Mike Baird delays council polls at cost of lost trust

Mike Baird should bring forward elections for councils he has sacked. Governments come up with all sorts of excuses for all sorts of silly stuff. But the excuse offered for not holding elections for another 15 months is tenuous even by the declining standards of these things. More on that later.

 

The_Honourable_Mike_Baird_MP

The Honourable Mike Baird MP

 

 

First, what to make of the swirl of hostility around #CasinoMike that found expression in a rally attended by thousands on Sunday?

Illustration: Dionne GainIllustration: Dionne Gain

Some were there to protest the demolition of Windsor Bridge in Sydney’s west. Others were angry about coal seam gas, attacks on the city’s nightlife, WestConnex, sacked councils, or trees razed for Sydney’s new tram. A diversity of local concerns swelled the crowd.

But many there believed there was a common thread animating the mood.

That was the view the Baird government was advancing moneyed interests over the interests of regular people. In doing so, the government was probably corrupt. This perception was codified in the posters that promoted the March Against Mike: “Stop the Corruption,” they said.

This perception raises a number of questions, but let’s focus on two. One: is Baird corrupt? Two: what should Baird do, if anything, in response to the perception?

The history of NSW – from the Rum Corps, to the Wild Men of Sydney like William Willis and Paddy Crick who used state land as a colonial credit card, to Robert Askin, to the recent rogues of Labor and Liberal hoist on the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s petard – suggests one should be cautious ever claiming Macquarie Street is clean.

But with regard to question one: not only is there no evidence of corruption relating to Baird, but there is not even a specific allegation.

Any evidence offered on Sunday of Baird’s alleged corruption amounts to corruption only if that word is stripped of its regular meaning. It’s not corrupt to sack councillors. That is allowed under the Local Government Act. It’s not corrupt to build a motorway. Nor is it corrupt to hire companies to work on a project’s financing and construction. It’s not corrupt to chop down trees for a tram line. It’s not corrupt to implement anti-violence laws.

This is not to say there are not good arguments against these policies. And it is not to say that the hostility to Baird does not reflect a genuine and justifiable feeling of disenfranchisement about the actions of his government and others. But many of his policies can be explained by reasons other than attribution to a pan-government-corporate agenda to quash human vitality.

It is questionable whether building a new motorway is appropriate in an inner city rapidly becoming more dense. But WestConnex represents a series of projects road builders have wanted for years.

The tram line similarly represents a much discussed attempt to replace CBD bus transport with something more efficient and pleasant. There seems little doubt contractors have been insensitive in their design, but the history of the line offers no evidence that it is being used as a Trojan horse for development on public land.

In fact, government developer UrbanGrowth is trying to revive the idea of a metro to the east so it can justify apartments not justified by the tram.

So what of the second question: what should Baird do in response to the outcry over his recent actions? According to the men who see in the Premier a leader in their own image, not much at all.

“He’s obviously the first strong reformist leader” in recent times, says Nick Greiner, the former Liberal leader who struggled to conceal his frustration at Barry O’Farrell’s more plodding ways.

“And that is a bit of a change when you have had two decades of doing little or in some cases doing nothing,” says Greiner.

“But I think [Baird’s] got a huge amount of political capital and I don’t think he’s chewed up a great deal of it.”

A similar view is offered by Jeff Kennett, the former Victorian premier who Baird recently invited to address his cabinet.

“There is no gain without some pain,” says Kennett.

“What’s our greatest criticism of the federal political scene for the past decade?” he asks. That it doesn’t do much, he answers.

“You can’t say that about Mike Baird.”

Bolstered by the believers, the temptation for Baird is to ignore those put out by his policies.

He was, after all, elected with a mandate that did not preclude council amalgamations, and which expressly did include the construction of motorways, tram and train lines. National figures on Wednesday demonstrated the economic success of his construction agenda.

But there is a reason for him to be attuned to emerging local anger, which goes beyond the risk of suffering the sort of electoral decline that befell Kennett and Greiner. That reason is because of the nature of the things he wants to do.

Particularly relating to urban development.

Because there are good arguments in favour of more housing in parts of Sydney. The trouble is that delivering developments in a decent and attractive way will be so much harder if the perception catches on that communities cannot trust Baird.

And attempting to paper over disquiet about development does not work. Baird’s Planning Minister, Rob Stokes, wrote a PhD on this.

“Using meaningless participation as a facade to cover over disagreement merely clogs up conflict, creating a dam of resentment, which spills over in the form of increasing litigation, loss of trust in politicians and administrators, and poor planning outcomes,” Stokes wrote.

Which is exactly what will happen if the government attempts to ram through development projects while councillors remain in the cold. The delay in holding new elections will only foster a suspicion already growing.

