05 September 2016
by David Tyler
Scott Morrison’s war on the poor: version 2Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison Delivers the Bloomberg Address
Where does he get them from? Funny money man, Scott (Black Hole) Morrison, hilariously miscast as Federal Treasurer, is up to his tricks again this week in Sydney talking up recession, budget repair and telling Australians half of us are worthless parasites. It’s back to the future as ScoMo reprises Joe Hockey’s lifters and leaners. It worked so well for Joe.
Morrison’s data is old news, too. In 2014, The National Centre for Economic and Social Modelling (NATSEM) found that half of Australians pay no income tax. Scott Morrison’s had time to digest the trend but he’s feigning shock-horror as he belly-aches about a crisis.
His audience gasps when he pulls a trillion dollar black hole out of his back pocket. He waves it around, like a matador’s cape lest anyone get the idea he’s not serious. We are headed for recession. Gone also are our cute triple A ratings if we don’t knuckle down to budget repair.
Are we up for Budget Repair? One easy $6.5 billion down payment, he tells the crowd. One size fits all. ScoMo’s got legislation on standby, or in the pipeline or somewhere. All Omnibus Bill Shorten has to do is close his eyes, sign his credibility away and we’ll all be saved.
The crowd goes wild. With a few silly charts and digs at Labor’s class war on the rich and privileged, he could be back on the hustings; or replaying his government’s first display of budgetary incompetence. Say what you like about his ham acting, the man’s a natural crowd-pleaser and so versatile moving from utter buffoon to an effortless Pantalone.
A declining income tax take is one of the logical consequences of an ageing society. Morrison refuses to accept that. He’s equally clueless about how government can invest in key infrastructure to stimulate useful economic activity and build foundations for more. Austerity budgeting hastens recession. But there is an upside. He will sacrifice the bludgers to save the rest of the nation. What could possibly go wrong? Everybody loves blood sports.
‘We have to work together to find better and more innovative ways of delivering our services, particularly in areas such as health, welfare and education and human services that delivers for citizens and is affordable and sustainable.’
Note the deft use of innovative and the weasel words service delivery. No one boos. At an invitation only Bloomberg “summit” Thursday, he’s the darling of a fawning flock of fellow fiscal illiterates, bankers, miners and professional rent-seekers. Bloomberg’s infested with HR Nicholls’ fans. Everybody wants less tax and lower wages. They all enjoy a good war on the poor, too.
Jargon aside, the wild and wacky treasurer wants to cut government spending on pensions, schools and hospitals. He’s blind to any alternative. Nor can he see the economic folly of further cutting poor people’s spending power. You can’t have a pantomime without a villain.
He’s got some other funny throwaway lines too. A free trade deal with China is vital to our growth; he tells business types who will make millions just out of funding the shipping insurance. Bilateral trade agreements have never benefited Australian industry. Or workers.
It’s not all bad, though. Some ChAFTA elements may favour Australian winegrowers selling to China, for example. Yet other provisions permit Chinese entrepreneurs with as little as 15% investment in projects over $150 million to bring a totally Chinese workforce to Australia. How will this boost the job prospects, wages or conditions of Australian workers?
Morrison knows how to pick his mark. He’s got no beef with big businesses, a third of whom paid no tax in 2014. His government’s fetish for military expenditure, including $50 billion, at this stage on submarines or $24 billion on Tony Abbott’s joint strike fighters is not at issue.
Equally, the Coalition’s pledge to spend of 2% of GDP or a trillion dollars on defence over the next twenty years at the expense of foreign aid is a wise investment. Government must also subsidise private health insurance by $11 billion per year to give consumers choice.
So, too, $5 billion a year in subsidies must go to mining corporations to create wealth for everyone and not just boost Liberal Party funding. We must continue to spend billions of dollars on ports and railway lines. New mines “need to be competitive”.
Yet no-one could say the coalition is profligate with its business handouts. The half billion needed to keep a car manufacturing alive and 200, 000 Australians in work made no sense to Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott. Besides, car workers can retrain as venture capitalists and prosper in the new knowledge start-up industries sure to sweep Elizabeth and Geelong. Boutique home-office spaces will replace GMH plant at Melbourne’s Fisherman’s Bend.
Killing the car industry will not cause any family to seek welfare payments. Not one of the 200,000 unemployed car workers will be forced to sign on to Newstart. Unlike needy mining corporations, workers receive $38 per day, a pittance which has remained unchanged for twenty years, despite calls by groups such as ACOSS and even KPMG in April this year for an increase because it is not enough to keep a budgie alive.
Blowing a billion a year on offshore detention is OK? Morrison’s $55 million Cambodian Solution resettled four refugees, but has now dwindled to one. Not a word about any of this.
It’s not our banks or mining corporations. Nor is it the mega rich whom we subsidise with tax cuts or those billionaire bludgers who pay no tax at all. And it’s certainly not the $14 billion per year of unfunded company tax cuts his government is determined to put through. It’s the bludgers on welfare who are the problem.
