Is this what elections come down to these days?

Tony Abbott’s top policys (sic) and plans (you can also see them in their campaign ad):

  • End the waste
  • Repay the debt
  • Stop the taxes
  • Stop the boats

Jeez, the Opposition Leader’s top four election priorities. Really important issues, you’d think?

Or not.

Government debt, for instance. There’s a debate to be had about long-term structural deficits (which, if they exist, are the result of decisions taken during the late Howard era), but the short-term risks on government debt Australia faces, compared to other developed countries, are neatly summarized in one picture:

Government debt to GDP ratios 2010-2015
From Treasury’s July 2010 economic statement.

As for boats, the sheer non-importance of these can be seen at a glance:


Image by Tim Bennett

The waste? Insulation and school buildings, apparently. Insulation – not a waste. And, as JohnL pointed out in an LP guest post, the case on the supposed BER rorts is less than compelling.

So we’re left with opposing the new resource rent tax, a tax so inoffensive (and possibly ineffectual) that even Mitch Hooke has stopped publicly complaining.

Is this really what Australian conservative politics has devolved to?

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Posted in elections, politics
49 comments on “Is this what elections come down to these days?
  1. keiThy says:

    They have given up…

    Treating the electorate with this much disdain means they can only be looking at rebranding and starting the business/anti-Labor party caper all over again!

  2. paul walter says:

    The positive is, that it as so intellectually insulting, as to alienate voters away from the coalition.

  3. jane says:

    * End the waste
    * Repay the debt
    * Stop the taxes
    * Stop the boats

    Well that’s at the limit of Smuggles’ attention span, isn’t it?

    Wow! those boat people flooding every suburban street in the country! Oh the fear!
    I wonder if any of the twits snivelling about boat arrivals feels embarrassed about those figures.

  4. Paul Burns says:

    So, er, Robert, you didn’t know he had brains in those budgie-smugglers, well the kind of brains that can come up with this sort of stuff, anyway?

  5. Liam says:

    It doesn’t count as a Verb The Noun, but all I get in my head when I see the list is Greg! The Stop Sign!!

  6. kimberella says:

    Not to mention, Robert, that it’s a signed contract so that we know it’s Gospel Truth.

    Election stuff in my mailbox from the LNP (generic, no mention of candidate for Griffith because he was dumped last week, and they haven’t decided who to run until KRudd confirms he is, even though he already has) bolded this terminology:

    Our Action Contract With Australia

    Woohoo!

    Who’s being critical of trite sloganeering, again?

    Interestingly, no mention of stopping the boats because we’re inner city folks I guess.

  7. anthony nolan says:

    * Change the oil
    * Put the garbage out
    * Pat the dog
    * Say goodnight.

  8. The positive is, that it as so intellectually insulting, as to alienate voters away from the coalition.

    Much as it pains me, reffo-bashing clearly does work a treat for the Liberals, and has done since 2001. So I can understand (not excuse for a moment, but understand) why they do it.

    But I have trouble understanding why the Liberals are going so hard on the “debt” theme. Who the hell does it resonate with?

    Can anybody point me to any public polling specifically on deficits?

  9. Kim, it probably gets the party activists all excited because the title reminds them of the Contract with America.

  10. kimberella says:

    I dare say that’s right, Robert.

    The whole thing is replete with focus group language, though. But I guess Liberal spin is just fine and dandy as far as the commentariat goes.

  11. gregh says:

    I think you are selling them short Robert, we just got something from Michael Cole (LNP candidate for Moreton) and he has noticed that ‘there’s too much talk and not enough action’. and he is not happy with that so he and his friends will be ‘taking real action and delivering real results’. This isn’t an empty promise, they’ve actually drawn up an ‘Action contract with Australia’. I’m very impressed with their promise to take ‘real action to strengthen the economy… to get things done and get Australia back on the right track.’

  12. hannah's dad says:

    Not specifically Robert but the Libs probably reckon it contributes to the meme of themselves as the better ‘economic managers’ and better at ‘controlling interest rates’ [the Libs are pushing the line that our ‘humungus’ debt is putting ‘upward pressure’ on interest rates, which, as we all know, will always be lower under a Lib govt.] and these are just about the only 2 issues that give them a lead over the ALP.
    See here.

    http://blogs.crikey.com.au/pollytics/2010/07/19/essential-report-voting-issues-and-the-values-card/#more-8371

  13. kimberella says:

    I think the debt rhetoric also pushes fear buttons among voters. If you have a mortgage or a credit card debt, and that doesn’t make you feel happy, then just the mention of it probably sets up some bad associations.

