2020 – again

Yesterday there was a report in the Australian that seemed somewhat strange:

An unprecedented gathering of business, union, community and policy leaders next month will chart a consensus approach­ to tackling the major issues facing the national economy and federal budget.

The one-day National Reform­ Summit supported by The Australian and The Australian Financial Review — collaborating for the first time — will seek to rise above the partisan politics that have stymied crucial­ fiscal reform.

Hardly unprecedented – there are academic conferences (in every meaning of the term) all the time. Today an op-ed in the AFR* provides more detail – and establishes the underlaying agenda:

Earlier in the year this columnist argued the case for a National Reform Summit to help bridge the political divide in Canberra by finding common ground on a new economic reform program (“Leaders’ consensus needed to shape economic reform”, AFR March 3). Agreement has been reached now by business groups, the ACTU and the community sector to pursue this worthy goal at a summit on August 26. The idea is to make good reform easier and opposition to good reform harder. If one or the other of the main political parties adopts a reform agenda based on agreement by representatives of a broad spectrum of the community at the summit, it will know it has a strong alliance backing it. Conversely, if the rival party seeks to oppose the reform program in an effort to harvest votes, it will struggle to find credible allies to help it prosecute the anti-reform case.

Well, yes. Just who are these community groups?


the Australian Council of Social Service, the ACTU, the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Australian Industry Group, and seniors groups …

Who else?

Some of the nation’s leading researchers and policy experts — from think tanks including the Grattan Institute, the Menzies Research Centre, the Chifley Research Centre, the McKell Institute, the Centre for Independent Studies and the Melbourne Economic Forum — are preparing prelim­inary position papers which will underpin the summit debate.

So let me make some predictions; an agenda to increase the GST, increase taxation on superannuation, increase the tax burden on “the rich”, and increase welfare spending will emerge from this conference.

To be fair idea generation is important but this conference is very different from what it hopes to be:

When Bob Hawke convened a national economic summit shortly after coming to government in 1983 he had backing him a broad community consensus that the economy was in trouble and Australia needed to face outwards to Asia. It was on this basis that his government implemented a successful reform program.

That is a very big difference – Bob Hawke drove the process last time. As far as I can see Tony Abbott isn’t invited and isn’t involved. To the contrary this process is largely being driven by ALP figures and ALP-aligned or ALP-funded organisations.

I did have a bit of a chuckle when I read this:

Large sections of the media enthusiastically hand vested interests a platform and a megaphone simply to boost their readership or audiences.

Large sections of the media – like the Australian and the Australian Financial Review? (I have subscriptions to both).
Vested interests – like the Australian Council of Social Service, the ACTU, the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Australian Industry Group, and seniors groups?
Then I got a bit annoyed when I read this:

Yet in Canberra we had a budget emergency in 2014 but now we are expected to believe it is under control and the budget is on a credible path back to surplus. That path relies on a return to trend economic growth, and then some more, not by forecast but by assumption. It relies on Australia’s falling terms of trade stabilising at more than 20 per cent above their long-term average. It requires bracket creep to collect a rising share of the declining real incomes of Australian workers. And it assumes a resurgence of productivity growth, which it simply not occurring. In fact, by the broadest measure of productivity – multifactor productivity, which reflects technological progress – we are less productive today than we were a decade ago

I actually don’t disagree with that statement – in fact we here at the Cat have been criticising Wayne Swan’s bugdgeting process and assumption driven management for years. We have criticised Joe Hockey for his Swanesque approach to economic management too. Yet it is very rich coming from a man who was in government, and in the cabinet, when Australia abondoned the sound fiscal management of the Howard-Costello era and embarked on this strategy.

* This is not an invitation to launch into Craig Emerson – his singing abilty is terrible – let’s rather focus on the substance.

Update: It occurs to me that those organisations that opposed the mining tax and the carbon tax have not been invited to attend.

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38 Responses to 2020 – again

  1. .

    So let me make some predictions; an agenda to increase the GST, increase taxation on superannuation, increase the tax burden on “the rich”, and increase welfare spending will emerge from this conference.

    We ought to cut taxes and allow people to work so they don’t need welfare.

  2. H B Bear

    One hardly needs an invitation to launch into The Legover Man.

  3. Infidel Tiger

    Will there be an opportunity to launch into Emmo at a later date?

    I realise that he and Andrew Leigh are the ALP’s best and brightest, but that’s kind of like being the prettiest girl at Daily Life.

  4. jupes

    Agreement has been reached now by business groups, the ACTU …

    Yeah, who wouldn’t trust an agreement between unions and business?

  5. jupes

    Australian Council of Social Service, the ACTU, the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Australian Industry Group …

    Why are the representative organisations of business all lefties now?

