Politics, Poetry and Reviews

Politics: Federal Election – Meet the Coalition (Liberal Party, National Party)

Yes indeed, it’s time for the Liberal Party / National Party Coalition. I’m going to state two things up-front here. First, I don’t much like this lot, and I particularly dislike Tony Abbott, and am discinlined to believe anything he says. He reminds me too much of Howard. Secondly, the Coalition is not going to get the same in-depth analysis that the smaller parties got. This is partly because most people in Australia know exactly who the Coalition parties are and what they stand for, and partly because I still can’t get the Liberal site to load in any reasonable fashion and when it does, it slows down my whole computer to a dreadful degree (either at home or at work when I tried to do this in my lunchbreak). And I can’t get the policy PDFs to download at all. The National Party pages, on the other hand, do load, and they have all their policies in one downloadable PDF.

So I’m sorry, Liberal Party of Australia. Much as I don’t like to do this, I’m going to have to base all my Coalition policy notions on what the Nationals say in their statement, because after 48 hours of trying, I have been unable to access a single policy from your website… though, strangely, accessing press statements about how incompetent Labor is has been fairly easy. I will leave analysis of this to the reader. If you want more information on Coalition and, for that matter, Labor policies and politicking, I can strongly recommend The Conscience Vote, a blog that covers all the election stuff that I’m really bad at, so well worth looking at.

As is traditional, we’re going to start with Senate Preferences. And the Liberals give theirs straight to Family First and the DLP, followed by the Christian Democratic Party and the Shooters and Fishers. Which appalls me, actually – I knew that the Coalition had moved ridiculously to the right but this is worse than I had imagined. The Greens precede Labour just after the halfway point on the ticket, and the CEC and One Nation are last of all. Sorry, I just have to pause for a moment to assimilate the fact that one of our major parties put the DLP, the CDP and the Shooters and Fishers in their top 16. My God.

The temptation to make this whole post about how much I dislike Tony Abbott and his sexist, obnoxious, holier-than-thou, and did I mention SEXIST? ways is very strong, but this is about policy, so I’ll have to grit my teeth and find out what the Coalition actually has to say on other topics. But please don’t imagine that because I’m not raging openly about on Abbott’s vilely sexist ways – not to mention the usual right-wing misappropriation of the word ‘Christian’ to mean ‘judgmental and lacking in compassion for anyone who isn’t like me’ – that I do not think all these things. In some ways, this lot make me angrier than One Nation, because there is a reasonable possibility that they will actually get in.

Right, on with the policies.

The first thing one cannot help but note about these policies is that for every single one, they include a nice, long section called ‘Labor’s Record’, dedicated to pointing out how incompetent Labor is. Note that the smaller parties don’t bother with this, and instead take the unusual view that their own policies might be of more interest to readers than opposition-bashing.

The second thing that should be noted is that the Nationals’ policies all have a regional slant – that’s pretty much their mission statement. I think we can safely assume that the Liberal Party policies will be similar but less regionally focused. I’m not going to do every single policy, but I will try to cover most of them.

As is traditional, the Coalition like to portray themselves as being the fiscally responsible party.

The Nationals’ highest priority is to build a strong economy and usher in a new area of growth, prosperity and opportunity in Australia’s regions. Strong economic management means lower taxes and downward pressure on interest rates. It means more funds to invest in health and education, national security, and infrasctructure such as road and communication networks.

The Nationals understand that debt and deficit spending rob future generations of their autonomy and standard of living, especially if the money is not invested in productive economic infrastructure. The Nationals believe in private enterprise as the foundation of the nationa’s economy. We believe in a fair and equitable taxation system which guards against disadvantage to those people living and working in regional Australia.

The second paragraph actually strikes me as a pretty good definition of how the Coalition tends to view the economy. They are big on private enterprise, not so good on public works. Though I don’t think it’s entirely fair to then go on and blame Labor for the fact that we now have more debt than we had in 2007 – ie, before the Global Financial Crisis. Of course, they don’t bother mentioning that part, or the fact that Australia actually weathered the crisis comparitively well. The point is, we have debt! Debt is bad! Labor is fiscally irresponsible!

Also, I admit to knowing nothing about economics, but can you really have lower tax and interest rates leading to more funds to invest in health, education etc? I wouldn’t have thought so.

Also, it seems to me that one of the reasons the Coalition always claims to have so much money to invest in these things is that they never spend money on any of these things if they can help it, so that it can sit there in the bank, bulding interest and their reputation for fiscal responsibility. I believe the general clichéd view of the Coalition versus Labor in Australia is thet the Coalition saves money and Labor spends it – what tends to be forgotten is that you do need to do both of these things for a country to be both fiscally viable and actually keep the country’s infrastructure running.

