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  • Writer's picturePete Jonson

Saturday Sanity Break, 17 September 2016

Congratulations William Coleman, Peter Costello and Paul Kelly. Finally the start of a serious discussion about Australia's core ideology. Are we the land of laid back egalitarian mateship according to the famous 'Australian settlement'? Or are we a dynamic, successful society determined to survive and prosper thanks to bold economic reforms. Were the reforms introduced by the Hawke-Keating government and continued by the Howard-Costello government an aberration or the new Australia?

Congratulations to Coleman and his writers for a book that asks relevant questions. Congratulations to Costello for launching Coleman's book. And to Paul Kelly for this long, thoughtful essay of the book and its review in today's Oz. Sadly, the news seems to suggest we are back in the Age of Aquarius.

At more or less the same time as Coleman's launch, there is (finally) some faint praise for the Turnbull, Morrison, O'Dwyer government for finally discovering some ability to manage a House of Representatives with a tiny majority and a Senate with a large and fractious set of cross-benchers. Of course, the passing of the 'omnibus' set of cost savings involved implementing some of Labor's electoral package, so it is hardly a triumph of herculean magnitude. And the first phase of 'reforming' superannuation policy (alternatively 'fixing a bugger's muddle') is finding a way to win over the government's own back bench.

Only time will tell if further good sense will be achieved in dealing with the real crunch issue for the Liberal heartland - what is to be done with taxation of earnings on assets in self-managed superannuation funds in excess of $1.6 million? Henry has agreed he and his family would (unhappily) cop the proposed tax if others were treated equally. What about conflicted Canberra fat cats on defined benefit pensions with implied asset bases of $5 - $10 million? What about welfare junkies living on the government teat for generations? What about people with 5 to 10 houses negatively geared? And, by the way Kelly, people with self managed super funds are very likely to join the ranks of the negative gearing rorters.

Still, all is not lost. The front page of the Oz today reports that a major consulting house has freshly discovered the truth of the old saying: 'If you give a man a fish, you help him out for that day. If you teach a man to fish you help him out for life'. Of course, half of all Australians have found out how to get more from the government than they contribute. Which means the self-reliant half are getting less. Not that we mind helping the genuinely disadvantaged, unable to do their own fishing. We do not, however, enjoy having increasing amounts of our daily fishing catch ripped off us to feed able bodied people lolling in hammocks on the riverbank.

The great debate is how to fix the budget deficit. The Coalition wants to do it by cutting spending. Labor wants to do it by increasing taxes. Henry is in the cutting spending school. But here is a point of political common sense. The polls, as well as the latest election, have the major parties at 50: 50. Why doesn't some political genius suggest that the budget is fixed by half tax increase - say by relevant hikes to the GST, with the Super tax increases to make the 'rich folk' contribute - and half by spending cuts. The details could be worked out by a joint main-party committee. The result could be called 'The new Australian settlement' in Paul Kelly's next book and the parliament could get on with debating the policy reforms that will return Australia to its status as one of the world's most progressive and dynamic nations.

The sporting life.

It's finals time in all the footy codes. Henry had the great pleasure to be taken by son Bert to the 'G' last night to watch the semi-final between the 'Threepeat' Hawks and the Western Bulldogs - 'The Bullies' for short. For the first quarter and a half the Bullies were the bullied. They looked flustered and while winning many contests were failing to get the ball between the big sticks. One dopy umpire took a rare goal off them after endless replays suggested a threatpeat player had touched the ball off the boot.

Meanwhile, the slick, suave Hawks effortlessly kicked and handballed their way up the ground like the gentlemen players of nineteenth century cricket. (One imagined them in frock coats with handlebar moustaches, hardly raising a sweat.) Goal after goal ensued, apparently effortlessly, and Henry and Bert began to feel they were in for a disappointing night. But wait, halfway through the second quarter, the Bullies goaled. And goaled again. And again. On the siren they should have hit the front but a potential goal was only a point. The potential Threepeaters went off looking rattled.

And came out after the break, still rattled. Soon the Bullies had achieved a 50 point turnround and the game was over. There were 87 thousand fans at the game, and 80 % of them were supporters on the night of the Bullies, who were faster, harder and above all looked far more like they wanted to win. They saw off the gentlemen and with every goal the 'G' rocked as it has rarely rocked. As the 3AW commentator said: 'Even the members are up and about', meaning presumably off their couches and cheering with the rest of the non-Hawke former Threepeaters.

Apologies for going on, dear readers, but it was a game for the ages, and if the Bulldogs' famous first lady, Julia Gillard, had been beside Henry rather than in New York quaffing champagne, Henry would have hugged her. Henry hopes the boys from Caaaaarlton! were watching carefully. An awful lot depends on a team's will to win.

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