Sunday, January 29, 2012

Take your partners for the next dance

The political dance has long held a fascination for me. I can’t really jig, but then I am fairly inept at real politics. I guess the problem is that I take it too seriously, expect better performances than seem to be humanly possible.
We don’t have a federal election due in Australia soon, but we have a ballroom full of willing competitors. The USA are having their preliminarily heats providing dance floor spills and thrills aplenty. Both offer a sad, disenchanting view of political life and aspirants.
Prime Minister Gillard should be sitting on top of the glittering ball, being generally successful at delivering worthy performances in most sections of the comp. Her biggest skill though seems to be the one that will see her limp off the floor, missing one shoe perhaps. Our Julia at deflecting the failings of opposition leader Abbott back onto herself.
Time and again Abbott should be hoist on his own petard, and the chivalrous Julia steps in to take the blow. It is breathtaking to watch the incredible transformation, the shift of focus, a foot gently removed from Abbott's mouth and planted solidly in her own. I wouldn’t really mind, except for a morbid fear of an Abbott lead government in this country.

Circular Firing Squad
A shift of focus to the USA GOP primaries race could probably rate as a displacement activity, although it should concern Aussies who is in the White House. We do tend to become tangled in US policy, at all its extremes.
This race has been characterised as a ‘circular firing squad’. Front runners Romney and Gingrich have inflicted such serious electoral damage on each other there is talk at this late stage of introducing a new, electable candidate. What has been fascinating, like Abbott these aspirants are adept at shooting themselves in the foot, without suffering any harm.
A long held dream has been to see a credible, capable set of opponents, showing the positive skills which might thrill us with the spectre of the political tango. They need not be boring. They need not ape each other’s steps and routines. Diversity provides powerful benefits in any field of endeavour. My dream is for solid performances, the sort which serve to grow the confidence of nations, not constantly drain it away.


Lindsay Byrnes said...

It’s been a topsy turvey years politically both here and in the USA but I think politicians are trying to play it too safe and avoid the contentious issues. Obama's been decent enough and moderate but he missed opportunities to confront his opposition and nail his leadership as a pragmatic force capable of winning the debate.
Ben Bernanke’s quantitative easing (which is the equivalent of printing money) was the only correct response to the massive deleveraging that was occurring post the GFC (and still is) and Obama needs to ram home that point. If the USA had followed the Republican lead which ridiculed Bernanke at the time saying his moves were bound to lead to rampant inflation and uncompetitiveness. Today the country would be in a deep depression rather than in the midst of a mild recovery with little sign of inflation. This classic Keynesian approach to increase the money supply during any period of severe deleveraging of credit has proved to be a correct policy response. Obama needs to make more of this and other valid points about his illiterate opposition many of whom still hold these extreme views.
On the home front it must be borne in mind Rudd was not a good team player nor did he do his homework on the mining tax but cherry picked ( with Swan ) those parts of the Treasury recommendations that suited his short goal to make a sizable dent in the budget deficit.
So it seems to me worldwide we lack decisive leadership. Like a leader or loathe one you need to see a pragmatic policy clearly enunciated.
On state level now the government’s approach to good housekeeping is not always what it seems:
I recently noticed in the Tuesday edition of the Australian finical Review under a heading entitled ‘Baillie raid threatens Work Safe’s Full Funding” by a James McKenzie’s some excellent points including the inescapable conclusion a state government’s ideology to impose a dividend on the workers compensation and work safe authorities is akin to simply another tax on employers.

I can remember the previous mess for workers compensation in the state several decades earlier prior to the present reform when employers faced crippling premium rates as high as 8% of wages as a consequence of large payouts under common law underwritten by a number of private insurers. Fortunately today after much needed reform we now benefit from the lowest rates in Australia but as McKenzie correctly points out these are now at risk if the government decides on a policy of dividend imposition which can only be recovered in increased premiums from employers.

Hiding behind this ideological bent to pay a dividend should be seen for what it is – an additional premium hike on employers for no reason other than to boost the Treasury coffers and give the appearance of good economic managers.

Best wishes

Anonymous said...

A long held dream has been to see a credible, capable set of opponents...

Wait, would that mean that I'd get to see a challenger to President Obama?

Naw...too much to hope for! :-)

Anonymous said...

A long held dream has been to see a credible, capable set of opponents...

Does that mean a credible primary challenger to President Obama? Naw...too much to hope for! :-)

Lindsay Byrnes said...

I noticed that Laura Tingle and Matthew Cranston’s article "Swan lashes billionaires influence" in last Friday’s edition is from a Treasurer stating he stands up for workers and who claims the influence of billionaires "undermines good public policy".
But it is politics and not billionaires that get in the way of good public policy, as is ably demonstrated by the legislative approach thus far of the Labour party to the mining tax. The tax, first mooted by the Henry Tax Review, was part of a large raft of policy measures to respond to pressure on the non mining business sector as the resources boom gave rise to an appreciating currency making manufacturers and exporters uncompetitive. One measure was to reduce the corporate tax rate to 25%. But Swan and Rudd simply cherry picked just the mining tax to help plug the ballooning budgetary deficit but without any reasonable prior consultation with industry or to allow for public or party debate which ultimately saw Rudd dumped.
Subsequently the incoming Gillard government negotiated a lower tax with the mining industry and also allowed existing state royalties to be deducted but then inexplicably tied the legislation to an increase in the superannuation guarantee levy from 9% to 12%.
None of these measures will help struggling manufactures and exporters but instead add an additional impost at the very time when they are under the most pressure. Workers in the non mining sector may begin to wonder how this is all going to help much needed investment and their future prospects.
Best wishes

Cartledge said...

Thanks Lyndsay. Good thoughts. Unlike the frog, cynical sod :) could be worse,a lot worse. Kvatch.