Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Tougher job-seeker rules will have negative impact, say interest groups

Extract from The Guardian

Job agencies and welfare groups voice concerns that positive elements of Coalition's plans are outweighed by harmful aspects

eric abetz
Eric Abetz and Tony Abbott. Photograph: Paul Miller/AAP
The Abbott government’s tougher requirements on job seekers are likely to backfire, harming rather than helping their chances of finding work, job agencies and welfare groups have said.
Asked to assess the likely net impact of the policies unveiled to date by the Coalition against their goal – more people finding work – experts said some measures could help but the net effect would probably be negative.
The Coalition has unveiled new draft contracts for job search agencies, requiring 40 job applications a month on top of 15 to 25 hours’ a week “work for the dole” for some unemployed people, dole payments for only six out of twelve months for job seekers under 30, tough compulsory periods of non-payment for those who refuse a job or fail to meet requirements and a new system of employer subsidies.
Immediate attention has focused on the requirement for 40 job applications a month. Business groups have warned they will be swamped with pointless job applications and the employment minister, Eric Abetz, said he was listening to business concerns because “we as a government do not want box-ticking to take place. We don't want red tape and inconvenience to employers.”
But a previous government study concluded the policy might also not help the unemployed find a job.
An evaluation in November 2007 of Howard government policies by the then department of education, employment and workplace relations warned that increasing of job application requirements “does not appear to have translated into increased employment outcomes”.
It said more study was needed but “there is a danger that requiring a minimum number of job applications may encourage job seekers to apply for positions for which they are not qualified, particularly in areas with limited employment opportunities or when the job seeker has specialist skills. There is scope for job seekers who have limited motivation to find work, to meet their activity test requirements by deliberately applying for inappropriate positions or submitting poor-quality applications. The survey findings suggest that increasing mandatory job applications must also be accompanied with steps to maintain the quality of job search.”
Asked to assess the overall impact of the government’s policies, David Thompson, the head of Jobs Australia which represents non-profit job search agencies, said: “Some of the flexibilities for job agencies in the new contracts might help but when you add the other measures the overall impact on the aim of getting more people in to work will not be good.”
He said tough compliance requirements could not get around the fact that there were 10 unemployed or underemployed job seekers for every vacancy, and the idea of denying payments to under-30s for six out of every 12 months “will have an unspeakable impact on people”.
Peter Davidson, a senior adviser at the Australian Council of Social Service, said he could “see nothing [in the government’s policies] that will make a difference except perhaps the expanded wage subsidies for employers”.
“Work for the dole has been proven not to be effective because the work is too far removed from a regular job, and is usually just a make-work scheme, and the denial of benefits will drive younger people further out of the labour market.”
“I think overall these policies will hinder efforts to get people into employment because there will be fewer resources available to help people overcome the barriers to getting a job,” he said.
Lin Hatfield Dodds, national director of UnitingCare Australia, said it was “hard to see how these policies overall will support people into work”.
“Subsidies and incentive payments that reduce the risk perceived by potential employers can help … but it is particularly hard to see how not getting any payment for six months will do anything but move people further away from getting a job.”
“Our staff at the coal face are really, really worried about what will happen to young people who feel abandoned by the whole community.”
The proposals received a warm reception from conservative radio announcers such as Alan Jones, who introduced an interview with Abetz on Tuesday by saying the policy was “not a radical extension of mutual obligation. It’s simply saying that if you are going to take someone else’s money, you most probably should expect to have to do something for it. Taxpayers’ money is money that taxpayers earn. As the people listening to me have to do this. We broadcast to shop owners, not shoplifters. This is taxpayers’ money.”
Abetz clarified that the work-for-the-dole requirements would initially apply to the approximately 150,000 unemployed people who were considered “job ready” and not those with parenting and caring responsibilities.
In an interview with Lateline on Monday, Abetz defended the requirement for 40 job applications a month on the grounds that “when jobs are sparse, it means that you've got to apply for more jobs to get a job. And so just because the circumstances are difficult, doesn't mean that our fellow Australians should ease off from the job search.”
Abetz also said he had “seen all sorts of studies in relation to work for the dole. What I would simply say is that the evidence that I have seen, the anecdotal evidence of people, who, especially in the Howard era, when I launched countless work-for-the-dole programs.”
He was responding to a question about a study by the Melbourne University professor Jeff Borland, reported by Guardian Australia, which found work for the dole could cause people to spend longer on the dole.
A study in 2006 comparing the effectiveness of unemployment policies found work for the dole was less effective than job-search training, customised assistance and “mutual obligation”.
Abetz said the government was motivated by the knowledge that “by keeping people in welfare we do them a great personal disservice, besides asking their fellow Australians to dig even deeper in their pockets to maintain them in a lifestyle that we know from all the evidence causes damage to the individual and the family unit of which they’re a member, if they remain on welfare. So it is overwhelmingly good for the individual, for society and the economy that we encourage them out of welfare as quickly as possible.”
The opposition leader, Bill Shorten, said the 40-applications rule might make sense “in Abbott land where mum and dad are printing out your resumé on the finest word processors” but it did not make sense in the real world.

Work for dole program to be expanded to include almost all jobseekers

Extract from The Guardian

Those aged 18 to 30 will be required to work 25 hours per week while people aged 31 to 49 will have to work 15 hours
  • Australian Associated Press
Almost all jobseekers will be required to work for the dole under tough new federal government rules expanding the scheme.
The government is making it mandatory for jobseekers aged 18 to 49 to work for their welfare payments from July 1, 2015.
Those aged 18 to 30 will be required to work 25 hours per week while people aged 31 to 49 will have to work 15 hours.
Those over 50 will have the option of participating in the program.
The new rules will ensure jobseekers are actively looking for work, assistant employment minister Luke Hartsuyker says.
"It also allows jobseekers to give something back to the taxpayers and community that supports them," he said on Sunday.
Work for the dole currently applies to jobseekers aged up to 30, who have been out of work for a year, in 18 locations of high unemployment around the country.
They have to work 15 hours per week for six months to receive welfare payments.
The expanded scheme is part of a new employment services model to be announced by Hartsuyker and the employment minister, Eric Abetz, on Monday.
While some aspects will come under legislation, it's understood the new work for the dole rules could still be implemented if the Senate rejects them.
The Australian Greens said there was nothing to prove that work for the dole was effective. It failed to address barriers to employment such as lack of available jobs and training or discrimination.
"This announcement is all about punishing people," Greens family and community spokeswoman, Rachel Siewert said on Sunday. "If jobs aren't available, it is nonsense to say people have to apply for at least a job a day."

