Monday, 18th August 2014

IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED...

Reboots are sometimes necessary, and sometimes they work. But it's difficult to see just how the Abbott government's "budget reboot", launched over the weekend, will be a resounding success. The opening act was Treasurer Joe Hockey's weird apology last Friday, during which he first apologised for others' reactions to his comments about poor people not driving, and then apologised for "the words coming out the way they did". But nobody had demanded an apology. If anything, critics wanted Hockey to acknowledge that his budget would, if passed, have a disproportionately detrimental effect on lower-income people already struggling with high fixed costs of living, and then to change his tune.

Instead, the Coalition's stars were wheeled out to perform a medley of its greatest hits, beginning with the assertion that the budget is necessary to fix Labor's "debt and deficit disaster". Andrew Robb even brought back the "sovereign risk" scare, first introduced by a disingenuous mining industry to warn that the Rudd government's mining super profits tax presented industry risk similar to that in countries marked by civil war and dictatorial coups. And this morning, Mathias Cormann confirmed that "an adjustment here and an adjustment there" – Abbott's new line, intended to raise expectations of further compromise – will not mean any significant change to a budget for which "there is no alternative".

There are alternatives, of course, especially if Hockey wants to usher in, as he says, "a more caring nation, a nation that has the capacity to help those most disadvantaged". But the Labor opposition won't commit to clawing back, for instance, some of the generous measures (negative gearing, tax concessions for corporations, trusts and superannuants) available to the wealthiest Australians, or some of the over-investment in certain infrastructure projects, so the national conversation hasn't gone there yet. Meanwhile, many in the Coalition remain worried that Hockey's claimed "charm offensive" – now more than a week old – is simply making a bad situation worse.

Russell Marks
Politicoz Editor

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Abbott's piss and wind power on renewable energy

"Irrespective of the Warburton review’s findings, the uncertainty Tony Abbott has created is killing the green energy sector." (Sophie Morris, The Saturday Paper)

Analysis: Renewable Energy Target cut would hit budget: modelling (Michelle Grattan, The Conversation)

Fact check: Joe Hockey's 'poor people' don't have cars, don't drive far claim misleading

"Census data and research from independent experts shows that people on lower incomes have enough cars and drive far enough to feel the impact of raising the fuel tax more than those on higher incomes." (ABC Fact Check)

Analysis: Tax overhaul could be ticket to success (Mike Steketee, The Drum)

Comments: It's not you, Mr Hockey, it's the budget (Ian Verrender, The Drum); Base politics (Paul Bongiorno, The Saturday Paper)

The degrees of unemployment: universities’ jobless

"Two-thirds of university graduates in some courses are failing to find a full-time job within four months of ­completing their course." (Tim Dodd, Australian Financial Review)

Also: Marked down: How one tough question skewed the NAPLAN results (Justine Ferrari, The Australian)

Advocates slam Coalition over refugee intake

"Australia will quarantine one-third of its humanitarian program for Iraqis and Syrians fleeing the violence of terror group Islamic State, but refugee advocates have condemned the government for reducing its refugee intake despite the growing crisis in the Middle East." (Ben Doherty, Fairfax)

Also: Abbott government beefs up staff for ‘Cambodian solution’ (Lindsay Murdoch, Fairfax); Clive Palmer calls for detention centres to close (ABC AM)

Scottish Independence: Australian PM Tony Abbott says 'no'

"He said that the ‘friends of justice, the friends of freedom’ would not like to see the break-up of the United Kingdom." (Zachary Davies Boren, The Independent)

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