Hockey’s incredible budget backflip.

hockey make up

Joe Hockey’s second Budget set a new backflip benchmark even for the Abbott government which has elevated flip flops into a key political strategy. For stop-go Joe and for his do-whatever- might-work party, Budget number two was either a dramatic reinvention or a breathtaking political quick change from neo-constrictor to big stimulus spender.

Forget debt and deficit disaster. Expect nothing but blue skies from now on. We are on ‘a credible path to surplus’ sometime in the next decade or two provided the good times keep on rolling. Provided we keep the telescope up to the blind eye.

Iron ore , for example, can’t possibly drop below its current price  despite Citigroup predicting it will drop below $40 a tonne as miners boost supply and markets contract.

Whatever they thought of the  motive, the reversal was so remarkable as to leave most observers wondering who Joe Hockey is -and what his party stands for. Is he now just Scott Morrison’s sock puppet?

The wealthy, however, were not to be left in doubt. Superannuation tax breaks for those on high incomes would continue, Hockey reassured us, although he neglected to say our support of the privileged costs the nation the same as the entire Medicare scheme.

Just to keep faith with those who expect more mean and nasty, however, the Coalition was able to put the boot into breast-feeding mothers and any others who dared to double- dip, rort and defraud the virtuous tax-payer by claiming two periods of paid parental leave, albeit in total less than Abbott’s original unfunded proposal – and still inadequate.

Morrison was all moral outrage on radio:

Channeling a Catherine Tate character, Morrison was all moral outrage on radio: ‘how very dare they!’ Later, he offered another version of his comment in case we were confused as to what he really said which he said was not a criticism of women at all but a flaw in the scheme. Of course.

Strangely Hockey has also claimed that his comments were also mis-reported although his PM is still keen to voice his new-found opposition to women taking two periods of leave, despite this being intended in the legislation. It can only be assumed that Credlin has yet to catch up with him.  Expect to hear another version of what he really meant soon.

Similarly, the old Joe could be detected in funds to help women. Yet only after the budget did Michaelia Cash announced breathlessly that another 4 million would be spent on an 1800RESPECT help line to tackle the epidemic of domestic violence. She did not explain why the afterthought or why this was less than one percent of the ‘the spend’ on increased anti-terror measures also announced in the second budget.

So far, initiatives in the government’s response to the nation’s domestic violence crisis have been underwhelming. If two women each week were killed by terrorists, it would be a different story. So are it has funded an awareness programme and a helpline. Although it says 25 million is allocated for shelter for the homeless, this is a paltry investment when contrasted with the funds pouring into our war on terror.

…child dental care rise by $75…

Saving women’s lives is clearly far less of an Abbott government priority than say organising an armoured vehicle to patrol north Melbourne or pouring millions into welfare police. The budget will see child dental care rise by $75 as a result of its freeze on Medicare rebates. We already have the GP copayment by stealth.

The party’s small-business heartland will do OK out of this budget. Experts believe it will do no harm either in key tradie-infested Victorian marginals, as have-a-go-Joe happily forgoes revenue in tax breaks to small businesses in the hope of buying votes before they call a double dissolution.

No-one expected the Joe show to be so startling. ‘Dull’ was the PM”s  promise but he did not put it in writing. ‘Do or die’ was easily the most popular guess by those in the know and even those with no clue at all, mostly because it sounds dramatic. Double-dissolution got more than a whisper from some highly placed sources.

In the end, however, no-one tipped that the Treasurer would publicly turn himself inside out and his party back to front to unleash a big spending big taxing budget on an unsuspecting nation.

Joe came out as a wet.

‘Have-a go-Joe shocked even his closest followers. We expected dullness before he opened his cake-hole. And we were not disappointed. Only the random, ragged applause of clapped out party hacks served to remind us that this was not just another political soliloquy; another raving nutter talking to himself in public. But then, amidst the happy-clappers came the bombshell. Joe came out as a wet.

No-one warned us to expect Joe to go wet on us. His act upstaged his message. Upstaged his entire party’s platform. Was this the secret, inner Joe? Or was it some new Joe? Who could tell? Certainly not his leader.

Tony Abbott, no stranger to dullness himself, as G20 leaders know, had worded us up to expect his dull Treasurer to give a dull, ‘nothing to see here and move along please’ budget that his dull party could ‘tick off’ before it ‘moved on’ with its next round of public spending cuts or its brazen pandering to privilege and wealth and persecution of the poor that constitutes its idea of good government. Joe must have missed this hint. For Budget Night was all about his miraculous turnaround. Before our very eyes, the economic dry became a very wet one.

