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Aug 15, 2014

Woe is Joe: or, how the budget narrative was lost

Joe Hockey's woes this week reflect how the government's budget narrative barely survived budget night.

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Let’s go back to a happier time for Joe Hockey, to just before the May budget, when he was explaining the government’s proposal for a return to fuel excise indexation.

In a News.com.au article and another one by Laurie Oakes, the excise decision — which the government knew it would cop plenty of stick for — was explained in terms of the need to get a vast infrastructure program rolling; a program that would be, Oakes said, the “cornerstone of the budget”. Hockey and Co even harboured hopes — about which Oakes was rather sceptical — that the indexation would prove popular with voters. Hockey, pictured with sleeves rolled up, all busyness and bustle, declared that getting infrastructure investment moving would create “tens of thousands of new jobs, but most importantly it is going to address the significant drop-off in investment in construction in Australia, associated with mining investment coming off.”

It wasn’t the most coherent argument — the government was trying to claim the budget was a “growth budget” at the same time as it was proclaiming the need to slash and burn to get Labor’s budget emergency under control. But the argument looks positively masterful compared to the staggering ineptitude from Hockey over the last fortnight, and particularly his “poor people don’t drive” comments this week.

Since May, the infrastructure focus of the budget has been hopelessly lost. That’s partly because Anthony Albanese sabotaged it before Warren Truss could start pushing it: Albo assiduously and constantly declared to any journalist who would listen that virtually every item on the Coalition’s infrastructure project list was a Labor project, and regularly made the same point in question time, to the fury of Bronwyn Bishop. It’s partly because Hockey’s pet project — and like fuel excise indexation, an excellent idea — of asset recycling to get state government infrastructure investment flowing has been halted in the Senate and turned into an argument about privatisation, which voters viscerally hate.

“Hockey carefully laid out a minefield and then walked into it. After the cigar picture, the ill-timed holiday and lament that everyone hated him, no wonder colleagues are wondering about his judgement.”

But the bigger problem is that before Hockey had even finished shaking hands after his budget speech, the terms of the ensuing debate had been settled: it would be about fairness, and Hockey and the government were on the wrong side of it. That’s why, on Wednesday, Hockey was trying to justify the excise indexation measure, not in terms of the need to get infrastructure going, not in terms of the need for the budget deficit to be curbed, but in terms of fairness. This is the wider context for his remark:

“I don’t think that a cursory look at the budget is enough for people to understand what we’re really getting at. You have to look at the detail of what people actually receive now, and people are receiving tens of thousands of dollars in payments from other Australians. What we’re asking is for everyone to contribute, including higher-income people. Now, I’ll give you one example: the change to fuel excise, the people that actually pay the most are higher income people, with an increase in fuel excise and yet, the Labor Party and the Greens are opposing it. They say you’ve got to have wealthier people or middle-income people pay more. Well, change to the fuel excise does exactly that; the poorest people either don’t have cars or actually don’t drive very far in many cases.”

Hockey was fighting not on the battlefield of his own choosing — infrastructure and the jobs benefits that would flow from an increase in building stuff throughout the country as mining investment falls — nor even within his broader narrative of budget discipline, but on the battlefield chosen by his opponents: fairness — a battlefield on which Labor has a massive advantage over the Coalition in terms of how voters see the major parties. Even the smaller parties have an advantage over the government on fairness. If Clive Palmer thrashes out a deal to support a heavily modified Medicare co-payment, for example, it’s his Palmer United Party that will get the credit from voters for responsibly ameliorating an unfair measure, not the Coalition.

But worse, in that exchange the presenter hadn’t even asked about fuel excise — Hockey himself chose to use it as an example. Not merely was Hockey fighting the wrong battle, he carefully laid out a minefield and then walked into it. After the cigar picture, the ill-timed holiday and lament that everyone hated him, no wonder colleagues are wondering about his judgement. Even the News Corporation tabloids felt moved to slam Hockey.

Hockey’s latest Incredible Self-Sabotaging Treasurer act has come at a point where the government appeared to be righting itself, courtesy of Tony Abbott’s capable performance in response to MH17. Abbott, unexpectedly, appears on safer ground internationally than domestically; his decision to spend the week visiting the Netherlands and having a whistle-stop tour of the Middle East was politically sensible given that’s where his strength currently is. But he can’t keep the focus international forever. The domestic priority has to be to find a way to reframe the budget argument away from fairness. In opposition, Abbott was brilliant at reframing debate around Labor’s policies in terms that suited him. Now he’s a victim of exactly the same thing.

