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Families my foot!

October 16, 2014

The leader of the federal Liberal National party coalition government, Tony
Abbott, has made two statements about the Liberal party in the week that marks its 70th anniversary. The statements are similar. I am going to refer to remarks he has made about families and how the party’s policies affect them.

The first statement can be found here. The parts below that appear between quotation marks have been extracted from that statement. My comments appear, in Italics, after each statement. For a main reference I have relied on a running blog being kept by Sally McManus: Tracking Abbott’s Wreckage.

“Though the times have changed since 1944, the Liberal party has had a consistent philosophy: we stand for the citizen over the official, for the community over the state and for the family over everything.

“We believe in the aspirations of people – because as Menzies reminded us, it’s families and households, small business people and tradies who are ‘the backbone of our nation’.”

The underlining in the above sentences is mine. I can find no evidence that Abbott (who is also the self-appointed Minister for Women and Minister for Indigenous Affairs) has done a single thing to benefit families. Sally’s Wreckage blog is itemised with numerous examples of the exact opposite. Families are affected by everything from delaying Indigenous recognition to cutting education programs and bodies, abolishing the school kids’ bonus, eliminating or reducing Family Tax Benefits A and B, messing with superannuation and pensions, punishing the jobless (especially younger people), sacking thousands of Public Service staff and abolishing numerous agencies. Other Abbott policies are increasing the burden on families. The fuel excise (a broken promise of no new taxes) is adding to costs. Stressful changes are being made to the school curriculum (again), to the “choice” of schools and to the cost of university education. The replacement of secular school counselors with clerical counselors is adding to stress in some families. I would not allow a cleric anywhere near my kids, if I had any.

Larissa  Waters tweet

This severe reconstruction of the fabric of Australian society is being done because the Abbott government claims (and it has been thoroughly discredited by scores of economists and other experts) there is “a Budget Emergency!”, or “a Labor Debt and Deficit Disaster”, or it’s cleaning up “Labor’s Budget mess”. One assumes that when the debt (one of the lowest in the developed Western world) has been cleared some of the abolished bureaus and cancelled programs will be restored. An enterprising journalist should ask Abbott what he will restore.

“We’re helping families to get ahead – and encouraging small business people to employ more.”

A bald statement, with no facts or evidence provided. When a politician makes a statement like that some people will be inclined to believe it. ‘Oh good, Abbott’s helping my family get ahead.’ How exactly? There is absolutely no evidence for the statement. And why is it related to the second phrase when there is no connection at all?

Small business people may be families too; I know several who are. But how are they being “encouraged to employ more” (people; they are known as people, Abbott)? One way may be by abolishing red tape — regulations and consumer safeguards. Another may be by abolishing penalty rates — more work on Sunday, for less pay. Or by removing the incentive paid to older workers who return to work and giving that money to the employer instead (Sally’s blog, item 219). Businesses are also being helped to employ more people by an increase in the number of lower paid workers on 457 visas.

Another way families and small businesses are “helped” is by delaying Labor’s planned increase to superannuation contributions. Abbott’s government claims people are better off by having spending money in their pockets now rather than putting that money, and more, into their superannuation. The money soon ends up in the pockets of small business. Right there we have the economic stupidity and the ideology of these neoCons writ large. The policy doesn’t necessarily help families, long accustomed to adjusting buying habits; it helps small business (more sales, less paid into employees’ super); it absolutely fails to address the government’s major whinge about the future sustainability of pensions. This change alone will cost families thousands and that will affect them in their retirement.

Cartoon by Peter Brookes.

Cartoon by Peter Brookes.

“The Government’s Economic Strategy is about giving people freedom and more incentive to make the most of themselves. This is the best way to grow our economy and reduce the cost of living burden on families and on businesses.”

