Friday, May 29, 2009

Michael Costa, that vile Kevin Rudd, the hideous pension increase, and Chicken Little comes to town again

(Above: watch out Chicken, the sky's falling, and according to Michael Costa, it's the Rudd government that done it).

It's got so Friday just wouldn't be the same without Friday night football, where boofheads go the bash, or a Michael Costa column for The Australian, where the one time Labor politician goes the biff.

This past week, the dear boy has been campaigning for the abolition of the states, without once mentioning the best reason - the performance of the Labor government in which he once served, or indeed his own cherished role as, variously, Minister for Transport, Police and Treasury.

These days he spends his time on the sidelines, a touch judge who spots the slightest infraction of the rules by his onetime Federal Labor colleagues - especially his bete noir, Kevin Rudd, whom he dislikes with a passion that makes Piers Akerman look like a toddler in kindergarten.

So this is how the game is played between Labor mates, cockroach versus toad, mano a mano, state versus state, tribe versus tribe, as we gird our loins with Age will weary Kevin Rudd, and spin condemn.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's clumsy attempt to spin his plan to lift the age pension eligibility threshold to 67 as a tough decision by the Government to address the financial challenges of an ageing population is coming unstuck. The measure is drawing increasing criticism, particularly from key sections of Labor's base. In practice it will alone make very little real contribution to the important challenge of dealing with the costs of an ageing population.

As is becoming increasingly evident, and unfortunately consistent with the Government's general approach to policy, little real consideration was given to the practical consequences of this measure before it was announced. Concerns about its impact on the blue-collar workforce are legitimate.

Ah yes, it's another huff and puff piece as Costa beavers away trying to blow Rudd's house down. And all because he cares about the blue-collar workforce, this recent convert to Thatcherism. Oh those glycerine tears, so convincing and moving.

Sadly, Costa really doesn't have much of any use to say on the issue. His main contention is that the measure of lifting the age of pension entitlement from 65 to 67 won't pay for the government's increase in the pension by $32 over four years.

But the implication of Costa's argument would be that the age should have been lifted to 70, in line with suggestion in the Harmer review that longer life expectancy meant people should be expected to play a longer role in the work force.

But Costa also bangs on about superannuation, presumably having failed to hear the news that the recent downturn has done over superannuation in fine style, and that such is the fee laden, rorting nature of the system - transferring to the private sector previous activity by government in this area - many people would have been better investing in bonds than tucking their money away in an industry only too willing to clip the sheep of their compulsory savings, and then cluck when aggressive share based portfolios took a dive.

Politicians are sheltered from such unseemly events, which is why they can wax lyrical about the benefits of superannuation, while blithely ignoring the real world problems they've helped create. But anyhoo let's see how a caring government manager would look after his flock:

In an ideal world people would have enough foresight to fund their own retirement. We don't live in an ideal world and the growth in a culture of government welfare provision which extends well beyond a legitimate social safety net means that people have been conditioned to expect the government to fund their retirement needs.

That's right, you broken down blue collar workers, don't think you're somehow entitled to a pension, when it's just an insidious form of welfare. I'm from the government, and I'm not here to help you pinko commie perverts. You thought I was a socialist comrades? Wrong I'm from the NSW Labor party, and I stand firm, shoulder to shoulder, with Margaret Thatcher.

Anyhoo, there's a lot more Costa blather, about how Paul Keating and Bill Kelty fly with the angles, even if they mde a few mistakes, and how Rudd could have pissed his $52 billion up against the wall of the superannuation industry rather than finding ways to put it into peoples' pockets and purses to do what they liked with the lolly.

But really it's just so Costa can indulge in Rudd bashing, when really he should take a weekend off and go do a bit of eel bashing with an axe handle. Therapeutic and it helps with fitness too. Because it seems we're all doomed by the situation in health:

Of course these measures relate to the retirement income problem. The real challenge with the ageing population is in the area of health care. The explosion in medical and pharmaceutical costs associated with the ageing of the population are mind-boggling. Accurate estimates of this problem are difficult because of the rapid evolution of medical technology. The NSW Government has estimated that at the present rate of growth the whole of the state budget will not be sufficient to fund its health-care obligations by 2035.

Well there goes Chicken Little Costa again. The whole of the state budget won't be sufficient to meet its health care obligations by 2035!! And just what are these health care obligations? To keep everyone alive until they're one hundred? There's reality, and then there's stupidity, and when you get this kind of nonsense, you can see why the sky really might fall in. And that's because the NSW Labor government is still in charge, and listening to the kind of fear mongering fury spouted by the likes of Costa.

Still it's an ill wind that doesn't blow a crow a very happy croak.

Commentators, as a result of the Government's bungling of its post-budget message management, are becoming increasingly sceptical of Government motives. Rudd's exceptionally long honeymoon with the media appears to be beginning to come to an end.

The increase in the age pension eligibility threshold is the sort of issue that can quickly change the broader electorate's perceptions of the Government's competence. The large budget deficit and the growth in public debt and the projected increase in unemployment have created a sense of uneasiness in the electorate.

The Government will try to manage this uneasiness in the short run by pointing to global economic uncertainty. The advantage the Government has is that economic policy debates, laden as they are with economic jargon, are confusing and the electorate understandably loses patience with both sides.

These types of debates only become meaningful when they crystallise into issues that directly affect individuals' expected living standards. The lifting of the age pension threshold, particularly if it is applied to superannuation, could become the crystallising issue that finally ends Rudd's honeymoon with the electorate.

That's right, we're doomed I tells ya, with unease the disease that will sow the saucy doubts and fears that will see the demise of the demon Rudd, no longer able to befuddle the world with their fancy economic jargon, and their fancy clothes and their fancy walk and talk.

But I guess if we're all doomed, there's an upside. Kevin Rudd is doomed too. That's right, nothing makes a Costa so happy as the image of lemmings jumping off the cliff together.

But soft what lovely glow of light comes over that hill. Why it's Malcolm Turnbull, with the shadowy figure of Michael Costa by his side, and lo and behold the 67 threshold won't be fully applied until 2017. 

Why Malcolm, you've heard Mr. Costa's urgings. How about a firm policy commitment to review and revoke and resile from that cursed Labor Rudd policy? Assuming you nail the buggers next year, that gives you plenty of time to put this hideous policy into reverse gear. A core promise. Can we hear it now and save the restive blue collar workers from their fear? It's simple. "The Liberal Party will reverse Labor's flawed pension age policy, and return the pension retirement age to 65. It will not be increased during the course of my government."

Don't hold your breath. 

Ah well, we've gone the Costa biff, now the lads can settle down for a night of bash. What's that you say? There's only one game on because next week the cockroaches will demolish the toads? Well there's an awesome prophecy for comrades Costa and Kevin.

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