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59 thoughts on “Woe is Joe: or, how the budget narrative was lost

  1. drsmithy

    I have grudging regard for you lefties and your treatment of “facts” (as opposed to we right of centre mere opinions). Amazing how your wealth distribution “fact” melts like snow in the summer sun under the most cursory challenge.

    The “fact” I was stating is that we have a disproportionate – and increasingly so, due to policy designed for that purpose – distribution of wealth in this country.

    I recalled some numbers for memory and was mistaken. I’m happy to admit that.

    It doesn’t change the fundamental worsening wealth distribution situation, nor that this is the completely predictable outcome of the economic policies of the last couple of decades of Australian Governments.

    You’re doing it again regarding inheritance. I’m talking about that huge group of baby boomers sitting on their $1m plus homes who will one day kick the bucket and pass the wealth on to their kids. You’re talking about the OZ version of the Rockefellers and the Rothschilds. Again.

    No, I’m not. That’s your straw man.

    Can you find a fact? Any fact, that will support the existence of these holders of all the country’s wealth?

    Er, ABS statistics ? Increasing GDP share to capital and decreasing share to labour over the last few decades ?

    I guess it’s possible that 1% of Australia, say, 220,000 people, took 43 overseas holidays each in the last year, but I doubt it. It’s much more likely that about 4 in 10 Australians took an overseas holiday last year.

    Indeed. It’s also quite likely that a non-trivial percentage of those took more than one. For example, I have flown “overseas” three times in the last 12 months.

    So, as I stated, the typical Australian family is not taking an overseas holiday every year.

    Of course, the whole “overseas holiday” comment is just using emotive language to make it seem like everyone is taking exotic holidays to Europe and the like because they’re swimming in money, when in fact most of those “overseas” holidays are to Asia and cost less than travelling within Australia would.

    Basically, the traditional Australian roadtrip has been replaced by a week in Bali, because it’s cheaper.

    This mythical vast pool of poverty Hockey is supposedly persecuting seems quite hard to find. At least, it is at the ABS.

    You mean the “mythical vast pool of poverty” straw man you’ve created ?

    Policy settings for the last couple of decades have _vastly_ favoured the already wealthy, making them even wealthier, to the detriment of typical Australians.

    The current budget seeks to further entrench this trend, by making healthcare more expensive, reducing access to higher education facilities and the resultant benefits, addressing none of the structural problems that continue to favour the wealthy and doing bugger all to actually reduce the deficit.

    In short, it screws a whole bunch of people, many of whom are already doing it tough, and does next to nothing to actually try and fix the “budget emergency” problem.

  2. David Hand

    Hey doctor, some may call it a fallacy trifecta but it was a serious attempt to be smart arsed as well. How did I score with that?

    I have grudging regard for you lefties and your treatment of “facts” (as opposed to we right of centre mere opinions). Amazing how your wealth distribution “fact” melts like snow in the summer sun under the most cursory challenge.

    You’re doing it again regarding inheritance. I’m talking about that huge group of baby boomers sitting on their $1m plus homes who will one day kick the bucket and pass the wealth on to their kids. You’re talking about the OZ version of the Rockefellers and the Rothschilds. Again.

    Can you find a fact? Any fact, that will support the existence of these holders of all the country’s wealth?

    Overseas travel.
    Unlike your hazy recollection of the factoid you gleaned from the socialist collective support group, I have a fact – a real fact from the Australian Bureau of statistics. 8,978,700 departures by Australians for less than 1 year up to June 2014. 83.6% of those trips were to visit friends and relatives or to go on holiday.

    I guess it’s possible that 1% of Australia, say, 220,000 people, took 43 overseas holidays each in the last year, but I doubt it. It’s much more likely that about 4 in 10 Australians took an overseas holiday last year.

    This mythical vast pool of poverty Hockey is supposedly persecuting seems quite hard to find. At least, it is at the ABS.

  3. drsmithy

    I don’t know where you got those wealth distribution numbers from doctor but if it was from your local socialist collective support group seeking to motivate downtrodden and impoverished Australians to man the barricades, I’d look for a better source. I don’t see vast shanty towns of dispossessed people looking hungrily at gated communities around where I live.

    Ad hominem, straw man, false dichotomy. A fallacy trifecta !

    As I thought would have been obvious from the words “if I recall correctly”, I was recalling from memory. Turns out Australia isn’t quite so bad. The top 20% have about 70% of our wealth. Though the richest 7 people (0.00003%) have as much as the poorest ~1.75 million (7.4%).

    So we haven’t quite hit American levels of wealth distribution and inequality, yet, though that’s clearly the objective (and the trend).

    Sadly the ABS doesn’t seem to go down to individual percentile breakdowns, and with the current Government defundung it – likely so we won’t be able to measure how disastrous their policies will be – that breakdown is unlikely to be available any time soon.

