Scott Morrison is gearing up for day two of the virtual G20 Leaders’ Summit hosted by Saudi Arabia.
The prime minister is attending the meeting from his office at The Lodge in Canberra, while he quarantines following his trip to Japan last week.
The coronavirus pandemic was at the centre of leaders’ discussions during day one of the summit.
This included calls for more co-ordinated international action to respond to the crisis, greater preparedness for the next pandemic, and making a vaccine and treatment “safe, affordable and available to all”.
“No one is safe until we are all safe,” many leaders agreed.
The need to support the World Health Organisation’s work was deemed critical to identifying pandemics early.
Mr Morrison and several others also noted the key role hope would play during the pandemic recovery, adding the progress on vaccine trials were part of that.
He told the summit that Australia’s response had been “relatively successful” in terms of suppressing the health impact and cushioning the economic blow with unprecedented fiscal support.
“With 75 per cent of jobs coming back Australia is now looking to build for the future,” Mr Morrison said.
Most leaders supported extending debt relief for vulnerable countries, and there were calls to keep trade and supply chains open, and for safe cross-border travel to resume.
Changes to the World Trade Organisation to help boost economic recovery across the world were also discussed.
Scott Morrison has denied tensions with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews will undermine the pair’s first meeting since the state’s second wave outbreak.
The federal government has clashed with Mr Andrews this year over his strict lockdown measures, demanding the Victorian government expedite its reopening plan.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg accused the Premier of “a callous indifference by the Victorian government to the loss of jobs in the state” over extended lockdowns.
Mr Andrews responded by describing Mr Frydenberg as “not a leader, just a Liberal”.
But ahead of his first in-person meeting with Mr Andrews since the clash, the Prime Minister insisted the pair had “maintained a very good working relationship all the way through”.
“We get on just fine. I’m looking forward to catching up with him this afternoon,” the PM told 3AW radio.
“Of course, there have been a lot of difficult issues. From time to time, there have been some disagreements. I think people understand that.
“We’re both leaders, him of Victoria, me of the country, and it’s our job to work together. We’ve never lost sight of that.”
Although the lockdown had “significant costs associated with people’s livelihoods, we’ve come out the other side”.
“The only real issue was towards the end, about what time you start to move open again”, Mr Morrison said.
Mr Morrison is in Melbourne to announce an $800 million plan to build the southern hemisphere’s largest vaccine manufacturing plant.
The facility will be built by Seqirus, the vaccine arm of biotech giant CSL, as part of a $1 billion deal with the federal government. It will produce flu vaccines to be used at home and exported overseas.
The agreement will also ensure supply of medical products that would otherwise need to be sourced from overseas until 2036.
The Prime Minister argues the facility will boost Australia’s economy in the short-term, and its medical capabilities in the long-term.
“There could be another pandemic, so to have this capability at an upgraded level is very important. This is for the future, but is also creating economic opportunities right now. (It adds) security around our supply chains in a critical medical area”, he said.
Adam Scott has rebounded brilliantly from a bout of coronavirus to lead the Australian assault at the Masters.
English golfer Paul Casey leads the Masters after an 7-under opening round of 65 at Augusta
Three players are two shots back, and another eight are on 4-under, including defending champion Tiger Woods and Australia’s Adam Scott
Not all golfers were able to finish, as darkness fell with 43 players still out on the course
The 2013 champion was 4-under through 10 holes, trailing clubhouse leader Paul Casey by three shots, when the opening round was suspended due to darkness at Augusta National.
Fellow Australians Marc Leishman and Jason Day overcame rough starts in wet conditions to card 2-under 70s to also be well in the mix.
Played in November for the first time due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the opening round was delayed by thunderstorms for almost three hours not long after it began on Thursday.
Diagnosed with COVID-19 last month, Scott was sitting in a tie for fifth spot after reeling off four birdies in a flawless front-nine 32.
Leishman and Day were sharing 21st position, five shots back of Casey, who notched a sizzling 7-under 65.
But it could have been worse as things looked bleak for Leishman and Day early on.
