Old Mother Hubbard


Cory-BernardiSenator Cory Bernardi notes how no-one can take the Gillard Government seriously:

With the budget only a fortnight away, the media is awash with speculation about what is in store for the country.

This week, the Prime Minister finally admitted what many have been saying for many months: the financial cupboard is bare and 'all options are on the table'. This is political speak for ‘new taxes are on the way’.

Despite a healthy 7 per cent rise in tax takings over the past year, the government committed to around a 12 per cent increase in spending. For some inexplicable reason they thought the nation would cough up the extra even when the economy is so clearly struggling. This assumption (which Labor defends as being based on Treasury modelling) clearly brings into question the value and wisdom we are getting from our public service advisers.

If families, business people and members of the Opposition knew that things were tough outside of the rarefied air of the bureaucracy and executive, how did our highly paid specialist advisers sign off on such dodgy modelling? One can only assume that political influence was brought to bear.

If this is true, it makes the credibility of Swan, Gillard and Wong sink to an even lower level than it was. For many months they have been steadfastly assuring the nation that things were on track and a surplus was on the way. When this rhetoric changed, they claimed it was justified because income had fallen short of estimates – the dodgy estimates that they possibly insisted should be used in the first place.

And yet amazingly, these people still want to be taken seriously as credible financial managers.

Click here to keep reading

Senator Cory Bernardi a Senator for South Australia. 

MUST READ: A Health Warning For Liberals

Medicine is pressured by a radical socialist transformation

Medicine is pressured by a radical socialist transformation. Some of this is top down. Much of it is bottom up, writes Dr Grant N Ross

For
2 years I was the Melbourne University Liberal Club’s token doctor.
Turning up late, or never, I would always be out of kilter with JSM,
political theories and fights of the day and somewhat under the
impression that Kroger was a kind of cheese. 
Luckily,
being a stereotype got me over the line.

I
would like to redeem my standing by attempting to write about the
direction of health under Labor and the alternative policy direction
the Liberal Party should choose when in Government.

I
feel that there is a need f
or a Liberal establishment to take note of
the direction of health under Roxon and Plibersek and to hear the
story I am about to tell about the pressures within medicine that
will come to change the way doctors do politics for the next 20
years. All is not well, and I want to tell you why.

As
we speak, Medicine is pressured by a radical socialist
transformation. 
Some
of this is top down. Much of it is bottom up.

The Top Down 

 From
the top down, there have been a series of reforms that:


  • Create
    a greater role for government in health


  • Are
    mostly anti-doctor


  • Occurred
    without significant consultation with the medical profession


  • Involved
    the creation of enormous layers of bureaucracy to centrally manage
    an existing private industry


  • Prioritised
    special interests and unions rather than the front line service
    deliveries

Such
reforms include the creation of many different councils to
micromanage various health care aims instead of directly funding
practitioners; and by doing so orchestrate a transfer of power away
from practitioners and patients towards bureaucrats and their
interests.

A
quick list of the agencies and bureaucracies created by federal Labor
include the following:

  • Australian
    commission on safety and quality of healthcare

  • National
    Health performance authority

  • Independent
    Hospital Pricing Authority

  • The
    Administrator and funding body

  • Medicare
    Locals

  • Australian
    Medical Locals Network

  • Australian
    national preventative health agency

  • Local
    Hospital Networks

  • Health
    Workforce Australia

  • Aged
    Care Reform Implementation Council

  • Mental
    Health Commission

  • Aged
    Care Financing Authority

There
are three cardinal reforms by Labor that have made things worse in
health; national registration, Prescribing and Medicare Locals.

National
Registration

Since
2010 we have had the imposition of a massive tax on doctors by way of
a National Registration reform by Nicola Roxon.
Previously, doctors were registered to a state body but are now
registered to the Australian Health Practitioners Registration
Agency; a centralised national authority.

AHPRA,
formed by Labor to ‘facilitate’ national registration, imposes a
$680 ‘Doctor Tax’ on doctors every year; much higher than
previously imposed. The agency’s role, it seems, is to run a police
check once a year, keep names on a register and then deal with a
doctor if they do something wrong by threatening or taking away the
legal right to practice Medicine.

