Flat White

Budget 2020: Whatever happened to the Josh Frydenberg who believed in less government?

8 October 2020

1:08 PM

8 October 2020

1:08 PM

In the week of the Budget with all the talk about Australia’s finances, one thing is for sure – the endless spendathon has continued. 

It is no use nitpicking as to what amount of money is allocated where and, as for the issue of debt, forget it. The D-word does not seem to rate a mention any more. 

People are simply anaesthetised to the fact that Australia’s debt ceiling has been confirmed as heading beyond $1 trillion. 

Debt ceiling?

This was legislated in 2007, a mere 13 years ago. It was set at $75 billion. Yes, it was lifted throughout the Labor government’s term in response to the Global Financial Crisis, so when the Coalition took office, it was $300 billion. The legislation was scrapped in 2014. 

So here we are, a debt ceiling of $1 trillion. 

When you heard all these promises on Budget night, there was a sense of what could be called fiscal abandonment. With the debt ceiling out of control, who cares another $10 billion here and $20 billion there. 

In this week of spending more of borrowed money, is it not time to seek an attitudinal change to this notion of debt. 

The attitude of dependence, not independence that seems to be harboured by an increasing majority of Australians is simply unsustainable. 

The status quo of surrendering our own enterprising spirits to lazily accepting hand-outs, subsidies and other taxpayer-funded incentives, will bring about an economic reckoning for the next generation.  

The Treasurer, Josh Frydenberg, before handing down this week’s Budget said something about feeling the weight of the world on his shoulders. 

I am sure he means it. 

But never mind on his shoulders, what about the current generation of young Australians and those after us? 

We will be thrown a hospital pass into an economic crash tackle with an Australia that will have the highest electricity prices in the world, no adequate water infrastructure, a ballooning population and an uncompetitive business environment where green religion rules the day. 

To repeat the cliché, you will never make the poor rich by making the rich poor. 

The prescription to our problem, I believe, is simple. You have to grow the economic cake. I am not sure that that can happen by spending more borrowed money. The government seems to be addicted to more handouts. 

I would assert a deep attitudinal shift is needed amongst us all. 

Aristotle taught us that prudence is the art of knowing what to want and what not to want. When it comes to our economic and social wellbeingas a country, we must ask ourselves, what do we want? 

This is a Liberal government. A liberal philosophy fosters initiative, enterprise, risk and reward. Where are they when the government pretends to have all the answers, summed up simply by saying throw more money at the problem? 

We need to remember one thing – governments have no money of their own except what they take from us or borrow on our behalf. 

We must wake from this economic nightmare. The time of the state paying for people’s wages must come to an end and be replaced by a plea for Australians to charter their own destiny. 

Why not make Australia the most attractive place to live, work and hire people? Let the rewards of enterprise outweigh the dreary taxes and levies imposed on almost everything. 

Consider this. The Budget was supposed to be about jobs, jobs, jobs. The promise of jobs was mind-boggling. But hang on. Every employer who gives someone a job is taxed. It is called payroll tax. How does that make sense? 

On the other side, the narrative which is often stirred up by the Left and boringly repeated by those in the Labor Party and Greens, is that the government should not be “spending” money on tax cuts. 

It is not spending. 

It is giving back to workers more of their own money. 

In his first speech to the federal parliament 10 years ago, Josh Frydenberg spoke of an Australia where “individuals, not governments, invent the future”. He also said, “The first of my large thoughts is that we need to limit the government. Our government is too big.”

Mr Frydenberg went on to say, “Our policies must engender a person’s confidence in their own self worth and, for those who can, a responsibility to make their own way in life. Less dependence on government makes for a better Australia. The next battleground will be the simplification of a complex tax system.”

Where has that Frydenberg gone? He sure as hell did not think about his commitment 10 years ago when he responded to the virus – shut down the economy when, in reality, we only needed to look after the most vulnerable. 

In the decade since Mr Frydenberg has been in parliament, the culture of dependence has never been rolled back, only extended. 

In the decade since Mr Frydenberg has been in parliament, the idea of self-responsibility has been crushed year on year and replaced with government telling us what to do. 

In the decade since Mr Frydenberg has been in parliament, the complexities in the tax system have grown, not become simpler. 

But each year, from the floor of the federal parliament in Canberra, the public are still treated as mugs while politicians throw more clichés at us; the latest I heard this week from the Treasurer was that this Budget was going to be “all about jobs” and “securing Australia’s future”.

Does this mean that past Budgets weren’t about creating more jobs and building a more prosperous Australia? 

We are entitled to be confused. 

It may be unfashionable to argue but if the government seeks revenue, why not raise the GST and remove a raft of other taxes perhaps payroll tax, perhaps the tax on petrol, cigarettes or alcohol, the things that give working people a quality of life. 

The virtue of the GST is it is a tax on everything we buy, so you can legitimately avoid it. 

If you choose to not want a particular thing or to consume something less extravagant, you either avoid the GST altogether or pay less tax. 

Look at what the Trump tax cuts have delivered in America. They have proven to be rocket fuel for the US economy. Companies can quickly write down large capital investment and with it, energy prices in America are two and a half times lower than those in Australia. 

And we sit here wondering why the Australian businessman Anthony Pratt opened a $500 million recycling paper plant in Ohio last year which employs around 250 people and a further 1,500 jobs in the construction phase, plus the multipliers. 

Since I am talking attitudinal change, how do we prove to Australians, in the world of tomorrow, that we will reward enterprise, productivity, effort, excellence and achievement? 

Young Australians think all we do to these virtues is to dumb them down. 

Let us be honest. Do we really prize achievement, or do achievement and excellence only stir up envy, which frightens people from trying to pursue them? 

Why do we salivate at the thought of government intervening in our own household budgets, creating another strand of welfare or announcing another grant; or, as we have seen recently, governments telling us how to manage our own healthcare by denying us the freedom of a normal life. 

And now, this week, with the Liberal Party spending what Labor would never have contemplated, the political parties are as one, ad idem. The so-called recovery from the government-imposed response to coronavirus has abandoned low taxation and the onus that should be placed on the individual.  

The Treasurer had it all right 10 years ago. 

As they say in the Scriptures, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

Has Josh Frydenberg sold his soul because he may find down the track that, politically, he has asked too high a price? 

The economic soul of the Liberal Party needs to be found again. 

Only then will young Australians be mentored into a change of attitude that once prompted Sir Robert Menzies to differentiate between the lifters and the leaners. 

If Menzies is the father of the Liberal Party, it is time to remember his warning. Security, he said, “is to be earned, to be merited and is not to fall like manna from heaven.” 

The 2020 Budget takes us in an entirely different direction to that advocated by Sir Robert Menzies. 

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