  14. keiThy says:

    * Change the oil
    * Put the garbage out
    * Pat the dog
    * Say goodnight.
    >>LOL

  15. keiThy says:

    But I have trouble understanding why the Liberals are going so hard on the “debt” theme. Who the hell does it resonate with?

    Can anybody point me to any public polling specifically on deficits?
    <<

    They are deliberately barren!

    CASE CLOSED!!!

  16. keiThy says:

    “Fear” : Geez, I’m of the actual opinion that the 21st century beckons more to fill it’s spacious quality!

    Labor = 4 terms!

  17. Jacques de Molay says:

    Samantha Maiden was very unhappy on Agenda this afternoon about Hockey’s Paris Hilton jibe and even said Abbott behaved like a “dirty old man” when he cracked up laughing behind Hockey. She also said the difference between the two party’s campaign professionalism so far is night & day.

  18. kuke says:

    I enjoyed the comment that if Abbott is “abolishing the Carbon Capture and Storage Institute”, does that mean he doesn’t believe in Clean Coal?

  19. adamite says:

    Apart from the last item, the Abbot’s list reads more like an application for a position in an accountancy firm – maybe its the border protection accountancy association? Not much vision there except of the myopic variety.

  20. Fran Barlow says:

    Kuke

    That is one cut by Abbott I can endorse.

  21. adamite says:

    Looking at that list vis a vis Gillard’s policy statements I’m reminded of Keating’s memorable words: Labor – the enlargers and expanders; the Coalition – the narrowers and straighteners.

  22. ossie says:

    Kimberella (any relation to Barbar…)

    The whole thing is replete with focus group language, though

    What do you have against the government consulting the community?

  23. Patricia WA says:

    I’ve just received an email from Malcolm Turnbull seeking my support in his campaign for the seat of Wentworth. He actually asks for my vote in his last para. Surely his records show I live in W.A.? I recall emailing him to comment vigorously at the time of the Grech affair and being required to leave my details before my message was accepted.

    Lovely smiling picture of Malcolm atop pale blue letterhead which contains a very simplistic message about Labor’s economic mismanagement, wasteful spending on insulation and the BER, and now ‘another big new tax on mining'(!)’ . That was the main body of his letter which took up almost a page. It was every thin indeed on new policy initiatives – funds for mental health services and the prevention of suicide, and support for retired Defence force personnel in their pension scheme. Nothing about their climate change initiatives nor the proposed new paid parental leave.

    Finally two paragraphs about the ‘brutal dispatch’ of Kevin Rudd and how no one could trust Julia Gillard and her ‘move forward’ slogan since she cannot tell us where she will take us!

    Not one mention of ‘Standing up for Australia’ and ‘Real Action’ which is so prominent on the Liberal Party campaign website, but he does ask for my vote so he can continue to represent me in Wentworth and ‘help Australia get back on track’ – to where? Does he or his office staff know any Australian geography at all and that Fremantle isn’t in his electorate?

  24. robbo says:

    I also received Malcolms e-mail, I was added to his list when I contacted him long before the last election re the proposed sell-off of Snowy Hydro.At least I’m in NSW, but quite a ways away in the electorate of Eden-Monaro. If this is the best they can do you really have to wonder.

    I’m yet to receive election propaganda from either candidate but in Mike Kelly’s defence he never bombards you with the amount of rubbish we received from his liebral predecessor, and he does answer e-mails.

    Abbott is struggling and that is quite a good thing methinks.

  25. Rebekka says:

    “Finally two paragraphs about the ‘brutal dispatch’ of Kevin Rudd and how no one could trust Julia Gillard and her ‘move forward’ slogan since she cannot tell us where she will take us!”

    Obviously Malcolm’s got amnesia about how he brutally dispatched Brendon Nelson. Lol.

  26. kuke says:

    Absolutely Fran – I also endorsed Abbott’s scuttling of the CPRS. And he’s done both for the wrong reasons (though he could be right with the partially quoted phrase on CCS: “it’s never going to happen”).