Whilst
most doctors agree on the need for professional regulation, nobody
accepted the AHPRA model being imposed in the face of a functioning
previous system.

There
is an overwhelming sentiment among the medical community that the
AHPRA reforms are decidedly anti-doctor. Firstly, they removed
semi-autonomy from the previous state based QUANGOs. Secondly, the
AHPRA came about against the wishes of the AMA and the medical
profession at large. Thirdly, doctors have to pay extraordinarily
higher registration fees. Fourthly, AHPRA lumps doctors together with
other health professionals in an overt breach of professional
autonomy:


Ahpra

Footnote I – The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law came into effect in 2010. Whilst it was a COAG agreement, AHPRA was a cornerstone commitment of Labor and driven largely by their political agenda and under mostly government influence.

What
is most worrying is that the registration reforms are a direct step
towards the complete Federal take over of health; via monopolising
the licensing of ALL health professionals in the country to one
federally controlled agency. This should be interpreted as a step
towards government socialisation of the entire health workforce. 

Nobody
is quite sure what will happen in the future with AHPRA. I would look
at it as a dysfunctional way of registering doctors and a target for
reform under a Liberal government.

Prescribing
under Labor

The
Labor reforms have particularly offended the medical profession by
allowing nurses and other non-doctors to prescribe medications.
Prescribing has long been the privilege of the physician, a deeply
difficult and precise business and the Government have legislated for
non doctors to prescribe dangerous medications.

Doctors
still do not agree with this. Below is an example of a lethal
medication that should not be given to people in a range of
circumstances ranging from addiction to intra cranial conditions that
is available from a nurse with no medical training. 

DHA

Footnote II – http://www.ahpra.gov.au accessed 6/11/2012
  
Whilst
nobody would wish the loss of political capital by enabling more
practitioners to prescribe, a government should make a principled
stand on prescribing and give that right exclusivity to those who
lead the health system; doctors. Put simply, do not politicize
opiates; morphine is a drug, not an entitlement. We are all better
off without this gray zone.

General
Practice and the Medicare Locals

Medicare
Locals are essentially the creation of large bureaucracies all across
Australia to control the delivery of General Practice services.
Marking the greatest shift of power away from the functioning private
sector to yet more bureaucrats, these organizations claim to
‘coordinate resources’, ‘identify gaps in access’ and other
nebulous imperatives.

They
are really about creating a centralized bureaucracy, more removed
from front line services, to control the allocation of General
Practice visits. Most of these agencies will be run by non-doctors
with political agendas. This
WILL
redirect front line funding.

Whilst
most left leaning elitists and pundits would label a move against
Medicare Locals as ‘protectionism’ for doctors, it should be a
Liberal priority for several reasons.

Fee
for service, rather than centralized allocation, is the most
efficient form of funding for primary care. Doctors alone deliver the
vast majority of primary care via their minute to minute labor.
Direct funding is clearly superior.

Secondly,
reinforcing private practice builds trust within the medical
profession and empowers doctors to deliver good care for their
patients.

Thirdly,
it builds on the only model that can safely deliver cost effective
health care in a flexible and dynamic way. There is pragmatism within
the medical profession that is unrivaled in history. Pragmatism
requires individual liberty. It is the antithesis of bureaucracy.

Doctors
should be allowed to govern how they arrange their practice and the
market is the best way to ensure that each patient finds the doctor
they prefer. We all know that we would prefer to choose our doctor
when we need them; not when the government tells us.

I
have written about three big players in the health reform agenda of
the last 5 years. National Registration and the step towards
socialist health system, widening of prescribing rights and finally
the complete government takeover of General Practice. These are just
a few example of the top down socialist pressures on health that I
have noticed. 
Alas,
they are not the most worrying change ahead of us.

Luckily
for us, Peter Dutton, Shadow Minister for Health, has already
demonstrated his capacity for reform by pledging to scrap the
Medicare Locals and GP super clinics.

Dutton
is an ex policemen, successful businessman, ex-Minister in the Howard
Government and assistant treasurer to the great Peter Costello. He is
clearly a man who understands health and has a distinct policy vision
to restore the health system to a position of strength, rather than
interference and bureaucratization. I believe he will be warmly
welcomed by the medical community and be one of the best advocates
for the restoration of a sensible health system.

