Abbott Makes It Up As It Goes
Making it up as you go along is one approach to leading an opposition. But meanwhile you can assume someone on the other side is goading Treasury to keep tabs and do the sums. Or worse, some treasonable bastard on your own is going to leak those troubling calculations your shadow treasurer is carrying around in his briefcase and occasionally shares with colleagues.
Thus it is with Tony Abbott and a whopping figure of $70 billion that will be hung around his neck between now and the next election. It comprises revenue forgone by abolishing the carbon tax and resource rent tax, commitments to personal tax cuts, promises from the last election and the black hole caused by miscalculations.
Not going to bridge that gap with the old trifecta of cuts to government consultants, advertising and trimming the senior executive service. Nor by abolishing a few departments. You only get to savings of that magnitude by reducing entitlements – transfer payments, social security.
Bill Shorten this morning lowered the guns on Abbott saying this amount was more than a whole year’s GST revenue. Surely no economist in the country, aware of the challenge of reining in government outlays that both sides of politics have experienced, is going to endorse this shoddy book keeping.
Am I too harsh? Well, let Peter Costello in his next Fairfax column set forth and take up the challenge. And let Wayne Swan then benchmark Costello’s modest achievements in restraining outlays against the heroism that will be required to make Hockey’s figures work in practice.
The cabon tax is receding as the recent monomania fades and the media and public get sick of Abbott’s one-liners. As the federal climate normalizes Labor has a chance to take Abbott on so that by Christmas voters are telling the pollsters they don’t think the opposition has any plans or ideas, that Abbott just says the same things over and over and that he’s made too many promises and these sums alarm them.
Go to it, Labor.
And Abbott showed himself too ready to placate Alan Jones’ diktat that he sign up to total opposition to mining on farm land. It was a facile commitment when he could have easily asked for time to consult colleagues and bring forth balanced policy. Howard would not have felt so pressured.
Making it up as he goes along.