Tag Archives: Budget

News That’s Fit To Punt – 13/Jul/2014

Garbage In, Garbage Out Process

Leading economists are rejecting the basis on which the Abbott Government is proceeding with cuts. They don’t think there is a budget crisis. At all.

We knew this going into the election last year, we’ve known it since; people ave been saying it across different media for most of the time since; and the only people who think there is a crisis is the Coalition Government. I know we’ve been through this topic on several occasions, but basically our Federal government debt is miniscule compared to the debt carried by other OECD nations; most of the government debt we do carry is in the local councils; and the big debt problem is in the private sector, where low interest rates have ruled supreme since the Global Financial Crisis has allowed for bubbling asset speculation on borrowed money.

In short, the government could possibly wipe out the debt in a small number of years if it were bloody-minded enough to not to care what happened to he economy. But nobody asked for this, and it would rewrite the social consensus about what government does. While that is an enormous problem all of its own, I want to focus on something for a moment. This government came up with the worst-received budget of all time on the assumption that there is a budget crisis when there manifestly is no crisis at all whatsoever. it stands to reason that none of the solutions they’ve reached for have gained any traction in the electorate.

Never has a bigger load of garbage been shoved into the process of government in this country, and never has it given rise to so many garbage policies you wouldn’t wish upon anybody (okay, except maybe Iran).

Cue Jerry Harrison

The myth that grew up around Senator Ricky Muir arriving in Canberra was that he was a ‘Bogan’ – meaning exactly what, it’s hard to say because Bogan-ism isn’t a political credo, it’s a class-conscious insult – but here’s an article that reveals he might not fit the prejudices of the media. The way the media have portrayed him, he’s been anything from the second coming of Pauline Hanson to some rural Victorian village yokel idiot who got lucky in the exchanging of preferences (as if such things happen regularly).

The so-called ”rev-head senator” outlined personal passions that include organic food, which he grows and eats from his garden in rural Victoria, preventive healthcare, which he is interested in championing at a political level, and renewable energy, following his surprise intervention last week to protect the Australian Renewable Energy Agency from the government’s budget knife.

——

Senator Muir revealed a broad belief in the environment, renewable energy and organic food. ”Just because someone is a motoring enthusiast doesn’t mean they are an environmental vandal,” he said. ”I don’t think many people would argue that renewable energy is the way of the future.”

Asked whether he would use his balance of power influence to push for preventive health programs, he said: ”I will certainly look at it with a very open mind, that’s for sure.”

For the Coalition, that’s a Trojan Horse. The guy called himself a “motoring enthusiast” sounding like he’s pro-roads and pro-construction and he’s turned out to have a far more nuanced and sophisticated take on the environment and civilisation than anybody on the side of the Coalition. You could do a lot worse than that, and in looking at the sorry lot in the Coalition ranks, Australia has done a lot worse than Ricky Muir for a very long time, but Australia might have just got lucky right there with this Senator.

She said let’s ride, rev it up, rev it up little boy and ride!

Not A Bubble (Nudge Nudge Wink Wink)

As we’ve learnt over our lifetime, nobody ever sees the big financial disaster coming. It’s always “This time it’s different”. So in that spirit, I just want to say it’s very different this time with housing in Australia because there’s a ton of money being laundered out of China looking for landing spots and Australian Housing has turned out to be one of those asset classes.

Thus you have to take it with a grain of salt when economists say “yes it’s overpriced but no, it’s not a bubble”. If you believed that then maybe I can interest you in this nice little coat hanger-shaped bridge in Sydney Harbour that you might want to buy. The conventional wisdom now is that it’s never a bubble until it pops.

As with these things I’ve had a little while to reflect on it and it seems if there’s one thing that limits future growth in an economy it is rent-seeking and there are a lot of rent-seekers. This is understandable because housing construction forms such a large part of the economy in Australia, somebody has to be the lobby that twists the economy in some way. In that sense negative gearing appears to be just one of the economically irrational policies we have going. Naturally if you look through old articles in the SMH for negative gearing, it is is littered with articles defending the policy – which in turn reminds us of this blanket denial that there is no bubble going on. Sure. No bubble, and negative gearing is working a treat.

