Communist Party of Australia  

Home


The Guardian

Current Issue

PDF Archive

Web Archive

Pete's Corner

Subscribe

Press Fund


CPA


About Us

Why you should ...

CPA introduction


Contact Us

facebook, twitter


Major Issues

Indigenous

Unions

Health

Housing

Climate Change

Peace

Solidarity/Other


State by State

NSW, Qld, SA, Vic, WA


What's On

Topical


Resources

AMR

Links


Shop@CPA

Books, T-shirts, CDs/DVDs, Badges, Misc


 

Issue #1667      December 3, 2014

Abbott’s days numbered

PM Tony Abbott has little credibility left with the public and within Liberal and National Party ranks as Coalition MPs and Senators fear the electoral backlash to his broken promises and regressive policies. Divisions within Coalition ranks are deepening. Business leaders are expressing disappointment with the government’s lack of consultation and failure to move faster with their agenda. Abbott’s lack of consultation is so bad that Liberal MPs now jokingly ask the media what the government’s co-payment policy is. The budget is in tatters, but still the PM remains intransigent. Labor’s victory and the success of the Greens in the Victorian state elections on November 29 and Senator Jacqui Lambie’s defection from the Palmer United Party have added to Abbott’s woes.

Broken promises

Remember all those promises on the eve of the federal elections in September 2013 countering concerns in people’s minds:

* No cuts to education

In the May budget the Abbott government announced cuts of $80 billion to health and education over next decade, including $5 billion (20%) cut to university funding and deregulation of uni fees and schools funding. Courses could cost $100,000 or more. Higher interest rates on the student loan system and a lower threshold before repayments begin are before the Senate this week.

* No cuts to health

Budget measures to introduce a Medicare co-payment of $7 and a reduction in the GP rebate if doctors do not accept $7 co-payment. Abbott shelved this legislation until 2015, following the threat of Liberal-National Party Senator Ian Macdonald to cross the floor and vote against it. Every vote in the Senate is critical. Confusion reigns over whether the bill will be watered down, with contradictory statements from the PM’s office and the PM, Treasurer and Health Minister.

* No public servants will be forced into redundancy

Thousands of public servants are being sacked, most involuntarily.

* No cuts to the ABC or SBS

Almost $500 million is being cut, programs taken off air, regional studios closed and hundreds of staff sacked (see “Fury over ABC response to cuts” this issue).

* No changes to pensions

Budget measures to link pension increases to CPI instead of wages growth, meaning they will fall further behind community standards. Increase of the pension age to 70 from 2035.

* No adverse changes to superannuation

Delaying incremental increases in superannuation guarantee levy (to 12%), which will resume in 2021, costing workers thousands of dollars on retirement.

* The Coalition will continue the current level of funding expended on Closing the Gap activities

May 2014 budget cuts $500 million in Indigenous affairs through the consolidation of 150 programs.

The above are just a few of the lies. In addition there have been numerous other cuts, repressive legislation removing democratic rights, the Royal Commission witch hunt into trade unions and the brutal treatment of asylum seekers adding to the government’s unpopularity. The government did keep its promises in relation to dismantling measures to address climate change!

“Verbal gymnastics”

The litany of broken promises was bad enough. Treating the public as complete idiots by claiming a “no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, … and no cuts to the ABC or SBS” promise on the eve of the federal elections was outright insulting. Whatever remaining credibility Abbott had within Coalition ranks and amongst the public took a hammering.

One disgusted backbencher described his refusal to acknowledge the broken promises as “verbal gymnastics”.

Government ministers are having trouble trying to sell the policies. A number of National Party MPs and Senators, in particular, are very concerned about some of the cuts which will hit rural areas hard. The recently signed free trade agreements with Japan, Korea and China are not at all to their liking. For example, the FTA with Japan offered no benefits for Australian dairy, rice, sugar and pork producers.

Senate woes

The Coalition have 33 Senators and 39 votes are required to pass legislation. If they have the support of Labor’s 25 or Greens 10 Senators, the legislation goes through. Otherwise they need six of the eight smaller party/Independent Senators. They have been able to get a number of bills through the Senate, including the draconian terror laws with Labor’s support. Labor also supported the Coalition’s $400 million cuts to student welfare.

The Palmer United Party (PUP) with its three Senators proved very amenable to doing deals and supporting a number of bills such as the repeal of Labor’s taxes on carbon and mining companies, which also appear to be of direct benefit to the billionaire miner.

But divisions within PUP’s ranks have created problems for Abbott. Jacqui Lambie, a former member of Australia’s defence forces (ADF) strongly opposed the government’s plans to limit a pay “rise” for defence personnel to 1.5 percent, in effect a real reduction in their income, and remove some of their allowances and leave provisions.

Lambie dug her heals in, saying she would not support any Abbott legislation until the increase was doubled and all benefits restored. Abbott resisted but last Monday after saying “last week was a ragged week for the government”, he restored allowances but still hung out on 1.5 percent pay rice.

In the process Lambie and mining magnate PUP leader and MP Clive Palmer had a very public falling-out. Lambie resigned from PUP, meaning PUP can only guarantee two Senate votes in any deal – a big blow to Abbott.

While votes in the Senate are hanging on a knife edge, the House of Reps has become a circus, with Speaker Browyn Bishop ejecting a record number of MPs – 285 Labor to four Coalition during Question Time. Parliamentary procedures and democratic processes, as limited as they are, are treated with utter contempt.

Economic woes

Abbott and Treasurer Joe Hockey face other problems in relation to the economy. Taxation income from company profits will be lower than predicted because of low commodity prices on major exports. Likewise, sacking tens of thousands of public and private sector workers will hit the amount of personal income taxation paid. Both developments will hit the budget deficit.

The economy is not booming to say the least, and the government is doing nothing to create jobs. It is a job destroyer. There is a housing boom, in part fuelled by overseas investors and a shortage of housing. Public housing is being dismantled at a time when more is required. Rents and mortgages are eating into incomes and reducing consumption of goods and services, a recession in the making.

More and more people are hurting and the government is making more cuts – the main target being the most disadvantaged and the least well off.

Big business

Abbott has appealed to big business to do more to back him to sell his (meaning their) policies. He seems to believe Murdoch media’s propaganda that it is the marketing, not the policies behind the government’s unpopularity.

But business leaders are not happy with the government’s performance. They had expected much faster progress with deregulation, company tax cuts and union-busting legislation.

The Greens, Labor and cross-bench Senators blocked the Coalition’s attempt to repeal Labor’s Future of Financial Advice laws (FoFA). Amongst other things, FoFA requires financial advisers to put the interests of clients before those of the adviser or financial institutions. Apparently that was too much to wear for an industry managing billions of dollars of workers’ investments!

Now they must be even more concerned with the deepening divisions within government ranks and the strong opposition within the community. Unfortunately Labor is not making the most of the situation, failing to put forward alternative policies in the interests of people. That role has been left to the Greens, who have performed well in both Houses.

The defeat of the Coalition in Victoria is both a vote against the policies of the state and federal governments. The final blow may well have been the announcement of the massive cuts to the ABC on the eve of the Victorian elections.

Watch this space as they say, especially closer to the next federal election.

Next article – Editorial – Australia’s sinking manufacturing future

Back to index page

Go to What's On Go to Shop at CPA Go to Australian Marxist Review Go to Join the CPA Go to Subscribe to the Guardian Go to the CPA Maritime Branch website Go to the Resources section of our web site Go to the PDF of the Hot Earth booklet go to the World Federation of Trade Unions web site go to the Solidnet  web site Go to Find out more about the CPA