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The visionary vs the wrecker

Proactive is not a word that can be used to describe Tony Abbott – regressive would be a far more appropriate term.

A comparison to another Prime Minister from 40 years ago shows just how far backwards Abbott wants to take us.

Gough Whitlam introduced Medibank, the ancestor of Medicare, as Australia’s first national health insurance system in 1975.

The Abbott government wants to roll back universal health care by introducing co-payments. They also sold off the profitable Medibank Private which is now curtailing benefits.

Whitlam abolished university fees from January 1, 1974 which not only made a university education accessible to all young people, but also “mature-age students”, with a rush of older Australians getting degrees in the 1970s.

Abbott wants to deregulate fees which will make a university education out of the reach of many.

Whitlam established The States Grants (Schools) Act 1973 and the Schools Commission Act 1973 to create a new system of fairer funding for education. He attended Sydney’s prestigious Knox Grammar, but for him the difference in opportunity for private and government school students was “morally unjust and socially wasteful”.

Abbott abandoned the Gonski reforms and said the government has more of an obligation to private than state schools.

Ten days after taking office, Whitlam and his deputy, Lance Barnard, announced a royal commission into Aboriginal land rights and established the Department of Aboriginal Affairs. The findings of the royal commission led to the drafting of the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 and the establishment of an elected National Aboriginal Consultative Committee.

Abbott made $534 million in cuts across Indigenous Affairs over five years, and established the Indigenous Advancement Strategy (IAS) advised by Twiggy Forrest. The Indigenous Affairs funding environment “remains a trauma zone” though money has been provided for farmers to fight native title claims. Action on constitutional recognition remains a talkfest and self-determination has been replaced by income management, directed learning, truancy officers, and mandatory sentencing.

Whitlam re-opened the Australian embassy in Beijing, resuming diplomatic relations after 24 years, and became the first Australian Prime Minister to visit the People’s Republic of China in 1973.

Abbott blunders around from one diplomatic embarrassment to the next – shirt-fronting Putin, laughing about Pacific Islands being inundated, telling the Indonesians we don’t need their permission to tow back boats and that we will spy on whoever we please, telling Obama he didn’t know what he was talking about re the Great Barrier Reef, saying the UN lacks credibility – the list is endless and humiliating.

Whitlam changed the Anthem from God Save the Queen to Advance Australia Fair. The Order of Australia replaced the British honours system in early 1975.

Abbott remains a staunch monarchist and reintroduced knights and dames, going to the extraordinary length of knighting Prince Phillip.

The Whitlam government in its first days reopened the equal pay case pending before the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, and appointed a woman, Elizabeth Evatt, to the commission.

Abbott crowned himself Minister for Women and promptly got rid of gender-reporting requirements for business. He initially only appointed one woman to Cabinet and refuses to entertain the idea of quotas to address the lack of female representation in the Liberal Party.

Whitlam and Barnard eliminated sales tax on contraceptive pills.

Abbott refuses to remove GST from women’s sanitary products.

Whitlam doubled funding to the arts in a year and created the Australia Council for the Arts.

Abbott cut arts funding to the Australia Council by $105 million, diverting the funding to a new fund called the National Program of Excellence in Arts (NPEA) where grants are decided by George Brandis.

Whitlam barred racially discriminatory sport teams from Australia, and instructed the Australian delegation at the United Nations to vote in favour of sanctions on apartheid South Africa and Rhodesia.

Tony Abbott called Mandella’s ANC terrorists and himself went on a rugby tour to South Africa.

Whitlam ordered the Australian Army Training Team home from Vietnam, ending Australia’s involvement in the war. Legislation allowed the defence minister to grant exemptions from conscription. Barnard held this office, and exempted everyone. Seven men were at that time incarcerated for refusing conscription; Whitlam arranged for their liberation.

Abbott has sent us back to war in the Middle East.

Whitlam introduced “no fault divorces” through the Family Law Act 1975.

Abbott wants a return to fault-based divorce as a way to “shore up traditional values”.

Whitlam established legal aid, with offices in each state capital.

Abbott has slashed funding to legal aid and banned them from advocacy work.

The Whitlam government abolished the death penalty for federal crimes.

The Abbott government quietly scrapped an instruction to the Australian Federal Police last year requiring it to take Australia’s opposition to the death penalty into account when co-operating with overseas law enforcement agencies.

Whitlam founded the Department of Urban Development and set a goal to leave no urban home unsewered. His government gave grants directly to local government units for urban renewal, flood prevention, and the promotion of tourism. Other federal grants financed highways linking the state capitals, and paid for standard-gauge rail lines between the states.

Abbott has made a lot of announcements but infrastructure spending has plummeted and the vision of fast NBN to all premises has been abandoned. He also does not consider urban infrastructure part of his responsibility.

