Tuesday, 7th October 2014

BAD ECONOMICS

There will be predictable reactions to Treasurer Joe Hockey's announcement that the government needs to scale back its budget surplus predictions because of global factors outside of his control. The Right will agree, and will continue to blame Labor for creating the "debt crisis" and for not agreeing to the Coalition's desired spending cuts. Progressives will point out that the government has abandoned revenue measures (like the carbon price and mining super-profits tax), and will want to hold Hockey to account for using the same arguments for a continued deficit that he rejected when Labor used them. 

Behind this political play is a deep disagreement about budgets, social security, taxation and the role of government itself. It's a disagreement that's often papered over by political parties in constant election-mode "me-tooism", and neither party seems willing – or competent – to engage voters on the fundamentals of their political and economic philosophies. The problem is more acute for Labor. As the Chifley Research Centre's Michael Cooney points out, its lionising of the Hawke-Keating government and its "microeconomic reform" precludes it from responding to today's challenges.

The most immediate of those challenges is an extraordinary right-wing shift in the social contract that the Coalition is trying – and mostly failing – to engineer, against, it seems, the values of the bulk of Australians. Labor has struggled to articulate an effective response beyond "No", perhaps because the Coalition's policies look from some angles like extensions of the Hawke-Keating microeconomic reform. But the Coalition's economic policy is built on the theoretical assumptions which economist Steve Keen argues have kept Europe in deep and sustained crisis.

Russell Marks
Politicoz Editor

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Who needs experts when you have Wikipedia?

Fairfax has uncovered documents through an FOI request which show that Environment Minister Greg Hunt had to ignore Bureau of Meteorology briefings and rely on Wikipedia to back Prime Minister Tony Abbott's denial of the link between climate change and the 2013 NSW bushfires.

Meanwhile, the Australian is reporting that "government figures" are increasingly hopeful for a deal with Labor on the Renewable Energy Target.

Don't mention the problem of air strikes alone

As Tony Abbott rules out raising taxes to pay for military action whose expense is impossible to predict (Fairfax), the IPA's Chris Berg makes an economically rationalist argument against it in the Drum.

And Islamic State operatives appear to be "adapting" to the Australian plan to take them out via air strikes, according to David Johnston, by "hiding in populated areas" (Australian). Many experts predicted this. The question is whether the government ever really believed that air strikes alone would be enough to accomplish whatever success might look like.

Compensation for Stolen Generations, and a warning about welfare cards

If the Labor Government votes in favour of an Opposition-sponsored bill which passed the South Australian Upper House with Greens and Family First support, SA will become the second state to set up statutory compensation scheme for members of the Stolen Generations (Australian).

And Fred Chaney, former Minister for Aboriginal Affairs in the Fraser government and this year's Senior Australian of the Year, has cautioned the government about the Forrest Review's recommendation for a cashless welfare card (ABC News).

States of the nation

Ahead of the November election, Victorian Labor has promised to spend big on job creation (Australian), and the Guardian is running a book extract urging a proper discussion of Victorian public transport.

Unable to get the Daily Telegraph to print her responses to their allegations of waste and mismanagement, Sydney Lord Mayor Clover Moore has turned her own website, says Crikey.

And the AFR reports (in a paywalled article) that the Liberal National Party is "under pressure to reveal a succession plan" if Campbell Newman loses his own seat.

Julie Bishop: Right woman, wrong time

In the Drum, Paula Matthewson has a timely comment on Julie Bishop, her prospects for the leadership of the Liberal Party, and the "sexism that dwells in pockets of the community and media".

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