Bill Shorten: Joe Hockey is an ‘arrogant, cigar-chomping’ treasurer

Extract from The Guardian

Hockey's ‘personal comfort in life has robbed him of charity, and, I might say, judgment’, says Labor leader

bill shorten
Bill Shorten made the comments in a strongly worded speech to the party's NSW conference. Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images
Joe Hockey is an "arrogant, cigar-chomping" federal treasurer whose charmed life has "robbed him of charity", the opposition leader, Bill Shorten, says.
The Labor leader made the comments in a strongly worded speech to the party's NSW conference on Sunday.
"This arrogant, cigar-chomping treasurer – his hopeless story [biography] reveals that it took Tony Abbott to block him from deeper, harder cuts," Shorten said in Sydney's Town Hall.
"Seriously. If it's up to Tony Abbott to tell you that you've gone too far, you've well and truly gone too far."
Hockey and finance minister Mathias Cormann were filmed smoking cigars outside Parliament House shortly before the government's budget was delivered in May. Their critics seized on the footage, saying it showed the government was out of touch with everyday Australians facing deep budget cuts.
In his speech, Shorten said the government was "unravelling from the centre and rotting from the top".
"This is a budget brought to you by a conservative prime minister who doesn't see it as his duty to care for everyone," he said. "By a conservative treasurer whose personal comfort in life has robbed him of charity, and, I might say, judgment."
Much of Shorten's speech focused on Labor's support for Medicare amid Tony Abbott's plan to impose a $7 Medicare co-payment.

He said it was "madness" for Australia to adopt a United States-style health system, just when Americans were "finally making a long and exhausting U-turn".

On party reform, Shorten urged Labor to "rebuild as a party of members, not factions".

The opposition leader has been calling on the ALP to change its rules so that party members no longer be required also to be union members.

On Saturday, the conference supported a plan to give ordinary members a 50% say on who becomes state Labor leader. But a plan from party elder John Faulkner calling for direct elections for upper house candidates was rejected.

Industry concerned about Coalition's 40-job-applications-a month plan

Extract from The Guardian 

Business groups concerned they will be deluged by poorly targeted applications from young unemployed
The Leader of the Government in the Senate Eric Abetz during question time.
Eric Abetz says having to apply for one job in the morning and one in the afternoon was not too much to ask. Photograph: Mike Bowers
Business groups have raised concerns the Abbott government’s plan to force unemployed people to apply for 40 jobs each month could lead to a deluge of poorly targeted applications.
The opposition and business groups suggested targeted employment searches would be a more effective goal for all parties, while the Greens accused the government of being out of touch with the plight of the unemployed.
On Monday the government released its draft plan for a new employment services model to apply from July next year, including new wage subsidies to encourage employers to hire, train and retain job seekers.
The assistant minister for employment, Luke Hartsuyker, said most job seekers would be required to look for up to 40 jobs a month and most job seekers under 50 would be required to participate in a work for the dole program for either 15 or 25 hours a week for six months each year, depending on their age.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s director of employment, education and training, Jenny Lambert, said she understood the government had set the job search target to encourage activity.
But Lambert wanted further talks with the government about whether the 40 number was appropriate, or whether there could be better assistance through employment services about the type of applications being submitted.
“There may be another way of doing it that’s not about numbers,” she said.
“What we don’t want to do is to flood the business community with a whole range of job applications just for the sake of people fulfilling their requirements. That would not be a good outcome for anybody; we’ve got to get the balance right between getting job seekers more proactive about their applications and ensuring employers receive good quality applications about what the person brings to the job.”
The Business Council of Australia also welcomed aspects of the employment services plan, but said it was “concerned about the practicality of asking people to apply for 40 jobs each month in the current softening labour market”.
“It would be better to allow jobseekers to concentrate their efforts towards applying for the jobs they have the best chance of acquiring,” said the group’s chief executive, Jennifer Westacott.
“The proposed increased focus on rewarding job outcomes is positive a step, but some of the outcome payments – such as a payment at four weeks” employment – don’t match up with what we know about sustainable employment outcomes.
“We need a job services system built on evidence about what really works. The ‘work for the dole’ scheme needs to avoid the well-known risks that such participation actually makes people less likely to move off welfare and must lead to meaningful jobs for people.”
Anglicare Australia’s acting executive director, Roland Manderson, said pushing people into low-paid, short-term work, or merely applying for jobs they could not win, was not the solution.
Manderson voiced support for the extension of wage subsidies to young people and the long term unemployed, but said there were barriers to employment that a one size fits all approach did not recognise.
“As people with disability or an illness, or the old or the young will tell you: far too often the jobs aren’t there,” he said. “In that case, requiring people to work for the dole and apply for 40 jobs a month is merely a pathway to demoralisation. A better approach is to work with employers to create jobs with a long term future and then support the jobseeker into them while they get going.”
The employment minister, Eric Abetz, said having to apply for one job in the morning and one in the afternoon was not too much to ask, but there would be exemptions “in certain circumstances”. He said the job service provider would help the jobseeker to properly target their applications.
Asked by the ABC whether being rejected from 40 jobs a month could harm people’s confidence, Abetz said: “Well, I could ask the other way around. What does it do a person’s self-esteem, physical and mental health if we as a society were to say to them, ‘Poor you, you don’t have employment and we won’t require you to look for employment’?”
Abetz added that there were “a lot of employment opportunities … that are being undertaken by backpackers and 457 visa holders”.
Labor’s employment spokesman, Brendan O’Connor, said the government was “tearing up” the principles of mutual obligation in the light of its budget decision to withdraw Newstart payments from young people for months at a time.
A spokesman for Hartsuyker last month confirmed the 40-job-search requirement would apply even during the six months for which young jobseekers lost their Newstart payments as a result of the “earning or learning” budget decision.
“During the six-month waiting period, young job seekers would be required to attend appointments with their employment-service provider and look for 40 jobs a month,” the spokesman said last month.
O’Connor said the withdrawal of Newstart payments, which faces opposition in the Senate, could lead to antisocial behaviour and homelessness.
“What’s most concerning about the changes being proposed by the government is that they seek to have those young jobseekers under the age of 30 being provided no support whatsoever for the first six months and yet would require them to look for 40 jobs a month – 40 jobs in about 30 days, more than one job a day and yet provide not one cent,” O’Connor said.
“So it won’t matter whether a jobseeker under 30 is looking every day, every week, every month for six months this government believes that they can require them to undertake obligations of job search and job activities and yet not provide any support whatsoever.”
The Australian Council of Trade Unions described work for the dole as a “punitive” scheme and argued the government’s employment plans failed to put enough emphasis on outcomes – particularly delivering long-term jobs.
The Greens leader, Christine Milne, said the 40-application requirement was “ridiculous” when the jobs were not available, particularly in rural and regional Australia, and the government was out of touch. “I just can’t help but think that people sitting in Canberra on a deckchair outside smoking a cigar telling a young unemployed person in Burnie, Tasmania, ‘you apply for 40 jobs’, well, where?”

