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Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week Award December 20, 2009

Posted by Garibaldy in media.

Cheeky statement of the week goes to Willie O’Dea.

Yes, we all still face some very tough choices. Government will need to take difficult decisions as to where to best use scarce resources, but many individuals and groups will also have some very difficult decisions to make when it comes to deciding how to respond. Will long-term achievement be chosen over short-term thinking?

In third place, Senator Harris.

Contrast these clear impressions with the ambivalent after-images left behind by Morning Ireland’s cosy chat with Professor Bill Roche of UCD, who specialises in industrial relations. Here the after-image was as soft as caramel. Both interviewer and interviewee seemed more sensitive to the hurt feelings of the public sector unions than to the general interest of the Irish people — who must carry both the public sector and its fat cat trade union leaders on its bowed and possibly broken back.

In joint second place, from Jerome Reily’s front page story.

CONSUMER confidence has risen sharply in the wake of the Budget with people more buoyant about the state of the economy and their own personal finances, business leaders believe.
Retailers report an encouraging post-Budget boost with sales up 20 per cent in the week after Brian Lenihan’s December 9 Dail speech and yesterday enjoyed their busiest shopping day for 18 months.

He ties with himself for this statement in another story.

But remarkably the Budget, which cut public service pay, has brought a measure of renewed confidence and optimism — and a much needed bounce as shoppers have begun to spend in the last days before Christmas.

So there would have been no Christmas presents without the public sector cuts, which mercifully rescued it for everybody.

And in first place, basically this entire load of misogynist front-page rubbish from Brendan O’Connor.

Jack O’Connor in the Mail… December 19, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

Interesting interview in the Mail with Jason O’Toole and Jack O’Connor. If, that is, one can ignore the subhead:

He says Brian Lenihan makes Thatcher look like a saint. He warns of sustained strikes and a debilitating work to rule regime.
Alot of hot air from a union firebrand known as Red Jack?
Read on – if your blood pressure can take it – and you’ll see that he means it

Red Jack? I think not.

Most interesting is the idea put about by O’Connor that Brian Lenihan represents some sort of phase change in the relationship between Government and unions. Some of us might beg to differ.

‘Things have changed fundamentally in our dealings with the Minister for Finance. My problem with him is that I can’t trust him. I’ve never been in that space with any other member of any government that I dealt with.
‘In my role as president of congress [the Irish Congress of Trade Unions], I represent nearly 40 per cent of all the people who go to work. And I don’t have the luxury of not dealing with those thepeople who do not want an agreement and who twist and distort and misrepresent your position and your intentions for petty advantagein the public domain.
‘All of that was incompatible withan approach that could have facilitated agreement. It was compatible with an approach that was about frustrating an agreement.’

So the obvious question is asked…

Exactly what untruths is he accusing Mr Lenihan of?

And the response, or rather the instances cited, seem peculiarly trivial…

‘The minister said the proposition which was being formulated failed to address the revenue issue for 2010 and was limited to only one year, which was totally untrue. And which he knew was untrue.
‘And then I heard him on the RTÉ politics programme defending the imposition of the 5 per cent pay cut, on top of the earlier pay cut on lower paid people on less than e30,000 who work in the public service, on the basis that this had been put forward by the trade unions. When nothing could be furtherfrom the truth. What we envisaged was a one-year “bridging to transformation”, during which people would be laid off for 12 days, in a manner that wouldn’t impact on the provision of public service. But he chose to represent it that way in the politics programme.
‘The question that arises then is how you can deal with someone who deals in that way. It’s a very dangerous place to be, to be negotiating with someone who you don’t believe wants an agreement. I don’t know how you can. I haven’t worked this through in my head. I believe still that the only viable way forward for all of us is by agreement.’

Perhaps I’m unreasonably cynical, but isn’t that more or less what one would expect from any Minister of Finance in a non-left led government, and indeed in quite a few left led.

And it’s a pity that only now is a broader based rhetoric is apparent which seeks to incorporate all workers rather than the more determinedly narrow focus on public sector workers that we heard previously (and that’s not to say that a defence of same is not required, or that the context pushed towards one where that took precedence – understandably… but that has ramifications).

