The calamitous Abbott lies in wait



You may wonder why anyone would waste time writing about this man, erased from the top job by his own party, and discredited in multiple ways by commentator after commentator. For me, the reason is twofold. First, he is still confronting us day after day in the media, and just as importantly his successor is doing so poorly that some want Abbott to return.

He lies in wait hoping to do so. All the while his appalling legacy hangs like a dark cloud over his party.

I looked for an adjective to place in the title. Some of you might have chosen: catastrophic or disastrous or dreadful or tragic or devastating or destructive or ruinous or shocking or scandalous or appalling or dreadful or outrageous or deplorable or shameful or contemptible or despicable or disgraceful or woeful or even loathsome. While any or all might be applicable, ‘calamitous’ seemed to me to be the most appropriate. The Free Dictionary defines ‘calamitous’ as “having extremely unfortunate or dire consequences; causing ruin or destruction”. That description seemed to me to fit Abbott better than any of the others.

Abbott’s calamitous legacy is everywhere to be seen.

We need go no further back than the recent COAG meeting to feel the drag of the Abbott legacy on deliberations at that forum. PM Turnbull and Treasurer Morrison are encumbered by the ball and chain of Abbott’s decision, at the time of the 2014 Budget, to cut around $80 billion of funding to the states: $30 billion from schools and $50 billion from hospitals. I will not burden you with the convoluted arguments around this except to say that Labor claimed $80 billion was removed, while the LNP claimed it was never in Julia Gillard’s budget anyway. Despite denying the Budget had been cut, Abbott claimed he would achieve $80 billion in ‘savings’ over 10 years by reducing forward spending on schools and hospitals. Work that out if you can. If you want to probe deeper into this sorry tale, read the ABC’s Fact check: Does the federal budget cut $80 billion from hospitals and schools?, and look at the conclusion: The debate over the $80 billion figure - whether a cut or a saving - is hot air.”

Hot air or not, the premiers and first ministers are livid that this money, needed to run their schools and hospitals in the coming years, will not be forthcoming from the federal government, leaving them in a dire situation. Turnbull decided on the risky strategy of offering them the capacity to raise tax themselves to fund these essential services, announced it just a few days before COAG, provided no documentation for this momentous change before or at the meeting, and received the anticipated thumbs down. Now Morrison is out declaring that the PM ‘called the premiers’ bluff’, and they chickened out! Believe that if you can. The premiers are insulted and furious. What a way to encourage consensus!

All this serves to reinforce the sad fact that Abbott’s calamitous budgetary legacy hangs like a rotting albatross around the government’s neck.

And it’s not as if Abbott regrets any of his actions; indeed he is out and about insisting that he was right in his decisions, all of them, and that Turnbull is now following his policies and taking them to the election. This has forced Turnbull onto the back foot, declaring that his government is all about ‘Continuity and Change’on which subject 2353NM has written such cutting satire.

Let’s look deeper into budgetary matters.

Abbott’s fiscal legacy is the aftermath of his 2014 Budget, which is still causing anguish for the Turnbull government. Several measures designed to reduce spending are still held up in the Senate and are unlikely to be passed. The unfairness of that budget still hangs like a bad smell around the Coalition, even among its supporters. Hockey’s bluster about ‘ending the age of entitlement’ for those on ‘welfare’, while puffing Cuban cigars, still sticks in people’s craw.

Yet Abbott tells an audience in Japan that he wears that budget as ‘a badge of honour’! He is unrepentant; he would do the same budgetary damage again.

And he lies in wait to do so.

This week we saw the re-emergence of the Hockey/Abbott ‘we must live within our means’ mantra. Turnbull and Morrison, hoping this homely metaphor would resonate with voters, didn’t bother to explain how that applies to the federal budget. Perhaps they hope it will remind voters of the old virtue of saving before buying, or of using old-fashioned lay–by, notwithstanding the fact that homeowners certainly do not use this approach to purchase the new home. They borrow heavily and pay it off of later, just as governments ought to do.



The LNP wants voters to believe ‘living within our means’ equates with cutting expenditure, assiduously avoiding any hint that ‘means’ = income = revenue, and that increasing revenue would have the same result.

