Monday, September 30, 2013

Cutting emissions. Hunt has twice as much to do

The Coalition may have to cut Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions twice as fast as has been planned.

An analysis of international commitments in the wake of the latest report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests Australia will be obliged to cut emissions to 10 to 15 per cent below 2000 levels by 2020 rather than the 5 per cent the Coalition had been promising.

The Coalition’s policy document commits it to a 5 per reduction “without the need for a great big new tax”. But it confirmed during the election campaign it would honour a commitment of the previous government to cut further if “conditions relating to the extent of global action are met”.

A new analysis by the Climate Institute finds some of those conditions have been met.

“The agreements say we would be prepared to move to a bigger cut, anywhere up to 15 per cent, if we got comparable commitments from other developed countries and policies in major developing countries that would substantially slow emissions growth,” said acting chief executive Erwin Jackson.

“Work by the Climate Change Department obtained under freedom of information concludes that the conditions surrounding developing countries have already been met. For instance China has made commitments consistent with a 25 per cent cut.

“Now the United States has committed to a 17 per cent cut on 2005 levels which is equivalent to a around a 20 per cent cut on 2000 levels.”

“The average of what developed countries have committed to is somewhere between 10 and a 12 per cent cut.”

“Unless we are prepared to act in bad faith, we will be required to lift our target to a cut of at least 10, maybe 15 per cent during next year’s round of international meetings,” Mr Jackson said.

Professor Frank Jotzo of the ANU Centre for Climate Economics and Policy agreed...

“By most yardsticks China and the United States now have significantly stronger targets than Australia's,” he said.

Committing to more, as Australia has said it is prepared to do, would send “a positive signal about Australia's commitment - that commitment is under a cloud of doubt following the announcement that the carbon price will be repealed,” he said.

Mr Jackson stressed that Australia’s commitment to prepared to do more was not binding but was essentially a political commitment.

The independent Climate Change Authority chaired by former Reserve Bank governor Bernie Fraser will deliver an interim report in October on whether changed international conditions necessitate a higher target.

In May former Labor government climate change advisor Ross Garnaut said he thought the Authority should recommend a 17 per cent target.

The Coalition has promised to abolish the Climate Change Authority, but it is is still in place pending legislation which would need to pass through the Senate.

Environment minister Greg Hunt told Fairfax Media he remained committed to axing the authority in order to “stop bureaucratic duplication”.

However until then, the Authority would “continue under the law and I will review any material it produces, as I consider all reports,” he said.

The Coalition was committed both to the previous government’s 5 per cent reduction target and “to the conditions for any further change”.

During the election campaign the caretaker Labor government asked the Coalition to restate its concurrence with the documents Australia had signed. Mr Hunt gave that assurance and is prepared to extend Australia’s commitment beyond 5 per cent on the same terms as was Labor.

In The Sydney Morning Herald

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Friday, September 27, 2013

Looking for a job? Your odds aren't good


The Good...

Unemployed per vacancy

Northern Territory 1.9
Western Australia 2.8
Australian Capital Territory 2.9

...the Bad,

NSW 4.8
Victoria 5.6
Queensland 5.3

...and the Ugly

South Australia 7.5
Tasmania 11.2

ABS 6354.0 6202.0

It’s harder to find a job than at any time in the past eight years. The Bureau of Statistics says there were just 142,900 vacant jobs on offer in August, fewer than in any August since 2005. Australia had 690,400 unemployed, meaning only one in five could have found an unfilled job no matter how hard they tried.

The Bureau of Statistics survey is Australia’s most comprehensive. It surveys employers rather than counts advertisements and so is unaffected by changes in the way positions are filled. In the past year alone it shows a collapse in vacancies of 20 per cent.

At the same time the number of people identifying as unemployed has climbed 15 per cent, pushing down the chance of success in finding a job from one in three to one in five.

The mining industry has just 4900 vacancies, half as many as the 10,300 on offer at the peak of the boom in late 2011. The construction industry has 12,800 vacancies, way down on the peak of 20,300 reached in May 2012.

The worsening odds of finding a job put into perspective the claims of the previous government that it was unwilling to lift the $501 per fortnight Newstart allowance because the best way to help the unemployed was "to assist them to find employment, not to increase income support payments". They show most unemployed Australian would be unable to find employment no matter how much help they were offered.

Job seekers can improve their chances by switching states...

The ABS data shows there’s a one in two chance of landing a vacant job in the Northern Territory and a one in three chance in Western Australia and the ACT. By contrast in NSW and Queensland it’s one in five, Victoria close to one in six, and South Australia one in seven. By far the worst state in which to look for job is Tasmania where the chance of landing one has climbed to one in eleven.

But Australians are reluctant to switch states. Separate ABS data released on Thursday shows the jobs-hungry state of Western Australia received a net population inflow of 2200 from the rest of the nation in the first three months of the year. In the same period it took in a net 14,000 arrivals from overseas.

And the jobs outlook in the good states is getting worse. Western Australia has 13,000 fewer vacancies than it had a year ago. It now has only half as many vacancies as NSW and fewer than Victoria and Queensland. The traditionally buoyant Australian Capital Territory is about to hit by public service cutbacks.

In The Age

August 2013 (August 2012) August 2011
NSW 4.8 (3.5) 4.1
Victoria 5.6 (4.5) 3.0
Queensland 5.3 (4.0) 3.2
Western Australia 2.8 (1.4) 1.6
South Australia 7.5 (4.2) 4.6
Tasmania 11.2 (6.7) 5.7
Australian Capital Territory 2.9 (1.5)
Northern Territory 1.9 (1.6) 1.4
Australia 4.8 (3.4) 3.2

Related Posts

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6354.0 6202.0>


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Get set. Be careful. House prices are taking off

And the Reserve Bank is frightened

The Reserve Bank has pleaded with home buyers to be “realistic” and told banks to maintain standards amid signs of a takeoff in Sydney and Melbourne real estate prices.

RP Data says Sydney prices have surged 8.6 per cent so far this year and Melbourne prices 5.3 per cent. In just the past three months Sydney prices have climbed 5.4 per cent and Melbourne prices 4.8 per cent. If continued, the pace will ensure double digit price rises in the year ahead.

Sydney clearance auction houses are reporting clearance rates of approaching 90 per cent; Melbourne auction houses, 80 per cent.

The Bank’s Financial Stability Report released Wednesday draws attention to reports of Sydney sale prices “exceeding price guidance and valuations by wide margins”.

“An increase in housing market activity more generally is not surprising given reductions in interest rates,” the Bank says.

“However, it is important that those purchasing property maintain realistic expectations of future dwelling price growth.”

Adding to the Reserve Bank’s concern is an explosion in property investment by self-managed superannuation funds which now account for one-third of all super funds, up from 9 per cent two decades ago. Since 2007 self-managed funds have been able to borrow to invest in property.

