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Dec 21, 2012

Swan alters course, delivers early Christmas present for Joe

Wayne Swan's abandonment of the surplus commitment isn't the opening of the fiscal floodgates, but it's a great gift for Joe Hockey. Perhaps voters will be smarter than either major party on this vexed issue.


Wayne Swan

Yes, Joe, there is a Santa Claus, his name is Wayne and he’s come five days early for you.

Ever since he became shadow Treasurer, Joe Hockey has been saying Labor would never deliver a surplus. Yesterday Wayne Swan came as close to vindicating him as we’re likely to see before the election campaign.

This is a humiliating backdown by Swan. Since the 2010 budget, Swan has been insisting Labor would be back in the black by 2012-13. He’s referred to the surplus around 200 times in 2011 and 2012 alone, the most recent occasion 11 days ago. Sometimes the surplus rhetoric got a little wild. “We’ve nailed our colours to the mast,” Swan said on stage earlier this year. In 2010, Swan insisted the surplus would be achieved “come hell or high water”.

Well, the good ship Budget has now headed for safe harbour just four months into the voyage, though, to be strictly accurate in labouring this metaphor, the problem isn’t so much high water as the doldrums: as finance data to October showed, revenue is falling below forecast levels. While the strong dollar persists, corporate tax revenue will underperform as trade-exposed sectors of the economy struggle. And the flat housing market, not to mention politicians and newspapers insisting that the economy is a disaster, will continue to crimp domestic confidence.

The commitment has an interesting history. The Rudd government first made it in 2010 when the economy looked to be recovering from the financial crisis more quickly than expected, and Labor was spooked by the opposition’s incessant harping on debt and deficits. 2012-13 was safely off in the future and beyond the election at that point anyway, and the first version of the mining tax was expected to reap huge returns. Then came the floods at the start of 2011, and the government’s flood levy, and a chorus of criticism that there was no need to rush back to surplus so quickly.

The government defied that, the economy picked up in the second half of 2011 and the early part of 2012, but the surplus was continually winnowed back as Treasury realised tax revenue wasn’t springing back anywhere near as fast as expected and Labor kept having to bring spending forward or push it back, or cut it altogether, to keep its prospects alive. The slowdown in the second half of this year, which followed a comparative slowdown in China, was the final straw: Labor isn’t going to cut any more.

Still, Swan has reversed course, and Hockey can pick and choose from an extensive list of Swan’s own statements to throw at the Treasurer. As he well should.

The announcement has been attended by quite a bit of stupidity. Tony Abbott suggested Australian families would somehow pay for the departure from the surplus commitment, as if a switch between a $1 billion surplus and a $5 billion deficit is going to have an impact on inflation or, for that matter, interest rates.

“Swan has spent three years preparing the big stick with which Joe Hockey is going to belt him all the way to the election.”

It also sits oddly with Hockey’s lament that the RBA was being asked to do too much work to “catch a falling economy”; indeed, if the Coalition does believe the economy is falling — as Hockey and Abbott’s refusal to commit to a surplus next year suggests — their rhetoric on the need for surplus is bizarre (then again, all they need do is point to Swan’s many statement about why it’s economically necessary to return to surplus).

The opposition also continues to claim the government is “spending like drunken sailors” when its spending-to-GDP ratio this year — 23.8% at MYEFO, currently on track to be a tad lower — is lower than the average spending-to-GDP ratio of the Howard government.

Then there was the opposite reaction, by Rob Oakeshott, the Greens, some press gallery journalists, and various barrow-pushers, that having walked away from the surplus commitment, the government could now unleash the floodgates on spending, restoring savings made during the course of the last two years. One notable exception was ACOSS, which said the government should look to fund NDIS, Gonski and increased health spending by “clear[ing] wasteful and poorly targeted expenditure from the budget, and to avoid introducing new programs that are not rigorously designed to meet the country’s essential economic and social needs”.

The spend-up-big types — who in effect are saying “we’re going to have lower income this year, so let’s spend more” — missed or ignored what Swan specifically said, which was that the government was not going to make any further cuts to make up for the failure of revenue to meet projections; the surplus commitment has been abandoned only as far as tax revenue falls short. Nor is there strong evidence of a need for any fiscal stimulus. Unemployment remains low and steady; commodity prices have picked up significantly in recent weeks, buoyed by China’s return to strong growth, and there’s still plenty of stimulus to come from the RBA’s interest rate cuts, so a stronger second half of the financial year is a distinct possibility (with attendant higher tax revenues).

In fact Swan has steered a sensible fiscal course so far, refusing until now to react to the constant claims that the economy is in trouble and being endangered by a rapid fiscal contraction. In the end, the bulletproof dollar has defeated him, but there’s no case for abandoning fiscal discipline.

Still, regardless of the merits of the decision, Swan has spent three years preparing the big stick with which Joe Hockey is going to belt him all the way to the election. Whether that has any political impact remains to be seen. At the end of October, Essential found more voters opposed returning to surplus on the back of further spending cuts than supported it. Maybe voters are more sensible and realistic on budget policy than either Labor or the Liberals.


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95 thoughts on “Swan alters course, delivers early Christmas present for Joe

  1. GeeWizz

    First it was going to be a $3 Billion Dollar Surplus.

    Then a $1.5 Billion Dollar Surplus

    Then a $1.1 Billion Dollar Surplus.

    Then 4 months into the data Labor gives up and says it’s all just too hard.

    Now we are gonna get a $10+ Billion Dollar deficit. But it’s okay says Swanny, it’s not my fault.. how was I to know things wouldn’t go exactly to Plan A’s specifications, this running an economy thingy is kinda hard.

    Hey we’ve given up on stopping the boats, given up to the Greens blackmail on the carbon tax and now we are giving up on a budget surplus.

    But don’t worry folks… Labor can have another shot at that elusive Labor budget surplus… in another 23 Years.

  2. floorer

    Maybe voters opposed a return to surplus because they know how bad the economy is despite the *stats* saying otherwise.

  3. Apollo

    No need to worry about the surplus because the world is going to end today.

    But if we survive, we might get unexpected strong revenue for December. I went into Melbourne the other day and saw businesses were buzzing, property sales looked good too. Maybe it’s because we’re close to Christmas.

