WITH A DAY before polls open, The Red And The Blue today endorses the Coalition and states its reasons (and reservations) in doing so; the government of Malcolm Turnbull is not perfect, and his leadership is not a change we supported. Yet punishing the Liberal Party for elevating Turnbull would elect Shorten; the disaster Labor offers — and the unfit candidate for high office Mr Shorten is — puts the choice at this election beyond question.
There are those who will look briefly at this column — at my membership of the Liberal Party (which I love), at my openly-declared conservatism, and at the fact I provided not just a ringing endorsement of Tony Abbott three years ago, but of the various state Liberal Parties who have contested elections in that time — and conclude that an endorsement of Malcolm Turnbull today would, as a matter of course, be issued.
In fact, I have spent a considerable amount of time during 2016 contemplating not issuing an endorsement today at all; unsupportive of Malcolm Turnbull at the time of the leadership change last September and still to be convinced of its value now, I have been intermittently dismayed and appalled (as regular readers know) by what has passed for governance this year against a backdrop of scandal, indecision, poor political tactics, and reticence to take a risk.
This election, to use a cliché, actually matters; to carry the platitude a step further, it is no exaggeration to say that in 2016, Australian voters confront the most important choice at the ballot box since 1975, when the Whitlam government had taken the country to the brink of ruin and was prepared to defy the Constitution to avoid the matter being resolved by the people, or even 1949, when a Labor government’s aim to entrench the slither of socialism through a program of bank nationalisation was decisively and properly rebuffed by the voting public.
To decide who should govern Australia for the next three years, it is necessary to look back to 2013, and to the six years of ALP government that preceded it.
In Labor folklore, Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan are revered, deified, and touted as men who saved Australia from the Global Financial Crisis that so ravaged the economies of many of our partners across the world, from which some may never recover; the reality is that the mining boom — then still in full flush, despite Swan’s best efforts to kill it with a tax — was responsible for doing that, and whilst any injection of monies into the economy clearly stimulates economic activity, it is doubtful whether Australia would have entered recession at that time had Swan and Rudd not acted with a stimulus package.
Whether it would or not, the fact is that the “need” for stimulus and the lure of the pork barrel soon provided cover for the single greatest program of economic vandalism in this country’s history; over the six years of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government, taxation receipts increased by an average of 7% per year.
Yet over the same period, government debt — which sat at zero when Labor was elected in 2007 — rocketed to $300bn by the time the ALP was ejected from office, as spending on social programs, electoral bribes to key constituencies and goodies for Labor’s union buddies were doled out with reckless abandon; these borrowings were in addition to some $40bn in surpluses that had been banked into two sovereign wealth funds by former Treasurer Peter Costello, monies that were gone a matter of months into the ALP’s term as it flung money at everything and anything it believed might vote for it whenever it next faced the polls.
Of course, by the time Labor left office in 2013, the GFC — or at least, the worst effects of it — had passed Australia by.
But in an unprecedented exercise in self-interest and through the indulgent gambling with the national interest to invest in future political profit, the ALP had, quite openly, booby-trapped the federal budget before it was defeated: legislating tens of billions of dollars in additional annual social spending that was designed to render the nation’s finances unmanageable by a Liberal government, with the objective of contributing to the first-term defeat of such a government on the pretext of its economic “incompetence” and the inability to balance the books.
This spending — on disability services, on funding to minority communities, on handouts to low income earners, and on other sensitive targets — was contrived to make any Liberal government seeking to rescind it appear cruel, nasty, or even evil.
And to compound the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd investment in the ALP’s own future, Labor during the current term of Parliament has resolutely blocked every measure presented to the Senate that sought to reduce spending, but has voted to pass every measure that sought to increase it, in an unbelievable agenda of sabotage firmly aimed at putting its own interests squarely ahead of Australia’s, and of the Australian people.
It surprises nobody, of course, that Labor has also spent three years making shrill declarations of the “incompetence” of the Coalition in failing to balance the budget — asseverations that simply do not withstand scrutiny, in light of the behaviour of the Labor Party — for its misuse of a Senate majority, held jointly with the Greens, was always a critical element of the strategy to short-circuit a Liberal government within three years.
There are those within and beyond the parliamentary Left, whose defence of these tactics has been to suggest the Coalition was “unable” to negotiate effectively with the Senate; the fact is that Labor, the Greens, and the hate-filled Palmer United Party that controlled it determined that there would be no negotiation at all, and to the extent there was, any outcomes that were delivered would worsen the state of the budget and fuel Labor’s 2016 election case.