  6. Bruce of Newcastle

    Balance the budget
    Free up labour markets and workplace relations
    Lower taxes
    Remove green tape

    There I’ve saved the nation half a million in unnecessary conference costs and reduced the chance of food poisoning by bad conference food for quite a number of people.

  7. let’s rather focus on the substance.

    The dysfunctional, corrupt party of Trade Unions and big business has lost the confidence of Trade Unions and big business?

    Everyone else worked that out at the last election.

  8. Sinclair Davidson

    Those organisations that opposed the mining tax and carbon tax are not invited as far as I can see.

  9. Dr Faustus

    And it assumes a resurgence of productivity growth, which it simply not occurring. In fact, by the broadest measure of productivity – multifactor productivity, which reflects technological progress – we are less productive today than we were a decade ago.

    That, right there, is the factor that will choke the post-resources-boom Australian economy and make our debt unmanageable. Neither the ALP, or the Coalition has the political will, or capacity to discuss, far less address productivity.

    And unlike the Hawke era which had the benefit of economic patriots like Kelty, Crean and Ferguson, the current leadership of the union movement is a waiting room for political preferment populated by hacks and criminals.

    Emerson knows this.

  10. sabena

    Its typical ALP approach. Corporatism not individualism.They never learn.

  11. Big_Nambas

    Ronny Raygun would smile knowingly as he rolls over in his grave, they still don’t get it.

  12. Grigory M

    Earlier in the year this columnist …

    “this columnist” = Craig Emerson. Forget the whole thing – it’s just another wankfest for those who oppose the current government. The Government should boycott the “unprecedented gathering” and just get on with governing. Better still – call a Double Dissolution Election for September/October, and then get on with governing.

  13. Snoopy

    Transfer income tax and company tax powers to the States. Commonwealth to retain GST revenue. Responsibility for social security, welfare, industrial relations, education, health and education, and as much of everything as else possible be transferred to the States.

  14. Snoopy

    Forget the whole thing – it’s just another wankfest for those who oppose the current government. The Government should boycott the “unprecedented gathering” and just get on with governing.

    Yes.

  15. Ant

    ACOSS? Seriously? The unions? Seriously seriously?

    Have the know-nothing fools who inhabit these sponging jokes of organisations got any ideas about actually creating wealth, as opposed to confiscating it from productive people and pissing it away on unproductive people?

    Yes, yes, some, or even many, are entirely deserving of taxpayer assistance, from cradle to grave in plenty of cases, but do they ever stand up for real working people and argue for hammering the welfare/nanny state into submission and reducing it to the absolute minimum, recognising how personally and collectively destructive welfarism is?

    Why would they do that when it would be so bad for ‘business’?

  16. Ant

    How come Triggsie’s not invited?

  17. Ant

    20/20: 1000 of the “best and brightest” (why not 857 or 1019?) doodling on butcher paper for a few days and citing the nonsense on their CV’s for the rest of their days.

  18. Rob MW

    Outcome – recommendations:

    1) Further regulation and higher costs on production
    2) Further stimulate consumer demand
    3) Increase public sector employment
    4) Export Richard Dennis’s economic theory to Greece
    5) Legislate ‘Trickle Down” economics – min 10 yrs jail per offence
    6) Confiscate land, guns and bank accounts with deposits of more than $1,000.00
    7) Sell their ABC to Qatar
    8) Promote LGBT in the middle east – foreign aid
    9) Condemn public sector corruption……..in other countries
    10) Institute a Royal Commission into why the Murray river has not run dry in 100 years
    11) Increase taxes on alcohol and smokes
    12) Appoint Ban Ki Moon as President of Australia
    13) Put David Marr on the face $100 bill
    14) Put Australia on the underneath side of the $100 bill
    15) Increase taxes on alcohol and smokes
    16) Increase taxes on alcohol and smokes
    17) Increase taxes on alcohol and smokes

  19. Big_Nambas

    Rob MW

    That works for me!

  20. Just interested

    2020, revisited.
    How very corporatist. Will be interesting to see how often the corporatist nature of the gig is mentioned – won’t hold my breath about it being mentioned in either the Fin or the Oz!

  21. Des Deskperson

    ’20/20: 1000 of the “best and brightest” (why not 857 or 1019?) doodling on butcher paper for a few days and citing the nonsense on their CV’s for the rest of their days.’

    I know of some participants in the 20/20 who claimed that their doodling – however fatuous it may have been – was distorted by the Summit secretariat that prepared the conference outcomes- the Nous Group of consultants, reputedly a Labor front – to better reflect the Rudd government agendas, without further clearance by participants, not that it’s mattered much in the long term.

    As for this toss-off, well Grigory M at 11.20 a. m. has nailed it. At least it won’t involve taxpayers’ money, well not directly.

  22. Andrew

    I realise that he and Andrew Leigh are the ALP’s best and brightest, but that’s kind of like being the prettiest girl at Daily Life.

