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Abbott’s nostalgia for Howard’s Oz is no basis for an economic policy

There is much to ignore in pursuit of the core of Tony Abbott’s philosophy of government, to the extent that he outlined one yesterday at the National Press Club, amid the generalities, motherhood and vagueness of “aspirations”.

It was, at least, good to see the Opposition Leader trying to be at least slightly clearer about what an Abbott Government would look like, something we’re still not clear on despite more than two years of Abbott’s leadership and a federal election. It was also comforting to see him talking positively about immigration and in particular the Howard government’s program, which saw high levels of immigration. That makes a change from the fearmongering about “a big Australia” that Labor and the Liberals engaged in in 2010.

To get the core of what Abbott is pitching, though, you have to overlook a lot. You have to overlook the complete absence of the global financial crisis from his account of recent economic history. You have to overlook the extraordinarily fatuous statement with which he opened his speech, that Labor had no policies to deal with the Eurozone crisis, when it is Labor’s politically risky focus on a 2012-13 surplus that was lauded by a ratings agency as recently as late November when it upgraded Australia to a triple-A rating.

You have to overlook Abbott’s invocation of “the iron law of economics” as a reason to reject price signals as a means of modifying behaviour. You have to overlook the confusion about the timing of tax cuts which already looks like bedevilling the Opposition from now until they release their full costings – if they ever do. You have to overlook a whole host of things that reflect the common-or-garden inconsistency and willful obtuseness of oppositions, no matter what their composition.

Abbott is often accused of having decidedly backward-looking social views. Yesterday’s focus was backward looking in a different way. In the speech, he repeatedly invoked the Howard government as an example of what he’ll go back to. The Howard government, Abbott said “now looks like a lost golden age of reform and prosperity.”

Now that may patently be wrong if you have a mortgage, or you’re concerned about inflation, but ignore whether it’s accurate or not and understand the message.

Abbott’s speech was a conscious effort to invoke a fondness for the calmer economic times of the Howard years — a time before the GFC, before the mining boom had started hammering manufacturing… and a time before foreign investors regarded our government’s fiscal management so highly that we started becoming a safe haven and our dollar went through the roof.

Don’t make the mistake of dismissing this as empty nostalgia. As Essential Research’s poll this week shows, the electorate rates Howard very highly – he’s easily the most popular pick for “best Prime Minister”. And the world was a very different place economically then, with an apparently endless boom driven by cheap money and, for Australia, our ability to piggyback on China’s relentless rise.

That world came to a shuddering halt with the GFC, and the one that has now emerged — assuming Europe or the US can be said to have “emerged” at all — is a far more difficult one for any economic manager, including ours. And Wayne Swan, Ken Henry, Martin Parkinson and Glenn Stevens have done an excellent job so far of navigating its rocks and shoals.

But the problem is that this isn’t simply politics. Abbott is not merely trying to invoke nostalgia in voters, he proposes economic policies from the Howard years. The Howard government was big on the “small government” talk as well, but became the biggest taxing and spending government to date. It would be nice, in that context, for Abbott to acknowledge when he drones on endlessly about cutting government spending that the previous government ended up making the Whitlam government look like misers.

And when asked after his speech about examples of middle class welfare like subsidies for school fees or private health insurance, Abbott invoked aspiration to justify its retention. Middle class welfare was primarily a creation of the Howard Government, and plainly for all the talk of “small government”, Abbott would retain it.

Indeed, we don’t have to guess at this, for Joe Hockey in his Budget Reply speech last year explicitly said that the role of government was to “grease the wheels of structural change” via middle class welfare, to make sure voters don’t become alienated when the economy undergoes the sorts of changes it is now in the middle of.

This piece of Hockeynomics of course was the approach of the Howard Government, to direct the proceeds of the resources boom into tax cuts, middle-class welfare and regional rorts programs. The result in the last term of that government was ever-higher inflation and interest rates and a profound sense of entitlement on the part of voters.