    Wealth is concentrated among older people. Younger people tend to have less wealth. So it is likely that as older people die, their wealth will be inherited by their less wealthy children.

    Ah, yes, hereditary family dynasties. Another anachronistic idea neoliberals love. Hence the reason for all those tax lurks targeted at the old and wealthy. Superannuation tax breaks being the most obvious, but CGT concessions also a standout example.

    You seem confused about “poor” and “middle Australia”.

    Well, you tell me what you mean by “middle Australia” and maybe we can discuss it.

    But your 1% view lumps the median Australian home owning family with some super, some home equity and an overseas holiday every year into the “poor” category. They’re the ones Joe is after.

    The typical Australian family makes around $90k, owes around $250k on their mortgage (or rents) and almost certainly doesn’t take an overseas holiday every year.

    Of course Joe is after them. If he went after the people with money to spare, the prime beneficiaries of the last few decades of neoliberal policies, he’d be out of a job in days.

    Of course, that’s why there’s no chance of one.

    Of course not. The Liberals aren’t stupid. They know after spending nearly a year being the most dishonest, unfair, punitive and incompetent Government in decades, they’d be massacred at any election.

  4. klewso

    Considering the road to Americanization we are being driven down – to sacrifice at the Altar of the Free Market – I know they don’t fit in with some people’s opinions (so they don’t have to believe them if they don’t want to), but Nick Hanauer had some interesting figures when interviewed on Lateline last Friday(?). He said
    [30 years ago, in the US, their “Top 1%” were drawing down 8% of the national income.
    Now that “Top 1%” is sitting on 20% – while the “Bottom 50%” share 12-13% of the national income.
    If the trend continues that top 1% will take in 30% of that American Pie – while the bottom 50% will have to make do with the crumbs of 6%.]
    How different can we be – with our nine richest (including Rinehart, Packer and Pratt) worth $58.6 billion (the way that skews the “average wage”?) – more than the shared income of 4.5 million of the rest of us?

  5. westral

    In opposition the Libs were all about saying no to everything and castigating the government up and down. In government they are castigating Labor for not saying yes to their proposals, what goes around comes around.

  6. David Hand

    I don’t know where you got those wealth distribution numbers from doctor but if it was from your local socialist collective support group seeking to motivate downtrodden and impoverished Australians to man the barricades, I’d look for a better source. I don’t see vast shanty towns of dispossessed people looking hungrily at gated communities around where I live.

    Wealth is concentrated among older people. Younger people tend to have less wealth. So it is likely that as older people die, their wealth will be inherited by their less wealthy children. I doubt your 50% owned by 1% revolutionary propaganda has taken such obvious subtlety into account but if you can point me to it, I would very much like to read it.

    You seem confused about “poor” and “middle Australia”. Well, you’re in good company because that’s exactly the same trap that Joe fell into in that radio interview. But your 1% view lumps the median Australian home owning family with some super, some home equity and an overseas holiday every year into the “poor” category. They’re the ones Joe is after.

    The challenge is quite straightforward in my view. Australia must, over time, live within its means and that will directly affect the vast bulk of middle Australia.

    What we are actually witnessing today is something else entirely. The cross bench senators are sniffing a double dissolution election where their quotas would be halved so they are playing every political game they can to damage the Treasurer.

    Of course, that’s why there’s no chance of one.

  7. CML

    drsmithy – I agree 100%!

    Your last paragraph is particularly relevant. If the current government did something useful, like cracking down on immigration fraud and fixing the 457 visa rorts, then there would be MORE jobs available for the unemployed.

    I won’t hold my breath!!

  8. klewso

    “You can tell the lower classes,
    By their cigars and funny cars’s.”

  9. drsmithy

    Your belief that Hockey’s budget is “designed to impoverish anyone who is not already wealthy” has within it this absurd assumption that there is a wealthy class who have all the wealth.

    That’s not an assumption, it’s a statement of fact. 50% of the wealth in the country is held by 1% of the population and 80% by 10%, if I remember correctly.

    Most of the wealth is concentrated amongst few hands. Nearly all the budget measures are designed to make it even fewer.

    Though there is a very wealthy group within Australia, their wealth is insignificant in terms of fixing the $230bn debt we have collectively racked up in the last 7 years. Even if you impoverished Gina of her $20bn, it would cover less that 10% of the debt.

    $230 billion of public debt is practically a rounding error compared to the $trillions of private debt weighing down this country.

