It took me a while to realise it because usually, people who enter politics have some smarts and go in wanting to do what they believe is the right thing. They pursue policies they believe will make our country an even better place.
That is why I have been at a loss to understand how a group of people who promised us in the lead up to the last election that they were “economic conservatives” who “believed in surpluses” could turn a low unemployment surplus economy into one with rising job losses, record spending and historic debt levels.
Then it hit me – it is not that Labor can’t manage money – it is that they actually don’t want us to get ahead and have our own money.
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So we know the GFC is here. Many of us have lost our jobs, we’re all watching our superannuation shrink faster than we can top it up, and all of a sudden bling is out and understated is the new black.
But what does a nearly recession actually look like? The Team at the Punch has come up with our list of the 50 ways the Global Financial Crisis (it’s officially capped, you know), has changed Australia.
Some of them have hard numbers to back them up – others are a sniff of the wind, observations about changes in language and society. We welcome your suggestions.
1. We’re cooking at home. Woolworths has noticed a bump in sales of cooking staples such as eggs and butter, as well as increased demand for value cuts of meat (we’re making casseroles), and for cheaper Home Brand products.
Mark Arbib knows a lot about what he likes to call “scare campaigns”. As NSW ALP state secretary he revealed a special talent for negativity with his personal attacks on former NSW Liberal leader Peter Debnam.
The Bogeyman - The best free videos are right here
So maybe it was his guilty conscience talking in The Punch when he accused the federal Coalition of unleashing what he calls the “politics of fear and loathing” on the Rudd Government’s $315 billion debt.
Then again, maybe he was just spinning the standard line our opponents roll out every time the Coalition highlights one of Labor’s shortcomings.
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We knew something was up when the party pies ran out. There was a whiff of the end of times that the cheap percolated coffee couldn’t quite hide.
And so it came to pass. The state Budget lock up was no more.
South Australia – first state to give women the vote, to ban plastic bags and forbid groups of people who ride motorcycles from hanging out together, has now become the first state to lose the lock up.
The debate the government deficit reminds me of the slogan that The Sheep from Animal Farm chanted in support of The Pigs: “Four legs good, Two legs bad”. Anything The Pigs did was OK, because they were Animals, and therefore good. Anything Humans did was not, because they walked on two legs and were therefore bad.
Ditto the debate over the debt levels being accumulated by the Federal Government in response to the Global Financial Crisis: it seems that Government debt is “two legged”, while private debt incurred is “four legged”.
I suspect there was a garbage bin full of “Rudd Recession” posters and TV Ads in Malcolm Turnbull’s office last week. Crosby Texter must have been furious. They were gearing up for the mother of all scare campaigns. Instead they are left with a second rate scare campaign on debt.
This is how it goes … 18 months ago there was no debt. Now debt is out of control. It’s $300 billion! Be afraid! Blame Labor! Of course 18 months ago there was no global recession. But don’t expect Malcolm to tell you that. Or how much he would spend. That would destroy the scare campaign.
Why? Because Malcolm would borrow almost exactly the same amount - $275 billion. That’s what makes this scare campaign more like Scary Movie than Wolf Creek.
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You may remember that great carpet ad with the late Pro Hart, where together with his dog Rembrandt, he totally trashes a rug with pasta, red wine, chocolate sauce and cake. He splashes it about, rolls around in it, and even fires a shot gun at it. The cleaner then walks in and famously says, in that great accent, Oh Mr Hart, what a mess!
The only difference I can see between the Rudd Government’s approach to fiscal policy and Pro Hart’s carpet antics, is at least Pro Hart produced a work of art (of sorts).
For the past eighteen months, Kevin and Wayne have been splashing around cash and rolling around on the carpet in others people’s money, like there is no tomorrow. They’ve taken a shot gun to the surplus, like Pro did with the cake, and splattered it all over the room.
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It’s a pretty incredible feat of backspin when a Government would rather say it cocked something up than admit its PR was poorly managed.
But Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan’s stonewalling on the deficit and debt in the week after the Budget backfired on them so badly its now being claimed it was the result of their own incompetence, not dodgy spin.
Spun out? You’re not the only one. In his column this weekend Laurie Oakes said, contrary to all appearances, Rudd and Swan were advised by their spin doctors to “embrace the numbers” but failed to do so because of “old-fashioned unadulterated incompetence”.
HERE’S a quick test. Read the following words out loud:
Did you succeed? Congratulations! You could be in with a chance of doing a better job at levelling with the Australian people than the current Prime Minister.
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.
NO one loves a Budget. Like a hangover, you know it’s something you have to endure to pay for the excesses of the night before.
Wayne Swan’s Federal Budget on Tuesday night - after years of excesses under a booming economy - left many Australians punchdrunk and in search of a headache cure for a nation gripped for a pounding from the global financial crisis.
The morning after Budget night, the assessment of bloggers on opinion forums of major Australian news sites was mostly pessimistic.
From the Budget papers:
The Government is committed to retaining the [Extended Medicare Safety Net]. This demands that the safety net remain sustainable. There is evidence to suggest that excessive growth of fees for obstetrics and other services, such as Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), hair transplants and varicose veins is putting this sustainability at risk.
(I need to be clear that this is not in any way making light of the fact that treatments like IVF are facing a cap. You can read about a child who probably would never have been born had the cap been in place here.)
Step forward, Shane Warne. You have clearly encouraged men of Australia to seek out hair replacement treatments in a way that provides an opportunity to publish this picture again. Warney videos for your viewing pleasure below, too.
So, “clean energy” stands as one of the infrastructure centrepieces of the Federal Budget. It’s an investment intended, we’re told, to both pull the economy out of recession and get us on the pathway to a low carbon economy. A princely sum of $4.5 billion is directed to renewable energy, infrastructure for climate-observing systems, and funds for low emissions technology development.
