Sunday, 21 February 2010
Tony Abbott only has one endearing character trait from this blogger's perspective - he loves to talk a lot.
So long before he actually looked like winning party leadership and becoming Leader of the Coalition Opposition he virtually told the Australian electorate that it could find his basic election campaign tactics and principal policy intentions within the covers of his book Battlelines.
Excerpts from Tony Abbott's National Press Club notes when puffing up his about to be released book in July 2009 [my emphasis]:
The Howard era should be the yardstick against which the Rudd government is judged but it won't be the blueprint on which the next Coalition government is modeled. Under Howard, there were 2.2 million more jobs, real wages grew by over 20 per cent and Australians' individual wealth doubled. This happened, not because of the China boom, but because Peter Costello's first budget sliced almost one per cent of GDP from public spending so that government would live within its means. It happened because workplace relations reform reduced third party-interference in how businesses worked, making them more productive and more rewarding for their employees. It happened because the former government understood that the world owes no one a living so expected people to work for a wage or to work for the dole. The former government didn't talk about tough decisions; it made them. It didn't borrow against the future to line people's pockets now but funded lower taxes and higher spending from the proceeds of a strong economy. Still, the Coalition won't deserve to win the next election if it is merely a tepid version of the Howard government.
Because "governments lose elections, oppositions don't win them", the principal obstacle to the Rudd government's reelection will be the government itself. The opposition's challenge is to make the government's conduct the issue, not its own, and then to persuade voters that it has some sensible policies that address their problems and are based on their values. In Battlelines, I put forward some proposals which could form the basis of the Coalition's future appeal. They tackle the biggest problems facing Australia in ways which reflect the values of the Coalition parties and, in my view, can touch a chord with the Australian people.
If the prime minister's political agenda is any guide, apart from good economic management, voters' principal concerns are health and education.....
The Coalition should especially beware of sloganeering against so called middle class welfare. A universal payment to families with children is not middle class welfare but a tax cut for kids. The consequence of the campaign against middle class welfare has been to trap people on social security where they are an economic burden on others rather than to facilitate lower taxes. Being against middle class welfare means being in favour of means tests. In a tightly targeted system, these often ensure that welfare recipients trying to get ahead face effective marginal tax rates in excess of those faced by highflying businessmen. It's not surprising that the Labor Party, now as much a welfare party as a working class one, should tolerate such arrangements. The Coalition, by contrast, should not put any structural obstacles in the path of people trying to better themselves. Trying to ensure that at any given level of income and in any household type, people keep a reasonable proportion of any extra income they earn should be the Holy Grail of Coalition policy.......
....my position has shifted from philosophical federalist to pragmatic nationalist as experience has trumped intellectual prejudice....... Notional bulwark against improbable tyranny, the states may well be but, in Australian practice, they are far more often a handbrake on effective government.....
In Battlelines, I propose a mechanism for actually bringing this about. It's not to abolish the states or readily to interfere with the way they do things. Rather, it's to give the national parliament much the same power over the states that it currently has over the territories.
So there we have it. The thumbnail plan appears to be to offer the electorate a return to Howard-era middle class welfare handouts at each federal budget while quietly cutting public spending, possibly lowering taxes for a few sometime in the future, doing something not yet specified about health and education, curtailing workers rights to a fair pay for a fair day's work, making life difficult for people receiving welfare benefits (with the exception of old age pensioners) and a more centralised form of federal government which overrides state decisions on anything and everything as the whim takes it.
Think I'll go down to my local library and order in the updated copy of Abbott's book to see how else he intends to make life difficult if he were to win government in 2010.
I'm sure the introduction of hanging judges, forced pregnancies and public whippings of single mothers, re-education camps for the homeless and unemployed and chemical castration of undesirables and atheists are probably in there somewhere! [wink,wink]
An edited extract from Battlines published in The Australian on 27 July 2009 here.
Transcript of 7.30 Report interview with Tony Abbott on 27 July 2009.