In last week’s Crikey Bernard Keane points out: “
…there's been no talk at all of ‘living within your means’ while government spending as a proportion of GDP went from 24.1% of GDP in Labor's last full year to 25.6% of GDP in 2013-14 and 2014-15 and then to 25.9% this year. Nor was there talk of ‘living within your means’ when the Abbott repealed the carbon price (cost: $6.2 billion over four years), the mining tax (cost: $3.4 billion over four years) or tax and superannuation changes announced by Labor but abandoned in December 2013 ($3.6 billion over four years, and much more over the long term), significantly exacerbating not merely the government's short-term fiscal position but crimping long-term revenue growth as well.”
It’s simply rhetorical claptrap designed to frighten voters into believing that Coalition members are prudent and ever-reliable stewards of the economy who will not waste taxpayers’ money, while Labor members are profligate spenders determined to tax us to the hilt to give the community the healthcare and education it needs: “Every time Bill Shorten opens his mouth it will be to tax you more”. Obviously, this will be an election slogan.

Since we began with the COAG skirmish on healthcare and schools funding, let’s look at Abbott’s legacy there. It still blights the Coalition.

New health minister Sussan Ley is still grappling with Abbott’s intention to emasculate Medicare, to introduce a co-payment, and to reduce spending in an area that inevitably will demand more as the population ages and as medicine offers more treatment options. Her introduction of ‘health care homes’ has puzzled doctors. Professor Brian Owler commented: “I’m president of the AMA, I’m a brain surgeon with a PhD, but I can’t keep up with the government’s planning process”.

In response to Bill Shorten’s promise to improve and properly fund healthcare, Ley is sounding desperate as she shouts at him telling him that he must “put up or shut up”.



The cost of the NDIS frightens the LNP, so their response is to restrict its development, always looking for ‘savings’ instead of doing what is required: raising more revenue to support this essential service that the people want and need.

After assuring us that he was on the same page as Labor over the Gonski reforms, Abbott’s legacy has been to obfuscate about the funding of years five and six, a position recently adopted by Turnbull, who is now talking about abandoning the funding of public schools and focusing federal funding on private schools!

Abbott’s legacy lingers, and he lies in wait.

Let’s look now at Abbott’s calamitous legacy in the vexed area of immigration policy.

Abbott (or was it Peta Credlin) thought that political capital could be accrued by demonising asylum seekers who came uninvited by boat. He learned that from John Howard. ‘Stop the boats’ became one of his infamous three word slogans, with which he flogged Labor mercilessly, claiming throughout that this would solve the problem of boat arrivals created by Labor. Not wanting to be seen as encouraging the arrivals, Labor allowed itself to become entangled in a web of derogatory dialogue about people smugglers and ‘illegals’, as Abbott termed boat people.

Abbott’s legacy is continuing antagonism towards asylum seekers among a significant proportion of the electorate. This has spilled over into anti-Muslim sentiment and the formation of Anti-Muslim groups such as the far right-wing United Patriots Front, who unveiled a “Stop the mosques” banner at the Collingwood AFL game last weekend, and a political group calling themselves Party For Freedom, which is opposed to multiculturalism and open borders, which was responsible for picketing and riots at the Halal expo in Melbourne this week.

Abbott’s extravagant language directed at Islamic State, his incendiary use of the term ‘Team Australia’ to divide Australians into them and us, and his provocative stance towards Muslim leaders accentuated the antagonism. He set a fire of hatred that still burns in the heart of many Australians. He could have taken an accommodating line, as did Malcolm Fraser who had to manage thousands of boat people from Vietnam. Fraser’s approach resulted in the cheerful integration of these Vietnamese immigrants into our society. Instead, Abbott preferred hostility, antagonism and the divisiveness this entails.

This is Abbott’s calamitous legacy. Yet he lies in wait.

He not only defends his divisive ‘stop the boats’ immigration policy, he has been abroad promoting it to anyone in the Eurozone who will listen as the way to solve the immigration crisis in Europe and the Middle East. The misery that so many asylum seekers suffer in detention is testimony to Abbott’s hard-hearted, punitive policies, but politics keep him on this hateful track.

Take now his calamitous attitude to climate change.

At times climate change skeptic, sometimes outright denier, always coal and oil advocate and renewables opponent, Abbott has gifted his do-nothing-to-curb-the-use-of-fossil-fuels legacy to Turnbull, who accepts the reality of anthropogenic global warming and knows what ought to be done about it, but is lumbered with the Abbott/Hunt Direct Action Plan that holds little promise of reducing our carbon footprint or meeting our emissions targets. Yet there is Turnbull lamely advocating it. Meanwhile, one thousand kilometres of the Great Barrier Reef has already been bleached, and more is threatened.

Turnbull knows that if he puts a foot wrong, Abbott is lying in wait, aided and abetted by a coterie of deniers, who would have this man back in a flash.

Abbott’s calamitous legacy in the field of communications is legend.

Look at what he’s done to the NBN. ‘Demolish the NBN’ was his command to Turnbull, not given because we did not need fast broadband for a myriad of reasons, commerce and health care to name but two, but because it was a Labor initiative.