    Nothing Hockey is doing – or has any intention of doing – is going to make any meaningful impact on public debt. We don’t have an expenditure problem, we have a revenue problem. Eliminating all the tax lurks and rorts primarily aimed at the wealthy, from negative gearing through superannuation concessions to CGT discounts, is where the real money is.

    Oh, and then, as the vast majority of it is in the value of a huge iron ore deposit and not cash in the bank, you’d have to find a buyer – probably from overseas, to give you the money. And you wouldn’t have that enormous taxpaying business either.

    Awww. You think multinational mining corporations pay meaningful amounts of tax. How cute.

    Actually, our wealthy entrepreneurs whose money is tied up in business enterprises are handy people to have around, not rob.

    There are very, very few entrepreneurs in Australia. The rent seekers have chased them all away. Gina, for example, hasn’t got an entrepreneurial bone in her body. She was born into money, just happened to be living at the right time for iron ore prices to go through the roof, and thinks the best way to improve her business is to pay people less.

    It is middle Australia that must do more […]

    Middle Australia bears proportionally the highest burden of all.

    It is the wealthy who have massively and disproportionately benefitted from the tax cuts and policy changes of the last few decades. Hence the reasons none of those things – the real problems with our economy – will be fixed.

    The Henry tax review recommendations have a lot of merit although I don’t get why he should exempt the 830,000 people on the disability support payment from being encouraged into paid employment

    Speaking of absurd assumptions, I see you’re still peddling the company line that people choose to remain unemployed.

    The only “encouragement” people on the dole need to get into paid employment, is for paid employment to be available. Of course, this Government has zero interest in trying to actually fix that problem, as has been made crystal clear by their intention to make welfare even more inadequate and harder to access and open up the floodgates of immigration to drive wages into the dirt.

  10. j.oneill

    @Lyn Gain & CML. Thank you for those comments. I should make a small correction. I referred to the Baltic Sea where Sea Breeze exercises were taking place. That should have read Black Sea.

    Despite the wealth of evidence that is emerging, and sophisticated analyses such as that by notes dutch journalist Karel van Wolferen (“The Ukraine, Corrupted Journalism and the Atlanticist Faith” UNZ Review 14 August 2014) we are still subjected to this from Peter Hartcher (SMH 16.8.14)::

    “A month later {July 2014] MH17 was targeted and destroyed by Russian separatists in Ukraine as they waged undeclared war”.

    To active three manifest falsehoods in the space of one short sentence is quite an achievement even by the standards of Australian journalism. It is symptomatic however, of the willingness of the msm to simply join the American propaganda circus without heed to either the facts or the consequences. It is intellectual dishonesty and Hartcher, who rejoices in the title of international editor of the SMH is nothing short of a disgrace.

    It is also a valid question as to why outlets such as Crikey conspicuously avoid a proper discussion of a situation that could all too easily slip into an all out war.

  11. nonchalance

    David Hand – thank you. A pity that the govt cannot clearly articulate the problem. I’m not sure if your middle Australia is the total answer. As always, balance is needed.

  12. David Hand

    The Henry tax review recommendations have a lot of merit although I don’t get why he should exempt the 830,000 people on the disability support payment from being encouraged into paid employment

  13. David Hand

    Doctor,

    Your belief that Hockey’s budget is “designed to impoverish anyone who is not already wealthy” has within it this absurd assumption that there is a wealthy class who have all the wealth. Though there is a very wealthy group within Australia, their wealth is insignificant in terms of fixing the $230bn debt we have collectively racked up in the last 7 years. Even if you impoverished Gina of her $20bn, it would cover less that 10% of the debt. Oh, and then, as the vast majority of it is in the value of a huge iron ore deposit and not cash in the bank, you’d have to find a buyer – probably from overseas, to give you the money. And you wouldn’t have that enormous taxpaying business either.

    Actually, our wealthy entrepreneurs whose money is tied up in business enterprises are handy people to have around, not rob.

    It is middle Australia that must do more and the fuel excise is an obvious way.

  14. Patrick

    I think the fundamental problem is that the Liberals got elected on a pack of lies. No changes to pensions. No cuts to ABC & SBS. They continually claimed that all they had to do was axe the tax and stop the waste and then good times would be back. It was a pile of lies but people bought it. And Joe as the Treasurer is carrying the can for those lies. Now the reality is sinking in that the Liberal Party is struggling to balance the budget just like the ALP was given the real structural issues with the economy such as the slowing mining boom, sluggish global growth and the aging population. These issues demand a review of both tax and spending. Like chasing down cost shifting in large multinationals that is designed with the explicit objective of avoiding tax. Or reviewing the over generous super tax concessions to the more well off. Or stopping tax breaks for salary sacrifice car packages where the vehicle is only used for private purposes. Or simplifying the welfare system so it can be managed more efficiently. But they are difficult things to do especially for the Liberals who risk alienating their voter base. So they do the easy thing (and the unfair thing) and beat up on the Labor voter base by targeting pensioners, unemployed, people on welfare, people using bulk billing, etc. So the lies led to unfairness. And now Joe is collecting a few upper cuts. He should pass a few on to Tony being the liar in chief.

