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PLANNING FOR AFTER THE ELECTION? May 1, 2013

Posted by wmmbb in Australian Politics.
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The Opposition has  “a plan” that amounts to more of the same but more focused, competitive and stronger that keeps the environment in the rear view mirror.

Tony Abbott presented his plan to Liberal Party candidates:

Mungo MacCallum writing at the Drum sees problems for Tony Abbott with his key constituency, big business especially in regard to the two released and detailed policies . He writes:

The business establishment and the conservative economists have been particularly unwelcoming about the [parental leave scheme], and now, with the defeat of the government seen as a rolled gold certainty, they are starting to speak out. The idea that big business should have to pay for an incredibly generous benefit not only for its own employees but for everyone else’s as well was never exactly a matter for celebration, but while the extra levy would be covered by an across the board reduction in business tax, it was tolerable – barely.

Now that Abbott has put the tax cut in doubt there is something close to outrage. If Labor had dared to propose such a move, it would have been castigated as an act of class war, wanton destruction of productivity. Coming for a self-styled economic conservative, it is almost an act of treachery, certainly an unacceptable aberration. Not happy, Tony.

Turnbull’s NBN Lite is less of an immediate problem, because business will still get the real thing, as promised by Labor; it’s only the hapless householders who will be dudded. But there is still a recognition that sooner or later, and probably sooner, it will have to be done properly, and doing it under the Coalition plan will cost a lot more than it would to just get on with Labor’s rollout.

And then there is the big one, the carbon tax. Indisputably business doesn’t like it and would rather never have had it imposed in the first place. But now, nearly a year later, it has been pretty much factored in. And the likelihood is that in the near future – which could always be brought nearer at the stroke of a pen – it will become considerably cheaper.

In 2015, the tax is to translate into an Emissions Trading Scheme with the carbon price equal to that prevailing in the European Union. The expectation – or at least the hope – was that this would be around $29 a tonne, but in fact it is now between $3 and $4 a tonne, considerably less than the mandatory $10 a tonne in force in Australia. So abolishing it altogether will save money, but not much – and possibly very little indeed when the necessary replanning is taken into account.

Whereas Abbott’s alternative measures to deal with greenhouse gas emissions, his direct action plan, will cost heaps, is open-ended and uncosted, and will impose precisely the kind of bureaucratic red tape he has promised to get rid of.

I am not sure how many voters will read the document and what they will get out of it. The plan we are told will “deliver hope, reward and opportunity”. Cynics might suggest that a plan is what you have when you do not have policies, and it used to be that only socialists had plans and all bets were placed on the market.  The plan has a “corporatist” outlook- a view of the country to be managed as a corporation for maximum productivity and making policy to achieve that end. Where there are constraints of productivity they should be removed. A key expression of this idea is:

To safeguard Australia’s future the key challenge is to complete successfully in a more fiercely competitive world

To that end, education, which is one of the 5 pillars of the competitive economy with mining, high quality services, agricultural exports and innovative manufacturing, serves the economy.

We believe that higher education has a vital dual role in our society by educating our work force and producing high quality research.

Similarly, immigration policy, when it not addressing “strong borders”:

Our immigration program will focus on skilled migrants targeting skills shortages and people who can make a contribution from day one in a job.

There are through the documents some more specific statements of commitment. For example there is the intention to cut red tape costs on business by making $1 billion dollar cuts per year, while maintaining budgetary control. 40% of secondary students will be encouraged to learn a foreign language, preferably an Asian one. Science will be introduced for primary students.The national chaplaincy program will be continued – so imans and other religious can address the spiritual needs of students, presumably including the atheists. More effective anti-dumping legislation will be introduced. Marine Protection Areas will be introduced to protect fishing areas and the local communities that rely on them. There is a big deal about building modern infrastructure, which means roads and bridges – Keynesian expenditure, pump priming, following the advice of Paul Krugman. As well the intention is to secure the live export trade (and by implication permit animal abuse), secure water by building dams, but no word on coal seam gas mining, develop Northern Australia’s potential for food production, allow foreigners to take over agri-business.

Consistent with the theme of an strong economy, there will have to be strong border control and the financing of a strong well equipped defence force. They will strengthen the American alliance, rather than question it. Drones will be introduced, presumably to participate in the drone wars as a loyal, unquestioning ally. There might be a possible use for maritime surveillance, but presumably that would imply they would be more robotic than piloted. The intention is to upgrade security at airports and ports to protect against terrorist attacks. The Liberals aim to address the submarine gap, which is reminiscent of “the missile gap”.

Other proposals include, noncontroversial issues, such as fast tracking free trade agreements, particularly with our Asian neighbours, the introduction of a Registered Organizations Commission to oversight the behavior of union officials in a similar fashion to company directors, and re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission. In the spirit of Bob Menzies to implement “a two-way Colombo Plan”, which would see Australians studying in Asia.There is the business-like sounding proposal to apply a cost-benefit analysis to any program over $100 million.

The National Disability Insurance Scheme will be responsibly introduced. interestingly, when possible they hope to add dental care to Medicare. In other words, these are contingent, we might do them if they become possible.

It is hard to know whether the Liberal Party is just a name or a philosophy. So it is interesting to read:

“Prohibitions on inciting hatred or intimidation of particular groups should be focused on offenses causing incitement and causing fear, not a prohibition of causing offense.”

The one thing that is stands out because of its absence is any reference to climate change as such. Although there is reference to a “clean environment”  policy.  I could not see any reference to the future of the Climate Commission. However the there will be a 15,000 strong Green Army, a $3 billion subsidy for polluters to be known as the Emissions Reductions Fund, and carbon soil technology and abatement.

On its face its does not seem that Tony Abbott is attempting to emulate the recently departed and duly celebrated, Lady Stalin, and the plan does not seem, at least on its face to be neo-liberal in its’ motivation.Tony Abbott is more a traditional conservative rather than  neo-conservative. We are out of step with the philosophical developments elsewhere, which must be driving the business leaders crazy, suggesting a change of leadership will be soon in the air, soon upon Mr Abbott’s ascension to the prime ministership.  “The plan”, a post-Berlin Wall development is corporatist in is application, but other than that assumed unquestionable and consensual basis,it does not have a easily identifiable outlook.

The plan fills a limited, and short term need, and allows for a campaign to develop hopefully focused on the government’s shortcomings, which are in large due to the current prime minister’s ability or  the constraints of her advisers  to allow her , to cut through and engage with the wider electorate. We will probably change leaders – goodbye any climate change policy – and we will still have sense of profound disconnection between the leader and the led.

POSTSCRIPT:

I am not surprised. I just did not get the meaning of neoliberalism, and the relationship of Tony Abbott and Julia Gillard to it. Perhaps I over simplify but it might be seen as the marketization of all relationships, so that shopping trumps voting and consumerism trumps citizenship. I was puzzled for the contempt shown to democracy, specifically when Milton friedman was awarded the Nobel Prize and his endorsement of the murderous dictator Pinochet. At Larvatus Prodeo, Tad Tietze shows some light on these puzzles. Chris Hedges reference to neo-Feudalism sounds about right.

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Comments»

1. 730reportland - May 2, 2013

” I was puzzled for the contempt shown to democracy”
Hi `Duck`, a so-called democracy is only as good as what it delivers to all it`s citizens, not just the select few. Any system can deliver to the select few, even dictatorships.

wmmbb - May 2, 2013

Yep. And then there are special interest groups, which when unions – despite there failings – are removed from “the table” effectively stacks the cards. If so, this suggested effect, could be shown comparatively. Other factors may be play as well, as perhaps electoral systems and the media.


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