Welfare recipients, nearly half of whom are aged pensioners, are second class citizens and if not he’ll do his best to make it so. A “great divide”, he adds helpfully, comes between us. Overlooking the GST paid by all of us and ignoring government data reflecting a long term trend away from welfare support, Morrison breaks the nation into two: the taxed and the taxed-not. If you’re not paying income tax you’re a worthless, shameful failure.
ScoMo knows all about failure. As Tourism Australia head, his 2006 “Where the bloody hell are you?” sledge campaign cost $180 million and got a lot of laughs but it failed to bring any more tourists to visit us. Morrison fell out with Tourism Minister Fran Bailey and was sacked. Naturally, this meant being paid out of his contract.
Today, many stellar underperformances later, the Treasurer is even further out of his depth as Federal Bean-Counter than he was waging war on the poor as Social Services Minister. Only the target hasn’t changed. Or the gallows humour.
ScoMo’s a crack-up with his solid gold “taxed and taxed nots” routine. It’s a fair segue from his Hockey’s toxic lifters and leaners. But there are further shocks in store. The other enemy is populism – it leads to evil protectionism and must be shunned unless it involves doubling the cost of submarines by preferring a local build to save Liberal seats in South Australia.
The crowd hiss and boo. Populism also leads to demands for Royal Commissions into banking. Everyone knows that ASIC is doing a fabulous job now despite being cut $120 million in 2016 and having half of this put back to take some of the sting out of Labor’s case.
True, Alan Fels has said it’s too cautious- but what would he know? Granted, Jeff Morris who blew the whistle on the banks’ dodgy financial advice says it’s “ludicrous” to claim ASIC is akin to an RC. So what if in May, Karen Chester found ASIC was defensive, inward looking and risk averse in her review of the Keystone Cop on the beat’s capability.
The Budget Repair routine is done so well that it now orthodox to suppose that the key to prosperity is to cut government spending and that if Labor was halfway serious it would as seek the “sensible middle ground” and capitulate to the government’s demands in a radical round of austerity budgeting and other zombie measures including cuts to business tax.
The Budget Repair bandwagon is built of neoliberal ideological myths and has at its core the populist misconception that a government’s budget is the same as a family budget. Unlike a family, however, it can never run out of money. It issues currency and it is in charge of the Reserve Bank and its accounting arrangements with it and not vice versa as economists such as Richard Denniss or Bill Mitchell, patiently explain.
If anything, public spending ‘crowds in’ private investment because the private sector leverages off public infrastructure – transport systems, better health and education etc.
We should borrow while rates are cheap to invest in infrastructure to promote growth.
Morrison tries to rationalise budget cuts by an emotive appeal to provide for his children. Seriously. What he needs to do is to explain how lowering standards of public services and boosting unemployment is good for anyone. He should also explain how his government’s dodgy Direct Action on climate change or its war on renewable energy industries which crippled 85% of investment and burnt our solar industry has helped create a safer or more sustainable future. Thousands of jobs have been lost. Hundreds of businesses have closed.
The Budget Repair Scare is a spectacular show however and its comeback tour is already playing to packed houses across the nation. Evil Bill Shorten will be a villain, it is certain, but for the real culprit of the trillion dollar black hole expect more demonising of the poor.
Threatening to steal some of the limelight and also back by popular demand, the NBN show is touring Canberra in a performance which entails Federal Police raids on documents and facilities normally protected by parliamentary privilege.
Whilst Labor’s Shadow Communications Minister Senator Conroy maintains that such raids strike at the heart of our democracy both in endangering the right of parliament to deal freely with information in the national interest, Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus expects all senators to uphold claims of parliamentary privilege over the documents which have been forwarded by NBN workers frustrated by cost blowouts and delays.
When asked on Sunday’s Insiders why, if everything was going so well, should it matter if the leaked documents came to light, an open-necked Prime Minister who may have thrown away his tie in quest of some casual spontaneity to boost his weakening public standing in opinion polls was tongue-tied.
In the end, his claim that the raid has no political links, if it can be taken at face, merely points up NBN’s desire to take revenge on its whistle-blowers. His claim, however, fails to explain how the AFP was given admission to Parliament without the consent of the Presiding Officers. Nor does it explain why the AFP claimed national security was at issue.
The Prime Minister was not asked why Parliament House staff, led by the Serjeant-At-Arms, tried to prevent journalists from seeing and filming the activities of the AFP officers in the basement area of Parliament House as reported by Bernard Keane and Josh Taylor in Crikey.
Labor claims the raids are illegal because the NBN is neither a public authority nor part of the Commonwealth and thus not bound by public service confidentiality protocols.
Regrettably before the 45th Parliament has even resumed, a shadow is cast upon our elected representatives’ capacity to go about their work without fear or favour, while for a second time, following an AFP raid on the homes of Labor staffers in May, a police raid has followed public criticism of the NBN, a project formerly the responsibility of the Prime Minister.
Ultimately the raids must be placed in the context of a government increasingly keen to pursue whistle-blowers over asylum-seeker conditions and treatment such as the leaked reports on the operations of the detention centre on Nauru. Such leaks reveal abuses of human rights and other miscarriages of justice including the suppression of information which it can be argued is truly in the national and public interest to be made known.