The Bottom Up 

Dutton

I
have spoken about some of the top down pressures in a socialist
direction on the health system. I would like to talk briefly about
some of the pressures from the bottom up, that only a doctor can see,
that are still pertinent to the Liberal agenda.

If
the fantasia reforms of the Roxon/Plibersek era are anything to lose
sleep over, they are nothing on the bottom up forces plaguing
medicine at a much more sinister level.

Since
my entry into medicine as a first year student in 2006, the values
underpinning medicine have been rampantly veering towards the left.
The pressures mounting from the bottom, aka medical school
environments, are horrendously aligned with ALP and Greens stigmata.
For those who thought that foaming at the mouth socialism and
bureaucratic elitism were limited to the confines of the Arts
departments, you are wrong.

The
Medical schools themselves have pursued a long march style reform
into the medical degree; especially in the selection of candidates.
Traditionally, school leavers were selected based on ENTER/ATAR score
and the Undergraduate Medical Admissions Tests. No test is perfect,
but the principle was that admission was based on objective academic
capacity; with a view to selecting bright school leavers (whether
advantaged or otherwise).

This
principle cemented medicine as being about academic capacity,
something worth its salt in any market, rather than ‘social
equity’. This is the right way for things to be.

Nowadays,
courses almost universally select via interview. You can dress up how
‘official’ and ‘standardized’ your interviews are, but they
remain the quintessence of subjective selection. That is the purpose
of interviews. They are effectively a mechanism to allow people to
form a personal opinion on a candidate. And exercise bias. 

Adelaideu

On
a background of the inherent socialist tendencies of education at
both secondary and tertiary level, the reforms to selection have
outright enabled the medical schools to pursue a political agenda
that aims to expand the role of government in healthcare, involve
medicine into a nexus of government social equality agendas and
further the promotion of minority special interests to any particular
degree. This is the definition of long-marching.


Wollong

The
results of these efforts are now coming to fruition. Medicine is
becoming overtaken by special interest group after special interest
group, all vying to dictate the rules of medical practice and
employment, values and principles in an ever growing mountain of
elitist control. The effects of this can be seen via organizations
such as the Australian Medical Students Association, the Post
Graduate Medical Council of Victoria and even the Medical Journal of
Australia and the Australian Medical Association; a nexus of
bureaucratic woe:

Amsa

Footnote III – http://www.amsa.org.au

These
organizations are replete with bureaucratic choke holds and
indecisive post modern ‘collaboration tactics. The result,
obviously, is what we have seen under Kevin Rudd: Power from the
people to their overlords in an ever growing unholy alliance of
bureaucrats, red tape and pathetic backyard politicians who would
rather do anything to promote themselves rather than a good idea. It
promotes ‘sellout politics’ and betrays the individuals who
together make medicine what it is and what gives individuals the
right to be free in this country. 
So
long as this framework persists, doctors will be worse off and
patients will be worse off. 

 At
the moment, the AMA can be proud of the leadership it has had.
Brendan Nelson went on to become Liberal Party Leader. Rosanna
Capolingua was clearly Liberal, Michael Wooldridge kept General
Practice sustainable and independent. Steve Hambleton, current AMA
leader, stands for sensible restraint and genuinely aims to protect
autonomy for doctors. We have been lucky. But I am not so sure about
our future. Just look at what the ever growing Australian Medical
Association calls for on Climate Change:

Amsa2

Footnote IV – http://www.amsa.org.au/press-release/20120703-amsa-calls-for-leadership-on-climate-change/
  • Australian
    Medical Student Association


    Health-climate-change

    Footnote V – Australian Medical Students 2010 Policy Document Climate Change and Health see website http://www.amsa.org.au
  • The
    Australian Medical Association’s is little better than the student
    body in this regard:
     
Ama

Footnote VI – http://ama.com.au/node/4442

I
think I have made my case. 
If
anybody in the Coalition did have a silver bullet to stop the long
march, they’d immediately be preselected for a golden safe seat. I
am not that man.