Anyway, their policies are to return the budget to surplus and pay back debt (they don’t say how); to assure a fair share of services and spending for the regions; review zonal taxation allowances, and if appropriate, replace them with a system which provides increased allowance to those living in the most remote areas (note the phrase ‘if appropriate’. I believe this is what we call a ‘non-core’ promise, or possibly even a non-promise); promote regional investment and create new employment opportunities in regional areas. Oh, and they oppose the mining tax. But we knew that already.

This being the Nationals, they have a specific plan for Regional Development, which involves making sure regions get a guaranteed and specific portion of funds for school, health and infrastructure, decentralising decision-making and encouraging entrepreneurship in regional Australia. They also have rather a nifty plan to reduce the HECS debt of graduates who choose to work in regional Australia, with the reduction to be dependent on the remoteness of the region and how long they spend there. This is, however, only ‘a partial reduction’, so the level of incentive may not be as effective as they’d like – Flinders Medical Centre, I think, had a series of scholarships whereby students would have their entire degree paid for if they agreed to then go and work in regional or rural areas for several years after graduation. My recollection is that they still had trouble getting people to take up the scholarships, or go where they were told after graduation.

The Nationals want a Minister for Regional Health and increased financial support for doctors who provide services in regional areas. Apparently Labor did this, but not well enough, so the Nationals will do it better. They also want local hospital boards, so that hospitals are more respondent to the needs of their communities. I can see both advantages and disadvantages to this system. They also plan to have some government-run medical practices, which would make it possible for GPs to work in the country without having to buy a practice and effectively manage a small business along with their medical work. This seems like quite a good plan. They also want to extend regional incentives to allied health workers, which is definitely a good plan. I’m beginning to approve of these people.

In Indigenous health, after summarising the shameful state of it, they tell us:

The Nationals understand that throwing more money at these problems is not the answer. Instead we will implement policies to:

– pprovide targeted funding for health care and hygiene education
– introduce programs which give priority to education courses for indigenous students and which inform them on health, hygiene and physical and mental well being
– provide incentives for tertiary educated indigenous Australians to return or support the communities which most need assistance, and
– provide resources to tackle drug and alcohol problems with programs that encourage self-esteem, work participation and education

I’m honestly not sure what to make of this. On the surface it sounds OK, but it also feels ever so slightly patronising to me. And I find the fact that they don’t want to ‘throw money at these problems’ a trifle ominous (rhymes with ‘cut funding’?). Frankly, I preferred the Greens and Democrats and their emphasis on community participation and consultation in trying to improve indigenous health.

In education, I’m really wishing I could read the Liberal party’s policies, because the National party has some interesting ones for improving access for regional students to tertiary education, and I’d really like to see what the tertiary education policy looked like overall. The Nationals want, among other things, a tertiary access allowance to assist students who live more than 90 minutes by public transport (I think – this is worded very poorly, but that’s what it sounds like they are saying) from their place of study to relocate to somewhere closer and pay rent. They also want a nation wide family reunion travel pass, providing free public transport for students returning home for family visits. This is nice. Also nice is their plan to tie assistance and funding for special needs students to the students themselves, so that it follows them automatically if they change schools.

They have a policy for families, and believe that ‘a family unit comprosing two parents, with one as a full-time carer at least until the children reach school age, children, and grandparents, provides the best chance for a prosperous, stable and happy family relationship…’. They do go on to say that this is not possible for everyone, but it does make my inner feminist twitch just slightly. Still, they want both paid maternity, paternity and parental leave, including for the self-employed, as well as a new allowance to replace the baby bonus for those who are not eligible for paid parental leave, which sounds pretty good to me. And they do want to review IR legislation to ‘ensure safeguards which probide a balance between work and family’, which makes me wonder where they were when WorkChoices went through, and they also want to eliminate gender discrimination and work towards pay equality, so perhaps I twitched too soon above. And they want to increase funding for respite care and carers. Every single political party says something like this – I wonder if there’s any chance it will actually happen?

On climate change, the Nationals support a measly 5% reduction in carbon emissions by 2020. They view this as taking a lead role in climate reduction, which is an interesting way to put it. They plan to get rid of the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and they don’t want an Emissions Trading Scheme either – just a voluntary carbon market. They also want energy efficient vehicles and more research into biofuels and other alternative fuels. They want the Government to ‘engage the commercial building sector in improving energy efficiency of city buildings and housing’, and they want to provide incentives for innovative use of renewable energy ‘without forcing large increases in energy prices’.

