Class warfare within the Coalition?

  1. What do the Libs have against the poor Nats?
  2. Direct action debate needs to be less black and white
  3. Centrelink changes may help those missing out
  4. This Christmas give the gift of good ideas
  5. Recent publications
  6. Recent media

What do the Libs have against the poor Nats?

While National Party voters may have breathed a sigh of relief when the government rejected the foreign take-over of Graincorp, the decision throws up interesting questions as to what the Nats were prepared to take off the bargaining table in return.

For example, did National Party Leader Warren Truss and his Deputy Barnaby Joyce give the go-ahead for the legislation to repeal the Minerals Resource Rent Tax (MRRT) to be linked to the abolition of the Low-Income Superannuation Contribution (LISC)?

If they did, then they sold out a large number of their constituents. If they didn’t, then they should pay better attention to the legislation they are being asked to vote on.

The Low-Income Superannuation Contribution assists low income earners by boosting their super contribution. The payments are made in addition to the guaranteed contribution for those on incomes up to $37,000. People eligible for the contribution have up to $500 per annum paid into their superannuation account.

An analysis by The Australia Institute of 2011 census data shows National Party electorates make up five of the top six areas where workers will be most affected by the abolition of the LISC, including Warren Truss’ seat of Wide Bay.

Our analysis also found that the Liberal Party and the ALP hold the ten seats where workers will be least affected. These include the electorates of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Treasurer Joe Hockey and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

On average, 41 per cent of workers in National Party seats will be impacted by scrapping the contribution – that drops to 34 per cent in areas held by the Liberals and the ALP. The impact on Mr Truss’ own electorate will be above the average, with more than 44 per cent of workers in his seat missing out on the low income super contribution.

While the Prime Minister’s obsession with scrapping the mining tax has been plain for all to see, what is less obvious is why the National Party has been willing to hang the retirement income of so many Australians, overwhelmingly in rural and regional areas, out to dry.

To read the transcript of Richard Denniss and David Richardson from The Australia Institute giving evidence to the Senate inquiry into repealing the MMRT click here.

Direct action debate needs to be less black and white

Since the election of the Coalition government, the debate over climate change has centred on a carbon price versus direct action. While this debate has played out in Parliament and via the national media it has obscured other important aspects of how Australia is going to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

The first important point is that reducing emissions does not have to be a polarising us or them fight. If Australia wants to effectively fight climate change then it is going to need both a price on carbon and direct action. The fight against smoking has not involved one group claiming that a tax on cigarettes is the only solution while another side claims that only an advertising ban will work. Rather, the effort to reduce smoking has included both these strategies and many more.

There are times when the market is the best way to reduce emissions while at other times government incentives are the most effective. Indeed the carbon price legislation introduced a number of direct action measures but you would never hear a Labor politician describe them as such. The contracts for closures which set aside money to buy up dirty brown coal power stations and shut them down were an example of direct action. The Clean Energy Finance Corp (CEFC) which gave out loans to low emissions technology, was another example of direct action.

The other area that has been obscured in the direct action debate has been the emissions reduction target. A five per cent target on 2000 levels by 2020 is woeful by any standard. If the rest of the world were to adopt the same reduction target as Australia we would not avoid dangerous climate change.

Why is this important in the direct action debate? Direct action will struggle to make a five per cent reduction in emissions and has no chance of making a 25 to 40 per cent reduction by 2020. This is because direct action is very good at catching cheap ways to reduce emissions that the market for various reasons can’t create an incentive for, but it is not effective at reducing emissions on a large scale. Large scale emissions reductions are most effectively achieved with a carbon price, whether it’s an Emission Trading Scheme (ETS) or a carbon tax.

If Australia wants to effectively reduce its emissions then it is going to need both a carbon price and direct action. Meeting a target that is designed to do our share of avoiding dangerous climate change is not impossible or even particularly expensive, but it does require enacting good policy and that more than anything is the biggest hurdle that Australia faces.

To read the Institute’s research paper The real cost of direct action: an analysis of the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan click here

Centrelink changes may help those missing out

Long-time readers will recall that The Australia Institute has examined who is missing out on Centrelink support and the challenges those people face getting information. For an organisation administering Australia’s welfare safety net, Centrelink had not gone out of its way to find eligible recipients or to inform them of what they could or should be receiving. Some groups of potential recipients were better informed than others and the onus was on individuals to inform themselves of available benefits.

Contrast this with Centrelink and the Tax Office using data-matching techniques to track down welfare and tax cheats.

So we’re pleased to see that Centrelink is now taking a more proactive approach by offering a payment finder link on its homepage which links to a checklist of potential benefits. Users select their age and choose the boxes that best describe their situation and a list of applicable benefits and support that they may be eligible for is generated.

This is a welcome change and removes an initial hurdle for people once they have arrived at the Centrelink homepage. Of course more could be done, such as a subsequent income assessment page that provides further indication of likely eligibility and payment rates. Providing a reference number (possibly texted to a person’s phone along with details of their nearest Centrelink office) for such online enquiries would act as a first step to completing the forms required for an application.

Centrelink has demonstrated its ability to improve access to support services; further improvement could ensure even fewer Australians miss out on government assistance they are entitled to.

This Christmas give the gift of good ideas

The National Retail Association has estimated that Australians will spend $40 billion in the lead up to Christmas. That’s a serious boost to the economy, but have you ever wondered just how many presents are unwanted or will go unused?

A survey conducted by The Australia Institute reveals that millions of Australians receive and give Christmas presents that will go to waste. Last year, 38 per cent of people surveyed received gifts that they did not want. Even more shocking, one third of people surveyed – the equivalent of 5.8 million Australians – said this year they expect to give presents that they think will go unused.

Yet, one in two respondents said they would be happy if someone donated to charity on their behalf rather than receive a present.

And this is where a gratuitous plug for The Australia Institute comes in!

The Australia Institute only exists because of generous donations from people like you. If you’d like to give The Australia Institute a Christmas gift you can make a one-off donation, or become a regular donor online or call us on 02 6130 0530.

Or, if you would like to give the gift of good ideas you can also make a donation on behalf of friends or family.

Donations of $2 or more are tax deductible.

Every cent will go towards more ‘research that matters’ and making 2014 a more progressive year for Australia.

Donate here

Recent publications

Submission to the Senate Inquiry into Minerals Resource Rent Tax Repeal and Other Measures Bill 2013, R Denniss and D Richardson, November 2013 

Is fracking good for your health?, J Moss, A Coram and G Blashki, November 2013 

Hard to get a break?, P Cameron and R Denniss, November 2013

What Australians don’t know about CSG, M Grudnoff, October 2013

Recent media

MRRT and low income superannuation, WA Today, 3 December 2013

Free trade, Australian Financial Review, 3 December 2013

Coal seam gas, Channel 10, 28 November 2013

Go Home On Time Day, Channel 10, 20 November 2013

Work-life balance, The Drum, 20 November 2013

Coal seam gas, ABC The World Today, 18 October 2013 

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