Friday, September 06, 2013

Australians deserve a government they can trust

Wonder of wonders!  The heading above and the text below are a prominent editorial from the Sydney Morning Herald, which in its "news" pages has been campaigning heavily for the ALP, consistent with its usual Leftist slant.  Is Darren Goodsir, their new editor, heading the paper off in a new direction?  He spent many years working for Murdoch so he may have learned something  -- that balance sells papers

Australia is crying out for a stable government that can be trusted to deliver what it promises. The Herald believes only the Coalition can achieve that within the limited mandate Tony Abbott will carry into office should he prevail on Saturday.

Abbott does not so much deserve the chance to do what Labor could not do in the past six years. Nor has he earned the right to govern with a clear, articulated vision, as the Herald has sought from him during the campaign. But the party he leads is untainted by scandal and infighting, and therefore has the best chance to unite a tired and despondent electorate.

Labor will not be able to do this until it is stripped of corrupt rules that have rewarded those who value power more than the public interest.

Abbott needs to be true to his word. As he says, ''No surprises, no excuses … No more, no less.''

The Coalition has put to the people some aspirations of which the Herald approves if applied fairly: value for taxpayers' money, greater workplace flexibility and ending the age of entitlement. It has aped good Labor policies and banked sensible savings.

Notably, Abbott has also signalled policies the Herald considers unfair and a threat to national progress: slower broadband, his paid parental leave scheme, turn back the boats, and education inequity. And we will, as many Coalition figures privately do, continue to rail against these populist and frivolous indulgences.

A Coalition government will be entitled to pursue any elements of its agenda that have been detailed to the public. Then voters can judge Abbott on delivery in three years or, should he prove unable to manage a democratic parliament, much sooner.

Abbott will be free to conduct his commission of audit on government spending and implement recommendations within his pledge of no cuts to education, health or frontline services. He should conduct the promised reviews into workplace relations, industry assistance, regulation, legislation, competition law and tax. That will help him develop the sort of detailed policy reform agenda he has failed to flesh out in the past three years for fear of a political backlash. Australia needs to debate new ideas and better ways to ensure the economy is flexible enough to survive the end of the resources boom.

But the Herald will scrutinise a first-term Abbott government with the same independent eye that has exposed Labor graft and attacked Coalition policies. Too often Abbott has asked voters to buy his plan sight unseen; to believe his numbers even though they have emerged at the eleventh hour. They still omit key assumptions and have no independent analysis of broadband, refugees and climate change plans. Then there is a surprise reduction in foreign aid and water buybacks as well as an extra efficiency demand on the public service. Abbott's mandate will be weakened as a result of this opacity.

When John Howard claimed the right to implement the GST after winning the 1998 election, he defined the preconditions for a mandate: ''We were upfront, we were unashamed, we were forthright, we were open, we were honest, and we didn't hide anything about it.''

Abbott has hidden much and, as such, much must be taken on trust, just as Gillard Labor had to be taken on trust at the 2010 election. Labor then was a party that had corrupted the NSW government and allowed faceless men to unseat an elected prime minister.

Before the last election the Herald editorial said Abbott had not proved his case so Julia Gillard deserved a chance. After that election produced a hung parliament, the Herald recommended Abbott be prime minister because ''stability is more likely''. But Gillard retained power by, it emerged later, breaking her promise of ''no carbon tax under a government I lead'' in a deal with the Greens. Labor betrayed the voters.

While the Gillard government achieved important national reforms in trying circumstances and kept the economy strong, it squibbed tax reform, skewed taxes, overspent on optimistic revenue forecasts and did nothing to remedy Labor's fatal flaws.

All the while, Rudd remained a destabilising force; a reminder of betrayal - and an even bigger one when he retook the leadership just over two months ago.

Rudd Mark II has presented some laudable policy reforms on boat people and emissions trading. He talks of Labor's big ideas so Australia can rise beyond our station. But reformers must take the people with them - and reformers must be trusted to deliver.

Rudd has struggled to outline how Labor would strengthen the economy, beyond relying on its worthy record during the global financial crisis. Faced with shrinking budget revenues, Labor did well to outline a plan for a return to surplus, yet lost the moral high ground over Coalition costings.

It wasn't until his official launch that Rudd pushed Labor values based on a fair go for all. The Herald shares many of those values but believes Labor was a broken party in 2010 and is even more broken now. The Herald believes Australian democracy needs Labor to modernise and prove it respects the privilege of power. It cannot be supported for abusing that privilege.

Voters should not reward Labor before redemption, nor reward those who owe their influence to factions and betrayals of trust that have marked the past six years.

Labor under Kevin Rudd in 2013 is not offering a stable, trustworthy government on which Australians can depend. The Coalition under Tony Abbott deserves the opportunity to return trust to politics.


Abbott the father deserves more respect

I'll tell you what's creepy: journalists and media taking an everyday comment from the probable next leader of our country about his daughters being "not bad-looking" and sexualising it like a pack of sticky schoolkids who can't watch a deodorant ad without sniggering.

There are many subjects upon which I do not agree with Tony Abbott but his decision this week to appeal to Big Brother's household of twenty-something fame whores while standing beside his daughters wasn't a bad one.

Did we really expect a policy pitch in 24 seconds? Why not try to manufacture some semblance of empathy with young Australians by showing he also lives and regularly talks with other young Australians - his children?

