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Howard’s golden age: a history lesson

“I’ll recreate Howard’s golden age.”

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says he is “wholly and solely” dedicated to recreating the “golden age” of the last coalition government.

We, the electorate who will decide if Tony Abbott gets his chance, need to be reminded of what life was like in Howard’s golden age.

Here’s one from the vault, written by Natasha Stott Despoja in 2002 at the heart of the golden age which prods our memory:

Many Australians are aware of how the Howard Government’s poll-driven rhetoric is reshaping the Australian psyche. But they don’t know how the poll-driven policies are reshaping Australian government.

Over the past seven years Prime Minister John Howard and Treasurer Peter Costello have repeatedly cut support to the poor and vulnerable, and spent taxpayers’ money buying votes. This government is the highest-taxing, highest-spending government in our history. Government spending has jumped from 32 to 38 per cent of gross domestic product while it has been in power. But at each budget it has cut services to the poor.

This year’s budget is the latest instalment. People earning more than $85,000 are getting tax cuts in the form of the superannuation surcharge changes, and the baby bonus will pay high-income women up to five times as much as low-income women. Yet this government has no reservations about cuts for the disabled and to poor people’s access to medicine.

The government’s cuts to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme are aimed at the poor. The goal is to cut the number of people using the subsidised medicine scheme by adding $1 to the cost for concession cardholders (who make up 80 per cent of scheme costs). It is the very poor that will make the decision not to get a prescription filled because of a $1 increase.

The changes to the disability pension do the same to the disabled. Under the government’s proposal, people who are capable of working more than 15 hours a week won’t be eligible for the pension. They will be treated like any unemployed person. At a time when there are eight registered unemployed people for every job, the disabled face an uphill battle competing for jobs. Discrimination, and the effort required by employers, makes it likely that the disabled will be the ones left on the shelf.

The government wants to compound the difficulties these people already face in their day-to-day lives by removing their supports. Not only will their incomes be cut by more than $52 a fortnight, they will also lose pensioner concession cards and will be subject to penalties if they fail to negotiate the hoops and hurdles of “mutual obligation”.

While such high levels of long-term unemployment exist, these cuts are pointless and cruel.

The government now has a clear choice – and an opportunity to clearly state its priorities. The opportunity for this transparency in the government’s agenda should be welcomed, because over the past seven years the Treasurer has implemented this strategy by stealth. Despite Australia experiencing a once-in-a-generation economic boom, at every turn the Treasurer has argued that he has no choice but to implement cuts for the most disadvantaged.

This year’s diversion is the war on terrorism. The war costs are in the order of just 10 per cent of the deficit. The government’s rhetoric is a poll-driven ploy to distract people from the facts. The budget is under strain due to a blow-out in spending on well-to-do swinging voters.

So far, this strategy has been electorally successful, but we ask the government to consider the Australia it will deliver. Under this government we are losing the Australian ethos of “a fair go for all”. The sort of vision Howard and Costello are pitching is an Australia where the most vulnerable in our community are displaced and the wealthiest are given tax breaks.

Stop attacks on the poor.

(Senator Natasha Stott Despoja was leader of the Australian Democrats).

The Tony Abbott we see and hear today is a mirror image of the John Howard of 2002. Bugger the poor.

For the poor, disabled or disadvantaged, history has provided a valuable lesson of Howard’s golden era: it was miserable. For the poor, disabled or disadvantaged it’s without question that life has dealt them a miserable hand anyway. Many – the vast majority – survive purely because of Government assistance, as meagre as it is. It will never be enough regardless of which political party are in power, but it will be a damn sight worse under Abbott.

When Employment Minister in 2001 during Howard’s golden age, Tony Abbott was:

. . . notorious for describing the unemployed as “job snobs”. On July 9, he went further, blaming the poor for their own plight. He told the ABC Four Corners program: “We can’t abolish poverty because poverty in part is a function of individual behaviour. We can’t stop people drinking. We can’t stop people gambling. We can’t stop people having substance problems.”

This is one demographic which the man has shown absolute contempt, the strugglers in society. He did as a Minister in the Howard Government, and he still does now:

The Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott, has dismayed welfare services by telling them that governments cannot stop people from being homeless ”if that’s their choice” and declining to match the Rudd government’s goal to halve homelessness by 2020 . . . “we just can’t stop people from being homeless if that’s their choice”.

