Desperate Abbott takes baby steps — but still falls well short of the mark

One may have noticed in recent weeks, a few populist policy announcements from the Abbott government, that appears (on the surface at least) to finally be acting on a few issues that have long required addressing.

With his Liberal-National government stumbling about, their polling low, Abbott’s personal approval rating low, and facing constant leadership speculation (following one internal attempt already to oust him as Prime Minister), Tony Abbott appears to have finally woken up to the fact that he and his government must perform a lot better. Undoubtedly spooked by the ousting of the Liberal National Party government in Queensland after just one term, Abbott and his cohorts have clearly changed course, and have decided to backflip on a number of their more idealistic agendas, in favour of more palatable policies.

Like John Howard before him, when in trouble, Abbott is now trying to appear patriotic, flying the flag for Australia.

Not wanting to appear miserly towards our defence forces, the Abbott government recently increased an offer of a pay increase for defence personnel from 1.5% to 2%.

Like Howard before him, when in trouble, Abbott has tried to appear as “tough” on national security issues. Flanked by two large Australian flags, his major national security address on February 23rd included proposals to suspend or revoke the citizenship of dual nationals who become involved with terrorism overseas, as well as their access to welfare payments.

Abbott spoke of a new “Dark Age” of terrorism, and that the threat to Australia is “worsening”.

A new national counter-terrorism coordinator would help co-ordinate work between security agencies, so that returning foreign fighters could better be prosecuted or closely monitored.

He also signalled the government would clamp down on religious preachers who vilified and incited hatred. He took a swipe at Australia’s Muslim leaders, suggesting they should be speaking out against extremism more.

But alas, there was no mention of stopping a disastrous immigration policy, that is mostly responsible for the inevitable cultural clash factors that sees so many disaffected young Muslims in Australia becoming radicalised.

And with all this tough talk about tackling terrorism, It seemed like the perfect opportunity to increase Australia’s contribution to Iraq. On March 3rd, Abbott announced that an extra 300 Australian troops would to be sent to train Iraqis, to help them combat the dreaded Islamic State.

Meanwhile, in an attempt to perhaps appeal to more progressive voters, the Abbott government has gone into bat for a pair of Australian nationals facing the death penalty in Indonesia for heroin smuggling. Again metaphorically waving the patriotic flag, the government has made their displeasure known to the Indonesians, that we in Australia apparently don’t like our drug pushers being executed by foreign countries. With such a massive Australian media circus following the countdown to the executions of Australia’s two Bali Nine ringleaders, the Abbott government has tried to cash in, even suggesting a last-minute prisoner exchange swap, and astonishingly, even suggesting that Australia would pay for the upkeep of the Bali Nine pair in an Indonesian prison for the rest of their lives, should the Indonesian government decide to grant them last-minute clemency.

The recent outbreak of Hepatitis A in Australia that was linked to mixed berries sourced from China, initially had Abbott resisting stronger food labelling laws, suggesting that it was the responsibility of food companies “not to poison their customers”. But as the scandal lingered, and under pressure from his backbench, Abbott backflipped, and indicated that he would support stricter labelling laws on country-of-origin, although red tape would have to be kept to a minimum.

With house prices in Australia soaring, and foreign nationals being very prominent in purchasing many new homes, the Abbott government finally decided they wanted to appear concerned. In a press conference, treasurer Joe Hockey mentioned concerns about national security, money laundering, and other criminal activity. He announced that there would be a new register of foreign nationals buying real estate in Australia, and fees and charges would now be properly enforced.

According to Abbott, “the idea is not to deter foreign investment, the idea is to ensure that the rules are enforced”. So, in other words, it’s not really a problem if foreign buyers help to inflate house prices, which many Australians can’t afford. Just as long as the wealthy foreigners pay their relatively meagre fees.

The Abbott government also finally reneged on their policy to charge patients a Medicare co-payment fee for a visit to a doctor. Even though the government had already watered down their original proposal, and suggested a $5 payment instead of $7, as well as exempting all children and concession card holders, the policy was dumped. The sustained opposition to it from the Australian Medical Association, the powerful doctor’s union, was undoubtedly the clincher. Health Minister Sussan Ley will apparently continue talks with doctors and health and welfare groups about some kind of alternative proposal.

