Passing Bull 106 – Bull about the budget

Last week, the French elected a president who said that the old Left/Right divide was bullshit.  Then the Australian government announced a budget that said that the old Labor/Liberal divide was bullshit.  The parties in government finally worked out the punishing the banks would make them less unpopular – that is, would lose them less votes – than punishing the poor, the sick, or the aged.  (Although the government gave the poor a spray for the sake of old times.)

This was all too much for the usual suspects at The Australian.  Common sense could put the Liberal flops, Labor rats, and IPA clowns out of business.

If you can bring yourself to read some of it, you might think that you are reading about what the Masons are doing in their Lodge, or what churchgoers are doing in their parish.  It is frighteningly tribal and predictable.  Out come the same old labels and war cries – the Green Left, polls, populism, and the political class.

We will just have to scrap the word ‘populist’.  In a democracy you win government by appealing to the people and becoming popular.  You lose government when you don’t appeal to the people and you become unpopular.  It’s a bit rich for journalists who live on polls and rumours of coups – and who promote both – to accuse politicians of being populists without principles.  It’s even richer to accuse them of moving on from their Liberal past.  It’s not just that the world has moved on, or that Bob Menzies gets cited to support any political position short of Communism – no, it’s that the other Liberal leader they invoke – Little Johnnie Howard – was the greatest disponor of political patronage in the form of middle class welfare in the short history of this nation.  He could have given Walpole, the first British Prime Minister, and the Duke of Newcastle a real run for their money in buying votes from a venal populace.

Leap to the Left and a nasty new battle

Paul Kelly

This week may go down in history as a turning point in Australian politics

Australia is undergoing a decisive change in its political values — Malcolm Turnbull has reinvented his government as a pragmatic, populist, public investment vehicle and Bill Shorten in reply has taken Labor even further to the populist, ideological left.

The edifices of Australia’s aspirational politics and market-based reforms are being torched in an end-of-generation bonfire. Occasionally in a nation’s history you can identify a point of transformation and it is likely that this week is such a marker.

Politics is now a contest about the nature of tax increases, the scope of monumental social spending initiatives and the type of government intervention. Australia is becoming yet another Western-world laboratory for the antimarket, populist revolution fuelled by resentment towards finance and corporates, the breakdown of the social contract, big-spending social democratic reforms and a drumbeat for redistribution and equality.

All eyes will be on the next Newspoll

Dennis Shanahan

The PM and Treasurer will soon find out whether their gamble has paid off

Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison can’t take the credit for producing such a “very political document” — as John Howard described the budget — and for dumping traditional Liberal principles without taking the responsibility if it doesn’t work.

Bill Shorten has called for them and the government to be dumped if the banks “pass on a single dollar of this tax to Australian families”, which seems harsh given he has backed the $6.2 billion levy and trousered the receipts already. But the essence of the Opposition Leader’s demand is legitimate.

The Prime Minister and the Treasurer in the 2017 budget have broken with decades of Liberal Party principles and economic precepts. They have gambled all on this budget because they knew they were in deep trouble.

Underlying principles, longterm outlooks for reducing debt, and savings measures have all been abandoned or sidelined.

There is no doubt the Coalition’s aim is to get the Newspoll two-party preferred figure back to at least 50-50 as soon as possible, hopefully with an immediate improvement on the existing 52-48 per cent in Labor’s favour.

This is Turnbull’s last opportunity; if there is no improvement in government fortunes, speculation about leadership change will return with a vengeance.

Ignore grandchildren’s peril, does anyone care?

Chris Kenny

Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison clearly have shifted to the green left

As George Orwell noted, the quickest way of ending a war is to lose it. Our political class has surrendered on fiscal repair, ending the war against debt and deficits.

Our politicians, en masse, have shown they are not up to the task. After milling around like a mob of bewildered sheep for a decade, they have trundled off along the path of least resistance……

Every indulgence we have allowed ourselves under a string of deficit budgets has been rung up as debt for future taxpayers. We have given ourselves paid parental leave, expanded childcare, school halls, pink batts, extra funds for all schools, a National Disability Insurance Scheme, more public servants, renewable energy projects, an expanded public broadcaster and goodies from stadiums to virtue-signalling overseas junkets; but we have not paid for them…..

After delivering a budget that Wayne Swan would have been proud of (extra spending, increased taxation, nods to fairness and significant infrastructure investment) Scott Morrison delivered the traditional address to the National Press Club. It is worth unpicking an important section of the speech: “Australians are tired of the politics. They want the politicians they elect to get things done. That’s what matters. Not the ideology and the politics and the personalities and all the things so many people in this place focus on endlessly. But outside of here (Parliament House) they don’t. They want to know what we’re doing here to get things done for them and increasingly that means in this parliament, wherever we can, meet in the middle to make sure that happens.

“That means many of us have to move from positions we’ve been holding previously. We have to. Otherwise we all just run around this building making excuses as to why nothing has happened, and that won’t cut it in this new reality of Australian politics.”

This is a positive spin on what the government will claim as a new pragmatism. But it means the Coalition is presenting only policies that are acceptable to Labor and the Greens. This is a shift, but not to the centre. It is a shift to the green left. Rather than produce a centrist consensus, it triggered The Rocky Horror Picture Show response from Bill Shorten: just a jump to the left. This is the main hope for the Coalition; that Labor puts itself way out on a leftist time warp. Labor and the Greens like the bank levy. Shorten’s only quibble with the Medicare levy is to limit it to the top two tax brackets. Labor welcomes the government’s Gonski funding but wants to go $22bn further while mocking and blocking corporate tax cuts.

We remain sickened by the stale banal hypocrisy of it all.  In truth, it is as hard to distil traditional Liberal Values as it is traditional Labor values – especially when you look at politically and intellectually amorphous types like Little Johnnie Howard or Little Bill Shorten.  They could swap platforms, and not know the difference.

And then the feu de joie.  The rival papers had blaring headlines yesterday about the polls.  With completely contrasted results.  And then – may God have mercy on their souls – Tony and Peta separately warned us that government based on polling is bad.  Even by our standards, that is very rarefied bullshit.

Confucius says:

When a man is not influenced by slanders which are assiduously repeated or by complaints for which he feels a direct sympathy, he can be said to be wise.  He can at the same time be said to be far-sighted.

Analects 12.6.

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