The Bank says self-managed funds are a “new source of demand that could potentially exacerbate property price cycles”. It is also concerned that the owners of the funds may be “exposed to greater financial risks than they envisage”.

The boom in property investment appears to be “particularly sharp” in NSW, the report says. “Investor housing loan approvals now account for around 40 per cent of the value of loan approvals in the state, a share last recorded in 2004,” the Bank says.

The interest-only share of home loan approvals “appears high” at around 40 per cent...

The Bank is concerned that investors have drawn the wrong lessons from the previous ramp up in prices in the lead up to the global financial crisis. At those times “prices grew rapidly in response to disinflation and financial deregulation”. The bank says neither of those conditions are present at the moment. “Long-run future growth in dwelling prices might be expected to be more in line with income growth” it says, warning that prices might not climb as high as the new investors believe.

Figures released separately by the mortgage monitoring firm RateCity on Wednesday show that an extraordinary three quarters of all loans now require only paper-thin deposits of 5 per cent, up from one half three years ago.

RateCity chief executive Alex Parsons said some of the loans on offer now require no deposit whatsoever.

“Lenders are loosening the belt on home loan criteria, meaning many more potential borrowers are eligible for loans that may not have been approved in the past,” he said.

“There’s an obvious temptation to jump into the market if an institution will lend you 95 per cent of the property’s value. But it means any increase in interest rates, or a reduction in your income, will have a much bigger impact.”

The Reserve Bank report calls on lenders to maintain “prudent risk appetite and lending standards, especially in the current low interest rate environment.”

The Reserve Bank of New Zealand will require New Zealand banks to restrict low deposit mortgages just 10 per cent of their portfolios from October 1.

In The Age

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Monday, September 23, 2013

Open season on suing Australia? Not yet. Robb's cautious

Foreign corporations wanting to sue Australian governments will have to cool their heels.

Incoming trade minister Andrew Robb says Australia’s negotiating position on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement remains in place despite an election commitment to overturn the blanket prohibition on so-called investor-state dispute settlement provisions.

The previous government declared point-blank Australia would never again sign an agreement with an ISDS provisions. One of the few trade agreements Australia has signed with such a clause has allowed a Hong Kong-based subsidiary of the tobacco giant Philip Morris to take Australia to an international tribunal over its plain packaging laws, despite having lost its case in the High Court.

It is believed the United States was close to accommodating Australia’s insistence by carving out an exemption for Australia while requiring each of the other ten signatories to be bound by the provisions.

Australia is the only country to have successfully concluded at trade deal with the US without such a clause, the US-Australia free trade agreement signed by the Howard government in 2004.

The Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement will be the world's biggest - incorporating Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam, as well as Japan which joined in this year.

US companies are enthusiastic users of the provisions...

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development says a record 58 ISDS cases were underway in 2012. In one a US resource company is suing the Canadian province of Quebec for imposing a moratorium on coal seam gas extraction while it examines claims of environmental damage.

Opening Australian governments to lawsuits over resource extraction, foreign land purchases, pharmaceutical benefits and health measures is a potential minefield for the income government.

Its policy is to “remain "open to utilising investor-state dispute settlement clauses as part of Australia’s negotiating position”.

In a written statement to Fairfax media Mr Robb said it would be “premature to discuss positions we may wish to pursue on this or any issue under discussion in the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement negotiations”.

“In opposition the Coalition stated that it would consider the inclusion of ISDS provisions in free trade agreements on a case-by-case basis. It would be wrong, however, to assume that this changes Australia’s current position on ISDS in the context of the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations.”

Mr Robb will attend trade minister’s talks on the Trans Pacific Partnership on the sidelines of the APEC meeting in Bali on October 3. Prime Minister Abbott will discuss the partnership at a meeting of leaders including President Obama in Bali on October 7.

In The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age

Recommended Reading

. Abbott: Open For Business — And Multinational Lawsuits, Mike Seccombe, The Global Mail

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

The truth about women. Why Abbott's Cabinet won't last

Sunday column

Never has a prime minister’s first Cabinet been more insulting. Never has it mattered less.

I can understand the bewilderment many Australians felt hearing we were going to be run by a board of 19 men and 1 woman. reckons there are more women on the board of AFL, the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the executive of Zoo Magazine, in the Iranian Cabinet and in Saudi Arabia’s Olympics team.

It’s not as if women aren’t qualified. An extraordinary 30 per cent of Australian women in their thirties and forties have university degrees. A less-impressive 27 per cent of similarly-aged men are so qualified.

Should we be worried about the Cabinet? Not in the least. It’s the Coalition that should be worried. It has a serious problem using and finding talent. Australian men should be worried as well, because away from the Cabinet things are moving against them at a blistering pace, so quickly most don’t have a clue what’s happening.

Professor Sue Richardson spelled out the changes at this week’s Social Policy Conference at the University of NSW. One of Australia’s leading labour market scholars, she directs research at the National Institute of Labour Studies and sits on Fair Work Australia's minimum wage panel. Delivered just hours after Abbott unveiled his Cabinet, her address was entitled Breadwinner Men and the Gentle Invaders. It showed women grabbing men’s jobs, their incomes and their prospects in marriage.

It starts with education. Back at the start of the 1980s an impressive 11 per cent of men in their thirties and forties had university degrees. Only 5 per cent of women did. Now it’s 27 per cent for men and 30 per cent for women. The job market has been flooded with graduates, especially women graduates.

What has it done for male earnings? In the past three decades the earnings of male graduates have increased not at all when adjusted for inflation. That’s right, not at all. It isn’t that the wages for particular jobs haven’t increased, it’s that male graduates are being elbowed out of the way for the good jobs, forcing them to take jobs that would have once been done by less qualified people.

Richardson was surprised. She and her colleague Josh Healy had thought that low income blokes would be suffering the most. Instead “it’s the high education blokes, they no longer have a monopoly over well-paid jobs”.

Many no longer have jobs. Richardson flashed on the screen a graph the proportion of men in each age group with jobs in 1982. Then she showed the proportion with jobs now. The proportion in work in each age group had fallen, right up to the age of 60...

It’s unlikely to be voluntary. “In our culture men work,” Richardson said. “Who is supporting them. Is if their parents, their girlfriends, the government? Or are they just poor?”

“The contrast with women is spectacular.”

At each age group a much greater proportion of women are employed now than in 1982 - in some cases 50 per cent more. The traditional dip in employment seen in the ages when women had babies has all but vanished.

Displaying a slide that read “Are men still marriageable” Richardson asked why a rational woman would bother to marry a man who couldn’t earn an income.

“You’d just have another dependent in the house” she said, to nervous laughter all around. For highly educated men marriage rates are little changed, but for low-educated men the marriage and cohabitation rate has plummeted. It’s fallen from 80 per cent three decades ago to less than 70 per cent.

