Budget: Gov’t takes a punt on rubbery forward estimates, while ignoring tax reform agenda

By Graeme Wines, Deakin University

When assessing some of the assumptions underpinning Wayne Swan’s 2013 federal budget, two things spring to mind: the Henry Tax Review and the notorious inaccuracy of forward estimates.

History shows it might be foolhardy to rely on the accuracy of forward estimates. And meanwhile, the repercussions of failing to undertake structural economic reform by amending our taxation system will continue to weigh on our economic fortunes.

So what is the link between the Henry Review and the forward estimates? One was timely but ignored; the other has time against it.

Henry Tax Review

Despite Treasurer Wayne Swan’s earlier promise to return to surplus for the 2012-13 year, a deficit of A$19.4 billion has now been announced. As such, this year’s budget represents an absolutely critical one for Australia as it makes especially visible the underlying structural deficit that has faced Australia now for many years.

In the five years to 30 June this year, Australia will have had budget deficits totalling in excess of A$190 billion. Moreover, the less-than-expected receipts from the mining and carbon taxes and increased spending on, for example, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Gonski education reforms will have future budgetary impacts. The current budget therefore highlights the need to examine decisions made to address the underlying structural deficit.

The Henry Tax Review’s 138 recommendations effectively represent a blueprint to guide reform. Given Australia’s current budgetary position, it would seem timely to examine budget measures in the context of the review’s recommendations. However, the government has chosen — to a very large extent — to ignore the report.

Given the effort and cost that went into the report’s preparation, it seems logical for the government to provide a comprehensive statement on whether the review’s recommendations will be seriously considered and how its recommendations will be implemented.

The current version of the mining tax serves as a stark example. It was not set up as envisaged by the Henry Review, and its ineffectiveness in raising tax revenue has now become obvious.

English: Wayne Swan, Treasurer of Australia So...

English: Wayne Swan, Treasurer of Australia Source commons:category:Politics of Australia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Accuracy of forward estimates

For many years now, the Commonwealth budgets have included estimates for the ensuing financial year and for three further forward estimate years. Given that a budget surplus was not delivered for 2012-13 as originally promised, and given the revised commitment to return the budget to balance in 2015-16 and surplus in 2016-17, it is worth examining the accuracy of forward estimates provided in budgets.

The latest year for which we have an actual budget outcome figure is the 2011-12 financial year. If we examine the budget released in May 2008, the forward estimate was for an A$18.9 billion surplus for 2011-12.

A year later, in May 2009, the forward estimate for the 2011-12 year had turned around by the not inconsiderable amount of A$63.4 billion to become a A$44.5 billion deficit. This was then revised to a lower deficit of A$13 billion in the May 2010 budget, followed by a revision to an increased deficit of A$22.6 billion in the May 2011 budget. The actual outcome, released in September 2012, was a deficit of almost A$44 billion.

Another example from last night’s budget is the estimate that the budget deficit for 2012-13 is now expected to amount to A$19.4 billion. The earliest budget that contained a forward estimate for 2012-13 was released in May 2010, where the estimate was for a surplus of A$5.4 billion. This therefore represents a forecast error of some A$25 billion.

The surplus was revised down to A$1.5 billion in last year’s budget, and a forecast error of over A$20 billion has arisen over the space of one year.

These examples point to the notorious unreliability of forward estimate figures — not just for estimates four years into the future, but also for periods as short as one year.

It is interesting to note the government has included certain significant projections in the budget for a ten-year period. A chart in the budget papers presents “long-term savings”, totalling A$121 billion for the ten-year period through to 2023-24.

Federal Budget 2013-14

Another chart presents projections for the level of net government debt through to 2023-24, showing the paying down of net debt to nil over that period.

Federal Budget 2013-14

Given the past unreliability of four-year forward estimates, one wonders how forward estimates for a ten-year period can be taken seriously — especially given the forthcoming September election and at least three further elections within that timeframe.

Graeme Wines does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

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Common sense disclaimer: The blog owner wishes to advise that neither The Conversation nor the author Dr Graeme Wines necessarily endorse the original content of fmDXing.wordpress.com.

