Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey, stop killing confidence

How many times have you heard commentators lamenting how low consumer and business confidence have become? Time and again. How many times have you seen journalists attempting to analyse why? Very few. How many times have you seen them sheet home any of the lack of confidence among consumers and businessmen to the negative utterances of Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey? Practically never.

Indeed, it has been only recently that some journalists have been willing to point the finger at them and the Coalition’s unending talking down of the economy. Peter Martin was one who obliquely did so recently.

Here at The Political Sword we have maintained that the negative talk from the Coalition has had a substantial effect on confidence. Read Abbott and Hockey are endangering Australian business, written last November. Also read Do Australian businessmen really believe Tony Abbott?, written a week later, which is on the same theme.

Was this theme echoed in the MSM? Not until recently. Why? For the same reason the MSM highlighted in screaming front page headlines and grotesque photo-shopped photos the alleged misdemeanors of Peter Slipper and the supposed transgressions taken to court by James Ashby, but buried in its back pages Justice Rares condemnation of this Ashby action as ‘an abuse of process’, one intended to damage Slipper personally and politically, and the Gillard Government too. Much of the MSM deliberately and repeatedly buries or distorts the truth for its own commercial and partisan ideological purposes. It does the same with consumer and business confidence.

There are very few in the MSM, and none in News Limited, who will lay a finger on Abbott or Hockey. We have just a few journalists that will say it the way it is – Peter Martin and Ross Gittins are two at Fairfax, and Bernard Keane at Crikey. Let’s look first at an article by Keane: The strange case of the national delusion on cost of living

Here are some edited excerpts from Keane’s piece: ”Essential Research asked voters to give their impressions of how much prices had changed on a range of basic consumer items over the last two to three years… 70% of voters said they were paying “a lot more” for electricity and gas…that corresponds with reality: according to ABS inflation data, electricity prices have increased by 38 index points since December 2009, or over 16% a year. Gas has gone up by 29 index points, or around 11% a year.

“But what about petrol? That’s gone up by just over 16 index points, or just over 6% a year on average – ahead of CPI, but not in the same league as electricity. Yet 50% of voters say they’re paying a lot more than they were three years ago…That’s bordering on the implausible…On water, perceptions look more plausible: 47% said they were paying “a lot more” for water, and water prices have increased 22 index points or around 9% a year on average.

“After that, though, there’s a growing gulf between perceptions of inflation and reality. 43% of voters say they’re paying “a lot more” for insurance…But insurance across the country has only increased 10 index points, or less than 4% a year – around about CPI.

“36% of voters complain they are paying “a lot more” for fruit and vegetables. Fruit and veg prices have only gone up just over 10 index points since December 2009, or less than 4% a year… 28% said they were paying “a lot more” for food generally, when in fact food and non-alcoholic beverages prices have grown at less than the CPI...

“Health costs have gone up 15 points, or just over 5% a year, but 33% said they were paying “a lot more” for medical expenses… 24% thought they were paying “a lot more” for housing (both mortgages and rent) when housing costs have only increased slightly faster than inflation…

“Education costs have gone up by around 16 points, or about 6% a year, ahead of inflation, but only 24% said they were paying “a lot more”.

“One category stands out as being the basis of what is almost a national delusion. Clothing has fallen in price by 7 index points or around 2% a year each year, since 2009 (kids’ clothing has fallen by more, 11 points). But 21% of voters say they’re paying “a lot more” for clothing…

And there’s another factor that distorts perceptions: partisanship. On average, 10% more Liberal voters say they are paying “a lot more” for products compared to Labor voters.

“Is that because Labor voters have a positively-skewed perception of the economy, or because Liberal voters have a negatively-skewed perception? A bit of both, it seems, but more the latter. Both share the delusion about clothing prices…but 77% of Liberal voters more realistically say they’re paying a lot more for electricity, compared to 67% of Labor voters…

“Other categories, though, suggest Liberal voters see price rises everywhere even when they don’t exist. 58% said they were paying “a lot more” for petrol, compared to 41% of Labor voters. 42% said they were paying a lot more for fruit and veg compared to 28% of Labor voters. Insurance was 50% to 38%. Food, 32% to 23%. Medical, 42% to 25%...

“…A substantial proportion of voters will always be convinced inflation is much worse than it is, and in fact filter their perceptions of inflation through partisan bias....”
(my emphasis)

So here is the first piece of evidence – Coalition voters are more pessimistic about price rises than Labor voters. Why? Could it be because they have taken as gospel the negative talk that Abbott and Hockey feed to the electorate every day?

Recently, consumer confidence has been analysed to ascertain from whence the lack of confidence arises. In Coalition voters underpin surge in confidence, Peter Martin writes:

”Supporters of the Coalition are suddenly confident about the economy, moving clearly into positive territory for the first time in two years. The latest Westpac-Melbourne Institute consumer confidence survey shows optimists among Coalition voters outweigh the number of pessimists by five percentage points, a reverse of the recent pattern in which Coalition voters have been strongly negative. Labor voters remain extremely positive, with optimists outweighing pessimists by more than 20 points.

“The lift among Coalition voters has been enough to hoist the overall consumer confidence index from around 100 points to 108 on a scale where 100 means the number of pessimists balance the number of optimists.

“Westpac senior economist Matthew Hassan said the change was primarily the result of the carbon tax. Ahead of its introduction in the middle of last year it pushed the confidence of Coalition voters (but not Labor voters) into a downward spiral. ''There was the point when there was a whole series of overlapping concerns around tax changes - the carbon tax, the mining tax, the global situation was getting worse and in Queensland things looked dire. The incoming government spoke about Queensland being the Spain of Australia. At the same time low- and middle-income households likely to vote Labor were being showered with carbon tax compensation, exacerbating the wedge. In all the time we've been doing this we've never seen as big a deviation. In terms of confidence, we had a divided nation. It was off the charts.''

“Mr Hassan said the improved consumer figures represented a return to normality. The carbon tax had not been as bad as expected, the share market had climbed and interest rates had fallen.

“HSBC Australia chief economist Paul Bloxham hailed the surge in sentiment as a sign interest rate cuts were having their desired effect. ''This result is consistent with what we've had in mind, which is that the soft patch in the Australian economy may be behind us,'' he said.

“Asked whether now was a good time to buy a major household item, an extraordinary 59 per cent of Australians surveyed said yes. Only 16 per cent said no.

“One-quarter of those surveyed expected their personal financial situation to improve in the year ahead. Only one in five expected it to get worse.”


Here is another piece of evidence that it is Coalition voters who are depressing confidence ratings. The thesis of this piece is that this is because they have swallowed whole the Abbott/Hockey doom and gloom narrative.

The weekly Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence Rating of 12 February shows “Consumer Confidence rising to 121.4pts (up 2.9 pts since February 2/3, 2013) after the RBA left Australian interest rates unchanged at a record low of 3%. Consumer Confidence is now 5.7pts higher than at the same time a year ago, February 11/12, 2012 – 15.7. The rise in Consumer Confidence has been driven by an increase in confidence about buying major household items and increasing confidence about personal finances over both the last and the next 12 months.