  4. WTF

    Only Swan was saying he can do it, anyone with half a brain realised a long time ago that every sentence leaving the man’s lips is rubbish. In any case – surely if it can’t be pinned on Abbott than the bigger the deficit the better it must be for working families. That is how incompetence works!

  5. Apollo

    Australian businesses might be able to bring the Australian dollar down against the USD. Maybe if they divest 70% of their export returns into other currencies to convert back to AUD when it’s profitable, and 30% USD to AUD. I’m guessing, I don’t know a lot about currency tradings.

  6. GeeWizz

    JOURNALIST: If you don’t make a, get the Budget back in to surplus in 2012-2013, this is a question to both of you, the cameras are on – will you resign?

    PM: (laughs) The Budget is coming back to surplus, no ifs no buts it will happen.

    JOURNALIST: So that’s a ‘yes’?

    PM: Matthew, I know and you know like these questions during campaigns but the Budget’s coming back to surplus. There’s no credible analysis on our economic plan that it won’t come back to surplus.

  7. Paul Barry

    Good decision. No need to weaken the economy now. Should the economy becomes robust enough in the second half, they can cut spending in the final quarter if it looks achievable.

  8. Hunt Ian

    GeeWizz is all full of it – as a person who has never thought it especially necessary to get the budget back to surplus this year, nor even that it has to be in balance over the cycle, I am not dismayed by Swan’s refusal to shove the economy into recession.

    Unfortunately, we cannot say that “austerity” Abbott and Joe will refuse to push the economy into recession. In fact, it is guaranteed that they will, while trying to cook up a monstrous shortfall in the books with a repeat of the Costello audit of Queensland and blame Labor for the recession they will say we will to have because Labor “spent like drunken sailors”. They will no doubt be assisted by MSM, especially the “small government” push that Murdoch employs. Unfortunately again, many Australians seem a bit as thick as Abbott and Joe think them to be. So sending the economy into recession (Tony has been learning all about it in the UK) and dismantling the welfare state will be order of the day, along with attempts to resurrect the worst elements of Work Choices around individual agreements and withdrawal of rights of access, with the help of Consevative state governments.

    Joe has already signalled how to dismantle the welfare state. There must be incentives for families to spend themslves on tyheir health care and these incentives should be universal. Everyone, rich and poor, should have an incentive to take out private health insurance for health care,. In the case of the poor, the incentives will include cutting all levels of publicly funded care to a bare minimum and waiting in very long queues for elective procedures. In education, everyone, whether rich or poor, should have an incentive to contribute to their own children’s education, provided by bigger grants to schools that don’t get state funding and cutting back on extra federal funding for public schools so that poorer parents have an incentive to contribute more through school fees. The higher the school fees, the less will federal funding of public schools be cut back.
    We unfortunately can expect that deception and all the Goebbels techniques that some parts of MSM already seem to have adopted from Fox News, even if not so thoroughly, will play a big part in this. GeeWizz, can we suggest that you have a little celebration over Xmas? it will be on the house.

  9. مكينSultanofAustralisTerraNullius

    ooooo, that swanie is such a c()ck teaser. first he flirted with the Ozis on the surplus, now he teases blowjoe’s weener. he may do bullwinkle to surprise us all.

  10. Bill Hilliger

    @ Geewizz: Wayne Swan is a fool, he should have done what Joe Hockey will do if he gets to control the fiscal levers, that is; sell Medibank Private, and any of the few remaining government assets after the Howard/Costello sell offs to bring about a surplus. He should have cut Health, Education, free financial gifts to private school, sell off public schools, delete child care assistance, increase taxes for people earning between $50-250K. That would have brought a surplus. But wait that’s not all! Cut taxes for people earning more than $250K as they are the job creators; you know a’ la’ the Fux News and Republican Tea Party mantra that would be so familiar to you. Lastly make the Hume, Newell, Pacific and New England highways toll roads, or better still sell them too. Lastly cut old age pensions by at least 20% and stop subsidising incontince pads for people over 75. There would be a massive surplus, and the spending like drunken sailors transferred to the Australian people. THAT’S what we want, and thats what we will get if Joe gets in. Can’t wait for the wailing to start. Oh how, (according to the polls the MSM, it seems like many fellow Australian people) I hate an even a slightly caring for the people government.

  11. Paul Barry


    Changed ‘when’ to ‘should’ but forgot to delete s from becomes.

  12. klewso

    The Teasurer on the burning deck,
    His colours to the mast,
    He happened to be standing there,
    When Hockey happened past.
    Now Hockey was cunning chap
    He scoffed at Swan’s excuse,
    And as he deigned to take it up
    He made him look a goose.
    [apologies to “Oscar”!]

  13. Malcolm Harrison

    What an appalling state of affairs when the first two paragraphs of Keane’s piece is regarded as relevant news, and so many people will take it seriously as though it will make significant difference to our economic future. Yes, Joe and the rest of the scream team will make the most of it but only because the audience is economically illiterate.
    The real story is the stupidity of the government in painting themselves into an avoidable corner and the way in which they go on trying to rationalise their actions.
    Penny Wong being interviewed by Chris Uhlmann on 7.30 report squirmed as she tried to wriggle out from under accusations of loss of economic credibility. Uhlmann himself pursued this chimera relentlessly as though he too believed the government had lost its way and was taking the rest of the country with it. It was certainly the worst interview I saw this week, making nonsense of any claims that the ABC is in the thrall of left wing bias.

  14. Mr Tank

    About time Comrade, and yep I agree maintain your fiscal discipline but with one exception. RAISE THE DOLE! It is more than just a politically astute move – it will improve our primary vote – it is the moral thing to do.

  15. Mr Tank

    Apologies for the crappy sentence structure. Oh and for the few still in denial about the desperation of the unemployed in this wealthy country and are therefore likely to indulge in their usual shoot the messenger behaviour this dual citizen cashed out the last of his Super under EXTREME FINANCIAl HARDSHIP and bailed. At least now I have a full stomach.

  16. Suzanne Blake

    Swan is a goner, so is Gillard. Labor will have to replace both, in order to save seats. I would not be surprised if they bring back Rudd call a snap poll and hope for the best.

    For Gillard to hide yesterday and not face the music, make it even worse.

    Where is Jimmy from the spin office. Hello hello

    Merry Christmas to all crickey readers.

  17. hern andog

    “Perhaps voters will be smarter than either major party on this vexed issue.”

    that really would be a christmas miracle.