Mr O’Connor dismisses his critics’ argument that he is hellbent on pushing through unfair taxation on higher earners, instead of accepting that his members should take their fair share of the pain.
‘The public service issue is not the biggest issue at play in the present time. The biggest injustice in Budget 2010 is the decision to reduce welfare – including the benefits which people have accrued an entitlement to, through their PRSI contributions – by e760million, at a time when the wealthy in our community would be called upon to pay e55million if it’s raised.
‘That’s the biggest injustice.
‘We are against cutting pay in general because it’s unfair and because of its negative implications for the economy if it were applied across the board.’

That latter argument was always much stronger, from an economic viewpoint as much as all else, than what seemed to be special pleading on behalf of the PS. And the broader measures in the Budget are as important as public sector pay, and in certain cases more so. But it’s essential to have a joined up approach to the rights of all workers and to be pushing for a universalisation of benefits and rights where the unions should go next. Otherwise we’re in a cul-de-sac where workers in one sector or another will be picked off one at a time.

This week I’ll actually mostly be listening to… the Wiggles December 19, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.

Ah feck it, who am I fooling?

This weekend it’s a lot lot more likely that despite my best efforts to listen to Public Enemy I’ll be listening to a lot more of this crew.

Yeah. The Wiggles.

Antipodean dealers in candypop, 1950s rock and roll inflected, toddler tunes. As was noted to me they’re like the Fleshtones if the Fleshtones had got some sleep, dressed in Star Fleet uniforms and eaten lots of candy…

And they’re responsible for this bizarre culture clash… or should that be crash?

Can you explain it? No. Me Neither.

And this one too…

And when it’s not them we’re dipping into Wombles territory. It’s a ‘W’ thing.

Did you know there was a half-hearted attempt at a revival sometime this decade? You did not. Lucky you. No one should know that information.

Okay, there’s some good stuff… mostly Sesame Street related…ah little Elmo, how much I misjudged your squeaky voice and your overly energetic demeanour, truly compared to some examples of such programming you’re a little star… a veritable Chaplin of your witty craft…

And thinking about last weeks Last Days of Disco post…

And in between the irritatingly cheery melodies and the incessant demands for ‘Wiggles’ I’ll be trying to sneak PE onto the speakers. What’s that quote PE sometimes use?

Revolution is hope for the hopeless…

Indeed. That phrase has a different resonance now I’ve faced the Wiggles.

Chuck D knows exactly what he’s talking about. I can tell.

This Weekend I’ll mostly be listening to… Public Enemy, There’s a Poison Goin’ On December 19, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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I first heard Do You Wanna Go Our Way??? around the time the album came out in 1999 and was hooked. That’s a bit odd because me and hip-hop tend to have a tentative relationship at best. Well, me with hip-hop. Hip-hop has never expressed an opinion. When Public Enemy first appeared they sort of slipped past my radar. Still too entranced by young[ish] men with guitars. My loss.

But this is tooled up and ready to go. Not just Do You Wanna Go Our Way??? but also the sheer brilliance of Crash or World Tour Sessions. And the intensity…. Terminator X apparently delivers much of the backing… if so it’s inspired. These are soundscapes you can practically chew with samples drawn from everywhere to build up cohesive songs… Lee Dorsey no less, so it appears on Do You Wanna Go Our Way??? Chuck D almost sounds better than he has any right to do. And Flavor Flav is… entirely himself.

What’s amazing to me is that they were considered veterans when this came out, past it, that this is a retread of former glories…

Now, let’s not forget there was more than a hint of controversy over the track Swindlers Lust which was considered anti-Semitic albeit its theme was greedy record companies. And it’s hard to read the lyrics without going… uh-oh and simultaneously wonder if Chuck D wasn’t far wrong when he argued people were looking for insult.

And there is the small issue that in the broader scheme of things the entertainments industry provides a less potent target for attack than previous ones. It’s too diffuse, too nebulous.

But these are missteps in an album that hangs together as a statement of purpose and intent, that reflects lyrically and musically on and with paranoid millennial concerns and a somewhat less paranoid but in many ways no less grim reality.

Just right for the week before Christmas? Well, yes. This Christmas.

Do You Wanna Go Our Way???

