To much politics is about personality. Is liking a person a good reason to make them Prime Minister? I would have to say that it should not be a personality contest. Would you pick a financial adviser or tradesman just because you like them? Of course not. You would want to know if they could do the job properly.
Getting past the personal likes and dislikes, what would be the difference if a Liberal government were elected in September.
Let’s start with the last Liberal government. If you had to sum up the Howard government what would you say:
- Steady as she goes.
- Overtax and then recycle the surplus back to the voters to cement your popularity.
- Middle class welfare
- Little in the way of social change
- Upset as few people as possible
- Swing the pendulum away from workers and toward business
- Where decisions have to be made that have an impact on business and workers, see business as more important than people
If you look at the Rudd/Gillard era what do you see.
- Continuation of previous Labor governments social improvement agenda
- An approach of commissioning a study then implementing social reforms. Gonski; disability; Fair Work Australia, National Broadband Network, plain cigarette packaging, paid parental leave and many more
- Developing funding arrangements for new initiatives before they are implemented
- Providing support to business only where it is needed (GFC support for banks, auto industry) rather than if it is just wanted.
- Heavy focus on improving education
- Where decisions have to be made that have an impact on business and workers, see people as more important than business
- Environmentally active – carbon tax
- Maybe a little too ready to spend to achieve the reforms although deficits are not substantial in the current global environment
So the question is will there be any changes to the Howard approach if an Abbott government wins? I would suggest it will not be too different. The obvious difference is the stronger influence from a man who has time and again proven himself a traditionalist more in touch with 1950 than 2020.
One indication of his true self was when he referred to helping mothers who were, in his words, “women of calibre”. It is deeply offending that anyone would single out “women of calibre” – whoever they may be – as deserving special mention when it came to having children. His views on women’s role in society, contraception, motherhood and role in the family, and gay marriage are out of touch with mainstream Australia. The paid parental leave proposal is a tactical policy to allow Tony Abbot to defend himself against everything else he has done that has offended women.
What is at risk is unwinding the social reforms put in place by Labor. They have already said that Gonski would be reviewed, and the NBN would be cut. What else is at risk? Will disability be changed to make it less effective.
To understand how it works, a good example is the way the Republican controlled US Senate has dealt with the laws passed after the Wall St debacle. According to an article by Paul McGeough in the Sun Herald, three years after the Dodd-Frank bill was passed by the Obama government, only 148 of the 398 rules required for it to function as law have been finalised. One example is that the $100 million floor beneath which derivative traders would be excluded from the rules has been lifted to $8 billion. Death by a thousand cuts.
So will a Liberal government say:
“of course we will keep the disability insurance. We just need to hold an enquiry to see if there are any improvements we can make.”
Once the enquiry is under way, they start trimming, and cutting until it bears no resemblance to the original Labor policy. It does not just apply to disability. Any policy can be superficially retained, but cut to ribbons until it fades away.
To look at another aspect of Liberal governments, they have a history of not introducing major social change. If you go back, almost all the major social changes have been introduced by Labor. They range from Medicare to Disability Care. Can you imagine if the Liberals had been elected in 2007. Which of the social changes introduced by Labor would have happened. None. Don’t expect any social change from the Liberals.