Richardson doesn’t think this is because low income men are choosing not to marry. “They are finding it hard to attract a mate,” she says.

Three decades ago there were three low-educated women for every two low-educated men. Those were very good odds. Now it’s one to one, and many of the women are looking for men with better prospects.

Employment-wise that change ought to be good for low educated men. They are competing with fewer women. But (notwithstanding the mining boom) it’s the traditionally male industries that are shrinking.

“It’s the feminised areas of the economy that are growing; things such as aged care, child care, health care, retail, tourism,” Richardson says. “But men are reluctant to equip themselves to enter these industries, and they can face gender bias when they try.”

Richardson says men are accustomed “to being on top”. When they are not, they often “don’t know what to do”.

Women by contrast have faced centuries of disadvantage. They are used to turmoil and they know how to take advantage of it. Abbott’s Cabinet won’t last long.

In The Canberra Times, The Sun Herald

Sue Richardson, 2SER Thursday September 19 2013 Right click to download

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Remembering Arch McKirdy, the man who made the ABC real

The presenter of Australia's most popular radio program had a wicked secret he kept from his 1960’s ABC audience.

After ten each night he introduced it with the words: “This is Arch McKirdy inviting you to ...relax with me.”

Over time the gap between the “to” and “relax” became longer and longer. During the break he would turn off the microphone and glare through the glass into the ABC Forbes Street control room with a “watch how long I am going to stretch it tonight” expression. The staff would squirm as the gap grew and grew.

After seemed like an eternity he would turn his microphone back on and finish the introduction. Then he would then turn it off, hit the talkback button and roar with laughter.

Arch and Relax with Me were legends well before he joined the ABC.

Born in country Victoria into a musical family (his father ran country dances and encouraged Arch to play drums and guitar) he auditioned for the job of cadet announcer at 3TR Sale in 1941 at the age of 17.

Its sister station 3SH in Swan Hill was short staffed because of the war and he moved there for a few months before joining the army, on the usual condition that he could return to his job when the war ended. Within two years the army had shifted him to its entertainment unit where he toured the Pacific for the rest of the war becoming a singer and comedian and mixing with some of Australia’s best jazz musicians.

Back in Victoria he did a music appreciation course and then headed to Sydney and 2UW where he took over Bobby Limb’s midday show and then an evening program called Starlight Serenade which he renamed Relax With Me.

‘Modern jazz’ would have been one description of the music, although he preferred the less-specific “music for adults” which gave him licence to play whatever seemed right for the mood he was trying to create in the minutes leading up til midnight. Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald made frequent appearances as did Artie Shaw and Louis Armstrong who would drop in and play their favourite records when they were in town. More than a radio program, it was a chance to “sit down, share a piece of music and talk together”.

Tobacco giant Philip Morris noticed and showered dollars at the program and at Arch personally, moving their money with him as he moved to 2SM and then 2GB, all the time presenting Relax With Me and all the time sponsored by Ardath cigarettes.

In his 2005 ABC Andrew Ollie memorial lecture broadcaster John Doyle recalled his family sitting around the lounge room in at night in the 1950s “letting Arch McKirdy guide us through Benny Golson or Oscar Peterson or Charlie Parker.”

“With voice alone he fashioned the smoky atmosphere of a New York Jazz Club,” Doyle said. “His live commercials for Ardath had him ignoring the copy and the ad would sometimes be reduced to a pause, followed by the sound of a match being struck and an ecstatic draw.”

(Arch discretely moonlighted for one of the other Philip Morris brands, intoning unseen in radio, television and cinema advertisements: “Where there’s a Man, there’s a Marlboro” - a source of amusement to those who knew the wiry and diminutive figure.)

All the while he was juggling parallel careers as a co-host Channel 7 children's television show The Land of Make Believe and as the promoter of jazz concerts showcasing Australian talents such as Don Burrows and Julie Bailey.

At the height of his commercial fame in 1964 he infuriated Philip Morris by moving Relax with Me and his audience to the ABC where it could no longer be sponsored but would be heard coast to coast seven nights a week. He said he did it partly because he could see the way the commercial radio was moving. The Top 40 would soon smother other programs.

An “odd fit” at first according to ABC colleague Margaret Throsby he soon made the program the nation’s most popular, drawing listeners in to a mesmerising mix of quietly spoken intimacy and sensuous sounds.

Throsby says he told her the title of the program was iconic.

“I don’t use that lightly. He used to say more babies had been conceived to his program than any other,” she says. “I hung on his every word. He was a gentle man and a gentleman, and a generous man, who really deeply understood what broadcasting is all about.”

Then in November 1972 after 2403 shows for the ABC and aged just 48 he moved into management. His new title “Director of Radio Presentation” scarcely seemed worthy of one of Australia’s most loved broadcasters. Yet Arch had plans for the job few in the ABC of time foresaw.

For next two decades he took by the hand young broadcasters such as Norman Swan, Geraldine Doogue and Fran Kelly, teaching them to speak not the Queen’s English as the had previously been required, but how to do something closer to making love to their audience.

He would start by telling them to put the width of a fist between their lips and the microphone, and then ask them to imagine a personal friend on the other side (for him it was his wife Margaret). Then he would ask them to talk to that person; not to read ‘one, word, at, a, time’, but to talk in groupsofwords, breathing and pausing naturally while thinking about what they were telling that person and why.

Many of his students would have once been regarded as unsuited for broadcasting. But he never tried to change their voices, merely how they were used.

“It was about your brain as much as your voice,” said Doogue. “His contention was that you had to remove every barrier between yourself and your audience, to let people see who you were. And you had to like who you were.”

Arch himself went further. He would recall how during Relax with Me he would occasionally pretend to forget a an artist’s career highlight, ask for help and then thank the listener who phoned in. He never wanted to be seen as anything other than the listener’s friend.

He probably gave different advice to everyone who saw him.

“He was a brilliant diagnostician,” said Swan.” He would zero in on a small problem, your particular problem, and fix it.”

“It was bespoke service,” said Doogue. “He would unlock whatever it was that worked for you, because your voice is so personal. He would never offer too much, because confidence is fragile.”

In the early 2000s he worked at SBS, training ethnic broadcasters to speak real English, rather than the stilted sentences they had thought were appropriate. At the SBS Dateline he would come down from his home in the Blue Mountains to guide video journalists through the process of talking to viewers as if they were on location.

He died on August 26 aged 89 surrounded by family. He left behind his first wife Frances and her sons Grant, Mark and John and his second wife Margaret and daughter Megan.

And he left behind a legacy greater than his on-air contribution. The generation that followed communicates naturally in large part because of Arch.

His grandson Lewis is on Triple J. On Friday August 30 ABC Jazz paid a tribute to Arch by re-broadcasting his final two hour show. The tribute started at 2pm, as Lewis was doing his show. The synchronicity of two McKirdys broadcasting simultaneously on ABC radio made the tribute more poignant.