Again, I can find no evidence of how the government’s economic strategy will give people freedom and more incentive to make the most of themselves. This looks like a total nonsense that sounds good providing you don’t think about it too much. I can’t think of any incentive this government has provided so that people can make the most of themselves. The freedom of people to be bigots and abuse one another (re-writing of Section 18C) fell on its face. Plans to deregulate university fees and charge commercial rates on student loans will work as a disincentive to make the most of yourself. How will that help families? How will it help business and industry already complaining about the poor educational standard of graduates?

Abbott must be referring to this statement, which is big on waffle and rhetoric but light in actual detail. It refers to Australia’s biggest ever infrastructure program (at $50 billion), but also to the clearing of a backlog of environmental approvals for projects worth a whopping $500 billion. These must be coal and other mineral projects, for a market that is suffering falling prices and a world economy that appears to be heading into recession. Whoopee for fly-in-fly-out families, if they keep their job, the nature of which is also causing stress. The same statement refers to trade deals with partners like Korea, Japan and China and the promise of more jobs. They will have to be low paid jobs to compete with those countries. Our ability, capacity and inclination to value-add has been tossed aside, mainly in favour of mining mining mining.

Abbott’s second 70th anniversary statement is framed as an opinion piece: More Freedom a Central Pillar of the Liberal Party.

“Menzies argued that a successful middle class is in everybody’s interest because it is the ‘backbone of the nation’. Hence, the party he founded is not a party of big government, or vested interest, but one that stands for the citizen over the official, the community over the state and the family over everything.”

So Menzies (who didn’t found the Liberal party, but he was chosen to lead it by the men who did form it) argued the middle class is the backbone of the nation. In Abbott’s first statement, “families and households, small business people and tradies” are the backbone of the nation. But the family is still uber alles — poor struggling family.

“As John Howard subsequently observed, in this country, the Liberal party is the custodian of both the liberal and the conservative traditions. As liberals we support lower taxes, smaller government and greater freedom. As conservatives we support the family and values that have stood the test of time.” My underlining again.

So Abbott thinks he’s liberal and conservative at the same time. That’s funny because former PM Malcolm Fraser, for whom I have some respect, says the Liberals who elected Abbott didn’t want a Liberal, “they wanted a Conservative”. Still, if you’re pumping out garbage for the consumption of the party faithful or any blockhead who’ll listen, any old garbage will do so long as it sounds good and you don’t listen too closely or stop to think about what you are hearing.

“Under Menzies, home ownership was no longer the privilege of a minority, but came within reach of most families.”

Um, I wouldn’t mention that one if I were you Abbott, especially if you are making a comparison with today and the job your mob is doing.

“Stronger alliances; more trade; better universities; more modern infrastructure; a stronger economy … ”

“… more choice in schools”. More privatised schools?

“… with a stronger middle class as the result still characterises the work of Liberal governments”.

And so the rhetoric and slogans roll on, without detail, explanation, justification and certainly without any questioning by the gutless mainstream news media (MSM).

“The Liberal party believes that empowered citizens can do more for themselves than government will ever do for them.”

Isn’t that a doozy? What does it mean? It could mean that empowered citizens could march into parliament and kick these frauds all the way over the horizon. But that won’t happen. Families are too busy trying to figure out how to pay their bills now and into this glorious future that’s supposed to be at the end of all this misery.

An empowered citizen might be fresh out of university, 23 years old and saddled with a life-long debt for a piece of paper that will not necessarily guarantee work, not even flipping flippin’ hamburgers. They might manage to pay the debt and the interest, but will they be able to save a deposit for a home of their own, even though they will be able to work until they are 70 before dropping out into a life of near poverty, with no savings and totally screwed on superannuation?

I don’t know how these present or future impoverished families will be able to afford a university education for their kids if the “Liberal” party’s policy to deregulate university fees and charge commercial interest rates on student loans goes ahead. Paying a rumoured $100,000 or more for some degrees shouldn’t bother future mothers too much because in the opinion of education minister Chris Pyne women don’t want to study law or dentistry.

And the re-introduction of the fuel excise (another broken promise re no new taxes) won’t bother poor families too much because, in the opinion of Treasurer Joe Hockeysticks “poor people don’t own cars or don’t drive them very far if they do”.

