On the Budget 2015 replies and holes
It sometimes feels like Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has been taking the same acting lessons in laconic laissez faire television personality as deputy Tanya Plibersek.
Plibersek has perfected the much-said-with-rolled-eyes-no-words trick, refusing to be drawn to anything remotely resembling passion or hysteria. Shorten has likewise refused to be drawn on anything at all, even sticks poking him to make sure he’s still breathing.
Yet this could be the cleverest tactic of them all: make them think the beast that gnarled the country last time it was in power is dead, buried “and cremated”.
Then, when election time draws near, you come up smelling fresh as a daisy. New and exciting. In today’s gnats-for-brains media cycle, it’s probably quite a reasonable ploy.
But is an election now in the air?
In the budget reply Shorten has delivered some ideas that look a bit like the “vision thing” Labor is supposed to be good at, but with a modern twist. A bit like ’60s flares re-badged.
There’s a nod to firebrand reformer Gough Whitlam who died this year, with free university education, but limited to 100,000 and only for whatever’s left of the brains trust – science, maths and engineering – after the Abbott government’s busy excising program. Shorten’s also promised scholarships for teachers and a whopping three per cent of the GDP to the thing that Aussies just love doing – R&D.
To those who say “we can’t afford this”, we say, “we cannot afford not to make this kind of investment”. Where does anyone think the money is going to come from in the future? It’s not going to be coal, it’s not going to be cars. It needs to be clever engineering and clever processes that can beat climate change and clean up this environment so we can live in it.
In another big nod to the past, this time Rudd’s stimulus package, Labor has also has upped Abbott’s likewise nod to Rudd with a 1.5 per cent tax cut to small business tax and proposed five per cent instead.
The Property Council loved the infrastructure and cities promise, which was another big feature of Shorten’s reply.
“The Opposition Leader has marked out cities and infrastructure as reform priorities and we welcome this focus,” chief executive Ken Morrison said.
“It is very encouraging to see the role of the Commonwealth government recognised as fundamental if we are to manage growth in our cities and make them more liveable, more productive and more sustainable.
“Wholesale planning reform is urgently needed across all levels of government and it won’t happen without leadership at the federal level.”
Morrison wants to take things further, with incentives to the states and territories on planning reform. He’ll have to be careful there. Planning reform hasn’t progressed too well in Morrison’s home state of NSW, with community groups rising like King Kong to wreck any suggestions of smoothing the planning system, which is usually read by the community as taking away power from the people.
New Greens leader Richard Di Natale also made a budget reply.
Sadly it was almost the only time that climate change was mentioned (Shorten said something almost incidentally).
Di Natale said: “Climate change should have been tackled and investment and jobs in the renewable energy sector protected in the budget.”
The Greens new leadership has signalled a shift to the mainstream. Keating’s old “Vaudeville”? Maybe. But Vaudeville now includes action on climate and the environment. Surveys after survey now reinforce that growing public support for action on climate is increasingly mainstream.
The duopoly parties still don’t get it.
They will soon.
Di Natale also said concern for health, social needs and public transport, missing in Budget 2015, continued the “cruel foundations” of last year’s effort.
The budget failed on vision, he said, as well as on the issues that matter to the ordinary folk, such as visit to the doctor and education.
“We needed a budget that puts the interests of the community ahead of a privileged few,” he said.
“The Budget that was announced this week cannot be separated from the one that preceded it. The 2014 Budget laid the foundations for a cruel and uncertain future, and this week the Abbott government has cemented those foundations, maintaining cuts that put pressure on Australians. It is a budget that further entrenches the Abbott government’s cruel and ideological attack on the Australian community.”
He said tertiary education remained on the chopping block, “the $80 billion slashed from health and education last year continues to take effect and science and innovation continues to be under attack, with last year’s cuts made even deeper through further slashing of funding to Cooperative Research Centres, science funding and innovation.”
Investment in R&D in Australia is now at record lows, he said.
It turns out the $5 billion funding facility for Northern Australia was for coal mining in the Galilee Basin (Well if the banks won’t fund them, if the home country of one of the big proponents Adani won’t fund this nightmare then our good old Feds will, it seems).
- See the full text of the Greens budget reply
The good (accidental) news from Budget 2015
There we were imagining what the small business owners might want to invest in to reap the early tax write off to $20,000 when we recalled the conversation with one energy efficiency consultant who was pulling his hair out wondering how he could give money away to this sector, particularly those small shops and supermarkets with energy guzzling fridges and lighting.
The way he looked at it, that’s exactly what his energy efficiency makeovers would do: put money in people’s pockets from Day 1.
We figured new fridges, lighting solar energy and so on might just qualify for the write-offs (assuming the Feds don’t block this part of their own legislation from getting across the Senate when they wake up to the potential.)
But will fixtures such as these be eligible. One accountant warned the Tax Office was capable of disputing and arguing about anything at all.
Shauna Coffey who was appointed new policy and advocacy manager for the Energy Efficiency Council in February, after a few years with Deloitte, says the EEC is still considering what the budget impacts will be for the industry, but she pointed to one of her members who thought the $20,000 offer was a positive.
The EEC member, Melbourne-based energy efficiency consultant Genesis, says the move will be good for its business.
“Energy efficiency improvements, each costing under $20,000, will be able to be expensed, for tax purposes,” it said on its website this week.
“And many energy efficiency projects in small business typically require less than $20,000 or less than $20,000 per asset.
“For example, it could include a $15,000 lighting upgrade, a $10,000 controls upgrade, and a $10,000 investment in insulation.”
You could also buy a pretty good solar power system of about 15 kilowatts or 3-5kW wind turbine, it said.
The post budget scenario just might be looking good for the next round of applications for the Energy Efficiency Certification Scheme that close on Monday.
Especially with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage offering assessment subsidies of $550 to eligible NSW candidates, which Coffey mentioned was on offer.
The Lomborg dilemma
We’d love to ignore Lomborg and his Consensus Centre, but it seems we can’t. The man keeps getting more media, most lovingly of course in The Australian.
The Fifth Estate knows why the academics at University of Western Australia rejected Lomborg’s centre, because we’ve seen him live at a conference in Melbourne and then bailed him up afterwards to see what he was like face-to-face because he does not look like an unintelligent man. Our view: he was not congruous. Maybe it’s wishful thinking but the strong feeling or subtext was of a man uncomfortable with himself. He did not have the passion that comes through with most people who really believe they are on the right track. Perhaps he’s done a “Lomborg” on himself – used economic cost-benefit analysis to choose what he should spruik.
See what a much more measured Climate Council says about Lomborg.