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What does Abbott stand for?

What exactly does an Abbott government stand for? After reading Julia Gillard’s insightful and useful appraisal of what’s come before and what might come after for the Labor Party, I was reminded again, but this time more severely, exactly what Abbott’s government stands for. If you believe Paula Matthewson if an Abbott government can deliver on the low expectations of the public by promising to do little and actually doing less, this makes Abbott a great Prime Minister.

But I disagree. And it saddens me that anyone would think this way.

When you look at the very core of the differences between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party, it does make perfect sense that someone like Matthewson would be happy to see a government do nothing. This is why it frustrates me so much when I hear people saying Labor and Liberal are just the same. I know the mainstream media isn’t interested in, or capable of framing the political struggle between the Labor Party and the Liberal Party in a narrative which actually explains the fundamental ideology of the parties’ policy platforms.

Obviously, there will always be the odd policy from both sides which confuses this overarching difference. But this doesn’t mean the difference isn’t still blatantly obvious and it doesn’t mean the difference isn’t still incredibly important.

The difference is this – the Labor Party believes it is the role of the government to improve the management and support of the community through progressive policy reform. Progress. Equity. Fairness. Sustainability. In Gillard’s words: “a party of purpose”.

The Liberal Party believes that the government already intervenes too much in our capitalist economy and that the community is managed and supported by the economy, not the government. Profit. Greed. User-Pays. Privilege. A Liberal Party supporter, when true to their values, believes government ‘regulation’ is not there to serve the community’s interests; it’s there to hinder the freedom of the economy.

When a voter understands these core differences and holds an opinion on these opposing values, the values should, in a sensible world, strongly influence which party they vote for.

Unfortunately, we don’t live in a sensible world and these differences are muddied by the inept and corrupt reporting of politics by our mainstream media. Because of this, I think most uninformed voters don’t understand these differences at all. And I don’t think either the Labor Party or the Liberal Party have successfully communicated these values to the electorate over the last decade – though for different reasons.

As Gillard points out, the Labor Party has failed to remind voters that the government policies they rely on for the success of their communities exist because of the Labor Party. Policies like Medicare, a strong public health system, a high-quality public education system, a workplace relations platform which gives workers safe, fair and stable employment, disability support, nation-building infrastructure, environmental protection and a strong, regulated and growing economy are all there because of the successful work of Labor governments. Labor government policies are what make our communities, and our country, such a fantastic place to live. Labor’s communication failures are caused by nothing more than mismanagement of the party and leadership failure. A bad sales pitch spoiling a great product.

The Liberal Party, on the other hand, have failed to sell their ideological position to the voting public for a completely different reason. They know, deep down, they would never win power if they told voters what the Liberal Party really wanted Australia to look like. So in their case, they offer a good, or perhaps expertly misleading sales pitch, for an awful product. Middle Australia don’t want the gap between rich and poor to widen substantially. But the Liberal Party has no qualms about this outcome. Middle Australia was, judging by their response to Work Choices, wholly alarmed at the prospect of the Liberal’s industrial relations agenda.

Middle Australia do expect government services and assets to be publicly owned, and not part of the capitalist private sector, available to only those who can afford to pay. Middle Australia, I think, do care about equity and balance in our economy – they don’t want all the wealth and the privilege that comes with this wealth, to be distributed only to the upper-echelons of our communities. So this is why the Liberals have become experts at convincing western Sydney residents that they have their best interests at heart when really this couldn’t be further from the truth. Abbott’s front bench didn’t come up with Work Choices, and campaign on Gina Rinehart’s side of the Mining Tax debate, because it sounded like a good idea at the time. This is what these people stand for. Not just Abbott, but every Liberal MP.

It has always been very clear that the Liberal Party is very concerned with the economy. They pride themselves on being superior economic managers and this message runs through much of their rhetoric about what is wrong with Labor governments. In the last six years, while in Opposition, the Liberal Party has had to rely on the delusion that the Global Financial Crisis did not happen, in Australia anyway, to convince themselves and their supporters that it was the Labor government’s fault that the economy has been weaker than it was under the previous Howard government. But this delusion is about to come very unstuck. Because now the Liberal Party has to deliver the strong economy and the budget surplus they have been promising for the last six years in an economy which already has strong economic credentials in the form of low-interest rates, low unemployment, low debt, low inflation and moderate, but impressive growth when compared with every other developed economy on earth.