UN scores Australia high for quality of life but low on climate change progress

Extract from The Guardian

Human Development ranking suggests we lead the world in many criteria, but our emissions efforts are an embarrassment

Wind farm - renewable energy
The repeal of the carbon price and efforts to reduce our renewable energy target are not a good look. Photograph: Angela Harper/AAP
Australia’s position as one of the best places in the world to live was reaffirmed last week with the release of the 2014 United Nations Human Development Report, which saw Australia ranked second only to Norway among all nations in the world.
The report, conducted by the UN Development Report Office, measures each nation against a number of criteria, including income, health, education and gender equality to rank 187 nations according to the Human Development Index (HDI).
Australia’s second ranking is not surprising. Not just because other measures such as the OECD’s Better life Index rank Australia as first, but because since 1998 Australia has been ranked in the top five nations on the HDI. Only Norway has had a longer run in the top five.

The report also examines environmental factors, such as depletion of forests and withdrawal of the nation’s fresh water supply. It notes that “climate change poses grave risks to all people and all countries” and that “between 2000 and 2012 more than 200 million people, most of them in developing countries, were hit by natural disasters every year, especially by floods and droughts”.
On this score Australia has a fair bit to be embarrassed about. In 2012, among the 25 most developed nations, Australia was among the lowest users of renewable energy and had the third highest emissions of CO2 per capita:

Monday, 28 July 2014


Media Release

Shadow Health Minister, Jo-Ann Miller, says extra jobs flowing from the National Disability Insurance Scheme are welcome, but are old news the LNP is using in its desperation to rehabilitate it and the Premier’s image.
“The 13,000 jobs ‘revealed’ today were announced in September last year by the Newman Government,” Mrs Miller said.
“Today’s announcement is more spin — another desperate stunt by a desperate Premier whose own job is under threat."
“The boost to employment generated by the NDIS has been well known and was being cited long before the Premier even signed up to the scheme in May 2013."
“Queenslanders do not forget the Premier had to be dragged kicking and screaming to sign up to the NDIS simply because it was a federal Labor Government initiative,” Mrs Miller said.
“But now when he wants some good news he grasps the scheme’s well-known employment spin-offs and claim them as his own."
“For the entire week we have seen the humiliating spectacle of the Premier pretending to care and pretending to listen."
“Any announcement of extra jobs is to be welcomed because the Premier is going backwards when it comes to keeping his own promise of having our state heading to a 4% jobless rate."
“Unemployment is stuck around GFC levels at 6.3% under the Newman Government and the LNP has no plans to improve it except to rely on the former Labor Government’s initiatives in launching the export LNG industry,” Mrs Miller said.

September 2013 Ministerial media statement:


Media Release.

Shadow Treasurer Curtis Pitt said Queenslanders should be very wary of the Premier’s spin efforts on the economy.
“Since the Stafford by-election, the Premier’s tried to spin his way out of trouble by arrogantly telling Queenslanders he’s personally turned the economy around,” Mr Pitt said.
“This simply isn’t borne out by the facts. It’s more Campbell Newman spin, the same stuff that was utterly rejected by the people of Redcliffe and Stafford."
“That’s because it’s not just his arrogance that’s put people off, but the reality is that the Premier hasn’t fulfilled his promises to lower the unemployment rate and ‘supercharge’ the economy.
“The facts are simple. Compared to the economy he inherited in March 2012, economic growth is slower and unemployment is higher under Campbell Newman."
“That’s without the immediate ravages of a GFC and a multitude of devastating natural disasters.
“Business investment has plummeted, as has private investment. State final demand, the key measure of growth in the domestic economy that doesn’t include exports, has contracted for two quarters in a row."
“It’s only our export sectors keeping our heads above water. Without coal and LNG exports, the Queensland economy could well be in recession."
“Unfortunately it’s the same sorry tale when it comes to unemployment, despite the Premier promising to lower the unemployment rate to 4%. His own budget papers say unemployment in 2017-18, the year we’re supposed to hit 4%, will be 5.25%."
“Unemployment in June was 6.3% seasonally adjusted, higher than the 5.5% he inherited in March 2012."
“The participation rate is also lower, meaning less people are looking for work. If the participation rate was the same in June 2014 that it was in March 2012, the unemployment rate would be 7%."
“There are actually 1,100 fewer full-time jobs in Queensland on a seasonally adjusted basis than when the Newman Government was elected."
“Overall growth in jobs under Campbell Newman are part-time. While part-time jobs are welcome, the Premier must explain why full-time jobs have declined."
“Campbell Newman continues to arrogantly treat Queenslanders like mugs. When will he stop the spin and axe the arrogance, and treat Queenslanders with the respect they deserve?”

Audio grabs from are available at https://soundcloud.com/qldopposition/140728-cp-economy

Economic growth and unemployment
In 2011-12 under Labor Queensland had:
- An economy growing at 4%
- Business investment of 42.3%
- Yearly average unemployment of 5.5%. Unemployment was 5.5% in March 2012.
- Private investment of 28.6%
- And domestic spending in the economy or state final demand of 9.5%
Now (over 2014-15) under the Newman LNP Government Queensland has:
- An economy growing slower at 3% despite lower interest rates and improved global conditions
- Business investment is falling by 20% after falling by 2½% in 2013-14
- Yearly average unemployment of 6% and not forecast to recover to levels left by Labor for another 2 years.
- Unemployment is now at 6.3% up from 5.5% at the election. There are 1,100 fewer full-time jobs in Queensland on a seasonally adjusted basis than when the Newman Government was elected. The participation rate also remains lower than when the Government was elected at 66.3% down from 66.9% in March 2012. Based on the participation rate there are 20,490 Queenslanders who have given up looking for work since the election and are no longer counted in the unemployment statistics.
- Private investment falling by 11¼% following a fall of ½% in 2013-14.
- And domestic spending in the economy or state final demand falling by 1¼% in 2014-15.
This means that without new LNG exports and an improvement in coal volumes the Queensland economy could be verging on recession. Already State final demand has contracted by 0.4% in December Quarter and 0.8% in March Quarter 2014.

