The words are burned into collective memories: “Today, we take decisive action to deal with the debts we have inherited.”
The year was 2010 and Britain’s new Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne was announcing his plans to end the UK’s budget deficit by 2015.
Now he’s wading through even deeper deficits and his promise has been postponed until after this year’s general election. Now it’s consigned to the never-never.
Osborne has not reached halfway in his goal despite successive budgets which have cut savagely into public spending, raised university fees and created tens of thousands of unemployed, mainly in the public service.
As The Economist recently recorded: “At 5.3% of GDP, Britain’s deficit is bigger than those of France, Italy and even Greece.” (29 November 2014).
Almost identical political hokey-pokey is being played out in Australia where Treasurer Joe Hockey promised to “balance the budget” by 2017-18. That pledge has been junked along with Tony Abbott’s pre-election promise not to cut health, education, ABC or SBS budgets nor pensions.
In May last year the Abbott Government forecast the deficit for this financial year would be $29.8 billion. Oops. It has now risen to a prediction of $40.4 billion.
The deficit under Abbott and his incompetent cronies isn’t shrinking, it’s growing at an alarming rate, principally thanks to his decision to put Australia’s navy, air force and special forces into a new Iraqi war zone.
The interest bill in Abbott’s ballooning national debt? About $1 billion a month.
And how will the Abbott-Hockey brains trust respond to this growing economic crisis? They’ve told us: tougher cuts in the federal budget in May with the new Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison wielding the axe on pensions, benefits and super.
And you can throw in the sale of the Post Office, the Royal Mint and some other national furniture.
Mad Monk update
If you’re thinking of walking to the garden shed with a bottle of a gin in one hand and an old army revolver in the other, read this first.
The latest Newspoll, released on Christmas Eve, shows the following:
Primary vote: Labor 38%, Coalition 37%.
Two-party preferred: Labor 54%, Coalition 46%.
In NSW, Abbott’s home state, support for the ALP is at a four-year high, while the Coalition’s primary vote has dropped to a six-year low in Victoria where Dr Denis Napthine’s Coalition government was defeated by Labor at the state election in November.
Abbott’s joyless descent into voter purgatory over the past year has been remorseless: a 10-point drop in Victoria and South Australia (where jobs have been callously axed), nine points in NSW, eight points in Queensland and seven in Western Australia.
NSW faces a state election on March 28 and Queensland Premier Campbell Newman has to decide whether to make his run before the NSW election or after it.
My strong tip is that Queenslanders will vote in February, i.e. before the NSW election.
NSW and Queensland Labor will attempt to reprise the success of the Victorian campaign where the ALP mounted a referendum on Abbott-Napthine and Joe Hockey’s crazed Federal Budget. It worked and Daniel Andrews’ Labor Party made history by consigning the Coalition to a one-term administration.
While Andrews’ victory has ignited hopes in the other eastern states, the chances of a repeat performance in either Queensland or NSW are most unlikely. Newman’s LNP regime in Queensland will undoubtedly lose a swag of seats and Premier Mike Baird will shed seats in Southern and Western Sydney, Newcastle and the Central Coast – but both have big enough margins to retain office.
Labor isn’t aiming for an election win in Queensland but it is determined to oust the appalling Newman from the seat of Ashgrove in Brisbane. If successful it will cheer all Queenslanders who are not multi-millionaires (i.e. 99.9% of the population) as well as Labor and Green sympathisers living in other States.
The only person who will be inconsolable – apart from Newman himself – will be his closest political ally, the Mad Monk in Canberra.
Julie for PM?
Australian politics have become so bizarre and irrational that Canberra Press Gallery correspondents are tipping Foreign Minister Julie Bishop as Cabinet Minister of the Year and a future PM.
They are ignoring the fact that Ms Bishop has four or five supporters in the Coalition party room and none in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, her portfolio.
She is derided as a reactionary lightweight by the rulers of two of the world’s most important nations, China and Russia, and a joke in Japan, the United States, Iran and the Arab states of the Middle East.
She has antagonised all Moslem countries, including Indonesia and Turkey, by declaring that East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza are not occupied by the Israeli military. As you might expect, she was hailed by the Israeli regime for her revision of the stolen and occupied territories. However, what wasn’t covered by the lickspittle Australian media was the way Ms Bishop had to grovel to the Arab regimes and backtrack in order to get permission to base warplanes and special forces in the Emirates and Iraq for Washington’s delusional war on ISIS.
It is increasingly obvious that Abbott’s attempt to shuffle the deck chairs on his Titanic-type administration isn’t going to work. Hockey is a Treasurer without a shred of credibility; ditto Bishop as Foreign Minister; Kevin Andrews must be the most inept appointment as Defence Minister since Federation; and doltish Peter Dutton, the ex-Queensland drugs squad cop, as Immigration Minister simply defies any sense.
The Press Gallery journos who named Ms Bishop as the candidate most likely to succeed Abbott failed to answer the questions: who in Canberra is talking about her candidacy and why? I thought we had a PM.
The leadership rumours are the public sign of a deeply divided administration in which the back-stabbing has just begun. Will the unhinged Abbott still be PM at the end of the year? Check what odds the bookies are offering.
A few weeks ago the Canberra Press Gallery confidently predicted that Malcolm Turnbull would replace Joe Hockey as Treasurer in the Monk’s first Cabinet reshuffle.
For the record, Abbott can’t stand Turnbull. They are sworn political opponents.
Abbott replaced Turnbull as leader by a single vote in December 2009. The bitterness deepened into hatred. Their relationship makes the Hawke-Keating rivalry look like a lover’s tiff.
Abbott was never going to elevate Turnbull to the No 2 position in his Cabinet even if he was the most qualified or most competent. The Press Gallery was either making mischief or behaving delusionally. And they wonder why citizens aren’t buying newspapers and why polls show that they distrust the media.