Friday, 6 March 2015

The Abbott Government's first Intergenerational Report examined through jaundiced eyes

Peter Martin, Economics Editor of The Age newspaper observed on 3 March 2015:

The Intergenerational Report is required by law every 5 years. It assesses the long-term sustainability of the government's policies 40 years into the future. This one will take us through to 2055. It's 2 month's late, although that's not the fault of the treasury. Finance minister Mathias Cormann was keen to tell the Senate that it's a report of the government, not the treasury. It's inherently political. Sensitivities over its immigration projections (and possibly what it will say about climate change) have delayed it as government ministers have tossed drafts back and forth.

So what does the Abbott Government tell us in its first and Australia’s fourth Intergenerational Report?

Well, it tells us in those 145 pages that Australia has an economy that has had an unprecedented 23 year stretch of unbroken economic growth that is continuing today as I write.

It seems the nation also has a well-functioning health system.

Both of these admissions will come as a surprise to many because since the Coalition won government in September 2013 we have been repeatedly told that the country was facing a ‘debt and deficit disaster’ and, the health system was on the financial sick list so we needed to put our hands in our pockets to pay GPs a bit extra because government couldn’t afford to continue paying the Medicare rebate bill.

For some strange reason the federal government appears to believe that all males and females born since November 2013 have an average life expectancy at birth of 91.5 and 93.6 years today when what the Australian Bureau of Statistics actually said on 7 November 2013 was; "A boy born today could expect to live 79.9 years, while a girl could expect to live 84.3 years. For those approaching retirement age, say 65 years, males could expect to live a further 19 years and females a further 22 years". It defies belief that Joe Hockey and Mathias Cormann believe that in just on sixteen months life expectancy at birth has risen 11.6 years for males and 9.3 years for females.

The federal government also informs us that the elderly are living an inconveniently long time and, in its opinion more of them should remain at work or go back to work after retirement age because they are costing the government too much to keep alive - even at the minimum levels of income support and physical care it is willing to fund.

It tells us that workers’ average weekly wage will increase over the next forty years, but not at the rate wages have over the last forty years and government expects all workers to put shoulders to the wheel in order to be more productive – and swallow the reforms allegedly required to make them all that bit more competitive and flexible.

To that end its review of Australia’s workplace relations framework is apparently an important building block in facilitating the development of new markets, and allow businesses and the public sector to harness innovation.

The young had a national unemployment rate of 14.2% in January 2015 and will probably face a high unemployment rate into the future as it appears the only solution the Abbott Government has to date is to make applicants under 25 years of age wait six months before unemployment benefits and make them also ‘work for the dole’.  Presumably because, along with people with disabilities, young unemployed people are expected to generate gains in GDP and income growth over the next 40 years.

By 2055 the Abbott Government thinks that government will only need to spend an extra $400 of its own money per student to keep primary, high school and tertiary education in tip top shape.

It expects that federal government won’t be spending more money in forty years’ time on defence materiel than it does today.

Infrastructure is good to have and the nation needs MOAR & MOAR, but the Abbott Government is not quite sure how we are going to get all those roads, tunnels, by-passes, bridges, railway lines and ports it is lusting after - except perhaps by 'efficiently' selling off some which exist already to its rich mates and the foreign power best new friends of Tony Abbott.

The Abbott Government has included a handy little graph at Page 35 which shows that by 30 June 2014 its own spending spree had increased the underlying cash balance and output gap deficit to around 3% and 1.75% of GDP respectively.

Apparently the nation needs strong economic growth and a sustainable budget before it can tackle climate change. Part of any effort to mitigate those pesky adverse impacts caused by global warming is to take a proverbial broom to the countryside – because we need “Clean land” and “Clean air”– and one of the best ways to achieve that is to continue hacking away at ‘green tape’ thereby weakening the community’s ability to protect the environment.

Confident that it will get its data retention legislation through parliament the Abbott Government intends to deliver government services digitally, thereby making the forthcoming  mass surveillance of the populace as detailed as possible. Australia is about to become a hackers Nirvana sometime before 2055 and, people living in remote and rural regions will probably still face a level of difficulty in reliably accessing the Internet and therefore have intermittent problems accessing these same government services.

As for net migration, it is expected to be an est. 215,000 people per annum from 2018 onwards and, Australia’s population is predicted to be 39.7 million in 40 years’ time. Which must leave local governments across the country wondering where they are collectively going to put around 427,027 extra residents each year.

The bottom line appears to be that if Australia wants a bright and prosperous future, then every one of the Abbott Government’s punitive policies and budget cuts, rejected by voters and the Senate to date, need to be implemented.

Now who didn’t see that coming?

No comments: