Right Thinking From The Left Coast
I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have. - Thomas Jefferson

Vote Aussie

There’s an election coming up here in Australia this weekend.  I’m sure it will get badly covered by the American media, so I’ll be sure to give you a first hand take to contrast against it.  A few things to note:

1) The election is about Australia and has nothing to do with Obama, the War on Terror or the US.  Keep this in mind when some dipshit tries to make a referendum on US policy, as dipshits almost always try to do.

2) This is a somewhat conservative shift for Australia, which is part of a broad conservative shift in the Western world.  But conservative is a relative term.  The Liberal Party ("liberal" meaning the opposite in Australia of what it does in he US) is still supporting paid maternity leave, semi-socialized medicine and so on.  It’s a matter of degree.

3) It’s almost refreshing to watch the debate here on Australia’s large budget deficit.  Both parties are talking about tax increases and spending cuts to eliminate Australia’s deficit.  There’s none of Obama’s “find $100 million” symbolism or the Republican’s “we’ll cut taxes and eliminate waste” line of hooey.  There are hard numbers.  The only thing remotely like it in our country is Paul Ryan’s roadmap.

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 08/18/10 at 04:16 PM (Discuss this in the forums)


Posted by Aussiesmurf on 08/18/10 at 07:02 PM from Australia

The debate on the budget debt in Australia is absurd.  The budged went into deficit due to a stimulus package which, in the opinion of pretty much every qualified economist who has ventured an opinion, kept Australia (just) out of recession.

The current debt / budget deficit is miniscule.  For those people who love saying that a government should run things ‘just like a household’, our current debt is the equivalent of a man earning $100,000.00 per year having a total mortgage debt of $6,000.00.

The Liberal’s plan to reduce the debt immediately is to sell off money-making government assets, which is like selling your car (which you need to get to work) to reduce the balance of your mortgage.

The two huge points which (in my opinion) you should make clear in your coverage are :

(1) Australia has compulsory attendance on polling day (which is always a Saturday).  You can discard your ballot paper if you choose (rather than registering a vote), but it is legally compulsory to either vote in advance, vote by post, or attend a polling place on election day.

(2) Australia has preferential voting, which means that minority parties receive a far greater share of the vote (roughly 20%), with people knowing that they can cast a vote for a minority party and still have their vote ‘count’.  The preferential voting system, with consequent effects in the Senate, mean that the ‘balance of power’ in the Senate is often held by a combination of Greens Senators and independent Senators.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 08/18/10 at 08:49 PM from Australia

Good points, Aussiesmurf.  I am just coming into the debate so I’m learning the specifics.  But I thought the deficit was something like $100 billion?

Posted by Aussiesmurf on 08/18/10 at 11:06 PM from Australia

THat’s correct.  The deficit in the current year is approximately $100 billion, in an economy of roughly $1.2 trillion.  That can be assigned as follows :

(a) around $20 billion due to the recent stimulus package
(b) around $80 billion due to personal income tax cuts over the period 2004-7, which had been ‘set-off by higher than normal company tax profits during the resources boom in Australia which lasted during roughly the same period.  During the Global Financial Crisis company income tax receipts fell off the proverbial cliff (understandably) and therefore the structural deficit in the budget caused by the 2004-7 government was exposed.

The other thing to remember about the stimulus package is that part of the costs of the package are offset by the people working (due to the stimulus package) paying income tax rather than drawing governemnt benefits (unemployment etc.) This can mean that up to $0.25 of each stimulus dollar is ‘paid back’ and therefore won’t have a ‘real’ effect on the deficit / government.

In all honesty, one of the huge differences between our respective countries is the huge difference in terms of percentage of GDP spent on national defence / military.  I make no comment on the morality of the situation, but it is self-evident that Australia, although being (slightly) higher-taxing than the United States, has a far greater commitment in terms of welfare / pensions / unemployment benefits than the US, but still maintains far close to a balanced budget, partly due to the lack of financial expenditure on the military.

Posted by Hal_10000 on 08/19/10 at 02:03 AM from Australia

That’s accurate enough, Aussie.  I also think they’ve structured some things intelligently, like the Medicare system, to keep spending from raging out of control.

I do note that there’s no estate tax here though.  I think they abolished it thirty years ago.  I also discovered today that there are no 30-year fixed rate mortgages.

Posted by West Virginia Rebel on 08/19/10 at 04:58 AM from United States

In most parts of the world, which are modeled after European style politics, liberal and conservative are the reverse of what they are here-a product of the welfare state, I suppose.

Posted by Aussiesmurf on 08/19/10 at 10:05 PM from Australia

I wouldn’t actually mind an estate tax on estates above a certain size (say $1 million) but that’s a debate fo the other day.

The reason is that the primary right-wing party is known as the ‘Liberal’ party is because they were originally formed as a merger of various parties, including the ‘United Australia Party’ and the ‘Protectionist Party’.

Its worth noting that Australia’s Prime Minister is (at least until tomorrow) an unmarried, childless, atheist woman.  Somehow think she would struggle to get close to the finish line in the USA!

Posted by on 08/19/10 at 10:46 PM from Germany

Its worth noting that Australia‚Äôs Prime Minister is (at least until tomorrow) an unmarried, childless, atheist woman.  Somehow think she would struggle to get close to the finish line in the USA!

Well considering we don’t have a parliamentary system with prime ministers I have no idea. Also, I though prime ministers were chosen by the party in power, not elected directly (through the electoral college) like the American President. Correct me if I am wrong. But that makes an enormous difference.

Posted by Aussiesmurf on 08/19/10 at 11:08 PM from Australia

You are correct, in that the Prime Minister is the leader of the majority parlimentary party, chosen by that party rather than by separate Presidential-style vote. 

It is also true that Prime Minister Gillard has taken the office since the last federal election, and was not leader of her party at the last election.

However, I can also say that the Australian elections, both in style and perception, have in the last 20 or so years taken on a far more ‘leader-based’ profile.  Certainly, the majority of our advertisements have focussed on the two leaders (Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott)rather than the policy platforms of the two parties.

For what its worth, I’ll predict the final ‘two-party’ vote to be 52-48 in favour of Labour.  This would given labout a majority in the 150 seat lower house of around 80-67 with three independents.

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