Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Election 2013: Day 24 (or, Debate Double Header)

Today was about debates. First the Treasurer's debate at the National Press Club, and then the Leaders debate at Rooty Hill.

Prior to the Treasurer's debate Joe Hockey and Andrew Robb realised some of their savings. The $31 billion worth came out not in the PBO official costings format but the Libs’ own version.

I’d much prefer to see the actual PBO document like the Greens have been more than happy to display, there does however seem to be a bit of argy bargy over the savings of the 12,000 reduction in the public service, with the ALP claiming they have a PBO costing that suggests 20,000 fewer public servants would save the amount the Libs are claiming for 12,000. There were reports that today the ALP would release these costings, but I have yet to see them anywhere.

Moreover I largely agree with Laura Tingle in the AFR that this is not the biggest issue:

While Labor continued to suggest that there was something dodgy about the numbers because the Coalition hasn’t released the detailed Parliamentary Budget Office costings documents, it would really be better off moving on to argue the substance of the policy differences. There is nothing to suggest that it will find the sorts of holes in these numbers that Treasury and Finance found in the Coalition’s 2010 costings.

The problem is I don’t know if the ALP leadership is up to the task. They haven’t even thought to point out that while Abbott is pledging to have the Productivity Commission to look into child care, his PPL scheme was given the thumbs down by the Productivity Commission.

Instead we get dopey lines about “$75,000 payments for a billionaire to have a baby”.

The Treasurer's debate didn’t really reveal anything. To be honest I can’t even remember muc of it now.

Joe Hockey is apparently a glass-0half full kind of bloke, which is kind of odd given the past 5 and half years he’s been screaming that the glass is fricken empty.

Chris Bowen was Chris Bowen.

He had one good line which appropriated the old Keating line about the GST of “if you don’t understand it, don’t vote for it, because if you did, you’d never vote for it” (it has also been stolen by Tony Abbott to attack the carbon tax. 

Bowen said, “If you don't know where the opposition will cut, then don't vote for them. Because if you did, you never would vote for them”

What this all means I think is we need more Keating in this election campaign.


The Rooty Hill Leaders debate actual contained some new policy!

Tony Abbott contradicted both Peter Dutton in yesterday’s Health debate and himself a week ago, when during the debate tonight he said that no Medicare Local would be closed.

Six days ago he said this:

There will be a review and the object of the review will be to try to ensure that we maintain the actual health services that are being provided by Medicare Locals while minimising the bureaucracy associated with them. Now, can I say that absolutely no Medicare Local will close? I'm not going to say that…

So that’s nice to know.

I wonder if it falls under the category of “sometimes, in the heat of discussion, you go a little bit further than you would if it was an absolutely calm, considered, prepared, scripted remark”

Kevin Rudd meanwhile suddenly morphed into Bob Katter and decided we needed to be cautious about foreign investment. Bizarre.

This is the standard of our campaign. Making it up on the run to get agreeing nods from people in a western Sydney RSL

Both leaders also pledged to honour their election promises even if it meant pushing of a surplus till later.

In the last debate Tony Abbott was accused of trying a “There’ you go again” moment when he said, “Does this guy ever shut up?” Tonight he decided to just steal the line completely and said at one point in a very over rehearsed attempt to appear unrehearsed “There he goes again.”

Well I’m sorry Tony Abbott, you are no Ronald Reagan:

I was waiting for Abbott to say “Mr Rudd, tear down this carbon tax”. Alas it was not to be.

Anyway, the debates were irrelevant. Watched only by tragics and rusted on voters.

Meanwhile I wonder if now the Essendon issue is over whether Melbourne voters will realise there is an election happening?


I won’t be posting for the next couple days because I’m doing things at the Melbourne Writers Festival. Tomorrow night I”m on the Radio National “Politics in the Pub”. It’s hosted by Jonathon Green and I’ll be on a panel with Corinne Grant and John Safran. The show starts at 8pm EST, so tune in to listen to me attempt to be not too lame.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Election 2013: Day 23 (or, come sail your ships around me)

Today was about Kevin Rudd and the navy.

He gave a speech at the Lowly Institute in which he stated:

The Government will establish the Future Navy Taskforce that will provide advice to the Government on implementing these recommendations and other recommendations of the Australian Defence Force Posture Review and 2013 Defence White Paper that offer operational advantages, enhance capability sustainment requirements and relieve future pressure on the current location of Fleet Base East in Sydney.

The Taskforce will provide advice on the timing, proportions and implementation of moving some or all of Fleet Base East to Queensland and Perth and developing, upgrading or expanding Darwin and Broome.

The media release that followed said much the same thing:

  • Moving some or all of Fleet Base East at Garden Island in Sydney Harbour to new bases in Brisbane, Townsville, Cairns and Perth.

Now this quickly came to be represented in various parts of the media as only about moving all of Fleet Base East north to Brisbane – ie going beyond what was recommended. The “some” bit got left out a tad.

Barry O’Farrell went on the full offensive, suggesting it would cost 4,000 jobs in Sydney.

But what Rudd has proposed is pretty much in line with that recommended in the recent Defence Force Posture Review Report:

(14) Defence should commence planning now on long term options for establishing a supplementary east coast fleet base at Brisbane for the Future Submarine and large amphibious ships. This work will complement the development of options for embarking forces on amphibious ships at Brisbane in the shorter term, as set out in Recommendation 29.

(29) Defence should develop options to allow large amphibious ships to embark Army units based in Brisbane and (as a lesser priority) Adelaide, in addition to Townsville and Darwin.

So that sounds pretty straightforward. Rudd is just doing what was recommended. The problem however is that the Defence White Paper released in May noted:

5.38 The Government has decided not to proceed at this time with long-term planning for establishing a supplementary east coast fleet base in Brisbane (which had been recommended by the Review).

The significant preliminary cost estimate (in the order of $6 billion), challenges associated with land acquisition, environmental considerations, the need for extensive dredging and the wider dispersion to a third fleet base of Royal Australian Navy personnel and training, all suggest that establishing a fleet base in Brisbane would be challenging and require significant continued investment for it to remain sustainable.

5.39 Further detailed analysis and feasibility studies have confirmed that the fleet bases in Sydney and Perth will continue to meet the Royal Australian Navy’s needs for the foreseeable future. Should existing fleet base arrangements or operational requirements change in future, the Government may again consider the need to plan for an additional fleet base on the east coast.

So it’s a bit of a change of tack.

There’s nothing too wrong with that – sure it’s $6 billion, but we’re talking it being done by 2030, so it’s not like it is a budget killer.

It’s so far off into the future that those shipyard workers currently living in Sydney would be able to catch the Very Fast Train to Brisbane by the time it is all done.

The main problem with this policy is that yet again it shows that the ALP is not campaigning like a government. A government uses the White Paper and comes out with a number of great policy ideas that it can then announce during the election. And the policy then even if long-term has the ring of deep thought about it.

Instead once again we have Kevin Rudd announcing something that highlights how he was not PM 3 months ago. Kevin Rudd and Barry O'Farrell clash on Labor's plans for Garden Island - YouTube

It’s great to have long-term vision. But it must have the impetus of solid development behind it. Not a confused sense of “didn’t you rule this out in May?”

The policy also led to dopey stories around the traps, such as the headline item in the Adelaide Channel 7 news which suggested “thousands” of lost jobs in Adelaide. This was all based on the belief that spending $6b for this would have to mean $6b being spent on defence elsewhere.