So as with most things to do with what pundits say, you can be assured of two things. They’re wrong, and we’ll be the ones to pay for it.

The World’s Worst Kept Secret Is ‘Out’

Ian Thorpe says he’s gay. I don’t know what to say except we knew about this from way back in the heady days of the 2000 Sydney Olympics and all those gay people saying they gave him a pearl necklace. The denials over the years were comical and the topic of much derision. In this day and age, it shouldn’t be such big ‘news’ but I guess wowserism is always going to make this news.

People, come on, he didn’t win because he was or wasn’t straight or gay.

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What The MP Writes To Us

Craig Laundy, Federal Member Of Reid

The Federal budget has been such bad politics, the MPs have been asked to go stump for it in their electorates, trying to explain the extraordinary political stink bomb let off by Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey.

Laundy LetterIn the cover letter, Laundy insists that there is a budget emergency. He cites in his letter that Australia’s debt – Federal government debt – is 200billion for which we are putting ourselves further into debt at the rate of 1billion more to pay the interest rate on the 200billion. Just looking at the numbers, it seems he is saying we’re paying 12billion a year on 200billion which is about 6%.p.a. This can’t possibly be right because the RBA has its rate at 2.5% – the lowest in the history of the RBA – so even the numbers don’t stack up in first glance. Australian Treasury Two-year note yield rose significantly today and was 3.74% today. So either Laundy can’t do the maths or the people who ghost wrote the letter for him can’t do maths.

It’s almost as if these people want to cut the budget because not only do they know they’re no good at maths, but also that they want to do away with complicated compound interest rate calculations from budgets forever, and that’s the only reason a surplus looks so-o-o-o attractive to these munchkins. It’s not for their mendacity (which they are mendacious, but we’ll let that slide for a moment) but their willful stupidity and fearlessness in admitting it, that they even mount their position in this way.

Debt – bad. Surplus – good. D’uh. Complicated compound interest calculations – bad. Surplus – good. D’uh and double D’uh. The worrying thing is that just because they insist it’s 6% doesn’t make it 6%.

And you worry about people who want to shortchange you 2.26% even in a hypothetical discussion. That’s a 60.43% inflation in the interest rate right  there. Leaving the total dodginess of the sums aside, economists have determined that running a budget surplus is going to be a 1% drag on the GDP growth, so the assumption that surpluses are good for economic growth is completely stupid.

Laundy then argues that the people who argue that there is no emergency are “engaging in political spin”. It’s a firm assertion, but most sensible people would see it the other way around – that it is Mr. Laundy and the Coalition who are busily “engaging in political spin” to somehow force-feed us the unpalatable budget they have concocted. After all, if it weren’t such a shitty budget, why would they have to come up with a super glossy A3 brochure as well as this cruddy letter?

The sentence which follows is even more strained:

What use is having the lowest mortgage in your street if you not only can’t afford the repayments, but have to ask the bank to borrow more money to pay the interest on your loan?

In a way, perhaps yes, it’s interesting they picked that as a metaphor. First of all, likening government debt to being underwater with a mortgage is deeply suspect. We’re not all working to pay off Parliament House – we’re paying taxes so the government can do things. That’s not a small difference. That’s a big difference. You worry about people who conflate their arguments – especially straight after they’ve tried to con you out of 60.43% of the interest rate return. After which he insists for the third time “be in no doubt this is a budget emergency and it is clearly unsustainable.”

I understand that the Abbott government is doing its best to overstate the dramatic need for cutbacks but coming up with stupid metaphors isn’t exactly persuasive. The letter says “something has to be done”. Well, even if that were true, the case certainly hasn’t been made that something should be what the Coalition is proposing in its budget.

Glossy But Crappy

Glossy Brochure Of Slogans

The chinless wonder with the gerbil charm in the bottom left is our local honorable Federal Member for Reid. Enough to make your knees weak with the fear that a rodent may be gaffer taped and inserted into one of your orifices by this man.