Here I Go



World Tour Sessions

Latest from the Irish Election Literature Blog… December 18, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

As ever many thanks to AK at the Irish Election Literature Blog (and we may have one more before Christmas). As he notes:

Cork Green Party candidate, Donogh MacCarthy Morrogh (Mr Mac) from 1992 where he outlines how ‘Green Jobs’ can be created. No mention of ‘The Smart Economy’ though!
A few Cork related items in this also, amongst them.. he was a presenter on Cork Multichannel and also anyone know if the ‘Beautiful City – Garden Festival ’96 ever took place.

Joe Higgins Ballyfermot Leaflet from the 1996 Dublin West by-election where he asks Voters to vote for him and ‘Other Genuine Left Wing Candidates’.

Sinn Fein’s Anne Speed from the 1989 European Elections.

Vincent Ballyfermot Jackson from 2002, which includes an endorsement from Tony Gregory.

Nicky Kelly running as an Independent in 1997

Labour Party –Yes to the Good Friday Agreement from 1999

and finally Mick O’Connells ‘Beer Mat’

Community Development Programme… Cut. December 18, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Social Policy.


29 community development projects have been told they will no longer receive Government funding from tomorrow and will have to close.

The closure is subject to an appeals process, which will give them one month’s funding while the appeal is being decided.

John Curran, Minister of State at Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs said the community development programme funded by his Department has been reviewed with the aim of rationalising projects and preventing duplication.

Community organisers said they were shocked by the move.

They said some projects had been running for 20 years and their closure would be devastating to local areas.

Some of the well-known projects which have had their funding cut include the Travellers’ group Pavee Point and Dublin’s Inner City Renewal Group run by local activist Seanie Lambe.

Some background…


Speaking of science, bioethics to be precise, consider this… December 17, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Bioethics, Science, Social Policy, Society.

A small country on the edge of Europe, a supposed leader in certain technologies, has a remarkably impoverished oversight regime in place as regards a raft of areas. Times are tough, but the issues that such oversight is necessary to address keep on coming up. Why, only some days previously a landmark case appears in the highest courts in the land which has significant implications for some citizens of the state.

The response of the government in this state? Shut down one of those oversight instruments.

And lo, it comes to pass, for as reported in the Irish Times today:

THE IRISH Council for Bioethics is to close at the end of this month after a decision by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment to terminate its funding.
Its director, Dr Siobhán O’Sullivan, said the move was a retrograde step that would leave Ireland as the only EU country without an independent oversight body for bioethics.

And it’s not as if this is a simple talking shop, for as noted by O’Sullivan…

“You would really want to question the wisdom of shutting down such a body in light of the Supreme Court ruling this week,” she added, in a reference to Tuesday’s ruling on access to three frozen embryos.
The fact that Ireland does not have good regulatory controls on bioethical issues could hurt foreign investment in high-tech medical areas, Dr O’Sullivan said.
“No body will want to invest if there is no governance system. People do not want to invest without regulatory control and there is no regulation in this area.”

And as noted by the Supreme Court…

the failure to legislate in the area of fertility treatment as “disturbing”.
Dr O’Sullivan added: “We will be the only country without a council for bioethics.”

That may be an exaggeration, perhaps she means the only country in the EU…

So. How did this we reach this pretty pass?

Last April the department indicated to the group led by economist Colm McCarthy that savings could be achieved if the council was closed. The McCarthy report subsequently accepted that view in its report.

And it’s most illuminating to read the entry in Vol. II of the McCarthy Report on these matters:

A.2 Discontinuation of funding for the Irish Council for Bioethics
D/ET&E proposed a saving of €0.4m through discontinuing the funding of the Irish Council for Bioethics and this is accepted by the Special Group. The further issue of assigning some of its functions to the health sector would have to be considered, if necessary, by the Department of Health & Children within existing expenditure and staff resources.

‘If necessary’? Well, other states appear to believe that this sort of oversight is necessary and that it necessitates specific Councils. Why Ireland is sui generis is an open question – albeit note that the initiative came originally from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. But the paucity of any explicatory rationale by the McCarthy Report as to closing the Council is telling too.

