Lenore Taylor points out that Abbott is relying on a set of lazy assumptions, and she's right. What she doesn't point out is that it's fair for Abbott and Liberal strategists to make that assumption.
Taylor and her colleagues have demonstrated over the past few years - not over the past couple of "24 hour media cycles", we're talking years, including before Abbott became leader - the press gallery will not call Abbott on it. They won't question him, they won't impose conditions on his access to their media space or add value in their own right. Apparently it is better for the press gallery to perpetuate a low-value existence than to take a chance on adding value for media consumers but irritating politicians and their staffs within Parliament House.
The lowest value journalist is the one who merely reports on and broadcasts what a politician says. The ABC's Latika Bourke has become a national punchline for her tweets that begin with "Tony Abbott said ...", as though we'd have no idea that the man had spoken without her tweets, as though reporting consisted of merely passing on his words unmoored to any facts or data or alternate perspectives; as though Abbott were paying her salary, and that his interests were hers. This is the lowest value journalism because it rests on the assumptions of an age that has passed, that a politician must rely wholly upon journalists to get their message out, and that the message is best reported when a politician is taken at his or her word.
Only in political reporting is a participant taken at their word. When business leaders talk about the competitive environment in which their company operates, business reporters put the announcement into context of the company's performance against its competitors, the exchange rate, and other related issues. When a sportsperson says something like "the boys really put in the work, we done real good", this is reported in context of how the speaker's team actually fared, the hard cold reality of the score, and their prospects for the season given patterns of actual performance to date.
No politician is entitled to be taken at their word. No quote makes sense out of context. The value of journalism lies in contrasting a politician's words to observable reality because therein lies the value of the words, and of the politician. Merely broadcasting their words might make a politician feel important, but it's not enlightening or helpful really.
Taylor's journalism is the next worst to the mere broadcasting of quotes. Taylor would have you believe that lack of scrutiny of Tony Abbott's words is like bad weather, something to be noted but something mere mortals can't do much about. Why she wants to advertise her own indolence to an employer with a yen for cutting costs is a mystery.
It falls to someone like Stephen Koukoulas to do the work that journalists can't and won't do. This is what added value looks like. Yes, it's pitilessly unsympathetic to Abbott and it leaves him looking merely negated, rather than wondering what Abbott really is about with such a major speech full of holes. This is the foundation of a story (or several) rather than a media story in itself, but in terms of valuable journalism it knocks anything Bourke does and most things Taylor does into a cocked hat.
I am sympathetic to Koukoulas' analysis of the numbers but even if you disagree with him, the following is designed to be numerically agnostic. What follows is a detailed look and what Abbott said and how he said it; it's the kind of thing that journalists should do but can't be bothered doing, because see you down at Kingston and mine's a Mai Tai!
The job, Madam Deputy Speaker, of every member of this parliament is to help shape a better Australia.The first thing that occurred to me on hearing this soaring opening was: who are you and what have you done with Tony Abbott? Where is the hot blast of negativity? It didn't take long for the dog to return to his vomit:
It’s to listen carefully to the Australian people, respect the hard-won dollars they pay in tax, do our honest best to make people’s lives easier not harder, and honour the commitments we make to those who vote for us.
If that’s how we discharge our duties as members of parliament, politics is an honourable calling, the public can respect their MPs and MPs can respect each other even when we disagree.
The fundamental problem with this budget is that it deliberately, coldly, calculatedly plays the class war card.Why have respectful disagreement when you can have: deliberately, coldly, calculatedly, drowning, ignoble, offend the intelligence of the Australian people.
It cancels previous commitments to company tax cuts and replaces them with means-tested payments because a drowning government has decided to portray the political contest in this country as billionaires versus battlers.
It’s an ignoble piece of work from an unworthy Prime Minister that will offend the intelligence of the Australian people.
Abbott could have lifted the tone if he'd wanted to - but don't blame him, it's our unhealthy democracy:
In a healthy democracy, people need not agree with everything a government does but they should be able to understand its purpose and to appreciate why it could be for the long term good of the nation as whole.A democracy which puts Mr Abbott out of government is inherently unhealthy, it would seem. This is a contemptible attitude and he ought not be rewarded for holding and asserting it.
