An undeserving alternative PM

Unless there’s a sudden turnaround in the polls, Tony Abbott will become Prime Minister of Australia. This will be the third time in my life that a Federal Labor government has been defeated, the other two occasions being 1975 and 1996. On both those occasions, despite substantial and enduring accomplishments, the government had made a mess of macroeconomic management, and the electorate, unsurprisingly, wanted to punish them. And, despite my strong disagreements with them (and with the way Fraser came to office), the incoming Prime Ministers had serious views on how best Australia’s future could be managed. Fraser has only improved since leaving office, making valuable contributions on the national and global stage. My evaluation of Howard, following his defeat, starts with the observation that he was ‘the most substantial figure produced by the Liberal party since the party itself was created by Menzies’.

Nothing of the sort can be said this time. The case put forward by the LNP is based entirely on lies and myths. These include the claims that
* Labor has mismanaged the economy and piled up unnecessary debt and deficits
* Australian families are ‘doing it tough’ because of a soaring cost of living
* The carbon tax/price is a ‘wrecking ball’, destroying economic activity
* The arrival of refugees represents a ‘national emergency’

None of these claims stands up to even momentary scrutiny.

Then there’s Abbott himself. After 20 years in politics, I can’t point to any substantial accomplishments on his part, or even any coherent political philosophy. For example, I’m not as critical of his parental leave scheme as some, but it’s totally inconsistent with his general political line, a fact that his supporters in business have been keen to point out. On climate change, he’s held every position possible and is now promising, in effect, to do nothing. His refusal to reveal policy costings until the second-last day of the campaign debases an already appalling process. He treated budget surplus as a holy grail until it became inconvenient, and has now become carefully vague on the topic.

Obviously, the fact that such a party and such a leader can be on the verge of victory implies that the Labor side has done something dreadfully wrong. It’s the oldest cliche in politics for the losing side to claim that the problem is not the policies but inability to get the message across. In this case, however, I think it’s true. Gillard lost the voters early on with stunts like the consultative assembly, and never managed to get them to listen to her for any length of time. Rudd was doing well in communicating his vision from his return to the leadership until he called the election. He then wasted three weeks on small-bore stuff apparently aimed at Katter party preferences. He seems finally to have rediscovered his voice, with the launch speech and his Q&A appearance, but I fear it’s too late.

Still, in the unlikely event that any undecided voters are reading this, I urge you to take a serious look at the alternative government, and place the LNP last on your ballot in both houses of Parliament.

233 thoughts on “An undeserving alternative PM

  1. sunshine :
    On Q&A Brandis and Kroger both repeated Abbott s statement (promise?) that there is no plan for economic reform beyond removing the carbon and mining taxes, all have said there will be ‘no surprises’ .Having quietly adopted 90% of the ALP policy he spent years deriding he now has no economic agenda beyond the removal of 2 taxes . The Libs seem to think his mere presence as PM will inspire a significant revival in economic activity .

    What about the signed-in-blood promise to deliver 2 million new jobs?
    Don’t blame Labor, YOU are in government! Stop deflecting! Stand up and take some personal responsibility!

    Sorry, just channeling my inner rightist nutjob and the filth that accrues from that peanut gallery whenever the Left is voted in.

  2. I’ve long supported a robust loophole-free explicit carbon price, and still do, but it has never occurred to me that this would be an adequate answer to capping emissions.

    Naomi Klein speaks a lot of sense on this matter, and with policy in this country apparently headed away from explicit pricing or at best, trivial explicit pricing I commend this article to others (but Ikonoclast in particular):

    We can and certainly should use the slogan “Direct Action” and its likely failure to deliver even the 95% of 2000 by 2020 target to campaign for more regulation of fossil fuel and carbon-intensive industries. This is an obvious place where Abbott — who claimed to support the target during his campaign — can be wedged.

  3. Now that Labor is in opposition, perhaps they should invest some time looking into AWB, and the evidence submitted by several key Liberal politicians (past and present). Who knows, might get a scalp out of it; after all, if the Australian newspaper can harrass Julia Gillard over something alleged to have happened—without her direct knowledge or complicity—some two decades ago, why not something far more significant like AWB and Liberal officials possibly having prior knowledge of kickbacks? It should be checked out—again, and again, and again, just like Gillard’s situation was. Crickets chirping…

  4. First of all a 5% emissions reduction 2000-2020 is pissweak given we are the OECD’s highest per capita emitter and I believe it is relevant to point out we are also the worlds biggest coal exporter. We could fluke 5% just with subdued BAU so the carbon tax and RET weren’t that relevant. The Climate Change Authority on which Pr Q is/was a panel member was about to recommend the cut should be 15%. I understand the CCA is about to be put down or at least castrated.

    It may be that Direct Action is a smokescreen for No Action after some initial fumbling. OTOH some kind of hybrid policy could come from left field that does reduce emissions absent an economic slowdown. It’s hard to see the Palmer MPs voting for less coal digging though. Xenophon’s high hopes for geothermal seem a bit naive given the lack of results so far. We can only wait and see but a 5% cut is not good enough.

  5. An administrative error in the vote count in Indi has revealed that the Cathy McGowan’s vote was initially under-counted by 1,003 votes. It’s looking grim for Sophie Mirabella. 🙂

  6. John, didn’t you predict a few years ago that the Liberals would never win another election on their own steam? Seems you’re probably right (they’re expected to win 59 seats, well short of the 76 needed to form government). But I wonder how close they might have come if the Libs and Nats hadn’t joined forces in Queensland?

  7. @Brad

    It’s hard to do a proper hypothetical here. I guess we could look at where the LNP members choose to caucus . I predicted a merger, but not the odd situation where a unified state party nominates candidates who then join different parties at the national level.

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