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

the politics of vengeful score-setting « Previous | |Next »
December 17, 2013

The basic defence of the Abbott Government by its friends is that it is suffering teething problems and that these need to be fixed because they are dogging the government. So Abbott needs to head off negative voter perceptions before they become entrenched and frame how the government is viewed. Various suggestions are then made by the friends of Abbot as to how the Coalition can best do this.

RoweDMYEF0.jpg David Rowe

This form of defence overlooks--ignores?--- the criticism that Abbott's 100 days suggests that the legacy the Abbott Government is currently building is not a visionary betterment of Australia. Rather it's more an ideological score-setting in a thoroughly vengeful vein. A good example of this is disallowing the Labor government's declaration of threatened ecological communities in the Murray Darling basin as endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.

As John Quiggin points out:

The problems of the basin have dogged state and federal governments since the early 1990s when the over-exploitation of water resources forced the imposition of a cap on extractions. Intended as a temporary measure, the cap is still in place and is not due to be removed until 2019. The [Labor Govts's] water minister Tony Burke managed to put together a management plan which secured the agreement of all the relevant state governments, and the grudging acquiescence of all the key stakeholders. The plan cost more than it should have, with a lot of money wasted on dubious water saving projects like Victoria’s Food Bowl Modernisation project, and returned less water to the environment than the scientific evidence suggested it should have.

Quiggin adds that despite its limitations, though, it seemed that the passage of the plan in 2012 represented that rarest of political achievements in Australia, the permanent solution of a longstanding policy problem:
After a political process which mostly involved concessions to irrigators, the (scientifically justified) declaration of the most sensitive parts of the Murray as endangered provided environmentalists with the security they needed that the plan would be implemented in a way that was consistent with sustainable management of the basin. With the change of government, this prospect has disappeared. As in so many other areas, the Abbott government may not know what it wants, but it knows it wants to tear down anything done by Labor.

The ideological score-setting is due to the Abbott Govt acting in the interests of its corporate backers---in the Murray-Darling case the irrigators, in others Big Mining and the fossil fuel industry. Their rhetoric of ‘green tape’ reduction, and their view of environmental policy as an enemy of economic growth, will result in a form of economic growth that causes substantial environmental damage and marked inequality.

The rhetoric of the politics of the vengeful score-setting results in the blame game. The clearest example of this is that Labor's profligate spending caused this economic crisis of debt and structural deficits, even though most of the budget deterioration was due to a softening economy, rather than Labor spending. No matter, its all Labor's fault---the rhetoric is to blame Labor for everything--- and savage budgets cuts --as suggested by the Commission of Audit--- are now necessary to overcome the crisis.

So big spending cuts are going to start in May to avert the looming disaster caused by Labor's failure to achieve a surplus due to its excessive spending and economic mismanagement.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:48 AM | | Comments (16)


Hockey has abandoned the federal government's commitment to achieve a budget surplus by 2016/17 arguing it would never have been achieved because spending under Labor was racing out of control. He refuses to admit that his budget update reflects changes made on his watch--over $10 billion has been added to the deficit by the Coalition.

Debts and deficits are only bad when Labor is responsible for them.

Yes, its true I think.. I stopped offat thelibrary yesterday and the Fin review, I think has someone offering up a an apology piece of the sort you descibe.
You and Professor Quiggin have to get past this notion of rational employ of resources. Clearly, all resources, including human ones ( what are humans, but "resources")exclusively exist to provide wealth and psychological security for vested interests and the rest of us are just robots.

During their period in opposition the Liberals depicted the environmental movement as an enemy of the economy and individual well-being. The antagonistic positioning was overt and deliberate.

The Coalition spin is that Australia is swimming in a sea of debt run up by Labor in its six years of disastrous mismanagement. This means that Australia has never been left so vulnerable to the winds of economic change that could blow our way at any time.

