Honestly, Labor-bashers, Face the Facts!

This reader’s letter to the Canberra Times really got my goat. OK, so I’m a Laborite and so my hackles rise whenever I read criticisms of my party. But what really gets me is the blatant misrepresentation of facts and figures to suit the LNP’s political agenda. And what really, really gets my back up are the LIES, LIES AND MORE LIES peddled by the Abbott Government, its lackeys and supporters among the MSMs. This one is typical — given pride of headline space by the Canberra Times in its Comments section, despite it being clearly just parroting LNP spin. So I fired off a riposte. As it may or may not see the light of day in the CT, here it is in my own blog (three cheers for the coming of the  Internet Age).

Dear Letters Editor,

I feel I must respond to N. Bailey (Letters, June 2), in which he/she lays full blame on Labor and former Treasurer Wayne Swan for ‘wastage of taxpayers’ money’ that led to the ‘chaotic budget state inherited by the Abbott government’. Bailey’s letter is simply echoing the Coalition government’s ‘budget crisis’ spin which contains a lot of misrepresentation of facts and false assumptions.

I point out these facts: (1) the figure of $600bn is a a figure based on Treasury projections spanning the years to 2023/24, and the Coalition’s own pessimistic assumptions and recent spending decisions (e.g. PPL, new jet fighters). It is not as if Labor had left that amount as actual debt (incidentally, if Treasurer Joe Hockey was so perturbed by the debt level, why did he seek to increase the debt ceiling to $500bn?). (2) $600bn (the exact figure is $667bn) does not represent just gross national debt, but also debts incurred by state and local governments (which comes to roughly $282bn). (3) Half of the $667bn are in the form of Commonwealth Government Securities – treasury bonds bought by foreign investors – which provides the cash flow for big spending such as future superannuation payments for public servants and defence personnel, and for infrastructure programmes (NBN, for example) — note that these extend over a long term. (4) Actual net national debt is only a tenth of the $600+ billion. Labor left with a deficit of $30.1bn — if it is now much more, it is the Coalition government’s doing.

While it is true that Labor under Rudd/Gillard increased spending, this was chiefly to provide the needed stimulus through cash grants for low-income groups and infrastructure projects that saved the Australian economy from the GFC. Labor spending reached a peak of $54bn during 2008-09, but by end of its term of office, the deficit had gone down to $18.8bn, or 1.2% of GDP (the average for OECD countries was 4.9%). In terms of wasteful spending, the only years that an International Monetary Fund study found to be the most profligate (IMF Working Paper 13/5, January 2013) were during the Howard years. All that surplus from sale of public assets gone, giving out middle-class benefits and other non-productive goodies in the months leading to the 2007 election. If Howard had left the surplus intact, the incoming Rudd government would not have needed to spend quite so heavily to soften the impact of the GFC on the economy .

As the Nobel Laureate economist Joseph Stiglitz remarked: “For an American, there is a certain amusement in Australian worries about the deficit and debt: their deficit as a percentage of GDP is less than half that of the US; their gross national debt is less than a third” (http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/the-crisis-down-under#4gzrISdmXj3TScB9.99). Add to that the fact that Australia under Wayne Swan’s fiscal stewardship became one of only 10 nations in the world to get a AAA rating from three major global credit agencies, and Wayne Swan himself named Best Finance Minister of the Year by the esteemed financial magazine Euromoney for successfully steering the country through the GFC, The only other Australian Treasurer to have that distinction is —wait for it, N. Bailey — Paul Keating (need I say, also under Labor government?).


We would all benefit to heed the counsel on this Banksy graffito – no matter what side of politics we stick to:


MAAMF: an australian music blog

Montaigne - I'm A Fantastic Wreck

Montaigne is the project of Jessica Cerro. You might remember the rather memorable voice too. As Jessica Cerro she was a finalist in that triple j unearthed high comp a while back…and I think did pretty well. Her new track ‘I’m A Fantastic Wreck’ takes a slight unexpected turn though. This is interesting, verging on sophisticated pop music.

The obvious reference point for me is Otouto. That rather precarious percussion takes what could be a little predictable into weird. And weird is what makes this work. There are pop hooks galore, and that big climax at the end makes you feel all the things it’s designed to make you feel, but it’s that slightly off putting nature of Jess’s warm big vocal against the not quite there percussion and the rest of the staccato instrumentation that makes this one. And although it gets into a big ol’ sweeping love song towards…

View original post 53 more words

The “Budget Crisis”: How Critical Is It?

Is the Treasurer Joe Hockey and the Coalition to be believed? That if the government doesn’t cut public spending as planned in its Budget 2014 announcement, we’re in for a disaster in our economic future?