In short, they don’t really want to do anything themselves, and they don’t want to change anyone’s lifestyle, but they are happy to encourage businesses to do the right thing, if it suits them, and provide incentives. But not taxes or any other kind of penalties for businesses because that would be irresponsible and unfair to small business. Or something like that. I’m deeply unimpressed by this – they don’t even have the excuse of not believing in climate change – they do believe in it, just not enough to do anything about it that might upset business.

On water, they somewhat ominously state that ‘water will be held by the government, to be available for the environment or, in years of plenty, for temporary transfer’ (to what? where?). It’s possible I’ve read too many fruitloopy political party policies, but I feel suddenly paranoid about the government controlling the water supply. Even though it probably does already. They will also provide incentives for communities to store water.

They have a lot of policies relating to primary production, food and farming, which I suspect are quite good, but I don’t quite follow them, and it’s too late at night to type them out, I’m sorry. They don’t say anything about GMOs, but they are the only party so far to start thinking about food distribution in case of a pandemic, which is interesting. They are also big on quarantine regulations, contamination and food safety, which as a wannabe-food manufacturer, I heartily concur with, even as I curse the paperwork.

Under social justice, there is a fair bit of good stuff, which I won’t go into in detail, and they want to remove ‘any discrimination against sexual preference, while maintaining the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman’. So theoretically they should be in favour of gay marriage, since it reduces discrimination and cannot possibly affect the sanctity of marriage between a man and woman since this would be marriage between a man and a man or a woman and a woman. Except that I’m pretty sure that isn’t what they mean.

One glaring omission is immigration and asylum seekers – apparently the Nationals have no interest in this. The Liberal Party website had a whole segment about National Security and Protecting Our Borders which appeared to be mostly about refugees, but of course I couldn’t download anything, so all I know about their policy is that they apparently want to turn back the boats. And have off-shore processing. And generally be utter pricks.

So, in conclusion, the Nationals have a few policies I like. The Liberals don’t want to tell me what their policies are, but unfortunately for them, I’ve heard a certain number of their policies anyway, and didn’t like them. And I think Tony Abbott is absolutely terrifying. The Nationals score better than the Liberals simply because they made their policies available for me to be sarcastic about. The Liberals get bonus low billing for having Tony Abbott as their leader, for being compassionless on the subject of refugees, and for making it impossible to read their policies yet strangely simple to read about how hopeless Labor is. Not classy. But that isn’t much of a loss for them, since we all know I was never likely to vote for them anyway.

With regard to Tony Abbott, there is one more thing I would like to mention.

Two or three months back, well before the election was called, Abbott was involved in a charity auction. He donated a politician’s most precious commodity – time. More specifically, the winner of his bid was offered a surfing lesson with Tony Abbott, and breakfast with Abbott and five of the winner’s friends.

GetUp, a grassroots political organisation, decided that it would be a good idea for Tony to meet some of the people he most enjoys demonising – refugees, or, as we like to call them, illegal immigrants. So GetUp members raised $15,000 (it may have been $16,000? I can’t recall), and won the bid. They then gave the prize to a group of refugees, who were understandably anxious but eager to put their side of the story. Abbott said that he was looking forward to meeting with them.

The cheque was donated to the charity in question and banked weeks ago. The surfing lesson and breakfast have not happened. In fact, Tony is not returning phone calls from GetUp or from Riz, the person who now owns the prize. It’s one thing to make a grand gesture… quite another to carry it through, especially if it isn’t convenient or might be confronting.

Without wishing to sound like a Labor campaign ad, what does this say about Tony Abbott’s ability to honour his commitments and promises? What else is going to quietly become something he just doesn’t have time or money to get around to?


  1. Sandy B

    Cate, the surfing lesson was given but I believe it was done many months after the auction was held. I also believe this may have all happened in 2011 or 12. I donated to getup for them to win this auction and wrote emails more than once to getup and eventually to Tony Abott’s office. I received answers from getup and then finally also Tony Abbotts office. I was told that the Lesson occurred. This is all a long way back in my memory, so actual dates would have to be confirmed with the 2 organisations involved.
    Thank you so much for your assistance with the difficult task of voting according my beliefs and issue on the senate ballot paper.
    Keep up the brilliant writing and analysis, I have referred many people to your blog.


    • Catherine

      Ah yes, this post was written in 2010, I think. Good to know he actually got there in the end.

      And thanks for your lovely comment!

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