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The Governance Report

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“You cannot believe in democracy and at the same time expect that the party you support is the only one that should ever win”.

What can you expect then, if your team doesn’t win? You won’t be happy and you know in your heart that the new government will do things that you disagree with. And it has every right to do so.

I have a general view of government that goes something like this.

“Good government is about making and implementing decisions that serve the common good. That give security to the people it governs. Follows the rule of law and is truthful about its intentions. When making decisions it must be responsive to the will of the people. It should allow its citizens to be participatory in the function of government.

It should be inclusive, equitable and supportive of the people’s right to know. By equity I mean the people have a right to a fair reward for the fruits of their labour and the wealth of the country. And above all it should be answerable to the people”.

And I might add that in the recipe of what makes good government the most important ingredient is ‘leadership’.

So I have an expectation that the government elected by the people in a democracy I support, might show competency. That it might govern for all the people keeping in mind that a fair proportion of them would have voted against them.

Looking back, the 2013 election was the worst in my memory. On the one hand we had a party with a public perception of dysfunction although the reality was that it passed 585 bills 87% supported by the opposition and was never defeated on the floor. It took to the election some excellent policy reforms. On the other hand the LNP, who never saw the government as legitimate, brought very little policy to the table choosing instead to play small target, piggy back Labor’s, and relied on the unpopularity of the government to secure victory.

From all this the public were the losers. There was no debate on the best way forward for Australia’s future. There was no exchange of ideas or credentials for government. It was an election devoid of intellectual integrity, discourse, ideals and honesty.

As the Abbott Government approaches its second birthday it’s interesting, for me at least, to in hindsight appraise the Prime Minister’s leadership and governance against my own performance criteria by measuring a few key factors.

Leadership

Abbott has been an abject failure as Prime Minister. His leadership has survived one challenge and as I write the feeling in political circles is that he will undergo another one soon. He chose to make unilateral captain’s calls that have done nothing more than reveal a predisposition for bad judgement.

He is a dour fellow with unrelenting negativity that runs like rust through his veins and has little time for ideas that don’t reflect his own. He is aggressive both physically and in the use of language. He is by evidence and his own admission a liar of some consistency.

Added to that he has a political gutter mentality and little respect for the institution of parliament and its conventions.

What sort of leader would say this prior to an election and then do the opposite.

“It is an absolute principle of democracy that governments should not and must not say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards. Nothing could be more calculated to bring our democracy into disrepute and alienate the citizenry of Australia from their government than if governments were to establish by precedent that they could say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards” (Tony Abbott).

Abbott’s long history of making inaccurate and more often than not statements that offend individuals and groups is legendary.

As opposition leader he spent most of his time pursuing the demise of Gillard. Accordingly he went to the election with no policies, has developed none since, and has no vision of what a future Australia might look like.

He leads a government of political reaction. By that I mean that every reaction on whatever topic has the measure “how will it affect us politically” attached. Its first reaction is to always react rather than control situations.

Some governments manage to negotiate the inevitable potholes of office with a modicum of grace. The Abbott Government has been hopeless at crisis management. It has repeatedly failed to foresee obvious perils, and struggled to deal with soluble dilemmas. The cause of this has undoubtedly been very poor leadership.

Employment

The fact is that despite all its propaganda to the contrary there are now 800,000 people without a job. More than when Labor was in power. Or the highest total in 23 years.

Marriage Equality

Public support for Gay Marriage in current polling is at 69 per cent. With all the polls indicating such high support why is it necessary to spend 100 million of a plebiscite. The demand to act and act now is further reinforced. Otherwise the public will view a non-decision as nothing more than a tactic to first delay and then defeat the push for equality. Which it probably is.

The Economy

Hockey and Abbott whilst in Opposition hounded the Gillard/Rudd Governments as hopelessly incompetent financial managers. Abbott said things were so bad that he described the budget as an emergency, when the deficit was $18billion and Net Debt was $176billion. The deficit is now $35 billion and net debt $265billion. What explanation have they.

