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Dec 11, 2009

The Coalition's populism could have dangerous economic consequences

While Tony Abbott’s grave misjudgement in elevating Barnaby Joyce to a position of economic responsibility in the Opposition is already becoming apparent – along with its dangers fo


While Tony Abbott’s grave misjudgement in elevating Barnaby Joyce to a position of economic responsibility in the Opposition is already becoming apparent – along with its dangers for Australia’s attractiveness to investors – the full extent of the Coalition’s policy shift is only now becoming apparent.

This is not a lurch to the Right in the sense understood in recent decades.  It is shift toward populism – and the crassest form of populism – that entails a marked step in directions more traditionally regarded as the Left.

Abbott’s own preference for regulation over the operations of the market is apparent, placing him firmly in the populist Left on economic policy.

But disturbingly, Kevin Andrews has signalled what would amount to a disastrous retreat from the high immigration policy pursued by both sides of politics for decades, one of the key drivers and props of Australia’s economic performance.

It also suggests that notional Immigration spokesman Scott Morrison will be the moderate but ineffectual face on a hardline, populist policy driven by more extreme figures.

Andrews wants immigration reduced to around 35,000 “as a starting point”.  In 2006, net migration was 182,000; the following year, 216,000 and in 2008, 253,000.

The economic ramifications of that were neatly demonstrated on the front page of the Liberal house organ today, when The Australian, as part of its efforts to sell a new round of industrial relations deregulation, reported employer warnings of skills shortages re-emerging as unemployment peaked and began falling.

The Coalition’s response to that appears to be not merely a return to individual contracts, but to slash immigration by 85%, depriving employers of much-needed labour.

The policy prescriptions being advanced by the Coalition wouldn’t look out of place on the far Left – opposition to foreign investment, resistance to high immigration levels, support for regulation and intervention in the economy.  Cuts to immigration would also attract support from the left of the Green movement, where high immigration is regarded as an environmental disaster.

Andrews’s proposal, and Barnaby Joyce’s lunatic claims, mark not merely a retreat from the policies pursued by the Howard Government – Andrews as Immigration Minister happily presided over an Immigration program of over 200,000 – but a break with the economic orthodoxy followed for the most part by both sides of politics since the 1980s.

The exception was Labor’s period of drift away from the reformist tradition of Hawke and Keating under Kim Beazley and Simon Crean.  The Coalition now appears to be undergoing a similar, but far more febrile, version of that episode.

It will also confirm the concern of senior Government ministers that the Coalition would become desperate enough to resort to a xenophobic immigration policy in an attempt to appeal to blue-collar voters who see immigrants purely as employment rivals.

The next step may well be protectionism, especially in Government procurement.

Where are the countervailing influences in the Liberal Party that will uphold the party’s recent reform tradition?  Joe Hockey, now the most powerful moderate, lacks the policy grunt to resist the populist urgings of Abbott, Joyce and Andrews.  Nick Minchin’s ministerial record was undistinguished, mainly because he was more focussed on factional warfare than on his policy responsibilities.  He certainly failed to play the traditional Finance Minister’s role of Dr No in the final Howard term.

It will be up to the party’s key business backers to explain just how disastrous the prescriptions of Andrews and Joyce will be. It might perhaps be too much to expect the commentariat to do the same.  But one can imagine how Julia Gillard in 2002 would have been pummelled by the right-wing media if she had called for an 85% cut in immigration, or if a Labor shadow Finance minister had attacked Chinese investment and suggested America was going to default.  They would have been called unfit to hold office, and correctly so.

Let’s see if there’s a double standard when Coalition figures peddle that nonsense.

In the unlikely event that this economically disastrous populism gets Abbott elected, there’s always the chance wiser heads will prevail in government.  If it doesn’t, the Coalition will have shredded its reputation for economic competence not merely with voters but with its business base.



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73 thoughts on “The Coalition’s populism could have dangerous economic consequences

  1. caf

    Does this mean that they qualify as “so far ’round the twist that they’re coming back around the other side”?

  2. allegory

    JamesK – The current Federal debt is due to the structural deficit left behind by Howard/Costello. Simple.

  3. Swifty

    this isn’t where you order pizza…

  4. jenauthor

    The Curious Snail has “wide ranging” interview with “Joh Junior” Joyce.


    Yep — kinda says it all doesn’t it.

    I love the Ken Henry bit — shows how solid Joyce economic credentials are …. not!

  5. podrick

    The Curious Snail has “wide ranging” interview with “Joh Junior” Joyce.


    The line that sums it up for me is this little gem.

    “”My goal in politics is to get my daughters through adolescence without body-piercings or tattoos, then fix the economy,” he said.”

  6. Johnfromplanetearth

    Makes perfect sense to me!

  7. JamesK


    Which particular “poor buggers” of the “upper echelons of big business and banking” did we bail out and who held us at gunpoint?

    How much did we give them and how much did it cost us?

    Did those nasty big business/banker types threaten your Kevvie?

