A Taxing Budget And Renewables, Stacking The Boards, And A Long Road To The Republic

After a fortnight where most of Anglosphere was preoccupied with the death of a British monarch, life is getting back to normal and to the real things that matter: there’s a Budget coming up soon, and there’s been a hint from the Treasurer, Jim Chalmers, of “substantial temporary taxes” to repair the national figures and start managing the trillion dollar government left behind by the Coalition.

Already, the media and the Opposition are pushing the idea that Labor is the party of big taxes and spending, and not to be trusted with managing finances. What they ignore is that the three biggest taxing governments in the post-war period are the Howard, Abbott and Morrison governments – and in the case of the Morrison government, not much of substance to show for all of their spending.

But, it’s not the amount of taxes that matters, it’s the quality of spending. And there’s not much evidence of quality over the past nine years. Of course, we’ll have to see what the Labor government will spend taxpayer’s money on in the Budget, but surely it won’t be as profligate as Morrison’s final term in office.

And how super is Albanese’s renewables superpower? It’s rhetoric that was pushed during the May election campaign, but it’s time for this to be matched with action. The Australian Greens have recommended the $1.9 billion the previous government had allocated to a “gas-led recovery” – a strange choice for a response to a pandemic – be re-allocated to renewable energy. And it makes sense: it fits perfectly into the Labor government’s agenda, and it needs to take this first step if Australia does want to become a renewables superpower. If the Labor government is actually serious about this…

The former Prime Minister – Tony Abbott – has been re-appointed to the board of the Australian War Memorial. Is this a lost opportunity for Labor and should they start putting in their “own people”? No, it should be the best and the most appropriate people for the position – it’s just that the Coalition always inserts its own conservative people and supporters into high-powered government boards, without any concern whether these are the right people. And it results in $500 million being allocated to a renovation at the War Memorial, without a question about whether this is value for money. Why not spend this money on the veterans of war, rather than an already overblown budget for a memorial that glorifies conflict?

It’s actually mind-boggling to see how many breaches of protocol Scott Morrison seemed to immerse himself in – a sole-person committee where he could decide whether an official Cabinet meeting had taken place – or not – and therefore, he could keep any details of a meeting a secret for 20 years. It’s almost like Alice In Wonderland. Except this was a real Prime Minister. There were 739 ‘meetings’ and 665 of these are actually unaccounted for. 665. It might not be so important to find out the details of these unaccountable meetings but it is important that someone of the calibre of Scott Morrison is never allowed anywhere near Parliament again.

And with a return to normal life after the insane and incessant media coverage of the British monarch, we can also start to have normal discussions about Australia’s transition to a republic. But as much as we’d like it to happen soon, it’s probably not going to be enacted for some time to come. In our estimation: with a benign and invisible King? Perhaps in 2026 or 2027. However, if there’s more scandals to come through (hint: Prince Andrew), perhaps 2024, at the earliest. There’s still a long road ahead.

Music interludes:

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