*Every figure here except for the unemployment rate estimate under the March 2012 participation rate comes from State Government Budget papers or ABS data

Saturday, 26 July 2014

The WORKER has lived and grown

Brisbane, March 23, 1895.

The “Worker” Enlargement.


To Unionists and Labour Friends.

The growing desires, particularly amongst members of the bush unions, in favour of enlarging the WORKER and thereby extending the sphere of its undoubted influence, has so often manifested itself that at the last annual meetings of the A.W.U. (Hughenden,Charleville, and Longreach) the trustees submitted proposals with a view of meeting the repeatedly expressed wishes. These proposals were readily accepted by the branches, and the A.W.U. annual conferences authorised the trustees to appeal to their members for voluntary subscriptions to give effect thereto. Steps will be taken to acquaint other districts and branches of the Federation of the nature of these proposals with a view of eliciting their co-operation.

After a very careful calculation, the trustees feel that to in some way approach the ideal of a very large section of WORKER co-operators an additional £1000 at least will be required to pay for increased machinery, paper, composition, &c. If everybody who reads and takes an interest in the paper will give something there will be very little difficulty in raising the amount, whilst to the Board of Trustees the money so contributed will be a power for good which it is impossible to estimate.

In making this appeal the Trustees may be pardoned for again calling attention to the steady and continued enlargement of the paper since its establishment. As you will recollect, the WORKER first made its appearance in 1890 as a monthly in magazine form. By degrees it was enlarged and improved. To enable the trustees to carry on the present improved issue, the subsidy was unhesitatingly increased from 1s. to 3s. per annum. The difficulties attendant upon the production of a Labour journal more especially were added to by the passage through Parliament of the new Postal Act, by which the unanticipated expenditure was increased £200 per annum. On the top of this difficulty came the unprecedented depression, which deprived many members of affiliated unions from carrying out their obligations besides forcing many others to seek employment outside Queensland. Yet in spite of these apparently insuperable difficulties, to which many old and new ventures have had to succumb, the WORKER has lived and grown, and is still supplied to members post free for something less than 3/4d. per member per week – really less than when it was first issued. Even now members of co-operating unions are receiving better value for their money than that given in the average penny, threepenny, and even sixpenny weeklies turned out by private persons or companies, and in the control of which they have neither say nor interest.

From the numerous letters and promises of support which continually flow into the WORKER office urging the enlargement, the trustees have good reasons for believing that this request to assist in further improving your own paper will meet with a ready and liberal response. The members of unions, friends and sympathisers of the Labour movement generally are therefore approached with every confidence for voluntary subscriptions, sufficient to enable them to issue a decent – sized paper in an attractive form which will not only champion the cause of Labour, but which will provide its readers with every variety of information which has now to be sought for in the papers of the enemy.

No limit is placed on the amount to be given. That is left to the giver. Let every one give what he honestly can. All subscriptions, whether they be large or small, will be gratefully received.
Books of Subscription Tickets will be supplied, on application, by the secretaries of the Charleville, Hughenden and Longreach branches of the A.W.U. The General Secretary of the A.L.F. Will supply books of tickets to other districts of the Federation, or to anyone wishing to assist in the collection of funds. Subscriptions can also be sent to the under signed by those friends who may be out of reach of union or other collectors.

For the Trustees,
General Secretary A.L.F.

Trades Hall, Brisbane.
February 26, 1895.

Parkes and Narrabri telescopes may shut within two years, CSIRO warns

Extract from The Guardian

Budget cuts of $114m have raised pressure on the sites and will need external funding to survive, Australia's space chief says
radio telescope, Parkes
CSIRO's radio telescope near Parkes, in New South Wales. Photograph: CSIRO/AAP Image
The radio telescopes at Parkes and Narrabri may shut within two years “without substantial, long-term external investment”, the chief of the CSIRO’s space research division has warned.
It was expected that funding for the telescopes would diminish as the next-generation square kilometre array (SKA) telescope comes online between 2020 and 2025.
But the head of the CSIRO astronomy and space science department, Lewis Ball, said the $114m cut to the agency’s funding in the May federal budget “ramps up the pressure and means that we have to make significant changes right now”.
“This is a budget cut for the current financial year, which we only became aware of when the federal budget was announced on 13 May,” he said. “So we’re dealing with a $3m cut, amounting to 15% of our budget, on six weeks’ notice.”
He told the Australian Astronomical Society this week that “without substantial, long-term external investment”, the agency would have to “cease funding of one or more of Parkes and the Australian telescope compact array [at Narrabri]”.
The future of the two centres, which astronomers inside CSIRO said were “at the peak of their ability”, was already uncertain, because federal government funding under the national collaborative research infrastructure strategy was due to run out in mid-2015.
The government pledged $150m in the federal budget to fund key research infrastructure until mid-2016, but accepted a recommendation from the Commission of Audit to review the funding after that date.
Ball said it was uncertain how much of this additional funding would be allocated to Parkes, which famously beamed the 1969 moon landings to the world, and Narrabri, or whether their funding would survive the review.
He said the confusion highlighted deeper problems with the “hand-to-mouth” way Australia funded its major research equipment, where money was renewed every one or two years, “just in time to stop everybody falling off the cliff”.
The CSIRO has already announced that it will “cease long-term upgrades” of the centres to help find the required $3.5m in savings. In March the agency announced that the 22-metre wide Mopra radio telescope at Coonabarabran, the third component of the Australia telescope national facility, will stop being funded around September 2015.
A national organiser with the CSIRO staff association, Paul Girdler, said it appears Parkes and Narrabri, both in NSW, were being “cannibalised to prop up the SKA, and government funding cuts have been a key element in causing this to happen”.
Comprising thousands of small antennas in South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, linked by fibre-optic network, the SKA will be the world's largest radio telescope, able to detect radio waves with 50 times the sensitivity of existing facilities. The Australian component alone will process data equivalent to the whole of the world wide web every hour.
The array will be powerful enough to see back 13bn years in time and detect energy emitted when the first black holes and stars were formed.
Funding the SKA was the agency’s priority, because it was part of a new generation of radio telescopes that would largely supersede the capabilities of existing facilities.
The CSIRO had hoped to eventually find and fund new scientific roles for the telescopes at Parkes and Narrabri, but Ball said the budget cuts “require changes to be much more accelerated”.
“It’s obviously better to make a staged and planned transition, and you can’t plan if you don’t know what your funding is until six weeks out from the financial year. You can’t plan on a timescale of six weeks, you can only react,” he said.

