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The coming Oz election thread ...

 
 
msolga
 
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 08:08 am
A place for A2Kers from Oz to share their thoughts on the election campaign (which is very obviously underway, judging from the zillions of our taxpayer $$$$ being spent on government current "information" blitz ...)


First question:

Your response to the Labor Party caving in on the PBS increases.
What did you make of that?
Has Latham lost his nerve - & credibility?
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msolga
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 08:21 am
I was extremely disappointed that the Labor party didn't stand its ground on this one. Opposing the proposed increases would have been entirely consistent with what many (most?) Labor supporters expected: opposition to the increases on the grounds that they increased the cost of medication to the most vulnerable in the community. I think Latham did his credibility some real harm by supporting the government position.
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Wilso
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 08:25 am
I've been concentrating on other things (in my life I mean) but that's real bad news. I s'pose it highlights how little real choice that we've really got. Is this tied in with the US free trade agreement. If so then what he's done is caved in to US corporate greed.
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msolga
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 08:45 am
I haven't come across any media commentators who have linked the increases to the PBS to the Free Trade Agreement proposals, Wilso. ( Not that I'm saying there isn't a connection - Who knows? Confused ) In fact there's been very little explanation about the Libs proposal in the press at all .... Most of the publicity has been about Labor "caving in." The reason given is that the savings they make will help fund their (Labor's) other proposed programs.
Of course, I don't believe a word about the (inevitable?)FTA agreement having no impact on the cost of drugs in Australia. So the elderly, unemployed, the seriously ill could be slugged twice - once by the government increases, then by the FTA. Grim stuff to contemplate! Sad
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Wilso
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 08:50 am
All we're hearing about now is how the Lib's are "strengthening" medicare.

Yeah. I feel real comfortable when conservatives talk about protecting social programs!!! (stated with a note of obvious sarcasm)
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msolga
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 08:50 am
And what about the "Family Bonus" schamozzle? What a farce!

Liberals in disarray over family bonusBy Josh Gordon
Economics Correspondent
Canberra
June 30, 2004

The Federal Government is in disarray over the handling of its $600 family bonus, after confirming that people who have been overpaid the pre-election sweetener can keep the extra cash.

Family Minister Kay Patterson and Treasurer Peter Costello both insisted yesterday that people paid in error could keep the money. Just hours later, however, Prime Minister John Howard said that overpaid families should give the money back.

The confusion followed a leaked Centrelink email instructing the organisation's debt recovery team that overpayments should be clawed back only in cases of fraud.

"For customers who are trying to return the money and feel that they have been overpaid, we have to return the money to the customer as they are legally entitled to this payment," the email said.

The Government yesterday stated it could not say how many people had been overpaid or by how much.

But Mr Howard said he was worried that the Centrelink message "sets the the wrong tone".

"I don't accept that if somebody is accidentally overpaid they shouldn't pay the money back and I have sought advice and information," Mr Howard said.

The one-off $600 bonus for about 2 million families was announced in the May 11 budget as part of the Government's "barbecue stopper" pitch to working families with children.

The legislation, with the support of Labor, was rushed through Parliament last month so that families could get the bonus before July 1. Another $600-per-child bonus will follow in the new financial year.

From July 1, workers earning more than $52,000 will also get tax cuts and mothers will be paid a $3000 non-means-tested baby payment.

Senator Patterson said the legislation for the $600 bonus intentionally did not include provisions to recover overpayments. "A decision was made in the instance of a one-off payment any chance of an error was very small and that these families have been paid according to the legislation," she said.

Treasurer Peter Costello said everyone was fully entitled to whatever they received. "We just want everybody to have $600 per child, per annum," Mr Costello said. "And so they are entitled to it. Some of them are saying, 'well maybe I wasn't entitled to it'. No, everybody is entitled to it."

Opposition family spokesman Wayne Swan accused the Government of engaging in a hypocritical, cynical vote-buying spree.

"The Government has pursued overpayments in the family payment area, in the youth allowance area and age pensions with a vengeance and it has hunted down people for the money," Mr Swan said.

"Suddenly on the eve of the election, a directive goes out that the election bribe should not be recovered from people who've been paid it twice."


Senator Patterson was last night forced to issue a clarifying statement saying families worried they had been overpaid the bonus would be "encouraged" to pay the money back.

"While these families have been paid in accordance with the legislation, Centrelink will be contacting them and if families consider that they have received more than they are entitled to they will be encouraged to pay back that amount," the statement said.

Australian Democrats leader Andrew Bartlett said the Government had rushed its family bonus legislation through Parliament and should considering amending it.

"If they are going to be in any way genuine in their long-standing rhetoric about people only receiving money they are entitled to, then they should pursue that line," Senator Bartlett said.

"But obviously they don't want to upset the people whose vote they want to buy.
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Wilso
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 08:52 am
msolga wrote:

The Federal Government is in disarray over the handling of its $600 family bonus, after confirming that people who have been overpaid the pre-election sweetener can keep the extra cash.