“Now a much larger majority of 60% (up 6%) of Australians say now is a ‘good time to buy’ major household items compared to just 16% (unchanged) that say now is a ‘bad time to buy’.

“Also, now 34% (up 6%) of Australians believe they are ‘better off” financially than this time last year (the highest since September 22/23, 2012) compared to 27% (down 2%) that say they are ‘worse off’.

“Australians are also more positive about their personal finances over the next 12 months with 43% (up 2%) saying they expect their family to be ‘better off’ financially while 14% (down 1%) expect to be ‘worse off’ financially.

“Now 39% (up 2%) of Australians expect ‘good times’ for the Australian economy over the next five years compared to 18% (up 2%) that expect Australia to have ‘bad times’

“However 29% (up 4%) of Australians expect ‘bad times’ economically over the next twelve months compared to 35% (up 2%) of Australians that expect ‘good times.”


So it seems that consumer confidence is on the rise. Which begs the question, why has it been so low for so long?

Clearly, there are many factors. The residual effect of the GFC lingered long. People are still more inclined to save; less inclined to make extravagant purchases, something retailers testify; more prudent about buying an expensive house, as estate agents tell us, and banks are less inclined to lend for this purpose. This prudence is not without merit as many were spending wildly beyond their means, encouraged by retailers such as Harvey Norman, maxing out their credit cards, and entering into maxi-mortgages to buy their four bedroom, three bathroom McMansions, complete with al fresco dining areas, and home entertainment theatres.

Then there was the Eurozone financial crisis with the dire threat of default on loans by the governments of Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and even Italy, a threat that worried many voters, one that eroded their confidence. Politicians here, to wit Campbell Newman, referred to Australia as ‘another Spain’, and even Joe Hockey hinted that Australian too was a sovereign risk. Add to that the ‘financial cliff’ saga in the US with the Republicans blocking the Democrats at every turn, together with the poor economic data coming from there, and you have an ugly picture that would depress anyone already feeling insecure.

But while there were these global factors that undoubtedly influenced the thinking and feeling of the people, there was a persistent local factor: the continual daily talking down of the Australian economy and the Gillard Government’s capacity to manage it by Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey.

While commentators largely blame overseas factors for the depressed confidence of consumers and businessmen alike, they show almost no willingness to recognize the elephant in the room – the negative, continually depressing talk of Abbott and Hockey, the demeaning of the Australian economy, day after day. What evidence is there for this assertion? Just look at the figures quoted above. It has been largely Coalition voters, those who swallow the Abbott/Hockey propaganda without question, who have pulled down consumer confidence, and I suggest also the confidence of businessmen, especially those involved in retail.

Their talk of the disaster that the carbon tax would bring about affected people’s confidence, and I suggest that the fact that the dire predictions of Abbott and Hockey, and of course Barnaby Joyce and his ‘$100 lamb roasts’, have come to naught, has ameliorated their anxiety and boosted their confidence. There seems to be an uncomplicated ‘cause – effect’ relationship between carbon tax doom and gloom and diminished consumer confidence, and between the dissapation of that gloom and improving confidence. We know that there is more to it than that, but the relationship seems germane.

In Why voters believe the economy is in trouble, Ross Gittins offers another reason for low confidence:

“With all the silly talk about 'the cautious consumer' and with punters blissfully unaware that retailing accounts for only about a third of consumer spending, all the highly publicized complaints of the Gerry Harveys helped convince the public not that the retailers have their own troubles, but that the economy must be going down the tube.

“Then there's the contribution of the unending fuss about ‘debt and deficit’, in which the government has been completely outfoxed by the Liberals. Although every economically literate person knows Australia doesn't have a significant level of public debt, the opposition has had great success exploiting the public's ignorance of public finance and of just how big the economy is ($1.5 trillion a year) by quoting seemingly mind-boggling levels of gross public debt.

“With much of this argy bargy being reported by political rather than economic journalists - how many times have you heard talk of 'the economy's deficit'? – it is hardly surprising the public has acquired an exaggerated impression of the economic significance of the budget deficit. Ironically, the budget deficit is a case where a cyclical (temporary) problem has been taken to be a structural (long-lasting) one.”


And who were responsible for all the spurious ‘debt and deficit’ talk – all this scary chatter about this nation being over its head in debt and borrowing a million dollars a day to service it? Abbott, Hockey, and bringing up the rear, Andrew Robb and Mathias Cormann.

And who in the media pointed out that the nation’s debt was miniscule, indeed much lower proportionately that the homebuyer taking out an average mortgage. It was left to Ross Gittins and Peter Martin. Even the AFR, that ought to have been exposing this, defaulted. With Michael Stutchbury at the helm there, I suppose we ought not to be surprised!

This piece asserts that much of the poor consumer confidence and low business confidence has been the direct result of Abbott, Hockey and the Coalition talking down the economy, mendaciously painting a dismal picture of the state of our nation, shamefully eroding confidence and damaging the economy for its own political ends, aided and abetted by a largely compliant media.

That other factors, some global, are operating on confidence is obvious, but ignoring the massive elephant trumpeting in the room where the people live – the Abbott/Hockey/Coalition elephant – is to miss what I believe is a major factor: the negativity, the doom, the gloom, the cynicism, the dismay, the distrust and the pessimism that these cynical, self-serving, ruthless politicians propagate every day, every week, every month.

And most of the media remains shamefully mute.

Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey, stop killing confidence.


What do you think?

If you decide to disseminate this post by activating the ‘Disseminate this post’ option in the shaded panel at the foot or top of this piece, it will be sent to the following pre-selected Federal parliamentarians, in alphabetical order: Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Anthony Albanese, Adam Bandt, Julie Bishop, David Bradbury, George Brandis, Mathias Cormann, Simon Crean, Craig Emerson, Julia Gillard, Joe Hockey, Barnaby Joyce, Christine Milne, Robert Oakeshott, Christopher Pyne, Bernie Ripoll, Andrew Robb, Bill Shorten, Arthur Sinodinos, Tony Smith, Wayne Swan, Warren Truss, Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Windsor, Penny Wong, Nick Xenophon.

Don’t mention the polls

This is an open letter to all Federal Labor parliamentarians.

Of all people, you must know that polls of voting intention this far from the scheduled election date of September 14 are not predictive of the election outcome. Even the pollsters themselves tell us that. They agree that trends over time are the only useful pointers.

Yet every time a poll comes out, you are out there, whether it's good or bad, responding to the inevitable questions of journalists, whom you know very well are more interested in leadership speculation, with all the conflict and entertainment that engenders, than the policy issues that matter to the people. Why do you do it? You know that what you say, whether positive, negative, or neutral, will be echoed on countless TV, radio, and current affairs programs, and in the print and online media, thereby escalating the drama that the media deliberately sets out to create, while blocking out the critically important messages you need to transmit. Why do you do it?

Why can’t you take Basil Fawlty’s line?