    As the boondoggle of clean coal becomes more obvious (see the slow progress on the industry site here here) the ethics of coal-fired power are in serious doubt. WA Libs should take note.

    If you’re interested, Paddy Manning’s also talked about CCS 3 days ago on SMH.

  27. robbo says:

    Sorry, I think my comment should have been placed on the propaganda thread, and I have no idea how to move it.

  28. kimberella says:

    Robbo, best just to copy and paste it over there.

    Can I point out to recent commenters that most of this stuff about Joe Hockey and Malcolm Turnbull is off topic? Please take this to the latest open thread:

    https://larvatusprodeo.wordpress.com/tag/open-thread/

  29. adamite says:

    Turnbull spin:

    ‘the Labor Party brutally despatched an elected Prime Minister … And what do they believe in? Climate change, the “greatest moral challenge of our times” has been met with the greatest policy vacuum of our times.’

    Yes folks – straight from the mouth of the political leader who was assasinated by his party for supporting Labor’s ETS legislation

  30. kimberella says:

    What do you have against the government consulting the community?

    Nothing, ossie. Though I don’t think a focus group is the best mode of consultation. But if you read my comment, I was talking about an election leaflet replete with focus group language from the Liberal National Party in Kevin Rudd’s seat of Griffith I received via direct mail today.

  31. ossie says:

    kim (any relation to Barb? 🙂

    I guess I was making the more general point about how over-the-top critical people can be about polling and focus groups. Yes, a badly led party will only deteriorate if they effectively subcontract policy to Newspoll. But OTOH, imagine what a North Korean would think if we told them this was how things were done down under?

  32. Mobius Ecko says:

    “Finally two paragraphs about the ‘brutal dispatch’ of Kevin Rudd …”

    Didn’t John Howard say it was Tony Abbott who had brutally dispatched Kevin Rudd, and Tony Abbott bragged he had?

  33. KeIthy says:

    WA Libs should take note.
    <<

    Colin Barnett is making the brand look entirely obfuscationist!

    Yeh, like they needed that!!!

  34. ossie says:

    I outlined my reasoning on the main site, but the whole population/’boat people’ narrative really is Labor’s Achilles heal.

  35. KeIthy says:

    Didn’t John Howard say it was Tony Abbott who had brutally dispatched Kevin Rudd, and Tony Abbott bragged he had?
    <<

    …seriously?!!?

    LOL if so!

  36. jane says:

    Finally two paragraphs about the ‘brutal dispatch’ of Kevin Rudd…..

    Patricia WA, while you’re giving Malvolio a geography lesson, perhaps yuo could ask, on behalf of the good folk of Wentworth Fremantle, how Brendan Nelson’s back is getting on and if he still needs transfusions?

    Didn’t John Howard say it was Tony Abbott who had brutally dispatched Kevin Rudd, and Tony Abbott bragged he had?

    But was it in writing, ME?

  37. paul of albury says:

    Why do you assume Abbot’s policies have anything to do with actual reality? The truth of government debt, boat people, insulation and BER etc is not something that matters to the Liberals or their preferred media – in fact they’ll actively avoid engaging with facts.
    The Liberals have no answers. All they can do is keep on with the same approaches that have worked in the past and hope they get away with it. Thanks to the media they mostly do.
    Unfortunately it seems that Labor are unable to sell the facts to the public so are instead engaging with Abbot’s imagined reality (this is probably moving off topic). But it helps Abbot set the issues where his historic advantage lies, even if his policies are unlikely to help.

  38. Peter Kemp says:

    Clicked on the link for a look and “Our Action Contract” comes up as an .ashx file which the net tells me is some sort of Microsoft deal? Which I can’t open with my Mac.

    (Mmmm, I guess Mac owners must automatically be lefty latte sipping, chards swilling…)

  39. Cuppa says:

    I’ll say one thing for the Liberals and their enablers at the ABC. They’ve gone one hell of a way to dumbing down political discourse to obscene levels.

  40. Mr Denmore says:

    Every poster here who cares about challenging Abbott’s canards on economic policy needs to direct people to two revealing news stories published today.

    The first quotes the RBA governor at a speech to business economists in Sydney today, completely debunking the ridiculous and hysterical Coalition blather about public debt in Australia and the silly and now routine claims by the Coalition on interest rates.

