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Byron Shire
April 14, 2021

Thus Spake Mungo: The Package

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Last week Anthony Albanese passed his first test – at least the one the magisterial examiners of The Australian devised for him. He had retreated, gloated the paper – caved, rolled over to the majesty of the ScoMo mandate.

By agreeing to pass the enormity of the coalition tax package, he had acknowledged the verdict of hard-working Australians, and it follows, as dogs return to their vomit, that any other bright ideas Scott Morrison can come up with must be obeyed with similar capitulation.

After all, isn’t that the point of an election? We won, they lost – and that makes everything they ever did or said irrelevant. We might as well close down the opposition altogether, we can do better without it. Come to that, we don’t really need the parliament at all – the executive is quite capable of governing without it.

Indeed, why bother with a ministry? When Morrison was asked before the election who would drive the agenda if he won, he replied simply: “I will.” There have long been mutterings about how democracy was failing, the need for a strong leader — so why not leave it to the great helmsman, the miraculous marketeer? How good is dictatorship?

The rationale appears to be one of caution, if not outright cowardice – if Labor had opposed the package, it would be berated and attacked for holding back the lollies out of sheer spite and stubborness.

Well, actually not very, so fortunately things are not quite as dire as that scenario might imply. But that is the logic behind Albanese’s capitulation. The rationale appears to be one of caution, if not outright cowardice – if Labor had opposed the package, it would be berated and attacked for holding back the lollies out of sheer spite and stubbornness. That was why the bill was called, risibly, “Treasury Laws Amendment Bill (Tax Relief so Working Australians Keep More of their Money.)”

But did anyone seriously believe that abject surrender would be greeted with applause? It took seconds for Morrison to return to the constant abuse and for The Australian to set up another test, this one (surprise surprise) over national security – the need to give more power and influence to Peter Dutton and his goon squad and repeal legislation bringing suffering asylum seekers treatment.

As we all know, giving in to bully tactics may buy a few moments peace, but is ultimately utterly self-defeating. Labor had a clear, consistent and defensible position: while stages one and two of the tax package were acceptable and even sensible, stage three was both regressive and fanciful – and also unnecessary, given that it was still two elections away from being implemented.

Labor was willing, even eager, to support stage one and bring stage two forward as a matter of urgency. And there would be plenty of time to worry about stage three if and when the circumstances were appropriate.

Morrison had promised immediate cuts to the lower end of income earners and the need for economic stimulus was, and is, glaringly apparent

The government, of course, rejected that proposition out of hand, ranting about its mandate – and it may have continued to call Albanese’s bluff. But it would have been a dangerous one – Morrison had promised immediate cuts to the lower end of income earners and the need for economic stimulus was, and is, glaringly apparent. And Morrison, as he constantly tells us, is the man in charge. If he could not get his policy through, his would be the failure.

At the very least, it can be argued that Albanese blinked prematurely. And in doing so, he has greatly disappointed his followers, who were hoping that he fight for what he believed in. Political pragmatism is all very well, but throwing in the towel at the first challenge is not a good look.

Albo may have passed the test The Australian set, but at the cost of failing the more important one before an already cynical and disillusioned public. In The Australian Graham Richardson, these days more of a Murdochian than a Labor warrior, asked that if the party would not agree to tax cuts, what would they agree to? To which the obvious response should be: if the party will not stand up for its principles, what will it stand up for?

But for all the crowing from the right, Morrison and his treasurer Josh Frydenberg now face a test of their own, and it will come much quicker than the rainbow gold of the stage three tax cuts. The whole point of the package, Morrison insisted, was to kick start the sluggish economy – in particular to create more jobs, to reduce the current figure of 5.2 per cent unemployment to something like the 4.5 per cent the Reserve Bank believes is necessary to get wages moving.

And there is considerable doubt over whether the $1000 handout from stage one will even touch the sides. The RBA’s Phillip Lowe is clearly sceptical – he has continually called for more and quicker infrastructure, a demand that has now been taken up by most of the state governments. But Frydenberg says there is no need for it – the current mix is sufficient, and with a bit more bureaucracy busting and union bashing we can muddle through.

According to an increasing number of realists – Frydenberg seems unable to diagnose the problem, let alone to find a remedy

After all, he declares with all the conviction of a man assuring us that black is white and the sun rises in the west, we have a strong economy. Well, he would say that, wouldn’t he? His job is to be a professional Pollyanna. But quite apart from the self-evident fact that the economy is in the doldrums – drifting into recession, according to an increasing number of realists – Frydenberg seems unable to diagnose the problem, let alone to find a remedy.

