Labor’s Pyrrhic Victory

The Member for Fremantle, Melissa Parke, is once again in denial complaining that the Abbott government has introduced 17 new taxes. Yet under the previous Labor governments a raft of new taxes were introduced: new taxes on carbon dioxide, coal, iron ore and alcopops; increasing taxes on tobacco, ethanol, LPG, luxury cars, superannuation, etc.

Following is from The Spectator Australia:

“By winning the battle, Labor have managed to lose the war. With such a monumental strategic blunder, Bill Shorten and Chris Bowen have in all likelihood handed the next election to the LNP, and rescued the prime ministership of Tony Abbott.

As we argued at the time, the cleverest course for Labor last year would have been to allow the Coalition’s 2014 Budget to pass through the Senate. In doing so, they would have achieved three important victories. Firstly, they would have removed the Rudd/Gillard/Swan stain of wanton profligacy which, instead, they perversely wear like a badge of honour. Secondly, they would have endowed shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen with some much-need economic credentials of his own – namely, fiscal responsibility. And finally, aiding the Coalition in reforming our economy would have allowed Bill Shorten’s Labor to paint itself as the true heir to the Hawke/Keating legacy; a powerful electoral selling-point.

At the same time, the government would have been forced to wear all the opprobrium for the $7 visits to the doctor, the cuts to the pension, the welfare crackdowns and so on. Labor would have been able to rant about genuine, as opposed to theoretical, examples of Coalition ‘austerity’. Come the next election, Labor would then be in the enviable position of being able to bribe their way back into power with a fistful of tantalising handouts because much of the repair work had been done.

Instead, so brazen and successful has Labor’s obstructionist Senate campaign been, to the point where they’ve blocked cuts they themselves had proposed, that the ensuing gridlock has forced the government to abandon many of its key ideological strongholds. Where last year Joe Hockey offered up sensible economic reforms but forgot that he had to sell them, this year the Treasurer offers up a swag of saleable goodies shorn of all the whiffy bits of reform.

The losers in the long run will be, of course, the Australian taxpayer. But, as has been frequently debated within these pages, a less-than-perfect Coalition is still vastly preferable to the undergraduate socialists currently occupying the opposition benches. Whether Tony Abbott opts for an early election, or to stay the distance and offer up a similarly gentle budget next year, the reality is that this government has abandoned ‘harshness’ for the time being. That it has been forced to do so by Labor and the wanton stupidity of the Independent senators should not be lightly dismissed. Much was made in the frenzied run-up to Budget night about ‘whose Budget is it anyway?’ One could argue that it is as much Labor and the Independent’s Budget as anybody’s, having been designed with the express purpose of getting through the Senate.

The Senate are now faced with either passing it or facing an early, possibly double dissolution, election. The Coalition can argue that they have listened, that they have responded to community concerns, etc. Labor, meanwhile, can argue… what exactly? That they would be tougher in government? Hardly. That they would be even more generous? That would be suicidal.

Yes, this Budget’s measures for small business and growth are to be commended, and the desire to crack down on ‘bludgers’ – be they on welfare or sitting in the boardrooms of multinationals – admirable. The politics of the Budget are perfect, the economics palatable, the selling messages spot on – but clearly the heavy fiscal pruning must wait until the next political winter, or perhaps the one after. As for the ‘entitled’ country, the music will carry on for a bit longer, it appears, albeit slightly subdued. We’ve turned the stereo down to stop the police from knocking at the door, but we’re still partying like it’s 1999.”

United Nations Security Council

THERE is one overwhelming benefit to having won a temporary seat on the UN Security Council: we won’t have to go through this tawdry, ridiculous business again for at least another 10 or 15 years.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr was quick to say the vote demonstrated that the world liked Australia and esteemed us as a nation of good values and a big contributor. Presumably, the world feels the same about Rwanda, which was also elected to a temporary seat yesterday.

In one of those exquisite pieces of timing by which the UN is always threatening to put satirists out of a job, a UN report the previous day concluded that Rwanda’s Defence Minister was sponsoring rebels in the Congo “accused of annexing territory and committing atrocities”.

It’s a hard thing to earn, apparently, this international esteem.

No doubt the Security Council will benefit from Australia’s presence.

The question is whether Australia will benefit.

One of the many dolorous consequences of this vote is its effect on our vastly bloated and ineffective aid budget, already over $5 billion and scheduled to rise to $8billion and more.