Peter Martin was trained by Arch McKirdy. Peter Wall worked with Arch McKirdy on Relax With Me and is a former ABC radio manager.

In The Sydney Morning Herald

Recommended listening

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

For the fridge door. Abbott's new Ministry


The incoming Coalition Government will restore strong, stable and accountable government to build a more prosperous Australia.

This is the team that will scrap the carbon tax, end the waste, stop the boats, build the roads of the twenty first century and deliver the strong and dynamic economy that we need.

First term governments are best served by Cabinets with extensive ministerial experience.  Fifteen members of the incoming Cabinet have previous ministerial experience.   The four members of Cabinet without ministerial experience have made significant contributions to the Shadow Ministry. 

The simplification of ministerial and departmental titles reflects my determination to run a “back to basics” government.

The Australian people expect a government that is upfront, speaks plainly and does the essentials well.

The Cabinet will be assisted by a strong team of ministers with proven capacity to implement the Government’s policies.

Parliamentary secretaries will assist senior ministers and be under their direction. 

Good government requires a strong Coalition.  As Deputy Prime Minister and as Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, the Hon Warren Truss MP will be responsible for ensuring the Government delivers on its major infrastructure commitments across Australia.  Mr Jamie Briggs MP will be the Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development with specific responsibility for roads and delivery of our election commitments across metropolitan and regional Australia.

The Hon Julie Bishop MP will serve as Minister for Foreign Affairs and will be a strong voice for Australia during a time when Australia is a member of the United Nations Security Council.  Australia in addition will assume the Chair of the G20 on 1 December for a year.  Senator the Hon Brett Mason will be Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Foreign Affairs. 

With the unemployment rate at its highest level in four years and with Treasury forecasting that the number of unemployed will rise to around 800,000 by the middle of next year, helping Australian businesses generate more jobs underpins our agenda to build a stronger economy.

Senator the Hon Eric Abetz as Minister for Employment, Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on the Public Service and Leader of the Government in the Senate will be responsible for reducing impediments to employment growth.  In keeping with our pre-election commitments, the Coalition Government will restore the Australian Building and Construction Commission, return the industrial relations pendulum to the sensible centre and re-invigorate Work for the Dole.  Mr Luke Hartsuyker MP will be Assistant Minister for Employment and Deputy Leader of the House. 

Senator the Hon George Brandis QC will be Attorney-General, Minister for the Arts and Vice President of the Executive Council and will be responsible for establishing a bipartisan process that will lead to a referendum and recognition of indigenous Australians in the Constitution.  Mr Michael Keenan MP will be Minister for Justice.

Strengthening the economy, lifting productivity and turning around Australia’s competitive decline will be at the heart of the new Government.  By strengthening the economy we can create more jobs and better afford the services that we all want. 

As Treasurer, the Hon Joe Hockey MP will lead the Government’s work to restore the Budget position and grow a stronger economy.  Senator Mathias Cormann, as Minister for Finance, will be responsible for delivering better value for taxpayers.  Senator Arthur Sinodinos AO will be Assistant Treasurer.  His lifetime of experience in the public sector will provide further strength to our economic team.  Mr Steven Ciobo MP will be Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer and Mr Michael McCormack MP will be Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance.

Mr Barnaby Joyce MP will be the Minister for Agriculture and will be working to fulfil Australia’s potential as the food-bowl of Asia. The agricultural opportunities for Northern Australia in particular are immense.  Senator the Hon Richard Colbeck will be Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Agriculture.

Labor’s decision to split education across multiple portfolios hindered the capacity of different parts of the system to work together to improve educational standards.

The Hon Christopher Pyne MP will be Minister for Education and Leader of the House and will work with the states and territories to deliver real improvements across all aspects of education.  The Hon Sussan Ley MP as Assistant Minister for Education will continue her work with child care and early childhood education.  Senator Scott Ryan will be Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education.

The Hon Ian Macfarlane MP returns as Minister for Industry having held this role during the last two terms of the Howard Government.  Mr Macfarlane’s experience and record of success will be invaluable as we seek to build more competitive industries across Australia.  The new Industry portfolio will include responsibility for energy and resources. The Hon Bob Baldwin MP will be Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry.

I regret the absence of Sophie Mirabella who was a champion for Australian industry, particularly manufacturers.

The Hon Kevin Andrews MP will be Minister for Social Services and be responsible for the largest area of expenditure and payments in the Budget.  The new department will also be responsible for settlement services, multicultural affairs and the administration of aged care.  Senator Mitch Fifield will be Assistant Minister for Social Services responsible for the development of the National Disability Insurance Scheme and aged care.  Senator Marise Payne will be Minister for Human Services.  Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells will be Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Services with special responsibility for multicultural affairs and settlement services.

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP as Minister for Communications will deliver a new business plan for the NBN so that we can deliver fast broadband sooner and at less cost.  Mr Paul Fletcher MP will be Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Communications.

The Hon Peter Dutton MP will be Minister for Health and Minister for Sport.  Senator Fiona Nash will be Assistant Minister for Health.  Responsibility for mental health will rest with Peter Dutton ensuring responsibility for this issue remains in Cabinet.

Small business employs almost one in two Australians and its stand-alone presence in Cabinet acknowledges its role in job creation. The Hon Bruce Billson MP is an evangelist for small business and will drive the Government’s small business agenda.

The Hon Andrew Robb AO MP, serving as Minister for Trade and Investment, will be Australia’s ambassador for jobs by expanding Australia’s participation in free trade agreements.

Senator the Hon David Johnston will be Minister for Defence and will drive the development of the Defence White Paper as well as overseeing the Coalition’s defence procurement programme.  Senator the Hon Michael Ronaldson will be the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Special Minister of State and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Centenary of ANZAC.   The Centenary of ANZAC will be a significant marker in our country’s history. Mr Stuart Robert MP will be Assistant Minister for Defence with responsibility for personnel matters.  Mr Darren Chester MP will be Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Defence.

The Hon Greg Hunt MP as Minister for the Environment will have responsibility for the abolition of the carbon tax, implementation of the Coalition’s Direct Action plan, the establishment of the Green Army and the creation of a one-stop-shop for environmental approvals.  Senator Simon Birmingham will be Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and have responsibility for water.

Mr Scott Morrison MP will be Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.  Senator Michaelia Cash will be Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection.  This is a strong team to stop the boats. 

Recognising its key role in border protection, Customs will be in this portfolio.

Senator Cash will also be appointed as Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women. 

As promised, the administration of indigenous affairs will move into the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.  Senator the Hon Nigel Scullion will be Minister for Indigenous Affairs.

Recognising the value of deregulation to improving Australia’s productivity, responsibility for driving the Government’s deregulation agenda will shift to the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. 