  18. klewso

    That old recipe for embarrassment : “Take one politician and simply add microphone” …. that’s why Abbott avoids them as much as possible (and the party glad he’s on such a short lead).

  19. Holden Back

    “Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.” John Kenneth Gailbraith


  20. zut alors

    Sure, we all watched Swan and Gillard preparing ‘the big stick with which Joe Hockey is going to belt him’ but they wouldn’t, and couldn’t, take heed to drop it.

    The government is too easily baited by the economically vacuous Coalition and their simplistic baying for a surplus. Swan has made a wise decision and changed course. Which is precisely the dilemma Abbott would face re axing the carbon price.

    If Hockey is relishing this ‘broken promise’, the fun hasn’t even begun, he ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

  21. shepherdmarilyn

    For god’s sake a surplus is over charging of taxes without supplying services.

    There is no legal basis for it so why do the Australian moron media pretend they know what they are talking about.

  22. Bill Hilliger

    @ Geewizz: Wayne Swan is a fool, he should have done what Joe Hockey will do if he gets to control the fiscal levers, that is; sell Medibank Private, and any of the few remaining government assets after the Howard/Costello sell offs to bring about a surplus. He should have cut Health, Education, free financial gifts to private school, sell off public schools, delete child care assistance, increase taxes for people earning between $50-250K. That would have brought a surplus. But wait that’s not all! Cut taxes for people earning more than $250K as they are the job creators; you know a’ la’ the Fux News and Republican Tea Party mantra that would be so familiar to you. Lastly make the Hume, Newell, Pacific and New England highways toll roads, or better still sell them too. Lastly cut old age pensions by at least 20% and stop subsidising incontince pads for people over 75. There would be a massive surplus, and the spending like drunken sailors transferred to the Australian people. THAT’S what we want, and thats what we will get if Joe gets in. Can’t wait for the wailing to start. Oh how, (according to the polls the MSM, it seems like many fellow Australian people) I dislike even a slightly caring for the people government.

  23. GeeWizz

    Suzanne… Jimmy was going to pay me 2/1 on my $100 bet that Dillard wouldn’t post a budget surplus.

    When can I expect my cheque?

  24. ulysses butterfly

    No one in voter land is listening. They are all on holidays or shopping.

    Swan knows this. Hockey too, hence the annoyance.

    Will anyone remember outside the beltway after the holidays? Too soon to tell.

    For instance what if the USA goes over that cliff and there is a global recession. Sticking to a surplus would look really dumb then as our markets fall further.

    Then the political dynamic will be around – who will keep society together (the mummy party = ALP), who will be nasty and stingy with public funding (the daddy party = LNP).

    It’s a significant political play, no doubt and the PM still has wriggle room to over rule the treasurer if it all turns around back to surplus, by dodging this announcement.

  25. Hamis Hill

    It is now accepted that the Australian East Coast States are in recession.
    The down turn in economic growth is caused by the scorched earth, austerity measures put in place by conservative governments.
    You cannot castigate Swan as being foolish to promise a surplus without also recognising that that federal surplus has been sabotaged by conservative state governments.
    Those who are blind to the politics will also be blind to the Inevitable Abbott Recession, which can be abborrtted by a business boycott of funding for the Liberal’s election war chests.
    The underlying problem is the unsustainable $1TRILlION howard era mortgage debt and the Annual $60 BILLION mortgage interest bill which is nolonger, in the post GFC world, can no longer be ameliorated by Howard era, debt-fuelled capital gain.
    the conservative aim is to absolutely cut government spending and in turn direct money to an upturn in housing capital gain. A recipe for recession.
    As Adam Smith argued, “Capitalists have an interest to deceive and oppress the public, using all means at their disposal to have governments interfere in their favour”
    The bankrupting debt assailing Australia is not government debt but private mortgage debt.
    As the PM said the surplus would be delivered as long as growth continued, it didn’t.
    Blame Howard, Costello, Newman, O’Farrell and Baillieu, deceivers, oppressors and democracy destroying economic vandals, one and all.
    Business, their erstwhile supporters, are finally waking up to the fact that the welfare of a working population is more important to themselves and the nation than the deadly, economy destroying greed of “The Idle Rich”.

  26. Hamis Hill

    Why, on earth, is Adam Smith always moderated on Crikey?

  27. Damon Coles

    Swan should have called the surplus a non-core promise.

  28. Patriot

    Another stuff-up by the bungling Labor buffoons. They couldn’t organise a root in a brоthel. Oh, wait…

  29. David Hand

    Firstly, the step back from a surplus is good economics. At last, government fiscal policy can come into line with the RBA to provide economic stimulation to promote growth. The Coalition will need to be careful about how it puts the boot in because no responsible government would be contracting the economy in the conditions we face today.

    The real story is the absolutely vacuous rhetoric that has come from Swan’s lips in the past two years. All the talk of a surplus was unadulterated bullshit. Swan knew it was bullshit, we knew it was bullshit, he knew that we knew it was bullshit and we knew that he knew that we knew it was bullshit. But he said it anyway.

    So what we have is the absolute destruction of any vestage of integrity in anything the treasurer says. That’s where the damage has been done and that’s where the Coalition should attack.

    The other thing is that all you lefties in the Crikey crypt can at last shut up about coalition costings and black holes. With the entire apparatus of Treasury to support him, once again we have the government accounts shifting by billions and billions of dollars a mere month after the MYEFO.

    It’s a joke, they’re a joke and Swan is a joke.

  30. Matt Hardin

    Funny how the right wing commentators are out in force today. Where were you all when the articles on Rares’ decision were published?

  31. Mike Flanagan

    Yes Matt Hardin they do appear out of the wet scrub so infrequently these days.
    Morgan’s last poll was interseting. Maybe an outlyer or perhaps indicative of a trend??
    Embarrassing as Swannies adoption of reality must be, I dont think he will get much media stick when the MSM focus on the Tea Party ‘cliff hanger shuffle’ that they have just performed, without an orchestra, for Boehmer and the GOP

  32. GeeWizz

    Matt… quick look over there… something to try and distract everyone from the latest Labor policy implosion!

    No one gives a stuff about Slipper… he is yesterdays news and a poll in his electorate says a huge 3% would vote for the bloke again.

    If Labor thinks poor slippery Petes been hard done by they should reinstate him as speaker again and pre-select him a a Labor candidate in his electorate.

