Australia is seized by budget mania. Abuzz. Agog. But after weeks of frenzied expectation, leaks and speculation, relief is in sight. The Coalition’s much-vaunted “economic plan” is out. Buy votes by whatever means you can.
For Jeremy Thorpe of PwC (Price Waterhouse Coopers), Scott Morrison’s stuck his hand down the back of the sofa and found the $35 billion, he carefully lost in December last year. He spends $15 billion but keeps the rest.
Morrison’s budget predicts revenue to grow on average 6.2% over the next four years– twice the average growth during Labor’s time in office and double the rate during failed former treasurer Joe Hockey’s brief stint in the job.
Income tax receipts are up because more of us are working and higher commodity prices mean more profits from mining. It’s no tribute to any government efforts or grand plan; more a case of our enjoying good luck in an upturn in the world economy. Peter Costello is wise to criticise those who would trust it too much. He would know.
Yet ScoMo must shriek that he’s cracked the nut of budget repair -a nonsense buzzword favoured if by failed PM and former Rhodes Scholar Tony Abbott who still cannot differentiate between balance and repair.
But a budget is about more than a rise in federal revenue. It’s about how fairly that prosperity is shared. Here the news confirms the long term trend of the transfer of capital from worker to investor – and bugger the poor. There is nothing in the Coalition’s budget calculations or strategies that might put a brake on the nation’s galloping economic inequality; the rapidly and dramatically widening gap between the haves and the have-nots.
Morrison’s budget speech is silent where it should be loudest; boosting pensions, minimum wages, penalty rates or ensuring job-seekers can survive on Newstart. Investment in these key areas make both social and economic sense. Yet there is no sign of any truce in the government’s war on the poor, the elderly and the infirm.
The weak are less equipped to fight back and our shameful injustice and inhumanity can be rationalised away by blaming the victims. Welfare expenditure is seen as a loss rather than an investment in social justice. Despite the current Royal Commission, this budget reflects a government of the banks, for the banks, by the banks.
Our class warriors have many powerful advocates in the ruling elite. Backbencher, Julia Banks who owns five investment properties tells ABC Melbourne that she could live on $40 a day. Banks receives $285 a night in MP travel allowance just to get to Canberra is more than a week’s Newstart. But she just knows she’d thrive on $40.
“I could, I could live on $40 a day knowing that the government is supporting me with Newstart to look for employment.”
What employment would that be Julia? In March, ABS data reveals unemployment is up to 5.6 despite the Turnbull government’s mantra of job creation. Looking for employment? Or fighting? In South Australia 46 graduates contest every job advertised in that state according to Adzuna, a national employment website.
Nationally, there are at least 2,870100 workers competing for 178,600 jobs, according to ABS data. There also huge differences between region and city. While in Sydney 2.85 job seekers compete for a single graduate role, the competition rises to 7.32 outside of the city. But that’s the way employers like it. It helps keep wages low.
Also boosting government statistics is our annual influx of 190,000 permanent migrants, although Peter Dutton, amen, has arbitrarily cut the latest financial year’s intake to 183,000. Just because he can. Add in at least 600,000 457 temporary migrant workers per year and Morrison’s job creation budget boast is clearly a hoax.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show that almost a million jobs have been created since we were first elected, as promised. This includes 415,000 jobs last year alone. More than a thousand jobs a day, three quarters of which were full time.
Cruelty is king. Already, under what our ABC’s Jane Norman carefully scapegoats as a “Gillard-led crackdown”, we disqualify two-thirds of those who apply for the disability support pension, (DSP). In fact, however, on July 1, 2015, new rules for claiming the DSP created a two-stage process. Only 15 per cent of applicants pass both sets of tests.
Claimants must first undergo an invasive and often personally demeaning interrogation (via video-link in regions) known as Job Capacity Assessment. The subtext, now part of DHS culture, is that the claimant is bluffing. If, however, it is concluded the claimant meets the DSP criteria, they proceed to a Disability Medical Assessment.