    The second quotes former World Bank chief economist and Nobel Prize winner Joseph Stiglitz describing Labor’s stimulus during the GFC as “one of the most impressive economic policies I have seen, ever”.

    Every market economist will tell you this is true. And these people are hardly a nest of lefties. But it seems our wilfully ignorant media would prefer to just blandly report what Hockey and Abbott CLAIM without providing any context for their audience.

    http://www.smh.com.au/federal-election/economy/nobel-laureate-lauds-labors-stimulus-spend-20100719-10hza.html

    http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/virtually-no-public-debt-rba-chief-says-20100720-10j9g.html

  41. kimberella says:

    Cheers, thanks for the links, Mr Denmore – valuable stuff.

  42. jesterette says:

    A change in priorities reads better than broken promises after the election, I’m guessing. Seriously, can they get a policy together already, rather than just the talking (and by self-admission, not always truthful) heads?

  43. jesterette says:

    My apologies, they do have something resembling a policy. My guessing is that if each were on an A4 page formatted in TimesNewRoman 12 pt text, it wouldn’t amount to much more than, well, a page. But it apparently reads better if you put two headings and four sentences to a page – you can stretch it out to 11 pages, including title page, preamble (more detailed than the policies themselves), and lot of pictures and logos. Aghhh.

  44. paul walter says:

    Mr Denmore will be interested in the headline in today’s Age, where Glen Stevens has virtually sank a big fish into Abbott, about amidships,
    “Reseve Bank Bombshell” craps on Abbott’s Reagan era economics, announcing that Stevens says there virtually no public sector debt, although Labor cops a dose of castor oil with the news that interest rates can go up or down during an election campaign.

  45. Labor Outsider says:

    Actually Mr Denmore, every market economist will tell you that Australia’s public debt is nothing to worry about and that the stimulus was beneficial during a period of enormous uncertainty, but I doubt they’d all be quite so effusive in their praise of all elements of the stimulus package. One element of the stimulus package was an increase in the first home owner’s grant, which has largely been capitalised into house prices. Also, while the insulation and BER schemes aren’t the disasters some have suggested, they aren’t perfect pieces of policy either. Most of the benefits of insulation are private, not social, so there was no need for the subsidy to be as large as it was. And the design of the scheme and the speed of its rollout did increase the likelihood that dodgy companies would spring up to meet the increase in demand. And while many schools will benefit from some new buildings, and it was a good way of stimulating the construction sector, evidence from the education literature implies that the BER is likely to have little impact on improving education outcomes.

  46. Labor Outsider says:

    Also, it is worth mentioning that the graph above on population increases is a little misleading. Natural increase may be larger in absolute terms than immigration, but that itself is related to previous migration. The fertility rate in Australia is around 1.8, which, if held constant, would imply that without net-migration to Australia, the population would decline over the longer term once the age structure had reached equilibrium. In short, immigration is a more important driver of overall population growth than the graph suggests. It is of course true though that boat people are a tiny proportion of the overall external intake.

  47. Helen says:

    It was interesting to me that as I was disgorged from the escalator today at Parliament station, past the funny singing guy with the newspaper stand, on only the 4th day of the election campaign, what were the 10cm black letters on the AGE newspaper poster? GAY ZOMBIE MOVIE BANNED. I guess since the front page only had a story about Government Debt NOT being as scary as claimed, there was no political news today.

  48. Spana says:

    I agree. But what about the pathetic state of Labor at the moment. Where is there any vision, ideals or plans? All Julia has to offer is a rebate on school uniforms and a few extra apprenticeships (and a giggle in between). Pathetic stuff for a federal election. Absolutely pathetic. There is simply nothing coming out of either side of any substance. One would think this was a tiny council election or something. Both of them should be adopting the slogan – Vote for nothing.

    Gillard and Abbott have lowered Australian politics even further to a debate about nothing and even I didn’t think that was possible. If anyone actually knows what this election is about please let me know.

  49. And while many schools will benefit from some new buildings, and it was a good way of stimulating the construction sector, evidence from the education literature implies that the BER is likely to have little impact on improving education outcomes.

    No doubt, LO. But that’s a completely different argument to the one that the conservatives have been making.

    The broader point is that there are plenty of perfectly sensible grounds on which to attack the Rudd/Gillard government’s record and policy, many of them of the form that a conservative party should be comfortable with, and plenty of room to propose alternatives. But they’re not even trying.

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