It doesn’t really matter what policy area you look at, there is no coherent plan as ProMo bounces around like a demented Santa offering sweeteners to all.
The result is a chaotic shamble where the gift offered by one hand is snatched away by the other in a government that is at war with itself.
Tony Abbott came to power offering a paid parental leave plan designed to encourage “women of calibre” to breed and then return to the workforce. Not only was that abandoned, those women of calibre were now “double dippers” rorting the system and their existing entitlements were reduced.
After a tortuous process, marriage discrimination was ended – praise be. But then we have an inquiry to work out how churches can ignore the law and continue to discriminate against gays.
The community and the majority of the parliament decide we have an obligation to provide medical care for seriously ill refugees under our care (I still can’t believe that is something they had to actually debate). So people who are traumatised by being incarcerated with no hope on an island gulag will be shifted to another island gulag with no hope of any future and the promise of being sent back should they get well.
Successive Prime Ministers take their entourage to remote communities to find out first hand from Indigenous people what must be done to close the gap on disadvantage. We have a (white) Special Envoy appointed to show how much we care. And then we cut off services to them because we can no longer afford to fund their “lifestyle choice”, we ignore their call for a Voice to advise parliament, we quarantine their income, we lock them up in record numbers, and we take their children.
Budget assumptions show that the promised surplus is largely dependent on wages growing at a much faster rate than they are now. Yet the government cuts penalty rates, argues against increases in the minimum wage, fights public sector pay rises (except those bestowed by the Remuneration Tribunal who determine politicians’ pay), and boast about the bill for welfare payments decreasing despite there being over 3 million Australians living in poverty.
When Labor announced their policy to change negative gearing and capital gains tax concessions, we were told this would decimate the property market and strip people of their meagre wealth. Yet changes to lending practices have prompted a far greater crash in property values than any change Labor was proposing was likely to make. But the government is silent on this with no response forthcoming.
In April 2012, Joe Hockey gave a speech to the Institute of economic affairs in London:
Despite an ageing population and a higher standard of living than that enjoyed by our children, western democracies in particular have been reluctant to wind back universal access to payments and entitlements from the state.
So, ultimately the fiscal impact of popular programs must be brought to account no matter what the political values of the government are or how popular a spending program may be.
Let me put it to you this way: The Age of Entitlement is over.
Yet when Labor propose to wind back the largesse of excess franking credit refunds, the government goes into overdrive about this “retirees’ tax” which is, as per usual, not a tax at all.
Foreign Aid is slashed until China starts filling the void. Rather than recognising the value and efficacy of soft diplomacy, we scramble to join the arms race.
Action on climate change and energy policy is where it gets truly ridiculous.
Faced with a slew of Independents contesting the next election in previously safe Liberal and Nationals seats and all campaigning on climate change, Scott is trying to convince us that he actually has a plan.
We will spend billions on hydro energy whose business case only stacks up if coal is phased out. At the same time we will underwrite new coal-fired power whose future is so risky that no bank will take it on.
We export gas at record levels whilst we endure sky-rocketing prices here.
We will spend billions paying farmers to plant trees that they must then try to keep alive through bushfires, floods, droughts and cyclones. If they are hit by any of these extreme weather events, we will pay them more.
We will pay farmers to reduce herd sizes. And then we will pay them money to restock after their herds are decimated by floods or fire and we will pay more to feed them during drought.
Meanwhile, the big polluters are free, and even encouraged, to increase their emissions, and rampant land-clearing by farmers and property developers continues apace.
We give billions to different groups to protect the Great Barrier Reef whilst allowing dredge to be dumped on it and ignoring toxic spills from coal ports. The warming of the oceans and the damage from severe cyclones that will almost inevitably lead to the death of the Reef is ignored as we concentrate on the impossible task of eradicating crown of thorn starfish one creature at a time.
It seems the government’s only clear purpose at the moment is to use its few remaining months to reward as many fellow political travellers as they can with high-paying appointments and to secure employment for themselves post-politics.
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