Well, it’s the final run home, so I should say something. I just can’t get out of my head after last night’s Q&A and Four Corners an old joke I know about wide-mouthed frogs, but I’ll pass on retelling it. I see it’s available as a children’s book anyway.
So let’s look at Tone’s three-pronged presentation:
- This election is about giving a great people a better government. The Coalition will end the waste, stop the taxes and stop the boats. [30 days ago]
I take that from the Liberal Party’s policy page.
End the waste
This one does score more than the other two: there have indeed been some momentous examples of waste brought on partly by haste and naivety in execution of programs such as the famous pink batts. On the other hand we ought to seriously consider the views of these economists: Labors-Stimulus-Package-2010.
Stop the taxes
This is code for carbon tax in any form, and opposition to the mining profits tax – such as it is in its current compromised version.
Behind Tone’s opposition to a carbon tax lurks his eccentric view that the world is cooling. Yes, he said so on Four Corners and showed equal incompetence on Q&A. If he handles the economy with the same skill he reads temperature graphs we are in for a rocky ride should be become our Prime Minister! Tone and science do seem to be mutually exclusive concepts at times.
MARIAN WILKINSON: Do you still believe that the views of the IPCC scientists are alarmist?
TONY ABBOTT: Um, I, I certainly think that there is a credible scientific counterpoint, but in the end, um, I’m not going to win ah, ah, an argument over the science, I’ll leave that to the scientists.
MARIAN WILKINSON: One last question on that because ah, you have said very publicly ah, before this that you believe the earth is cooling not warming and you have cited the work of ah, Professor Ian Plimer on this. Do you still think there is a credible case for that?
TONY ABBOTT: Um, I, I have pointed out in the past, ah that ah, there was that high year um, a few years ago, ah, and the warming ah, if you believe the various measuring ah, organisations, ah, hasn’t increased, but again ah, the the point is not um, um, the science, ah the point is how should government respond and we have a a credible response that will achieve a 5 per cent reduction by 2020 and the government doesn’t.
Here is a present for him (and for you) from the Australian Academy of Sciences, released just yesterday: climatechange2010.
- See also John Quiggin: Delusion and delay.
Stop the boats
I notice a large boat indeed (500 on board, wasn’t it?) from Sri Lanka has just turned up in Canada because they didn’t like their chances in Australia, but that’s another story.
In July 2004 I wrote:
Sometimes one can only welcome policy backflips, especially when the policy concerned has been as draconian, as heartless, as unnecessary, as dishonest, and as big a waste of tax-payers’ dollars as the immigration and refugee policy has been since Tampa sailed over our horizon. Well, partly of course because “the temporary protection issue has become a sticky one for the Government in marginal electorates in Victoria, where the Coalition is polling poorly,” but also because there actually are people even in the Liberal Party who like to think of themselves as compassionate, given half a chance, ” the Government will announce as early as today that most of the 9000 temporary protection visa holders, many of whom have been living in the community for more than three years, will be able to apply for permanent residency.” The temporary protection visa was a disgrace anyway, a kind of limbo.
The decision follows a number of other immigration policy backflips by the Government, including its release of all but one child of boat people from mainland detention centres, and permitting 146 Afghans who have been held on Nauru for more than two years to come to Australia, as it winds back the “Pacific Solution”.
Government MPs say there are indications that the Prime Minister, John Howard, has softened his line on the issue of asylum seekers since he won the 2001 election on the back of his tough border protection policies.
I suspect Rural Australians for Refugees especially should take a bow- ordinary decent Australians with a better idea of what that means than Mister Ruddock apparently had. Well done.
The cost and the idiocy of it all may be summed up in the story of Aladdin Sisalem and his cat: “Mr Sisalem fled Kuwait in 2000, eventually arriving at an island in Torres Strait by boat from Papua New Guinea 18 months ago. He immediately sought asylum, saying he would face persecution if sent back to Kuwait. He was sent to Manus Island, where for the past 10 months he was the sole occupant, apart from a small staff of guards and cleaners hired to look after him at a cost to the Australian Government of $250,000 a month.” For more see Axis of Logic: World Refugees.
Here I am rather of the “plague on both your houses” camp. Greg Barns speaks for me here.
Both leaders have been prepared to affirm irrational fears, held by a handful of voters in marginal seats, that less than 7,000 asylum seekers a year is somehow a threat to the security of Australia. When have you heard Gillard or Abbott stare down this view and assert that Australia as a wealthy nation has a humanitarian obligation to reach out to people who arrive on our doorstep in obvious distress?
If they conducted themselves in the manner president Obama did last week in refusing to play ball to those in the US who think Muslims have no right worshipping in lower Manhattan, then Gillard and Abbott would be more highly regarded by us as leaders of substance and with a moral compass.
Mr Abbott has also pandered to anti-Muslim feeling in recent days by telling the Herald Sun that he intends to go after an extremist group in Melbourne that has Muslim connections. Other extremist groups run by Christian churches appear not to concern him.
And one of the first statements Ms Gillard made after she became Prime Minister last month was that she wanted to "sweep away any sense that people should close down any debate, including [the debate on asylum seekers], through a sense of self-censorship or political correctness. People should feel free to say what they feel," she said on July 5.
This is exactly the sort of sentiment John Howard was fond of using to give a wink and a nod to supporters for the far right Pauline Hanson. If Ms Gillard, and Mr Howard for that matter, were acting act in an Obama-like fashion, they would have tempered their remarks with a clear message that with free speech comes the responsibility not to incite hatred or racism.
And then of course —
I’ll just quote one letter:
Libs’ broadband project clunker?
14 Aug, 2010 12:00 AM
CASH for clunkers?
I wonder how much Tony will get for his broadband scheme?
— NICK ROBERTS,
And Moir’s cartoon, which is I guess kind of even-handed:
Yesterday I travelled express to and from Wollongong. Helensburgh is the first station in the Wollongong area, and I couldn’t help thinking what a waste of taxpayer’s money such things could have seemed to someone in the 1890s, what with a depression and the small population (less than 4 million in the whole country).
But the Julias not the Tones of the day won, and that infrastructure still serves us.