The Coalition spin is that government revenue is down---$37bn of the $68bn deterioration in the budget is due to the government reaping less in taxes----because of Labor's economic mismanagement, including reregulation of the labour market and the imposition of all sorts of red and green tape that have undermined economic performance.

Presumably it is also Labor's economic mismanagement that another $11.3bn is needed because because the Abbott Government will have to spend more on unemployment benefits and other payments as unemployment is forecast higher.

Getting the budget under control is the central task this Abbott Government was elected to perform. Now they are talking about being unable to get the budget into surplus for another decade.

Today's MYEFO is the Coalition's first budget statement.

Hockey's message in the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook report is that the budget doesn’t just need a nip and tuck, it needs some big structural changes to make long-term savings so we can live within our means.

The heavy lifting of deficit reduction will have to come from spending restraint rather than from a raft of new taxes,

Does that mean cutting to the bone? That all options are on the table?

The end of the mining boom means that in the absence of remedial action, Australia could be facing a decade of budget deficits given the slower economic growth.

So all of the nation’s problems are no longer the fault of Labor's carbon tax; or that Labor had trashed the economy. So Hockey trashes Labor’s economic management skills and stays silent on the Abbott Government’s spending measures (eg., Abbott's paid parental leave scheme) as well as reducing revenue by withdrawing the Rudd Government’s tax hikes.

Will the debt and deficit mantra so effectively made in opposition t come back to bite the Coalition in government?

Hockey's politics around the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook is have the worst possible forecasts in order to blame Labor for the mess he inherited.

He then sets a low bar to get over when reality turns out to be better than the looming disaster he 's forecast. Expect Hockey to conjure stronger growth and a better budget outcome than the worst-case scenario he's constructed.

"The Abbott Govt is acting in the interests of its corporate backers---in the Murray-Darling case the irrigators, in others Big Mining and the fossil fuel industry. "

I wonder when the Abbott Government starts to understand that the new mega coal projects, like the mine and port development planned for Queensland’s Galilee Basin, are economically and environmentally unsustainable.

The Galilee project was uneconomic because it is a high cost coal product in a low priced coal market with an uncertain future. Secondly, China’s lowered future coal consumption were likely to have significant consequences for Australian coal investments and could lead to stranded assets.

Several mining and infrastructure projects worldwide have been delayed, postponed or cancelled, as plummeting coal prices erode the projects’ net value and current perceptions of an oversupplied market.

Hockey is softening us up for a tough budgeting in May. If higher taxes have been ruled out and there will be lower govt revenue due to a worsening economy, then there will be cuts in government spending on welfare, education and health.

That means the working poor are likely to bear the most pain.

Hockey has a problem.

Revenues don’t cover outgoings. The numbers won’t improve much with time. This requires government to cut costs in ways they haven’t been cut for more than a decade.

They are hoping/wishing that economic growth will solve the budget’s structural problems. How are they going to do achieve that?

In the politics of austerity it is poor people's infrastructure, such as buses, light rail, rail upgrades and urban renewal that will be cut.

To me, the last two comments, Gustave's and Geoff's, encapsulate the whole debate and the world wide debate on things similar.
My take (again) is if there is such a crisis, why are not the rich leading by example?
Yes, I have earplugs in, to mute the ringing sound of hysterical laughter.

Hockey blames the previous Gillard Government for the budget blow out, and he is going to cut spending in his May budget to pay for his + Abbott's spending surge.

"No matter, its all Labor's fault---the rhetoric is to blame Labor for everything".

If everything is the ALP's fault according to Hockey and Abbott, then Labor is to blame for the Dutch Disease --- a boom in the natural resources sector causes the value of the country's currency to increase which in turn renders its manufacturing (and other non-natural resource exporting industries) less competitive.

It is hard to see how Gillard and Rudd possessed the capability to influence the growth of the Chinese economy as well as the worldwide demand for iron and its world price.

It's only naive fools who believe the spin by Hockey and Abbott. The Australian Government cannot shape or direct the world economy or Australia's terms of trade.