Almost an Obama moment in Turnbull’s Budget reply
Because everyone hasn’t heard enough about Twitter, I’m going to start with a quote from it tonight:
kinkylinkn: Turnbull had some good ideas but when he unashamedly craps on about the Rudd gov that’s when I turn the tv off with a burst of “idiot”.
I have a habit of complaining about politicians, er, complaining all the time. The last whinge in this vein I had to anyone who would lists was about the Treasurer whingeing that Howard’s mob had let spending on some programs go too far, so he would have to wind it back.
He didn’t say middle-class welfare, but that’s what he meant. Turnbull tonight wasted a lot of breath on sentences in similar tones, even opening with a hackneyed line about “Labor’s reckless spending”. He mentioned giving voters “hope” at one stage and I thought he was going to go all Obama on us - soaring rhetoric, laying out a proper vision - but no. He quickly returned to standard lines about how Rudd wanted to “cut and run” (from what, exactly?) and that only the Liberals could give Australians the government they deserved. Blah blah. Normal service is resumed and, yes, politics is still boring.
At least for tonight, Turnbull’s weakness was not policy, but rhetoric. The ideas were good but he seems to continually let himself get dragged into predictable lines of attack: “This Budget was all about ideology,” and “he always wants to be Santa Claus”. I’m convinced voters don’t listen to this. It’s precisely why politicians have such a bad name.
But on to the policy - and, ladies and gentlemen, there’s a fight on the cards.
Malcolm Turnbull’s speech tonight should cut through with the suburban, working families who have opted for private health insurance but will get much less of a rebate on it thanks to Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan. There are more than 1.5 million families affected by the health insurance rebate changes. This will be a talking point around family dinner tables and in pubs across the country. Malcolm Turnbull has injected his name into those discussions - they’ll be stinkers, and that will be reflected in Canberra too. If Rudd can’t shore up support from the Greens, Xenophon and Fielding, then we’re heading for a showdown.
The other constituency Turnbull had in his sights was small business owners. He’s offered a new tax concession aimed at improving cash flow, government support for hiring apprentices, and a new online portal that would allow business owners could process their government paperwork in a single place. Frankly that last part is a no-brainer and Rudd should just steal it and pretend it was his. It would save money for the government and probably increase productivity among businesses.
The sexily-titled “tax loss carry back” would be a little bit of help for small businesses really struggling. The idea’s simple - if a cafe makes an operating loss this year, it could reclaim some of the taxes they paid in pre-GFC, profitable years. Money back in the bank account. Bills get paid. Cafe stays open.
The 3c-per-cig tax increase, which translates to 60c to 75c a pack for most cancer-stick munchers, is a sensible revenue raising measure that targets a group everyone hates anyway. (I should know. I get the appalled stares all the time when excusing myself from the dinner table.) Turnbull’s offering Rudd a deal: Raise the ciggie tax and drop the health insurance rebate changes.
Footnote: As I was writing this, I got the Liberal Party’s email outlining their Budget reply position. It took 24 hours for the Labor party to send me an email on Wazza’s Budget. As you might say on Twitter: FAIL.
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