Well, here we are: with government debt now sitting at half a trillion dollars and still spiralling, the responsibility for this outrage rests not with the Coalition parties that have been prevented from cleaning up the mess, but with the same party that created it in the first place — and which was happy to see the gushing red ink continue to flow in the happy knowledge that if the strategy paid off, and Bill Shorten were to be elected tomorrow, it would be taxpayers rather than those who created the mess who would be left to carry the can.
It is a reprehensible legacy from a party that gained, in the 1980s, the economic credibility it had never enjoyed; ever since the election of the Howard government in 1996 and with increasing speed, Labor has sought to disown its mostly fine record of achievement under Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, to the point the ALP today more closely resembles the economic train wreck the Whitlam government developed into, and whose legacy it sought determinedly to recreate under the stewardship of Swan as Treasurer.
It says something for the capacity of Labor to manage the economy that for the only time in living memory, the last Labor government introduced a tax that not only raised no revenue, but nonetheless contributed heavily to driving investment in the minerals and energy offshore whilst compounding the effects of the end of the mining boom. It was an abjectly pathetic achievement.
A disturbing warning sign now exists at the Labor Party of today, which promises to introduce a slate of new taxes totalling a horrific $102bn over the next decade, but to spend the lot — and then some — to the extent that the already-haemorrhaging budget deficit will continue to balloon, and despite the extra revenue from Bill Shorten’s mad tax grab, will still add a further $16bn to the national debt ledger during the same decade over which it is collected.
This is no way to run a country; it is no way to provide for Australia’s people. At some point — long after the careers of today’s power-obsessed Labor MPs and their Trades Hall masters are over, and after those individuals have departed this world — today’s young people will inherit the responsibility those reckless specimens eschewed, and even if Bill Shorten loses tomorrow, there remains the very real risk that the next generation of Australians will endure sharply lower living standards as a direct consequence of the behaviour of the ALP over the course of the past decade.
The fact is that in the Australia of today, risks and challenges are everywhere we look.
Military threats in distant parts of the world that could spark global conflagrations: Russian aggression in Eastern Europe. Islamic fascism in the Middle East. Nuclear lunacy on our doorstep in North Korea. Regional expansionism in Asia through China. Labor, with a fine record under Hawke on the international stage, sought to equip Australia for the security challenges of the 21st century under Rudd and Gillard by emasculating the defence forces. Rudd, in particular, retains the delusion today that he should speak for Australia on matters pertaining to world security at the United Nations. As with its obsession with electoral power at any price, Labor still acts from self-interest in this field rather than the national interest.
Economic threats in a world that has grown complacent, and stagnant, after decades of post-war success: across the Western world, overblown state sectors suck increasing amounts of money from liberal democratic economies, the effect of which is compounded by constantly increasing wage growth even as productivity falls and economic output stagnates; Europe, the USA, Japan, and other key partners Australia stands with are all afflicted by the condition, which is simply summarised as sitting on their laurels rather than continuing to struggle and fight for improvements.
The cultures of dependency and welfarism have exploded across the West — including Australia — as “compassionate” democratic societies invent new and grandiose pretexts upon which to shovel more and more largesse upon their citizens; the end destination is the basket case zone comprising the bankrupt and moribund economies of Europe, which “modern” Labor has done so much, so deleteriously, to attempt to emulate in this country since the Howard government’s defeat.
And an obsession with “rights” and a prioritisation of minorities over the majority of the population has become a mainstay of political life throughout the Western world, as the illiberal and socialist agenda of the “modern” political Left has sought to restrict freedoms, curtail dissent, and dared majorities to rise against it under the threat of being labelled, vilified and destroyed as bigots, racists, homophobes, and troglodytes.
On every one of these counts, Australian Labor has taken the anti-Australian position: this is not to say its causes are entirely without merit, or that the interests it advances should summarily be stifled.
But just as this agenda has hijacked any ability to mount cogent arguments in favour of sound governance — after all, no “losers” can ever be created by government under the narrative of the Left — it is reprehensible to accept that it should be tolerated for the base reason that other priorities are simply rendered too difficult to pursue.
Labor deserves to pay a price for its complicity in the creeping advance of this culture, and it deserves to pay it heavily tomorrow at the ballot box.
That is not to say, of course, that the Coalition is without fault: quite the contrary.
Conservative voters are entitled to be angry, and to remain angry, at the manner in which former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was removed from his post; this column remains convinced, however, that had he remained in office, the Coalition would lose the election tomorrow — or whenever it might have been held — on account of the irreconcilable deficiencies in strategy, tactics, communication and policies the government was welded to pursuing under his leadership.
