The Dog’s Bollocks

Truth is like a dog’s bollocks – pretty obvious if you care to look.

Malcolm in a muddle IV – Budget Edition

trufflesLeader of the Opposition Malcolm Turnbull had an opportunity to score some political points on the Rudd Government’s 2009 Budget but decided to do a Nelson instead by announcing a tobaco tax policy stunt without consulting the Party room. Consequently, the media attention has been shifted from the Government to the Opposition, but not in a good way.

Bronwyn Bishop immediately declares that the tobacco tax is not a good idea. And it wasn’t a good idea, for it raised the contradiction in Turnbull’s stance of blocking the alcopop tax – a revenue-raising strategy that also discourages teenage binge drinking while reducing the cost on public health in the long term. Turnbull is offering a tax on the poor (the majority of tobacco users) to subsidise private health insurance for the wealthy. He then spent the day after his Budget Reply defending his tobacco tax, fending off questions about increasing tax on all alcohol products and his commitment to maintaining Medicare after suggesting that every Australian should have private health insurance! Way to put pressure on the Government Budget Big Spending!

On the other hand, maybe the whole thing was an elaborate strategy to enable Turnbull to back-flip on the alcopops tax and thus reduce the risk of a double dissolution, which no doubt has many back benchers gravely concerned for their parliamentary future. Brilliant! But it leaves the Opposition looking weak, divided, hypocritical and the electorate still confused about what they actually stand for.

Enter the cavalry! The only Liberal giving any idea what the Opposition stands for is former PM John Howard – Work Choices, a payroll tax holiday, more money to the States and less to individuals (well at least the non-wealthy ones). Well that’s cleared that up, then.

This is what happens when a party is internally divided and can’t come up with a policy platform – and ‘we would be tougher’ is not a policy – it’s an attitude that many interpret as screwing the less well off.

Well done Malcolm on a great week, and good luck with winning government in 2010!

The Force may not be with you.

Filed under: Economics, Howardians, Humour, Politics,

Malcolm – strong at the beginning but now gone soft

Fresh from her nomination to the list of Howardian Dead Wood, Bronwyn Bishop, has lashed out at her leader, Malcolm Turnbull. “Malcolm seems to have been strong at the beginning but now he has gone soft.”

Exposing the division within the Coalition over how confrontational the Opposition should be, she said that “quite clearly, people aren’t seeing us as sufficiently strong”.

Um… just saying ‘NO!’ all the time is not a sign of strength.

“I would normally not respond at all to anonymous nonsense but a lot of people have been saying that they are not sure what the Liberals stand for – that we have backed off on policies we believed in before,” Mrs Bishop said.

I think she’s on to something here. Other than a persistent belief that they were born-to-rule, what do the Liberals believe in? Where are the alternative policies? Could it be that they are so hopelessly internally divided that they don’t actually know what to believe in – being too busy maneuvering against each other to have time for policy development?

Once touted as a future Australian Margaret Thatcher, Bronwyn wants to bring back the old policies. Small problem with that – they got them soundly thrown out of office.

Now where’s that chainsaw?

Filed under: Howardians, Politics, ,

Malcolm in a muddle II

trufflesThe trouble Turnbull is having over asylum seekers is further evidence that the Libs are still in denial about losing power and still unable to cut away the shackles of the Howardian ideology. Trying to preserve Howard’s legacy, out of some deluded belief that the electorate will realise they made a mistake and return them to office, is NOT a winning strategy. Costello will face the same challenge, and he’s part of the problem, not the solution.

Ten years, I tells ya.

Filed under: Howardians, Politics,

Economic opportunity and the ETS

Spooner - The AgeMalcolm Turnbull gave a creditable performance on Lateline last night as he stabilised the Opposition’s hitherto shambolic stance on climate change and an emissions trading scheme. Turnbull has returned the Opposition to its policy stance enunciated during the death throes of the Howard government – with the caveat that they’d like to delay it another year.

Turnbull wholeheartedly endorses the need for an ETS, so the remaining quibbles concern when it should be introduced and the rate at which it kicks in once it’s started. 2012 is probably soon enough, according to Turnbull, who repeatedly reminded us that an ETS is ‘very complicated’. In other words, he is trying to buy time and concessions on behalf of the big emitters in the Australian economy. As I’ve said before, an ETS can’t be that difficult. As suggested on last night’s premiere of The Hollowmen, you can go the full policy monty in 18 months, so 2010 is definitely do-able.

The Opposition is ever keen to focus on the costs imposed by an ETS, as if there will only be negative impacts for the economy – ‘we don’t want to get too far ahead of the pack’. While details remain to seen, it is likely that the initial imposts for the individual will be in the order of a few hundred dollars a year – less than the impact of a tax cut foregone – which the electorate is largely prepared to wear, as long something is done. The biggest losers will be the extractive and fossil fuel industry Corporations, and even they will either be given generous concessions or pass the costs on to consumers wherever possible. It is this interest group that Malcolm is representing with the ‘hasten slowly’ warnings.

