tip off

Labor’s lazy levy

A flood levy to pay for the cost of the catastrophic Queensland floods would be lazy policy from a fiscally lazy government.

There’s something faintly absurd about a government with a budget loaded with superfluous spending and the lowest debt levels in the developed world insisting that it needs a new tax to pay for the impact of natural disasters — especially when this government itself has been arguing that climate change will cause more extreme weather and preaches “adaptation” to Pacific Island states.

It also suggests this is a government that feels more comfortable playing on voters’ sympathies for the victims of the floods than about making the case for cutting spending in politically sensitive areas.

Remember that illuminating moment before the election, when Julia Gillard herself announced an expansion of the education rebate available to Family Tax Benefit A recipients. That’s a key voting demographic that had strayed from Labor and that the Labor brains trust, obsessed with micro-policies, wanted to win back.

It was Labor that took the first steps to start winding back the endless middle-class welfare spewed out by the Howard government in an effort to keep buying votes. It introduced a $150,000 threshold for Family Tax Benefits in 2008. Problem is, below that level, you start to eat into middle-income demographics with a lot more voting power than high-income earners. The expansion of the education rebate, and the Coalition’s election campaign response of offering to expand it even more, appears to have sounded the death knell for hopes either side would risk making serious cuts to middle-class welfare. Slapping a one-off levy on voters and telling them it’s for the floods is clearly more politically palatable than telling voters they’ve gotten used to levels of government spending that aren’t sustainable in the face of an ageing population.

One-off levies were a favourite tool of the Howard government, despite its reputation for handing out tax cuts. It slapped a levy on sugar to bribe the sugar industry to accept restructuring. There was a dairy levy imposed on milk for a similar purpose for nearly a decade — it only ended in 2009. But levies weren’t just for bribing influential National Party constituencies. There was an airfare tax after the Ansett collapse. There was also the East Timor levy, via an increase in the Medicare levy on income tax, introduced in 2000-01.

For those trying to predict the politics of a flood levy, remember that the East Timor levy — to pay for our peacekeeping commitment to that country — got the Howard government into trouble. Not because people objected to paying it — in fact, the opposite. The levy was only imposed on people earning more than $50,000, and doubled to 1% for those earning more than $100,000. The government immediately copped criticism that it was only targeting high-income earners, when the burden should be shared right across the community.

Levies appeal to politicians because one-off levies can be justified as dealing with one-off hits to the budget, and because the hypothecation of revenue from industry-specific levies can be sold as politically palatable “structural adjustment packages”. But all they do is hide long-term fiscal problems — expenditure that lacks discipline and revenue measures that are inefficient and jury-rigged to address political needs.

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  • 1
    geomac
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Watching the 7.30 report last night the PM clearly stated that a levy may be an option. After being pressed she repeated that cuts would be made and a levy may be an option. I doubt that there is any fiscal sense in committing to a surplus purely for the sake of saying we have a surplus. One year Costello had a surplus that was in fact a deficit but manipulating the books gave the appearance of a surplus.
    Bolte put Victoria 60% in the red to build Tullamarine airport and didn,t suffer any electoral pain. A healthy budget is a sustainable budget not one dictated by a false presentation of the value of a surplus or deficit.

  • 2
    John
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott are the problems in Australia’s politics.
    We need a new way forward.
    Stephen Smith is the ideal Labor PM.
    Malcolm Turnbull will be the ideal next Liberal PM.

  • 3
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Stephen Smith is a cowardly, craven child torturer disguised as someone mild.

    Wouldn’t trust him anymore than I trust Gillard.

  • 4
    JamesH
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Bernard has half a point in his relentless blathering about middle class welfare, but ignores that every time you cut “middle class welfare” you raise the effective marginal tax rate. “Welfare” in Australia cuts out so quickly that someone trying to go from “welfare to work” faces a 70%+ effective income tax.