The inconvenient truth in the push to scrap the renewable energy target

Extract from The Guardian

The government's determination to scrap the RET is based on shaky foundations – in their economic modelling and in the Senate, the numbers just don't add up

Planet OZ blog : Caltex Australia chairman Dick Warburton
Businessman Dick Warburton – a self-professed climate sceptic – who is heading the government's review of the RET . Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP
When it comes to the Abbott government’s determination to scrap or wind back the renewable energy target (RET), numbers don’t always count.
The prime minister, who after the election took control of a RET “review” and appointed businessman Dick Warburton – a self-professed climate sceptic – to head it, says the RET needs to change because it is pushing up power prices.
“We have to accept that in the changed circumstances of today, the renewable energy target is causing pretty significant price pressure in the system and we ought to be an affordable energy superpower … cheap energy ought to be one of our comparative advantages,” Tony Abbott said last year.
Inconveniently, the idea that the RET is significantly pushing up prices has now been challenged by several sets of modelling.
ACIL Allen modelling done for Abbott’s own review shows the current target will increase the average household bill by an average of $54 a year between now and 2020, but will reduce bills by a similar annual amount over the following decade compared with what they would be if the RET were repealed. That modelling used assumptions highly unfavourable to renewable energy, including that coal and gas prices would remain almost unchanged until 2040.
Separate modelling for the Clean Energy Council by Roam Consulting – with different assumptions about gas prices – found that bills would be $50 a year lower by 2020 if the RET were retained.
Another modelling exercise, commissioned by three business groups from Deloitte, found household bills would rise by at most about $50 a year.
None of those numbers – those saying the RET leaves householders better off, or the ones that say it will cost, at the very worst, less than $1 per week – swayed the prevailing opinion within the Coalition that the policy, which requires 41,000 gigawatt hours of power to be sourced from renewables by 2020, must change.
Supporters of the RET, including the environment minister, Greg Hunt, were arguing the 2020 target should be pared back to maybe 25,000 or 30,000 gigawatt hours, which would allow a few new investments to proceed, but not many. There would, perhaps, be another longer term target for 2025 or 2030. Others, believed to include the prime minister, wanted to see it shut down for any new investment, with incentives only for existing generators.
But then another set of numbers came into play, the same ones playing havoc with so many of the government’s plans in the Senate.
Any change would have to get through the upper house. When Clive Palmer stood beside Al Gore and said he would countenance no change to the RET until after the next election, because the government had gone to the last election promising not to change it, those Senate numbers became extremely difficult, unless Labor could be persuaded to strike a deal, which appears unlikely.
But as the government awaits the Warburton review, due in a few weeks, it has been dawning on everyone involved that the goal of stopping new investments in renewables could also be achieved by simply doing nothing.
As Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported last week, the abolition of the carbon tax and the total uncertainty over the future of the RET has completely stalled investment in renewables already.
No new projects have been financed since the end of 2012, and only a tiny amount has been spent in the first six months of this year.
That leaves the renewables industry – especially the solar providers – turning to a third set of numbers – the kind that politicians often find hard to ignore.
Opinion poll after opinion poll has found Australians support renewable energy, and are in fact prepared to pay even more than $1 a week to back it.
Polling for the Climate Institute released last month showed 72% of Australians wanted to keep or expand the RET. Even when respondents were told “opponents of the scheme say the RET is a subsidy that drives up electricity bills, while supporters say it has helped create jobs and has tripled Australia’s wind and solar energy since 2009”, 71% still thought it should remain at its current level, or be increased.
Those kind of numbers have inspired the Australian Solar Council to begin a marginal seats campaign, asking voters to demand that their sitting Coalition MP lobby for a clear statement from the government that the RET will not be changed in any way.
They are starting in the Coalition’s second most marginal seat of Petrie, in Brisbane, where party leaders are being invited to a community forum and sitting MP Luke Howarth is being asked to take a stand. He told Guardian Australia he was a big supporter of solar power and renewable energy. “There are obviously mixed feelings about it, but I think renewable energy is a good thing,” he said.
Next stop is the Victorian marginal of Corangamite, where the new Liberal MP Sarah Henderson was quick to issue a statement saying she wanted to “ensure that we have a strong, operative RET which continues to drive the uptake of renewable energy and returns certainty to this industry”.
But other backbenchers, such as Angus Taylor, who has been a longtime and fierce opponent of the RET, say the business-commissioned modelling shows “the RET is creating a huge and unnecessary cost burden for businesses and households”.
Opposition to the RET within the Coalition is driven by a potent mix of a deep hostility to wind turbines, as evidenced by treasurer Joe Hockey’s comment to the (anti-wind) Alan Jones that he found them “utterly offensive”, a barely disguised climate scepticism (as evidenced by agriculture minister Barnaby Joyce, Ian Macdonald and Craig Kelly all suggesting that the fact the carbon tax repeal occurred on a cold winter’s day proved it had been unnecessary), and a belief that indefinite fossil fuel use is not a threat to the planet, but rather is crucial to human advancement.
Abbott’s top business adviser, Maurice Newman, wants the RET scrapped altogether and has said that persisting with government subsidies for renewable energy represented a “crime against the people” because higher energy costs hit poorer households the hardest and there was no longer any logical reason for them.
Many Coalition MPs see the world that way. Ian Macdonald spoke during the carbon tax repeal debate wearing an “Australians for Coal” hi-vis jumpsuit. The new Queensland senator Matthew Canavan used his maiden speech to say: “I want to put on the record my admiration and support for our fossil fuel industry and the thousands of jobs it supports … Fossil fuels have made more contribution than almost any other product or invention towards humanity's long ascent from lives that were nasty, brutish and short to ones of comparative luxury and leisure. The only form of energy that I want to promote is cheap energy”. And Taylor told parliament “religious belief is based on faith not facts. The new climate religion, recruiting disciples every day, has little basis on fact and everything to do with blind faith.”
It is an improbable basis for a coherent renewable energy policy, especially when the renewable energy target was intended as a supplementary policy to the carbon tax – which the Coalition has abolished – and when the entire energy market is in turmoil because billions of dollars in investment were made on the basis of wildly incorrect forecasts about electricity demand.
A properly functioning policy process would rethink the way the electricity market operates and the best market incentives to reduce the emissions it produces. But we don’t have a properly functioning policy process, and the government isn’t even entirely clear it accepts the climate change problem the renewable energy target is designed to solve.
In the meantime, the industry is reaching for the only set of numbers that gives it some clout.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014


