Sunday, May 20, 2007

Why the Howard Government is Starting to Stink

Another week, and another rotten opinion poll for the little rodent and his mob.

This begs the question: Why the Howard Government is finally so damn unpopular?

What has changed in the hearts and minds of the Australian people since Heavy Kevvy became Labor generalissimo?

Why does Howard now stink like three day old fish in the national psyche, when only months ago journalists were proclaiming that he could do no wrong, and that he was the puppet-master of the hearts and minds of the Australian public?

For what it’s worth here are some of my thoughts on the most important causes of his decline in fortunes.

Of course Johnny thinks that the electorate must be playing a joke on him or something, with economic figures as good as they are. However shrewd he is claimed to be, I think he has missed a number of causes of discontent in the wider community.

1. Housing affordability.

Both from a homebuyers and renters perspective housing has become less affordable under the Howard government, regardless of low interest rates. A key reason behind this drop in Housing affordability has been the lack of growth in public and affordable housing. Now this is not only a Federal issue, but the Federal government has an important role in ensuring that people have access to affordable housing. There is also the issue of the location of housing with respect to employment and services, which is placing pressure on families living in outer suburban areas. Poorly targeted schemes like the first home buyers grant have benefitted property developers and the rich, and just about nobody else.

2. Family focused economic policy

The last twelve budgets have contained measures that you would described as being ‘family friendly’, which has alienated a growing demographic. And I think the constant focus on delivering benefits to wealthy duel income families has probably also had an affect on those benefiting from such largesse. Beneficiaries are now starting to ask why isn’t everybody sharing in Australia’s economic success.

3. Repeated failure to grant tax relief to middle and low income earners.

Again the Howard government has had 12 opportunities to grant tax relief to those on low to middle incomes, and the pork has consistently been handed out at the top end. The current budget grants next to no relief for those on between 45,000-75,000, and chief beneficiaries of the increase in the tax free threshold will be those rich enough to have family trusts. Increasing the tax free threshold is a tax cut for the rich professional classes in disguise, on top of cuts to income tax for those on the top marginal rate. And as per usual there have been no measures to prevent bracket creep. Singles and young people are starting to look at the Howard economic miracle and wonder- what’s in it for me? And I think the beneficiaries are also starting to ask- what’s in it for my children, friends and family members without dependents?

4. Lack of Foresight, Future Focus

The government has been horribly wrong footed on climate change and water policy. The double counting of 40% of the water in the Murray-Darling Basin is the latest disaster. The conservative side of politics has claimed to be a steady hand on resource management in rural and regional management- and they have shown themselves to be both short-sighted and out of touch with the reality facing farming communities, especially along the Murray-Darling.

5. It’s the economy stupid

People are looking around the world and can see that economies are performing well virtually everywhere. Claims that the Conservatives are the best economic managers are starting to ring hollow. In fact many people may be starting to ask themselves, given the mining boom, how come we are not doing much better economically than other developed countries (aside from France and Germany)?

6. Fairness

I’m constantly surprised at how unpopular Workchoices is, and when combined with corporate greed scandals surrounding Macquarie, Qantas and other executive remuneration packages people are starting to question whether or not Howard stands for the fair go. The mining industry crying poor over AWAs clearly hasn’t made much of an impact in the polls, and Julia and Kevvy shouldn’t bend to them at all. Sure speak to them, but don’t bother giving them what they want.

7. Reliability

I think people have underestimated how the AWB scandal has tarnished the government’s reputation. It also raised the profile of Iraq as a political albatross around the PMs neck.


Anonymous graham percy said...

Hey Timboy! thanks for sharing these thoughts. Very interesting, however, I can't understand your point #3, where you say that the tax free threshold is being increased. As I understand, the tax free threshold of $6,000 is the ONLY personal income tax threshold which is NOT being increased. All higher thresholds are to be increased. (I believe the tax free threshold has been under-indexed for decades). Can you explain? Thanks.. Graham Percy

6:22 AM  
Blogger timboy said...

The tax free threshold is going up to something like $10k

9:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Housing affordability Howard's fault? Pull the other one. You clearly know very little about this issue and seem content to use Howard as a convenient whipping boy. It's the state Labor governments and their urban planning policies and revenue-raising costs that are to blame. Every public policy institute in Australia will back me up here: the RACQ, the IPA, the REIQ, the UDIA, the Residential Development Council, and even some international watchdogs like Demographia. So don't give us this nonsense about Howard being to blame for unaffordable housing. Blame the left-wing state Labor governments who are rationing land, chargina fortune in stamp duties and infrastructure costs because they want us all to live in high-rises and take public transport to work. Go to and read the articles under "Publications" if you don't believe me.

8:41 PM  
Blogger timboy said...

State goverments are to blame for not increasing public housing stocks, I agree.

I don't say Howard is to blame entirely- rather he has lost touch that this is problem, and has no coherent strategy to bring housing costs down.

We only have to look at the Federal government policy offerings in the area of housing. The first home buyers grant. That's some great policy. The IPA would love that.

Policy failure everywhere- and you are content to lay the blame on left/right, state/federal lines.

You clearly don't know what you are talking about.

And why come here to complain?

Haven't you got anything better to do?

5:15 AM  
Blogger timboy said...

From Gittins in todays (20/6/07) SMH:

'Putting it all together (and simplifying a bit), we can say that the people who get most out of our tax and benefits system are the almost 20 per cent of households that are elderly, thanks to pensions and health care.

The third of households with dependent children are roughly square because, though they pay a lot of tax, they get back a lot in family tax benefits, education and health care. (Sole parents, however, are well ahead.) So who does that leave to pick up the tab? At one level, the people at the rich end in each of those life-stage categories.

At another level, however, it leaves the 40 per cent of households composed of singles or childless couples of working age. They pay a lot of tax but get back nothing in family benefits and not much in education and health care benefits.'

1:34 AM  

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