Monday, 16 September 2013

Cardinal Pell's priorities for Mr Abbott

Cardinal Pell has put out a piece on priorities for the new Government .

He suggests five: achieving genuine progress in Indigenous affairs; reducing the number of abortions from the current 90,000 or so (though he acknowledges neither party looks like doing anything on this front); maintaining the commitment to increased disability support; keeping the national debt low; and maintaining the middle class.

Interesting priorities, both for what is included, and what is missing (no mention of the ACBC's standard list of things such as refugees!).

Few Catholics would quarrel with the first three.

But debt?  It is true that national debt levels in many other countries such as the US are spectacular cases of irresponsibility.  But Australia's debt is very low indeed by world standards (and in absolute terms), and at the moment at least simply reflects the need to spend on infrastructure to support our rapidly growing population.  The real challenge in this area is to do something about the tax base given the coming pressures from an ageing population.  But hard to see this Government confronting this issue.

And as for the middle class, again Australia has been 'lucky' - or rather is still enjoying the benefits of the Hawke/Keating years focus on sharing productivity gains rather than letting them all go to capital as has happened in the US.  But the Howard era saw  income inequality start to widen again, and now the top ten percent are rapidly leaving the rest of us behind.  Hard to see the current Coalition Government, with its commitment to policies such as maternity Leave for the rich to turn that around.


Nick S said...

I think that any level is debt is more concerning that it immediately would seem in that if we are struggling to balance the budget now, how much more so will we in ten, twenty or thirty years when we have a much larger elderly population relative to our nation's tax base.

Given our rapidly aging population with the baby boomer generation just hitting retirement age things have the potential to get a lot worse. If we want to have any hope of keeping our nation's finances within sane levels in the future we have to act now or we could well end up in the same situation that much of Southern Europe is now.

Pius said...

Surely any bishop who, while deploring Australia's shockingly high abortion rate (worse on a per capita basis than America's), refuses to excommunicate pro-abort politicians, need only look in the mirror for an explanation of why he simply is not trusted?

Kate Edwards said...

Nick - There is a big difference between debt to finance infrastructure and debt to finance ongoing service delivery. The ageing population will create some infrastructure needs - in health care and aged homes. But the main impact is on ongoing services, and that requires action to fix the revenue base or finding other ways of financing them.

By contrast building roads etc to areas being developed for mining, NBN etc are intended to boost economic growth and should pay for themselves - its like buying a house vs buying food. For our food budget, we do't want to get into debt; but at least in principle we are prepared to pay off a house over many years.

Anonymous said...

Another example of the Cardinal's clumsy meddling in Public Affairs and selective application of the Church's teaching.

And this is the man whom Pope Francis is relying on to help him reform the Church?

God save us.