11 October 2022

A politician, a convicted felon and a journalist walk into a bar ...

| Ross Solly
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Scott Morrison in Labor advertisement

‘Trust’ was an essential weapon in the framing of Scott Morrison in the 2022 election campaign. Image: Screenshot.

A politician, a convicted felon and a journalist walk into a bar and order a round of drinks.

“Put them on my tab; you know I’m good for it,” one of the trio says to the bar staff.

“No way,” the bar staff replies. “We don’t trust you.”

Q. Which of the trio had the audacity to put their reputation on the line?

A. It could have been any of them because it’s not only bar staff who think all three of the above can’t lie straight in bed.

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If the pundits are to be believed, the Albanese Government is seriously considering walking away from a pre-election promise to follow through on the stage three tax cuts designed to benefit anyone earning up to $200,000 a year.

Senior government figures are saying publicly that no decision has been taken, but as we saw earlier from their inability to achieve credit at their local watering hole, no one really believes them.

Politicians have never really been loved or trusted, even when they seem to be working very hard to make everyone’s lives better. (I know, shouldn’t this be all the time?) And even when they backflip on what many think is a bad decision in the first place, it just goes to confirm the general view that politicians speak with forked tongues.

If the government does walk away from its pre-election commitment, it will argue the global and national economic circumstances have changed, and delivering a tax cut to millions of Australian workers would be financially irresponsible.

There is a strong argument that the economic conditions, and the global forecasts, were well known to Albanese and his team well before the election. But there was no way they wanted to go into an election campaign as the party opposing tax cuts.

At the very least, they could have given themselves some wriggle room or underlined that the promised tax cuts would need to be reconsidered if the economic conditions deteriorated.

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Scott Morrison would have gone to town on the flaky policy, but you would like to think most voters would appreciate you have to live within your means.

Closer to the truth is the heat of the Bunsen burner being applied to the Labor Party belly by those who think it unfair that people who are “well off” are getting bigger tax cuts than the battlers. Income envy is alive and well in Australia.

But more on that debate at another time.

Of more concern to the government, and politicians generally, is that more petrol is being poured on the raging bushfire that is public distrust of their elected officials.

Guaranteed Peter Dutton and his team are already preparing the lines. Albanese can’t be trusted, what they say and what they do are completely opposite, Labor turns its back on the aspirations of millions.

Remember Julia Gillard and the carbon tax? Remember Tony Abbott and the ABC?

Of course, opposition parties will go all out to prove their opponents can never be trusted, so the implications of whichever way they jump on tax cuts will weigh heavily on the government decision-makers in the coming days. Somehow they’ve ended up in a lose-lose situation, so it may come down to which choice will hurt the least.

Politicians aren’t likely to be extended credit at their local any time soon. Then again, neither are journalists.

At least convicted felons can prove they’ve been rehabilitated.

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I’m not an economist, but if I was, I’d be asking the Governor of the Reserve Bank what his thoughts were about the impact to the economy, of substantial tax cuts to higher-income earners.

Would they be retiring debt, with their extra cashflow, spending it “creating jobs” (some may call it, stimulating demand within the economy and putting upward pressure on interest rates), or would I buy another investment property?

I’m guessing the Gov would say that those on higher incomes are going to use their extra pocket money to make investments. Their super is probably already in good shape, so I’m guessing property. Not really good news if you were trying to buy your first home, with higher income earners even more cashed up.

“…benefit anyone earning up to $200,000 a year.”

Ross suggests he does not understand how the tax system works. There is no upper limit to the income level which benefits, only that the benefit amount does not further increase after $200k income.

Median income is somewhere around $65000 (half of people earn less than that, half more).

On the subject of rehabilitation, Ross I invite you to join my lifelong campaign to obliterate the term “backflip “ from the political lexicon?
Every back flipping gymnast you and I have ever seen, lands facing in the SAME direction to that in which they commenced the manoeuvre.
How does such a metaphor describe a person changing their mind?
Phil the Pedant

It doesn’t help that we don’t allow politicians to change course if events or conditions dictate that an existing policy is no longer relevant. It’s a backflip, a backdown, a broken promise, and so on. No matter what happens, if a politician modifies their position for any reason, then they are relentlessly called out with no rational analysis applied.

Sure, there are egregious examples that deserve the derision – Abbott’s “not cuts to the ABC” being a classic example – or decisions that should never have been made in the first place – such as the recent UK mini-budget – but if we demand that politicians blunder onwards no matter what then we are the fools.

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