Excruciatingly, Turnbull put himself through fiery hoops to placate Abbott but still save the NBN. As a result we now have a substandard multi-technology FTTN system that uses outdated equipment and ageing copper wire, that is not as fast as promised, is rolling out slower, and looks like being more expensive than Labor’s FTTP system, which experts insist should have been the target from the beginning.

Abbot’s destructive NBN legacy is still playing out, and is inhibiting what Liberals repeatedly insist our economy needs: ‘jobs and growth’.

I could go on for many more pages, so let’s conclude with Abbott’s legacy on two social issues: marriage equality and the Safe Schools program. He remains opposed to them both.

Although in favour of marriage equality, Turnbull has meekly gone along with Abbott’s delaying tactic of a post-election plebiscite, which he knows is Abbott’s way of maiming it, and perhaps killing it off altogether.

Abbott, always lurking in the background, has announced that Safe Schools, which is already doing so much to reduce gender-related bullying, should be defunded.

Abbott’s calamitous legacy on social issues haunts Turnbull. Abbott lurks on the backbench where he lies in wait.

When he’s not sitting on the backbench, he’s overseas soliciting photo-ops with such celebrities as Japan’s Shinzo Abe, Britian’s David Cameron, President Poroshenko of the Ukraine, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and even Henry Kissinger. Back home, he’s all over the place, never averse to a pic with group after group, and now he’s on his annual Pollie Pedal. He’s not sitting back like a vanquished leader: he’s promoting Abbott wherever he can! Take a look at his Facebook page.

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Among the conservative clique that still supports Abbott, he talks about ‘the second Abbott government’, which he insists ‘will be better than the first’!

Although an Abbott comeback still seems fanciful, he certainly believes in it, notwithstanding the recent ReachTel poll of 743 voters in his Warringah electorate, where almost two-thirds of respondents, including half of all LNP voters, said he should quit parliament at the coming election.

The calamitous Abbott lies in wait, ready to attack. His storm troopers are ready. They know that a winning strategy is to first weaken the enemy, then mount a surprise attack.

The commercial shock jocks, incensed by PM Turnbull’s refusal to appear on their programs, are spreading adverse publicity about him, which is weakening him. Several of the LNP’s traditional supporters in the media are writing columns critical of Turnbull. Softening him for an attack is proceeding apace.



Close to Abbott is a group of offended conservatives. These men meet in the so-called ‘monkey pod room’. They are urging his return and planning for it. Eric Abetz is still angry about his demotion. He says he has so much to offer. Kevin Andrews is angry and again has offered to stand should the party wish to replace Turnbull. Cory Bernardi is so angry about how the conservative clique is being treated by Turnbull that he is talking of forming a new conservative party. George Christensen is angry about the Safe Schools program and is echoing Abbott’s hostility. Government House Whip Andrew Nikolic remains a fervent Abbott supporter. Although Turnbull won the leadership contest 44 to 34, when Andrews stood against Julie Bishop for deputy, he garnered 30 votes, an indication of the strength of the conservatives in the Liberal party.

Following a discordant week for Turnbull and with the latest Newspoll of 51/49 TPP to Labor reflecting voter discontent with the LNP, the troops are contemplating an attack on Turnbull.

Meanwhile, Abbott lies in wait, believing he is the man for the top job, while still mouthing sanctimonious words of support for his adversary.

Nobody knows what the weeks ahead will bring. Despite the improbability of a second Abbott government, in the crazy and unpredictable world that federal politics has become, nothing is impossible. The vengeful wrecker intends to show that this is so.

All the time the calamitous Abbott lies in wait.



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What are your views about Abbott’s desire to return to the top job?

Will there be a second Abbott government?

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DoodlePoodle

10/04/2016It was hard to believe that Abbott was elected to lead the LNP the first time. It would say a lot about the LNP If he was elected to lead again. Do you think he would be elected to be the Opposition Leader if LABOR wins the election? Even that would be admitting that there was no one better. His negative style wouldn't even make first base, the voters now know what he stands for.

