Carlo's Corner: Our in-touch PM just wants to help the Cayman Islands economy

November 6, 2015
Malcolm Turnbull has significant investments in the Caribbean tax haven of the Cayman Islands.

When it was revealed last month that Malcolm Turnbull has significant investments in the Caribbean tax haven of the Cayman Islands, I'll admit I felt some relief. At least our prime minister appeared committed to helping someone's economy, even if It was just a banking system once described by Barack Obama as “the biggest tax scam on record”.

Some public investment in manufacturing in the country he actually governs to help stem the ever-growing loss of jobs as the economy slides towards recession might be good too. But Cayman Island bank employees also have mouths to feed so it is good to know Turnbull is doing his level best to keep food on their tables.

Turnbull was quick to point out that he has done nothing illegal and all his investments are subject to Australian tax, so presumably the fact that two of his investments are at the very address that provoked Obama's “biggest scam ever” comment is pure coincidence.

When he found out, Turnbull must have said: “Oh, is that where my money is? I just put on a blindfold and threw a dart at a world map and told my accountant to chuck a few million where I hit. I didn't even look.

“To be honest, I thought I'd hit Botswana. Cayman Islands you say? Wow!”

For all his good work in the Caribbean, Turnbull is proposing policies in Australia that some pedantic critics might say will hurt poor and working people, on the technical grounds they appear designed to hurt poor and working people, such as a likely GST rise and an ongoing push against “outdated” penalty rates.

But such measures are all for the good of the economy, overall, because if there is one sure-fire way of stimulating growth, it is reducing people's income and capacity to spend. If we have learned anything from recent experiences in Europe, it must be the value of austerity policies in kickstarting an economy, which explains why Greece is booming right now. An economic miracle, youth unemployment rate is running at its just under 50%.

One of Turnbull's key arguments is that penalty rates are “outdated” as we now live in a “seven day economy” and are less relevant in the new, “flexible” economy.

There is no doubt this is now a seven-day economy. That is why you never, ever hear anyone say “Thank god it's Friday”, a habit that well-and-truly fell out of fashion back in the 80s, along with mullets and Choir Boys albums. It has been decades now since anyone but the biggest, out-of-date dinosaurs in any workplace responded to an inquiry on a Monday of “How was the weekend?” with “Not long enough!”

What Turnbull doesn't explain, though, is why those who go on about “outdated workplace cultures” always seem so keen on measures resembling labour practices from the 19th century.

Public servants, many of whom, including Turnbull's own staff, are in dispute with the federal government over its refusal to offer them a pay rise that at least matches inflation, have also come under fire on similar grounds.

Last month, employment minister Michaelia Cash criticised public servants' attitude to workplace relations, saying they were not “living in the real world”.

Cash, whose annual salary exceeds $300,000, is a member of the federal parliament, whose connection to the “real world” is so tenuous that, just days after that comment, its House of Representatives gave former treasurer Joe Hockey a standing ovation.

Joe Hockey. A man who thinks the poor don't drive and the answer to Sydney's housing crisis is for people to just get better jobs. It is hard to imagine a single house in the country, aside from the House of Representatives, likely to give Hockey, who sought to dismantle universal health care and the social safety net, a send off with any more than their middle finger.

Farewelling Hockey, our multi-millionaire prime minister said: “We love you, Joe!” This is not especially in touch with community values. The rest of the country may have also farewelled the ex-treasurer with a four-letter word, but it's a pretty safe bet it wasn't “love”.

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