In December 2012, in an interview on Sunrise, Tony Abbott said “It is never a good thing for a government to break fundamental promises and this government has broken its two covenants with the Australian people: no carbon tax and a budget surplus. They’ve broken both of them. You just can’t trust this mob.”
Fair enough. They were silly promises in the first place and Labor did a pitiful job of explaining the need to maintain deficits in the short term, and that our carbon pricing mechanism was actually an ETS with a temporary fixed price period. They needed to talk about the necessity of creating jobs and the economic consequences of inaction on climate change.
Instead, this was the wedge that Abbott used so successfully to bring Gillard down.
In August 2013, Tony Abbott said “I want to be known as a prime minister who keeps commitments.”
In his victory speech, Abbott reassured us
“In a week or so the governor-general will swear in a new government. A government that says what it means, and means what it says. A government of no surprises and no excuses.”
So let’s have a look at a few examples of Tony et al saying what they mean.
At his campaign launch Tony said
“Within 100 days….The NBN will have a new business plan to ensure that every household gains five times current broadband speeds – within three years and without digging up almost every street in Australia – for $60 billion less than Labor.”
More than a year has passed and the Coalition’s NBN truly is in no-man’s land with Telstra holding Turnbull, the NBN effort and the entire Abbott Government over a barrel. Turnbull is still happy to keep fighting the election with endless reports supporting the Coalition’s increasingly untenable NBN policy.
NBN Co’s Strategic Review makes it very clear that the company could deliver an all-fibre FTTP network to Australians for just $15 billion more and only three years later than the Coalition’s Multi-Technology Mix project. This infrastructure would be vastly superior to the Coalition’s version and would not need to be upgraded. The review also showed, rather than costing the government anything, the investment will bring a return. Turnbull is being deliberately misleading in describing this as an expense when it is actually a capital investment. We are still waiting to hear the result of the Michael Vertigan-led cost-benefit analysis.
While this may be an example of a Minister determined to get his own way who is now on a learning curve on how difficult business negotiations can be in such a large scale project, that can’t be said of other commitments which have been abandoned, though Tony will tell you that you misheard him.
In December last year, Tony told Andrew Bolt
“We are going to keep the promise that we actually made, not the promise that some people thought that we made or the promise that some people might have liked us to make. We’re going to keep the promise that we actually made.”
He was referring to his backflip on school funding. So let’s look at the promises that were made.
“In order to ensure funding certainty, we will honour the deals that the government has so far made and we will match the offers that the government has so far made in terms of funding.” –Tony Abbott, interviewed by Sabra Lane, ABC Radio’s AM, 5 August 2013
“I can promise that no school would be worse off under the Coalition.” –Joint doorstop interview with Russell Matheson, Camden, NSW, 15 July 2013
“As far as school funding is concerned, Kevin Rudd and I are on a unity ticket. There is no difference between Kevin Rudd and myself when it comes to school funding.” –Joint press conference with Christopher Pyne and Alan Tudge, St Andrew’s Christian College, 2 August 2013
And it’s not just on school funding where Abbott is trying to tell us we misheard him.
In May last year in South Australia, the defence minister David Johnston gave this doorstop media conference on the future submarine project.
“DAVID JOHNSTON – The Coalition today is committed to building 12 new submarines here in Adelaide, we will get that task done, and it is a really important task, not just for the Navy but for the nation. And we are going to see the project through, and put it very close after force protection, as our number priority if we win the next Federal Election. Over to you Steve.
MARSHALL – Can I just say I am very grateful for Senator Johnston coming to South Australia and confirming the Coalition’s policy, to build 12 submarines here in South Australia. It’s fantastic news for South Australia, it’s fantastic news for the people who work in the defence sector in South Australia, there has been a big cloud having over their heads for an extended period of time, the Government announced this in 2009 and as Senator Johnston said has done very little since then, we still have no clarity about the time frame, the cost for the project from the Government whatsoever, but what we have got today is a real focus from the Opposition, this a major priority for us as the Federal level and we are just so delighted here in South Australia that Senator Johnston has been able to come along and confirm that for us today.”
Sophie Mirabella was appointed to run the show.
“Once she has straightened things up, implemented a few changes and bullied or cowed the workforce, her operation will be made to float (or sink, when necessary) on their own merits, without any assistance from taxpayers. And to make a profit doing so.”
Then on October 23, Peter Hendy, member for Eden-Monaro, rose to say in Parliament
“The coalition promised at the last election that the new submarine project will be centred on Adelaide. Any more specific commitment than that would have been grossly irresponsible in defence strategy terms. We need to ensure that the best capability is purchased, not simply have an industry policy propping up one region of Australia. I think that whatever decision is made there will be plenty of contracts and jobs for South Australia. This can be done without jeopardising the overriding priority of good defence policy.
