What would Tony Abbott do if this nation were so unfortunate as to have him elected as Prime Minister some time in the future? I can see your lips moving to mouth the words: “Who knows?” And our would-be PM, who by his own admission is a weathervane, would likely not know either, because even he would be unable to predict which way the political wind would be blowing so far ahead.
So let’s imagine what might happen in several of the key policy areas that are of contemporaneous importance. It is worthwhile doing as I am unaware of anyone in the MSM who has sketched even a rudimentary picture of life under PM Abbott. I have wondered why as all the polls suggest he will be PM after the next election. The MSM is naturally preoccupied with PM Gillard and her Government, but why not paint a picture of what the alternative might be like, what he has to offer? I suspect that one reason is that it is too difficult an exercise for the average journalist, but perhaps a more likely reason is that media proprietors don’t want that disturbing picture exhibited lest it drive away voters from the one the media has anointed as the next PM, one that will suit its commercial imperatives better than the present PM Climate change
PM Abbott would be able to choose any position he wanted and to say this has always been his position as he has occupied every possible one from skepticism bordering on denial at one end of the spectrum to support for an ETS and a carbon tax at the other. Last week he claimed that he never supported an ETS, although he is on record as having done so several times, even at one time supporting a carbon tax. The media, instead of calling him a liar as they do PM Gillard every day and play her ‘no carbon tax’ clip to reinforce the liar message, is chary of doing this, contenting itself with a ‘he said, she said’ account and blushingly adding that he later ‘clarified’ what he meant, which was that he has opposed an ETS ‘since becoming leader’. As telling untruths and changing position according to the wind direction or his audience is no impediment to Abbott, he could and would say anything he liked, and have the compliant media swallow it whole.
So let’s postulate what he might do as PM. By then, accidents apart, the carbon plan will have been passed into law. As he has promised to repeal that law in Government, he would lose a lot of credibility, and run counter to his aggressive nature, if he did not try to do so. I imagine he would threaten the Greens, who have vowed to oppose any repeal motion, with the prospect of a double dissolution election during which he would attempt to wipe them out or at least seriously diminish their power, a task that would have the full support of News Limited media. He would also threaten Labor in the same way with an even bigger wipe out than at the election that brought him to power. There seems to be some uncertainty about when a DD election would be possible after the normal election of an Abbott Government, but Antony Green
believes it would not be possible before the first half of 2015. So Abbott could huff and puff as much as he liked but not be able to force matters before then, and could repeal the carbon tax legislation only if he got control of the Senate after the DD election. It’s all rather hypothetical and unlikely to happen.
And even if the unlikely occurred and Abbott had the numbers in both houses in early 2015, the legislation would have been in place for almost four years, by which time most of those affected would have adjusted to it and discovered that the sky had not fallen in, massive job losses had not occurred, industrial towns had not been reduced to ghost status, and few had been made worse off in any way. Moreover, the world would have moved closer to consensus on carbon pricing. At that time, business would not welcome another period of uncertainty that repealing the tax would occasion.
So Malcolm Turnbull’s suggestion that the Coalition’s Direct Action Plan would be easy to discontinue may never be tested, because it would never likely be introduced, lacking as it does support from even one trustworthy economist. And if it were by any chance, how would Abbott and Greg Hunt explain where they would find 29,000 hectares of marginal land to plant trees when only 27,000 hectares of arable land currently exists? How would they justify the high cost of increasing soil carbon? And most importantly how would they justify paying polluters taxpayer’s money in the hope they would reduce pollution, and how would they justify and implement the clawing back of increases in pensions and compensation payments?
In summary, PM Abbott would be stuck with what this parliament had legislated and would have to like it or lump it. All his overblown rhetoric would be seen as just hot air, opportunistically emitted in pursuit of his aim of overthrowing the elected Government. The Mining Tax
This also will be passed by the current parliament. As the three largest mining companies have negotiated it with the Government, any protest by the now somewhat discredited Twiggy Forrest, or similar miners, will have little effect. As the tax will be operational, attempts to repeal it will be subject to the same restrictions that apply to the carbon tax. Again, despite his insistence that he will repeal these taxes, Abbott will get nowhere.
So two of his big election campaign ploys, repealing the two taxes, will be seen for what they are – hollow promises that he cannot keep. The NBN
Accidents barred, by the end of 2013 when the next election is due, the NBN will have been rolling out for almost four years. As several regional towns will have begun to experience the benefits of very fast broadband download and
upload speeds, faster than anything we have now or the Coalition is offering, the others will not want to be offered something inferior, not even Malcolm Turnbull’s less costly compromise. They will have realized what enormous benefits are available for small business, farming, education and health. The NBN is not just about sending emails and downloading movies, as Abbott seems to think; it is revolutionizing many professional and business endeavours. Any region or city that is still to get the NBN will not want anything with quality and potential poorer than other regions, no matter what Turnbull says.
Moreover, as Turnbull has pointed out, the cost of aborting the NBN will likely be considerable, especially after Telstra has decommissioned its copper network, and the contracts that the NBN Co. and the Government have entered into will be difficult and expensive to break. So Abbott will likely find himself frustrated in carrying out his threat to ‘demolish the NBN’. It will be too far advanced and too popular for him to destroy. The regional asylum seeker plan
Today’s signing of the agreement with Malaysia for the so-called asylum seeker swap will put a spoke in the Abbott slogan ‘stop the boats’ as this move is likely to achieve just that. And now that alternative arrangements for processing those arriving after the announcement of the Malaysia plan have been announced – in Australia as the Manus Island option is not yet available – the negative impact of irregular boat arrivals will have been substantially reduced. Abbott will not get traction from his ‘we will stop the boats’ slogan if they have already stopped. So long as human rights and dignity have been addressed to the satisfaction of the UNHCR, and since opportunities for schooling, healthcare and jobs for returned asylum seekers have been agreed to, the sting of criticism from the Greens and Labor members supportive of asylum seekers will have been blunted.
The Coalition will hardly be likely to swing over to the Nauru solution if the Malaysian arrangement is working, as it would risk boat arrivals escalating. So Abbott will be frustrated yet again. Health system reform
A major reform of Australia’s healthcare system is underway. Although the Liberal Premiers have made it more difficult to bring it to a conclusion, progress continues. In as far as it delegates much responsibility for management to local bodies, in a way similar to the Coalition policy, there will be little for the Coalition to gain by advocating its policy once the changes are bedded down. The cigarette package labeling legislation is in train, and as Abbott could not find a reason to oppose it now, it will not be an item of contention come the next election. Overseas Cattle Trade
Although this issue provided fodder for Abbott when the crisis struck, as it is now been satisfactorily resolved, it will not be relevant at the next election. Bringing the budget out of deficit
Since the Government has promised to bring in a surplus budget in 2012/13, if that is accomplished, the prospect of the Coalition bringing in a surplus budget will have lost its novelty. An Abbott Government would have to do better in validating its so-called savings, and have no $11 billion black holes. The $50 billion savings the Coalition claimed in its election budget proved to be fictional, but despite that they still quote that fabricated budget as if it was real, and the media lets them get away with it over and again.
Abbott and Joe Hockey claim they will make further savings by eliminating 20,000 public servants by not replacing those leaving through attrition. Apart from that being a slow process, the Coalition may find it can’t do without these people, and therefore the expected savings could be evanescent. Stopping the waste
How the Coalition will do this is problematic. As by the time an Abbott Government could assume power, the Government programs that have been accused of waste, such as the HIP and the BER, will be complete or close to it. There may not be any waste left to stop. There never was much. Paid Parental Leave Scheme
Since the Government scheme is already operative, what dividend would accrue to the Coalition by substituting its more generous but more costly scheme? There may be little credit to be gained, but considerable costs to wear. The scheme was to be funded by increasing company tax on the 1000 largest companies, many of whom are already running their own schemes. Then through an Abbottesque manipulation, the cost was to be offset by reduction in the company tax rate that according to Hockey would leave them square. It was somewhat of a smoke and mirrors illusion. Abbott is so likely to be short of the funds he needs for his generous scheme that he would be likely to postpone it. The Murray Darling Plan
After an abortive start, this is moving towards resolution. What does Abbott plan to do different from that proposed by the committee that is investigating how to ensure water security, enough for farming and the environment, while securing the economies of regional communities? I have not heard any.
So we’ve covered climate change and the carbon and mining taxes, the NBN, asylum seekers, health reform, deficit budgeting, stopping waste, surplus budgeting, the PPL scheme and the Murray Darling plan. What other policies has Abbott put forward? Just about every utterance has been negative and obstructive, pulling things down and stopping things, with a side promise to do everything cheaper.
Where are his economic policies? He talks of taking up the recommendations of the Henry Review, on which the Government has already made a start, but so far that is just words without plans or costings.
Where are his plans for increasing the nation’s wealth and improving productivity? How does he plan to deal with the patchwork economy?
Does he have a population policy that allows for measured and balanced development, particularly in the regions?
Where is his foreign policy? Whatever it is he may have to do a repair job with China, India, Malaysia and Indonesia after the derogatory remarks he has made about these countries.
You may be able to think of other policy areas that an Abbott Government might implement; if so, please share them with us. Of one thing we can be certain, to date the Coalition has eschewed policy announcements, preferring to leave that until closer to the election. But if Abbott succeeds in precipitating an early election, where would that strategy of delay leave them? We have heard for years that the Coalition has a policy group beavering away producing policies; but so far the slate is blank.
In summary, the threats Abbott has made to repeal legislation he opposes and to demolish what has been started, will come to naught. And all the hype that the Coalition has propagated about this incompetent bad government that can do nothing right will look as shallow and trumped up as it is unless and until we see the policies, plans and plausible budgets that would be central to an Abbott government. Even if a compliant pro-Coalition media might not demand them, the public eventually will.
What do you think?