It was billed as benign, but it wasn’t. Last year’s budget was dangerous for the government. This year’s budget is dangerous for the country.
Call it an election budget. Call it an “I’m sorry, please like me” budget.
The clear thing was that the government continues to be true to form, obfuscating on the reality of life, thinking if it doesn’t mention certain things, then perhaps they will go away.
It’s rabbit hole thinking again.
For instance, environment. Barely a mention. Except via a few sops to the farmers to allow a tax accelerated tax deduction for water storage devices and a few million to stop them feeling quite so bad and blowing out the suicide rate now that El Niño is settling in.
But not much for the climate change exacerbating the problem. Certainly not the visionary transformative environmental revolution that UN climate boss Christiana Figueres said was on the way during her recent trip.
Granted there was a reprieve on the Climate Change Authority – $6.1 million over two years – and $100 million for the Great Barrier Reef Trust. There has to be something for the greens among the conservatives.
On commodities and resources, there was plenty of bemoaning on falling iron ore prices – not a mention of the death spiral of coal. (Thanks to Willow for being one of the first to point that out.) Tellingly on Monday came the announcement that the Anglesea coal mine in Victoria would soon close on 31 August.
But research house IPSOS says the thinking is going against the government. This intensive fine-grain social analyst last week revealed some major shifts in the attitudes of the ordinary folk to climate change. There’s a dramatic upswing in understanding that climate change is happening now.
The Feds made a good call to crack down on multinationals evading tax. But the public outcry forced that issue. It remains to be seen if it works. As one commentator said, many of these new rulers of the universe pay virtually no tax anywhere and they probably don’t think they have to, given economic rationalist argument that companies should pay no tax, only consumers. What this thinking does is obliterate the value of a major input into the company’s business, the infrastructure of the economy and society that allows corporations to conduct their business. Which means they think they should get that input free of charge.
The government need not fear that the big fellas will run away to another country any more than the miners would have done if a decent Mineral Rent Resources Tax had been imposed. There’s too much good mining to be had in Australia, not just with in-ground natural resources but the human kind too with Aussies apparently happy to pay far more than people elsewhere for many items.
There was more humane news on childcare, pensions and unemployed; nothing dramatic, and no solutions for the future strategies other than what seemed like a pretty benign decision to foster small business.
Commentator Alan Kohler in The Australian said the budget would do bugger all for the economy and for small business. The accelerated depreciation for an item valued at up to $20,000, valid from the day of the budget, wouldn’t be enough to buy an Australian-made car (huh? We thought we gave that one away). And would barely buy a cheap espresso machine.
Certainly the dynamic duo from Harvey Norman, Gerry Harvey and his wife and company chief executive Katie Page, who seemed to have become the uncrowned spokespeople for the “stuff” and “landfill” economy were rubbing their hands with glee on Tuesday night. They were expecting a tablet and iPhone-led recovery, if not boom.
In other words, pretty useless stuff. Expenditure no right-minded small business would make unless they needed it and until they needed it, no matter what the tax write-off is, surely. Wheel barrows and new buckets from Bunnings included. So Kohler might be right, the small biz package is unlikely to have much impact (especially with Christmas still seven months away).
What if this budget had a golden (solar) and energy efficiency booby trap?
But here’s a thought: What if small businesses decided to invest up to $20,000 on some brilliant solar panels or energy efficiency installations?
What about a nice Tesla Powerwall? What an aspirational tech-savvy cool statement for a company to make – adding handily to the $1 billion or so in advance orders already taken for this potential game changer.
Or what about an energy efficiency make-over to get rid of the dodgy fridge and the dreadful lighting?
Did Hockey and Abbott realise what they were doing by empowering small and family businesses – that employ more than 4.5 million people, around half the workforce – to go renewable and energy efficient? (We bet they didn’t imagine that little nipper coming out to bite their ankles.)
We asked an accountant on Wednesday if solar panels, batteries and energy efficiency makeovers could in fact be included in the accelerated depreciation provisions.
The accountant said quite possibly. “Until the government reads your article and decides to exempt solar and battery storage from the legislation”.
Of course it would be no surprise. This government is turning out to be the most nimble quick-step, two-step, back-step government of all time.