Australia. Don’t fucking ruin it for everyone. Sometime in the next couple of days you are all going to do that weird dance with the little cardboard houses and the scrawling of runes on scrolls, and like a magical phoenix sewn from boredom and Windsor knots, a new government will be formed. According to what I’ve read in the newspapers owned by one guy, and seen in the polling of people his age who still have hand-cranked telephones, enough of you are going to vote for Liberal or National candidates that Tony Abbott will be installed as Prime Minister.
What I really, really wonder is whether you’ve thought this through.
If you are planning to vote Coalition, I’d love you to actually read the following and think about it, rather than scrolling straight to the comments for a pre-emptive gloat. Because your choice would be a very poor one, for you and for the rest of us, on policy alone.
On one thing we agree: I too would love to see Labor booted soundly from office. To go over their failings would take more time than I could spend without punching myself repeatedly in the face for light relief. But if Labor’s last term served up a bowl of curdled fuckslaw, the Liberals have taken a dump on top, stirred it in with salad tongs and are telling you it’s called chou Parisienne. But even my view here requires a disgust at Labor’s ethical failures, like deep-throating the pokies industry or joining in the fake panic about a handful of poor fuckers in shitbox watercraft. On these ethical issues, middle-ground voters – the self-appointed pragmatists of the electoral landscape – are often found without a great many fucks to give.
Which means? The reasons you want to vote out Labor make up precisely none of the reasons they should be voted out. Your key issues involve the economy, the general standard of life in Australia, our position in the world and our prospects for the future. If you consider yourself a conservative, your choice is easy. Labor has been a great conservative government. The radicals and the cowboys, especially in terms of economics, are found in Abbott’s Coalition.
Firstly, the NBN is the most important infrastructure project in decades and we cannot afford to fuck it up. No one thinks twice about spending money on highways, railways and power grids, because our society can’t function without them. Internet connectivity is already central to so much of our industry and economy, and will only become more important in the years ahead. If Australia is to compete internationally it needs the best possible infrastructure, and rural Australia needs the same access. This isn’t some feelgood pamphlet shit to be read out over a string quartet singing ‘We Are Australian’. The NBN could actually bring dying towns and regions back to life, as connectivity makes living and working there far more appealing and viable. It’s certainly the best prayer that country Australia has had for a century. It’s also designed with the capacity to adapt to the massive data increases the future will bring. It’s a costly and ambitious project, because quality and comprehensive projects are.
Abbott’s alternative is a cheery two-fingered salute to every one of us. It uses technology that will be obsolete before it’s built, require far greater maintenance, and deliver slower internet speeds by 2019 than other countries have now. The speed could lag 20 times behind the NBN. Even Malcolm Turnbull thinks it’s horse-shit, and he’s the guy in charge of shovelling it. Saying we can’t afford infrastructure is criminally short-sighted when that infrastructure will pay for itself many times over. Then there’s the bizarreness of Abbott’s constituency including the country areas represented by the Nationals, whose voters and MPs are apparently happy to help kick holes in the bottom of their own rowboat. It’s not that Abbott opposes the NBN, he’s just duty-bound to oppose anything that Labor came up with first. But to let that partisan mentality threaten a project of such genuine national importance is unforgiveable from a man who wants to lead that nation.
And that’s just one part of Abbott’s wider economic fuckery. For a party that is supposed to stand for economic management and sense, the last three years have been a self-parody escalating in intensity and weirdness with each passing news cycle. After years of panic about the carbon tax, the economy absorbed it without a ripple, while industrial carbon emissions have already fallen. Cost of living increased less than half as much under Gillard as it did under Howard or Rudd – yes, true, and motherfucking incredible given the way that carbon whatsit was going to make us sell our kids to Origin Energy or whatever.
Nonetheless, Abbott still has an economic agenda more insane than the Greens’ most radical fringe-dwellers could muster at the end of a week-long meth binge. The blood pledge to repeal all carbon penalties is still in force, ditto for the mining tax, though he still intends to pay for the associated expenses, only without having the money, and he can’t tell us how he’ll do that. DON’T WORRY BE COOL HE’S A MAGICIAN.
Businesses that were supposed to be ruined have said they weren’t adversely affected – see BHP’s response to Abbott’s monumental Olympic Dam fuck-up. Whatever you thought of carbon pricing beforehand, removing it now only causes more headaches and instability. Then, rather than businesses paying for the carbon they emit, Abbott’s Direct Action policy has taxpayers directly funding billions in handouts to these same businesses, who will be asked nicely to spend it on emitting less. And to top it off, after the warnings of how taxes on business would ultimately ruin us all, Abbott plans to fund billions in unnecessary parental leave by… imposing an extra tax on business.
The fact that Abbott’s costings weren’t released until two days before the election should alone disqualify him from contention. No one pulls a bullshit stunt like that unless they have an army of skeletons to keep buried. Then there’s the fact that the costings were just a list of numbers with no indication as to how they were reached. A man who has talked endlessly about trust expects an electorate to accept his policies and promises based on pure faith.
But faith is what Abbott is all about. His work in opposition has been a simple matter of making statements. The carbon tax is toxic. Australia has too much debt. The cost of living is rising. It doesn’t matter how empirically this shit is disproved; somehow, like a fucking average horror movie, the same tiresome desiccated monster pops its reanimated head up and starts roaring once more. Like Bloody Mary in the bathroom mirror, the mere act of saying something enough times calls it into being.