A return to that policy would be more than just a rebuttal of the oft-proclaimed “small government” ethos of the Liberals — that’s just perfectly ordinary hypocrisy. Rather, it would create the same vicious circle of inflation, rising interest rates and pressure on governments for more relief from so-called “cost of living” pressures.

Similarly on IR. Abbott yesterday was talking about the need for greater labour productivity. Again, ignore his lie that “productivity has stagnated” – it’s been in decline for the last decade – and focus on the message. “My best moments as employment minister,” said Abbott, “were the figures showing ever higher real wages and record job increases. It was possible to have more jobs and higher pay then because there were productivity increases to sustain them.” Abbott wants more “flexible” and “adaptable” workplaces. As I’ve repeatedly noted, in fact the biggest fall in labour productivity in recent decades was under WorkChoices.

Abbott also seems taken with an idea he appears to have devised himself, claiming that the Australian economy has “five pillars” – manufacturing, “knowledge economy”, “services”, resources and agriculture.

Apart from the fact his pillars combine specific industries like manufacturing or resources with industry characteristics like services and a vague, sloganish add-on about “knowledge”, it’s a static view of the economy, as though Abbott wants our economy preserved in amber forever just the way it is.

The speech thus suggests that Abbott really believes we can go back to the Howard era economically, and wants to base his policies on that.

We can’t. The Chinese Communist Party has ensured our economy is undergoing a rapid and dramatic transformation. Foreign investors and the benighted state of European finances is turning us into a safe haven currency. The shift to services and away from retail is changing our employment market, as is an aging population that has made the health and caring sector the biggest and one of the fastest growing employers. Our tax base is changing, too — the shift to services will have implications for GST revenue; nearly a decade of income tax cuts has left us more reliant on corporate tax revenue, which is in turn ever more reliant on the mining industry and the big banks.

Nostalgia is a fine political tool if you can use it and half his luck if Abbott can make it work for him. But it’s no basis for an economic policy. The Australia of the John Howard era is disappearing, as much because of the policies he set in motion as anything else. The Coalition needs to recognise that.

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  • 1
    Jimmy
    Posted Wednesday, 1 February 2012 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Finally we get back to an actual policy based article instead of the politics based ones we have been getting.

    Abbott’s speech yesterday reinforced the fact he is all rhetoric and no policy, we “aim” for tax cuts, dental care and disability insurance but probably won’t actually do them. We will repeal the carbon tax & MRRT while keeping the spending attached to them and increase the paid parental scheme to be ridiculously generous and still get the budget back into surplus by finding $70b in savings from somewhere.

    If Abbott does become PM those who constantly spruik him here need to have the courge to own the disaster that will surely follow.

  • 2
    DF
    Posted Wednesday, 1 February 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Well done, Mr Keane.

    Grog, writing at The Drum - here’s the link (http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/3804996.html) - asked if there were any journos prepared to take Abbott to task over his speech yesterday. I just sent the link to this article to Grog - let’s see if the ABC will publish it.

  • 3
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Wednesday, 1 February 2012 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    Agreed Jimmy, I don’t know why the MSM so slaver over this clown.

  • 4
    Steven Warren
    Posted Wednesday, 1 February 2012 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Totally agree Jimmy.

    Should we make a pool on how many days it will take for another Australia journalist to actually write another article contain discussion about policy rather than reiterating sound-bytes or discussing how delightfully entertaining and Machiavellian they find various politicians current escapades and peccadillos?

    I’ll put my money on 32.

  • 5
    Masters Jill
    Posted Wednesday, 1 February 2012 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

    good article, thanks for the read.

  • 6
    Suzanne Blake
    Posted Wednesday, 1 February 2012 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    @ Jimmy

    Humphrey B Bear (with no policies) with his hands tied behind his back could beat Gillard at the moment.

    Abbott is not the answer as I have said, and neither is Gillard.

