The money man – Chris Bowen

Adam Creighton, normally of the Australian, has written a fairly generous analysis of the Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen in Acuity, the regular magazine of Chartered Accountants Australia New Zealand.

Readers can make their own assessments, but Spartacus would like to offer the following observations in reply to some of Creighton’s comments:

Soon after Labor’s landslide loss that year to Tony Abbott’s Coalition, he (Bowen) wrote a serious book about the role of treasurer – The Money Men, which delved into the lives and times of the 12 “most notable” of Australia’s 39 treasurers. And now he’s now the second longest-serving shadow treasurer.

Any book that includes Wayne Swan among Australia’s best treasurers and second only to Paul Keating is not a “serious book” by any stretch of the imagination.

If Bowen had a radical edge in his student days, he’s mellowed. Tom Switzer, executive director of the traditionally Coalition-aligned Centre for Independent Studies, has been impressed by “how sensible he is on economic reform and the Hawke-Keating legacy – something that some might say should look like a pretty profound disqualification from running today’s Labor Party’s economic policy agenda”. Adds Switzer: “He’s easily the best of the Labor Party frontbench on public policy”.

That Bowen is “the best of the Labor Party frontbench on public policy” is not a particularly high bench mark.  

“The interaction between the capital gains tax discount and negative gearing has led to a supercharging of debt which is a uniquely Australian phenomenon,” he (Bowen) says.

This is debatable.  Spartacus might argue that the “capital gains tax discount and negative gearing” would have had a much lesser effect on debt were it not for the sloppy monetary policy of the RBA.

Cats should however read for themselves and make their own assessment of the man most likely to be Australia’s next Treasurer.

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39 Responses to The money man – Chris Bowen

  1. .

    Bowen is not smart at all and he is left wing through and through.

    He did not break ranks about the stupidity of FoFA.

    He has trashed classical liberalism at every chance he can get.

    He is also very, very petty.

    He’s terrible, a career ALP politician.

    Most is forgiven if he starts to pay off our MASSIVE public sector debt in a meaningful manner.

  2. Neil

    Govt debt went from 7% of GDP in 1983 to 18% of GDP by 1996 and we lost our AAA credit rating under Hawke/Keating. Why do people rate Keating so highly? In fact why do they rate him at all?

  3. .

    He also did a lot of good too Neil.

    Floating the dollar
    Monetarism
    Privatisation
    A move to enterprise bargaining
    Cutting or abolishing tariffs
    Tried to get a GST in place
    Cut tax (PI )rates from 60% down to 47% (corporate tax from 46% down to 33% IIRC).

    You’re right of course the debt and spending made the 1990 recession worse and we almost had another one in 1996 because of the continued splurging.

  4. Tim Neilson

    He also did a lot of good too Neil.

    Floating the dollar
    Monetarism
    Privatisation
    A move to enterprise bargaining
    Cutting or abolishing tariffs
    Tried to get a GST in place
    Cut tax (PI )rates from 60% down to 47% (corporate tax from 46% down to 33% IIRC).

    How much of that was Keating and how much was Hawke?

    John Button’s autobiography spells out that when Button confronted Keating about the bullshit that Keating was feeding Cabinet, Keating admitted that Treasury wrote the script and Keating just recited it.

    I’m happy to be corrected but my impression of Keating has always been that he was all facade and no substance.

    My recollection is that when Keating became PM he was like the dog that caught the car – he spent his whole time as PM making bombastic speeches about non-issues or striving to maintain his reputation for supposedly witty invective, all the while epitomising the symptoms of the Peter Principle.

  5. Bruce of Newcastle

    “The interaction between the capital gains tax discount and negative gearing has led to a supercharging of debt which is a uniquely Australian phenomenon,” he (Bowen) says.

    That’s ok Chris. We can go back to the old system of CPI adjustment. WHICH IS WHAT THE DISCOUNT IS you berk.

    In other words the “discount” is no such thing. It’s a correction for inflation.

  6. Tel

    By today’s standard 18% debt to GDP is kid’s stuff. Keating was an amateur compared to the modern day looters.

    The early 90’s recession was a washover from the Savings & Loans Crisis in the USA, and you can’t blame Keating for the fact that it happened. He used the opportunity to get the Australian unions under control (to some extent), and he also implemented the Prices & Incomes Accord which was a major step towards tripartite corporatism in Australia, John Howard then continued the process and we are well on the way towards Fascism in the way the original Italians intended it when they came up with the idea.

    Cutting or abolishing tariffs
    Tried to get a GST in place

    Yup, instead of having a tariff to discourage international trade, we now have a GST which operates just like a tariff between each and every individual in society, thus discouraging ALL trade.

    Keating and Hawke were a mixed bag, you have to look at what else was on offer at the time: Malcolm Fraser… how did he turn out? Whitless Whitlam? The Liars and Looters Party? We have been given a long series of disappointments so finding some good in Keating is a way of cheering oneself up a bit.

  7. .

    John Button’s autobiography spells out that when Button confronted Keating about the bullshit that Keating was feeding Cabinet, Keating admitted that Treasury wrote the script and Keating just recited it.