One man had a vision for Australia and the strength and courage to enact it. The other is a nasty, vengeful, anachronism who is completely out of his depth and who is determined to unwind reforms purely because they were enacted by the previous government. His only aim is to save his own job and he is prepared to say and do anything to achieve it.


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  1. M-R

    And the most terrifying thing about all this is that there are MANY Australians who voted for Abbott and will do so again.

  2. keerti

    The excuse for a man is clearly sufferring from self delusion, pathalogical lying and stupidity. He is intellectually and morally unfit for responsible office. It for a mechanism to remove prime ministers and other parliamentarians who are unfit ?

  3. John Kelly

    Comparing Abbott with Whitlam is according Abbott greater credibility than he deserves. While it is good to read of the achievements that made Whitlam so visionary, putting Abbott on the same page is an insult to Gough. I would sooner see Abbott compared with Rudd. Abbott’s ineptitude and ‘nasty, vengeful anachronism’ would still be there for all to see.

  4. Neil of Sydney

    Whitlam also destroyed the economy

    After years of plenty, in 1974 Treasury lost its influence on government decision-making. Tim Colebatch reports.

    It was the year the Australian economy went bung. It began with unemployment at 2 per cent, but ended with it heading for 5 per cent. A generation of jobs for everyone was over.

    It was the year wages and prices soared out of control. Consumer prices rose 16 per cent, yet wages topped that, rising 28 per cent as powerful unions came back for a second or even a third round of pay rises.

    It was the year Australia’s current account slid into deficit, never to return. From a surplus of 1.5 per cent of GDP in mid-1973, the balance of Australia’s transactions with the world crashed to a deficit of 3.2 per cent by the end of the 1974.

    A generation of low unemployment was destroyed by Gough

  5. vivienne29

    Says it all. But there is more. Abbott has no morals, empathy or social conscience. He’s a total bastard as well. As a human he is a complete failure.

  6. Kaye Lee

    The 1973–75 recession or 1970s recession was a period of economic stagnation in much of the Western world, putting an end to the general post-World War II economic boom. It differed from many previous recessions as being a stagflation, where high unemployment coincided with high inflation.

    Among the causes were the 1973 oil crisis, the fall of the Bretton Woods system, and Britain’s entry into the E.E.C. The emergence of newly industrialized countries increased competition in the metal industry, triggering a steel crisis. The 1973-1974 stock market crash made the recession evident.

    The recession in the United States lasted from November 1973 to March 1975.

    But context has never been important to you has it Neil.

    What do you think of Abbott’s performance so far?

  7. john victoria

    whitlam also contended with a doubling of the oil price and a world shortage of natural products.
    these were not generated by him.
    this not recognised by his shallow critics

  8. Neil of Sydney

    What do you think of Abbott’s performance so far?

    Its OK. He hasn’t trashed anything yet. He is having trouble fixing up the mess. Unemployment is up but not greatly. Unemployment exploded under Rudd/Gillard. But it is nonsense that Hockey has doubled the deficit. Swans last budget was a $48B deficit. To double the deficit Hockey would have to run a $96B deficit.

    PS the massive wage rises under Gough were not caused by a worldwide recession.

  9. paul walter

    Nails it: A regressive crank of the first order.

  10. Anomander

    Oh Neil, what a slipshod memory you have. Just as you conveniently forget the GFC all the time, you also forget the crises of the ’70’s.

    With such a poor memory and such faulty logic it explains why you keep voting Liberal.

  11. babyjewels10

    It’s enough to make you cry. I knew he would take us back to the 50s but I had no idea how efficiently and how extremely, he would do it.

  12. jim

    In theRudd/ Gillard years 2007 to 2014,we had the 2009 terrible Vic bush fire, the terrible 2011 Qld floods on top of the GFC and still held a AAA rating, but these facts don’t help Neil in his quest to destroy anything ALP,

  13. Kaye Lee

    “Swans last budget was a $48B deficit”

    That is completely untrue. That $48 billion includes Hockey’s gift of $8.8 billion to the RBA along with several other coalition spending decisions. He also chose not to get the revenue from changes to FBT on car business usage ($1.8 billion). He was the Treasurer for 10 of the 12 months in the 13-14 financial year.

  14. mars08


    …Abbott has no morals, empathy or social conscience. He’s a total bastard as well…

    Anyone with any brains… anyone who was paying the slightest attention, anyone who wasn’t totally self-absorbed, anyone who wasn’t an utter bigot… would have known that more than a decade ago.

    Yet, here he is… our glorious leader… Elected with the “informed” consent to the Australian electorate.

  15. Kaye Lee

    I met both Whitlam and Fraser in 1975. Regardless of politics, both men were dignified statesmen. There were no regurgitated talking points in those days. Both answered my questions confidently and articulately.