The overall thrust of the Report argues that:

The Group has reached the conclusion that there should be radical rationalisation of the delivery of STI starting with the allocation of total responsibility to a single Government Department and the streaming of all funding through a single agency under that Department’s remit. Furthermore, all STI expenditure should be prioritised on the basis of likely commercial return over a 3 to 5 year period.
Rigorous targeting of STI will permit savings through the removal of duplication in both administration and research, the logical prioritisation of resources and the measurement of outputs and outcomes.

Which is all very fine. But when we arrive at a situation where there is an apparent gap between closure of the Council and any successor instrumentalities, either within or without this so far anonymous Government Department and ‘single agency’, then it would appear that far from the much trumpeted ‘reforms’ we’re sliding back, as in so many other areas (and the however nominal quid pro quo’s for Government supporting Independents is indicative of this dynamic too), to business as usual. I’ve heard anecdotal stuff that this is in part due to pressure from the socially conservative right, uneasy at developments. Perhaps true – who can say? But whatever the motivation it seems bizarre.

And that this happens at a time when bioethics issues are achieving a prominence never seen before isn’t merely an unfortunate coincidence but a central feature of how things will be from here on out. I’m not sure about others but I feel entirely uncomfortable, even uneasy, living in a state where such basic precautionary measures are not taken – and I speak as one who has personal experience of dealing with issues relating to bioethics… for better as it happens.


Burning people at the stake is wrong. And horrible. December 17, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Religion, Science.

William Reville is back… and this time there’s the whiff of smoke… in a discussion on the Kepler telescope he adds the following thoughts…

Science takes the possibility of life elsewhere in the universe very seriously. It would be surprising if microbiological life-forms did not exist elsewhere, and we may yet discover them in our own solar system, on Mars, Europa or Titan. But the really exciting prospect is that intelligent self-conscious aliens live elsewhere in the universe and that, some day, we will contact them. The possibility of intelligent alien life has important philosophical and theological implications.

Theological implications – eh?

This time around the Vatican, mindful of the Galileo affair and public perceptions about Giordano Bruno, is not going to be caught napping. The church held a five-day conference in Rome in early November to hear scientific experts discussing the possibility of extraterrestrial life and to ponder its implications for the church. In an article in the official Vatican newspaper entitled “Aliens are my brother”, Fr Gabriel Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory, said that the existence of extraterrestrial life does not contradict belief in God. Some witty reporters entitled their covering pieces “ET phone Rome”.

Ho ho. And other ‘witty’ reporters repeated it in theirs. By the way, I would think that whether an alien is my brother would depend very much on the individual alien.

Incidentally, the Catholic Church is often accused of burning Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) at the stake because he taught that the universe is teeming with planets that harbour alien intelligent life. But, according to the Catholic Encyclopaedia , this was not the charge on which Bruno was convicted by the Inquisition. He was convicted for preaching theological errors, such as denying the divinity of Jesus, claiming that the Devil can be saved, and more. Now, don’t get me wrong. I am not defending the burning of the unfortunate Bruno, just trying to present an accurate record. Burning for either reason would be equally wrong and horrible.

Hmmmm…. glad that’s cleared up then.

The Dental Benefit Scheme… December 17, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Politics, Social Policy.

I know you are very busy but wish to bring a matter to your attention which I suggest Congress may wish to act on as a matter of great urgency.
I write to suggest that Congress may wish to assist us in notifying up to two million PRSI-eligible persons, many of whom will be members of Congress affiliates, that they can still receive their full dental benefits if they make contact with their local dentist before January 31st.
As you will know, the Oireachtas is today likely to enact legislation which will effectively abolish the dental benefit scheme for 2010. This decision will have the effect of restricting access by patients to free and subsidized treatments such as scale and polish, extractions, fillings, root canal treatments and dentures etc.
The Association is today launching a media campaign to highlight the fact that insured persons can save hundreds of euros in dental charge by contacting their dentist up to December 31st. The sooner they make contact the better. A copy of a statement being issued, adapted for each of the counties, is set out below for your information.
As it would be in the interest of the members of Congress affiliates as well as dentists, we would be grateful if you could arrange to notify as soon as possible all appropriate Congress affiliates with a view to their circulating urgent messages to their members stressing the need to make urgent contact with their dentist.
If I can be of any assistance in elaborating further on the above, please feel free to contact me at 01-2950072 or 087-9120930.
Fintan Hourihan,
Chief Executive,
Irish Dental Association
Unit 2 Leopardstown Office Park,
Dublin 18.

