“Liar”, screeches Scott Morrison, the pot calling the kettle black, opting fittingly for a personal insult rather than a reply to Bill Shorten’s Budget reply, Thursday. ScoMo snatches a moment from commissioning a culturally sensitive, brilliantly timed erection of a statue of James Cook, to signal he’s on the Right white side of history in his electorate of Cook.
It’s inspirational; an emblem of so much the member for Cook stands for. It will cost a lazy $50 million that might otherwise have been wasted on The ABC or squandered on ASIC both of which have been crippled in his budget cuts.
A fine gesture of contempt, another politically incorrect Cook among the pigeons does nothing to help the needy.
Nor does the budget. Pity the poor, the frail, the elderly and disadvantaged who are either ignored or whose privacy and peace of mind may be destroyed by a beefed-up Centrelink Robodebt-collector, in a process which promises to be even more demanding of welfare recipients yet just as prone to error. Equally disturbing, the onus of proof remains reversed.
Last year the government ignored a senate committee which made 21 recommendations to make the system workable. In June, The Community Affairs References Committee released a report condemning the system for being “so flawed it was set up to fail” and contained a number of “procedural fairness flaws”. Fully Coalition compliant, in other words.
The Centrelink Online Compliance Intervention (robo-debt) program matches and averages your income records held by Centrelink and the Tax Office – to detect overpayment. Yet, only last September, the government conceded that it sent recovery demands to 20,000 welfare recipients who were later found to owe less money, or none at all.
Robodebt 2.0, as it may termed, announced in Tuesday’s budget, will further tighten the screws. In a vivid contrast with its cossetting of the top end of town, the Coalition will target people already paying back debts but who have been identified as having the “capacity to pay more”. Former welfare recipients who have “high-value” debts can also expect to be heavied. The Coalition claims the measure will “save” $300m without clearly explaining why or how.
The most despicable lie which underpins this budget is that only the “aspirational” classes matter. The poor don’t count. Warning that after five minutes’ economic sunshine, the government is planning seven years of tax cuts, ACOSS asks
“… where’s the seven year plan for reducing poverty among adults and children, guaranteeing growth funding for health care, and closing the gaps in essential services such as mental and dental health and affordable housing?”
Support? Help? Perish the thought. Ever since Abbott, mocking, jeering name calling, demonisation and division have long become the Coalition’s default responses to any political challenge. Certainly the response betrays a desperation
“Bill Shorten’s a serial liar.” Finance Minister Mathias Cormann eagerly choruses, “His numbers don’t add up, you can’t trust a single word Bill Shorten says.” The personal slur is part of Kill Bill, the Coalition’s sophisticated tag team plan.
Morrison knows what he’s talking about. For once. He knows a compulsive liar when he sees one. He only has to look in the mirror. No offence. He just can’t help himself. He’s built his career on deception. As Treasurer, his favourite furphy is that his government’s created a million jobs since Turnbull knifed Abbott. In reality, it doesn’t bear inspection.
Employment is up but so too is our population. Our nation’s grown by 1.8 million people in the last five years. It’s a similar picture with growth, the Turnbull government’s other buzz-word. Growth looks anaemic once we factor in our population increase. Australia’s per capita growth, last year, was only 0.8 per cent, Alan Kohler calculates.
“… two thirds of last year’s economic growth came from population and most of that from immigration,” he writes.
Morrison is a charlatan who attacks Labor to divert us from his own epic failures. Australia’s global ranking on all major variables has plummeted. Our economic growth, reports Alan Austin, now ranks equal 125th in the world.
Equal with Somalia? The Coalition’s respect for an independent press is following a similarly disturbing decline.
Morrison’s growth hoax is as shonky as his claim that ABC cuts are part of a common or garden “efficiency dividend”. In fact the cuts are Coalition strategy to nobble the ABC, by cutting funds whilst crying “unfair”. Left bias. It’s a win-win. Its IPA pals, who want a privatised ABC, are cheered while the government saves money and avoids being held to account.
“What the government hates is scrutiny”, Erik Jensen notes in The Saturday Paper.
“There are no votes in cutting the ABC. Not directly. This is about the votes you hold on to when the country doesn’t know what you are doing. It is about conducting government in darkness. In an ugly and unimaginative budget, these cuts are some of the ugliest.”
But ScoMo’s on a roll.
“Efficiency dividends”, manic Morrison lies on ABC, are widespread in the world of commerce; standard business practice. Sure. Evidence given the Royal Commission into Banking highlights how directors of insurance, financial advice or banking are frugal to a fault; penny-pinching when it comes to paying multi-million dollar salaries to senior staff.
ABC Director Gaven Morris knows the truth. He warns that the public broadcaster will find it hard to continue. Staffing will be cut, he says. “… there is no more fat to cut …any more cuts to the ABC cut into the muscle of the organisation.”