In one of the first groups to hit the course, Leishman had missed the 10th green in regulation before the horn blew to stop play, the first time an opening Masters round has utilised both the first and 10th tees due to daylight concerns.
When play resumed, the Victorian was unable to get up and down for par and stayed 1-over until a brilliant approach to the par-five 13th from the pine straw set up an eagle putt from 3 metres that he duly buried.
A further two birdies on his round were countered by just one more bogey on the 17th hole, a welcome sign after six months of struggling with his game.
“I could have shot a really low score today so it’s a little frustrating to miss some chances but, given where I’ve been leading into the tournament, I’ll take the 70 and move on,” Leishman said.
“Hopefully I can keep hitting it this well.
Day opened with two bogeys in his first seven holes to look out of contention before a run of five birdies in his next seven had the former world number one rocket up the leaderboard.
But just as he was looking ominous, he dumped his approach shot on the par-5 15th into the water and took bogey.
He almost found the water on the par-3 16th, too, but saved par before also signing for a 70 on his 33rd birthday.
Cameron Smith was even par through 10 holes at the close of play.
Amateur Lukas Michel settled for a 4-over 76 in his Masters debut, the highlight coming with a chip-in birdie on the iconic par-three 12th from a putrid lie off the green.
Casey finds energy, early lead at Augusta
No spectators, no roars.
But Casey still had no problem finding enough energy from the sheer mystique of the Masters on Thursday.
His 65 matched his lowest score at Augusta National and gave him a two-shot lead among those fortunate enough to get in 18 holes before it was too dark to continue.
“So many people like myself are just excited to play this,” Casey said. “This is a treat. It always has been and always will be a real treat.”
The autumn Masters brought a different course, some of that courtesy of the weather.
The downpour that began about 30 minutes after Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player hit their ceremonial tee shots, coupled with a November tournament with some Bermuda grass that still hasn’t gone dormant, left Augusta National soft and vulnerable to low scores.
Defending champion Tiger Woods even got into the act. A notorious slow starter despite his five green jackets, he played his first bogey-free round at any major in 11 years and matched his low start at the Masters with a 68.
“I put a lot of it together today,” Woods said, his only regret not making a few more putts.
He finished with eight pars.
Two groups ahead of Woods was Bryson DeChambeau, who smashed shots into trees and one into the azalea bushes behind the 13th green.
He was lucky to find it because his provisional shot went into the creek. He still made double bogey, though he managed to scratch out a 70.
So much action, typical of the Masters, and so little volume. And it was worth the wait caused by COVID-19.
“I was vocal earlier in the year about not enjoying golf in a pandemic,” Casey said. “I didn’t know how the fan-less experience would be and so far, I’ve not enjoyed it.
The excitement for Casey began on the fearsome 10th hole when he hit his approach to a front pin about five feet away for birdie. He had eagle chances on both par fives on the back nine and settled for birdies. He took on a left pin at the par-five second with a six-iron and watched the ball plop six feet away for eagle.
“You can’t hit that shot in April,” he said. “It pitched and stopped instantly, and that shot in April would have one-hopped over into the patrons.”
Webb Simpson shot 67, including an eagle on the second (his 11th). He was joined by Xander Schauffele, a runner-up to Woods last year, who had seven birdies in his round of 67.
Lee Westwood shot 31 on the front and limited the damage on the back for a 68, joining the group that included Woods, former Masters champion Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama and Louis Oosthuizen.
World number one Dustin Johnson was among the 43 players who will have to return on Friday morning to finish. He opened with an eagle on number two and was 3-under at the turn. Justin Thomas started with three straight birdies and was at 5-under through 10 holes.
Rory McIlroy also played in the afternoon, made bogey on his first hole and was struggling to make birdies. He was even par at the turn, which felt worse on a day like this.
The delay was the last thing the Masters needed with limited daylight hours leading to the two-tee start. Every minute counts, and it was doubtful 36 holes could be completed by Friday.
The loudest cheer — applause, certainly not a roar — came for Nicklaus and Player hitting tee shots so early that they couldn’t see where they landed.