Hockey’s first Budget was the worst received ever and his second amounted to nothing more than a repair job on the first. It predicted a deficit of $35.1bn this financial year. This would be followed by deficits of $25.8bn in 2016-17, $14.4bn in 2017-18 and $6.9bn in 2018-19, and these figures assume the passage of contentious budget savings that are stalled in the Senate and unlikely to pass. On top of that the growth projections in the budget are considered by both Howard and Costello to be fanciful.

The importance of budget surpluses has been overstated. Since 1945, significant budget surpluses have been achieved only rarely: once by Ben Chifley, three times by Bob Hawke, and eight times by John Howard, who shared another with Rudd, who was elected during the 2007-08 fiscal year. That is, the Menzies, Holt, Gorton, McMahon and Fraser governments managed only a few, small surpluses. So much for the claim about the Coalition’s fiscal management being superior to that of Labor… The surpluses by Howard came from an unprecedented, never to be repeated mining boom and the sale of public assets. Let’s keep it in perspective.

The NBN

The NBN was a major initiative of Labor. Howard during his tenure of government tried 13 times to develop a policy and failed each time. Abbott being the Luddite that he is wanted to destroy it and appointed Turnbull to do so. He at least saw the light in terms of future benefits and possibilities but as it stands now the LNP continues to make a meal of the NBN rollout with a cost blowout of $15b since last estimate in December 2013.The budget had already blown out considerably (after having blown out to $41 billion, twice what the Coalition insisted their less-ambitious version of the NBN would cost before the 2013 election) and that NBN Co are going to have to find the money from either greater debt or private equity. Yes they were telling lies all along.

And the revised rollout of the network will end up being 20 per cent fiber-to-the-premises, 38 per cent fiber-to-the-node, 34 per cent HFC, 5 per cent fixed wireless and 3 per cent satellite.

Fiber to the house is the rolled gold connection and MPs will have to explain to their electorates why some are getting it and some are not. Are you in a marginal seat?

Morality of governance

The Abbott Government has demonstrated a willingness to govern for the rich, the privileged and corporations.

The word “lying” (in political terms) has been replaced with the more subtle reference of “overstatement. Almost everything spoken by him and his Ministers has an element of exaggeration or downright untruth about it.

By appointing Bronwyn Bishop as speaker he knowingly trashed an already tarnished Question Time. Bishop treated the position as some form of reward or distinction for longevity of service. Under her stewardship, and with Abbott’s approval, Question Time descended into a chamber of hate. Now it is just an excuse for mediocre minds who are unable to win an argument with intellect, charm or wit to act deplorably toward each other. And in doing so debase the parliament and themselves as moronic imbecilic individuals.

By allowing cabinet papers to be scrutinized by Royal Commissioners he trashed another long held convention.

The people’s right to know became obsolete with the FOI Commissioner forced to work from home because of funding cuts.

Ministerial responsibility became a principle of yesterday, unsuited to today’s politics.

Parliamentary expenses became privileges and over a long period the Prime Minister showed a taste for extras by leading the way.

Climate Change

Tony Abbott from the very start of his term of office has conveniently said that emissions cause Global Warming but his every action, his every statement, would indicate otherwise.

The Governments announced 26% target on greenhouse emissions below 2005 levels by 2030 is pathetically inadequate and less ambitious than most other developed countries.

We have a group of deniers being reluctantly dragged to Paris without a clue about what the science is telling them.

People should not be fooled by the % but consider the level by date and the end date. The government might also explain how it intends to pay for it.

On these numbers we would still be the world’s highest per capita polluter in 2030.

Royal Commissions

Abbott’s leadership has had all the hallmarks of retribution. Politics to him is as much about the annihilation of ones opponents as it is about making the country a better place. So he set about implementing Royal Commissions that in reality were nothing more than witch hunts against his opponents calculated to damage them as much as possible. There is nothing that has been found thus far that could not have been investigated by existing authorities. The appointment of Dyson Heydon who was a known Coalition supporter and the consequent controversy over his perceived bias has tarnished the process to the point that democracy itself is the biggest loser.

