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Crikey Says

Jan 24, 2014

Crikey says: Tony's tax lesson from world leaders

Kevin Andrews is picking on the wrong welfare recipients, the experts tell Crikey. Bruce Haigh on the war with Indonesia -- perhaps more than diplomatic. William Bowe on how the "wrong" party could win in South Australia. Why Virginia Trioli changed her mind. What new copyright law means for artists. And Follow Friday: a new Crikey guide.


“No country has ever taxed or subsidised its way to prosperity.”

Of the rambling, campaign-style speech delivered by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last night, that line was an interesting one.

It was certainly an interesting crowd to tell it to. Australia’s GDP per capita sits at around seventh in the world by most measures. Above it is Norway, which taxes at 50% and up, and equal or just below us — and lacking ours and Norway’s resources windfalls — are Denmark, Sweden and Finland, also 50%-plus taxers.

And those statistics are made more revealing when you look at estimated GDP per capita figures from 1900, where Australia sits at No. 2 (behind New Zealand), riding high on the sheep’s back. Sweden is 13th, Norway is 17th and Finland 20th. So we have gone down five or six places, while they have gone up, across a century in which they have applied consistently higher taxation.

When our resource boom splutters and dies and all we have are Gina Rinehart’s poems bolted to rocks to show for it, Scandinavian countries will have the schools, universities, compact cities, affordable renewable energy, etc, that they paid for with taxes.

So thanks for the history lesson, Tone. Will this be on the curriculum?

*We’re off to bone up on our national history and scoff down some lamingtons ahead of Australia Day. We’ll be off Monday, but transmission will resume as normal on Tuesday.



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33 thoughts on “Crikey says: Tony’s tax lesson from world leaders

  1. klewso

    But Abbott is an economical baboon.

  2. The Pav

    Klewso, Pls don’t insult baboons

    Every time I see our PM on the world stage I cringe at his ineptitude.

    Looking at how everybody reacts it would seem they feel the same way and he just creeps them out.

    I mean his mountaineering small talk was so far beyond embarrassing it defies description.

    If Ltd News shone the same spotlight on him as they did the previous govt then Australian’s would rise up in revulsion

  3. Iskandar

    Don’t worry guys. On international news the Rabbott’s speech doesn’t even get a mention. He’s barely a blip on a sideshow that nobody watched. The main story seems to be that Iran is open for business.

  4. Mark Duffett

    Unfortunately Scandinavia’s ‘affordable renewable energy’ consists overwhelmingly of hydro, which in turn depends on significant rainfall and suitable topography, both of which are scarce in Australia. Moreover, being sensible people they also have substantial (public) investments in nuclear energy, but this is banned in Australia.

  5. Freja

    I read a quarter of the way through his speech and blew an irony gasket.

    Did he really, really say “No country has ever taxed or subsidised its way to prosperity.” and then “You don’t address debt and deficit with yet more debt and deficit.”?

    Did he REALLY have the audacity to reference science as part of the solution to a global economic crisis?

    My colleague suggested the speech was written by five people who wrote a paragraph each before passing the page on. I think the best that could be said for this speech is that it will provide caption gold for memes to come.

  6. Electric Lardyland

    Yes, Pav, it’s interesting how almost every time that Our Tone meets a world leader, he greets them with something very close to the ‘Latham handshake’. Which invariably leaves them turning away, with a mixture of bewilderment and revulsion, and wondering just who is the leering whack job invading their personal space. I find it curious, that as far as I know, there has been not a single word of mention of this in the MSM; especially given their frothing at mouth reaction to the actual ‘Latham handshake’ back in 2004.
    And I do think the preferential treatment that Abbott has received from large sections of the media, does partially explain the turgid collection of banalities that Abbott delivered at Davos. I mean, during his time as opposition leader, I think Abbott became used to going from stunt to stunt and uttering slogan after cliched slogan. And sadly, it made no real difference if his slogans were mutually contradictory, didn’t answer the question, or just didn’t make any real sense; because Abbott had every faith, that his boosters in the media, would showcase his slogans in the best possible light.
    So now, what we had dished up at Davos, wasn’t really a speech as such, but more a collection of loosely related and often contradictory slogans, that were uttered in the expectation, that Australian news editors would turn it into a brief, but convincing portrayal, of a bold leader dispensing words of wisdom on the world stage.

  7. zut alors

    I’m undecided whether I prefer him to be in the country or out of the country – both are equally cringeworthy.

  8. Electric Lardyland

    Yes, Freja, the one that got me was, “Even though the Crisis was the gravest economic challenge the world has faced since the 1930s, it was not a crisis of markets but one of governance.”
    No, I’m pretty sure that it was a crisis of the financial markets; largely brought on by right wing ideologues and their arrogant dogma that market forces are such a perfect self regulating mechanism, that they don’t need any of that nasty government oversight.
    I also found it interesting, that after briefly referring to it at the start as the Global Financial Crisis, for the rest of the time, this had been shortened to the Crisis. It is as though he thought, that if he omitted the word ‘financial’, he could get away with claiming that the GFC was all about the failure of governance, not markets.

  9. Draco Houston

    I hate his line of reasoning. Countries spend a lot on R&D and brought us things like the computer I’m typing this comment on, based on a machine designed by a spook, to an global network developed originally for defense.

  10. Bill Hilliger

    He should have added to the speech – but god help us if the Chinese ever stopped buying the stuff we dig up out of the ground, Australia would be stuffed and have nothing to show for the wealth we have frittered away. rAbbott should ask Norway to give him lessons as to how handle our wealth for the good of all Australians.

  11. The Pav

    Dear EL @ 6

    Congratulations on “leering whack job”. Please allow me to use it in future

    The best description of the leering whack job to date and the whack is appropriate in more than one sense

  12. CML

    So, what else is new? The rAbbott spews cr+p all over the place, especially on economic matters, whether he is at home or abroad! Agree it is cringeworthy in both places.
    What staggers me is that he has the effrontery to tip a bucket on the Labor government of that time, when he is speaking to a global audience who all know what a success story Australia’s handling of the GFC was. International praise was heaped upon the Rudd government because of its success. The rAbbott really is living on a different planet! We soooo need to be rid of this mob of wan++rs!!

  13. AR

    Google had nowt ofinternationally TT’s idiocy, for which we should be grateful, perhaps we won’t be tainted for having (s)elected so an imbecile.
    Over on Catallepsy, the egregious Judith Sloan offered this – “OK, the bottom line is that there was virtually nothing in the world press about Tony Abbott’s speech apart from a reasonably lengthy and serious piece in the FT. Only Mudorc’s loss making mouthpiece bothered.

  14. AR

    Perhaps it is only beardy weirdy lefties who think “taxation is the price we pay for civilisation”?
    Even if besotted by teabaggers, TT should acknowledge the principle, “No representation without taxation!” – how much tax does mudorc pay on his record loss maker, the OZ (interesting that it has never, since inception, turned a profit – so much for biz acumen!)and he ain’t even a citizen! ((yeh, yeh, I know the mudorc amendment to our citizenship law under the Rodent, removed the prohibition on Oz born taking foreign citizenship but, if asked, he would have to say “amerikan” otherwise his empire would be endangered.

  15. ianjohnno

    A Prime Swaggerer rather than a Prime Minister.
    Shame, Australia.

  16. Electric Lardyland

    Whack away, Pav, whack away.
    While we’re at it, another thing that I find cringe worthy about Abbott when he’s overseas, is that his walk, which is essentially his impersonation of Ronald Reagan’s cowboy impersonation, becomes even more pronounced. It’s as though the long flight has caused some particularly grotesque swelling of the testicles, so he now has to swagger his way around the world stage, with his legs at a maximum distance from his midsection.

  17. klewso

    Ever seen Tarzan walking the original Cheater?

    A walking shambles – in gait and government.

  18. sandra long

    a tax paying society is a happy and fair society

  19. Electric Lardyland

    Hmmm, all this time I was sure that Reagan was impersonating a cowboy and now I’m wondering if he was impersonating Bonzo.