Five groups got through one hole before the siren sounded to stop play for 2 hours, 45 minutes. And then players began to light up the course as the clouds moved to the east and those famous shadows from Georgia pines stretched across the fairways.
It looked just like the Masters, minus the spring blooms, even if it didn’t sound like it.
Scott Morrison has warned the nation to prepare for allegations of “serious and possibly criminal conduct” by Australia’s defence force in Afghanistan that could see soldiers prosecuted for unlawful killings.
The Prime Minister revealed today a special investigator will be appointed to consider allegations of war crimes by Australia’s soldiers in the Middle East following the completion of a long-running defence investigation into the claims.
“This is going to be very difficult for Australians. It is going to be very difficult for our serving community and our veterans community,’’ Mr Morrison said.
“It is going to be difficult for all of us. But what we are seeking to do, as a government, I think what we have to do as a country, is to absorb this in a way that enables us to uphold the integrity of our justice system and uphold the integrity of our defence forces. We rely vitally on both of these institutions, absolutely vitally.
“Given the likely allegations of serious and possibly criminal misconduct, the matters raised in the inquiry must be assessed, investigated and where allegations are substantiated, prosecuted in court. To undertake this role, the government is establishing the Office of the Special Investigator.”
Defence Minister Linda Reynolds confirmed the scandal could involve stripping soldiers of medals if misconduct is proven and they are ultimately convicted of crimes.
“The CDF is considering all of those options,’’ she said.
Senator Reynolds said 39,000 Australians had served in Afghanistan and the report in “no way” undermined the work of the vast majority of these soldiers.
“They served with great distinction and 41 Australians lost their lives in that process,’’ she said.
“Today we have, as minister, I could not be prouder of the work our men and women are doing on bushfire and COVID-19 assist.
Mr Morrison said the unredacted report made for disturbing reading. A redacted version is expected to be released by the Australian Defence Force next week.
“There is some disturbing conduct here, but we cannot then take that and apply it to everyone who has pulled on a uniform and if we did this, that would be grossly unjust, grossly unjust,’’ the Prime Minister said.
“I know that wouldn’t be the view of people here or in government or anywhere else. We all share a deep respect for our defence forces, but we also share a deep respect for justice. It is about managing those two issues to the highest standards I think we place on them in Australia.”
Mr Morrison said the soldiers would be dealt with through “Australian justice” if charges are ultimately recommended.
Asked if this would mitigate against the possibility that soldiers could be called before the International Criminal Court, the Prime Minister confirmed this was the case.
“We believe so, yes. That is the important advice we have taken on this. We need to deal with this as Australians, court our on laws, through our on justice processes and we will and I think that will say a lot about Australia,’’ he said.
“Of course this report will be difficult news and all of our partners must be assured and those around the world who rightly hold the Australian defence force in high regard, I believe by the process we are outlining to you today shows why that is the case, that in
The report will not provide a brief of evidence however, with the Prime Minister describing the appointment of the special investigator as the “next step” rather than a new process.
“Some very serious issues were raised regarding conduct by some members of Australia’s special operations task force in Afghanistan. It is our Australian way to deal with these issues with a deep respect for Justice and the rule of law, but also one that seeks to illuminate the truth, but also seeks to understand it because that is what must drive our response,’’ Mr Morrison said.
The Prime Minister said the process would be allowed as much time as it needs to work through the complex legal issues involved.
The ex-lover of Liberal frontbencher Alan Tudge has lodged a formal complaint over her treatment in parliament revealing she believes she was “black-listed” by the Liberal Party as the Prime Minister was accused of “mansplaining” to a female minister.
Taking to social media to directly challenge the Prime Minister Scott Morrison, she said on Tuesday that it was never just about a consensual relationship in the workplace.
“ScottMorrison, it’s not about the #bonkban It’s about how I was treated in our workplace, which ended my career!’’ Ms Miller said.
“Those Ministers were promoted, I was black-listed. I made a formal complaint, will you ensure it’s investigated?”
The wife of former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull also weighed in with support for Ms Miller on Tuesday after watching the expose.
