Tag Archives: ken henry

McKibbin For PM 2010

23 Jun

Long something of an outsider – the lone outspoken voice of reason and commonsense on the otherwise “reserved” board of the Reserve Bank – Warwick McKibbin has again spoken out.  He has accused Rudd of panicking, and wasting huge sums of taxpayer money.

Who’d have thought!

From the Sydney Morning Herald:

A prominent university economist and member of the Reserve Bank board has delivered a scathing critique of Kevin Rudd’s response to the global financial crisis, saying his government ”panicked” and ”rammed through” decisions fraught with risk.

Warwick McKibbin, of the Australian National University, accused the government of overspending on its stimulus package, and then coming up with ”a really badly designed resource tax” to try to compensate.

And he described the government’s planned $43 billion national broadband network as ”a gigantic white elephant waiting to happen”.

It gets better.

McKibbin also attacks Treasury secretary Ken Henry.

Readers of this blog will know our scathing views of Henry’s “performance” before, during, and after the GFC.  We have been calling for him to be sacked… a call that is only now just beginning to resonate in the Opposition ranks.  And in the economic commentariat too. Highly esteemed business leader and commentator Robert Gottliebsen recently said this:

The position of Ken Henry as the head of Treasury is not sustainable.

Here’s what Professor McKibbin had to say about Henry:

Professor McKibbin also took aim at fellow Reserve Bank board member and Treasury secretary Ken Henry, accusing him of not only failing to consult experts on economic issues, but of trying to silence them…

(Professor McKibbin)… has told The Age he was stunned by Dr Henry’s call this week for academics to ”put down their weapons” and stop nitpicking over government proposals such at the emissions trading scheme.

”The ETS was a flawed scheme. Had the government got it through it would be dead by now because of the financial crisis,” Professor McKibbin said. ”I have enormous respect for Ken Henry, but he can’t believe that you should have consensus because it is better to have bad policy that everyone agrees with than eventually get good policy that will work.”

Enough of Henry. Really … enough!

Back to Rudd / Henry’s rushed and bungled “economic stimulus”:

And in a damning assessment of the government’s stimulus package, he (McKibbin) said: ”It wasn’t evidence-based policy, they panicked. They put the money into school buildings, they put it in insulation, they put it in stuff they could never reverse.

”The government rammed those decisions through the economy even though they were fraught with risk,” Professor McKibbin said. ”No one was consulted about an alternative view, and if you did say anything you were attacked by the Treasurer and the Prime Minister in public.”

He also accused the government of overspending on the stimulus package and then deciding that ”because of politics they had to get their spending back so they could claim they had fiscal surplus – for which there is no economic basis, by the way.

”So they come up with a really badly designed resource tax to try and get the position to look good three years from now and, in the middle of a sovereign risk crisis, exposed the economy to a reassessment of sovereign risk.”

Warwick, we need you in politics.  You have my vote.

McKibbin For PM 2010!

Barnaby: The Economic Illuminati

9 Jun

Opinion piece for The Punch – Senator Barnaby Joyce, 7 June 2010:

The Mining Tax:  Treasury’s Own Love Formula

Every now and then, a select group from the economic illuminati retire to their monastic study and devise a splendid idea to try and pay off their previous splendid idea.

Splendid idea number one was to borrow so much money that we put ourselves in more strife than the early settlers in our desire to adorn the nation with an eclectic mix of rubbish that apparently was going to save us from Asia ceasing to purchase our minerals. The relationship between our stimulus and mineral exports was as clear as mud, but there was an emphatic defence of this fantastic proposition by Labor.

The Treasury corruption of the graphs depicting the relationship between our and other nations’ fiscal stimulus packages and the effect on their respective economies shows that when the graphs were corrected the relationship was hardly apparent. We really were sold a lemon on Labor’s “go hard, go early, go household strategy” in response to the North American and European financial crisis and are currently lumbered with in excess of $144 billion gross federal debt while on our merry way to in excess of $220 billion gross federal debt.

The next chapter in the Labor Party Magnus Opus was called “massive debt” and the next problem for Treasury was “how do we pay it off?” The Labor Party thought to increase their revenue stream in the most politically parochial way. They explained to Australia that the big miners are morally lacking, are exploiting the workers, and they as a government, Robin Hood – like, would restore the balance of fiscal morality. It would mean the partial nationalisation of our whole mining sector, however. They had it on good advice from the Secretary of the Treasury, that he had studied a theorem at high school that no matter how you flog this mining sector, it’s going to hang around and continue to support you.

