The Coalition claim to be better economic managers – a claim that the evidence does not support – as they call for lower taxes and less regulation.
It’s a threadbare ideological position.
At a time when the despicable bank practices have been exposed, when the Aged Care Royal Commission is revealing heart-wrenching stories of abuse and neglect and impossible working conditions, when the Murray-Darling dries up while a lucky few are paid for stealing water, when three miners have died in Queensland in the space of a few months, when four young men lost their lives implementing the government’s home insulation program, when high-rise units in Sydney are crumbling, when aquifers are being contaminated due to mining activities, when hundreds of species are on the brink of extinction, when the reef is dying and the natural disasters are worsening – is it really the time to have less regulation?
Even some actual monitoring and enforcement of existing regulations would be a start.
Or better still, a clear idea of what benefit to society comes from their proposals.
Aside from John Howard’s gun laws, the Coalition has fought tooth and nail against pretty much every social reform, against the very things that make Australia such a great place to live.
When Gough Whitlam tried to introduce universal healthcare, it was repeatedly blocked by the Coalition in the Senate, providing the trigger for the 1974 double dissolution election.
Whitlam won the election, but not the Senate where the Coalition once again rejected Medibank, which was only eventually passed by holding a joint sitting of the two houses. This drawn-out process, and prolonged negotiations with the states to end means testing of public wards in their hospitals, meant Medibank only came into effect in July 1975.
After 1975, despite promises to preserve Medibank, Malcolm Fraser’s Coalition government undermined the new scheme. Medibank was abolished in 1981. However, the Fraser attempt to build an alternative based on private health funds degenerated into chaos, with four major changes to Medibank in five years.
Large sections of the population were again denied access to affordable health care. When the Hawke government revived Medibank (under the new title of Medicare) in 1984, the Coalition remained intransigent in opposition, but no longer commanded the Senate.
It is a similar story when it comes to superannuation.
Compulsory national superannuation was initially proposed as part of the 1972 Whitlam initiatives but up until the 1980s superannuation was solely the privilege of predominantly male professions, clustered in the public sector or available after a long qualifying period in the private sector.
In 1985, a deal between the government and the ACTU saw the trade union movement forfeit a claim to 3% productivity improvement as wages to instead be paid in compulsory superannuation – endorsed by the Arbitration Commission and managed by superannuation funds with equal representation of the unions in the industry and the employers.
Leader of the Opposition, John Howard, responded: “That superannuation deal, which represents all that is rotten with industrial relations in Australia, shows the government and the trade union movement in Australia not only playing the employers of Australia for mugs but it is also playing the Arbitration Commission for mugs”.
The Coalition has steadfastly opposed every increase in compulsory superannuation since that time, whether it be from 3% to 6%, or 6% to the current 9.5%.
In the 1995 budget, Ralph Willis unveiled a scheduled increase in compulsory super from 9% to 12% and eventually to 15%. It was to be one of the Keating government’s major legacy reforms.
In its superannuation policy for the 1996 election, Super for all, the Coalition, which had hitherto been implacably opposed to Labor’s policies, promised it would enforce the scheduled increases in the superannuation guarantee, only to abandon this promise after winning the election, saying it was too expensive.
In 2012, the IPA’s John Roskam wrote “Compulsory superannuation offends practically every principle of what should be Liberal Party philosophy. If an Abbott government does keep compulsory superannuation it must, at a minimum, make drastic changes.”
This week, the newest member of the Morrison government’s frontline economic team, Jane Hume, said it would be immoral to ask Australians to put more of their money into an inefficient super system as she signals a major shakeup of the $2.8 trillion sector. Klaxons blaring.
It’s interesting how mandates only apply to some promises.
In 2002, when Tony Abbott was Employment Minister, he told a Liberal Party function in Victoria, “Compulsory paid maternity leave? Over this Government’s dead body, frankly.”
After Julia Gillard introduced government-funded parental leave, Tony Abbott had a change of heart and took a much more generous scheme to the 2013 election. That also took less than six months to abandon after he won.
In 2010, the Coalition promised that “To achieve the goal of one million additional solar energy roofs by 2020, the Coalition will provide an extra $1,000 rebate for either solar panels or solar hot water systems.”
Two days before the 2013 election, the rebate promise was reduced to $500 capped at 100,000 rebates per year with a time frame of ten years to achieve the one million additional installations.
This was also abandoned straight after the election.
It’s all very well to offer tax cuts but it kinda feels like a man in a trench coat is offering us a bag of lollies.
How will they simultaneously deliver surpluses whilst collecting $158 billion less in revenue, and keep the economy growing when it is only government spending and a temporary boost in commodity prices that is keeping us out of recession?
Increase the GST? Increase the pension age to 70? Introduce GP co-payments? Sell off the ABC? Increase fuel taxes? Tighten eligibility to family payments and disability support? Underspend on the NDIS? Tougher compliance rules for Newstart? Workchoices 2.0? Increase university fees?
Before you gleefully grab the bag of lollies, you should be wary of what’s under the trenchcoat.
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