Archive for February, 2015

The wages of entitlement

February 17th, 2015 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

TROUBLE is brewing in the entitlement industry, I write in The Australian today.

Public servants at the Department of Human Services are so angry at the government’s derisory pay offer that they have taken off for lunch. The 1.15 per cent rise on the table falls somewhat short of the 12 per cent the Community and Public Sector Union thinks its members are worth. What’s more, the department wants to add nine minutes to the working day, requiring staff to stay at their desks for a full 7½ hours. No wonder they’re upset.

Last week DHS staff escalated the dispute by switching their email accounts to bounce-back while they took co-ordinated meal breaks. Unmoved, the department is refusing to budge.

Just how productive are the 30,000 DHS workers who administer the nation’s biggest welfare programs? Arguably a little too productive. Last year they redistributed $159 billion of other people’s money, about 10 per cent of Australia’s gross domestic product. That means each staff member doled out about $5.3 million in welfare in 2013-14, or 62 times what they are paid.

It’s not public service salaries that are sending us on the road to Athens, it’s the quantities of cash they are spending. The budget cannot be returned to surplus by simply cutting bureaucracy, as Finance Department secretary Jane Halton pointed out on Friday.

The government’s running costs were on track to fall to 6 per cent of total spending in 2017-18, Halton told the Committee for Economic Development of Australia. “Evidence suggests that (inefficiency) is not the major source and major driver of growth in government outlays,” she said.

 

FULL COLUMN

Clowns to the Left, Jokers to the Right

February 4th, 2015 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

Three months before the 2013 election Kevin Rudd called Tony Abbott “one of the most extreme right-wing conservative leaders or politicians that the Liberal Party has thrown up.” 

He may have been close with “conservative.” But “extreme right wing”? Clearly not.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 4.37.02 am

Eric Lobbecke, The Australian

As I write in The Australian week, Abbott the attacks on the Prime Minister are coming from both Left and Right:

… incredibly, the militant, kamikaze Right has now fallen for the Left’s delusion that electing Abbott was a mistake. Like the Left it seizes on the slightest evidence that seems to back its hunch that the PM is really not up to it.

Imposing GST on imported mail-order fripperies is an insult to the memory of Milton Friedman, complain the armchair dries. Having persuaded Abbott to drop his paid parental leave proposal, they demand that he abandons his ideas about childcare too.

So there’s Abbott, stuck in the middle, a human figure with all his failings who took his party back into power and is doing his level best to lead a reforming government from the centre.

It is clear Abbott is not a Chicago School purist, but having fought the Fightback! campaign as John Hewson’s press sec probably scared him for the life. And anyway, reform in Australia always happens from the centre – our electoral process won’t allow it any other way.

His self-righteous, self-regarding critics would do well to reacquaint themselves with Gough Whitlam’s admonition of the Victorian Left in 1967 — “Certainly the impotent are pure.”

Or, if they would rather hear it from Bob Menzies, they could start with the 1954 speech Democracy and Management: “In seeking for perfection, we can, if we are not careful, waste much time and energy.”

FULL COLUMN