If there is no joy for the jobless there is less for the disabled. Here the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) is on a winner, it reckons. Continuing to deny the needy and infirm will save the Federal Government $4.8 billion over the next 10 years. May even save the government’s bacon. Welfare is weaponised in the war on the poor.
You wouldn’t want to be on Newstart struggling to survive on under $250 per week. But as Kate Carnell who enjoys a tailor-made government job as Small Business Ombudsman after her Business Council of Australia failure tells panellists on The Drum last week, it’s a fine line between support and incentivisation.
No-one challenges her nonsense, widely shared amongst government MPs, especially former Social Services Minister, now Attorney General Christian Porter. No-one demands evidence that living below the poverty line ever motivated anyone to get a job – even in a labour market where there is not an oversupply of applicants for every advertised position. And especially in a market where work is increasingly part-time, casual and underpaid.
“Newstarters” will get less than nothing out of this budget but can certainly count on an increase in their number.
Budget mania is toxic to the body politic. Mysterious. Putinesque. Our national village is consumed by St Antony’s Fire, an early name for ergotism, or mycotoxicosis resulting from poisoned rye and related cereals. Morrison hallucinates that he is at one with the universe, as is clear in his gaffe on ABC Insiders.
But the idea that if you lower taxes which… it’s not just the US, as you know, the UK is doing it, even Germany now is considering it. They’re considering it. They’re already doing it in France.
Our Treasurer needs a copy of The Economist which argues that Britain is overdue for a tax rise. Included also is news, to ScoMo, not only of a sugar tax – but a proposed levy to redress global warming, a great big new tax on everything as fearless, fatuous anti-carbon taxer, IPA shill and coal-lobby lackey Tony Abbott might put it.
In April Britain will introduce a “sugar tax”, which should raise some £500m a year. A “climate-change levy”, a tax on energy use by businesses, already exists. Doubling all environmental taxes would raise perhaps £14bn. It would also make Britain greener.
Morrison’s nonsense is more than wilful disinformation and ignorance. So powerful is his government’s blind faith in neoliberalism, it’s blasphemy to suggest that its god is dead. Instead, it continues its futile pursuit of Adam Smith’s laissez-faire economics, where the market is best left to its own devices, or, as the Beatles put it, Let it Be.
Or not. This government also hopes to buy power stations, tries to get into the submarine building business – even buys back a Snowy Hydro scheme or wastes time and $10 billion on a 1700 km Inland Rail Project boondoggle that even The Australian Rail Track Corporation concedes will never make a commercial return.
Mania is not helped by desperation. John Hewson is right on to it. Scott Morrison’s third and final try, he warns, is the “mother of all political budgets”. Little wonder the ether fills with gibberish; absurd, high-sounding nonsense.
This year mad, sad, manic Morrison has invented a magic formula. Australia’s overall tax level must not rise above 23.9 per cent of gross domestic product, a notional entity which excludes women’s unpaid labour for starters.
To ScoMo, who acts as if he’s eaten a stash of truckies’ little white pills this 23.9 figure is the “speed limit”
But it’s so much more. The Australia Institute’s Ben Oquist compares it with Douglas Adam’s 42, the meaning of life. 23.9 tells us all we need to know in the fiscal future. Should new taxes will be added or slashed? The answer’s 23.9. Even the size and timing of the great big new ten dollar a week income tax cuts turns out to be 23.9.
“Credible path to surplus” vies with “budget repair”. Leaked to all media, even Buzzfeed, are reports of “rivers of gold” which will miraculously divert themselves from rich men’s bank accounts to flood our federal coffers.
Yet we expect the bizarre. Five years ago, our former, terpsichorean treasurer, Joe Hockey, now safely out of harm’s way with Donald Trump as his golfing partner and mentor, not only did a little Budget dance in his office but slipped The Reserve Bank of Australia a lazy $9 billion dollars, the bank neither requested nor needed.