Government should be at least as interested in the creation of wealth as in its redistribution.This is the sort of stuff the Liberals said during the 1980s, which inspired me as a Young Liberal. I had no idea that they lacked the policies to realise those statements. John Howard used to say that sort of thing often, then he became Prime Minister and insisted on creating as many clients of the state as the Australian transfer payment system would bear. This is an example why Abbott isn't entitled to be taken at his word.
Government should protect the vulnerable not to create more clients of the state but to foster more self-reliant citizens.
The small business people who put their houses on the line to create jobs deserve support from government, not broken promises.
People who work hard and put money aside so they won’t be a burden on others should be encouraged, not hit with higher taxes.
And people earning $83,000 a year and families on $150,000 a year are not rich, especially if they’re paying mortgages in our big cities.Nobody but the Murdoch press said they - we - were. In a time when we all have to be careful about spending, it is understandable that the gravy train will pull into the station and some of us will have to get off, and that's what happened in this budget. The idea that we should shriek about our entitlements is nonsense, as Joe Hockey pointed out. I spent many years in the Liberal Party being confused about the rhetoric against entitlement and the reality in favour of it; now I just wish they would just decide which way they're going to go and stick with that.
Madam Deputy Speaker, from an economic perspective ...Abbott has no right to claim such a perspective. Never mind what follows, this is simply not a perspective that he has.
Without a growing economy, everything a government does is basically robbing Peter to pay Paul.But we aren't "without a growing economy". The economy is growing at about 3%. It should be possible for the standing orders or convention to interrupt Abbott with a point of order to point this out. Abbott is warning about a problem that doesn't confront us.
With a growing economy, it’s possible to have lower taxes, better services and a stronger budget bottom line as Australians discovered during the Howard era that now seems like a lost golden age of prosperity. It seems like we were being set up for the great fall that was the GFC. Some places fell harder than others, and I have more sympathy for this government than many do because of that. There is an implicit idea that Abbott can bring back the good times is a lie. It isn't charming, as his fans think. It isn't a fact to be reported, as Bourke or anyone at Sky News thinks. Nor is it the sort of thing you just have to put up with, as Lenore Taylor would have it.
As this budget shows, to every issue, this government’s kneejerk response is more tax, more regulation and more vitriol.Sounds just like Howard. Seriously though, fancy Abbott complaining about vitriol: anyone who dishes it out like he does should be better at taking it.
The Treasurer referred just once on Tuesday night to what he coyly called the carbon price ...What was coy about it? It's not a tax. Remember how Joe Hockey goes on about how it's designed to decline in revenue terms over time? Taxes don't do that. It's designed to impose a price to encourage low-carbon outputs: much like the Howard government's policy in the 2007 election, way back in the golden age.
Look at Peter Costello's 2000 Budget speech: he didn't labour the point about the GST because he didn't need to. The then opposition's screeching about A Great Big New Tax and promising to roll it back did them no favours.
If the carbon tax won’t hurt anyone why is the government topping up compensation in this budget?Let's be clear about this: why would the Liberals seek to compete with a Labor government about who's more genuinely a Labor government?
If the carbon tax won’t hurt anyone, why did the Prime Minister promise six days before the last election that there would be no carbon tax under the government she led?
If the carbon tax won’t hurt anyone why are Labor members of parliament now frightened to go doorknocking even in their heartland?
Let’s be clear about this: no genuine Labor government would be hitting the families and businesses of Australia with the world’s biggest carbon tax at the worst possible time.
When I was in the Liberal Party, moderates like me were blasted hard and often by people like Tony Abbott, who asserted that moderate policies and beliefs were not really Liberal and that people who held them should go and join the Labor Party. Now all the moderates have gone and Abbott is fighting Labor over who's more Labor. It's funny how things turn out.
It doesn’t matter how many times the Treasurer refers to a Labor government with Labor values, the real Labor people with whom I mix beyond the parliamentary triangle despair of the politicians who have sold their party’s soul to the Greens.The "people with whom [Abbott mixes] beyond the parliamentary triangle" include Clive Palmer, Ray Hadley and Cardinal Pell, all of whom have disparaged the Greens and Labor's association with them. Even so, it's hard to determine how such people might be considered "real Labor people". Abbott would have a hard time mixing with people who don't substantially agree with him, or at the very least won't challenge him, which would make any of his muckers who might fairly be described as rusted-on Labor few and rare. It's unlikely such people would do much mixing with our Tony anyway because, y'know, he's a busy man.