    I was at university with Abbott. I can only concur with Keating’s description “resident nutter”. We thought he was a throwback then. Who would have thought that, 40 years on, Australia would become MORE conservative than it was back then. The Regress Society has taken over.

    It is absolutely gobsmacking that Tony Abbott, who was out of his depth in student politics, could have risen so far. His attitudes and methods are all too recognisable beneath the veneer applied by the image makers. His beliefs are ingrained – there is no initiative, no flexibility, no ability to react quickly to change, no natural diplomacy.

    He displays the frustration of those who cannot respond – they lash out because they have no other skills. He commissions endless reports which he relies on someone else to give him the talking points from. He has no in-depth knowledge of policies and so cannot justify them beyond the slogans counted dutifully off on his fingers. He isn’t confident enough to be able to listen to criticism or dissenting advice.

    This is a sporting match for Abbott with no rules – throw the first punch, be the best sledger, close your eyes and unleash a barrage of blows, do whatever it takes to beat your opponent – those are the skills he brings to recommend him as leader of our country.

  16. vivienne29

    Yes Mars – I’ve known it for nearly 20 years. First publicly very apparent when he threatened to box the living daylights out of a Labor MP during Question Time. He ran over to the Labor side with fists clenched. How his fellow Liberals decided to pick him as their leader still astonishes me – though most of the ones with a bit of decency were shafted by Howard or just left in disgust (Hill to name one).

  17. vivienne29

    Kaye at 121.35 pm – totally spot on – took the words out of my mouth. I knew a lying bully (not in Abbot’s league though) when I was a Shire Councillor. He was a shocker and yet other quite sensible Councillors couldn’t see it until years later one of them became his target. He managed to be a Deputy Mayor for a couple of years. Also incoherent in the main.

  18. Neil of Sydney

    and still held a AAA rating

    I predict we will lose our AAA rating when Federal govt debt gets to 15% of GDP which we are fast approaching. When the GFC hit our debt was zero so our AAA rating has nothing to do with the Labor Party.

    That is completely untrue

    Whether you like it or not the govt which brings down the budget owns the budget. And that is the way it has always been. I will give you the extra $8.8B. But it is ridiculous to say Hockey has doubled the deficit. He would have to bring down a $80B deficit budget for that to be true.

  19. diannaart

    If the result in Canning by-election is a win for Labor. Will the Libs finally do what they claim they will never do and replace a PM mid-term? If they do replace Abbott – who will be his replacement? Turnbull? Highly unlikely – too big a far-right faction in the Libs to ever permit the likes of Turnbull. Scot Morrison? Much more likely and even more worrying than the volatile Abbott. Morrison will simply continue to drag Australia back to the 50’s – except without the fanfare of munching onions, offending most women and speaking in catch-cries.

  20. Kaye Lee

    “it is ridiculous to say Hockey has doubled the deficit. He would have to bring down a $80B deficit budget for that to be true.”

    The claim that he has doubled the deficit is over the forward estimates. PEFO showed a deficit of $54.6 billion over the four-year forward estimates. MYEFO showed a deficit of $123 billion over the four years of the forward estimates.

    That takes us beyond the next election.

  21. Möbius Ecko

    “who was out of his depth in student politics”

    And is now so totally out of his depth in government and as a leader.

  22. eli nes

    vision didn’t cater for greed and vice chancellor manipulation. Whitlam’s free university was for the clever but jobs for vice-chancellor sprung from comedy colleges everywhere and now there are tens of thousands of functionally illiterate/innumerate students being charged top dollar for inadequate service.
    It is doubtful if, in most if not all universities, any student, currently studying, primary teaching or nursing degrees and many other degrees, diplomas and certifcates would have qualified for entrance to a university in 1975.
    One extra achievement, close to my heart and always forgotten by the clp in darwin and their southern supporters, was whitlam gave us the chance to vote for our representative on the fully elected legislative assembly in 1974.
    Sadly, we had only news limited coverage and ch9 spin to define his weaknesses and hide any successes, so without open debate we paid him no heed in ’75 and copped 25 years of crap clp hegemony.
    Little billy seems hell bent on repeating the exercise with gay abandon and the hope that we will assess the rabbutt differently from that which the mainstream media show us?????
    sorry labor no push and hard grassroot work and you are shadows for years.

  23. Mark

    The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

  24. stephengb2014

    I could not believe that so many people sided with Abbott letting him win so many seats in 2013 but what causes me so much wonder is the apparent suppprt he still has with so many LNP supporters still even after the lies the cuts the broken promises and the economic incompetence, let alone the bully boy tactics on the world stage.
    I can only hope that those who are still supporting him are those that are of the same ilk as him, a bully boy fit only for the school yard.