Complete bollocks, but it got a run, nonetheless.

Moreover given today's run in between Rudd and Barry O’Farrell, The Daily Tele tomorrow will no doubt run something idiotic on its front page.

Ahh well.


Tony Abbott was spruiking his employment policy which was a re-tread of his similar policy in 2010. It involves

providing financial assistance of up to $6,000 for long term unemployed jobseekers if they move to a regional area to take up a job, or, $3,000 if they move to a metropolitan area.

This relocation assistance will only be available to long-term unemployed jobseekers who have been on Newstart or Youth Allowance for more than 12 months. People relocating between capital cities or within capital cities will not be eligible for the payment.

I doubt they’ll have to worry too much about the cost. I expect little of it will be spent. Sure there is unemployment in regions, but the most numbers of unemployment is within capital cities, and this won’t help those people.

They are however eligible for a bonus of $2,500 if they get a job and stay in it for 12 months, and a further $4,000 if they keep it for a further 12 months. 

Funding for long-term unemployed is all well and good, but I don’t think the main reason people are unemployed is they lack the incentive to get a job.

Far better to spend money of training and assistance to get a job rather than assume they just need some financial encouragement to get of Newstart.


Kevin Rudd tonight on Today Tonight suggested that Abbott lacks the “temperament:” to deal with international crisis.


Rudd should let others do the head kicking. No one is going to start thinking this just because he says it. In fact it comes across as grasping at straws. A bit like Fraser in 1983 talking about the banks going bust if the ALP comes in.

You don’t want to over-reach. And if you think these things, let others say it for you – or even better use an advert to show why you think it, and get the voters to think about it without even knowing why they are thinking about it.

But in the end, Australia is not America. The ability of our leader to cope in foreign affairs issues won’t matter.


Today Tony Abbott announced a policy to provide retrospective payment for victims of terrorism of up to $75,000. The government brought in legislation to provide such support it was for future victims.

Abbott has pledged to “in the first 100 days” to introduce legislation to back date the payment back to Sept 11 2001.

Notionally trying to make the press conference seem non-political he still found time to suggest the ALP’s “behaviour towards the victims of terrorism was mean-spirited.”

During the press conference he was asked about the responsibility of those who travel to areas of danger, given in 2005 there were travel warnings about going to Bali:

QUESTION: There were travel warnings there at the time not to travel there?

Abbott responded:

TONY ABBOTT: And look, if you are walking down the street at 2am in Kings Cross in Sydney and you get king hit, maybe you shouldn't be there. Maybe it was an unwise place to be, an unwise thing to do. But if you do get king hit and you are badly damaged, you are helped by the New South Wales victims of crime legislation and I think that the Australian victims of overseas terrorism should get similar help.

It was a dumb analogy to use, and strays into the blame the victim area. It also in a sense suggests a similarity between an area with a warning about terrorism and Kings Cross at 2am.

Which I think even Abbott might realise is a bit of over-reach. 

But I can understand the point he was trying to make – namely that even if there had been travel warnings that does not mean they should be denied payment. But he made it in a poor way

I don’t think he deserves to be slapped too hard for it. The SMH and Guardian Australia have articles on it in which the father of Thomas Kelly who died after being king hit in Kings Cross says that Abbott’s comments were “throwaway” and “offensive”.

He won’t get much blowback for it. Had Rudd said it, the Tele would be firing up the Photoshop of course. The same rules don’t apply for Abbott.

But it would be nice if just once it was noted in a tabloid that Abbott’s campaign has hardly been gaffe free.


Oh look, forget the campaign. One great bit of news occurred today.

Today the Museum of Australian Democracy announced it had acquired the photo of Julia Gillard taken by 12 year old Sophie Deane.

Sophie has Down Syndrome and took the photo at the media event for the signing of the NDIS agreement between the Commonwealth and Victoria.

Julia Gillard and the museum · Museum of Australian Democracy at Old Parliament House

It was great shot, and an excellent move by the MoD.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Election 2013: Day 22 (or, I guess the mandate is written between the lines)

Over the weekend the Liberal Party launched their campaign and Kevin Rudd denied Julia Gillard had a mandate to introduces the carbon tax.

Let start with Kevin Rudd.

So there he was on Insiders, and Barrie Cassidy asks him a pretty softball question. The, why should we re-elect you question.Insiders - 25-08-2013- Prime Minister Kevin Rudd joins Insiders - Insiders - ABC

BARRIE CASSIDY: OK we'll turn our attention to the campaign now. Why do you say you deserve to be re-elected?

Whew. Time to flick the switch to auto pilot and bring out those great lines that shows just how great life under Labor will be for the next three years:

KEVIN RUDD: I'm the first one to admit at having returned to the prime ministership, in the past, the Government has got a number of things wrong. All governments do. I seek, however, to admit it. For example, I don't think our actions on the carbon tax were right. That's why I changed it and moved towards a floating price ...

Or you could just sh*t on your predecessor.

So Rudd is asked “Why do you say you deserve to be re-elected” and his first response is to say “the Government has got a number of things wrong”. 

Really? That’s your opening gambit?

Let’s at this point stop wondering why the ALP is paying about $10 to win the election. Even Cassidy was surprised:

BARRIE CASSIDY: What was wrong with that?

KEVIN RUDD: Well, to begin with we didn't have a mandate for it. And furthermore a floating price is the best response to changing international markets. So I have changed that.

Well gee, Kev. Top work. Well done agreeing to what Tony Abbott has been saying every days for the past 3 years.

Rudd once was a very good politician – an excellent one in fact. He spent all of 2007 toying with John Howard. Admittedly Howard’s best years were behind him, but that still took some doing. Best of all though was that he wasn’t political. He didn’t come across like a politician and thus he appeals to those who had had enough of the political class and all of its carefully focus-group prepared lines.

To watch Rudd now is dispiriting. He lacks any energy, or an ability to provide any reason for listening to him. He sounds like a politician – a boring one. At times he can be Warren Truss boring.

This was his response on ABC Radio this morning when asked about the LNP’s black hole of funding, and that while the Government's $70b figure is exaggerated Saul Eslake had found a $30b hole:

HOST: Saul Eslake has found $30 billion - that’s an independent assessment.

PM: Well, Mr Eslake’s figure looks at one element of it, which is, he says that that $30 billion relates to a number concerning certain categories, but I don’t wish to enter into a debate about which element is covered and which is not covered, what I’m saying is that Mr Abbott and – sorry, Mr Hockey’s and Mr Robb’s figures are $70 billion, and he could happily for your benefit, for all your listeners benefit, simply put out under the Charter of Budget Honesty, his full reconciliation table and his budget bottom line of what he’s going to cut, and what he’s going to spend. He refuses to do that.

It sounded as riveting as it reads.

Cripes. A barrel is rarely so full of fish to shoot.

How about laughing at the scenario? Here we have a situation where Saul Eslake is saying the Libs aren’t short $70b, but $30b.

Thirty Billion Dollars!

Who cares about the $70b line? Why not instead laugh and say “Well gee, 2 years ago it was $70b. It’s good they’ve done some work, now they’re only $30b short. Thirty billion dollars is more than the annual defence budget, it’s more than we spend each year on education, it’s almost the exact amount spent each year on family benefits. So yeah, they’re doing great, all Tony Abbott has to do is not spend anything on education and he’ll be set!”