The Coalition never really sent out what their exact policies were, prior to the September election. They were going to stop the boats and repeal “the Mining Tax” and “the Carbon Tax”. They repeatedly told us there would be no cuts to health or education. So what does the glossy brochure tell us?

1 We’ve secured Australia’s borders

2. We’re fixing Labor’s debt and deficit mess

3. We’re laying down a strong foundation to grow the economy and create more jobs

Well. I. Never. Would’ve – in my wildest dreams – thought they would do such things. Not only did they not have policies worth writing about – they had handy slogans instead – they’ve lied about what they would do. They’ve raised taxes, cut health and education and they’ve gone bananas in trying to shut down science and technology development in this country, not to mention done their best to shut down agencies dealing with climate change. That bit was predictable.

What was not predictable was that they would then send out a glossy brochure that hurls even more slogans off the page.

The problem with democracy is that we are always held hostage by the lowest common denominator of intellect. The dumb-and-ignorant, amassed in numbers will always beat the individual thinkers with their puny one vote each. And thus sloganeering has replaced proper discussions of policy. It’s as it is with Gresham’s law where bad currency rids us of good currency, bad ideas have rid us of good ideas and bad thinkers have rid us of good thinkers. What’s remaining is the media spectacle that is the Abbott government and their flunky right wing nutjob media commentators. You never would have thought Australia would sink this low, but … it has. Let the gerbil-baiting begin!

 

 

 

 

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We Live In Messy Times

The Mess Age

Years ago, when I was in a band called… okay I’ll just call them ‘Mess Age’ for now. In Mess Age was the lead singer who was a long-suffering person with LSD – Lead Singer Disease of the Ego – and during the 196 election he quipped that if he ever won the election he’d nationalise everything and bunker up in Parliament, surrounded by the army. When I pressed him on why he thought nationalising everything would be a goo idea, he said he didn’t really know but it was the sort of thing Hitler might have done. When I asked him if he aspired to being like Hitler, he said, “not the killing Jews bit, but nationalising everything would make society equally unfair.”

Now, I’m not a communist nor a Stalinist, but I found it interesting that he thought true equality entailed being equally unfair on everybody. And the ramification was that people would hate him and so he would probably have to go to Martial Law and bunker up in Parliament House. It’s a peculiar vision from a peculiar person, but I’m sharing it with you now because it seems oddly relevant.

If you come to power and forcefully enact a raft of policies that are deeply unpopular, you can expect the peasants to revolt, so you may even have to mobilise the army for Martial Law. Tony Abbott isn’t exactly nationalising everything, but he’s ripping whole planks of our social contract to shreds. He can legitimately look forward to people coming together forming unlikely alliances to confront him. In the same sense, if it should go to a Dismissal, he may actually be the sort of person lacking in common sense that would mobilise the army against its own citizenry.

The Price Is Wrong

I know I write about education a lot but with each passing day I have yet another reason why the current budget is wronger than wrongness itself when it comes to education. The Coalition is trying to put in a $7 co-payment for every GP visit. This is a deliberate plan to put in a disincentive for people going to the doctor. If $7 is supposed to deter you form the doctor, then presumably $20,000 is supposed to deter you from your education. It strikes me that a government that could do with more knowledge workers want to put in even bigger disincentives for education than already exists. The world is only going to get even more technologically demanding, be more in need of scientific rigour, in need of wider understanding of our humanities; none of these demands upon people is going to be less in the future. Why in God’s name would you be erecting serious barriers for getting an education?

The downside of such policies beyond the evils of inequality and locking in privileges for the rich is that through the lack of mobility in such a society, our academies will genuinely wilt in quality and output. For all this talk of competition, it is in fact diminishing genuine competition for the best minds. I’m certainly no friend of the sandstone monstrosities we love to hold up as our glorious universities, but I have to say our lives and future would be much worse if their doors narrowed so that only the rich can get in. Unless we want to be like a third world nation, it’s really not an option that should be countenanced by a major party – even a seemingly brain dead conservative one.

