Don’t be afraid to tax and spend

There is a connection between corporate universities, the Labor government, and the Dalai Lama, argues Angus Reoch

There are two kinds of societies. On the one hand, there are societies that don’t pay their bills; the US, Greece, Rome, King’s Landing. These societies can borrow their way out of their problems and later burden the debt on the backs of the poor – either that or they collapse. Not a problem.

Then there are others such as Australia who, rather uniquely in the current economic climate, are actually committed to maintaining budget balance. Despite the typical Coalition chicanery attempting to convince us otherwise, the Australian budget is pretty much in shape, at least for the present.

The real issue is that there’s not much new revenue coming in. While the mining tax was a conveniently placed farce, the real issue with our tax code is that Howard decided it would be best for the country if wealthy people paid less income tax – a policy which Rudd, eager to emulate his political hero, happily continued.

This strategy of refusing to shore up the tax base could have worked, so long as Labor didn’t plan to enact any big federal schemes. However, one NBN, a NDIS, and a Gonski later, Labor, to its absolute horror, has discovered that it actually needs money to do things.

This would be fine if they didn’t have the absolute courage/idiocy to simultaneously commit themselves to a razor-thin surplus – wait, did we say that? We were joking, guys! – which has led to a curious state of affairs whereby the government is constantly spending while constantly cutting spending and getting credit for neither. Most outlandishly, Labor is now cutting tertiary education to pay for secondary.

None of these cuts are deep or particularly unwarranted but they do establish a dangerous precedent. Not only does it suggest that tertiary education is an easy target, it also fails to meet the very real demands the universities face.

Education is important and it’s also not cheap. If our government isn’t going to invest in it, then who is?

Well, as we all found out last week with the Dalai Lama fiasco, it appears the Chinese government. In the USSC’s case, the defence contractor Raytheon. And in the future – who knows? I for one don’t particularly wish to find out.

Universities are not a cog in the corporate engine. They are as much part of our national framework as our infrastructure, our defence forces and our government services; these are not items we should even for a moment consider being sponsored by foreign governments or corporations.

Pseudo-ideas like ‘getting the government off our backs’ or ‘improving efficiency’ are all great until you realise that someone else is going to replace them and reap the gains.

Neither private-public contracts nor foreign government satellites are established out of good will.

This is a particularly nasty development in the corporatisation of universities, and this is a matter which Labor should have fought against, rather than help establish.