We already know, from the very last minute costings released by Abbott’s team in the dying days of the election campaign, that the promised surplus isn’t coming. Even with a heartless, short-sighted and gutless cut of $4.5 billion in Foreign Aid spending, the Liberal government’s budget will be in a very similar place to the previous Labor government’s deficit – as Gillard kindly pointed out – with a difference of only 0.4%. Funny how the mainstream media haven’t made much of this news. When you consider on top of this, that we know from independent Treasury figures that company tax revenue is falling at unprecedented levels, the Abbott government is going to find it extraordinarily hard to differentiate its economic credentials from the previous Labor government, without drastically cutting spending. Austerity, here we come. This might seem fine to Liberals – after all cutting government spending on services for the community, as I’ve outlined, is what they’re all about. Cutting the budget spend is often just code for their ultimate goal of smaller government.

But here’s the problem.

The Liberals know that those who vote for them are very happy to support the notion that most government spending is waste. And these voters are happy to support an Abbott campaign which promises to cut, slash and burn government services. Until such a time that their lives are personally affected by these cuts. When their child’s class at school suddenly has 30 students per teacher, instead of 20. When they have to wait 12 hours in the emergency room at their local hospital because there are no nurses or doctors available to see them. I always think of Liberal voters as those who decry paying for insurance, until the day their uninsured house burns down. How will Abbott organise his austerity regime so it only affects Labor voters? I don’t think this is possible. Anyone who’s seen the state of David Cameron’s austerity economy in the UK lately? Has Abbott caught up on the news that the pro-austerity spreadsheet contained a fatal mistake?

So what does Abbott stand for? He stands for ‘no’. He stands for ‘backwards’. He stands for ‘repeal’. He stands for undoing Labor’s progressive policies, which he has successfully misrepresented as failures. The Carbon Price. A National Broadband Network for all Australians. A Mining Tax that shares the wealth of our nation’s resources with everyone, not just the rich. He’ll keep Labor’s policies that he knows the voters won’t let him touch in the short-term, such as the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the Gonski School Funding plan. However, as Gillard says, it’s important for Labor to remind voters, and to remind them again when they don’t listen, that these reforms were Labor’s doing.

While Abbott might get a short-term glow from killing Labor’s progressive policies which he has painted as waste, and keeping Labor’s policies that he’s too scared to touch, at the end of the day, what does he really stand for? And what comes next after his wrecking ball hangs idly? It’s wrong for people to say Abbott stands for nothing. It’s blindly obvious what he and his Liberal colleagues stand for, whether they’re willing to admit it or not. The next three years are Labor’s opportunity to remind voters exactly what they voted for in an Abbott government, and what will happen to their communities because of this. I say bring it on.


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  1. Maureen Walton (@maureen_walton)

    Very well written great article. As usual you manage to put into words what I think..

    Abbott Goverment, will find their time in Goverment incredibly hard, as the voters will be shocked at the changes Govt will have to make, considering a lot of voter have never been through hard times and things will change a lot as Liberals have little compassion or understanding for the less fortunate…

  2. jane

    Another great post. You’ve articulated what all left progressives have always known instinctively.

    No matter the rhetoric of the Liars Party, they govern for the wealthy, who know their wealth will always protect them, no matter how deep the recession.

    And they frankly don’t care about the welfare of the poor, the disabled or the disadvantaged which is why they hate social legislation like Medicare, NDIS, Gonski, NBN and programs like BER and HIP.and why they reserve a special and virulent hatred of unions.

    The DNA of the robber barons flows through their veins.

  3. CMMC

    “To sell the ground from unborn feet for ever.” W.S. Burroughs

  4. Henry mccullagh

    He stands for rupert and kneels for gina ….or vuce versa

  5. Misst

    Thank you again Victoria, spot on! What an amazing woman Julia Gillard is. Of course we’ve already seen the ‘news’ that she’s come out of the woodwork to stab Labor in the back!

