Tony Abbott will get his wish one day; there will be an election. Let us assume that he’ll still be leader of the Opposition going into the election (perish the thought) and there will again be the customary Great Debate between the leaders of the major political parties.
Those are quite easy assumptions. Now comes the hard bit; working out what he’ll say on the night. Everything he has bellowed over the last 18 months has proven to be dead wrong or simply unachievable and I doubt he’ll cover a lot of old ground. God forbid, he might have to pull a new rabbit out of the hat. We await such a miracle.
Let’s look at his old arguments and assess whether they still have any credibility.
The ‘carbon tax’
Nothing to see here. He has visited every business in the country and predicted with fear and smear how the carbon tax would destroy their respective industries and how he was likely to be the last person to walk through their doors. Butchers, bakers, candle-stick makers; there’d be none left after the carbon tax annihilated them. Even whole towns were predicted to be wiped off the map.
Whyalla, I am pleased to see has survived as have his favourite butchers, bakers and candle-stick makers. The damage repeatedly predicted by Tony Abbott has failed to deliver its destruction. In fact, it has been quite the reverse. Consider the following:
The data flow covering the time period since the carbon tax started on 1 July 2012 are coming through thick and fast.
The numbers, quite unambiguously, point to the economy doing very on just about all fronts. Share prices and house prices are both rising, business confidence and consumer sentiment is rising; jobs are being created and the unemployment rate ticked lower.
|| Change since end June 2012
|Official cash rate
|Australian dollar (vs USD)
|10 year govt bond yield
+0.30 percentage points
| Change in market cap of ASX
|RP Data house prices
| Change in Housing Wealth
|Westpac Index of Consumer Sentiment
|TD-MI Monthly Inflation
|ANZ job ads
-0.1% to 5.2%
|NAB Business Confidence
|NAB Business Conditions
Mr Abbott would be wise to consider some facts if he intends to continue with his fear and smear. Without them he is open to attack from every economist in the country as well as a Government ready to pounce with a few armed facts and figures themselves.
He may promise to repeal the legislation but in doing so he knows he’d be telling a big fat lie. And in a public debate the Prime Minister could put him to the task on exactly how it could be done. She won’t let him off the hook like our compliant and incompetent media.
I’d suggest that his argument on the ‘destructive’ carbon tax has no credibility left in it.
The National Broadband Network (NBN)
He has been all over the shop with the NBN since Day 1. He flaps around like a stunned mullet. The more he opens his mouth the more he demonstrates his idiocy. To boot, anyone with half an idea about broadband is amused at how he exhibits himself as a complete primitive in today’s modern world. I doubt he’d know what a gigabyte is.
To a compliant media he has been able to shield his incompetence by uttering untruths, be it about the costs of the NBN or trying to convince us that he’s a actually a computer nerd. But speaking recently on 2UE he:
. . . demonstrated either a lack of knowledge about the subject which he was discussing or a willingness to mislead the public about several of the underpinnings of the NBN project and the recent debate surrounding it.
It is a worthwhile link to follow. Those who do will be convinced of both.
It would also be fruitless to partake in the Great Debate with threats to destroy it as the man he appointed to do just that, Malcolm Turnbull, suggests otherwise:
Nearly two years after Tony Abbott vowed to tear down the beginnings of the national broadband network and to “demolish” it, the Coalition now says it will not roll back or cancel it, if it comes to power at the next election.
So that argument is now dead in the water too. Over twelve months of condemnation of the NBN has amounted to zero. It’s funny that when public opinion
gets behind a Government initiative how quickly an Opposition discard any thoughts of wrecking it.
He’ll say nothing of it during the debate.
Industrial Relations (IR)
This is the great unknown (as recently addressed on this blog) but I doubt Abbott will give it much oxygen. He’s chimed in early about returning to Howard’s Golden Age and whilst this is ambiguous, it is equally as threatening. His biggest trap is his belief that the voters were sleepwalking in 2007:
Mr Abbott’s vision for the next Coalition government, as outlined in his speech, made it seem as if the two terms of Labor government were no more than an inconvenient blip on the radar of political history.
This delusion can only lead to complacency. If he intends a return to Howard’s Golden Age, which I an only assume also means a return to Howard’s IR policies he will be quickly reminded that this was the single biggest issue that lost Howard the 2007 election. It’ll be a gift for Labor, which is something I think that the Liberals are certainly aware of and why Abbott is playing his cards close to his chest. He has publicly stated that he backs Howard’s old IR laws without actually stating he will reintroduce them. For once in his life he appears to have thought about what he was going to say before engaging the mouth.
When pushed on their IR policies even Joe Hockey was quick to go defensive:
We will release it well before the next election. The next election is scheduled for the 2nd half of next year.
Personally, I don’t think the full details of their policy will ever be made known until after a possible election victory. The return to Howard’s Golden Age will begin with a kick in the guts as was the case in 2004. An election victory will be a mandate to do as he pleases.
But on the night of the Great Debate he will be mute on IR. He would be well advised by his minders to say nothing of the policy that could again lose them an election, however, we know what complacency can do and the man simply oozes complacency.
He may find it too difficult to engage the brain before engaging the mouth twice in one decade.
Delivering the largest surplus in the history of the planet
He will definitely kick to death the boring meme that Labor are reckless spenders and we’ll hear about ‘pink batts’ and school halls every second sentence. He will camouflage his own team’s economic incompetence by constantly referring to Howard’s Golden Age. As much as I question whether the economy under Howard was a good as Howard kept telling us, his name is certainly a better one to drop than the economic goose Joe Hockey (who Abbott is more than likely to entrust as Treasurer).
Not too deep into 2013 he’ll ramp up the attack on Swan’s first budget and how it produced a record deficit. The impact of the GFC may be long forgotten but the deficit is still there in black and white and he’ll wave it around like he’s swatting flies. Certainly not a credible argument but it is one where he’ll have some traction given the public perception that the Liberals are sound economic managers, rightly or wrongly. Naturally he’ll promise a surplus of unimaginable proportions.
But I’m sure that the Prime Minister will remind the audience that Howard’s Golden Age delivered 11 straight interest rate rises. One for Howard’s battlers to chew over.
Stopping the boats
This will definitely get some air, not only during the Great Debate but at every opportunity beforehand. As each vessel enters our waters Tony Abbott’s sign will go up: “Stop the boats”.
It’s his only weapon in what he sees as a war instead of a human rights issue. It is inconsequential if the Opposition work in unity with the Government as a result of the recent expert panel recommendations as it still means boats are coming our way. Tony Abbott, like John Howard, is the only man who can stop them. Superman wouldn’t be able to do a better job.
Tony Abbott will tell anybody with a microphone that would-be refugees tremble at the sound of his name. He is the imaginary road block that prevents people from even considering Australia as a destination for a better life.
Expect him to go full-on on this issue.
The mining tax
Has he forgotten about this? He has gone awfully quiet. Maybe he’s realised that the average Aussie doesn’t like the mining billionaires as much as he does.
If he has been keeping an eye on what’s been happening in Queensland since their State election I wouldn’t be surprised if he toned down his call for smaller government. By cutting government services and decimating the Public Service Campbell Newman has seen his popularity plummet:
Nearly half of Queensland voters believe Premier Campbell Newman’s cuts have gone too far, with support for the Liberal National Party plunging 12 percentage points since last month, a new opinion poll suggests.
Despite all his complacency Mr Abbott will be prudent to take note. Thanks to Campbell Newman there may be a surge in Labor’s support in Queensland. It could turn out to be the crucial state at the next Federal election.
John Howard was successful in selling his model of a smaller government to the electorate even though he failed to deliver on the promises. This is one of his promises I’m glad he didn’t keep. I doubt whether Mr Abbott will make such promises.
Over to you, dear readers.