Another Message to Tony Abbott

In August last year, in anticipation of a coalition victory in the soon-to-be-held election I was impertinent enough to pen a message to Tony Abbott.


A Message to Tony Abbott )

Now that he has been duly elected Prime Minister, and in the light of my previous advice, I feel compelled to provide some more guidance!

Tony, what are you doing? I was relying on you to displace the worst government in my memory and to introduce some reasonable reforms to set Australia on the right track for long term prosperity. Unless you lift your game we are likely to have Labor returned to government with Bill Shorten as Prime Minister. Unfortunately Shorten doesn’t seem to have learnt too much from Labor’s recent defeat and seems determined to continue to carry on and restore the major planks of the Gillard/Rudd platform to our lasting detriment.

It was a mistake in the final throes of campaigning to commit to Labor’s proposed funding of education and the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). You now have one hand tied behind your back as you struggle to rein in government spending without breaking promises. As I have written in previous blog essays, throwing more money at education is no guarantee of better educational outcomes. More fundamental changes need to be made. And while we all would like to see the NDIS in place you would have been well-advised to “hasten slowly”.

You have sent too many mixed signals on the economy front. On the one hand you are berating Labor for leaving the economy in a parlous position but on the other hand you are committing significant expenditure to the Paid Parental Leave Scheme and to items of peripheral benefit such as marriage guidance counselling and school chaplaincies. Your position would have been far more tenable if you had just clamped down on Government expenditure wherever it was possible until such time as you had the financial wherewithal to indulge in new programs.

Similarly you have tried to spin your way out of suggestions that you had broken some of your promises with respect to the budget. The tried and proven response of just about every incoming Government is to plead that the budget position was far worse than your predecessors had portrayed and as a result your promises couldn’t all be honoured. Most voters would have copped it on the chin if you would have put it like that. Instead you are indulging the opposition the opportunity to play so many “got ya” games.

As well your communication strategies have been appalling. The opposition has succeeded in convincing many of the politically illiterate that a wide range of benefits are being cut whereas in fact they are continuing to be increased but not at the rate the Labor had proposed. Where reductions have occurred in absolute terms they have been slight. And the country needs to know these payments are no longer sustainable in the face of our falling terms of trade and our laggardly performance in lifting productivity. This budget is not tough. As Judith Sloan recently wrote, “The truth is we have been living in a fool’s paradise by believing the party could last.”

Some of your initiatives should have been better thought through. In principle if the aged pension is to be sustainable we need to have fewer dependent on it. Consequently, where possible, we should extend the working age and encourage more investment in superannuation. [It is laughable that when Labor extended the age for pension eligibility from 65 to 67 there was nary a protest. But your attempt to extend it further has met with a huge backlash.] It seems to me that the so-called “knowledge workers” (the coterie to which I belong) could have real prospects of being able to competently play a part in the workforce until age 70. It is not so easy for someone who has nothing to offer but their manual labour to do so. You should have done a little more homework about how to manage such people to enable them to transition to retirement with compassion and dignity.

As Joe Hockey has consistently pointed out Australia is mired in a culture of entitlement. Other countries have been there and have successfully managed to reduce Government spending. Tony, it might be worth your while to invite your counterparts from the UK and New Zealand to explain to the Australian public the benefits of austerity budgets (not that you could legitimately argue your budget was such when many of the sacrifices will need to be met in the future!). But nevertheless there is certainly evidence that some short term sacrifices pay off relatively quickly.

And although it is probably a minor issue, let’s talk about that wink! Your minders probably don’t agree but most of us actually relate to you better when you are being yourself. Maybe some of us might not admit it, but few of us would not have been incredulous and a little amused under the same circumstances. Please understand there is no need to appease those who confect outrage under such circumstances. There is nothing you can do that will ever win their approval. But you resonate with a lot of the rest of us by just being natural! (The good Dr Phil tells me that “offence is never given it is only taken”!)

Ok – I have given you a bit of a beating, but only because I would like to see you succeed. Excuse me for being impertinent because I have never been a Rhodes Scholar or a Prime Minister. I was attracted to you because I actually thought you believed in something. Although he, like the rest of us had his faults, John Howard was the same. Whether you agreed with him or not at least he was clesar about what he believed in. I could have missed something, and it might be due to a lack of intellect on my part, but I couldn’t for the life of me pin down the core beliefs of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. They seemed to be largely driven by a populist agenda in an attempt to stay in power. They also reversed many of the reforms of Hawke, Keating and Howard largely to curry favour with the union movement but to the great detriment of the Australian economy.

So in my mind it is time for you to get on the front foot. When you talk passionately about those things you believe in you are quite convincing. When you become apologetic for breaches of political correctness you neither win over your detractors nor convince your supporters.

Be brave! We need someone to stand up and restore our economy. Make sure that you don’t abandon the needy but don’t resile from removing welfare payments from those who don’t really need them.

Bill Shorten doesn’t seem to have any answers for our economic dilemma. What you are proposing might cause some pain to some of us, (mightily exaggerated by the opposition,) but at least it goes some way to addressing our long term budgetary problems. The opposition in the face of substantial evidence to the contrary, seems not to acknowledge that there are any issues of consequence with the Australian economy.

I think I largely said this before but Prime Minister, what I at least would like you to do is to:

  • Stand up and articulate your values and show us your passion for those things you believe in,
  • Counter the opposition’s misinformation campaign,
  • Disregard the confected outrage of those who champion political correctness,
  • Abandon the Paid Parental Leave and any peripheral programs that increase government expenditure with little economic benefit to the nation, and probably most importantly,
  • Just be yourself. A lot of us like the Tony Abbott who is a decent husband and father, who volunteers to do good work in the community, who champions the indigenous population and who seems (outside politics) to be a good knock-about bloke!

So Tony, lift your game and don’t give me cause to have to write to you again!

3 Replies to “Another Message to Tony Abbott”

  1. Thanks Ted
    I could not have expressed this as eloquently as you – however I agree wholeheartedly. Well said !!

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