  • 7
    Masters Jill
    Posted Wednesday, 1 February 2012 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    it’s unfortunate though that if/when he does get in, after the inevitable backflips and the “they were only aspirationals”, we’ll have 4 years of blaming labour. judging by the way vic libs get away with the same tactic the feds will have a smooth ride throughout their whole term. you can fool most of the people all of the time.

  • 8
    Son of foro
    Posted Wednesday, 1 February 2012 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    It would be nice, in that context, for Abbott to acknowledge when he drones on endlessly about cutting government spending that the previous government ended up making the Whitlam government look like misers.

    Amazing that in the whole of the National Press Club yesterday not one - not one - of those hopeless hacks felt the need to challenge Abbott.

    I’ve yet to see an emperor with fewer clothes and yet day after day the media continue to admire his fine threads.

  • 9
    klewso
    Posted Wednesday, 1 February 2012 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    It’s not that hard really. “Don’t look at that GFC thingy (till we get our hands on Treasury – then you have too)”, and all he needs is a time machine and we’ll be back in the loving administrative arms of good ol’ Bronny “Kerosene Kate” (No Smoking Near The Old Foges Dip) Bishop - the people’s hero tearing strips of public servants in front of the camera in Opposition, defending them in government; do I hear hear “Bron, your stomp”? “Lucky Phil” Ruddock Minster for Information About Boat People throwing their Children Overboard. Kevin “Pass the Heart” Andrews overseeing IR and TPTR (Tourism and Politicised Terrorism Relations). And it looks like the ABC is rewriting the resume of Peter “Plucka” (pick a “cause” – he’s Multitalented – “Phone Allowance Man”/”House Standards Man”/”Patricks Training Man”/”Lie Low and Children Overboard Man” – just pick a cape) Reith :- to the ABC (Drum/7:30?), it seems, “pick a special subject, other than “The Decline and Fall of Political Standards in This Country, and My Role in It”, and he’s “yore man” for expert advice!
    As a matter of fact, it’s easier than first glance – sod the time machine, we just need an election!
    Their mates should have all the “viewsmedia”/PR sown up by then, so there won’t be any negative publicity to scare the punters or horses either – piece of pisciculture.

  • 10
    klewso
    Posted Wednesday, 1 February 2012 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

    SOF - look who “owns the souls” (along with the creativity, tied economic stones) of most of those “zombies” …… sorry “hacks”! “The Sunless King”.
    “No negativity please, we’ve an election to win!”

  • 11
    geomac
    Posted Wednesday, 1 February 2012 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

    Did any of the press ask Abbott about the 70 billion that needs to be found from the coalition Hockey?Robb policies or statements ? I find the appearance of Reith on the Drum bizarre . Its as if his past never happened or that his integrity is intact .Abetz I find even more perplexing in that his complicity with Gretch hasn,t touched him . How could anyone believe a word he utters is beyond me . Thats the world we live in it seems , reality is suspended and falsehoods have relevance .

  • 12
    Posted Wednesday, 1 February 2012 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Tony “Iraq War” Abbott.

    The last loyalist of John Howard for that disastrous lack of judgment.

    There has to be accountability for such catastrophic lack of judgment for a war that damaged world peace, the world economy and badly weakened Australia’s most powerful ally.

    If Abbott becomes PM our national security will be at risk from equally poor judgment as Howard jumping headlong into the Iraq war

    That’s the kind of competence that conservative voters might want to consider.

    For instance to what extent is the GFC mark I and impending mark II linked to the undergoverning in the shadow of the Iraq war and overspending on defence?

  • 13
    Masters Jill
    Posted Wednesday, 1 February 2012 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

    @GEOMAC - it’s the GOP down under. tea baggers and all. pity labor’s fast becoming the oz-democrats.

