Monday, September 27, 2010

Abbott In Full Tantrum mode

Parliament resumes on Tuesday. The pollies are ready. Nearly. Prime Minister Julia Gillard is still trying to sort out the positino of Deputy Speaker. Tony Abbott put the kibosh on any aspirations Alex Somlyay might have had in his last term for the position, and the Parliamentary allowance it carries. The deal would have required Somlyay, or any other Coalition Deputy Speaker, to 'pair' with the Speaker. ie to not not vote on no-confidence, and possibly some other, motions. Tony Abbott's office staff released a statement on Mr Somlyay's behalf. It was quickly and publicly denounced by Mr Somlyay as not his, but he was lent on, and later withdrew from negotiations for the position. Labor has since had negotiations with another Queenslander, Peter Slipper, who missed both the Liberal Party meeting, and the Coalition's Joint Party Meeting, but this, too, seems like it will fail.

Meanwhile Tony Abbot, and his minions, have been flogging the message of "all bets are off", there will be no 'kinder, gentler politik' as promised by Abbott while he tried to woo the Independents so he could form government. It's like a warning of one enormous tantrum-to-come when Parliament resumes. Prime Minister Gillard, and her minions, repeat the message of Abbott-as-wrecker. If there is an early election, watch for it to be repeated ad nauseam.

Mr Abbott does not want Parliament, or Ms Gillard's Government, to work - his interest is the interests of the Liberal Party, and his desire for power. Ms Gillard's interest is to retain power long enough to have some "beneficial" (read 'popular-with-voters') legislation & policies, to increase her chances of an outright victory at the next election.


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Abbott Cops a Kloppering

Marius Kloppers has publicly stated his preference for a carbon tax. Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, must have fainted. Kloppers was instrumental in the advertising campaign against the mining super profits tax, is head of the world's largest resources and mining company (BHP Billiton).

Kloppers is an experienced business man and engineer. He most certainly wants the realistic 'best' for his company. European countries are already moving to limit carbon emissions and have improved their energy efficiency since the 1980's, following oil crises in 1973 & 1979 which saw the supply of oil limited, and its price rise significantly. While there is plenty of coal for BHP to mine, sell, & use, Kloppers perhaps recognises moves within the world's economies to limit carbon emissions.

A carbon tax is simple, fixed and easily incorporated in business plans. An emissions trading scheme (ETS)was favoured by John Howard (who resisted actually doing anything) and the previous and current Labor Governments under Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. But under ETS, carbon permits would be traded, like shares, on current and 'futures' markets. Their price, like shares could fluctuate wildly, making business planning more difficult. There have also been suggestions that, with such a low level of proposed reductions, an ETS would achieve little except make 'winners' and 'losers' in business.

Kloppers might well be making a pre-emptive strike to achieve a level of certainty his business needs. Nevertheless, a carbon tax might well be a worthwhile inclusion in Australia's plan to reduce carbon emissions from its people, and its businesses.

Also, remember that some of the media, notably News Ltd publications The Australian and The Daily Telegraph will argue against carbon reduction on the basis of their support for the opposition Liberal  Party.

My view is that we should probably have a combination: the carbon tax introduces a level of certainty, and a limited ETS reduces the effect of the open-market price volatility.

The last thing Tony Abbott wanted was for a significant business leader to publicly state his preference for a carbon  reduction scheme, let alone a carbon tax! Phone calls will made, and emails sent from the Liberal Party. So too, press releases and media grabs from a congo line of Coalition members will be cheap as chips from the Opposition.

You can read more at:


Saturday, September 11, 2010

Gillard Announces Ministry

Prime Minister-elect Julia Gillard has announced her Ministry to start Labor's second term of government. It is, as you know, a minority government, dependent on The Greens and 3 Independent MP's.

You can read the full Ministry at . After swearing-in on Monday, they will be listed (via a link) at

There are some things worth noting:
  • Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minster, has been given Foreign affairs. That was widely tipped, following a deal made between him and Julia Gillard during the election campaign. It also recognises his standing within the Parliamentary Labor Party.
  • Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Stephen Smith, has been given Defence. He insists it's not a demotion, and this is still a senior Ministry. It also paves the way for the government to drop construction of 12 new submarines at Adelaide. Defence military officials are not convinced that lessons have been learnt from the rather disastrous contracts for Collins-class submarines. Only one of the six is currently in service. The new submarines were a project which had the support of Kevin Rudd, when he was Prime Minister.
  • Peter Garrett has moved to Education, away from environmental repsonsibiities. He had problems with the home insulation scheme, in particular.
  • Former Minister for Climate Change, Penny Wong, has been given the Finance portfolio. Again, the former government had been unable to negotiate an Emissions Trading Scheme, which The Greens thought was too watered-down, and which was not the carbon-tax recommended by Prof. Ross Garnaut in he report for the government.
  • Mark Arbib and Bill Shorten are both in the outer Ministry. They were major players in the moves that dumped Kevin Rudd and appointed Julia Gillard as Prime Minister. Mark Arbib was formerly ion the outer Ministry, but this is a promotion for Bill Shorten.
  • Independent Rob Oakeshott turned down the offer of a Ministerial position - Regional Australia & Regional Development. I think that was smart; among other reasons, it does put the onus, and responsibility squarely with Julia Gillard and the Labor Party, and it allows him to retain his independence.
Nevertheless, there seems to be reasonable correlation between Ministers' strengths, abilities and their portfolios. The proof, of course, will be in their performances.

Tony Abbott has yet to announce his Shadow Cabinet.