  15. John Allan

    Spot on drsmithy – let’s turn the spotlight on the ‘liberal party sponsors’. Now which mining heiress do we start with … Can we determine how much the govt is beholding to her (not to mention the mining companies and the banks?
    With more evidence of corruption in the financial advisory industry, the govt is intent on sacrificing anyone who seeks ‘professional’ financial guidance.
    Clearly the coalition still serves big business – their sponsors.

  16. CML

    @ j.oneill – I agree – very well said.
    I have read the Canadian research on MH17, and what you say is correct. Russia released to the world ALL of its relevant satellite data about 10 days after the incident occurred.
    Bet no one read about that in Ltd News!!

    @ GF50 – I am also a retired RN/RM, and agree that this robbing Peter (public system) to pay Paul (private sector) has been going on for a lot of years.
    Pity most people who use the public system don’t realise how lucky they are. And those who insist on a private hospital – well, good luck with that!!!

  17. GF50

    Thanks CML: Stated clearly and factually, one thing can be added that we have a two tier Health care system whereby the multi national private funds can only operate by profiteering on public funds = Medicare. Privately operated hospitals and MD’s with cash registers on their hips. They received all there knowledge from the public system that operate at worlds best practice levels, but not ethics or moral code and act only in the interests of their own bottom line. Any rebate for private Dr, MRI etc is only from Medicare. If ill, Public Hospital is the only way to go (Centers of excellence) Private funds will then pay for the bed and care. Funds going to support the public system. Having been a lifelong member of a fund when the Howard Govt started Tax rebating the private fund membership fees(to help out his friends in the Private Health Business at the Public System expense) I have donated that tax rebate to RPAH my centre of excellence. I have driven friends and family to drink on this topic for years. My excuse is that I was a an RN and I believe that ALL are entitled to the very best Medical care available, and that is not in the user pays private system that profits off the Public system.

  18. Lyn Gain

    Brilliant J.O’neil. Couldn’t have said it all better myself.

  19. drsmithy

    So only “fair” legislation should be passed by the senate.

    Outside of extraordinary circumstances, yes.

    Eternal deficits, sluggish economic growth, a fall in prosperity for everyone and the unemployed and DSP recipients heading well north of 2 million. Welcome to the EU.

    This is what we call a false dichotomy fallacy.

    It is the Liberals’ hardcore neoliberal budget – designed to further impoverish and disadvantage anyone who isn’t already wealthy – that will increase deficits, produce sluggish economic growth, reduce prosperity for everyone, and increase unemployment. The idea that it would somehow improve our economic and social situation is simply laughable (except to the delusional who still think trickle-down economics works, and that people are unemployed because they choose to be).

    Hockey could fix the deficit and position the country as well as it could be in the circumstances, tomorrow, just by addressing the broken parts of the tax system per the Henry Report. But the Liberal Party sponsors would never let that happen.

  20. David Hand

    So only “fair” legislation should be passed by the senate. Eternal deficits, sluggish economic growth, a fall in prosperity for everyone and the unemployed and DSP recipients heading well north of 2 million. Welcome to the EU.

    “Fairness” is a word that has been completely destroyed by Labor and the unions, starting with “Fair Work” and going downhill from there.

  21. The Pav

    Fantastic how the more Abbott stays out of the country the less unpopular he becomes.

    Now if only he could stay away permanently and we got some REAL adults in charge

    Not the lazy treasure who can’t add up or understand the tax system por the religious maniacs. Just some sane sensible competent people

  22. drsmithy

    Nothing, absolutely nothing can easily pass this joke we have masquerading as a house of review. So many of them are looking for a political opportunity that it is pure unadulterated politics we face.

    Rubbish.

    The Senate has rightly been knocking back legislation that is unfair, punitive and pointless.

    The only electoral reform this country needs is proper democracy, rather than the “elective dictatorship” we have now.

  23. David Hand

    No harrumph.
    Nothing, absolutely nothing can easily pass this joke we have masquerading as a house of review. So many of them are looking for a political opportunity that it is pure unadulterated politics we face.

    The micro party strategy is to block everything hoping for a double dissolution election when quotas for a seat are half that of a half senate election.

    Shorten’s plea of “dump the budget or dump the treasurer” is a great sound bite but pretty empty. It’s the budget that I think will go. If Abbott plays it right, we can have a “Senate endorsed deficit budget” and mount a campaign against the destructive chamber we have now, building an agenda for electoral reform.

    Hockey’s not going anywhere. Abbott may be able to get rid of him but he can’t get rid of Clive Palmer and Ricky Muir.

  24. leon knight

    To David Hand – well done lad, a couple of quite reasonable posts…I knew you could do it..!!

  25. MJPC

    Joe’s OK, he apologised yesterday on the Macquarie network (does he speak on any other…good to be with friends when your foot is in your mouth)for his mistaken remarks about car usage.
    No it wasn’t because the big boss returned from the UK, after having to make a phone call to the UK PM on holidays, and didn’t have a chat with him.
    It’s all good now Joe, apology accepted. Now, when is the next election?

  26. klewso

    So sorry about his “lower classes/cars” narrative, that he went on “Singo’s Cock-or-Two Circus” Neo-Con radio, for his sorrys – “at no one else’s suggestion”?

  27. John Allan

    Joe is mortally wounded. Expect a reshuffle (deck chairs?) in the coming months.

  28. harrumph

    Smokin’ Joe needs to lay off the exploding cigars.

    The re-introduction of fuel indexation could have sailed through the Senate if:

    a) The Government had admitted that abolishing it was a mistake, and
    b) had not tied the indexation to road funding (then the Greens would be on board)

    Utterly politically inept.

    Aim! Fire! Ow – that’s my foot.

  29. Patrick

    The compliance costs of having to collect cash from patients will see many bulk billing practices switch to fee for service and jack their prices up in the process. The $7 fee is expressly designed to end bulk billing.

  30. Lyn Gain

    Totally agree CML re Medicare.

  31. Brian Williams

    And Joe has now backed down and said sorry on LNP radio 2GB.

  32. Brian Williams

    Lyn Gain – an indexed increase in fuel excise has been a constantly boring theme of Bernards articles since Adam played right wing for the Tigers. He was never going to oppose it.

  33. drsmithy

    What about the 12.5% increase in tobacco excise in 2013 proposed by the Labor government? Also, not “fair”?

    Pretty easy to avoid buying lots of tobacco and alcohol.

    Driving, much less so.

  34. drsmithy

    I think this co-payment rubbish is more about the beginning of the end for universal healthcare in this country.

    Of course it is. How anyone rational could think anything else is beyond me.

    For some reason – and I’ve never been able to figure it out – publicly funded healthcare is the Right’s white whale. Above all other publicly funded services and welfare, they hate it with a special passion.

  35. j.oneill

    Bernard, I was largely in accord with your argument until you got to the point where you said “Abbott’s capable performance in response to MH17” at which point you lost me completely. I acknowledge that he mostly said the right things in the context of reassuring the grieving families that the deceased remains would be repatriated.

    Unfortunately, that was accompanied by extraordinarily ill-judged and plainly ignorant remarks attributing the MH17 disaster to Russia in general and Mr Putin in particular. the evidence available to date (incomplete to be sure) points to MH17 having been shot down by a Ukrainian air force SU25 and both German and Canadian reports have made very clear.

    Abbott has been completely silent about, for example, the US inspired coup d’etat that evicted the legitimately elected Ukrainian president and replaced him with Europe’s first post WW2 nazi government. He is similarly silent about the genocidal attacks on civilians in Eastern Ukraine who voted independently in a referendum for independence from Kiev (not to join Russia as has been persistently misreported.)

    On the basis of no evidence whatsoever he joins the American inspired sanctions against Russia (without telling the Australian people) and when the Russians unsurprisingly respond with sanctions against Australia food exports he accuses Russia of being a “bully”.

    His ham fisted blundering has been matched by our pretend Foreign Minister Julie Bishop whose grasp of geopolitics is an embarrassment.

    The Russians provided detailed evidence as to what actually happened on 21 July 2014. Not only has that been shamefully ignored by Crikey and other media outlets, it has not been rebutted. Neither have the Americans provided the information they must have by virtue of their own spy satellite overhead at the relevant time and the monitoring going on from Operation Sea Breeze in the Baltic Sea.

    It is not too difficult to infer a reason why the information from the “black boxes” has not been released after an extraordinarily long time. An honest transcript would raise too many questions contrary to the drumbeat of western media propaganda.

    If Abbott and Bishop truly cared about the families of the victims and the victims themselves they would be relentless in their pursuit of the truth. Instead we face the very real prospect of Australia blundering into yet another US inspired war. Tell me again how that is in our national interest.

  36. Mark Kleinschmidt

    Totally agree, Leon.