    How dare they!

  8. DaveOz

    Having taken an interest in U.S. politics for fifty years, and a keen interest in last year’s election, it seems clear to me that the Libs are taking a lead from U.S. (neo) conservative politics. We’re getting the rise of ‘think-tank’ opinion makers, media driven, dog-whistle, ‘confusion to the enemy’ political discourse. What happened to politicians just doing their job like everyone else? (and being honourable about it).

    So the Libs saw how successful the Repubs in the U.S. were at getting voted into office between 1980 and 2004. Is that all they care about? What about the end result of a $50 trillion hole in global financial markets, two wars, and broken health and education systems. Not to mention a lack of attention to public infrastructure. Doesn’t that count for something?

    Plus, the conservatives in the U.S. come from the former southern Democrats who were upset with civil rights, and then the evangelicals upset with Roe vs Wade. What’s that got to do with Australian politics?

    I heard Bronwyn Bishop rattle off Sean Hannity style talking points the other day – low taxes, small government, free markets. I don’t think that stuff suits Aussies. We’re just not that good at faking it, and others are too ready to say ‘pull your head in…get real’.

    Arianna Huffington (yes, I know, Huffington Post and all that), as a former Republican who got sick of it all, made a pertinent observation in her column today. It should give the Libs some pause about the path they are embarking on. We could either stick to the old OZ way of incremental advances on both sides of politics, or go with the failed experiment as played out in the U.S. Here’s what we might look like in thirty years:

    “The fight over health care reform has proven just how broken our system is — from the crippling influence of money on our politics to the misuse of the filibuster, which has taken away the power of the duly elected majority and given it to a handful of bought-and-paid-for senators. This disturbing and destructive state of affairs has created a country that is, in the words of Tom Friedman, ‘only able to produce ‘suboptimal’ responses to its biggest problems.'”


  9. jenauthor

    ‘A treasure’s job wrt the economy is to get out of the way, ensure fairness, freedom and transparency and be fiscally prudent with the Federal coffers.’

    Ahh, of course — especially the ‘get out of the way’ part so the ‘greed is good’ syndicate that happens at the upper echelons of big business and banking can feed of the rest of the world like we’re all carrion. And then, we must bail the poor buggers out when they stuff everything up (and we’re held at gunpoint in that), because if they crash and fall, we do too!

    And just quietly — how do you quantify the term fiscally prudent? Are you an expert in finance and economics? Many would say that the govt. actions in the GFC were fiscally prudent — afterall they staved off a crisis.

    Letting everything fall apart would have been fiscally imprudent and there’s no prizes for guessing that the coalition and right-wingers would be howling long and loud that the govt had thrown away all their jobs, assets and hard earned profits.

    Think it through. All it takes is logic.

    This is where Barnaby is so dangerous — confidence is a fickle thing — his recent comments were so irresponsible and illogical that I am stunned he hasn’t already been sacked from his position.

  10. Venise Alstergren

    ROLLO: Of course Barnaby Joyce sounds like a communist. He is the leader of the National Party. And what do you think the National Party is on about if not Socialism for the farmers?

    Joyce’s ambition, as it was for every leader of the Nats/Country Party, was to be the first among equals in a ruling commissariat of rurals. With everyone else working for peanuts, to support the bastards. BIONot I’m not making this up.

  11. JamesK

    What did he say about ‘World’s Greatest Treasurer’, Paul Keating?

    Personally I would give $5000 of my own hard earned for either Keating or Costello to be PM right now. Both Keating and Costello oversaw nonconservative reform that saw our economy grow at an unprecedentedly high rate.

    A treasure’s job wrt the economy is to get out of the way, ensure fairness, freedom and transparency and be fiscally prudent with the Federal coffers.

    Costello had stimulus spending during the Asian crisis. Like now there was one quarter of negative growth.

    I suggest: “The GFC did more for Rudd than Rudd ever did for the GFC”


    As for Costello and his self-proclaimed mantle as the ‘word’s best treasurer’, I’m reminded of the comment from that nest of leftwing nutbags, Macquarie Bank’s Rory Robertson: “The economy did more for Costello than Costello ever did for the economy” (or words to that effect… I don’t wish to verbal him!)

  13. quantize

    The only gasping I’ve been doing is at the one-eyed gibberish JamesK keeps posting.

  14. JamesK


    The sooner we fall behind the more time we’ll have to catch up?

  15. jenauthor

    @ James
    ‘That’s money we won’t have because of clowns like you and your infantile apologies for this crazy government.’

    Ahh James, delusions are sweet aren’t they? And hypocrisy is alive and well in the right-wing camp as well.

    We’re back to Rudd being responsible for the GFC are we? All that lost revenue is his personal fault? That premise is what is infantile.

    Our lower debt as a percentage of GDP means we can service that debt much easier.