  • 14
    Son of foro
    Posted Wednesday, 1 February 2012 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Did any of the press ask Abbott about the 70 billion that needs to be found

    Or the cost of the climate change ‘direct action’ … um … thingy, whatever it is? Or maybe that one can be filed under ambition.

  • 15
    Ceteris Paribus
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 12:27 am | Permalink

    So when were elections ever decided by following the economic argument, except perhaps in 1975.

    I suspect most Coalition members themselves wouldn’t rush into any kind of economic venture masterminded by Abbott or Hockey. There must be doubt if either of them can count.

    But Abbott grows daily in discipline and guile to weave perceptions, images and nuance to the disconnected populace. He tells simple, repetitive, bedtime stories. He is a politician. And if his tendency to go feral can be controlled, he has the potential to become a John Howard.

  • 16
    Peter Ormonde
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 1:03 am | Permalink

    God “… the potential to become a John Howard.”

    Damning with faint praise indeed.

    I’d reckon even Suzanne Blake’s parrot wouldn’t settle for such a modest ambition.

  • 17
    GocomSys
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Did another ESSENTIAL Research poll this week show that the electorate rates GINA RINEHART very highly? If true, that would easily make her the most popular pick for our next “Prime Minister”.
    Thank heavens for opinion polls, couldn’t do without them any more. Just wouldn’t know what to think.

  • 18
    Mike Flanagan
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    At long last Bernard you have begun to understand the shallowness and incompetence of Mr Abbott. I do emphasise the word ‘begun’
    This man, Mr Abbott is an economic,social and scientific neanderthal who has only one political strategy and that is character asssasination to advance his personal ambitions. He will say anything and play any press stunt that will advance his ambtions and when confronted with an audience that he feels may question his shallowness will load hs answers with motherhood assertions and nostalgia.
    As we watch the disgusting corporatisation of democracy in Europe and America, Mr Abbott blythely is allowed to present himself as an alternative leader without scrutiny by the media and press with his shadowy Tea Party agenda of deregulation of the same corporates .
    Give us break Bernard, J. S. Mills told us over a hundred years ago that there is a limit to growth determined by the finiteness of the planet and its resources. The Club of Rome brought it to our attention over thirty years ago. Their modelling and predictions are now clearly reinforced by the actual state of play that we witness today.
    This homophobic, chauvinistic, jesuitical man, Mr Abbott, doesn’t deserve to be a member of parliament let alone aspire to lead the nation.

  • 19
    bluepoppy
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Mr Abbott makes a huge mistake in rattling off the Howard years economic ‘credentials’ as a cure-all for a lack of Coalition policy. Firstly, the Howard years were hardly noteworthy if one factors in the gross lack of care on infrastructure and the failure to declare WorkChoices at the election which saw our most poorly paid being put at a disadvantage given the growing disparity in wages.

    Abbott appears to be using failures of the current government, including some made up ones, as the only reason for voters to vote the Coalition. This is insulting to an electorate that is clearly screaming out for some courage and conviction from the two major parties. So far the minority government situation has not been convincing enough for our ‘leaders’ to have a good look at themselves and the way they conduct party business in a democracy. One can only ask if Coalition policies are so bad that they cannot be aired, why should anyone vote for an Abbott led government.

    Are there any worthy parties or Independents out there that are willing to question growthist policies around consumerism and who understand the importance of environment and sustainability for the future. Is there any courageous group out there who are not governed by trendy ideas of neo-liberalism who will not be pushovers for the agenda of foreign governments and corporate lobbyists.

  • 20
    Jimmy
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Steven Warren - 32? you are being optimistic put me down for 45.

    Blue Poppy - Agreed, the coalition seem to think we all have the intellect of SB and are happy to throw out a govt because of “waste” and “massive debt” without any thought as to what we are replacing it with. While the polls seem to indicate this is more true than I would hope I can only pray that at some point when the election looms closer people will start to ask questions like how can you increase spending, cut taxes and increase the surplus all at the same time?