And as to the excuse for not holding new council elections until September 2017?

The government says it is because the electoral commission said that would be its preference. Well Baird’s the boss. He can tell them to do it earlier.

.smh.com.au

 

Liberals go to the mattresses over superannuation

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Campaign catchup: Liberals go to the mattresses over superannuation

Election 2016: the Coalition is digging in over super changes and going to war over company tax. And talking about mattresses
Julie Bishop looks up at a Korean flag during a visit a park in Sydney on Thursday 2 June 2016.

Julie Bishop looks up at a Korean flag during a visit a park in Sydney on Thursday 2 June 2016. Photograph: Paul Miller/AAP



Who would have picked that the furore over superannuation would make it to the tail-end of week four – let alone spill over onto the backbench?

But like an old-style mafia war, everyone is laying down the mattresses in preparation for a marathon fight.

On Tuesday, you’ll remember, Julie Bishop was caught out over changes to the “transition to retirement” scheme. From 1 July next year, people aged 56 to 65 will pay a 15% concessional tax rate on earnings from assets.

The prime minister and the treasurer say the Coalition’s plan will affect only the top 4% of income earners but concerns that this isn’t strictly the case have caused rumblings within the party room.

Then Arthur Sinodinos said on Sky on Wednesday that the budget package might be adjusted if the government was re-elected – and then, in the same interview, that it wouldn’t.

Scott Morrison, the treasurer, said later that Sinodinos was referring to the implementation of the legislation – not the policy itself.

And speaking of mattresses, Malcolm Turnbull visited a mattress factory in Sydney (“Australian artisans, Australian technology”), and told reporters the “policy, the substance … the economic substance” of the policy was settled as it was laid out in the budget.

But Bill Shorten was critical of the Coalition’s internal friction: “People don’t want surprises in superannuation.”

He also raised a practical concern: the tax office requires people to keep receipts for five years and the Coalition’s super changes require people to revisit contributions going back nine years.

On any fair assessment, current superannuation laws need reining in, and both Labor and the Coalition have vowed to do so – they’re just split over how.

“Let’s get real about this,” said Turnbull. “Nobody likes paying more tax. Super has been an extremely generous system. It remains a very generous tax advantage system. That hasn’t changed.”

ScoMo presents: Labor’s war on everything

Australlian Federal Treasurer Scott Morrison holds a press conference in Sydney, Thursday, June 2, 2016.
Morrison – never one to shy away from metaphor – this morning accused Labor of using taxes as bullets in Bill Shorten’s “war on business”: “Going forward he will continue to seek to attack growth with these toxic taxes that will be a toxin for our growth going forward.”
Guardian Australia’s Katharine Murphy described it as a “pantomime-like beat down … an agenda-setting effort so patently ludicrous it induced giggles”.

Setting aside all hyperbole, different models of growth underpin the choice voters are presented with at this election. You wouldn’t necessarily know that to hear the Coalition talk about it.

Asked whether language like “bullets” was appropriate political discourse, Turnbull agreed that Shorten had declared war on business – specifically, “family businesses of Australia”.

But he didn’t overextend the metaphor quite as spectacularly as his treasurer, as Lenore Taylor wrote in her column.

One assumes on breaks from the war on business, Labor promised to enter into power purchase agreements (PPA) equal to bringing commonwealth energy use up to 50% renewable energy by 2030. The contracts would be entered into for 10 to 15 years.

Shorten was reluctant to be drawn on how much the policy would cost.

Best of Bowers

Bill Shorten with a rat given to him and Tanya Plibersek as a stunt by ABC cast member Zoe Norton-Lodge who are shooting a chaser election special during visit to the fish markets in Sydney this morning, Wednesday 1st June 2016.
Mike Bowers captures the moment Bill Shorten was handed a rat by a cast member – Zoe Norton-Lodge – of the team from the Chaser’s election special.

Further reading

• ‘Tax as their bullets’: Scott Morrison’s extraordinary ‘war’ attack on Labor(Fairfax) “Opposing a reduction in corporate tax, we learnt, is just the beginning of Generalissimo Shorten’s War on Everything.”

• Richard Flanagan and Tom Keneally tussling with paper tigers (Fairfax) “The worst outcome for consumers would that Labor backed Flanagan and Keneally and Szubanski and won the election,” writes Peter Martin.

• ABC Friends’ independence campaign targets marginal Coalition seats A not-for-profit organisation is targeting nearly 30 marginal Coalition seats in a national campaign to “protect the independence of the ABC”.