Madam Deputy Speaker, I applaud the Treasurer’s eagerness to deliver a surplus – but if a forecast $1.5 billion surplus is enough to encourage the Reserve Bank to reduce interest rates, what has been the impact on interest rates of his $174 billion in delivered deficits over the past four years?Hmm, not sure. What about all those countries that have deficits bigger than the Australian government's budget, and whose reserve banks have interest rates at or near zero? I'll leave this to economists, but basically Abbott's assumption that government deficits = high interest rates isn't strong, and if someone's economic assumptions are dodgy I won't vote for them.
Madam Deputy Speaker, I know what it’s like to deliver sustained surpluses because I was part of a government that didYou helped lead us into the GFC? Is that your idea of economic credentials? You're going to manage the budget so that walk smack into another disaster, unprepared? Thanks for the warning.
I challenge the government to stop hiding this massive lift in Australia’s credit card limit in the Appropriation Bills and to present it, honestly, openly to the parliament as a separate measure where it will have to be debated and justified on its merits.If they did that, it would sail through just like every other piece of legislation this government has put up.
Madam Deputy Speaker, just two months ago, the Prime Minister said that “if you are against cutting company tax, you are against economic growth. If you are against economic growth, then you are against jobs”.Business could've had a bigger tax cut had the mining tax been bigger, but they didn't support the mining tax at all. They elected Graham Bradley as their spokesperson, the man who ran Bluescope while ignoring rising Chinese self-sufficiency in the product which he was increasingly less successful in selling them. Business has kicked the government unrelentingly, and not so much as asked the Liberals to vote them a tax cut. It's to the government's credit that they gave them nothing: self-respect at last.
In dumping her commitment to company tax cuts...
... the Prime Minister has reinforced her trust problem: why should this year’s budget commitments be any more reliable than previous ones, especially when so much is such obvious spin.Every Opposition says this. Even the ones that are no mean spinners themselves.
He hailed the delivery of the National Disability Insurance Scheme but neglected to mention that it was short-changed $2.9 billion from the Productivity Commission’s version.Abbott should have mentioned that he regards the NDIS as an optional extra, to be introduced at some undetermined point into the future as and when he felt like it. That would have been the decent thing to do.
The Treasurer insisted that military spending could be cut, breaking more commitments in the process, without harming our defence capability even though defence spending, as a percentage of GDP, will soon be at the lowest level since 1938.I am so sick of the idea that more money = better defence. If Abbott is seriously making the case that our country today faces the same threat that it faced in 1938, he has a duty to let us know and make a case against it, like Churchill did at that time, not just fling it across the dispatch box like some verbal booger.
Madam Deputy Speaker, the Australian people deserve better than this and they’re looking to the Coalition for reassurance that there is a better way.Notice how Abbott buttresses his more dodgy assertions with unrelated but sturdier claims. That "the Australian people deserve better" is unarguable; that "they’re looking to the Coalition for reassurance that there is a better way", less so.
The Coalition has a plan for economic growth; it starts with abolishing the carbon tax and abolishing the mining tax.So big mining companies can rake it in and hopefully it will trickle down to the rest of us. That's how it starts, so the rest of it would want to be a doozy.
Abolishing the mining tax will make Australia a better place to invest and let the world know that we don’t punish success.Where is the investor holding off investing in this country because of the mining tax? It's one thing to stand up for one interest group over another, but standing up for an interest which doesn't exist is not necessarily a winning strategy. Standing up for mining companies isn't standing up for families.
Abolishing the carbon tax would be the swiftest contribution government could make to relieving cost of living pressure; it would take the pressure off power prices, gas prices and rates; it would prevent more pressure on transport prices.If we keep emitting carbon at the rate we are, cost of living pressures will increase. The campaign against carbon emissions is not just another environmental campaign, like those for whales or koalas; it is economic policy at its most hard-headed. Going ahead with the carbon price avoids compensation to the big emitters; Abbott may bristle at the whole idea that he's taking money off battlers to give to billionaires, but that's what would happen if the carbon price were to be repealed.