It is not the few tens of millions of dollars spent on diplomacy related to the bid that counts. It is rather the hundreds of millions, perhaps over time billions, of dollars of distortion in our aid budget that the bid necessitates.

Over the time of the bid we have more than tripled our aid to Africa. We give aid too thinly to too many countries and much of it is ineffective.

Similarly, we have vastly increased aid to Palestinian groups, a number with extremely dubious associations, in a blatant political pander.

There is a vast economic literature that explodes the idea that aid is an effective way of promoting development or eradicating poverty. And if you think aid creates long-term goodwill from the recipient to the donor, just look at Egyptian or Pakistani attitudes to the US.

Billions of dollars of aid over many years have bought dependency, political extremism and seething hatred of America.

When the Howard government lost the last Security Council bid in 1996, it decided not to saddle up for another try quickly.

It reached this decision in part on the basis of the kind of aid promises, and distortions, that were necessary to win a bid.

Had we lost this bid, our aid budget would have declined, as it probably still will if Tony Abbott is elected prime minister.

If Labor stays in office it will probably feel the need to honour all the pledges it made to win this tawdry bauble.

And here is the greater danger of this Security Council position. It will almost certainly lead to the trivialisation of Australian foreign policy.

How can this be, you ask, when we will be on the world’s premier decision-making body? Well, all the real decisions are made among the permanent five members of the Security Council.

A commentator in the Fairfax newspapers subconsciously made the point about the impending distortion of our foreign policy on Thursday: “If we win, the conflicts in Syria, Sudan and Somalia will take on added importance”.

Exactly. We cannot get the government, as it is, to concentrate on foreign policy in our region, on the things that are of most importance to us.

Julia Gillard has not visited Papua New Guinea as Prime Minister. When she touched down in India this week, it was for only the second Australian prime ministerial day in India in five years. We run the smallest diplomatic service in the G20 and one of the smallest in the developed world. The pattern of prime ministerial travel in Southeast Asia is very weak.

We do not do our core tasks in foreign affairs because they are not sexy, they offer very little domestic political pay-off, they are hard to spin well in the 24-hour news cycle.

Now more than ever our foreign policy will be caught up in the boutique trivia of UN reform, the media-friendly issues of the Middle East and Africa, where we can have no impact, and in the great global gabfests.

Even worse, it is part of the ongoing Europeanisation of Australian political culture under the Gillard government. The obsessions of multilateral bureaucrats and the chattering classes of Manhattan will overwhelm the already meagre effort we make on the issues of greatest importance to our national interest.

By the way, as I reported weeks ago, the government had more than enough pledges from foreign nations to win this vote some time ago. It denied this outright when I reported it, yet yesterday confirmed directly that it had pledges for 150 votes (of which 10 didn’t deliver) for some time. The more deeply you get associated with the UN, the less mere foibles like the truth seem to matter.

Nonetheless, Carr deserves congratulations for the professionalism and effectiveness of his lobbying in recent months.

We now take our place among the global giants: Luxembourg and Rwanda.

This article was written by Greg Sheridan, Foreign Editor, “The Australian” published today.

Nicola Roxon

“It will be clearly shown and this will be argued in the court that there was in fact clear intention to harm Mr Slipper and bring his reputation into disrepute and to assist his political opponents and that was the purpose for the bringing of this claim.”

That was Federal Attorney General, Nicola Roxon commenting back in June on the James Ashby case, that she maintains was politically motivated.

I think that it can be argued now that her comments were politically motivated!

Mr Ashby launched legal action against the Commonwealth and Mr Slipper earlier this year, accusing the Speaker of sexual harassment and the Federal Government of not providing a safe workplace.

The Commonwealth has agreed to pay $50,000 as part of a legal settlement with James Ashby, the stood-aside staffer to federal parliamentary Speaker Peter Slipper.

A spokesman for Mr Ashby says the case against the Commonwealth has been settled on “favourable” grounds, and the Government has agreed to provide better training for MPs and staff.

Mr Ashby’s case against Mr Slipper continues.

Labor would not be in this mess if it had not done this grubby deal with Slipper and got rid of one of their own, Harry Jenkins who was well respected as Speaker on all sides of Parliament.

He is so disillusioned that he is retiring at the next election.

 

 

Julie Bishop

One of the loudest critics of Australia’s bid for a temporary seat on the UN Security Council has been the opposition coalition.

