Soft corruption

The 2014 budget is a corrupt document.

A few words about corruption are necessary. Much has been said about potential conflicts of interest and corruption on the part of Tony Abbott with regards to his daughters. Some have intimated that Tony Abbott was bought and paid for with a scholarship for Frances to the Whitehouse Institute of Design. It is important to be clear that it is unlikely that there is malfeasance or corruption (as legally defined) in either the scholarship for Frances Abbott, or the appointment of Louise Abbott to a plum post in Geneva.

In the case of Frances Abbott, it appears that the Whitehouse Institute sought her out, courted her for a position, and sealed the deal with the scholarship. This happened during Labor’s term in office when Tony Abbott was Opposition Leader. There has been an indication that having Frances Abbott associated with the college might be good for its profile, although I find this unconvincing; but having Frances Abbott associated with the college has certainly proved good for its budget and its future. The budget has, for the first time, allocated government funds to private educational institutes such as Whitehouse, which will be of direct financial benefit to the Institute. Nevertheless, I am not claiming that this is a quid pro quo for favours given to Tony Abbott’s daughter.

It doesn’t have to be.

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Solving the real problems

We have a budget problem.

It’s not a budget emergency. Everyone agrees about that… at least, everyone who understands about national finance and economics, which is unfortunately only a minority of the voting public, and none of the current Coalition government to hear them tell it.

By current standards, by any measures you care to name, Australia is currently doing very well compared to every other nation in the G20. Taking all of the various factors together, it’s impossible to deny that Australia is in the best economic state in the world.

The justification for immediate, sweeping, deep cuts to government expenditure is looking pretty shaky.

With that said, it is prudent for us to realise that Australia does face some severe fiscal challenges in the coming decades. Some of these are the result of demographics. Some are historical, and some are being wilfully ignored or exacerbated by the Coalition government’s policies.

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What do we do instead?

So it’s over; the Coalition has triumphed in the contest of ideas and will (eventually, one hopes) form a government.

Tony Abott has been described as the most effective opposition leader in a generation. This may or may not be accurate, but it cannot be argued that he has achieved his goals with a combination of balls-to-the-wall confrontation and maintaining a small target on his weakest points. The question now becomes what kind of a Prime Minister he will make, and what his collection of Howard-era ministers will do now they’ve reached power in 21st century.

The first thing we need to understand is that what the Coalition government will do, now it’s in power, is not what they said they would do while they were in opposition. Continue reading

Worse than disrespect

On the face of it, Joe Hockey’s statement that talking about things like “costings” in this election campaign will bore everyone to death seems like run-of-the-mill disrespect for the electorate. After all, we’re in week two of an official election campaign, and spin and mistruths are par for the course regardless of your poison of choice. (Actually, this is not quite true: I cannot find any examples of egregious mistruth or deliberate spin in any statements by the Australian Greens. This may simply reflect that they have such a low proportion of the media coverage.) Continue reading