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Sorry seems to be the hardest word

I have always felt that the measure of a person, or an organisation, is how they deal with their mistakes – how quickly they admit error, if they apologise, what they do to rectify it, and what they learn from it. To my mind, admitting a mistake does not show vulnerability, it shows confidence. Fixing it shows courage.

Which makes me wonder about our government.

Quite obviously, they made a mistake in removing carbon pricing. Instead of being a leader in global action, we are now an apologist for the coal industry. Instead of collecting billions from the biggest polluters, which encouraged them to invest in research and development of sustainable practices, we now pay billions to those who offer the cheapest reductions which are not the big emitters who continue on their merry way. Instead of a burgeoning renewable energy industry we have nervous investors wondering just how much the government is willing to pander to nutcases like Dennis Jensen and David Leyonjhelm.

They made a mistake in keeping the compensation for the carbon tax after they had abolished it. This largesse has put a huge strain on the budget. We all got a substantial decrease in income tax when the threshold was moved to $18,200, a point which the Coalition seems to ignore as they push to claim credit for even more tax cuts.

They made a mistake in gutting the nation building NBN. We are spending tens of billions fixing existing technology to give some of us substandard speeds some time well into the future. We are already considering selling it off which means we will not realise the return on investment we had hoped for and will have no control over prices.

They made a mistake with their asylum seeker policy which has patently not stopped the people smuggling trade or drownings at sea – it has just stopped the boats from landing here. It has caused refugees to look elsewhere for help or remain in limbo in a transit country, or worse still, stay in, or return to, a warzone and face their tormentors and our bombs.

They made a mistake when they attacked Gillian Triggs for doing her job protecting the human rights of innocent children.

They made a mistake when they slashed funding to the CSIRO and other research bodies, something that has only been partially rectified with their new focus on ‘innovation’, and only after the loss of hundreds of talented scientists and researchers and the closure of important programs. If they don’t have a forrseeable commercial value, we are not interested.

They made a mistake when they sacked Disability Commissioner Graeme Innes and appointed ‘freedom crusader’ Tim Wilson.

They made a mistake when they ordered 58 more JSF jets. Not only have they proven to be expensive lemons that are way over budget and way behind schedule, what use do we have for strike force capability squadrons of fighter jets?

They made a mistake when they dangled the promise of building our submarines to other countries. Abbott wanted a free trade agreement with Japan so he gave them a wink and a nod, while Lucy Turnbull’s connection to Germany had made them the front runner under the new PM but, once again, why do we need strike force capability fleets of submarines? We can’t man the six we already have and the only reason for wanting new ones is the employment it would bring in the build and maintenance.

They made a mistake when they committed to increasing defence (or should that be offence) spending to 2% of GDP regardless of need.

They made a mistake in allowing the car industry to die. There should have been a reformation to production of high standard sustainable cars – low emissions, electric, lightweight, durable, biofuels – wherever new technology could take us. The loss of manufacturing expertise puts us at the mercy of the countries who recognise the value of these skills by subsidising the industry that fosters them.

They made a mistake when they backed away from the Gonski funding for education. If our future is to be determined by innovation and technology then we want every one of our children to have the opportunity to develop and contribute their ideas.

They made a mistake when they abolished the mining tax just as mining companies were moving to production phase and had used up their accelerated depreciation write-offs. The rubbish about it costing jobs and deterring investors was untrue as thousands of mining jobs have gone since its removal and investment had nosedived.

They made a mistake slashing foreign aid to all time lows. It is these programs that will lift people out of poverty, not coal. It is these programs that will empower women, not a reformation of Islam. It is these programs that will halt the flow of refugees through education, health and stability, not tow backs.

They made a mistake when they decimated funding to Aboriginal programs. High incarceration rates, the prevalence of preventable disease, lower life expectancy, lower educational outcomes, high unemployment and suicide rates, substance abuse and domestic violence – all of these myriad of issues are perhaps beyond the capabilities of Warren Mundine to address.

They made a mistake putting George Brandis in charge of Arts funding and are now trying to scrabble back whatever funding hasn’t already been handed over to ballet and opera companies who have friends of George’s on their boards.

They made a mistake when they elected Tony Abbott leader of the Liberal party, Bronwyn Bishop Speaker of the House, and Mal Brough Special Minister of State – appointments that were defended for far too long.

They made a mistake when they promised a credible path back to surplus, when they promised to reduce the debt, when they promised that all new expenditure would be matched by equivalent savings, when they said we don’t have a revenue problem, and when they chose not to pursue corporate tax evaders.

The Australian people deserve an apology and this government should learn from their mistakes and get about fixing them. But I doubt they have the courage to say they got it wrong let alone do anything about the mess they have made through their own stubbornness and fixation on destroying all things Labor.

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19 comments

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  1. Wally

    Plenty of mistakes Kaye but I don’t think either of us will live long enough to the Libs admit it and hell will be frozen over before they apologise. Where is Neil of Sydney he would be able to make up an excuse or deny every point you raised?

  2. Dave

    But the Australian people made the biggest, and worst, mistake of all by electing them on September 7th., 2013!….Never again!