    Oh whats that? You’ve gone all quiet… quick better find your next little distraction… Swan’s “no if’s, no but’s, no maybes” budget beens blown out the water.

    23 Years since the last Labor surplus… these guys are gold class losers.

  33. Hamis Hill

    Labor’s long promised Budget surplus was comprehensively sabotaged by the Australian East Coast Recession, itself an artefact of the scorched earth, slash and burn, austerity policies of conservative state regimes.
    It is probably being reported, just like this, in the overseas press.
    By contrast, domestically, the numberdunce economic fops instead indulge in hyaenic hyperventilation about biblical covenants between God and the people being broken by godless communism.
    This is Franco’s Spain, eighty years out of date.
    Who are these idiots on the opposition front bench?
    Do we have to burn them out, like Hercules did with the poisonous, seven headed Hydra, which these ultra-conservatives most closely resemble?
    Nothing Christian about this crew.
    Abborrtt the Abbott Recession!

  34. David Hand

    Great stirring prose Hamis!
    I am particularly taken by your comparison to Franco’s Spain.

    Yes! Swanny’s lost his surplus cos of the evil Campbell Newman! It’s all the tories’ fault!
    We all feel better now.

  35. Hamis Hill

    Everybody identifies Peter Costello as the ultimate “Gold Class Loser”; was it billions lost in pursuit of a “Golden Era” surplus.?
    Tell us more about how some sort of covenant between God and Abborrtt’s supporters will guarantee an “immaculate budget surplus”, every year, for three years if voters, the little lambs that they are, allow themselves to be gently shepherded into the paradise, the absolute promised land of rule by and for the “Idle Rich”?
    Golden Calves anyone; that conservative article of faith indeed. What do you have to say oh ye of the pious econo-foppery, besides thoughtless belching and farting?
    OH, that’s right, if God had wanted you to think he would have given you a brain! Emulate Mr Abbott! Meh, meh meh.

  36. Hamis Hill

    Hey! Ask Mr Abborrtt why he uses Biblical terminology in the economic debate? He started it!
    It is a weird sort of dog -whistling with such a ploy.
    Certainly there will be no ears pricking up no among those who credit “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and render unto God what is God’s” as the ultimate argument for the separation of Church and State.
    Instead, Abbott is hinting that he and his supporters are “Chosen People”; part of a “covenant” between them and God. For the collapse of godless democracy and the “end of Times”?, as demonstrated by Labor’s “breaking of the covenant” Politico-religious dementoids indeed, with econo-foppery just part of the syndrome.
    Please Explain!!! Was Pauline Hanson’s real threat that she
    had, as does the PM, that red hair common to all “witches”.
    Be careful little lambs!

  37. Hamis Hill

    David, do the maths.

  38. Hamis Hill

    B.A. Santamaria, the immediate post war idol for the Politico-religious dementoids on the oppostion front bench.
    Santamamria’s plain objective was to avoid the proper punishment of the defeated totalitarian extremists who gave us the 54 million dead of WWII.
    Daddy, Daddy what did you do in the Cold War?
    Why, dear I had may brain completely frozen by fear of communism, just so I could save you from the godless horrors of democracy.
    And look, now you can safely join the lovely Mr Abbott’s
    Why look! his popularity just about matches the population proportions of that religious community that can protect you from godless communism but not pervert priests?
    Yes, yes! if god had wanted you to think etc etc.
    Go for the Hockey style, hyaenic hyperventilation intead, Doesn’t it just fill you with complete, rapturous confidence? It is so good being part of the Abbott “covenant”!

  39. klewso

    The truth is Swan didn’t have to open his mouth – knowing it would run off – in an attempt to please those that he can’t please. That wasn’t smart politics – it was inane.
    Now he (and the party hierarchy) is being haunted by the spectre of a Cheshire Cat, the product of his own fertile imagination (over reality), that taunted and mocked him as it kept moving just beyond reach.
    Now it’s caught him and it’s giving him a licking.

  40. TheFamousEccles

    An “own goal” for Swan. I (reluctantly) find myself agreeing with David Hand – in part – that Swan is a lightweight and a poor bullshit artiste.

    I have always thought he was a weak link, and was by pure good fortune and adherence to advice able to steer the country through the GFC, though sadly with this surplus-at-all-costs palava he has dashed all good faith I had developed in him. This is an admission coming from a committed Lefty.

    However, with the benefit of not having to back up their claims with data and with the principles that we all understand the rightards to possess, I am firmly convinced that if the Coalition had been in government at the time of the GFC, with their predilection for austerity and hair shirts for the great unwashed (witness the eastern states and the recession they didnt have to have), the nation would be a basket case. Particularly with a fundamentally illiterate, god-bothering “Rhodes Scholar” at the helm.

    We have the best of two bad choices, so it seems.

    Hobsons’ choice?

  41. Hunt Ian

    Yes, Swan was silly to turn a forecast from Treasury into a promise. The deeper silliness is the concession to the basic economics and politics of the “small government” push. Taking pride in spending less of DPD than Howard is silly in the long run as Australia will have to increase the share of GDP spent by government to maintain the welfare state as our population ages. That silliness aside, Swan rightly withdraws the commitment in favour of preserving our economy from recession. So Swan should be praised for the right economic policy but deserves a smack for putting projections from Treasury in the form of promises. It would have been simpler to say that economic policy did not favour the “small government” policy and to be proud of the difference that the govt’s stance puts between it and the raving that comes from the opposition.

  42. Johnfromplanetearth

    To be a politician is to be a master of the art of bullshit. Both the Libs and Labor have their heads up their arses, I’m sick of politicians that look like child molestors. WTF? Are we paying these guys and “chicks” (oops i did it again..) to run the country or to sit there and be ugly? Swan has failed and should be sacked immediately, better still he should be strapped to a catapult and launched down a mountain. If i was running the show no vegetarians would be allowed in parliament. They obviously don’t know what’s good for them, so we don’t want them making decisions for anyone. Everyone would have to address me as “Supreme king ruler of the house, who I am indebted to for the privilege of existence.” Everything i say and do would be gospel and anyone who objects would be catapulted! See, it’s easy to be a Labor politician in 2012.

