No Tony, it’s the Abbott brand that’s toxic

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Friday, 30 March 2012 12:32 by Ad astra
toxic adj: 1. containing or being poisonous material especially when capable of causing death or serious debilitation
2. extremely harsh, malicious, or harmful.


Tony Abbott, the second definition fits you to a tee.

You are fond of describing things as ‘toxic’: the ‘toxic’ carbon tax; the Labor brand is ‘toxic’. You repeat these slogans over and again so that they become a mantra, one that you hope will embed itself in the minds of the people, one you hope they will repeat mindlessly as if it was celestial wisdom handed down from on high.

It’s a curious phenomenon that individuals see in others an attribute that characterizes their own behaviour, yet remain oblivious to it. That is you. You insist that others are toxic, but you remain unaware that you are toxic; the Abbott brand is toxic.

While you make little attempt to explain why you insist that the Labor brand is toxic, presumably assuming that merely articulating your assertion often enough will make it true, I will not leave you wondering why your brand, the Abbott brand, is toxic.

Climate change toxicity
Perhaps the most dangerously toxic aspect of the Abbott brand is your attitude to climate change. Here you are, day after day, insisting that the carbon tax is toxic, yet never mentioning that it is designed to diminish the toxic effect of greenhouse gases that threaten the world’s climate, irreversibly if we do nothing to reduce carbon emissions.

The future of the planet and its habitability for future generations – your grandchildren and mine – seems to be of no concern to you. Which leads to the conclusion that those words you uttered in the Victorian country town of Beaufort reflected your true belief: that ‘climate change is crap’. Of course you have gone to great lengths since then to insist that this is not your true belief, that carbon dioxide levels are increasing and that human activity is contributing to that, but you have never come out and said unequivocally that global warming is a serious threat to which we must react vigorously. Why? Because you don’t believe it is.

To perpetrate your denialist view is toxic, toxic to our environment, toxic to our future. It allays the concerns that we all ought to have about global warming, and engenders a ‘she’ll be right mate’ approach, which we Aussies are ever ready to embrace, an approach that will leave us, and especially future generations, exposed to the devastating effects of global warming. Of course if you really think this is all crap, I suppose your actions could be justified, but if that is so, why not come out and say so in unequivocal terms? No, you want to hide behind the cloak of feigning belief in global warming while opposing every effort the Government is making to reverse it. That is toxic – it is malicious and harmful.

And to think that had Malcolm Turnbull won the party ballot in 2009, this country would already have an ETS, supported by all parties. There would be no talk of a ‘toxic tax’, and everyone – commerce, industry, unions and the people – would have accepted an ETS as necessary, and would be already adapting to the changes needed. Your influence has been harmful, dangerously toxic.

Of course you have an unashamed climate denialist colleague in Barnaby Joyce, in parliament and on any TV outlet that will have him, rabbitting on about the toxic carbon tax, asking how much it will reduce atmospheric temperature, how much of the Barrier Reef it will save, how many floods or droughts it will prevent – all stupid questions, stupid because Australia’s carbon tax is just one of many, one of a total designed to have a global effect. It never seems to occur to him that since global warming is a global phenomenon, a global approach is required and since Australia is part of the globe it has an obligation as a world citizen to contribute to the global effort. Like you, he seems to have no notion of global responsibility; he seems to think that others can do the heavy lifting and that Australia, with the highest per capita pollution in the world, can shirk its obligation. That attitude is toxic to our planet.

The toxicity has spread. No sooner had Campbell Newman taken office in Queensland than he directed Greg Withers, Director of the Office of Climate Change, to dismantle all of the eight carbon reduction schemes that he set up, including the $430 million Queensland Climate Change Fund, the $50 million Renewable Energy Fund, the $50 million Smart Energy Savings Program and the Future Growth Fund that spent $405 million last year on clean-coal technology, climate change programs, and transport and water infrastructure, and the 20 per cent Renewable Energy Target, thereby saving the Government an estimated $270 million.

Ted Baillieu in Victoria has abandoned Victoria’s target of 20% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, established by John Brumby because Victoria is a heavily polluting state, so as to save the $2 billion needed to purchase international offsets. The State Labor Opposition's climate spokeswoman Lisa Neville asks: “Are they at all committed to addressing the concerns of climate change? Are they at all committed to ensuring that Victoria, which is a large emitter in the country, is well placed to try and tackle that into the future?” The answer seems to be NO.

Do Coalition governments believe in global warming and the urgent need to reduce emissions? Or have they adopted your toxic attitude to this deadly environmental problem, one that requires no effective action on their part? Christine Milne believes they are ‘acting out their climate change denialism’.

I know you will respond by quoting the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan, but you never point out that this will result in a $1300 impost on each family per year, and that it will be much more costly than the Government’s carbon tax. And you never explain how it will actually work. You talk blithely about storing carbon in soil, planting trees and using smart technology. You deride the carbon tax as the ‘dumb’ way, while you extol your plan as the ‘smart’ way. This is disingenuously toxic. You perpetrate this nonsense because you know most of the people will accept it unthinkingly, and that most of the MSM will not challenge it. Fortunately some do. One is Ben Rose, an environmental scientist.

