As leaked, it hits around 400,000 high-income earners with a three-year $3.1bn deficit levy and reaps a further $2.2bn by increasing petrol taxes in line with inflation.
The former will undoubtedly upset my more “economically dry” friends but I doubt that they will notice it beyond its existence as a line item from their accountants, most will not even notice unless they are obsessive about the amount of tax they pay. A rise in the tax on petrol will undoubtedly be noticed initially but soon forgotten by most people simply because the price of fuel has become so volatile anyway. Up here it jumped by nearly 20 cents a litre at Easter so I think this will soon become part of the economic background noise in our lives.
But the budget-night surprise was that much of the cash raised from cuts to benefits and tax rises is spent on the Coalition’s own priorities rather than on improving the budget bottom line, including a new $20bn medical research fund – to become the biggest in the world within six years – the Direct Action greenhouse emissions reduction fund and about $5bn in new roads funding.
Why that should surprise anyone is beyond me, Even in tough times a government wants to be seen to be capable of economic multitasking. That said who could complain about more money for medical research? Readers will recall that I would personally ditch, in its entirety, the Direct Action climate policy but in the absence of heeding my advice lets hope that there is the sort of secondary benefits from the spending that I have previously postulated, although I do remain sceptical that the scheme will deliver much for the nation.As a confirmed petrol head I welcome improvements to the road network and I also welcome the economic stimulus that the expenditure will bring.
Although the treasurer, Joe Hockey, said the aim of the pain was “budget repair” – a national effort in which Australians “fix the budget together” – he is not promising a surplus in the four years of the forward estimates, with a deficit of $2.8bn forecast for 2017-18: unemployment remains at 6% or higher for the next three, growth is almost unchanged and business investment is weakening.
Lets be thankful for that! I don’t think that I am alone in hoping that we never again see the false hope of a quick return to surplus trotted out in every one of Wayne Swan’s budgets .
Hockey conceded the government “could have gone harder” in paying down deficits, but said “it would have detracted from growth”.
Well we all know that its a balancing act between the need to pay down debt and not kill the economy in the process.
He denied his budget was the start of an “age of austerity”, saying he was in fact ushering in a new “age of opportunity”.
No surprise in trying to change the way that the budget will be perceived.
But for unemployed people under 30, this “age of opportunity” means waiting six months to get the dole, then receiving a payment only for six months and only if they work for it, and then losing the payment again for the next six months, during which a potential employers may get a wage subsidy.
Well this is a great deal tougher than I expected and I can see some individuals could very well suffer severe hardship under such a regime. On the other hand it will clearly incentivise those in this demographic to both accept any work that they can get and to try harder to please their employers to avoid losing their jobs in the first place. I can’t see how it could work in remote indigenous communities that have bugger all jobs though.
For sick people it means paying $7 for every visit to the doctor and every medical test – $5 of which will be invested in a new “medical research future fund” and $2 will be kept by the doctor or test provider, in part to help them waive the payment in cases of “genuine need”. The co-payment will stop after 10 medical payments for concession holders and children. The co-payment for medicines will also increase by $5.
Which means that those sick with concession cards will mostly still be able to see a doctor for free as they do now but I am less than impressed by the increase in co-payment for prescriptions which will almost double with the $5 increase. No more coffee shop stop for me when I get my drugs then 😦
Hockey said the aim of the health changes was to “get the nation to invest in its own healthcare … and for people to accept personal responsibility for their own physical health.”
Most of us do this anyway
For students the new era means paying back a greater proportion of the cost of a degree, and this cost potentially rising as the higher education sector is deregulated – although government loans will be available for a wider range of courses.
I have repeatedly argued that tertiary education is rather over rated and if it is going to cost those who benefit from it more than they will certainly chose their courses with greater care and a consideration of its benefit to their future career. The important thing to keep in mind though is the generous and universal loans scheme means that greater costs will not restrict anyone from doing the course of their dreams no matter what their background may be.
