Not That Bad: A Look at the Abbott Government, So Far

29 September 2013
Courtesy of First Dog on the Moon

Following the ascendancy of the Abbott government, as those of us on the left shuddered at the thought of what was to come, moderates and the politically neutral urged us to give it a chance...maybe an Abbott government wouldn't be so bad. Well we can see now, three weeks in, the Abbott government haven't been that bad. They've been terrible, a shrieking disaster worse than we could have imagined already. Let's see what they've been up to, shall we?

  • In pretty much their first act of government, sacked Steve Bracks, whom the former Labor government appointed as consul-general to New York, showing petty rivalry was to be the order of the day (in 2007, the incoming Labor government didn't cancel any of the Howard government's diplomatic postings). 

  • Appointed precisely one woman to his new cabinet, giving a female representation of 5%, worse than Afghanistan. Of course the Liberal party has always rejected the idea of quotas for women, stating that they appoint on "merit" the only reason there aren't more women in cabinet is they're just not as good (oh sorry, I meant they have physiological differences). Abbott has assured us there are several other women "knocking on the door" of cabinet; presumably the big knob is blocking their way. 

  • Meanwhile, Tony Abbott has appointed himself minister for women, presumably so he can tell us the circumstances in which women do not have an absolute right to withhold sex.

  • Failed to appoint a science minister, for the first time since 1931 (or a youth minister, or a minister for mental health. We will however get a minister for ANZACs).

  • Broken a promise for Abbott to spend the first week as Prime Minister in an Aboriginal community. 

  • Said and done precisely nothing about that budget emergency we apparently had prior to the election.

  • Have borrowed $800 million dollars a day. This one has my favourite defence from the Libtrolls on Twitter: the Liberals have to borrow this money to fix Labor's mistakes. I thought Labor's primary mistake was borrowing too much money? 

  • Put laws in motion to outlaw consumer boycotts.

  • Abolished a pay rise for aged care workers, even as Abbott's income increased to over $10,000 a week. 

  • Abolished the climate commission, in the same year that Sydney has had its hottest day on record, its hottest year on record, its hottest winter on record, and an early and horrendous start to bushfire season (Tony Abbott is from Sydney, he must be aware of this). Meanwhile, no response whatsoever to the latest IPCC climate report which shows the effects of climate change in Australia will be worse than first thought, with temperature rises of up to 6 degrees by end of century. And you think we have an asylum seeker problem now? Imagine the boat arrivals if rising sea levels make the Pacific Islands uninhabitable. 

  • Planned to university amenity fees and cut places for low income students, changed their mind after the backlash, then denied they'd said any such thing. 

  • Eight asylum seeker boats have arrived in Australian waters since the election. I understand it can take time for new policies to take affect, but Abbott pledged to stop the boats "from day one". (Incidentally there were no boat arrivals in the last two weeks of the Rudd government). We'll never know if the new policies are working though, because the Liberals will now only hold weekly briefings on "border security" for "operational reasons"; a contrast to the previous government who announced each arrival. And did the Liberals advocate silence then? Hell, no; they put it on a mobile billboard.

  • Created a diplomatic dispute with Indonesia over asylum seeker policy. Always a wise move to piss off one of our largest trading partners with a population of 250 million to impress the talkback radio crowd. The redoubtable foreign minister Julie Bishop blamed this on a "misunderstanding" with the Indonesian foreign minister - unlikely considering Dr Natalegawa has, in addition to a BSc from the London School of Economics and an MPhil from Cambridge, received a PhD from the Australian National University. I'm fairly sure he understands.  

  • Horrifically, on Friday an asylum seeker boat sank off the coast of Indonesia with the loss of dozens of lives, mostly children. There have been claims that the Australian navy, under new orders to not respond to calls for assistance from asylum seeker boats, ignored rescue calls for up to 24 hours. And what was Abbott's response to this? He couldn't talk now. The Footy was on

  • So why are you surprised, they ask? I'm not. I didn't expect Abbott to legislate for gay marriage or call for a more humane policy on asylum seekers. Regressive policies and cuts I expected. I guess though I hoped they would at least try for a little while not doing the very things they accused Labor of - lying, backflips and wasting money. No wonder the new government has seen an immediate fall in the polls - pretty much unheard of for a new government to not enjoy a honeymoon period - and no wonder that apart from the hardcore, head in the sand "proud to be Liberal" supporters who will never change, many people are lamenting their choice to vote Liberal. The head-banging frustration thing though is that all these signs were there before the election. What did they expect? And dear god with two years and eleven months of this lot to go what else are we going to see?


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