The government has been making one amateurish error after another this year as they nervously watch their approval and support fall among voters.
No one believes the impending Double Dissolution is about the importance of re-establishing the ABCC, rather it is an excuse to try and 'clean out' the Senate of dissenting voices, and a chance to rush to an election before government support and the PM's approval slips too much further.
The much anticipated Budget has for some time been used as an excuse to not answer questions, and to avoid repeated gaffes. Everything was to be answered on Tuesday night. But the strange thing was that it left us with no real answers... perhaps an indication that the government doesn't have any.
One commentator after another has been suggesting the real plan is for budget talk to disappear as quickly as possible, and not hang around like Joe Hockey's 2014 stinker.
But as much as it was designed to fly under the radar, there is still plenty to criticise.
The Greens spokesperson for transport and infrastructure Senator Janet Rice said
“Turnbull’s much-trumpeted $50 billion infrastructure spend is just smoke and mirrors, mostly just reannouncing Abbott-era projects. Less than 10% is going to public transport, continuing the chronic underinvestment in our trains, trams and buses. We’re not going to ease congestion by continuing Tony Abbott’s addiction to great big polluting toll roads. Trying to fix congestion by building more roads is like loosening your belt to cure obesity – car use will inevitably expand to fill the space. A better budget would have prioritised trains, trams and buses, freeing up our roads for people who need them most."
Senator Scott Ludlam said:
"We will see thousands of wealthy retirees switch their investments from superannuation to property. That will squeeze lower income earners and first home buyers even further out of the market. Negative gearing already costs the community $4 billion a year, a cost that will no doubt rise further as people move their wealth out of superannuation and into property, forcing ordinary taxpayers to subsidise their investments. The capital gains tax discount costs closer to $7 billion annually. The government ran away from tackling these handouts, for fear of upsetting the property sector. More and more Australians are locked out of the housing market, and Mr Turnbull and Mr Morrison seem determined to make it worse. This budget confirms more than $110 million of annual funding to homelessness services comes to an end next year. They've locked in Tony Abbott's appalling $600 million cuts to affordable rental and housing programs."
Senator Larissa Waters said:
“Our Reef is suffering record coral bleaching driven by global warming but the Liberals are ripping out a billion dollars from clean energy, and funding for work on Reef water quality comes from cutting Landcare. True to its anti-science agenda, the Turnbull Government has locked in the Abbott Government’s cuts to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and the Australian Institute of Marine Science. While environment funding is cut, the mining industry get another $100 million for exploration to dig up more fossil fuels to further cook the Reef’s corals. A better budget would have invested in clean energy, not dirty energy, to help save the 69 000 jobs the Reef provides. While the fossil fuel industry continues to get over $20 billion in subsidies, the Turnbull Government’s budget locks in the $1.3 billion slashed from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency."
But the Budget is perhaps best summed up by Greens Leader Senator Richard Di Natale:
"This Budget is a massive let-down, just like Malcolm Turnbull has turned out to be. The government is pretending it can afford unsustainable and unfair tax cuts for the big end of town by claiming fanciful levels of economic growth. While champagne will be flowing in board rooms across the country, these irresponsible cuts come at the expense of long-term funding for schools, hospitals and public services. Rather than reducing inequality the government has chosen to make it worse by cutting social support, university funding and health services. The government doesn't see the jobs of the 21st century in building wind turbines and public transport, they see them in building military hardware. The much-trumpeted $50 billion investment in infrastructure turns out to be a case of smoke and mirrors. It's just a repackaging of existing funding."
As always with the Abbott/Turnbull government... we are promised so much and offered so little. This budget is just par for the course.
Never has there been a more important time not to settle for 'more of the same' from tired old major parties who have either run out of ideas or else are beholden to their support base.. selling out the rest of us in the process.
It is now clear that the only real hope for change is to vote Green at the upcoming election.
by Wendy Tubman
The Turnbull government is in real trouble, with desperation setting in. The latest attempt to blackmail the Senate cross-bench is not about getting legislation through, it is about forcing an election as soon as possible... before their chances of re-election sink any lower.
Just about every poll has the government at a 50-50 chance of winning the next election with the Morgan poll recently joining the pack. And Newspoll has Turnbull's satisfaction entering negative territory. It's a very big fall from the heady heights of only a few months ago.
Malcolm has said he welcomes a 15 week election campaign because it will shine a light on the opposition. But it will also shine a light on the shambles that Turnbull leads. And that shambles extends to Malcolm himself. As a trained Lawyer and a very experienced debater, Turnbull is used to arguing for things he doesn't actually believe in. But sadly, for the government's aspirations. he isn't very good at it.
Case in point... his appearance on ABC's 7.30 program Monday night.
