A couple of days ago, I was one of fifty signatories to a letter opposing the proposed cut in company tax rate and rejecting the general idea that Australia needs lower taxes. We got excellent coverage from the ABC, Fairfax papers and so on. But by far the most extensive was from The Australian. I counted at least four stories all with a prominent run on the website
* A straight new story, though of course replete with phrases like “the left wing establishment”
* The IPA attacking the signatories as the “fatuous fifty”
* Shorten also attacking the company tax cut as a recipe for “mayhem”
* A front page piece saying a tax increase is a lazy way of solving our problems
Not so long ago, the Oz would have ignored a statement like this (or stuck it in a short story on the inside pages) with the plausible justification that it’s just a bunch of lefties saying what lefties usually say. The fact that they felt the need to reply over and over is revealing, in two ways.
First, these stories and particularly the “lazy” story underline the fact that the government has run out of options in terms of fiscal policy. The spending cuts Abbott made early on, the biggest of which was to foreign aid, weren’t enough to offset his own indulgences, let alone improve the budget balance. And that’s before the much-applauded Defence White Paper which added billions in future expenditure for no obvious benefit.
Since 2014, they’ve been spinning their wheels. Every option that’s been floated has either been rejected by the Senate (responding to public opinion), vetoed by the backbench or simply abandoned. So, the only thing left is reliance on bracket creep. Thanks to low inflation and very flat tax scales, that’s a really slow process. In these circumstances, all it takes is the usual suspects (including me) pointing out the obvious (we need a tax cut like a hole in the head), and the Oz is in a total panic.
The other underlying problem is that the dysfunctional group blog is more dysfunctional than usual since the Turnbull coup. The News Corp tribe is split between Turnbull fans (most obviously Nikki Savva, but also Paul Kelly), lesser evilists who will reluctantly support Turnbull against Shorten (the official Oz position) and Delcons (delusional conservatives*) who are actively attacking Turnbull and threatening to vote against the LNP. In the resulting fervid atmosphere, every issue becomes an existential threat to Our Way of Life.