    Also worth noting that studies of the Australian Welfare system have found:

    The highly selective nature of Australia‘s income support arrangements means that it traditionally has less middle class welfare than virtually all other developed countries, including other low-spending countries such as the USA and Japan.36 This is illustrated by the low share of direct social security transfers in Australia going to the richest households. For example, a 2000 Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) study found direct transfers to the richest 30 per cent of households of workforce age in Australia to be 6.5 per cent, the lowest of 21 OECD countries studied, substantially lower than most other countries.”

    from Money for nothing? Australia in the global middle class welfare debateby Luke Buckmaster at the APH parliamentary library research service (www.aph.gov.au/library)

  • 5
    John Reidy
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    If this government were smart they would use the recovery spending to justify dropping popular middle class benefits - say the private health care rebate. If it were Keating he would be able to skewer the opposition.

  • 6
    Mahaut
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Bernard
    I agree that a levy would be fiscal laziness. With prudent fiscal management the Government should still be able to maintain a sound budgetary situation without a special one-off tax.
    I don’t think the politics are going to be in the government’s favour with this one. Politicians seem to take the view that a levy is not really seen as a tax because it is for a special purpose and on many occasions that is the view of the community as well. In our current environment, where we already have in play two tax proposals which have created stark areas of contestation between the two major parties, the community, after a vigorous campaign by the Opposition, be brought round to the view that a levy, yet again, is an undue additional tax burden.

  • 7
    Apathy
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    It’s truly astonishing and more importantly it’s an absolute disgrace that we have allowed our society to become what it is today. Politics is a reflection of society and it appears that the world is not mature enough for democracy. I feel ashamed about how leadership in this country has been dumb down to a point where logic and common sense is non-existent and narcissism rules. Both sides are as bad as one another yet people still will defend one side over the other, not seeing the forest through the trees. Have we really become that stupid? Do people out there in voter land just not get it or is it a case of we just couldn’t be bothered? Maybe John Elliot had a point?

  • 8
    Jolyon Wagg
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    shepherdmarilyn

    Stephen Smith is a cowardly, craven child torturer disguised as someone mild.

    Don’t hold back…tell us what you really think :)

    Cowardly and craven seems a tad harsh to me. BTW, where does the child torturing come in?

  • 9
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    When I pleaded with him before the 2004 election about kids in refugee prisons he told me to piss off because the plebs liked it.

    A report that year showed that locking up refugee kids is torture.

    Ergo Stephen Smith is a child torture advocate.

    As are the rest of the blithering cowards who go to our high court and demand that unaccompanied children be locked up by their guardian, the minister Bowen or whoever of the day, thinks it’s best.

    They blather endlessly about frigging visas, but guess what? The law changed by the ALP way back in 1992 means there is no offence in not having a visa so why do we waste $1 billion per annum pretending there is.

  • 10
    The Hungry Years
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Remember that illuminating moment before the election

    Yes

  • 11
    Jimmy
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    Shepherd Marilyn - is that an exact quote from Smith? Maybe all your good points would be taken more seriously if you didn’t mix them with such outlandish statements.

    A question for all - would it be the end of the world if we had a deficit in 2012/13 and returned to surplus a year later? Why is a small surplus so important nin the current circumstances?

  • 12
    tonyfunnywalker
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    I am just plain disgusted - shepherdmarilyn - what do you want to become - a Sarah Palin equivalent or the Glen Begg of the b logger’s world.

  • 13
    geomac
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

    Marilyn
    In 2004 Smith was in the opposition not in government. Surely your rant belongs to the minister responsible at that time or the present one. You detract from your argument with abusive comments that have little substance.

  • 14
    Norman Hanscombe
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    JIMMY/TONY, poor marilyn has spent too much time bleating to sheep to realise how counterproductive her hysterical raves can be. Why her friends haven’t tried to placate her I don’t know — - or perhaps they have, without success?

  • 15
    Jimmy
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    You do have to hand it to Marilyn though - no matter what the topic of the article is she always finds away to post about refugees.

