I have a mandate
In 1963, when Martin Luther King
articulated his dream for the future of his children, he touched the
hearts and minds of people around the world. He spoke of a world of
equal opportunity for all, a world where children would be nurtured, a
world where people would be safe and free from hatred and intolerance.
He spoke of the shameful situation where, 100 years after
emancipation, “the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the
midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.”
As I listened to this speech again, I could not help but compare it
to the vision, or lack thereof, from our current government. “I have a
mandate” does not quite have the same ring to it. Aiming to leave our
children debt free seems such a paltry goal, one that is naively
unattainable and questionably desirable.
Where is the plan for the country we want to be? Where is the path to the world Martin Luther King dreamed of?
Tony’s dream seems to change daily. Early in the piece, stopping the
boats was his main aim. Endless hours in Parliament were devoted to a
count of boat arrivals and deaths at sea. Countless headlines told us
how a few thousand asylum seekers were destroying our way of life.
Since taking office, Operation Sovereign Borders has been the one
policy that has an open-ended budget – whatever it takes. Everything is
sacrificed to stop the boats – tens of billions of dollars, our
relationship with our neighbours, our international reputation and the
reputation of our Navy. We are even prepared to sacrifice the lives of
those people who have come to us seeking safe haven, and risk the mental
and physical health of asylum seekers and their children by
incarcerating them indefinitely, even though they are the victims and
have committed no crime other than to ask for our help.
In an attempt to appeal to female voters, Tony took an awkward foray
into the world of feminism by promising a generous paid parental leave
scheme to encourage “women of calibre” to have babies. His caring new
persona was backed up by interviews with his female relatives and
uncomfortably private revelations from his female Chief of Staff. This
very costly and widely unpopular scheme remains in the budget after a
slight trim which barely affects its cost.
Closer to election time, it once again became a referendum on the
carbon tax. This great big new tax on everything was wrecking our
economy and driving up the cost of living for ordinary Australians.
Tony promised to save us $550 a year from our power bills because
pensioners were having to choose between eating and being warm.
When the carbon tax was shown to be working in reducing demand, and
the economy kept growing with low inflation, the focus shifted more to
integrity and trust.
“So my pledge to you is that I won’t say one thing
before an election and do the opposite afterwards because fibbing your
way into office is what’s brought our public life into disrepute.” – January 31, 2013
“We will be a no-surprises, no-excuses government, because you are
sick of nasty surprises and lame excuses from people that you have
trusted with your future.” – August 25, 2013
Despite alarmist rhetoric warning of a budget emergency, an economic
crisis, and a debt and deficit disaster, Tony promised repeatedly in
that simplistic manner he has of counting off on his fingers, no cuts to
health, no cuts to education, no changes to pensions, no changes to the
GST and no cuts to the ABC and SBS.
During one of a million election doorstops a reporter asked him: ”The
condition of the budget will not be an excuse for breaking promises?”
”Exactly right” replied Tony. ”We will keep our commitments that we
make …” he went on to say for the umpteenth time in the campaign.
Buoyed by an overwhelming victory in the election and being handed
the keys to the safe, each Minister seemed to go off on their own path
Warren Truss was the warm-up act, re-announcing funding for roads
that had previously been funded. Apparently, if you close off funding
from one source and then fund it from a different source then you can
claim it as your own initiative, a strategy they are also using in
We then have spokesmodel Jamie Briggs with the big introduction…”It
really gives me pleasure to introduce to you, the indescribable, the
incompatible, the unadorable…..Prime Minister for Infrastructure.”
Tony has gone on a flurry of spending on roads that have not had the
appropriate studies done. They are not high on the list of priorities
carefully constructed by Infrastructure Australia. Rather than making
voters happy, many of these roads are striking opposition from residents
and businesses who are demanding more information. One of the main
criticisms is that these bits of roads do not link up to integrated
public transport networks. They may provide routes for freight trucks
but they are not helping commuters get to work. Endless kilometres of
bitumen carrying thousands of cars to nowhere.
Roads seem to be the only plan to address the growing unemployment
situation. How many people can it employ? What do these people do when
the road is finished? What assets are we selling to build these
roads? What employment plans are there for people not suited to
Joe Hockey devoted his time to strategies to make himself look good.
He immediately borrowed $8.8 billion to give to the RBA. He then
pulled off the most amazing sleight of hand by convincing people that
the figures in MYEFO were Labor’s debt and deficit. Ignore the fact
that this document was actually the debt and deficit using Coalition
policies, lie about the debt by quoting a possible debt in ten years’
time and attribute it to Labor, inflate the deficit with your own
spending and assumptions, and then produce a Budget that reduces your
own inflated deficit by taking money from the most vulnerable in our
Joe is also future-proofing himself by getting sick people to
contribute $20 billion to reduce the deficit. Do not be fooled into
thinking this money is going to medical research. It is not. The
interest earned by the money is to go to research but the principal will
sit there untouched to make Joe’s bottom line healthier, courtesy once
again, of our most vulnerable.
Scott Morrison enjoyed the limelight as he went on his relentless
campaign of showing just how big a bastard this country could be,
spending money hand over fist.
Christopher Pyne immediately began remoulding education to his
priorities which seem to focus on our Judeo-Christian heritage and the
ANZAC legacy. He also wants more mention of Conservative politicians
and the role of big corporations in shaping our identity. Rote learning
and teacher-based instruction will replace research, discovery,
initiative and creativity.
When you hear Christopher say he has put an extra $1.2 billion into
education to sign up the remaining States to the Gonski reforms, he got
that $1.2 billion by ripping almost $1 billion out of the trades
training centres programme and the rest of it by abolishing the before
and after school care program. And now we find that they have ripped a
further $80 billion out of funding to the States for health and
Andrew Robb has been signing Free Trade Agreements quicker than they
can be printed. The reason other countries are willing to sign so
quickly after years of negotiation is because this government is
prepared to give up so much for so little in return purely so they can
say we got the job done.
Our Health Minister is busily dismantling Medicare and our
Environment Minister is getting rid of all environmental protections in
his haste to approve more coal mines and more logging. Our Social
Services Minister is removing gambling reforms, cutting welfare and
pensions, and encouraging people to stay married regardless of how bad
Our communications Minister is unravelling arguably the greatest
potential boost to productivity this country would have seen, and
breaking his promise to protect our National Broadcaster.
The rhetoric has now changed. The main promise was apparently to fix
the budget. All other election promises can be sacrificed to achieve
this one. I do believe that governments have to be flexible enough to
adapt to changing circumstances but I do not believe that the situation
has changed so drastically as to warrant the attack we have seen in this
As Hugh Mackay says
“this is a profoundly disappointing budget. It’s not the
economics; it’s not the politics; it’s the clear sign that this
government has young people, the sick, the poor, the unemployed, the
elderly and the marginalised in its sights.”
A joint press release by the cigar-smoking duo of destruction says
“Gross government debt is now forecast to be $389 billion
in 2023-24, compared with the $667 billion left behind by the former
In his MYEFO document produced in December, which included Coalition spending, Joe Hockey said:
“Net debt is expected to be $191.5 billion (12.1 per cent
of GDP) in 2013‑14 and is expected to reach $280.5 billion (15.7 per
cent of GDP) in 2016‑17.”
I always impressed on my children the importance of telling the
truth, especially if something bad had happened. “If I know the truth
then I can work out how to best help you.” I would say to this
government, you have a mandate to tell the truth. If you are honest
with us and prepared to listen to advice, let’s work together to first
of all determine what sort of future we want and then how to best
achieve it. You need to start from scratch.