    Yes I’m very afraid because the media is going to cheer for Tony, no matter what! Just watched the Sunday ABC Business program. Mmmm not a single mention of our wrecked economy/the current economic crisis! Seemingly it’s gone and all our new Coalition Government had to do was go into hiding. Our economy isn’t so bad after all, all due to the expectations with the change of government. Whatever happens, even though China is picking up rather than crashing, the media will never acknowledge that that has any positive affect here, any goodness in our economy will be all down to Tony Abbott! I can predict the future … trust me!!

    On the worsening plight of department stores, (Myer has been hit hard by rising utility costs (read carbon tax) and wages (read fair work). Surely Tony will fix that! Of course Myer does need to come to grips with online sales to stay alive today … so scrap FTTH that’s the answer … truly visionary.

    Bring on Mr Infrastructure!!!

  6. Truth Seeker

    Victoria, thanks for another fine piece 😎

    On a related issue, “PM elect, Abbott… The story so far? 😀

    PM elect, Abbott…The story so far?

    Cheers 😀

  7. xiaoecho

    “How will Abbott organise his austerity regime so it only affects Labor voters? I don’t think this is possible.”…….. Yes it is. The Libs will rip into the working pay and conditions of the working poor. Tax breaks for the poor will be scrapped, while their pay and conditions will be systematically eroded, drip, drip, drip with employer friendly legislation. God help pensioners and other people living on welfare payments, they will be shown no mercy. Not only will their pensions be reduced (by $60 and thats just for starters) but they will be forced onto the basics card forcing then to shop for essentials (a huge proprtion of their meagre income) at the most expensive place in Aus for fresh food – the Coles – Woolworths duopoly. Who do this significant minority of Aussies vote for?? LABOR. No austerity for women (or men) of calibre

  8. Fed up

    Income management for those on the dole, along with single parents.

  9. Colin Thai

    Well I know it’s a wee bit early for the Libs to start the “Attack” but they will. The people it will hurt are the “nonentities” as they think. Poorer people and the pensioners. A lot of these people voted for the Libs because of the large bias by are media, But I do think these people will realize sooner or later what went on. I can see a lot of strife in the workplace very soon, and that will really test our puppet leader “Abbott”, and so be it, he deserves all he gets. We will see in the near future that he will not be able to handle heavy pressure, to coin a phrase, he will fall on his sword . Thanking you, ps keep up the great work……

  10. Billy moir

    Gillard had not the support of the men of the party in challenging the rabbott’s views because the majority agreed with his basic sexism, racism and philosophy of Christian misogyny. Her essay misses the mark set by thatcher who ruled over the men in her party. She ruled over the men in the opposition but hadn’t the backing to show how bad the rabbott and the lemon were. She should have been PM as long as magpie or more and should have attacked the rabbott’s carbon tax and his inability to treat women as equals but she didn’t either because no labor men would run with her or believed no swinging voter would trust him. I think she was right about swinging voters but wrong about workers who believed his and rupert’s lies and punished the women of labor.

  11. Truth Seeker

    For a bit of light relief, I have just posted my latest poem; “Said the Abbott to the Bishop… Victory?” 😀

    Said the Abbott to the Bishop… Victory?

    Cheers 😀

  12. johnward154

    Last week the AGE EDITORIAL summarised the the campaign thus;

    Some of the big ticket items are:-

    “Abolition of the school kids bonus – $4.641 billion – paid to parents to meet the incidental costs of books, uniforms, etcetera, for their kids.

    Abolition of the low-income superannuation contribution – $3.722 billion – which topped up the retirement savings for people, most of them women, who earn less than $37,000 a year.

    Abolition of the twice-yearly mining-tax supplementary allowance – a top-up of $210 a year for singles or $350 for couples on the dole.

    It was a very modest sweetener in the Budget for people who are doing it very tough, thanks to the Labor government’s failure to increase New start to a liveable amount.

    Delay in increasing superannuation contributions, which whips another $1.64 million out of workers’ pockets.
    And those are just some of the cuts associated directly with the mining tax.
    Elsewhere in the Coalition’s costings document are a bunch of other hit-the-poor-and-underprivileged measures.

    The biggest of all, and perhaps the cruellest, is the decision to lop $4.5 billion off the foreign-aid budget.

    Bear in mind, this comes on top of repeated deferrals by Labor of its goal of spending 0.5 per cent of gross national income on aid. Of course the poor offshore are an easy target; they don’t get a vote.