Baffling in its timing and largesse, experts remain mystified by Joe’s generosity with our money to this day. All Hockey would offer was a cryptic quip that “our institutions must be at their absolute strongest to deal with the challenges in the days, weeks and months ahead… We need all the ammunition in the guns for what is before us.”
Did Hockey foresee the Royal Commission? Trump’s impeachment? Or was he just trying to boost the deficit and pin the blame on Labor, a tactic which ScoMo is keen to copy with his $80 billion tax cuts for the very rich.
Peter Costello worries himself sick about the wealthy missing out on their entitlements. As you do. He’s outspokenly critical of Morrison’s magical thinking and his slap-down will not help the Coalition sell its budget.
These are people paying 47 cents on $200,000, they’re paying 39 [cents] on $100,000. They’re paying higher than the corporate rate. They haven’t had any tax relief for 10 years. And I think those forgotten people, those people that don’t have organised lobbyists to speak for them, also ought to be in the calculation of the Government …”
Peter may be into the magic mushrooms but he’s not alone, so bizarre are the hallucinations, grandiose delusions, tics, bizarre physical contortions and jejune babbling of our ruling elite. And its cheer squad. And the infection spreads to a fair swag of the third estate, the lunatics on the dark side of the moon; our mainstream media.
Budget mania threatens even to upstage News Poll – where re-jigged preferences engineer a boost in the Coalition’s support, narrowing the gap with Labor 49-51, first party preferred. At least for a week.
It’s no mean feat, even if Essential’s 53-47 suggests caution over News Poll. Our leaders and our mainstream media have a three-ring circus of other diversions lined up for our delectation and distraction.
At least it gives us a break from our fetish for leadership contests and our obsession with terror threats while illegal immigrants, welfare bludgers and working poor, the unemployed, under-employed and pensioners are demonised as traitors; an enemy within whose unproductive sloth mocks our worship of growth and threatens to send us all broke.
Many of these ancient superstitions and moral fables are often cunningly combined and re-hashed. Former health insurance tout Matthias Cormann declares, Saturday that “there’s got to be appropriate reward for effort” on the part of high-income earners, who “overwhelmingly carry the heaviest tax burden in our economy today”.
Except that they don’t. With dividend imputation, even those companies who do pay tax, (and 700 of our biggest corporations pay none,) face a 12 % tax rate while, as class clown Peter Costello cheekily points out on Monday’s ABC 7:30, wage and salary earners on an income of $100,000 pay four times that amount.
Gone, but not forgotten is what is breathlessly billed as the first Australian visit by a serving French President. Or is that self-serving? There’s a touch of the Bibi Netanyahu adoration bromance in Turnbull’s demeanour, at least at first.
The nation also swoons to the French cheek-kisses, double handshakes, back-pats and other Gallic blandishments of former investment banker, forty-year-old, Emmanuel Macron, Malcolm Turnbull’s neoliberal love-brat, when the French President, swings by Australia, this week, on a three-day charm offensive en route to New Caledonia on his mission to duchess our submarine deal and to help retain La belle France’s control of its former penal colony, of 279,000 residents including 40 per cent Kanaks or indigenous peoples who will hold an independence referendum, 4 November. The modern French state finds such rebellion quite distasteful. Emperor Macron has the matter in hand.
Our adulation of visiting tyrants is legendary. Dissent is ignored; not in the national interest. No-one bothers to ask Macron why he used executive orders last September to implement “reforms” to create a more “flexible” labour market by curbing trade union rights and making it easier to fire workers. True, we also have this French pox at home.
Arriving in Sydney with a raft of military and naval contractors, Le Macron declares France’s desire to be an “even stronger partner” under a deal to build and maintain a new fleet of diesel-electric submarines for our navy.
Nothing is said of the “transition path” to nuclear propulsion which only French submarine builder DCNS offers. It would be useful to know – now that we’ve signed the contracts – because our government has ordered a vessel which it wants us to believe will be retrofitted and re-designed with a diesel piston engine.
No–one in the history of submarine construction has ever tried to convert a nuclear submarine to a diesel one.