How to prevent cyber stalking happening to you

By Rosemary Purcell, University of Melbourne

Recent cases of online abuse against Charlotte Dawson and NRL player Robbie Farah have attracted considerable media attention and triggered public debate about how to respond to this issue.

But how big a problem is online abuse and harassment, and is it serious enough to warrant this level of attention and concern?

Not according to current research, but prevalence studies are thin. For example cyberstalking, which involves repeated, unwanted contacts via the internet, email and other communication technologies, is relatively uncommon. Only 5-10% of stalking victims report having been cyberstalked. Instead, most stalking occurs offline, where victims are followed, kept under surveillance, intruded upon at home or work, and harassed via phone calls.

Love Thy Neighbour As Thyself © 2009 Erna Louisa

Love Thy Neighbour As Thyself © 2009 Erna Louisa

A wealth of opportunity

The concern about online abuse appears to be driven more by the potential, rather than actual size of the problem. More than half a billion people worldwide share information every day about their lives on Facebook alone, let alone other social media platforms such as Twitter or LinkedIn. The scope for abuse is immense, whether via isolated instances of inflammatory and offensive postings (“trolling”) or more relentless campaigns of cyber-bullying or stalking.

Anti Bullying poster © 2009 Bullying UK charity

Anti Bullying poster © 2009 Bullying UK charity

The very nature of cyber abuse or stalking may promote the behaviour, as it’s pursued in private and often with anonymity (although as the recent “trolling” cases demonstrate, beliefs in anonymity may be misplaced). In online environments that lack an obvious social context, or rules or norms that might otherwise inhibit deviant behaviour, online abuse and harassment may appear “unaccountable” to some individuals and therefore more feasible.

That said, in the non-cyber world, many people abuse, bully, harass or stalk others regardless of social and moral conventions.

More research is needed to understand the nature and prevalence of all forms of online abuse. But online services that are designed to help victims of online abuse and cyberstalking (such as CyberAngels) report a steady increase in requests for assistance.

Anti Bullying poster © 2009 Bullying UK charity

Anti Bullying poster © 2009 Bullying UK charity

Online is still real

Issues of prevalence aside, online abuse in all its guises is a serious form of violence. The most common forms of cyberstalking include publishing potentially damaging or embarrassing personal information online or via email, spreading false or malicious rumours about the victim and gathering information about a victim (their home address, phone number, photos of friends or relatives and so on).

Facts, Bullying © 2011 REVELN.com / Deb Nystrom

Facts, Bullying © 2011 REVELN.com / Deb Nystrom

The sense of violation caused by these acts is damage enough to the victim and likely to be amplified when the abuse is shared widely via social media. Research clearly indicates that cyberstalking does not differ from its physical world counterpart in terms of the impact on victims.

Victims of both can suffer emotional damage, including profound feelings of mistrust, helplessness, depression, anger and even paranoia, as they live in anticipation of the next potential invasion of privacy or abusive contact.

Anti Bullying poster © 2009 Bullying UK charity

Anti Bullying poster © 2009 Bullying UK charity

Just switch off?

That’s often helpful in the short term, if only to re-group” and remove yourself from the abuse. What’s more critical in these situations is self-control. People who are subjected to online abuse, harassment or stalking should avoid any further contact or confrontation with the perpetrator. These people thrive on attention and any reply or response to the abuse is almost guaranteed to be met with ‘more of the same’. Restraint is easier said than done. But this strategy is one of the most effective ways of bringing harassment and stalking to an end.

In addition, most Australian states and territories have laws that could be used as a legal remedy to address these forms of online abuse.

Anti Bullying poster © 2009 Bullying UK charity

Anti Bullying poster © 2009 Bullying UK charity

A new world order…

The explosion in the use of social media and a relaxation in inhibitions about sharing personal information online have presented challenges and made mindfulness about practical protections more relevant. Critical strategies to enhance safety online include:

  • Being continually vigilant about the privacy settings on social media accounts. This is often not a straightforward process of merely ticking a box (Facebook, for example has more than 100 privacy setting combinations).
  • Consider deactivating “Location Settings”, as this can allow anyone to know your real time locations, and lead them there via Google maps
  • Resist the urge to regularly ‘check-in’ as this gives an insight into your daily habits;
  • Be aware that new features such as Facebook’s “Timeline” allows people to trawl back through your entire online history, including the days when we were all a little less social media savvy
  • Google yourself, and if any information that you regard as private is revealed, contact the website administrator and have them remove the details;
  • Ask friends, family and acquaintances not to post any information about you that you regard as personal and private, including your contact details or photos;
  • Don’t disclose anything online that you wouldn’t feel comfortable telling a stranger offline.
No hate speech © 2011 Ashley Marinaccino

No hate speech © 2011 Ashley Marinaccino

Rosemary Purcell receives funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The Conversation

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Read the original article.

