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Abbott Makes It Up As It Goes

August 14, 2011

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.

  1. Watson permalink
    August 15, 2011 12:37 am

    Recent experience with the Tea Party fundamentalists in the US shows that the right has become so immersed in its own ridiculous theology that it actually believes that the only way to save the economy is to revoke the social contract and allow the rich to keep every cent they earn, Actually low taxation leads directly to wild and irresponsible speculation in the markets. Analysis shows that less than 1% of GDP growth has actually ‘trickled down’ over the past ten years.
    Tony Abbott, bereft of any more original or sensible policy of his own, slavishly repeats the absurdities from across the Pacific.

  2. Pete permalink
    August 15, 2011 9:31 pm

    I find it absurd that the Labor Party is struggling in the polls while the Coalition has such a ridiculous policy. Joe Hockey has to be the worst excuse for a Shadow Treasurer in our history. The Coalition has no credibility on economic issues with Hockey in charge, though Swan is not much better either. However this could still be an issue that Labor could use to gain a poll boost, especially with them at record lows.

    Bob why do you think the Labor Party’s unable exploit this event and effectively communicate with the people on this issue? Is it the Carbon Tax and other issues draining it out? I think Graham Richardson put it perfectly when he said the ALP is adopting a ‘large target strategy’ in that they are just alienating everyone. What are your thoughts?

    I enjoyed seeing you at our Civil War meeting tonight, I hope you will attend future meeting. 😀

    • Bob Carr permalink
      August 15, 2011 9:54 pm

      But, as I said, the monomania about carbon is fading and this creates an opportunity for normalization of politics and an opening for the ALP to smack Abbott hard. The cabinet is not as articulate as I would like, to be sure.

      I enjoyed the meeting and will post something on it tomorrow.

      • Pete permalink
        August 15, 2011 10:16 pm

        Well I hope you are correct. So far Abbott has had a free ride and I hope he gets some scrutiny. I think the cabinet needs to hire professional speakers… Anyway I will look forward to your post.

        Thanks, have a good night.

  3. August 15, 2011 9:33 pm

    I believe the full comment was that they’d have to cut $70 billion over four years when government expenditure will be in the order of $1500 billion. (That’s $365 billion times 4 years). That equates to a saving of about 5%, which should be easily achievable. I seem to remember an incoming Labor government in NSW demanding efficiency savings of about that number in one year.

  4. Brian Stitt permalink
    August 16, 2011 8:21 pm

    Lots of $Billions this and $ Billions that but I’m pretty sure no one knows what the hell is going on. GFC 2 will be a beauty.Maybe might even things out a bit in the end

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