It has been a shocking year for the Australian Public Service under the Abbott Government. On this first anniversary of the Coalition taking government, it's worth remembering what they promised before the election, compared with what has happened since.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANOTHER VICTIM OF BROKEN PROMISES
The Australian Public Service has just endured its toughest year since ‘Max the Axe’ rampaged through in 1996, with thousands of jobs lost and promises broken.
Before the 2013 election, Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne both categorically promised there would be no forced sackings within the public service, and that no more than 12,000 jobs would go:
HOCKEY OFFERS NOTHING BUT HOT AIR ON GLOBAL PROFIT SHIFTING
Treasurer Joe Hockey has revealed he has nothing but talk to offer when it comes to making multinational companies pay their fair share of tax.
In Parliament this morning, Mr Hockey spent 15 minutes mouthing empty words about tackling base erosion and profit shifting by major global firms. But despite all his big talk, Mr Hockey failed to outline how his government will make companies that evade tax pay a single dollar more tax.
What’s more, Mr Hockey has heaped responsibility for pursuing global tax avoidance onto the Australian Tax office, at a time when his government is axing 2100 tax experts from that agency.
Between the Abbott Government ditching Labor's scheduled increase to the super contributions of millions of Australians, the scrapping of the mining tax and the introduction of legislation to deregulate universities, it's been a big week in federal politics. I joined Waleed Aly on Radio National's Drive program to talk about the highs and lows:
RADIO NATIONAL DRIVE
WEDNESDAY, 3 SEPTEMBER, 2014
SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s broken promise on superannuation; MRRT; industrial relations changes.
WALEED ALY: Turning now to federal politics and a new battle line has been drawn in federal politics over the frighteningly exciting topic of compulsory superannuation. It is, however, very important and we've been discussing it this week on the program. Part of the federal government's deal to scrap the mining tax is that a planned increase in the employer contribution to your superannuation – from 9 per cent over time to 12 per cent – has been put on hold until 2021. How many years is that? It's a lot of years – seven or so. Labor says Australian workers will be worse off; the government says workers will be better off. So we've got a representative from each side in our regular RN smackdown: Josh Frydenberg, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister, and Andrew Leigh, Shadow Assistant Treasurer. Gents – welcome.
JOSH FRYDENBERG, PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY TO THE PRIME MINISTER: Good to be with you, Waleed. Good to be with you, Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Likewise Josh, and thanks for having us Waleed.
ALY: Josh, I've got to ask you, in the context of a 'budget emergency', this deal that was struck with the Palmer United Party yesterday: how much is that going to cost the budget? Something like $6.5 billion, was it?
FRYDENBERG: It's actually different to that. It's going to save $50 billion over the next 10 years because the mining tax is going to be repealed, and the mining tax had $17 billion of spending attached to it, Waleed. So this is, in fact, a very prudent budgetary measure and its consistent with our election commitments. We're very pleased that we were able to negotiate with the Palmer United Party, as well as the other independents, to repeal it.
ALY: You're talking over 10 years, I'm talking about the budget emergency that means we have to do this over the short term. We're keeping now the Schoolkids Bonus for a number of years – in fact beyond the next election; you've got the Low Income Support Bonus, the Low Income Superannuation Contribution, this is all staying now. By all the calculations I've seen in the press, over the short term this is going to cost $6.5 billion.
FRYDENBERG: We're actually saving $10 billion over the forward estimates, over just the next few years. We are changing the means testing arrangements for the Schoolkids Bonus. But we have to deal with the Senate as it is, not as we wish it would be. We don't believe that the mining tax was a good tax – it was promised to provide $49.5 billion worth of revenue when it was first conceived. It ended up producing just $340 million, so a long way short of the Labor party's projections. As a result, we couldn't continue with the accompanying spending commitments that Labor left us. So we think this is a good outcome, but unfortunately Labor is crying foul because we've done a deal with Clive Palmer.
ALY: Alright, Andrew Leigh I'll come to the substance of the super changes – or non-changes, as the case may be – in a moment. But your assessment of the budgetary impact?
LEIGH: Again blowing out inequality, Waleed. You and I seem to talk about inequality every time we get together for one of these conversations, and the context that we're having that conversation in is that we've seen a big rise in inequality in Australia over the past generation. Billionaires have made out a whole lot better than battlers over the last 30 years. And now we've got a deal which disproportionately benefits a few billionaires at the expense of nine million battlers. Australians have a right to expect that they can retire in dignity, and they've got a right to expect that the Prime Minister will stay true to his pre-election promises not to change superannuation. This is a big adverse change and it seems as though the reflexive instinct of this government at every turn is to back the filthy rich at the expense of the most vulnerable. So when it comes to superannuation, they've scrapped our modest savings which asked people with more than $2 million in their super accounts to pay a little bit more tax, but at the same time they're slugging people earning less than $37,000 a year – two-thirds of whom are women – with higher superannuation taxes. It's a government which is constantly hurting the most vulnerable; a group of ministers who make the Addams Family look like the Brady Bunch.