It sure sounds impressive, but under scrutiny, it turns out to be mostly just smoke and mirrors.
Breaking down the numbers, we find that $1 billion is a rollover of existing funds, while $2.4 billion has been directed towards research, development and demonstration of low-emissions coal technology, or “carbon capture and storage” to us scientists. A little under half a billion will go towards establishing a body to support research into renewable energy.
It wasn’t in the speech, it wasn’t even in the Budget At-a-glance or Highlights document, and it wasn’t anywhere in the 77 pages of press releases distributed last night – if you were looking for the size of the deficit you had to go to page 5 of the Budget Overview document.
Wayne Swan managed to get through 3876 words to the House of Representative last night without letting on the Australian Government was about to embark on a $57.5 billion deficit for 2009-10…
IF you are an Australian in your early fifties and starting to think, however fleetingly, about retirement, the future you thought you had just changed dramatically.
In an aside in Wayne Swan’s Budget speech he announced the retirement age would be lifted by two years, to 67. There can’t be much that the Treasurer has enjoyed about putting this frightful Budget together, but he might take some quiet consolation in remembering John Howard was that age when he was involuntarily retired as Prime Minister in November 2007.
Lifting the retirement age should come as a relief to younger workers. I love old people – I know some, and sometimes even talk to them. But having a general understanding that you stop paying taxes and start taking them instead at 65 years of age is both ageist and something the country cannot afford to continue.
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One positive feature of the dying days of the Howard Government was the cross party work among female MPs.
Sisters were doing it for ourselves - uniting on issues ranging from stem cell research to the removal of the restrictions on RU486; from changing the foreign aid funding criteria to seeking to ensure transparent advertising of pregnancy counselling.
We co-sponsored bills and held meetings, did the numbers and organised media.It was a rare but enjoyable and mostly successful example of networking among women of different parties, all driven by a commitment to issues affecting women. However, we were unable to attract overt cross-party support on the issue of Paid Maternity Leave (PML).
The infrastructure spending for big-ticket rail, road and port projects is a noble measure aimed at two ends stimulating the economy in the medium term, and delivering vital new services for communities in the longer term.
The only trouble is the alarmingly poor calibre of some of the state governments and bureaucracies which will be entrusted with its delivery.
Chief among them is the Rees Government, which hot on the heels of the Iemma Government, once known as the Carr Government, has achieved world’s best practice in cocking up infrastructure projects.
What Wayne Swan didn’t tell you tonight was that by 2012 your share of Government Debt will be $8308. Your wife, your husband, each of your kids, your Mum, your Dad, your siblings – each and every one of them $8308 in the red.
When Paul Keating handed back the keys to the Treasury in 1996, that figure was $5258. It took John Howard and Peter Costello nine years to bring us back into the black. All that talk of “temporary borrowings” scattered through the Budget papers sounds more than a little ambitious.
Mash up historical and projected Government Debt figures with population stats from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the true extent of Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan’s descent into deficit is shown in what is, admittedly, a very ugly chart.
September 2008: Malcolm Farr writes in The Daily Telegraph that Kevin Rudd is considering taking on net debt for the first time in 12 years. Government goes ballistic in its denials. Newspoll shows ALP 55% - Coalition 45%
October 2008: Rudd announces the first stimulus package and says the cash will be distributed by Christmas. Punters are comfortable with the $10 billion bottom line. Newspoll shows ALP 54% - Coalition 46%.
November 2009: Rudd spills the worst-kept secret in Government - that the Budget will go into “temporary deficit”. Newspoll two weeks later shows ALP 59% - Coalition 41%.
December 2008: Harvey Norman reports bumper Christmas sales, up 9 per cent on previous year. Kevin Rudd Santa Clause jokes start. Newspoll shows ALP 59% - Coalition 41%....
Here’s how The Punch team summarised the Budget shortly after the lock-up ended. Enjoy - and follow us on Twitter to stay in touch. Links at the foot of the post.
BUDGET: Shane Warne implicated in $57.5 billion deficit #ausbudget09 #thepunch
DEFICIT: Wayne Swan won’t tell you this in his speech but for 2009-10 the deficit will be $57.5 billion #ausbudget09 #thepunch
DEFICIT: Swan unveils “deficit exit strategy”. It’s the war on terrifying levels of spending #ausbudget09 #thepunch
WAYNE Swan and his mates at Treasury put a lot of effort into producing pretty graphs whose sole intention seems to be to make us feel OK about all the bad news in the Budget. There’s little that needs to be said here except that a lot of this is clearly spin, but under the very last chart below I’ve pointed out a few things worth thinking about.
As of yesterday about one-million hard-working Australians discovered that Kevin Rudd’s campaign promise to stand up for “working families” came with an invisible asterisk.
The asterisk denotes - “promise does not include all working families”.
Especially those families who work a little bit too hard, who pay a higher rate of tax because they hold more senior jobs, work longer hours, have taken risks starting businesses, employing other people, and have got themselves into a position where with their super, their private health care, their choice of hospitals and schools, they are constantly taking pressure off the public system.
Here’s a confronting concept to grapple with first thing in the morning: opposition assistant treasury spokesman Tony Smith saying that Kevin Rudd’s deficit will last longer than the Second World War.
Or so long that, if your first child is born on budget night next Tuesday, they will have enrolled at primary school by the time the Budget is back in the black.
The Daily Telegraph’s Sue Dunlevy reports this morning that next week’s economic statement may contain a deficit figure as high as $70 billion, $10 billion higher than most other estimates in the pre-budget marketplace. Wayne Swan and Kevin Rudd remain sanguine about the enormity of this figure.
But there’s one very big problem with their laid-back approach.
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