Budget backflips bring broken promises tally to 85

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(Image by @KeiraGorden)

Tony Abbott’s Coalition Government has achieved an astonishing 85 pledges dishonoured and backdowns executed. In 88 weeks. Alan Austin updates the tawdry tally.

The record of the Abbott Government in policy non-delivery and deception is almost certainly the worst in modern history — anywhere in the world.

The regime busted the half ton of undertakings overturned last August. Links to all of them are here, here  and here. These are the latest:

85. Government spending

Prime Minister Abbott specifically promised before the last election that:

"There will be no new spending under a Coalition government that’s not fully-costed and fully-funded."

Since then unfunded spending has increased dramatically. This regime will spend more relative to gross domestic product (GDP) than any recent administration, including the notoriously spendthrift Howard government.

The deficit – which reflects unfunded spending – has doubled since the last election.

84. Government waste

Treasurer Joe Hockey promised ad nauseum before the election to eliminate "waste and unnecessary spending".

As shown here, here and here, waste has increased.

83. Economic growth

Coalition leaders were scathing of growth under Labor, despite it being the highest in the developed world through the global financial crisis (GFC).

Hockey said in 2013:

“It will be my number one imperative to safeguard the economy against a significant downturn and to turbo charge economic growth and jobs.”

GDP growth now at 2.5 per cent is lower than during the last three Labor years, post GFC.

82. Tax burden

Hockey promised

“... to reduce the overall tax burden on business and taxpayers, not to increase it.”

As Crikey’s budget analysis revealed

‘... tax receipts are going up – half a percentage point of GDP this year, up another 0.4 of a point next year, 0.3 the following year, then another 0.4, to levels unseen since the Howard years.’

81. Small government

Abbott promised that

"... each year, government will be a smaller percentage of our economy."

Last week’s Budget reveals the government sector will be larger in all four years of the forward estimates than in any of the last three Labor years.

80. Infrastructure

Tony Abbott in Opposition repeatedly promised

“... to be an infrastructure prime minister who puts bulldozers on the ground and cranes into our skies.”

Since his election, public sector engineering construction has fallen alarmingly, to an all-time low, and is set to fall further.

79. Cost analysis

Abbott specifically promised in 2013 that no infrastructure project worth more than $100 million would be funded without a "published cost-benefit analysis". Promise clearly broken.

78. Paid parental leave

This was the signature policy on which Abbott stood for election. Now abandoned.

77. Govern for all Australians

This was a solemn promise oft repeated before and since the last election.

According to The Inside Story, the Budget papers show the Abbott Government will invest in transport in Labor states

‘... $67 per head, compared with $258 per head, almost four times as much, on people living in Liberal-run states.’

76. Multinational tax dodgers

Last November, the Government promised to

‘... introduce a targeted anti‑avoidance provision after detailed consultation with stakeholders.'

But the December Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook revealed:

‘The government will not proceed with a targeted anti-avoidance provision to address certain conduit arrangements involving foreign multinational enterprises.’

Last week’s Budget promises future action, perhaps in 2016. Until that eventuates, a promise unfulfilled.

75. Media metadata

Following the January Charlie Hebdo killings in France, the Abbott Government announced sweeping new security laws, including allowing police to access journalists’ files.

After vigorous objections, the backflip was effected in March.

74. Indigenous people in the constitution

In 2013 Abbott promised:

“Starting next year, I will work to recognise Indigenous people in the constitution — something that should have been done a century ago ...”

So far no progress.

Indigenous writer Amy McQuire says:

‘It’s yet another broken promise in a sea of broken promises, and gives weight to the growing tide of Aboriginal anger ...’

73. Superannuation changes

Abbott promised on at least 12 separate occasions in 2013 not to make any unexpected adverse, negative or detrimental changes to superannuation.

As the ABC promise checkers prove, these commitments have all been dishonoured.

72. Company tax rate

"We will cut company tax to 28.5 per cent," Joe Hockey said before the last election. 

They pledged to do this from July 1, 2015. Promise broken.

71. Hospitals

Abbott in Opposition said:

“A richer Australia means a better Australia with more resources available to support better schools and hospitals.”

The 2014 Budget cut $1.8 billion from hospitals over the next four years.

70. Timing of hospital funding cuts

On 18 May last year, Abbott said:

“We’re not talking about next week or next month or even next year; we are talking about changes in three years’ time."

The next day, he admitted the cuts would take immediate effect.

69. Defence pay rates

After refusing pay rises for defence personnel for several months, the Government backed down in March.

68. Automotive funding

On taking office, the Government refused assistance to the car industry and cancelled existing support. Then in March – to the dismay of the IPA and other Liberal backers – it threw itself into reverse.

67. South Australian submarines

In May 2013, Coalition defence spokesman David Johnston said 12 new submarines would be built in South Australia:

“We're committed to that.”

After gaining office, the Abbott Government decided to allow the bulk of Australia's submarine fleet to be built offshore.

66. Students with disability

The Coalition promised to match Labor’s commitments in this area.

That promise, according to workers in the field, has been trashed.

65. Broadband connection costs

In 2013 shadow Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull said that for fibre on demand

'... the charge is GBP1500 or about $2,250.'