  20. Jimmyhaz

    The fact that the leader of our nation fundamentally misunderstands macroeconomics to the point where he can sprout rubbish like this honestly scares me.

  21. John Armour

    It was Abbott’s reference to China that stunned me.

    The Chinese got there by repudiating the very model that TA extols: massive government intervention at every level.

    Oh, the irony, and the ignorance.

  22. klewso

    How much is this subsidised marriage counselling going to cost…..?

    …. Two birds with one stone, where did The Credlin find this “How to be a Prime Minister and World’s Biggest Hypocrite” magazine?

  23. Liamj

    I thought Abbotts walk was a memento of attending all-boys catholic college.

  24. AR

    Liamj – I think it is his too recent bi-pedalism; unrelated to his bi-peddle fetishism but that narrow straddle can’t help, given the intellectual demands of remaining vertical.
    And some people even expect him to cogitate! Be fair, folks

  25. graybul

    The Davos ‘presentation’, following on from the worrisome Indonesian debacle confirms our new PM is operating outside both his skills and comfort zone. By that I mean he should return to, and employ those acknowledged negativity instincts he evidenced as Opposition Leader. The upcoming G20 in Brisbane will require all of Mr Murdock’s 70% control of Australian Media to ensure the Electorate be not exposed to the truth . . less we all need flee Outback to avoid explaining our embarrassment to ‘First Dog’!!

  26. Roy Inglis

    Oh the irony! From the leader of a party that put the federal budget into structural deficit during the greatest economic boom in Australian history by introducing massive middle and upper class welfare; a leader who has personally resisted the lessening of welfare for the wealthy at every turn came “government should do for people what they can’t do for themselves – and no more.”

  27. waiting dog

    “Leering whack job” love it! Whenever he greets someone I’m always reminded of Gollum from Lord of the Rings approaching his “Precious”.

  28. bushby jane

    Someone should take Abbott’s and Bishop’s passports off them I reckon. Both are embarrassing and scary.

  29. Electric Lardyland

    Yes, WD, now that you mention it, I can see the resemblance. And I suspect that it’s only going to increase over the next couple of years, as his hair seems to be thinning and the size of his ears increasing. I also think, that as it becomes more apparent that he is out of his depth, his pronouncements are likely to become more random and histrionic. Hmm, maybe he can enliven future Question Times, by approaching the microphone on all fours, dressed in nothing but tattered red speedos, then once he has clambered up to the mike, answering whatever question has been thrown at him, with a few of the lines that have been made famous by Andy Serkis.
    And BJ, now that I think of it, it’s possible that the overseas performances of Tony and Julia, might be part of a cunning plan to deter asylum seekers. That is, maybe people are now thinking, ‘well, if these are your leaders, what must the rest of you be like? Perhaps war torn Afghanistan is not all that bad?’

  30. Electric Lardyland

    Whoops, should be Julie, not Julia!

  31. Carr Daniel

    “It was certainly an interesting crowd to tell it to. Australia’s GDP per capita sits at around seventh in the world by most measures. Above it is Norway, which taxes at 50% and up, and equal or just below us — and lacking ours and Norway’s resources windfalls — are Denmark, Sweden and Finland, also 50%-plus taxers.

    And those statistics are made more revealing when you look at estimated GDP per capita figures from 1900, where Australia sits at No. 2 (behind New Zealand), riding high on the sheep’s back. Sweden is 13th, Norway is 17th and Finland 20th. So we have gone down five or six places, while they have gone up, across a century in which they have applied consistently higher taxation.”

    What goes unmentioned here is that Australia tumbled down the league tables as it threw up ever greater tariffs walls post WW2. We almost got to #20 in the 1970s and early 80s.

    This decline was reversed by the liberalising reforms of the Hawke-Keating era. An important point that shouldn’t be lost.

  32. klewso

    Abbott – an oxymoron – without the (O2)bottle?

  33. Recalcitrant.Rick

    Bushby Jane, but let’s take their passports away, WHILE THE’RE OUT OF THE COUNTRY! Then treat them like “Illegal Immigrants!

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