Well, today, I’ve come across the latest country report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (IMF Country Report 14/51, February 2014), which seems to tell a different story. It gives an overall positive assessment of Australia’s economic standing and outlook. Granted, it highlights some risks, but these are related to decreasing revenues – i.e. less demand for commodities (i.e. mining), the high value of our dollar (damping down export income) and impact of external factors in the global market — not so much on government expenditures, although there is need to pare it down.

As for the budget deficit, the report comments that it went down during the period 2012-2013 (in other words, under Labor’s watch, see below:

5. Fiscal policy. The budget deficit was reduced from 3 percent of GDP to 1½ percent in 2012/13. The previous government’s goal of returning the budget to surplus last year was held back by slower-than-projected output growth and weaker commodity prices. Revenue fell short of projections as the lower terms of trade together with the persistently strong Australian dollar reduced nominal GDP and dented corporate profitability, with company tax revenue coming in around ½ percent of GDP lower than expected. Capital gains and resource rent taxes were also weak. Spending was somewhat higher than anticipated, exceeding plans by 1¼ percent of GDP. 

It wasn’t the “spending like a drunken sailor” that Hockey tells us about Labor. In fact,  note the comment that the surplus predicted by then Treasurer Wayne Swan was thwarted by unexpected external factors that affected the projected gains from trade and exports. It wasn’t a Labor lie or ‘broken promise’

The fiscal situation can improve, and we can reach a surplus without the drastic cuts that the Abbott Government is set on implementing. This chart by the IMF shows how Australia can achieve a slow but steady pace towards fiscal consistency and stability (in other words, get rid of the deficit and gain surplus), without harming the poor, the sick, the aged and other vulnerable sections of society. In fact, the IMF Report suggested:

10. Policy space to manage risks. The floating exchange rate provides a key cushion against such shocks. The RBA has some room to respond, and the rapid and effective monetary transmission mechanism in Australia would allow for a nimble policy response should these risks emerge. But with the policy rate currently low at 2½ percent, the scope for monetary policy to offset shocks is limited and a sharp deterioration in the economic outlook would call for additional policy responses.As discussed below, Australia’s modest public debt level gives the authorities the scope to allow automatic stabilizers to operate in full and to temper the pace of budget deficit reduction when needed.

Note the last phrase “Australia’ modest public debt level” (i.e. we don’t have an overblown budget), “temper the pace of budget deficit reduction when needed” (it does not signify we have a current ‘emergency’, does it?).

Of course, we need to be prudent in public spending. Joe Hockey is correct when he claims Australia cannot carry on spending and the budget deficit has to be addressed. But there is an alternative to drastically cutting social welfare services and allowances in order to balance the budget. What Hockey  refers to as excessive costs in health, education, disability, aged care and pensions (‘social expendituress’ ) in fact only comprises 10.5% of GDP. Compare that to ‘non-social’ spending (e.g. government services, & salaries, defence — I guess, you could also  throw in parliamentary salaries and privileges in there)., which takes the bigger slice of the pie, 14.5% of GDP. There is room to pare down such ‘non-social’ government expenditures (abolishing the purchase of JSFs, for one, and cutting down business subsidies), while maintaining slight increase in  ‘social’ funding, and still achieve a surplus,  as the IMF fiscal consistency chart shows below:

That’s right, readers — there is absolutely no need for panic at this time. And a slow but steady trajectory towards surplus can be managed without the drastic cuts to social welfare benefits, health, education and aged care/pensions.

The other side of the coin has been ignored so far by this government: how to increase productivity and government revenue. How the government can hope to increase tax revenue  by axing 3,000 ATO staff  — the biggest slash among PS departments — confounds all reason. And what about those subsidies and tax breaks business?

This Coalition government simply ‘protesteth too much’ — in Shakespearean lingo — saying something over and over again, to make people believe, but a smart person knows it’s a lie. The hidden agenda is to impose their right-wing, neoliberal approach on our social and economic life: one that is individualistic and geared to the idea of ‘survival of the fittest’.  It gives rise to the notion that if you’re poor, it’s your own bloody fault, so cop it.  But what tends to happen in this free-market scenario  is that it’s the economic and social elite (yes,  including daughters of politicians in power) who ‘survive’ and prosper because they tend to have the advantages of  wealth, good health, better education and opportunities; those less fortunate find it harder, if not impossible, to break out of their poor circumstances and get ahead in life.

Is this the image of a good, a fair Australia?

Reference: International Monetary Fund, 2014. Australia. 2013 Article IV Consultation—Staff Report; Press Release; And Statement by the Executive Director of Australia. IMF Country Report No. 14/51. Washington, DC: IMF. [available online: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/scr/2014/cr1451.pdf.]

Response to Miranda Devine: False Assumptions About March in March

A recent blog by Miranda Devine in the online version of The Telegraph  came to my attention via one of the March in March Facebook pages. 