  43. Hamis Hill

    Abborrtt could go, in his inimicable Roman style, the full Caligula and make horses into Senators.
    An improvement on the donkeys already there.
    Any chance for a beatification and canonisation before the next election?
    Saint Anthony of the Holy Surplus, complete with golden halo, martyred loser of 2010, miraculously still leader; surely a sign of divine intervention!
    Once we have a theocracy in place we can call off the Royal Commission into institutionalised child abuse.
    “For All The Believers” (On the opposition front bench).

  44. Suzanne Blake

    @ GeeWizz “Suzanne… Jimmy was going to pay me 2/1 on my $100 bet that Dillard wouldn’t post a budget surplus.

    When can I expect my cheque?”

    Never, Jimmy goes to ground when the news is bad and there is nothing left on the spin roll. Nothing to wipe with.

  45. Suzanne Blake

    With the hundreds of Swan and Gillard, rock solid surplus promises, and the quotes from Labor Ministers and PM at the February leadership challenge, Humprey B Bear with bells on will win the next election.

    Labor will HAVE to replace Gillard and Swan to save furniture and I now think Abbott maybe replaced as well.

    Interestind times ahead, as the ecomony stalls.

  46. geomac62

    Nothings changed with the opposition regarding economic matters . Hockey refuses to guarantee a surplus if in office while Abbott promises a surplus every year . Do they actually talk to each other on policy matters or just converse when Ashby and bringing down the government is the topic ? Maybe they are more comfortable with collusion than consultation .
    How to end a door stop with Abbott ? Ask about Brough and Ashby . Run rAbbott Run rAbbott run , run , run .

  47. David Hand

    I’m enjoying your writing Hamis, but don’t give up your day job.

  48. Hamis Hill

    Glad you are amused David, but, like many others, prospects for self-employment have been seriously sabotaged by the annual $6o Billion, Howard originated, golden-era mortgage interest bill beggaring most of my potential clients.
    So idly engaged in R and D while the “Idle Rich” continue to suck the economy dry.
    For example, Abborrrtt’s negativity, projected to the next election, will have cost Mudorcs News Limited a cool $1 Billion in lost revenue.
    The accceptable price of conservative politics?
    Rational business people are bound to recognise, even out of pure self-interest, that sacrificing their wealth producing enterprises and their workforces to the insatiable demands of the Idle Rich just cannot continue.
    So expect Andrew Robb to be very short on cash come the next election campaign when business donations dry up.
    The Idle Rich won’t be parting with any money, that is not what they do.
    There is no surplus of economic sanity in the politico-religious (dementoid) ranks of the Abbotteers, and it pays to look a lttle farther than the immediate present to source their motivations, which are most definitely not democratic.(By their actions shall ye know them???)

  49. David Hand

    I’m not aware of too many idle rich in australia. Most of the rich I read about and occasionally meet are very hard working.

  50. Mike Flanagan

    Yea David, they are all busy with their noses in the tax payers trough or alternatively exhorting workers to work longer, harder and for less money and conditions.
    Read Rinehart and Hockey on the ‘Age of Entitlements’
    Have a safe one David.

  51. David Hand

    I am supremely confident that a significant majority of people who work for Gina earn six fugure plus pay packages.

  52. zac48

    But you promised, uncle Wayne. I’m going to tell auntie Julia.

  53. geomac62

    David Hand
    Lawyers would benefit from Gina as she always has need for them and they don,t come cheap . Heck even witnesses cost $200,000 when they have a ” story ” to tell against Rose . Pity the story had no credence , money down the drain .
    Just curious but how many people doing productive wotk would Gina employ ? As I understand it with my limited knowledge Gina inherited leases and rents out those leases to giants like Rio Tinto etc . The QLD deal with Indian financial backing is the only venture Gina can honestly say makes her a miner . Actually a mine operator to be more precise .

  54. Mike Flanagan

    And Gina ddn’t offer them a penny of their paypackets. It was all grafted by union activity and members

  55. Achmed

    I’m sure we will all remember Abbott’s promise to return to a surplus in his first term of office – if he wins the election

  56. Mike Flanagan

    Ah Yes Achmed,but will the murdochracy remember? Somehow, I doubt it!

  57. GeeWizz

    LOL Craig Emerson telling everyone we just have to wait for that elusive once in 23 year Labor budget surplus… just wait another year!

    We weally weally weally post a budget surplus in 2013-14. No if’s, no but’s, no maybes.

    Oh wait… we’ve been hearing this Labor BS for the last 3 years now. These guys have style I must say…

  58. GeeWizz

    [“He should have cut Health, Education, free financial gifts to private school, sell off public schools, delete child care assistance, increase taxes for people earning between $50-250K. That would have brought a surplus. But wait that’s not all! Cut taxes for people earning more than $250K as they are the job creators; you know a’ la’ the Fux News and Republican Tea Party mantra that would be so familiar to you. Lastly make the Hume, Newell, Pacific and New England highways toll roads, or better still sell them too. Lastly cut old age pensions by at least 20% and stop subsidising incontince pads for people over 75. There would be a massive surplus, and the spending like drunken sailors transferred to the Australian people. “]

    God you lefties talk some rot, Howard never did any of this.

    We are currently spending around $2 Billion Dollars on illegals per year for example. If we stop the boats then we will stop the costs and thats a $2 Billion Dollar saving to the budget.

    The problem with socialists like the Greens and Labor is that they don’t know how to run a budget, when they get the hands on the kitty with huge amounts of money they go on a leftwing spending spree. Most have never run a business let alone a budget, they just know how to spend spend spend.

    The reality is that Australia will not have a budget surplus to protect us from another GFC until the next Lib government is elected.

  59. Achmed

    GeeWizz…so now you reckon Labor will still be in Govt? I reckon we”ll be having a similar conversation when Abbot/Hockey fail to deliver

  60. Achmed

    In WA the State Liberal Govt is saying the same thing 2013-14 there will be a surplus. They have produced the first deficit budget in 13 years. In less than 4 years after taking over from Labor they have taken the state debt from $4billion to $25 billion

  61. David Hand

    It’s not about the surplus or no surplus. Surpluses are mainly a function of good economic times. I think the Coalition are carefully saying that they’re the guys who are better at surpluses than Labor but stopping short of an absolute commitment to deliver one. This is pure politics.

    The issue here is the vacuous and meaningless rhetoric coming from Swan. He does not seem to have worked out that when he says something, people record it and remember it. He seems to think that he can say absolutely anything and suffer no reputational damage in the future.