  • 21
    SimsonMc
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    People - you are missing the point. Grog Gambit and Mr D on The Failed Estate explain it well in their blogs

    Abbott is a journalist who is making the press gallery’s job so much easier by doing their job for them. For everyone’s whinging about the Howard years, but the vast majority of the great unwashed think he was the best thing since sliced bread. And why wouldn’t they? He treated the electorate like one big Gen Y child. Every time they had a whinge, he would stuff as much money in their pocket until they would stop whinging. And now look at the electorate. They have this sense of entitlement where the great unwashed believe that a couple earning over a $150K a year and look like having their government assistance taken off them somehow have a legitimate grievance. WTF???

    Labor need to wake up to themselves. They still have grandeur ideas of playing fair with the electorate and giving them far more credit about their ability to grasp complex policy concepts than they deserve. The Coalition on the other hand get it because their heritage is from big business. They know how to play dirty, they know that anything is justified as long as someone is making money and if it is you or any of your mates even better. I don’t understand why someone in the Labor party hasn’t worked out that they have a brand issue. With TA pressing the inspirational button again, the marketing boys at LNP HQ are going back to the winning formula. No one aspires to be a blue collar worker on Struggle Street whose only joy in life is that they have a warm fuzzy feeling because they and their work mates are getting a fair go. They want success and in today’s society success is about wealth and lots of it. So let’s face it, the Labor party are the Lada of the political world and the Libs are the BMW. Who aspires to drive the pinnacle of Russian automotive engineering?

    I loathe the man but I give him credit, Abbott is no dill. JG might be a smart women but I suspect she is a manager not a leader, hence the reason why she is doing so badly. I suspect that the Labor party are like most organisations, mistaking managerial qualities as leadership.

  • 22
    SimsonMc
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Grog Gambit

    http://grogsgamut.blogspot.com.au/

    Mr D - The Failed Estate

    http://thefailedestate.blogspot.com.au/2012/01/plays-thing.html

  • 23
    Jimmy
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Simonmc - While I agree with a lot of what you said I ask you this, do you want a “leader” who “inspires” you to make a bayonet charge on heavily fortified machine gun posts or a “manager” who gets results through compromise and negotiation? Abbott may be the better “politician” but his policies will lead us to disaster (if he actually honours any of them).

    I would also like to note how interesting t is that a intelligent policy driven article gets so few comments when compared with sloppy politics driven ones. I think the absence of SB, troothie et el may have something to do with it, clearly the subject matter is well beyond them.

  • 24
    Peter Ormonde
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    Simon,

    Good points - particularly the one regarding managerialism v leadership. That is very much how it appears.

    And I suspect a large part of the perception lies in the intensity and constancy of media scrutiny and its facile nature.

    Performance” is judged minute by minute. Performance is judged purely in terms of avoiding crises, managing gossip and being perceived as “in charge” … steady as she goes, Cap’n. Performance concerns what must be done. Never what should or could be done. It is reactive. It fosters crisis management.

    Our journalists cannot discuss policy issues - rarely have the grasp of detail to dissect a position line by line. It might be too dull. No time. No space. It is all soundbites and panic. Opinion polls and gossip.

    But I think that underneath this noise of the whirring machine, the government is actually doing some solid strategic things. Things no one is noticing much. But they will. Nothing too huge. Nothing earthshattering - but important reforms nonetheless.

    See that’s one of the sadder aspects of this situation - we end up burying the serious and significant stuff and just prattling on about day to day trivia or the Press Gallery’s latest rumour or poll.

  • 25
    Mike Flanagan
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 11:05 am | Permalink

    Simonmc;
    Thanks for your above posting, it is informative but I am not sure I can agree with some of it.
    Abbotts was not a journalist but was a wordsmith hack. His basic social and intellectual grounding was in the seminaries run by George Pell.
    George Pell believes that if you disagree with any of his pulpiteering you will be struck by lightning and demolitioned by fire and brimstone to be forever harrassed by some little chap with a pitchfork, who interestingly enough, is always displayed as a black.
    George Pell teaches science from justinian canon law that still believes the sun revolves around the earth.
    Without the Murdoch press support and other lazy somnulent journalists we would never have heard of Mr Abbott. And the nation would be better for its’ ignorance.