    Okay, back when Treasury was still a good institution.

    They all claim they were actually in charge; but at least he had the sense to listen and not fill the joint up with yes men and cranks.

  8. stackja

    Keating read Watson speeches.

  9. Tel

    How much of that was Keating and how much was Hawke?

    Keating was always the brains in the operation, Hawke was a figurehead.

  10. jupes

    Alan Jones beclowned Bowen on Sky a few years back.

    Bowen didn’t even know what the tax rates were and tried to obfuscate. Big Al excoriated the idiot.

  11. .

    By today’s standard 18% debt to GDP is kid’s stuff. Keating was an amateur compared to the modern day looters.

    Yep.

    The early 90’s recession was a washover from the Savings & Loans Crisis in the USA, and you can’t blame Keating for the fact that it happened.

    True but you reckon it was the S&L or the looming US debt? Interesting to look at Australian economic history from 1988 to 1990 in the primary and secondary sectors.

    Cutting or abolishing tariffs
    Tried to get a GST in place

    Yup, instead of having a tariff to discourage international trade, we now have a GST which operates just like a tariff between each and every individual in society, thus discouraging ALL trade.

    Also add in significant income tax cuts on a personal and company level and it was a good deal.

    Your analogy is also pretty shitty. A collection of different tariffs with different effective rates of protection and high-income taxes is nowhere near as efficient as a low (or absent) tax on capital (income) and a broad-based consumption tax.

  12. .

    Keating was always the brains in the operation, Hawke was a figurehead.

    Hawke says he was the brains and let Keating act like the figurehead.

    Button reckons they were both useful idiots and he was really in charge.

    Beazley…

    Richo!…

  13. Tel

    Your analogy is also pretty shitty. A collection of different tariffs with different effective rates of protection and high-income taxes is nowhere near as efficient as a low (or absent) tax on capital (income) and a broad-based consumption tax.

    GST is easy to calculate, I will give it that.

    Imposing a tariff on trade between every individual is “efficient” if you mean in terms of collecting as much money as possible and making it difficult to get out of. Forcing government to keep out of individual affairs and instead focus on controlling the border is “efficient” in terms of limiting the size and scope of government.

  14. H B Bear

    Doesn’t matter who is filling the seat. The Left are running the Liars now.

  15. .

    Think of terms of trade distortion Tel, as well as capital investment.

    A VAT is going to be workable in the real world, a Ramsey tax is not. Furthermore, you’re not taxing capital inadvertently as what happens with an income tax.

  16. Tel

    Oh an income tax is also to all intents and purposes a tariff discouraging trade between individuals.

    A non-linear income tax goes to a bit of extra effort to discourage the most productive individuals.

    The point is that a government locked into raising money from tariffs and nothing else will also be extremely careful about border controls (because that’s where the money is) and will largely ambivalent to how people want to earn money inside that country. I should point out that a “One World Government” can never exist by this method, hence people looking to create a world government tend to look for alternative methods of revenue raising.

  17. John Bayley

    The point is that a government locked into raising money from tariffs and nothing else will also be extremely careful about border controls (because that’s where the money is) and will largely ambivalent to how people want to earn money inside that country.

    We can all dream, I guess. Although like that debt at 18% GDP, it just ain’t gonna happen any time soon.

    I still think the best way of ‘protecting the border’ is to go back a hundred years and abolish all welfare. Then the borders can be open and it won’t be that much of a problem.

    BTW, I’ve met Bowen in person a couple of times. He’s a retarded f*ckwit. Fits well into the ALNP bipolar camp.

  18. Robbo

    Any MP that the Labor Party chooses to be its spokesman on Treasury matters must always be regarded as dodgy. I know that those who disagree with me on that will always put up Keating as their answer but even though he made some acceptable decisions when he was Treasurer he also made some bloody awful ones as well. As for Wayne Swan, well the sooner his disastrous stint is forgotten the better off we will all be.

  19. John Bayley

    Regarding Keating, I think it’s worth remembering that much of his economic agenda had already been proposed by John Howard in his role of Treasurer in the ‘other Malcolm’s’ government, and it subsequently passed with the Liberals’ support.
    I don’t recall Labor in Opposition, both during the Howard/Costello and then Abbott/Turnbull governments, being particularly supportive of any reforms that would actually have the potential to benefit the country.
    To the contrary, they have gone full retard and in fact appear to by now have repudiated even their own party’s legacy from the 80s & 90s.

  20. Tim Neilson

    BTW, I’ve met Bowen in person a couple of times. He’s a retarded f*ckwit. Fits well into the ALNP bipolar camp.

    Not wishing to contradict you JB, but I’ve met quite a few Treasury ministers on both sides of politics, and I wouldn’t identify Bowen as a retarded f*ckwit by the standards of the genus.

  21. H B Bear

    Well I crossed swords with John Kerrin at the Perth Airport urinal. Didn’t discuss any economics with him coz you know … and then he was gone.