However,
if we were to theoretically look at reversing the political bias
pressuring medicine in Australia, I would start with reforms that
target medical selection, medical training, the de-bureaucratisation
of medical registration at the junior level and aim to move the
governance of medical training away from University bureaucrats and
elitist back to grassroots doctor groups.

This
would help. 
There
is an argument for such change on the basis that it restores
efficiency and principles of autonomy to the medical profession and
by extension of that, to patients. It would be one hell of an effort,
but I honestly do not believe it to be beyond an Abbott government to
achieve in some capacity.

The
other issues are perennial for Liberals; especially for those of us
who have campaigned on campus. The fight against bureaucrats, against
elitists and to genuinely reform education in this country in the way
that David Cameron is trying in England. Perhaps some of the above
changes could be caught up in a commission of audit. I would like to
see that. But I don’t know. I am not a politician.

Conclusion

As
a doctor, I naturally bring more of a background of social sciences
and welfare to the Liberal table than I do tax reform and economics.

However, there is a need for a Liberal establishment to take note of
the direction of health reform that the Roxon and Plibersek ministry
has imposed on health and a need to identify them as inefficient,
retrograde, centralist and to be removed as needed. Equally important
is the message I would like to impart about the need to think about
what is needed to prevent the medical establishment being long
marched into foot soldiers for the ALP.

Just
remember, health accounts for 12-17% of spending and employs 11% of
all Australians. That is one hell of a voter base to lose to the
left.

Peter
Dutton has a lot to contribute to health in the next Liberal
Government. Autonomy, efficiency and restraint will serve our country
well. Similarly, I encourage young Liberals in rising positions of
leadership to consider the principles of a sound health system as
they develop their policy directions.

The electorate expect a good
health system and we have no excuse for leaving ourselves weak on
this front from a simple lack of knowledge.

Dr
Grant N Ross MBBS B.Med Sci is a medical practitioner and graduate of
Melbourne University.

 

Footnotes

Footnote
I – The Health Practitioner Regulation National Law came into effect
in 2010. Whilst it was a COAG agreement, AHPRA was a cornerstone
commitment of Labor and driven largely by their political agenda and
under mostly government influence.

Footnote
II –
http://www.ahpra.gov.au/
accessed
6/11/2012

Footnote
III –
http://www.amsa.org.au/
see About AMSA accessed 6/11/2012

Footnote
IV –
http://www.amsa.org.au/press-release/20120703-amsa-calls-for-leadership-on-climate-change/

Footnote
V – Australian Medical Students 2010 Policy Document Climate Change
and Health see website
www.amsa.org.au

Footnote
VI –
http://ama.com.au/node/4442


Swan’s mini budget ‘savings’ mainly tax increases

Jim Friar notes how the Federal Government's recent "savings" are in fact tax-hikes:

… we still find the greedy hand of government thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry, and grasping the spoil of the multitude. Invention is continually exercised, to furnish new pretenses for revenues and taxation. It watches prosperity as its prey and permits none to escape without tribute.” – Thomas Paine

‘World’s best Treasurer', Wayne Swan’s original budget for this year was initially treated with skepticism over his contention that Chinese growth would continue virtually unabated despite evidence to the contrary. Since then, revenue has declined dramatically, resulting in a shortfall that has been obvious for nearly as long as the budget has been out there.