Media Release

Shadow Education Minister, Yvette D’Ath, says Queenslanders have a right to be cynical about the timing of the Education Minister’s announcement of new funds for music students in state schools.
Ms D’Ath said Queenslanders would recall it was John-Paul Langbroek who callously cut funds for the biennial Fanfare school music program shortly after becoming Minister.
“I and the Labor Party of course welcome any extra funds for music education in schools,” Ms D’Ath said.
“Music education and the arts in general can help develop students’ natural talents and confidence and open up all sorts of possibilities in their future lives and careers."
“But people could rightly question why this announcement has been made just days after the humiliating swing against Premier Campbell Newman and the arrogant LNP in the Stafford by-election."
“It is curious that the specific funding John-Paul Langbroek has announced does not appear to have been included in the State Budget delivered in June."
“In fact the word ‘music’ does not even appear in the education service delivery statement (SDS) - the budget document detailing education spending."
“So Queenslanders could be excused if they think it is just part of the LNP’s post-Stafford efforts to rehabilitate its public image.”
Ms D’Ath said the Education Minister and the LNP government should not be trying to rewrite history.
“Let's not forget that John-Paul Langbroek revealed his attitude to music in schools by cutting funding for the Fanfare and MOST (Musically Outstanding Students) school music programs shortly after becoming Education Minister,” she said.
“The biennial Fanfare program for school ensembles has been running since 1985 — almost 30 years — but it nearly did not survive the mean-spirited Newman Government."
“The Minister was happy to shut it down. It took a private sponsor in the form of entertainment venue operator AEG Ogden to rescue it with $150,000 sponsorship so Fanfare could be held in 2014 and MOST could be run last year."
“Even after he cut Fanfare funding, the Minister and other LNP MPs have been happy to seek publicity by associating themselves with the Fanfare program and their local schools."
“I wonder if they ever confess to their school communities that they really did not want the program at all."

“Their behaviour is just the usual LNP hypocrisy and arrogance we have seen for more than two years.”

Tuesday, 22 July 2014


Campbell Newman and Tim Nicholls have made up their minds to sell Queensland’s assets and are refusing to listen to Queenslanders’ very clear message, Shadow Treasurer Curtis Pitt said today.
Mr Pitt said expensive paid advertising placed by the Treasurer in national newspapers seeking lawyers, accountants and tax specialists to advise the Newman Government during their imminent asset sales process was proof the Premier and Treasurer were ignoring very strong public opposition to the move.
"There were plenty of backflips announced by the Premier yesterday but asset sales was not one of them," Mr Pitt said.
"Despite Queenslanders saying 'no' to the proposed sell off of more than $33 billion worth of public assets during the Strong Choices 'consultations', the LNP still don't get it."
"We're talking about assets that generate revenue and selling those assets means selling the revenue too."
“Clearly, yesterday’s media stunt was about self-preservation for Campbell Newman and Tim Nicholls, and not about listening to Queenslanders."
“This arrogant LNP Government should be listening to Queenslanders who have made it clear time and time again that they do not want asset sales, even as recently as at the Stafford by-election."
“However, the fact is that Tim Nicholls has already spent millions on advice, in secret and with no mandate so the cost of asset sales is already being borne by taxpayers."
“The LNP never sought a mandate to spend millions of our taxpayer dollars in secret to start the largest asset sell-off in our State’s history."
“Instead of spending millions of taxpayer dollars more on yes men paid to tell the Treasurer what he wants to hear, Mr Nicholls should listen to voters who have already sent a very clear message."

Monday, 21 July 2014

Australia’s carbon tax abolition draws international criticism

Extract from The Guardian

Al Gore calls it a ‘disappointing step’ and European Union says world is moving towards carbon pricing initiatives
Al Gore
Al Gore: 'Australia is falling behind other major industrialised nations in the growing global effort to reduce carbon emissions.' Photograph: Leigh Vogel/Getty Images
Australia’s repeal of the carbon price has provoked a largely negative reaction overseas, with former US vice president Al Gore calling it a “disappointing step”.
Gore said Thursday’s abolition of the mechanism means that “Australia is falling behind other major industrialised nations in the growing global effort to reduce carbon emissions and ensure a clean and prosperous future”.
“[It is] a disappointing step for a country that continues to experience the worsening consequences of the climate crisis.”
Gore, who appeared alongside Clive Palmer in a bizarre press conference in June to iterate the Palmer United party’s position on the carbon price, said be was encouraged by the support for the Renewable Energy Target, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency and the Climate Change Authority.
“These programs are examples of Australia’s long and continued excellence in combating the climate crisis, and must continue,” Gore said. He added that he was “hopeful” that Australia would adopt an emissions trading scheme (ETS), as advanced by Labor and, in a radically watered down form, by Palmer.
Connie Hedegaard, the European Union’s climate commissioner, also voiced disappointment at the carbon price repeal.
“The European Union regrets the repeal of Australia's carbon pricing mechanism just as new carbon pricing initiatives are emerging all around the world,” she said.
“The EU is convinced that pricing carbon is not only the most cost-effective way to reduce emissions, but also the tool to make the economic paradigm shift the world needs.
“This is why the EU will continue to work towards global carbon pricing with all international partners.”
The European Union has had an emissions trading scheme in place since 2005. The scheme, which covers around 45% of total greenhouse emissions from the 28 EU countries, was due to be linked to Australia’s own emissions trading scheme, but this will now not happen.
The UK, which is part of the EU ETS, has declined to officially criticise Australia over the abolition, although a senior UK Conservative recently condemned Tony Abbott over his “reckless” approach to climate change.
However, a spokeswoman for Ed Davey, the UK’s climate change minister, told Guardian Australia that Britain wanted to work with countries to “encourage ambitious action” on climate change, preferably via carbon pricing.
“The UK supports the development of carbon pricing around the world as the most cost-effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and incentivising the technologies required for the transition to a low carbon economy,” she said.
The repeal of the carbon price means that Australia now has no primary mechanism designed to lower carbon emissions.
The government has insisted it is confident that it will be able to implement its voluntary Direct Action scheme, which will hand around $2.5bn to businesses for emissions-lowering projects.
However, PUP, Labor and the Greens have all voiced their opposition to Direct Action, meaning it appears unlikely to pass the Senate.
Several independent analyses have found that Direct Action would not meet the government’s target of a 5% reduction in emissions by 2020, on 2000 levels, without major new investment. The government claims it will meet this goal but has not undertaken any modelling to support this assertion.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

A discussion about Anarchism

Brisbane, March 16, 1895.


