I was an admirer of Julia Gillard. What I liked most was her devotion to sound progressive Labor policies that were forward looking and would serve the common good. In her short stint as Prime Minister she oversaw more policy reform (in a minority parliament) than most long serving governments. By any standards her policy legacy stands unique among any of her predecessors. And surely that is what governing is all about. Good policy that improves the wellbeing of every Australian. The fact is that regardless of whoever wins the forthcoming election the winners will find themselves implementing some Gillard policy.
As a political strategist she out positioned the leader of the opposition leaving no big ticket policies for him to pursue and I might add no funds anyway. Therefore in commenting on policy in general this conversation concentrates itself mainly on the government’s proposals. Having said that it might be unfair on the opposition given that the campaign has not yet started. Who knows they might pull a policy rabbit out of the hat. After all they have had three years to develop them.
When we vote a number of factors come into play. A particular allegiance to one or the other parties and its ideology. A like or dislike for one or the other candidate can persuade us. A leader’s character. A hip pocket ‘’what’s in it for me’’ mentality. Or even a one policy agenda such as ‘’Marriage Equality’’.
However policy is important to most people. In this election they are confronted with a number of policy proposals that will determine Australia’s future. Mr Abbott has vowed to oppose everything so the voters have a clear choice. Traditionally the areas of economy, health and education have been of major importance to the electorate but from time to time nation changing or indeed moral issues are added to the mix.
This election is significant in the policy sense because some of the election policies being proposed will have far reaching consequences for the nation and its future.
Now let’s look at the election policies that are on the table and way them up as best we can. I don’t propose to be long winded about each one. Just too randomly list each one and make a few comments.
• Education funding: The opposition education spokesman, Christopher Pyne, has had some conflicting things to say on his party’s policy. The one certain thing is that they don’t have one. He has said that they would repeal Labor’s Gonski funding package. His leader has stated that it would go ahead if Labor could get all the states to sign up. Pyne has also said that they are happy with the current funding arrangements until something better comes along. The Gonski proposals offer equality of opportunity and have wide public support. In the absence of any policy from the opposition it’s a one horse race.
• Climate change: The Prime Minister has pulled the rug from under Tony Abbott’s feet by dumping” the carbon tax and bringing forward a floating carbon pricing scheme. You can argue whether that is good for the environment but it is smart politics. Abbott can no longer shout his carbon tax slogans. But a bigger problem for him is his own policy. Or lack of one. What he has now has been thoroughly discredited by all and sundry. To quote Lenore Taylor in The Guardian.
‘’Business is desperate to know how the 2009 Direct Action policy will actually work, but usually emerge from meetings with the Coalition spokesman, Greg Hunt, with few answers. Hunt has promised a white paper after the election to flesh out the details, with legislation to be finalised within six months of a Coalition term.’’
I might add that Mr Abbott’s own goal statement ”what an emission trading scheme is all about, it’s a market, a so-called market, in the non-delivery of an invisible substance, to no one.” Follows his previous similar statement where he dismissed carbon dioxide as an “invisible, odourless, weightless, tasteless substance”. Statements such as these conclusively but him in the climate change official nutter’s category. We can only conclude that the LNP has no policy at all.
Dr Harley Wright Principal at Climate Sense put it rather succinctly:
I plead to the Coalition to come to its senses and deal with this serious issue seriously. Stop playing political games with our descendants’ future. A return to a responsible, bipartisan approach would be welcomed, possibly respected, all-round.
• NBN: If we go back to when Abbott appointed Malcolm Turnbull as opposition shadow communications minister it was, if I am not mistaken for the purpose of “destroying” the NBN. That’s what Abbott in his Luddite naivety wanted. When exactly the realisation took place that the Internet has a vital place in our world took place, is unknown. But apparently it did. And so they made their policy announcement in the studios of Murdoch’s Fox Studios.
The next morning I did my early morning scan of on line MSM and it is fair to say that the LNPs policy had met with universal condemnation. Although I must say the Melbourne Herald Sun couldn’t find any room for it at all amongst its daily drivel. But then it is the newspaper where the truth goes to die so I wasn’t surprised. The Age ran an online poll of around 27.000 people and around 75% gave the policy the thumbs down.
A quote of mine:
“On the NBN. “The problem with designing a network to meet the needs of today is that it denies you the ability to meet the needs of tomorrow”.
• NDIS: The opposition has said it supports this policy. It is however so popular that they could hardly say otherwise. But it is Labor policy and how ironic it would be if the conservatives had to implement it. And there is no guarantee that they wouldn’t re hash it in some way.
• The Economy: We should not under estimate the difficulty the LNP will have framing an economic policy for the next election. With the downturn in revenues the government has had much difficulty in costing its own initiatives. The opposition will have more so. Despite pressure from the government it has yet to say where all its savings measures will come from. It has said it will eliminate the school kid’s bonus scheme and super will be cut from lower paid women but they will need a lot more than that. And of course they will take around 12,000 jobs out of the public service. The government has a record of outstanding economic performance and with Rudd at the helm should be able to sell it more vibrantly.
The opposition intends to have a “commission of audit” after the election, to review government spending “top to bottom”, rein in waste, identify where taxpayer funds should be spent and start “with a clean slate” on government spending. That’s a pretty broad brief and I would interpret it to mean a repeat of the Queensland experience.
