Getting rid of the final few cases will take ingenuity. In a speech earlier this year, I quoted former Economist journalist Robert Guest, writing in 2004:
‘Somalia has no government, unless you count a “transitional” one that controls a few streets in the capital, Mogadishu, and a short stretch of coastline. The rest of the country is divided into warring fiefdoms. Warlords extract protection money from anyone who has money to extract. Clans, sub-clans, and sub-sub-clans pursue bloody vendettas against each other, often fighting over grudges that pre-date the colonial period. Few children learn to read, but practically all self-respecting young men carry submachine-guns.
‘I was at one of the country’s countless road blocks, on a sandy road outside Baidoa, a southern town of shell-blasted stone walls and sandy streets. The local warlord’s men were waving their Kalishnikovs at approaching trucks, forcing them to stop. Many of the trucks carried passengers perched atop the cargoes of logs or oil drums. The men with guns then ordered all the children under five to dismount and herded them into the shade of a nearby tree. There, they handed them over to strangers with clipboards, who squeezed open their mouths and fed each one a single drop of polio vaccine.’
Robert Guest is describing vaccination work carried out by the World Health Organisation, which decided that working with local warlords to distribute polio vaccine was the lesser of two evils.
Shelly Penn, who has been serving on the NCA's board, will step into the role of acting chairperson.
In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, the White Queen tells Alice: ‘Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’
I was recalling this line the other day when thinking about the task faced by Tony Abbott. Here are the six impossible things that the Opposition Leader has to believe before breakfast every day.
Impossibility 1: That a price on carbon pollution won’t change behaviour. Once upon a time, Liberals used to believe in the power of prices. Now, they take a selective approach. When it comes to the effect of the exchange rate on import prices and the impact of income taxation on the price of work, they contend that prices matter. But when it comes to carbon, the Opposition must believe the impossible: that companies won’t reduce their pollution when we put a price on it.
Impossibility 2: That mining companies pay too much tax. In August, BHP posted a $23 billion profit – the largest in Australian history. As the Henry Tax Review acknowledges, Australia’s royalty tax regime is both inequitable and inefficient. That’s why Labor is moving towards a profit-based tax on the minerals that are the birthright of every Australian. It’s only Mr Abbott and his naysaying Liberal-National team who think that mining companies are paying enough tax.
Impossibility 3: That WorkChoices will raise productivity. The current decline in productivity growth began about a decade ago, about midway through the Howard Government’s time in office. In the WorkChoices era, the productivity growth rate continued to fall. As the Grattan Institute’s Saul Eslake pointed out at a conference run by the Reserve Bank of Australia: ‘the workplace relations reforms introduced by the Howard Government under the title “WorkChoices” in its last term in office were not, primarily, “productivity-enhancing”.’ Mr Abbott likes to claim that WorkChoices is ‘dead, buried and cremated’. But it’s increasingly looking like he pickled his favourite bits before burying the rest.
Impossibility 4: That Australia could’ve gotten through the GFC without taking on debt. When an economic downturn hits, it has two impacts on the budget. First, revenues fall as governments get lower company tax receipts, less income tax, and less GST. Second, smart governments engage in fiscal stimulus – stepping in to keep people in jobs and businesses afloat. In the 2008-09 downturn, two-thirds of the cost to the budget came from lower revenues, while one-third came from fiscal stimulus. In total, we took on debt less than a tenth of national income – a small fraction of the debt loads in most developed countries. When you hear Liberal and National Party members arguing that Australia shouldn’t have gone into debt, they’re not only saying that we shouldn’t have had fiscal stimulus. They’re also contending that when a downturn hits, the government should start cutting back. That’s either an economic recipe for disaster, or just another impossible claim.
Impossibility 5: That Australians are saving enough for retirement. When the Keating Government introduced universal superannuation in the early-1990s, some Liberals denounced it as an unwarranted impost on businesses. Two decades later, universal superannuation has become part of Australia’s social fabric. But in a ‘Groundhog Day’ moment, the Opposition are currently opposing an increase in the minimum superannuation contribution from 9% to 12%. What’s particularly ironic about this is that every member of parliament elected since 2004 are covered by an agreement that sees us receive 15% superannuation contributions. Impossibly, Liberal-National Party members of parliament believe that 15% is good enough for them, but 9% is sufficient for their constituents.