Instead: “Mr Eslake’s figure looks at one element of it, which is, he says that that $30 billion relates to a number concerning certain categories, but I don’t wish to enter into a debate about which element is covered and which is not covered…”

It’s rare you see a long hop played so meekly back to the bowler. 


Election 2013- Labor and Kevin Rudd show slight gains in poll - politics live blog - as it happened - World news - theguardian.comIn his speech on Sunday Mr Abbott announced one policy that has some worth – the interest free loans for apprentices (I’ll be covering this in my Drum piece on Wednesday).

He also gave a sop to self-funded retirees, no doubt to overcome their annoyance at finding out that Abbott expects them to pick up part of the tab of his Paid Parental Leave scheme.

There were a few interesting lines though.


By the end of a Coalition government’s first term, the budget will be on-track to a believable surplus.

So much for the budget emergency.

If all that is wrong with the budget is the ALP’s waste, then cutting the waste should be damn easy to do. That Abbott is now putting off a return to surplus until at least 4 years time shows that there is not much easy fruit to pick. He might talk of $100,000 studies for ergonomic chairs, but if they really had something bigger they’d be able to name it.

Problem is Abbott isn’t actually trying to cut the budget during this election. He might be cutting some programs of the ALP, but he’s spending the savings. And if Saul Eslake is to be believed, he’s doing a bit more than that as well.

But just because he’s not all that boastful about getting  back to a surplus, don’t think that doesn’t mean he won’t cut. The budget emergency is still in his head, the problem for us is he won’t say how he is going to fix it until after the election. 

This was shown in the second interesting thing from the speech:

“… and the true state of Labor’s books will be revealed.”

Actually the true state of the books was revealed in the PEFO. Abbott is letting you know that Treasury figures will quickly be found to have some errors of assumptions etc and lo and behold there’ll be a black hole that requires urgent cuts.

He, like Campbell Newman, will do this through an audit. We know he’ll find a need for cuts because no one ever holds an audit just to discover that the Treasury figures were right all along.

It’s a good thing Abbott wants some natural attrition of the public service, because the way morale at Treasury will be with Hockey as its Minister, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s more than a few smart economists looking to jump into the private sector.

My favourite response today has been from Liberal Party supporters who see nothing wrong with this approach. They, of course, love the fact that Abbott is going to cut government spending, but they see nothing wrong with not telling us now what he is going to cut.

I also like how the many tabloid newspapers largely ignored this little snippet. I cannot wait for all the hacks to take to Twitter after the election whenever a semi-critical article on Tony Abbott is run. Look! We’re holding him to account! We’re not biased!!

(Excuse me while I bolt that door and observe the horses running away)

The third interesting line was this:

Within a decade, the budget surplus will be 1 per cent of GDP, defence spending will be 2 per cent of GDP, the private health insurance rebate will be fully restored, and each year, government will be a smaller percentage of our economy.

Yes boys and girls, we’ll have a surplus while also having increased defence spending, and less tax revenue.

Defence spending at the moment is at 1.53% of GDP. To get it to 2% in ten years would, The Australian reports, require it to grow “at an annual rate of 5.3 per cent plus inflation for 10 years, or more than double the current rate.”

Do the maths.

More defence spending plus less revenue does not equal a surplus unless a whole lot of something else in the budget is cut. And remember there’s a lot of new spending that will occur in that time for things like the full NDIS and proposed education reforms.

There’s a hell of a lot of holes there for a bloke talking about a “trust deficit”.


Today Kevin Rudd announced more funding for the setup of the “High Speed Rail Authority”. The $52m will go towards:

  • Finalise the track alignment and station locations in consultation with the governments of Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland and the ACT.

Excellent. Those three states always work well together.

  • Work with Infrastructure Australia to develop a detailed business case.

Good luck with that.

  • Conduct market testing to refine capital cost estimates, construction timetables and to identify opportunities for private sector involvement.

OK, look I am being very cynical. And it’s hard not to be when you’re talking getting the HSR done by 2035.

Rudd did have one nice line though when he stated that the cost of building this by 2035 would actually be less than the amount spent under Abbott’s Paid Parental Leave in the same period of time.

I like High Speed Rail. I like the idea of it. I’m just yet to be convinced there is a business case for it. And I think while voters do like big infrastructure projects – like the NBN – they’re less enamoured with ones they won’t be able to use for 20 years.


Tony Abbott late this afternoon went to the Gold Coast and announced he would:

Immediately suspend and review the flawed Management Plans for Marine Protected Areas imposed without fair or adequate consultation.

Now to suggest there was not fair or adequate consultation done by the Government before it imposed the latest Marine Protect Areas is complete horsesh*t consumed by a bull and excreted onto a pile of bollocks. 

Consultation for the development of the new marine reserves went from May 2011 to February 2012.

There were 245 meetings attended by 1,953 people.

There were 566,377 submissions. “The highest number of submissions (487,435) was received in response to the release of the Commonwealth marine reserve proposal for the Coral Sea Region”.

But most of those submissions were campaign ones – pro-forma stuff that gets tossed on the pile by the public servants.

Where I used to work we’d occasionally get a stack of “postcard campaigns” They were noted, and basically ignored. You really think mass sending a photocopy of a letter is going convince anyone?

(If you do, let me put you right – it doesn't, and you’re wasting you time. Write a real letter and it will get read and answered) 

So that left a still very sizeable 1,496 submissions that would have actually been read and considered.

Of those real submission 41% came from the general community, 27% were from the conservation sector, 10% from commercial fishing and 8% from recreational fishers.

And here is what the Government in response came up with

“Recreational fishing will be allowed in all zones in the marine reserves except in highly protected Marine National Park (IUCN II) zones which are coloured green on the available regional maps. Recreational fishing is permitted in Multiple Use (IUCN VI) zones, Special Purpose (IUCN VI) zones, Habitat Protection (IUCN IV) zones and Recreational Use (IUCN IV) zones. These zones are used extensively over the continental shelf and shelf edge where most recreational fishing occurs.

“The marine reserves are in Commonwealth waters, which start 3 nautical miles (5.5 km) from shore. They do not include beaches, bays, estuaries or coastal waters.”

(The white bits are where you can’t fish)”

map-national-recfishing.jpg (1200×723)

Then came the Management Plans for Marine Protected Areas. The consultation for them occurred in this manner:

Under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act), six draft management plans were released for public comment - the South-east Network draft plan in July 2012, followed by draft plans for the South-west, North-west, North and Temperate East Networks and the Coral Sea Reserve in January 2013.

How many submissions? Oh about 65,000.

These plans go for 10 years and set out how the reserves are to be managed. The management plan for the South-east Network came into effect on 1 July 2013 with the remaining five management plans coming into effect on 1 July 2014.

Tony Abbott today said that:

“There is almost none of us, almost none of us who hasn't dangled a line off a wharf, dangled a line off a tinnie, got an old rod out of the shed and cast out on a beach.”

He should have added “and none of that will change under the current Marine Parks Plane and so I won’t be pandering to a bunch of Liberal and National Party rusted on voters who drive around with “I Fish and I Vote” bumper stickers, by lying to them and say that they won’t be able to go fishing with their grandson anymore.”

But alas he didn’t.

Back in June Tony Burke in response to a question in Parliament noted a protest in Torquay. He said of the protest:

…. if you wanted to go from that rally to an area where you are not allowed to fish, you would have to go out, turn left, go across the Bass Strait and, after 460 kilometres, you would get to the first place where you could not fish, a place where the no-fishing zone was put in place in 2007 when the member for Wentworth was the minister for the environment.