  • 26
    DF
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Simonmc
    Re your final para, I agree with your judgement that JG was a good no.2 but not a leader. It is well-documented elsewhere that Cabinet ran smoothly and effectively (and punctually) when she was acting PM in Rudd’s absence but the polls also tell us that Rudd is a better front man. I don’t know the woman but from my observations I’d say she was a top-class nuts-and-bolts policy mechanic but falls away when she gets behind the wheel. The great success of Sir Henry Bolte’s premiership in Victoria was his Chief Secretary, Sir Arthur Rylah, who actually ran the show from the back seat (sorry about mixing metaphors).

    Simon Crean’s comments yesterday, putting Rudd back in his place, cut through all the crap and reminded us of Crean’s ability to communicate in plain and simple language. If Howard was Lazarus on a triple by-pass, surely there is a precedent for the ALP when it girds its loins and finally tells JG she’s more value to the party as no.2, with a big and difficult portfolio to sort out.

  • 27
    Jimmy
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Peter -” And I suspect a large part of the perception lies in the intensity and constancy of media scrutiny and its facile nature. “

    Completely agree, I think that for all the media hype around this being a “govt in crisis” etc etc in 10 years when history looks back on the the ALP govt they will have plenty of praise, navigated the GFC, implemented a price on carbon, MRRT, paid parental leave, the NBN etc.
    All these things will have long term beneficial effects on this country, compare that to the previous administration and it is a substantial legacy.

  • 28
    Jimmy
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    Peter -” And I suspect a large part of the perception l.i.e.s in the intensity and constancy of media scrutiny and its facile nature. “

    Completely agree, I think that for all the media hype around this being a “govt in crisis” etc etc in 10 years when history looks back on the the ALP govt they will have plenty of praise, navigated the GFC, implemented a price on carbon, MRRT, paid parental leave, the NBN etc.
    All these things will have long term beneficial effects on this country, compare that to the previous administration and it is a substantial legacy.

  • 29
    SimsonMc
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Jimmy – good organisations have both. They have a leader who as Paul Keating (our last true Liberal PM) put it, can tell a story and more importantly, sell it. A good leader then gets great managers around them to implement it successfully. That is not what is happening with either party. We don’t have any politicians on either side of the divide with conviction and passion nor do we have ministers who could manage drinks in a pub with a fist full of dollars. They are professional sucker fish who are process driven. The closest I can see at the moment is Malcolm but he has been knobbled by the right wing nutters within the LNP.

    I too found it interesting how an article about policy got so few comments. But let’s face it, most people much prefer to listen to Karl and Lisa wax lyrical with some hyperbole in Hollywood about what Brittney had for breakfast.

    Mike – whether you think TA was a journo or a wordsmith hack is pure semantics. He’s worked out how the game is played and he is using it to his advantage. Do I agree with it? No. Do I like it or him for that matter? No. But I give credit where credit is due. He’s read the playing conditions better than anyone in the ALP and that is why he is getting the oxygen. For all his faults, KR did the same thing. He did his homework, understood the environment he was working with and used it to his advantage.

    I think you give George Pell more credit for his influence than is warranted. TA when he gets in will have a lot of favours he will need to pay back to the faceless men of the LNP (Murdoch, Miners, Clubs Aust). We are already seeing it in Qld with Clive flexing his muscle, even before Can Do has won.

