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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

election issues « Previous | |Next »
February 26, 2004

John Quiggin's article in today's Australian Financial Review (subscription required, 26 02 04 p.70)) builds on this post in his weblog. He says that the forthcoming federal election (held in October) will probably be fought on domestic issues:

"Barring a big foreign-policy shock the question dominating the 2004 election will be whether any budget surplus accruing to the government should be returned in the forms of tax cuts or as higher spending on services such as health and education (there's a third option---keeping the surplus and paying off debt---but neither party seems likely to propose this)."

That is the right judgement at this stage about the sort of domestic issues.

The public strongly support spending on health and education according to the recent Newspoll survey and the surveys undertaken by Senator Meg Lees in SA. (See the SPENDING THE BUDGET SURPLUS post on her weblog).

These findings can only help to reinvigorate the ALP in its battle to get its hand on the levers of power. Hence the need for the Coalition to bring the poltical battle back to the economy.

But the implication is broader than this electoral bun fight. The findings suggest that there is more to policy life than the dry economics of balanced budgets, low interest rates, tax reform, competition policy and the efficient allocation of scarce resources.

The Australian ignores the Newspoll and argues in favour of using the budget surplus to fund tax cuts. By ignoring public opinion it is running a political campaign under the slogan of 'too much tax.' What is the politics here? Is the policy one of a flat tax of 30%? Is it a policy of stopping Australia from slipping into a welfare-state syndrome and preventing bludgers climbing aboard the welfare gravy train? Is it a policy of the government wastes money? Is the bogey looming welfare costs? Its about economics--not health or education. Murdock's Australian is fighting on behalf of Howard.

Sitting behind the health issue sits aged care, the aging of society and the rising costs of aged care.

Peter Costello's suggestion is to encourage older Australians to work part time, whilst being able to draw on their superannuation benefits. Sensible. But hardly the big fix for ageing.

Many older Australians (both blue and white collar) have been thrown on the scrap heap, and they find it very difficult to retrain and then obtain another job. You can only work on if you have, or can find a job. There's the little problem of ageism there. (Older people are unemployable).

Oh, another thing. Is there not a huge gap between what we save and what we need for retirement? More money is needed. That we workers need to save more is what Costello seems to be saying here.

But are not we taxed on money into superannuation, taxed on the money as it accummulates and taxed on the money when it goes out?

So the Costello message is that we citizens need to work longer and save more. That's a tough message when we are 64.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 2:20 PM | | Comments (0)