    Look at what he said about Rudd in the leadership spill last February. It was pure bile, made up solely to influence the ballot. None of it was real and we all know it.

    Anyone who commits to a surplus, from any political party is a fool.

  62. geomac62

    Anyone who commits to a surplus, from any political party is a fool.
    I have to agree with that except to add that a surplus can be said to be desired if conditions permit .
    Look at the statement by the libs about interest rates always being lower with them . Didn,t take long for that fallacy to sink and make Howard look a fool . Hockey is one for making foolish statements at times and when he makes thoughtful statements Robb or Abbott contradict him .

  63. Hamis Hill

    Good economic times? David, did you have a hand in Abborrtt’s negativity?
    It will have cost Murdoch a cool $1 BILLION if he remains as opposition leader just to sabotage the economy and the projected surplus for political purposes.
    The “Idle Rich”, by definition do not work, but instead live on the interest on their money.
    Wealth is the product of labour and capital, not labour and money.
    Wealth is divided into profit on capital and wages for labour.
    The profit goes to purchasing more capital; iron ore, coal etc, any thing into which labour can be put to create wealth: motor vehicles, medecines, clothing food.
    And the profit goes to paying the interest on borrowed money.
    German industry,it should be noted, is not borrowing very much money and therefore not paying the idle rich very much money.
    When labour is rewarded with enough wages to save money and not have to borrow money the “Idle Rich” cannot demand much interest for their loans and must instead invest in wealth producing enterprises.
    It is clear that industry have much different concerns than finance.
    Industry recognises that wages create a market for their goods.
    Finance recognises that high wages threaten the interest on loans. Work choices anyone?
    Abborrtt is conflicted because as a Staunch religionist he must heed the Mosaic injunction against usury which recognises the civilisation destroying effects of the “Idle Rich” achieving their objectives of a slave society.
    “the labourer is worthy of his hire(salt)” is the other basis of the Catholic Bishops’ committment to social justice.
    So let’s stop pretending that nothing is known about the “Idle Rich” and their political servants and their antagonism to “Labour”, it is actually Biblical.

  64. Hamis Hill

    Sorry, it is Sunday after all.

  65. Hamis Hill

    Industry, the wealth producing sectors of society, recognise a living wage as the means to create a market for their goods.
    Their wages return when the goods are sold.
    This is the basis of the trade imbalances between Japan then China and the US.
    The sectors of society which are not producing goods can only pursue the profits with which to pay the interest on their loans by reducing wages.
    Which is why one hundred years ago Chambers of Industry were separate from Chambers of Commerce, the so-called service ( or more probably, parasite ) sector.
    Note how German Industry has separated itself from any dependence upon the parasites.
    In Australia, commercial interests dominate industry to its detriment.
    It really is a wonder how the party serving Rural industry is in bed with the Commercial interests dominating the “con” servatives.
    For the upshot of all these arguments is Adam Smith’s argument that “Capitalists (The Idle Rich?) have an interest to deceive and oppress the public”.
    Suzanne, Gee whizz, David, that is Adam Smith, not Karl Marx! Not feeling deceived and oppressed yet? Or have you already gone over to the Dark Side?
    You know, where it is impossible to read either the Bible or The Wealth of Nations?

  66. Hamis Hill

    The lazy, greedy, debauched and degenerate “Idle Rich”.
    And their employees The Liberal Party of Australia.
    When you’re not being deceived and oppressed, you’ve got to be very very scared right?
    So, in the coming Abborrtt Recession, when no-one has any money what will the interest rates look like?
    As high as they were under Australia’s worst Treasurer John Howard?
    Just asking.

  67. David Hand

    No Hamis,
    You’re not just asking.

    We get it. you’re against capitalism, followers of whom are in your view inherently evil. So the whole of Australia apart from from a small group of enlightened lefties is inherently evil.


  68. geomac62

    David Hand
    I,m sure your not serious in saying Hamis is against capitalism . Hamis has clearly defined which sector of business is beneficial and which is parasitic .

  69. Mike Flanagan

    And the compliments of the season to you Hamis. As I pick myself up from the floor from laughter and without wishing to disturb David’s slumber I think he got in one!
    Hasten slowly, have a good one.

  70. David Hand

    Nope Geo,
    Hamis mentions parasites and then leaves us to work out what he means. Finance? See how long industry would go without a finance sector. Don’t bank accounts and payments systems add to wealth creation?

    Enertainment? What about education? Are they parasites or productive industry? You two sound like members of a socialist collective organising a 5 year plan.

    Don’t tell me, let me guess! It’s the illuminati!

  71. geomac62

    I didn,t say I agree or disagree with Hamis I commented on his separation of capitalism . You seem to jump to conclusions and then post them . You said Hamis was anti all capitalism yet obviously he has stated otherwise in his post . You group me in with Hamis yet I have offered no opinion on what he said just stated that he said one was beneficial and one not .
    Is that what people mean when they say a person is trying to verbal them ?

  72. Hamis Hill

    Yes, Adam Smith, whose arguments I repeat imperfectly,is according to some, anti-capitalist because he “sought to understand commercial society and better it”.
    A prospect quite boring for David who inhabits a Manichaean world of good versus evil with himself on the side of Abborrtt and company gripped in an existentialist death struggle with godless theives.
    Looking forward to your arguments that Smith was actually a Marxist; which conclusion follows directly from your comments.
    Concerning returning capital which is what Smith called wages, Henry Ford, manufacturer, when approaching your “financiers” for capital to build his first cars was told, “Rich people, Mr Ford, have cars, poor people have horses and buggies”.
    Henry Ford persisted, and eventually came up with the Five Dollar Day, which doubled his workers wages and allowed them to buy the vehicles they built.
    Over at Buick rich people continued to drive the cars that Buick workers could not afford to buy.
    Until those workers left and all went to work for Ford.
    In Australia, financiers felt it was alright to burden Australian workers with unaffordable mortgages, starting in the early seventies, with the result that they could not buy the products of their own labour, factories closed and wages returned to foreign factories, instead of circulating within Australia.
    This financial insanity culminating in the $1Trillion dollar Howard “Golden Era” mortgage debt orgy.
    Abborrtt’s promise to return the nation to that commercial madness will doom Australia to an enduring recession.
    But according to David those wishing to avoid this are anti-capitalist?
    You cannot better commercial society unless you understand it. Perhaps some here are too deep in the oblivion of debt addiction to have any grip on commercial reality at all, and cling to the lies of Abborrtt et al in some vain hope of redemption. Very sad.

