When is a Budget Not a Budget?
The Budget sales team is now Hockey and Abbott and it has started by talking to cross-bench senators, highlighting the importance of the planned infrastructure projects and acknowledging that the existing budget is not “tough”. This is progress of a sort.
BUT they have also rejected any idea that there will be a mini-budget. Yet if they are also “considering” the ideas of cross-benchers, might not that also require some budget changes to get through the Senate? Hockey is reported as claiming that “much of the budget will pass” but this implies a proportion will not.
Whether or not any changes are presented as a mini-budget, if there is an outcome published to the Abbott/Hockey selling it will have to show a set of revised estimates, particularly as the normal MYEFO would be expected to come within three months of finishing the “consideration” of senators’ views.
It will also be difficult to claim that the existing infrastructure proposals will add to employment growth estimates. These already provide for an average employment increase of 1.5 per cent in 2014-15 – but the present year on year rate of increase is around only 1.0 per cent.
Deficient Counter-Terrorism Policies
The comments by the former head of the committee which reviewed the counter-terrorism legislation (see below) bring home the relative ease with which jihadists in Australia could cause severe damage and loss of life here unless they are being very carefully watched. Even then, some seem able to avoid the watchers or to emerge without previous indications of jihadist tendencies. The comments also suggest that the need for, inter alia, much tougher sentences of both terrorist planners and activists, as well as for trying to prevent “short” sentences based on “expert” advice that the planners/activists acted because they only had medical or psychological problems. Put simply, if a terrorist planner/activist is deemed to be mentally unstable he/she might qualify for an even longer sentence or some form of on-going detention. The judge who sentenced those in the so-called Pendennis plot noted in his judgement that the leader gave every indication that he would come out of jail still wanting to make a jihadist act.
Reports suggest that the government is close to introducing new legislation to provide increased powers for counter-intelligence agencies. It is to be hoped that this will be accompanied by a full government statement condemning the encouragement of jihadism by extremist Islamist imams and indicating that, where possible, such encouragement will in future be identified and condemned. One possible move would be to make a minister specifically responsible for counter-terrorism.
Stopping the Boats Policy Still Working
Immigration Minister Morrison seems well able to maintain the policy which deters the use of boats to smuggle foreigners to Australia outside those officially approved as migrants or refugees. The 157 Indians/Tamils who, after being confined in a Customs vessel in high seas, were initially brought to Australia to discuss their position with Indian officials have now been sent to Nauru because they refused to talk with the Indian officials. This has “outraged” the usual sources, including the ABC which has run the incident as its lead news item, and has led to threats of more legal action by refugee lawyers whose incomes from this source must have fallen dramatically.