After a humiliating defeat in the Senate, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg was described as ‘lighter than helium’ and having ‘no agenda’ by one staunchly pro-Coalition media outlet, as Alan Austin reports.
ONE OF THE MOST sycophantic pro-Liberal Party newspapers, The Australian Financial Review (AFR), labelled Treasurer Josh Frydenberg ‘the dolt from Kooyong’ last Thursday, claiming his ‘humiliation is total’ and ‘his complete lack of political judgment has been exposed for all to see’.
While this is a welcome endorsement of this column’s findings that Frydenberg has delivered the worst outcomes of all post-war treasurers, it’s a bit of a surprise. The AFR is the former Fairfax national daily finance newspaper now owned by Nine Entertainment. Nine’s chairman is former Liberal Treasurer, Peter Costello.
Senate destroys Frydenberg’s pet project
So what was the cosmic issue which provoked AFR columnist Joe Aston to assert that:
‘For bureaucratic superfluity, it is certainly Frydenberg’s personal best, but it may even be a world record.’
Was it his accumulated budget deficits nearly five times Wayne Swan’s? Was it blowing out federal debt by $591 billion? Was it Australia’s worst post-war recession? Was it wasting tens of billions in JobKeeper rorts, or losing hundreds of billions to corporate tax evasion?
No, these are of scant concern to Australia’s mainstream press. The AFR was miffed at Frydenberg trying to regulate a small group of proxy advisers, the lobbyists who counsel big investors, including superannuation funds, on how shareholders should vote on director appointments and other questions. A minor matter in the grand scheme of things.
Just before Christmas, Frydenberg introduced rules kneecapping proxy advisers. This followed requests from the Melbourne law firm which, according to his parliamentary register of interests, had given him free legal services.
This was not the first time Joe Aston has condemned the corrupt Treasurer. The ‘Rear Window’ columnist has attacked the ‘scandalous wastage of JobKeeper’ several times.
He wrote in December:
‘The Treasurer is a pitiful political figure, a runt of the Liberal pantheon. He is incapable of expenditure restraint because his core policy objective is popularity.’
But Thursday’s assault was Aston’s most savage. Frydenberg can be mightily thankful his boss, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, had an even worse week thus minimising the attention his humiliation would otherwise have generated.
Other authorities join the condemnation
“The entire exercise was a fiasco. I thank the Senate, in particular Senator Patrick, Jacqui Lambie and One Nation, who were prepared to stand up for free market principles that the Government abandoned.”
“I’d like to thank the senators who voted to disallow this infantile attack on proxy advisers.”
Independent Senator Rex Patrick said:
“To me, this is another example of a treasurer looking after big business and the people who donate to the Liberal Party.”
‘I can't believe I just read the most extraordinary take-down of Josh Frydenberg ever... in the Financial Review.’
Frydenberg’s false job creation claims
It was also disclosed last week to a wide audience that Frydenberg’s claims to have reduced unemployment are largely fraudulent. An article (by this writer) showed that over the last seven years, the number of “workers” employed by the public service has increased by almost half a million, with no evidence that any of them are doing productive work. That’s 3.5 per cent of the workforce.
Responses of the main political parties
IA addressed questions about the failed proxy rules, the catastrophic loss of revenue through tax evasion and wider economic challenges to Treasurer Josh Frydenberg and Shadow Treasurer Jim Chalmers. Frydenberg did not respond.
Dr Chalmers told IA that:
This humiliating slap-down for Josh Frydenberg is just the latest in a long string of embarrassing stuff-ups from the Butterfingers of Australian politics.
Morrison and Frydenberg are Prime Minister and Treasurer for higher prices and lower wages.
Labor’s priorities would be to prioritise economic growth and value for money, deal with the Liberal rorts and waste in the Budget, and look for ways to make multinationals pay their fair share of tax.
Media still solidly pro-Coalition
Unfortunately, this story does not signal that Nine has turned against the Coalition, or even against the Treasurer. Aston is one columnist. Both The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age reported Thursday’s Senate vote overturning Frydenberg’s rules but offered no criticism of the Treasurer. Nor did ABC News.
Indeed, ABC’s Four Corners last Monday showcased an astonishingly ill-informed swinging voter saying:
“I like Josh, I think he's done a good job in the face of, you know, what he's had to go through.”
No. He hasn’t. Evidence shows he really has not. With an election likely in May, only weeks remain for the reality of Coalition incompetence and corruption to be communicated to voters.
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