And also …

The Avalanches have put out their first new track since the release of their debut album Since I Left You 16 years ago. Since they last dropped a record it’s fair to say a few things have changed.
One Twitter user described the new track, Frankie Sinatra – which premiered on Triple J and features MF Doom – was “very Eminem circa 2000”, which we’re taking as a ringing endorsement. It’s on YouTube here.

And the rat of the day …

Leader of the Opposition Bill Shorten and Labor Member for Sydney Tanya Plibersek hold a rat, as part of a stunt by the Chaser, while visiting the Fish Markets at Glebe as part of the 2016 election campaign in Sydney, Thursday, June 2, 2016. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas) NO ARCHIVING
“How old is your rat?” – as Turnbull ventured of a mall-going rodent named Splinter on Monday – will surely go down as a catchphrase of this campaign. (Two-and-a-half was the answer, in case you forgot. Come now, it’s only Thursday.)

The team at The Chaser gave a rodent to Tanya Plibersek, Labor’s deputy leader, at the Sydney Fish Market this morning.

The deputy leader tweeted that she took him home and fed him “nuts, zucchini and banana”. Truly, this rat’s number has come up – Splinter lived on silverfish and flea eggs. If only rats could vote…
Never miss another catchup: If you’re reading this in the Guardian app, tap on ‘Australian election briefing’ at the top or bottom of this page, then tap on ‘Follow series’ to get an app notification as soon as the Campaign catchup publishes every afternoon.

Donald Trump gives a preview of the petulant president,

Donald Trump gives a preview of the petulant president, lashing out at the media

Date
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Donald Trump’s angry news conference

Under pressure to account for charity funds for veterans, Donald Trump fires back at the “unbelievably dishonest press”.

Washington: Strange man that Mr Trump. Miffed that Fox News would not agree to his primary season debate demands, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee instead staged an event to raise millions for veterans groups – and now he’s seriously miffed [again!] that reporters have kept tabs on how much money was raised, whether it had been distributed and to which groups.

So on Tuesday, Trump scheduled a press conference and as is his wont, he proceeded to use the assembled hacks as a punching bag, mewling and puking at the news media’s temerity to ask questions about the fate of millions that a candidate for high office said he’d distribute – but seemingly had not done so.

Donald Trump hit out at the media at Tuesday's news conference.Donald Trump hit out at the media at Tuesday’s news conference. Photo: AP

In training to be the petulant president, Trump spent most of the 40-minute press event complaining about how hurt he had been by the new treatment of his little fundraiser and taking specific aim at the hapless man from ABC News – Tom Llamas.

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“Instead of being like, ‘thank you very much, Mr Trump,’ or ‘Trump did a good job,’ everyone said: ‘Who got it? Who got it? Who got it? And you make me look very bad. I have never received such bad publicity for doing a good job.”

Gesturing to Llamas, he ranted: “I could have asked all these [veterans groups] to come here and I didn’t want to do that – I’m not looking for credit. But what I don’t want is when I raise millions of dollars, to have people say, like this sleazy guy right over here from ABC – he’s a sleaze in my book. You’re a sleaze because you know the facts and you know the facts well.”

Army veteran Perry O'Brien with protesting veterans, outside the Trump news conference. "I think Donald Trump clearly ...Army veteran Perry O’Brien with protesting veterans, outside the Trump news conference. “I think Donald Trump clearly thinks the veteran community is for sale,” said O’Brien. Photo: AP

Here are a few facts:

Bad publicity?

Trump fervently believes that he always does a good job, whether he’s scamming the students in his university or refusing to release his tax returns – and media questions on the fundraiser for veterans have been a molehill compared with the mountains of critical reporting on other aspects of his colourful career.

Good job?

Remember, this whole enterprise was a bid to steal Fox News’ ratings thunder by having the fundraiser compete with a GOP candidates debate. Trump had refused to participate because Fox refused to accede to his demand that journalist Megyn Kelly be excluded from the panel because she asked tough questions in an earlier debate. So the veterans groups were dragged in as a fig leaf of respectability for Trump’s puerile behaviour.

The media should be ashamed?

For what – asking questions? The man claimed he had raised $US6 million for veterans and he has a problem with reporters asking which groups were paid from the fund. No shame in that.

Probably libellous?

So he said of the coverage, warning that his war on the media was not about to end any time soon. The coverage generally sought information on the distribution of the funds; and posed questions in the absence of information from the Trump campaign.

Media’s extreme dishonesty?

He said: “Look, I find the press to be extremely dishonest. I find the political press to be unbelievably dishonest.” Trump is being subjected to the same treatment as other presidential wannabes – and if there is dishonesty in the coverage, it’s the obscene, wall-to- wall coverage of Trump, usually live, usually unfiltered or unedited and with little context or questioning of the candidate.