    Our boat is in smoother waters than most other economies and we cannot thank Costello for it despite all the shrill cries from the right. Many of Paul Keating’s reforms are just as responsible — but then again, the coalits are responsible for the mining boom and China’s explosion of growth, aren’t they? Sleight-of-hand, which Costello did so well, does not cure the current problem.

    The current govt has had to address all the neglect of the previous govt. And by slow steps (and despite all the walls constantly being put up to thwart them) they are achieving those aims.

    This is a feature of Aussie politics … the Coalition runs things down (often during times of prosperity), the electorate finally gets jack of it and votes in Labor. When Labor gains power it is usually a time of looming not-so-much-prosperity. The coalits seem to have this crystal ball that allows them to escape office when the pendulum begins to swing. Funny that.

    Despite that lack of prosperity, Labor, being more egalitarian and fair-minded than the coalits try to fix all the leaks (i.e. education/health/infrastructure/pensions and so on) which obviously means spending money and then after a few years the electorate gets complacent and brings back the coalits because they continually blame Labor for the stuff beyond their control claiming they (the coalits) are the only ones with economic credibility.

    Sound familiar?

    The coalits would say that a high tide floats all ships … but if you let them get rusty and filled with holes they tend to sink. The coalits are masters at allowing the boat get rusty while they hoard riches like Croesus. In the current situation, saved money would be meaningless because it is inactive. Money that circulates — even borrowed money — will have a domino effect that keeps everyone’s hea above water. So in this case, debt is necessary!!!!

  16. blue_green

    I am with you TomBoy. As a recently converted former coalition supporter- this worries me too.

    The stubborn refusal of the right who prefered to publicly destroy their party instead of doing something for climate change reeks of fascism.

    My definition of fascism is where a small group of people think they are simply much better and brighter than everyone else and becasue of this they have the right to impose their will on the whole populace.

    We have just seen that small group of people impose themselves on a party and are now seeking to do so on everyone.

  17. JamesK

    Like I wrote in the first line of my first post on this thread:

    “It’s Leftist hypocrisy that you have to gasp at.”

  18. peach1

    Having read some of the comments here I concluded that the loonies of the opposition are being matched by an equal percentage of loony commentators on this blog.

    It’s a shame that one can’t pack all loonies on a broken off ice block at Antarctica and let them float on that melting block. If they don’t make it to dry land, tough.

  19. David Sanderson

    Jamesk buys his abuse by the trolley load from Crazy Clarks. That is why it is so cheap and low quality and a perfect match for his ideas.

  20. JamesK

    The venerable and historically significant Thomas Paine is surely turning in his grave if the Thomas Paine on this thread is even remotely related.

  21. JamesK


    $14,250 Federal debt for each man, woman, teenager, child, baby and neonate in the country is based on our projected debt…is our Federal debt.

    Squirm as much as you want, $96 billionin 1996 was 56% of our GDP.

    The reason we are ‘only’ (that’s leftist speak) 19% of GDP at present is because since 1996 we have ‘grown the pie’ ie GDP much more than inflation. Some bloke named Costello had a lot to do with it and that’s despite loon leftists calling black white.

    $300 billion is real money debt. We do not owe ratios.

    Real money interest annual payments and real money principal repayments.

    You are just another leftist merely rationalising insane spending. Reassuring only dummies like yourself that black is white.

    Nothing ever changes with clowns like you.

    Let me spell it out for the obdurate buffoons: $25 billion of interest ‘only’ repayments each year could pay for a national FTTH broadband in 18 months or myriad hospital beds, pensions, other services and other infrastructure.

    That’s money we won’t have because of clowns like you and your infantile apologies for this crazy government.

    We will not be repaying your silly-rationalising-insanity ratios. We will be repaying huge monies that can no longer be applied for the good of the nation.

  22. jeebus

    Well put, Thomas. It does seem that the coalition is obsessed with the idea of Kevin Rudd as a massive fraud, and it’s just a case of making the people see. Their whole election campaign involved throwing buckets of mud at him (attacking his childhood memories, Scores, earwax, Chinese connections), and they’ve continued that strategy in opposition.

    It’s not classy, and it’s not very effective.

    It seems the only way to unite this Coalition rabble of agrarian socialists, well to do moderates, and religious fundamentalists is by attacking a shared enemy, but time in opposition is supposed to be when you get your house in order, and if this is no longer possible then perhaps it is time for a political separation of these incompatible ideologies.

    @JamesK – Don’t divert off to the states. Your diatribe was about Rudd and national debt, which I pointed out is smaller than every other OECD country save Russia. Government debt is not a fundamentally bad thing, if it is used to support the economy when private debt becomes scarce or expensive, as was the case this year.

    You can’t run the finances of a country with the same mentality as a home or small business, which is what terrifies me about Barnaby’s pronouncements. Australia will end up a basket case if this Coalition front bench finds its way into office.

  23. Thomas Paine

    So we have come two years and the Liberal and Nationals have not learned on single thing about being in opposition. And it is due to their inability to consider that Rudd won on his merits and has been governing quite well.