    Ooh, ouch!

  23. Squirrel

    “So let me make some predictions; an agenda to increase the GST, increase taxation on superannuation, increase the tax burden on “the rich”, and increase welfare spending will emerge from this conference. ”

    Precisely – and we know which items on that list will be smiled on by the political class.

    The better approach might just be a written exam – in 500 words or less – “how do we avoid ending up like Greece?”

  24. MareeS

    Can all delegates please disclose their salaries and expense allowances at the door?

    No, of course not.

  25. Kool Aid Kid

    The Australian Financial Deja Vu? Really, this is very funny. I have been wondering for a while quite what it is that’s wrong with the AFR these days. I thought for a while it was just out of touch with reality (and commerce) but I see now that’s it’s a much more serious condition.
    The AFR is living in the 1970s. Explains to editor’s whiskers and many, many other things (various obessions and that faintly postwar notion of editor as pseudo academic).
    If you look at the invite list, it’s roughly the same list (and some of the same people) that sat through that tedious Hawkie lovefest in the old Parliament.
    Stutch; Mitch; others: It’s been done guys. All over. Today’s agenda is about flexibility, global competition, undoing the gilded cages and so on.
    FFS.

  26. Crossie

    This is an attempt by the ALP, unions and their business friends to divert attention from the TURC.

    The government is smart not to have anything to do with this sideshow.

  27. Crossie

    Because they all went to university together where they were taught about corporate social responsibility which seems to override shareholders’ interests.

    As far as I am concerned the only responsibility businesses have is to operate within the law, make a profit and pay their taxes. They are free to support any charities they want but should not be required to do so.

  28. Gab

    They are free to support any charities they want but should not be required to do so.

    Good heavens! Now that’s just inviting an alright twitter backlash that every corporation seems to buckle under.

    Pussy-whipped corporations of the 21st century.

  29. feelthebern

    Will cate blanchette be there ?

  30. eb

    They are free to support any charities they want but should not be required to do so

    No, I disagree. The Directors of the company are charged with running a business and maximising shareholder value.

    Its up to shareholders to decide to whether to donate or not.

    Same with governments; its not their brief to make donations, that should be left to the citizens.

  31. john constantine

    Can the caterers who served up the tucker for the Ramadan feast that cleaned up all those ISIS goatjabbers be retained for this occassion as well?.

    Alternatively, hold it on the ‘b’ ark.

  32. Crossie

    They are free to support any charities they want but should not be required to do so

    No, I disagree. The Directors of the company are charged with running a business and maximising shareholder value.

    Its up to shareholders to decide to whether to donate or not.

    A lot of what passes for corporate charity is just sponsorship which is a form of advertising. Two birds, one stone.

  33. johanna

    So, the Great and the Good are going to get together to tell us what to do? Holy crap, put your money under the mattress.

    More generally, attempts to “bridge the divide” in politics should always be viewed with deep suspicion. What is usually means is handing over democracy to technocrats and bureaucrats. The EU is a classic example.

  34. Rafe

    Dr Faustus recall that Hawke and Keating had the benefit of the trail blazing backbench dries in the Liberal party and their deregulation reforms had broad support from the Coalition. Contrast the situation now. And Richo was only starting to let the Green genie out of the bottle.

  35. Dr Faustus

    Contrast the situation now.

    Rafe: Could not agree more. We had something of a parliamentary Golden Age in the 80’s and 90’s; contrast against the past 10 years of low-rent careerism, wedge politics, satisficing and valueless largesse with other people’s money.

    And, yes, the Greens – to good governance and productivity as dysentery is to weight-lifting.

    I have no idea how any ‘National Reform Summit’ might expect to avoid tripping over the issue of the dismal state of Australian public policy performance. I guess it’s a ‘beltway’ thing…

  36. Simon

    I think you might have missed the point, this is just an attempt to get over the Royal Commission which has basically identified all agencies/organisations dealing with or supporting the ALP as corrupt grasping money laundering time wasters very much akin to the medieval church. People are now seeing worldly, uninspiring careerists for what they are.
    Bill is a loser with absolutely no ideas or personality, no plan for the future and a party desperately hoping to avoid wearing the blame for bankrupting the Australian nation. The current government should avoid this thing at all costs lest they be roped in with the whole “They’re all the same argument”. Which is exactly the affect this Dance Macabre is designed to produce.

  37. .

    Good point Simon, there are two joke royal commissions happening right now to deflect.

    1. The RC into child abuse – nothing new will come of it.
    2. RC into domestic violence – impossible to do anything at a macro level.

    he Royal Commission which has basically identified all agencies/organisations dealing with or supporting the ALP as corrupt grasping money laundering time wasters very much akin to the medieval church.

    Indeed. They’re like the Borgias, but worse.

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