There is no question on which the average journalistic blockhead has written so much nonsense as that of Anarchism – a topic on which he glories to dilate with all the fluency and eloquence that naturally springs from a profound and comprehensive ignorance of the subject. The journalistic Anarchist is a blood thirsty villain who revels in rack and ruin, and who has reduced assassination to a fine art. Indeed he is such a monster of iniquity that nothing prevents him from completely over throwing modern civilisation but the fortunate and convenient fact that he does not exist. No doubt there are desperate men among Anarchists, just as there are desperate men in all parties. No doubt, also, the abolition of all government is just the sort of programme to attract men of fanatical type. It is a big order, but fanatics do not hesitate at big orders. But none the less it is as obviously unfair to make Anarchism responsible for all the outrage committed by its supporters, as it would be to make religion responsible for all crimes against liberty perpetrated in its name. Unquestionably many Anarchists believe in force, but then so do many Socialists, Unionists, Home Rulers and other reformers. A movement should be judged, not by the action of its individual supporters but by the avowed principles of its intellectual founders and leaders. Now, as a simple matter of fact, a fact, however, which never by any chance gets into the public press, the intellectual representatives of the Anarchist movement – Krapotkine, Tucker, Reclus, Grave and others – are utterly and indignantly opposed to every form and variety of outrage. They are Anarchists, not because they do not. It is indeed because they hold that all government is founded on force, and that all force is wrong, that they are opposed to government. Simple justice demands this admission. We are opposed to Anarchism, but we believe in truth.

* * *

There are two schools of Anarchism – that Individualist Anarchism of Benjamin Tucker, and the so-called Communist Anarchism of Peter Krapotkine. The Individualist Anarchist, of course, advocates the total abolition of all government. He would sweep away all law, all law courts, all military and police force; in fact he would blot out every vestige of governmental authority. Having accomplished this undertaking, however, he would be graciously pleased to stop. He would not abolish competition. On the contrary, he holds that in the absence of government all monopolies, such as the money monopoly, the tariff monopoly, and the land monopoly would collapse, and in the absence of monopoly free competition would become an individual and national blessing.

* * *

Here questions of a practical nature naturally present themselves. First of all, how is the thing to be done? How are we to get rid of government? How are we to abolish the State? The Anarchist replies: “By abstaining from voting, by refusing to take any part in political life. When the majority of men ignore the government and take no part in elections government will die a natural death.” In other words the worker are to win their ultimate emancipation by pursuing a policy of energetic inactivity, by diligently doing nothing, and doing it well! Meanwhile their enemies, the capitalist and the landlord, will be steadily securing and consolidating all available political power, and using it in their own interests. No, it will not do. While Power is used against the worker Power must be used in his defence. In the past government has been used in the interests of wealth; in the future the people must take possession of it and use it in the interests of humanity and justice.

* * *

'Again, under Individualist Anarchism, with its free competition, how are the evils of land monopoly to be avoided? Land is of unequal value. One piece of land will yield, for a given amount of labour, twenty times as much produce as another. Who is to have the good land, and who the bad? And what would there be to prevent the holders of good land from becoming rich and living on unearned income? For aught Individualist Anarchy with free competition could do to prevent it we should have some families luxuriating on fertile plains, and others heroically attempting to cultivate potatoes on granite rocks. The only sure way of preventing land monopoly is to Socialise economic rent, a process which involves the existence of an organised government. Our objections to Individualistic Anarchism, therefore, are two. First, there is no way of getting it: and second, even if it could be got it would not be worth having.

* * *

The Communist Anarchist is at one with his Individualist brother in seeking to utterly sweep away all law and government. But he doesn't stop there. He goes farther, and insists on the abolition of competition and the establishment of Communism. How competition is to be abolished and Communism established without government of some sort is a mystery which the Communist Anarchist never condescends to explain. Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that the dream of the Communist Anarchist has been realised, that all government has been abolished, that all goods are held in common, and that every person is free to go to the common store and take possession of whatever his heart desires. It seems clear, if the community is not to become insolvent, that there must be as much put into the common store as there is taken out of it. Now, in the absence of all governmental compulsion how are we to be sure that the average man would put in as much as he took out? And if he did not, would not the inevitable result be national bankruptcy? To use compulsion would be to give up Anarchism; not to use it would be to give up everything.

* * *

There is another difficulty. John Smith murders Tom Brown. Under Anarchism what would be done? Nothing? Men's lives would be unsafe and murder encouraged. Lynch law? That is barbarous and frequently punishes the wrong person. Perhaps it will be said that a committee would be appointed to deal with the special case. But while the committee is deliberating, the chances are that the murderer would go on a journey. It may be urged that a permanent committee could be formed for the protection of the community. The reply is that if such permanent committee had no judicial or executive power it would be useless; if it had it would be to all intents and purposes a government. Government cannot be abolished. If destroyed in one form it will present itself in another. Under Anarchism we should still have government, but it would be the government of the criminal, the murderer and the thief.

* * *

The Anarchist tries to escape those difficulties by affirming that human imperfection is the result of government and economic conditions. Remove these, he says, and the natural man will be neither a murderer nor a thief nor an idler. Unfortunately anthropology lends no countenance to such optimism. Human imperfection is largely due to environment, but it is also still more largely due to heredity – to the fact that the modern man is the descendant of the ancient savage, and still bears in his nature the marks of his lowly origin. If man is so spotless as the Anarchist assumes how did the wicked system of property ever rise? How came men, originally good and pure, to evolve a system of society which involves despotism on the one hand and slavery on the other? The Anarchist never answers that question because it is unanswerable. The simple truth is that prehistoric man was a brute. He was lazy, dishonest, filthy, selfish, and cruel. He had no objections to slavery provided he did not happen to be the slave. He made his wife a beast of burden while she lived, and dined on her when she died. He loved his fellow man, but preferred him cooked. The present system of society, with all its ethical imperfections, originated in man's savage nature, and continues to exist because, under the thin veneer of civilisation, a large measure of that savage nature still survives. Anarchism, we should say, would be an exceedingly good system for angels. But as men are not exactly angels it scarcely comes within the sphere of practical politics.

