If we are to believe the ABC then this Abbott government is somewhere to the right of Attila the Hun. It is a union-bashing, mysogynistic, Islamophobic, tax-slashing, international-law ignoring, cohort of über-free marketeers sometimes in hock to the Vatican, at others in the back pocket of mining companies, and always ready to take the side of Dr Evil, otherwise known as Israel. Its Members of Parliament are uncultured plebians; its pervading ethos is that of ‘slash and burn’, especially anything weaned on the public teat, and not omitting the desire to disembowel the Human Rights Commission and the ABC itself. Oh, and the Coalition’s two deepest desires are firstly to foster as much hate speech as humanly possible in this country and secondly to destroy the earth’s environment, by tomorrow if possible, and certainly before anyone’s children or grandchildren reach the age of consent (which Mr Abbott probably wants to raise to 30 anyway, 45 if the person happens to be homosexual, but only after he checks with the Pope).
Not that I’m in anyway against such an invigorating package of proposals. ‘Where do I sign up?’ I ask. But does any of this mesh with anything that we’ve seen from this current government these past two years? Do any readers out there see any signs whatsoever that this Abbott government is rabidly right wing? To channel Maxwell Smart, how about at least to the right of Malcolm Fraser? Would you believe not as far left as Jeremy Corbyn?
If you look at what this government has done, and only to what it has done, you’d be hard pressed to point to much right-wingery at all; you might even find yourself wallowing in despair at its almost total absence. Check the charge sheet:
Anybody out there think this is a tax-slashing government? I didn’t think so. That’s because it has, you know, raised taxes. Income taxes? Up. The scope of the GST? Up. True, the idiotic Gillard-government’s mining tax and also its carbon dioxide tax were both eliminated, thank God for small mercies. But enough money is being spent by this government on ‘direct action’ – money that can only come from us taxpayers and money that as Bjorn Lomborg points out could easily be better spent on other things – that the mining and carbon tax repeals do not a low-taxing government make. Meantime on all other fronts the Treasurer responds to claims that this is a tax-raising government by pointing to what taxes would otherwise have been had we elected Labor at the last election and they had implemented their program. ‘High praise indeed’, in the sarcastic words of John Cleese.
And since when did a supposedly Liberal-Coalition government look for congratulations by pointing to the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd fiasco, Whitlam’s aside the worst governments in Australia’s history, and then noting ‘we’re not as bad as those cellar-dweller outfits would have been’? Sure, ‘we may be a bigger taxing outfit than they actually were, but we’re not worse than they would have been’. Meantime the hints of a GST hike to 15 per cent are never categorically rejected; they are never unreservedly taken off the table.
Does anyone see any rabid right-wingery there? Me neither. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m well aware of the feral Senate and the unrepresentative swill that presently occupies its benches. I know that getting just about anything through the Upper House is a mighty big ask. But this government doesn’t even seem to try to cut taxes. And it almost never makes the case directly to the voters. As for the pre-election catechism that ‘we have a spending problem, not a revenue problem’, well the entire Coalition front bench appears to have had a simultaneous Damascene conversion on that one, and then decided to take a vow of silence as far as such sentiments are concerned.
So any allegations of right-wingery look pretty implausible on the tax front.
What about free speech and the desire to legislate along John Stuart Millian lines that mean even bigots could speak their minds, and (shock, horror) perhaps offend or insult someone without the machinery of the State being brought to bear against them? Call that policy a right-wing one if you wish, though truth be told the promotion of free speech and indeed of majoritarian democracy were left-wing goals and policies until a couple of decades ago. (Just consider the American Civil Liberties Union, as left-wing as they come and as committed to free speech as any group anywhere.) But if this sort of free speech commitment is right-wing, we have all seen how the Abbott government sold it down the river for the illusory thirty pieces of silver issued by ‘Team Australia’. Right-wingery should be made of sterner stuff.
What about taking a really stern hand to the ABC and its ongoing and shameless bias? Well, don’t go all weak at the knees my fellow right-wingers but the government has asked the ABC to investigate itself. Phew! And the ABC has obliged by appointing a couple of people to do that investigating. Phew! Maybe these are two hard-nosed ABC sceptics who’ll take a firm hand with the billion dollar a year public broadcaster. Would you believe it? Okay, would you believe that at least one of them works for Murdoch? No? Well, would you believe that one has made remarks in the past about how unbiased and terrific the ABC is and the other has a pedigree with the SBS? That Malcolm Turnbull is exactly the Minister we want overseeing the ABC, isn’t he?
Meanwhile the Human Rights Commission keeps sucking up public funds running an overwhelmingly Green Party line on everything. The taxpayer keeps forking out money galore to Australian Research Council social science projects that virtually all lean left. (How much funding of ‘stop the boats’ or ‘traditional marriage’ or ‘Bjorn Lomborg fellow travellers’ do you honestly think goes on? Hint: Don’t pick a high number.) And there is nary a hint that our overly rigid labour relations regime, the one Julia Gillard gave us, will be touched in any solid way at all. Yes, yes, yes, the boats have been stopped and for me that is probably enough to vote for Mr Abbott again. And the government has been really good on the free trade side of things. And it hasn’t screwed up the cattle export trade. And it’s tried to rein in the renewable energy rent-seekers a little bit. There is more on the plus side of things.
What there is not, however, is any sign at all that this Abbott government has been a right-wing one by the standards of Conservative governments in Canada, in the UK, in New Zealand.
Only by the standards of the Greens does Mr Abbott look to be running something rabidly right-of-centre. And since the ABC generally looks like the Green Party on political matters, I suppose that explains that.
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