Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Election 2010: Day 33 (or Oh, Rooty Q, I love the way you talk)

Today was about two things – the Liberal Party releasing its costings and the people’s forum in Brisbane (or as it was known on twitter “RootyQ” – on reference to this being the Queensland – “Q” – version of last week’s Rooty Hill forum).

The Libs put off releasing the policy till 4pm, and it was then delayed till 4:45pm, which didn't really please the journos who were going to have to file stories for the 6pm news.

It turns out the Libs are going to have a bigger surplus than the ALP. That they left off releasing this information till the last night of the campaign in which adverts are allowed – and also the one night of the week where the ABC dominates the ratings with Spicks and Specks, The Gruen Nation and The Chaser makes me suspect two things:

  1. they aren’t all that confident in their figures standing up to a stack of criticism, and
  2. they don’t really think people care too much that they will have a bigger surplus.

The interesting bit of information from the press conference with Robb and Hockey (Abbott of course was no where to be seen given it was about economics) was that the Libs had hired the accountancy firm WHK Howarth about 2 months ago to do the costings – which kind of puts the bullshit about them not submitting them to Treasury because of the leaks into its proper light . They obviously never intended to go through with the complying to the Charter of Budget Honesty. Now they may be right to do so – the charter is a bit of a crock – but their excuse is as well.

The Farifax’s Peter Martin tweeted on the costings:

Costings just one line per item - no assumptions, no reasoning. Treasury and Finance would have provided a touch more


Tonight’s RootyQ event was a marked improvement on the Rooty Hill version. Both leaders were denied a cheer squad. There were some excellent question, there were some “what will you do for me questions”. 

Abbott went first, and highlighting the advantage of going last, I can scarce remember what he had to say. Julia was good – she tackled the questions about Rudd well, and explained the stimulus as well as she ever had.

I doubt it will have changed a vote. Bugger all will have watched it – ABC24 hardly rates, and Sky News again will get its 90 odd thousand. It will however have done Gillard no harm in Queensland, and likely some good – though it will be interesting to see how the Courier Mail covers it. You could argue because it was in Queensland and because she did so well that she might have really picked up some votes, but again I say not enough people saw it.

Abbott, by virtue of the fact he was supposed to love this format, didn’t go as well as hoped – mostly because there wasn’t the cheer squad factor this time. But he probably didn’t lose any votes either. I seriously doubt he would have won any – especially when he said “$100,000 a year is not rich”.

So was it worthwhile? Yes. But really it would have been much better for them to have been on the stage at the same time.

Two more full days to go before the vote. Julia will be at the press club tomorrow in which she will say absolutely nothing new.

Barring anything unexpected occurring, this campaign is looking pretty much done and dusted.


Today Nicholas Gruen released some very interesting research on the impact of the stimulus. One of the things about the stimulus is the number of jobs it saved, but what is often left out is the impact those jobs have on actually helping keep debt down. Gruen noted that those people whose jobs were saved quite obviously kept paying tax – both income and consumption. But how much have the taxes from those whose jobs were save contributed to paying off the debt? Well Gruen found that

“For every dollar the government spent, tax revenue to Australia’s governments rose by around 22.5 cents, leaving just 77.5 cents to be repaid.”

So the income tax from the people whose job were saved contribute to nearly a quarter of the costs of the stimulus.

When looking at the infrastructure spend Gruen found similarly that:

Every $1 of government infrastructure spending increased output by $1.20 generating 36 cents of government revenue.

What this means he notes is that:

For each dollar of stimulus the Government spent on infrastructure, the debt incurred was only around 64 cents.

All up this means:

Of the $26.5 billion dollars of infrastructure budgeted to be funded in the years 2008-9 and 2009-10 Australian taxpayers will need to service and/or repay only around $16.9 billion of debt via state and federal taxes.

Gruen even takes into account the fact that under the BER scheme there were inefficiencies due to the rushed nature of the work that in turn raised costs. So was this a drain on the budget? Well no. He finds that because the stimulus generated tax revenue that vastly outweighed the “waste” of the BER speediness:

Those inefficiencies cost around $1.5 billion compared with the tax windfall of $9.5 billion from tax collected from who would not otherwise have been employed. The net result leaves Australians better off by around $8 billion.

The important point is this – the stimulus worked. Let’s just say that again. It worked. It worked incredibly well – far better than ANYONE dared hope.

It worked because it was rolled out as fast as possible and thus it saved jobs before they were los. It is much, much harder to get people back to work than it is to keep them working. And those people whose jobs were saved are helping pay back the debt.

In the 1990s recession the stimulus package under the Keating Government came far too late to save jobs, and thus the debt that was incurred was not being paid back by people whose jobs were saved, and thus the debt was greater, and the stimulus less effective. The lessons of the 1990s were learned and applied in 2008-9 – and they worked.

Yes there was waste – but the waste of not acting fast is much greater. As one who attempted to enter the workforce for the first time in the early 1990s I can also tell you the long term costs are also much greater. I did an economics degree – I even had a honours in it. But by the time the economy picked up I was competing with another 2 years worth of graduates, and also experienced people coming back into the industry. I had hoped to become a dealer on the foreign exchange markets – the subject I enjoyed most in my honours year was “international finance”. Well I did end up as a dealer – a blackjack dealer. You do what you have to do. And my 4 years at university were for nothing. I finally paid off my HECS debt for that degree last year…

The stimulus was timely and targeted. Yes there was some waste of Government expenditure because it was so timely. But the waste of waiting and seeing, of taking time, of allowing confidence to decline would have been far greater – both in budgetary terms and in that of human life.

The only bad thing from the RootyQ forum was Julia locking herself into a surplus in three years time. She should NEVER do that, and the media should NEVER expect her to have to. When things go down the toilet, the Government SHOULD go into deficit, and when things are good, you go back into surplus.

That neither Abbott nor Gillard will talk about the prospect of a stimulus package should the world economy go into a double dip recession is a major falling of both them.


BigBob said...

The charter is a crock - but it is their charter!

Anonymous said...

"...was that the Lbs had hired the accountancy firm WHK Howarth about 2 months ago to do the costings"

Hang on, run that past me again.

"the Lbs had hired the accountancy firm WHK Howarth about 2 months ago to do the costings"

You're kidding me right?



ssdfsdf said...

The two things I recall about TA:
1. The $100k you mention
2. The other was in reply to a question about Veterans and their carers, unless I'm seriously mistaken I recall his answer could be summed up by the phrase 'get over it'.

Greg Jericho said...

Yep Fredex, I wish I was. As Possum tweeted after the press conference:

"Now Brandis again says that they put the costings into WHK because of the leak, even though it had been in WHK for 2 months. Fortune tellers"

Greg Jericho said...

Bleeter - I can't recall his answer on that - he did ramble a bit. But I of course forgot to mention his other great pronouncement - that peak oil is a myth.

Everytime he opens his mouth Abbott does all he can to ensure Greens preferences flow to the ALP on the order of 85%+.

And given they'll likely get 10%+ of the vote, that will kill him.

Anonymous said...

I see from the ABC that Julia Gillard 'won' according to an audience poll. Thank God. Not because she won - these things don't mean much, given the circumstances - but because it will spare us the media and liberal gloating over Tony's great victory.

Casablanca said...

Anonymous, the fact that Julia 'won' the audience poll does not mean that we will be spared 'the media and liberal gloating'. That will still occur in spades. as per usual.

Pip said...

Two more days!!!! I thought you might like this; as far as I can tell it hasn't shown up on the MSM. I was hoping Julia would give this a run tonight but sadly she didn't.

Casablanca said...

Grog, the question about Vets Pensions was put by Kerrie, a women who described herself as a carer. In the context of her question she was clearly caring for a vet who was on a pension and aged under 55 years.

Tony waffled on about his regret that the Howard Government did not address the matter but sort of absolved Howard because he had never promised to do anything. He berated Rudd because he made a promise that he said was not kept.

Abbott then talked up his own promise to index the Vets pension for those over 55. When Kerrie pointed out that he had not addressed her question about the plight of younger vets, Tony Abbott cut her short by suggesting that the Defence Forces look after their maimed and injured by retraining them. Thus Abbott denyed the problem raised by Kerrie.

Lis said...

Grog, you're spot on identifying the PM's surplus by 2013 promise as erroneous, especially in light of the probability of a second round GFC. The immense debt of the US, the economic decline of the European Union and the slowing of the China economy are all indicative that we're not out of the mire yet. Let's hope those words don't come back to haunt JG.

On another note, I do find the Lib's attitude this campaign quite disturbing; their dumbing down of rhetoric and subsequent colloquialistic application is blatantly patronising. Simply put, it would appear Abbott has been told 'no words bigger than wheelbarrow' and dutifully complied. Let's hope he's humble enough to see this error post polling day - but I doubt it.

MassiveSpray said...

I may be mistaken (I didn't actually watch it), but from the snippets I saw this morning Abbott was hit with a question about HECS debts and then comes up with this policy about voluteering without his usual umming and aarring.
Does anyone else find this a touch convenient? Can we say Liberal plant?

Greg Jericho said...

That is interesting Massive Spray. You're right, a HECS debt question was a tad out of left field....

A bit convenient.

Rowan said...

Peak oil a myth? Verily, Planet Rabbit must be a strange place.

Anonymous at 10.58 last night, Abbott didn't win the first one either, he just got slightly more than Gillard. If you got 36% on a test and your friend got 30%, you'd both fail. So somehow, some way, the media will make this an Abbott win.

Or they'll just completely ignore it, like the lack of coverage of the boat of refugees turning up in Canada last week. They stated they had deliberately turned away from Australia due to recent policy changes here. This is clear evidence that the current govt CAN 'turn back the boats'. I abhor this cowardly demonisation of refugees by both sides, but this incident clearly shows that the Lib slogan is a lie, and I have yet to see a single journalist calling it.

Pip said...

Wasn't the HECS debt and volunteering an idea fron the 20/20 conference?

Greg Jericho said...

Pip - yes it was.

My view? The ones who would most benefit, don't have time to do it because they're too busy working part time as they do their degree.

Nicholas Gruen said...

Glad you made the obvious comment Grog - that there should have been no promise to return the budget to surplus by a given date. Could be a millstone around the government's neck should it be so lucky as to be reelected. But the polls suggest we're going back to tabloid government, in which case it's all rather moot.