  73. Hamis Hill

    “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations” written about eighty years before “Das Capital”.
    Give it a read, the perfect antidote to economic ignorance.
    But of course if you already know all there is to know about the nature and causes of the wealth of Australia?
    You get from an ATM, right? Using your credit card?
    Collapsing with laughter now?

  74. David Hand

    I’ve read Adam Smith’s “The wealth of Nations” and it is not anti-capitalist.

    But you clearly are.

  75. Achmed

    @GeeWizz – Howard didn’t do a lot of things, but he did sell over $50billion of taxpayer assetts and did not address bracket creep in the tax system raising another $30 billion.

  76. Hamis Hill

    David, the drivel you spout on matters economic points to you never having read the Wealth of Nations at all.
    Mere assertion does not make it so.
    So a fail on the deceive and oppress front.
    Or do you take Smiths lgically argued observation that “Capitalists have an interest to deceive and oppress the public” as some sort of “free-market” licence to do an Abborrtt?
    Getting back to some economic facts, by tying up $1.25 Trillion in non wealth producing housing your financiers have effectively denied this finance to the productive sectors such as primary industry and futher, burdened the productive sectors with competion for finance which has raised interest rates far in excess of those paid by their overseas competitors.
    The Carbon “Tax” pales in its effects compared to this tax of the “Idle Rich”, a term which Smith used pejoritively, not as a token of admiration as you appear to do, David.
    So when Australians could not find the Capital to purchase Cubbie Farms?, your Mcmansion, dip stick, debt junkies were not part and parcel of that equation?
    You must be writhing on the ground clutching your ribs with laughter, it is just so hilarious. Oh Ho Ho Ho!
    So when you are a mortgage debt junkie and find that capital gains no longer match and exceed those collective $ 60 Billion dollars in interest every year what do you do?
    Listen to every lie fed to you by the agents of finance who got you hooked in the first place?
    The Stockholm syndrome?
    Hopefully, business still retains its sanity and will boycott funding for the Coming Abbott Recession.
    Alternatively, that notorious foreign purchase of rural assetts will be matched by sales of Australian housing to the burgeoning middle classes of Asia.
    David, your fabulous financiers have got it covered, they don’t need you to pay off your debts, they have other, richer customers and can afford to bleed you dry, tack your carcass to the fence and wait for you to blow away in the wind.
    You haven’t read Adam Smith.

  77. David Hand


    People with large mortgages and no capital gain pay their mortgages back. This is happening today.

    Foreign ownership in Australia began the day the first British owned axe felled the first tree to build the first British owned house to be lived in by the first British employees of a British company.

    I’m in the UK at the moment and so my copy of Wealth of Nations is not in reach.

    So I googled “Wealth of Nations” and downloaded a copy of it. I then copied the entire book onto the clipboard and pasted it into a MS Word document. Then I searched for the word “capitalist”. The word does not appear in Adam Smith’s book. There is a discussion about the need for regulators to resist the self interest of traders and business owners who seek to “oppress the public” through reducing competition.

    You’re full of sh*t.

    One of the characteristics of the left is this self-righteous attitude that applies some sort of moral failing to those who have a different point of view.

    You have a bad case of it.

  78. David Hand


    People with large mortgages and no capital gain pay their mortgages back. This is happening today.

    Foreign ownership in Austral ia began the day the first British owned axe felled the first tree to build the first British owned house to be lived in by the first British employees of a British company.

    The word “capitalist” does not appear in Adam Smith’s book “The Wealth of Nations”. There is a discussion about the need for regulators to resist the self interest of traders and business owners who seek to “oppress the public” through reducing competition. Hey, we all agree with that.

    One of the characteristics of the left is this self-righteous attitude that appl ies some sort of moral fail ing to those who have a different point of view.

    You have a bad case of it.

  79. Hamis Hill

    Now, now David just be happy that you are finally on the path to enlightenment, where you will begin to excrete all that ignorance constipated within you.
    While you are in the UK you might track down “Political Thought from Plato to NATO” introduced by Brian Redhead, published by Ariel Books in 1984 to accompany the BBC Radio Series Plato to NATO.
    In the article by John Robertson titled: “Adam Smith: The Enlightenment and the philosophy of society” is quote: “Smith argued, the interest of the order of capitalists was increasingly opposed to that of society as a whole, since the rate of profit tended to decline as the wealth of society grew. Capitalists had therefore, wrote Smith, ‘an interest to deceive and even oppress the public’, and would use every means posssible to persuade government to interefere with the market in their favour.”
    That Leveson character seems to be onto something.
    Now do the maths on mortgages David,
    At the end of the say, twenty year repayment period motgagees can at least expect that the total repayments of capital including interest will at least match the market value of their house, otherwise why bother?
    If perchance banks cannot provide finance say several $million for that quaint suburban cottage twenty years from now or pro rata anytime in between, what of your “wealth” then?
    Welcome to the world of the morgage slave, David.
    Pop on over to Dublin and ask a few former motgage slaves where all their wealth has gone?
    On simple arithmetic,( the actual sum may be worse), that $60 BILLION annual mortgage interest, in twenty years time, will equal $1.2 TRILLION or $100,000 approximately, for every Aussie with a job, because this all has to be idly collected, (as a sort of poverty “Tax”) by the “Rich” from people who are actually employed, or it will not balance out, will it ?
    As for the Left, look to the composition of the fatal parliament called together by Louis the Sixteenth to solve just such a debt crisis as is being faced now, and David you will find your representatives seated to the left of the King. David, you are a lefty.
    And you are paying Abborrtt’s Great Big OLD Poverty Tax care of the Howard-Costello ten year private debt orgy.