The Coalition has today confirmed that they would re-impose a 15 per cent tax on Australia’s lowest paid workers (earning below $37,000) including 2.1 million women. When asked today during his appearance at the National Press Club whether he would maintain the Low Income Superannuation Contribution (LISC) Tony Abbott confirmed the Coalition would not keep this important Labor tax cut.

The Opposition Leader today unveiled his “tough-love” welfare plan to strip away unemployment benefits for people in areas where there are skill shortages, ramp up work for the dole and overhaul the disability pension. In his first big policy announcement since last year’s election, Mr Abbott also calls for long-term jobless to have half their welfare withheld to pay for the necessities of life such as food, housing and clothing.

The Opposition Leader says Work for the Dole should be compulsory for everyone under 50 who’s been on unemployment benefits for more than six months; that young jobseekers in areas of labour shortages should have their dole suspended; long-term unemployed people should have half their welfare income quarantined; with a new disability support pension for people with treatable disabilities.

Natasha Stott Despoja gave us a history lesson of Howard’s golden age. Abbott wants to recreate it. If we haven’t learned from history … it will be repeated.

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  1. andyrob65

    I would like to think that, rather than history being repeated, History will be made. People are starting to see through the MSM/LNP bullshit and will vote Labor back in to continue the good work they have been doing, such as NBN NDIS Gonski etc, but are unable to sell because of the MSM advertising, virtually, LNP’s empty policies.

    It is time for the MSM to start asking Abbott and co the hard questions! and force the point rather than letting him walk off.

  2. helenmarg

    Why is the MSM treating Abbott so gently.They are a disgrace on all fronts.ASHBY etc.Thank you Michael . Also Natasha.Australians have short memories.

  3. cuppa

    Yes, thank you Michael. I’ve been thinking for a while, but never got around to saying it: You deserve a medal for services to left wing blogging in Oz. Love your work!

  4. J.Fraser

    Thanks for that.

    Much appreciated.

  5. silkworm

    Tony Abbott typifies the “Ugly Australian.” He’s sexist. He’s racist. He hates foreigners. He hates “political correctness.” He hates the politically correct. He hates those who want to help the poor. He hates the poor. He thinks only of himself and his immediate mates. Sadly there are many like him.

  6. Sandra Searle (@SandraSearle)

    I don’t know how anyone with a memory of the Howard era could possibly want to revisit it, even for a short time. It really was pretty nasty with plenty of lies & deception wasn’t it.
    It also amazes me how TA has the gall to think that he can reinstate those ‘Golden Years’. Times have changed dramatically over the past 6 years worldwide. You can’t go “back to the future” in this case, because to do so would put so many of the great things that the PM & her government have initiated in jeopardy. The man needs to use what’s left of his ‘little grey cells’ to realize that it can’t & shouldn’t happen.
    As it has been said before, the man just doesn’t get it when it comes to anything to do with real humanitarianism.

  7. Michael Taylor

    Thank you, Cuppa. That’s very kind of you and I’m humbled.

    How does Michael Taylor AM sound? 😉

  8. Min

    Cuppa, I would like to second your comment.

    It’s approaching 3 years that Michael wrote to me saying that he would like to start a blog which provided an alternative opinion, and little did we realise how much this would be needed given today’s extreme media bias.

  9. Min

    Sandra, I’m not even certain what Abbott means by Howard’s Golden Age means..looking for non existent weapons of destruction, or perhaps record household debt?

  10. Sandra Searle (@SandraSearle)

    Min, you are absolutely right on the ball with your last statement. Howards’ Golden Age was also the time when Costello was in charge of the ‘piggy bank’ wasn’t it. Look where that took us to by selling anything that wasn’t nailed down. :-))

  11. Fed up

    As bad as they say this PM is, we do not see people out in the street protesting.

    I seem to recall, that was different in the golden days of Howard.

    Out in the streets, protesting about many different matters.

    Have not seen this PM take us into wasteful and expensive wars.

  12. Fed up

    Ashby in court today, Does not look too confident.

  13. J.Fraser

    I’m all for Michael Taylor AM/PM FM and Digital.

    Bolt has shown his loyalty to Lachie Murdoch and Gina by offering to tear up his Channel 10 contract in favour of Media watch.

    Could be an opening for a Latte Lefty on Channel 10.

  14. cuppa

    As bad as they say this PM is, we do not see people out in the street protesting.

    I seem to recall, that was different in the golden days of Howard.

    Out in the streets, protesting about many different matters.

    Have not seen this PM take us into wasteful and expensive wars.