Of course that’s just what the government wants. Cutting $85m from the ABC will ease the Turnbull government’s aversion to being held to account. Satisfied also will be Pauline Hanson’s demands that her support depends on $600 million being cut each year, a list of salaries published and the adoption of a gratuitous and inane Fox News slogan.
Fox? Fair and balanced?
Hanson also hates the ABC. ABC’s Four Corners exposed One Nation‘s peculiar business franchise-type structure, a setup quite unlike any other political party. Most recently, ABC reported the nonsense of her stooge flight to Afghanistan.
Where would we be without Pauline’s probing military analysis? Hanson told The Australian she can see Australian soldiers being in Afghanistan for the long haul. They need to be. “You can see the changes that are happening in the country,” she gushes. No-one else can. Even the Pentagon admits defeat. Last July, her idol, Donald Trump spelt it out.
“We aren’t winning … we are losing.” But Trumpistas, like La Hanson, have a different take on reality.
So, too does our federal Treasurer and his team, deep within their bunkers. A word you never hear is unemployment. Unemployment’s stuck in a rut. 5.6 % of workers still have no jobs, a proportion unchanged from October 2013.
Wages remain flat. Repetition doesn’t make Morrison’s claim that wages will grow any less of a whopper. Growth? GDP sounds impressive – but factor in population growth again or calculate GDP per capita and you get a dismal picture. Hence the necessity of decisive action. Turnbull’s team digs deep to come up with the right stuff – and at the right time.
Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison resort to “Unbelieva-Bill”, a witty, finely nuanced and searching rebuttal of Mr Shorten’s Budget Reply speech. The government is desperate: Labor has outwitted it. The Opposition’s still opposed to the Coalition’s unpopular company tax cuts. It will limit negative gearing tax concessions to new properties and it pledges to end cash refunds from franked dividends. Thus, Labor can trump the government’s personal income tax cuts.
Kill Bill, the order goes out. But liar? ScoMo’s own pants are on fire. His finger-pointing, kindergarten name-calling plumbs new depths – even for Liberal politics. Morrison froths. He and his morally bankrupt party lack all credibility. Humanity. History will judge harshly Coalition eagerness to embrace a post-truth, amoral Trumpian political universe.
Worse. Tony Abbott, who still lies that he stopped the boats, and his monkey-pod climate denialists call the shots, now.
Stopped the boats? Try enabled. Junkyard Abbott gave a green light to tens of thousands of arrivals by opposing a Labor law which would have enabled implementation of Julia Gillard’s Malaysia Arrangement of September 2011.
In effect, Abbott stopped Rudd’s boat-stopping. Yet Trump-like, the budgie smuggler confected another mythology, as John Menadue has argued. “We stopped the boats,” Abbott boasted so often, while keeping “on-water matters” secret in the militarisation of compassion, so that our largely pro-government media has happily accepted his lies as gospel.
Luckily, the electorate is not so easily fobbed off. Many of us recall what really happened. Yet it’s worth a quick recap.
When “Operation Sovereign Borders” (OSB) was ready for turnbacks in December 2013, unauthorised maritime arrivals had dropped from 48 in July 2013 to seven. OSB applied only to the stern (not the pointy bit or bow) of the boat drama.
The ‘game-changer’ was, in fact, Kevin Rudd’s declaration, July 2013, that people arriving by boat after July would not be settled in Australia. Even more damaging, turnbacks would have been impossible without Rudd’s 2013 declaration.
Turnbull’s last budget returns to Turnback Tony’s nihilism; his lifters and leaners, his lies and his climate change denial.
The Climate Change Authority, which Abbott “climate-change is crap” tried to wind-up after the independent body said we had to do more to meet our Paris pledges, loses $550,000. Its budget is now $2.9 million – half its in 2011 funding.
Yet we’ll spend $30 billion on the diesel fuel rebate until 2021. $1 billion a year of that will go to coal mining companies. Off like a frog in a sock, Morrison mocks the concept of renewable energy: Abbott-like, he lies about its effect on prices.
“We will maintain our responsible and achievable emissions reduction target at 26-28 per cent, and not the 45 per cent demanded by the Opposition. That would only push electricity prices up.”
Morrison-the-conman has form, of course. He’s a notorious repeat offender in a government of secrets and lies.
He’s also on a high with his party’s flat tax plan. It’s another under-handed way to punish the nation’s idle poor and reward the rich, whom he assures us, work harder than lazy lower-paid workers who lack aspiration. It’s Hockey redux. Morrison’s assumptions are insulting. His assertions are false. But he’ll do anything to wedge workers; Labor.
Despite the Treasurer’s lie that workers will be better off; his budget’s tax “relief” flows mostly to our highest income earners who stand to gain 62%, while a paltry 7% of the benefit goes to the 30% of Australians on the lowest wages.