Women

Although he purports to be the Minister for women what he says and does are direct opposites. In the budget he withdrew money from Domestic Violence programs only to have to embarrassingly reinstate it later. On the whole he has done nothing to advance the prospects of women. Even in his own party, despite the rhetoric, women find it difficult to find a pathway to political representation.

Indigenous Recognition

Again he is found wanting in the area of Aboriginal advancement. There is much confusing talk that simply amounts to putting the ‘’black fellars’’ in their place but little in the way of constructive policy outcomes.

Conclusion

There are many other areas that I could have touched on like International Diplomacy, Health, National Security and the NDIS but I have said enough to make my point. Even if you voted against him you are entitled to expect better than this rabble. Even if, in all fairness, you admit that the winner has won the right to rule according to the parties ideological strategies, you are still entitled to expect a modicum of good government.

We have not had anything like it. On the contrary, commentators suggest Abbott has led the worst government ever.

People need to understand that to re elect him would only serve to reinforce his extremism. The consequences of which this writer does not want to even comprehend.

 

16 comments

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  1. Kaye Lee

    In an article called the responsibilities of government, the following quote resonated with me…

    “The government of a democracy is accountable to the people. It must fulfil its end of the social contract. And, in a practical sense, government must be accountable because of the severe consequences that may result from its failure. As the outcomes of fighting unjust wars and inadequately responding to critical threats such as global warming illustrate, great power implies great responsibility.”

    And then I look at today’s news…..

    Last Friday afternoon the Government released two reports relevant to climate change. The two reports showed that the Prime Minister has misled the public on the cost of larger cuts to emissions and that the Government’s current direct action policy is a high cost alternative. They also showed electricity greenhouse emissions have once again started to rise.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-08-26/jericho-did-abbott-mislead-us-on-emissions-reductions/6723162

    “The Abbott government pushed for Washington to request that Australia expand its air strikes against the Islamic State terror group from Iraq to its more dangerous neighbour Syria, Fairfax Media has learnt.

    Tony Abbott confirmed on Tuesday that “some weeks ago” US President Barack Obama had asked him to consider expanding RAAF strikes to Syria.

    But senior government sources have told Fairfax Media that the driving force for the formal request received last week from the United States for the RAAF to join the air campaign in Syria came more from Canberra – and in particular the Prime Minister’s office – than from Washington.”

    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/tony-abbott-pushed-for-us-request-to-join-syrian-air-strikes-20150825-gj7kfh.html

  2. M-R

    Nor does this reader.

  3. kerri

    Excellent article John Lord!
    Nail on head when you write about the lies, lies, lies! It is all they are made of! Oh! And wasting our money!
    The only factor that has Abbott clinging to his leadership role by a thread, is the threat, he set up against the previous Government, that to change leaders mid term makes a Government look dysfunctional. This may be working amongst the foolish people he got to support him in the Parliament, but the public can see beyond the dysfunction of retaining a bad leader and I now believe are thirsting for the strength it would take to change to a decent, worthwhile, talented leader. We will be waiting a long time I suspect!
    May I respectfully suggest?
    Someone should do an article on the government positions Abbott has obliterated or trashed
    versus the government positions he has instigated and let the public judge the worth of each !
    And maybe cover the cost of each appointment versus each sacking? Kaye Lee???

  4. kizhmet

    Great article.

    Listening to self-confessed Libera friends, it appears that running a successful business better qualifies a person to comment on the government’s performance than being a worker; apparently the government IS a business. I think I am beginning to understand why people vote LNP, and the “types” LNP attract. Suffice to say, any attempts to reason with them is utterly futile.

    Abbott’s ratings continue to fall so, of course, we need a war or terrorist threat to demonstrate how we are better off under LNP.

    LNP and governance in the same sentence? Oxymoron.

    Keep the articles coming and thank you for your continued efforts – Bravo!

