I couldn’t believe my ears when I heard an interview between Joe Hockey and Marius Benson on News Radio.
It was informative, but not in the way you would normally expect a political interview to be. It did, however, follow what has become the standard operating procedure when it comes to Opposition interviews. That is, journalist asks a question, and, in some instances we even have journalists asking perfectly reasonable questions hoping to elicit a rational answer to their sensible question, such as Marius Benson attempted to do in this interview with Joe Hockey, but the Coalition interviewee simply ignores the question and spews forth the DTPs (Daily Talking Points).
Joe Hockey, as a Senior Coalition Shadow Front Bench MP, is especially well-schooled in this technique. Which is what I expected to hear, a Coalition MP dancing around the answer that you want to hear, but remaining essentially relevant to the question. Tangentially relevant, but giving an answer broadly pertaining to the question.
Well, it seems as though, in ‘Election Mode’, the Coalition have decided to abandon that practice entirely, such that what I heard today was a complete redefinition of economic reality in order to suit the Coalition’s negative narrative which they intend to push in a big barrow from now until election day.
It appears that they have been working hard, not on economic policy to put to the voters, but have been burning the midnight oil to come up with new ways to negatively characterise the best economy in the world at the moment. Which just happens to be being run by their political opponents, the Australian Labor Party.
Which is why the interview went off into ‘Bizarro World’ territory.
I could not believe my ears. However, I will attempt to outline the arguments Joe Hockey made, for you, as I’m sure you will be hearing them a lot more this year.
Now, we all now the incontrovertible truth that the Federal Labor Government has had a lower Tax/GDP Ratio over it’s term of government than that which the Howard Government had over it’s lifespan.
Well, apparently not, according to Joe Hockey. I mean, I really must bow to the creative genius that came up with this, but apparently the Gillard/Rudd governments are bigger ‘Tax Takers’ than the Howard Government. How can this be? I hear you asking yourself, surely the figures don’t lie? Well, maybe, maybe not. It seems it’s all in the definition of the word ‘Tax’. As Joe ‘Eleventy’ Hockey has redefined what it means! As he explained it to Marius Benson, ‘This Labor Government’ is a ‘High Taxing’ government because they have borrowed too much money that future generations will have to repay in taxes, and you have to add this to the amount of tax they are taking from you now to get the real picture of just how bad they are.
Now I am sure that a sensible economist could do the sums on this contention and it would still probably show that the federal Labor government are a Low Taxing Government, but that’s not the point. Or, that’s not the Talking Point, I should say. The point is that the Coalition have found a way to tarnish the economic reputation of the Gillard Labor Government, which has rested until now on an indisputable economic fact. By redefining it. It is devious, and it is wrong, but just watch them repeat this new mantra over and over this year, as if it were the truth.
This ‘Post Truth Truth’, or ‘Truthiness’, if you wish to use a Republican Playbook term from the George Bush era, has become the best tool the Conservatives have come up with to advance their political arguments. That is, if you can’t avoid the truth in the real world, redefine it in a ‘Bizarro World’ context, then speak it as if it is the truth as you spin the line to journalists with a straight face and an assertive tone. If journalists seek to question you about your new ‘Post truth Truth’, as Marius Benson attempted to do with Joe Hockey, just ignore the question, again, and use it as an opportunity to repeat the new mantra.
Of course, if you wish to be a leader in ‘Post Truth Politics’, and win elections based upon the fungible nature of facts, then you have to weave whole cloth from the threads you have spun.
In this interview we had between Hockey and Benson, Joe was ‘Going for Gold’.
Thus we heard Joe sending off another ‘SS Truthiness’ vessel on to the pea-green sea, shrouded in the fog of murky assertions, baldly stated as fact to be decried. Therefore, apparently, you are the worst government in the world if you are a ‘Tax and Spend’ government. Which Joe duly accused the Gillard Government of being. However, correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that WAS the working model of government? They taxed the citizens so they can spend it on Public Infrastructure, Defence, and Public Services, all administered by an objective, impartial Public Service?