It would help to ensure that we keep strong manufacturing, vibrant agriculture, growing knowledge-based industries and a resilient services sector – as well as a mining industry – in a vigorous five pillar economy.Pillars aren't vigorous, they have to be still and inflexible and separate in order to hold up, uh, whatever it is they're holding up. I know the difference between agriculture and manufacturing but I'm less clear about the difference between "knowledge-based industries" and "services". You need a bit of knowledge to be successful in agriculture or mining. Again, I'd want Abbott to explain what he means, given that his understanding of the economy depends on it. It would be nice if one of those professional journalists he mixes with inside the parliamentary circle would step up and put this to him, rather than leaving it to scruffy unprofessional bloggers.
Under the Coalition, there will be tax cuts without a carbon tax because we’ll find the savings to pay for them ... The Coalition identified $50 billion in savings before the last election and will do at least as much again before the next one.Government is smaller today than it has ever been under the Coalition. The Coalition didn't identify anything like that amount of saving before the last election, one reason why it is not in government; Abbott is wrong to assert that they did, not only to avoid rewriting history but because it won't help him change to get a different result next time. Before and since the last election they did, however, burn a vibrant knowledge-based industry provider in the process.
Why should the government commit nearly $6 billion to power stations that the carbon tax would otherwise send bankrupt rather than just drop the carbon tax?Because dropping the carbon price won't help. The electricity sector in NSW was in trouble before the carbon price and only a carbon price will lift the thinking about our power needs above the half-witted political fixes that we saw from Egan et al.
Why spend billions to put people out of work rather than into it?Good question. Then again, carbon-intensive industries were putting people off long before carbon price.
Why does the Defence Materiel Organisation need 7000 bureaucrats especially when major equipment purchases are being put off?Ah, but that would mean "DEFENCE CUTS", you see. I see what you're doing there. Why not retrain them as submariners, or teachers of Asian languages?
Why does Australia need to spend millions to join the African Development Bank?Much more cost-effective to wait until their economies collapse and welcome them in as refugees. Oh, wait ...
Why spend $50 billion on a National Broadband Network so customers can subsequently spend almost three times their current monthly fee for speeds they might not need?This is an address in reply to the budget. The NBN isn't in the budget. Future generations will laugh at the very idea of "speeds they might not need". Indeed, contemporary Liberal MPs whinge loudly that the NBN isn't coming to their areas now.
Why put so much into the NBN when the same investment could more than duplicate the Pacific Highway, Sydney’s M5 and the road between Hobart and Launceston; build Sydney’s M4 East, the Melbourne Metro, and Brisbane’s Cross City Rail; plus upgrade Perth Airport and still leave about $10 billion for faster broadband?Great ideas all; how are you going to pay for all that? Why not jack up the mining tax?
And why spend another $1.7 billion on border protection cost blow outs because the government is too proud to admit that John Howard’s policies worked?Worked at what? Was there really a correlation between punitive detention and reduced refugee numbers, or were other factors at work? If reintroducing those policies would make the country less proud, let's not.
Madam Deputy Speaker, the Treasurer boasts that our economy will be 16 per cent bigger by mid 2014 than it was in mid 2008 before the Global Financial Crisis.Yeah, anyone can achieve growth in an overheated economy.
What he doesn’t mention is that over the previous six years growth was 22 per cent ...
We’ll cut business red tape costs by at least a billion dollars a year by requiring each government agency to quantify the costs of its reporting and compliance rules and delivering an annual savings target.A recipe for Canberra fudge, right there.
Public service bonuses won’t be paid unless these targets are met.
There’ll be a once-in-a-generation commission of audit to review all the arms and agencies of government to ensure that taxpayers are getting good value for money.Like Kevin Rudd, he'd hit the ground reviewing. That, and the pantomime surprise of it all being "worse than we thought".
We will respond carefully but decisively to the problems that the community has identified in the Fair Work Act so that small businesses and their staff can get a fair go and our productivity can increase.What community? Is this a definite policy, or a placemarker that doesn't bear scrutiny?
... unlike the government, we didn’t need the Fair Work report into the Member for Dobell to realise that some unions are corrupt boys clubs.Proof? I've blogged on sloppy governance in the union movement but I make no allegations as Abbot does. Why unions have let this pass is a mystery.