Mr Josh Frydenberg MP and Mr Alan Tudge MP will be my Parliamentary Secretaries.

The Hon Bronwyn Bishop MP, with my support, is nominating for the role of Speaker.

The Hon Warren Entsch MP has agreed to chair a new Joint Parliamentary Committee on Northern Australia. Carefully developing our long-term plan for Northern Australia will be a priority of the new Coalition government.

The Hon Philip Ruddock MP has agreed to be Chief Government Whip.  I can think of no better person in the House to guide the 30 or so new Coalition members in their duties.  Ms Nola Marino MP and Mr Scott Buchholz MP have also agreed to be Whips. Mark Coulton is the Nationals’ Chief Whip.

The Senate Whips are elected by the Liberal and Nationals Senate Party Rooms.  The current Senate Whips are Senator Helen Kroger (Chief Government Whip), Senator David Bushby (Deputy Government Whip), Senator Chris Back (Deputy Government Whip) and Senator John Williams (Nationals Whip).

This is an experienced and talented team.  It will deliver results for the Australian people from day one. 

16 September 2013


As part of the Machinery of Government Changes agreed by the Governor-General the Honourable Quentin Bryce AC CVO this morning, Her Excellency has made a number of appointments of Secretaries.

Ms Lisa Paul PSM AO has been appointed as the Secretary of the Department of Education.  Ms Paul has been Secretary of the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations and the Department of Education, Science and Training and brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to this new Department. 

Dr Paul Grimes PSM has been appointed as the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture.  Dr Grimes was formerly Secretary of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities and has had a distinguished career at the State and Commonwealth levels in a number of Departments.

Ms Glenys Beauchamp PSM has been appointed as the Secretary of the Department of Industry.  Ms Beauchamp has been Secretary of the Department of Regional Australia, Local Government, Arts and Sports.  She has had an extensive career in the Australian Public Service at senior levels with responsibility for a number of significant government programmes.

Two new Secretaries have been appointed.  Dr Gordon de Brouwer PSM has been appointed as the Secretary of the Department of the Environment and Ms RenĂ©e Leon PSM has been appointed as the Secretary of the Department of Employment.

Dr de Brouwer has most recently been an Associate Secretary in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet where he has had primary responsibility for advising on Australia’s participation in the G20 process.

Ms Leon has been a Deputy Secretary in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet where she headed the governance group.  She was previously Chief Executive of the ACT Department of Justice and Community Safety and has held a number of senior positions in the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department.

I take this opportunity to acknowledge three former Secretaries, Dr Don Russell, Mr Blair Comley PSM and Mr Andrew Metcalfe AO.   Each of these Secretaries has made a substantial contribution to public life in Australia and I wish them well for the future.

Dr Martin Parkinson PSM has advised the Treasurer that he will be standing down next year.  He has agreed to stay on to the middle of 2014.  The Government will be discussing a further appointment with him next year.

I look forward to working again with Australian Public Service.

18 September 2013



And a memory of simpler times

Made by The National Film Board 1957. Directed by Shan Benson. Enjoy:

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Relax. Early retirement won't kill you

Even if financially it's not so good

It’s known as “quit and die” - the belief that men who retire early die sooner. And it is said to be backed up by evidence.

In one often-cited but rarely-seen study the Shell Corporation is said to found that its employees who retired at 55 were nearly twice as likely to die in the next decade as those who kept working.

But evidence of a solid link has been hard to find, in part because ill health is one of the reasons people retire early.

Now Australia’s Centre of Excellence in Population Aging Research believes its cracked the puzzle.

In new research released Tuesday it says there is no such effect. Men who retire early are no more likely to die at any age than those who stay working.

The lead Australian author John Piggott had to get around what he called “confounding influences”.

“Some people retire early because they are ill. Six months later they die. But they didn’t die because they retired early,” he says.

“Some people retire early because their firm has shut down. They are demoralised and depressed, they face financial stress and their social networks break down. But they didn’t necessarily die early because they retired early, it might have been because of the way it happened.”

Professor Piggott and researchers from Norway took advantage of an usual “natural experiment”...

In 1989 Norway introduced an early retirement program that covered some firms and not others. Around half its private sector employers steadily cut the minimum age for access to retirement benefits from 67 to 62. The others did not. Many years on the data shows no statistically significant difference in death rates up to the age of 70.

“It means you can leave work without worrying about losing years; do whatever works for you,” Professor Piggott says.

For the government the implications are that it too needn’t worry about hastening death by encouraging people to work longer.

“If it were firmly established that working longer led to an earlier death policy makers would feel kind of mean,” he says.

Professor Piggott supports delaying the age at which Australians can gain access to tax-free superannuation, but not because of any concern about lifespan.

“Many people retire at 60, get $400,000 tax-free and then three years down the track have only $160,000 and need to get back into the workforce. That’s extraordinarily difficult at age 63, and they can’t get the pension. I would lift the age for access to tax-free super in line with increases in the age for access to the pension,” he says.

Professor Piggott served on the Henry Tax Review.

In The Sydney Morning Herald

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Switching sides. Suddenly Coalition supporters feel good (fun graph)

Suddenly it’s Coalition voters who feel good.

After six years of trailing, they are now on track to overtake Labor voters as the most optimistic of Australians and to remain that way for the entire life of the new government.

A graph compiled by Fairfax Media from 17 years of monthly surveys shows Labor voters remained more optimistic about the economy than Coalition voters for the entire six years of the Rudd and Gillard governments. Before that Coalition voters felt better than Labor voters for the entire eleven years of the Howard government. And before that through the Hawke and Keating years it was the Labor voters who felt best.

The latest survey, conducted in the days either side of the vote shows confidence amongst Coalition voters surged from a reading of 92 on a scale where 100 means optimists balance pessimists to a clearly-positive 110. Confidence among labor voters dived from 127 to 114.

Asked how it could be that Coalition voters suddenly switched from being negative to positive while Labor voters went the other way Westpac’s Bill Evans not all of the switch might be real.

Westpac Melbourne Institute survey asks five questions. Two concern family finances, two concern the economy, and the other one asks whether it’s a good time to buy a major household item.

The questions about the economy were the ones in confidence surged...

Optimism about the economy one year ahead jumped 9 per cent, optimism about the economy five years ahead jumped 7 per cent.

But when asked about family finances, views were little changed. The proportion of Australians believing family finances had improved fell 2 per cent, the proportion believing family finances would improve climbed 2 per cent.

“While consumers say they are confident the incoming government will manage the economy better, they are not so confident as to believe their own situation will much improve,” he said.

“It’s the same with business. The NAB survey shows business conditions unchanged, but business confidence building. The two can’t coexist for long. Confidence can only be sustained if consumers spend and that can only happen if they feel good about their own finances and not just some amorphic view about the economy.”