It’s foreign affairs spokeswoman, Julie Bishop, says there are merits to Australia being on the council but she believes the bid has caused Canberra to focus attention on African and Carribean nations at the expense of it’s engagement in the Asia Pacific region.

Ms Bishop says the coalition supports the bid in principle, but not the way this government has gone about it.

“We are concerned there has been a redirection of aid – particularly to the Caribbean. The example that comes to mind is the $150,000 the government has promised for a statue to be built in the UN Plaza in New York to commemorate anti-slavery in the Caribbean. I question whether if that is the best way to spend Australian tax payer dollars and what does it do for Australia – let alone the people of the Caribbean. Secondly, countries have made it clear for example Syria made it clear on behalf of Arab league countries – that Australia couldn’t expect support unless Australia were less supportive of Israel and we have seen changes in the government’s support for Israel.”

The Labor Government is spending more than $25 million, with much more in indirect costs to secure a seat on the UN Security Council.

The UN Security Council is composed of 5 permanent members-China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States, and 10 non permanent members-Azerbaijan, Colombia, Germany, Guatemala, India, Morocco, Pakistan, Portugal, South Africa and Togo.

Because the non permanent members do not have veto rights the UN Security Council is dominated by the 5 permanent members.

Greens Celebrate

Timber company Gunns has entered voluntary administration that could spell the end of the company’s controversial pulp mill and put about 600 jobs at risk.

Federal Greens leader Christine Milne said the company’s controversial pulp mill in the state’s north was now never going to happen.

“There will be no pulp mill in the Tamar Valley of Tasmania. It’s wrong to roll out false hope to the people who wanted the pulp mill or to punish those who don’t want the pulp mill by suggesting there is any hope this pulp mill project will be revived,” she said.

Senator Milne said Tasmania had to “get beyond the idea that a great big white elephant will come across the horizon and a one project wonder is going to drive the state economy and makes people’s lives better and crate hundreds of jobs.

The state had to invest in science, innovation, in new technology to “create resilience and have a great brand for Tasmania.”

 But Tasmania is a basket case with small businesses closing, export of apples reducing to a trickle and the latest official figures showing that Tasmania’s economy shrank in the June quarter by 0.8 per cent, in seasonally adjusted terms.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch economist Saul Eslake, himself a Tasmanian, says Tasmania is in a recession.

No wonder that our Federal Labor Government in an alliance with the Greens are stealing Western Australia’s share of GST receipts and propping up other States including Tasmania.

Mark McGowan must not like football

Another report today in the “Weekend West” regarding the proposed new stadium with Western Australian Cricket Association Chairman David Williams endorsing Burswood as the preferred site for the new stadium.

Williams said “we applaud the State Government for their choice of the Burswood site for the new stadium. It will superbly complement a redeveloped WACA Ground and create a truly world class sporting precinct in the eastern gateway of our wonderful city.”

Labor leader, Mark McGowan says he would abandon the Burswood project and redevelop Patersons Stadium at Subiaco.

I disagree with McGowan as for far too long football fans have been treated as second class citizens at Patersons Stadium with poor parking, access difficult due to being located in the middle of a residential area and when you do manage to get inside a sub standard food and beverage service. Anyone who has been to the MCG in Melbourne will have experienced a world class facility with easy access, even at finals time with 70,000 to 90,000 attendees.

I can imagine that the only supporters of a redeveloped Patersons Stadium are the business owners in Subiaco.

Sure, the location of the new stadium may give extra business to Crown but not unless they improve their service and attitude to patrons.With the proposed walkway to East Perth, that area should prosper. Added to that Belmont racecourse is over the road so we will have football, cricket, racing and the Crown complex situated together for a total entertainment package.

A new 60,000 seat stadium will enable both WA  AFL sides to become more financially viable as both sides should be able to attract at least 50,000 supporters to each game and football at all levels in this state will prosper.

Matthew Hanssen

The Liberal candidate for the state seat of Fremantle has bemoaned the loss of Myer as “a serious blow to the retailing and business life of the port city’ as reported in today’s Fremantle Herald.

Matthew, please do not lay the blame at Labor, Green or independent members of the council. That is drawing a long bow.

I am not privy to what incentives were given to Myer to enable them to stay but the fact is that Myer is bleeding, not just in Fremantle but nationally. The lack of service is appalling and the poor range of stock sends consumers into the arms of David Jones or online. Added to that, the outward appearance of the Fremantle store did nothing to attract shoppers, so bad management is the problem.

There are more important issues to address than propping up a failing retailer.

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