Trump explained the near six-month delay in distribution the money on the grounds that the recipient groups had to be vetted – but he named all the groups that had been paid. He claimed that a lot of the money had been dispersed ‘very early’ to ‘phenomenal groups.’

But as they say, facts schmacts. Another fact that is for all his whining, this was another good day on the campaign trail, with Trump managing to kill two birds with the one stone. With Tuesday’s press conference aired live by all the main cable news networks, he was beamed unedited across the country and, in Trumpland at least, there is no target that deserved a good kicking like the news media does.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/world/us-election/donald-trump-gives-a-preview-of-the-petulant-president-lashing-out-at-the-media-20160531-gp8m2l.html#ixzz4AJ3VcUeA
Follow us: @smh on Twitter | sydneymorningherald on Facebook

super changes snare Sinodinos

View Australian election briefing online

Campaign catchup: super changes snare Sinodinos

Election 2016: Following Julie Bishop’s ‘gotcha’ moment, superannuation has turned into a hot-button issue. Even the Greens are not immune
Senator Arthur Sinodinos

Senator Arthur Sinodinos stumbled in an interview with Sky News about what the party room was briefed on superannuation changes before the budget. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP



Superannuation has gone from the sleeper topic of the election to the all-out-brawl issue. After Julie Bishop stumbled on the details on Tuesday, a little-known aspect of policy has dominated Wednesday – reforms to the “transition to retirement” taxation.

It may sound like bland politic speak but the transition to retirement changes are causing great disturbance in the Liberal party room according to Sky News, and donors are withdrawing funds in disgust.

Sky is also reporting that the changes did not go to the party room and Arthur Sinodinos did not seem able to clear that up in another excruciating interview of the campaign. Sinodinos said the budget went to the party room and passed but some of the footnotes could have been missed. He added that there would be more consultation after the election. So does all that mean voters could return the Coalition to government with a superannuation policy they will then change?

Sinodinos:

I’m not going to speculate on that.

Briefly, the transition to retirement changes mean that people withdrawing from their superannuation fund between the ages of 55 and 65 would in future pay 15% tax, rather than none.

Malcolm Turnbull used the strategy of telling the truth and admitting it was a tax increase.

So yes it is an increase in taxation but it is still a very concessional rate of tax and that is – it is very important – so super and transition to retirement still remains very concessional, but what we are doing is making the system fairer.

Government members have even put their names to their rumblings:

The treasurer, Scott Morrison, said the number of people in the transition to retirement stream was 115,000 and so was standing by the government figure that 96% of people were unaffected or better off.

So what did Bishop have to say about being stuck for details on Tuesday?

It’s certainly an opportunity for us to explain our superannuation changes.

Bishop is not the only politician not across the nitty gritty of her party’s superannuation policy. Sarah Hanson-Young was asked about taxing superannuation and said the Greens’ policy was to tax it like normal income. Her chief-of-staff sent her a text message to correct her and say the party wanted progressive tax rates but not at the same rate as income tax.

Asked again if it would be a tax on super contributions or earnings, Hanson-Young responded.

Sorry … what?

Is this Bernardi’s dead cat?

Cory Bernardi has lobbed his own version of a dead cat on Wednesday morning linking to the blog of neo-masculinist Roosh V. The piece, titled “What is a Social Justice Warrior?”, takes on the “extreme leftwing” of “feminism, progressivism, and political correctness”. Roosh is out to find for that maligned class in our society – the white man. Roosh uses his platform to complain men have no platform and talk about the free speech being smothered.

“The idea of privilege is so essential to SJW ideology that a common debate tactic they use is to say ‘check your privilege’, which roughly translates to, ‘you must immediately halt or change your speech because your ancestors may or may not have done bad things to women or minority races’.” It’s certainly set social media alight, although Bernardi’s intention was not clear.

‘Horseshit’

Peta “Helpful” Credlin said the government needed to ensure its members were across the details of superannuation policy. She also knocked back Barnaby Joyce’s suggestions that Tony Abbott harboured ambitions of a comeback labelling it “horseshit” and saying Joyce needed to focus on the wombat trail (the traditional name for the Nationals’ campaign).

Water off a Barnaby’s back though:

Nor am I going to get into a debate on the equine minutiae of what’s happening on the trail. [I could] line up a whole range of people who’ve said worse things about me.

Joyce added he was not going to “commentate on commentators” the favoured line of Scott Morrison when asked about Credlin.

Now is as good a time as any to check in on the Abbott one-man campaign:

It’s the economy, dummy

A rare reprieve in the campaign – economy figures came out today and they were actually good. Though those stormy clouds remain on the horizon.

