We’ve all heard the 19th century poem about the man on the stair that wasn’t there.
Yesterday, upon the stair,
I met a man who wasn’t there.
He wasn’t there again today,
I wish, I wish he’d go away…
This seems to be the underlying philosophy of Labor’s budget measures. Savings determined on the basis of money that doesn’t exist and was never there.
Nick Cater threads the needle in today’s Australian.
“.. Savings” in the lexicon of modern Labor includes raising taxes and declining to pass on tax cuts, even those it once supported. They are savings in the sense that when the government spends our money, it is saving us the bother of having to spend it ourselves. They are savings because they save the political class from making necessary decisions.
Like George Orwell’s Winston Smith adjusting figures from the Ministry of Plenty, this no longer seems like forgery but “merely the substitution of one piece of nonsense for another”.
Bill Shorten took the fiscal parody further on Thursday when he boasted of the $49bn “budget improvement” Labor would make by not reducing company tax. But since Labor will use this money to outbid the Coalition on education and health, there will be no improvement to the fiscal bottom line. Could this be the same Bill Shorten who less than a year ago called for a bipartisan company tax reduction to 25 per cent? Could his Treasury spokesman be the same Chris Bowen who wrote the book Hearts and Minds arguing “it’s a Labor thing to have the ambition of reducing company tax, because it promotes investment, creates jobs and drives growth”?
Labor has other plans, saying that it will “invest in schools … invest in hospitals … invest in families”. The use of the word “invest” is intentionally misleading. Spending more on government services produces no asset and delivers a diminishing return on human capital.
It becomes an annual drain on resources that must be replenished with higher taxes or increased borrowing.
Credit where credit is due. It takes a particular skill to cloak this ill-conceived economic policy in the language of respectability and then convince three-quarters of the Canberra press gallery that you’re not spouting nonsense. An experienced Fairfax commentator speaking on Sky News insisted there was little substantial difference between Shorten and Malcolm Turnbull on economic policy. The chap clearly hasn’t been paying attention.
Today he chides “big business … large companies … multinationals” as scapegoats with rhetoric not far removed from Bernie Sanders or, for that matter, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Shorten’s demand for a royal commission into banks comes straight from the corporate-bashing handbook.
Shorten’s portrayal of the Prime Minister as someone who sides with big business against battlers is a predictable — if unimaginative — attack on the wealthy Turnbull. But it represents a sharp break with a consensus that has prevailed since the late 1970s when Whitlam’s successor Bill Hayden persuaded his party that the fortunes of business and the workers were irrevocably linked, paving the way for the reforms of the Hawke and Keating governments…”