The nearest restriction on recreational fishing was put in place by the Howard government when they were in charge.”

Rather oddly, Tony Abbott didn’t mention that today.


On the front page of today’s Australian there was a story about Noel Pearson saying constitutional change needed a conservative. He said this because "I've always been of the view that on this issue of (a) constitutional recognition referendum, Nixon’s got to go to China," Mr Pearson told The Australian.”

The Nixon went to China line is easily the dimmest analogy trotted out by political figures around the world. It is stupid when said in any country, but more than any other it is so when said by someone in Australia.

Because in Australia the conservatives didn’t go to China, Gough Whitlam did. And he went before Nixon.

The other reason the line is crap is because it gives conservatives a free pass and suggests they are the only ones capable of bringing the country together on contentious issues. It ignores that the main reason this is the case is because on most contentious issues the conservative side goes batsh*t insane when they are put forward by a progressive party.

If conservatives can’t be the ones bringing in some “reform” then they want to take the bat and ball and not just go home, but destroy the grandstand on the way out of the ground.

Take the price on carbon. So happy to campaign on it in 2007. But Rudd gets to bring it in? Why hell it’ll do nothing less than destroy the nation!

Pearson said, “The most conservative end of Australia, rural and regional Australia, needs to trust the change and only a highly conservative leader can carry a referendum.”

There is no reason that could not happen if it were introduced by the ALP. All it would need is the leader of the Liberal and National Parties to show leadership and not sulk in their usual way and let it be known that while they kind of support it, they don’t really care all that much and well maybe it would be better to wait for “evolutionary change” (ie change that I the conservative can take credit for).

Howard was able to bring in gun laws with full and complete support from the ALP and Kim Beazley. I have no doubt at all that were it Beazley who was PM at the time, the support from the LNP would have been decidedly muted.

And we would have been told Nixon’s got to go to China.

Grow up, I say.

Wages Breakout (or lack thereof) Graphs

My Guardian Post today is on the wages breakout claims by Eric Abetz.

I’m putting some graphs here because they couldn’t all fit in the post.











Saturday, August 24, 2013

Election 2013: Day 19 (or, the litmus test)

A very quick blog post today because last night I was moderating the Our Say Forum for candidate in the seat of Fraser and so didn’t have time to write a post yesterday, and today is Saturday so I pretty much tune out.

On Wednesday my Drum article had a go at Rudd for coming up with Seven Pillars that were more thought bubble than policy. Interestingly the past couple of days he has been nicely adding some weight baring strength to a couple of the pillars.

On the pillar of red-tape and making life easier for small business he has changed the rules for small business paying their PPL, increased the number of businesses able to access the “Small Business Superannuation Clearing House”, and most strikingly, yesterday he changed the rules for businesses on administering the GST.

The cost of this policy is a bit of an issue. David Bradbury saying: “The cost is small but unquantifiable across the forward estimates”, which is a bit interesting, shall we say. If that is the case it certainly does make you wonder why it has taken 12 years of the GST before someone decided to do it.

The Libs will no doubt adopt the policy ASAP.

So Rudd has being doing some good policy work. It’s stuff I think he should have done before the election, and it’s why I always thought he should go late. Going to the election when he did denied him a chance to do government type things that gave people the impression he was back in charge, hand on the tiller. 

Instead for most people looking back it feels like he became PM then called an election. Honestly, think to yourself. Can you remember anything he did between becoming PM and the the election?

He dumped the carbon tax, but not really. The legislation hasn’t gone through so it was actually an election promise, not a government decision.

All that was done was the school funding deals. But he went to the polls without getting QLD on board, so again there is the sense he was just getting enough states on board (ie Victoria) to mean Abbott had little space to run on it.

There wasn’t much of being a nice boring stable government in that time.

Ah well.


Yesterday Tony Abbott announced his latest version of his asylum seeker policy. The good thing about each new incarnation is they gets just that slightly bit more insane.

Yesterdays one involved announcing he would be increasing the AFP presence in Indonesia (not discussed with Indonesia) and to pay money to people in Indonesia to inform on people smugglers and a plan to buy boats from fishermen that were going to be sold to people smugglers.

I wrote about this aspect of the policy in The Guardian yesterday. Needless to say it is bat-f*cking crazy.

But the good thing is it is a litmus test. Tiser 4

People who still have their brains intact, heard this policy and laughed out loud. Those who didn’t can no longer to claim and sense of impartiality.

So what did the editor of The Daily Telegraph do? Well he stuck it on Page 8 with a positive headline. The editor of The Advertiser was dumb enough to put it on page one with a glowing headline.

At this point you have to wonder if they administer the Kool-Aid to such people in daily or weekly doses.

But look, if you are feeling bad about things, don’t worry, it could have been worse: you could have been one of the three people who contributed to this article:

The Dumbest Piece of Journalism in Australia


Actually it could be worse. You could have written this:

Tough guy Tony Abbott's secret is out -

It contains such paragraphs as:

“In the upper floor of the shelter he wanders through the crowd like it's his family barbecue, greeting everyone by name, touching shoulders and kissing cheeks.

“In a salmon jacket and killer black boots, Margie is not just a mere cosy accompaniment, but is equally engaged, both with punters and her man. She squeezes his hand; she cutely taps him on the bum. She cannot hide her affection for him.”

and it ends:

“Clearly, Tony Abbott is not here to be served, but to serve.”

But the best line of all is this:

His secret is out. When the cameras are long stashed in their bags, with no boom microphones floating above his receding hairline, and not a pesky journalist in sight, Tony Abbott, it appears, likes to indulge in a little humanity.

Indeed Andrew Carswell, there wasn’t one journalist in sight. 


At a certain point you move beyond parody and into insanity.

Coalition to police wage claims - The Australian

Seriously, Tony Abbott says this:

“I don't want to be too sanctimonious about this given the pressure she was under, but it is demeaning to our polity and dispiriting to our people when there is no assumption of good faith, no benefit of the doubt given. The Parliament always takes its cue from the prime minister.''

Actually Abbott, your party and its supporters also take its cue from you.

Here was two of his party in 2011:

after question time, Julia Gillard walked the corridors back to her office rather than cut across a courtyard as she usually does.

As she strolled past opposition MPs' offices, Christopher Pyne and Joe Hockey, like two schoolyard ne'er-do-wells, trailed about 10 paces behind, heckling. Hockey was bellowing the Engelbert Humperdinck lyrics: "Please release me, let me go, 'cause I don't love you any more …" Pyne, doing his best to affect a menacing gravitas, was taunting repeatedly: "You're drowning Julia, not waving, you're drowning.''

Tony Abbott now a couple week’s away form being PM wants everyone to pretend the past 3 years have not been the grubbiest sh*tfest from Abbott and his cohorts.

But hey, here’s some more examples of Julia Gillard demining our polity and dispiriting our people

What a pathetic “exclusive” from Mark Baker.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Election 2013: Day 18 (or, The moment I wake up, Before I put on my makeup…)

Today, the day after the second debate, the election campaign was a bit muted.

Maybe it was because there was a story that the make-up artist for the debate last night thought Rudd was rude (or at least not as polite as Abbott). Perhaps it is because after the AFL/Essendon story broke yesterday both sides know that no one in an AFL state is listening.

But there was some policy.