As someone who neglected going to the dentist for three years and only made contact again in the recent past, and thankfully had no work to be done consequent to that hiatus, I cannot emphasise just how pernicious this particular cut is, most importantly since it removes a key block in the preventative aspect of medical practice. Sure, we could, I guess depend on the fluoride in the water – and indeed my dentist, recently back from the continent made the point that that had an impact. But… somehow, and as one with no concerns about fluoride at all as it happens, that seems a tad unsatisfactory.

BTW, am I wrong in thinking that many, if not indeed most, public sector employees are not eligible for this in either case?

From here on in… December 17, 2009

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Economy, Irish Politics.

It’s interesting to read a certain convergence in the opinions of Garret FitzGerald and Vincent Browne last weekend. Add to that mixture Fintan O’Toole and one will see that even by it’s own lights, and eschewing the approaches championed here and elsewhere – which have clearly now been entirely ignored, there are some significant gaps in the approach by Government to the financial crisis.

And here, by way of a preface, I want to point to a genuine problem as regards the discourse. How do progressives of all stripes fashion a response when we now know that the basis on which we attempt to do so has been so thoroughly bypassed… to the extent that on Tuesday night even amongst the sector of those employed in this society which has now been systemically worst hit by wage cuts it was impossible to gather more than a paltry few hundred to a protest outside Leinster House? Do we stop attempting to progress that alternative approach because the Government has turned its face so effectively to it and do we attempt to wage a sort of conceptual trench warfare, issue by issue on the ground the Government itself has selected. The danger with the latter is that it de facto shifts analyses towards the orthodoxy. It’s their terrain, they have the political and societal upper hand there. I’m genuinely unsure as to the answer to that. Michael Taft has some thoughts on that very question here.

And there are problem in so far as currently in the Dáil we only have one party – Sinn Féin – clearly articulating a position that is located in the alternative (albeit worth noting that when formulating their pre-Budget submission they utilised figures supplied by the Department of Finance) and another perhaps somewhat less clearly doing so in the form of Labour.

Perhaps the answer to all this is to do both. To continue to articulate progressive alternative approaches and to attempt to work through the issues and to consider where the Government is being inconsistent in light of its own state policy preferences.

So where are the gaps? Intriguingly FitzGerald who largely aligns with the orthodoxy allows himself some room for dissent on aspects of the Budget. He argues that it is:

Hard to see how welfare cuts can be justified in one of the world’s most under-taxed countries.

And he nods to orthodoxy…

ALTHOUGH NO one is actively celebrating the achievement of a further €4 billion fiscal adjustment, that is, of course, the most important feature of the Budget. … Without the corrective steps taken during the past 14 months our shortfall would be close to €30 billion.
The accumulated €15.5 billion fiscal adjustment secured during the past 14 months has saved us from national bankruptcy.

Perhaps. There are those who disagree. There are also those who point to NAMA as a unique element in this mix. But note his subsequent thoughts:

However, this has been achieved at the cost of considerable distress for many, especially social welfare beneficiaries other than pensioners. But also, of course, workers in the public sector who are now receiving a backlash offsetting much of the artificial boost to their earnings effected earlier in this decade.

Hmmm… interesting point about artificial. Anyhow, that’s another days work.

And most importantly he notes that:

The fact that so much of the cost of this adjustment has been borne by those worst-off and so little by the better-off reflects the Government’s policy reversal of three months ago, when it abandoned its plan to raise through additional taxation the bulk of the additional €4 billion fiscal adjustment required in 2010. With taxpayers being spared further pain, it was inevitable that those on social welfare would be asked to pay.

He engages with the supposed justifications for welfare cuts.

The argument for cuts in social welfare derives from the fact that in October 2008, in the face of an expected 2.2 per cent rise in the cost of living in 2009, social welfare payments were raised by 3.2 per cent, with the aim of at least maintaining the purchasing power of those concerned.