Some of the biggest stories of the last few years have been about people being forced to pay back overpaid family payments. Now they're saying they can keep them? Could there be an election looming?
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msolga
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 09:01 am
Could be! Laughing

According to the ABC news tonight there are people who've received 3 times the amount that they should have received from the "baby bonus".
The whole thing is such a cynical exercise in vote-buying & was cobbled together & rushed through parliament to get the payments out quickly .... in a lump sum, rather than instalments.
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Setanta
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 09:04 am
We're fond of saying here that we have the best government money can buy. Seems that might apply there as well . . .
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nimh
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 09:07 am
An American take ...

Quote:
DAILY EXPRESS
Down Underestimate

by Alan Wirzbicki

Only at TNR Online
Post date: 06.29.04

Later this year, John Howard, Australia's prime minister, may become the second leader of President Bush's coalition of the willing to lose his job. Howard, who has been in office since 1996, faces a tough challenge from antiwar Labor party candidate Mark Latham in elections that could take place as soon as August. Not surprisingly, Iraq is high on the agenda. Most Australians opposed the war, and Latham, to the consternation of U.S. officials, has promised to bring Australia's 850 troops home by Christmas.

Australia's troop contingent is small, but the Bush administration has made a big deal about the race. Earlier this month, the president attacked the Labor leader during a joint Rose Garden press conference with Howard. "I think that would be disastrous," he said in response to a question about Latham's pledge to withdraw from Iraq. "It would embolden the enemy who believe that they can shake our will." Other high-ranking U.S. officials have also stepped in to criticize Latham. Bush's ambassador to Canberra, former Texas Rangers co-owner Tom Schieffer, has repeatedly warned Australian voters that a Latham win would hand terrorists a victory.

American officials are not only pulling for Howard, but making noises about U.S. retaliation if Australia chooses Labor instead. In March, Schieffer hinted darkly at "very serious consequences" if Latham wins and carries out his withdrawal pledge, a comment widely interpreted in Australia--where the entire episode is front-page news--as a threat to the longstanding U.S. military alliance. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was more ominous, suggesting Australians "ought to think what it would be like without this relationship." So far, though, Bush's campaign hasn't worked. According to an opinion poll published last week, 56 percent of voters, including one-third of Howard supporters, opposed Bush's meddling in their affairs. The same poll found that Latham leads the race overall, 52 percent to 48 percent.

But whatever the outcome of the race, the administration's strident interference has already exposed just how unhinged Bush's worldview has been made by the chaos in Iraq. U.S. officials are plainly willing to make Iraq the determining factor in America's bilateral relationship with even an ally as close as Australia. "Bush is making Iraq a test of the alliance," Hugh White, the head of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told the Age newspaper. "Latham is saying the alliance is bigger than Iraq--Bush is saying 'No, it isn't.'"

This message has the virtue of being clear. It also has the drawback of being, well, crazy. After all, as many bewildered Australians have pointed out, the punishment threatened by the Bush administration seems way out of proportion to the crime. Labor's proposed troop withdrawal would have a negligible effect on the coalition's military operations in Iraq. During the initial invasion last year, Australia supplied 2,000 troops, including special forces and combat units, to the U.S.-led effort. But over the past year, the size and nature of the Australian contribution has changed. Those combat troops have been withdrawn, even as the guerilla insurgency goes on, without complaint or threat of retaliation from the Bush administration. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the Australian presence now amounts to 250 troops actually located in Iraq--60 air traffic controllers at the Baghdad airport, 90 military guards, 60 soldiers training the Iraqi armed forces, 15 "analysts and technical experts" searching for WMD, 12 sailors, and 13 liaisons to the Coalition Provisional Authority. Soldiers based in neighboring countries account for the rest of the remaining 850 Australian troops in the Middle East. Removing them would not cause major military problems; Iraq's interim finance minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, interviewed by the Herald after Latham made his controversial pledge, told the newspaper that "the sky won't fall in. As long as we do not have chaos, [the Australian troops] leaving by Christmas will not be an issue."

Of course, the real effect would be symbolic. Withdrawing Australian troops would have a political impact beyond their military significance, and that's what seems to be at the heart of the Bush administration's fears. In his Rose Garden appearance with Howard, Bush said that if Australia abandons the Iraq mission, it would "dispirit those who love freedom in Iraq." Howard has taken the same line domestically. Taking troops out of Iraq, he said earlier in June, "would not only have a real, but also a symbolic, effect in relation to the most critical international issue that the American administration faces at the present time."

But for the Bush administration to punish Australia would be highly symbolic, too. And what it would symbolize is that the administration has lost all perspective on Iraq. After all, this is Australia we're talking about, the land of Mel Gibson, violent contact sports, and Rupert Murdoch. France it is not; Australia has been an exceptionally loyal (and in the eyes of some Australians slavishly loyal) ally during the past few decades. No matter what Latham does if elected, the fact will remain that Australia helped fight the war in the first place, back when its boots on the ground really mattered. If the world comes to believe that in U.S. eyes Australia's sacrifice counts for nothing--that a U.S. ally as historically close as Australia can be excommunicated by a single-minded Bush administration--it sends a clear message that cooperating too closely with the Americans is a no-win proposition. Ornery American conservatives expect French goodwill from World War II to last forever; but ours apparently expires after 18 months. If that's the way we treat Australia, what other countries are going to participate in Iraq's reconstruction?

Indeed, our clumsy intervention in the Australian elections only makes it less likely that Australia and other countries will want to contribute to the Iraq mission. Latham faced pressure from the pro-American wing of his party to soften his pledge, but now, following Bush's intervention, he can't back down without appearing to cave to U.S. pressure. Armitage tried to lower the temperature recently, saying the Australian alliance was "sacred" and would survive disagreements over Iraq. But the damage has been done. "[Bush's] statements will merely serve to harden attitudes on both sides of the debate," the Age said in an editorial. Instead of a low-key disagreement between allies over a tiny troop contingent, this fight is now a big deal. And since the negative effect of an Australian withdrawal would be almost wholly symbolic, the bigger a deal it is, the more damaging the whole episode is to our national interests. That is, a quiet, barely noticed withdrawal--like the withdrawal of combat troops already ordered by Howard--would not "embolden" the enemy nearly as much as a dramatic, highly publicized withdrawal in which Australia is seen to be defying threats from the United States. Yet the latter is exactly what the Bush administration has now invited. In the end, the prediction that an Australian withdrawal would "dispirit those who love freedom in Iraq" may turn out to be true. But only because Bush said so.

Alan Wirzbicki is a writer living in Washington, D.C.
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sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 09:20 am
Great article.

Maybe this'll make an enemy of Rupert Murdoch. That could be interesting...
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msolga
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 09:22 am
Oh the Oz/US "special relationship"! Would you believe that a constant criticism thrown at Mark Latham (Oz Labor Party leader) is that he is "anti-American" on numerous issues, including withdrawing the troops from Iraq, the proposed FTA agreement with the US, to god knows what else! It's absolutely infuriating! Evil or Very Mad

I wish I had more time to comment, but it's heading for 1:30 am & I have a meeting tomorrow morning. But it's a topic I find fascinating & I'll interested to see what others have to say. Thanks for the article, nimh!
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 03:52 pm
Frankly, I'm too scared to look...
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 04:42 pm
But - I think the PBS thing is as illy storm in a teacup.

Presumably, if you are poor and sick, you just hit the safety net that much sooner?

For the rest of us - well, I assume some number crunching was re-done and they couldn't guarantee funding for core programs if they didn't go with higher costs. C'est la vie - having to crunch numbers and make hard choices is what government/politics is all about.

It is like a form of tax - and I don't think we should ever have had the previous tax cuts - not with health and education falling apart - I would happily pay more tax to keep a good societal infrastructure going - even though I stupidly live from pay cheque to pay cheque.
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msolga
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 04:54 pm
But - I think the PBS thing is as illy storm in a teacup.

I absolutely disagree with you, Deb. It will make a huge difference to someone on a low income dependent on regular drugs. (e.g.: a friend of mine suffers from (very serious) asthma & has to buy the appropriate drugs on a regular basis. The extra $$$ are not a drop in the ocean, I can assure you. And imagine how the extra costs will affect people on fixed, low incomes who are dependent on regular medication - the elderly on pensions, the unemployed, those with dependants. The increases can easily be absorbed by anyone in regular work on a respectable wage, but not for the people I've mentioned here.

I think, quite rightly, Latham is perceived as having failed the very people that you'd expect that Labour Party would be most concerned with. Where does it leave them, now?
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 04:57 pm
As I said - the safety net kicks in for low income earners, Msolga.

I can see that folk on a fixed income - if they do not qualify for a health card - may be in trouble.
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msolga
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 05:00 pm
... and symbolically, it sends out the message that Labor has a lot more in common with the Liberals than Latham has been suggesting. A very depressing situation for those of us who are longing for serious & more compassionate approach after years of the Liberals. An unfortunate issue to compromise on, in my opinion. I want a REAL change.
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 05:02 pm
Bush's disapproval of Latham - and attacks on his policies - which have received shocked disapproval (interfering in sovereign nation's internal politics) here may well get Latham across the line!

On some occasions, Murdoch has actually flown back to Australia to supervise personally his papers' campaigns against Labor during elections (I saw an interview with him once, where he said as much: "I gave them a chance in 1972, but now they have to go." He said as he flew in from England)
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dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 05:03 pm
msolga wrote:
... and symbolically, it sends out the message that Labor has a lot more in common with the Liberals than Latham has been suggesting. A very depressing situation for those of us who are longing for serious & more compassionate approach after years of the Liberals. An unfortunate issue to compromise on, in my opinion. I want a REAL change.
\


Good luck!

Labor, in common with left of centre parties world wide, has been drifting to the right for decades.
0 Replies
 
dlowan
 
  1  
Reply Wed 30 Jun, 2004 05:12 pm
Hmmm - Libs breaking ranks: (But, I hear them say, it's only a goil)

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,9995761%255E2702,00.html
0 Replies
 
 

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