On the subject of...



Will there be Real Budget Tests Available Publicly before the Election?

Today’s Financial Review has published my letter (see below) drawing attention to the importance of providing analysts with an accurate picture of the effects on the budget of policy announcements by both major parties. Separately, the AFR has reported (also shown below) that the Treasury will actually publish its assessment of the budgetary effects on Friday. But one question is whether sufficient detail will be provided to allow a meaningful analysis of for example the extent to which Federal government expenditures are drawing on national resources and further adding to the higher tax burden which the 2016-17 budget already proposes. Similarly, will we be provided with revised estimates of the deficit and (the likely) higher debt levels?

Budget & Economic Plan (Sic)

How to interpret the Budget? My initial reaction was “much ado about nothing”, by which I meant that while there have been reductions in superannuation “concessions” and in tax rates for small businesses offset by increases in tobacco excise, together with a small initiative on youth employment and commitments to fund various types of infrastructure, there was little change over the next two years in estimates of total government spending and revenue relative to the total economy.

Turnbull Visit to China

Rowan Callick, who is now China correspondent for The Australian, has written two interesting articles relevant to Australia/China relations. He seems to have good contacts with both Chinese themselves and with outside experts on the Chinese political situation. The shorter one is of particular interest as it assesses the influence of Xi and argues that he operates as in a sense a “benevolent” despot, but with the benevolence not extending to corrupt senior officials (see Callick on Xi). Xi, who is said by Callick to have drawn all power to himself, is said to be favourably disposed to Australia.

Electoral Position, Defence & Budget Policies

Today’s Australian publishes an unchanged electoral position of the two major parties (TPPs of 50% each) but another reduction in Turnbull’s net satisfaction ratio. He is still well ahead of Shorten in the unchanged Better PM category (55/21). But the uncertainty about Coalition policy in various areas has been allowed by Turnbull to reach the point where an “early” election seems increasingly likely, with policies being unduly determined by electoral “demands” and Turnbull himself having a bigger say as to what is in the policies.

Australia Day & Some of Its Consequences; Budget & Spending Levels

With minimal editorial change, today’s Australian has published a letter of mine praising the virtues of the present Australian political system. The Letters Ed interpreted it more as an attack on the US system (which it is indirectly) but its main intent is to question the merits of the alternatives proposed for us, including the republican one for which our current PM led the charge in the 1999 referendum but is now suggesting that any move should await the death of the Queen. While he knows Prince Charles favours a republic, he is off track even there: as the monarchical head for Australia Charles would have no legal power or influence on policy.