The past fortnight’s “debate” on religious freedom has a subtle irony about it. Australian law at present makes it unlawful to discriminate against people when dealing with them in the public sphere on a range of attributes.
These attributes are basically what “God” or “Fate” or the vicissitudes of life gave people over which they have virtually no control: gender, sexuality, disability, skin colour, age. But the religious freedom Bill is going to make it unlawful to discriminate against people for belief in a human-made construct: religion.
This week I took the first step towards setting up a tax-avoidance scheme. It is perfectly legal and practically foolproof. It only relies on the continued foolishness of the Federal Government – which is pretty much guaranteed these days.
The step was to put an order in for an electric car. That included a test drive along Australia’s most spectacular road: the Captain Cook Highway north of Cairns – the Coral Sea and the reef on the right and rainforest or cane fields to the left.
Yet again the Coalition says it has the best economic-management credentials and yet again opinion polls show that voters put the Coalition ahead of Labor on economic management. It is a rusted-on myth. Trouble is, when you chisel away the rust, there is no metal underneath.
Since 2013 the Coalition has engaged in a litany of economic mismanagement and misuse of public money.
The trend away from the major parties continued unabated this month. This week Greens leader Adam Bandt announced the Greens would target 10 safe Labor seats in the cities and push for an end to coal mining by the end of the decade.
Meanwhile, the “Voices Of” movement of independents has 30 independents standing in mainly safe Liberal seats in the cities on platforms mainly of stronger integrity and climate laws, more compassion for refugees and smarter economic policies. They are gaining more financial support by the day.
Several events in the past week neatly illustrate what is rotten in the state of Australian politics and policy-making.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg has told an Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry event that he was considering increasing immigration. And the chamber itself called for a nearly doubling of the skilled migrant intake to 200,000.
Notice how business gets the Treasurer’s ear and they speak to each other. Business wants high immigration because it provides a pool of cheap labour and generally weakens labour’s bargaining power.
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.