For years the Coalition have been seeking to alarm Australians and talking down the economy. In government, their "Commission of Audit" is in train and Treasurer Hockey has upped the rhetoric ahead of savage cuts. Matthew N. Donovan explains why their words should be taken with a grain of salt.
You would think as a True Believer and a Queenslander who suffers the daily torture of the Newman Government, I would be used to conservative tactics and carry on by now?
But no, it appears not and this Abbott Government are really testing my limits. Every decision and statement is like fingernails down a blackboard.
Joe Hockey's incredibly weak effort, even by his normally low standards, when releasing the Mid-Year and Fiscal Outlook 2013 (MYEFO) yesterday just about takes the cake.
The Treasurer's address to the National Press Club was conservative politics 101. We've seen it all before.
They claim the cupboard is bare. That Australia is in a diabolical fiscal crisis or "budget emergency". That savage cuts are needed to avert imminent disaster.
He has obviosuly been taking acting lessons because he is becoming more and more convincing. The sincere voice. The concerned look on his face. The hands on the mouth. The laboured heavy sighs. The pauses for impact.
But nobody's buying it.
The Coalition have a bizarre affection for cuts and a fetish for surpluses at all costs. In my experience it verges on pathological.
It must stem from their unending devotion to "lower taxes", "smaller government", "less regulation", "less red tape" and "free enterprise".
They seek to run government how they would run a small business: for profit motive.
It's all about money with these people. Anything else comes a distant second.
Well the people have seen this movie before and they know how it ends. I don't need to rehash the Howard era do I?
I am struck by the audacity of some of their claims as they try to prepare the ground to make the cuts they hope Australians will happily swallow.
They have been in government for 100 days now and seek to blame the previous government for the consequences of their own actions. That takes chutzpah.
The truth is, every single dollar over the $30 billion projected deficit in the August Pre-Election Fiscal Outlook 2013 (PEFO) is a result of decisions the Abbott Government have made.
The major contributor to this $17 billion blow out since August is the $8.8 billion top up to the Reserve Bank of Australia.
I'm not making any judgement about what the $17 billion is going towards, but I am making a strong judgement about Hockey's calculated deceptiveness.
He figures people will buy the line that it's all Labor's fault the budget reached a record $47 billion deficit.
This will then allow him to start slashing and burning Campbell Newman style. He figures if he paints a bleak enough picture of the economy he will be applauded as he rips services and benefits away from ordinary working Australians.
He doesn't think for one second about the ramifications of talking down our economy. After all, they did it so well in Opposition.
You see, this is the problem: the Coalition aren't good frontrunners. Slogans and cheap politics in Opposition are one thing, but in government people expect "adult" government.
Government that takes responsibility for its actions and leads a mature debate.
If this is what you're waiting for with the Abbott Government, you'll be waiting a while.
Their rushed John Howard/Campbell Newman style "Comission of Audit" is underway, headed – in customary cronyistic Coalition style – by their mate from the Business Council of Australia (BCA) Tony Shephard. This is the cover for making the severe cuts they already have in mind.
They have also brought in the charming man of the people Maurice Newman to head up their Business Advisory Council.
These people are paid to give Abbott the advice he wants to hear.
Despite saying before the election education and health won't be cut, Hockey said yesterday that "nothing is off the table".
The "Age of Entitlement" is over, so to speak. The "free lunch" has ended.
This from the same man who, when last in government was part of a Cabinet that decided to give $4,000 lump sum to every mother every time they had a baby. How much does that add up to over 10 years? You want to talk about waste? It was nothing but an voter bribe that broke the budget when the economy hit rough seas.
Howard presided over years of ever increasing record revenue from the mining boom in a world free from a major economic crisis and left nothing to show for it. Nothing whatsoever. Except for some money from the various firesales of public assets for which no "mandate" was ever sought.
Tony Abbott talks about the last 6 years of Labor "profligacy". I would point him in the direction of the recent report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) that found the only times the Australian government was profligate was during the Howard Government, when he was in Cabinet.
Let's get real. There is no crisis.
Hockey is trying to paint the picture of debt reaching $667 billion. This is a fantasy. A self serving projection that would never have come to pass under Labor had they won.
Debt obviously can't keep rising. There are structural issues with the budget, mainly hangovers from the frivolous Howard years.
The Coalition's idea of ever lower taxes means one thing: larger cuts. That isn't sustainable.
I personally find it offensive that while they are cutting tax for large corporations and rich superannuants they have increased tax on super for low income earners, plan to scrap the Schoolkids Bonus and have defunded Labor's Trades Training Centre program.
They completely fumbled education funding and now it appears even the disabled will be targeted for cuts, with the axe potentially going through the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).
This is the same government who has the hide to tell The Washington Post that Labor are the "whackos"?
The solution to the budget is easy to see and it doesn't involve hurting the middle class and the least affluent.
The mining industry, for example, receives significant government support and negative gearing is something that should probably be looked at. Just a few examples of sensibles areas to target.
But we'll get none of this. All the cuts will be to the middle and lower stratas of society while Liberal Party mates and donors are well looked after. It's called the trickle down theory — and it has been proven to not work.
Let's just hope people don't let this dangerous inept Government last more than three years. There may not be much left after that.
Matthew N. Donovan is a Labor Party member and a former ALP state candidate. The originals of John Graham's art, as featured on IA, may be purchased by contacting the editor at email@example.com.
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