Australia’s economy is growing at an annual rate of 3.1%, which is much higher than the forecasts and the strongest annual increase since September 2012.

But.

The figure is mainly propped up by exports and disposable income has continued to fall in real terms.

Best of Bowers

Linda Burney and Bill Shorten doing a street walk in Burney’s Sydney electorate of Barton on Wednesday afternoon.

Linda Burney and Bill Shorten in Rockdale. Photograph: Mike Bowers for the Guardian


Fancy seeing you here … Mike Bowers captures Linda Burney and Bill Shorten doing a street walk in Burney’s Sydney electorate of Barton on Wednesday afternoon.

Further reading

• The third man: Greens leader Richard Di Natale campaigns his own wayGareth Hutchens spent time with Di Natale who spoke about why it is beneficial to have both major parties complaining about them.

Election 2016: Behold, congregation of the Church of Innovation, here is Malcolm Turnbull (Fairfax Media). A great sketch from Amy Remeikis on Turnbull’s visit to Queensland on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, in the rest of the world …

It is either Mary Poppins fans rejoice, or Mary Poppins fan despair: Emily Blunt will step into Julie Andrews’ shoes for the sequel.

Julie Bishop ‘gotcha’ exposes super pain

Julie Bishop ‘gotcha’ exposes super pain

The Coalition’s changes to retirement rules may not be as equitable as it claims.

julie bishop

Bishop admits it was a ‘gotcha moment’ Photo: 3AW

The Turnbull government’s reforms to generous superannuation tax concessions have come politically unstuck in an embarrassing radio interview on Tuesday.

While a $1.6 million cap on tax-free accounts was welcomed by analysts for putting a stop to super being used by high-wealth individuals as a tax minimisation sinkhole, changes to what is known as ‘transition to retirement’ arrangements are problematic for the less well-off.

• Labor pledges to save Reef, as poll suggests Coalition strife
• Turnbull narrowly wins second leaders’ debate
• Poll result trumps ‘barking mad’ furore

They also became problematic for Liberal deputy leader Julie Bishop when Melbourne 3AW’s Neil Mitchell tried to canvass TTR with her. The resulting train wreck interview went viral.

After being asked repeatedly to explain the new TTR rules, Ms Bishop admitted she could not: “Well, Neil, this is obviously a gotcha moment … It’s not my portfolio …”

Senior Liberal Party figures should have been on high alert after 2GB shock jock Alan Jones last week called the super reforms “toxic” for battlers during his interview with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

What is ‘TTR’?

The current TTR phase allows superannuants older than 55 to draw down designated sums from their super each year without incurring tax while they reduce their working hours pending formal retirement.

Under the 2016 budget reforms, earnings generated within the transition phase would attract 15 per cent tax. This would remove the tax incentive for most people under 60 to take on a TTR arrangement.

There is also a reduction of the current tax-concessional contribution cap of $30,000 to $25,000 a year. This is designed to inhibit the use of salary sacrificing by higher-income earners, but it will also hit lower-income workers trying to build up their retirement nest eggs late in their workings lives. This may contradict the government’s claim that only 4 per cent of high wealth superannuants will be affected.

scott morrison malcolm turnbull budget

The TTR changes generated few headlines after the budget. Photo: AAP

Some sections of the superannuation industry and the Institute of Public Affairs have protested bitterly that the super accumulation cap reforms are effectively “retrospective”. Their complaints have been echoed by Mr Jones.

Shorten piles on

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten told Sunday’s ABC debate the government had created uncertainty and retrospectively penalised investment in superannuation: “No changes that the Labor Party has ever contemplated are retrospective.”

Significantly, Mr Shorten has omitted to declare if he will reverse the changes. Treasurer Scott Morrison seized on this omission, claiming Labor supports the changes.

“I welcome the fact that the Labor Party supports those changes. What these changes are about is an integrity measure that applies to the transition to retirement income streams,” Mr Morrison said.

“It means that those who are in that stream, that they will have a 15 per cent tax rate which is applied to that but once you get into the retirement phase, then you return to a position of zero tax on your earnings in that phase.”

Slugging the rich

Ms Bishop seemed to divert attention from a Labor pledge to extend the 2 per cent budget repair levy imposed by the Abbott government in 2014.

Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen appeared to contradict his leader when he indicated the levy would be indefinite. That is … permanent.

bill shorten leaders debate

Shorten says some of the super changes are retrospective. Photo: AAP

“I said on budget night that Labor would make the top marginal tax rate a permanent marginal tax rate,” Mr Bowen said.

Earlier, Mr Shorten said the repair levy would be for 10 years.

The tax levy applies to incomes over $180,000 a year and under the Coalition is to be terminated in mid-2017.