The sobering reality is this, despite the Secretary of the Treasury stating that you can put taxes up in the mining sector and not affect the investment profile, he is wrong on this occasion. If taxes go up at an exponential rate to where they formerly were, people will make the logical decision to go where the taxes are less. If the Secretary of the Treasury tells you that a new tax will assist in cooling the planet, you really have to ask yourself if this is necessarily so. If you surround yourself with hedges of economic theorems and carpets of policy papers and spend your nights fanatically trying to turn human emotion into predictable mathematical models, and don’t recognise what is yelled to you as common sense by the peak industry groups, you will come unstuck when you find that your models don’t match their experience.

During Estimates one can get quite frustrated with well meaning pontificating by well paid bureaucrats about a perfect world they have created and what happens in it. This world has created a Newtonian expectation of preciseness to economics as required to match government policy desires. It supposes that gravity and economics are the same and that people’s actions are as predictable as other items of physics- like a mathematical model for love. Commonsense expectations on actions and reactions are put aside for superb anodyne reflections on economic issues. The basic premise that must be first applied when analysing the RSPT is this – if a miner can make more money in another venue, then to that other venue they will go. Unfortunately it appears that this statement of the bleeding obvious, that one cannot predict the economic speed of sound, has meant that a realistic gut instinct of what happens when you put a 40% tax on mining has not been followed.

The reality of the RSPT, which was blatantly obvious to virtually everyone, has now of course come to be in the actions of such companies as Xstrata in the reduction of their investment decisions in Australia. How can we believe the Labor Party’s lauding of their so-called management of the GFC and take for granted their endorsement that it was their school halls program that saved us from a recession, when it is the same Labor Government inspired brains trust that is creating this stuff up?

Dr Henry, in answer to my question at the Economics References Committee Inquiry earlier this week, stated that it didn’t matter whether the RSPT tax was at 40, 60 or 70 percent, as to how it would affect investment in Australia. I was left no choice but to believe that he was correct in his description of a theory but had completely departed from reality as to what was actually going to happen.

This new tax will not only be a bombshell to such mining areas as Gladstone, Townsville, Wollongong Newcastle and Mackay and the whole of WA, but ultimately it will affect those other big coastal towns such as Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney as they come to the startling reality that these Labor Party splendid ideas are going to have dire consequences to the investment and export structure of our nation.

In the town of Wandoan, there are some farmers who are happy today due to the fact that a major mine is not going ahead and yes we should not be mining prime agricultural land because this is the ultimate non renewable resource. This Labor Party package was not to protect prime agricultural land but to prop up Treasury with a new tax. In fact the Labor Party hoped the mining would go ahead in Wandoan. However, there are some other families who were hoping that the income from the mine will increase their standard of living, and they are very unhappy, because Labor Party hopes are not their reality.

There were people who were going to build a $1 billion railway line from Wandoan to Banana and they are unhappy today as they are not going to build it anymore. There was supposed to be the development of a massive income stream to support lots of shops, chemists, school teachers, nurses, contractors, metal fabricators, diesel fitters and they are all going to miss out. They are all very unhappy. They are all unhappy because some group of individuals in Canberra decided that they were beyond questioning and resolute in a desire to inflict on the Australian economy what would have to be the most incongruous economic policy since the 1949 desire by the Labor government to nationalise the banking industry.

Joyce: ‘More Modelling Than Naomi Campbell’

3 Jun

Barnaby Joyce accuses Labor of using dodgy statistics in its propaganda for its Orwellian-named “Resource Super-Profits Tax” (RSPT).

From The Australian:

The Federal Government has more modelling “than Naomi Campbell” on its proposed mining tax, but none of it makes any sense, Nationals Senate leader Barnaby Joyce says.

He has accused the Government of hiding behind questionable statistics in its push to implement a 40 per cent tax on the super profits of mining companies.

They’ve got more modelling than Naomi Campbell, but it’s all wrong,” Senator Joyce said today.

Indeed, the modelling is all wrong.

Professor Steve Keen, winner of the Revere Award for being the international economist who first and most cogently forewarned of the coming GFC, has demonstrated that Treasury’s modelling is based on economic fallacies and “a gaping hole in logic“, in a series of articles for Business Spectator.  They can also be found on Professor Keen’s DebtWatch blog.

Returning to Barnaby:

He took special aim at Treasury over pie charts Treasurer Wayne Swan used to back the Government’s argument miners have been paying half the tax they were paying a decade ago.

Respected business commentator and ABC TV’s Finance presenter, Alan Kohler, today checked the numbers for himself in a column for Business Spectator titled, “The Government’s RSPT Spin Is A Disgrace”:

Another big accounting firm, Deloittes, has gone through ATO data and demonstrated that the effective tax rate for Australian mining companies (company tax plus royalties) is 41.3 per cent, compared with the average across all sectors of 27.18 per cent. I went into the ATO website and did the same calculation: it’s true.