He is still extolling his putative surplus, which Ed Husic perceptively describes as a vanity project: if it eventuates, it is more likely to do harm than good. And Frydenberg is still claiming that the whole tax package is fully funded – why, just look at the projections in the budget. Even if that was true then (and it probably wasn’t) it certainly isn’t now: those projections have been consistently downgraded since then, and two interest rate cuts have made it clear that we are sinking steadily deeper into the mire.

The tax package was supposed to be the great panacea, the universal solvent, the philosopher’s stone. If it doesn’t work, there is no plan B, and even ScoMo – even The Australian – will find it hard to lay the blame on Labor. So perhaps Albanese will have the last laugh after all. Except that if everything goes down the toilet, no one will be laughing.


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25 COMMENTS

  1. Just think of the disaster the Govt would be in, if there had not been the mining disaster in Brazil to cause the rise in iron ore prices that has given the Govt the unexpected windfall in revenue?
    All they seem to be doing, is have this massive immigration intake to keep this fake “Now floundering” housing economic bubble going.
    The recession just keeps getting worse, the reserve bank begging the Govt to do something.
    There is no planning no policy on the agenda now after the tax cuts.
    Apart from their crazy “Religious Freedom” legislation to placate the fundamentalist extremist factions. Senator C F-W actually cursed a “Pox on both houses” of Parliament if she and her fanatical “Catholic Taliban” faction don’t get their way?
    Australia, what have you voted back into Govt?

  2. As always, Mungo is on the money. One point of contention though. The tax refuind is not $1,080. It is a scaled refund amount depending upon the recipient’s level of income. If your income is less than $37,000, your low income tax offset of $445 (still in place) is increased to $700 – an additional tax offset of $255. Only if your income is betwee $48,000 and $90,000 do you get the full $1,080 increase – up to $48,000 and above $90,000 there are shading-in and shading-out mechanisms respectively.

    I vehemently agree that the mainstream media have, as perhaps should have been expected, been utterly atrocious. There was no, or minimal discussion of the inequity of the tax cuts and that they heavily favour those at the top-end of the income scales; no mention that Reagan, Thatcher and now Trump implemented massive tax cuts for the rich during their reigns, without ANY measuremable improvement in the economies of their respective countries, but very measurable increases in inequality and the plight of the poor in their countries. Instead, the media managed to ignore all that and to focus instead on Labor’s apparent “political gymnastics” in the face of the alleged Morrison Mandate. This is one key reason why Labor will continue to struggle against a lying, self-centred buffoon, albeit one who lies with great confidence – until they can find a powerful narrative of their own that can cut through the bias of the Murdoch-media. Morrison has taken a page out of the Trump book of politicial nonsense and jingoistic jargon and is building his own Cult of Real Australian People who believe all his lies about his own performance and about the evil Labor Party, unions and those”lefties” who don’t want religious nutcases to have the freedom to discriminate against anyone for any reason.

    • Agree with most of the comment. There were a couple of journos from MSM (Adele Ferguson & Jessica Irvine) who know how to add and crunch complicated numbers who highlighted the cost and unfairness of the 3rd part of the tax package.

  3. The word on the street is we are on the road to a Bjelke petersen style cabinet of two, that is if we haven’t secretly reached it already.

  4. She be rite mate, the CLEAN COALition is on the job. I am sure we will be told & re-told how good we are doing!

    Good to see the Pollies are looking after their own wages! (Both State & Federal)

      • Eve , with all due respect ..if you have not already done so…go travel the world…. most of us are born in the most wonderful country in the world…ask most people’s of the world , which countries if they had a choice to come to on a permanent basis ..you will find , Australia would be in the top 3 …seriously even if labor had one government with the greens !! That Australia would be in a better position with their policies? Thats why the majority voted as they did ..voted labor for over a decade, when labor were a party for the workers !! Not any more …so yes the future is bright for Australians.. lets just stay positive !!

    • I’m loving hearing Mungo all fired up! In the words of Zach de la Rocha, ‘your anger is a gift’. Maintain the rage Mungo.

  5. All this talk of Murdoch press, like it runs the country de facto. To find a piece from this empire you usually have to subscribe, as they have to have advertisers. The abc and 24 are fully funded. All the universities run presses free of charge, arguably. Not sure about the Guardian, the Conversation, the Monthly, and most of the Net, all probably funded. It’s not just Murdoch versus the Saints, or if it is the Saints also have the UN, the EU and the Jihad. All told, this is all political gob-speak. At least I can twiddle with my knob and pick up Alpha Centauri, more sense in that part of the universe.

  6. The UNOIS in conjunction with its world-wide portals has decided to encourage all future voting practice be devoted to a colour of the voter’s liking: red, green, bluish white, black of course, pink for undecided, and forthwith that choice be determined for life. There could be much to gain from such a determination and at least a clear pointer to the future. After all, an undecided future is no better than one decided by whim, with all its unknown facts. Statements will be made shortly to help ascertain the future of such a covenant.

