The First 6 Months of Abbott
Tony Abbott has been in power for 6 months now. Contrary to the fears of many, the sky still remains above our heads. What else has happened? The carbon tax remains, the Australian vehicle manufacturing industry does not. People smugglers are failing to reach Australia, though this does not mean they are not risking the lives of those they are smuggling by attempting the journey. Tony Abbott presents the classic Liberal dichotomy: socially restrictive, economically liberal. He still sounds like a buffoon on occasion, but he’s presenting a party with devoted policy goals.
The trouble is this: they are inherently contradictory. With one hand they beckon in an era of a historically liberal government, the Liberals are attempting to remove the clumsy fingers of government from the industry pie, promoting the idea that the government should not be the controlling behemoth that oozes inefficiency. With the other hand they are crushing the very foundations of what allows a liberal society to exist.
As a government they are disturbingly secret, restricting any information from operation sovereign boarders. Whether it’s proof to counter the claims of torture by Australian personnel on Asylum seekers, the government consistently leaves the public in the dark as to what the government is actually doing on our behalf. As I write news is breaking on the tragic death and injury of scores more asylum seekers on Manus Island. The government is refusing to give out any depth of details and their claims are being contradicted by numerous reports from people who have contacted detainees on the island who insist that local’s are involved in attacks on the rioting detainees. It’s this shocking lack of transparency from our own government that is most disturbing and raises the specter of a government that does not respect the right of the public to be informed of important issues.
Further, Tony Abbott’s attacks on the ABC are not attacking its nature as a government funded broadcaster, but are aimed at their exercise of editorial freedom. Compare his position with the push to remove s18C of the Racial Discrimination Act; removing restrictions on hate speech so people like Andrew Bolt can freely use their voice to discriminate as they wish. Don’t for a second think that such a move is in response to a law that is too restrictive, S18D of the RDA already exempts those who make comments reasonably and in good faith for a number of purposes. Hate speech is a crucial tool in the objectification and vilification of minorities, and protecting it holds higher the right of a bigot to damage then the right of an individual to be free from unreasonable persecution. The view is supported by the Liberal appointed Human Rights Commissioner (who has previously called for the abolition of the Human Rights Commission).The Liberals are using their political clout to help their friends in the press and appease their friends at the IPA.
No such love is being shown to their opponents. Make no mistake; the launch of a royal commission into the Australian Unions is a politically motivated assault. Royal commissions are rare, and are a tool of last resort. They are also normally designed as focused. This one’s terms of reference ask Dyson Heydon to spread a net over the entire ocean of union activity, and capture any ills that can be even loosely associated with them, including the business people with who they deal. It could backfire, but even if it does it is going to cost the union movement millions to fight and that is millions that will be diverted from the battle that they will be having with Abbott when he tries to introduce his new industrial relation laws in 2016. We are witnessing the first strike of the war against a key opponent of the liberal party.
It’s still important to note though that this commission may do a lot of good, one only needs to consider the Thomson affair to realise this. However, with a successful prosecution in that case, the question that must be asked is; why are the police insufficient?
Economically they are making all the right noises, although they are sure to continue to cop a lot of flack for allowing flawed industries to fail. Australia will be in a better position in the future because of this. There is also hope that the car import tariff will be scrapped which will mean an appreciable boon for consumers who are likely to benefit from more affordable cars. Although the government has not committed to this, they would be insane not to as there is no longer a local industry to protect.
If the Abbott government was consistent with its purported philosophy it may have proven to be an exciting government for Australia. Sadly the inconsistencies that riddle their positions show a government that is dangerous for its foes and dangerously eager to please its allies. It is a government far more Liberal than liberal.