Questions for Tony

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On ABC Insiders yesterday, Opposition leader Tony Abbott was subjected to some rare scrutiny from the mainstream media. Victoria Rollison imagines some of the questions she wishes he was asked.

WHEN Julia Gillard formed a minority government in September 2010, it was pretty obvious that Tony Abbott was disappointed not to be Prime Minister. No one likes losing an election.

But to the Liberal National coalition, losing it by failing to negotiate successfully with key Independents was a catastrophe of unprecedented proportions. Now, two years on, it’s clear Abbott and his colleagues, with their ‘born to rule’ mentality, are never going to take this defeat maturely, and get on with the business of being a credible opposition party. The perceived instability of a minority government offered Abbott a chance to unleash a permanent election campaign, with the goal of bringing about an early election and taking over as PM. The inept mainstream media have lapped up this campaign, trailing after Abbott to cover hundreds of stunts, from hard hats at factory door stops, to anti carbon tax ‘ditch the witch’ rallies. As was so eloquently pointed out by Ad Astra on the Political Sword recently, Abbott is the man who walks away from media scrutiny, preferring just to use repetitive slogans with no follow up questions. Yet this doesn’t seem to damage him and the media continue to give him a free pass.

It was quite thrilling, therefore, this morning to see Barrie Cassidy interviewing Tony Abbott on ABC’s Insiders, and miraculously, asking some tough questions. It was nice to watch and inspired me to dream of the questions I would like to see Tony Abbott asked by mainstream journalists if they were to pull their finger out and do their jobs properly.

Question 1: Are you scaremongering at the expense of the Australian economy for your own benefit?

Tony Abbott takes any opportunity he can to talk down the Australian economy, whether it be his campaign against the carbon price, the mining tax or just his negativity about everything the government has done. It’s interesting to find that LNP voters are taking this negativity on board more than ALP voters are. In an article by Peter Hartcher in May this year, he reported that:

The Westpac-Melbourne Institute survey of consumer confidence in March found that, overall, confidence was about 8 per cent below its average since 1989.

Reporting on this survey, the Financial Review’s David Bassanese observed that there was an
“…unusual situation where households think everyone else is doing better than they are. They see a solid economy, driven by the mining boom, but remain especially worried about their own hip pocket. But the biggest standout is the collapse in confidence among Coalition voters compared with Labor voters. Their confidence has fallen relatively harder in recent months and is notably below their average compared with that of ALP voters.”

My question for Tony Abbott is, how do you feel about campaigning for your own success by scaring your constituents into a situation that affects market wide consumer confidence, and ultimately, all of our fortune?

Question 2: Do you think the Australian population fully understands the difference between your carbon emissions reduction policy – Direct Action – and the Carbon Price that the Gillard government has introduced?

Of course the public don’t understand the difference — the mainstream media have been asleep at the wheel on this one. A random sample of pensioners at an anti-carbon tax rally might be interested to hear how much Abbott’s policy is going to cost tax payers per year — an average of $1,300 each! Funny how little coverage this issue has got. Especially considering the Carbon Price and ETS introduced by the Gillard government is a market based pricing model (don’t the Liberals love this sort of thing?) and Abbott’s Direct Action policy is a tax payer funded scheme. Where the tax revenue for Abbott’s scheme would come from is anyone’s guess. A magic pudding perhaps? Before we even get onto the merits of the Direct Action policy (like will it even reduce emissions?), it would be nice to see the mainstream media asking Abbott a little bit more about how much this policy will cost.

Question 3: Would you turn back this boat?

Question 4: You say you are against the Gillard Government’s Mining Tax because it punishes success. Should we take from this statement the notion that you see the fair redistribution of wealth from mineral exploration as a punishment to your mining mates, rather than a reward to the hard working Australians who all collectively own our nation’s natural resources?

Abbott skirts this issue of wealth redistribution like a slippery worm. He worries about the profits that go to offshore owners of mining companies, rich shareholders and, of course, Gina and Clive, more than he cares about average Australians being rewarded for the massive wealth that comes from the natural resources that we all own. Enough is enough, Tony. Whose side are you on?

I know these questions live in a fantasyland; in the mind of a writer who is much more comfortable with fiction than this dank, frustrating place we currently call reality. But isn’t it fun to dream? What question would you like to see the media ask Tony Abbott?

(You can read more by Victoria Rollison on her blog http://victoriarollison.com.)

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