Mr Evans concedes Coalition voting businesses and voters are likely to feel better about the economy for a long time. He is less certain they will back that apparent view with investment, employment and spending.

In The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Tweedledee. That's who the ratings agencies think is taking over

Meet the new boss.

To hear the leaders talk you would think Labor and the Coalition were miles apart.

One created a “budget emergency,” the other a “$70 billion black hole”.

But the credit rating agencies don’t believe a word of it.

Standard & Poor’s said on Monday it expected the new government to pursue a “broadly similar” strategy to the old one.

“After six years in opposition, the center-right Liberal–National Party coalition won the right to form government. We expect the new government to pursue a broadly similar fiscal strategy to the previous government, targeting narrowing budget deficits over time,” it said in a statement.

“In line with the Coalition’s pre-election announcements, we expect new spending measures - such as infrastructure projects and a new paid parental leave scheme - to be broadly offset by savings measures, particularly cuts to the bureaucracy and unwinding of recent policies related to household payments.”

Moody's Investors Service expected no change to Australia’s budget framework.

"Moody's AAA rating of the Australian government is based on the long-standing fiscal policy framework that results in balanced budgets or surpluses and low government debt in relation to other highly rated sovereigns," it said.

"We believe that the return to power of a Coalition government will not result in changes to the framework.”

Fitch Ratings thought the Coalition would “remain on track” to deliver a modest budget surplus in 2017, “broadly in line with the roadmap set by the outgoing Labor government”.

“This reflects the absence of deep ideological divides between the two main parties on core aspects of fiscal management, notwithstanding political differences on a few taxation policies,” it said...

“Fiscal discipline is enshrined in the Charter of Budget Honesty Act, enacted in 1998. This has forged a durable social consensus on maintaining a balanced budget through the economic cycle.”

All three reconfirmed their AAA credit ratings for Australia.

Standard & Poor’s said Australia’s budget policies had been “conservative”, leading to “declining budget deficits and general government debt remaining low”.

Moody’s said the current string of “modest deficits” stemmed from the global financial crisis. Economic growth would remain "somewhat subdued" during 2013, picking up in 2014.

Fitch said growth had begun to slow in the wake of a “topping out” of mining investment. Sustaining GDP growth at its potential rate of 3 per cent could prove “challenging”.

In The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age

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Monday, September 09, 2013

Stand by for the truth. It'll be the PBO document dump

Policy details the Coalition kept hidden during the campaign are set to become public in a document dump scheduled for October.

The Parliamentary Budget Office sent letters of request to all three major political groups during the campaign asking for a comprehensive list election commitments by 5 pm Friday.

The Office revealed Sunday that all three complied, Labor furnishing the names of 132 commitments, the Coalition 169, and the Greens 107.

The Office is now required to make its own assessment of whether the lists are accurate, and to release its account of what it believes was promised within 30 days of Saturday’s poll. The deadline falls on Monday October 7, just after the first week of parliamentary sittings.

It will also release its estimate the total effect of each set of commitments on the budget bottom line. The assessment will be the first not mediated by the parties themselves. The Coalition employed three analysts it said were independent who limited their comments to a one-page piece of paper saying they agreed with the Coalition's totals.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Phil Bowen confirmed to Fairfax Media on Sunday he would also release the detailed figuring and assumptions the Coalition had not...

Many have already been prepared for the Coalition by the Office but kept secret, the Coalition deciding to release only totals rather than the means by which they were arrived at.

As a result details such as the starting date of policies and the way they would be applied were kept secret from Labor during the campaign, encouraging it to make errors such as claiming the Coalition’s policy was to cut 20,000 public service positions rather than 12,000.

The document dump will for the first time allow the public and Labor to see the details of the policies the Abbott government went to the people on.

The requirement for a post-election review was inserted into the Parliamentary Budget Office Act by Treasurer Wayne Swan in order to ensure “political parties are straight with the Australian people before the election”.

“They will be caught out afterwards if they are not,” he said in March.

In The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age

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Sunday, September 08, 2013

Rupert moves minds? Sure, if you already agree with him

ABC 891 Adelaide September 18 2013 Right click to download

Ray Hadley holds two apparently contradictory views.

On one hand the 2GB jock thinks it’s important to tell people what he thinks. During the campaign he said Labor’s David Bradbury a dill, a sycophant and a lapdog.

On the other he thinks what he says makes no difference. He told Four Corners: “I can enunciate how I feel about David Bradbury, but at the end of the day the voters of Lindsay, I mean they're not going to take any notice of a shock jock and what he thinks of David Bradbury, they'll form their own assumptions”.

It’s the kind of get-out-of-jail-free card used by Fox News in the US. One of its slogans is “We report, you decide”. But if Fox News is right and it doesn’t sway opinions, it’s worth asking why it tries so hard - unless it’s for entertainment. It’s also worth asking the same question about Sydney’s Daily Telegraph. Was it merely trying to entertain us with its front page depicting Kevin Rudd as a Nazi prison camp commandant, or was it trying to shift votes.

Rudd thought so. He said News Corp was in a coalition with the Coalition to bring him down.

Economists are inclined to side with Hadley. They don’t think slanted coverage matters. They think we are rational. Here’s how a paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research puts it:

“A media source injects bias into its coverage of a political candidate. A rational viewer, knowing the exact extent of the bias, realises that often times bad news is not reported and good news is exaggerated. If the viewer has a good sense of the degree of the media source’s bias, she will take into account the media source’s bias and discount the news.”

Nifty, eh? Actually, it’s pretty much how we think it works when it comes to ourselves. We are not swayed by biased coverage, only others are.

It’s a hard proposition to test...

In the case of Rupert Murdoch it is widely believed he backs whichever leader is are likely to win anyway, pocketing an undeserved reputation for swinging the vote.

But an usual occurrence at the turn of the century allowed two researchers to try. Stefano Della Vigna and Ethan Kaplan noticed that Murdoch’s Fox News channel was being rolled out to some towns ahead of others. In otherwise identical towns next to each other, one had Fox News, the other did not.

Comparing those towns they calculated that in the 2000 George Bush - John Kerry contest Fox News managed to persuade 3 to 8 pc of its viewers to change their votes, a shift that may “have been decisive”.

A more recent reexamination of the data reached a less alarming conclusion. Fox News was indeed persuasive in getting Republican-leaning voters to actually vote Republican, but had no effect (if anything an anti-Bush effect) on voters likely to vote Democratic.

It’s hard to change opinions, easy to reinforce them. And this is where it gets personal. Newspapers such as this one (our slogan is Independent, Always) ought to work against polarisation. We report the views of people all sides. Except they don’t. The latest research suggests that reporting a range of views actually hardens pre existing positions.

Harvard University economists Edward Glaeser and Cass Sunstein outline it in a paper entitled Why does balanced news produce unbalanced views?