But Who Can Take Over?
Yes, that is the question as Dear Leader Tony Abbott continues in his unsustainably unpopular ways; it’s almost like a bad parody of Julia Gillard’s time as  Prime Minister. At approval ratings of 30%, L’Abbottoir is hitting the same kind of nadir as Julia Gillard. Naturally we must ask ourselves whether this is Malcolm Turnbull’s Kev-Return moment. If one were a tea-leaves reading prognosticator, one might be persuaded that there was a game afoot, but seeing that these are conservatives, it is against their very nature to rock the boat in government. It was certainly the case with Peter Costello who mumbled complaints about not getting a go as PM, all the way to a quick retirement from Federal politics. These conservatives just don’t do spills with the exhibitionistic fancy-pizazz of the ALP or an award night for porn stars.

The other candidates that might or could replace Tony Abbott are actually not that inspiring. You can count Joe Hockey out for he too is tainted by this lousy budget. Julie Bishop inspires no hope (which makes her hope-less by definition). Morrison, Pyne and Hunt simply won’t do because they’re the faces fronting for divisive policies, while Kevin Andrews is too inane. So that leaves Malcolm Turnbull once again but you can sort of see the right wing hard cases squirming in their seats at the thought of the member for Wentworth lording it all over them again. In other words, they’re talentless as well as gormless.

Thus we may yet be stuck with Tony Abbott thanks to a spineless clueless Liberal Party room. They may therefore stick with this lousy excuse for a budget, much of which likely won’t pass this Senate or the next, thanks to its enduring intrinsic lousiness. They might find themselves backed into a double dissolution even without Governor General Peter Cosgrove having to sack Tony Abbott (although that remains a fat juicy fantasy shared by many bloody-minded observers). We can only hope and dream.

 

 

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There’s Even More Not To Like

Future Brain Drain

Last night I went out to dinner with Walk-off HBP and his family and eventually the conversation turned to the politics of this budget. His daughter’s finishing up high school this year, so tertiary education and its cost became a hot topic for conversation. Fortunately (and I use this word loosely), Mrs. HBP is from Denmark, so up for consideration was the possibility that the younger HBP might be better off claiming her heritage and citizenship, and heading to Denmark where tertiary education is free. It occurred to me that there might be a lot of this sort of thing going on.

The logical ramification is that Australia might be about to witness  great brain drain in the not too distant future, as well as an acceleration of the aging population issues. Consider for the moment the number of people who could devise a way back to the countries of their heritage to get a less expensive tertiary education. Places like Ireland and Scandinavian countries are not the only places that offer up these option. Then think of the likelihoods they meet their spouses and setup families elsewhere on the planet and not Australia. It’s like Australia is willing to give up its younger, smarter population when in fact they’re the people that are going to be needed to support the aging baby Boomers and eventually Gen-X.

In the mean time our universities will be filled with stupid rich kids who will be there only because they can afford to be there, so this notion of more competitive universities seems like a pipedream on the part of the Coalition. Walk-off HBP thinks it’s more of a smokescreen to entrench privilege in such a way that only the Liberal voting types get to go to University.

I’ve already covered the problems of carrying a 100k student debt into a professional career – you’re worse off than not going to university and getting a tradie’s job. We may actually be looking at a future where the ranks of varsity graduate professionals will be much lower in quality than today. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think these rich types are going to enjoy going to doctors and lawyers pulled from the third best minds of their generation.

Nepotism As A Way Of Life

One of Tony Abbott’s daughters got a 60k scholarship. The people who gave her the scholarship claimed it was purely on merit. Another one of Tony Abbott’s daughters has a plum job working fro DFAT in Geneva. A lot of people have pointed out how unqualified she is for the job, but no, her boss is an old Liberal Party member who has told us that Tony Abbott’s daughter got the jobon her own merits.

In each instance the insistence on the merits of Abbott’s brood seems to stretch the definition of the word ‘merit’. It’ a really bad look when your government is about to make tertiary education more expensive to then have a daughter get a freebie. It’s a really bad look to have your daughter get a plum job in DFAT over other genuine candidates of actual merit, when your government is about to cut off 16,000 public sector jobs. Both instances speak volumes to the absence of character in his daughters, which, by extension reflect badly on the parents, who in this instance happens to be the Prime Minister. These are big favours being handed to his family.