  3. Barry Thompson.

    Excellent summary Kate.
    When will LNP voters realise that the policies of the Rudd & Gillard governments were far superior to anything the LNP introduced under the delusional and incompetent Abbott ?.
    Your list of stuff ups confirms that Abbott was arguably our worst ever PM.

  4. lawrencewinder

    Really, they have made only one mistake…. they listen to the IPA!

  5. Mark Needham

    your opening statement is so true.
    just, so,True.
    Mark Needham

  6. Geoff Andrews

    Tread carefully there, Ms Lee: that’s a “legacy” you’re trashing!
    And that’s right, Wally: where IS good ol’ NoSy?
    Kaye,
    Re: Ford, Holden, Toyota etc. I thought we had, at worst, a handshake agreement with this mob. We were to give them bucket loads of cash if they employed our boys. Call me a commie, socialist, greenie dreamer but I reckon we’ve bought at least one of the assembly plants, from which should be able to design from scratch and manufacture the small electric or hybrid cars, to which you alluded above.
    Unless, of course, we’re dumber than our fathers who built their own car in the late 1940’s (and in doing so, developed new technologies that were copied by the yanks).
    We could call it the “peoples’ car”. So now I’m a fascist?
    Speaking of Hitler, I had to catch a train from Ipswich to Brisbane to attend the climate change march. Asked a QR attendant how long the journey took, thinking it might be a bit quicker than when I last used the train. He said it would take an hour. I said “But it only took 50 minutes four years ago.” He said, “Yeah, they’ve added ten minutes so the trains always run on time.”
    Who needs NoSy for a good laugh.

  7. Adrianne Haddow

    They can’t govern themselves with their transparent give-aways to mates in mining, foreign detention businesses and dodgy governments of prison islands, their own profligate spending of the public purse via entitlements, and their slippery policy changes.
    Why would anyone believe they could govern a country ?

  8. Brad

    If Australians can learn from their mistakes, they will never elect a government dominated by the right wing extremists of the LNP again – it’s a big if though.

  9. margcal

    Dave @ 2:46pm is spot on.
    It’s not as though the writing wasn’t on the wall.
    They had the billboards up!

    Some Australians got the government they deserve.
    Too bad for the rest of us and the world.

  10. paul walter

    Devastating, as usual, Kaye Lee.

    I could be really pedantic and perverse and query whether “mistake” is the best way of describing some
    these decisions, unless we are thinking,
    perhaps, of those mistakes involving mere hubris rather than some thing oilier, also eventually ending some political careers through later public disavowal.

    But the legals might be encouraged take an interest with what I’d have in mind, the law extant as it is in present form for the protection of the guilty.

  11. The Written Word

    But they were going to fix Labors “mess”. hahaha. It appears this has flipped and it will be truth that Labor will have to clean up the coalitions mess, when they win back government.

  12. Kyran

    “Contrition or contriteness (from the Latin contritus ‘ground to pieces’, i.e. crushed by guilt) is sincere and complete remorse for sins one has committed. The remorseful person is said to be contrite. It is a key concept to Christianity.”

    Having struggled for the past few years to readjust my expectations of ‘our leaders’, I think I am finally getting there. The bar has now been set so low that I can’t recall any ministerial appointment that would rate as ‘barely competent’. I would challenge anyone to nominate a candidate, such is their incompetence.
    The policy vacuum is, in my opinion, a result of ideological pursuits devoid of substance. The hallmark of this crew has been to float an ‘idea’ (devoid of detail or substance) and see how acrimonious the outcry is. With the help of a compliant media, the idea is ‘massaged’ by rooms full of ‘spin doctors’ until the ideology becomes palatable.
    Their financial incompetence is nothing short of spectacular. Before MYEFO is released, junior government ministers are released onto the airwaves to ‘hint’ at further cuts due to falling commodity prices. Even the alleged opposition have pre-released comments to say they will ‘consider’ all cuts, because they are responsible!
    The blatant cronyism and corruption; the blatant lack of regard for the most basic of human rights; the blatant admissions that they can’t manage the books to provide for health, education, welfare (that previous governments have managed under far more trying circumstances); the blatant and flagrant waste of billions of dollars on ideological pursuits with complete disregard for fact or evidence based spending.
    The hardest pill for me to swallow though is accountability. We are discussing new laws (or stripping of laws) to make angry adolescents having angry thoughts subject to detention without access to due legal process. We are discussing how to deprive idiots doing stupid things of their citizenship. Where the law is deemed to be inadequate in dealing with citizens, holding them to account for the most trivial of actions (or even thoughts), we will give discretion to a minister to ‘hold them to account’ (in the harshest of ways).
    Yet ‘our leaders’ are unaccountable. For the billions they waste, for the damage they cause (whether it be by depriving the citizenry of access to the most basic of services or dropping ‘humanitarian bombs’), for their privileged extravagances.
    To be contrite, one must first acknowledge a wrongdoing. I can’t think of one of them that would be capable of such reflection.
    Thank you, Ms Lee. It is truly absurd. Take care

  13. Kaye Lee

    Kyran, how true 🙁

    Telling us that they cannot release the report on the NBN because it is commercial in confidence, they can’t release the modelling on the impact of the GST because it would be too onerous for the bureaucrats, the threats of incarceration to people who tell anything about the torture of refugees in our offshore gulags, changing the law so we can’t protect ourselves from their wanton greed in the courts…what sort of a moron coins the phrase vigilante lawfare? And the absolute refusal to consider a federal ICAC (from both sides) does not fill me with confidence that they are squeaky clean.