One of the studies involved capital punishment. People were asked to read arguments both in favor of and against. Both supporters and opponents hardened their opinions.

Another involved reports that attempted to settle questions (fact checking). People were shown arguments about the proposition that cutting taxes is so effective at boosting economic growth it actually lifts government revenue. Then they were shown evidence that it did not. Those who believed the claim to start with “ended up believing this claim more fervently” after seeing the refuting evidence.

People shown both good news and bad news about themselves or people like them (intelligence, attractiveness, the likelihood of getting cancer) took the good news on board, but downplayed or forgot the bad.

Ray Hadley might be more correct than you might think (and probably as correct as he thinks). He can’t much influence the people of western Sydney, unless its in the direction they were likely to move anyway. And I can’t much influence you (even when I am checking facts) unless its in the direction you were heading anyway.

I don’t like it, but then I’m not inclined to like it. I’m hard to convince.

In The Canberra Times and The Sydney Morning Herald

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Saturday, September 07, 2013

Half true. What the Electoral Commission says about Senate voting

“The rest of the ballot paper must be left blank”

Australian Electoral Commission, Senate voting instructions

The Australian Electoral Commission says we have “a choice of two methods” when voting for Senators today.

We can either vote “above the line” by putting the number '1' in one box only. That gives whoever we are voting for the right to allocate our preferences.

The AEC says “the rest of the ballot paper must be left blank.”

Or we can vote “below the line” by putting the number '1' in the box of our first choice, then '2' and so on until all the boxes have been numbered.
“If a voter chooses to vote below the line, they must number every box below the line for their vote to count,” its website says.

“The top part of the ballot paper must be left blank.”

If true, it could deprive some of us of our democratic rights.

There’s a record 110 Senate candidates in NSW this time. In Victoria there are a record 97 candidates. Flat magnifying glasses will be issued to help voters with poor eyesight. But mistakes will be inevitable for many people who attempt to vote below the line. Voting above the line instead, for safety, deprives those voters of the right to allocate preferences.

The AEC site makes it look as if there is no way out, but there is. It is technically illegal, and if you only read the words at the top of the AEC site you wouldn't know about it.

Does it stack up?

Drill down further and it becomes apparent that ballot papers filled in both above and below-the-line are counted. The above-the-line vote is used as a backup in case the below-the-line vote fails.

And in below-the-line voting, not every square has to be completed for the vote to count. Up to three errors are allowed so long as 90 per cent of squares are completed.


There is a way to both attempt to make every preference count and to ensure at least something counts. The ABC's Antony Green recommends it. It's to vote both above and below the line.

The Electoral Commission keeps it quiet because it is technically illegal. But it agrees it works.

Politifact rates its claims that you have “a choice of two methods” and that when using either “the rest of the ballot paper must be left blank” only half true. The Commission is describing the law. But the law also makes voting private and ensures people who disobey those parts it vote have their votes counted. Enjoy the day.

In Politifact and The Sydney Morning Herald

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Rearranging the furniture, because there ain't no budget emergency

How the Coalition plans to dig a hole ...

Axing the carbon tax: Net cost $6 billion

Spending on new roads: Total $5.4 billion

Cut in the company tax rate: Total cost $4.9 billion

Axing the mining tax: Total cost $3.7billion

Paid parental leave scheme: Extra cost $3.3 billion

Direct action on climate change: Total cost $2 billion

Restoring FBT break for cars: Total cost $1.8 billion

Total*: $33.2 billion

*including smaller measures

and then fill it ...

Cutting the public service by 12,000 jobs: Saves $5.2 billion

Axing the Schoolkids Bonus: Saves $4.6 billion

Abandoning the foreign aid target: Saves $4.5 billion

Company tax levy to help pay for paid parental leave: Raises $4.4 billion

Axing business tax breaks funded by the mining tax: Saves $4.3 billion

Axing the low income super contribution: Saves $3.7 billion

Axing the Regional Infrastructure Fund: Saves $2.5 billion

Slowing superannuation increases: Saves $1.6 billion

Cutting the refugee intake: Saves $1.3 billion

Axing benefit supplements funded by mining tax: Saves $1.1 billion

Axing rail infrastructure projects: Saves $0.7 billion

Saving from "Stopping the boats": Estimated net $0.7 billion

Total*: $42 billion

*including smaller measures

Source: Coalition documents

(Labor has made few election commitments of any size during the campaign. Only one approaches $0.5 billion, a promise for better before and after school care. The Labor measures offset each other, having a zero effect on the pre-election budget balance.)

Rudd made the plea repeatedly in a blitzkrieg series of appearances late this week: “If you have any doubts, don’t vote for Abbott.”

As a pitch from an incumbent government seeking re-election, they don't come much more desperate.

Any doubts, any doubts at all?

It was the feeble, last-gasp denouement of a relentlessly negative campaign from Labor.

This, from a Prime Minister who promised the end of ''wall-to-wall negativity''.

''One thing I know for certain is that the old politics of the past just won't work for the future,'' he said in the first news conference of the campaign.

Staring at a likely heavy defeat on Saturday, Rudd may reflect that he should have taken his own advice.

After framing the election as a contest of new politics over old, and over who was best to manage the economy now that the ''boom is over'', Rudd has failed on both counts.

He dumped the positive politics within days, culminating in a blunt assertion that Abbott risked tipping the economy into recession. Tony Abbott has claimed the mantle as the superior custodian of the economy, despite Australia having one of the best performing economies in the world.

Abbott has steadily increased his ratings in the opinion polls throughout the five-week campaign on the issue voters rank the most important.

The final act in the economic debate of the campaign came this week, when the Coalition, finally, revealed its complete savings and costings.

Released on Thursday by Joe Hockey, sweating like Richard Nixon under the TV lights in a news conference so excruciating that Labor posted the video on its website, they proved a fitting finale to a debate dominated by deceit and lies.

For Labor, its claim of a $70 billion black hole was shown to be the wild exaggeration it had always been.

The Coalition's final budget numbers also highlighted what some may call brilliant political strategising, but that may rank as an even grander deceit.

Despite three years of decrying Labor mismanagement and a ''budget emergency'', the Coalition has adopted the same fiscal policy as Labor. It will achieve a surplus in the same year and its $6 billion worth of extra savings represent just 0.1 per cent of GDP...

Labor has been banging on about the Coalition's $70 billion black hole near hourly for 40 days. Early on, the Fairfax and Politifact fact-checking unit found the claim false. Then one of the nation's most respected economists, Saul Eslake, published a 34-page analysis concluding that the figure was $30 billion. Still Labor persisted, along the way claiming it had discovered a $10 billion miscalculation by the Coalition (which wasn't) and that the Coalition planned to cut health spending and cut the public service by 20,000 (which it doesn't).

The government acted as if mere repetition would get it over the line. As one of its staffers put it: ''We need to repeat it until we vomit.''