  7. Mungo,
    That style is of The Australian … and it used to be what the Sydney Morning Herald used it do when they had classifieds. Now there is no Fairfax. Them’s the facts.

  8. Perfect opportunity for labour to show what they stand for. To show they are not just a slightly different version of the coalition. They missed an opportunity. If they don’t work out who they are as a political party soon they will quickly become irrelevant.

  9. I have been observing the SMH since it was sold off and I have noted a huge swerve to the right…or am I just imagining it? Look, Morrison has NO AGENDA. He did not expect to win and neither did those who jumped ship. On election night I was flabbergasted to hear The Prophet say….“I can’t believe we have won. I have no idea what we’re going to do next”.This sums it up. No vision. No plan for the future of our country. Labor has no ears and deserved yo lose. After the Mayo loss (Downer’s daughter) Downer was asked how the Looters could win the election. In his usual churlish manner Downer was confident of a Liberal win….“To win the election, the Liberals will have to run a fierce negative campaign against their opponents”. (Alexander Downer, August 19th, 2018 The Australian Financial Review). Of course Labor took no notice, did not prepare for the lies about death taxes etc and ran the worst campaign since Federation. That said, Labor should not slit its wrists. The Looters have only one more seat than last time….all the more reason for Labor not to panic and casts off its values and beliefs as Albo has done. This will see the end of him. Albo is an interim leader. Unless there is a recession I see Labor out for 2 terms or more what with the iron ore price at $129 a tonne and revenue pouring in. Chalmers should have been made leader. He along with Dreyfus, Leigh, Clare are the future, the brains and engine room of the party. Our country missed out on possibly the most qualified since Hawke;s. Instead, we have this rabble. Albo is old school and tainted by the Rudd/Gillard knifing years. He missed his chance when Shorten was wrongly chosen ahead of him. Albo would have been leader if Shorten had failed in the Super Saturday by-elections…yep the elections Labor needed to lose to maybe win.

  10. So much talk of Murdoch, as tho he rules his press completely and the world as well. Unlike 24 his company has to advertise for funds. Unlike the University presses, and probably unlike the Monthly as well …
    Still why we so worried about little old here … California could be facing major continental shift, with major destruction. A fact of mohorovocic discontinuity which no doubt the jihadists would credit Allah for. And the climate changers would somehow figure it too.
    I’ve had ten reboots tonight, my circuits are jumping, while my wheels are on fire. Do the dogooders ever have uncertain moments, as they calculate the next round of taxes? Religious freedom for the loony left!!

  11. What test did you give Anthony Albanese, teacher.
    You must have given him the test to know if he got the pass mark.

  12. Well I will answer you, Len. Albonese seems like a decent man from what I know, the story of him finding his unknown father is poignant, a university background but also Labor roots, the trying to marry factions in the Rudd-Gillard years. Pretty well untainted in his time.
    My question to you is do we vote for leaders, unless we happen to live in one’s electorate? In America, they do, they vote for a president. In our benign Westminster system we vote for a local member. Most of the press including our own beloved Mangosteen would seem to suggest otherwise, and we curly haired voters go along with it all. The Caucus then of whichever party, winners or losers, must provide the Hermitage Grange or the sour grapes. And here we are all wondering why so many leadership changes. The media in this country is calling a game between the captains, not the team. And not the history or the policy much either, derisive politics, one man’s hairdo against a woman’s shoes. or visa verso.

  13. But yes len, the pass mark, or the parse mark … who’s passing who in this competition, or parsing the verse … ‘enormity’ of the tax cut legislation? Rather clever politics from the government, to divide the Left, they can’t say no and they don’t want to say yes, they’re stuck. And Lambie is laughing all the way to the bank.

  14. What is really clear is that the Senate is not clear. Lambie has made it clear she will deal in horses. The Hanson Two are unpredictable. The Centre Alliance, not sure yet. And Bernardi can be relied upon for now. All this horse trading just amounts to a fraction of the nation’s vote equal to both majorities, whichever way it goes. Whether we’re died in the wool labor, liberal or national, it matters not a toss. The greens want more taxes on miners, Wilkie wants an end to poker machines, Katter probably wants a renegade North, Hanson … who knows, and Lambie is laughing. So who cares about Albonese or Morrison for that matter, neither of them are pulling the strings. Gillard thought she was in charge … guns to the left of them, guns to the right of them, into the valley of death …

  15. Excuse me, gentlemen. As they say – I’m a ‘bit long
    in the tooth’ & I get what you’re on about – so, I’d
    like to nominate a cartoon-contender if you don’t
    mind though he’s somewhat aged & a mite pickled.
    DRUM ROLL… ‘Radish ESQ for the leadership of
    ‘The Horse Party’. Do we have any takers?

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