  • 30
    Damien
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    Mike you’re jaundiced preoccupation with the Catholicism and Abbott’s brief flirtation with the priesthood ignores the fact that Abbott spent his undergraduate years at Sydney University and got his Masters in Politics and Philospphy at Oxford via a Rhodes scholarship. I agree with Simson. He’s no fool and knows exactly what he’s doing. A good bit of it involves finding a way to get into power and then figuring out what he’ll do then. Which is pretty standard for all oppositions. It’s just he has the skills to manipulate the media better than most career politicians

  • 31
    Karen
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    This piece of Hockeynomics of course was the approach of the Howard Government, to direct the proceeds of the resources boom into tax cuts, middle-class welfare and regional rorts programs. The result in the last term of that government was ever-higher inflation and interest rates and a profound sense of entitlement on the part of voters.”

    I’ll die of bordedom if we go back to Groundhog Day. Not to mention that the same policies will be a disaster for Australia in current economic circumstances as they continue to exacerbate the structural deficit that the previous regime left behind - think corporate and middle-class welfare, superannuation tax cuts. Then there is the issue of foreign affairs. Scary thought.

    Agree with Simonsc there is a superficial perception of JG not being made of conventional leadership material, which includes being perceived as a “manager” but also in my view perceived negatively as a woman with a generous bum and broad accent (albeit an attractive and well-groomed to my way of thinking). The irony is though, and I agree with Jimmy here, that she is the perfect leader for the times - she has demonstrated immense aptitude in dealing with an internationally messy economic situation and a minority government where her negotiating skills have been of paramount importance. History will show that JG and Swan got the big economic picture right and they will, in the fullness of time, be recognised for that.

    There are, of course, issues of her statesmanship on other social issues that need to be considered here (which I have commented before), however, this does not detract from a significant number of policy achievements to date.

  • 32
    SimsonMc
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    Peter - agreed, I think future will be kind to Rudd/Gillard govt with time like it was with Hawke/Keating and Howard’s first 2 terms. It is just unfortunate that it takes so long for the great unwashed to realise how good they have got it because of the achievements of our leaders.

  • 33
    SimsonMc
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Karen - I agree with you in relation to the fact that she is a woman and hence I think she is at a disadvantage when it comes to the media which I think is unfair. Although I always find it amusing when women complain about how women are portrayed in the media, yet it is mainly women who buy trashy women’s mags where the hyperbole of trivial faults is far more important than celebrating real achievement. BTW – that comment was not directed at you, it was merely a general statement. As one female colleague put it to me, no one hates seeing a women success more than another woman.

    Anyhow I don’t think she is a good leader because she can’t sell their good achievements, which there have been some. If you compare it to JWH and Peter Costello, they managed (rightly or wrongly) to sell to everyone the idea that it was them and them alone that steered us through the Asian Economic Meltdown. When in fact, although their budget belt tightening in their first term certainly did make it easier for Australia through the crisis, it was in fact the banking reforms that Hawke/Keating did that made the big difference. However ask most people and they wouldn’t have a clue. My experience with great leaders is that you can almost classify them as well remunerated salespeople. They sell the story or the dream, whether it be a company or a cause and people buy in and that is what it’s all about.

  • 34
    Mike Flanagan
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    Peter Ormonde;
    Hi! Had much rain up your way? Have had over a foot down here.
    I do agree that much is being done by the Gillard / Swan government that is both necessary and that doesn’t meet the press galleries demands for sexy material. A lot of what has been accomplished will not become evident for years such BER, replenishment of Uni funding, infrastructure and health reform to mention a few.
    The constant press reports of the impending removal of Ms Gillard is, to me, a diversionary tactic of the journalists to cover their own shallow and lazy coverage of the issues. I have yet to see any reports that have any substantive support to their assertions of the imminent demise of Ms Gillard.
    The issues that Ms Gillard is attending to, are not headline grabbing initiative but are necesary to progress the important challenges that awaite the nation. Her sometime clumsy handling of the press and media do not help but a lot of the bias is entrenched chauvinism in my opinion.
    Abbott ignores this and tries to capitalise on his perception that we are all fools.

