Wednesday, 23rd April 2014


Today's announcement by the federal government that it is prepared to go ahead with the biggest single defence purchase in the country's history comes surely as a surprise to those who took seriously Joe Hockey's dire warnings from opposition of a "budget emergency".

As Hockey continues to prepare Australians for a tough budget, the government continues to announce new spending: the 58 fighter jets come on top of Direct Action, disability insurance, Gonski school funding and paid parental leave. Yet the carbon price and mining super-profits tax are to go, and Tony Abbott has promised to reduce company tax by 1.5 per cent.

Is there a "budget emergency" or isn't there? Greg Jericho makes a strong case for "no". Certainly the messages are mixed. Australians are entitled to know what's going on.

Bill Shorten is beginning to run the line that the government is one "of lobbyists, for lobbyists", though of course Labor is hardly immune to such rhetoric. Despite Abbott's intention to get tough on lobbying in the wake of Barry O'Farrell's resignation, it's increasingly difficult to ignore the observation that many of the government's policies align with the wishes of powerful interests. The defence lobby wants the Joint Strike Fighters; the private health insurers want the $6 GP co-payment; the fossil fuel industry doesn't want a carbon price.

Of course, others want these policies too (and the Rudd government was the first to approve the Joint Strike Fighter program), but after events in NSW last week the government must work against a perception that it governs in anything other than the public interest.

Russell Marks
Politicoz Editor

Sign up to get Politicoz delivered
to your email address every weekday at lunch time.

Palmer United open to the idea of a $6 co-payment for GP visit

"After softening up the electorate for months on the idea, the government looks set to introduce $6 co-payments in place of bulk billing in next month’s budget... though a spokesman for the health minister, Peter Dutton, said he would not comment on budget speculation."

Also: Six dollar co-payment to see a doctor: a GP’s view (Dr Brett Montgomery, The Conversation)

And: Medicare Locals likely to face the axe in May budget, health executives warn (Sophie Scott and Alison Branley, ABC News)

Bill Shorten's sweeping Labor reform plan to reduce union influence

"Relying on what he will call 'my mandate as the first member-elected leader of the Australian Labor Party', his radical plan involves the most significant cultural shift in Labor internal structures in decades including an end to Labor's longstanding requirement on prospective members that they be members of a relevant union."

Also: Email shows Julia Gillard was worried about Labor's chances under Kevin Rudd (Troy Bramston, The Australian)

New footage shows PNG nationals attacked asylum seekers on Manus Island before Reza Barati's death

"The footage, obtained by Fairfax Media, shows the security guards attacking a group of asylum seekers who had absconded from the centre after being told they had no prospect of being settled outside PNG if their claims for refugee status were eventually recognised."

More than a fraction too much faction

"Just who helped in O’Farrell’s demise is yet to be revealed, and it is unlikely he acted alone in destroying his premiership. The factions, especially the right, have become skilled assassins, and the ugly story of John Brogden’s political demise in 2005 attests to the lengths to which the tribes will go to destroy an enemy."

Also: The O'Farrell legacy (David Clune, Inside Story)

Joint Strike Fighters: Government to spend $12 billion on 58 more next-generation F-35s

"The $12.4 billion price tag makes the Joint Strike Fighters Australia's most expensive Defence asset. The Government says it will also consider the option of buying another squadron of the next-generation fighter jets to eventually replace the RAAF'S F/A-18 Super Hornets."

Coalition banks on blind faith in budget 'fix'

"Among all the talk in the run-up to the budget, the overriding narrative has been that 'fixing' the budget is required to fix the economy. It's a narrative the Government hopes you take on faith rather than on evidence."

Also: Hockey to give firm date on Audit Commission unveiling (Michelle Grattan, The Conversation)

And: Tony Abbott's chief business adviser Maurice Newman backs GP visit fee and denies that climate change is man-made (Dan Harrison, Sydney Morning Herald

See Maurice Newman's interview on the ABC's Lateline. And see also the Grattan Institute's argument against Medicare co-payments.