Joseph Ludwig

Joseph Ludwig
Friday, 5 December 2014

Doubling down on dishonesty – Abbott’s year in review

As the political year comes to a close, it deserves a bit of reflection on the work of the Government.

I suspect Tony Abbott is keen to have the year over as quickly as possible. Although, given his record, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Liberals managed to muck that up as well.

Tony Abbott said in his address to the National Press Club shortly before the election in 2013, “my aim is to lead a no surprises, no excuses government that says what it means and does what it says.”

It is no surprise that either this government is incompetent or that statement was just another lie.

The rhetoric didn’t end there; Tony Abbott went on to say, “a serious country deserves an adult government. Elect the Coalition, and you will have a grown up, adult government that thinks before it acts.”

It is also no surprise that Tony Abbott stopped saying this after the budget backlash failed to go away.

By last Monday everyone from Tony Abbott down was trying to put some gloss on the year that was. I think his contribution would have been better if he had added this quote, written exactly one hundred years ago by Robert Frost:

“And nothing to look backward to with pride,

And nothing to look forward to with hope.”

Tony Abbott has achieved nothing to reflect on with pride from his first year in office. He’s made sweeping cuts, he’s told unmitigated lies and he’s launched attacks on the basic Australian standard.

The years ahead look equally bleak for the Government. Rather than taking the opportunity of a true mea culpa on Monday, the Prime Minister has doubled down on dishonesty. Less than twenty four hours after admitting his government was ‘ragged’, they were back into the fray launching ‘round two’ on kids trying to get a higher education.

It is truly astonishing that the Abbott government has not learnt that words and actions have to match in politics. His lies before the election haven’t matched his deeds in government, and on Monday he failed to make sure his actions matched his words.

I think at his core, Tony Abbott has not recognised his own mismatch of words and deeds. He is either ignorant or he’s wilfully continuing to lie about lying; which leads to my next quote, this one from 2014:

 “What we did with the Budget was get the fundamentals right.”

Not from a wordsmith, but Tony Abbott himself.

Over time I believe this statement will be to Tony Abbott what ‘working people have never been better off’ was to John Howard. A massive misread of the community mood and a huge insult to the millions of people impacted by the actions of a government out of touch with reality.

To be clear, the fundamentals Tony Abbott think he’s gotten right include a debt sentence for university education, a tax on going to the doctor, increased petrol tax, cutting superannuation, cuts to pensions, $80 billion in cuts to health and education, and cuts to the ABC and SBS.

Not to mention providing Australian Defence Force personnel a pay deal below the cost of living. I was truly shocked when the justification for this was to say that it was okay because the thousands of workers employed by the Federal Government would be getting even less pay again!

If these are the fundamentals what do they have in store next?

The Government has discovered that adding the word ‘reform’ after an unfair policy doesn’t make it right for the nation. If the Government has significant policy problems, all of their own doing, then they have equally large internal issues ahead. All of the policy and political problems have served to expose the problems they have as a political outfit with a crisis of purpose.

It was there on full display at Tony Abbott’s false dawn apology press conference on Monday. He doesn’t have a Plan B for government, bearing in mind Plan A wasn’t discussed before the election.

What we have discovered in the 12 months is that the Abbott Government can’t manage the Senate, can’t manage the Budget, and can’t manage its own frontbench ministers.

The position of the Assistant Treasurer remains vacant, the longest ministerial vacancy in the history of the Federation; the Minister for Defence is under pressure to stand down from his own colleagues; and the Education Minister is busy texting himself Winston Churchill quotes – I am not sure he has heard of the saying once bitten, twice shy.

We can talk about the politics or the ‘atmospherics’ of what Tony Abbott is doing but for me it keeps coming back to a fundamental question of fairness. This isn’t a matter of who is up and who’s down with the pollsters or the commentariat. This is about protecting the base standard of living built over decades of the post war era.

Access to good quality affordable health care, opportunities for higher education and skills training, getting fairly paid for a day’s work and having enough savings to provide for a comfortable retirement. These form the bedrock of the Australian way of life, there to be built upon – not there to be smashed by a sledgehammer.

I think next year will mark a significant turning point. While Tony Abbott will be busy thinking up new ways to sneak his attacks past the Australian people, Labor will be in the ideas business. As Bill Shorten said, 2014 was a year of resilience – a year of standing up for the Australian people. Next year we’ll still need to spend each and every day battling Tony Abbott’s lies and attacks. I don’t think anyone would want us to take our eyes off Tony Abbott but next year will also be about positive plans for the nation.

For Labor we can look back with pride on the work we’ve done to build the Australian standard and the work this year to protect it. As the year closes we can look forward with hope at the work to be done and the possibilities for the nation.



About Joseph Ludwig:

Joseph Ludwig is a Senator for Queensland and former minister in the Rudd and Gillard Governments.