“Totally unfair on women like Rachelle Miller caught in this. However consensual relationships are, women pay the price,’’ Lucy Turnbull said.
Ms Miller worked as a press secretary for Mr Tudge when he was in human services, admitting the working relationship turned romantic in 2017, a decision she ultimately bitterly regretted.
Earlier, Scott Morrison demanded journalists stop referring to a “bonk ban” when it comes to workplace rules prohibiting senior ministers having sex with their staff describing it as demeaning a serious issue.
“Sorry, how this ban is referred to I think is quite dismissive of the seriousness of the issue and I would ask the media to stop referring to it in that way,’’ he said.
“We took it very seriously and I think constantly referring to it in that way dismisses the seriousness of this issue, it’s a very serious issue. Thanks.”
But it was his decision to jump in and answer the question after the social services minister Anne Rushton was asked for her reflections on being a woman in politics that prompted social media to erupt that the Prime Minister was “mansplaining”.
“Scott, just let her speak,’’ Labor frontbencher Penny Wong said on Twitter.
On Monday, the former press secretary Ms Miller revealed she had an affair with Mr Tudge while working in his office and was left feeling like “damaged goods” after he asked her to war-game denials.
Ms Miller told Four Corners that Canberra could be a “highly sexualised environment.”
“I don’t for a moment kind of say that all the men were predators and all the women were victims, but, you know, it was a highly sexualised environment at times, and I think that’s a consequence of the stress,” she said.
“It’s kind of that “work hard, play hard” mentality that I’ve seen before early in my career And there is a kind of … an almost gung-ho kind of mentality by a lot of the senior males that they’re kind of almost beyond reproach, like, they can just get away with things. And nobody calls that behaviour out.”
The program detailed Mr Tudge’s conservative views and his public reservations about changing the Marriage Act to include same-sex couples.
After the affair ended, Ms Miller said she was later demoted in a restructure and felt she had no choice but to leave politics.
“I knew I was leaving a job that I really loved, but I didn’t see that there was any other way out,’’ she said.
“You know, I actually at that time viewed myself as damaged goods and I was really worried about this coming out and impacting our chances at the election.”
Mr Tudge said in a statement: “Matters that occurred in my personal life in 2017 were aired on the ABC’s Four Corners program.
“I regret my actions immensely and the hurt it caused my family. I also regret the hurt that Ms Miller has experienced.”
In 2018, Mr Turnbull rewrote the code of ministerial standards to ban ministers from having sexual relationships with staff
However, the affair Ms Miller took place in 2017 when Mr Tudge was in Human Services, a period in which she also later moved out of his office and into another minister’s office.
As a result, there’s no suggestion that Mr Tudge was in breach of the code, which only applied to sex with staffers in your office.
Four Corners did not claim that any senior minister had breached the “bonk ban” or the code of conduct.
The broadcast of the program last night follows allegations raised by Four Corners executive producer Sally Neighbour that the political pressure applied to the ABC had been “extreme and unrelenting.”
But he repeatedly declined to say if he had ever had a sexual relationship with another Liberal staffer.
“I’m not even sure the program made that allegation,’’ he said.
“They (the ABC report) indicated I had, I think implied that I had with a person I had a drink at a bar with and I said to Four Corners that their depiction of those interactions in that bar three-and-a-half- years ago were wrong. I told Malcolm there was no substance to rumours around that bar story.”
When asked again if he had ever had a sexual relationship with a staffer, Mr Porter said: “I’ve answered your question.”
Mr Porter insisted his looming divorce from second wife Jennifer Negus was not because of “this sort of stuff”.
“I feel so desperately sorry for my beautiful wife Jen that she had to watch all of that and see this stuff from university and see it cut up and chopped up in that way,” he said.
“Now, like any couple we had our ups and downs and problems and difficulties and I would say I was far from a perfect husband in many regards but our separation was not about this sort of stuff.
“I’ve never breached that ministerial code of conduct and there’s never been any suggestion I have.”
Adam Scott suspects golf officials could react with rule changes if Bryson DeChambeau backs up his US Open demolition at Augusta National this week.