The ALP’s big move was to cut red tape. This is one of Kevin Rudd’s pillars of the economy, and so it was good to see him provide a bit of detail.

The main detail was it adopting the LNP policy with relation to the Paid Parental Leave being administered by Centrelink rather than small businesses (those with fewer than 20 employees) .

It’s a good move, and the LNP can rightly say the ALP is playing catch up. Given the cost is just $10.3m it’s actually quite surprising it wasn’t done this way from the start.

Kevin Rudd also announced measures to expand the free “Small Business Superannuation Clearing House” from businesses with less than 20 employees to less than 100.

The Clearing House is a free service that enables small businesses to pay their employees' superannuation to a single location in just one electronic transaction.

Again a good move, and again we’re talking just $4.8 m over four years.

So further evidence that the parties are not viewing this election as a spendathon.

It certainly wasn’t the type of policy that is going to stop anyone in the street. That doesn’t make it bad policy, it just means the LAP is doing a bit more a “look at all of the small things we have done” rather than going for the big wow of a policy.


The Liberal Party did a very odd thing, they provided us with a sighting of Peter Dutton.

It was to release their health policy. This was going to be a “cracker” of a policy Peter Dutton told Laura Tingle back in June.

And yet right up front Abbott was almost trying to play it down:

You'll notice when you look at our policy that it is a policy for significant incremental change. It's not a policy for shaking up a system which in broad terms works well. I don't say our health system is perfect. No system is perfect. Our health system is always a work in progress but by the standards of other countries, Australia does have an outstandingly good health system.

“significant incremental change”? Bit like say that you’re going to run a race slowly fast.

He then tried as bit of stand up:

I don't want to be too Party political just in this stage of the discussion but the current Government infamously has cut Medicare, it has cut hospital funding, it has tampered with the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme approval process, it has managed to alienate many of the professional groups in the system.

Good thing you don’t want to get too party political during an election campaign, you just want to say the ALP destroyed pretty much everything in the health system.

The policy announced was indeed :”incremental”. It was the type of policy you introduce when you don’t want to have to rely on Peter Dutton saying much. And indeed once he finished his spiel he wasn’t required to answer one question.

The big things were changes to the PBS way of doing things. But mostly this is about “resorting the independence”.

Also they announced:

  • Bring forward the proposed roll-out of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Programme;
  • Develop a new National Diabetes Strategy as well as provide $35 million to find a cure for Type One Diabetes;

Although the Diabetes strategy had already been released.

Then came the spending:

  • Strengthen primary care by providing $52.5 million to expand existing general practices for teaching and supervision and invest $119 million to double the practice incentive payment for teaching in general practice;
  • Provide 500 additional nursing and allied health scholarships for students and health professionals in areas of need as well as $40 million for 400 medical internships;

So how are they paying for it?

Well probably with this next bit:

  • Review the Medicare Locals structure to ensure that funding is being spent to support frontline services.


During his press conference Abbott said of Medicare Locals:

Now, can I say that absolutely no Medicare Local will close? I'm not going to say that, but I am giving an absolute commitment here today that the overall levels of health funding will be maintained. Overall levels of health funding will be maintained. We just want to ensure that we get the best possible bang for the buck that we want to maximise health services while minimising health bureaucracy.

Which is pretty clear that it means Medicare locals will be cut and they’ll point to the health scholarships and anything else slowly floating by as “overall health funding”.

No one ever calls for a review to do nothing.

And also you do a review to get the outcome you want.

Fact checkers might be right to say that the ALP’s claim that the Libs will cut Medicare locals is false because they have not said they will cut them. But cripes, journalism is about reading between the lines and seeing what is being said that they don’t want anyone to hear.

They’ve got to cut them because they need the money.

The other thing is the private health insurance rebate. They want to restore it. I guess because they think the above middle class deserve some more welfare – you know budget emergencies are always fixed by giving money to those who don’t need it…

To be hones though, Abbott seems more interested in suggesting he’ll restore the Medicare rebate to the way it was rather than actually doing it. The best he can give is:

QUESTION: Will to be your intention to restore it within a first term of an Abbott government?

TONY ABBOTT: I'm not making a commitment to do so at this time. I simply want to restore it as quickly as we can.

The main reason he can’t do it is that he is running out with money on the savings side of the ledger. Saul Eslake, who in my view is one of the best economists going around, estimates they’re currently $30 billion short.

Thirty billion.

Thus far Abbott and Hockey have been having it easy with the handouts, but they continue the delusion that announcing policy is just announcing how much you are going to spend.

Their strategy appears to be to release the bad news after the advertising blackout occurs in the last week.

If that is what happens every media organisation that once to retain any sense of worth should slaughter them for it.


On the front of The Oz today Eric Abetz revealed the Libs new IR policy, It is utterly insipid, but I’ll be writing about that for my next Guardian post, so I’ll leave it till then (yes, that’s called a tease)


And yet tonight despite the LNP releasing its health policy, the ABC’s 7:30 Report did not cover it, nor the red tape stuff from the ALP. Yes they had a debate on climate change policy, but nothing on today’s news.

Instead we were treated to a 5 minutes dullsville piece of how life is like on the press but following after Kevin Rudd.

Apparently next week we’ll get the lot following Abbot.

BREAKNG: The hours are long, they’re not told where they’re going.

End of story. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Election 2013: Day 17 (or, not quite a jocular conversation)

A very quick post tonight. I had a pretty hectic day delivering a speech on social media to public servants, which meant I was away from my desk for about 4 hours and I have a stack of other writing to get done (writing that people pay me to do!)

The debate at Brisbane tonight was very good. A real debate in fact.

Next week at Rooty Hill, Sky were planning to do another people’s forum like they had in 2010 – one leader at a time.

Rudd sensibly has said no to this. I bet Sky will get it changed to have the same format as tonight. The two leaders on the stage at the same time is not only a better debate, it’s much better TV. And you can bet Sky, Seven and Nine want better TV.

The moment of the debate that will get all the airtime will be Abbott saying “Does this guy ever shut up?”

Some will suggest that will be good for Abbott because people get bored by Rudd. And yes, they might, but people also expect their Prime Minister to have better manners than a primary school bully.

This could be Abbott’s version of the Latham handshake, because it feeds into the perception that already exists that Abbott is a bit of a brute – someone who is liable to snap if pushed a bit too hard.

Think back to 2004. Who do you picture saying “Does this guy ever shut up?” Howard or Latham?

This is the guy who wants to represent us at the G20. And he’s talking in a way you would tell off your son for doing were he to say that of someone within your earshot.

The other thing is that line absolutely slaughters the news.corp narrative that Rudd is angry

Another idiotic article

So who won the actual policy debate?

I thought Rudd was weak on Abbott's PPL other than asking where the costings are. As I’ve said, they really need to explain that it’s $5b a year spent on something that no one thinks will achieve anything that it is supposed to achieve. For mine, the line should be: “It’s not only unfair; it’s a waste of $5b”. It won’t lift productivity, it won’t lift participation. Spend money on things that work.

But as for the rest of the deabte? Well who cares? These things are a TV show, and Abbott gave everyone a grab to use and discuss. It’ll be he that is having to try and spin it into a positive tomorrow, not Rudd.