DON’T MENTION THE POLLS

The media is out there deliberately baiting you, yet so many of you take the bait – hook, line and sinker – time and again.


When you do, you add to the uncertainty that the media is deliberately creating, thereby undermining your leader, Prime Minister Julia Gillard, your own Party, and your chances of electoral success. Surely, you must know that!

What is even more destructive, SOME OF YOU seem to be intentionally white-anting PM Gillard’s authority, and the outstanding work she is doing under difficult circumstances, with your so-called ‘back-grounding’ of journalists, who, like the insatiable piranhas they are, devour every morsel you offer, piranhas who would devour the entire Labor Party if they could.

Labor supporters despair when they hear of this subversive behavior. Unless journalists are entirely making this up, there are SOME OF YOU, who knows how many, sabotaging your leader and the Party. That is reprehensible and unforgivable. In war, people like you are taken out and shot.


We know that some of you are Rudd supporters, and thereby Gillard antagonists, but we don’t get to know the names of those of you who are actively back-grounding journalists. If Labor supporters did know your names, you would be deluged with angry emails insisting that you desist. Paul Howes had some words to describe your despicable behaviour – ‘gutless’ was one of them.

While no one would deny you the right to support whom you prefer, that is a world away from sabotaging the leader, elected just twelve months ago by a two to one majority, the one who is in the process of preparing for an election where Labor is seeking another term, where you as a Labor parliamentarian would enjoy another period in power.

We know that some of you are fiercely loyal to Julia Gillard, and that you too despair of the corrosive behavior of your disloyal colleagues. We imagine you have spoken to those whom you know are disloyal, but it seems to no avail. They continue with what seems to be a deluded belief that returning Kevin Rudd to Prime Ministership would somehow reverse the current polls and lead the Party to a resounding victory, even after he has repeatedly denied that that is his intent. Presumably, that belief is predicated on the polls that ask people what Party they would vote for under Gillard and Rudd leadership, which always come out in favour of Rudd. Surely, these malcontents can’t be stupid enough to base their strategy on such unreliable polls, or on private polling and focus groups, the opinions of which could change in a flash, especially with News Limited on the case, leaving these hopefuls high and dry.

Please try to talk some sense into the heads of these speculative malcontents, insist they get behind their leader, and fight the awful prospect of an Abbott government, tooth and nail. There is the enemy.

Let them know that loyal Labor supporters are furious with their subversive, treacherous behavior, and demand they desist immediately.

There is a Newspoll out this coming week. If it is even mildly bad for Labor, you know the vicious cycle of leadership speculation will start all over again. You must stop the sabotage and the disruption it evokes, which boosts Tony Abbott in his fevered quest for power, while eroding support for your leader, Julia Gillard.

And even if the poll is more favourable to Labor than the last, don’t be sucked into comment – you know it will be perverted to feed the frenzied piranhas thrashing about in their media puddle.

DON’T MENTION THE POLLS.

If a piranha rings to bite you for leadership information, hang up. If a piranha bites you at a doorstop, do an Abbott: just walk away.


FOR USERS OF THE POLITICAL SWORD: If you decide to ‘Disseminate this post’ by clicking these words in the shaded panel at the head or foot of this piece, it will generate an email to the following, in alphabetical order: Dick Adams, Anthony Albanese, Chris Bowen, David Bradbury, Tony Burke, Doug Cameron, Kim Carr, Bob Carr, Jason Clare, Greg Combet, Stephen Conroy, Mark Dreyfus, Craig Emerson, Chris Evans, Don Farrell, John Faulkner, David Feeney, Martin Ferguson, Joel Fitzgibbon, Peter Garrett, Julia Gillard, Harry Jenkins, Mike Kelly, Andrew Leigh, Joseph Ludwig, Kate Lundy, Jenny Macklin, Richard Marles, Robert McClelland, Shayne Neumann, Brendan O'Connor, Tanya Plibersek, Bernie Ripoll, Amanda Rishworth, Nicola Roxon, Kevin Rudd, Bill Shorten, Stephen Smith, Wayne Swan, Kelvin Thomson, Penny Wong, and Tony Zappia.

When will Tony Abbott fill the gaping void in his latest slogan: Hope. Reward. Opportunity?

The image of would-be Prime Minister Abbott as a hollow man, a lightweight on policy, and an economic dilettante would not have been diminished, let alone erased by his address in Canberra to the National Press Club of Australia: HOPE. REWARD. OPPORTUNITY. at the end of January. Here’s why.

‘Hope’, ‘reward’ and ‘opportunity’ are fine sounding words, embracing as they do laudable concepts, worthy aspirations that most citizens would applaud.

Regrettably, Abbott’s use of these admirable goals perpetuates his superficial three-word slogan approach to politics. He and his minders know that such short snappy cascades will be memorable, even if policy-poor. As were his other three word slogans: ‘Stop the Taxes’, ‘Repay the Debt’ and ‘Stop the Boats’. They stuck in people’s mind. So we ought not to be surprised at a reprise of such Coalition sloganeering.

Let’s see then if there is any substantive underpinning of these aspirations as we read through the rest of his address. Not all of it can be reproduced below, as that would make the piece too long, but the full text is available via a link at the end. There you can assess the whole address yourself.

It should be acknowledged at the outset that this address was presented as Abbott’s and the Coalition’s view of the past, and their vision of the future under a Coalition government. So it would be unrealistic to expect it to be redolent with detail. Nevertheless it is not unreasonable to expect some hint of how the vision would become reality and how much it would cost. Readers will be disappointed at their almost complete absence.

Abbott’s speech is in italics. My comments/questions are in bold.

”Here in Canberra, we must never forget that our task is to serve the Australian people. The political battles we have to fight are but a means to that end.

“Almost every day for the past two years, my colleagues and I have been listening to you, the Australian people.

“You’ve told us about your lives, your families and your hopes for the future.

“Since the last election, I’ve visited 215 businesses, I’ve held 43 community forums, and I’ve hosted 33 local morning teas.

“My senior colleagues have done many more.

“It’s clear to us what you, our fellow Australians, want:
- you want less pressure on your cost of living;
- you want more job security;
- you want our borders under control;
- you want stability and certainty returned to decision-making; and
- you want leaders you can trust.”


It would be hard to quibble with the first two 'wants' – they are motherhood statements. The last three will resonate with some, but they imply that our borders are not under control, that decision making now lacks certainty, and that trust in leaders is lacking – the first batch of Abbott’s barbs. He subtly introduces into his assessment of what the people want a condemnation of the present Government. So much for his stated intention to replace negativity with the positive Mr Abbott! He either can’t help himself, or his words are deliberate.

Let’s now take a look at the Abbott plans:

“Our plans for a better Australia are our response to you. The carbon tax will be gone – so power prices will fall.”

A promise easy to make, but problematic to implement. His theoretical assertion about falling prices will likely never eventuate. And of course he makes no mention of the negative effects on carbon pollution of removing the tax. Nor is there any mention of the removal of compensation.

”The mining tax will be gone – so investment and jobs will increase.”

Again, a confident pledge that may never come about, and another assertion not founded on fact. In fact, since the mining tax was introduced investment and jobs have already increased – why will they now increase when it is stopped? No rationale is offered.

”The boats will be stopped – because what’s been done before, can be done again”

Here again the assumption, one that the Coalition has made for ages, is that reintroduction of the Howard three-headed routine will have the same effect as it is believed it did a decade ago. No evidence is offered; we are expected simply to swallow this because of its superficial plausibility.

”And the budget will be back in the black – so government has the resources to deliver the services that are really needed.”

There it is: a confident assurance, without caveat, without qualification, without an explanation of how they will deliver their surpluses. Joe Hockey insists there will be a surplus in his first budget.

”Our vision for Australia is about you.

“Our ambition is for more empowered, more capable citizens – rather than bigger, more interfering government.

“This is the golden thread that runs through all our policy commitments.”


These are bland, motherhood statements that anyone could make. They are devoid of buttressing facts and reasoning. They are nothing more than hollow statements, empty aspirations. There is no hint of how a Coalition government might empower citizens.

”Lower taxes, less red tape, more opportunities for work and more responsive schools and hospitals reflect our trust in the Australian people to know what’s right for them.”

Make of that what you can, but don’t ask how taxes are to be lowered when all we have heard from Abbott is increased taxes, or how red tape will be lessened, or how more opportunities for work or more responsive schools and hospitals are to be had. We will have to wait patiently for that detail!

Government is important – my colleagues and I are in the parliament because it matters and because we care about our country – but, in a democracy, the people must come first.

“My colleagues and I want to reach out to all the decent people of our country to reassure you that government can have your best interests at heart – rather than just its own survival.

· We respect the commitment that working people bring to each job.
· We know Australian families’ struggle just to make ends meet.
· We honour the contribution that older people have made to our country’s strengths.
· We admire the way that small business people will mortgage a home to serve customers and employ staff.
· We understand that farmers are the original conservationists.
· And we are proud of the migrants who come here, from the four corners of the earth, not to change our way of life but to share it.


Look at the assumptions underlying these persuasive statements:

… best interests at heart – rather than just its own survival, implies that ‘survival’ is the only aim of the Gillard Government, and that it does not have the best interests of the people at heart.

“Families struggle just to make ends meet”.

Do all families? Why not “some families…”

As Australians, each of you has a right to elected leaders who are straight with you and who don’t waste your money.

Of course, but the implication is that the Gillard Government is not ‘straight’ and wastes your money. So he gives some well worn examples:

”Before the last election, the government promised that it would deliver a budget surplus but no carbon tax. In fact, it’s delivered a carbon tax but no budget surplus.

So my pledge to you is that I won’t say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards because fibbing your way into office is what’s brought our public life into disrepute.


Tony Abbott would never lie to the people, would he?

“Should the Liberal and National parties win the next election, we will restore the hope, reward and opportunity that ought to be every Australian’s birthright.

“It all starts with a strong economy. A more productive and more competitive economy means more prosperity for everyone to share.

“The Coalition understands that it’s the hard work of ordinary people, not government, that generates wealth.

“Government’s job is to make it easier, not harder, for business to be more productive.

“The Coalition understands that every dollar that government spends is a dollar taken from you in taxes today or two dollars taken from our children in a few years’ time when the debt has to be repaid.

“That’s why government has to be as careful with its spending as you are with yours – and why government has to be as keen to boost national income as you are to boost family income."


Here we have a repeat of the initial slogan and more motherhood statements, replete with thinly-disguised barbs. Then as night follows day, we have a set of negatives:

“For this government, though, the solution to every problem is more spending, more taxing and more borrowing – even though you can never cure too much debt and deficit with yet more debt and deficit. As every family knows, it can’t be Christmas forever. Eventually, February comes and the credit card has to be paid off.

“A stronger economy is not an end in itself – but it is the necessary foundation for the better services, stronger borders, cleaner environment and modern infrastructure that everyone wants.

“So Australia’s challenge is to realise our economic potential so that we can all enjoy the benefits that prosperity brings.

“Two budgets ago, the government promised to deliver half a million more jobs within two years.

“It’s achieved less than a third of that with just three months to go.

“Since 2007, GDP per person has grown at only one third of the rate achieved under the Howard government, which now seems like a lost golden age of prosperity.

“Australia’s multi-factor productivity has actually declined by three per cent over the last five years.

“People are saving at levels not seen in 20 years because no one trusts this government to save and few believe its claims that the economy is in good shape.

“In 2004-5, with unemployment at about five per cent, the Howard government delivered a surplus of one and half per cent of GDP despite terms of trade almost 40 per cent lower – yes, lower – than last year when the Gillard government delivered a deficit – a deficit – of three per cent of GDP.

“The Prime Minister was right when she said that “you can’t run this country if you can’t manage its budget”. So when the Treasurer finally admitted that his “come hell or high water” surplus wouldn’t happen, the government branded itself an economic failure."


Having slagged off the Government comprehensively, Abbott now indulges in self-adulation.

“Unlike this government, the Coalition can deliver a stronger economy because we understand that governments have to live within their means. It’s in our DNA – as the record shows.

“The Coalition’s last eleven budgets delivered ten surpluses.

“This year’s deficit will be Labor’s eleventh in a row.

“The Coalition can keep government spending in check because we’re not beholden to the Greens.

“And we can make the economy more productive because we’re not dependent on the unions.

“Let’s be clear. The coming election will be a referendum on the carbon tax. Above all, it will be a referendum on economic management because stronger economic growth is what government has to deliver."


Coalition strategists have these chunks of boilerplate that they drop into Abbott’s addresses ad nauseam. We have heard them all before, endlessly. What follows is Abbott’s preamble to his plan.

“Here at the Press Club 12 months ago, I outlined the Coalition’s plan for a stronger and more prosperous economy, and a safe and secure Australia… positive plans for a stronger economy, stronger communities, stronger borders, a cleaner environment and modern infrastructure.”

Here, would you believe, is ‘the plan’:

"So far, the Coalition has made literally dozens of big policy commitments:
- We’ll abolish the carbon tax – because it’s the quickest way to reduce power prices.
- We’ll abolish the mining tax – because it’s the quickest way to boost investment and jobs.
- And we’ll cut red tape costs by at least $1 billion a year – to give small business a much-needed break.
- By restoring the jobs growth of the Howard government, there’ll be two million more jobs over a decade.
- There’ll be border protection policies that have been proven to stop the boats.
- And there’ll be revitalised work for the dole.
- There’ll be a swift start on Melbourne’s East-West link, on Sydney’s WestConnex and on Brisbane’s Gateway motorway upgrade.
- And the Pacific Highway will finally be duplicated well within this decade.
- We’ll reduce emissions by planting more trees, delivering better soils and using smarter technology rather than a carbon tax that just sends our jobs overseas.
- There’ll be a one-stop-shop for faster environmental approvals.
- There’ll be a fully restored tough cop on the beat, the Australian Building and Construction Commission, to deliver $5 billion a year in productivity improvements.
- There’ll be the same penalties for union officials and company officers who commit the same offence.
- There’ll be schools and hospitals run by community leaders, not by distant bureaucrats, so they’re more responsive to the parents and patients they serve.
- There’ll be a new Colombo Plan that’s a two way street between Australia and our region sending our best and brightest to study in the region and bringing their best here.
- There’ll be a comprehensive review of childcare so it’s more responsive to the 24/7 needs of today’s working families.
- There will be no unexpected changes that are detrimental to people’s superannuation.
- There will be no further reductions in defence spending – that’s already fallen to the lowest level, as a percentage of GDP, since 1938.
- And we will protect spending on medical research where Australia’s talented scientists give us such a comparative advantage.