With another inflation benchmark to be announced on Wednesday, the Turnbull Coalition is sweating on news about Australia’s growth rate. Any downward trend will sap public confidence and have a political impact 32 days out from polling day.

The Fair Work Commission’s 2.4 per cent approved increase in the minimum wage, while not what the Australian Council of Trade Unions wanted, will be well received by Labor … and the Coalition.

It’s the umpire’s call, they will both say.

Another day, another poll?

The latest Essential poll published by Crikey now has the Coalition back in the lead 51 to 49 on two-party preferred.

On the important primary vote trend, the Liberal Party is steady at 41 per cent but significantly Labor has slipped from 37 to 35 per cent.

Mr Turnbull is nosing ahead, at least on this measure.

Quentin Dempster is political editor of The New Daily. He has more than 40 years’ experience in print and television (The Sun Herald,The Sydney Morning Herald, ABC TV) and is the author of three critically acclaimed books and a documentary on institutionalised corruption. He also has a Walkley Award and an Order of Australia for an ‘outstanding contribution to journalism’.

Heavy spending Coalition guilty of hypocrisy

This article first appeared on the Yahoo7 website at this address: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/coalition-s-heavy-spending-makes-attacks-on-labor-pure-hypocrisy-233310423.html

——————————————–

Heavy spending Coalition guilty of hypocrisy

When it comes to a discussion about government spending, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Treasurer Scott Morrison need to be a little self reflective and less the attack dogs on Labor’s alleged “big spending” plans.

Under the Coalition’s watch, government spending has surged to the point where between 25.2 and 25.8 per cent of the economy is accounted for by spending from the Federal government in the period from 2013-14 to 2019-20.

Embarrassingly for Turnbull and Morrison is the fact, in Mr Morrison’s own budget papers from just three weeks ago, that in the last full year of the previous Labor government, government spending was just 24.1 per cent of GDP. Indeed, in the last three years of the Labor government, spending was between 24.1 and 24.9 per cent of GDP. To put that in context, each 1 per cent of GDP is a thumping $17 billion.

With the Turnbull government spraying money around in an effort to gain political favour, it is little wonder the credit rating agencies are ready to pounce with a downgrade to the coveted triple A credit rating if anything else in the economy goes wrong.

In recent days, Turnbull and Morrison have ramped up their rhetoric about the Labor’s Party’s “reckless” and “cavalier”
approach to spending on issues like education and health.

As noted, the hypocrisy of this claim with the current Coalition government one of the highest spending administrations in 30 years, is breathtaking. Buried in the back of Budget Statement 10 is a table which includes the data on government spending, revenue and the budget deficit or surplus from 1970-71 through to 2019-20.

Turnbull and Morrison and the travelling press packs for that matter, should have a close look at it each time either side of politics makes heroic claims about the size of government.

Now for a few cold, hard budget facts.

In the period from 2013-14 to 2019-20, that is the period presided over by the Coalition, government spending has risen from $360 billion to $501 billion. As a share of GDP, the average is 25.6 per cent of GDP.

Under the previous Labor government, the average spending was 24.9 per cent of GDP which includes the stimulus measures that prevented a recession in Australia as the rest of the world cascaded into the deepest recession since the 1930s Great Depression.

Which side is it, Liberal or Labor, that is big spending?

The election is still over five weeks away and economic policy, including decisions on spending and taxing will be critical in swaying voters which way to vote. As the current policy promises stand, the broad theme is one where the Coalition is looking to cut the company tax rate in an effort to boost economic growth.

Labor, on the other hand, is looking to boost the economy through better education and health using the money allocated in the budget for tax cuts to fund this increase.

It is a fascinating debate that at the moment has electorate split 50:50 on which way to vote on 2 July. But rather than a cheap and largely fact free slanging match over big spending, big taxing government, the issues of company tax cuts versus education and health funding are important.

All these policies have some merit and the voters will need to decide whether company tax cuts will leave them and the economy better off in a decade or whether education for their kids and healthcare for their family are better for them and the economy.

Forced council amalgamations;

Forced council amalgamations; Part One- Do they deliver?

By ‘The Contrarian’

The planners of compulsory and voluntary council amalgamations have argued that “bigger is better” in local government. Ratepayers are told these amalgamations will give them lower rates, cheaper and better quality services, enhanced financial viability and top-quality administration and planning.

But is that what they get?

In NSW, the Baird Government has particularly stressed the financial benefits of council amalgamations. These claims have typically presented as the outcome of careful research and deliberation although critics argue this is the exact opposite of what has happened.  Recent events suggest that there may be more than a grain of truth to the critic’s claims.