  80. Hamis Hill

    Was that event in 2008 called the Global Manufacturing Crisis?, The Global Farming Crisis?,The Global Mining Crisis?
    The only reason Australia did not collapse in a screaming heap of panic in 2008 like the rest of the housing bubble world was because, in conjunction with The Reserve Bank’s advice and that ofother responsible Captains of Industry the Labor government massively spent to preserve confidence.
    Are they going to sabotage all that good effort by countenancing the economic insanity of an Abbott government?
    Aided and abbetted by the mindless whineing of the credit card clutching mortgage slave cretins hung over from the brain rotting feel good Howard debt orgy now that their “wealth” hasn’t doubled as often as it used to.
    The economy is on a razor’s edge with the responsible adults leaning towards the side of sanity.
    Another three years of Labor is needed before the nation can even begin to afford the Abbott experiment in economic whimsy.
    Voters will be very “conservative” about changing horses in mid stream.

  81. David Hand

    Get ready for a Coalition Government and have a merry Christmas.

  82. no_party_preferred

    I think its funny that people say Swan “decided” to abandon the surplus.

    I’m a mechanical fitter, albeit with some university education, but a dumb simple tradesman none the less and I could see 12 months ago that there was no room for a surplus.

    I decent treasurer and prime minister would have shown some leadership and told the opposition back then to stick their calls for a surplus and come up with a rational, well communicated plan to bring it back to surplus in a later term.
    Now they just weak and chaotic in their management.

  83. geomac62

    In 2001 Costello declared a surplus but it was revealed to be deficit . Deceit on a deficit even with cutting health funding from 50% to 40% and neglecting infrastructure . A surplus is only of value if it has economic benefit not as a benchmark achieved by neglecting or cutting essential services .
    A good article regarding some pollies and comments made by them .

  84. geomac62

    In 2001 Costello declared a surplus but it was revealed to be deficit . Deceit on a deficit even with cutting health funding from 50% to 40% and neglecting infrastructure . A surplus is only of value if it has economic benefit not as a benchmark achieved by neglecting or cutting essential services .
    A good article regarding some poll ies and comments made by them .

  85. geomac62


  86. Hamis Hill

    A Christmass gift for all the Abbotteers.

    “the modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness”
    John Kenneth Galbraith

    I say! A game of middle-class welfare, anyone?

  87. Steve777

    No party preferred – I think you’ve got it pretty right.
    We need to keep the budget in reasonable balance over the economic cycle and keep debt sustainable. Surplus year in year out makes no sense, as Joe Hockey must well know (but the economically illiterate Abbott may not). Labor should never have allowed itself to be suckered into promising a surplus so soon. All that was necessary was to be seen to be reacting appropriately to economic and fiscal circumstances.

  88. Steve777

    Someone should ask Abbott and Hockey the following questions: What taxes will the Coalition increase to achieve surplus in an economic slowdown? What services and programs will they cancel or wind back? What level of unemployment will be acceptable as the price for permanent surpluses? How many government employees will they sack? The answer to the last question is ‘lots’, but they should say it and justify it. Populist catchphrases like ‘waste and mismanagement’ not accepted – they don’t wash when our inflation, growth, unemployment and level of sovereign debt are the envy of the developed world.

  89. David Hand

    The government, any government, should not run surpluses in times of recession and the coalition won’t either. The way to get surpluses is to grow the economy and restrain government spending at the same time. Hockey, Pyne and Abbott are simply espressing a political view that their government is better at it than Labor.

    This is simple party political electioneering.

    The real story here is Swan’s seemingly casual attitude to the public’s reaction to his values-free rhetoric. He doesn’t seem to care what he says, as though he thinks we will all forget. He is now saying that the MYEFO was completely wrong and doesn’t seem to appreciate the damage his lack of credibility is doing to Labor.

    Follow the Labor strategy if you like and do your best to make Abbott the story – after all that has been Julia’s focus and chief ploy all year. It has succeeded in making Abbott the most unpopulat politician in living memory but it won’t save her and it won’t save Swan. Some good government might and abandoning the surplus is a step in the right direction.

  90. Hamis Hill

    Abbott will emulate Can Do Campbell and cause a Spain type recession.
    Perhaps because of the Opus Dei connections?
    More pre-occuppied with surplices than the economic consequences of surpluses?
    Just how has Australia come to be dominated, politically, by the minority right faction of a minority, foreign religion, unable to guarantee the safety of its own children?
    The obvious, un-answered question for responsible, educated and adult citizens of a modern democracy.
    Fourth Reichists are otherwise concerned.(reference the historical, political record of the aforementioned foreign, minority religion).

  91. Hamis Hill

    The PM’s last public statement on the projected surplus indicated it was dependent upon continuing economic growth, which ended with the effects of the East Coast Liberal Austerity induced Recession coming into play.
    It is called politics, with the enemies of democracy unconcerned about destroying the economy for political ends.
    What part of right-wing extremism don’t you understand?
    Which political forces sat to the right of Louis The Sixteenth?
    Why do Rightards so clearly lack self-awareness?
    And why do you think modern history started with the French Revolution?
    Why don’t you pseuds use the holiday break to get yourselves an education.
    David can start with “The French Revolution” by the foremost Victorian Historical Novelist Thomas Carlyle.
    And spare us all your pathetic pretensions of erudition.

  92. Hamis Hill

    The rightards who inherited democracy with no historical effort from their ancestors evoke the Chinese proverb, “you get something for nothing, it’s worth nothing”.
    Explaining why it is so easy for Rightards to trash Australia’s historical,democratic heritage.
    Why in some curricula, notably those of a certain foreign minority religion, history is just not taught at all!
    But there they all are, these “educated” ignoramuses, occupying high political office.
    It is like entrusting innocent children to pervert priests.
    Bound to end badly.
    Que? No questions at all, Rightards?
    Oh, that is right, blame it all on the “Leftys” with no balancing commentary, is that how it works?
    A well taught response? Give us the child and we’ll give you the man?
    History has the measure of the Rightards, is that why they burn the books?
    “You will know the truth and the truth shall set you free”
    Took a while for the ordinary person to be able to read that by themselves, not a political policy by the Rightards, thousands of years of mass illiteracy?
    Get an education you Rightards or just p-ss-off to some Banana Republic where you’ll fit right in.
    And stop trashing Australian democracy with your bile, your ignorance and your stupidity.

  93. Hamis Hill

    In the Asian Century, Australia under Abbott will most closely resemble East Timor and The Phillipines, with a large surplus of squalour and poverty.
    You know you want it!

  94. Hamis Hill

    His Excellency The Right Honourable Anthony Abbott Emperor of South Timor.
    Poor,($700,000 in Debt), white trash of Asia have their mortgage belt representative.

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