“These are all commitments that we’ve already made and that you can trust me to keep.”


On and on it goes – lots of grand promises, several using words we heard earlier in the speech, but nowhere any sign of how it will achieve any of them or what it will cost. Look through the list again. See if you can see anything but aspirations. See if you can see any genuine plans, see if you can detect any how, when, where, and at what cost.

“…The government thinks that by announcing September 14 as polling day, it can force the Coalition to announce all our policy detail now. The Coalition will release our costings after the government releases theirs – after the Budget and before polling day. It won’t be easy to find the savings to fund tax cuts without a carbon tax but we won’t shirk the hard decisions, such as being up front with people that the school kids’ bonus will go – because it’s a cash splash with borrowed money that has nothing to do with education. Between now and polling day, we will be constantly developing our policy commitments so that you know exactly what will happen should the government change.

“On broadband, I’ve often said that the Coalition will deliver higher speeds sooner and more affordably than Labor’s nationalised monopoly NBN. We’re committed to super high speed broadband that’s affordable for everyone and built sooner rather than later. But with so many competing priorities, the last thing Australians need is another $50 billion plus in borrowed money to deliver higher speeds – but only in a decade’s time and at about triple the current monthly price. We won’t throw good money after bad but we won’t dismantle what’s been built. Our fibre-to-the-node plan will deliver superfast broadband for a fraction of the price and in a fraction of the time required to deliver fibre to the front door.”


All empty promises and hollow rhetoric, with no detail, no plans, no costings, no outcome measures – just empty words, and a few nasties thrown in to scare the less well off.

Reproducing the whole Abbott speech would take too much space, but if you want to check whether my assertions of hollowness, of empty rhetoric, are accurate, read the rest of the speech here. In my opinion it gets no better – there is just more of the same. If you can stomach reading it, he offers still more negativity and wallows in sickening self-aggrandisement. He ends with a flourish:


We are a great country and a great people let down by a poor government.

“That’s what really has to change – and now the date has been set. I’m ready for the election.”


So is Julia Gillard. She has runs on the board with over 430 pieces of legislation already passed. She is doing, as well as promising, she plans and gets the job done; Abbott engages in hollow talk. And I suspect that this empty rhetoric will continue almost until polling day as Abbott hides, for fear that someone will discern his emptiness, probe his hollowness, and find holes in his costings, as usual.

Take your pick between an achiever who is getting things done, and a negator who knocks everything the Government does, promises wildly, but never reveals how he will deliver.

Compare the two National Press Club of Canberra speeches, given one day apart. Here is Julia Gillard’s address , and the video.

You will note a stark difference between her address and Tony Abbott’s. Her speech is loaded with facts and figures, plans and achievements. His is largely empty rhetoric, light on facts and plans, but redolent with high-sounding promises.

For another stark contrast with the Abbott address, look at what Barack Obama had to say on 13 February in his State of the Union address. Loaded with action plans, and should Congress fail to act, contingency plans to get things done. Action on climate change was a notable example of this.

While it might be argued that our Prime Minister’s address and President Obama’s address were delivered by serving leaders in power, and that it would be unreasonable to expect a would-be leader awaiting the reins of power to match the richness of the facts these leaders presented or the plans they offered and the financial backing they guaranteed, it IS reasonable to ask when the Leader of the Opposition, who will be begging us to elect him leader of the nation on 14 September, will give us more than motherhood statements and hollow talk, when he will reveal his detailed plans for delivering his many aspirations, and when he will account for how, when, where and at what cost he will deliver them.

He can’t keep fobbing us off indefinitely with more three word slogans, empty promises that have no substance, and walking away from the hard questions, while assuring us we will know all his plans and costings ‘in good time’ before the election, when we suspect from what he and Joe Hockey have said, that they will come out too late to digest.

We need to know, and it is up to our political media to prize this out of him very soon.


What do you think?

If you decide to disseminate this post by activating the ‘Disseminate this post’ option in the shaded panel at the foot or top of this piece, it will be sent to the following pre-selected Federal parliamentarians, in alphabetical order: Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Adam Bandt, Julie Bishop, David Bradbury, George Brandis, Greg Combet, Mathias Cormann, Craig Emerson, Peter Garratt, Julia Gillard, Joe Hockey, Greg Hunt, Robert Oakeshott, Christopher Pyne, Andrew Robb, Bill Shorten, Arthur Sinodinos, Tony Smith, Wayne Swan, Warren Truss, Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Windsor, Penny Wong and Nick Xenophon.

Why does the Coalition choose to live in an imaginary world?

Because it suits Coalition members to do so. Why do so many of those in the MSM choose to crawl into that imaginary world with the Coalition? Because it suits them too.

The refuge the Coalition and its supporters have taken in their make-believe world has reached pathological proportions. They give the impression they believe the fantasies and myths they have themselves woven, that they have become addicted to them. It goes back a long way, and they show no sign of recovery. Addictive personalities know that while recognition of their condition is challenging, cure depends on it.

There are so many examples of the mythical world of Tony Abbott and his colleagues that we don’t have to go back all that far to see the telltale signs.

Remember the global financial crisis? What crisis, Coalition members recited in unison? What crisis, echoed News Limited? Joe Hockey talked about ‘the recession we never had’ as if it was a figment of economists’ imagination. ‘What recession’ he asked. For those with failing memory, or those who simply cannot accommodate uncomfortable facts, in 2008 the world suffered the largest financial downturn since the Great Depression of the thirties. The Rudd Government acted swiftly, following the Ken Henry dictum, ‘go early, go hard, go households’. A stimulus package was devised and implemented swiftly: a rapid injection of cash payments, followed by programs such as the Home Insulation Program and the Building the Education Revolution program, designed to stimulate the construction industry and support local businesses, while replacing aging school infrastructure or adding to it, followed by a more unhurried roll out of bigger infrastructure projects. It had the desired effect of avoiding recession here, keeping workers in employment and stimulating retail trade.

But in its make-believe bubble, the Coalition scarcely recognized the peril we faced, the potential it presented for massive unemployment, and the danger it posed to business. It criticized the Government’s actions. Malcolm Turnbull, in his Woodford Festival address last month, flagellated the Government for saying that the Coalition had voted against the stimulus package, insisting it had voted for it. In an address on truth in politics, it was curious that Turnbull chose to tell only half the truth. The Coalition had voted for the smaller first tranche but against the larger second. In the bubble that Turnbull lives with his Coalition colleagues, he apparently believes what he says. That is the problem.