In one of its taxpayer-funded advertisements, the government says: “Before the last boom Australia got 1 in every 3 dollars of mining profits in royalties and resource charges, we now receive just 1 in every 7 dollars.”

This statement is a disgrace, even leaving aside the fact that we are paying for it.

Back to Barnaby:

Senator Joyce wants to see the figures Treasury used to formulate the charts, but Departmental officials have opted to stall at a series of Senate estimates hearings this week.

“The pie charts don’t make any sense,” he said.

“They’ve had four days to explain two pie charts and they can’t do it.”

Indeed, according to mining magnate Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest today, the head of the Treasury department Ken Henry – the architect of the now infamous Henry Tax Review – can’t even explain it himself:

Mr Forrest said Dr Henry had effectively conceded at a lunch with leading economists late last month that he was uncertain how financiers would view the rebate.

“When asked … he (Dr Henry) said, `I’m sure some clever banker is going to find out how to make it work’,” Mr Forrest said.

What he’s saying to the Australian people is that he doesn’t know.

“Ken Henry doesn’t have the answers and what I know with absolute certainty is that he didn’t consult with the banking industry, like he didn’t consult with the mining industry.

As this blog has highlighted many times, Treasury secretary Ken Henry is not fit to hold his position, and should be sacked.  The huge controversy over the RSPT only serves to confirm this view.

Yesterday Andrew Forrest revealed details of his own private conversations with Ken Henry over the RSPT, during which Henry admitted that the “logic” of his RSPT all rests on one critical assumption.  The fact that this assumption is dead wrong, further proves Henry’s ivory-towered, disconnected-from-economic-reality incompetence:

“Ken has described to me how the tax works and it relies on a critical assumption, that the so-called guarantee of 40 per cent of losses in bankruptcy actually has a value to financiers,” Mr Forrest told ABC Radio.

“If it doesn’t, then in Ken Henry’s own words, the logic of the entire tax collapses and this is just a 40 per cent take, which of course will then damage the industry.”

Mr Forrest said he had told Mr Henry that the 40 per cent tax credit guarantee on losses would be worthless to the mining industry as it would not be worth anything to financiers when they decided on loans.

“It theoretically works for economists in textbooks, it doesn’t work in the real world.”

Which is exactly what contrarian economist Steve Keen says is true about almost all mainstream economic thought, in his brilliant book Debunking Economics.

UPDATE:

From The Australian:

One of Australia’s most respected economic forecasters, Chris Richardson, has demolished the intellectual and economic modelling behind the government’s resource super-profits tax, effectively telling Treasury it got it badly wrong..

The assault on the fundamental logic of the tax will seriously embarrass the government and the architect of the tax, Treasury secretary Ken Henry, given their repeated claims that their model will not deter investment and the mining industry is merely running a fear campaign.

Rudd’s Smoke And Mirrors Accounting

26 May

Media Release – Senator Barnaby Joyce, 26 May 2010:

Questioning in Senate Estimates today showed that the Labor Party has been cooking the books to make their spending plans look better.

In the budget the Labor Party brought forward about $1.5 billion, which was earmarked for spending in future years for State and Local Governments, to this financial year.

“Much of this will be paid on June 7. It is not clear what State and Local governments will do with the money for the 23 days that will be left in this financial year. Perhaps the interest will help their bottom line at the expense of the Commonwealth’s”, Senator Barnaby Joyce said.

“The Government could not provide a cogent reason for bringing forward this spending. They could not produce one letter from a local government requesting an early transfer of spending.”

“Labor has produced an accounting trick to increase the base of their funding in 2009-10 and therefore make the amount they can spend higher under the 2% expenditure cap in forward years.”

“The Government’s financial acumen is demonstrated by them losing $11 million on the Sydney West Metro project. In last year’s budget the Government gave NSW $91 million for this project. Not much more than six months later the NSW government scrapped the project, with $11 million of the Commonwealth’s contribution going west on helpful things like ‘consultant fees’.”

“This is another clear example that the Australian people simply cannot trust this Labor Government to deliver economic responsibility.”

More Information- Jenny Swan 0746 251500

This government is constantly ‘cooking the books’.

Please take the time to review the following exposés of other accounting ‘tricks’, in previous Rudd government budgets –

Labor: Hide The Increase

Labor Fakes GDP By 4.5%

Tanner Lies About Budget, GFC

Labor’s $50bn Budget Fraud

Barnaby Bets Henry

26 May

From AAP:

Queensland Senator Barnaby Joyce wants to bet federal Treasury boss Ken Henry $1000 that the government fails to deliver its $1 billion 2012 budget surplus.