  37. drsmithy

    Increasing the running costs of a car (slightly) may make people think twice about buying that extra car (or 2!..) and hence remove some traffic from the roads, with all its benefits.

    Given the high costs ($1000+/yr) of simply owning another vehicle (rego, insurance, etc) without even driving it, increasing running costs by an insignificant amount aren’t going to do anything to change people’s minds.

    Besides which, what’s the problem with people owning multiple vehicles ? Why is this something that the middle- and working-classes should be discouraged from doing ?

  38. Djbekka

    How about a different tack, Joe could (and should) say that the indexing of petrol and diesel excise is a part of
    Direct Action for the climate, then for fairness, he could extend it to mining companies (since they are not being taxed on outputs) and farm vehicles. Maybe family farmers could claim it back on their income tax as work related, corporate farmers could pay. As it goes up, folks will work out ways to use a bit less fuel and the atmosphere benefits.

    A fantasy perhaps, but I find the constant stream of abuse of foolish pollies more unpalatable than, fantasist policy suggestions.

  39. CML

    Bernard, I have to take you to task on the $7 Medicare co-payment, when you say that Clive Palmer will get the credit for modifying the proposal (if that is what happens?).
    NO ONE will thank Clive if he allows this brainfa+t to be passed, modified or not. The whole scheme as proposed by this government, will do NOTHING to improve the budget bottom line, since ALL of the money is going into some mythical research fund, where the money may, or may not, emerge some years down the track.
    As I have said in another place, Medicare has been partly funded by a levy since it began. If the costs of healthcare have escalated to the point where that portion funded by the levy is inadequate, then for dog’s sake, INCREASE THE BLOODY LEVY. That should be obvious to anybody with half a brain! Which doesn’t say much for the rAbbott and his motley crew!!
    I think this co-payment rubbish is more about the beginning of the end for universal healthcare in this country. And maybe, just maybe, a lot of people out there agree with that statement. Lets face it, the so-called Right forces have been trying to demolish Medicare since its inception. They almost succeeded in the late seventies, ’till Labor re-introduced the concept under Bob Hawke in the 1980’s.
    What makes you think they are not having a more ‘subtle’ attempt now?
    We will all rue the day, if Clive allows that to happen. Rather than receiving credit, it will be the end of Palmer and his PUP!

  40. Scott

    I’m pro car, but when you look at the car per household ratio, it has been climbing.
    In 2006 census , it was 1.4 cars per househole.. In 2011, it is now 1.6, and it continues to rise. (And this is just passenger cars, I have excluded every other vehicle like motocycles and light trucks/commercial vehicles).
    Increasing the running costs of a car (slightly) may make people think twice about buying that extra car (or 2!..) and hence remove some traffic from the roads, with all its benefits.
    (and contrary to popular belief, it isn’t just the poor that are affected by price signals…some of the tightest people i know are the ones with a couple of million in the bank.)

  41. beachcomber

    The only reason that Abbott appears to be “on safer ground internationally than domestically” is that when overseas he is surrounded by foreign leaders who have a grasp on what they want to do, and how they are going to do it.
    Whereas at home he is surrounded by a flock of headless chooks attempting to self cannabilise themselves, with him playing the role top cock.
    It is hard to recall a more inept “government” than the current rabble, and even harder to see how Abbott or Hockey could last in thier current roles until next year.

  42. David Hand

    There is a good case for a range of consumption taxes such as the GST and fuel excise.

    1. It’s efficient to collect.
    2. It taxes spending and the well off tend to spend more.
    3. Making all taxes progressive loads so much of the burden on the greedy evil cigar smoking top end they start to put more effort into avoiding tax rather than generating taxable wealth.

    The trap Joe fell into that Christopher Pyne so adroitly dodged is that the very poor can and should be looked after through other social welfare schemes. After all the excise is targeted at that vast group of middle Australia who can afford to pay a bit more tax, especially as they have been the happy recipients of what lefties call “middle class welfare”.

  43. John Allan

    Capitalism = the unfair distribution of wealth.
    Socialism = the fair distribution of nothing.

  44. Flickknifetipsy

    We had a carbon reduction programme that was working! The only reason it is gone is because the fossil fuel bought and paid for this government. Doesn’t change reality though – the rest of the world is switching away from coal faster than our fat cats are able to acknowledge or recognise.

  45. extra

    I’m waiting for Joe to run the line that ‘poor people die earlier, too, so they won’t have to pay as much in Medicare co-payments’

  46. Lyn Gain

    Scott, How will the fuel levy reduce pollution on the roads. By the poorest having to get rid of their cars because they can’t afford to run them? Or by people suddenly taking to rail because their cars are dearer to run (that is in areas where there is rail, not most of Australia outside urban areas)? I would be interested to hear your alternative scenario?