Take the question of debt. A deciding factor for many in this election will be a fear of national debt. In their minds, we had a budget surplus, now we don’t, this means things are bad and it has to be corrected. If you are one of those people, let me give you a really quick economics primer. In an economy with the risk of slow growth, government investment is an ideal form of stimulus. Investment in infrastructure is good because you purchase something that keeps being useful in the long term, while generating further revenue for the private individuals or companies who use it, which in turn helps raise government revenue via tax. So when my e-phone rings, I can hand-deliver one internet via the information superhighway on my cyberbike, and both me and my government benefit from the extra income.
These investments are funded by borrowing against the prospect of future benefit. Government capital is raised (and debt incurred) by routine issuing of bonds. There aren’t any loan sharks out there waiting to break our national knees. In boom times, when revenue is higher, there’s less need for government stimulus which means deficits reduce. And after all that, turns out Australia’s ratio of debt to GDP (the best indicator of troublesome debt) is one of the lowest of all developed nations. Well fuck me, it’s true.
In the meantime, after three years bemoaning Labor’s wasteful big-spending approach and promising to do better, Abbott’s costings – if all goes perfectly to his plan – have tweaked three budget lines to identify $6billion in savings over four years. That’s 0.3 percent of the budget. Over four motherfucking years. In Federal terms, that’s change you find down the back of the couch. Deeper and uglier cuts will have to follow, but clearly he doesn’t want us to know what they are. Either that or he doesn’t know yet. The prospect that Abbott just spits raw mince at a brainstorm wall-chart and picks policies based on gristle-clusters has never left my mind. Even the firmly right-wing Economist, focusing specifically on finance and economics, has warned that Abbott’s policies are dangerously unclear and untested, and heralded the work of Labor’s last two terms. That’s like Choc Mundine volunteering at a library.
However he gets there, Abbott’s policy will be to cut spending and produce an austerity budget – for no other reason than ‘budget surplus’ sounding nice to uninformed voters. A quite plausible result will be a recession, as government spending drops, jobs are lost, community spending drops, welfare claims increase, and tax receipts fall. In many situations having a surplus is actually irresponsible policy – there’s nothing sensible about failing to invest when investment is required.
As well as downgrading the NBN, this will involve cutting clean energy investment at a time when even the great scapegoat of China is pumping unprecedented cash into the sector. Basically, Australia in global economic terms will become more isolated, more backwater, and increasingly left behind to scratch our nuts, chew grass stems, grow our front teeth long and head to the hayloft to fingerbang our sisters. Great work, fuckos.
But the talk on debt betrays the biggest problem of all. The biggest problem is Tony Abbott. Even ignoring the personal quirks, like his incessantly creepy weirdness with women, or the fact that he mostly looks like he’s about to slurp a fly out of midair, Abbott is a negative, uninspired, uninspiring, ruthless and mean-spirited person with a desire for power. Rudd loves the spotlight, but this occasionally has the side effect of him doing good things to get it. Abbott does not give a fuck what anyone thinks. Even if you do like Tony Abbott, Tony Abbott does not like you.
An example is lying about the problems with debt, when debt is how most countries function. An example is lying about Australia’s credit rating being at risk, when the country was ranked AAA. An example is claiming carbon dioxide couldn’t be measured because gas is weightless, which is right up there in scientific nuance with saying the sun revolves around the earth. Abbott knows these lines aren’t true – he’s many things, but not stupid. Still, he’s happy to lie to those who might vote for him, banking on them not knowing any better. The condescension to his own supporters is truly offensive. But he gets away with it, not because people are stupid, but because they don’t have the time or inclination to cross-check. In short, Tony Abbott thinks that you, the person voting for him, are a fucking idiot. He is happy to take advantage of this to mislead you. While intellectuals are often derided as snobs by the conservative side of politics, this attitude is far more poisonously elitist.
Australia. Mate. Please, do not jam this clusterfuck of a political career into the most prominent role in our democracy. Much as I’d love to be proud of my country, it’s not likely to happen this election, given how low both sides have crawled and our own willingness to get on all fours to follow. But we cannot afford someone as unpredictable and unaccountable as Tony Abbott. In three years of complaining about lies he hasn’t spoken one straight word. He hasn’t made one election promise specific enough to be held to. His list of disgusting comments is long and distinguished, and he would start making those as our representative to the world. Like so many on the conservative fringe, Abbott manufactures ideological enemies out of people whose only offence is to advocate generosity or restraint. He has a tenuous grasp on reality, and a perverse view of a great deal of social interaction and moral questions.
Personal qualities notwithstanding, he’s an intensely dangerous politician who is likely to do economic and social damage to a level beyond even the incompetent Labor of Joe Hockey’s wettest dreams. The sealer is that Hockey is a far more decent human than Abbott can ever hope to be, yet is willing to ape the steps of the bullshit dance. Abbott has shown an absolute willingness to make any moves necessary in order to gain power, for no other reason than gaining power. He has no articulated vision, no aims, no agenda aside from winning and being in charge. But power for the sake of taking power is completely fucking pointless. Power because you don’t like another group having it – a group who, on any terms or indicators that you yourself would value, are doing a very capable job – is reckless and selfish as well.
If you are conservative, Tony Abbott is not your man. If you’re concerned about the economy, Tony Abbott is not your man. If you want truth and accountability in politics, Tony Abbott is not even a man, he’s some kind of protozoa living in a sulphur vent. And if you give any thought to how our country is perceived internationally, Tony Abbott will never be our man. Ethically, personally, and in terms of policy, he’s someone our country should be deeply ashamed to even consider electing, let alone to elect. For the love of all that’s holy, please spare us three years of that.