Good idea goes badly wrong

Before going on to universities, China and population, a quick word on Jobkeeper.

Figures made public by the Parliamentary Budget Office this week, largely to the unrelenting work of ACT Labor MP Andrew Leigh, show that $20 billion in JobKeeper money was handed to companies whose revenue actually rose during the first 12 months of the scheme.

Very few companies have paid the money back, unless shamed in to it by threats of consumer boycotts. The money was supposed to support jobs, but most of the $20 billion paid to companies who revenue was unaffected by Covid went to share dividends (including a lot to foreigners), share buy-backs, and executive bonuses.

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Integrity, trust. Great election issues

At the beginning of the 2004 election campaign, John Howard asked, “Who do you trust?”  At the upcoming election, it is hard to imagine Scott Morrison appealing to voters on the same basis.

Howard won five seats from Labor and a fourth term. He had said: “This election is about trust.” And, looking at then Labor Leader now One Nation MP Mark Latham,  the voters answered.

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Expect hung Parliaments. Good

No matter when the next election is held, it is very likely to result in a hung Parliament and a minority government of one sort or another. It will be a good result for Australia.

A few weeks before the 2019 election I put $100 on a hung Parliament at 8 to 1 using Australia’s largest internet betting site. I only missed out by a few votes.

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Collapse of good policy decisions

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. For a couple of decades now, Australia seems to have made quite a few decisions we should not have made and we have not made decisions that we should have. For the decade or two before that it was the other way around.

I use the words “Australia” and “we” rather than “the Australian Government” because we elect the Australian Government and so, vicariously, the Government’s decisions are our decisions.

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Costly submarine blunders

HMAS Collins

The wasteful incompetence of the Coalition Government was there to be seen this week, but you would have to look behind lots of flags, jingoism, and brass to see it.

The move by Australia to ditch the French-designed diesel-electric submarines in favour of nuclear-powered ones is an unspoken admission of eight years of bungling.

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Covid: the flight from science

I have just spent two months in the north of Western Australia, and contrary to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s glib remark, the only people in caves that I saw were those looking at Indigenous rock art.

Morrison is mistaken if he thinks that the public in what hitherto federally has been the most pro-Liberal state in Australia will applaud his demand for opening state borders and an end to lockdowns even when Covid strikes.

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Chaplain idea an insult to youth

The crass insensitivity of some conservative Federal Members of Parliament sank to a new low this week.

Andrew Wallace and Assistant Youth Minister Luke Howarth, citing psychological damage to children that they said was caused by what they called exaggerated alarm over climate change, called for a boost to the school chaplaincy program.

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Successes in Afghanistan and Vietnam

Image from the broadcast of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his farewell address to the nation on January 17, 1961, from the White House in Washington, D.C. (National Archives)

When US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this is “not Saigon”, everyone rightly scoffed. It was a mirror image right down to near identical photos of US helicopters evacuating the embassy in Kabul just as in Saigon 46 years earlier – another delusional re-run of a failed US foreign policy. When will they ever learn?

But there is another way of looking at this. Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq were highly successful missions. If just depends on whose eyes you are looking through.

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The decline of Federal authority

Further evidence that the Federal Government is losing its authority is emerging on several (related) fronts: Covid, climate and population.

The Covid crisis has affected Commonwealth-State relations more profoundly than at any time since the Commonwealth grabbed the totality of income-tax power in World War II. This time, however, the power is moving the other way, from the Commonwealth to the states. And Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is being pulled and pushed in different directions by different power centres, has little idea how to deal with it.

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