THE LAST GASP: Tell us what you really think

Stockland's Matthew Quinn pipes up, New South Wales' maths is found wanting and the federal government's budget situation also looks shaky.

The Last Gasp is a wry take on the week’s biggest news, every week. This week, Matthew Quinn has nothing to lose and talks like it too, someone in New South Wales just can’t quite nail long division and questions arise over the government’s surplus saviour it found under someone’s else’s couch.

Cop that

The British get a lot of stick here in Australia, with the tag ‘whinging pom’ having become an entrenched part of the local lexicon. However, such disparaging remarks don’t often extend the other way, and certainly not to the extent reached by outgoing Stockland boss Matthew Quinn this week. The property boss said that Australia has lost the entrepreneurial culture that greeted him when he came here in the late 80s, and has become a lazy and self-indulgent, taking the mining boom for granted. It’s an accusation that would be easy to write off as simple jealousy of Australia’s general awesomeness if anyone could be bothered, so at this point it looks like he has got away with it. Quinn said the ‘old’ Australia saw bending the rules as a good thing, and that the country was now worse off without that attitude. It’s a fair call really, given how many sectors these days are happy simply following all regulations set out to them by the government. In fact, it’s difficult to think of one example of a company raging against any laws or regulations pretty much since the 80s. Still kicking the government, Quinn said the recent Asian White Paper was as good as useless, describing its findings as ‘blindingly obvious’ and quoting Business Spectator’s own Alan Kohler by calling the report "a mile wide and an inch deep". In fairness to Labor, if it’s not going to point out stupidly obvious things, then how is it meant to fill its days? Creating policy? Sounds like too much work, to be honest.

But it’s so unlike them

Remember the 2013/14 surplus? Yeah, the one the federal government has spent the last couple of years effectively staking its reputation on, holding it up as a shield to all criticism like a kid with a security blanket. Well, now the ALP would rather it was forgotten, as its economic wooby comes under pressure from all corners. Labor was forced to abandon a parliamentary debate this week on legislation that was aimed at treating $760 million worth of unclaimed privately-owned superannuation and bank account savings as government revenue. Inconceivably, independent MPs and the Greens have questioned the validity of the idea. But what’s wrong with it, really? It’s not as if those people really want their own money. Otherwise they would have claimed it, right? What’s the point of it sitting there rotting when the government can claim it as their own? The modern history of Australia was founded on the concept of 'finders, keepers', and that’s never caused any problems at all. Right?

Very poor choice of words

The coalition spent the earlier part of the week questioning the surplus promise, even before it was aware of just how much opposition there was to the super-snatching deal. On the defence, the government attacked the coalition with a not-at-all tired strategy, deriding them for continued negativity and picking at the rhetoric, rather than the argument. Experts have suggested that if the government really wanted less flack, perhaps it should stop screwing things up. Disgraced MP Craig Thomson was also a vocal critic of the money-claiming plan, calling for more details on how the changes would affect rarely-used bank accounts, and reportedly offering alternative suggestions for the use of the money if it was going to just lay around unwanted.

Ship em’ in, Pack em’ out

James Packer spent the early part of the week spruiking Asian tourism, claiming Australia must recognise Asia’s needs if it really wants to succeed in capturing a share of the growing market. The gaming magnate said that unless the industry could grasp what a growing Asian middle class needs, there is little hope of making an impact. Specifically, their needs for a marquee gambling destination where they can pour their unwanted millions, one imagines. And if James Packer just happens to be chairman of that bottomless pit then hey, everybody wins. Except for the gamblers, clearly.

Should have carried the one

Australian government forecasters proved their invaluable worth again this week when, hot on the heels of the billion dollar tax that raised precisely zilch, came a $330 million deficit that oh, by the way, turns out was actually a $680 million surplus. The difference, discovered by the New South Wales state government, was blamed on 37 errors in the states June budget greater than $20 million, including two worth more than $1 billion each. Billion dollar errors, no less. Questions abound, such as: how mistakes of that magnitude could be overlooked, how these guys ended up working for the state government, and how they even finished flippin’ high school.

Robbing from Peter to stop Peter getting robbed

Still in New South Wales, the state government kicked up a stink about the rollout of the national broadband network this week, calling on the federal government to come up with $400 million in funds needed to see the fibre cable laid across the state. It’s arguably a fair request, given everybody knows that the state is headed for a significant deficit next year. NSW finance minister Greg Pearce said the state would not accept a deal which would see NSW taxpayers subsidise the rollout, instead leaving the bill to the feds, and federal taxpayers, such as NSW citizens and... oh.

Quick misses

– Incumbent Melbourne Mayor Robert Doyle has called his latest successful election campaign the dirtiest he has been involved in, noting that Australia was lucky such tactics did not extend to a federal level.

– Global publishing giants Random House and Penguin are set to merge, in a deal that could have created the world’s most awesomely-named company, Random Penguin.

– BHP Billiton has unveiled a fleet of automated mining vehicles, in a sign that they clearly haven’t seen The Terminator yet and are endangering the very human race.

– And finally, Foreign Minister Bob Carr says he can't recall labelling US presidential candidate Mitt Romney ‘bloodless’ on an internet blog, and has criticised any bloodless journalists that dared to suggest otherwise.

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