    So off they initially went in the belief that if they scream and shout loud enough the public will at last realise that Rudd is some fake and thus run back to the Liberal Party.

    Then the right wing MSM began to see that Rudd’s honeymoon wasn’t a honeymoon, the public actually thought he was performing to their expectations. So it has been a continual campaign from them in concert with the Liberal Party to try and sully Rudd and the government. But the Liberals keep acting like teenagers and shooting themselves in the foot.

    Having failed that campaign it was the grand Grech conspiracy they hoped to run. And there we had in the Parliament the opposition asking question which obviously foreshadowed knowledge of an email that was supposed to appear from the Senate hearing. It was a set up to run the misleading parliament deal, which was pretty weak intself anyway, except the MSM had arranged to blow it up in to something massive. But bad luck the right wing media hacks and the Liberals as the fake was soon outed and they with egged faces.

    The Opposition have behaved liked spoiled and sulking children all along and lazy to boot.

    The only thing they have not tried and which blind freddy could have told them they should do from day one, is make themselves look like a responsible, credible and intelligent opposition, instead of all the screaming and shouting and contrariness.

    Well they have hit rock bottom with Goebbels type thinking. Now they think if they put out enough propaganda to appeal to base emotions they can scare up enough public division to bring people to their side. Joyce in Finance is the obvious confirmation of this ploy as nobody could imagine he had any credibility or ability on the issue.

    Instead they will start to sound scary, and cooky.

  24. Thomas Paine

    Keane is right in that if people from an opposition Labor party had said these things they would have kicked from dawn to dusk by the MSM and labelled dangerous morons.

    If Andrews and Joyce in government instituted their thought bubbles as policy it would a guaranteed path to the country’s ruin.

    [advocating zero-net migration]

    So I gather Andrews must have a simultaneous policy of delaying the pension to 80 as the elderly will never by allowed to retire or could we afford to pay them.

    Even a year 11 practice shadow cabinet would produce better than Abbott’s present lot.

  25. Bullmore's Ghost

    ^ Kevin Andrews would look more at home in a funeral director’s outfit.

  26. Venise Alstergren

    I take issue with that statement Bernard. I’ve been saying Oz is over populated for the past ten years or more, and Populate and Perish has always been my theme. I think-in order to be fair to everyone-that the government should make a two child policy for everyone.

    Kevin Andrews is yet another Catholic card-carrier who would look more at home in a cardinal’s outfit. Stuff the influence of big-business-no country can be allowed to have a never-ending production line of clones. Just so they can keep the factories making business a fortune.

    And no-one, ever, ever, ever has accused me of being populist

  27. jackle

    The Nats have a proud and long history of agrarian socialism – single-desk wheat board, for example.

  28. beachcomber

    Re Andrew Bartlett (re Abbott and Hansonism) maybe David Oldfield is back in Abbott’s employ as Chief of Staff.

  29. Rollo

    It has to be said: Barnaby is sounding like a Communist.

    The Coalition have gone feral. Really. If I was a dinky-di Libs supporter, I would seriously be worried about what Abbott, Andrews, and Joyce are saying each day; total fluctuations in their message and Abbott has basically gone rogue. Someone said in another thread that Joe Hockey just didn`t seem like he wanted to be there when being interviewed because he knew he couldn`t sound convincing while the Carnival swirled around him.

    Do any of the Coalition supporters in this thread really think a coherent message is being made? Or that the ALP aren`t meekly batting these statements of profound lunacy away at the moment on purpose? Do you not think the ALP machine isn`t drooling at every soundbite they can make into an ad?

    There is no coherency to the Coalition at the mo. They are just blurting out the first thing that comes to mind that sounds oppositional. They are taking every opportunity in the media to be heard rather than bunkering down and having at least a semblance of strategy and cogency of thought.

    The only thing they have going for them is if Copenhagen breaks down. That is the only thing they have. You don`t build a house on a rolling mudslide and you don`t build a cogent thought-plateau on what you can not control. You don`t rule out mechanisms for futurity just so you can so you are different.

    I would really like to know from the Coalitionists who reside here in the Crikeysphere if they think the Coalition is being convincing.

  30. beachcomber

    In just a few days, the Opposition has shown it is erratic, incompetent and undisciplined.

    Abbott may be the most erratic. He tells us one day that he does not believe in Climate Change, then tells us he’s a greenie and will have a Climate Change Plan in the New Year. Then he tells us the world is not warming, it’s actually cooling. I’m uncertain what planet he is on, but if is Earth he must be taking something. Now he has shown he can’t add up and made an error of billions in his costings. And he is the Leader?

    And now Joyce is running around like Chicken Little saying the US is going to collapse, and Queensland is going to collapse, and it’s all awful, and how he wants to move to the Lower House, and how China is horrible and we should not deal with them, and then says the next thing that pops into the space between his ears. And he’s in charge of the money!

    Next Kevin Andrews, a failed Immigration Minister, is speaking outside his portfolio and wants to slash immigration to a fraction of what he and Howard allowed.