Another policy to go out the door was Abbott’s signature Paid Parental Leave scheme. Instead, a new package “would make care more affordable and ease pressure on family budgets”, according to Abbott.

Another key policy to be reversed is the Abbott government’s decision to restore granting $500m to the Automotive Transformation Scheme (ATS) between now and 2017. The car industry would be granted the money to ensure that components suppliers can continue until the end of 2017, although Holden, Toyota and Ford are all expected to have closed their manufacturing operations in Australia by then.

The government’s major Intergenerational Report apparently projects a drop in immigration as a percentage of the total population, but one doubts that it will be substantial, or that the Liberals have any intention of being more selective on cultural compatibility factors as to where we take immigrants from.

Of course, the Coalition (along with minor parties in the senate), recently voted to substantially increase Australia’s yearly refugee intake, backflipping on their original policy intentions. This was dealt with in a recent APP article.

Of course, advocates of free speech (such as the Australian Protectionist Party), will not forget Abbott’s backdown on rewording section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, or Abbott’s refusal to support a reform bill introduced by Senator Bob Day.

And so it seems that Tony Abbott has been doing more backflips than a champion diver. Whether it gets him re-elected next year remains to be seen. Given how appalling the previous Labor government was before Abbott, it remains to be seen whether Abbott’s dishonesty, poor judgment, and frequent elasticity will deem him worthy of re-election in the eyes of the public — even if he manages to keep the Liberal Party leadership.


  1. Redback says

    Abbott has learned a thing or two from the old master, John Howard. Like Howard, Abbott presides over historically high rates of legal immigration, but distracts the public and our woeful main stream media with the impression that he is tough on refugees arriving by boat. To give credit where it’s due, his government has ‘stopped the boats’, but the overall rates of immigration remain far higher than under Paul Keating, for instance.
    Abbott’s government is also up to it’s neck in negotiating the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) which is a happy free-kick for international capital against bothersome concepts like national sovereignty.
    On the family front, Abbott promises more money for child care, but will cut the cash available to support stay-at-home parents. Family friendly? Or business friendly?
    His government has failed to act effectively against the influx of foreign investors, pushing up the prices of housing in our cities.
    Like Labor, Abbott has done nothing to reign in the super profits generated by the banks on the sweat of hard working Australians.
    Also, don’t forget that it was Abbott who masterminded the sleazy campaign to have Pauline Hanson and David Ettridge gaoled for electoral fraud – overturned on appeal only after the pair had even locked up.
    Abbott is every bit as ‘internationalist’ in outlook as Rudd, Gillard or Shorten. His recent attempts to appear patriotic are shallow and pathetic.

  2. Liberal,Labor and the Greens are happy to send handouts to Indonesia to help erect more mosques,to any third world backwater that has a tornado,yet forgets that in Australia we have homeless people,people who can’t afford a trip to the dentist and farmers who are committing suicide…….do you really believe some iman in Jakarta gives a stuff about someone in Australia whos in trouble?
    We should be doing what the Chinese,Japanese and Korean governments do……look after their own.
    How much do these governments dole out when some Pacific island has a natural disaster?

  3. When was the last time that the people of Australia were given a referendum on something they actually had an opinion about such as immigration,foreign aid or our changing demographic?
    I remember the last referendum…I was asked a question about something I had absolutely no opinion about or concern about,and don’t even recall what it was asking.
    They give us these once every 15 years or so just to say they’re at least giving us a say on something.
    No more foreign aid to nations that wanted self determination anyway,no more immigration that unfairly targets white nations only,and keep our manufacturing local. Bring ALL our troops home-misfits in other countries that can’t sort their differences like adults are not their problem.

  4. Doesn’t really matter who is in power of what political party is in Canberra or state politics for that matter, the Australian landscape is an arid wasteland of political talent. There is not one politician around who I would get excited about voting for.
    Animal Farm is about as current today as it was when first published.

  5. Well what the hell do you expect when the Senate knocks back everything he wants to do. Anybody that thinks Abbot can do what he likes is either insane, stupid or both. Wake up Australia there is a war on, our brothers, sisters, and Christian sons are being massacred and crucified in the Middle East. Now of all times we need to send in the dogs of war. We need boots on the ground to annihilate this vermin from our planet.
    Our problems are small compared to them, do you think they care, no they don’t they just want to live. SEND IN THE TROOPS DAMN IT!! Save their souls.

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