When you consider that there is a Royal Commission into Julia Gillard’s conduct as an IR lawyer and claims of $7000 for renovations of her house coming from a union slush fund; and how Abbott himself hounded Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper relentlessly through digging up dirt; not to mention the fact that all it took was for a $3000 bottle of Grange Hermitage to bring down Barry O’Farrell, it seems abundantly obvious that Tony Abbott should quit. $60,000 worth of scholarship dollars and a plum job at DFAT seems far in excess of what normal people would consider a favour for a mate.

Really, Tony Abbott should quit on this alone.

But he won’t quit. Which means he’s an unabashed crook. now he’s saying he wants family kept out of it. I think it’s a bit much that a man who would go after Julia Gillard with a Royal Commission, and hounded Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper in the manner that he did, to want his family kept out of it by the media.

No, no, no Mr. Abbott, it’s much too late for that. You lowered the bar forcefully – you can try doing your limbo dance under it.

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Everybody Hates This Budget

Everybody Except Ballerinas

Who decided that out of all the arts practitioners that ballerinas in particular were the most hard done by and could not be cut any more? Who’s daughter or niece is studying to be a ballerina? Didn’t they think we’d notice that everybody in the sciences, arts and manufacturing gets funding cuts but the ballerinas are going to get a special scholarship fund for their boarding needs? Has there been a bigger joke and probable cause for investigating a conflict of interest than this item in this year’s budget?

But no, there won’t be a federal equivalent of an ICAC, so we may never know. I sure hope the findings in the NSW ICAC about this North Sydney Forum brings down Joe Hockey. Screw him and the tutu and shoes he came dancing into town with.

How Do The Nats Cope?
It struck me that the budget would hurt the rural base of the national Party as much, if not more than people in urban areas. Consider youth unemployment is higher in rural areas, so these cuts to the dole and changes in arrangements would affect more rural families than city ones. Making tertiary education more expensive adds a burden on to families that have to send their university student children to cities to board and study. If at the same time the Federal government is pulling 80billion from healthcare and education from the states, then clearly they’re more likely to feel the pinch when the State governments cut health and education in far flung rural areas before they cut in urban areas.

Which ever way you dice this, this budget is not good for the bush at all, and even if they built all these roads, it’s the sort of spending that is one-and-done with nothing to follow up. There’s really nothing in it that helps the bush at all, and so you wonder what exactly keeps the Nationals in the fold with the Liberals except for an extreme kind of social conservatism. Even then you wonder how much the bush can take of this before they say, “bugger the principles, we’re not going along with this crap”; It may already be happening because the amount of support given to a rogue national party member like Bob Katter teaming up with mining magnate Clive Palmer suggests the rural vote is already looking away from the Coalition in search of a better choice

I spoke to Pleiades today who tells me people on the backbench on the government side are hopping mad at Tony Abbott. Tony Abbott is putting it on the MPs to go and sell this to their electorates, but the MPs weren’t consulted about any of these radical changes. If it’s not a fiasco, it sure is a looming disaster.

OMG, A Medical Research Fund?

It’s pretty clear the current Libs have attitudes that date back to when Galileo started moving the earth and Darwin conjured humanity from monkeys. The thing that has Pleaides incensed is that this mob have come to power and shut down the environmental agencies, cutback the CSIRO, and research areas an starved science of funding in the name of budget surplus. They say it’s about the budget surplus, but actually they just don’t like science for embarrassing the church. Pretty soon they’ll be ramming (un)’Intelligent Design’ into the classroom and wanting to support the church through public funds – in fact they’re already paying for chaplains to be in schools.

These people don’t really believe in science. Think about that for a moment. They don’t even have a minister for science. Their vision for the future revolves around building roads and presumably keeping driving fossil fuel vehicles as if the world does not change. Not only are they in denial about Climate Change, they’re in denial that anything changes at all. so how much credibility is there when the very same people who have taken an axe to science turn around and say they are going to have a medical research fund?

