Brendan Nelson last night gave the ninety percent of Australians who say that he is not their preferred PM reason to believe that they have excellent judgement. Nelson’s Budget reply has shown a level of stupidity that even he had previously not achieved.
The Coalition’s decision to block revenue measures in the Budget is monumentally stupid, especially when one of the biggest of those is the tax change on pre-mixed alcoholic drinks, which brings the excise on them in to line with that on normal spirits. Every health group in Australia has come out in support of this change because they believe it will help curb binge drinking, and even putting the health benefits aside it’s good policy simply because it removes one more inconsistency from the tax code.
But perhaps Dr Nelson’s support for binge drinking is explained by his love of private health insurance? The Rudd Government’s decision to change the amount you can earn before being charged the Medicare surcharge, which is nothing more than a punitive tax designed to force you to pay for private health insurance, is a good one. The Medicare surcharge hasn’t been adjusted since the high taxing Howard Government bought it in ten years ago, but wages have grown significantly since then making this a nasty little surprise for many people earning near the cut off at tax time. The health funds in Australia are a disgusting example of corporate welfare, the Howard government financially penalised you if you didn’t join a fund and then they used your tax dollars to give the funds a 30% kick into their bottom line, it’s one of the worst ideological excesses of the Howard years. In any other circumstances it’d be called extortion.
In a rare moment of sanity Nelson has hedged his bets on whether or not he’ll oppose the luxury car tax, it seems that even he realises that sticking up for poor battling BMW drivers is an exercise in political suicide. Which is not to say that he won’t block it, just that he doesn’t want to have to take the heat about doing so in the mean time.
The most amazing thing that Dr Nelson said in his budget reply though has to be
“We do not support higher taxes and higher spending,”. This, from a front bench member of the highest taxing, biggest spending Australian Government by any objective measure ever, is jaw dropping. The Howard government’s tax and spend philosophy made a mockery of traditional conservative values like small government and individual responsibility and replaced them with targeted bribery with the sole aim of staying in government. The Liberal party has no sense of shame, they obviously need another four or five terms in opposition to rediscover it.
The other big item in Nelson’s budget reply, that he wants petrol excise reduced by five cents a litre, may have been impressive a few years ago, but now that most people in Australia regularly pay $1.50 a litre for fuel it’s a token gesture that everyone knows will be clawed back by the refineries within a week. Stupid policy, economically irresponsible, please try harder.
This budget reply seems designed to starve the government of funds, thereby reducing the surplus and giving the opposition a chance to cry ‘bad economic managers’. The problem with this tactic is that, as even Peter Costello knows, the budget estimates have been wrong for at least the last five years, the mining boom means that revenue is going through the roof and blocking these key budget measures will simply provide big sticks for Rudd et al to use as they beat the Nightwatchman and his unimpressive B-Team.
Expect Malcolm Turnbull to make even less sense than Nelson over the next few weeks as he removes all doubt about his inability to be an effective parliamentarian. These clowns belong on the Speaker’s left, long may they remain there.
Update: In case you had any doubts at all that the petrol excise cut was a stupid idea, Senator Steve Fielding has confirmed it by coming out in support of the move.