BUDGET WATCH: WHEN HAS GIVING RICH PEOPLE MONEY NOT WORKED?
Ahead of the 2020/21 budget dropping tomorrow, the AFR ($) reports that the Morrison government plans to backdate stage two and stage three tax cuts for higher income earners to July 1 this year, ahead of their legislated start dates of July 1, 2022, and July 1, 2024 respectively.
The multi-billion dollar move is nominally aimed at creating economic stimulus, although, as The Australia Institute found last month, the package would see more than 50% of benefits go to the highest 10% of income earners, while just 3-4% would go to the lower half of all income earners i.e. the only people likely to spend new income.
Elsewhere, The Australian ($) reports that the deficit will hit a record peak of just over $210 billion while Australia’s official debt ceiling will be lifted beyond $1.1 trillion — creating a gross debt-to-GDP ratio of about 55%, which will be our highest rate since the 1950s but will rank among the lowest levels of developed countries post-COVID.
The pre-budget leaks come after Scott Morrison announced a $1.2 billion apprenticeship scheme yesterday, while Josh Frydenberg has said that budget assumes a vaccine becomes a reality sometime next year ($) and so has factored that in — despite warnings over an approved drug’s short-term health and economic impact — and he expects population growth to hit its lowest point in more than a century. And in case you missed its announcement on Friday night, a one-way, New Zealand to NSW/NT travel bubble will launch October 16.
PS: In just the latest update on much-hyped, immediately-forgotten funding, 9News yesterday reported that hundred of millions of dollars in pre-election pledges for roadworks had not been spent ahead of a July deadline.
MOMENT OF TRUTH: SICK BURN
According to CNN, Donald Trump released a video to Twitter Saturday night (US time) claiming he was “starting to feel good”, amid refusals by the White House to confirm his oxygen levels and just hours before his chief of staff admitted to Fox News they had “dropped rapidly” Friday morning.
The confusion over Trump’s current state comes after his physician Dr Sean Conley released an error-riddled statement — which included typos, misidentified an experimental antiviral treatment, and claimed he had made a statement issued by another doctor — walking back claims the president had tested positive midday Wednesday, a full day and a half earlier than Trump and Melania’s cases were announced.
The number of allies who have tested positive following the previous Saturday’s Rose Garden announcement ceremony for Supreme Court pick Amy Coney Barrett has only grown, with the current list including former White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, former governor Chris Christie, and three GOP senators. While this means the senate will not meet this week as planned, The New York Times reports that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell intends to press ahead with Barrett’s confirmation “without delay”.
Democratic rival Joe Biden expressed sympathies for Trump and announced plans to pull negative ads, although, days after being mocked by the president for wearing masks, NDTV reports the former vice president has claimed masks are more important than being “a tough guy”. Minnesota Representative Ilhan Omar has put out a much more forceful response noting that, as someone whose father died from COVID-19 and does not wish it on anyone, Trump consistently suppressed scientific advice and just last week held a rally and fundraiser in her state that flouted health guidance on masks.
PS: In non-Trump-related election news, Bernie Sanders suggested on Jimmy Kimmel Live! that he would become chair of the health subcommittee in the event Democrats take the Senate in November.
THE MYSTERY OF THE MYSTERY CASES
According to the ABC, Victoria’s chief health officer Brett Sutton yesterday expressed concern after the number of “mystery cases”, or cases without a known source, grew by two over the past fortnight to 13.
The state yesterday recorded 12 new cases — six of which are linked to known outbreaks, including three at the Butcher Club at Chadstone Shopping Centre and three at Electra Park Medical Centre in Ashwood — while metropolitan Melbourne’s 14-day rolling average fell to 11.9 from 12 on Saturday.
PS: In what feels like daily, troubling law enforcement news from the state, The Age reports that a County Court decision last month established that Victoria Police officers cannot be compelled to release footage from body-worn cameras in civil proceedings.
THEY REALLY SAID THAT?
The government didn’t give the Parliament the opportunity to vote on the different [tax cut] stages, despite our best efforts. We’ve said really throughout that stage three is the least affordable, it’s the least responsible, it’s the least fair and it is the least likely to get a good return in the economy because higher-income earners are less likely to spend in the economy…
[asked whether Labor would vote against stage three cuts if they are again combined with other tax cuts]: We will finalise our approach when we see the package of tax cuts.
The shadow treasurer hits out against the Morrison government’s (now confirmed) attempt to bring forward billions of dollars’ worth of tax cuts for the richest Australians during a literal recession, only stopping short of pledging to vote against the measures on the infinitesimal chance they try the exact same trick as last time.
“The remarkable, deeply depressing special report by the aged care royal commission on the response to the pandemic illustrates the extent to which aged care and the needs of aged care facility residents are simply absent from policymakers’ minds.
“Sacking aged care minister Richard Colbeck — a fate richly deserved by a minister who has presided over such colossal and fatal policy failure — won’t even begin to address the problem that key decision makers work without considering the needs of aged care, and the sector experts have no input into the systems of decision making.”
“‘A former employee of a Spanish security firm has told Julian Assange’s extradition hearing of a plan to abduct and even poison the Australian as part of a widespread surveillance operation said to have been ordered by an associate of US President Donald Trump.’
“This revelation, concerning an Australian citizen who is facing 175 years in jail on espionage charges, made it to page 23 of The Sydney Morning Herald.
“In The Australian, it was given a small corner on page nine in the world news section, beneath a page of analysis on the first presidential debate.”
“Next Tuesday, when a smaller-than-normal gaggle of journalists will be locked up in Canberra reading all about a record-breaking 2020-21 federal budget deficit, an arguably more interesting spectacle will be unfolding in Sydney.
“Unpredictable casino billionaire James Packer is scheduled to give evidence to the NSW Bergin inquiry, and based on what has been unfolding so far, it’s going to be a fascinating couple of days.”
READ ALL ABOUT IT
Quarantine ‘non-decision’ stemmed from flawed bureaucratic philosophy — Jan Carter (The Age): “That “creeping assumptions” of senior bureaucrats were behind their choice of private security staff guarding returned travellers in Victorian hotel quarantine was suggested by counsel assisting the Coate inquiry. But there is another possibility: the assumptions were not “creeping” and there was no active choice. Rather, the employment of security guards was the outcome of ‘cast-iron’ assumptions, making it so inevitable that no discussion about choice was needed.”
Labor keen to draw blood from this fiscal horror show ($) — Simon Benson (The Australian): “Tuesday’s budget will read like a script for a fiscal horror movie. But every reasonable Australian knows how we got here and why. As Finance Minister Mathias Cormann said when the July economic statement was issued: ‘What was the alternative?’ And there can be no doubt that it would have been infinitely worse had the government not made the effort seven years ago on coming to office to start repairing the damage it had inherited from Labor.”
Journalism has a social media abuse problem (no, not that one) — Ketan Joshi (Ketan Joshi): “The Courier Mail, the ABC, and Fairfax / Nine were certainly under no illusions about what the consequences for the two young women would be. But the advent of the utilisation of traditional media and social media as a machine for creating direct, serious and severe abuse of women of colour who breach COVID-19 controls came and went, with near zero criticism and zero introspection from influential media personalities, in Australia.”
HOLD THE FRONT PAGE
WHAT’S ON TODAY
Author Richard Flanagan will discuss his new book The Living Sea of Waking Dreams with journalist Jennifer Byrne in a Wheeler Centre webinar.
Nobel Prize-winning immunologist Peter Doherty and infectious diseases physician Sharon Lewin will discuss Australia’s public health response to COVID-19 in a Melbourne Press Club webinar.