Using the “simplifying our tax system” ruse – (Liberals love weasel words like “simpler” and “flexibility”)- Morrison’s budget will accelerate inequality in Australia. In 2024, his government plans to abolish the 37 per cent tax bracket. Per Capita denounces it as “the most radical attack on Australia’s progressive income tax scales in living memory.”
The Australia Institute’s briefing paper models how this agile, innovative tax proposal will be distributed. Workers earning $40,000 per year will get a tax cut of $455 per year while for those on $200,000, it’s $7,225 per year.
That those earning $200,000 get a bigger cut is not a problem. They do pay more tax. But, as TAI points out, although workers on $200,000 earn 5 times more than those on $40,000, the budget makes their cut 16 times larger. And, as Michael Pascoe notes that’s after negative gearing, superannuation, fringe benefits tax and other deductions.
Worse, as Greg Jericho shows, Morrison’s tax flattening not only gives more money to the rich. It also “locks in the need to cut services”, given its real impact will be felt in reduced government revenue. Not to worry. Poor people don’t drive cars; go to school or visit the doctor or need to pay massive tariffs to price-gouging energy companies. Much.
The most offensive part of the plan, to the average voter is how workers are discriminated against. Out the window goes the fundamental quest for fairness of our progressive tax plan where each is taxed according to his or her means.
Worse – retained is a Community Development scheme that actively discriminates amongst between those in remote and regional areas, where unemployment is up to 50%. 85% of those in the scheme are Aboriginal peoples.
The 35,000 men and women registered with the program must complete jobs and activities to receive their Newstart allowance in remote New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory in a scheme which covers 75% of Australia’s land mass and involves about 1,000 remote communities
Unlike their metropolitan counterparts, they’re required to work 25 hours per week, at $11.20 an hour. Or they are fined. Since 2015, over 340,000 fines have been issued to people enrolled in the Community Development Program.
Participants will still have to work or engage in work-like activity for 46 weeks a year but face stricter penalties from July for non-compliance. Even though changes in February will cut the required work hours to 20, it’s blatant discrimination. Non-remote jobseekers are required to work 20 hours a week for only six months of the year.
The Australia Institute reports the scheme has helped fewer than one in five people into an ongoing job. Even then, fewer than one in 10 keep that job for six months or more. The program “punishes people for not having a job”, says TAI’s author, Rod Campbell. ACTU Indigenous officer, Kara Keys, says the CDP should be scrapped altogether.
“Equal pay for equal work is a core tenet of Australian society. The federal government must eliminate the blatantly discriminatory requirement, which sees people in remote Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities forced to work more hours for the same basic Centrelink payment as people in cities,” Adrianne Walters, a senior lawyer at The Human Right Law Centre says.
Yet the program’s been an outstanding success claims a spokesman for Nigel Scullion Minister for Aboriginal Affairs.
Perhaps he’s referring to the organisations and for-profit businesses who benefit from the participants’ free labour.
Despite Scullion’s reality denial and despite stiff competition Morrison is still the Coalition’s supreme fabulist. In February, he lied to 3AW listeners that temporary migrants cause population growth. Naturally everything is under control. His government is taking steps to address that. A clampdown on foreign worker visas. But it’s just not true.
Temporary migrants boost population growth? No. They go home. It’s our permanent migrant intake that determines the level of net overseas migration and population growth:
But even Morrison will never live down the infamy he earned in February 2014 when Iranian refugee, Reza Barati was beaten to death on Manus Island in a riot which injured 70 asylum-seekers. Immigration and Border Protection Minister at the time, Morrison tried to lie his way out of failing his duty of care.
Reza Barati’s head was crushed by men employed to protect him but Morrison maintained Barati had escaped campgrounds. While videos show guards throwing stones and other objects, Morrison issued a dishonest denial.
“G4S utilised personal protection gear but no batons or other weapons were in situ and were in control of the centre for the entire period.”
A senate inquiry in December 2014 found the Australian Government — which labelled the incident as a “disturbance” — failed in its duty to protect asylum seekers, including Mr Barati. It was ignored. Morrison even blamed Labor and The Greens in the same way that he blames refugee advocates for coaching refugees on Nauru to self-harm.
Barati’s family hold Morrison responsible for their son’s death.
Given the Treasurer’s own mythomania and his government’s mendacity it is unwise for the Coalition to taunt Bill Shorten as a liar. Hypocritical, too.
Yet it amounts to extreme political folly to proceed down such a path when the entire budget is a farrago of lies, from its false claims that company tax cuts lead to jobs, growth and higher wages, to the hoax of a million new jobs, or the implicit monstrous lie in Morrison’s calculations that ordinary Australians don’t count and Aboriginal Australians on the CDP work or the dole programme count even less – in the trashing of the principle of equal pay for equal work. To say nothing of the reversal of the onus of proof which turns every welfare beneficiary into a potential dole-cheat.