Hockey’s budget speech was as boring as bat-shit. Clichéd, commonplace and as corny as all get out, it was just the sort of twaddle the dutiful neo-con radical-conservative feels he ought to say on public occasions such as budgets.

…dreary, lazy, superficial generalities and unexamined assumptions:

As nimble as big men often are , Hockey adeptly sidestepped depth, originality or insight. Instead he ladled out the LNP stew of dreary, lazy, superficial generalities and unexamined assumptions: ‘every big business started small’ and ‘small business is the backbone of the nation.’

Were it not for the incredible spectacle he made of himself with his almost total capitulation to expediency, it would have been a dull night’s entertainment. Yet, here, before his peers, stood last year’s economic dry who could not do enough to cut spending and to preach economic doom and disaster. Now we were to accept his spectacular reincarnation as an economic wet who would spend us out of the impending recession even if it mean repudiating everything his first budget stood for.

Hockey’s own party clapped loud and over long for his support of the monied. They loved him for his public homage to those popular have-a-go myths with which they liked to console themselves and rationalise their naked self-interest. Genius, Joe. Buy ’em off! Joe the deliverer and redeemer might even get them re-elected if he kept this up.

Jobs would doubtless flow; wealth would trickle down as the burden of tax would be eased on the small business folk of Australia, the backbone of the nation. Amen. Not one of them would take the money and run. No-one seemed to bother to with the fact that even if you have an immediate tax write-off, you still have to have the capital in the first place. Nor was time wasted on the two-tier tax system created when experts already warn of unfairness in favour of small versus medium enterprises.

…Hockey’s last chance…

It was, let’s be frank, Hockey’s last chance to show us why Scott Morrison should not have his job. Why, Joe could rustle up a party narrative with the best of them. he would not let himself or the PM or the party down by letting truth get in the way of a good story.

Porky pies followed thick and fast.  The world economy, he lied is on the up and up. And as for Australia? Why, Australia is set to rocket off into prosperity along a ‘trajectory’ hitherto undreamt of because of all his party’s heavy lifting.- Look at our raft, he said, of Free Trade agreements with China India and other places where labour is cheap and life is even cheaper.

Best of all, he paused, as you do when you are free-wheeling, we have no carbon tax to ruin business or a mining tax to ruin Gina Rinehart and other such entrepreneurs whom he poppy-cocked repeatedly were once small businesspeople. Every business was once a small business.  Like Gina’s. Like IBM. Or when Mark Zuckerberg knocked back his parents’ financial support.

Huge savings from turning back boats, people-processing savings and not building new detention centres have left us with buckets of funds, he continued. In fact, he crowed, ‘our party doesn’t do tax. That’s the other mob.’

Hockey then plunged into a froth and lather detailing his party’s highest taxing, biggest spending budget of all time. This included billions in foregone tax revenue so that saintly small business folk such as tradies, the backbone of the nation, can get new utes to hoon around Noosa and doubtless down to Centrelink the following day to hire a swag of long-term unemployed.

…Newscorp’s divine right to a monopoly…

Hockey just the previous day was forced to hold a press conference to show Rupert that despite being upstaged mercilessly by Scott Morrison, he could still make himself useful in putting GST weights up on Netflix and any other rival to Newscorp’s divine right to a monopoly in Australia, while continuing to lead the pack in paying tax elsewhere.

Resourcefully the ABC pants on fire brigade, dropped their yoga mats and braved the chill Canberra evening outside while they dissected the corpse of the DOA budget and its fire-breathing Minister.  Perhaps they were making a symbolic statement of independence. Or were they just dramatising their exclusion by a government which favours fawning sycophants over reporters.  At least we got to see the trendy coats ABC reporters can still afford.

The untold story is that the bad old cuts will continue to bite deep – Sussan Ley, the bunny in the headlights of the Health ministry still has to cut 1.6 billion out of the health budget – ‘savings’ as they are cynically re-branded. They are not savings they are cuts which will have a negative effect on both health – not to mention the flow-on effect to other sectors of the economy. Perhaps we are going to all buck up after hearing the good news of the budget and have no further need of doctors and hospitals.

Hockey’s second budget may have come as a surprise but don’t be surprised when after failing to deal with the  senate  and while small business folk everywhere are maxing out credit cards in the rush to cash in on their tax breaks, the government calls a double dissolution in the more than faint hope of re-election through its cynical courting of self-interest and the pursuit of power for its own sake.