The forecast surplus depends largely on the government’s proposed 40 per cent resource rent tax.

Senator Joyce said achieving the 2012 surplus will be miraculous.

“Does Dr Henry truly believe that?,” the Nationals leader told ABC television on Tuesday.

“If he does, I’m willing to take a $1000 bet with Dr Henry, and if he is … a billion dollars or better I will pay him $1000.

“If we have a deficit, is he prepared to match my money?”

Senator Joyce has clashed with Treasury secretary Ken Henry previously.  When Barnaby was the Opposition’s Shadow Finance Minister, the insufferably arrogant Ken Henry appeared to relish taking every opportunity during Senate Estimates hearings… and in public speeches… to make thinly-veiled criticisms about his economic views.  Criticisms that the feral media pack wlecomed gleefully in their constant baying for Barnaby’s sacking.

Ironically, the increasingly dire global economic events are demonstrating ever more clearly, that when it comes to economics, Ken Henry is usually wrong.

And Barnaby Is Right.

Mining Tax Puts Australia On Frontline of Market Fury

21 May

Highly respected Australian economics commentator, Robert Gottliebsen, puts forward the same basic point as investment giant Goldman Sachs/JB Were in their recent note to clients – that the Rudd’s government’s mining tax is a prime cause of the dramatic collapse in the Aussie sharemarket and Aussie Dollar.

From Business Spectator:

Global stock markets are losing faith in governments to manage the escalating problems stemming from the sovereign debt situation. But it is worse than that. Bankers are also losing confidence in governments. The sharp falls in stock markets will affect business activities and will have repercussions on economies around the world.

Solvent governments such as Germany are effectively borrowing vast sums to prop up bankrupt countries like Greece and most of the other PIIGS . The bankers say it will not work. Traders are liquidating their portfolios and the shorters are selling European shares.

And whereas we should have been one of the pillars of stability in this global crisis, our crazy mining tax has caused Australia to be in the front line of the market fury.

We have already been hit by a massive bear raid and now we will hit again by the falls on Wall Street.

We need good government at this crucial point in history. Instead we have bad government, so our economic recovery will be stalled if markets keep plunging. Treasury’s optimistic budget forecasts now look as silly as its mining tax.

Smashed $A – Rudd’s Super Tax Blamed

21 May

Goldman Sachs’ Australian subsidiary, JBWere, has issued a note to clients highlighting the reasons for the ongoing rout in the Australian Dollar, which has nose-dived from USD93c to just USD81c (at time of writing) in just three weeks since April 30.

via ZeroHedge:

Despite our belief that relative growth and relative interest rates suggest some support for the A$ over coming months, it is hard to see a swift resolution to the major sources of risk aversion impacting Australia and its hard to build a compelling case for offshore investors to bid the A$ higher. In that environment it will be difficult for our long-standing 95c target for the A$ around mid-year to be met; however, we still think our 12 month 90c target is still feasible, albeit with the path to 90 now likely to be via near-term weakness. Whether an ongoing decline in the A$ is in prospect will partly hinge on whether the Treasury Secretary’s suggestions that the WACC for the resource sector will be lower are viewed by the market as valid arguments or not. In sum, it is not just risk aversion that is driving the A% lower at present, fundamental factors have also been very important (relative growth, shifting rate expectations, lower commodity prices and capital exit) and the path to lower risk aversion is less dependant on the typical ebb and flow of market sentiment and highly dependant upon the actions of policy makers in Australia and Europe. Our A$ forecasts are now under review.

(emphasis added)

So there you have it, from one of the world’s most powerful investment banks, in their advice to clients. “Fundamental factors” have been “very important” in the rapid sell-off of the Australian Dollar.  And a key factor blamed, is the Rudd government’s “Resource Super-Profits Tax” (RSPT), inspired by Treasury Secretary Ken Henry.

(This is the same Ken Henry who utterly failed to foresee the GFC coming in 2007-08.  The same Ken Henry who, in February this year, publicly announced that the GFC is ‘over’, and predicted that Australia is set for a period of “unprecedented prosperity” lasting to 2050)

The financial markets are now considering the AUD to be a high risk currency. And according to JBWere, the “path to lower risk aversion” is “highly dependant on the actions of policy makers in Australia…”.

Rudd’s proposed “super tax” on the mining industry is not just wiping tens of billions off the value of Australian mining company shares – and the value of your Superannuation account.  It has also pulled the floor out from under the Aussie Dollar.

Insulation program. School halls. Border protection. Computers in schools. Renewable energy. FuelWatch. GroceryWatch. “The greatest moral challenge of our time”.

Does everything this government does turn to $***?

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