For single-income families it means losing up to $73 per week a child in family tax benefit B payments once the bread winner earns more than $100,000 (rather than the current $150,000) and losing the payment when the youngest child turns six, rather than 18.
Who could object to cutting this? Anyone on 100K a year does not need this kind of benefit at all.
And government payments including family tax benefit, Medicare rebates and private health insurance rebates will be frozen, as will eligibility thresholds for receiving them – instead of rising in line with inflation – an idea Tony Abbott derided as “class warfare” when it was tentatively tried by the former Labor government.
Likewise a reasonable move.
Many disability pensioners under 35 will be “reassessed” and those with “some work capacity” forced to seek employment.
As I have suggested elsewhere this is a largely symbolic matter and that the vast majority of those DSP recipients who will be re-accessed will in fact found to still be compliant with the eligibility criteria which are pretty hard to meet anyway. As for work well it has to be there and suitable for the disabled and I have my doubts that many in this cohort will be able to find work.
But clearly hesitant to break an election promise that no changes would be made to the pension, the government has delayed paring back aged pensions until after the next federal poll.
What the government takes to the next poll will be judged by the people.
It is then proposing major changes – linking pension increases to inflation rather than average earnings, which will see their buying power decline over time compared with current arrangements, freezing the threshold for assets and income a pensioner can hold even though their value will rise over time, reducing the amount a pensioner can earn from their assets.
It seems to me that this is a reasonable change that brings the aged pension into line with the indexation of other government benefits. As for changes to the assets valuation well I’m undecided on that one.
The pension age will rise to 70 by 2035, but addressing criticism that older people often find it hard to get a job the government is offering a new wage subsidy to employers taking on a worker over 50 who has been unemployed for more than six months.
The subsidy will undoubtedly be welcomed by both small business and older job seekers and is to may mind far more significant than a raising of the pension age in twenty years time.
As I predicted in my last post this budget is not the horror that the pundits were suggesting it would be. Its certainly not perfect in every aspect and only time will tell if the assumptions and expectations that are at its heart will be correct. However one thing we can be sure of is that it has to be better than any of the flights of fantasy delivered by Wayne Swan that were inevitably entirely made of tat hope and bullshit. All big picture instruments like the federal budget are going to be like the curates egg “good in parts” and at this one will be no exception there certainly are some parts that are a bit off smelling but on the whole its seems to be quite reasonable given the mess that we inherited from Labor.
Despite my Re-blogging of Yale’s Clive Palmer post and my, well, less than complementary assessment of the fat man it seems that of he is true to his word he may just be able to Save the Abbott government from itself by preventing the creation of the expensive and pointless “direct action ” climate policy .
Clive Palmer has declared the Abbott government’s Direct Action policy is “dead”, saying his Palmer United Party will use its numbers in the Senate to block the Coalition’s policy to replace the carbon tax.
Mr Palmer said on Monday the controversial policy, which aims to reduce emissions largely through payments to businesses, was “hopeless” and would be “gone” if his party, Labor and the Greens all vote against it, as they have previously indicated.
“It’s goodbye Direct Action,” Mr Palmer told Fairfax Media.
Mr Palmer had said earlier in the day he would not support Direct Action if the Abbott government made any changes to the pension, in light of
growing speculation that there are plans to raise the pension age to 70 and tighten eligibility requirements.
But on Monday afternoon Mr Palmer went a step further and said there would not be any circumstance in which his party would vote for Direct Action.
The government plans to spend up to $1.55 billion over the next three years on the scheme, but several senior economists have questioned whether Direct Action can meet its emissions reduction target of 5 per cent by 2020 with that budget.
Mr Palmer said the policy did not make economic sense and questioned whether it would have any environmental effect.
“We can’t see any reason to vote for Direct Action,” Mr Palmer said.
“We think it’s hopeless.”
The green religion is worse than the Spanish inquisition #qanda.
