40 thoughts on “Mean and tricky

  1. “The second is the proposal for a $20 billion fund for medical research, notionally financed out of co-payments made by sick people for visits to the doctor.”

    This lavish spending on medical stuff while gutting every other research field and the public health system and hence access to any cures is a bizarre vision if you can call it that.

    All other ‘industries’ are expected to succeed in the face of oversees competition without any assistance yet this proposes a massive porkbarrel probably to produce cures which no one but the rich can afford – more public subsidy of private wealth.

    Then we have the inclusion of ‘heart disease’ as though the reasons for this aren’t already well enough understood to reflect unhealthy life styles, smoking, overeating and lack of fitness.

    Beyond this is the narrow conceptualization of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Even if the latter could be ‘cured’ this leaves the problem of an active mind trapped in a decaying barely functional body once people are into their eighties – or is the aim here to just ‘wanna live forever’ which poses an even bigger can of worms for retirees whose super is maybe good for 10 years only.

    Unless of course you are a working man or woman whose body is broken by hard labour before their 50s.

    Regarding ‘overseas aid’ questions here include whether this includes military subsidies and how much will be left over after PNG is supported – or is PNG the target?

    I think I will go bury my head with the other ostriches. This is too much.

  2. I think the Crikey article on it being a “budget for mining billionaires” is spot on. So, basically this country is run for a small handful of mining billionaries plus the odd media and gambling mogul. The rest of us count for nothing.

  3. @Newtownian

    The second is the proposal for a $20 billion fund for medical research, notionally financed out of co-payments made by sick people for visits to the doctor.

    For a small govt free market party this is just weird; small boys doing nasty things stuff.

  4. Personally, I am quite stunned that CSIRO is going to need to downgrade (i.e. exit) their neuroscience research as a direct consequence of this budget. Although I do not work in the area, I would have thought that trying to understand how the central nervous system and brain actually work at the molecular level, the genetics, the neurological processes involved in movement and cognition, etc,would be central to making the kind of significant breakthroughs from which commercial innovation may flow. In fact, I am not just stunned, I am well and truly scunnered. Man.

    On a slightly different note, I am really curious as to who made the decisions as to where to swing the axe on scientific research—how did they pick the areas to smack about the head and shoulders? I certainly don’t recall any panel of eminent scientists casting a calm and intelligent gaze across all the areas of research within CSIRO, and figuring out where CSIRO has real strength and where it doesn’t. Perhaps a report did go from the top of CSIRO to the minister and then they decided on that basis; perhaps that did not happen, I really don’t know what the process for the decision making actually was. Does anyone reading this blog know how it worked?

    Disclaimer: these opinions are entirely my own and I do not represent them in any way as being official CSIRO position. Furthermore, my remarks are confined to news and information already in the public domain. Just sayin’…

  5. Another aspect of the budget that shocked me was the combination of welfare slashing and the removal of vast amounts of funding with respect to indigenous provisions, especially in remote areas. A young indigenous person who has to rely upon the newstart allowance to put a roof over their head is in an invidious position now: potential consequences are homelessness, mental health issues, malnutrition, and suicide; other tragedies which could occur as a consequence relate to petty crime and the basic problem of survival. The remoteness of the communities simply magnifies the dimension of the impact, locking already impoverished people into—I don’t know what the word is for living without any income at all; perhaps Joe could help me out and tell me. I really hope the government has a good rethink about this aspect of their budget. However, given the enormous list of changed/redacted/deleted/reversed/re-interpreted “words” used in uttering pre-election policy, I am out of my depth on understanding what it is that the government is telling me in their door-stop interviews and the like.

    Howard’s “mean and tricky” pales into insignificance…

  6. Presumably they were originally just going to dump the co-payment straight into consolidated revenue, but decided they needed some sort of cover for it and dreamed up the research fund. Piecemeal fiddling with no big-picture “does this still make sense in context” checking.

    Probably be revealing to read the budget papers critical-bible-studies style, see what it reveals of the textual history, see if we can’t work out what earlier versions said.

    Pretty sure I know what it’d reveal, though. For people obsessed with secrecy they’re pretty transparent.

