Today Tony Abbott addressed the National Press Club with what his
colleagues were describing as a make or break speech. It was his chance
to outline his plan for the future and to make his pitch as to why he
is the best man to lead us into that future.
He then proceeded to spend the majority of the speech talking about
the “Rudd/Gillard/Rudd catastrophe”. He obviously has a different idea
of what future means than I do, or is it that that is all Tony can do?
His speech was just a collection of all the trite phrases we have
heard him repeat ad nauseum. He persisted with counting on his fingers
that same old stuff about axing taxes, stopping boats and building the
roads of the 21st century.
He promised, for the umpteenth time, to be a more “consultative
collegial government”. He also backed off from his captain’s picks of
Paid Parental Leave and deciding who gets knighthoods. On PPL he said
he had listened to the Productivity Commission and his colleagues – pity
it took him five years to do so.
But perhaps the most interesting line for me was when he said
“I hope that in 2015 we will see a much more honest national conversation.”
And so say all of us.
Unfortunately that hope lasted about two seconds as he told us that
Labor had left him with a $667 billion debt. As we have pointed out
countless times on these pages, the only place that number appears is in
Hockey’s MYEFO from December 2013 and it was a projection for ten
years’ time based on Coalition spending and revenue cutting decisions.
When asked about his broken pre-election promises Tony said that it
was necessary because Labor had lied about the real state of the books.
“We went into the campaign believing the deficit was $18 billion.
When we saw the books it was actually $48 billion so Labor left a $30
billion deficit black hole”.
Except Chris Bowen and Penny Wong produced an economic update in
early August showing the deficit to be $30 billion, a figure backed up a
couple of weeks later by Treasury and Finance in PEFO. Apparently Tony
didn’t read those documents, or chooses to ignore them.
The changes in projected deficits were once again due to Coalition decisions
Tony boasted that his government had created hundreds of thousands of
jobs. When it was pointed out to him that there are about 70,000 more
people unemployed than we he came to office he completely ignored the
question. I don’t think Tony realises that with population growth of
364,900 in 2013-14, we need over 30,000 new jobs per month just to keep
up. From December 2013 to December 2014 employed persons rose by 1.4% while unemployed persons rose by 7.7%
Tony didn’t mention Medicare’s future or higher education reforms or
Indigenous recognition. He ignored domestic violence despite Australian
of the Year Rosie Batty’s impassioned plea for action. And his much
anticipated family package degenerated into the government would have a
“better childcare policy” and “consult widely”.
A poll in the Brisbane Times asking “Do you think Tony Abbott’s speech will help him remain in the top job?” was, at time of writing, showing 81% of votes saying “No it was awful.”
If Tony’s colleagues were looking for some inspiration from their
leader they must be echoing Paul Keating – is that all there is?