Adam Scott says he believes Bryson DeChambeau’s ‘arm-lock’ putting technique will eventually be banned
DeChambeau’s prodigious length off the tee has prompted many to suggest the rules around technology in golf need to be changed
Scott has recovered from coronavirus and says he is ‘happy with [his] game’ ahead of the Masters
Scott, the man who broke Australia’s Masters hoodoo in 2013, predicts another DeChambeau performance like his six-shot win at Winged Foot will see change in the game.
Just not the change many may expect or hope for.
DeChambeau has been the centre of debate in the golf world after adding considerable length to his game over the past 12 months.
The now jacked-up 27-year-old consistently hits drives well over 300 metres with a current average of 344.4 yards (315 metres). He has recently shown proof of breaking the 400-yard barrier on his social media pages, creating fear he will overpower the storied Georgia course.
But while the distance debate rages on, Scott believes rule makers will attack DeChambeau on the greens first, much like they did to him.
DeChambeau uses a putting technique known as arm-lock, where he “locks in” the top of the grip against the inside of his arm. It has proven to be decisive as he went from 145th in putting on the PGA Tour in 2017 to a career-high 10th last season.
Scott famously won the Masters using a long putter and anchored stroke, a tactic that was subsequently banned in the sport.
“I tried the arm-lock method and, to be honest, it was more anchored than anything I was ever doing. So I can see them taking action like they did before to me and others for sure,” Scott said ahead of his own Masters tilt.
“Based off Bryson’s results, especially if he continues the way he is going, and of course if the trend sees more and more players using it, it would be no surprise to see it banned.
“The reality is, it’s not easy for other players to add that much muscle to your body but it is easy to change your putter.”
Temperatures and forecast rain for the postponed November Masters could also play into DeChambeau’s hands as balls fail to roll out on the softer fairways.
“Over the past 10 years, Augusta has turned into a bit of a driving golf course and it’s very advantageous if you have a good balance of being long and hitting fairways,” Scott said.
“Tee shots now outweigh how important the short game and putting is here, which was not historically the case.
“If Bryson is 30 yards in front of people, then that’s like Tiger in 1997.
“But he still has to keep it between the trees. If he hits it far and accurate and continues to putt well … we will have our work cut out because it adds up to he’s going to be in contention.
“But I’m happy with my game and am excited to get out there and see how it stacks up.”
Scott Morrison is “bumping the government forward increment by increment” on the issue of climate change as the Prime Minister faces heat from international leaders to step up Australia’s action on the issue.
On Monday, Mr Morrison defended his government’s actions on climate change in a debate with Labor leader Anthony Albanese, saying he will stand firm on climate policies despite Australia’s emissions increasing year-on-year.
It comes as US President-elect Joe Biden signals he will demand more from America’s allies — including Australia — despite what has been a difficult issue for Morrison’s Liberal party and which threatens to leave Australia “globally isolated”.
The President-elect has pledged to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 and have zero emissions from the electricity sector by 2035.
It comes as a former US government official, Kim Hoggard, warned Biden’s presidency will add more pressure on Scott Morrison to create positive climate change policies.
“That will put some pressure on the Australian government to respond maybe on carbon emission targets and it’s an opportunity for the Australian government to rethink it’s position around that,” Hoggard, who worked under the Ronald Reagan and George W Bush administrations, told 2GB.
Former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was famously dumped from the Liberal party and later said it was “influenced by a group that is denialist and reactionary on climate change”, according to The Australian.
In an interview with The Guardian, Mr Turnbull said the party had struggled on the issue from as far back as 2007.
Last week, it was revealed a group of international leaders, led by Britain and France, penned a letter to the PM on October 22 to make new commitments to the climate crisis, calling on countries to rebuild “in a way that charts a greener, more resilient, sustainable path”.
Accused of “leaving Australia behind” by Mr Albanese on Monday, Mr Morrison resisted pressure to set more ambitious climate goals but said he would work with Mr Biden on issues including climate change.
“Australia’s policies will be set in Australia and nowhere else for Australia’s purposes,” the PM said.