As result WBT Swan has announced a ‘revision’ in which he has found what he calls ‘savings’ of $16.4 billion.  The trouble with this is that apart from a reduction of the ‘baby bonus’ for second and subsequent children, all of the others are tax increases of reductions in areas like the Medicare Rebate, which will probably take people out of private insurance into the public sector.
Probably, the worst of these measures is forcing big companies to pay their corporate tax monthly, which will raise the take by $8.3 Billion over four years.  In doing so the amount of investment capital of these companies is reduced along with a substantial increase in compliance costs.
Referring to increased taxes as savings is not just an Australian phenomenon, but is used as a sugar coated poison pill worldwide.  To the man in the street, it may, and is dishonest and deliberately deceitful; however, when the attitude of the state is factored in it may not be strictly the case.
In the main governments do not see any limit on their powers of taxation, other than in some cases Constitutional requirements that can usually be bypassed with clever wording and legal phraseology.  Indeed, former French Finance Minister Jean Baptiste Colbert described the art of taxation as, “So plucking the goose as to get the most feathers with the least hissing.”
In the eyes of Wayne Swan, he is entitled to take whatever he wants from whomever he wants, whenever he wants. Given this view, it is reasonable to assume that he sees that portion of what the taxpayer gets to keep above what he feels he can take is actually wasted.  To him, a tax increase is actually a preventative measure designed to reduce funds that the taxpayer might otherwise splurge on himself.  It therefore constitutes a saving in his eyes.
This is not the most innovative excuse for a tax rise.  Those old enough to remember the election of the Hawke Keating government will recall that one of their earliest acts, was a tax hike which it was claimed was to ‘reduce the excessive liquidity’ out there in the community.  Apparently, we had so much money sloshing about in our pockets it was causing inflation.

 Originally published at Real World Libertarian and reproduced with permission. 

 

The Al Capone Budget

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Tim Humphries compares the 2012 budget to a Bugs Bunny Racketeering Clip:

My earliest memory of political satire was watching Bugs Bunny's Racketeer Rabbit (1946). This cartoon first catalyzed my fascination and thinking on animation and the pop culture metaphors that can be used to describe Politics and Society in its current 'Nanny Statist' form.

Racketeer Rabbit if analysed syntactically, taking into account mise en scene and specific cultural references draws very specifically on the 'Al Capone Prohibition' era.

The parallels between Wayne Swan's recent tax and spend budget and this Looney Tunes take is too amusing to pass up.

KPMG projects in its Economic and Fiscal analysis a return to $1.5 Billion dollars of surplus by 2012-13 at about 0.1 percent of GDP. KPMG's report goes onto express these figures in percentages stating the deficit to be 3.0 percent of GDP.

If Wayne Swan is the Al Capone figure then the Australian people must be Bugs Bunny. The Australian people are noble creatures, who much like the cartoon just want to be left alone by the antics of the mobsters in the floor above!

Go with me on this. All of a sudden Swannie and his trigger happy sidekicks decide to spray bullets across their business opponents, hitting them with the hot lead of new "Carbon and Mining Taxes". Along with the much vaunted 1 cent business tax cut which was abandoned cynically for the current slice of class warfarism.

Despite all the shenangans, the trend line for unemployment remains relatively stable. However the iratic nature of this Al Capone Budget, diverts attention from the rob Peter to Pay Paul mentality putting real pain off until after that very important show down due sometime next year.

In all honesty, with a bit of luck, some real tax cuts and a more flexible industrial relations system, Australia could potentially have an unemployment figure with a "4" in front of it. As an aspirational entreprenuer I strongly hope we move in this direction.

On Personal Tax, Wayne 'Capone' Swan has been particularly disappointing. Raising the marginal tax thresholds to over $18,000 dollars will only trap the young in a cycle of low paying jobs to pay off student debts they can't actually pay!

This treadmill is silly and must stop discouraging people from drive, enterprise and ambition. The other massive slug is the increase in taxation on superannuation which rises from 15 cents in the dollar to 30 cents from July 1.

Then there's the big 'racket' in rumoured changes that would ramp up taxes on smokers, drinkers and even reports about taxing pork! If true, using the racketeer monopoly of government to bump some smokes, grog and a few legs of ham off the proverbial economic truck to slice and dice their economic picture, isn't just appallingly unhealthy, it also looks desperate!

Despite all the mean and nasty things the gangsters are doing to everyday Australians, I would point you toward the morning rays that seem to be poking through the clouds over at Poll Bludger.

If the  58-42 Coalition vote holds up, maybe Wayne 'Capone' Swan will go 'insane' just like the Boss of the cartoon and escape before the people get to him first.

What amused me most about my recent foray into the golden classics of Warner Brothers, was the overriding idea that Bugs Bunny always outsmarted his foes in the end. If the parallel between the Australian people and Bugs Bunny holds, “That’s all Folks” for the ALP can’t be far off.