In the event, the cost of living (measured by the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices, which excludes mortgage interest) has instead dropped by 2.8 per cent over the past 12 months. This means that, on average, the purchasing power of social welfare payments has risen by about 6 per cent. It is this situation that led the Government to decide on a cut of just over 4 per cent in social welfare payments next year. But, in practice, things do not work out as neatly as that. First of all, the cancellation of this year’s Christmas bonus has had the effect of reducing the annual social welfare payment by 2 per cent. Changes in housing supplement payments have further hit many in the social welfare category.

That’s a very significant observation as regards the Christmas bonus. And it has been all but overlooked in the media commentary, and indeed in the Ministers thoughts around the Budget.

But again he notes that:

It is hard to see how, in what I have recently shown to be the most under-taxed country in the developed world, the Government can justify taking €750 million from social welfare recipients, while refusing on what seem specious grounds to address our €4 billion tax revenue shortfall.

Vincent Browne does likewise…

The Finance Acts of 2006 and 2007 introduced measures to limit the use of certain tax reliefs and exemptions by high-income individuals.

Last July, the Department of Finance reported that, even after these measures had been implemented, the average effective tax rate for the group of people earning more than €500,000 who had actively mused the reliefs to cut their tax bill was just 20 per cent. Tax levies would have increased their effective tax rate to 26 per cent.

He also notes that:

They are able to escape the rigours of the tax system because of the multitude of ‘‘tax expenditures’’ (ie tax breaks, whereby the rich can minimise their tax liability).

One of the most spectacular devices whereby the rich can escape tax is through private pensions. A few weeks ago, the ESRI published a report on pensions policy which pointed out more than €8 out of every €10 in tax relief on pensions goes to taxpayers in the top one-fifth of income distribution.

The ESRI explained: ‘‘This is because high income earners are more likely to participate in pension schemes, more likely to make higher contributions, and the value of tax relief at the top rate of income tax is about double that for the standard rate taxpayer.”

The ESRI recommended the standardisation of relief on all pension contributions (employee, employer and implicit government contributions), which would raise revenue of more than €1 billion per annum.

This would imply a reduction in income tax relief for top rate taxpayers, but no change for those paying the standard rate.

Indeed it’s salutary to consider the differing treatment of the MED1 tax reliefs whereby they were reduced to the standard rate some while ago, an approach long sought by some like this blog, and which affect a much broader range of citizens, while the pension contributions relief…

Well, he asks one question:

My question: if it is true that the overriding objective was to strive for fairness in the budget, why wasn’t the ESRI recommendation on pens ions adopted? Why, instead, was it decided to cut social welfare, disability benefit and dental payments, to impose a prescription charge and to cut the pay of public servants earning less than €30,000?

But this is all of a piece with what Fintan O’Toole notes, that we’ve had a uniquely deceptive approach by Government and others on this.

This is what we might call the negative spin – shaping the agenda by excluding a whole range of issues from the discussion. There is also, of course, the positive spin – the advancement of certain propositions that become unchallenged “facts” whether or not they are true.

In our case, these facts resolved themselves into two propositions. One was that the well-off are paying tax at over 50 per cent. The other was that Irish wages in general are grossly uncompetitive.

Neither of these “facts” bears the least scrutiny. The endless quotation of tax rates in excess of 50 per cent refers to marginal rates, not to the amount that someone actually pays.

According to accountants KPMG, the current effective tax rate (including PRSI) for someone earning the equivalent of $100,000 in Ireland is just 34 per cent and for someone on $300,000 it is 44 per cent. The constant citation of rates of 54 or even 57 per cent is simple (but highly effective) propaganda.

This comes straight back to FitzGerald’s point. The Government said that they would be dealing with this crisis through cuts in expenditure and tax increases and this would be a simultaneous process. So far this year the latter have been prominent by their absence. Oh sure, we’ll hear more next year, and the year after. Or so we’re told. But even minimal increases could have offset some of the most negative impacts charted by FitzGerald. And should they, as they have, chosen to eschew tax cuts we could, as Browne notes, consider tax reliefs.

And remember. None of this is couched in terms beyond those proposed by the Government. No talk here of extending borrowing. Nothing about fleecing the rich. Just a rational assessment of where resources are now and how they could be directed to alleviate the sharper edges of the Budget.

But that assessment is also off the table.

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