Of course I forget that we live in a country with News.corp excreting its view on to everyone (well the few old people who still buy papers)

The front page of the Courier Mail:

Dying paper dies slowly and miserably

At this point it is worth noting that in a one paper town, the latest newspaper circulation figures for the Courier Mail are this:

Brisbane’s Courier-Mail declined by 8.8% to 173,095 Monday to Friday

These newspapers editors think people like being shouted at. But then those who edit the Courier Mail, the Tele and Herald Sun would struggle to find another industry that allowed as many utter f*ck ups as they are allowed in their job.

Take this front page of the Courier Mail from a couple week’s ago:

CM Bullshit

A front page about players getting caught out cheating.

Only problem is they weren’t. No one was accusing them of tampering. The “hi-tech” was tape on a bat that has been done for decades, and there was no scandal, nor any suggestion by either team that cheating was occurring.

So a front page that contained not one accurate piece of information.

Had a doctor, lawyer, teacher, public servant, mechanic, engineer or builder  made an equivalent stuff up – ie getting the main thing you do completely wrong –  that person would be pondering how one stupid choice destroyed their career.

Not in newspaper journalism – pats on the back all round.

This is also the same newspaper which on its website on Wednesday had this story:

Party Games- Labor's campaign bus is careering out of control as the campaign hits the halfway mark - The Courier-Mail

The photo they used to convey the sense that Rudd is angry was, as Therese Rein tweeted, from a service at the Australian War Memorial. They are actually pictured here listening to the names of those who have died in Afghanistan being read out.

When this was drawn to the paper’s attention they removed the pic and placed this “editor’s note” at the bottom:

Pathetic Editor's Note by The Courier-Mail


It took a little bit longer for them to click that using a photo of Rudd and his wife at a War Memorial ceremony to essentially bash him was rather disrespectful towards those whose lives where being honoured that day, and to the many who view the AWM as one of the more sacred places in Australia.

It was the cheapest of cheap shots. And so they tried again and wrote this note:

Finally get round to apologising editor's note- The Courier-MailDid they purposefully use a photo from the War Memorial? I don’t think so. But they certainly did go searching for any pic they could find in the archives of him looking sad, despite Dennis Atkins’ article being about Rudd on Tuesday being angry.

So yeah, they were being malicious. Nothing in the original photo caption suggests the photo wasn’t taken the day before – the reader was led to believe it was.

The problem for the Courier Mail is using a photo from the War Memorial was more malicious than they intended to be and thus they were caught out.  

Either way, sh*t journalism, sh*t editorial work, and a sh*t initial response.

An 8% decline in a one paper town.

I can’t understand why…

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Election 2013: Day 16 (or, Frankly my dear, I don’t think they giver a damn)

Today was an odd one of the election. There were a couple new policies released, but it wasn’t much of a big deal.

It was such a bit of a nothing day that ABC’s 7:30 Report didn’t even get round to recapping the day’s events till after its expose on the Cronulla Sharks. Twitter - ellinghausen- Opposition Leader Tony Abbott ...

It was a day that reinforced that there’s not a lot of money going around. The old days of needing a policy in the billions to get the wow factor are gone. And so today we had Tony Abbott on the Great Ocean Road looking at potholes.

He was there to hand out $25 million over 5 years to help repair the road on the ocean that is so great.

Cripes. Back in 2004 or 2007 such a thing would have been lucky to make it onto a media release.

But when the budget is in an “emergency” you can’t very well go spending hand over fist.

Of course however the Liberal Party is handing out a a fair bit of money for one policy – it’s PPL. And for the third day is was the most talked about policy. And not in a :gee this thing is a great vote winner way.

Robert Gottliebsen picked up on the fact that for the Libs policy to be fully paid for by hitting not businesses, but shareholders. And not indirectly – but directly:

But then comes Tony and Joe’s sleight of hand attack on retirees. Many big corporate taxpayers, like banks, pay around three quarters of their profits out in dividends and there is constant pressure from retirees for companies to payout more, especially now interest rates on bank deposits have been reduced. Most dividends (but not all) are fully franked because they come out of tax paid profits.

So a superannuation fund obtains a franking credit equal to the tax paid by the company. Those franking credits are currently calculated at a tax rate of 30 cents in the dollar. When the Abbott-Hockey plan is introduced the franking credits will be calculated on the basis of 28.5 cent in the dollar. They are worth less and so the retirees and those saving to pay for retirement cop the bill because Abbott and Hockey have simply swapped a tax for a levy aiming to lower the franking credit.

In other words, while big businesses will end up paying an effective 30% tax rate, what is happening is they first get the cut to 28.5% then they get the levy to go back to 30%. But the franking credit will be calculated on the 28.5% rate not the 30%. And thus it is worth less.

Sweet eh?

The Liberal Party, who so loudly and boldly defend self-funded retirees, is now getting them to help pay for a paid parental leave scheme which they won’t get any possible benefit from and which is also a dud of a scheme because it won’t deliver the productivity benefits Abbott and Hockey claim it will.

Wow that’s great policy and outstanding politics!

Lenore Taylor in Guardian Australia went back to the Parliamentary Budget Office’s costings of the Greens’ PPL scheme. The Greens’ scheme cuts out at $100,000 rather than $150,00 but otherwise is much the same.

As Taylor writes:

The costings show that the Coalition’s decision not to allow shareholders to claim franking credits, which reduce their income tax bill, on the 1.5% levy reduces the cost of the scheme to the government by $3.2bn over the first four years. The saving amounts to about $1.6bn per year once the scheme is fully up and running.

Now back in May when the PBO’s costing of the Libs scheme were apparently leaked to the AFR the Lib’s rejected both the leaked costings and those by the Australia Institute

Senator Cormann also rejected calculations by The Australia Institute that suggest a Coalition government would have to double its planned levy on business from 1.5 per cent to 3 per cent to adequately fund the scheme, because 46 per cent of the extra company tax raised under the scheme as proposed would be lost in franking credits returned to shareholders.

It seems the reason why it might not be losing the franking credit is because they’re not going to be returned to shareholders.

Perhaps the best response the ALP can have is that of Joe Hockey back when interest rates were cut in May:

We express concerns for those people that rely on income from savings accounts. Let’s think about all of those people for the moment who are facing lower income from their savings – particularly self-funded retirees.

Today Tony Abbott, was shall we say, a tad effusive on the figures of how it was all going to be paid. Yesterday Joe Hockey in an interview with Neil Mitchell put the amount that the levy would cover from 50% to 60% to 70%. Today a journalist in the press gallery tried to get something a bit more narrow out of Tony Abbott:

QUESTION: Joe Hockey did have a stab yesterday at putting a figure on a share of the PPL would be covered by the levy. It ranged between 50 per cent and 70 per cent, but he did have a go at it. Can you have a go at it and tell us what the figure is and how concerned should you be that your Treasury spokesman can’t put a figure on it within a 20 per cent point range?

TONY ABBOTT: Well I saw the debate, or aspects of the debate last night, between Joe Hockey and the Treasurer and I think anyone watching the debate on Q&A last night would say that the stewardship of our nation’s finances will be in much better shape under Joe Hockey than under the Treasurer. Now, the fact is it’s been fully costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office. It is fully funded. It’s fully funded by the company levy, the levy on large companies, the discontinuation of the existing scheme and by ending double dipping. Now it is fully funded, fully costed, it’s a very important economic advance.

This was a whole day after Hockey’s flub. You would think they could come up with a better answer than that!

Do they care that they’re being hounded about the costing? It seems not at this point.

My feeling however – and it is mostly based on the attitude of the QANA audience last night to both Hockey and Bowen –  is that people are getting tired of the ”in good time” line.