Pro Bono Australia has released the results of its 2014 State of the Sector survey, which shows that the vast majority of charities still back the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission despite the Abbott Government's efforts to scrap it. Here's my release with Senator Claire Moore, the Shadow Minister for Communities, calling on the government to see sense and keep the commission:
SUPPORT FOR THE CHARITIES COMMISSION REMAINS RESOLUTELY STRONG
In a major survey released today, four in every five Australians working in the not-for-profit sector back the charities commission, showing the folly of the Abbott Government’s plans to abolish it.
Pro Bono Australia's national online survey found 82 per cent of respondents believe the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) is important or extremely important for a thriving not-for-profit sector.
This is consistent with the 83 percent of respondents who backed the ACNC in the 2013 survey.
With the worsening situation in Iraq prompting the Australian Government to commit resources towards international relief efforts, I joined Fairfax's Breaking Politics program to talk about humanitarian intervention and the moral case for action. Here's the transcript:
MONDAY, 1 SEPTEMBER, 2014
SUBJECT/S: Australian military involvement in Iraq
CHRIS HAMMER: We're joined now by Labor's Andrew Leigh and the Liberal Party's Andrew Laming to talk about Australia's renewed intervention in Iraq. Andrew Laming, I'll come to you first as a representative of the Government, why is Australia backing Iraq?
ANDREW LAMING, MEMBER FOR BOWMAN: Australia is a pluralist, democratic economy and we've long supported efforts in the Middle East to see that new democracies can thrive. What we can see here is that areas like Syria and Iraq clearly are under threat both from a humanitarian sense and a security sense. I think there's bipartisan agreement, mostly, across both chambers and on the street in my electorate for some form of intervention to support the innocent people who are caught up in this.
HAMMER: Dropping food and water to trapped civilians is one thing, giving arms to one side in a bloody civil war is another. How can that be justified?
LAMING: Well, I have no problem with supporting the Kurdish minorities. I've lived and worked in parts of Kurdish controlled Western Asia. I'm very supportive of addressing the particularly difficult situation in that area, geographically and geopolitically. I'm 100 per cent behind this type of military support, but protecting innocent people is just one part of it. The greater picture, of course, is national security.
HAMMER: In that case would you support some sort of Kurdish independence, an independent Kurdish state in the north of Iraq?
LAMING: Well that's the next question. My work was done in Turkey itself and a long time ago, but my main concern is keeping the borders as they are. At the moment Kurds in Northern Iraq have a high level of autonomy and were actually achieving autonomy, which is a great achievement. This is all under compromise and under threat with the emergence of ISIS.
HAMMER: Okay, Andrew Leigh, why has Labor been so quick to support the Government in this?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Chris, I think Andrew has very articulately put the successes of the Kurdish community on the table and against that you have this terrifying movement in IS, a group so extreme that they were disavowed by al-Qaeda. They are carrying out something that seems to be bordering on genocide, undertaking attacks on minority religions but also killing Sunni and Shia people. They claim to do this under some sort of theocratic banner but frankly there is no religion that advocates rape, murder and pillage on the scale that IS is committing it. Providing support to vulnerable communities is, I believe, in fulfillment of the UN Genocide Convention.
As part of launching my new book 'The Economics of Just About Everything', I sat down for an interview with my good friend Dr Tim Harcourt, also known as The Airport Economist. In this video, we to talk about the economics of dating, dieting and designing policy. Take a look:
I was proud to join with members of the activist group Vocal Majority in launching a photo album showing Australian families in all their forms and guises. I also had a few words to say about love overcoming prejudice:
ADDRESS TO THE VOCAL MAJORITY FAMILY ALBUM LAUNCH
THURSDAY, 28 AUGUST 2014
I acknowledge the Ngunnawal people, the traditional owners of the lands on which we meet today, my parliamentary colleagues Claire Moore and Larissa Waters, and ACT MLA Yvette Berry.
Thank you to the Vocal Majority organisers, including its founders Melanie Poole and Courtney Sloane, and Nikki and the team who run the organisation today.
My words today are not just for the people who have travelled halfway around the world to bring a message of intolerance and exclusion into the building behind me.
And they are not just for Coalition parliamentarians who think their personal prejudices should guide our nation’s policies.
My words today are for Australia’s mums and dads; its mums and mums; dads and dads – and anyone else who considers themselves to be part of a family bound together by love.
I want you to know that the love you feel for your family, the love which you give and receive in return, will rise above the hostility of those who seek to deny it. A love as strong and universal as yours demands recognition, and on a day not very far from now, I know that recognition will be given.
One of the most interesting emerging trends in the competition portfolio is the rise of collaborative consumption services like Uber and AirBnB. In the Australian Financial Review I've explored some issues that these services raise for governments and how we can spread their benefits while also protecting consumers. Here's the article:
WHEN THE DISRUPTORS RATTLE OLD REGULATORY SYSTEMS, Australian Financial Review, 27 August 2014
In today’s tech parlance, Nikola Tesla was a disruptive innovator. When he invented the alternating current electricity supply system and began marketing it to cities across America, Tesla took on the corporate might of Thomas Edison’s Illuminating Company, which used the inferior direct current system.