  7. What is with the talk about “the adults now in charge? I suspect this is a grandiose claim on the part of the PM. The fact that Tony Abbott claims no need to meet with the State Premiers following the budget edict for the states to raise revenue for schools and hospitals suggests that “Co-operative Federalism” is now summarily dispatched to the dustbin of history. Is there coherent economic and fiscal planning for this development? Is the GST to be transferred to the States? What happens to the Cinderella States, although this time around not including WA?

  8. In 1996 on GST then Treasurer Costello advised that

    the Government has designed the package to include income tax cuts and other measures such as increased pensions and family allowances that will more than compensate consumers for the overall increase in prices.

    Abbott is to now take away those compensations thereby breaking more promises and revealing an unsettling disregard for fairness.

  9. It’s a billionaires’ budget alright. Not sure I can any more without using words or asterisks which will send my post straight to moderation.

  10. you would imagine that they could trail up to 12 points on a 2pp in the next week or so. If so its probably just about game over for the government

  11. When are commentators going to call the Government on the con which is the Medical Research Future Fund? Putting money in the bank does nothing for medical research. The first dividend in 2015 will be $20 million. When it gets to a $1 billion payout in the early 2020s we will have no idea whether it is adding to health research effort unless we know whether it is substituting for existing research funding or is additional to it.
    The fund is purely a public relationship exercise, and doesn’t actually tell us about the government’s expenditure priorities. It is only when money is spent that one understands about expenditure priorities.

  12. @J-D
    It was a rhetorical question, but yeah, it is the right word alright. I notice Clive Palmer thought the same thing in his interview on Lateline last night, even to the point of using the word “destitute”. Surprising that even Clive Palmer can see that, and yet the government can’t.

    @Ikonoclast …and that word fits too! 😦

  13. Is the Medical Research Fund intended to, or – genuine question – likely to happen? Given its funded by the GP co-payment, and that seems to have no chance of getting through the senate, it may simply have been introduced as something to blame Labor for (“don’t blame us that research is being cut; its Labor’s fault”) rather than as anything they ever intended to do. If that’s right, it (further) substantiates the trickery claim but somewhat undercuts JQ’s claim that there is a contradiction between the cuts to foreign aid and the boost to research.

  14. @Donald Oats

    I certainly don’t recall any panel of eminent scientists casting a calm and intelligent gaze across all the areas of research within CSIRO, and figuring out where CSIRO has real strength and where it doesn’t.

    I thought the same thing pre-Budget when Immigration and Customs depts (plus combat-ready suffixes) were merged.

    But was there any journalist who did other than welcome this as a logical, efficient bureaucratic re-organisation? Is amalgamating two departments separate for a very long time AFAIK, without a professional and considered process just a no-brainer? Apparently so, if you have no respect for the intricacies of public administration, and have the view that it’s undertaken by people with no brains.

    How can journalists who see policy and administrative failures day in, day out, have the default position that getting administrative structures right doesn’t matter? And the new arrangements “must” be better. Lazy journalism.

  15. meanwhile there is some talk amongst the right wing about how John Howard came from behind.

    It got me curious. How far behind? How often did he come from behind? What were the indications that a comeback was likely? I think his admirable handling of port arthur and gun control helped one election and another election folklore has it that Latham helped him (I don’t think Shorton is any where near enough of a liability for that to be a factor). What about the other elections?

  16. @Collin Street

    Probably be revealing to read the budget papers critical-bible-studies style …. see if we can’t work out what earlier versions said.

    Na, the description and justifications in the Budget papers are mostly written very late in the process – after the major decisions are made. There won’t be earlier versions.

    Now some may say that inventing your justifications AFTER you’ve made a decision (a la George Bush and Iraq) is not calculated to inspire confidence in the quality of your decision making. But ’twas ever thus with the Budget.

  17. todays fin, on page 20 has a graph with the full horror of Australias’ “emergency”.

    (“emergency” brought to us by liberal liars being conservative with the truth)


    re the very young people who were sent to place insulation into roof spaces by their bosses who did not turn the electricity off.

    how come there were no charges for criminal negligence to say the least?
    governmeny funding had nothing to do with it.