This is Tony Abbott’s “signature policy”. This is the one he has had hanging around his neck the longest. It is his baby and he is either too embarrassed to explain how it is paid for, or he is too ignorant of the details. Take you pick. It ain’t good for him

In an election where big numbers are thin on the ground and the details of this policy are coming apart bit by bit, I expect to see this once again be a topic for questions tomorrow. Especially as state governments are involved so there’s plenty of places to get quotes of Premiers saying they’re not sure about it.

Importantly tomorrow night Rudd and Abbott are having their “people forum” debate in Brisbane. If Abbott hasn’t announced all the costings for it by then, expect Rudd to go in very hard. And given last night on QANDA the audience was frequently yelling out to both sides for “the numbers”, saying “It’s fully funded” won’t be enough, no matter how often he says it.


Kevin Rudd’s day started at a school in the electorate of Graeme Perrett (he who once vowed to resign if Rudd came back). He was fired up, but as Katharine Murhpy noted, it did remind one a bit of John Hewson in 1993.  Passion is great, but you don’t want to be seen shouting and leading a chorus too much; it starts to look desperate.

His big policy today was $250 million for medical research – $125m from the govt, $125m from the private sector. 

He announced:

The Government will contribute $125 million to be matched at least dollar for dollar by private sector investors, generating a total investment of $250 million, a major injection of investment capital into our emerging biotechnology sector.

In addition, Labor will implement around $70 million of investments and reforms as part of its initial response to the 2013 McKeon Review of Health and Medical Research.

This includes delivering $47.5 million in funding for 19 Centres for Research Excellence to encourage research in fields identified as national priorities.

This also includes establishing four new Centres that will focus on Indigenous health, national clinical trials, international health and genomics.

Kevin Rudd to unveil $125m fund for health and medical research - World news -

It comes off the back of the Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research, and geez policy is so much better when it actually comes after some actual research into what should be done. And because the $125m is an equity based investment – ie not a grant – it is in effect “off budget” – because there are expected returns from the investment.

Sound policy based on a report, coupled with $70m in announcement of things already funded by the government. That’s who you do policy during an election campaign when you;re the government.

The Libs have also used the so-called McKeon Review to come up with e medical research policy. Their policy is about streamlining funding grant processes, rather than giving more money. So it will be interesting to see if Peter Dutton pops up his head to respond in any meaningful way.

Thus far all I’ve seen is a comment. I wonder if he’ll ever get to stand next to Abbott in a press conference and answer some questions?

We wait.. and wait.. and wait… (ok let’s be honest, no one would ever really wait to hear Peter Dutton speak) 


Today Tony Abbott also announced he would change the name of Disability Care back to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Now I know some have suggest the current name is a bit demeaning, but I’ve never been too hung up about it.

But it is interesting that Kevin Rudd hasn’t campaigned on the NDIS at all. It has received a bit of a mention, but only in a list of things the ALP has done.

It is clearly Julia Gillard’s policy, but Rudd should be able to swallow the pride and run hard on it.


Bill Shorten turned up at the National Press Club for a debate on education. Only problem is Chris Pyne was a no show. Not a shock. But it was a blessing for anyone who had tuned in to watch.

I know Shorten gets some grief, and he was full of passion today (perhaps too full of passion) but I think when he leaves the factional argy bargy alone and talks policy he speaks well.l I still recall the speech he gave at the ALP National Conference in support on the NDIS that was as good as you’ll see in Australian politics.


A Liberal Party candidate in Greg Combet’s old seat was dumped after reports came out that he had run a web forum for of all things Mini Coopers, which had a lot of sexist, racist, jokes on it.

I realise because he ran it he has extra responsibility but I’m predicting this will not be the last time a candidate will be kicked off because of something he (it’ll most likely be a he) said on the internet. As Barrack Obama said to a of school kid who asked him what he could do to become President one day:

“I want everybody here to be careful about what you post on Facebook, because in the YouTube age whatever you do, it will be pulled up again later somewhere in your life. That’s number one.”


Monday, August 19, 2013

Election 2013: Day 15 (or, throwing the costings out with the bath water)

So the big splash for the Libs in the friendly SDT 1Sunday papers was all about babies. Well no, but that was the way it was spun. It was actually about Abbott’s 3 year old paid parental leave scheme. You have to love that a policy first announced in early 2010 is still able to badged up as an exclusive that deserves a front page massage.

I wish I had kept a copy of every front page story this policy has been given over the years. I’d say a minimum of four at least.

Oh well. Let’s be generous and say at least it is a policy.

Now firstly I written quite a bit about this policy – here, and here. Most recently on my Guardian blog.

So I’ll try not to repeat myself (Oh bugger it you know I will). And let’s see if we can focus on the positives.

I guess given they have had the thing hanging in the Liberal Party closet for so long now, I’m sure this time we have got all the costings to go with it? You know just to make sure that they have crossed all the i’s and dotted all the t’s.

And best of all we know we are going to see the costings because as Joe Hockey said on the weekend:

JOURNALIST: Are you still going to wait until that last week to release the costings to the public?

JOE HOCKEY: What we have said is - you don’t release policy costings before you release the policies.

So given this policy is now announced, we’re going to get to see it all!

The Coalition – Parliament of Australia

Hmm. Well that seems to be a no.

Look I know I am being a right pest about these costing. I should just trust Joe Hockey. After he also said this on the weekend:

JOE HOCKEY: Well we've been releasing the costings on individual policies along the way. And therefore you don't release, you don't release policies and costings before the appropriate time during the election.

I mean can I, can I say this Lyndal? Labor did not at the last election nor at this election has it released all of its costings. At the last election…

LYNDAL CURTIS: But don't you want to be better than Labor?

JOE HOCKEY: We are. And we are. That's exactly what we're doing. We have released the most comprehensive analysis of a political party's costings and policies ever. Ever.

Oh wait, sorry that was what he said back in 2010. You know back when their costings ended up being out by around $11 billion dollars.

My mistake.

Here’s what Hockey said on the weekend (when he announced that he had picked three people – Peter Shergold, Ian Scanlon and Geoff Carmody to “sign off” on his costings):

JOE HOCKEY: No, no, not at all. Not at all, not one second. Every number the government has produced for the last six years has been wrong, and having an independent verification process as well as using the Parliamentary Budget Office means that no Opposition has ever put more effort into ensuring that the numbers are correct.

Yeah. Show me them, and then we’ll talk. Till then you’re just an empty suit.

But we should be glad that at least their PPL policy document does give us a bit of detail.

In fact it gives us just enough detail to realise that the long said line that the PPL scheme will be covered by a “modest increase” in the company tax is a fib.

Right at the end under “Costings” we find: “The cost will be fully met by associated reductions in other outlays”.

I guess these associated reduction are a bit like “on road costs”: the salesperson doesn’t want to include them in the price of the car, or actually mention them, but you sure as heck will end up paying for them…

One of the other ways in which the cost of the policy is covered is from the state governments paying money to the Federal Government in the case of the state employee choosing to take the federal scheme rather than the state scheme. On this aspect the journalists at this morning’s press conference were pretty good:

QUESTION: Mr Abbott, just on paid parental leave, Mr Abbott, one of the savings measures that you’re counting is preventing state public service workers from double dipping, that of course has been costed by the PBO you say. What’s the value of that saving? You must be able to put a dollar figure on it? I mean how is it real? Don’t you need an agreement with the states to do that? Aren’t you just announcing something now and trying to finalise it later?

