Some thoughts on the Labor leadership spill

A few thoughts on Federal politics from the last few days.

I think Gillard did some great stuff. Carbon tax (some don’t like it, but it works), National Disability Insurance Scheme, the Royal Commission into child abuse, and (along with her predecessors on both sides) keeping the economy afloat in dire economic times — and all while dealing with the challenges of a minority government, making it difficult to get anything done at all.

Introducing KevinBut for whatever reason (probably a combination of sexism and problems of running a minority government), she had zero chance of winning the next election for Labor.

Rudd is apparently a control-freak and difficult to work with, but has a small chance of winning. Small is greater than zero. And even if Labor can’t win, it’s better to have an Opposition that works than an Opposition that’s been almost totally destroyed.

Why is this important? Because the Coalition under Abbott is regressive on key points. For me, the two biggest are that they won’t fund urban public transport, only roads; and they will abolish the carbon tax even though it works.

And of course there’s Abbott’s half-baked (but most of the cost) version of the National Broadband Network — completely lacking in the vision to see the types of emerging IT-based industries that could help drive the next economic boom, as well as bring benefits right across the country, especially in regional areas, such as much better (remote) access to medical services and advice.

(I fully suspect that if Malcolm Turnbull hadn’t lost the Liberal leadership vote by a single vote, the Coalition would have a much more enlightened view on these three issues.)

One more thing: Abbott and others are criticising Rudd because he wasn’t elected by voters to be leaders. Abbott didn’t have such criticisms when Napthine took over from Baillieu in Victoria. Reality is, us voters don’t directly elect leaders. Both Rudd and Napthine are legitimately leaders.

Update 29/6: Added picture of ad for “Despicable Me” that I saw on the side of a bus earlier in the week.

Reference works part 2

In 2007, a week or so after Kevin Rudd became PM, I took a look at a bunch of online reference works, some free, some corporate, to see how many had updated their articles on Australia.

The score was 2/5 getting it right, with Wikipedia and Britannica having been updated, and Citizendium, Encyclopedia.com and CIA World Fact Book having not been.

It’s been a week since Julia Gillard became PM. How do they stack up this time?

  • CIA World Factbookhead of government: Prime Minister Kevin RUDD (since 3 December 2007); Deputy Prime Minister Julia GILLARD (since 3 December 2007)Thumbs down!
  • CitizendiumAustraliaโ€™s head of government is Prime Minister Julia Gillard of the Australian Labor Party (ALP).Thumbs up!
  • WikipediaFollowing a partyroom leadership challenge, Julia Gillard became the first female Prime Minister in June 2010.Thumbs up!
  • Britannica — You have to scroll down a long way to find the Prime Ministers list, but: Julia Gillard 2010-Thumbs up!
  • Encyclopedia.com — The default result is from the Columbia Encyclopedia, 2008, and it’s not clear if it’s been edited since then. Parliamentary elections in Nov., 2007, brought the Labor party into office; party leader Kevin Rudd , a former diplomat, became prime minister.Thumbs down!

So a better result this time around, with 3/5 correct, and Britannica Citizendium coming into the fold of having updated their information relatively quickly.

And as always, rather than relying solely on any of these, one should always seek a secondary source for important information.

Julia Gillard, Prime Minister

I for one would like to welcome our new red-headed overlord.

One of the things about the Westminster system is that if the ruling party loses confidence in the leader, they can replace him. And for those of you watching from overseas, that’s what happened this morning: Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister since the 2007 election, got the arse.

Compared to the Hawke/Keating coup of 1991, the information revolution means that this time it was possible to track this what was happening in near real time. The place to be was on Twitter — in part for the amusing comments, but if you follow the right people — in this case the senior political journalists, it’s by far the quickest way to find out the latest developments.

In this case, the (unconfirmed at the time, of course) news of what had happened in this morning’s caucus vote came from The Australian’s Samantha Maiden, a good few minutes before it was officially announced:

Labor Mp text: it’s Julia no ballot #spill

(I’d love to tell you precisely what time that was compared to the announcement, but bloody Twitter won’t tell me that. Judging from an email I sent straight afterwards, the Tweet was at about 9:27.

Edit: Tweetdeck does tell me the exact times. The announcement was around 9:35.)

Congratulations, Prime Minister Gillard. Now, let’s see you act on the things people care about, and the reasons people voted Labor in 2007 — as well as the things we most definitely didn’t vote for.

In the former category, action on Climate Change is the biggie that Rudd dropped the ball on — and something Gillard specifically mentioned in her speech. In the latter, it’s time to accept that Stephen Conroy’s Net filter plan is something that nobody voted for, admit it’s a flawed idea, and to scrap it.

Australian Age CNN BBC

Update 6:30pm Spotted this advert for Jetstar in MX on the way home:

Ha ha Jetstar ad in MX #spill on Twitpic

Thoughts on tax

The tax return

My 2008-09 tax return took ages to come back. What happened to it? An old fashioned IT screwup:

We know some people have experienced delays and frustration caused by our essential systems upgrade. Unfortunately, the size of the systems we deal with means they are incredibly complex. Also, given the importance of the tax and superannuation systems to Australia, we need to ensure the reliability of our processes.

Australian Taxation Office

Apparently an investigation has been started, though on the bright side, other than wondering why it was taking so long, it didn’t cause me any heartache.

Henry

The Henry Review and the government response were released on Sunday.

I had hopes there’d be some genuine, wide reform. Certainly Henry noted a lot of different options, some 138 recommendations in all.

With my PT hat on, the one I was watching most closely for was a rollback of the ridiculous fringe benefits tax on cars, which has a sliding scale which encourages people to drive further — and is costing taxpayers more than $2 billion per year. Henry recommended making it a flat 20% (compared to the current 7% to 26%). The government has been silent on this one though.

How about the idea of the optional tax return?

Tax returns would be made simple and effectively optional by giving everyone a automatic standard deduction for work expenses, freeing most employees from the need to prepare a return, ”instead allowing them to lodge a default return prepared by the tax office”.

Taxpayers who wanted to claim more ”would still have the option” of submitting receipts. Mr Swan said yesterday he was ”attracted to the idea” of making tax returns simpler and hinted he would announce changes soon.

The Age

Being a lazybones, I love that. I hope they do it. (Though actually I’d want to claim my donations.)

But overall, the government’s response seemed like a fizzer. Only about 10 of the 138 recommendations will be implemented — and they’ve specifically ruled out 18.

Sure, a few changes are being made, and the miners aren’t happy obviously about their new tax. (Can’t remember where I saw it, but one wag wondered how the miners might move operations offshore if it involved digging stuff out of the ground.)

But in terms of really making a difference, really simplifying the tax system, it’s ardly the kind of revolutionary reform we might have expected.

Well at least, not yet. We’ll see what happens after the election.

Working families

You can tell how much spin is going on from the number of times the tired old cliche of “working families” gets mentioned.

The count from Rudd’s interview on AM on Monday morning: 5 in an 8 minute interview.