Australia not only survived the global downturn, but also prospered, standing head and shoulders among comparable nations. It evoked words of high praise for its management of our economy during the GFC from the IMF, the World Bank and economists worldwide; our Treasurer Wayne Swan received the Euromoney Magazine’s award of the ‘world’s finance minister of the year’. Yet Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott were out there denying that Swan had done anything out of the ordinary. Why, because the GFC hardly existed here! Whenever they emerged from their bubble to travel overseas, they thumped their chests with pride at the state of our economy, but back home they tell anyone who will listen how poor it is, how mismanaged it is by an incompetent Government that has no idea how to manage money, which is heavily into reckless spending, debt and deficit. They are still at it. Although completely contrary to the facts of the economy, they drew many in the MSM into their fantasy world to sing in unison from their song-sheet, and in the process convinced many in the public likewise, a public that still ranks the Coalition above Labor in the management of the economy, and trusts it more to manage any future GFC. It is one thing to live in an imaginary world oneself, but to suck others in is reprehensible.

The fantasy continues to this day. Even now Joe Hockey hammers the Government because it borrowed money to stimulate the economy, although it is now in the process of repaying it and steadily reducing the deficit. He talks as if there was no need for the borrowing; there was no crisis to be averted, no economic disaster to be avoided. He is still on the ‘reckless spending’, ‘debt and deficit’, ‘Swan will never bring in a surplus budget’ bandwagon, as if none of what the Government did was necessary at all. It was all a bad dream that really needed no action, but in the throes of a nightmare the Government ‘panicked’ and recklessly reacted leaving us bereft and in monumental debt, spending a million dollars a day in interest. Joe Hockey would have us believe the myth that the economy and our finances are in a desperate state, when every rational economist, here and overseas, tells us the opposite.

Recently, the fund manager of BlackRock, an investment company that holds $US3.7 trillion worldwide in government bonds, in his latest update of sovereign risk, ranked Australian government bonds as the world's seventh least risky, up from 10th least risky three months ago, adding that no other nation has managed to jump three places in the latest survey. Although the finding is at odds with a claim made by Joe Hockey last August that Labor was "adversely impacting Australia's sovereign risk profile", Hockey still disagrees. BlackRock's Australian head of fixed income, Steve Miller, insisted that Australia's position was "exceedingly strong" and strengthening, but Hockey still differs. Facts are irrelevant to him in his fantasyland.

Joe lives happily in his mythical world of make believe, talking down the economy because it suits him, because it suits his narrative. He surely can’t believe his fantasies. Only the delusional could. So he simply tells lies to suit his and his colleagues’ political purposes.

Lying has been par for the course for a long while for the Coalition. It created a make-believe world around the HIP, where it declared Minister Garratt was guilty of ‘industrial manslaughter’ when four workers died installing ceiling insulation, all of which were subsequently found to have succumbed because of poor industrial safety practices. But in the Coalition's imaginary world Garratt might as well have killed them by his own neglect. News Limited screamed in harmony.

The BER was over 97% successful according to three official reports by Brad Orgill, but in the Coalition’s fantasy world, in its imaginary bubble, it was a monumental disaster, a shocking example of Labor’s profligate waste and mismanagement, with schools and parents united in opposition to this intrusion into their hallowed precincts. Julia Gillard Memorial Halls were the subject of ridicule, yet Coalition members turned up at the openings to catch a little of the reflected admiration and praise that flowed on those occasions. They emerged from their fantasy world long enough to enjoy real world recognition for a good job well done, even although they had opposed the BER all the way. The Australian newspaper, Australia’s preeminent mythmaker, eagerly followed the Coalition into its make-believe world, publishing column after column, month after month, purportedly exposing the ‘waste and mismanagement’. We hear little from that paper of the BER now because its anti-BER campaign has served its purpose – it has drawn many voters onto the BER fantasy island to sing the ‘waste and mismanagement’ song reflexly on cue. Don’t be surprised though by the reprise that will come election time.

Perhaps the most grotesque world of make believe was the one constructed by Tony Abbott with the sycophantic Greg Hunt bringing up the rear, who insisted that the evil carbon tax, ‘a tax built on a lie’, would force prices up and up and up, costing the housewife a fortune every time she opened her fridge or turned to her traditional task of ironing. Barnaby Joyce told us all that lamb roasts would cost $100. Whole industries and towns would be wiped out, and countless workers thrown on the dole queue.

The Coalition had plenty of support from News Limited, which painted sad pictures of struggling families on $150,000 a year facing untold financial stress under the carbon tax. How many voters were sucked into that bubble of make believe we shall never know, but the unpopularity of the carbon tax showed up time and again in opinion polls.

Now of course, over seven months after a price on carbon began, more and more realize they were conned. They now know that Abbott, Hunt, Joyce, Hockey and Co. sucked them into an imaginary mythical world replete with demons and dragons breathing fire. The carbon tax, like the Medusa, had a hideous face disfigured by all manner of venomous snakes to strike down our citizens. Now that they have awoken, the people realize it was just a bad dream, for some even a nightmare, that vanished with the dawn. Many now realize that this dream world, this bizarre fantasy, was a deliberately constructed product of strategic planners in the Coalition and at News Limited, for which they will pay the price for their deception, for their deliberate ‘calling wolf’. You can fool people only some of the time. While Michelle Grattan struggled to give Abbott even the tiniest slap on the wrist for ‘over-egging’ the effects of the carbon tax; many voters will not struggle planting their boot where it hurts most.

Another fantasy that Abbott and Hunt created is the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan to combat climate change. Although it will cost each household $1,300 a year, a fact almost buried by our MSM, they expect the people to crawl into the imaginary world they have constructed where 20 million trees will be planted, on semi-arid land (because farmers need all the arable land to grow food and fibre), where by definition water is scarce, by Abbott’s 15,000 strong Green Army, which will need to be recruited, deployed, housed in semi-arid environments, and of course paid. No mention is ever made of the logistics of such an exercise in a nation where labour is in short supply. It is pure fantasy. No respectable economist endorses the scheme, and environmentalists assert that it will take at least five years before growing trees could become effective carbon sinks. Yet, the MSM scarcely utters a word of condemnation for this make believe scheme, not even a word of caution. The public is allowed, even encouraged to walk into the Abbott/Hunt fantasyland of a Direct Action Plan as if it is real, as if it can work. It is a myth. They are relying on its name, and the feeling of plausibility that it evokes, to convince the people it is real. But it is fiction, deliberately planned fiction. Hunt has recently added to the fantasy by saying it is ‘inconceivable’ that Labor would not support the Coalition in abolishing the carbon tax, should Labor lose in 2013.

