Monday, 19 May 2014

Intellectually Challenged

Declaration: In the spirit of full disclosure, I must let you know that I was paid for my last post. I was challenged by a reader to include 5 unrelated words in the one post, partly explaining why Gina and myself hypothetically appeared on Q & A last week. The prize for including four words was was a bottle of wine - and bonus chocolate if I could get the last one. Ladies and gentlemen, my trophy.

The best kind of trophy - it was full when I received it 

Last time I wrote, I gave up the chance to wax lyrical about what kind of nasties could be in the Federal Budget in favour of asking you to consider changing your mind more often. Who could have predicted just how nasty this budget has turned out to be? Certainly not I. In that same post, I also promised that I would examine the budget from a Centrist point of view, since I now consider myself a Centrist and my brother challenged me to find something good in the budget (remember, this was before it was handed down).  Tonight my brother has finally provided me with his own workable definition of what a Government is essentially meant to do, so I write tonight to meet another challenge - albeit without the incentive of any sweet rewards for a job well done.

I asked Mark to write down what he considered the job of a Government so that I could tailor my budget breakdown to his own world view. After all, I know what I think the Government's reason for being is, but if we used my concept as a guide to judging how successfully the budget delivers what the Government is meant to do, there would be very little good to be found anywhere. 

This is what our Federal Government exists to do, according to my brother Mark:

A Government needs to safeguard the prosperity of all Australian citizens. They need to make decisions that will not simply make its constituents happy, but ensure the long-term growth of the economy and freedoms of its citizens.

He also asked me to do the following:

Search the most recent budget and current government policy and find one good new policy and one contentious but necessary cut in government spending.

The last thing he wrote was: 

We want facts

I'm not sure who "we" are, but I will do my best to stick to the facts, keeping in mind that lies and statistics are the currency I will be working with here, and that facts change all the time.


The night the budget was handed down, I tried to read the official paper itself - the one that senior economic journalists are locked in a room with for 3 hours before the speech itself is delivered. I tried in vain and failed miserably. I already have a full-time job, there was no way I could crunch the numbers myself and eat too. I then decided to move on to the ABC's website for their analysis and found this:

I have always regarded the ABC as fairly neutral in its bias, and a trusted source of quality information. From a graphic design point of view, the above graphic is a fantastic way of visually breaking down the policies presented by Joe Hockey. However, since my brother could argue that using this particular breakdown alone could be rather misleading, I needed to look further.

Where I should look for a non-biased breakdown is anyone's guess, but in order to increase my sample size, I found a few other budget breakdown from other media sources to compare the ABC's data to. Surprisingly, they seemed to say very similar things. The Sydney Morning Herald surmised the same winners and losers as the ABC, and although expecting the Daily Telegraph to analyse the budget properly is a bit too much to ask, they did manage to agree with everyone else that this budget is the worst received of any Federal Budget in the last 20 years. Without making it Labor's fault. Misprint, probably.

What I'm trying to say is, even though I have utterly failed to come to my own conclusions based on analysis of the raw data, I have definitely formed an informed opinion on the budget after collating a range of views and finding the same messages in each.

Mark has asked me to find one good new policy and one contentious but necessary cut.

Good, according to Mark's definition of what a Government should do, must be that the policy delivers long-term growth, ensures the freedoms of its citizens, or both. Any policy set down in this budget, in singularity, could be argued to do just that. Anything in singularity can be argued to be anything else, too, just as horses can be argued to be a type of chair so long as you aren't looking at the dining table. 

In my very humble opinion, the problem is that as a whole, the budget goes too far in cutting essential services and ultimately undermines the long term growth it hopes to deliver by doing so. 

For the record, and for the swift conclusion to my wilted effort to dissect the Federal budget, I have singled out the following as replies to the challenge:

Good new policy

Any efficiencies found in Defence costs will be reinvested back into Defence, unlike the majority of other Commonwealth departments, which are expected to return efficiencies.

I think this is a sensible policy, even if it means that the last few years of reducing spending was a waste of time. All the savings eked out over the last 6 years or so have probably amounted to a wing's worth of JSF, which they now get to keep, instead of handing back to the government to spend on something worthwhile. Good job Defence.

Contentious but necessary cut

The pension age being lifted is controversial but ultimately necessary as our population is already living much longer than we used to. By itself, this policy is not so bad, but in concert with every other cut that is being made, the prospect of waiting a few more years for financial help is very distressing for many older Australians.

There. Done.

No more challenges. 

I want my soapbox back.

Unless you are paying in chocolate, in which case I'm open to negotiations.

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