There is mounting evidence from studies of forced amalgamations in other States, such as Queensland for example, to the effect that claims about lower rates, enhanced financial viability, better services and better planning and administration automatically resulting from forced mergers is not correct.  In fact a study by Joseph Drew, Mike Kortt and Professor Brian Dollery established the forced mergers in Queensland ensued in a greater proportion of councils displaying “diseconomies of scale”. That is, the mergers created entities that were simply too large to be run efficiently.

What is more, of the 31 new councils the Queensland mergers formed, 58% exhibited decreasing returns to scale. Comparing their efficiency through time, the researchers found merged councils performed worse than unmerged councils.  Similar reports on forced amalgamations elsewhere in Australia and New Zealand have also emerged.

Hardly a ringing endorsement!  So the question has to be asked; “Is the Baird Government’s policy one that is based on solid empirical evidence”?

The NSW Government points to the IPART Report released last October looking into how many NSW Councils met their Fit For The Future Criteria and highlight that about 60 per cent of the state’s councils were not “fit for the future” according to IPART’s criteria as set out by the NSW Government.  The very same criteria Professor Dollery and his other co-researchers have found to be questionable over three separate reports and papers.

So on ‘Fit For The Future’ grounds alone there are reasonable questions as to the efficacy as to what the NSW Government is proposing with its now forced amalgamations.

But are they the only problems with what the NSW Government is currently doing?  Hardly, the recent sacking of 42 Councils mostly, but not solely, in Sydney has led to accusations of administrators being appointed who are too close to developers and controversial developments.  Terms such as ‘Dictator’ and ‘Dirty Government’ have been thrown around.  Accusations of ‘presumptions of Corporate Government’ and “obsessive secrecy” have been aired.  The behaviour of some protestors has been passionate and some less than exemplary and downright disgusting.

It didn’t need to be this way.  There are other ways of making savings and giving ratepayers a ‘better bang for their buck’ while also ensuring democracy is alive and well at local government level.  I’ll cover these in my next piece.  Some amalgamations can work, given certain criteria.  There are alternatives to amalgamations too.

As was rightly pointed out here at Coffs Outlook recently the Coffs Harbour Council, “along with Bellingen, Nambucca Heads and Grafton councils were part of the original proposal to merge as one” Council under ‘Fit For The Future.’  That may still yet happen.

Coffs Harbour City Council’s administration challenged the proposed amalgamation.  The same article rightly asked “why was Council so determined to challenge the merger proposal?”

As I’ll argue in part two of this column it was highly unlikely to have been for the right reasons or to have offered the right alternatives.

Tony Abbott comeback talk ‘rubbish’: Credlin

Election 2016: Peta Credlin rejects Tony Abbott comeback talk

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Tony Abbott comeback talk ‘rubbish’: Credlin

Peter Credlin directs Barnaby Joyce to ‘get back on the wombat trail’ after suggesting Tony Abbott wants to regain leadership of the Coalition.

Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff Peta Credlin has rubbished claims her old boss wants his job back, labelling deputy prime minister Barnaby Joyce’s comments “horse s–t”.

The Nationals leader, a political ally of Mr Abbott, on Tuesday said he believed the former PM still harboured leadership ambitions but would realise a comeback wasn’t possible.

“He will want to, but he’ll realise he can’t,” Mr Joyce told AAP. “To say that he doesn’t have a desire is ridiculous – to say that he can’t overcome that desire by the reality that’s just not going to happen [is another].”

Tony Abbott's former chief of staff Peta Credlin is now a Sky News commentator.Tony Abbott’s former chief of staff Peta Credlin is now a Sky News commentator.

But Ms Credlin, who worked closely with Mr Abbott for six years in opposition and in government, said that assessment was incorrect and reiterated that the Abbott years were “over”.

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“I think that’s ‘absolute rubbish’. I was going to say horse s–t but I don’t know if I can say that on TV,” she told Sky News on Tuesday night.

“Honestly, Barnaby, get back on the wombat trail – please leave this alone. Tony’s made absolutely clear that the Abbott years are over, and no one can look at his performance during this campaign and see that he’s anything other than a team player.”

Tony Abbott campaigning at Manly wharf in his seat of Warringah.Tony Abbott campaigning at Manly wharf in his seat of Warringah. Photo: Damien Murphy

The wombat trail is a nickname for the Nationals’ campaign during an election, running through regional Australia.

Despite maintaining the private support of many conservative Coalition colleagues, Mr Abbott has repeatedly quashed talk of a return to the Liberal leadership.