According to NBN Co more recently, individual costs will vary

‘... from few [sic] thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.’

64. Middle Head development

The Abbott Government approved a controversial aged care home in Sydney in October 2014, but backflipped after vociferous attacks by broadcaster Alan Jones.

Some broken promises will be welcomed by many. The next few are pledges which never should have been made in the first place.

63. Six month wait for the dole

The last Budget announced the unconscionable burden on unemployed people under 30 of waiting half a year before receiving benefits. Reversed in this budget.

62. Section 18C

Abbott promised before the election to repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. In a backflip which gobsmacked many of his supporters, he backtracked last August.

61. Asset write-offs

In 2014 the Government axed Labor’s policy of allowing small business to write off equipment purchases against tax, claiming it was a rort.

In a spectacular Budget backflip, the Coalition has now reinstated and expanded the scheme.

60. Medicare co-payment

Throughout 2014, Abbott declared:

“... we are totally committed to the Medicare co-payment that was announced.”

The policy was killed in March this year in the Coalition party room.

59. Burqa ban backflip

In response to calls from Liberal MPs Cory Bernardi and George Christensen and others, the Government banned women from wearing face coverings last September.

The decision was reversed days later.

58. UN green project

Abbott refused to contribute $200 million to the UN-backed Green Climate Fund until pressure from home and abroad prompted another backflip last December.

57. Cadbury

In a bizarre pre-election visit to Tasmania, Abbott promised $16 million to Cadbury to expand its operations.

This sweet deal has since soured.

56. University funding

In a spectacular reverse double backflip with pike, hapless Education Minister Christopher Pyne backed down from his threat to tie funding for scientific research infrastructure to the passage of other higher education reforms.

The next few are glaring hypocrisies or fractures of implied rather than openly stated promises. All are serious breaches of faith nonetheless.

55. Remote Aboriginal communities

Abbott in Opposition repeatedly assured the remote communities of his support for them:

“Should I become prime minister, I will spend at least a week every year in a remote indigenous community because if these places are good enough for Australians to live in they should be good enough for a prime minister and senior officials to stay in.”

Then in Government he abandoned many communities, accusing residents of making a “lifestyle choice” by living remotely.

54. Interest payments on government debt

Before the election, Hockey decried the interest bill on government debt:

“The interest cost alone is $13 billion a year. That is $35 million a day in interest.”

According to Finance Department figures, the interest paid in 2015, after the Abbott Government has expanded the debt substantially, is above $40 million per day.

53. Advertising waste

Abbott was scathing in Opposition of spending to publicise government programs.

He then spent $14.6 million on a failed media campaign to promote his higher education policies.

52. Interest rates

Joe Hockey said in 2013:

“If interest rates come down today, it is because the economy is struggling, not because it's doing well.”

That was when the rate was cut from 2.75 to 2.5 per cent. Within six months of Hockey taking charge, it fell to 2.25 and was cut again to 2.0 this month.

Hockey then claimed this was

“... welcome news on a number of fronts.”

51. Julie Bishop to Iran

Before the election, Coalition defence spokesperson Julie Bishop was scathing in her attack on the Gillard Government for sending two senior officials to a global summit in Iran.

She said it was ‘a mistake’ and ‘farcical’ and would

‘... send mixed messages to the regime about the commitment of the Australian government to the sanctions that have been imposed against Iran.'

In Government, Bishop not only authorised her own delegation to Iran – under unchanged sanction circumstances – but went herself.

So those are the latest 35, bringing the tally to 85.

How long, then, til Tony’s Tories top the ton?

1 to 50

The first 50 hypocrisies and broken promises are analysed with hotlinks here, here and here.

They relate to:

1. There will be no broken promises

2. Respecting a mandate

3. Freedom of information

4. Toowoomba Range bypass plan

5. Reporting the budget position

6. The debt ceiling

7. Reducing the nation’s debt

8. Returning the budget to surplus

9. The UN Security Council seat

10. Foreign minister’s first trip abroad

11. Relations with the region

12. National broadband network technology

13. Stopping the boats

14. Abbott’s first week with the Yolngu

15. Open and accountable government

16. No cuts to pensions

17. School attendances

18. No government job for Sophie Mirabella

19. No deals with the Greens

20. No cuts to ABC and SBS funding

21. No subsidies to industries

22. Monitoring whaling

23. Increased funds for aid agencies

24. Entering Indonesia waters

25. Towing back the boats

26. No knighthoods for Australia

27. No public servants to be forced out of work

28. Incarcerating children offshore

29. No cuts to education

30. Raising university fees

31. No cuts to health

32. No Medicare locals to be closed

33. Funding on direct action

34. Consultancy spending

35. Aboriginal land rights

36. No new taxes

37. State of the economy an excuse for breaking promises

38. A government of no surprises

39. Burden will be shared evenly

40. Families off limits in politics

41. No tax increases

42. Landcare funding

43. Broadband speed

44. Privatisation: only Medibank Private

45. No fuel excise increase

46. Overseas aid to be reduced by $5.4 billion

47. Superannuation levy increases

48. Refugees arriving by boat won’t get residency

49. Emissions targets

50. Aboriginal front line services

You can follow Alan Austin on Twitter @alantheamazing.

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