John Menadue. Slogans or advocacy.

Apr 27, 2016

At the last election, Tony Abbott gave us a long list of slogans.

One of them was to ‘axe the tax’. And he did axe the carbon tax. But it was a serious mistake. With the continuing strong evidence of global warming, we badly need a carbon tax or an ETS to reduce carbon pollution. In addition to reducing our capacity to reduce carbon emissions, axing the tax meant that the Commonwealth Budget lost $7.6 b. p.a. in revenue. The slogan won the day. The losers were the planet and the budget.

Tony Abbott said that he would ‘cut the budget deficit’. But we now know that under his leadership and that of Joe Hockey, the budget deficit has doubled over the forward estimates. Budget repair is still essential if we are to reduce annual interest payments and be in better shape to face possible global economic recession or collapse. The simplified slogan of cutting the deficit has not been delivered.

Tony Abbott said that he would ‘eliminate the debt’ but net government debt has increased by almost $100b in the last two years. Yet Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull tell us that they are superior economic managers.

Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison said that they would ‘stop the boats’. They didn’t. And it seems likely that Malcolm Turnbull in his commitment to ‘continuity and change’ will continue to make the claim that the Coalition stopped the boats.

The facts tell us something quite different about how the Coalition triggered an increase in boat arrivals in the first place and then did not stop the boats. But the slogan ‘stop the boats’ served its political purpose and an uncritical media accepted then and continues to accept the Coalition’s spin that it ‘stopped the boats’.

Forgive me for stating the facts again, as Peter Hughes and I set out in two posts in December 2015, ‘Slogans versus facts on boat arrivals Part 1’ and ‘Slogans versus facts on boat arrivals Part 2’.

There are two important issues relating to boats.

The first is that the action of Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison, together with the Greens, in opposing the Malaysian Arrangement, opened the door for a dramatic increase in boat arrivals from about four boats per month at the time the Malaysian Arrangement was rejected in September 2011, to 48 boats in July 2013.

The second is that the decision of the Rudd government in July 2013 to refuse settlement in Australia of anyone who came by boat resulted in boat arrivals falling from 48 in July 2013 to 7 per month in December 2013 when the Abbott government’s Operation Sovereign Borders commenced.

By December 2013, boat arrivals had fallen dramatically.

The Abbott government was only involved in the end-game and in a very marginal way. It was the Rudd government’s decision of July 2013 that was the game-changer and not Tony Abbott’s Operation Sovereign Borders and a few turnbacks to Indonesia. Yet Tony Abbot and now Malcolm Turnbull contend that they stopped the boats. The facts just do not show that at all.

When he became Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull promised us ‘advocacy rather than slogans’. He told us that there would be a ‘more mature and adult conversation’ about important issues.

Whether it is on boats or negative gearing, we are seeing a continuation of slogans and very little mature conversation.

Disappointments continue to mount.

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