Protesters at the Bentley blockade

Power: Protesters celebrate at the Bentley Blockade. Photo: Martin Jacka

It was not only the poor, the aged, the sick, the weak and the disabled who copped it in the budget this week. It was homeless animals, too. They axed the Department of Agriculture's Australian Animal Welfare program. And a good thing, too. What did animals ever do for the Liberal Party? You won't see any hairy-tailed wombats propping up the bar at Joe Hockey's North Sydney Business Forum gala VIP dinners. Not of the marsupial variety. If animals want access to senior party figures they can damn well do it the right way and creep under the back fence. That's right, hire a lobbyist, you animals.

What has been missed in the fury of the budget aftermath is the reality of ROI (return on investment).

Those who stump up the most money for influence achieve the best returns; those with the fattest and best-connected colonies of lobbyists lurking in Parliament House.

So it is that higher education, foreign aid and social services - the mug punter demographic - are doing the heavy lifting for the banks, the miners and defence. How much did the Australian Council of Social Service spend on lobbying compared with the Financial Services Council? How much did the Salvos tip into Coalition coffers compared with members of the Minerals Council of Australia?

It is no accident the $35 billion in tax breaks on superannuation was preserved with the devotion afforded a museum relic. Both main parties are shamefully hostage to the financial services lobby.

Nor is it a surprise that negative gearing - which both increases system risk and entrenches wealth inequality - retains its National Trust status.

It is not just that politicians, their mates and donors mostly own negatively geared property. Property developers are the biggest source of donations for both parties.

Here is a policy with zero economic rationale which serves to concentrate risk in banks and real estate while perpetuating the nation's deficits and diverting capital from more productive enterprise. It is not even on the agenda for debate.

We can only imagine the trashy deals a federal ICAC would uncover between business lobby groups and both main parties. That is why a federal ICAC, though so desperately needed to excise the cancer of political corruption, will not happen.

As distasteful and unfair as it was, the budget made some hard decisions in cutting waste - not that dancing was quite in order, Joe. There are few institutions which could not withstand a 10 per cent cut. The real problem is that the burden is not being shared. No heavy lifting has been asked of those who can most afford it.

Until negative gearing and super lurks are fixed - and until multinational tax bludgers such as Apple, Google, News Corp and Xstrata pay their fair share - government is failing its citizens.

Poor attempt

Last November, a magistrate in northern NSW threw out a police case against a couple of coal seam gas protesters. It was too pathetic.

Police had brought charges of ''unreasonably obstruct a vehicle'' but changed them later for ''attempted to obstruct a vehicle''.

Magistrate David Heilpern said it was the first time he had seen a charge of ''attempting to commit a traffic offence'' and likened it to attempting to not wear a seat belt.

''I find myself asking what could possibly be the reason for continuing on with such an innocuous charge,'' he said. ''Why else would police risk cost orders against them, drive a prosecutor up from Sydney … arrange police witnesses to travel from Sydney, all for an innocuous minor traffic matter?'' Indeed.

Since then the protest has swelled and this week dissidents had a victory. Miner Metgasco had its exploration licence suspended and was referred to ICAC. Its shareholders may well ask if they had been properly informed that public opposition to coal seam mining was 87 per cent.

There are broader implications too. The Northern Rivers community victory that is the Bentley Blockade will lend voice to those who oppose AGL's project in Gloucester and the Santos project near Narrabri.

The miners do not have science on their side. Many mining engineers say the effects of fracking may not be known for years, by which time farmland and river systems will have been destroyed. The rewards are quantifiable, the risks are not.

Miscalculator

To sum up some recent story developments: Commonwealth Bank, despite having denied there was anything wrong with its superannuation calculator, took it off its website on Thursday.

Coverage here of Frank Lowy's Westfield deal was vindicated on Friday by top proxy adviser Ownership Matters and the Australian Shareholders Association. Both recommended investors reject the Westfield proposal.

After three weeks and a slew of inquiries, Treasury responded to our questions about the Financial Sector Inquiry. Yes, bankers on the inquiry panel must disclose personal holdings/conflicts but, no, we peasants are not permitted to view them. We must have faith that they exist.

Twitter: @MichaelWestBiz