So. Wow. A morning with the IPA crowd.
I really didn’t go (just) to sneer. I was genuinely curious to know more about what Hockey thinks are the solutions to the fiscal challenges of Australia’s future. And, despite a fairly wide-ranging search of the internet, I couldn’t come up with many more details than LABOR ARE BASTARDS and SMASH THE WELFARE STATE. Which is fine, I guess, if that’s your particular bent, but it doesn’t really tell me how he thinks the reforms he’s considering are going to change the increasing imbalance between revenue and spending. I really did hope that he might be more able or willing to explain his ideas if he was in a nice safe space.
Yeah, I know, but it was worth a try.
It was a weirdly fascinating hour. Hockey bounced into the room exuding bonhomie from every pore. There was much jovial handshaking and back slapping with the front row, then they all settled down to listen to all the formal introductions.
I’ve been to a number of speaking events where they do this and I don’t get the point of it. Why did we need to hear Joe Hockey introduced by four different people? It’s the IPA. I’m pretty sure they all knew who he was. But anyway, James Patterson introduced Rod Kemp who introduced John Roskam to introduce Josh Frydenberg so he could introduce Joe Hockey. That’s a whole lotta congratulatory congratulations going on right there.
Roskam made jokes about how the government still refuses to privatise the ABC, and hahaha Labor suddenly cares about free speech (hahaha indeed) and taxes were axed and isn’t that delightful and ooooh look, Ian Plimer’s here *pause for applause* and government needs to stop buying things for people because “if we want more things we can buy them” and tax reform is necessary and “the aim of tax reform should be to reduce the overall tax burden” and lots of boo-hooing over the taxes paid by large corporations.
Josh Frydenberg, who seems to be a bit of an IPA darling – lots of applause and maybe the faintest whisper of Beatles screaming from the back row – got up to tell us all about how Joe Hockey is really awesome and so is privatisation and did you know Labor left us a Debt and Deficit Disaster and hey, d’you wanna hear what Rupert said last time he was here? (more delighted chortles and clapping)
Then Hockey got up and did the greatest hits from his last few press releases, told us a bit about how the Intergenerational Report predicted that the budget would save Australia from doom doom DOOM, kids these days are going to live until eleventy hundred and seven and we need to fix the tax system.
He had some good points: the current tax system was designed for an economy that functioned very differently to the modern economy. We cannot keep up with the changes that technology is making to jobs and services. Australia cannot rest on the income from mining forever. We will have too many people leaving the workforce and not enough people replacing them over the next 40 years. All these things are indisputably true, but what I wanted to hear is how he’s going to fix that and why the methods he has chosen are going to work. That didn’t happen. He just is and they just are.
Then we got to the Q and A bit, and I got the fright of my life because Ian Plimer was sitting right behind me and he has a very loud voice that appeared to be coming from just inside my right ear. I was too busy dealing with a cardiac arrest to hear all of it, but it was something about how it’s terribly expensive to mine things in the Pilbara and why isn’t the government doing something about that. Apparently the answer is that government has axed the tax and stopped the boats, you may have heard?
There were a few more questions about why are we letting farmers’ complaints stop natural gas extractions and the internet is killing business and fringe benefits tax is really unfair and why isn’t the ABC being privatised. It’s interesting how rational and thoughtful Hockey can appear at times. I guess everything is relative. “The ABC provides an important service, particularly in regional areas. Frankly, it’s going to be with us for a long time and it is not going to be privatised.” “Everyone who makes a dollar in Australia should pay tax on it.” “FBT is too complicated at the moment, it should be easier to deal with.” “Agricultural land is precious, it should be looked after, and there IS an environmental threat.”
I spent most of the time torn between hilarity and skin crawling horror, but I couldn’t help wondering how any of the people in that room would have reacted if they were at a speech delivered by Sarah Hansen-Young, introduced by Anne Summers, Clem Ford and Bob Brown. And the weirdest part of the day was knowing that their thought processes would have been exactly the same as mine were this morning:
Wow, is there anyone in this room without grey hair and a blue tie (doc martens and a tattoo)?
HAHAHAHA, they just said science AHAHAHAHAAAA.
Who do these people think suffers (pays) for all the things they have?
My lord, could you imagine what would happen to the country if they actually get what they want?
The groupthink in this room is weird and frankly, kinda creepy.
THE ENTITLEMENT! It’s rolling off them in waves!
Why isn’t this an ejector seat? And where’s my sick bag?
I think I feel a bit ill, but when I get back to the real world and tell them what these loons were saying we will laugh and laugh and laugh. And then we might cry a bit because someone might actually vote for this shit.
I don’t know whether it’s more frightening that we are so alike or that we are so different.
Anyway, the discussion papers for the proposed tax reforms are online now. They are worth a read and a considered response, because wherever you are on the ideological spectrum, tax reform has to happen and it’s going to have a huge effect on all of us.