Impossibility 6: That parliament isn’t working. Since the last election, the Gillard Government has passed more than 200 Bills through the House of Representatives and nearly 150 through the Parliament. That’s more than the Howard Government in the same amount of time. At the same time, the Opposition are bereft of policy ideas, and staring at a $70 billion hole in their costings. As the White Queen said to Alice: ‘The rule is, jam tomorrow and jam yesterday – but never jam today.’ Perhaps that will be the basis on which Mr Abbott draws up his next election costings.
Australia can’t afford to be caught in Tony Abbott’s ‘wonderland’ where truth yields to nonsense. It’s time for the Opposition Leader to give up his six impossibilities, and join the conversation about how to build a better future for Australia.
I’m going to be pounding the pavement with 10 of my staff and friends to help add to the $220, 000 that has already raised for this important cause. If you’d also like to be part of the action you can register online here, or you can make a donation here.
What: Ben Donohoe Run and Walk for Fun
Where: John Knight Memorial Park, Lake Ginnindera
When: Registration from 7.30am – 8.30am, Sunday 6th November 2011
You can find more information on the event website.
Hope you can make – please feel free to swing by my marquee and say hello if you do!
SENATOR THE HON MARK ARBIB
Minister for Indigenous Employment and Economic Development
Minister for Sport
Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness
ANDREW LEIGH MP
Member for Fraser
28 October 2011
EIGHT NEW SOCIAL HOUSING DWELLINGS IN CANBERRA
Vulnerable people in Canberra will benefit from a new social housing development opened today, supported with $1.6 million from the Australian Government.
Minister for Social Housing and Homelessness Mark Arbib and Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh today welcomed the opening of the new development in David Street, O’Connor, which will offer safe and secure homes for people in need.
“This development will provide a stable home for seniors, people with disabilities and people who are experiencing or at risk of homelessness,” Dr Leigh said.
“It features eight two-bedroom units, four of which are Class C Adaptable, which means they are easily modified for tenants with a disability.
“The units incorporate six-star energy rating and environmental design principles such as an underground rain water tank and gas boosted solar hot water units.
“I would like to thank the ACT Government for their involvement in the development and management of this housing development.
“Through this development, we are helping to reduce homelessness, and we are giving vulnerable people in Canberra a better future.”
The development, worth $2.1 million in total, is partly funded through the Australian Government’s Social Housing Initiative, which is designed to assist low income Australians who are homeless or struggling in the private rental market.
The Australian Government’s $5.6 billion investment under the Social Housing Initiative represents the single largest investment in social housing ever undertaken by an Australian Government.
Senator Arbib welcomed the new development which will provide security to some of the vulnerable people in Canberra in need of a home.
“These wonderful new homes will give some of our most vulnerable a place to call home,” Senator Arbib said.
“Under the Social Housing Initiative, around 19,600 homes are being constructed across the nation and will be completed by June 2012 – over 16,400 of these have already been completed.
“In the ACT, the Australian and ACT Governments are working together to deliver 421 new homes – 419 of which have been completed.
“Through the Initiative, the Australian Government has supported more than 15,000 jobs nationally, and helped shield Australia from the recession that hit most other economies.”
(On a more serious note, I'm chuffed to be joining in the same cohort as Lisa Hill, who taught me in my undergraduate political science degree, Stephen Bell, who marked my undegraduate honours thesis in 1994; and former ANU colleagues Dave Chalmers, Hal Hill, Jeff Bennett, Kaarin Anstey and Andrew Podger. Thanks too to my nominators - who I'll refrain from naming in case they'd like to maintain anonymity.)
For the past six months I’ve been lending out my marquee to community groups. It’s been very popular, and has been used to assist causes as diverse as motorcycle awareness and the Mount Rogers Explorer Day. Now I’ve got a small public address system which I’d be happy to lend to any community group that needs a bit of amplification. It’s simple to use, operates off a rechargeable internal battery (or mains power), and it comes with a microphone. It’s ideal for addressing small gatherings - indoor or outdoor. Phone 6247 4396 or email me at Andrew.Leigh.MP<AT>aph.gov.au to book either the marquee or the PA system for your event.
And while I'm talking about community groups, I’m also opening up a spot in my newsletter, the modestly-named Leigh Report, as a noticeboard for organisations that are seeking to expand their membership. It could be an appeal for volunteers or it could be a shout out to like-minded Canberrans who just don’t know you exist. Email the contact details of your organisation and a one-sentence summary of who in the community you’re trying to reach to Andrew.Leigh.MP<AT>aph.gov.au and I’ll try to include it in the next newsletter.
My video from my latest Capital Hill appearance with Kelly O'Dwyer, hosted by Julie Doyle.http://www.youtube.com/embed/77lQBT0GQoE