I note that the Leader of the Opposition did the exact opposite in his recent speech on the topic. His speech, promising amongst other things that, under Labor, the submarines would be built in Adelaide without first doing the proper due diligence harked back to the protectionist, xenophobic unionism that we all thought had been relegated to the past—obviously, not.”
And then we have the Renewable Energy Target.
On 19 June 2013, Greg Hunt said on Sky News:
“We agree on the national targets to reduce our emissions by five per cent by 2020. We also agree on the renewable energy target. And one of the things we don’t want to do is to become a party where there is this wild sovereign risk where you are, where businesses take steps to their detriment on the basis of a pledge and a policy of Government. And we’re very clear that that’s not what we want to be.”
From a doorstop interview on 29 September 2011:
“QUESTION: Is the Coalition committed to a renewable energy target?
TONY ABBOTT: Look, we originated a renewable energy target. That was one of the policies of the Howard Government and yes we remain committed to a renewable energy target. I certainly accept that the renewable energy target is one of the factors of the current power system which is causing prices to go up but we have no plans to change the renewable energy target.”
Now we have Ian McFarlane attempting to convince us that the Coalition is keeping their promise to stick to the 20% RET but, due to falling demand, the actual amount will be reduced by 40%. This, he says, is not a reduction and he played the “baffle them with numbers game” on Insiders this morning.
Unfortunately for him, the government website explaining the RET legislation is very specific on this matter.
“The RET policy is often expressed in terms of a percentage target, specifically to ‘ensure that at least 20 per cent of electricity is generated from renewable sources by 2020’. However this is translated into a fixed GWh target in the legislation in order to provide a clear goal for industry and certainty for market participants. The target has been expressed in GWh since the original Mandatory Renewable Energy Target scheme commenced in 2001.
The Government agrees that the existing 41,000 GWh Large-scale Renewable Energy Target and annual targets should be retained. A change to the target (either an increase or a decrease) would create instability in the renewable energy industry, impact on the risk premiums required by lenders and investors, and decrease the likelihood of any target being met.
The Government also notes that modelling conducted for the Review found that reducing the target would not result in a material reduction to average household electricity bills and would not justify the damage to investor confidence that would be caused by such a change.”
And then we have the car industry.
On July 28 2013 Tony Abbott said
“What I want to do is make it easier for this industry to flourish. I want to make it easier for people to get on with their lives and to enjoy driving great motor cars, particularly great Australian made motor cars.”
On 21 August 2013, he assured us that “We have a good record when it comes to working with the car manufacturers to help them, not just to survive, but to flourish, and we will act in that same spirit in the future.”
In his campaign speech he said “the motor industry will be saved from Mr Rudd’s $1.8 billion tax on company cars.”
Instead, not only did he give up almost $2 billion in revenue from stopping tax rorting, he wasted no time in putting the nail in the coffin for car manufacturing in Australia.
And the lies didn’t stop after the election. During the by-election for Kevin Rudd’s old seat the Medicare co-payment was a hot topic.
REPORTER: “Can you guarantee there won’t be a Medicare co-payment?”
TONY ABBOTT: “Nothing is being considered, nothing has been proposed, nothing is planned.”
-Joint doorstop interview with Bill Glasson, Brisbane, 1 February 2014
REPORTER: “Would you consider a co-payment, a means testing to help relieve the pressure on the health budget?”
TONY ABBOTT: “Obviously the budget, generally, is under pressure and it’s very important that we do what we can to fix the budget, as quickly as we can, but we’ve got to do it in ways which are consistent with our pre-election commitments. Don’t forget, I said we were going to be a no surprises, no excuses government.”
-Doorstop interview, Sydney, 20 February 2014
REPORTER: “In light of the latest scare campaign however, can’t you just knock it on the head, pull the rug out from under Labor’s scare campaign and guarantee no co-payments?”
TONY ABBOTT: “Well I think I have knocked the scare campaign on the head and again this is all the Labor Party has got.”
-Doorstop interview, Sydney, 20 February 2014
We also had continual promises about no new taxes.
“The only party which is going to increase taxes after the election is the Labor Party.” -Joint press conference with Greg Hunt and Bill Glasson, Brisbane, 9 August 2013
Instead we have the high income earners levy, the Paid Parental Leave levy, fuel excise indexation, and the medicare co-payment. We have also seen funding to the States slashed by $80 billion in an obvious attempt to starve them into being the ones to ask for a hike in GST.
And who could ever forget…
“No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.” -on SBS TV on election eve, 6 September 2013
This list is by no means exhaustive but I am already well past the attention span of most readers. I will close with some wise words of advice from our current Prime Minister….
“Look, if I tell the kind of massive fibs that this government has told, I would deserve the most condign electoral punishment.”
-Tony Abbott, Interviewed by the Grill Team, Radio Triple M, Sydney, 25 February 2011