It immediately begs the question qui bono  – who benefits? It’s no conspiracy. It has got to be the pharmaceutical companies who have been lobbying the government to keep their entitlements under the current medical entitlements even if the Australian people lose theirs. Oh that, and maybe Joe Hockey doesn’t want to die of an obscure cancer.

It will be too late to reach for your torches and pitchforks when they start giving out textbooks with humans and dinosaurs cavorting together. You heard it from me right here.

Captive To Idiocy

I know name-calling doesn’t help but it’s worth calling things by their proper name: The Liberal Party in Australia has transformed itself into the Conservative party and are decidedly Tory in their bearings. Just as with their overseas conservative counterparts, there’s nothing terribly liberal about this Liberal Party at all. It’s no coincidence that Tony Abbott wanted to bring back Knights and Dames. However when it comes to economic policy the only textbook they had to go on was the austerity practiced by the UK Conservatives and the sort of belt tightening imposed on Greece.

Of course, austrity has not worked at all, and Greece saw its economy shrink to such an extent that it ended up owning more money as against their GDP. The experience in the UK has been such that they couldn’t run austerity program enough to sustain infrastructure so they only half implemented it and mostly talked about doing it. The very notion that austerity would lead the economy back to health is built on the simple assumption that if government debt is reduced to zero and goes to surplus, the economy would once again be free to make capital investments.

It’s a lie. It’s stupid. And quite frankly it’s so wrong and stupid, it’s evil and a danger to society. And yet that’s our federal government

The problem with our economy and what has hindered our recovery is that people have not been able to deleverage their private debt from their peak in 2007. That’s it. Even if the Australian government went back to zero debt, as long as Australian households are in debt up to their eyeballs and Australian industry is in debt up to their eyeballs, there won’t be any more big capital expenditures in the wake of the mining boom subsiding. That’s really it in a nutshell.

But the desire of industry is always to privatise profits and socialise losses so to this end they lobby  governments for special treatment. In the current government we have a bunch of idiots who want to do exactly as the lobbyists ask, believing this is the remedy to a problem that does not actually exist, when in fact it utterly fails to address the problems that do exist. And if that’s not captive to idiocy it’s hard to imagine a better example.

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Block Supply, Bill Shorten!

No, Really, We Mean It!

This is a pretty shitty budget brought down by the Coalition. No matter what the Coalition is claiming and  will continue to claim over the next little while, there’s no way this budget was what the Australian electorate voted for in September. Abbott clearly lied or changed his mind. In either case this budget has no legitimacy. Lots of people are unhappy with this thing.

The only thing that can be done to stop it dead in its tracks is to block supply – and then Governor General Peter Cosgrove can sack Abbott as Prime Minister.

Come on Bill Shorten, show some balls.

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The Schadenfreude Budget

Nothing To Delight In But Pain Of Others

This is going to be a mean budget. I was talking about it today with some people and they were saying yes, it’s going to hurt but that they hope it hurts other people too. Like Liberal voters who thought voting for Tony Abbott was such a good idea. If you’re a left-leaning voter, this budget promises to be a pile of misery heaped upon with fear-and-loathing sauce. The only sweetness will be the bitter-sweet Schadenfreude of seeing others suffer.

In my case, I’m hoping for a big scythe like the one carried by death to hack a swathe through Screen Australia, which may or may not according to leaked information, get rolled into one entity with the Australia Council. That would be cool to seethe perennial same people who always get the funding, go without for once. Screen Australia’s a bit of a bug bear because they keep funding the same people and they keep rewriting the rules so nobody else gets a look in for funding. In other words, it’s more a rort and a slush fund than a proper funding body these days so… heck Joe Hockey, cut away with impunity. I’d rather see it get the full-arse chop than a half-arsed trim. I really would enjoy those people “having to look for a job in the real world”. Screw them.