  18. Although I agree with a lot of what has been said here about the medical research fund, as someone working in public health I don’t think anyone here (including ProfQ) has quite seen to the bottom of this particular murky pool. I’m not sure I do yet either, but I have strong suspicions.

    As discussed on Croakey and twitter, medical research institutes welcomed this measure. These medical research institutes do a lot of good research no doubt, but their research generally focuses on clinical interventions and treatments for disease. Many of them have strong ties with private industry, including Big Pharma, and they also often have links with organisations (sometimes subsidiaries) set up to commercialise research findings through new products.

    Over the course of the next two years, as well as the co-payments, there will be cuts to public and community health programs, including Indigenous health programs (c$107m), deferral and cuts to public dental services (c$260m), cuts to health promotion including the National Partnership on Preventive Health and the National Health Preventive Agency (both of which will be abolished, c$54m), cuts to a mental health scheme focused on recovery ($29m), cuts to the National Tobacco campaign ($2.9m), cuts to WHO funding ($2.3m) plus cuts to some specialist public health campaigns ($3.7m) and cuts to public hospital funding ($217m). Cuts to health over the full five year period of the estimates total $8.6 billion. Moreover there have been cuts to university health funding grants particularly the ARC scheme.

    On the one hand, you can have a universal health system with a focus on health promotion and illness prevention, universal access to community based primary health care, and access to quality treatment and care in hospital on the basis of need not wealth – the principles of Australia’s current system.

    On the other hand, you can have a system where private industry makes a lot of profit out of people being ill. The medical research fund seems to fit with the latter system. I think that’s where we’re heading with Abbott.

    I don’t think the full impact of what Abbott proposes to do to health has really sunk in yet, but when it does there may be outrage.

  19. Sorry for another post after such a long one but just thinking about all this –

    You know over the Rudd-Gillard years, we made some real progress in Australia. We made some progress towards a health system that was genuinely focused on health promotion and illness prevention, and we made some progress towards an effective response to climate change. Sure there was muddle and stupidity and all the rest of it, but those things happened.

    And now it’s all up for f-ing sale. Total clearance sale folks. Manufacture a crisis, sell everything and bring in private industry. The shock doctrine right?

  20. Neil at 18.
    I think you have picked what the Government’s strategy is with the Medical Research Future Fund. I think the Government does hope they will get some part of the copayment scheme through the Senate, and they will be using the argument with the cross bench Senators that every concession that is made on the copayment scheme will be one less dollar for medical research. This is a false argument, but they will try and run it. Hopefully the cross bench Senators will be able to see the lies in the Government position.

  21. Under pressure to recognise the specific view point a particular disabled woman in question represented, the conservative guy on the Drum TV show today was insisting (repeatedly) on referring to her only as ‘a data point’ to make his argument about cuts.

  22. I can’t help thinking about the TPP in relation to the Medical Research Future Fund. Just a feeling they’re related.

  23. So apparently Hockey thinks that you can buy a beer in the pub for $3.50.

  24. @Collin Street
    Interesting that he uses the price of a beer or a coffee as the comparator, as if that’s how low income people spend their money. Being discretionary spending, I think very often it is not true.

  25. And rather than end or reduce the funding for proselytizing of children in the State School system (from ABC ‘WorldToday’):

    TANYA NOLAN: While much of this week’s budget savings were found in education, there was one area of the sector that was spared.

    The Federal Government extended the school chaplains program for another four years at a cost of almost a quarter of a billion dollars.

    But before we get too forgetful, the ALP expanded this disgraceful infiltration much as they did with the LNP indigenous “intervention” and criminal treatment of refugees.

    These things made them unelectable, and as I’ve said often – everything happening now is the ALP’s fault.

    It’s curious and sad that Palmer has no problem dumping on both establishment duopoly parties but the Greens have decided to take the role of minor coalition partner with the ALP – I suggest they are and will be losing respect for taking that path.

  26. Its simple … “class war”.

    You cannot have a capitalist pie and eat it too.

  27. This is no doubt me just seeing patterns where none exist, but Western Australia and Queensland have come to conclusion that it would be cheaper to pay to set up renewable energy capacity and energy storage in remote communities than to continue to pay the considerable cost of keeping them connected to the grid. Could this budget be an attemt to destroy remote communities so they can roll up their grid connections without having to pay for local generating and storage capacity?

