Say no, no, no to Tony Abbott

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Sunday, 25 August 2013 15:08 by Ad astra
Rupert Murdoch wants him. Gina Rinehart wants him. The miners want him. Big business wants him. Most of the media want him. But does the public want him? By September 8 we will know if the voters really did want him, whether they have been persuaded by the continual media promotion of Tony Abbott and his Coalition, and the incessant denigration of Kevin Rudd and Labor.

Abbott supporters insist that he is the one this country needs as its leader for the next three years.

But how many will reflect on what it will mean to this nation to have Tony Abbott, whom we now know so well, as its Prime Minister?

It takes little serious reflection to conclude that this nation does not deserve to have Abbott inflicted on it. Let me elaborate on why we ought to say no, no, no to Tony Abbott.

Contemplate an Abbott prime ministership, an Abbott government.

In my opinion, we can confidently expect Abbott to exhibit seemingly conflicting attributes: vengefulness and weakness.

The vengeful Abbott

Although this 55-year-old has been telling us recently that he 'has grown, developed and matured' since those long past days when he embraced quite different policies and exhibited very different attitudes and behaviour, how convinced are you? The old saying about the leopard’s spots applies.

Is this man, who in student days resented losing, any different now? Is this the man who kicked in a glass door when he narrowly lost in a University Senate election? Is this the man who punched the wall close to Barbara Ramjan when he lost an SRC election to her? It was an event he couldn’t at first ‘remember’, and then said ‘it never happened’, despite witnesses to the contrary. But we all know Abbott is a self-confessed liar. Is this the man who subsequently called Ramjan ‘chair-thing’ during her subsequent term rather than her preferred title ‘chair person’?  Is this the man who abused Nicola Roxon and insulted the dying Bernie Banton?

Is this the man who as recently as last week in the leaders’ debate asked about Rudd: “Does this guy ever shut up?” It was a small infraction, of course grasped eagerly by the media, but it portrayed brittleness, it signalled thinly disguised aggression lurking just under the surface, aggression that could erupt with little provocation, as it did during university days. Hardly a desirable attribute in a national leader who would need to liaise with world leaders! Greg Jericho says this: “This could be Abbott’s version of the Latham handshake, because it feeds into the perception that already exists that Abbott is a bit of a brute – someone who is liable to snap if pushed a bit too hard." Happy Antipodean was blunter: “But every now and then - like last night - Abbott slips up and lowers the tone of social discourse to a level with which he – a father of three daughters! – is happiest with the after-game fly-off-the-rails barbarism of the teenage schoolboy. He's a disgrace to Australia.” Abbott’s recent sexist remarks about some of his candidates for election fit with this image. Read YaThink’s satirical take on his remarks.

Is this the man who from the moment Julia Gillard won the support of a majority of Independents and formed Government in 2010, labeled her as an illegitimate prime minister and her Government illegitimate? Is this the man who used over sixty motions to suspend standing orders to delegitimize her, the man who demonized her daily with vile appellations: ‘liar’, ‘incompetent’, ‘worst prime minister leading the worst government in Australian political history’, who sneered at her at every opportunity despite her record legislative achievements?

Abbott’s approach to opposition has been consistently denigratory and viciously revengeful. Abbott cannot tolerate being a loser. Losing brings out the vengeful side of his nature, the nastiest aspects of his behaviour.

Look at his opposition to Labor bills. He has opposed measures that he has supported in the past (an ETS is one example), simply to enjoy the satisfaction opposition afforded. He is a disciple of Randolph Churchill, and slavishly follows his dictum: “Oppositions should oppose everything, suggest nothing, and turf the government out”.

We would expect him to enjoy wreaking vengeance by repealing the carbon tax, the mining tax, and other Labor bills. Smashing what Labor has done is his pugilistic intent; demolition gives him satisfaction.

If he were to win, the bigger the majority the more intense and personal his vengeance would be. Voters need to know that vengeance is in his DNA. It would override any tendency to munificence that might emerge after a substantial victory. Remember his instruction to Malcolm Turnbull: “demolish the NBN”, an instruction Turnbull found a way to partly ignore. Demolition is Abbott’s preference.

Let’s look at some pretty obvious changes we could expect if Abbott prevails. Preston Towers has a nice account at AUSVOTES2013.

Tax changes
If he were to get a majority in both houses, we should expect not only the two major taxes to go, but also the carbon tax to be replaced by the underfunded, derisory Direct Action Plan, a plan way outside the carbon market system. There would also be a reversal of means testing of the private health insurance rebate, despite the Coalition agreeing to it earlier this year. Abandoned would be the recently mooted changes in the Fringe Benefits Tax in salary packages that enable the claiming of car expenses even when not used for business. Abbott would continue the rorting by the recipients, at taxpayers’ expense.

