Will dismantling unions be the Abbott Government’s “dollar float” moment?

Published on ABC The Drum, 18 November 2013

Will dismantling unions be the Abbott Government’s “dollar float” moment?

There are two main competing political legacies in Australia. But they are not ideological so much as methodological.

One is the deregulatory legacy of the Keating and Hawke government. In floating the dollar, moving to deregulate the financial system, and dismantling Australia’s protectionist tariff system, this government is credited by all parties with positioning Australia for a “golden age”.

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Insiders are being starved

Australia is witnessing the most effective media strategy to be conceived since the dawn of the 24-hour media cycle. Our government has effectively disappeared, leaving the Opposition Labor’s ongoing squabbles centre stage.

When Prime Minister Tony Abbott decreed that ministers must clear all media appearances through his office, he claimed that it would ensure his government spoke with a ‘unified voice’. It is positioned as part of his plan to deliver an effective and competent government, in which ‘politics is off the front page’.

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Joe Hockey’s tax plan is brilliant, regardless where you sit ideologically

Blog post from 3 October 2013

Joe Hockey plans to show us how our taxes are being spent. The breakdown will itemise different types of welfare, including family, disability and job support, as well as aged care, defence spending, and interest on national debt.

In one foul swoop, Hockey’s plan will blow extremists of all kinds out of the water. The “all tax is theft” mob will be reminded that some tax spend is indispensable and the “money tree” camp will be forced to recognise that financial limitations are policy realities.

At last a real debate on policy will be possible, as we all confront what our ideological agendas mean for our personal and communal bottom line.

Since this is the debate that the government has in its sights, the initiative is a very clever way to frame it.

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Intellectual substance abuse

Published in The Weekend Sydney Morning Herald, News Review, 14 January 2012

There has been a lot of discussion of what the Occupy movement stands for, or perhaps now stood for, and whether it is like the US Tea Party movement. On a trip to the US in October I spent maybe an hour together talking to whoever would talk to me at Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Washington DC. Here I formed the view that the resemblance is striking. But my slipshod sample swore blind they had nothing in common. Their distinction was clearly capitalised: they are Left while the Tea Party is Right and this seemingly simple fact overrides any commonality.

I say ”seemingly simple” because I made an earth-shattering discovery a little while ago: both the right and the left care about creating a healthier, happier, more prosperous society. An economist of my acquaintance, who had the misfortune to find himself on the right after a promising career start as a Marxist, once even admitted (in a moment of weakness, no doubt) that he entered the profession to study how people could be best served. His alignment, he claimed, had moved along with his honest opinion of what type of economic management would allow for the best outcomes.

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