Yes, TheVine is tidying up the internets again so, in the interests of putting things in places they can be seen, here’s a sneaky 10 Things. Or you can read all my old 10 Things bits here.
10 Things: Revvin’ up the class war with Diamond Joe Hockey
Your slightly-delayed plunge into the heart of current affairs darkness
Diamonds are the poor’s best friend!
Diamond Joe Hockey, your federal treasurer, is very, very good at thinking things that are not true reflections of reality.
For example, he thinks that the budget will somehow pass – which, three months and counting since it was presented, seems ambitious.
He thinks that Australia is in a debt crisis which – as we never tire of pointing out – absolutely nobody else does, including the sorts of economists that he’s been perfectly happy to champion when it suits him.
(And to parenthetically repeat the same tired thing we keep saying: there are things that could be done to address our level of interest repayment that would be good to do, since that stuff does get more expensive, but a) it’s prudent, not urgent and b) that’s not at all what the government is doing right now in any case.)
But the biggest delusion that Diamond Joe has is the notion that poor people are much better off than the rest of Australia, based – as best I can work out – on the following reasoning:
1. The poorer someone is, the less tax they pay
2. I, as Federal Treasurer making $397,869 per year before adding my additional $150k-odd salary as an MP for North Sydney, pay a large tax bill every year
3. Poor people don’t get hit with these sorts of bills
4. Therefore the poor have it better than I do
…or he might just straight up not give a shit, of course. That’s also a possibility.
In any case, he wanted to increase the fuel excise earlier this year, a move that was blocked in the Senate (somewhat controversially, by the Greens) and was bitching and moaning about how this was a tax that was going to affect the rich more than the poor and was therefore equitable. Keep in mind that this tax didn’t pass, by the way.
“What we’re asking is for everyone to contribute, including higher-income people. Now, I’ll give you one example: the change to fuel excise. The people that actually pay the most are higher-income people, with an increase in fuel excise, and yet the Labor party and the Greens are opposing it. They say you’ve got to have wealthier people or middle-income people pay more. Well, change to the fuel excise does exactly that; the poorest people either don’t have cars or actually don’t drive very far in many cases. But they [Labor and the Greens] are opposing what is meant to be, according to the Treasury, a progressive tax.”
Oh Diamond Joe, you adorable melonhead.
Where to start?
How being poor in Australia works
First up, let’s very quickly abandon the use of “progressive” when talking about a flat tax.
Flat taxes (as in taxes that are not staggered by income) like a fuel excise always hit those at the bottom more heavily because the effect of spending an extra $10 on petrol makes a much smaller difference if you make $1500 a week compared with $120. All flat taxes punish the poor for being poor by making them poorer. This principle also applies to the proposed Medicare co-pay, of course.
In fact, the Australian parliamentary library research paper entitled Petrol and Diesel Excises, published in 2000, said as much: “petrol and diesel excises are regressive in that people on low incomes pay a higher proportion of their incomes in the form of excise than people on high incomes, given the same level of fuel use”. So the literal opposite of “progressive”, then.
It’s also worth adding that the figures that he used to make his claim showed the opposite of his claim: even accepting that individual high income earners are spending more on petrol, “households in the highest quintile spent 1.37% of their income on petrol and those in the lowest quintile spent 4.54%“.
Then let’s move on to the fact that most of Australia’s jobs are in and around the biggest population centres, and most of the affordable housing is not.
Australia’s population clusters around the five biggest cities, and poor people tend to live out of the city and away from the desirable coasts – in Brisbane and Sydney that’s the outer west, in Adelaide the outer north and south, in Melbourne the outer north and west, and in Perth there’s a cluster around the airport in the industrial eastern suburbs.
Where the cheap houses are not, however, is in the inner suburbs near all the jobs and easy transport.
The further away from the CBD you get, the lousier the public transport becomes. In Sydney and Melbourne the outer suburban public transport is, to use a technical term, shit. In Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide, it’s basically useless: if you need to be somewhere by a specific time, such as for a job you need a car. This is especially true if you also have a family and want to see them at all.
Poor people tend not to have great jobs where they can lob in whenever they fancy it. Many have shift jobs with inflexlible start times and stern supervisors who don’t take kindly to “sorry, there’s trackwork on this week”-style excuses.
So for the working poor of Australia, if you have a low-paying job and you live a distance away from it, a car is a necessary investment if you want to avoid being fired.
And what sort of car do poor people buy? Do they buy excellent brand new hybrids with great fuel economy? No, they do not: they buy old second and third-hand shitboxes that guzzle fuel, because they are cheap.
So, to recap:
A significant majority of Australia’s poor people drive a lot by necessity as they live and work in distant, badly-serviced areas, and they drive old inefficient cars.
So, Joe, let’s try that again: explain why the rich will be affected more by fuel excise than the poor. Go on. Give it a shot.
Beep beep, beep beep, yeah!
Of course, there’s also the fact that Diamond Joe is already perfectly aware that lower income people are driving cars. How do we know this? Not just because the demographics are blindingly obvious, but because the federal and state governments are using said demographics to sell big showy infrastructure projects.
And note that these big showy infrastructure projects are not, say, new rail corridors or dedicated bus lanes or bikeways or any of those other utopian bullshit: projects like the Perth Light Rail, Brisbane Cross River Rail and the Melbourne Metro have all been axed, as have planned (and much, much needed) expansions and developments on the Sydney rail network.
No, instead we’re getting big disruptive expensive road developments. The East-West in Melbourne, the second lane to the Southern Expressway in Adelaide, West Connex in Sydney: there’s no shortage of the things.