He began strongly by suggesting that a multi-layered approach to reform and economic transition was required. He then went on to suggest that the government was implementing IR reform (I don't believe they have yet), Tax reform (maybe... but we all have to wait until the budget), competition law reform (commentary on 'the effects test' suggest it is a potential mess but only time will tell), Innovation (lets all get excited like Malcolm wants), Defense spending (how... when most of the contracts will go offshore.. to Japan, the US, Germany), reformed bankruptcy law (assuming the system isn't rorted... which it likely will be by some).
As usual, Malcolm spends some time saying next to nothing. Many have compared Turnbull to Rudd... all talk and no action. That appears to be a valid criticism.
Tony Abbott's great strength as leader was that he knew when to walk away and shut his mouth, before his foot ended up where it didn't belong. Turnbull doesn't have that insight.... as the Leigh Sales interview proved.
The next excerpt from the interview is a marvelous example of Malcolm talking around in circles, in a very long winded way, hoping he would lose people along the way.
His argument goes like this - tax policy is about competing priorities and shifting taxes and benefits to suit different sectors of the economy, it drives investment decisions, negative gearing is such a vehicle for investment in property.
Leigh Sales then asks why a government dedicated to the free market would support market distorting policies like negative gearing to which Malcolm responds - negative gearing is not a tax concession, it is a tax principle that has been in place forever (although it was introduced in the 1960's to stimulate new construction), and a tax deduction is not an incentive to invest.
Malcolm has just argued that black is white. But he keeps going...
He suggests that changes to negative gearing are irresponsible. These are changes supported by long standing Greens policy:
Turnbull is opposed to changes (recently proposed by Labor) as they will affect investment decisions (black is now black again) - investors will be competing with new home buyers in the outer suburbs driving them out of the market. In the inner city where there is a lot of rental stock investors will only be able to sell to owner occupiers (which is not true), this will drive down rental availability and drive up rents while driving down resale prices for apartments as well as drive down inner city construction..
It's an argument built on a number of crazy assumptions - that renters can never become buyers, that people only want to rent in the inner city and buy in the outer suburbs, that investors won't want to invest in new inner city construction (which can still be negatively geared) and that some investors won't see the merit in buying old rental housing stock.
It's confusing I know, which is the whole purpose of Malcolm's argument. The election campaign hasn't even started and Turnbull is out of the blocks with a long interview in which he contradicts himself several times. If Malcolm is the great communicator of this government... they are in serious trouble.
Malcolm is the kind of man who when he finds himself in a hole... he dig faster and deeper and more elaborate tools. It's difficult to watch, like a slow motion train wreck
For some real clarity and some light relief on Malcolm Turnbull and the government he leads we can only turn to a cartoonist.... First Dog on the Moon.
We have been told for many years that the Coalition are better economic managers, without being provided with any evidence to support this bold claim.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and distance gives you the perspective and the ability to take a more dispassionate assessment of many things, but that is especially true of government performance. The Howard government is now far enough behind us to take a look at their economic record and that of the former Treasurer Peter Costello. And in recent months a great many experts and commentators have been doing this
According to Crispin Hull in the Canberra Times the structural deficit we currently have in the budget belongs wholly to Peter Costello and his hopeless performance as Treasurer. An excellent article by Mike Seccombe highlights the fact that a number of very wealthy Australians essentially pay no tax – surely that’s revenue problem (as well as a problem of equity). Mike also goes on to outline how many Howard-era policies shifted the tax burden from the big end of town to those at the bottom of the economic pile… the exact template Abbott spectacularly failed to implement in 2014.
Despite the assertions of Scott Morrison, our latest non-performing Coalition Treasurer, that the only problem we have is a spending problem, analysis by the ABC suggests we have a revenue problem also. And despite recent claims by the budget office that we do have a spending problem, Greg Jericho demonstrates things are more complex than that.
Howard himself was treasurer, appointed following the removal of Phillip Lynch for dodgy land deals while in the Fraser government. During this stint many consider Howard to have been inept. In 1982-83 Howard personally oversaw the worst recession since the Great Depression.
All damning stuff, and a long history of blunders and ineptitude.
In addition to all the poor report cards on so many Howard and Costello policies, it is worth looking at additional spending (the baby bonus) and revenue (fuel excise) initiatives.
The Baby bonus was largesse at the height of the mining boom, introduced by Costello, but poorly targeted and always completely unsustainable. It took a Labor government to pare it back and better target it to actual need rather than middle and upper class pork barrelling. The change introduced in 2013 by the Gillard government is projected to save $2.4B over 4 years. Given that the bonus was introduced in 2002, and based on these numbers the wastage as a result of poor Coalition policy and loose economic management around this issue alone is likely over $6B.
