John Menadue. Tony Abbott at the National Press Club

Feb 2, 2015

In his speech today, Tony Abbott recycled many of his one-liners that we heard at the last election. Let’s examine several of them.

First, he said that his government was a low-taxing government and that it would reduce the budget deficit by reducing spending, rather than increasing taxes. But the most recent mid-year economic forecast shows that tax receipts are increasing substantially as a result of allowing budget creep as people move into higher income tax brackets. Government receipts/taxation are projected to increase by 2% from 22.8% of GDP in 2012-13 to 24.8% in 2017-18. Further the coalition said it would reduce debt. At the end of 2013 actual net debt was $178 b. The Department of Finance tell us that at the end of 2014  the net debt was $239 b, an increase of $61 b or 35%

Tony Abbott said that he would stop the boats. But despite being told about the success of this ‘signature policy’ and the uncritical response of the media, the facts are that Tony Abbott did not stop the boats. What started the reduction in boat arrivals  was the announcement by Kevin Rudd on 19 July 2013, two months before the last election, that any new boat arrivals would be processed offshore and if found to be refugees, would not be settled in Australia. That was the real game changer, not Operation Sovereign Borders and the turn backs of a few boats to Indonesia.The number of people arriving by boat in July 2013 was 4,145. It fell substantially to 837 by the time the Abbott Government took power. The downward trend began in July 2013, two months before Tony Abbott came to power.

As part of a dishonest and exaggerated scare campaign, Tony Abbott said that he would abolish the carbon tax. He did. But now without a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme, we have no credible policy in place to address the growing threat of climate change. If Malcolm Turnbull comes back as leader an emissions trading scheme will be quickly back on the agenda.

Tony Abbott said that he would abolish the mining tax. And he did – and Australia is much worse off as a result. Giant international mining companies like Glencore are paying very little company tax at all. Is that good economic management and is it fair?

In his press club speech, Tony Abbott said that his government was on track in the building of roads. But many of the roads he claims to be building are really recycled projects from the previous government which Anthony Albanese had announced. In any event, we don’t need more roads for the reasons I have written about in this blog. We need to invest in new public urban rail systems.

In his press club address, Tony Abbott complained about the Senate. Certainly the Senate has refused to pass some key government budget items, but that has been because the Senate came to the view, which I generally agree with, that many of the government’s budget proposals were unfair. Furthermore, Tony Abbott now prefers that we forget that at the last election he said that he would not hesitate to take the parliament to a double-dissolution if it was necessary to tame the Senate and the ALP. We have heard nothing more about this threat if the senate continues to misbehave. The media has completely forgotten this threat or was it a promise.

One liners may be effective in opposition and at election time but they don’t usually make for good policy.

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