Timothy W. Humphries is a contributor to Menzies House and the Australian Libertarian Society ‘Thoughts on Freedom Blog’ and writes from Brisbane, Queensland, Australia 

 

 

The Budget: Taxes, Handouts and Werewolves

Photo1 (1)

Robert Katsambis looks at some of the more ridiculous instances of taxpayer waste in the 2012 Federal Budget:

The budget presents the government of the day with an opportunity to showcase its agenda and put forward its vision for Australia. I could sit here all day and talk about how for Labor this involves penalising hard work and effort, but I’ll take this opportunity to dwell on some of the more light-hearted aspects of the 2012-13 budget.

$2.1 million is allocated to “address the stereotyping of older Australians” in the media. Now, visualise a budget consultation forum with big ideas being circulated around the room by academics and public servants on important issues like taxation and welfare reform, and then someone stands up and says “you know what would be a great idea? Spending millions of dollars addressing the stereotyping of elderly people.” The people in that meeting who laughed off this idea would have been surprised on Wednesday morning when they saw it in the budget papers.

The Budget also allocates $12.8 million to the filming of The Wolverine, a gripping tale about an ill-tempered, part-man/part-dog superhero who travels to Japan to learn the art of Kung-Fu with a samurai master and defeat the Japanese empire. Budget Paper 2 attempts to defend this expenditure by contending that the film will inject $80 million into the Australian economy. Obviously, Treasury just went to IMBD and saw that the film had an $80 million budget and copy-pasted this number into the budget papers without it even occurring to some of the most advanced economic minds of this country that most of the cast and big studios bankrolling the film are in fact, not going to spend most of their money in Australia. This is yet another example of that shameless Labor spin we have seen too much of. It also surprises me that the government didn’t chastise Hugh Jackman for having too much money.

Consistent with the Hollywood theme, $3.7 million is allocated to facilitate tax rebates for breast implants. Yes, breast implants. Such waste is also exemplified by forecast spending of $63 million on indigenous television and $1.5 million on an Islamic museum.

But in spite of this waste, the budget shows proof that Labor sometimes sticks to its election promises. That is, its promises from the 2007 election. The government will provide $11.7 million to give “custom-built laptops to thousands of primary school students”. That is, $11.7 million to be spent on computers that will be either lost,  left at home, stolen, broken, used as an excuse for not having done assignments, and used to play computer games during class. And why do they have to be custom-built? What need could students possibly have to justify the provision of computers that have more sophisticated functions than the standard PC that would warrant a higher price to be paid by the taxpayer? Judging by this government’s track record of wastage and incompetence, this project will probably be rorted and mishandled just like the BER or the Pink Batts scheme.

If Labor cannot even come up with relatively small projects that have some merit, how will they be able to administer a budget that underpins an entire economy? But ultimately, the fact that Labor needs to cook the books to deliver a small budget surplus proves they have no fiscal credentials.

 Robert Katsambis studies law and corporate finance at the University of Adelaide. 

 

 

 

Another Night of Spin


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Senator Cory Bernardi gives us his take on the upcoming budget: 

Ahead of a federal budget that aims to re-define the contribution of the Labor Party to our national economic malaise, all Australians are entitled to be cynical about what they will be told.

After four years of untruths and spin Australians are sick to death of being told what is good for us by a group of politicians who have demonstrated they don't care about us.

The essential message from Labor over the past 48 months is that everyday Australians aren’t capable of making appropriate decisions for themselves. The encroachment of the nanny state, rising taxes and contempt for the electorate by Labor ministers bear this out.

Nowhere is this more evident than the soon to start carbon tax. This was the tax both major parties promised we would not have but only one, the Coalition, has been wise enough to keep their pact.

Labor sold their soul to the Greens for the promise of clinging to power and are now reaping what they sowed. Having done a deal with the political devil, Labor have been plunged into electoral hell. Few listen to what they say whilst almost everyone is critical of what they do. Demonstrable proof that actions do speak far louder than words.

Over the past two weeks, Labor rhetoric has been focused on a ‘tough budget’. This is the same claim they have made every year since being elected and clocking up $167 billion in deficit spending. This is money that will have to be repaid by successive generations to pay for Labor’s spendthrift and cavalier approach to public finances.