Fuel excise was cut and frozen in March 2001 – at a time (in an election year) when the Howard govt was deeply unpopular. As Bernard Keane explains it worked a treat politically by turning Howard’s political fortunes around, but has been something of an economic disaster. The Australia institute found that up to June 2015, this desperate move by Howard cost $46B in lost revenue. Keeping Howard and Costello in their jobs was very expensive for us all.
Malcolm Turnbull came to the top job by promising better economic leadership. At the time anyone looked better than Hockey and Abbott. Things moved slowly because everything was on the table and was being considered carefully by the government.
But that was a lie. Malcolm Turnbull had already decided to keep the baby bonus unchanged (in order to get the National’s support for his Coup) -this will cost $1.4B over the next 10 years.. Clearly a spending problem.
When negative gearing and superannuation entered the public conversation Turnbull insisted he wanted to have, Malcolm and the Coalition tried to shut it down by suggesting house prices would both rise and fall in the same 24 hour period as well as rents going through the roof. Economist Saul Eslake believes there is no evidence to support the claims of those running the scare campaign.
It seems yet again that the Coalition is willing to sacrifice economic improvement for political gain.
Further evidence of the Coalition’s economic credentials - there has in fact been a turnaround since the Coalition took charge of the Treasury benches. Australia has gone from the stand-out economy through the global financial crisis (GFC) to the worst performer in terms of growth trajectories among the world’s wealthiest nations, according to new OECD data from the last quarter of 2015.
The Turnbull government is currently sinking like a stone for many reasons – infighting and division, poor leadership and communication, a continued haphazard approach to government, and significantly… economic mismanagement.
But to be fair the Turnbull government is no different than the Abbott, Howard and Fraser governments… they were all terrible economic managers.
by Mark Enders
Malcolm is a well read, well informed, highly intelligent man with excellent communication skills and a good working knowledge of information technology. He is also a well trained and highly experienced barrister who can argue that black is white, and at the drop of a hat can argue that black is in fact black, it always was and it was never suggested that it was otherwise.
Before Malcolm became a serially disappointing Prime Minister, he was a very effective communications minister who had been instructed by Tony Abbott to 'demolish the NBN' and before he saw the opportunity to knife his leader Malcolm was a very loyal servant of Captain Abbott.
Turnbull argued that with a mix of technologies (old and new), he could deliver a cheaper, good enough service faster. Many technology experts said FTTP (fibre to the premises) was vastly superior to FTTN (fibre to the node)... here is just one example from 2011.
There were many warnings about abandoning the FTTP roll out plan, but Malcolm knew better, so he told us. But the real question... was did he really believe FTTN was a smarter option, or was he following his client's instructions and destroying the NBN?
In 2016 we have the benefit of hindsight and the ability to look at Malcolm's track record... what he promised Vs what he delivered.
Cheaper? Well Malcolm's cost projections have already blown out by 100%. And that is achieved by keeping the old technology which will need to be replaced within 10 years at an even greater cost.
Faster? Well Malcolm won't see NBN Co.reach his target of every user having access to 25 Mbps by the end of 2016... that is now projected to happen by 2020.
Independent analysis by Rod Tucker from the University of Melbourne suggests that sticking to FTTP in 2013 would've led to similar costs and time frames as Turnbull's botched network.
At every step along the way it seems we are paying the same and waiting as long as we would have in the original FTTP plan, but we will have a far inferior product.
One of the persistent critics of the Turnbull plan was Nick Ross, formerly technology editor at the ABC... an organisation Turnbull also had oversight over when communications minister.While Turnbull claims in public that he supports the freedom of the ABC... there is compelling evidence that in private Turnbull sought to gag Nick Ross. And in the same article (link above) Nick goes into great detail how much interference was run to protect Turnbull's position on the Coalition's NBN policy.
But bad news can't be suppressed forever evidenced by this recent article on the ABC which underlines the telecommunications mess created by Turnbull and delivered by Ziggy Switkowski
Putting aside Turnbull's failings as communication minister (and now as PM), what kind of future have we been locked into?
The infographics below suggest problems ahead.
Much slower speeds than our international competitors... slower than even Russia.
Capacity constraints which will limit our access to technology and information. At a time when we are transitioning to more and 'smart devices' the internet of everything will be something our network will struggle to support.
We'll be saddled with speeds which won't meet our needs to 2025 and beyond.
Malcolm Turnbull keeps saying the this is an exciting time and that our future is tied to innovation. When the truth is we will be constrained by infrastructure bottlenecks created by Turnbull policies and rather than making it exciting to be an Australian, will make it frustrating to be in Australia... accelerating the international brain drain.
Australians will continue to do great things, they might just have to do them overseas thanks to the poor policy decisions of Malcolm Turnbull.It begs the question as to why Malcolm is so excited about our near term future prospects. Or is it just words to get a bad government past the next election?
by Mark Enders
The Townsville Greens will publish blogs considered to be of merit. The opinions expressed are those of the Author.