On a more general scale, you ave to think that Abbott and company are going to make the kinds of cuts that the ALP could not. This would be true, particularly in health and welfare. And while the rhetoric is that this targets the weakest in our society, I think we’ve all seen a few cases that have made us do a double-take. If you think about it, 6million people are on some kind of Centrelink payment. Then, Julia Gillard’s government added Family Tax Benefit B as a bribe to lather through the Carbon Price. It was classic ‘Keep it Greasy So It Goes Down Easy’. As a single person who got nada out of that deal because I have a job – even though I’m in the “low income bracket” according to the tax office – it sure wasn’t a break that was headed my way.  So, I wouldn’t miss Family Tax Benefit B disappearing. heck, cut away, I say.

Be that as it may, there are plenty of things that piss me off  that are mooted in this budget. The wholesale destruction of environmental agencies and science and technology funding seems beyond the pail. I’m just hoping if the cuts hurt everybody enough they’ll be motivated at the next election to vote these bums out.

Retiring At Seventy

I didn’t know this until the good folks on Insiders pointed it out but 70years old is going to be oldest retirement age in the OECD nations. Most nations are topping out at 67 or 68. The average life expectancy in Australia is currently 81.85 so assuming that goes up a little bit until 2035, one would think the government is hoping to keep the lid on the retirement years at about 15.

The budget is talking about offering $10,000 incentives to hire people over 50. Right now, people over 50 are Baby Boomers. I can’t imagine the government could fund such a policy forever into the future, given the logic of how little tax they could get back from such a worker, so once again we see the government trying to feather the nests of the Baby Boomers, just to get this idea over the line.

I keep trying to imagine myself at say, 65 going for a job interview to find work that will take me up to 70. I keep wondering what that job might be and whether there would be a 10k incentive to hire me then (or if that 10k would be worth anything in that future). Having spoken to a number of my fellow Gen-Xers the feeling is “fuck off, we’re going for a revolution!” You get the feeling that the inter-generational conflict is going to heat up from here on in. The Treasurer sure lit a fire there.

We’re Dumb Ignorant And Uncultured, But We Can Build Roads

The carrot dangled in front of Australia for all this budget pain is that the Federal Government will spend 40 billion on roads for the next 4 years. This is going to be matched by 42 billion from State governments and the private sector. 82billion over 4years is a lot of road building. And the look of smug satisfaction as they’ve been leaking this bit has been a bit much.

Most countries that try to stimulate their economy by general construction end up building white elephants. This is true of Asian countries and European countries. Bridges to nowhere and ghost cities of apartments with nobody living in them happen exactly because a government thinks a general construction spending spree will stimulate the economy. It would have in the 1950s but clearly in an age when GM, Ford and Toyota are closing up factories, we’re entering a post-industrial phase of the economy, like it or not. If you are going to build 82 billion dollars’ worth of infrastructure, are roads really where you want to put your money?

Keep in mind that this is the same luddite government that wants to dumb down and dismantle the NBN, another infrastructure project that might be more appropriate for our stage of development.

It’s also 82 billion that’s not going into education and training because this government wants to get out of tertiary education altogether and make it completely user-pay. It’s 82billion that’s not going towards building a metro in our major cities, and it’s definitely not going towards an inter-city bullet train. What it is, is a decidedly backward looking commitment to build more of the same on the assumption that Australia’s economic needs are going to be roughly the same as they were in the 1950s and1960s under Menzies. It’s willfully stupid because clearly “more roads” is not what Australian needs more of over the other options that do not even get a look in.

And this is before we even look at the problems of petroleum as fuel for cars, and the economics of crude oil going into the future where we’re spending increasingly greater amounts of money to extract the same amount of crude oil. When we cease to be able to afford the oil, we’ll cease driving our petroleum-engined cars. When that happens you wonder what good these 82billion dollars’ worth of roads are going to be for an economy moving away from moving things around on the back of the petrochemical industry. Nobody in government has even looked at the ramification of higher energy costs on this economy and whether it is a smart move to put all our baskets into roads in anticipation of even greater road transportation. Even with a multiplier effect, this 82billion is going to be money badly spent.

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