Last month he told his friend and broadcaster Andrew Bolt that he did not expect the party to “ever go back” on its decision to dump him for Malcolm Turnbull in September last year.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is stalked by a Tony Abbott cut-out wielded by a member of the satirical Chaser program ...Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is stalked by a Tony Abbott cut-out wielded by a member of the satirical Chaser program while campaigning in western Sydney this week. Photo: Andrew Meares

“Political parties don’t go back, the Abbott era has been and I think my role is to be occasionally, perhaps, an elder statesman, certainly a very vigorous and forthright member for Warringah, where I can be a help to my colleagues in this campaign I will be – but that’s my role going forward,” he said.

During the campaign so far, Mr Abbott has appeared in several electorates other than his own, including George Christensen’s Queensland seat of Dawson, Mark Coulton’s NSW seat of Parkes and the Western Australian seat of Tangney, where Dennis Jensen was dumped by preselectors.

Mr Joyce said Mr Abbott was “by nature a very competitive person” and that “human nature being what it is, people who’ve had that desire will maintain that desire to win”.

– with AAP

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/federal-election-2016/election-2016-abbott-comeback-talk-horse-st-says-peta-credlin-20160531-gp8l0w.html#ixzz4AIrI59hL
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Turnbull vows to stop ‘excessive’ pay rises

Turnbull vows to stop ‘excessive’ pay rises for construction workers

Election 2016: Union invites prime minister to ‘tell workers why they should be paid less’, as Malcolm Turnbull says wage rises cost jobs

Steelworker welding in Melbourne
 Steelworker welding in Melbourne. Malcolm Turnbull has criticised a Victorian Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union deal offering a 15% pay rise over three years. Photograph: Julian Smith/AAP

Malcolm Turnbull has criticised a workplace deal granting a 15% pay rise over three years negotiated by the Victorian construction union. Turnbull said it was the sort of deal a tougher building watchdog would stop.

On 2GB on Wednesday in one of his few one-on-one interviews during the campaign, Turnbull was asked by host Alan Jones about the deal the Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union Victorian construction branch had struck with employers and similar deals around the country.

Jones asked: “How do you think workers in marginal seats battling for any pay increase at all feel when they learn the average income of a carpenter on a unionised project is $163,000? These are on state government projects, so the end result is the taxpayer picks up the tab, who is going to stop these excesses?”

Turnbull responded: “Well we will stop that.”

“But we can’t stop that unless we win this election, because unless we win this election we cannot get the Australian Building and Construction Commission legislation reinstatedand we do that through the joint sitting,” he said.

“That’s why we’re having the double dissolution, we’re doing this because, unless we were miraculously to have a majority in the Senate, which I don’t expect, [it’s] the only way we can get the rule of law restored in the construction sector and the building code re-established.”

Turnbull said the building code, which bans coercion to win above-award pay rises, would “ensure you don’t get these shocking agreements between the CFMEU and builders”. He said builders were “basically stood over” by the construction union.

“I’m in Brisbane, if you talk to builders and developers here they will tell you on union jobs there are only three tiling companies in this city that the CFMEU will let on the site, no one else can get a look in.”

“The CFMEU stand over the builders and developers, and because the rule of law is not applied, they are able to get away with it. The rule of law did apply when we had the ABCC but the Labor party took it away because they act at the behest of these militant unions.”

Turnbull claimed most construction workers did not benefit from “the CFMEU stand-overs, most of them suffer … because there is less construction and less opportunities”.

“If we had a more lawful construction sector, if the rule of law applied there would be more construction and more construction jobs, taxpayers would not be paying in excess of 30% more for projects like this.”

The CFMEU construction division national secretary, Dave Noonan, told Guardian Australia “there’s plenty of work … there’s a lot of money being made in the construction industry and workers are entitled to a fair share of it”.

“The latest rounds of agreements are reached by negotiations and the union doesn’t apologise for negotiating hard, same as employers do. These are big corporations that are capable of protecting their economic interests and the union is there to advance the interests of its members.”

Noonan said construction workers needed higher wages because they “frequently spend weeks and months out of work. Very frequently your job finishes with the project you’re on.”

“We’re happy to extend the hand of friendship to Malcolm Turnbull. He can come down to a major construction site in any CBD around Australia and tell the workers why they should be paid less. I’m sure they’ll take that well from a millionaire [former] merchant banker.”

Responding to claims Labor was beholden to unions, Noonan noted significant donations from property developers to the Liberal party.

Bill Shorten addressed the CFMEU Victorian branch’s attempts to win an 18% pay rise at a doorstop on Thursday. He said: “Ultimately what employers and employees negotiate is their business.”

Asked why he was not more critical of the CFMEU, Turnbull said: “I talk about it, but I’m acting. I dissolved both houses of parliament in order to put this bit of legislation on the agenda, to legislate it and make it happen.” From The Gardian Australia