Now cast your mind back to the last election and remember that Abbott was not capable of presenting LP Economic Policy himself so he hand balled to Hockey who in turn passed it on to Robb. It then became a total balls up and the accountants they hired to verify their figures were fined for dishonesty. The policy they presented would not get past a first year economics student. It will be interesting to see if Abbott has the guts to present this time around remembering that he has said that the subject bores him.
• Asylum Seeker-Immigration Policy: Both sides of politics should hold their heads in shame for the politicisation of such a human crisis that is not only one of national importance but one the international community is trying to come to grips with. But Tony Abbott who despite having had numerous opportunities to join a bipartisan approach has chosen together with Scott Morrison to tread gutter filth in the hope that they may win a couple of redneck seats in Western Sydney. These two have done more to demonise legal asylum seekers that any other members of parliament. Some of their comments have been founded in racism. And they are both practicing Christians.
My view is that in all its complexity there is no solution to this dilemma. It can only ever be a ‘’manageable problem.’’
A people smuggler in Indonesia has told the ABC that none of the domestic policies being considered in Australia can stop the boats. As the Federal Government looks for answers leading up to the election, the people smuggler says proposed measures like turning boats back or making it harder to get refugee status are not enough. The smuggler says there are now too many people fleeing death and persecution and that factor outweighs Australia’s attempts to stop them. And while more boats reach Australian waters, some former refugees who have lost family members on the dangerous journey say the immigration system is oppressive.
At the time of writing Kevin Rudd seems to be coming up with some fresh proposals and we can only live in hope that Tony Abbott might come to his senses and adopt a more humane and bipartisanship approach. Lies and shouts of ‘’stop the boats’’ will resolve nothing.
• Maternity Leave: The Liberal Party does have a policy. It will increase company tax by one and a half per cent. Most economists say the policy is unaffordable and caters for women with high incomes. No costing’s have come to light.
• Marriage Equality: Tony Abbott is totality against it because of his Catholic beliefs. Imposing his own morality on everyone. Kevin Rudd is in favour and has indicated that he will legislate. And so he should. Meanwhile the rest of the world moves on.
• An Australian Republic: The Labor Party would support a plebiscite as a first step. Mr Abbott is a devout Royalist and led its campaign at the last referendum. In doing so he told some atrocious lies.
The following Liberal Party policies are taken from an article in The Guardian by Lenore Taylor.
• Renewable energy: The Coalition has promised a review of the 20% renewable energy target in 2014, even though it was already reviewed by the Climate Change Authority just last year. Some in the Coalition are demanding that it be scrapped altogether. More likely, say senior sources, it will be wound back a little, because its promise to deliver 41,000 gigawatt hours of renewable energy by 2020 is working out to be more like 25%, due to falling electricity demand. Bottom line: the renewable energy industry is not sure what will happen to the target under the Coalition.
• Federal state relations and COAG: In his budget-in-reply speech, Abbott promised that within two years of a change of government, working with the states, the Coalition would produce a white paper on Coag reform, and the responsibilities of different governments, to ensure that, as far as possible, the states are sovereign in their own sphere. The objective will be to reduce and end, as far as possible, the waste, duplication and second-guessing between different levels of government that has resulted, for instance, in the commonwealth employing 6,000 health bureaucrats even though it doesn’t run a single hospital.”
• Northern Australia: The absence of a northern Australia policy would not normally be notable, but Abbott recently released a “vision” to have a white paper on the development of the north. The “vision” said the white paper would look at most of the ideas being vocally advocated by mining magnate Gina Rinehart and the Institute of Public Affairs, but in terms so vague and non-committal it is unclear whether the Coalition intends to actually do them, or was just trying to appease its powerful backers.
• Industrial relations: The Coalition’s policy promises only minor changes to the fair work laws, but will ask the Productivity Commission to undertake a “comprehensive and broad” review of industrial relations policy – with the results to be taken to the next election
• Car industry assistance: We know the Coalition will cut $500m from the budgeted car industry assistance between now and 2015. It says it will have another Productivity Commission inquiry into what assistance should be provided after that and how it should be spent. Given that the industry says ongoing assistance is essential for its survival, that leaves a large question mark.
. Childcare policy will be the subject of yet another Productivity Commission review. The terms of reference ask for policy to be assessed against the working hours and needs of modern families, and leave open the possibility of government rebate being extended to in-home nannies. That all sounds good, but we also know spending will be constrained so the results remain unclear.
• Competition policy: The Coalition has given mixed signals on competition policy, saying both that the existing laws are too onerous and that small business needs more protection against large competitors. Competition law will be the subject of another “root and branch review” after the election.
• Tax policy: Abbott has said he will repeal the carbon and mining taxes and promised a “modest” company tax cut, with the size and timing still uncertain. He has also said he will have a white paper, a full review of the tax system, with any subsequent decisions to be taken to the next election.
Authors note: The Labor Party intends to scrap its carbon tax in favour of a floating price so Mr Abbott can no longer campaign on a repeal the tax policy.
There may of course be other policy areas that would interest people. Predominantly in their own electorates. I think however I have covered the key issues. This election should be about policy and who has the best to serve the nation. Of course the personal character of the opposing leaders will hold some sway with the punters. One is a negative individual and the other sees a positive future for our country. But I do hope policy determines our fate. Hope all this helps you in your decision making.