You will be distressed to hear that I have recently been in the hands of the doctors. However, there is really no need to worry: reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. The entire medical profession was wheeled out to examine me and I was subjected to every test known to mankind, most of them, if you ask me, completely unnecessary, but all very expensive. The results were uniformly good and, to the surprise of patient and doctors, it appears that I am some sort of circus freak who is so healthy that I will probably live till I am 100. Based on this painstaking research, the doctors gave me a sort of two stage diagnosis of my malaise and its causes, the first being ‘We don’t know’ and the second, ‘You will just have to put up with it’. This really stood out with laser-like precision, almost as penetrating as that recent contribution to human knowledge from Bill Shorten that, as Martin Luther King had said, ‘Everybody is somebody’. Now, my reason in sharing this story with you is not to elicit sympathy; I assure you again that I have made a full recovery. Rather, I want to tell you that for the next few weeks after my walk through the shadow of the valley of death, there arrived at my home a series of letters all bearing the alarming insignia of the Reserve Bank. At first I thought Glenn Stevens, exasperated by the twaddle being served up by economists, was seeking my advice on whether we should raise or lower interest rates or perhaps take up quantitative easing. But no, these threatening envelopes were actually stuffed with cheques from Medicare. Believe it or not, I was actually being given a hefty refund from the government for going to the doctor when I had never asked for a cent and did not deserve it. Nor was there any suggestion from Mr Stevens that I could chip in a bit myself, whatever I could afford, say something trifling like $7 a visit. I do not want to suggest that I am wealthy, as that will only attract the attention of the tax office or I might be kidnapped and sold into the white slave market. But the reality is that I can easily afford to pay for myself and I should do so. So I was one of those who leapt with joy when Mr Hockey proposed the $7 co –payment and I sprang to supporting him in the pages of this journal, on that reform and the others in the budget. However, I had a dreadful feeling that this reform might require the application of the 6 Months Rule that was in vogue when I was in the parliament, namely, never praise a courageous reform until 6 months have elapsed because, if the reform is worth having and is based even remotely on common sense, the government will eventually go to water and back down and you will look a complete fool for having supported it. Inevitably and right on cue, the government capitulated on its feeble $7, apparently on the grounds that the public could not fit that minor charge into a household budget already crippled by the cost of lottery tickets, alcohol, take-away food, holidays in Bali, mobile telephones with their latest freak shows and, of course, Netflix. As a result of this dispiriting back down, I am sick again, but this time it is depression: how are we ever going to stop this insane torrent of government spending leading us to bankruptcy when we keep backing down? This time, I will need a psychiatrist and it is only a slight relief to know that you will be paying for me through Medicare. And as if that were not enough, the government has now undertaken that there will be no changes to this reckless extravagance unless the doctors’ union agrees to them! It seems they are going to be allowed to write their own reform of the system and undoubtedly will, no doubt one that will cover the hideous cost of skiing in Aspen, snorkelling in the Maldives and the crippling burden of interest rates on leased BMWs.
I had just recovered from this capitulation when another one came along in the form of foreign aid. We all know that if ever there were a program in need of surgery, this must be it. So the inspired leak that there were to be cuts to foreign aid was encouraging. But it was too good to be true; instead, after a guilt-ridden gasp from Balmain to Brunswick, we are going to continue ripping money from the long suffering tax-payer and shovelling it off to kleptomaniacs like Mugabe. We will even be able to keep paying foreign aid to support the downtrodden millionaires at the Clinton Foundation. Then a third capitulation! Proposed cuts to legal aid were abandoned. Everyone knows the waste there is in legal aid, like spending it on left wing propaganda. But no, the lawyers and social workers were able to kick up a storm to protect their fiefdom, the government was easily intimidated and that reform has now also bitten the dust, another victim to the infallible 6 Months’ Rule or, in that case, the 6 Day Rule. There is also to be a back down on keeping the indexation of pensions within the realm of affordability.
All of this means several things. First, we are now clearly in a new era of government timidity where no responsible saving can be suggested without meeting hysterical opposition, cringe-making promises of consultation with so-called stakeholders and eventually a back down. This is bad for the country, and should be rebuffed, not encouraged. Indeed, the government might have been better advised to stick to its guns on its budget proposals; there are marks for consistency; none for vacillating.
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