    On the issue of trust, the Coalition’s own actions leave us with significant reservations. It has obfuscated and ducked critical issues, deliberately keeping voters uninformed, by repeating mantras like “stop the boats”, hiding its savings plans or revenue-raising initiatives from the electorate.

    Worse has been its breathtaking arrogance in cynically delaying until the last minute its policy costings – this, from the party that drafted the charter of budget honesty.

    When it comes to trusting Labor, we appreciate the public’s confidence may be so undone that a change of government could prove to be a circuit-breaker, injecting a short-term misconceived, sense of stability.

    But The Age values policies above political opportunism; we do not advocate a vote simply for the sake of change.

    The Age believes in economic and social progress, in liberty and justice, in equity and compassion, and openness of government.

    We believe the role of government is to build a strong, fair nation for future generations, and not to pander to sectional interests”.
    The age has a good handle on what is at foot. Our job is to start scrap books of news paper clippings to keep the record straight and be alert to the changes as they come through.
    The task we have before us , is not to chide those working people that voted conservative that they were wrong. But to allow the anger they will feel at Abbott’s betrayal of them. It is coming soon so the task starts now.
    He has for instance shut down the 10 Billion Green energy Fund the greens are so proud of. The Portland Wind farm in western Victoria was the last scheme to get what was the final payment.
    This what I mean as the task starts now. There can be no rest for three years because people will forget.
    Abbott is going to do what Nick Griener did, and do these things by regulation or quietly freeze funding with out too much fanfare. Stay alert and in touch with the networks you have built because they are going to be needed if democracy is to be upheld.

  13. expat

    Taxation revenues will continue to fall each and every year as tax competition is now in full swing. Large Western Governments face two options, firstly to try and support their large governments with ever increasing taxes, or secondly to push towards efficient and small government models. Add to this factor the increasing number of people and diminishing natural resources and all of a sudden left wing politics is not so appealing to voters anymore.

    Interestingly enough the change of government in Australia may have set the change in motion across the globe. Norway has just elected a conservative government (one of the most socialist countries in the world), the US is also expecting the republicans to take back control at the next election.

  14. kayelee1

    expat there is a third option – taxing the rich – what a novel concept. Or taxing the superprofits of mining companies as they make a fortune from our finite patrimony.

    Your view completely ignores the role of government in providing services and a safety net for our most vulnerable members of society. The divide between the haves and have nots is growing. Why should the very few be allowed to hide their income in off-shore tax havens and be given more and more tax concessions at the expense of the less affluent? Do you truly believe that making the rich richer will lead to a better society?

    Rich people don’t create jobs unless there is a market for their product which means, as the majority of the population get comparatively poorer and have less disposable income, jobs will be lost as companies strive to maintain or increase their profits. They will not voluntarily act on climate change or environmental safeguards. They will not suddenly become philanthropists willing to build hospitals and schools and infrastructure.

    Perhaps as the planet starts to die around us and drought, famine, and extreme weather events become the norm, conservative politics will be recognised for the selfish short term pursuit of wealth for the few that it is. As we see poor people around the world dying in increasing numbers making Gina and Rupert richer may not seem so attractive.

    Thankfully there are many people who have a social conscience and who recognise the benefits to all of progressive taxation and social equity and assistance fore those who need it. It will be the conservatives that die a natural death and the sooner the better.

  15. Nigel Stanley

    Thank you, Victoria Rollison, for a very clear exposition of what I feared was the position of the current Liberal Party. If we are not careful this country could easily slip into the kind of dictatorship that existed in the 70s and 80s in South America. We have all the ingredients, we just need intelligent folk to do nothing. Pinochet has already been lauded as a role model.

  16. Scott CooperJohnston (@ScotCoJohn)

    The LNP are ‘useful idiots’ for the ultra-wealthy. Ideologically driven, our new LNP government MPs naively believe that the ‘trickle down’ theory of more money for the rich so the rich can create more jobs is an economic reality. What the LNP as a whole do not understand about global markets and fluctuations in our balance of trade courtesy of the floated dollar they make up for in focus group politics, the politics of dumbing down every last spare brain function allowed to us. I simply cannot believe they won this election.

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