Excellent question, goes to the heart of it all. The Australian's David Crowe and Patricia Karvelas report that if the states don’t come to the party the costs could be short rather a sizeable sum.

So let’s see how Abbott goes giving us a “fair dinkum” response for his “fair dinkum” policy. 

TONY ABBOTT: Look, there are many things which are obviously subject to agreement, but sensible adult governments are normally able to get agreement and obviously the state premiers understand that if we are relieving them of some hundreds of millions of dollars of obligations that they’ve got, there ought to be a fair trade-off. The state premiers understand that and we’ve got some 18 months or so between an election should we win and the beginning of the policy and that is more than enough time for sensible adult governments to sit down and negotiate what are sensible win-win arrangements.

Tony Abbott might want to ask Julia Gillard how it went dealing with “sensible adult governments” to get health deals and schools funding deals done.

There was also a good question about the impact of franking credits on the amount of tax raised by the 1.5% tax increase to pay for part of the scheme.

And then one question that went right to the centre of the policy failure that is the Liberal Party’s scheme. 

It is supposed to improve productivity and participation. So one journalists asked Abbott to explain that:

QUESTION: Chris Richardson has said that your policy is unsustainable, the paid parental leave scheme policy, can you quantify how it will boost productivity?

TONY ABBOTT: Well, it is absolutely sustainable because it’s fully costed and fully funded. Our policy is the same broad policy as exits in most of the OECD countries right around the world, now why is it that it is sustainable there and  unsustainable here? I would respectively suggest to the learned economist in question that he go back and look at the Productivity Commission report that he read our policy and I am confident that fair minded observers looking at our policy will accept that it is good for our economy, as well as being good for our society.

Having read the report a few times now, I’ll spare you the chore and will quote the pertinent statements which refer to PPL scheme’s like the Liberal Party’s:

It would also entail support for high-earning women, who already have strong attachment to the labour force, often receive privately negotiated paid maternity leave, and usually have better access to resources to self-finance leave.

So it’s expensive and that expense is to paid cater to women who already have pretty good access to leave. Not sure that is what Abbott had in mind.

OK, what about the benefits?

Payment at a flat rate would mean that the labour supply effects would be greatest for lower income, less skilled women — precisely those who are most responsive to
wage subsidies and who are least likely to have privately negotiated paid parental leave.

Full replacement wages for highly educated, well paid women would be very costly for taxpayers and, given their high level of attachment to the labour force and a high level of private provision of paid parental leave, would have few incremental labour supply benefits.

Now again, that doesn’t strike me as the Productivity Commission giving the Liberal’s scheme a big thumbs up. But then, I’m not probably the most “fair minded observer”.

But we don’t need to take the Productivity Commission's word for it. Joe Hockey this morning

“It applies to the people most vulnerable, those who are pouring the coffees, collecting the cups, those who are involved in the day to day work that many people take for granted,” he said.

“Often women on lower incomes, this is the shot in the arm that gives them income security and job security on a scale we have never seen before.”

Exactly right – it is those on low incomes who benefit most from paid parental leave. The benefits of applying to those on higher incomes is well.. “few”. And the cost of that is, shall we say, “not few”

Laura Tingle in the AFR pretty well nailed it:

The Coalition’s paid parental leave scheme is policy so bad, so appalling – on both policy and political grounds – that in any reasonable contest, it should give Labor a fighting chance to get back in the election race.

Spot on. Unfortunately for ALP supporters she was spot on with her next paragraph as well:

Unfortunately for decent public policy, and for us as taxpayers, we cannot be confident, on the basis of Labor’s political form in the campaign so far, that it will be able to consign this piece of irresponsible, populist junk to the dustbin of history.

For mine, yes you can argue the regressive nature of it, where the government is giving people more money because they earn more, but the big deal for me has always been that it is a waste of money.

If there was any sense of equivalent benefits to be gained from the cost, then I could get on board. I could be convinced that the amount should be capped at the median wage, but the costs of the Libs current policy is so utterly detached from any benefits that it is absurd.

The Liberal Party in what is apparently a time of a budget emergency is spending $5b a year on a policy which won’t achieve what they say it will achieve!

$5b a year gone for no gain. Think up some things that could be spent on that a year, and there’s you advert.

Forget rich mothers and poor, this is a $5b productivity measure which won’t improve productivity.

That’s the advert. Leave the rich-poor fight out of this. No one rich or poor likes a government wasting money for no discernable benefit.


Speaking of wasting money, a big “scoop” today was that some $5 million in cheques from the government for the GFC stimulus payments that have been sent out this year. I use “scoop” advisedly because Shane Wright of the West Australian actually had the story back in July:

Four years after they were mailed out to save the economy, 47,000 stimulus cheques remain uncashed ready and waiting to be spent.

Figures obtained by The West Australian show there is about $39 million in cheques stuck on fridges, attached to pin boards or hiding in shoeboxes.

The Tax Office distributed 8.8 million payments totalling $7.7 billion in late 2008 and early 2009.

But, yeah “exclusive”. And of course the Liberal Party was all over it.

Now it might be nice if the Liberal Party could come up with a better way of administering the tax system, but just as if someone was owed a tax refund for that year and they had not received it, it would be sent out again – especially if that person was late in doing their taxes. (I’m sure I’m not the only person who knows someone who has not bothered putting a tax return in one year and then finally gets around to doing it a year or so later)

But ok, maybe the Government should have included in the legislation that the cheques needed to be cashed by a certain date, but I doubt the legality of that would fly as my understanding is government issued cheques don’t have a statute of limitations

But hey, there were $7.7billion worth of payments. And we’re talking $5 million. That’s about 0.065%. The Libs are setting the bar pretty bloody high for “waste”.

Look, it’s $5 million in “waste”. Fair enough the Liberal Party are all over it. But geez, I can’t wait till they find out about the $5 billion that one party is blowing for no good reason.


On other policy things today, the Libs went full Laura Norder in western Sydney. Always good when a Federal campaign turns state government like.

Meanwhile Kevin Rudd was announcing a policy in aged care and putting $20 million in to a program called Active Ageing and also $357 million on health, in which he talked about the Liberals policy to cut Medicare Locals. 

Actually it’s not the stated policy of the Liberal Party. That would require the Liberal Party to have a policy. At present it’s all a bit vague and involves reviews, and then the cut (probably).

Maybe at some point we will be deigned worthy enough to get some details, but I doubt it.


But look it could all be worse. You could be the journalist who wrote this story:

'Moon-faced' PM 'comfort eating' as the stress of the Federal Election campaign takes its toll -


Actually it could be even worse. You could be the journalist who wrote this story:

PM's Afghanistan visit cost total of $810,000 - Latests news and videos on the Australian Federal Election 2013 - Herald Sun

For f*cks sake. How pathetic.

I’ll go back and see all the criticism news.corp slapped on Tony Abbott for when he travelled to Afghanistan, you know like this one:

Tony Abbott pays surprise visit to Diggers in Afghanistan -

Was that necessary?

What about this one:

Abbott's close call in the hurt locker - The Australian

I mean for crying out loud, The Daily Tele has a gallery of photos of Abbott in Afghanistan:

Tony Abbott - Tony Abbott in Afghanistan - Photo Galleries and News Photos - News Pictures and Photos -

God I have such contempt for that news organisation.


Enough grumpiness. Enjoy: