Alan Jones is no longer just Gloria, but Gloriana, the reigning queen of radio and Crikey is keeping an ear on what Australia’s most powerful shock jock has to say. This week, the Crikey Bird Watching Team has its eyes open and the binoculars out as we look for details of the Parrot’s deal with Telstra.

You can’t miss it on the Parrot’s home page a big Telstra logo and the message “The Alan Jones Breakfast Show is bought to you by Telstra”. But that’s it. Click on the logo and you only go through to the Telstra site. Check the Parrot’s commercial agreement register and there’s just the details of the deal for his daily squawk on Channel 9. What’s happening?

Singo, when he bought the Parrot, told him he was too big to be caught up in Seed for Squawks deals again. They were below him. So what’s going on now?

The rumour mill says that Telstra has signed a 12 month, one million dollar agreement to sponsor the Parrot’s show. We’ve heard out in the field before that Telstra has obtained legal advice that such a deal with the Parrot would not constitute Seed for Squawks. And, of course, Telstra director Sam Chisholm was the bird fancier who negotiated the Parrot’s deal with Singo while Singo’s agency has the largest slice of Telstra advertising work.

So, if it’s an upfront deal it’s all above board and a very neat way of topping up the feeder tray. Our feathered friend might as well gather seed while he can. The latest ratings weren’t that good down from 16.1 to 14.5 while a certain midget at his old home of 2UE went from 8.5 to 10.2.

Still, you can’t beat the Parrot. He’s been taught to read copy so well. Every morning, the Crikey Bird Watching Team looks forward to hearing a particularly good ad for a head lice treatment, which has some stunning examples of good copy writing. We love it when he says “stop scratching around for solutions to head lice” and “turn head lice into dead lice”. The stuff must sell by the bucketful to all those Parrot fans in the nursing homes.

And, of course, the Parrot is a loyal bird. As he says, “we pick and we stick” and there’s nothing like buying that special bond. Normally he’d kick up a terrible racket at the idea of an Aussie icon getting sold off to nasty foreigners, but he seemed happy last week at the idea of Qantas going overseas and it’s a long time since they were slipping seed on the sly into his gilded cage.

Funnily enough, it’s just come to us that there are a lot of similarities between Qantas and Telstra, once both fully owned by the federal government, acutely sensitive, and Oh dear.

From all of us at the bottom of the cage, until next time, goodbye.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

Pecking away at the Treasurer

Now, let’s take a look at last week’s Parrot Droppings column:

Parrots, as we know, are clever little buggers. When poor old Hector vanished, the Telegraph gave us a list of all the things he could say. Some parrots like our special Parrot have even taught at GPS institutions like Kings. That then begs a question. Why are there are no parrots on the Board of the Reserve Bank?

There are two competing theories to deal with here.

Bird-fanciers who have seen the continued reportage on Hector’s mysterious disappearance in the Telegraph know that the latest theory is that he was “just the latest victim in a long line of mysterious parrot disappearances” the victim of “misguided” animal liberationists.

Because of this, one school of thought has sprung up says that parrots live in such constant fear that they simply cannot pay constant attention to the minutiae of monetary policy.

Then there’s the people who push the competing theory. They say that while parrots are good at keeping up constant chatter and can squawk away for hours in the most convincing way, they simply can’t do sums.

Our time in the field this week has put us down firmly on the side of the second mob.

Last week we had the Parrot, our special feathered friend, talking to the Treas when he got onto one of his favourite topics Australia’s ridiculously high top tax rate and the ridiculously low level it cuts in at:

PARROT: Treasurer, do you reckon a person on $60,001 a year should be paying 47 cents in the dollar in tax?

TREAS: Well, under my tax plan they wouldn’t be. We tried to lift that threshold to $75,000 as you recall and it was defeated in the Senate.

PARROT: But $50,000 you (inaudible) 42 cents, $50,000?

TREAS: Yes, well, you recall that the Labor Party said that they wouldn’t allow the increase in that threshold and they were joined by the Democrats, so, that is why the threshold is at $60,000.

PARROT: But see in Britain the top tax rate of forty…

TREAS: You asked me whether I agree, patently I didn’t. I had a tax plan to change that and it was defeated in the Senate, so, I can’t turn round now and say the Labor Party and the Democrats were right. No, they defeated our tax plan, that’s why the threshold’s at $60,000. I wanted to take it out to $75,000. The only thing I can say is that before my tax plan was butchered it would have been only $50,000. So we managed to raise…

PARROT: But even so, even so, in Britain, at 40 cents in the dollar you would have to earn $255,000 Australian dollars before you paid 40 cents in the dollar. There’s not much of an incentive here to make a quid, is there?

