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Trevor Cook





Updated: 2016-08-11T07:00:00+00:00

 



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Forget Rudd and Gillard; Whitlam is Abbott's real target

2014-07-09T19:34:14+10:00

Conservatives, by definition, live for the past. For them, the past was a better place. And so each incoming LNP federal government promises to windback the clock. We thought Abbott and his cabinet wanted to windback to the Howard years. The Budget warns us we were wrong. These guys want to go back to a world before Whitlam helped create modern Australia. Their opponents in today's ALP are the beneficiaries of the Whitlam reforms; particularly in education. When I read the first speeches of new ALP members in 2007, education emerged as a strong theme. Many of these fresh ALP...Conservatives, by definition, live for the past. For them, the past was a better place. And so each incoming LNP federal government promises to windback the clock. We thought Abbott and his cabinet wanted to windback to the Howard years. The Budget warns us we were wrong. These guys want to go back to a world before Whitlam helped create modern Australia. Their opponents in today's ALP are the beneficiaries of the Whitlam reforms; particularly in education. When I read the first speeches of new ALP members in 2007, education emerged as a strong theme. Many of these fresh ALP caucus members, swept in on a pro-environment and anti-workchoices wave, noted that their opportunity to get a higher education was due to Whitlam's vision and policies. Universal healthcare, however, was Whitlam's great achievement; secured against bitter conservative opposition and only after a double dissolution. Fraser partially dismantled universal healthcare; and Hawke later reversed this winding back; with the urging and support of the union movement through the Accord process. By the time of Howard's 1996 electoral triumph, the Coalition had ostensibly given up its decades long fight against the most important social reform in post-war Australia. So we thought. But Abbott has re-engaged the battle with renewed vigour. This Government wants our health system pushed back 40 years. As it does education. It is attacking needs-based funding in school education, opening up a wound in the Australian community that Menzies was the first PM to address. Abbott is moving to make wealth once again more important than merit in higher education. The conservatives hate the fact that their ALP opposition is just as well-educated, often better educated, than their own MPs. They want a proper blue-collar labor party, but not one supported by unions. They hate Whitlam and his reforms for foisting this modern ALP on them. There are plenty of other examples emerging of just how retrograde Abbott's vision is. The watering down of the racial discrimination act, the weakenning of the human rights commission and the slashing of funding for indigenous, childcare and disability are part of a desire to re-establish the white male as paramount in our society. When they attack the so-called age of entitlement, they are really attacking the pillars of modern, Whitlamite Australia where concerns about access were more important than reducing the tax rate for business and rich individuals. The first Abbott Budget does more to promote inequality in Australia than anything we have seen in recent decades. Until now, after Whitlam, conservatives have tried to dress up their attacks on equality and fairness. The Abbott Government, impatient with the failures of Fraser and Howard, has adopted a far more divisive approach. It made a few token gestures towards fairness but, basically the Budget is a first installement in the Abbott agenda of winding back the equality and fairness that Whitlam, Hawke, Keating, Rudd and Gillard have all strived to insert into Australian national life. The Budget attacks the poor and middle-class while ignoring the rorts the rich enjoy through the tax and super systems. This was no accident - it is deliberate. And the biggest stalking horse of all is Abbott's efforts to get rid of Labor's commitment to a national system of government and reve[...]



Abbott's Budget: unfair, dishonest, chaotic, unnecessary and a political minefield

2014-05-19T16:28:35+10:00

The Abbott Government's Budget communications strategy is terrible. But clever messaging can't sell rubbish. Abbott's first budget is profoundly unfair. It targets vulnerable groups and does little to make the better-off make a commensurate (and permanent) contribution - a one year freeze on politicians' salaries just highlights the unfairness. It didn't have to be so unfair. A more far-sighted (and methodical) approach would have included long overdue tax and super reforms. Already putting all the weight on expenditure, the Government also trumpets a reduction in the overall tax take. They are headed in the wrong direction. Unfairness is bad enough....The Abbott Government's Budget communications strategy is terrible.  But clever messaging can't sell rubbish. Abbott's first budget is profoundly unfair.  It targets vulnerable groups and does little to make the better-off make a commensurate (and permanent) contribution - a one year freeze on politicians' salaries just highlights the unfairness. It didn't have to be so unfair. A more far-sighted (and methodical) approach would have included long overdue tax and super reforms. Already putting all the weight on expenditure, the Government also trumpets a reduction in the overall tax take. They are headed in the wrong direction. Unfairness is bad enough. Wrap it up with dishonesty and you have a combustible mix. The treatment of the states was dishonest. Not publishing tables of impacts on typical families (a long standing practice) was also dishonest. Breaking promises by the truckload and trying to dissemble with some nonsense about 'fundamental honesty' is absurd. Ordinary people don't buy into qualifications on honesty. Abbott's rank dishonesty has robbed the Liberals of one of their big advantages over the ALP after the Rudd-Gillard period - trust. They promised to restore trust, they promised no excuses and no surprises. Eight short months after coming to office, Abbott has destroyed one of his best electoral assets. This is just as significant as the way the NSW Liberals have lost their corruption advantage over the ALP after recent months of revelations in ICAC. With a budget riven with unfairness and dishonesty, it is probably not surprising that the Budget measures look like a chaotic collection cobbled together at the last moment. Clearly, measures like the Medicare co-payment have not been thought through. How will it shift cost to the states; how will it affect people with major illnesses and so on? A co-payment may be a good idea, very few government services are completely free to the end user these days. But it is a dangerous thought bubble unless you think through, and consult on, the complexities of implementation. The medical research fund is a pie in the sky (cancer cure?) add-on designed no doubt by some PR genius to make the co-payments more politically palatable - all it does is emphasis that the co-payments are not there to make the healthcare system sustainable. Not one dollar will go to better healthcare. Nor is it obvious that broader principles have been applied to deciding on which sets of policies to pursue.  The Government wants more people to provide more for themselves in old age but cuts the low income super contribution (a measure that only highlights the unfairness in the super system). Abbott, the "feminist", has stuck with his outrageous paid parental leave (a harbinger of his policy ineptitude if ever there was one). But his budget also cuts funds for family day care. All this policy chaos is a bit much from a government that has been at pains to portray itself as 'methodical'. Yes, there is a budget problem. But it is not a crisis. Tony Shepherd of the BCA and the Commission of Audit said so. There is always a problem after an event like the GFC. In the past, governments have mostly relied on slight increases in tax rates until the Budget rebalances. Countries with a Budget [...]



Where have the ladies gone?

2014-04-13T20:09:55+10:00

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