Next time Cossie starts ranting about “robbing the future”, go back and have a read of Tony Harris’ Fin Review column posted at Troppo.
The first thing to say about the future fund is that it is unnecessary. Before it was established last year, commonwealth unfunded superannuation liabilities were $95 billion. These are to be met over forty years. For 2005-06, they required less than $2.5 billion: one per cent of the commonwealth government’s cash expenses. This was entirely within the budget’s capacity.
And don’t forget that what the government is actually doing with our taxes, instead of investing in infrastructure like fast broadband, is creating a big stock market play pool for Cossie’s mates (and a stack of commissions and fees for the big end of town, as is par for the course with the Howard government’s economic irrationality).
The second point is that it is a shame that the commonwealth has nothing better to do with surpluses than to invest them in David Jones and Woolworths or, more interesting, in Tabcorp, Gunns Timber or other securities which many Australians class as unethical investments.
Some economists want Costello to invest surpluses in a taxation system that reduces the disincentive for those thinking of moving from welfare to work. Others argue for more infrastructure or for skills creation. If the government cannot identify needs which have a higher priority – and a higher return – than the shares to be acquired by the future fund, it is myopic. Even re-buying government office blocks would be a better deal.
You’d expect some of our “national affairs editors” or whatever the punditariat call themselves to grasp this point. Or maybe not.
Of course, Cossie might not bother with another round of ranting on this. The best focus group out there, the polls, suggest that none of the government talking points have laid a glove on Labor so far. And the easiest comeback in the world for the Labor Party is to make exactly the points Harris does, and lay out some positive policy for future investments.