What Tony Abbott will do
By Barry Tucker
There is one predominant Liberal policy: We can win this election if we just keep our mouths shut.
There are a few others. Some of them are truly worrying. At this stage, there’s not much in the way of detail.
For months now Parliamentary Liberal Party Leader Tony Abbott has been saying: “We will abolish the carbon tax, we will repeal the mining tax, we will stop the boats and we will produce a surplus.” He also guarantees a Liberal government will not change superannuation rules “in its first term of office”.
One worrying thing about Mr Abbott’s style of leadership is that he is very cautious about who he allows to interview him. I have experienced this first-hand in other leaders, notably Queensland Premier Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen and NSW Premier Sir Robert Askin — both of whom had something to hide. Robin Askin (at the time) would only take questions from The Sydney Morning Herald’s State Political Roundsman John O’Hara or The Daily Telegraph’s Bert Birtles. Brisbane Mayor Clem Jones would only allow The Courier-Mail’s State Political Correspondent to ask questions at Press conferences. It’s not uncommon for powerful men to control and limit questions.
As a result of Mr Abbott’s reluctance to front up, we do not know much about what he or his government will do if the Liberals win the 14 September election.
Mr Abbott has maintained a rigid discipline over members of the Parliamentary Liberal Party. One notable exception was his former Parliamentary Secretary, Senator Cory Bernardi. He was “spoken to” regarding remarks he made about bestiality during the same sex marriage debate in the Senate. The Senator was allowed to resign as Parliamentary Secretary.
Mr Abbott then issued a warning about “freelancing” — making unapproved remarks. Earlier this year federal Liberal MPs were told to stop commenting on their Twitter accounts.
Some of Mr Abbott’s shadow spokespersons, deputy Julie Bishop, Christopher Pyne, Scott Morrison and Senator George Brandis, are let off the leash fairly frequently, but mainly to criticise the Labor government’s policies. Malcolm Turnbull, shadow communications spokesperson and the man who lost party leadership to Mr Abbott, is the only shadow to have expounded on a policy: the laughable alternative old technology copper wire “broadband”.
No doubt we will get concrete policies after Budget details are released in May.
Mr Murdoch made his opposition to the federal Labor government public on 20 May, 2013, with the above Tweet. He has not referred to the role his Australian news media outlets have played in denigrating the government in the minds of the Australian people. He does not mention the fact that one of the polls he refers to, Newspoll, is 45% owned by his Australian operation, News Limited.
You may never have heard of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA). Before we go into the remainder of this article, here’s a link to an episode of the ABC’s Media Watch, dated 09/04/2001, presented by Stuart Littlemore. It mentions what IPA is, who some of its members are, its activities and where its main financing comes from.
As a guide to what Tony Abbott may do if he wins the 7 September, 2013 election, we have a 75-point plan produced by three members of the supposedly independent “think tank”, the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA). The IPA is one of the organisations that created the Liberal Party back in 1944. It is funded by big corporations (Big Oil, Big Tobacco, among others), philanthropic donations and membership fees.
The plan appears below. In an address to the IPA’s 70th anniversary dinner on Thursday, 4 April, 2013, Mr Abbott said the items appearing in red would be adopted by a Liberal government. Is the IPA the Liberal party’s policy generating machine? See this page from the IPA website for the preamble to the 75-point list.
I have attempted to sort each item into categories, which is not easy because, for example, you have to decide if sacking 20,000 public servants is a social issue, an employment issue, an industrial issue, a government issue or a revenue issue. If you disagree with my sorting, you can use the initial letter to cut & paste to a different category. Have fun, while you weep.
C CONSUMER RIGHTS
C 9 Abolish the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
E 1 Repeal the carbon tax, and don’t replace it. It will be one thing to remove the burden of the carbon tax from the Australian economy. But if it is just replaced by another costly scheme, most of the benefits will be undone.
E 2 Abolish the Department of Climate Change
E 3 Abolish the Clean Energy Fund
E 6 Repeal the renewable energy target
E 10 Withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol
E 43 Repeal the mining tax
E 44 Devolve environmental approvals for major projects to the states
Ed 12 Repeal the National Curriculum
Ed 13 Introduce competing private secondary school curriculums
Ed 39 Reintroduce voluntary student unionism at universities
Ed 40 Introduce a voucher scheme for secondary schools
Ed 67 Means test tertiary student loans
F FOREIGN AFAIRS
F 5 Abandon Australia’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council
G 31 Formalise a one-in, one-out approach to regulatory reduction
G 37 Force government agencies to put all of their spending online in a searchable database
G 58 Allow the Northern Territory to become a state
G 59 Halve the size of the Coalition front bench from 32 to 16
G 70 End all government funded Nanny State advertising
I 26 Remove anti-dumping laws
I 28 Abolish the Foreign Investment Review Board
I 30 Cease subsidising the car industry
I 34 End preferences for Industry Super Funds in workplace relations laws
I 46 Cut company tax to an internationally competitive rate of 25 per cent
I 48 Privatise Australia Post
I 52 Reduce the size of the public service from current levels of more than 260,000 to at least the 2001 low of 212,784 [-47,216]
I 53 Repeal the Fair Work Act
I 54 Allow individuals and employers to negotiate directly terms of employment that suit them
I 55 Encourage independent contracting by overturning new regulations designed to punish contractors
I 60 Remove all remaining tariff and non-tariff barriers to international trade
I 61 Slash top public servant salaries to much lower international standards, like in the United States
I 63 Privatise the Australian Institute of Sport
I 64 End all hidden protectionist measures, such as preferences for local manufacturers in government tendering
