Cut and come again
"The more you eats, the more you gets. Cut and come again is his name, and cut and come again is his nature".
- Norman Lindsay The Magic Pudding
The Government has used the disasters in Queensland as an excuse to cut a whole lot of expensive, poorly conceived policy; they've received some praise for that from the journosphere. The Opposition had the chance to demonstrate their superior economic management skills, as well as some sense of perspective; they've demonstrated neither, and ought not be praised by anyone as they have come out looking incompetent.
The Government is to be congratulated for cutting "assistance" to the car industry in order to fund infrastructure redevelopment in Queensland (and yes, it is infrastructure we're talking here. Mates help mates with food and clothing, a bit of cash, but it is stretching the favour too far to whack up an electricity substation or a rail bridge for your mate).
The Opposition is to be condemned for only cutting half that amount - but why?
The opposition would cut $500 million to the automotive industry, bringing the assistance back to the levels of the Howard government in 2007.
"It removes the additional assistance to the motor industry that the government has provided largely through the stimulus package," Mr Abbott told reporters in Canberra today.
So the Howard government represented some state of perfection when it came to automotive subsidies, did it? Why is that? I still reckon a $900m cut beats one half that size.
This, however, is fair enough:
Mr Abbott said the opposition would not support a spending cut proposed by the government: $150 million in upgrades to the Bruce Highway in Queensland.
The highway was damaged in many places by both cyclone Yasi and the summer floods.
The local members of Queensland have clearly prevailed here. Gillard was crazy to cut this, a robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul exercise. The government should drop this, it should be the first thing to go in the inevitable horsetrading.
As for the rest of it, both sides are being dismally petty with Abbott doing the limbo under the low bar set by the Government. Of all places, The Australian have gone after him over his foreign aid cuts:
MORE than $440 million in education funding to counter Islamic radicalism in Indonesia would be shelved under an Abbott government under budget cuts to fund floods and cyclone reconstruction ...
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott today announced $2 billion in proposed budget cuts which a Coalition government would make in place of Labor's $1.8 billion flood levy.
The Indonesian schools funding cut was a late substitution for a proposed cut to foreign aid, which deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop vigorously opposed.
Mr Abbott said the commitment to cut the funding would be subject to a review of the program in Indonesia, which was introduced under the Howard government after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami to offer alternatives to radical Islamic schools.
And on what basis exactly would this 'review' be done? An evaporation of Islamic radicalism across Indonesia? An improvement in Indonesian literacy standards to or above those of Australia? Abbott looks pathetic in hunting for a soft target, and lighting on foreign aid.
The provision of schools for Indonesia that open opportunities for people in that country without having to go through self-negating fake militant Islam presents a massive opportunity for this country, the biggest since the Colombo Plan. The very idea that graduates from Australia and Indonesia might teach in one another's countries, and build a cohort of culturally savvy people to the mutual benefit of the region ... is to display more vision, guts and heart than all the politicians in Canberra, frankly.
Yes, yes, we could go all soft about or moral obligations to those less fortunate, but that won't wash with the Liberals. Let's be pragmatic to the point of brutality in saying there are two main motivations for foreign aid:
- It provides Australia with a 'soft power' that is cheaper and more influential than the 'hard power' assets we have at our disposal (especially with the looming lack of amphibious landing craft and our commitments in Afghanistan); and
- We are able to deny the barbarity of detaining boat-borne asylum-seekers as we do by propounding our marvellous foreign aid. If it's less than marvellous then we look less than marvellous, see above on soft power etc.
Congratulations to the Hon. Julie Bishop in standing up for foreign aid as more than just an inducement to get Kevin Rudd on the UN Security Council, as having intrinsic value in itself.
Yet Bishop, as a former Education Minister, and the supine little clown currently denying that portfolio to other Libs, have earned condemnation for failing to step up against these:
The national solar schools program would also be axed, saving $51 million, as would reward payments to improved schools saving $160 million over the forward estimates ... while another $8 million would be cut from a financial literacy programs in schools.
It's Liberal Education policy to incentivise positive outcomes: so, of course, why not cut a penny-ante policy just to show your true bloody colours? And while you're at it, just as electricity prices are rising sharply, why not tie yourself to a policy that won't get schools off the grid and where they require additional subsidies to fund their power bills? Since when is financial literacy is some sort of optional extra, and for such a minimal outlay (about the cost of the droogs who make up Abbott's own office).
“I want to make it very clear that the test of a political movement is its ability to take tough decisions.
“The test of a government or an alternative government is its ability to take tough decisions. And by announcing tough decisions today the Coalition is demonstrating that we are a credible alternative.”
The test of a government or an alternative government is its ability to make smart decisions, and see them through. The test of insecure little worms is their overweening need to appear tough, while beating up on little poor children and their families. It gets worse:
He defended the deferred water buybacks, saying: “There is obviously an abundance of water right now. That abundance is not going to go away quickly.”
If you're going to weed out unproductive farmers, it is probably too much to go after them in the middle of a drought. The time to pry them away from their hobby farms is now, when either a) they have broken even, paying off their debts from the bad years but before getting too cocky and asking for more subsidies; or b) when they've been crushed by both too little water and now too much, and are ready to give it away rather than make a strong case for more subsidies.
Abbott's smart-alec approach is something he should leave in the office, the party room and the off-record briefing. When he lets rip with an outburst like that, people see what he's really like and shudder. This man must not govern us.
Opposition treasury spokesman Joe Hockey also dismissed criticism that it was difficult to find further savings to fund the costs of reconstruction.
“There is a point you reach where you can't keep going back to the well. Because the well might not have any water,” he said.
Mr Abbott said the proposed savings were in addition to savings found by the Coalition during the election campaign.
So much for the abundance of water, Joe.