Apparently not, according to ‘Smokin’ Joe’, who had got up a real head of steam by this point in the interview and you could fair imagine it coming out of his ears as he decried “This Tax and Spend Labor Government!”.
Then, because all European Governments are bad, M’ok? Joe Hockey sought to tarnish the economic credentials of the Gillard Labor Government even more by linking them to those European ‘Tax and Spend’ governments, to prove just how bad a government they are. Which can be seen by even Blind Freddy, and the path of utter economic chaos it leads to.
Just don’t mention to Joe two important facts(it might put a hole in the web of deceit he is attempting to weave):
1. A lot of those ‘European Governments’ are being run by Conservative Parties of the Right. Such as Spain, Greece, Germany and Italy.
2. It is actually Austerity economic policy prescriptions, of the sort that Joe Hockey himself has intimated that he would bring in here to get the Budget back into Surplus, in order to satisfy the Conservative Surplus fetish, that have caused the European economies to flatline and falter.
Anyway, who cares about the truth? It’s all about how well you spin a yarn to the electorate in the Post Truth Political Bizarro World.
However, Joe was not going to stop there. he was on a roll. Marius Benson asked him the perfectly obvious question linking Joe Hockey’s ‘End to Entitlements’ speech which he gave in London last year to the now publicised fact that the Prime Minister will be taking him up on that call, in her speech to the National Press Club, where she will be proposing a curb to the Budget bloat that is ‘Middle Class Welfare’. Surely Joe would at least approve of that?
Well, no, actually. There is only one type of Entitlements that the Coalition are concerned about. The sort which increase ‘Government Debt’. Like the Gillard Government proposed, ‘National Disability Insurance Scheme’. Apparently, a government ‘living beyond it’s means’ shouldn’t propose these new spending initiatives. They can’t afford them while the government is in debt and should only be funded by a government in Surplus. This neat two-step which the Coalition have devised seems to me to be their way out of the need to say whether they support the NDIS in a concrete fashion involving hard currency from the Treasury. As we have heard Tony Abbott say, and which equates to, “Well, sort of”. That way lies, according to Coalition thinking, all the positives from an appearance of support of the concept, while at the same time not really supporting it with any future Abbott Government cash, by putting it off into the Never Never to when they might deem it can be afforded.
However, as they also want to be the ‘Party of Lower Taxes’, who knows when that will be if they continue to support Howard-era Middle Class Welfare, as Joe Hockey studiously avoided saying he was not in favour of cutting back on?
Thus would it continue to eat into a Coalition Government’s Surpluses, therefore making an NDIS unlikely, especially if they gave away more government income as Corporate and other Tax Cuts.
And might I finally just address the Neo Liberal ‘Government Debt Is Bad, M’ok?’ argument, because it appears, according to the Coalition economic mouthpieces that we will be hearing from ad nauseum this year they will be spewing forth that line from their gormless gobs.
In an amazingly perspicacious and perceptive piece, Economist John K.Galbraith, son of the esteemed 20th century economist, Kenneth Galbraith, puts the sword to the lie that the Neo Liberals peddle furiously, that all government debt and deficit is bad.
Essentially he sees the arguments that the Deficit Drones constantly try to make, as one that is just another attempt by them to bring in a rending of the Social Safety Net by stealth.
Read the article and you’ll be amazed at the parallels with so much of the Coalition’s economic argument and their call for an end to the ‘Entitlement Mentality’
Just remember though, whenever you hear them bleat, that when put on the spot today by Marius Benson, Joe Hockey would not go near committing to ending the real Entitlement spending on Middle Class Welfare, which had been built into the Budget by the Howard/ Costello Government, only those Social Safety Net payments such as Pensions, Unemployment Benefits and the NDIS to which they are ideologically opposed. Also, never forget that the Coalition’s ‘Small Government’ mantra is just more code for the ‘Slash and Burn’ Economics they have in common with other Conservative Parties around the world, such as Cameron’s Tories and the Republican Party.
Don’t get sucked into ‘Bizarro World’. ‘Debt’ is not a 4 Letter Word.