— Iain Hall (@theiainhall) April 21, 2014
Its a nice bit of sport for a Monday night Comrades
As one of those who voted for the Abbott Government I feel duty bound to address the points that you have made in your open letter because I do believe that you are very much mistaken in your missive:
I’m seriously unhappy with you. You might think that you understand why this is the case. You might think that I’m disappointed because the Labor Party is no longer in power, and it would be a lie for me to say this doesn’t contribute to my dissatisfaction. But what’s more important, and what’s driven me to write this letter to you all, is something far larger than the people who get elected. My issue is with you. You personally, and your greed and your selfishness, and your decision to put a fractional increase in your electricity bill ahead of your responsibility to provide a sustainable future for my planet. The planet I live on. The planet I am hoping will provide my children and grandchildren with a place to live. Yes, I’m hoping you haven’t contributed to the death of my offspring. This is how seriously outraged by you I am. This is personal.
It was neither greed no selfishness that motivated me to vote for the Abbott government, it was a profound disappointment with the six years of labor government, I was disappointed when its two leading lights Rudd and Gillard dissipated their electoral capital with their eternal self serving power struggle> I was also horribly disappointed by the fact that Labor never seemed to be able to manage even any of their sometimes laudable ideas properly into fruition> But when it comes to the Climate change policy they pursued I was angry at both the needless impost upon the cost of living and the clear futility of their grand plan. If the AGW theory is correct nothing that Labor did and that we are all collectively paying for is going to make a scrap of difference to the future of the planet.
So you probably noticed, or more likely didn’t unless Kyle Sandilands/Stefanovic mentioned it, that approximately 60,000 Australians turned out on Sunday to rally for action to combat climate change. You know, climate change, that thing that you deny, discount, laugh at, and generally ignore every time you have the opportunity. And yes, if you’re an Abbott voter, I do believe it’s fair to put you in this bucket. If you even begin to tell me you want action to reduce the catastrophic effects of climate change and that you also voted for the man who vowed to ‘axe the tax’, the very mechanism that was reducing Australian emissions and contributing to a world-wide acceptance of the need to do something about climate change, I will tell you you’re a moron. A dangerous moron. And this leads me to my reason for writing you this letter. I want you to know that I’m not just pissed off with you. I’m furious* (*not a strong enough word). And I’m not pandering to you anymore. This is a call for those who share my anger not to pander to you either.
I was well aware of the rallies you mention Victoria, but I think that you need to put the numbers that you are so proud of into perspective. We have more than twenty million people living in this country which means that as a proportion of our national population the turnout was truly miniscule. You may or may not be aware of this but the claims of a pending climate apocalypse have been rather oversold and like the boy who cried wolf its most vehement proponents are less than credible anymore. Like you I care very much about the fate of the planet that we share and will leave to our offspring and I’m even angry too. But I’m angry that so much effort and treasure has been wasted on the futility of mitigation rather than making us so much more flexible in our thinking and so much more capable of adapting to any changes that actually occur to the climate.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that climate change rally-ers have been out in the streets before, with similar rallies calling for similar action to do something about climate change. Yes, we’ve been out before. But I think it’s time things changed. I think it’s time to talk about what’s happened in Australia. I think it’s time to call you all out for what you have done. Australia had action and emissions were reducing. But now Abbott is undoing it, because you supported him to do this. Because you elected Abbott, you have brought about an outcome which equates to you personally choosing a few dollars in your pocket over the safety of the planet. You don’t seem to care about your taxpayer dollars being wasted on Abbott’s ludicrous tree-planting exercise, Direct Action. Nor do you care that every credible scientist – and most economists – know that this policy will not work. This waste of money scheme is going to end up costing you far more personally, through your tax dollars, than the Carbon Price would ever have cost you. And no one has yet been able to explain to me in words that make sense how you processed this decision into a rational thought.
Yes I understand that its the same people who turn up to such events and I even share some of your cynicism about Tony Abbott’s Direct Action plan but it at least has a chance to do some good for our environment even if the AGW theory is a load of old cobblers. That said there is no chance at all that the Labor scheme will make a scrap of difference to either the climate or to the environment in general. I just can’t understand why you cling so desperately to such a futile scheme that will enrich spivs and shysters.