  25. Jason H

    Neil of Sydney why do liberals have such a deficit fetish anyway? How has government debt, the safest debt in the world, ever impacted you in the slightest? The only reason government debt can ever become an issue for a sovereign fiat currency issuer like the Aus, UK or USA etc governments is if people try to pay it down at the expense of the real economy. People like yourself who don’t realise that government spending can grow the economy.

    Let me ask you this If there is unemployed and real resources available in our economy to be used for example building infrastructure, educating people or providing health and it can be purchased without causing inflation then why should the government not use its sovereign spending power to bye it and grow the economy? If you think a fiat issuing government needs to default on its debts then you are living in lala land. The government can buy whatever it needs to in AUD as long as there are real resources to be purchased and it doesn’t compete with the private sector for purchasing power ie non-inflationary. Do you agree? If not why not? Facts please.

  26. Roswell

    Jason, has it occurred to you that Neil is indeed living in LaLa Land?

  27. Mark Needham

    Good Debt.
    Bad Debt.

    Mark Needham

  28. David Bruce

    There are none so blind as those who don’t want to see? Captain Chaos has to go before he turns Australia back to a convict settlement!

  29. win jeavons

    From the sublime to the ridiculous ! And this is progress??? This is the ‘adults’ in charge???

  30. Royce Arriso

    Good old NeilofSydney, eh? A National Treasure, really. A museum exhibit. A textbook example of the fact that survival for the modern diehard conservative must involve construction of a parallel ‘reality’. This alternative world, rigid and impenetrable, effectively prevents the incursion of nasties like hard evidence and everyday reality. We crossed swords elsewhere over his interminable stats re Commonwealth government debt. No progress is possible once you realise Neil sees the federal govt as being like a business, household or individual. In an unguarded comment he admitted as much; “as it happens, I prefer the household analogy”. Imagine saying to the dealership, “the Camry’s down on power. Can I have the little men under the bonnet replaced?” Or running an IVF program; ” Mr Jones? Your wife has laid her eggs in the river bed. You can fertilise them now.” I’m waiting to hear Neil’s grasp of Oz Hist. How Ned Kelly stormed the beaches at Gallipoli, mounted on Phar Lap. One for the record books, is our Neil.

  31. flyboy48

    Spot on Jason H … what both sides of government need is a lesson in Modern Monetary Theory but ESPECIALLY the LNP. Notice how we no longer hear the catchcries “interest rates will always be less under an LNP government” and, in the past, the current account deficit was always the worry … now it’s the budget deficit.
    The LNP has always been in power during world economic upturns but their luck has now run out and they have absolutely no idea what to do …

  32. Royce Arriso

    Thanks, Jason H, solid post. More power to yer. But honestly, ‘facts’ from Neil? He’s got his own. They bear no relation to reality. He refutes utterly the notion of fiat currencies–believes them to be ‘printing money’. He never twigs that almost every economy in the world operates with a fiat currency. Thinks when you talk of them you are pushing an ALP ‘line’. Can never grasp that the political complexion of a country is completely irrelevant, whether left, right, dictatorship or hows-yer-father, that a fiat currency underpins its macro-economics. So he plows on with his interminable eye-rolling statistics re ‘debt’ and how the ALP runs riot creating it. Reading this, Neil? Here’s something pertinent. It’s from Alan Greenspan, a man with absolutely impeccable conservative credentials–a mad keen privatiser and de-regulator. He was Chairman of the US Federal Reserve through several presidencies. Believe me Neil, he’s no dangerous leftie or ALP man! It’s part of a honorary degree acceptance speech he gave at Leuven Catholic University, Belgium, 14th Jan 1997;

    “…..a government cannot become insolvent with respect to obligations in its own currency. A fiat money system, like the ones we have today, can produce such claims without limit. To be sure, if a central bank produces too many, inflation will inexorably rise as will interest rates, and economic activity will inevitably be constrained by the misallocation of resources induced by inflation. If it produces too few, the economy’s expansion also will presumably be constrained by a shortage of the necessary lubricant for transactions. Authorities must struggle continuously to find the proper balance.”

    Get that Neil? Its from the horses mouth. If a dyed-in-the-wool conservative like Greenspan can accept reality, so can you. Notice how little the words resemble those of a headless chook as he calmly describes fiat currencies. Bet he doesn’t get around with a indexed card system labelled ‘ALP debt’. Most of all, there’s that standout definition;

    “….a government cannot become insolvent with respect to obligations in its own currency”.
    Incontravertible, eh? But Neil, you’ll find a way round bothersome realities, won’t you? So, tell you what. Instead of driving everybody at AIMN round the twist with your blinkered flat-earth perceptions, run ’em past old Glen Stevens, head honcho of our Reserve Bank. Surely it’s his turn by now.

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