Hockey in lights

So much for caring about families. Wealthy families, maybe, but certainly not poor ones.

“Along with our Coalition partner, the National party, we understand that today’s reforms are tomorrow’s prosperity.”

Another doozy, just like the previous one. “Today’s reforms” are largely about turning Big Business loose to rape and pillage and freeing bigots to abuse and incite division and hatred. Deflections (along with another war in Iraq) to take people’s minds off what’s really going on. Ask yourself what you think will happen when the debt’s paid off. Free beer and skittles every afternoon? Not bloody likely.

“That’s why this government is addressing Labor’s legacy of debt and deficits. We must control debt before debt controls us. Already Australians are paying over $1 billion a month in interest and it will rise to $3 billion a month within ten years if no action is taken.

“There’s no fairness in increasing the tax burden and the debt burden on the next generation of Australians.”

Oh, I agree, wholeheartedly. One tiny detail is missing here. Since coming to office the Treasurer, whom I affectionately call Eleventy Joe Hockeysticks, has doubled the debt. Why have you done that Joe? Why did you scream blue murder about a “Budget Emergency!” and then quickly double the debt? Why did you tell a New Zealand audience there never was a “Budget Emergency!”? 

B0cZ7vBCcAEPWbo

“With more Australians living longer and healthier lives, we have to make our health and welfare systems more sustainable. This means small changes now so that the strains don’t weigh down future generations.”

Finally we have something that is close to a truthful and honest statement, except for that little phrase “small changes”. Health experts and economists, again, say Abbott, a former health minister, is wrong about the sustainability of health care and welfare. If certain companies and individuals paid the taxes they should be paying, health and welfare would be even more sustainable. Another “small change” is a tiny $7 patient payment (co-payment) out of families’ pockets when they visit the doctor, to help with Medicare “sustainability” — and another colossal lie. No one can explain how $2 of the $7 going to the doctor and the remaining $5 into a Medical Research Future Fund is going to offset the cost of Medicare — no one, not even Eleventy Joe or a professor of economics banging away on a supercomputer.

New health care charges

The Economics Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald, Ross Gittins, uses official figures to demonstrate that the Abbott government’s Health spending crisis is not real.

Incidentally, the family has already paid for its medical care. You would think Treasury funds were coming out of the “Liberal” party’s pocket. And that $7 co-payment — it’s part of what’s left after income tax was paid. There’ll be another charge for prescriptions and technical medical procedures, like an MRI scan — scarily expensive.

I sometimes lie in bed at night, unable to sleep because I can’t figure out why this government, which promised to do after the election what it said it would do before the election and promised to be an adult government, has to be such a devious, back-flipping, cynical, duplicitous, lying and untrustworthy mob.

I am sure there are enormous electoral advantages in speaking plainly and honestly with the electorate and telling them exactly what you will and will not do. I have a clear memory of Abbott saying there would be pain in the years ahead, but that was early in the false election campaign that began early in 2013. A focus group must have told him that he probably shouldn’t repeat it.

“Far sighted governments leave the next generation of Australians a stronger country than they inherited.”

Former Liberal PM John Howard did that, I’m told. To do it, he sold everything he could get hold of, including the gold reserve, the silverware and the kitchen sink — on the cheap too, I’m told. Another “Liberal” government, the LNP of Queensland, is determined to flog State assets even after spending millions on a referendum that turned out to be overwhelmingly against the idea. You will have the policy that ideology dictates, not the policy the majority votes for.

“From Menzies to Fraser to Howard and to the current government, the Liberal party has been the party that gives more freedom, offers more choice and tries to take the burdens off families and businesses.”

Well, you can have a lot of fun with that one. “More freedom” — how, exactly? What? “Offers more choice.” Not in school counselors, or motor cars, or job contracts, or going to war again. And after all the bullshit about families, the Liberal party “tries to take the burden off families”. For Christ’s sake Abbott, please try harder. 

Kleptocracy

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