Being one who does pay attention to what the ‘other side’ thinks, I had a very good read of it. I was astounded at the many false assumptions made in her piece. So I was compelled to send off a response. Not holding too much hope that my comment will see the light of day on her blog, I reproduce it here in my own space.


Well done, Miranda — you managed to collect the few negatives from the March in March to make the whole mass of protesters seem evil and sinister.

We were not all lefties (and I really don’t know why lefties=bad, after all, it was the lefties who pushed for decent wages for workers). Many marchers were what you might call ‘ordinary Australians’. Sure there were Labor and Green members, unionists, human rights activists, but there were also those who were protesting for the first time, even former LNP supporters, disturbed at the current government’s display of lack of humanity, its complete disregard of climate change concerns, its backdown on the Gonski reform, its lack of transparency, People marched simply to give voice to their discontent on various issues. Yes, there was some hatred for Abbott expressed in placards, but that was not the intention of organisers, nor was there a multitude of them. The ones you mentioned in your article, I wager, would account for 80% of the total vile placards. The lead organisers did not condone personal abuse and insults, nor personal threats, and before the marches issued a plea to keep all slogans decent. But in a loosely organised, grassroots-oriented movement like March in March, with no real structure and mechanisms for sanctions, one that wholly depended on the will and resources of the people to organise the marches, unsavoury elements were hard to police. It was always hard for organisers to choose between exerting authoritative/dictatorial control and allowing freedom of expression, as you would agree, perhaps, as a plain ‘l’ liberal.

You have the right to criticise what you see as wrong; so do we, marchers. But unlike you, we don’t have the backing of a powerful media outlet to carry our messages across — so we march, as common people, as is our democratic right.

Dear Sydney Morning Herald re March In March

Love your mother


Dear SMH,

Today my friends and I were flicking through your pages with a regular Monday morning happiness. As per Monday during footy season, we are fairly certain we navigated patiently through a double page spread describing an enthralling Dragons Vs Cowboys match in Wollongong with a quoted 8,345 attendees, but we may be confused with any week from the upcoming 26. Normally it’s quite tedious to scroll through the sports wrap, but we were happy to do so this morning as we reveled in the excitement of turning the pages and that beautiful moment when we would finally land in your heart to read about the mighty March In March. We searched and searched, turned and turned. We soon realized that there was NO mention of the march. Maybe we’d missed it? Was there a feature article insert that may have fallen out? It was a nationwide march…

View original post 1,295 more words

The Aftermath: Debacle, but is there a silver lining?

Feeling like life sucked out of me right now. Yesterday’s poll booth activities took some energy, but I actually enjoyed it. Cross-party friendliness was evident in the places I went to  — even with Lib supporters – no hostility. Even helped each other when party corflutes blew away in the wind.  That’s the microcosm of what Australian society is, or at the very least, should be.  Respect for different views, but a common humanity. The only exception was the deliberate taking down of an ALP banner at the Harrison (ACT) poll venue – which had been put up by Labor team people the previous night,  but disappeared by early morning.

The aftermath is devastating to Labor and its supporters,  but I always tell myself at times like this: there must be a sliver lining. That may well be a  start for the Labor Party on a new path to becoming  stronger, more unified, and able to connect its vision and core values more effectively with the populace. That can happen as long as the party takes a hard,  look at and within itself, – take a reality check at the imperfections that have beset the organisation in recent years.

For now, no matter what political colour we belong to, as citizens of this country committed to the ideals of true democracy – social justice and equity in participation and opportunity,  it behoves us to be ever vigilant, to become wise  wily and covert attempts by the powerful elite to undermine those ideals.

Is She For Real? Gina Rinehart Offers Her Prison Solution


Is she for real? 

GINA RINEHART thinks she has the answer for congested prisons: let criminals buy their way out. It is also, as she points out, one way to increase the government’s revenue. She is being true to her beliefs: MONEY IS THE ANSWER TO EVERYTHING.

Never mind that one function of prisons is to rehabilitate, not just punish, offenders. Another is deterrence – a criminal is less likely to reoffend after incarceration. Does Gina not even think that such a scheme could lead to more crime – albeit “non-violent” as she puts it?

Gina makes one distinction: this would be only allowed for ‘non-violent’ criminals,  I guess she means murderers and the like. But anyone convicted of any crime is not fit to be released into the community, in my view, not unless that person shows evidence of remorse and reform. As  Rossleigh Brisbane wrote (http://wp.me/p30D9d-1xR):

Drug dealing, for example, is potentially non-violent. So, after being convicted of selling a large shipment of cocaine to school children, I simply pay my fine and go back to business.

So – no problem at all if you’ve lined your pockets from dodgy dealings a la Bond, Skase or Adler,  but if you’re some poor bugger from skid row — in the cells, mate!