    And Bronny hasn’t started up yet. Wilson Tuckey must be wondering why he missed out on a job if the other idiots made it.

    It’s going to be a long summer.

  31. MrRyan

    Holy God, The conservative party (liberal? really) has no chance as long as it’s fielding fruit loops such as Dennis Jensen.

  32. sean

    Is that the same andrew bartlett who’s running for the greens this time around? God spare us..

    You cannot spout on about the environment and the seriousness of Global warming and maintain at the same time that Australian immigration should be sustained at the current level (the highest growth rate in the world). THis is not some lunatic argument but a pretty mainstream environmental argument – from everybody from tim flannery to Ross Gittins to Bob carr.

    Yes, I know Andrews is flagging it for craven, opportunistic populist political reasons but that should not mean that any broaching of the issue is off bounds.

    We know Bernard that as population explodes so does GDP. Its a sheer weight of numbers thing. So what. Are they better off in the US cos they’ve got 30 times the population of oz. If you stopped fetishising economic growth you might actually begin to appreciate the things that actually matter – liveability, quality of life, space, the environment etc. Until you do, stop going on about how all this shambolic climate politics and the stupidity and cynicism of it all is driving you nuts..

  33. elvis

    Lets leave left and right to one side for a tick

    It appears to me relating to immigration we have embarked on the ultimate PONSI scheme of proping up an unsustainable (exponential growth) economic system of consumerism at all costs to maintain what was previously created.
    While also persuing an equally damaging short term sell off, of as much energy, for a cheap price, to keep a floundering short sighted “kitch buying” metality prolonged.

    Government debt levels etc are a result of a greedy and endulged population and the above mentioned PONSI system.

    Anyone for massive population growth with agribusiness and water supply dependent on declining and in the near future more expensive oil?



    JamesK, is the Governor of the Reserve Bank a ‘lefty’ too? ‘Coz he sure doesn’t sound one tiny bit concerned about the government’s debt levels, and if they were so astronomical as to be a problem, he’d be the first one to say so.

    Maybe you ought to learn some basic economics instead of repeating the hysterical claptrap of yokels like Barnyard.

  35. JamesK

    So…Jeebus $14,250 Federal debt for each man, woman, teenager, child, baby and neonate in the country is just dandy?

    That excludes State governmental and personal debt of course.

    Being reassured by a lefty that their spending of other people’s money is just dandy is on a par to being reassured that that Mr Baldy is a safe bet for your childcare needs.

  36. jeebus

    @Jen & JamesK – it’s facile to measure public debt in absolute numbers, when what really matters is its percentage of the national economy. Compared to America’s 51%, the UK’s 67%, and Canada’s 71%, Australia’s 18% is positively rosy.

    Considering our economy is growing at a reasonable pace again, JamesK’s hysteria is (as usual) completely overblown.


  37. JamesK

    Well Jovial, I prefer Costello’s $20 billion in the bank after repaying $96billion over 9 years type “(v)ery, very poor economic management” to Rudd/Swan’s $135 billion withdrawal over two years with an overdraft facility to $300 billion type “(v)ery, very poor economic management”.

  38. Jovial Monk

    $175Bn is due to loss of tax receipts. Mostly due to Costello’s structural budget deficit becoming a cash one with the GFC.

    Howard & Costello spent too much on pork & tax cuts and got away with it because the economy was booming. Very, very poor economic management, much like Howard as Treasurer in Fraser’s cabinet, 21.36% cash rate and 10% unemployment and $9Bn deficit.

  39. JamesK

    Debt = p × (1 + r)t

    Debt = 96 × (1 + 0.03)13years

    Debt = $141 billion at a 3% inflation rate

    Equals less than half Rudd’s projected $300 billion

  40. jenauthor

    ‘It only took Rudd 2 years with a starting point of more than $20 billion in the bank.

    Those billions just roll off the tongue and pen these days don’t they?

    Children are in power now. Or maybe teens on speed.’

    Translating Keating’s $96b in today’s terms it would likely be more. And there’s an old adage — you need to spend money to make it. Would you take out a home loan knowing you’ll repay more than twice the value of the property — most Aussies do. At times debt is a necessity — in th GFC the alternative would be unthinkable.

    Those in power are not children or thinking like them. It was a rational response to a serious problem.

    Those who say different would probably stand by and watch someone bleed to death whilst deciding whether to call an ambulance or a taxi!

  41. george


    “Anybody who knows their ancient history will realise the government simply used the Periclean principle when fighting the GFC. Pericles took Athens from poverty into riches in a few short years by putting everyone to work on public construction etc.”

    Absolutely correct!