  • 35
    JMNO
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    It is good to read the policy analysis. Keep it up, Bernard.

  • 36
    Jimmy
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Simsonmc - “good organisations have both” True but we can only choose between one or the other, I now which one I will take.

    Anyhow I don’t think she is a good leader because she can’t sell their good achievements, which there have been some. If you compare it to JWH and Peter Costello, they managed (rightly or wrongly) to sell to everyone the idea that it was them and them alone that steered us through the Asian Economic Meltdown” Again true but Howard had News Ltd spruiking for him, Gillard has them tearing her down, it’s easier to sell when you ahve News as your cheersquad.

    The BER is a prime example massive success by any measure but it is only ever referred to as “troubled” or in reference to “govt waste”.

    Another example is the business spectator’s article today in which Abbott’s economic vision is treated as equal but opposing the govt’s yet he has no such clear policy. Everything is a contradiction, austerity but tax cuts for all & paid parental leave for the rich. Budget surplus but no MRRT, no carbon tax more infrastructure spending & expensive (and useless) direct action on climate change, cut spending on the NBN part way through construction (even though it will bring a return) and spend $16b on inferior broadband & roads that don’t generate a return. The conclusion that Australia might be the one place “expansionary austerity” may actually work is misguided economically and flattering to Abbott as it leads us to believe this is actually a legitimate strategy and not just rampant populism.

  • 37
    Mike Flanagan
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Simonmc:
    Thanks for your response.
    There is a difference between a journalist, who researches his material and has a grasp of what he is writing about and a wordsmith hack who fills a page with material. As a shearer cum liberal parliamentary member once enunciated “all verbage and no content” is an apt description of a wordsmith hack.
    As for George Pell’s influence, I have lived through the days of Daniel Mannix who instructed his pulpiteers to issue an edict to the faithful attending sunday services that they were not to vote for Labour under any circumstances under the threat of everlasting and irrevocabe damnation. In fact it had the affect of closing of any opportunity of Labour under either Doc Evatt or Artful Arthur of ever getting control of the treasury benches. And this regularly occurred before each election.
    George Pell will be far more subtle than Daniel Mannix but I can see evidence of his influence in Abbotts policy pronouncements.
    Sure there is an inordinate and unethical influence on the Liberal/ National Party by the Mining, Clubs and other corporate rent seeking lobbies but I suggest that influence is directed to the party machine.

  • 38
    Damien
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Mike, if Abbott was standing on what the Americans call a ‘pro-life” platform or if he wanted to change discrimination laws to exclude gays or if he said he’d ban them from the armed forces or public service, I’d agree with you aboput the influence of Pell. But that’s not his stance. He does want to dog whistle those who like that sort of thing but he also wants to dog whistle everyone else as well. That’s his game.

  • 39
    SimsonMc
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Mike – TA doesn’t have the aura and the dominating presence over the party like Howard did. Maybe that is by design by LNP HQ after they were caught out like bunnies in the headlights when none of them had the guts to tap JWH on the shoulder and tell him APEC is over and now it is time to move on. So I suspect that the party machine will be pulling TA’s strings when he gets into power, hence why the faceless men are already line up with hands out for their just rewards.

  • 40
    Mike Flanagan
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Damien;
    The pro-lifers and the intelligent creationists political influence in America are not mainly from the catholic influence but from the christian evangelist and born again mob.
    Have a look carefully at Abbotts obtuse suite of policies to contain industry emmissions, have a look at his education policies and you will see influences of the Pell.

  • 41
    Observation
    Posted Thursday, 2 February 2012 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I was completely disappointed in the supposed cream of political journos at Mr abbotts speech.

    Totally devoid of any drilling down of policies…..but then again, there really wasn’t many policies in there!

    The whole Abbott scenario for me is turning into a circus…..and the Australian public and media are playing the parts of the clowns!

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