    It’s not that they didn’t try. Round about the time of the introduction of the so-called carbon tax, as you will remember, hate radio was broadcasting announcements round the clock for weeks and weeks trying to stir the ugly grey brigade into protest action. They even put on free buses to ferry the uglies in.

    When you consider the dollar value of the advertising spots run in prime- and off-time for many weeks on metropolitan market radio, plus the editorial talking up by the hate jocks with publicity for these “rallies”, it would have been amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth.

    Then the events turned out to be fizzers. The numbers attending were dwarfed by a magnitude of about ten by the numbers who attended the PRO rallies. Bear in mind, the “Pro” rallies, put on by GetUp! and the like received next to NO media publicity, except maybe for a mocking mention here and there on hate radio and their ABC.

  15. Fed up

    Yes, Abbott did try very hard to create a citizen revolt. Yes a complete failure.

  16. Michael Taylor

    Fu, I disagree. Abbott’s citizen revolt has been very successful.

    I know hundreds of citizens who find him revolting. 😉

  17. Fed up

    Michael, you are in good form.

  18. Ricky (Tory Torcher)

    More like Howard’s golden shower. tony abbott’s faux citizen revolt, what a joke. I tell you what they have managed to do. Convince people that anyone that disagrees with anything they say is left and leftism is some type of social sickness and evil. So many people are led by their laziness which is exactly as the fibs like it.

  19. wooster87

    Reblogged this on woosterlang87.

  20. patriciawa

    Tony Abbott Is Revolting!

    I heard him telling Andrew Bolt.
    We all heard what he had to say.
    He was organising a big revolt.
    Every month, every week, every day.

    They’re going to march on Canberra.
    They’ve asked us all to join with them
    To fight the war on tax and terror
    And make Mr Abbott our PM.

    Tony will come to lead us all,
    Right out front with his dog called Spot,
    We’ll overnight in a new school hall,
    For a cause like his that’ll be the shot.

    Our flag will be red budgie snugglers,
    We’ll wave them high and chant our slogans,
    “Ban the Burqa! No weapons smugglers!”
    We’ll all march! Miners, bankers, bogans!

    We’ll pay a levy for ‘extra’ details,
    Like one last supper, or a portaloo.
    That’s in case there are some females,
    Now…… where’s this place called Waterloo?

  21. Min

    Patricia..a poet valde exemplariter.

    I believe that via Abbott’s harkening back to “the golden age” that we should be aware of what a future might hold. It’s about learning from the past, especially when the heir presumptive states that this is his vision for the future.

  22. jane

    Howard’s “golden age”, definitely a golden shower for the poor, disabled and disadvantaged as Ricky says. P*ss poor in anyone’s books.

    Another example of Liealot’s great devotion to the teachings of Christ. If there is a roll call after the Liars pop their clogs they’ll be going down, not up.

    A picture of life under Liealot’s rule

  23. patriciawa

    Hi Min and Jane = both getting my early morning mental calisthenics going. A while since I’ve thought of ‘Bruegel,’ living in this lucky country, but you make a valid point there Jane. If Abbott’s were to succeed with his ‘people’s revolution’ life would become a living hell here for so many.

    But he won’t succeed, will he? Just as he didn’t succeed with all his talk of fighting ‘tax and terror. There were no takers for his call for a people’s revolt in 2010 which was when I wrote about his call on Bolt’s program for us all to take to the streets and protest against Gillard and her government. He really did think he was in with a chance! But what a failure that was. Remember the Carbon Tax rally in Canberra, Min? How many heavy truck drivers actually set out and arrived there? I think you or Miglo wrote about it in Cafe Whispers, March, 2010.

    PS And thanks for the compliment, Min! Took me back to swotting for my O level Latin exam more than half a century ago! You keep me on my toes.

  24. Frank P Mcenroe

    The economic miracle . never happened . more like economic trickery, what we fail to understand is, the $17.000 first home owners grant created trillions of dollars in equity in the 10 years Howard had control of the economy , that equity was used to buy luxury items . investment property etc-, the tax from the equity likely to be hundreds of billions of dollars.Young families scammed out of their life savings by using the grant as a deposit on a home they could not afford, thousands lost their home , plus they still have to pay the bank the loan repayments, those young families are now renting, paying off someone else’s property. add to that todays young generation will never own a home, Howard managed the economy for the rich by milking the poor. the sad part is we cant fix the unfixable too many ordinary people have been paying off over valued property mortgages, they would not want to see property values to drop 50%, Having said that Malcolm Turnbull will use this as a scare campaign;

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