The Prime Minister said his government had a plan to achieve emissions reductions under the Paris Agreement yet he warned other countries would not influence the federal government.
“We would be welcoming the United States back into the Paris Agreement, somewhere we have always been,” Mr Morrison said.
“We met and beat our Kyoto targets, and we believe we will do the same when it comes to our Paris commitments as well.
“Australia will always set its policies based on Australia’s national interests and the contributions that we are making in these areas.”
Yet according to one expert, it seems the Prime Minister has a plan of action.
The Guardian’s Katharine Murphy told ABC’s The Drum on Monday afternoon that the PM found himself in “difficult territory”, as popular opinion on climate change grows and the pressure heats up. Despite this, he is “bumping the government forward increment by increment on the issue.
The political editor said while he may want to affect change, he is constrained by the inner politics of his own party.
“This is really difficult territory for Scott Morrison,” she said.
“He is trying to step off the abject wrecking of the past but is constrained by forces within his own political organisation.
“If he stood up tomorrow and said, ‘fair cop, we’ll do net zero by 2050’, the National party would go berserk.
“The Coalition has become very adept at weaponising climate change in election contests.”
Mr Albanese accused the government of lacking a climate change policy but Mr Morrison said on Monday Australia would reduce emissions using its “technology road map”.
“It’s not one size fits all in terms of the commitments that are out there. Our goal is to achieve that as soon as you can,” he said.
“But we’ll do it on the basis of the technology road map, and so we have the technology to achieve lower emissions in the future. You’ve got to have the plan to get there.
“The US will make their decisions based on their interests and their capabilities and how their economy is structured and we’ll do the same.
“Our 2030 targets are set and we will meet them.”
In a heated question time, Mr Morrison also blamed the lack of clarity on the question of cost.
“Until such time as we can be very clear with the Australian people about what the cost of that is and how that plan can deliver on that commitment, it would be very deceptive on the Australian people and not honest with them, Mr Speaker, to make such commitments without being able to spell that out to Australians.”
It comes as Warringah independent MP Zali Steggall introduced a climate change bill into parliament with support from her crossbench colleagues trying to get the target enshrined in legislation, saying the coalition was “dragging its feet”.
She called on Scott Morrison to allow a conscience vote of coalition members on her bill but whether or not the bill will be debated remains to be seen.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has congratulated Joe Biden on being elected the 46th President of the United States and said he had “been a great friend of Australia over many years”.
Australia woke to the news on Sunday morning with Mr Biden declared the winner about 3.30am Sunday AEDT when Pennsylvania and its 20 Electoral College votes fell to the Democratic candidate, taking him past the 270 needed for victory.
But President Donald Trump is still yet to concede defeat, and continues to falsely claim he actually won with the election.
Mr Morrison said he would continue to “work closely” with President Trump and his administration during the transition period between now and January 20.
“On behalf of the Australian Government I also acknowledge and thank President Donald J. Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for their contribution to the Australia-US relationship,” Mr Morrison said.
“Australia has enjoyed a strong working relationship with the current administration, one that has seen the strength of our alliance continue to grow and deepen.”
The Prime Minister said he looked forward to strengthening the Australia’s relationship with the United States when Mr Biden takes office.
“The President-elect has been a great friend of Australia over many years, including when he visited Australia in 2016,” he said.
“Our partnership goes back more than a century. Next year, our countries will celebrate 70 years since the signing of the ANZUS Treaty – the foundation of our security alliance.
“We also look forward to working with President-elect Biden and his administration to continue to fight the COVID-19 global pandemic and recession, to develop a vaccine, drive a global economic recovery, and develop new technologies to reduce global emissions as we practically confront the challenge of climate change.
“We welcome the President-elect’s commitment to multilateral institutions and strengthening democracies.”
Mr Morrison also congratulated Kamala Harris on her election as Vice President.
Australian Ambassador to the United States Arthur Sinodinos acknowledged the possibility of challenges in the courts when he spoke to ABC Insiders on Sunday morning, but said diplomats in Washington were proceeding on the basis that Joe Biden was the President-elect.