    And what public construction did the Rudd gov. spend it on? Schools. As Dr. Gruen points out from Treasury (and as reported by Poss recently), there was a distinct reason why the Government sent loads of cash to Schools (footnote #2 in the online report):

    “The largest component of the investment spending, the school-based infrastructure spending, has a number of elements to enable speedy construction. School land is available immediately without the need for planning approval; hence no planning delays. Further, schools chose from standard designs rather than developing their own, to speed up construction. School-based infrastructure spending has the advantage of providing stimulus to almost every population area of the country; useful because the economic slowdown was expected to be geographically widespread. Finally, school infrastructure projects have low import content, which raises the domestic stimulatory impact. Kennedy (2009) provides more detail on features of the stimulus package designed to ensure that it translated into spending in the economy as rapidly as possible”

    The full speech is well worth the read:


  42. JamesK


    I can’t see how unless you speak a foreign version of English of which I have been unaware.

    $115 billion debt is already a record and it will at least double despite the good news on employment. So probably less than $300 billion but not more than $70 billion less.

    Remember Keating’s $96 billion?

    It only took Rudd 2 years with a starting point of more than $20 billion in the bank.

    Those billions just roll off the tongue and pen these days don’t they?

    Children are in power now. Or maybe teens on speed.

  43. jenauthor


    Your inference was that it would be double the already published projections … thus $600 billion (in your figures).

    Current assertions are that the max figure will end up no where near the projected $300 billion because govt revenues will be much higher than expected since employment has remain relatively stable (and not escalating as projected) and business has continued to chug along despite the pessimism from some quarters.

    Anybody who knows their ancient history will realise the government simply used the Periclean principle when fighting the GFC. Pericles took Athens from poverty into riches in a few short years by putting everyone to work on public construction etc. Their economy surged to form what is remembered as a Golden Age.

  44. george

    This is what the Liberal party does, and I’m glad it’s pushing them even more to the extremes. The fantasy, from them and some of their MSM supporters, has always been that “the Libs are the better economic managers”.

    Really? And a party that is truly a better manager of the economy needs to vilify people, spread lies about refugees, create hysteria about “boat people” coming to “get you”, and cater to the racists in our society?

    No, it’s because they have nothing to offer in the way of real governance that they need to flame the racism and ignorance, and pander to the 10% of Australians that sway one way or another based on their “understanding” of what is happening around them.

    I’m not saying for one moment that the Labor party is perfect, but there’s a kind of unique vile scum that will use human pain and suffering to procure votes, and they tend to be found under the rock that is the Liberal party.

  45. JamesK


    The Federal debt is reported as $115 billion now.

    The Budget Forecast was for it to reach $300 billion.

    That figure, you should recall, was one neither Rudd nor Swan were apparently able to articulate no matter how many times nor in how many ways reporters asked.

    115 goes into 300 more than 2 and a half times to be not even precise.

  46. Rocket Rocket

    The lack of discipline by Andrews and Joyce is breathtaking. All it needs is one interview of Tony Abbott – “Mr.Abbott, do you endorse the views of you colleagues as expressed today?” – would be interesting.

    Actually I can’t believe Abbott was so stupid as to put Barnaby in Shadow Cabinet. I predict he won’t stay there long – he’ll “storm out” to make some Nats v Libs point to try and shore up the Nats vote.

  47. john2066

    This would make sense except if you read Kevin Andrews’ comments, he has no intention of cutting immigration at all, he’s just vaguely floating a balloon about a ‘starting point’ to pick up votes. When in power I can guarantee the Liberals will continue the bipartisan policy of insanely high immigration.

  48. jenauthor

    What planet are you on, James?

    The way things are looking — things are going to be better than previous projections … I’ve seen no sane projections that say the debt will double — it should be less than expected with the latest figures.

    Unfortunately for the Libs — they really have no credible leg to stand on when criticising the govt on these issues. Thus we have people like Barney making up populist stuff, I guess they’re hoping to divert the electorate from the truth. Alas, I don;t think they have a hope of that!

  49. Gary Johnson

    Strewth Bernard, only the Rudd govt has had a “westpac “mortgage on populism ever since it was elected…it’s a gimme mate…to try and foist that on the coalition at this point in time is a little bit weird. I am completely apolitical, but can’t you say one bad word about the Labour govt…and just maybe one little bitsy witsy good word about the coalition?…some balance perhaps??…

  50. JamesK

    It’s Leftist hypocrisy that you have to gasp at.

    The swing to the left (and not the good kind but the nutter self labeled ‘progressives’) of Labor under Rudd is not the issue but the swing right of the Coalition.

    It’s not the usual Labor fiscal insanity apparently in question but the Liberals and that’s despite these loons driving the Federal government into more debt than ever before in history with projections for that to more than double.

    Despite all that its Labor that are fiscally responsible according to Swan and now Bernard Keane.

    Now sooner out of one puppet’s mouth than out the other.

  51. jeebus

    You’re not wrong, Bernard. All of the parties shifted to the right during Howard’s time in leadership, with Labour colonising the centre-right, and the coalition building their new base over conquered One Nation heartland.

    With Rudd’s election, the pendulum has begun to swing back to the left, and Turnbull was attempting to re-take some of the conceded middle ground by adopting a few progressive policies.