Governments love that stuff because they get to look all masculine with shovels turning earth, they get to go “this is a huge boon for employment!” and not mention that the bigger the project the more likely the investment is coming from (and profits will be going to) companies outside of Australia, and that they don’t work especially well if they work at all.
Either they charge so much for tolls that people actively avoid them (there’s no drive in Australia more peaceful and solitary than 20-odd minute drive along the toll roads from Brisbane airport to the city – and it costs only slightly more than would a similar-length massage) or they merely facilitate the congestion they seek to alleviate – after years of forcing traffic onto alternative routes while the things are being built, of course.
And if those new roads happen to raze low income areas, bringing with them with noise, traffic and compulsory acquisition at below market rates – well, it’s not like those people are voting for the Coalition in the first place, are they?
Then again, Diamond Joe couldn’t care less about what you think
Of course, Diamond Joe doesn’t need you and your stinking legislation to make random, painful cuts. He can just stop paying people whenever he likes because he’s the treasurer and therefore has access to the money-spigot.
That’s his latest threat to the Senate: start passing some shit without negotiations, or I start cutting and there’s nothing you can do about it. Nothing! Mwaaa hahahahahaha! [thunder crash]
“Either we make the decisions now or you end up doing what [Premier] Campbell Newman and [Treasurer] Tim Nicholls have had to do in Queensland, and that is take emergency action in order to address the problem you inherit.”
Cool, Joe. Just start cutting, then, rather than obeying the tenets of democracy. Let’s see how much the Australian public will thank you at the ballot box.
And given the shakiness of the Liberal governments in Victoria and NSW, who both will be facing state elections inside of a year, we’re certain the party are really, really keen for you to basically dare voters to punish the party further.
He’s also doubled down on his claims today, saying he’s sorry if you’re too greedy and stupid to understand facts. You know, ones he made up.
“The fact of the matter is that I can only get the facts out there and explain the facts, how people interpret them is up to them,” he said, factfully.
So, remember: you’ve got the weekend of August 30 and 31 down in your diary for March in August, right? It’s going to be the biggest yet – with heaps of regional centres joining in, because we’re an awesome country and we’re all in this together.
Mark your diaries, like and share on Facebook, and start working on your posters now!
Cooler heads, keep on prevailing
On the slightly more plus side, the Gaza ceasefire has been extended by another five days, even in the face of the occasional rocket fire and air strikes, as both sides claim they are close to reaching some sort of agreement over a more lasting truce before wading back into long-term peace negotiations. Baby steps, team. We’re taking baby steps.
The negotiations are taking place in Cairo and Azzam al-Ahmad, head of Palestine’s negotiation team, explained “We had two options: not to reach an agreement, or to extend the ceasefire. And in the final minutes we decided to extend the ceasefire by five days until Monday.”
It appears that some positive outcomes have been negotiated – including breaking the siege to allow supplies to travel into Gaza and allowing their fisherman access to the Mediterranean – but security issues are the sticking point. It’s not 100% clear what those are, but they’re thought to include Israel requiring the disarmament of Hamas, which… yeah, that’s not going to happen.
Still: every day without missiles is a good day, and this is more positive discussion than has happened in months. Fingers are painfully crossed.
Meanwhile, in African pandemics…
In perhaps less positive news, Nigeria is now definitely seeing cases of Ebola after late diplomat Patrick Sawyer inadvertently brought the disease on a flight from Liberia to the continent’s largest city, Lagos.
There are now eight confirmed cases in the city – including the guy sitting beside Sawyer on the plane and the nurse that treated him when he collapsed in the airport – and the WHO has calculated the the total number of cases including the outbreaks in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are 1975, with 1069 deaths.
On the plus side, Lagos is richer than most other African countries and actually has facilities to treat infectious disease. On the other hand, it’s also a huge, largely undocumented and transient population in a city with no sanitation service, scattered medical networks, a less-than-corruption-free government and a nasty civil war brewing with the Boko Haram terrorist organisation. So, y’know, swings and roundabouts.
A good, hard trucking
And in our other favourite nightmare zone, Ukraine, the Russian aid convoy we talked about yesterday has been refused entry amid perfectly legitimate fears that it’s the precursor to a military invasion.
Russia insists that the 280-truck convoy contains nothing but humanitarian aid and that they just want to help. Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, has countered that unless the aid is directly provided by the Red Cross, it ain’t crossing the border.
There’s also some doubt that the convoy is moving at all: Moscow insists that it’s heading to the border, although was coy about where exactly it was, while there are reports that they’re parked at Voronezh military base in Russia. Which isn’t likely to make anyone feel too relaxed about it, frankly.
Reports that Ukraine officials have also denied entry to a giant wooden horse could not be confirmed at press time.
Oh good, the internet’s full
And while today’s delay was due to technical problems – the site’s being migrated, y’see – it wasn’t due to the larger, more far reaching problem that the internet is now full.
See, as with the Y2K panic, back in the early days of the world wide superhighway digital net matrix, an arbitrary number was set as the maximum amount of “routes” that your commercial router could use to get through the interweb tubes. That number, which was obviously too high to ever be reached, was 512,000.
And guess what’s just happened?
It’s mainly because people are not just using computers to get on the internet: there’s tablets and phones and presumably neural implants if science fiction hasn’t been lying to us. There’s also a limit on the amount of IP addresses available, although making them alphanumeric has put that particular doomsday scenario on hold for a bit.
The newer routers have a much higher arbitrary limit so this only affects companies with older hardware in their voluminous server farms. So just the ones that have been around a while. Like, you know, most of the ones that the internet is based upon.
Get ready for more regular outages, internetanauts!
And finally, let’s get totally patriotic with a baby echidna. They’re called puggles, you know. Puggles! Oh, echidnas, you are truly the most underrated of monotremes and you are awesome. And happy Thursday!