“We’re taking the position that the election has been called,” he told host David Speers.
“The President has the right to contest this in the courts, but we, the UK, New Zealand, Canada, India, France, Germany and others have taken a view based on the information that’s been provided by the networks and others who have called it that this is the case.
“Until the 20th of January, Donald Trump remains the President of the United States. My job here at the embassy, our people at the embassy, will continue to deal professionally with our colleagues in the state department, the White House.
“(After) the inauguration, there’s a new President, we will then move to work closely with the new administration.”
But I object to the term also because it’s an attempt to intellectualise and dignify a motivation far less noble: our deeply evolutionary instinct to form ourselves into tribes. My side, your side. Us and them. Good guys versus bad guys.
In politics, partisanship leads to polarisation and polarisation to policy gridlock and impotence. For example, look at the dis-United States. The richest, smartest big country in the world has been hopeless at coping with the pandemic, with many, many deaths. The Democrats and Republicans refuse to co-operate on anything. They’ve even turned mask wearing into a partisan issue.
It’s not so surprising that Morrison and Josh Frydenberg have been happy to justify their widely criticised budget choices by reference to their own ideology, saying the budget strategy “is consistent with the government’s core values of lower taxes and containing the size of government, guaranteeing the provision of essential services, and ensuring budget and balance sheet discipline”.
These “core values” are elaborated on the Liberal Party website. “We work towards a lean government that minimises interference in our daily lives, and maximises individual and private sector initiative.”
“We believe … in government that nurtures and encourages its citizens through incentive, rather than putting limits on people through the punishing disincentives of burdensome taxes and the stifling structures of Labor’s corporate state and bureaucratic red tape.”
“We believe … that businesses and individuals — not government — are the true creators of wealth and employment.”
To summarise, the individual is good, the collective is bad. Private good, public bad. Government is, at best, a necessary evil, to be kept to an absolute minimum.
Sorry, but this is just tribalism — the Liberal private tribe versus the Labor public tribe — masquerading as eternal truth. It’s phoney party-political product differentiation. Vote Liberal for low taxes; vote Labor for high taxes. Really? I hadn’t noticed much difference.
Private good/public bad makes no more sense than its left-wing opposite, public good/private bad. Both are a false dichotomy. It takes little thought to realise that the two sectors of the economy have different and complementary roles to play. One could not exist without the other, and we need a lot of both.
The individual and the collective. Competition and co-operation. Both sectors do much good; both can screw up. The hard part is finding the best combination of the two somewhere in the middle, not at either extreme.
As Frydenberg has often said, the budget’s strategy is to bring about a “business-led” recovery. This explains why most of the money it spends or gives up goes to business as tax breaks. Tax cuts and cash bonuses to individuals come a poor second and direct spending on job creation has largely been avoided.
Frydenberg justified this by saying that “eight out of every 10 jobs in Australia are in the private sector. It is the engine of the Australian economy.”
Surely he’s exaggerating, I thought on Budget night. But I’ve checked and it’s true. Or rather, it is now. These days, 89 per cent of men and 81 per cent of women work in the private sector, leaving just 15 per cent of workers in the public sector.
In 1994, before the mania for privatisation and outsourcing took hold, 28 per cent of employees worked in the public sector (with two-thirds of those working for state governments).
The electricity, gas and water utilities used to be almost completely public sector. Now they’re 78 per cent private. Sale of the Commonwealth Bank, state banks and insurance companies mean the finance sector is almost totally private.
The sale of Qantas and Australian Airlines, ports and shipping and much public transport means employment in the transport industry is 90 per cent private. Despite state government ownership of schools, TAFEs and universities, employment in education is now only 54 per cent public.
Despite health and community services being largely government-funded, three out of four workers are privately employed.
See what’s happened? With some help from their rivals, the Libs have worked tirelessly over the past 25 years moving workers from the Labor public tribe to the Liberal private tribe. Haven’t you noticed the big improvement?
Ross Gittins is the Herald’s economics editor.
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Ross Gittins is the Economics Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.