Tesla’s technology punctured the status quo by offering consumers a different way to meet their energy needs — one that was cheaper, more efficient and bypassed existing network structures. Edison went so far as to publicly electrocute an elephant in his efforts to discredit Tesla, but consumers voted with their wallets. Consumers moved from DC to AC power, and Edison’s firm was spurred into innovative new technologies in search of fresh profit.
As Parliament resumed for the first sittings of the spring session, I joined Lyndal Curtis on Capital Hill to talk about why the government has found itself in such a budget quandary. Here's the video and transcript:
ABC CAPITAL HILL
TUESDAY, 26 AUGUST 2014
SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s unfair Budget
LYNDAL CURTIS: Throughout the five-week parliamentary winter break, the Opposition has stuck fast to its plans to oppose budget measures it disagrees with. The Shadow Assistant Treasurer is Andrew Leigh and he joins me now in the studio. Andrew Leigh, welcome to Capital Hill.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Thanks Lyndal.
CURTIS: If I could start with the Finance Minister's comments on increased taxes this morning: isn't it a statement of the obvious that if the government needs to rein in spending, rein in the budget or make room for future spending, it will have to cut existing spending or raise future taxes, won't it?
LEIGH: Those are the clear options for a government that wants to pay down debt, Lyndal. But one of the important things to understand is how we've got to where we are now. Part of that has to do with the government saying ‘no’ to a very large source of revenue in the carbon price. The carbon price isn't just the smartest way of reducing Australia's carbon emissions, it is also an important boost to the budget.
As we enter the first Parliamentary sitting week of the Spring Session, the Abbott Government's first budget remains unresolved and there is significant division within the Coalition over key environmental policies like the Direct Action Plan. I joined Sky AM Agenda to discuss why the best thing the government could do is go back to the drawing board on all fronts. Here's the transcript:
SKY AM AGENDA
MONDAY, 25 AUGUST 2014
SUBJECT/S: Tony Abbott’s Unfair Budget; Coalition’s flawed Direct Action plan
KIERAN GILBERT: With me now on the program this Monday morning, Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh and also the Parliamentary Secretary for Communications, Paul Fletcher. Paul Fletcher, first you've heard what Senator Xenophon had to say in his proposal. What is the government's position on this?
PAUL FLETCHER, PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY FOR COMMUNICATIONS: Good morning Kieran. The government's position in relation to the emissions reduction fund has consistently been than it is in relation to domestic expenditure. So that point was made very clear when the white paper was issued earlier this year. Now I think we heard Senator Xenophon say that he's put forward a proposal, he's been in discussions with the Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, as you'd expect. Environment Minister Greg Hunt is in discussions with a range of independent senators, as you'd expect when we have a policy and a legislation you want to get through the senate which is directed towards achieving that 5% reduction target. Achieving a reduction by 2020 on the 2000 levels of emissions in Australia and our policy instrument to achieve that is the Direct Action Policy. We've consistently advocated and pursued that policy for several years, two elections. We are now obviously working to get the legislation through the senate.
GILBERT: Do you think that it makes sense to have this as a complimentary measure to the Direct Action Plan, to have this prospect of having carbon permits bought internationally, legitimate ones? Might that be a good way to compliment the efforts to meet that target?
FLETCHER: Well look, it's not in our policy. Minister Greg Hunt is dealing with them in a courteous and professional fashion, as he always does I might add; with Senator Xenophon and all of the independent Senators and crossbenchers in relation to getting our legislation through for the emission reduction fund, implementing the Direct Action policy through the Senate. We'll continue to have those discussions and those negotiations with the view to getting our legislation through the Senate so that we can achieve that very important reduction in emissions that is our policy. We can achieve that through the implementation of our Direct Action Plan.
GILBERT: Andrew Leigh, what's Labor's view on this? I recall that the idea of international permits was part of the emissions trading scheme proposal, is that correct? And what's your view on this suggestion by Senator Xenophon?
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: That's right Kieran. Just to respond to Paul, the Labor policy was very clearly going to be to use the most efficient, most effective way of reducing carbon emissions and that's a carbon price. Now we've got 30 countries around the world going down that route for the simple reason that when you put a price on carbon pollution, you can get more abatement. Direct Action is a misnomer because it is not direct nor does it take action. There's no credible economist in Australia that thinks that Direct Action alone can meet those emissions reduction targets that are vital to Australia doing our part to combat dangerous climate change. We know very well that we've had temperature records broken, record hot temperature last year, record hot winters, record hot summers. And as a result we've just got the Coalition now saying that they're going to put in place a fig leaf – as Malcolm Turnbull very correctly noted – from a government that really doesn't deep down believe in climate change.