Thursday, September 09, 2010

Govt Decided, Politics Continues

Two days after the 3 Independent MP's made their decisions, the politicians, political parties and their supporters are back to basics. Independent Bob Katter, from north Queensland made his decision to support the Liberal-National Coalition shortly before lunch on Tuesday. Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott from NSW announced their decision to support a Labor government later in the afternoon.

Today, we had "news" stories of both Prime-Minister-in-waiting, Julia Gillard, and Liberal Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, addressing their respective party 'meetings'. These were stage-managed media 'events' for PR-via-the-news; they were for public consumption to 'appeal' to voters.

But all is not as it seems: Liberal Andrew Robb wanted to challenge 3-different-leader-Deputy Liberal leader, Julie Bishop, but was convinced not to challenge for the sake of public perception. Likewise, it is probable that former (deposed) Prime Minister,Kevin Rudd, will get his choice of Ministerial position - probably Foreign affairs & Trade - as part of pre-election deal with Julia Gillard. While Labor has significant internal party issues to deal with, there will be strenuous efforts to keep them behind closed doors. That will probably suit Bill Shorten, Mark Arbib, and those from the NSW Labor Party backroom who controlled the Federal election campaign. But Labor must deal with the issues created by Shorten, Arbib and their Federal Party factions, and those from NSW's right faction who controlled the election campaign.

Meanwhile Liberal and National Party members appear to have been behind campaigns of insult and innuendo run against Tony Windsor and rob Oakeshott. The Liberal and National Parties will undoubtedly continue to undermine and character-assassinate the Independent MP's, while Tony Abbott (Liberal) and Warren Truss (National Party) will try to exude a facade of niceness.


Sunday, September 05, 2010

Treasury Comparison

The Independent MP's have had briefings from Treasury officials about the costings of the election policies of both the ALP and Liberal-National Party Coalition. These costings, and some policies important to them, will form the basis of which side of politics forms a minority government in Australia: a largely centrist-conservative Labor government; or a more right-wing conservative Liberal-National Coalition government.

A summary of the costings can be viewed at
Labor Party Costings
So, which is the better economic manager? I doubt you could form an opinion based on these documents. the only possible conclusions are that: there is little difference between the final figures from Treasury; that the Liberals did not use standard Treasury methods for their costings (based on the number of adjustments Treasury made). In terms of economic management, the sharemarket is indifferent, perhaps indicating that investors largely recognise that there is little or no significant economic difference between Labor and the Coalition. The market is more concerned about its ties to what happens in the US economy/sharemarket, and, to a lesser extent, in Europe.

My conclusion from the Treasury costings and the parties' public policy documents is hat the Liberals & Nationals lean more towards personal wealth, rather than community (public) wealth. That is, they want to distribute more public money (tax) to private entities, both individuals, and private companies, than does Labor.

I think it is important to retain, and enhance, our community/public wealth through investment in public education at all levels, public health and social programs that benefit individuals, communities and society. Becaue of those beliefs, I was once called a "latte-sipping, chardonay-drinking, left-wing (John) Howard-hater" by a Liberal Party supporter. I took it as a compliment.


Thursday, September 02, 2010

Wilkie Signs With Labor

Independent Andrew Wilkie, from Tasmania, has today signed an agreement to support a Labor minority government, IF Julia Gillard is able to form one. That might be more likely, but by no means certain, as Bob Katter, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor consider their positions over the weekend.

The terms agreed to include $340 Million for Hobart Hospital, and $1.8 Billion for hospitals across the nation; and a commitment to force states to use smart cards on poker machines, if they don't agree voluntarily. This will take some negotiation, and the states, addicted to gambling revenue, will resist staunchly.

Wilkie reportedly rejected an offer of almost $1 Billion for Hobart Hospital from Tony Abbott - perhaps he was prepared to forget about the rest, or cut another $Billion from their funding.

Simply throwing money at one electorate would have readily been seen by the electorate as "pork barrelling" - corruption by any other name. Julia Gillard seems to have at least provided it as part of a greater level of funding for other hospitals.

Given his treatment by the former Liberal PM, John Howard, after Wilkie's whistle-blowing about questionable intelligence being used to justify the invasion of Iraq, it was always hard to see him agreeing to terms with members of that same former, Liberal-National Coalition government.


Abbott-Hockey Swallowed By Own Black Hole

It really didn't a take long for some details, at least the "bottom line", on Tony Abbott's costings to appear. Secretary of treasury, Ken Henry, was involved in briefing the 3 Independents about Treasury costings of Coalition election promises. Treasury estimates a shortfall - "black hole" - ob between 4& Billion and $11 Billion.

In typical politician style, Tony Abbott tried to brush aside concerns, saying that they were merely "differences of opinion". One  of the differences is that Treasury refused to allow the Coalition to adjust the conservative bias allowance, a $2.5 billion blow to its costings. This allowance, used by Treasury in all its costings, ensures that the extremes of "estimates" by politicians are moderated. It seems to imply that the Coalition used the most optimistic figures it could, perhaps a more economically reckless approach.

Joe Hockey put in his 2-bit's worth, saying "It is not a black hole because fundamentally we are taking this out of surplus." But it's a surplus they don't have, and which they seem to have estimated at the most optimistic figure they could think of.

 This whole concept of not using Treasury ( a principle created by John Howard & Peter Costello, because it gave them an advantage in government; it's just come back to bite the Coalition parties!); of planning it back before June ( at least 2 months before the election was called); of using a company with links to the Liberal Party; and using the most optimistic figures have all contributed to The Liberal Party's problems, real or perceived, as NOT being better economic managers than Labor.

mmm .. what's that old saying??? Oh, yes! "When first you practise to deceive ... "