Industrial Relations
We would expect a revisiting of industrial relations despite Abbott’s ‘dead, buried and cremated’ reassurance, repeated again in the latest debate between the leaders. The pressure that commerce and industry is placing on Abbott would prove irresistible. Independent Australia sets out Abbott’s IR agenda in detail. Already he is talking about ‘flexible workplace reform’, and ‘moving the pendulum closer to the sensible middle’, which is code for the reintroduction of elements of WorkChoices by whatever more benign name Abbott invents. He would reintroduce the Australian Building and Construction Commission with all its anti-union provisions. He would introduce union-bashing legislation to penalize dishonest union officials. In the event of his not having control of the Senate, some pay-offs might have to be made to the lesser parties and independents to implement his IR changes, which might include, for example, compromises to pro-lifer DLP John Madigan over the abortion issue.

Attacks on school funding
Although Abbott encouraged the Premiers to reject the Gonski reforms of school funding, when it became apparent that the people really did want the School Improvement Program implemented, and as more and more Premiers came on board, Abbott realized that to oppose it was such a vote loser that he endorsed it, claiming that he and Kevin Rudd were then on ‘a unity ticket’. Of course he has endorsed funding for only the first four years, whereas it is years five and six that are the most expensive. After all the talk of the program being a ‘Conski’, after Christopher Pyne’s insistence that the school funding system was not broken, after Abbott himself saying that if there was any funding inequity, it was the private schools that were missing out, we would expect Gonski to be revisited, subjected to yet another inquiry, and then watered down to reduce federal government support for public schools, thereby perpetuating the existing inequity. Abbott is even talking about encouraging public schools to become independent. Of course this would partly let him off the funding hook and satisfy his free market, user-pays ideology.

At the level of the family he has already announced the repeal of the ‘school kids bonus’, a move that would have its greatest effect on the poor in our community. He says he would use the money to fund in part his lavish PPL, one that so disproportionately favours the well off.

Attacks on the health system
We would expect an attack on elements of the health care system with GP super clinics and Medicare Locals his targets. We would wait with trepidation to see how he manages the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and in particular drugs that are used to assist abortion. And his push against the NBN would be reflected in the health sector too, as some of the planned innovations, such as home monitoring, would be curtailed or rendered impossible.

On nurses and aged care workers, Abbott wants to support them by ‘reducing red tape’, and ‘paperwork’. Sounds great, doesn’t it. But where does the reducing begin? As Clarencegirl asks: “Would it be daily observation charts, case notes, individual treatment plans, outcomes of multidisciplinary case management conferences, filling in accident/incident registers, or more simple tasks like placing patients/residents on lists for podiatry treatment and filling in weekly menus for those who can no longer do such tasks for themselves? Or would it be paperwork proving staffing levels, that all staff were suitably qualified for the positions they hold and that emergency medical equipment is tested/serviced regularly?”

All of these moves would be characterized as necessary cost-saving exercises to repair ‘the desperately bad financial situation Labor bequeathed the Coalition’.

Global warming
Lurking beneath an exterior that now acknowledges the reality of global warming, and the possibility that human activity contributes to it, is a denier. Why else would Abbott propose a scheme such as his Direct Action Plan? Malcolm Turnbull sees it as a bogus scheme that could easily be ditched when it all becomes too difficult, too costly, too logistically impossible, and ineffectual in lowering pollution to boot, as most economists and environmentalists predict. Abbott would cite the budget situation as his excuse for not proceeding, but the real reason would be that he doesn’t believe global warming is worth bothering about. After all, ‘it was hotter in Jesus’ time’. He keeps insisting, as does the sycophantic Greg Hunt, that there is no move to carbon trading elsewhere, which there is, and that the US is adopting ‘direct action’, which it isn’t. Being into short-termism, Abbott would let the planet look after itself, while he goes about doing the easier things, and Hunt would go on spinning a story that does not coincide with his own beliefs. As Tristan Edis writes: “Last week the Climate Institute called Hunt’s bluff, releasing a study examining the economics of Hunt’s Direct Action fund. In spite of its generous assumptions in Hunt’s favour, the study concluded Direct Action was underfunded by at least $4 billion to achieve the minimum Coalition emission reduction target.”