It’s more likely that the Coalition has committed to a nuclear sub in the hope that by the time it’s built all the anti-nuclear fuss will have subsided or its proponents silenced in the national interest. Its silence is deafening.
Even less is made of DCNS’ reneging on its initial promise to build the ships in Adelaide. Instead, last June, The Australian’s Robert Gottliebsen reported that The new DCNS Australian chief Brent Clark backed away from his predecessor Sean Costello’s assertion that over 90 per cent of the submarine build would take place in Australia,
DCNS has no plans to directly involve Adelaide’s ASC in the construction of Australia’s next fleet of submarines. Clark told a senate inquiry last June, “Quite simply, from our perspective, ASC will be consumed by DCNS.”
Australia’s first blush with the Macron-Mania, sweeping the globe invokes the fulsome flattery, toadying, intrigues and deceit which helped corrupt the Ancien Régime. Macron’s claque of courtiers is thus uniquely suited to our postmodern, post-truth, neoliberal, corporate despotism, which also rules by fear, patronage and lies.
The land of liberty, equality and fraternity is a bit touchy about revolutionary sentiment in the arse-end of its empire, especially given New Caledonia’s rich nickel deposits – although Macron wisely stops short of praising the two nations’ historic Kanaka trade link which saw Australia “blackbird” more than 60,000 slaves from the Solomon Islands, New Hebrides and New Caledonia who were transported to NSW and Queensland 1863-1904.
Islanders were forced to sign three year contracts. For many illiterate workers, their signature was a fingerprint. Whites might earn £30 a year but Islanders received weekly rations and £6 per year. No-one raises the issue.
No mention either of our 1901 White Australia Act, which saw their forcible repatriation between 1906-1908, in a move which anticipated Peter Dutton’s department of Home Affairs, a parallel, if dog-whistled, xenophobic racism.
Yet Macron is quick to lecture Turnbull at The Opera House, Tuesday, over our PM’s collaboration with his party’s climate change Nazis. “Revenons a nos moutons” ( Let’s get back to the subject at hand as they say in France.)
There is no planet B, the French President reminds us. No time for leaders in the coal industry’s deep pockets.
“I am fully aware of the political and economic debate surrounding this issue in your country, and I respect this,” Macron says. But I think that actual leaders are those that can respect those existing interests, but at the same time decide to participate to something broader, to something more strategic.”
Not a peep. Our media is getting ready to attack Labor for not having costed its shadow government promises, while Scott Morrison is wowing our media with his careful leaks. A few such as Helen Razer in Crikey are to be commended for their outspoken honesty. Her theme is that Morrison is an abject failure.
You increased the gross debt by $254 billion. That’s $43 billion more than Labor stacked on in nearly six years — during the worst global recession in 80 years. You have reduced the nation’s net worth by a staggering $201.3 billion down to negative $407.3 billion!
Canberra’s Press Gallery is pregnant with a Federal Budget and in no state to endorse The Business Council of Australia’s $126 million war chest it says it will raise to defend itself and the tender innocence of its investors from the depredations of GetUp!, its class enemy Labor, whatever’s left of the unions and any other anti-business forces with the impudence to challenge the droit de seigneur of Australia’s capitalist elite.
Boosted also by his triumph in Newspoll number 31 – a boost which can largely be explained by a change in the pollster’s top secret speculative allocation of preferences, our own cheese-eating surrender monkey Malcolm Turnbull is virtually our own Rainbow Warrior, PM and Cabinet turd-polishers assure the nation this week.
Not only must his government publicly embrace its fetish for French submarines, there’s much to be made of its ineffectual pledge of $500 million – half the billion dollars it pledged earlier – to preserve The Great Barrier Reef, a 3444,68 square kilometre world heritage site facing certain extinction as the globe warms because of a climate change most of his party denies is happening, is attacked by the crown of thorns starfish and suffers coral bleaching.
The token gesture is hailed by all as another of the Australian Emperor’s great triumphs and certain evidence that his government is back in the driver’s seat where it belongs.