I actually think it’s pointless that we, those who want action, rally quietly in huge numbers and then go back to our day jobs on Monday and tell our work colleagues that we were there at the rally and how it’s going to help. We’re talking to work colleagues who, in their majority, have used their democratic vote to empower a man who everyone with half-a-brain knows is a climate change denier, for the personally convenient purpose of maintaining his friendship/donor relationship with the likes of Gina Rinehart.
The thing is Victoria you have to want more than just “action”, you have to want “effective action” and there was no way under heaven that the Labor scheme could have ever given you that. All it could have ever been was an act of climate piety, an empty indulgence that would make an almost immeasurably small change to the climate even if the science is right and the Jury is out on that point.
But that’s the thing about Tony Abbott. You people, the ones who voted for him, invented him. Like a disturbingly incoherent Frankenstein thug, you needed someone to tell you that climate change wasn’t a problem. You needed someone to maintain your comfortable status quo, to tell you that your pastimes of shopping and buying credits on your Candy Crush iPhone game were perfectly justifiable ways to spend your spare time and money. You needed this man to give you a reason to do nothing, and to campaign against action when someone tried to do something about the biggest problem our society has ever, and will ever, encounter, to make you feel like you’re not doing something wrong by doing nothing. But that’s the thing. You’re not just doing nothing. You’ve given Tony Abbott a mandate to undo the only action we had. The action we, the responsible Australians, rallied for. You’re the handbrake, you’re the ‘control z’ that could destroy the lives of my future offspring. You don’t care that people are already dying in countries you’ve heard of but never visited, as long as your electricity bill isn’t more than it was last month, which it probably isn’t because you spent half the month in Bali drinking 50c beers and buying $1 copies of Breaking Bad Season 2 so your plasma TV wasn’t on for 18 hours a day. And this is the point I want to make.
The simple truth is Victoria that there are a lot of people who voted for the Abbott government who did so out of entirely altruistic reasons, we just want the government to soundly administer its programs and departments. We want our government to put the interests of Australians ahead of the making futile acts of climate piety. Nor are we all crazy slaves to consumerism many of us tread just as lightly on the planet as you yourself do. Some of us would never even consider taking the sort of overseas holidays you and so many of the participants and your climate rallies have on your CVs.
Climate change is not a debate. You have no right to an opinion on climate change. You’re not a climate scientist, I can guarantee it. Climate change is happening. It’s killing people now. Whether you like it or not in your comfortable little greed fest, we’re having more regular and more severe storms, droughts, floods and fires across the planet because of climate change, right now. People like me don’t go to rallies because we have nothing better to do on a weekend. And personally, I’m sick of the attitude that we, as a community of people who want to do something, should pander to people like you who refuse to listen, who refuse to understand what scientists are saying (note I say ‘understand’ and not ‘believe’ because this is not a fairy in the garden that you can choose to believe in or not). This is real. And it’s affecting those who want to do something about it just as much as it’s affecting you. But since you voted for Abbott, the coal companies are back in charge. Now we have a government who doesn’t even bother to attend the Warsaw climate conference, where the world is discussing plans to do something. Now we have an environment minister referencing Wikipedia to justify his denial.
This is where you go oh so wrong Victoria, everything in science is open to debate, without that its just not science, it is then nothing but a sort of religious dogma and it does otherwise intelligent people no good service to so misunderstand the principles of science and the scientific method. likewise it does you no good to inappropriately insist that only the priests (climate scientists) of your climate faith have any right to an opinion on the changes that you wish to impose upon our society and the whole world. We live in a democracy Victoria and the people have spoken, you seem to be implicitly arguing for some sort of totalitarian dictatorship to “save the planet” would you really want to live in such a society? To have every aspect of your life controlled for the sake of the planet?
