Tim Blair


New Criterion



Wednesday, September 15, 2004
THE DIVIDENDS OF MARK LATHAM'S big budget-day boast, that he would outspend the Coalition (difficult) and tax less (easy, but not at the same time) while keeping budget surpluses (dead easy) are being paid out daily.

Latham now concedes that the Perth family with three kids and a stay-at-home mum would be worse off, but only if you really, truly unbelieve his disappearing trick with the Government's $600 per child payments.

His family spokesman Wayne Swan still believes the lie that "the Poor family would actually be at least $27 a week better off under Labor's tax plans", or so he says, as the Perth mother outed herself as Melinda Poor, Liberal Party member but mother of three (the Whinging Wendy of the West?).

Such families, and single mothers, are just collateral damage in the Latham assault on policy reality. Trouble is, in politics those you hurt remember you; those you help may not even notice.

The same applies to Labor's new Robin Hood policy in education. Here, however, Latham has the assistance of the monumental stupidity of the education unions and the state school lobby.

Latham has transferred funding from the established private schools to the Catholic parochial system and the low-fee start-ups in the outer suburbs. The class-warriors in the union cheer and the parents of students in the new private schools look forward to the moolah. The smaller group of parents who will lose will never forget, but they mostly vote Coalition in Coalition seats anyway.

The real sting is for the public school systems. Their share of the money pulled out of the established private schools will be disappeared by the State education bureaucracies. And the net result will be to accelerate the movement of students from State schools to private.

That, of course, is the opposite of what Latham says he is about, and the opposite of what the education unions and the state school lobbies say they are about, but if they notice they can't afford to tell their constituencies.

You watch those people in the next few weeks as they endorse Labor policy; the smiles will be pasted on, but you'll see they know the truth from absence of smile lines elsewhere on their faces.

How much more of this kind of attrition can the electorate stand? Bob McMullan, shadow bean-counter, promised "significantly more" than $8 billion of new spending and therefore of new cuts, and we're a long way short of that.

The man who smiles in your face while kneeing you in the groin makes very poor company.