    Lack of transparency, accountability and oversight has seen us end up with the worst board of directors any shareholders have ever endured.

  14. Zathras

    Julie Bishop used to be the Shadow Minister for Demanding Apologies.

    There would normally be a satisfying feeling of Karma about this situation but now it’s just too sad for us all.

    I wonder if this “no excuses Government” will flick the switch to “Excuses” anyway when MYEFO is announced later today.
    The traditional period of blaming the previous Government has expired (although Howard got away with it for 10 years).

  15. Matthew Oborne

    I too have the same philosophy, you get the measure of any person or organisation not when things are going smoothly but when a mistake is made.

    The Nationals were well aware that Tony Abbott could turn out just as he did, which means the Liberals did as well.

    We went through two years of a party struggling with a leader of a country who devolved into a joke, he engaged in retribution at an unprecedented level and abused his power for political maneuvering.

    It was Like Australia had an internet troll as PM.

    The whole world got the joke and we had to put up with the joke.

    Australia did have a collective sigh of relief at his removal but now they keep us in this ridiculous joke by continuing his policies, defending the indefensible two years of far right buffoonery.

    The Liberal Party have to own the fact that they installed the least capable PM in our history a man whose views could only be accepted if you were a journalist looking for an easy story or a comedian looking for material.

    The overwhelming abuse of power does need an inquiry because we never had a situation that bad before and government can not be paralysed by such madness again, it cost us when we needed clever transitions in the economy we got far right ideology damaging the economy, we got far right madness making vulnerable people almost completely exposed and we got fear rammed down our throats with an ever increasing number of flags to show us nationalism with team Australia, the australian bogan force and a commitment to mass surveillance that would have made Stalin envious.

    A party capable of giving us The Abbott government is not ready to govern, In opposition he was there to sabotage Australia to blame the government.

    He had the same style as Andrew Bolt which was to find some outrage in any and every announcement and policy and turned politics toxic in our country and got rewarded for it.

    We should all be thinking never again should we allow one individual backed by the far right to inflict so much damage for personal gain.

    People want to forget I say never forget That The Liberal Party pushed the worst government they could on us and only cared when polling suggested many members would lose their ticket on the gravy train.

    For all those thinking Malcolm can do it, why did someone who knows the benefits of a first class broadband push this co opted second rate waste of money that now guarantees 12 MB minimum which is only 5mb faster for many?

  16. Kaye Lee

    Does anyone else see the irony in this? As Scott Morrison announces his MYEFO reportedly with cuts in welfare and health (again), we are being told that wasteful spending must stop. He will be making the announcement in Perth because the wife of Finance Minister Mathias Cormann is expecting a baby so all the journalists, film crews and politicians will fly across the country so Matthias doesn’t have to go too far from home. Considering it cost Julie Bishop and her lover $30,000 to fly over from Perth I shudder to think how much this is costing let alone the carbon footprint of transferring the whole show thousands of kilometres away.

  17. Kyran

    John Dalberg-Acton famously said “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”.
    “His key idea has been tested in laboratory settings under strongly incentivized conditions and with real manipulations of power and confirms what he has suggested: that power corrupts.” (Stolen from Wiki, my bad)
    Whilst I have no doubt that every facet of our society, our community, is struggling at the moment (pick a subject, any subject at all), I still can’t accept it’s broken beyond repair. The starting point has to be the governance.
    “transparency, accountability and oversight”
    Granted, the premise is a work in progress, and there does not appear to be any ‘political will’ for such ‘progress’. My work enables me to meet people from all walks of life in all sorts of circumstances. Which leaves me no hesitation in saying that the ‘public will’ is diametrically opposed to the ‘political won’t’.
    Just a thought. A ‘Charter for governance’. A page for suggestions and discussion of the rules these mealy mouthed freeloaders must abide by. Seems to me that if we don’t dictate the rules to the powerful, we can only expect their corruption.
    By way of pre-empting negative comment, the quote finishes with the sentence “Great men are almost always bad men.” Therein lies an argument for gender equality and the need for far more women in such considerations.
    PS, well said Mr Oborne.
    PPS, Irony noted, Ms Lee. Surprise, not so much.
    Take care

  18. Wally

    Kaye Lee

    It is a small government in numbers (and brains) the fact that it consumes more money to engage consultants (at exorbitant rates) instead of employing full time staff is a mere technicality.

    The wasteful spending must stop!

    There is a huge difference between the average persons concept of waste and the LNP governments concept, basically if the LNP are spending money (on themselves in particular) it is fine but expenditure that benefits the rest of us is a total waste. Never before in my lifetime have I seen a government that is so arrogant, dishonest and downright bloody useless.

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