It is true that the Coalition does not boast a record of tight economic management: the reasons for this have been clearly set out earlier in this article, and blame can and must be apportioned to the ALP and its insidious “leader,” Bill Shorten, for the failure to correct the damage it should have never inflicted whilst in office.
And it is certainly true that in changing leaders a year ago, the Liberal Party lowered itself to the level it has spent years berating and goading Labor for; political parties are free to change their leaders whenever and however often they like, and there is no such position as an elected Prime Minister. But the Coalition has made merry with this point for too long in the past, and it cannot expect the ALP not to follow suit.
As far as a program for reform — actual, genuine reform — neither party is in a position to proclaim it offers comprehensive solutions, despite whatever outbursts to the contrary either may offer.
To distill the choice to its essence, this election — and who people should elect — comes down to which party is most likely to prudently steward Australia through the next three years and, ironically, an assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the leaders.
A very hostile Senate seems certain to be elected, to replace the very hostile Senate that has been dissolved: this might provide Labor with the argument it can deliver what it promises, as it is likely to control the upper house with the Greens, but the problem is that what the ALP offers is a program that should not be legislated by any Senate — hostile, compliant or otherwise.
A hundred billion dollars in new taxes, shadowed by an even greater amount of spending, is not what Australia needs today; in placing such madness on the table at a time of budget weakness and facing uncertain economic times, some gratitude should be expressed that Shorten and his cronies have given advance notice of their intention to simply resume the same program of vandalism that their predecessors engaged in between 2008 and 2013.
The objectives of the Coalition might be more modest, but at the same time, they do not come with a $100bn price tag: and in any case, with the experience of the past three years to guide it, the government can be expected to approach the Senate more carefully during the next; no such restraint can be anticipated from the ALP, whose only instincts are to borrow, and to tax, and to spend, with a total disregard for the consequences provided its own election can be guaranteed.
This is certainly not what Australia needs today.
I say to those nursing their anger over the dumping of Abbott to look at Bill Shorten, and to vote for the Liberal Party; I understand and accept that Malcolm Turnbull is not to everyone’s liking (and remind them that I campaigned against his ascension for several years) but when compared to his opponent, Turnbull is a veritable saint.
In Shorten, we see a union thug, a liar, a self-obsessed narcissist, and a man whose “vision” extends no further than a delusion that the Prime Ministership is his destiny.
Shorten has been prepared to say and do, literally, anything to win this election; but like any liar, or bullshit artist, sooner or later the conflicting stories told to different people at different times collide with each other, and Shorten has been caught out: and so today, the only palpable reason he offers voters to elect the ALP is the blatant lie that the Coalition would privatise Medicare.
As I remarked recently to an upper house Liberal MP in Victoria, Shorten’s has been the most dishonest election pitch I can remember in the past 30 years.
It should not, and must not, be rewarded with the keys to The Lodge.
I should emphasise that this is an imperfect choice, and that neither party has truly enunciated a vision (for want of a better word) to electrify the public mood or to excite confidence from the electorate.
Yet the pitch that has belatedly emerged from Turnbull — despite wasted months and wasted opportunities — around lower taxes, greater incentive, sounder public finances and more secure public services is more credible than the snatch-and-grab agenda of the ALP, or the prejudices and resentments it seeks to fuel as it plays sections of the community off against each other for its own petty partisan profit.
And so — with reservations — this column recommends all Australians vote 1 for their local Liberal and National candidates in the House of Representatives; we beg readers to vote for the Coalition in the Senate, to mitigate against a (seemingly inevitable) rerun of the gridlock and obstruction that saw government grind to a halt in the last term of Parliament; and to those resolved to vote for a minor party or Independent, we respect your decision — but recommend, in all cases, that your Coalition candidate be placed above both the ALP and the Greens as you complete the full allocation of your preferences.
In fact, so insidious — and so blatantly at odds with the best interests of this country — is the Labor platform set out for voters to judge tomorrow, we also recommend (in defiance of the official Liberal Party position) that the Greens be placed ahead of the ALP in every lower house seat in Australia, to amplify the defeat Shorten deserves to suffer.
Tomorrow’s election is important, and an unprecedented amount of reflection has been required to arrive at the recommendation I offer readers today.
Don’t punish the Liberals over Tony Abbott. Don’t reward Bill Shorten for his duplicity and self-interest, and his disregard for anything more than the getting of power.
But above all, elect the party that best aligns with what Australia needs today: and however imperfect or flawed that party may be in the eyes of some, the Coalition is nevertheless the more deserving of a term in office at this election.