Writing in Climate Spectator, in an article Greg Hunt’s carbon illusion, he says: “Like Labor, the Coalition has committed to reduce carbon emissions 5 per cent by 2020. But the Libs’ ‘Direct Action’ plan has been dubbed ‘soil magic’ because over 60 per cent of reductions – 85 million tonnes of CO2 per year – are to be taken up by soil. A scant page in their 30-page policy tells us this will be achieved for the amazingly low price of $10/tonne but offers no more detail…There is a simple reason why the Libs won’t tell us more. The cheap soil carbon ‘offsets’ they plan to create will not be measured and neither will they be permanent. In short, the Direct Action plan is constructed on the premise of bogus soil carbon offsets…The Coalition’s ‘Direct Action’ is a ‘do nothing’ carbon policy.”

Rose estimates “Up to 22 million tonnes of Kyoto compliant soil carbon offsets at prices of $25 - $200 per tonne may be generated from cleared agricultural land”, and goes on to quote the 2010 estimate of McKenzie et al that “for carbon trading to be economically attractive for Australian dairy farmers, the carbon price would have to be at least $200 per tonne of CO2”, much higher than the Government’s initial price of $23 per tonne.

In other words Tony Abbott, your DAP is a sham, and an expensive one at that, more expensive than the Government’s internationally lauded carbon tax. Your DAP would provide no compensation to households for increases in electricity and other costs, yet you have the temerity to call the Government’s carbon tax ‘toxic’. It is your scheme that is toxic. You are perpetrating a massive fraud on the Australian public. That is toxic. The Abbott brand is toxic – malicious and harmful.

That’s not all on the ‘toxic tax’ front. You willingly participated in a ‘stop the carbon tax’ protest in Canberra organized by shock jock Alan Jones and alongside Bronwyn Bishop and Sophie Mirabella you knowingly stood in front of offensive ‘Ditch the Witch’, ‘Bob Brown’s Bitch’ and ‘Ju-liar’ posters. That was toxic. It reinforced how toxic the Abbott brand is.

Parliamentary toxicity
You have reduced parliament to the status of a boxing circus with your aggressive questions and your fifty motions ‘to suspend standing and sessional orders’, motions that you use to heap scorn and abuse on our PM in a most shameful and undignified manner, you the man who says he will be ‘the next elected PM’ of Australia, a prospect that horrifies. Your negative, obstructionist, combative behaviour there is toxic, your influence is toxic, and your example induces others to be similarly toxic. Just look at the behaviour of Christopher Pyne, Joe Hockey and Julie Bishop to see what I mean. The Abbott brand is toxic – harsh, malicious and harmful.

There is no need for more details here; they are displayed in gruesome detail in the last piece: Abbott’s atrophy. And if we needed any more evidence of your propensity to shoot from the lips with offensive remarks, it is your recent endorsement of Germaine Greer’s tasteless comments about Julia Gillard’s dress and shape. In typical style you now admit you should not have said what you did; no doubt you will seek forgiveness, as usual.

Asylum seeker toxicity
Look at this introduction to a segment on the ABC’s PM on 27 March titled: UNHCR scathing of asylum seeker debate: “‘Negative’, ‘hostile’ and ‘toxic’. That's how the United Nations High Commission for Refugees sees the asylum seeker debate in Australia. 

And the UNHCR's regional representative says it's part of the reason for a drop in claims. 

A United Nations report into asylum seeker trends across the world shows a 20 per cent upward spike in applications to industrialised countries last year. Australia's spike was downward. 
There was a 9 per cent drop in claims here, the first fall in six years...and that's mainly due to fewer boat arrivals.”

The regional representative, Rochard Towle, used the word ‘toxic’ advisedly. You have contributed to this toxicity by refusing to accept any other than your own solution to boat arrivals: Nauru for processing, TPVs, and your infamous ‘turn back the boats’ policy.

Although the Government compromised by agreeing to reopen Nauru if you supported the Malaysia arrangement, and prepared legislation that would allow any government to arrange its preferred offshore processing, you said NO, as usual. So we have an impasse. You insisted on your solution to the exclusion of any other, insisted it would work as it had in the past despite receiving advice from Immigration Department secretary Andrew Metcalfe and Australia's Ambassador for People Smuggling Issues James Larsen that reviving the Pacific Solution alone was not a viable option, and in the face of advice from the Navy that turning boats around was dangerous and impractical. You persisted with this policy although the Indonesians objected that you would be simply pushing the problem back to them. Relationships with our nearest neighbour were less important to you than getting your own way. It was left to Julie Bishop to smooth ruffled Indonesian feathers.

Again, the Abbott brand was toxic.

Confronted with the UNHCR-established fact that arrivals by boat had diminished, Scott Morrison, infected too with Abbott brand toxicity, simply denied the fact; instead quoting increased arrivals during this summer. Facts mean nothing to either of you if they do not suit your argument. What hope is there of a rational discussion when facts are airily dismissed. You both exhibit breathtaking duplicity, Abbott brand toxicity.

