Leading article Australia
13 May 2023
Treasurer Jim Chalmer’s 2023 federal budget is a wicked joke being played upon the average Australian household, replete with fantasy, hypocrisy, irony and self-delusion in more or less equal measures. Forget the numbers, for they are largely meaningless. What has occurred is this: an economic downward spiral of absurdity and self-destruction that even the most cynical satirist would struggle to conceive of.
Any sensible economic management plan must be based on a set of sound principles, just as any building intended to survive must be built on strong and secure foundations. (Once upon a time that last clause would be called ‘stating the bleeding obvious’, but no longer alas.)
Any meaningful economic plan should not only account accurately for where the revenue comes from, but also make sure the books add up in the here and now. Failure to identify where your money comes from is not only illegal for any business person, but just as importantly, if you’re not prepared to admit who or what earns the bulk of your income, it’s unlikely your business model will thrive in the coming years.
Any sound economic plan should also self-evidently lay the conditions for future growth and prosperity based on your commercial strengths and abilities. You don’t need a degree in economics or indeed accounting to understand these fundamentals and the reason for them.
So let’s start with Australia’s economic foundations. As Rebecca Weisser explains in this week’s cover story, ‘Thanks to Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, Australia is enjoying record prices for its coal and gas. China’s determination to kickstart its economy out of is zero-Covid doldrums has also kept demand for iron ore high.’ Yet, as Rebecca points out, when it came to alerting the nation as to where our wealth comes from, ‘Poor Jim couldn’t bring himself to use the ‘f’ word for ‘fossil fuels’ or the ‘c’ word for coal which, along with gas, has delivered massive revenue windfalls and the first budget surplus in 15 years.’
So, let’s be clear. The foundations of the Australian economy are unequivocally built on fossil fuels – investment in them, the power we all derive from them, and the export dollars they smother us in. Thank you Gina Rinehart and all those who dig up our fossil fuels – we owe you our gratitude for so much of the money that we lavish on education, infrastructure, indigenous Australia, food, transportation, health, welfare, sports, our defence and so on.
That same income derived from fossil fuels is also responsible for the second part of the equation – getting the books to add up in the here and now. In what can only be described as a stroke of political genius, Treasurer Chalmers and his team are able to boast of the ‘first surplus in 15 years’, a rabbit out of a hat if ever there was one. Credit where credit is due, this will have a positive effect psychologically but other than that means diddly-squat, because in the next breath the Treasurer admitted this was a one-off fluke and we could look forward to spiralling billion-dollar deficits on an ongoing basis as of next year. With the Dickensian logic so beloved of modern politics, these deficits are being touted as a good thing because they aren’t quite as bad as had been feared. Again, that’s largely thanks to Gina Rinehart et al.
But now comes the third plank of our economic management plan; namely, ensuring our future prosperity. Here, the Lewis Carroll-like madness of the climate era makes slaughtering the goose that lays the golden egg look like a logical economic policy. The entire ethos and investment strategy of the Albanese government is built on the twin pillars of destroying the very industries and products that are the foundation of our economy – in order that we may reach the phony woke utopia of net zero – thus depriving future generations of trillions of dollars, whilst simultaneously pouring billions if not eventually trillions of dollars into a fantasy future that is literally wishful thinking: a renewables superpower based on green hydrogen.
Or to put it another way – we are splurging billions of dollars we got by digging up valuable stuff to make sure that in future years we won’t be able to dig up any more valuable stuff. What a genius plan!
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