  • 16
    Sascha
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Apathy,

    Thank you so much for saying that. I have hope again. (no sarcasm in that btw)

    As for the levies, It wouldn’t be so bad if they were tempory and removed once they had paid what they were supposed to pay for. It’s a levy not a tax after all. I’d say the medicare levy has payed for all the guns many times over by now, but still it remains.

  • 17
    Norman Hanscombe
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    Hand it to her, Jimmy? I wouldn’t imagine anyone would even consider her worth handing hemlock.

  • 18
    Apathy
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Sascha - it’s nice to know that I am not the only one who thinks this way. Sometimes I feel alone in the herd.

    Marilyn - It’s nice to see someone speaking up and fighting for the rights of refugees and it’s people like you that ensures that society doesn’t forget them. However, I think Jimmy has a point. All roads don’t lead to Refugee Advocacy. It would be nice if you could stick to the topic once in a while and not twist everything around to suit your refugee agenda. Otherwise you are no better than the politicians and MSM you criticise. You do your cause more damage with this approach. As JWH showed, it doesn’t matter how much noise you make, if no one is listening, you are just a dead man walking.

  • 19
    LisaCrago
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    seems like every two bit pollie and his dog want to get some political runs on the muddy boards at the moment.

    It is a disgrace, BK is right it is lazy and I would go further to say a greedy money grab to pray on the shock and grief while we are still looking for the actual bodies.

    Shame on them all. Brown blaming the coal pushing his doom and gloom AGW adgenda, Abbott using it to scrap the NBN and anything else he did not think of and typical ALP slugging us with another new TAX; they can take their levy and shove it and call it what it really is another ALP TAX.

  • 20
    Norman Hanscombe
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

    APATHY, you ask too much of the dear lady. If marilyn’s career prospects and/or self-image are inextricanly interwoven into migration, she’s only doing the best she can in her job, isn’t she?

  • 21
    freecountry
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Yes, special levies aim to give the impression that we’re running a really tight ship. When the truth is, politicking just takes up so much time, effort, and money that there’s not much left over for good government.

    One thing: we keep hearing about “the lowest debt levels in the developed world” as if the average debt were some kind of benchmark of good government. It’s like saying, “I drink-drive less than all my friends and neighbors.” You can argue that the debt was necessary in 2008-9, but it’s inexcusable that the government continues to pile on debt until 2013, assuming that the real world behaves itself for the next two years. There have been so many independent economists commenting on the government’s inflationary spending, including RBA directors, that it’s outrageous to keep piling on that debt for no reason.

    I’ve seen some Crikey readers who were under the mistaken impression that the debt will be paid off in 2013, and I have no doubt a lot of the less sophisticated population believe so, because Swan has carefully avoided any projection whatsoever of how long it will take to pay off.

  • 22
    sickofitall
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    It seems to me that the best solution would be to tax an undertaxed industry which has a strong Queensland base - like, ooh, I don’t know, the mining industry…

  • 23
    political animal
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

    We need to increase the top tax rates to make up for Costello cutting them too much when the mining boom Mk I was roaring along. That would ensure real surpluses sooner and means future recessions or mere shocks don’t plunge our economy into such huge deficits again. For the same reasons people with private incomes should be kicked off the old age pension and the health care rebate cancelled—that will help heaps with the boomers retiring too.

  • 24
    freecountry
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Tax everyone more except any group that includes me, me, me.

  • 25
    Jean
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    The Liberals being nice to the widows and orphans, Labor trying to make things easy for the mine owners- it’s just too confusing.
    Could we please go back to the good old days when parties had an ideology, so we actually had something substantial to vote for?

  • 26
    The Hungry Years
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    you are wasting your time Jean. All political parties regardless of any nation, including the despots, are all owned by You Know Who….so, you might as well milk it for what it is, do your best for your fellow man by joining the suburban guerrilla movement and understand that there is nothing new under the sun ;-) …sorry to ruin the discussion but I am just so damn immature.

