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Julia Gillard may have be playing down the prospect of a seven-and-a-half month election campaign this morning — arguing instead the fixed date has cleared the air for a focus on substance over style — but yesterday’s announcement predictably sent excitable media types into overdrive as the nation hunkers down for the “longest political campaign in Australian history”.

Over the next torturous 226 days, Crikey will be publishing and updating “PromiseWatch”, modelled on Politifact’s promise tracker/pledge-o-meter rolled out during the 2012 US presidential campaign. Every time a government or Coalition MP appears to utter a commitment or promise — whether core or non-core — we’ll update the list. Then, after the result is called in September, we’ll gauge to what degree the promise has been fulfilled during the next three years of government.

Specific 2013 election-related government promises have been thin on the ground, with much of the detail to be unveiled in the May budget. As Crikey hit deadline, Tony Abbott was preparing to sketch his agenda at the National Press Club (and according to Simon Benson, has already backflipped on a proposed promise of a cut to a major program). Yesterday, in her address to the NPC, Gillard promised “structural savings” to fund her big commitments, but held fire on the detail.

But there have been numerous general promises and statements over the last two-and-a-half years that will set the scene for the excruciating months ahead …

LABOR PROMISES

The National Disability Insurance Scheme: The badly needed reform will cost $1 billion a year over four years starting with trials in July, then $15 billion a year when fully operational in 2018, according to Productivity Commission guesstimates. But the Commonwealth/state funding split is yet to be decided.

Gonski education reforms: Canberra and the states will apparently stump up an extra $6.5 billion a year to properly resource Australian schools as part of the government’s National Plan for School Improvement. Like the NDIS, the cost split with the states is up in the air.

Structural savings: In her NPC speech, Gillard promised a range of “structural savings” in the May budget in the Labor tradition but didn’t say what they were. Expect a further crackdown on assorted tax breaks and welfare perks for high and middle income earners.

Dental health reforms: More policy at this stage than promise; the $4.1 billion scheme for comprehensive dental care was announced last August and is set to roll out in 2014 as part of a deal hatched with the Greens after the 2010 election.

Foreign farmland: Last October, Gillard promised a register of foreign-owned farmland.

LABOR ‘BROKEN’ PROMISES

Budget surplus: The government repeatedly promised to return the budget to surplus by June 30 to assuage voters who can’t tell the difference between their household balance sheets and a federal government with compulsory taxation powers but this commitment was junked by Treasurer Wayne Swan before Christmas.

Pacific Island detention centre for asylum seekers: The government backflipped on the pledge to trash John Howard’s Pacific Solution after the 2007 election but has since sent boat people to makeshift facilities on Manus Island and Nauru. A promised East Timor facility never happened.

Legislation for mandatory pre-commitment on pokies: The government’s deal with Andrew Wilkie to roll out the compulsory technology was abandoned last year when it became clear the issue was hurting Labor in marginal Western Sydney seats.

The carbon tax: An off-the-cuff TV statement by Gillard in the lead-up to the 2010 election not to introduce a carbon tax has been relentlessly parlayed by the opposition into an attack on the PM’s overall fitness for office.

COALITION PROMISES

Repeal the carbon tax: Last year, Tony Abbott repeated his “blood pledge” to repeal the $23 a tonne tax by March 14, 2014 and has also promised an “instant” 10% reduction in electricity bills.

Repeal the mining tax: Abbott has also pledged to remove the 30% minerals resource rent tax on mining companies’ super profits.

Changes to superannuation tax rates: In his Real Solutions booklet, released on Sunday, Abbott committed to “no more negative unexpected changes occur to the superannuation system so that those planning for their retirement can face the future with a higher degree of predictability”. However, the rest of the booklet contained no new promises.

Remove “green tape” and “red tape”: Last year Abbott pledged to outsource environmental protection the states and territories and will chop $1 billion in business compliance costs.

“Cranes over cities”: In his recent town hall, US-aping, address Abbott promised “cranes over cities” if he snares the keys to the Lodge. This should be an easy one to fulfill — on the slimmest criteria it would require just one crane each in two cities at some point in the three-year period after September 14.

Stop the boats: Self-explanatory.

No fibs: In a somewhat bizarre meta-promise, Abbott has promised not to break his promises. There will be “no surprises” after September apparently.

*Notice a promise our political leaders have made or broken during the election campaign? Email us and we’ll keep the list updated …

Peter Fray

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