The Coalition could have reassured voters that it didn't plan big cuts by bringing out its final costings document some time before the final 42 hours of the campaign. But it enjoyed watching Labor jump at shadows. Its technique of letting journalists see its Parliamentary Budget Office costings (you can look and make notes before I whisk it out of your hands) meant Labor was suckered into making claims those reporting them knew to be wrong. It was fighting an opponent it couldn't see.

The Coalition was tricking Labor, but also deceiving the electorate. Deep down the Coalition did not believe there was a ''budget emergency''.

The costings showed the Coalition's measures will blow out the budget by $33.2 billion before reigning it in by cuts and savings totalling $42 billion. The net impact, $8.8 billion over four years, is so small as to be a rounding error. It amounts to 0.1 per cent of GDP.

In essence, the Coalition has no gripe with Labor's current budget stance. The measures it proposes axe some of the burdens on business but replaces them with others. It can afford to get rid of the mining tax by axing the measures it funded and funds a generous paid parental leave scheme by slashing Australia's projected foreign aid and refugee intake.

(The collapse in revenue of the mining and carbon taxes made the Opposition's job balancing the budget much easier.)

It is housekeeping of the kind we expect political parties to make, but it's inexcusable the Coalition waited until the very end to reveal its bottom line.

Several of the measures don't seem to add up. The saving attributed to removing the low income super rebate could only be achieved if it was effectively retrospective, that is by not paying out money due this year. The money booked from the 1.5 per cent levy on big businesses to fund the paid parental leave scheme appears to take no account of the lower company tax revenues likely as businesses claim it as a business expense.

''I found that after just five minutes examining the document,'' said Sydney University accounting expert Bob Walker. ''But without seeing what exactly they are costing, many of these things are not apparent. We are shown the totals and told three wise men have vouched for them, but not shown the detail of what it is they have vouched for.''

Hiring Geoff Carmody, the co-founder of Access Economics, Len Scanlan a former Queensland auditor-general, and Peter Shergold, a former head of the prime minister's department to ''review'' the costings seems like a political masterstroke. The Coalition released none of the detailed Parliamentary Budget Office costing documents that explained how the totals were arrived at, merely the totals themselves and a one-page letter from the chosen three saying they agreed with it.

Labor has had few policies to cost. Few of its announcements in the campaign are expensive. None approached $1 billion. Like most governments, it made its big announcements before the campaign.

And, as it happens, most have been adopted by the Coalition. They are no longer in contention. The National Disability Insurance Scheme, the four-year budgeted commitment to the Gonski education reforms, the four successive hikes in tobacco excise, the bank deposit levy to fund bailouts, the emptying of inactive super accounts, they are all now Coalition policy, despite what it may have said in the past.

Andrew Robb, the Coalition's finance spokesman, says the economy was always the Coalition's strength and Rudd defied orthodoxy by challenging it. ''Rudd is the guy who squandered the boom. That's the sentiment out there,'' he said. The former Liberal Party director who oversaw John Hewson's disastrous 1993 campaign says Rudd's has been the worst he has seen.

''It has been the most undisciplined and unprincipled campaign in my memory ? by a countrywide,'' he said. ''No narrative, except 'cut, cut, cut'.''

Robb is, of course, an adversary but there are plenty in Labor ranks who express even stronger denunciations in private, including some who backed Rudd back into the leadership.

''I mean you have a Noble Prize-winning economist who says we have the best economy in the world, that it's a miracle economy. Why aren't we telling that story?'' said one senior Labor figure.

The story is that real incomes have risen for Australians over the past six years, by more than $5000 per year for the average family. Interest rates are at record lows; unemployment and economic growth at impressive levels compared to other countries and the current account deficit well in hand.

Public debt is low as a percentage of GDP. Its rise was largely the result of the stimulus package during the global financial crisis and - says Joseph Stiglitz, the economist cited by the Labor figure - protected 200,000 jobs and probably saved the budget bottom line as well, given how it would have been ravaged by a recession.

''The obsession with public debt continues to be a distraction from the more fundamental question of how to establish long-term growth,'' Stiglitz wrote this week.

By attacking the Coalition's savings and budget management, Rudd played up to these overblown fears of debt and deficit. It was a continuation of the political missteps of the Gillard government, and its untenable vows to keep the budget in surplus.

And where Rudd did talk of the government's economic record during the campaign, it was more often about AAA credit ratings, not bread-and-butter issues, such as rising living standards.

Then there were the tactical howlers, including the verballing of the departments of Treasury and Finance last week over the alleged $10 billion hole in their costings and the public servants' extraordinary decision to release a public statement to clarify their position.

Add to that the $70 billion black hole that Labor knew did not bear scrutiny; the anti-GST scare; the on-the-fly policy of tax concessions for booming Northern Territory; the anti-foreign-investment rhetoric, and it made for a confusing campaign.

As the policies came thick and fast and from all directions, it seems to have left voters suspicious and unsure about what Labor stands for.

Abbott leads Rudd on who was best to ''handle the economy'' by 56 per cent to 36 per cent, according to the latest Nielsen survey. On trustworthiness, always the Opposition Leader's weak suit, Abbott leads by 44 per cent to 37 per cent, and the Prime Minister has slid 8 percentage points since July.

Rudd's communication has been as manic as his policy pronouncements: filled with jargon, delivered at rapid-fire speed and at great length.

Overall, Robb said it reinforced Rudd's reputation for chaotic management, the reason his colleagues tossed him out of power in 2010. ''Rudd and his team thought his popularity with the voters, his personality alone, would be enough to get them over the line,'' said the Labor figure. ''There was no plan once the election had been called.''

For Rudd and his colleagues, his erratic campaign must be sobering. It was his much vaunted campaigning skills and popularity that underpinned his return to the leadership.

Now, plenty are asking if his predecessor, Julia Gillard, would have done better.

But the problem with Labor's economic narrative goes back years. Former treasurer Wayne Swan was a poor communicator, and Gillard had little impact in countering the opposition's cost-of-living scare over the carbon tax.

Australians have never taken kindly to broken promises on taxation, as Paul Keating learnt in 1996, so Gillard provided her opponent with a potent weapon.

''An economic record is something you build up over years of consistent and methodical advocacy,'' said one Labor MP and Rudd supporter. ''We spent three years obsessing about our internal affairs. We were so preoccupied with tearing ourselves apart, we didn't build our brand ? You can never do it in a 33-day campaign.''

Most tellingly, in the past two elections, Labor has been led by recently installed leaders, unable to run on the government's record. Rudd's destabilisation of Julia Gillard hurt her government and made it difficult to sell her economic competence. He reaped what he sowed.

In the end, the ultimate source of Labor's inability to sell its economic credentials - and its likely electoral defeat on Saturday - is the party's indulgent in-fighting and defective political culture.

With Tom Allard, in The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age

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