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10/04/2016Doodle Poodle Thank you for your comment. Insane as it might seem to us, there is a group of conservatives who loathe Turnbull and love Abbott, who would have him back as leader in government or in opposition. They see him as a saviour and his ultra-conservative policies as the right ones. They also know he would reward them by restoring them to their senior positions, so there is plenty of self-interest propelling them. We find it hard to fathom the conservative mind. Conservatives have a set of cherished beliefs for which they would die in a ditch to preserve. To restore Abbott as leader would be a fatal move for the LNP, as the public has resoundingly rejected him: almost two-thirds of Warringah voters say he should retire from politics including around a half of all Liberal voters. [i]The New Matilda[/i] has a well-reasoned piece by Dr Lissa Johnson: [i]What Makes Them Tick: Inside The Mind Of The Abbott Government[/i], written in 2014, that you might be interested to read: https://newmatilda.com/2014/10/25/what-makes-them-tick-inside-mind-abbott-government/

TalkTurkey

11/04/2016Greetings Comrades Yes Ad Calamity Tone. So many Australians are so stupid that it surpasseth understanding. BTW as I write I'm watching another calamity unfolding: the unprecedented bleaching (dying) of the Great Barrier Reef. It makes me so sad. And then there's global warming, melting ice, habitat destruction ... Calamity everywhere. But a majority of our countrymen actually voted for Calamity Tone. I remember when Ronald Reagan was running for POTUS, he was such a fool, people kept saying Oh he won't get in, surely not, he's such a fool, nah never happen ... ... Remember his joke on air about "We begin bombing in 5 minutes ..!.." Then came George W Bush, fish-eyed and fish-brained, another utter stupe about whom enough said ... Swordsfolks knew what sort of bloke Abbort was since forever, though I must say he exceeded our worst prognostications. Truth to tell, by the time Turdball rolled him, I was genuinely fearful that he might any day declare martial law on some terrorism pretext - he' been sleeping with the military, literally, and it seems to me that the LNP has the AFP entirely onside too. I was really relieved when Turdy rolled him, that spiked Abbort's guns anyway - he was SO stupid, he really didn't even believe it was going to happen to him - He really is delusory. Ah well. Can't be helped now. But why is it, why why why do people follow such stupid creeps? When you watch movies, you always know which characters are decent and honourable and who are perfidious bastards ... is it not so? But now we have Turdball to deal with. His decline since New Year has been - well if it were in the +ve direction for him you'd have to call it *stellar*, I don't know what it's called when instead he's drooping like week-old celery ... And Bill Shorten, well he's not a Gough Whitlam nor a Paul Keating, but he's a better man than I am and a better man than I gave him much credit for ... Though I have never put him down. Perhaps he just hasn't seemed as inspirational as we'd like ... but he leads a united party with sensible achievable decent policies, and as someone said on Twitter yesterday, he hasn't put a foot wrong since assuming the leadership. And anyway, he is the Leader of the Labor Party, and he has my undivided allegiance. About 3 weeks ago I put another bet on Labor at $4.50 on Sportsbet. (Did my dough in 2013 after Rudd destroyed Labor's chances) I should have grabbed my chance when price was $6.50 a couple of months ago, but I'm happy with $4.50. (BTW I NEVER bet money on anything else, nor gamble at all.) But see, if I lose on Labor I'll be sad anyway, and hardly sadder because of losing my stake, whereas if Labor wins, J**** & I will take a little holiday, woo hoo! 5 days ago Labor was at $4.20, 2 days ago $3.90, & the Kouk said someone (not Sportsbet) had Labor at only $3.20. And those odds, you know, have a self-fulfilling aspect - nothing gives credibility better than if you can Shorten the odds.

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11/04/2016Talk Turkey It’s always good to read your comments. Reading between your lines, I think you are not persuaded that Abbott will again inflict himself upon us. Were his party to restore him to leadership, that would be an election gift to Labor, as the whole electorate, and even his own Warringah people, don’t want him anymore. His delusions of grandeur are exactly that. I can’t imagine the Coalition being that stupid, but then…! Like you, I’m more impressed with Bill Shorten than I once was. He seems to be getting his lines right, and giving them more import. His ‘zingers’ are lessening, and he is presenting policies that are having appeal. Personally, I think he’s on a winner with his call for a Royal Commission into Banking. I sense that the people are fed up with the banks and their shonky behaviour. Too many have been taken down by them to ignore this latest scandal. In my view, the Coalition is making a big blunder by calling it a Labor stunt, brushing it aside as unnecessary, and claiming that ASIC is capable of doing what an RC could do. As Bernard Keane pointed out today in [i]Crikey[/i], ASIC has had its funding gutted, has consequently lost staff, and now has but limited capacity to do its job of close surveillance. I sense the voters will see the Coalition’s rejection of a RC as a whitewash to protect their mates in the banks; it will turn them off very rapidly. It’s good to see the odds for a Labor victory shortening, a sign that the punters are asking themselves whether the Coalition is such a good bet. The longer Turnbull fiddles around not making decisions and knocking Labor for doing so, the more they will be seen as ditherers who don’t know what to do, which of course is the truth of the situation. VENCEREMOS
How many umbrellas are there if I start with two and take 2 away?