Yet a father saying his daughters were "not bad-looking" was immediately translated as ''vote for me because my daughters are hot" by one reporter. Even more vile was the characterisation by another writer, for an esteemed masthead, likening the appearance as a "man flanked with babes like an oily ganglord entering a nightclub".

Politicians have long decided it's acceptable to put words into people's mouths, invent motivations for others and just plain make up stuff when they feel like it. But we're truly lost if this has become the accepted method of operation for our media.

Words, as we're constantly reminded by Abbott's critics, matter. "Not bad-looking" has no sexual connotations, particularly when said by a father, while "hot", a word never uttered by Abbott, implies sexual arousal in the observer.

Motives, as we're constantly reminded by Abbott's critics, matter. Standing beside your children in a political campaign is as old as politics. Abbott has gone out of his way on many occasions to describe the intelligence, opinions, aptitude and energy of his three tertiary-educated daughters, yet it is a gender-aware media-writer that diminished them as "babes ... entering a nightclub".

Abbott, certainly, has perception problems when it comes to his attitudes to women, but to suggest a man complimenting the looks of his children is sexist or reduces them to ornamentation is just crude, offensive barrow-pushing.

The innuendo the comment was somehow, vaguely incestuous - and let's not kid ourselves this wasn't one of the snide implications of this piece - should be met with contempt and illustrates the lengths so many sulking reporters will go to to tarnish a politician they do not agree with.

I can't say I'm overly excited about the prospect of Abbott as our next PM, but I am looking forward to seeing the father-daughter relationship given some prominence and respect over the next three years.

If you watched Annabel Crabb's excellent Kitchen Cabinet interview with Abbott and two of his daughters on Tuesday night, what you'll plainly see is a 55-year-old man who has raised bright, opinionated 20-something children who respect and actually like being around him.

How many parents can make that claim?


Tony Abbott has forgiven Julia Gillard's misogyny speech

TONY Abbott and Julia Gillard are on track to revive their famous friendship, after their first "reasonably warm conversation" in more than three years took place at an airport lounge a few weeks ago.

The Opposition Leader and former prime minister once enjoyed a mutual affection for each other, but as Mr Abbott told the ABC's Kitchen Cabinet, this was set aside in the "rugged contest" of three years of a hung parliament.

"I'm sure the day will come when we can be genial and respectful again," Mr Abbott told host Annabel Crabb.  "In fact we had quite a genial and respectful exchange in an airport lounge a few weeks ago."

When it was pointed out that if making a Google search of the terms "Tony Abbott, Julia Gillard and flirting you get a 2.5 minute YouTube video of just extraordinary mutual affection", Mr Abbott agreed the pair had once been close.

"Well, we had a pretty rugged contest, particularly from the start of the carbon tax period and that obviously did a fair bit of damage to the degree of mutual respect which had existed beforehand," Mr Abbott said.

When they happened upon each other at the airport lounge, Mr Abbott said to Ms Gillard, "You've been through a pretty tough time" and "she agreed that yes, it had been a pretty tough time but that was the kind of thing that tended to happen in the rough and tough business we're in".

He said he was willing to put behind him Ms Gillard's infamous misogyny speech, which she made during a fiery parliamentary debate about then-Speaker Peter Slipper, who had been accused of sending sexually explicit text messages, and which went on to make international headlines.

"It was a very unfair speech, I thought, and it was a completely invalid speech in terms of responding to the issue of that day it was just an invalid thing to say," Mr Abbott said.

"But look, politics is about theatre and at the time I didn't think it was very effective theatre at all, but plainly it did strike a chord in a lot of people who had not followed the immediate problem that had brought on that particular parliamentary debate."


Collapse in youth workforce participation rate

With so much information being circulated during an election campaign, sometimes important facts go missing in action, such as the fact that Australia's youth participation rate is at its lowest ebb in recorded history.

In January 2008, the participation rate for 15 to 24 year old Australians was 72.1% and it has been going downhill ever since.  By March 2013, the rate had hit a rock bottom of 66.8% - the lowest youth participation rate ever since the Australian Bureau of Statistics began collecting the data in 1978.

To compound the problem, the government has been bragging about how it has managed to keep the youth unemployment rate at relatively low levels. The Minister for Youth, Kate Ellis, for example has said, 'Average youth unemployment under Coalition with no GFC - 12.6%. Under us with GFC - 11%.'

A review of the Minister's claim by the website Politifact gave it a rating of 'mostly true', because it didn't take into account the fact that under the Coalition youth unemployment fell from 16% in April 1996 to 10% in November 2007; an average rate of 12.6%.

Whereas under Labor, it started at 9.4% in December 2007 and has increased to 11.8% as of June 2013; an average over the life of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd governments of 11.1%.

The record low youth participation rates can be partially explained by the findings from my recent report Not Looking for Work which show that the government has been pushing young people out of the workforce and into education and training. As a result, from July 2009 to June 2012, there was a 200% increase in the number of people on Youth Allowance (other) classified as 'non-jobseekers' and a 229% increase in the number of people in education and training on Youth Allowance.

With so much attention directed at budgetary black holes and boatloads of asylum seekers, it is important not to forget some of the smaller issues like the collapse in the youth participation rate, because at the end of the day we are talking about a generation of Australians who are simply not engaged in the workforce.


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