Toxic economics
We all know of your disinterest in economics, and with Peter Costello affirming your ineptitude, it is not surprising you say very little on the subject, and that what you do say doesn’t have a ring of authenticity. You have your few slogans: ‘stop the waste’, ‘reduce the debt’, ‘stop the toxic carbon tax’, but you leave most statements on economics to Joe Hockey, your shadow treasurer.

Despite a degree in economics, Joe seems to be able to make incomprehensible statements that defy the principles of the discipline – disparagingly labelled ‘Hockeynomics’ by economists – mixing them as he does with his battery of catchphrases: the Labor Government is ‘addicted to spending’, it ‘cannot manage money’, Australia has a ‘massive debt’, is paying ‘a million dollars a day in interest’ and this borrowing is ‘putting upward pressure on interest rates’, ‘interest rates will always be lower under a Coalition Government’, and ‘Labor will never bring in a surplus budget’. It does not seem to bother him that Australia has the lowest debt to GDP ratio in the developed world, that interest rates are going down, and are now well below what they were under the Howard Government. Facts are irrelevant if they get in the way of his assertions.

How would you describe these statements? They are disingenuous. I call them toxic because they distort the facts, they misinform, they give the impression of a fiscally incompetent Government, which of course they are intended to do. Here we have your characteristic Abbott brand toxicity – harsh, malicious and harmful.

It is when it comes to budgetary costings though that all the defectiveness of Hockeynomics are exposed. Who will forget the lamentable performance of the Coalition’s economics team at the time of the 2011 Budget? You, Tony Abbott, handballed the details to Joe, who in turn passed them onto Andrew Robb, who came up with a page of ‘savings’ that revealed an $11 billion dollar hole that the team was unprepared to explain, in fact even denied it existed, relying instead on its validation by an ‘audit’ by HK Howarth, a Perth-based accounting firm that accepted the Coalition’s assumptions behind the costings and certified only that the sums added up. Subsequently, two of its staff was fined for improper conduct in carrying out this work, which was never a proper audit.

‘Incompetence’ would be the best word to describe the Coalition team’s budgeting efforts, but when all three insisted that despite the accountants responsible being found guilty of improper conduct they still ‘stood by’ the costings – try ‘deceitful’. To this day they quote these savings as part of the estimated $70 billion of savings needed to meet their budgetary commitments for the 2012 Budget, which they refuse to submit to the Parliamentary Budgetary Office for scrutiny.

Andrew Robb is more economically competent and because this is so, makes statements that call into question Hockey’s assertions. Inconsistency has been the hallmark of the utterances of the economics team, to the despair of economists who struggle to understand them. Mathias Cormann is a shadowy figure; indeed he is shadow assistant treasurer, who emerges periodically to make statements that are sometimes at odds with what other members of the team are saying; again inconsistency prevails.

Although Barnaby Joyce was understandably removed from anything to do with finance long ago he still makes forays into economics and talks his usual dangerous gobbledygook, which is not just wrong, it is irresponsible. His latest blooper was his suggestion that Government cheques might bounce!

For this team to make disparaging remarks about the Government economics team, one that shielded this nation from the worse effects of the GFC, that has had wide international recognition, one that boasts Euromoney’s ‘Finance Minister of the Year’, is a measure of the audacity and pretentiousness of the Coalition and you, its leader.

This piece is already long enough. It is sufficient to expose the toxicity the Coalition exhibits under your leadership.

It argues that it is not the Labor brand or the carbon tax that is toxic, but instead the Abbott brand.

Tony Abbott, why do you call Labor toxic? Is it because the people are now voting in Coalition governments in place of Labor governments at a State level, most spectacularly in Queensland, so that only two Labor states remain? If that is your reason, were governments ‘toxic’ when the electorate voted in wall-to-wall Labor, or when they voted in a predominance of Coalition governments? Is not the cyclical nature of politics a more likely explanation of these variations than ‘toxicity’? Otherwise you would have to argue that when the people voted out a Labor government is was because the Labor brand was toxic, but when it voted out a Coalition government it was not because the Coalition brand was toxic. You simply choose, for political purposes, to portray Labor as universally toxic, and therefore to be voted into oblivion.

Why is the carbon tax ‘toxic’? Only because you say it is so. Why is your DAP, which is more costly and less plausible, not ‘toxic’. Only because you say it is not.

Having asked these questions of you, I ought to explain why this piece maintains it is the Abbott brand that is toxic. Here is why:

Because you and your spokespeople have made a mockery of climate change and the need for urgent and effective action, because you have opposed every Government effort to combat climate change, and because have proposed a phony plan that is costly, impractical, and futile.

Because you have reduced parliamentary behaviour to a contemptible level, to a level of nastiness, obstruction and negativity that plumbs new depths.

Because you have diminished debate on asylum seekers to a level described by the UNHCR commissioner as ‘negative, hostile and toxic’.

Because you have prostituted economics to the level of make-believe, where figures can be whatever you want them to be, and words can mean whatever you want them to mean.

It is the Abbott brand that richly deserves the ‘toxic’ tag. Wear it. You‘ve earned it, not just once, but again and again.