Related videos

  • Personal anguish suggests new laws are needed to punish cyber bullies (I-view, transcript)
  • BBC broadcaster documents the obsessive tirade of online abuse he received (I-view, Youtube)

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How NOT to write an opinion piece

Geoffrey Barker is a retired journalist, published author and fellow at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra. Barker’s specialty is defence studies.

For those living under a rock, Mr Barker penned an opinion piece this week for Fairfax which many consider to be full of blatant stereotypes about women journalists. Readers, please take two minutes to read that article which has been condemned as click-bait.

In order to attract attention, opinion pieces like those are usually designed to be controversial and confrontational. Invariably there will be segments of the audience that will disagree or walk away deeply offended. It’s not easy to write such a piece and anonymous commentators can be vicious in their reaction.

Whilst doing hard labour as a journalism undergraduate, this blogger observed that journalism courses are often full of what may be considered physically attractive young women. In many instances, the bulk of the candidates for the qualifications are women. It’s naive to assume that looks do not play a role in obtaining on-camera roles.

But by Mr Barker’s logic, physical attractiveness and intellect (&/or skill) are mutually exclusive. Mr Barker offers no evidence to support his theory. Unfortunately, his article comes across as sham elitist. The inference is that any idiot with a pretty face (&/or other visible assets) can successfully climb the ranks of television journalism. Remember that journalism is a profession in ruinous decline – ensuring the competition for employment is fiercer than ever.

Sexist © 2013 Outtacontext

One of those offended by Mr Barker’s remarks was Ten Late News journalist Hermione Kitson (featured in the unrelated video below) who must be a vacuous dill, according to Mr Barker’s theory. How does one come to this conclusion? Ms Kitson was:

  • a Media/Communications undergrad (Sydney University);
  • selected for an ABC internship &
  • ranked #70 on Maxim Australia’s Hot 100 list (2012).

Damnit, she almost passed Mr Barker’s test to qualify as a serious journalist. Her institution is relevant since Mr Barker takes issue with graduates from ‘undistinguished universities’ and even worse ‘media studies’ graduates with mere ‘diplomas’. One can only imagine what Mr Barker thinks of those who took cadet-ships straight out of high school!

High calbre journalism alumni (including Denton) have been emanating from Bathurst’s Charles Sturt University, one of the new (non-standstone) breeds of progressive regional institution for decades.

Sadly being beautiful precludes the occurrence of intelligence or skill in the journalist. Mr ‘progressive’ Barker makes life much simpler. What a national treasure.

Female journalists (from both public and commercial networks) across the country have savagely vented their disgust on fora such as Twitter. Many websites and newspapers have attempted to debunk Mr Barker’s flawed logic. But here is one of the best; because laughing at this nonsense is perhaps the best strategy in deciphering its message:

…Even if you’re feeling generous this morning, you can’t deny that what [Mr Barker] pulled out of his butt instead was one of the most demeaning, belittling, misogynistic pieces of crap that’s ever been printed in a major newspaper.

In closing, let’s provide Mr Barker with an opportunity to have the last word:

Somebody needs to explain to [these young women] that the world is not created anew every day, that there is little that is new under the sun, and that restraint and curiosity can be useful journalistic tools. They might also be directed to ABC and SBS TV where they can find role models whose outstanding work shows how the job should be done.

Oh no, there is a problem. The hotties have infected the beloved ABC too, Mr Barker. And that can only mean one thing, inherent stupidity. Of course!

Believe or not, Mr Barker is capable of composing sensible prose on public policy as a columnist for the Australian Financial Review.

This is a revised version of the article originally written on Thursday May 2nd, in both composition and links.