We’ll work with the states to put local people in charge of public schools and public hospitals because they should be as responsive to their patients and to their parents as businesses are to their customers.What Abbott wants to do here is appoint busybodies who think all health policy involves abortion/euthanasia and all education policy is about sex and/or religion. This would be an accountability nightmare with no improvement in outcomes.
Where unskilled work is readily available, unemployment benefits should be suspended for fit people under 30 – as recommended by Warren Mundine, a former Labor Party National President.As long as there's an hour a week somewhere, no unemployment benefits for anyone. Remind me why Warren Mundine is any sort of expert in anything?
And yes, there will be a fair-dinkum paid parental leave scheme, giving mothers six months at full pay with their babies, to bring Australia into the 21st century, finally, and to join the 35 other countries whose parental leave schemes are based on people’s pay.Ah yes, the Great Big New Tax.
Parental leave is a workplace entitlement not a welfare benefit so should be paid at people’s real wage, like sick leave and holiday pay.
Plus there’ll be a Productivity Commission inquiry to consider how childcare can be made more flexible and more effective, including through in-home care, so that more women can participate in a growing economy if that’s their choice.This is why public servants hate politicians.
There has been enquiry after enquiry into publicly subsidised nannies, and every one of them has said it's a crap idea. The PC will almost certainly return the same finding. Then there'll be another enquiry, and another one, until Abbott says: we had the inquiry, promise fulfilled, and everyone who voted themselves a nanny will feel cheated. Ever since the Women's Land Army there have been career opportunities for women in this country other than nannying. In an era of 5% unemployment it isn't clear where these nannies will come from, unless ... nah, as if Immigration Minister Ray Hadley will let us have Hazara nannies, I mean come on.
I will continue to work with Noel Pearson to help shift the welfare culture that’s sapped Aboriginal self-respect and with Twiggy Forrest to get more Aboriginal people into the workforce.More than what? Forrest's employment program has been embarrassing window-dressing at best.
I will keep spending a week every year volunteering in Aboriginal communities and I hope that a tribe of public servants will soon have to come with me to gain more actual experience of the places we are all trying to improve.Do you want people to develop self-respecting communities or do you want a Potemkin village with a "tribe" of public servants on allowances? You haven't thought this through, have you.
The Coalition will reward conservation-minded businesses with incentives to be more efficient users of energy and lower carbon emitters.That policy, not the market-based mechanism of the ALP, is "socialism masquerading as environmentalism". It's more expensive and less effective.
Our policy means better soils, more trees and smarter technology ... There will be a standing Green Army, an expanded version of the Green Corps that I put in place in government, to tackle our landcare problems so that beaches and waterways can be cleaner and land more productive.
The next Coalition government will fund infrastructure in accordance with a rational national plan based on published cost-benefit analyses.All infrastructure is dependant on taxpayers. They're going to do the cost-benefit analyses, aren't they? Well, aren't they - or are merchant banks proposing the projects also going to do the CBAs, like those expensive and ill-used road tunnels in Sydney?
We’ll also find the most responsible ways to get more private investment into priority projects so that the new roads, public transport systems and water storages that we need aren’t so dependent on the taxpayer.
Madam Deputy Speaker, too often, government’s focus is on the urgent rather than the important; on what drives tomorrow’s headline rather than on what changes our country for the better.Abbott shows he'll keep this going. An Abbott victory is a victory for the idea that the media stunt is the only way to run this country.
We are supposed to be adapting to the Asian century, yet Australians’ study of foreign languages, especially Asian languages, is in precipitous decline.This is because the Howard government axed the Asian languages program. There were six more years of Howard government following that, including with the now Shadow Foreign Minister as Education Minister. There is no demonstrable Coalition commitment to Asian language teaching.
The proportion of Year 12 students studying a foreign language has dropped from about 40 per cent in the 1960s to about 12 per cent now.
There are now only about 300 Year 12 Mandarin students who aren’t of Chinese-heritage.
Since 2001, there has been a 21 per cent decline in the numbers studying Japanese and a 40 per cent decline in the numbers studying Indonesian.