* * *

The Anarchist is perfectly right when he says that government is an evil, but he is just as perfectly wrong when he ignores the fact that it is a necessary one. For the workers to follow the advice of Anarchists and take no part in political life would be to blindly play into the hands of the idle classes. If the workers do not govern in the interests of Labour the non-workers will have a free hand in governing in the interests of idleness. The struggle for existence still survives, although in a modified and civilised form. In the past the rule was; Eat or be eaten; to-day it is; Rule or be ruled. For countless centuries the the propertied classes have captured the government, made laws in their own interests, and said to the people; “There are our laws. If you do not obey them we shall order our police to lock you up in our prisons, or, perhaps, order must be maintained at all hazards.” Now it appears to us that the way of salvation for the workers lies in following the admirable example of our friend the enemy. Let the people, now that they largely possess the franchise, take possession of Parliament, abolish the old capitalistic laws, and make new ones in the just interests of all, and, having done so, let them in turn say to the capitalists ; “these are our laws; if you don't obey them we shall be under the painful necessity of locking you up in our prisons, or it may be, of shooting you. Law and order, as you well know, gentlemen, must be maintained at all hazards.” Doubtless our capitalist friends would, under the circumstances, lose much of their enthusiasm for law and order, but then the police and the military would be present to lend strength to their failing convictions, and the Fat Man would learn to submit just as the Lean Man has submitted for centuries. No doubt the Anarchist's ideal society – a voluntary brotherhood of free men – is an exceedingly exalted one, but perhaps the surest and swiftest way of realising it is through the government of Social Democracy. Just as the parental authority of a wise parent ultimately fits the child to use worthily the freedom of mature manhood, so it may be that the Democratic government which shall destroy economic privilege, and secure to all men the full fruits of their labour, shall speed the dawning of the day when government itself shall become unnecessary, when the sword of Force shall be broken, and when Freedom, secure and immortal as the gods, shall sit enthroned among the nations of the earth.

Populist Palmer out-manoeuvres the Coalition

Extract from The Guardian

Rebooting the budget debate by engaging in detailed analysis might be best way to deal with the Palmer problem
Having “axed the tax” you would think the Coalition would be heading into the parliamentary winter recess feeling chipper.
Instead, many MPs are bewildered at how poorly the government is faring. They cannot see how the current Senate can be persuaded to pass the budget, nor how the government can simply acquiesce if the Senate guts it, nor how – on its current position in the polls – the government could possibly call the double dissolution election that would remain the only other option.
Voters have decided the budget is unfair, and the more this is reflected in the opinion polls, the more resolute the opposition parties in the Senate become in their determination not to pass most of the spending cuts.
After just two weeks, and despite suffering heavy damage to his own credibility, Clive Palmer appears to have manoeuvred the Coalition into a lose/lose situation.
On Friday, the government tried to call his senators’ bluff and failed – the three senators representing a party run by a mining magnate were prepared to leave the mining tax in place rather than allow the government to make associated spending cuts that would hit low income earners. (They had, of course, already voted to repeal the carbon tax, which is the tax Clive Palmer’s wholly-owned nickel refinery actually pays.)
Rubbing in the government’s discomfort, Palmer told the Australian Financial Review on Friday the government had "little choice but to have a mini-budget or go back to the polls because the bulk of its budget measures will never pass the Senate".
Treasurer Joe Hockey’s attempt to reboot the budget debate on Wednesday did not work.
In an interview on the ABC he said: “If the Senate chooses to block savings initiatives, then we need to look at other savings initiatives that may not require legislation and I would ask the Greens and the Labor party – who between them hold 35 votes on the floor of the Senate – to understand that there are alternatives for a government.
“We are going to fix the budget. That's what we promised the Australian people because we want to create greater prosperity and more jobs in the Australian economy.”
He was obviously trying to force Labor and the Greens to nominate the savings they would make to bring the budget back to surplus over time – not an unreasonable aspiration – and also a way to bring the debate back to the real opposition rather than the PUPs.
But it also meant he faced questions about what other savings he had in mind. He didn’t nominate any – and it’s hard to think how the government could cut tens of billions of dollars without legislation and without the decisions being subject to parliamentary disallowance.
The opposition parties – predictably – did nominate alternatives, Labor suggesting the government ditch its generous paid parental leave scheme and the Greens saying they’d be happy to help the government raise more revenue from the big miners.
In other words, Hockey didn’t reboot the debate into a sensible discussion of the choices the government made in the budget and the alternatives that might be available, he just prompted a repeat regurgitation of the “it’s a debt and deficit disaster” versus “it’s a rotten, unfair budget” refrains. That’s the discussion the government was already losing.
And the government lost a lot of other things during this chaotic sitting fortnight. Its “asset recycling fund” was gutted by Labor/Green amendments, the mining tax was not repealed, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Climate Change Authority lived to fight another day despite the government’s plans to axe them, the fuel excise indexation bills were quietly shelved for now and plans to cut $435mn from higher education were disallowed.
In the process the parliament appeared chaotic, which may have been in part the fault of last minute, ill-conceived PUP amendments, but in the end means the government risks losing the most important things of all – credibility and authority.
Even the carbon tax repeal, a political victory for Tony Abbott and the Coalition, was not a clean win, achieved after Senate chaos and confusing PUP changes. And it brings new potential dangers if the benefits are not immediately apparent to voters, and when the Coalition’s alternative climate change policy is proven to be wanting.
Palmer isn’t always perfect in the execution of his populist, anti-politician Tea party-style tactics – his ego and eccentricities get in the way. But so far he has outmanoeuvred the Coalition, in part because it is used to winning arguments through slogans and broad-brushed arguments, while Palmer’s real weaknesses surface when arguments get down into the detail.
He looked bad this week when his amendments to the financial reform changes, and to the carbon tax repeal, were revealed to have achieved very little. He bristles, or storms out, when facing detailed questions in interviews. He might appeal to the disaffected voter when he’s the outsider standing up for the little guy but not if his “achievements” turn out to be illusory.
But the government has shied away from conducting the budget debate in a detailed, forensic way, and from explaining why it has made precisely these choices, and not others.
It has never really explained why third parties, such as state premiers, doctors, community and welfare groups, vice-chancellors, students, pensioners, scientists, researchers, Indigenous groups and even government backbenchers all say parts of the budget are ill-thought through or unfair.
It’s taken issue with some assumptions, but has never really contested the conclusions of economic modelling by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (Natsem) and separate modelling by the Australian National University which showed low-income earners were hit hardest and high-income earners would feel very little pain.
Rebooting the budget debate by engaging in detailed analysis might be best way to deal with the Palmer problem. It would also force the government to engage in the discussion about its policy choices that all voters deserved in the first place.