Joel Fitzgibbon | Debt and deficit: suddenly the Coalition has gone all quiet

Remember when the Coalition talked constantly about “debt and deficit”?  That was when Labor was in office.

Now they hardly ever mention it. That’s because since they’ve been in office, both Government debt and the Budget deficit have grown substantially. The Turnbull Government is taxing and spending much more than the former Labor Government ever did.

The 2017 Budget caught everyone by surprise. No one predicted the $6 billion tax on banks or the big hike in the Medicare levy. Can you imagine what the Coalition and their conservative supporters would have said if a Labor Government had hit the banks with a big new tax? The Treasurer says he now has a path back to a Budget surplus. We shall see. But he chose the easy path; big tax increases. As a result of the Budget, low income families will face a tax rise.  Millionaires will receive a tax cut. 

A HOAX

Regional communities throughout Australia have been victims of a cruel hoax.  Barnaby Joyce wants each of them to believe he can fix any economic challenges they face by moving a Commonwealth department or agency to their town. He calls it "decentralisation".

But events last week show he offers nothing but false hope.  First, the latest quarterly performance report of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) revealed that since Barnaby Joyce announced he'd relocate the Authority from Canberra to his own electorate, its application processing performance has halved. That's because there has been a mass exodus of staff. Among them were experienced regulatory scientists and lawyers, people hard to replace.

Second, the Government's four-year Budget plan contained no money for relocation. Even Barnaby Joyce's own language has softened. He no longer talks about moving departments, only "non-policy agencies" which substantially narrows the field.

Cessnock Council has been invited to address the Senate Inquiry I established into the APVMA relocation. National Party senators have been trying to turn the inquiry into one about decentralisation.  But the Terms of Reference only go to the Policy Order used to move the APVMA  to Armidale.

I'm pleased Cessnock Council will get the chance to point out that the Policy Order is full of conditions which exclude towns like Cessnock.   Barnaby Joyce has no decentralisation plan and has allocated no money for relocations.