I 71 Reject proposals for compulsory food and alcohol labelling
I 72 Privatise the CSIRO
I 75 Privatise the Snowy-Hydro Scheme
M 14 Abolish the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
M 15 Eliminate laws that require radio and television broadcasters to be ‘balanced’
M 16 Abolish television spectrum licensing and devolve spectrum management to the common law
M 17 End local content requirements for Australian television stations
M 27 Eliminate media ownership restrictions
M 47 Cease funding the Australia Network
M 50 Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function
M 51 Privatise SBS
R 7 Return income taxing powers to the states
R 8 Abolish the Commonwealth Grants Commission
R 11 Introduce fee competition to Australian universities
R 18 Eliminate family tax benefits
R 32 Rule out federal funding for 2018 Commonwealth Games
R 35 Legislate a cap on government spending and tax as a percentage of GDP
R 36 Legislate a balanced budget amendment which strictly limits the size of budget deficits and the period the federal government can be in deficit
R 41 Repeal the alcopops tax
R 45 Introduce a single rate of income tax with a generous tax-free threshold
R 62 End all public subsidies to sport and the arts
RD REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT
RD 42 Introduce a special economic zone in the north of Australia including:
a) Lower personal income tax for residents
b) Significantly expanded 457 Visa programs for workers
c) Encourage the construction of dams
S 4 Repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act
S 19 Abandon the paid parental leave scheme
S 20 Means-test Medicare
S 22 Introduce voluntary voting
S 23 End mandatory disclosures on political donations
S 24 End media blackout in final days of election campaigns
S 25 End public funding to political parties
S 29 Eliminate the National Preventative Health Agency
S 33 Deregulate the parallel importation of books
S 38 Repeal plain packaging for cigarettes and rule it out for all other products, including alcohol and fast food
S 49 Privatise Medibank
S 56 Abolish the Baby Bonus
S 57 Abolish the First Home Owners’ Grant
S 65 Abolish the Office for Film and Literature Classification
S 66 Rule out any government-supported or mandated internet censorship
S 68 Allow people to opt out of superannuation in exchange for promising to forgo any government income support in retirement
S 69 Immediately halt construction of the National Broadband Network and privatise any sections that have already been built
S 73 Defund Harmony Day
S 74 Close the Office for Youth
During his address Mr Abbott said: “I want to assure you that the Coalition will indeed repeal the carbon tax, abolish the Department of Climate Change, abolish the Clean Energy Fund. We will repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, at least in its current form. We will abolish new health and environmental bureaucracies. We will deliver $1 billion in red tape savings every year. We will develop northern Australia. We will repeal the mining tax. We will create a one stop shop for environmental approvals. We will privatise Medibank Private. We will trim the public service and we will stop throwing good money after bad on the NBN.”
The 75 points above were published in August 2012. More recently, the same three IPA authors added the following 25 points to the list:
Following on from our 75 ideas in the last edition, John Roskam, James Paterson and Chris Berg offer 25 more ideas to reshape Australia.
76 Have State Premiers appoint High Court justices
77 Allow ministers to be appointed from outside parliament
78 Extend the GST to cover all goods and services but return all extra revenue to taxpayers through cutting other taxes
79 Abolish the federal department of health and return health policy to the states
80 Abolish the federal department of education and return education policy to the states
81 Repeal any new mandatory data retention laws
82 Abolish the Australian Human Rights Commission
83 Have trade unions regulated like public companies, with ASIC responsible for their oversight
84 End all public funding to unions and employer associations
85 Repeal laws which protect unions from competition, such as the ‘conveniently belong’ rules in the Fair Work Act
86 Extend unrestricted work visas currently granted to New Zealand citizens to citizens of the United States
87 Negotiate and sign free trade agreements with Australia’s largest trading partners, including China, India, Japan and South Korea
88 Restore fundamental legal rights to all existing commonwealth legislation such as the right to silence and the presumption of innocence
89 Adhere to section 51(xxxi) of the Constitution by not taking or diminishing anyone’s property without proper compensation
90 Repeal legislative restrictions on the use of nuclear power
91 Allow full competition on all foreign air routes
92 Abolish the Medicare levy surcharge
93 Abolish the luxury car tax
94 Halve the number of days parliament sits to reduce the amount of legislation passed
95 Abolish Tourism Australia and cease subsidising the tourism industry
96 Make all government payments to external parties publicly available including the terms and conditions of those payments
97 Abandon plans to restrict foreign investment in Australia’s agricultural industry
98 Cease the practice of setting up government-funded lobby groups, such as YouMeUnity, which uses taxpayer funds to campaign to change the Australian Constitution
99 Rule out the introduction of mandatory pre-commitment for electronic gaming machines
100 Abolish the four pillars policy which prevents Australia’s major banks from merging
Update, 25 August, 2013
Fairfax’s Melbourne newspaper The Age today published a lengthy story claiming some of the world’s largest companies have dropped finance support and membership of the IPA.
The story said the changed attitude towards the IPA was due to “concern at its vociferous campaign against action on climate change”.
On 25 August, 2013 The Age published a detailed article on the IPA’s development over the decades and its present position. The story is not behind a pay wall.
On 6 September, 2013 Crikey’s Andrew Crooke posted the results of a survey of which of the items on the IPA’s list had been agreed to.
Journalist and commentator Andrew Bolt is one of the leaders of the Abbott fan club. In this article he writes about the first 10 days following the 2013 election and the style of the Abbott government.