  • 27
    sickofitall
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    @Freecountry - I pay plenty of tax, and I don’t begrudge it. (and not a PAYE earner either - it comes out after I’ve got it, so I notice it more.)

    I’d gladly pay (a little) more tax if there weren’t others paying far less than their share. Twiggy Forrest’s et al assault on Australian Crown land is wrong because they pay the minimum (next to none) tax on earnings that should be shared among everyone. I’d put Aboriginal welfare first, looking at long term sustainable economic stability (and don’t spin me that the ‘jobs’ they’ve been given are long-term - they’ll be chewed up and spat out, as will most mining workers eventually.)

    So, while I in general agree (too much NIMBYism), in this case, let’s share the load fairly.

  • 28
    Chris Sanderson
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    Re: Labor’s lazy levy

    How about using this opportunity to help Qld by paying a one-off levy, providing the govt guarantees that the increasing risk of extreme weather events due to climate change is taken fully into account in the re-straucturing?

    In other words no re-building in flood prone areas of infrastructure or buildings or where insurance companies will not provide cover.

    Otherwise we will increasingly be asked to pay for such disasters, when they should never happen with proper planning, given the warnings from the world’s climate scientists.

    There will need to be serious federal and uncorruptible policing to make sure developers and state govts are not allowed to collude to repeat such ‘mistakes’.

  • 29
    Fed Up
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 8:26 pm | Permalink

    @sickofitall - I pay plenty of tax, and I don’t begrudge it

    Providing that the money is spent in the right areas, such as…caring for the homeless, looking after the widows and orphans, job creation programmes, education in the area of teaching self-reliance and personal initiative and financial independence, affordable housing, support for the family unit instead of trying to destroy it, manufacturing and small business, rural programmes that increase local food production - for starters.

    instead of spending it on senseless and useless wars like Iraq and Afghanistan, pay rises for politicians who work to a foreign agenda, roads - enough already, tired old employment programmes, quick fix stimulus spending, any type of bureaucracy - for starters too.

  • 30
    Cathy
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

    A new govt levy or tax to assist with the damage caused by the flood in QLD would be fine with most rank & file people, providing that none it diminishes the responsibilty of the Insurance companies who I am sure will soon plead poverty and seek govt assistance anyway.

    Also, it must be temporary and taken off the books as soon as the jobs done, otherwise it will be the classic money grab that everyone fears it will be.

  • 31
    sickofitall
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

    @fed up: all of that, too…

  • 32
    freecountry
    Posted Friday, 21 January 2011 at 11:38 pm | Permalink

    Sickofitall - I respect your view that the mining sector is undertaxed due to windfall price gains on the international commodity markets. I only partly agree, but I respect that view. My comment was aimed at “Political Animal”, not you. Sometimes a socialist takes off the mask of compassion and concern for his fellow man and reveals himself for what he is, a looter with democracy on his side. “Political Animal”s comment was one of those moments.

  • 33
    Jenny Lee
    Posted Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 2:11 am | Permalink

    Whether a levy is a good idea or not (I don’t think it is, but I can see the political attraction), there’s obviously a lot of confusion about what it might be there for. If you trawl through the Fairfax and Murdoch sites, most of the comments are based on the assumption that the levy is to give grants to households who didn’t insure. Not to rebuild damaged railways, roads and public buildings, or develop infrastructure that would be less flood-prone. The government has done a terrible job of explaining itself.

  • 34
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 3:32 am | Permalink

    Yes Jimmy, that was a direct quote. I would not claim he said it if he didn’t.

  • 35
    Angra
    Posted Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Shephermarilyn - they can’t all be that bad. How about Greg Combet? He’s my local member and strikes me as a good bloke. He even had the courtesy to talk to me during the last election campaign, with respect and I believe honesty.

    Well he won my vote at least. I cunningly judged the local candidates on their responses to my inquiries. He and the Greens candidate were the only ones who bothered to talk to me.

  • 36
    Angra
    Posted Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    cunningly” was meant to be ironical. But Combet did imply he was a bit pissed off with the Assassination of Kevin Rudd by the Coward Julia Gillard.

  • 37
    Norman Hanscombe
    Posted Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    ANGRA, Combet is extremely competent and a good operator, thus careful enough to do no more than ‘imply’ what he’d have worked out would suit your views re Rudd’s departure. In any case, since Combet {not to forget Belinda Neal?} was one of the candidates Rudd imposed on local ALP Branch members against the local branches’ wishes in 2010, Combet had reason ro be grateful to Rudd.

    JIMMY, you need to keep in mind that some True Believers, especially those so blinded by their certainties that they genuinely can’t think straight, can convince themselves that whatever fantasy ‘helps’ their noble cause is ‘true’, and they don’t always know it when they’re saying something which may be far from true. You can’t really hold them responsible for delusions arising from an unfortunate combination of a bad deal in the genetic lottery, plus landing in a sadly traumatic environmental quagmire.

    Life hasn’t been fair to them, so fantasising about events does make it a little less intolerable for the poor souls.

  • 38
    Angra
    Posted Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Norman - I am just an ordinary ignorant bloke, and a voter - so what am I supposed to go by? In my ‘wisdom’ I decided to ask my local candidates about certain issues close to my heart. Combet gave the best response. So I gave him the benefit of the doubt and voted for him.

    What more am I supposed to do?

    Are you suggesting that candidates are lying bastards?

    Maybe you’re right. I am shocked.

  • 39
    Johnfromplanetearth
    Posted Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    So let me get this straight, Julia wants a new Tax to to cover the cost of the flood rebuilding? The very same floods that former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie said would not happen again due to lower than usual rainfall and eco nutjob Tim Flannery’s call for desal plants in Queensland because dams and rivers will never fill again? I reckon i would get morse sense out of Chief Wiggum than those two dropkicks. I don’t think Julia has the foggiest idea what to do about all of this, this Government has hit the iceberg and no matter what any global warming alarmist might tell you, she is going to sink! Once again Mother Nature has the last laugh!

  • 40
    Norman Hanscombe
    Posted Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    angra, I’d have voted, even worked, for Combet had I lived there, because he was an excellent candidate. I don’t suggest he was lying to you, merely saying that candidates must choose their words carefully to avoid upsetting voters. Being an intellectually coherent and frank candidate wouldn’t be easy. Can you imagine trying to hold a rational discussion with some of the obsessive ‘noble cause’ posters who pop up regularly on internet sites?

    I’ve seen a change in candidates over the decades, and believe there are more nowadays for whom career opportunities is the primary interest; but isn’t that true of modern society generally? An underlying problem with politics is that fewer people join Parties (or voluntary organisations generally for that matter) and an increasing proportion of those who do join do so for reasons which relate more to their personal aspirations than anything else. Even with those who have no career hopes when they become involved in community-based activities, all too often they’re so obsessively driven by a personal ‘noble’ cause that they’re blind to anything other than what fits their sacred beliefs.

  • 41
    Angra
    Posted Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Thank you Norman - that is a considered and intelligent response - unlike some we get here.

    I too have seen a change in local candidates, from what I would call genuine local representatives to career candidates foisted on us from the ‘smoke’. It is indeed a sad change. I vote based on my perception of the local candidates irrespective of their party.

    Maybe I’m a dying breed?

  • 42
    Greg Angelo
    Posted Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    At the risk of intruding into the debate on irrelevancies, I believe that Bernards article article was addressing the issue of funding flood reconstruction, and the impact on the accumulated deficit. Itshould be obvious to even the most obtuse politician that disasters occur regularly, and and that like a household budget having to deal with the occasional “disaster” like a fridge breaking down or the need for a new hot water service, that one adjusts the pattern of expenditure to suit. On this basis one reschedules discretionary expenditure by deferring expenditure on some items to make room for the required outlay. We are talking about 10 or $20 billion which in budgetary terms is a drop in the bucketover several years. Disasters occur regularly and this should be factored into government expenditure projections as a contingency. One could defer returning to surplus by three or four months and achieve the same objective without having to introduce new taxation. The issue that does need to be discussed is the method by which redemption of the profligate expenditure of over $150 billion over a five-year period in excess of taxation receipts is going to be funded. In the short term the interest bill will be an annual $10 -12 billion or so, but one assumes that this accumulated debt will be repaid by the government at some point. As indicated quietly as one respondent Swan is silent on this subject.

  • 43
    Norman Hanscombe
    Posted Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Greg, putting aside disaster contingency funds (and passing on part of the costs/profits to underwriters) is appropriate for insurance companies; but it wouldn’t work all that well for governments which (in addition to underwriting possibilities not being applicable) have very different expectations and pressures on them from anything faced by company boards. It’s even more complicated than reaching agreements on emergency household budgeting decisions.

    Deferring expenditures upsets those who’d benefit from those expenditures — - or can be misled into believing they were ‘un-necessary’ cuts. Delaying reductions in deficits will increase total debt, and someone will have to pay for that additional debt. That’s why politicians are less sanguine than you are about adding further costs for taxpayers — - who have been known to complain about such things.

    Perhaps Swan has good reason to remain silent, hoping to not disturb the hornets’ nests waiting for ANY opportunity which comes their way?

    Angra, it could be worse than being part of a dying breed. Mine’s extinct.

  • 44
    Cathy
    Posted Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    @Fed Up - rural programmes that increase local food production - for starters.

    That comment got me thinking about inland Australia and all that iron and phosphate rich red desert soil. Maybe I am a dreamer, but all that land needs is an effective irrigation system and water supply, then suddenly it becomes the Foof Bowl of the world.

    It might even fit the theme of loving the stranger (refugees) among you, while providing a continuing food supply system at the same time, not just for Australia, but possibly the whole world and providing housing, land, incomes and a future for dispossessed people.

    The Refugee issue would be fixed, the Aboriginal Communities would benefit and Australia could stop importing it’s food and could even become a major exporter.

  • 45
    Fed Up
    Posted Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Thats a very “Grand Plan” indeed Cathy - but I guess if refugee people agreed to go there and recieve allocations of land and were prepared to till the soil under condition of lease or sale, including the installation of irrigation systems and housing for their families, then I guess it’s possible.

    Most of the soil in that area of central Australia is very quartzy, which means that it needs copious amounts of water for anything to grow at all, too hard, but there many areas where the soil grows some of the best pastures in Australia. This is evidenced by the excellent condition of some of the cattle and sheep stations after the rains both east and west of Alice Springs. If the soil can grow good pasture then it could certainly grow food….buts it too “Grand a Plan” Cathy, for those who make the policy.

  • 46
    Norman Hanscombe
    Posted Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Cathy, it’s a dream pushed regularly by radio talk-back show announcers, but unfortunately it’s a joke. Australia has been a net food exporter for a long time, but there’s little scope for increasing productive areas. Our soils are NOT phosphate rich, and one problem we’ll face in the not too distant future [as fertilisers become scarcer/dearer] will be just that. In any case, irrigating central Australia is neither technologically feasible nor economically viable, no matter how much entertainers such as the blinkered 2GB announcers rave on about it.

    As for the planet’s “dispossessed people”, even were we to lower our living standards significantly [which wouldn’t be something governments could sell] and devote those resources entirely to the causes you suggest, the impact on global problems — even IF those problems suddenly, miraculously, stopped following their upward spirals – would be irrelevant.

    I acknowledge it would be a better world if it were a better world, but wishing doesn’t make it so.

  • 47
    Barry 09
    Posted Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

    Labor should tell the voters, that due to the tight arse bastards that was running the country before didn’t keep up maintainance of the main transport areas and just run it to it stopped. Would not buy a car from a conservative , you end up fixing their problems Telstra ?
    Norman , if Australia stopped pumping our shit out to sea and pumped it inland (use Rail/road /power corridors ) and put it though a worm farm , we would have great soil to grow and trillions of cheap workers paid with just your shit( food ) and living arrangments . But thats organic and would keep on improving yearly the soil with worm castings and worm eggs . No chemicals , no pollution, no corporate bonuses. Worms are our friends.
    PS Don’t listen to 2gb tossers.

  • 48
    Norman Hanscombe
    Posted Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    Barry 09, I’ve worked with many for whom English is a second language, so if you not having a translator to help you (with the resultant incoherent nature of some of your message) causes me to misinterpret your argument, please let me know. In no particular order then:

    1. Transport is primarily a State area, so you need to explain who are your (as you so eloquently put it) “tight arse bastards” and for what aspects of transport failure do you blame them? I trust that’s not asking too much.

    2. Your references to “conservative” car salesmen and Telstra is a tad unclear. Please explain.

    3. Re your quaint notion (and you REALLY did say this) that, “if Australia stopped pumping our shit out to sea and pumped it inland (use Rail/road /power corridors ) and put it though a worm farm , we would have great soil to grow and trillions of cheap workers paid with just your shit( food ) and living arrangments” it’s difficult to be sure where to suggest you start. Perhaps you might try to come to grips with the subject areas involved in your inappropriate suggestion? You’ll find it often helps to know what you’re talking about before you start talking.

    4. I suspect you may not be all that happy to learn, Barry O9, that your suggestion in point three is in line with the dribble one hears regularly from the “2gb tossers” to whom you don’t listen — - although in fairness to them, while they’re unrealistic and ill-informed in these areas, they’re not quite as far off the planet with their approach as you are.

    Best of luck with any reading programme you undertake.

  • 49
    freecountry
    Posted Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    Norman Hanscombe:

    Deferring expenditures upsets those who’d benefit from those expenditures — or can be misled into believing they were ‘un-necessary’ cuts. Delaying reductions in deficits will increase total debt, and someone will have to pay for that additional debt. That’s why politicians are less sanguine than you are about adding further costs for taxpayers — who have been known to complain about such things.

    I’m not so sure. OK, there’s always someone to make an almighty din when you cancel their favourite gravy train for project management consultants — the school canteens program or the indigenous housing program that doesn’t build any houses — and sure, they know how to get lots of airtime (and sometimes their job requires them to make a big fuss, whatever they think privately) but I think most people feel a Frazer-style “razor gang” is long overdue.

    I live in a rabidly Labor area, but even here, so many people have been talking about government waste that I get the sense they even exaggerate how much money the Labor government is wasting. It’s unusual to get that perception in a Labor area.

  • 50
    Norman Hanscombe
    Posted Saturday, 22 January 2011 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    Freecountry, many people may think ‘a Frazer-style “razor gang” is long overdue.’ Unfortunately, however, the numbers thinking that way tend to drop dramatically when it affects themselves — - or they think it affects them — - and they’ll often rationalise that the cuts to which they object wouldn’t be needed now ‘if only’ there hadn’t been waste on other (however vague) programmes which helped someone else. Someone else who naturally was less ‘deserving’ than themselves.

    Another, not insignificant, problem in the sort of “rabidly Labor area” you mention is that many Labor voters there can feel [whether rightly or wrongly is irrelevant] that Labor has ignored them, while concentrating on policies aimed at trendy middle class cliques who are in bed with latte lapping leaders who have little understanding of, and even less concern for, ordinary workers. It’s what they feel that counts, regardless of whether or not those feelings reflect reality.

    I hope my assessment is wrong; but hopes don’t always equate with realities, do they.

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