If you think that my accusation that the Coalition and its fellow travelers live in an imaginary world is insufficiently contemporary, reflect on Joe Hockey’s recent comments about Labor’s concession that it might not be able to meet its planned budget surplus. Why might this be so? Even the disinterested must know that the prices for iron ore, coal, and gas have come off their peak, that demand from big buyers such as China has fallen, and that as a result revenue from mining has fallen far below expectations, expectations based on estimates made years previously.

Yet Joe Hockey, talking from his imaginary world where he avoids acknowledging that anything has changed, would have us believe that lower commodity prices and diminished sales are illusory and therefore ought to have no effect on revenue. At least he hopes, as does his leader, that we will believe that piece of make-believe and swallow his line that failing to reach a surplus is just another ‘broken promise’, and a ‘solemnly made one’ to boot. Hockey’s charade continued all this week in QT, where he tabled copies of hundreds of instances where a surplus had been promised, although it had been pointed out by the PM in her NPC address, and repeatedly in answers to questions, the economic facts underlying her change of tack. Wayne Swan marvelled that Hockey and the Coalition could be in such denial of these facts, could live in their ‘alternative universe’ where such facts are of no consequence, and could not understand that Labor considered it sounder economically to protect jobs and foster growth than seek a surplus at their cost.

Hockey avoids reality. Competing as he does with his leader for the title of mythmaker-in-chief, he retreats into his own fantasyland where the only facts allowed in are the ones he finds convenient; the inconvenient ones are dispersed in a puff of blue smoke at the tip of his magic inconvenient-fact wand. His intent is simply to lampoon the Government and his counterpart, to reinforce the ‘Labor can’t manage money’ myth, and to add ‘another Labor lie’ to the Coalition’s long list.

Hockey even had the temerity to insist that the recent lowering of interest rates was a sign that the economy was tanking, this from a man who has boasted endlessly that interest rates will always be lower under a Coalition government. He walks into his own fantasyland where low interest rates under Labor are bad, but under the Coalition are good. As Humpty Dumpty would have said: ‘Interest rates can mean whatever I want them to mean’.

In their fantasy worlds, Abbott and Hockey admit no bouquets for the Gillard Government’s many reforms and accomplishments, but, like squirrels hoarding for winter, are able to accommodate any number of brickbats to hurl at the Government. Anything that might be used to demean the PM or her Government is stored for future use. Even on the occasion of Julia Gillard visiting her recently widowed mother for Christmas was used by Hockey to demean her as gutless for not returning to Canberra to make the deficit announcement.

Yet, he and his Coalition colleagues seem able to airbrush away any suggestion that there has been a conspiracy to imperil the elected government in what is now termed ‘Ashbygate'. The Coalition fantasyland disallows admission to anything that is damaging to it.

This piece asserts that the Coalition, its prime spokesmen on matters economic, Abbott, Hockey, Cormann, and Joyce, and its many sycophantic media journalists, live in an imaginary world that Coalition strategists construct in order to run a narrative that is consistently negative to the Gillard Government.

I hope this piece will establish a mindset among readers about what is really happening, rather than what the largely compliant media would have us believe. We need to go into 'politics 2013' aware of how the public is being conned, over and over again, with myth after myth. Realizing that most voters are disinterested in politics and many disgusted with the political play they have seen for two years now, knowing how messages need to be simple and plausible even if dishonest, Coalition strategists construct plausible, even attractive imaginary worlds, fantasylands into which they lure the incautious and the disinterested to soak up the fantasy, to convince the unthinking that at every step, with every move, the Gillard Government is a disaster, an ongoing failure from which recovery is impossible.

But these strategists, these political figures, these columnists are not stupid. They are intelligent and cunning. So the question that begs an answer is: ‘Do they really believe this crap?’ If they do, they are delusional and ought to be on medication. If they don’t, they are unmitigated liars determined to deceive the people of Australia and con them into voting Coalition. The latter alternative more aptly fits the bill.


What do you think?

If you decide to disseminate this post by activating the ‘Disseminate this post’ option in the shaded panel at the foot or top of this piece, it will be sent to the following pre-selected Federal parliamentarians, in alphabetical order: Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Adam Bandt, Julie Bishop, David Bradbury, George Brandis, Greg Combet, Mathias Cormann, Craig Emerson, Peter Garratt, Julia Gillard, Joe Hockey, Greg Hunt, Robert Oakeshott, Christopher Pyne, Andrew Robb, Bill Shorten, Arthur Sinodinos, Tony Smith, Wayne Swan, Warren Truss, Malcolm Turnbull, Tony Windsor, Penny Wong and Nick Xenophon.

Forty-nine questions for Tony Abbott about global warming

As the mainstream media seems unwilling to, or incapable of asking Tony Abbott to explain his way of thinking about global warming, and more importantly explain his policies to combat it, let’s do so here. There are critically important questions that need answers if the electorate is to choose between Labor and the Coalition at the coming election. How can it vote without knowing?

First, let’s tease out where Abbott stands. Let’s not bother with Greg Hunt. Despite his expertise in environmental issues, his opinions are irrelevant as he slavishly follows everything Abbott says, and even if he doesn’t believe it, he has an array of weasel words to avoid disagreeing with his master. Abbott calls all the shots. Let’s not worry about Warren Truss with his bizarre statement that the recent bushfires have emitted as much CO2 as a decade of burning coal, or Barnaby Joyce either. The fact that the cost of a lamb roast is falling, rather than hiking to $100 as he predicted it would with the carbon tax, has cruelled what little credibility on climate change Barnaby ever had.

For starters, how can we know what Abbott really believes? Is it: ‘Climate change is crap.’ uttered at a meeting in Beaufort, an utterance subsequently airbrushed over with Abbott-speak? Is it: ‘Climate change is occurring, and mankind is contributing, but the extent is uncertain.’? Is it: ‘The science is highly contentious, to say the least.’? Is it: ‘If man-made CO2 was quite the villain that many of these people say it is, why hasn't there just been a steady increase [in temperature] starting in 1750, and moving in a linear way up the graph?’ Or is it: ‘It was hotter in Jesus’ days.’? We know he doesn’t accept responsibility for his spoken words, only for scripted, written ones. Has he written anything on the subject? Point us to it.

Is his willingness to publically associate himself with arch climate denier Lord Monckton a sign that he endorses Monckton’s views, or at least considers them credible?

So the questions for the man who wants to be PM begin:

Do you believe the evidence evinced by climate scientists that over many decades the global temperature has been, and still is increasing significantly?

Do you believe their evidence that this is due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases that trap heat near the earth’s surface?

Do you believe that human activity has been responsible for the scientifically-documented large increase in one of the greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide, and that it has played a dominant role in global warming, as documented in 99.8% of around 14,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers on the subject over the past two decades?

Do you accept climate scientists’ evidence that unless the increase in global temperature is held to 2 degrees C, serious changes to climate will occur?

Do you accept the scientists’ evidence of the disastrous effects on climate, arable land, forests, oceans, coastal habitation, wildlife, human existence and social cohesion of still higher increases?

Do you accept the scientist’s evidence that the increasing number of extreme adverse weather events we are now experiencing: widespread bushfires and now tornados, record rain and flooding in Eastern Australia, are likely a manifestation of global warming, and that these will increase as global temperatures rise?