One area in which Malcolm Turnbull excels is obfuscation. He is not only incapable of making complex telecommunications issues simple enough for the public to comprehend, he is even less capable when he is trying to pull the wool over the public’s eyes. When his heart is not in it, he stammers and stumbles and becomes incomprehensible. Again and again he has tried to represent his NBN-Lite as superior on the grounds that it would cost less and would roll out faster. But that advantage comes at the expense of quality. The Coalition scheme would give Australia a second rate NBN, which would leave business and agriculture less competitive internationally, and would make home health care, aged care and remote consultations much more difficult, if not impossible. But both Turnbull and Abbott insist that it would be ‘good enough’ for most users, and that the aging copper he would use for the last kilometre is capable of the speeds he is promising, which it isn’t. If it’s OK for Abbott’s daughters to download movies, and for him to send emails, I suppose that would have to do!

Talking about a Google+hangout in which Turnbull participated last week, Sortius is a Geek reports that Turnbull’s “…answers were dripped in the same arrogant dismissive tone that we’ve become accustomed to when Turnbull is interviewed or debated.” And “This was a deliberate attempt to derail any concerns over his plan being short sighted, and essentially a waste of money.”

The Coalition’s NBN-Lite costings are shrouded in mystery. Renai LeMay reported this week: “Delimiter requested a formal position from Turnbull’s spokesperson last week about whether the Shadow Communications Minister would submit the Coalition’s NBN policy to the Treasury, but has not yet received a direct answer on the issue.”

For an excellent appraisal of Labor’s NBN read Michael Taylor’s post on The Australian Independent Media Network, which concludes: “The future is an exciting place and the technological possibilities seem endless. But life and society will increasingly revolve around fast, ubiquitous, and always-on network connectivity. Labor’s NBN sets Australia up to be a part of this, and potentially to be a leading developer of the technologies that will shape the lives of the next generations.” Abbott cannot stomach Labor’s plan being the best.

After his initial instruction to Turnbull to ‘demolish the NBN’, Abbott would want to get as close as he could to that destructive approach with his NBN-Lite. And he certainly wouldn’t want to upset his idol, Rupert Murdoch. Be certain that he would move his NBN-Lite as close as he could to Murdoch’s requirements.

Asylum seeker policy
Little needs to said about this, except that Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison would drag the Coalition even deeper into the morass in which this issue wallows. They would seek to look more aggressive than the Government, would add more and more disincentives to their already punitive policy, as we have seen this week, and the dog whistling would heighten.

Just when it seemed they couldn’t possibly become more hairy-chested, they are now planning to spend millions ‘buying back the fishing boats’, presumably outbidding the people smugglers. As there are estimated to be three quarters of a million fishing boats in Indonesia, Morrison would be pretty busy, and would needs lots of money. If he were to buy them all, who would do the fishing? Crazy. Greg Jericho describes just how crazy.

Fiscal responsibility
Notwithstanding all the Coalition hype about Government debt and deficit, and how fiscal management would be so much better under the Coalition, the approach of Tony Abbott, Joe Hockey, Andrew Robb and Mathias Cormann to fiscal responsibility gives voters no confidence that the Coalition could and would do what it says it will. They often misrepresent the facts, distort the evidence, and cherry pick the data to push their point of view, and so far we have seen little of their policy costings, which they will hide until the last week of the election, when thorough critique will be impossible. They plan simply to bluff their way through. At his campaign launch today, Abbott set out an extended timeframe for a $4 billion surplus: the end of his first term! And a budget surplus of one per cent of GDP a decade hence! He’s retreating fast.

Ross Gittins insists that the Coalition has an obligation to show how it will pay for its election promises. He goes on to outline “the unworthy reasons for avoiding any firm commitment on when an Abbott government would get the budget back to surplus. I can think of three. Because it's a safe bet the Coalition parties intend to put their debt-and-deficit rhetoric on the back burner as soon as they're back in power and the fear campaign has served its purpose. Because, even in government, Tony Abbott is likely to prove an incorrigible populist with little interest in or sympathy for the precepts of rational economics. As is clear from the way he keeps departing from the agreed line in this campaign, Hockey, Arthur Sinodinos and Malcolm Turnbull would have an unending struggle trying to keep the boss up to the mark." Gittins concludes: “…because an Abbott government would have handicapped itself so badly on the tax side of the budget that fiscal responsibility would require a degree of continuing restraint on the spending side of which no flesh-and-blood government is capable.”

If an example of this is needed, just think about the fiscal contortions that have beset the funding of Abbott’s ‘signature policy’, his Paid Parental Leave scheme, which economists and many in his party, now including Nick Minchin, believe is not capable of being responsibly implemented.

