Why did Labor lose the last election?
For those not au fait with Australian politics, Labor’s loss at the 2013 election seemed unfathomable. They had steered us through the global financial crisis relatively unscathed. Economic parameters were creditable. Standard of living was comparatively high. We were world leaders on action on climate change. World class NBN was underway. There were agreements with the states about hospital and education funding. The NDIS was established with bipartisan support. We had stood up to the tobacco companies regarding plain packaging laws. The Apology had been made and the long road to reconciliation embarked upon. Marine parks had been extended and water trigger protection enacted.
So what went wrong?
Labor deposed an elected Prime Minister – twice. The seething resentment caused by these moves undermined the party as personal egos and division took over. Press leaks and constant speculation made the leadership turmoil the story, drowning out the message of policy success and vision for the future.
One brief edited film clip of Julia Gillard saying “there will be no carbon tax” was enough for the Murdoch press, abetted by radio shock jocks, to brand her a liar. The fact that a fixed price emissions trading scheme was demanded by the independents as a condition of their support to form government in a hung parliament, and that Tony Abbott had been prepared to do likewise and more to win, seemed to make no difference to a public whipped up by Jones and Bolt.
Great big new tax on everything
The framing of the debate about carbon pricing was the ultimate misinformation campaign. Whyalla will be wiped off the map. $100 lamb roasts. Investment will dry up and jobs will be lost. Even though none of this came true, and the compensation package saw most low income earners and welfare recipients better off, the rapid rise in electricity prices that happened well before the carbon tax was enacted was erroneously attributed to its introduction. The fossil fuel industry went into overdrive with propaganda denying anthropogenic global warming. The motivation and credibility of scientists was questioned as a paid for array of geologists and engineers employed by the mining companies cast doubt.
Debt and deficit disaster
Despite having a triple A credit rating and one of the lowest debts globally, the Opposition was able to convince an ill-informed public that any debt at all was bad and that we must have a surplus because governments must “live within their means.” As a sovereign currency issuing country, this is not true. Small government debt equates to increased private debt which always skyrockets under a Coalition government. When private investment dries up, as is happening now, governments should engage in deficit spending to stimulate the economy rather than austerity measures which exacerbate the problem.
“I’m no tech head” Abbott, assisted by “I’m not challenging” Turnbull, convinced the Australian public that the broadband speeds being offered by Labor’s NBN were completely unnecessary for households and that FttP was an expensive waste of time. They also suggested that early teething problems were due to Labor’s inability to deliver big projects and that they could get the job done much quicker and cheaper.
Whether it was 20 year old legal work for a friend, misuse of union funds in a previous role, or misuse of cab charges, the intimation was that the government was full of fraudulent cheats. Dirt files were prepared and paid for. Criminal investigations and Royal Commissions were called for. Trial by media followed with tipped off tv camera crews recording every sordid moment.
Soon we will be going to the polls again to decide whether to return a Coalition government who deposed another sitting Prime Minister, who has broken so many promises I have lost count, who wants to introduce a great big new tax, not just on electricity, but on everything, who has overseen record deficits and increased the debt by about $100 billion, whose already inadequate NBN is well behind schedule and suffering cost blowouts, and who has three ministers currently under police investigation, another resigned for sexual harassment, another who was investigated by ICAC, and a string of scandals regarding misuse of entitlements.
So why should they win the next election?
They stopped the boats, but did little to help refugees and a great deal to harm them. As they wipe their hands of the problem, they dump it on some of the poorest countries in the world.
They got rid of the carbon tax, and in so doing cost us tens of billions in revenue while handing over billions to polluters and causing emissions to increase. By abandoning bipartisan support for the RET, they effectively destroyed the renewable energy industry.
They got rid of the mining tax, and all the payments that went with it, and then saw mining investment and jobs plummet.
They signed three free trade agreements which caused revenue to be written down by billions and the possibility of foreign workers taking Australian jobs. They were also the final death sentence for the domestic car industry.
They are poised to sign the TPP which will allow foreign multinationals to sue us if legislation hurts their profits and poses a threat to our PBS and internet access.
They tell us that they are on a credible path to surplus but that is unlikely to happen anywhere in the foreseeable future.
They have introduced wide-ranging anti-terror and national security laws that are supposed to be keeping us safe but their precipitous action in the Middle East and their alienation of the Australian Muslim community is far more likely to make us a target. They now spy on all citizens and have the ability to punish people who speak out against their policies.
They are promising tax cuts when every economist agrees that we have a revenue problem so they will have to be paid for by cutting services and increasing the cost of living through an increased GST.
They have a popular leader who used to support action on climate change, marriage equality, a Republic, renewable energy, innovative technology – but no more. All principles have been traded for the prize of personal ambition realised.
If the Coalition is returned at the next election, Australia could rightly be described as, rather than the lucky country, a nation of gullible gits.