Australian politics, society & culture

Friday, 6th March 2015


The 2015 Intergenerational Report (IGR) all but ignores climate changesuperannuation and technological automation, which should be enough to render it meaningless. And that's mostly how it's being interpreted. Victoria Thieberger notes that its authors were asked to be "highly selective" – and partisan – in their analyses of Labor and Coalition policies. Even its delay, in breach of the Charter of Budget Honesty, is being interpreted cynically. Tim Colebatch laments this partisan bias, which in his view overwhelms what could otherwise be a significant story of the challenges associated with an ageing population that still expects to retire in their 60s. Even then, the IGR's version of the future isn't as bleak as Joe Hockey would have us believe: in 40 years, Australia will spend less on the aged pension than it does now (as a percentage of GDP). And despite Hockey and Christopher Pyne's rhetoric, spending on income support and education is also projected to fall – and that's without even taking into account the cuts proposed in the 2014 budget.

A "propaganda weapon" is how Ross Gittins describes the way Hockey is trying to use the IGR. Hockey and Tony Abbott have a story about the need to un-bloat the welfare state, in line with a "small government" ideology that blinkers them to the benefits of redistribution and social mobility. The facts don't support their story, so they try to engineer reports – the Commission of Audit was the first, the IGR is the latest – that selectively present facts that do. They're so defensive about their story that they're marching with long knives through the institutions of government: Alan Kohler confirms in The Australian that the prime minister's office has "decreed" that any Labor-appointed director of any government board is not to be re-appointed.

To most observers, the IGR is "a farcical proposition" that is more fiction than fact. John Quiggin concludes that the entire IGR project is "redundant" and should be abandoned: the central idea of the latest report, that budget deficits constitute "intergenerational theft", is dangerous nonsense, in part because debt is now very cheap and can be used to fund infrastructure and services that will yield returns much greater than interest repayment amounts. If there are long-term challenges associated with spending and revenue there are ways of responding to them without imposing austerity on the lowest income earners. The only analysts who are taking the 2015 report seriously are those who share Hockey's ideology. But Hockey hopes to use his latest weapon to bludgeon the Senate into submission for his second budget, due in May.

Russell Marks
Politicoz Editor

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Indonesian executions

Shalailah Medhora reports at Guardian Australia: "The executions of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan could be further delayed, but Indonesia’s president has said ‘no way’ to a prisoner swap offer."

ABC News reports: "Australia has lodged an official complaint to the Indonesian government over photos of the Denpasar police chief posing with condemned drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran."

Karlis Salna reports at The New Daily: "The Australian Federal Police will not bear responsibility if convicted drug smugglers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are executed, the agency’s top cop Andrew Colvin says."

Mark Skulley reports at The New Daily: "The AFP have unveiled a controversial push into ‘police-led diplomacy’ overseas, despite criticism of its role in the arrest of the Bali Nine almost a decade ago."

Victoria Craw and Debra Killalea report at "While the tragic case is dominating headlines, little is known about the fate of up to 12 other Australians who could be facing the death penalty around the world, the majority of whom are in South-East Asia on drug trafficking charges."

Cameron Muir's analysis at Inside Story: "Since an early criminologist made the case against capital punishment two and a half centuries ago, history has moved mainly in the direction of abolition."

Science held hostage

Catriona Jackson comments at Guardian Australia: "By linking higher education reforms to research funding, Christopher Pyne risks the closure of some of Australia’s most successful research centres."

Andrew Holmes and Alan Finkel comment in Fairfax: "Imagine if the Australian government said it would stop paying train drivers. There would be a public outcry as hundreds of thousands of commuters were left high and dry while the trains were left to gather dust and rust.  It's hard to think of anything more wasteful. This is exactly what is set to happen to science infrastructure in Australia."

All at sea

Sarah Whyte reports in Fairfax: "Fairfax understands that 10 red, blue and green wooden Vietnamese fishing boats have been bought by the Customs department from Dragon Industries Asia as ‘tow back’ boats in a multi-million dollar project. Having succeeded in ‘stopping the boats’, it appears the Abbott government has opted for a cheaper alternative to the orange lifeboats."

Claire Corbett's analysis at The Monthly: "Abbott’s pushing of a deal with Japan to supply Australia’s Future Submarine smacks of the kind of decision-making fatigue displayed by someone who agonises for half an hour in the morning over which shirt to wear and then buys an expensive car in the afternoon because of its many cup-holders."

Closing the gap?

Helen Davidson reports at Guardian Australia: "The peak body for Indigenous legal services – the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Legal Service – will shut its doors after being denied a portion of federal government funding under the Indigenous advancement strategy grants scheme."

Calla Wahlquist reports at Guardian Australia: "The Western Australian premier Colin Barnett has revealed details of a review of WA’s remote Aboriginal communities on the same day he declined to meet with Aboriginal leaders to discuss the threatened closure of those communities."

Amy McQuire comments at New Matilda: "When white feminists shine a light on violence against women, they do so knowing government won't make their situation worse. Black feminists don't enjoy that luxury."

Ricky Muir's maiden speech

Anna Henderson reports at ABC News: "Political novice Ricky Muir has delivered a confident and self-deprecating maiden speech, cementing his position as an advocate for the disadvantaged, taking a swipe at government policy and declaring he would be more comfortable addressing parliament in a pair of jeans."