TREAS: Well, look, I think this is a very good economy to make an income, Alan, and I am going to make that point at the outset. You make the point that that top threshold cuts in low, obviously I have to agree with you because I tried to raise it.

PARROT: Why not index the thresholds?

TREAS: Well, I tried to raise it to $75,000…

PARROT: But index the thresholds…

TREAS: …but you have got to remember this, Alan, tax law has to pass the Labor-controlled Senate. A lot of people say to me, why don’t you fix this, why don’t you fix that? Quite often we have tried. If you have a negative opportunist opposition in the Senate they will decide whether or not those laws get passed.

Fair enough. More power to both of them on that matter, the Bird Watching Team says. Then our Parrot began to muse aloud:

PARROT: But is the mix wrong, I suppose I’m asking… But, but, I’m just wondering where do you get the capacity to do something about it. I mean, for example, is the GST cast in granite? We seem to be taxing income savings and profit when we ought to be taxing expenditure. But while you hold the GST at 10 per cent you have got no chance for taking any pressure off income savings and profit, have you?

Or, in other words, should the rate of the GST increase. Now we all know that the Treas wants to be Prime Minister and presumably sometime in the next 50 years so he was having none of it:

TREAS: Well a GST is a tax on expenditure, and that’s why we introduced it, and it gave us the opportunity to lessen the burden of income tax, increase family allowance, reduce company tax, cut Capital Gains Tax, abolish Financial Institutions Duty, abolish Wholesale Sales Tax. We have now got a plan to abolish Bank Account Debits tax, stamp duty on shares. So, it gave us the wherewithal to do all of that and to keep our economy strong. Now, you’ve asked me, I think, do I believe that rate should increase? And the answer is no

PARROT: What about the bloke on $800 a week? He’s paid his income tax, we’ve been through that. He then pays, he goes to the bowser and he’s paying a tax on his petrol of 42.8 cents a litre. Then he goes to the pub for a drink, he pays an excise on his middy of 34 cents, then there’s the GST. I mean, how does this bloke make a quid? Everywhere he turns there is the Tax Office waiting for him?

(CRIKEY BIRD WATCHING TEAM: He’s talking about indirect taxes here, readers.)

TREAS: Well, if I may say so, this is the Government that reduced petrol excise and stopped its indexation, don’t forget that. We also reduced the tax on diesel and transportation costs and income tax. Now, you know, people still pay taxes in this country, that’s right, but by the same token, as you know, the community wants good services, whether it be health services…


TREAS: …or pharmaceutical services, or disability support…

PARROT: Yeah, quite.

TREAS: …and, Alan, you have got to fund all of those things somehow.

PARROT: All I’m saying is you need an expenditure tax rather than a tax on savings and income.

Now we’re just humble ornithologists, but think it’s fairly clearly that out feathered friend is saying we should pay less in direct taxes and more in indirect taxes like the goods and services tax, a tax on consumption, but less in indirect taxes when that tax is a tax on the consumption of particular goods and services

Excuse us. We’re a little dizzy and better sit down but, anyway, that’s why we think there are no Parrots on the Board of the Reserve Bank.

It’s a simple fact. Parrots are hopeless with numbers as was made clear when the Treas managed to pull a wonderful exposition of Parrotnomics straight from the bird’s beak:

PARROT: Brendan Nelson is saying yesterday, well you’re going to have to pay for your university education. Ian Thorpe doesn’t pay to go to the Institute, why does someone have to pay to go to university when they are the best in the nation.

TREAS: Well, do you think Ian should pay to go to the Institute?

PARROT: No I don’t. I think it’s an investment in the very best in this country.

TREAS: Well, you see I spend half of my life with people telling me that the taxpayer should pay for more things …

PARROT: (inaudible)…

TREAS: Right? As you’ve just done, and then the other half being told they should pay less taxes to fund them.

PARROT: I’ve got to go to the news, you’ve got to go to a Cabinet meeting, but thank you for your time.

TREAS: Thank you very much Alan.

Yes. If we were the Parrot and suddenly realised what a great bloody trap we’d fallen into we would have wrapped it all up pretty damn quickly too.

From all of us at the bottom of the cage, until next time, goodbye.

Hillary Bray can be contacted at [email protected]

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