This morning on ABC’s 774 Melbourne the Opposition Leader Tony Abbott outlined that a Coalition government would repel the carbon tax/ETS whilst simultaneously maintaining the tripling of the tax free threshold, tax cuts for those earning under 80k, pension increases and much of the assistance packages. 774’s Jon Faine rightly pointed out to the Opposition Leader that the economy isn’t an magic pudding. Eliminating the revenue from the carbon tax is one thing, but to then promise that virtually all the relatively popular expenditure would remain is surely blatant economic populism, detached from any sense of reality or responsibility.
Abbott is no dullard, the man is a Rhodes Scholar who studied economics, he can surely see how absurd his position is, yet he continues to make these claims over and over again, these claims aren’t just limited to the carbon tax. He is free to enter into these lubriciously populist and and economically irresponsible positions because any counter message from the Government is simply ignored due to their inability to communicate any form of cohesive policy. Labor’s toxic relationship with much of the electorate allows the opposition to make these wild claims with little fear of reproach. Whilst the media is occupied with weekly poll results, the Government’s policy failings or covering stunts in Whyalla. Abbott is playing a dangerous brand of politics, promising the world to voters now may feel great but when it comes time to govern and tough decisions need to be made, expect people to feel disenchanted, even lied to. Juliar may give way to Fony Tony.
The Coalition has positioned itself as the party of economic responsibility and conservatism that would never have gone on a spending spree during the GFC years. Yet their policies are completely out of sync with their own perceived ideology. Promising to axe the ETS without rolling back the compensation is near economic vandalism. The Coalition has admitted to having a $50 billion shortfall in their budget, to be offset by dramatic, almost unbelievable cuts to the federal bureaucracy and services. Joe Hockey has stated that a Coalition government would bring an end to Australia’s welfare state, yet they remain opposed to means testing private health insurance. Abbott decries any tax raises, yet is perfectly happy to apply a ‘levy’ to companies to pay for his generous paid parental leave scheme, complimented with a nanny rebate. The party of free markets has proposed a government direct action plan to spend billions of dollars to reduce CO2 emissions. The Coalition’s policies and ideology appear to be miles apart, with little consistency or coherence.
There has been very little pressure on the Coalition to outline their policies, this will continue through to the next election, it may even take a second place in the campaign. Labor would surely try to capitalise on Abbott’s disapprovable ratings and his highly negatove relatioship with the electorate. When it comes time to govern they will have to determine what they really stand for and accept that they cant make everyone happy in a democracy. If they decide to take the economically responsible path they may feel a backlash from the electorate when their back pocket is targeted. If they continue down this path of demagoguery and populism, economic rationalism will have a lesser presence in their ideological thinking. The drive to remain in power lends political parties to go down the populist path, rather than engaging in tough reform or future building. This is one of the dangers to any democratic system.