Yet this week’s G8 meeting gives symbolic encouragement to the notion of Global action on emission reduction. One likely outcome of the 2008 US Presidential election will be a commitment to a US ETS which will be legislated sooner rather than later, whomever wins. Last year the Global ETS market was worth about $64bn, according to the World Bank, more than doubling from $31bn in 2006. That value would soar to more than $3,000bn a year by 2020 if the US introduced carbon trading.

The world is moving closer to a global ETS. With the US on board, it will become increasingly difficult for India and China (who are both signatories to the Kyoto Agreement) not to do likewise, especially in the face of their customer economies imposing carbon tariffs on Chinese products.

So where does all this leave Australia? If there was the likelihood of a rapidly expanding global market for say, coal or iron ore, our businesses would be gearing up for it post haste, years in advance, in order to cash in on the boom. Yet the Opposition want us to drag our feet until we see what everyone else does first. At the least, there will be massive profit opportunities in the Carbon market for our market traders, but more significantly there will be a booming global market for carbon-neutral technologies (even ‘clean’ coal). Given our history of innovative invention – carbon-neutral technology is an ideal economic opportunity for Australian businesses to prosper, which might also go some way to ameliorating our worsening trade deficit.

That is the misfortune of all this dithering, dallying and delaying on behalf of the fossil industries. Australia is missing out on transformative opportunities presented by the inevitability of a global ETS. The sooner we get on with it, the better off we’ll be as a nation. We don’t hear the Liberals, the self-appointed proponents of business and the economy, talking about the opportunity costs involved in further delay.

But then again, we never were really that good at the entrepreneurial side of business – unless it involved digging stuff up, growing stuff or chopping stuff down and selling it the highest bidder with as little effort as possible. Value adding? Down-stream processing? What’s that??

Filed under: Big Picture, Economics, Environment, Politics, ,

Well that’s clear, then, Malcolm…

The AgeMalcolm Turnbull gave his first campaign pitch for the Liberal Leadership at the National Press Club in Canberra yesterday. Among his qualifications he included his experience with running big businesses and banks and understanding the needs of corporate Australia.

He explained that he doesn’t belief government has any business telling people how to spend their own money, so instead of wasting taxes on grand schemes (like national infrastructure projects in transport, communications and water management I presume) he’ll give it back to the people through tax cuts and they can make their own individual choices about transport infrastructure, health services, education and the like! How original!

Message to Malcolm… um, didn’t we just have 12 years of that already? And didn’t the Australian people throw you out of government six months ago, despite the good times a’booming, because they want solutions to public problems that 12 years of free market laisez-faire economic management hasn’t provided?

Well good luck with that! They’ll be gagging for it in two years time. Not.

Filed under: Economics, Politics, ,

Liberals abandoning Nelson – why bother?

ABC OnlineSenior Liberals are reportedly switching their allegiance from Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson to Malcolm Turnbull. Why bother? For the foreseeable future the Liberals will remain as useless as tits on a bull.

Nelson’s single digit approval rating is more a reflection of the low electoral standing of the post-Howardian Liberals in general than the qualities or performance of the man himself. The Conservative side of politics and its cultural warriors are still struggling to come to terms with their defeat after nearly 12 years in power. They are deluding themselves if they think all they need to do is have a credible leader and the electorate will come running back at the next election. The reality is rather different.

The daily ramblings of conservative commentators that Rudd is an insubstantial windbag concerned only with spin is symptomatic of their failure to appreciate the magnitude of their fall from grace. Rudd continues to enjoy a long post-election honeymoon because the electorate appreciate what he is doing. His gutsy performance over Tibet with the Chinese this week has left the conservatives speechless – something they would never have done in their wildest dreams. The electorate will be a long time forgiving the Howardians and their transgressions.

Spin and pragmatism or not, the electorate is responding to Rudd’s leadership on climate change, foreign policy, homelessness and countless other issues of public management so willfully ignored for more than a decade by the Howardians. There is simply nothing the Liberals can do but snipe ineffectually and irrelevantly from the sidelines, and it will remain so for some time to come. Since the Fraser years Australia tends to keep its federal government for at least a decade. The indications are that Rudd will be a capable manager of public affairs and a skillful diplomat – things which will only serve to remind the electorate of the brutal incompetence and sycophancy of the Howardian era and its pragmatism before principle, money before people philosophy.

It matters little who the leader of the opposition is. The Liberals will be in opposition for a decade or more. They may as well get used to it. I guess the upside of dumping Nelson is that Turnbull will never realise his ambition to be Prime Minister either. It’s way too early. Wait another term or two. May as leave it to Nelson. At least he has a pleasant personality and is good for a laugh.

Filed under: Howardians, Politics, , ,

The Dog’s Bollocks

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The Dog's Bollocks: "Bollocks" is one of my favourite words, and this is now one of my favourite blogs and I've only been reading it for five minutes. – John Surname

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