When some people speak of the previous Labor government, they talk of disunity or of debt, which ignores the many wonderful achievements of the Rudd/Gillard years.
I think of the Apology to the Stolen Generation and for forced adoptions. I think of the Reconciliation Walk across the Harbor Bridge. I was proud that we were at the forefront of pricing carbon and that we were facilitating investment in renewable energy. I was thankful for the Gonski education funding reforms and the National Partnership on hospital funding. I was relieved that we finally had the NDIS underway and subsidised dental care. I was excited about the prospect of FttP NBN. We were finally taking water management seriously with the water trigger legislation and the Murray-Darling buyback scheme. Marine parks begun by Howard were being extended. The mining tax was about to start earning some money as companies moved from investment to production and asset write-offs diminished. The list of achievements is much much longer.
All of these things benefitted Australians. They contributed to a better society.
And then along came the Coalition.
I am at a complete loss to think of one policy that is of benefit to Australian citizens.
They got rid of carbon pricing and decided to pay polluters industry assistance instead costing us billions and causing emissions to rise.
They caused such uncertainty watering down renewable energy targets that we lost billions in investment.
Despite getting rid of the mining tax, mine closures and job losses have accelerated and investment has fallen.
They signed free trade agreements that have resulted in revenue write-downs of about $8 billion dollars as well as creating real threats to domestic manufacturing industries and jobs.
They stopped the boats, slashed the humanitarian intake of refugees, and incarcerated asylum seekers indefinitely, ignoring the documented abuse that they are being subjected to and the physical and emotional damage.
They have slashed foreign aid spending by over $11 billion.
They say they created 300,000 jobs last year. Using trend figures from the ABS, the increase in people employed in the 2.5 years from August 2013 to February 2016 was 392,200 which equates to an average of 156,880 more people employed each year, many of them part time. (The seasonally adjusted figures work out to 151,040 per year.)
But the ABS also shows that, in the year from 30 September 2014 to 30 September 2015, the population rose by 313,200 people. Whilst not all of these would be of working age, job creation is not keeping up with population increase. Using trend figures again, there are 42,600 more people unemployed in February 2016 than there were in August 2013.
They have turned customs and immigration into a black-uniformed quasi-military outfit and they are collecting and keeping metadata from every person in Australia (except the criminals and the politicians and the corporate cheats who know how to get around it).
They have wound back gambling reform laws and stripped funding from NGOs and community groups.
The champions of free speech have gagged public servants, NGOs, refugee and community legal advocates. They have tried to remove the right of appeal to courts and to neuter the Human Rights Commission.
They have committed to spending hundreds of billions on defence materiel while saying they can’t afford to fund schools and hospitals.
They sold off the profitable Medibank Private forever transferring that revenue to shareholders. To date, their attacks on Medicare are being resisted.
They are paying a Dutch company to look for a crashed Malaysian plane that was carrying predominantly Chinese citizens. It has cost us over $100 million, the Malaysians have stopped contributing, and the Chinese never did.
Public sector infrastructure spending has fallen by over 20% despite plenty of promises and reannouncements.
They got rid of the Disability Commissioner and appointed a Wind Commissioner.
They demolished the rollout of a world class NBN to lumber us with a dog’s breakfast of old technology.
They have continually attacked members of the LGBTI community, implying their love is perverted.
Welfare recipients are “leaners” and new mothers are “double dippers”.
They have spent hundreds of millions on Royal Commissions, audits, inquiries, green papers and white papers, committees and consultants.
They spent lots of money producing an Innovation and Science statement whilst slashing funding from the CSIRO and universities.
They cut hundreds of millions in funding and slashed thousands of jobs from corporate watchdog ASIC and the ATO severely impacting on their ability to pursue corporate corruption and tax avoidance.
The deficit has doubled and the debt has increased by over $100 billion.
In an article for the Guardian called Alarmism, economic idiocy, and Orwellian appointments: three years of political disaster written by Josh Bornstein, he quotes our new assistant minister to the treasurer and member of the Hillsong congregation, Alex Hawke:
“The two greatest forces for good in human history are capitalism and Christianity, and when they’re blended it’s a very powerful duo.”
So there we have it. Conservative politics has been taken over by privileged ultra-conservative Young Liberals, the IPA and the Hillsong Church who are assiduously installing their members into parliament. All the social, workplace and environmental reforms we fought for last century have once again come under attack.
This is not the Australia I know and love.
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