  22. RobK

    I still think the best way of ‘protecting the border’ is to go back a hundred years and abolish all welfare. Then the borders can be open and it won’t be that much of a problem.
    John,
    I think this is wishful thinking. In order for that to be effective we would have to present as dysfunctional as the lowest common denominator source country, making the excerise moot.

  23. Tim Neilson

    In order for that to be effective we would have to present as dysfunctional as the lowest common denominator source country, making the excerise moot.

    Correct. If your chosen vocation is violent sociopathic robber, you’ll rather do it in a place like Australia where there are lots of fairly affluent people (who are forbidden to defend themselves, though that’s another story) than in a shithole where 99.99% of people are dirt poor and the rest have armed guards.

  24. John Bayley

    Tim, I take your comment on board.
    Perhaps I should have mentioned I met the man in a professional role when he was the Minister for Financial Services, Superannuation and Corporate Law in the Rudd government.
    He most definitely came across as a retarded f*kwit then, and I was not the only person in the room to think so, either.
    He’s not quite in the Wayne Swan league, true, but then again, Wayne has stood head and shoulders above the rest.
    Perhaps Bowen is not stupid, but the same could be said about Andrew Leigh. That does not make either of them worth of any respect, given their public utterances and policies they promote.

  25. John Bayley

    I think this is wishful thinking. In order for that to be effective we would have to present as dysfunctional as the lowest common denominator source country, making the excerise moot.

    Perhaps, but then again, it worked perfectly well both here and in the USA back in the early 20th century, and yet both these countries were already among the wealthiest in the world.
    Do you see too many ‘migrants’ that are now pouring into Europe who wish to stay in the Czech Republic or Poland, or do they all want to go to Germany?
    Yet given the difference in cost of living, and the currently very tight labour market in the latter two, it could be argued anyone bringing across little to no savings but willing to work would be better off there rather than in Merkel Land.

  26. RobK

    John,
    I agree it would reduce the attraction. The trick would be how to do that whilst still keeping our own place tidy.

  27. H B Bear

    Perhaps Bowen is not stupid, but the same could be said about Andrew Leigh.

    Leigh is your classic IYI. His “scare” about foreign banks taking over Australian companies when they were simply trustee companies should have seen him laughed out of public life. If he had any dignity he should have resigned and gone back to academia where the only damage he could cause is to young peoples’ minds.

  28. Neil

    The early 90’s recession was a washover from the Savings & Loans Crisis in the USA, and you can’t blame Keating for the fact that it happened.

    No but we had 30 months of double digit unemployment during keatings recession. Nothing like it since the Great Depression How many countries had more than 2 years of double digit unemployment during the early 1990’s recession?

    I believe the reason Ken Henry said go households during the GFC was because Treasury believed it acted wrongly during the early 1990’s recession

  29. .

    I believe the reason Ken Henry said go households during the GFC was because Treasury believed it acted wrongly during the early 1990’s recession

    How can you say that and prior bring up Keating’s debt to GDP ratio?

  30. Neil

    How can you say that and prior bring up Keating’s debt to GDP ratio?

    Well I read somewhere that Treasury believed it acted wrongly or too slowly during the early 1990’s recession. Did they do stimulus spending during Keatings recession? Or if they did was it too late? I think the reason that Henry said go early go households was because Treasury believed they got it wrong during Keatings recession. Most probably got the policy wrong during the GFC as well. I think the GFC stimulus was a waste of money

  31. .

    This is slow progress, but you’re getting it.

  32. Neil

    Getting what? I don’t think there is any good that comes from Australia running deficits budgets. We were debt free in 2007 and have now hundreds of billions of debt. What did we build with that borrowed money since 2007?

  33. Squirrel

    “Spartacus might argue that the “capital gains tax discount and negative gearing” would have had a much lesser effect on debt were it not for the sloppy monetary policy of the RBA.”

    Yes – and even less of an effect if the regulatory authorities had responded to the GFC by requiring a permanent winding-down of the Australian banks’ overseas borrowings. Limit Australian borrowers to what Australian savers (household and corporate) save and you would have much greater stability and much saner asset prices.

    The argument that Australia is a “young” (or words to that effect) country and needs to import vast amounts of capital for its development is just so much BS – all we’re doing with the imported capital is blowing massive bubbles.

  34. Habib

    I made my assessment without having to suffer the inevitable loss of neurons caused by reading his inane socialist/statist boilerplate. A pudgy, intellectually-challenged dud lawyer with the wit, charm and personality of a mouldy soap dish, the fiscal acumen of PA Chinamasa*, and a pressing need for some wrist starch so he can at least imitate a human handshake. He’ll be an unmitigated disaster, just like all of his forebears.

    *Irony overload in that moniker.

  35. Habib

    And Swan’s tenure should never be forgotten. Or Forgiven.

  36. Spot on habib. Artificially keeping interest ra,yes low while wages rising has caused the asset bubble and debt blowout. All we are doing is rewarding borrowers while savers are being hammered by having to spend their capital. As a result risk adverse investors who preferred interest bearin deposits are ploughing money into the stock market. This has been happening for the past 2 years which co incides with the increase in the all ores from 5000 to 6000. Thank you govt dept for increasing wages while private industry has been going backwards.

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