    The old guard was having none of that, though, and now the Coalition finds itself in the grips of a populist political revolution that will fail, for the sole reason that it was initiated from the top down, rather than the ground up.

    There is no mass unrest in the electorate agitating for a revolution, and there will be few receptive ears for the fire and brimstone spewing forth from Abbott’s front bench. The economy is doing well, and most people are relieved that Australia escaped the global recession.

    Viva la moderation!

  52. Altakoi

    You’re right, it is getting dizzying watching the Libs vear from free market, globalisation idealogs to economically protectionist, socially isolationist and, apparantly, in favour of stern regulation of the banking sector in the public interest. Are they channeling the old labour party? Would be nice to have at least one labour party back in Australian politics but I am not sure I can be convinced of Abbotts sincerity.

  53. David Sanderson

    The Abbottonians are moving towards rank populism but it is easy to over-estimate how frightening that is.

    Firstly, after their first flush of enthusiasm the Abbottonians will be forced to moderate somewhat by party hard heads, moderates and their friends in the business world.

    Secondly, rank populism is by its nature erratic and difficult to control and that is likely to accelerate the fissuring of the party. Rank populism is likely to do much more damage to the Liberal Party than to the body politic as a whole.

    Thirdly, rank populism is just not that popular. If it was Hanson would now be PM. It does seem to threaten a destabilisation of the political consensus but that threat creates a defensive reaction which is much stronger than the populist threat. The major cost of populism is a hardening of social divisions, especially around race, and we are likely to see a rise in the kind of Hansonist racial conflicts that culminated in the Cronulla riots. Rank populism allows the small minority of extreme bigots and racists to feel they have greater social sanction to act out their aggressive or violent fantasies.

    So, rank populism is a very regrettable development but it is not ultimately a threat to the political order and its biggest threat is to the party that embraces it.

  54. Bolly Knickers

    Most Peculiar Mama….damn straight you are. Very peculiar. Strange.

    “Your increasingly shrill and myopic partisanship is getting boring.

    Today marks the arrival of the 54th asylum seeker boat laden with wealthy Sri-Lankans in Australian waters this year.”

    Clearly, you are another ignorant Australian who has NO IDEA what is going on in terms of asylum seekers, who they are, and the conditions where they are coming from. You don’t know…and obviously don’t care judging by your own MYOPIC and xenophobic shrill.

    It’s a good thing you didn’t let on about your own conservative views…just in case anyone thought you were being partisan or anything.


    yeah, Possum, why do you use facts so much? Is it because you can’t make up your own reality like MPM?

  56. Grog

    [Let’s see if there’s a double standard when Coalition figures peddle that nonsense.]

    Of course there will be.

  57. oldskool

    @ MPM

    Seriously, NOT commenting in an Australian blog about an article in foreign press, regarding population issues, when BK is discussing Australian Politics is SO not Cherry Picking!!!

    DO you get 2UE on that hat?

  58. jenauthor

    ‘Your increasingly shrill and myopic partisanship is getting boring.’

    Sweetheart — yours is worse than myopic — yours borders on the legally blind! Cherry-picking data goes both ways …every ‘grab’ from interviews or speeches automatically loses proper context. And giving a one line answer to an interviewer on a grossly complex problem also changes context.

    And, of course, people hear what they want to hear (I readily admit I do too but at least I don’t pretend I have all the answers like some newly elevated coalition pollies). Thus all of Rudd’s reviews — not being expert he goes to experts for advice — to my way of thinking a sensible option — afterall if I were building a house I’d get a builder to do the work — not a farmer, or a lawyer or an accountant.

  59. Ian Bryant

    I thought nobody cared about the boats any more. It was only a small article on page 2 of today’s Tele.

  60. Most Peculiar Mama

    @Possum Comitatus

    Don’t trip over that double-standard will you dear.

    I see Bernard cherry-picks data to suit his argument…much like yourself.

  61. Jackon Taylor

    Most Peculiar Mama,

    There are clearly more illegal entrants in Australia due to visa overstay who arrive at airports rather than by boat. Your obsession, as well as that of many in the community and a large slice of the media, with boat entrants is truly bizarre. I cannot help but feel it is more of an emotional issue than a logical one.

    Also, the claim that the Sri Lankans who arrive here are ‘wealthy’ is highly unbelievable. If they were wealthy they would surely have obtained tourist visas, entered by commercial airplane and applied for refugee status once they arrived onshore. The prospect of your family drowning in a leaky boat is unappealing when the option of a comfortable flight is available.

  62. Dotty Daphon

    Hey, leave vegans out of this!

  63. The Zebras

    Most Peculiar Mama – “pwnd” WANKER!

  64. Possum Comitatus

    [Why is this not seen by you as having “dangerous economic consequences”?]

    Yeah Bernard – why aren’t you writing about the Canadian press on an Australian blog you pinko!

    MPM – it’s the proof we need that Mr Keane is part of our communist vegan overlords.

