Budget Selling: No Progress Yet; New Aus Counter-Terrorism Measures; Iraq Caliphate Grows

Budget Selling: No Progress Yet

Even allowing for anti-government media bias, it is difficult to see any progress being made with cross bench senators by chief budget salesman Treasurer Hockey. Indeed the report in The Age of the refused FOI requests for detailed modelling by Treasury suggests the government has gone backwards, with Hockey giving the rather weak explanation that the modelling was for Cabinet. Where confidentiality is justified, that is fine: but once the budget has been presented any modelling of options seems unlikely to require ongoing confidentiality.

What is now needed is an explanatory document which provides the rationale for each of the main proposed spending reductions and for the exemptions. Hockey claims there are 10 pages in the Budget papers. But if he is referring to the Expenses section in Budget Paper No1, the 23 pages there are largely descriptive and need “rationalising”.

One which seems particularly to warrant more explanation relates to the charges paid to the government for services it provides, such as to purchasers of fuel by road users and to services provided by doctors and universities. Another is the rationale for continuing assistance to those with high incomes, such as to users of child care services and those with families generally, or the provision to those on high incomes with exemptions from charges, such as for the deficit levy.

If the drafting of such a document led to a decision by the government to effect what might be described as “fairer” outcomes, that would undoubtedly improve the chances of having the budget (or a similar one) passed. The Treasury document already released shows that, while the low income group would (on average) have a small net “loss” under the budget, that group is still a net recipient from the budget ie from other taxpayers. The budget should not exclude low income groups from (for example) paying fuel tax increases but what clearly needs to be done is to increase the net payments to the budget by middle and high income groups.

New Counter-Terrorism Measures Announced

A joint statement by Abbott and Brandis earlier today (see below) announces new counter-terrorism measures and additional funding for agencies. It envisages significant additions to powers of agencies but does not address the main source of the problem except to say that “terrorists and violent extremists represent a fringe minority and an affront to the values of all Australians”. Further details of the new measures are to be released.

Planned changes to the Racial Discrimination Act will not proceed because of what Abbott is reported as describing as “a complication” in dealings with the Islamic community.

Further Expansion in Islamic Caliphate

A New York Times report (published in the AFR) indicates that the ISIS group has again grown territorially in Northern Iraq. The best response the US can make (not Obama) is that it would continue to “seek ways for helping” the Iraqis and Kurds. Christians have already been expelled from or slaughtered in Mosul.