  5. deanyz1

    “When making decisions it must be responsive to the will of the people. It should allow its citizens to be participatory in the function of government.”
    One can only hope for this ideal these days. Jeff Kennett, John Brumby and many others have been turfed because there was no consultation, only bullying and you could say – dictatorial management.
    Abbott is no different, even worse, in fact. And it is not just the hierarchy in the LNP, it is the coalition itself edging further to the right – the most destructive right wing government Australia has ever elected. I blame big business corporations and the moneyed elite for this. The LNP have had their policies laid out for them by the IPA. I remain hopeful that Abbott will join the ranks of Kennett and Brumby and others who had ignored the people and gets the ‘Sack’ at the next election. If they are re-elected, we can all be afraid.
    Yes, John, it would be dreadful fate; one which I cannot contemplate.

  6. Blinkyewok

    Well said. We should be very afraid if LNP re-elected.

  7. Matthew Oborne

    just as you started your article, I would agree the vast majority of us would love a democratic alternative but we don’t have that, we have one party who undoes the “machinery of democracy” to quote Tony Benn. I wouldnt vote to have all our public services under threat to send a message to Labor, unfortunately only the foolish would.

  8. Dame Marg

    And I cannot see a mention of offshore detention of asylum seekers, a morality catastrophe that will come back to haunt Australia in the future.

  9. Wayne Turner

    If these lying, rorting and hopeless Libs get back in under Prime Moron Abbott, than this country, majority of its people, and democracy here is beyond help…

  10. jim

    Thank goodness for the AIM as the media we have now is either too stupid or too dumb, anyway I think if journalist had done their job we wouldn’t be in this Abbottgate mess we’re in now, IMO the “born to rule far right”is a more bigger threat to our freedoms than any religious nutters group.the thing is if Abbott is allowed to continue even in opposition he is just to disruptive to democracy and debate of any sort. Abbott must go, go millions of miles away please. READ The unprecedented coup of June 23–24, 2010 was the starting point for this offensive. The entire political establishment responded to the ousting of former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd by a handful of Labor and union powerbrokers, later revealed in WikiLeaks cables to be “protected sources” of the US embassy, READ http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2014/05/14/sepa-m14.html

  11. Mike Stoodley

    “It is an absolute principle of democracy that governments should not and must not say one thing before an election and do the opposite afterwards.

    “There will be no carbon tax under a government I lead.”

  12. corvus boreus

    Mike Stooley,
    The rest of the statement you ‘quoted’;

    “…,but let me be clear: I will be putting a price on carbon and I will move to an emissions trading scheme.’’

    I guess you did not ‘think’ that the rest of the sentence was contextually important.

  13. gangey1959

    I think it can be safely stated that abbot is completely unsuited to the role of human being, let alone Australia’s PM.
    I cannot stand him, or what he represents. He is a disgrace.
    If, in its blind panic over staying in power, the lnp is unwilling to sack him, he will lead them into the next election.
    The alp are not presenting the electorate with anything at all, and the Greens and Independents have been painted by abbott as irrational since before the last federal election.
    Who is any sort of alternative, realistic or otherwise ?
    There don’t seem to be enough free thinking people in Australia to effect the massive change that is required in order to save us from our last poor decision, and the rest of the sheep will vote for tax cuts and swap ‘security’ for bad government as they have always done.

  14. do something

    if the goverment is the mess it is.. then it is the fault of the media, including alternate media.. for not holding them to account, and the fault of the electorate for not caring enough either way.

    things could be so much different today, if our media had the balls to speak the truth of 911.. even today, some still cant quite come to grips with it..

    talk about lies.. rethink911.org

  15. corvus boreus

    ‘The truth of 911’ is we should not believe much of what comes through the television, particularly when it is said with an American (USA variant) accent.

    911 is not the fast-dial number for general emergency services in Australia. In this country, you should dial 000.

  16. deanyz1

    Thanks, corvus boreus, for illuminating Mike stoley about the supposed ‘Lie’ of Julia Gillard. I did see her make that statement, the full statement by Julia has been conveniently redacted by the MSM. I wish there was a video of her speech, I have looked and cannot find one.

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