We could expect no fiscal magic from Abbott, Hockey, and Co, and certainly no move that would up the ante on the wealthy. In contrast, we can see already their preparedness to move against the underprivileged, the workers, and the indigent. They have said they would kill the School Kids Bonus and the low income tax offset, reduce the tax free ceiling thereby disadvantaging the poorest, reverse the changes to the means tested private health insurance rebate, which would advantage the wealthy, and defer for two years the moving of superannuation from nine to twelve percent. And so the attack on the less-well-off would continue. Expect more, as Abbott believes these are Labor voters anyway.

I could go on and on describing what to expect should Abbott become PM, what vengeance to anticipate, but what I have described will have to suffice.

What is more disconcerting though than Abbott’s vengefulness is his weakness, weakness that would render him unable to resist the requests, the demands of his wealthy and influential sponsors.

Abbott the weak man

The ones who would call the shots, who would shout the orders to which Abbott would jump, are Rupert Murdoch and Gina Rinehart. Look at how obsequious Abbott is in the presence of these wealthy moguls.

Murdoch would want the threat to his Foxtel empire from the NBN neutralized. He would want no restrictions to his precious ‘freedom of the press’, which is code for him being able to say and print whatever he likes to support his commercial interests and his ideological preferences. Abbott would meekly comply; Murdoch would never see Abbott’s hairy chest. He would never see Abbott the boxer ready to flatten his adversary, or Abbott the student threatening his opponents.

Rinehart would want every concession she could wrench from Abbott, and would get it. He would make it easier for her to develop her mines, easier for her to avoid taxes that rightfully should support the common good. He would repeal the mining tax. He would support workers on 457 visas to build her mines. He would kiss her hand and give her what she demands, such as her plan for development of the North. The bravado Abbott shows against helpless asylum seekers would never be directed towards her; she is too prepossessing, too powerful, too determined to get her own way, too used to winning.

Of course, lesser lights such as Andrew Forrest would soon have his arm around Abbott seducing him to support Twiggy’s enterprises. Mitch Hooke of the Minerals Council of Australia would know that Abbott would jump if he clicks his fingers – he wouldn’t have to spend another $22 million on ads to get his way.

Peter Anderson of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry would have Abbott’s ear, urging him to reduce taxes, make the workplace more flexible, lessen red and green tape, minimize regulation, reduce company tax, and give business lots of incentives. Abbott would present an open door to the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Industry Group.

Abbott is a weak man who would not be able to resist the demands of powerful business and industry leaders. He would go wobbly at the knees and comply. He hasn’t got the ticker to stand firm.

Abbott has never acknowledged the reality of the global financial crisis and its ongoing sequelae; he has never acknowledged the ever-changing global economic circumstances and how Australia must adapt to them, even in his campaign launch today. It’s as if these situations never existed. Instead of giving voters a concrete ‘narrative’, the Holy Grail political journalists demanded of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, all he gave us today were his aspirations, some now stretched out over a decade. There were few concrete plans to achieve them, and no vision of what he wanted for this nation ten years from now. It’s so easy to mouth motherhood statements such his desire for ‘a stronger economy’, ‘more jobs’, ‘lower taxes’, ‘budget surpluses’, ‘better hospitals and schools’, and so on, but without concrete plans, they are just fine-sounding words, empty of substance. Why the paltry narrative? Is it because he awaits directives from the wealthy and the powerful? He creative slate looks blank, waiting as it seems to be for his mentors to write their narrative.

Perhaps even more sinisterly, Abbott would be subject to the pressure of his mentor, Cardinal George Pell. With his Catholic upbringing, with his Jesuit education so deeply entrenched in his psyche, he would weakly submit to the power of his Church, to the influence of his mentor. He would avoid policies that run counter to his Church’s dogma, as we are seeing manifest in his continuing unwillingness to allow a conscience vote in the Coalition on the matter of gay marriage. He would not be able to resist lobbying against abortion by his Church and the pro-lifers.

Should he become PM, this weakness of character would be even more detrimental to good governance, more dangerous to equity and fairness than the vengefulness that he would parade against the weak, against those who have no defence. The wealthy and powerful would prevail. Abbott, the weak man, would not resist.

Be afraid of an Abbott prime ministership, very afraid.

Say no, no, no to Tony Abbott.

Should you wish to ‘disseminate this post’, it will be sent to the following: Tony Abbott, Eric Abetz, Anthony Albanese, Julie Bishop, Chris Bowen, George Brandis, Mathias Cormann, Josh Frydenberg, Joe Hockey, Christine Milne, Scott Morrison, Christopher Pyne, Andrew Robb, Kevin Rudd, Bill Shorten, Arthur Sinodinos, Warren Truss, Malcolm Turnbull, Penny Wong and Nick Xenophon.