If Australians are to make their way in the world, we cannot rely on other people speaking our language.The only way to get that generational shift happening is to import graduates from Asian universities who are native speakers and willing to train as Australian teachers. If you're going to do this there would have to be thousands involved ... see, the Coalition aren't as visionary as they need to be, In their current configuration the Little Australia mob will hold them back.
Starting in pre-school every student should have an exposure to foreign languages.
This will be a generational shift because foreign language speakers will have to be mobilised and because teachers take time to be trained.
Still, the next Coalition government will make a strong start.
My commitment tonight is to work urgently with the states to ensure that at least 40 per cent of Year 12 students are once more taking a language other than English within a decade.This is Abbott's clearest promise, and his least credible. He doesn't have the money and nowhere in his past is there any sort of commitment to Asian languages - not a semester of Japanese, no post-graduation trek through Thailand, no Hong Kong girlfriend. Nothing.
Rudd's scheme had credibility because of his own studies in Mandarin and his lived experience. It is flatly untrue that Abbott could or would introduce such a scheme. To see his contempt for Education generally, look at his shadow minister, look for any evidence of policy.
Madam Deputy Speaker, there is little wrong with ... our cities.The same bogus wishlist, reasserted but not costed or put into any context about what our country wants or needs.
Every day, with every fibre of my being, I would be striving to help Australians be their best selves.Not with that list; you can't even be your best self.
Madam Deputy Speaker, as someone whose grandparents were proud to be working class, I can feel the embarrassment of decent Labor people at the failures of this government.Maybe this is another legacy of taking too much notice of pinheads from the US Republicans: embarrassing attempts at reverse snobbery and insinuation into a working class that no longer exists and doesn't include that speaker. Those "Howard Battlers" who elected Liberal MPs from seats they'd never won before know now that Abbott is jerking them along, that he isn't one of them/us and can't deliver Howardism redux.
I regret to say that the deeper message of this week’s budget is that the Labor Party now only stands for staying in office.Only if you ignore all the policy and economics and stuff, and if you can rely on a lazy and stupid media to present your view as much more valid than all that.
Everyone knows that the Prime Minister is a clever politician but who really trusts her to keep any commitments?Change the pronoun and you could have said that about Howard. Abbott does this when he gets frustrated that the government won't just lay down and die like he wants it to, that he has to fight a tough and shrewd opponent - and who instead can only gut an already-dead fish with an already-sharpened knife until the cameras switch off and he hands that work back to working-class people who do that sort of work every day.
Then this parliament can once more be a proper contest of ideas between those who see bigger government and those who see empowered citizens as the best guarantee of our nation’s future.In such a debate it isn't clear which side Abbott would be on. Maybe a journalist might ask him, one who'd know big government when they saw it and who understands why it's an issue.
As budget week has demonstrated, minority governments are too busy managing the parliament to manage the economy properly.Seems they're doing both. Labor has demonstrated the ability to turn minority government into majority government; Liberals can't make the transition, which is why Abbott is having problems with his so-close-but-yet-so-far predicament.
With each broken promise, with each peremptory change, with each tawdry revelation, with each embarrassing explanation, the credibility of this government and the standing of this parliament is diminished.Abbott can't promise or deliver decent government. James Ashby is proof of that.
At least half that speech is the same old shit Abbott says at any occasion where he is called upon to speak: journalists have heard it so often they don't question it, but if Australia deserves better as Abbott says, then the scrutiny has to be applied - to his face, and by cross-checking what he says against what actually happens.
It doesn't need Peter Costello shouting speechlessly at Abbott's flukes of thought to see that the guy is cruising to irrelevance. This week showed the government can stand its ground when it has no choice. The politics was settled with the Rudd burial, now the policy is in place with the NDIS, carbon price and a surplus budget. If the experience of senior press gallery members was worth anything, they'd spot this shift and tell us more than what I could see.
Abbott will not collapse in a hurry but already his momentum is not what it was. His attacks have an increasingly cracking-hardy air and the faces behind him on the Coalition benches last night were grim. They were not the forward-leaning, grinning and urging faces you see from an opposition that can smell government approaching. I doubt the faces of government MPs opposite them had the beaten look that they needed to reinforce them and their leader. They seemed to be doing what Liberals do best: keeping up appearances, and waiting for a real leader to come along and sort them out.