Where were you when Warren Truss made his grossly erroneous statements about the bushfires? Where was Greg Hunt?

What do you make of reports on global warming from the Federal Government Climate Commission, from Professor David Karoly, Professor of Meteorology and an ARC Federation Fellow in the School of Earth Sciences at the University of Melbourne, and from Bureau of Meteorology scientists: Neil Plummer et al writing in The Conversation?

How will you answer George Monbiot’s question in his January article in The Guardian: Heatwave: Australia's new weather demands a new politics: ”I wonder what Tony Abbott will say about the record heat-wave now ravaging his country?”


Unless Abbott’s answers to these questions are affirmative, there is not much point in proceeding, as logically no action would be necessary. But as he has what is styled a Direct Action Plan to counter carbon emissions, can we presume his answers would be at least tentatively positive? Unless of course his Plan is simply an empty charade devised by a skeptic wanting to give the impression he is prepared to do something about climate change. Let’s give him the benefit of any doubt people may justifiably harbour.

He has pledged to repeal the carbon tax from the moment he is elected, should that happen. The Liberal website elaborately describes the steps in The Coalition's Plan to Abolish the Carbon Tax, even to the extent of a double dissolution of parliament, if he doesn’t get his way. His determined approach leads to the next questions:

As placing a price on carbon pollution is designed to penalize emitters and thereby reduce emissions, and also to encourage the use of renewable energy sources, and as the evidence is mounting that this is already occurring even in the seven months of the carbon tax (lower power usage and lower coal-generated power), do you believe that this trend towards lower emissions would continue after abolishing the carbon tax?

If the evidence is that abolishing the carbon tax will result in higher carbon pollution, how could you justify increasing pollution by this action?


Since part of the Coalition’s plan is that: “On day one, the Environment Minister will instruct the Department to commence the implementation of the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan on climate change and carbon emissions.”, you may care to address some questions about your DAP, questions that the media seldom ask you to answer.

Since very few economists, and almost no environmentalists give your DAP any credence, how can you present it as a credible alternative to the Government’s carbon pricing arrangement which will lead to an emissions trading scheme that will operate in a world trading market?

What evidence do you have that paying polluters with taxpayer’s money to reduce their pollution will be more effective than penalizing them for their pollution as the carbon tax does? How can you know that your ‘carrot’ will be more effective than the ‘stick’?

Is it your intention, as Malcolm Turnbull has suggested, to present your DAP as an alternative that can easily be scrapped as its implementation turns out to be unfeasible? Did you engage climate skeptics Maurice Newman as business adviser, and Dick Warburton as carbon emissions adviser, to enable you to do this?


These are fundamental questions to which the electorate needs answers before it votes later this year. It needs to know whether to vote for the Labor scheme about which it knows, or for the Coalition’s DAP, which on the face of it looks like a Mickey Mouse scheme, although the cost is said to be $10.5 billion, the source of which has not been revealed.

As its centerpiece is the planting of some 20 millions trees to act as carbon sinks, please explain to us some of the details:

From where will the trees be sourced? What sort of trees?

How large an area will be needed to plant them?

As you have stated that semi-arable land would be used, since all the existing arable land is needed for farming food and fibre, where will you find the large amount of land you will need?

How will the trees be planted – can we presume your Green Army would do this?

How will you enlist the 15,000 members you say will comprise your Green Army?

How will you transport them to semi-arable locations, house them, and provision them?

How much will all this cost?

Has provision been made for this cost in your budget? Over what period?

Who will be the employer and provide occupational health and safety, benefits and insurance? How will the logistics of such a vast operation be managed?

Since you have heralded the abolition of the climate change department, what government department will oversee and administer the DAP?

How long will it take to plant 20 million trees?

Once planted, how will the trees be watered and nurtured until growth is well established in their semi-arable locations? At what ongoing cost?

How will you protect this vast forest against the destructive forces of bushfires, the devastation of which is contemporaneously apparent to us all?

Do you accept the scientific opinion that it will take around five years before trees can become worthwhile carbon sinks?

Under your DAP, what happens about reducing carbon pollution in the meantime?

As your Plan also involves sequestering carbon in soil in the form of biochar, how and where will char be produced, transported and buried in agricultural environments? At what cost?

What evidence do you have that this will be cost-effective, and that it will enhance the land? How long will it take to show a benefit?


You have been vehemently critical of the economic effects of placing a price on carbon, predicting that the costs of everything would go up and up and up, and that jobs, industries, and whole townships would be decimated. This leads to the next questions:

Is it true that every household would bear a cost of $1300 for your DAP, and receive no compensation, such as is in place right now?

If so, how can you justify this household cost of $1300, while criticizing the Government’s carbon price, for which most households are fully compensated?

Have you work-shopped how you will remove existing compensation from pensioners and families, as promised, and manage the disruption and resentment that move will inevitably precipitate?

Have you modeled the economic effects of the $1300 imposition?


While businessmen and industry leaders always wish for lower taxes, their yearning for certainty is very strong.

Have you work-shopped how they might react when over a year after the introduction of a price on carbon, during which they have taken action to reduce pollution and thereby the penalty they need to pay, and having invested in renewables, they find that they have to adjust to a new arrangement where there is no carbon price?

Have you considered the possibility that they may resent having to again adjust their plans?

Have you considered that having adjusted to a price on carbon they may be in harmony with its purpose, and not wish to go backwards?

Have you considered the possibility of a business backlash against your plans?

How do you explain the rapidly diminishing number of complaints to the ACCC about the carbon tax, now down to almost zero?


Forty-nine questions. Until the voters have answers to them, how can they compare what Abbott and the Coalition are offering to counter the existential threat of escalating global warming and all the consequences it will bring in its wake if it is not restricted to 2 degrees C, and the disastrous effects of greater increases?

Come on Mr Abbott, answer these pivotal questions – take us into the recesses of your mind where your thoughts about global warming swirl around.

Come on you journalists in the mainstream media – ask Mr Abbott these questions, and insist on cogent answers. Don’t avoid the questions, and don’t accept bland answers, obfuscation, devious answers, or weasel words? Don’t allow him to walk away when the questions get too hard. Do your job. He will not spontaneously give the electorate his answers; it is up to you to wheedle them out of him. So far, you have failed dismally. You have let us down disgracefully. Lift your game.

The Fourth Estate needs to take up the global warming cudgels, and if it continues to turn a blind eye, the Fifth Estate needs to shame it into action.


What do you think?

If you decide to disseminate this post by activating the ‘Disseminate this post’ option in the shaded panel at the foot or top of this piece, it will be sent to the following pre-selected Federal parliamentarians, in alphabetical order: Tony Abbott, Adam Bandt, Greg Combet, Julia Gillard, Greg Hunt, Barnaby Joyce, Christine Milne, Robert Oakeshott, Warren Truss, Malcolm Turnbull, and Tony Windsor. If you have selected your local member, he or she will get a copy of the email.