Thursday, 1st May 2014

FRAMING THE BUDGET CRISIS

The federal government's Commission of Audit report will at last be released this afternoon. Dubbed Fightback Mk II by some in the Coalition (after the huge and politically unpalatable document John Hewson took to the "unloseable" 1993 election), the 900-page report is expected to recommend savings – such as raising the level of the GST – that the government has already ruled out.

In this sense the report is largely redundant. The government has had it for weeks and has already made its budget decisions. The report's main value to the government is in framing the national conversation on next month's budget. By rejecting the Commission's most savage recommendations, the government can expect to appear relatively moderate.

If this is the strategy, it's already working. Media reports are speculating on the Commission's recommendations, rather than, for instance, emphasising its terms of reference, which excluded the Commission from looking at Australia's tax concessions to wealthy superannuants and the fossil fuel industry, which the International Monetary Fund recommends cutting. Together, these cost taxpayers at least $45 billion every year.

It's very likely that instead of these concessions, the national conversation will continue to focus on why those who can least afford it – pensioners, low income earners and families – should tighten their belts in the national interest.

Russell Marks
Politicoz Editor

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Deficit tax tears at Tony Abbott's credibility

"Senior Liberals have described plans for a possible deficit tax in the budget as ‘electoral suicide’. Some talked of a party-room revolt and one warned the Prime Minister Tony Abbott would wear the broken promise as ‘a crown of thorns’ if the government decided to go through with it."

Also: Pretending a debt levy is not a tax grossly insults voters' intelligence (Lenore Taylor, The Guardian)

Cambodia agrees 'in principle' to resettle asylum seekers bound for Australia

"Human rights groups have condemned the Abbott government for seeking an agreement to send asylum seekers to Cambodia, one of South-East Asia's poorest countries, which has one of the worst human rights records in Asia."

Also: When concentration camps and democracy clash (John Keane, The Drum)

And: Government has no idea how many people accessed asylum seekers' details (Paul Farrell and Oliver Laughland, The Guardian)

 

 

Paid parental leave: Tony Abbott reduces threshold from $150,000 to $100,000

"The Prime Minister has backed down on the generosity of his signature paid parental leave scheme, dropping the maximum payment for six months from $75,000 to $50,000."

Also: Generosity of Abbott's paid parental leave scheme puts budget in jeopardy (Trisha Jha, The Guardian)

Abolishing renewable energy target offers short-term gain, long-term pain

"Abolishing the renewable energy target would deliver small reductions in household electricity bills for the next three years, but after that bills would soar, new modelling shows."

In the frontline of the war against boredom

"Bob Carr’s Diary of a Foreign Minister is many things. It is more than a catalogue of complaints about business-class travel and bad food. It is, in short, much more than the sum of the coverage from those sections of the Murdoch press that hounded Labor from office and can’t find a civil word to say about it."

Canberra to be cut to bone in audit report

"Tony Abbott's Commission of Audit has recommended massive cuts to the size of government, with whole agencies to be abolished, privatised, or devolved to the states, in what would be the biggest reworking of the federation ever undertaken."

Also: Government makes case for tax hikes as commission comes out for cutting (Lenore Taylor, The Guardian)

And: Experts put axe in Tony Abbott's hands (David Crowe, The Australian)

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