  65. Tomboy

    Good article Bernard. Hey, I used to be a Liberal supporter, but over the last couple of weeks, can’t do that anymore. Since they dumped Malcolm, this bunch is starting to look very scary. What you rightly say about the crass populism and their appeal to some directions traditionally regarded as left is beginning to look like similar movements in the 1930s in Europe (I don’t recall Mussolini or Hitler encouraging market deregulation and free-trade). I don’t make that comparison lightly…my family of origin were victims of both fascism and communism in Croatia, and this stuff is starting to look awfully familiar, particularly in respect of the former.

  66. Smithee

    If high population equalled prosperity then Bangladesh would be a superpower and Finland would be in the third world.

    This article is just the usual left-wing propaganda that won’t admit alternative positions or policies.

  67. Most Peculiar Mama

    I note one of Canada’s main media outlets (right-wing Bernard??) are calling for a global One-Child policy to combat “climate change”.

    Seems an entirely sensible idea…and is the elephant in the room at Copenhagen.

    Why is this not seen by you as having “dangerous economic consequences”?

  68. Most Peculiar Mama

    Your increasingly shrill and myopic partisanship is getting boring.

    Today marks the arrival of the 54th asylum seeker boat laden with wealthy Sri-Lankans in Australian waters this year.

    Laughably, and with no small degree of irony, you seem fixated on seeing this issue as a Coalition problem.

    “…But one can imagine how Julia Gillard in 2002 would have been pummelled by the right-wing media if she had called for an 85% cut in immigration…They would have been called unfit to hold office, and correctly so…”

    Overlooking your fervent desperation to believe in “right-wing media” exists (or existed) in Australia, I believe Ms Gillard can hoist herself on her own petard without your assistance:

    …transcript from the Sunday program, Sunday October 18, 2009

    Laurie Oakes: I’ve got here a shadow minister’s press release headed, “Another boat on the way. Another policy failure.” Do you agree that every boat of asylum seekers that arrives represents a policy failure by the Government?

    Julia Gillard: Well, what I believe, Laurie, and what I think we can see from the conduct of the Opposition, is they’re all about playing politics with this issue. They say a lot of inconsistent things. Some days they’re in favour of temporary protection visas. Some days they’re against them. Some days they’re in favour of the Howard Pacific solution. Some days they’re against it. Each and every day they’re playing politics –

    LO: But what about you? What about you? “Another boat on the way. Another policy failure.” Is that right?

    JG: Oh well Laurie, I think what Australians know and what the Government knows is that we live in a world where people get displaced from their home countries for a variety of reasons. We’re seeing the aftermath of a civil war in Sri Lanka, for example, so people move because of that kind of violence. What, obviously, the world wants is for people, if they have to flee their homes, to then stop when they can get in contact with responsible authorities, like the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees, and have their claims processed. What we don’t want is we don’t want people risking long and dangerous journeys overseas where they might get into distress and get into real difficulty.

    LO: You see, that press statement is dated April 23, 2003, and it’s issued by then shadow minister Julia Gillard. So why is one boat arrival then a failure of government policy, but 30-plus arrivals this year is not a failure of government policy.

    Julia Gillard.



    …well, not the ridicule it clearly deserves, and especially not from the Oz.

  70. aubrey conversely

    “Joe Hockey ….. lacks the policy grunt to resist the populist urgings of Abbott, Joyce and Andrews.”

    Or to do anything useful at all, really.

    It looks like Abbot has distributed his old DLP song books to the team.

  71. Andrew Bartlett

    For those who thought Kevin Andrews’ performance regarding Mohamad Haneef demonstrated how poorly he understood migration matters, this latest outburst confirms it in spades.

    Mr Andrews has been reported as saying immigration numbers are “pretty much plucked out of thin air” – a truly astonishing piece of ignorance from someone who only recently actually had the responsibility for setting the numbers for our migration intake.

    I thought those advocating zero-net migration (approx some number of permanenet arrivals as permanent departures each year) had a poor enough idea of reality. But Andrews is suggesting we aim for negative migration, while at the same maintaining the extraordinarily expensive and inefficient baby bonus to encourage people to have more children.

    I am curious what happened to the idea of shadow ministers speaking within their portfolio. It seems under Tony Abbott’s lead, every shadow minister has got free reign to give voice to every thought bubble on any topic.

    I’ve seen some comments wondering why Tony Abbott didn’t find a shadow position for Pauline Hanson, but it looks like she’s advising them on economic and immigration policy.


    It takes a huge lunge to the Right to propel yourself around to the meet the extreme edge of the Left head on, but it occurred to me yesterday that this is precisely what they’ve done.

    Thanks for fleshing out the details of this bizarre bit of contortion, but I’ll not hold my breath waiting for the MSM to hold it to ridicule.

  73. shepherdmarilyn

    What economic competence? GST? Foreign debt? Wasting mining booms?

    I know, they wasted $3 billion locking up refugees and more billions killing them in their own countries before they could be refugees.

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