  47. Lyn Gain

    I am shocked Bernard at this quote: “It’s partly because Hockey’s pet project — and like fuel excise indexation, an excellent idea — of asset recycling to get state government infrastructure investment flowing has been halted in the Senate and turned into an argument about privatisation, which voters viscerally hate.” Since when has a regressive tax been an excellent idea; and since when has forcing more privatisation on the States (already overly prone to that type of idiocy)also been excellent?

  48. Pedantic, Balwyn

    You know that the Government is on the nose when the talking heads on Skye News start bagging them. First it was gentle, reproachful stuff; now they are giving it to them frequently and vociferously. Even the IPA is joining in funding an Abbott attack, admittedly defending their love child the Bolter.
    In truth the Coalition is so fixated on their narrow ideology of getting bludgers, unions, refugees and anyone else that they despise it has become their raison d’etre; not a good way to run the country.

  49. GF50

    Sorry Bernard, you are far too easy with your attribution of “capable” to Abbott’s me tooing and you look at mee, look at mee! Total cognitive dissonance.
    Personally saving the world while flushing Australia down the toilet along with decency, humanity, and equality of opportunity for all, and as brilliant in opposition?? aided and more than abetted by a compliant, non questioning media, a wrecker of democracy, decency, Parliamentary and Judicial processes. A mendacious opportunist leader of the LNP sociopaths, all drinking the same cool-aid.

  50. Scott

    Don’t we also want to reduce pollution? Seems to me like an increase in the fuel excise might get a few cars off the road, ease congestion and improve the air quality.

    Guess not!

  51. Gerryod

    Abbott’s strength is international affairs – really? The how come he hasn’t heard of Climate Change and what the rest of the world is doing about it? Hmmm, I think its a case of him being less incompetent at international affairs maybe that is giving him a break.

    As for Uncle Joe, he is just following the Libs mantra:

    F the poor
    F the unemployed
    F the sick
    F the pensioners
    F the disabled
    F the environment

    Screw the unions
    Screw the workers
    Screw Medicare

    Then smoke a good Havana!

    That’ll do it!

  52. Jimmy

    Scott – The hieks in “sin taxes” are designed to stop people from smoking and help them pay for the medical expenses they will incur from a result of that choice – the same cna’t be said for the fuel levy, nice try in shifting the focus though.

    Has there been a week since this govt came to office that there hasn’t bee a massive self inflicted wound, from Pyne having to be slapped down by Abbott on Gonski to now it has been constant balls ups from minister after minister – thanks god the adults are in charge.

  53. MJPC

    @ Alan, Leon Knight, agree wholeheartedly. What has Abbott achieved overseas? Went to London to have a phone call with the British PM on holiday.
    Pontificated about supporting Iraq (but not sending in the troops), made threats against Russia which will never happen: All smoke and mirrors. Meanwhile back on the Home Front Uncle Joe is floundering about (ably assisted by C Pyne and the other idiots). And we pay these imposters through our taxes?

  54. Flickknifetipsy

    Scott – nobody has to smoke!!

  55. Alan

    @leon knight, my thoughts exactly. Lurching around the world, the only people listening to him is his adoring press troupe.

  56. Scott

    What about the 12.5% increase in tobacco excise in 2013 proposed by the Labor government? Also, not “fair”?

    Lower income people pay a greater percentage of their income on grog and smokes than the wealthy, so increasing it is also descriminative against those people.

    But I guess it’s only “unfair” when the Liberals propose something.

  57. David Hand

    I don’t understand how Hockey could walk into such a gaff. After all, the underlying debate has been going on for years. Direct progressive taxes disproportionately target high income earners. Indirect regressive taxes affect low income earners proportionately more.

    If Joe can’t work out how to answer a fairly standard question of your pin-up poor person being penalised by fuel excise, you’ve got to wonder if he can do the job. I reckon Wayne Swan would have answered it better.

    There is a strong case for a mixed taxation process of both direct and indirect taxes. The Treasurer should be able to explain it.

  58. AJH

    @leon

    “ruthless, numbingly repetitive, and effective amidst the Labor turmoil”

    You’ve just described the attributes needed for a capable opposition leader.

    Brilliant opposition leaders are like attack dogs… and Abbott was extremely capable in that regard.

  59. leon knight

    Abbott brilliant in opposition? Don’t think so Bernard…ruthless, numbingly repetitive, and effective amidst the Labor turmoil, yes. But a long way short of brilliant, and his current posturing on the “murderous hordes”, and stupid attacks on Putin, are equally cynical and deserve little credit.

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