  28. It seems that it’s worse:

    Labor allowed secular student welfare workers to be funded under the scheme but the Federal Government has reversed the decision in the federal budget and will only pay for chaplains.

    The fundies have free rein over your kids, and worse still they won’t be getting any genuine counselling.

  29. Since you mention the chaplaincy program, I thought it might be worth mentioning that the High Court has recently been hearing a constitutional challenge to the emergency legislation that was adopted in an attempt to remedy the problem created for it by the unfavourable High Court ruling in the initial constitutional challenge.

    If that’s not clear enough, here’s the chronological sequence:
    1. Chaplaincy program introduced;
    2. High Court case challenges the validity of the program;
    3. High Court ruling invalidates the program, and a bunch of others affected by the same legal logic;
    4. Parliament legislates to validate all the invalidated programs, plus potentially others in the future;
    5. Another High Court case started to challenge the validity of the new legislation, and so by implication all the programs covered by it.

  30. I think this budget is more than mean. It is mean and dumb. This is not a choice between growing the cake and more equally sharing the cake. This budget does neither. It will not grow the cake, and the slices are far less equal.

    It says there is a debt crisis, yet launches into new spending. It talks about reform, but only considers spending while largely ignoring tax. Negative gearing, corporate profit transfers, trusts, super concessions all untouched.

    Moreover many of the reforms appear counterproductive, even in narrow terms of government outlays. Deterring GP visits will only increase more costly hospital visits. Dumb.

    It talks of investment, yet specifies investment types in a WA Inc style of picking winners. Why invest in roads not rail? Multiple recent (tolled tunnel) road projects have gone broke. Conversely recent rail and light rail lines completed in Perth, Sydney and Adelaide have had carriages bulging with passengers and demands for more rolling stock. I work in transport planning and the work will be welcome in my field, yet the way the money is being spent is still nuts. Meanwhile the NBN languishes.

    This is not only the Tea Party budget. It is the Sarah Palin budget.

  31. @Socrates

    I have to agree with you. The budget is indeed mean and stupid. The meanness we understand and know all too well. It comes from the western upper class’s insatiable greed, covetousness, will to power and their perverse enjoyment of grinding poor people into the dust.

    The level of stupity seems to be worse than at any time I can remember. The policies of the current anglophone elites, if unchecked, will indeed destroy the West. Their obsession with raising inequity ever higher, concentrating the wealth in fewer and fewer hands, will turn the whole EU (sans Germany perhaps) into a “Greater Greece”. Australia and North America won’t be far behind at this rate.

    Something deeper is going on too. The western elites are into an end-play strategy which has both economic and geostrategic parameters. However, the two parts of the plan are on the face of it incompatible. How they think that impoverishing their own people will help national stability and project national power in the long run I do not know.

    The US continues to de-industrialise, finacialise and “service-ise” its economy as does Australia. The long term result of this process will be Western nations that make little in the way of manufactured goods and depend on imports of same. The Chinese, while still heavily contained strategically, look on in bemusement, understanding the old Napoleonic dictum. “Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake.”

  32. For too long I have been expecting this process of class warfare to cause major civil unrest here in Australia in the end .I’m just not sure if I will live long enough to see it or what comes after .Surely another 20 to 40 years of life should be enough .This budget is a major step in the direction of unrest .It may focus peoples minds -bad news for those who profit from mass political disengagement/disillusionment/distraction/trivialisation. Thought doesnt have to go far past 3 word slogans to become disruptive. Younger people are the future sooner or later whether anyone likes it or not ,and this budget is another kick to them.

  33. On the other hand, I have spoken with several people since the budget and the reporting of it, and they were entirely unaware of the content, even the major headline items. This certainly reminded me that for a number of people, they are too busy, tired, uninterested, etc, in politics and/or policy. Given that they vote too, they are unlikely to take the current fuss into account when the next election rolls around, simply because they weren’t even aware of what has happened in the budget.

    Also, as someone who has to see specialists on occasion, the $100 fee inserted into the budget has only just come to my attention. How many more of these bombs are buried in the detritus of the budget papers?

    Back to work…

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