The rhetoric has been matched by a version of three card monte, where spending is shuffled in and out of various years to deliver a promised surplus in the year ahead.

While the budget bottom line announced tonight may indeed contain a positive figure, few, if any serious pundits believe it will be delivered. In fact, we won't know the final result until more than 15 months down the track. Few can imagine we won’t see a change in government before then. Fewer still believe any claim by this government for fiscal conservatism.

The lesson for all Australians is very clear. A short-term approach to showering voters with handouts provides a glimmer of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy economic world. However, the long-term consequences of a moment in the sun make the financial outlook darker still.

Click here to continue reading… 

Senator Cory Bernardi is the Shadow Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Leader of the Opposition and a Senator for South Australia. 

Anyone for magic pudding?

David-Russell David Russell looks at the upcoming budget: 

In one sense it is perhaps understandable that Wayne Swan can actually be hailed as the de facto world’s greatest treasurer – notwithstanding any rank silliness when he presents Australia’s 2012-1`3 economic blueprint this week.

The admittedly very niche slot in which Swan could be seen as an enlightened manager of a global economy is by contrast with the benighted onanism of the French and Greek electorates as demonstrated in recent days.

In the clear belief that harsh reality can best be avoided by running away very fast, France and Greece have opted to elect socialist governments. Just what they hoped to achieve by this act of head-in-the-sand avoidance beggars the imagination.

Certainly, the Greeks have got it tough. One-in-four are jobless and harsh medicine is, by any measure, the only way to cure their ills. That their medicine is particularly bitter is, however, no-one’s fault but their own.

The Greeks have eaten cake for so long they think it is their entitlement as a staple diet. They still have not worked out that it is a particularly not-nutritious dish that clogs the arteries even as it provides a quick sugary hit.

The Greeks appear determined to blame anyone but themselves for the profligacy they have enjoyed for decades by electing administrations that allocated funds to entitlements that simply could not be met other than by debt. Unsustainability as economic mantra. A very scary thought.

Worse is that the Greeks have not only snubbed their noses at  essential austerity measures but also the financial bailout necessary to have any hope of saving their economy from complete collapse. The rest of us may pay very dearly for this socialist folly.

But the French, too, indulged in some foot-stamping of their own and voted-in an unalloyed socialist  rather than accept economic austerity measures. For all his faults, defeated Nicholas Sarkozy, at least tried to use the power and prestige of Europe’s second-largest economy to stave off local meltdowns that threaten the entire global economy.

The Poms, as well, threw a tantrum of their own by slapping the Conservatives and voting en masse for the spiritual heart of the socialists, the Labour Party, in local government elections. Conservative PM, David Cameron, refuses to resile from austerity measures for the moment but how much pain can he take when all around him are opting for the apparently easy options?

So, we return to Wayne Swan who at least mouths the platitudes of austerity even while refusing to acknowledge how his socialist redistribution tendencies and general profligacy during the GFC destroyed the surplus Australians had worked so diligently to achieve.

Against the idiocy, selfishness and futility of European preference for soft options, a case could be made for Swan to receive accolades for economic management. But the domestic budget is no magic pudding and with cooks like Swan and Gillard mixing the ingredients, we may have a bad taste in our mouths for so long as they remain in the kitchen.

For all our sakes, we must hope – however spuriously – that sanity prevails and voters everywhere come to understand that one must live within one’s means. It is as inescapable as it is simple.

David M. Russell is a professional communicator with a passion for good governance. His personal blog can be found at davidmrussell.wordpress.com.

Swan’s Lazy 2011 Budget and Australian Economic Madness

On budget night Wayne Swan could have saved us all a lot of time by simply standing up and saying that his plan for the Australian economy was to simply sit back and hope the mining boom continued. As I have said for over a year now, Australian policy makers have set the economy up for a severe downturn if commodities prices slump and there is no Plan B.

Some media economists thought Swan’s 2011 Budget was a fairly good one – of course they would, the view of the world is quite different when you have a safe media job behind a desk in Sydney or Melbourne.

But Swan’s budget has done nothing to tackle tax reform or prepare the Australian economy for a world where commodities prices are lower and the Chinese economy is no longer growing at nearly 10% per annum. Maybe a downturn in the commodities cycle will be short, say just six months or a year, but it could also drag on for two or more years and due to the economic madness that has gripped Australia, there is no Plan B.

The Australian Taxation Review headed up by Ken Henry appears to be gathering dust just as I said it would before it was even released. Most in the financial media have of course forgotten about this report although at the time they ranted on about what a wonderful idea it was and how it showed what a visionary Kevin Rudd was.

In economic terms Rudd was about as visionary as a shopkeeper handing out free lollies and now Julia Gillard is showing us that she has even less economic vision than Rudd.

Gillard’s grand economic plan is to rush in a carbon tax, tax the mining companies more, run up debt and hope it all works out okay. Be afraid, be very afraid.

Of course the constant factor over the last few years has been Wayne ‘Swanny’ Swan. He fought the hard battle against inflation because the former Treasurer left him a budget surplus and booming economy. He then decided to borrow and try to spend Australia’s way out of the Global Financial Crisis. (although I suspect that was Rudd’s idea to help him fit in better at the G20 meetings)

Luckily China came along and pumped hundreds of billions into their economy which propped up the demand for commodities and thus the Australian economy held up well..for a while at least.

But today inflation is once again a challenge for the Reserve Bank, the Australian stock market is still at recession-like levels and government debt is reaching record levels.

How a Federal Treasurer can take a mining boom and turn that into record government debt is beyond me…well actually not, the secret to Swan’s ‘success’ is he likes to spend. From the National Broadband Network to set-top TV tuners, Swanny has money for everything.

I would have thought the millions of dollars wasted on pink batts, school halls that were not needed, iPod docking stations and handout cheques would have perhaps convinced Swan that he should try and be a little more prudent with taxpayers money.

But alas Swanny is not easily pushed off the path to hand over to the Australian people a debt burden that they will be paying off for years. The scheme for example to install digital TV tuners into the homes of pensioners is simply madness. I doubt that digital TV would top the list of what pensioners need the most so it appears that the Government is now wasting money on things that don’t even come close to what the public needs.

To be fair, Treasurer’s basically have to work with the economic cards they are dealt. Peter Costello was in many ways lucky to be in office at a time when tax receipts allowed him to pay down debt, build up a surplus and hand out dollars to a lot of people who didn’t really need government support.

But with his latest budget, Swan has done little more than to set out a plan that relies on the continued above average economic expansion in China holding up until at least 2013. Actually to pay off government debt, Australia will need commodities prices to stay high for another decade or more.

Last year when I commented about the 2010 budget I stated the following:

“The Government also helped keep the GDP numbers in positive territory by blowing the billions they inherited from the previous Government and then by borrowing and spending billions themselves. So it appears that the people managing the Australian economy reckon the way you deal with a debt crisis is by getting into more debt.

Now this may not be such a bad approach if the money that is spent will help the nation be more productive in the future. But as the media has finally realised and as I wrote about more than year ago, the economic stimulus spend-a-thon in the lucky country has been a colossal waste of money. In 10 years time we won’t be getting any productivity gains from outdoor covered learning areas or imported sub-standard roofing insulation.”

My view over the last year has not changed much except that I would add that in 10 years time not only will the general public have realised how much money has been wasted, but taxpayers will also dealing with paying off the mountain of debt that Rudd, Gillard and Swan have created.

Will productivity in Australia be improved because of this years budget? No. Will the Australian manufacturing sector be made more competitive because of this years budget? No. Will Wayne Swan’s 2011 budget help position the Australian economy to be able to better withstand the next economic downturn? No.

Maybe Swan’s China gamble will pay off. Perhaps the Chinese will keep building apartments eventhough millions are already empty.  Maybe commodities prices will stay high and maybe government spending can be kept under control.

If so, then Wayne Swan can proudly boast about his achievements during his budget speech in 2013. However it is more likely that Swan will be watching the budget speech at that time from the Opposition bench and will be focused on trying to duck for cover everytime his days of reckless spending are mentioned.

Greg Atkinson is an Australian living in Fukuoka, Japan, where he works with start-up renewable energy related companies. He is also the editor of the stock market related website www.shareswatch.com.au