IT STARTED just after Tony Abbott’s budget reply speech last night: devoid of credibility and bereft of ideas, the Prime Minister and the Treasurer have embarked on a wild and thoroughly dishonest scare campaign. They have nothing else to fight with, and this stunt will worsen their inevitable defeat.
In recent weeks I have spoken at length about the cynical assumption that underpins most strategies and tactics deployed by the ALP: that is, that voters are an essentially stupid group; a brainless herd whose intelligence is extremely limited, and easily subjugated with idiot-simple slogans repeated endlessly until they become instinctively accepted.
The flashy part of the budget process is finished — the bills will grind their way through Parliament, yes, but barring the (unthinkable) blocking of supply, the rank and file punter won’t see much more of it now the promises, and the gimmicks, and the speeches are over.
And now it is over, Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan have hit the stump; not, it seems, so much to sell the budget as to start a colossal scare campaign about an Abbott government in a final, jaundiced attempt to cobble enough votes together to stay in office.
I put it thus because there is no evidence this government cares about anything except that one basic objective; as I said last night, they will say and/or do anything to retain power, offices and salaries — and their treatment of anyone in their way will be brutal.
Wayne “I’m Important and I’m Right” Swan has been out today, spruiking a plot by Tony Abbott to “sneak his real plan” through the election campaign; Abbott, according to Swan, would follow the “Campbell Newman playbook” and hide the truth until after the election.
Labor is obsessed with the Queensland Premier, which is unsurprising as his is the most securely ensconced conservative administration in Australia, and is undertaking a painful yet urgent restructure of his state’s finances after decades of Labor mismanagement.
Even so, this is the same Queensland Premier who reputable polling suggests would easily win a fresh election this weekend, retaining almost all of his unprecedented majority intact.
Gillard — unbelievably — has launched a campaign on GST; despite Abbott’s repeated promise that any reforms of substance would be taken to an election ahead of a second term (and his insistence that review of the GST was not a priority), she has been running around telling anyone who will listen of the grand plot to extend the tax to food, and to increase the GST rate.
I would simply point out that the GST might have provided an effective campaign point in 1993 and 1998, but it won’t now.
At those elections, people voted out of fear, to the extent the GST was a consideration for them: fear of the unknown, fuelled largely by the same misleading tactics that seem to be making a reappearance now.
GST didn’t make Kim Beazley Prime Minister in 2001; people understand the sky didn’t fall in, and that the tax operated exactly as John Howard and Peter Costello said it would.
The GST, and some Machiavellian Newmanesque plot, are just the start of it.
Still, Gillard and Swan don’t have a hell of a lot to work with.
They can hardly stand on their record; they would only do so in order to hide it.
They can hardly outline a bold new vision, and invite the Australian public to follow them: the Australian public is fed up with being lied to by its politicians, and with that experience under their belts have decided they don’t want to follow Gillard anywhere.
And in any case, after six years in government, none of the ALP’s big, bold ideas have attracted much enthusiasm at all; take away the NDIS, and what’s left is received sullenly, almost malignantly, by a growing majority of voters.
Even the promise of billions in education funding made no difference to the government’s standing in the opinion polls.
And so — with no electoral capital in hand, and with voters waiting for them with baseball bats — The Big Scare is all Gillard and her cohorts have left.
A friend of mine asked last night why there was no palpable anger “out there” over the superannuation co-contribution (which was meant to be funded by the mining tax) being axed; at the time I responded that it was probably because people didn’t believe the promise from Swan and Gillard in the first place.
I actually think it’s more than that; people now know Wayne Swan has spent years presenting dodgy figures in budgets and implementing taxes that don’t raise any money, and I think they understand that there is no money, therefore there is no super top-up.
(I still can’t get over thew fact that the traditional tax-and-spend party has buggered up two taxes “designed” to reel in billions and billions and billions of dollars).
Yet everyone from Gillard to Swan to Bill Shorten and several of their colleagues are putting the line around that Abbott is ripping off the low-paid; Abbott is taking money away from the poor. “Tony Abbott (will) take the axe to low and middle-income families in the community,” Swan said.
I think people are more likely to be angry with the present government — and Gillard and Swan, first and foremost — for making such blatantly undeliverable promises in the first place than they are with Abbott for outlining steps to right the ship of state.
But Labor won’t back off; the fear factor is the only tool left in their toolbox.
Today is just the start of this latest attack, but it will intensify; the closer to polling day we get, the more of this desperate claptrap we will hear from Gillard.
Even after one day of this rubbish, she said “people should be asking themselves ‘what’s next?'”
The scare campaign that worked in 1993 and — almost — in 1998 will not work now.
The Australian electorate have had enough of Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan; this Labor government is nearing its expiry date, but its leadership duo are the single biggest liabilities it carries, and the time to replace them has all but passed.
Gillard and her cronies will ramp up the scare campaign: expect wild accusations and even scurrilous “revelations;” but the fact is that nobody is listening, and that sobering reality must be very galling indeed.
Add to this the fact that since Julia Gillard’s despicable “misogyny” rant under the coward’s cover of parliamentary privilege, people have had another look at Abbott, and increasingly like what they see; Abbott himself is fuelling this effect, acting more Prime Ministerial by the day, and not responding to barbs and taunts he would once have let rip over.
The more the government tries to ramp up its scare campaign, the harder it will rebound on them, and staring down the barrel of a heavy defeat indeed, like lemmings they now seem hellbent on making it worse.
There is 17 more weeks of this to look forward to.