So this is my statement: I’m not pandering to you anymore. I’m not pretending it’s a good use of my time to try to convince you of the completely and utterly proven fact of climate change. Polite diplomacy has not got us anywhere. You need to know loud and clear that you’re the problem. And you need to take responsibility for what you and your selfish lifestyle, and your prioritising of dollars on your electricity bill have done to the continuation of the planet we all live on, the same place where we all hope to see our children live without being destroyed by your selfishness and greed.
The planet will endure well enough without the Carbon tax et al, in fact the Australian economy and environment may well do better without out its odious burden. But beyond that I share your wish for us all to tread lightly on the planet. Like you I eschew the consumer treadmill In fact I am personally a great practitioner of the the mend and make do school of thought so all of my furniture and many appliances are on their second lives. The thing is such frugality is sadly less common from people of all political percussions, and it should be an underlying imperative for all of us.
Your legacy is a country which convinced other wavering, weak societies that there was no point taking action, because it would just be un-done if they did. You will be remembered, and studied by future generations as the people who had the chance to do something, but were too selfish, mean, greedy and self-centered to sacrifice just a small amount for the benefit of the future. I don’t give a shit if this statement upsets you. You deserve to feel upset. You deserve to feel like total cowards. You needed to think of people in the future, and all you could think of was an insignificant sacrifice on your electricity bill which might affect how much, ever so slightly, you can afford to spend on your lifestyle today. You could have just made the easy and smart decision to cut down on your electricity usage, which was really the point of the Carbon Price in the first place. But this was an inconvenience to you. Your mindset is a complete outrage. You’ve democratically elected the most dangerous person you could possibly have voted for at a tipping point in the future of humanity, and you argue in favor of this disastrous decision with all your energy whenever you can. This is beyond wrong. Your behaviour is reprehensible and it’s time we told you so.
Where your argument falls down is in your misplaced faith in the ability of humanity as a whole to consistently work together for a single purpose not just for a sort time but forever. Surely with your interest in politics and history you must realise that such cooperation is just totally at odds with the totality of human existence? We are by a very nature a quarrelsome creature who just can not play together well for long enough to make any Global scheme work. So you are just going to have to face the reality that the plan can n0t be made to work. Which means we have no choice but to adapt if and when the climate changes. There is just no point in doing anything else.
Next time you’re in the tea room at work equating climate change to the Y2K bug, I think someone should tell you you’re a blight on our future. Next time you spout your bullshit about the science not being settled on my Twitter stream, or you write loony comments on my blog to justify why you don’t want to do anything about climate change, I’m not going to engage in a debate with you as this just gives you the idea you’ve got some credibility in the argument. You have no credibility. I’m going to tell you you’re selfish and greedy. And I’m going to bring up this conversation with you rather than letting you ignore it. I’m calling on others who are as concerned as I am about the path this country has chosen not to pander to you anymore either. This is not a debate. This is you choosing to play Russian roulette with the lives of my unborn children. It’s not time for me to try to convince you to do the right thing because you’ve already had the chance to do the right thing and you spectacularly didn’t do it. Those who are worried about climate change aren’t going to get anywhere by being nice to you people. It’s time to get angry. It’s time to explain to you the gigantic error you have made. You voted for Tony Abbott. Now you have to live with what that means. It’s time to pop your comfortable little bubble. You’ve done the wrong thing.
Well I actually have children Victoria and I can tell you one thing and that is children certainly focus your attention on the future so I am doing my best to make sure that they are practical resourceful people who can make the most of what life throws at them. But I am also trying very hard to protect them form the sort of millenarian thinking that has clearly affected you on the issue of climate change. Our individual lives are oh so short and we are all rather insignificant. so all that I can do to close is suggest that when it comes to the climate we need to heed the wisdom serenity prayer even if you are, like me, an unbeliever:
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference
We both as individuals will not be able to change the climate and it is nothing but a vain conceit to think otherwise so the only way for you to get past the pain and anguish you feel at present is to gain the wisdom about that which you can and can not change