IPA: "Tony Abbott needs to take his inspiration from Australia's most left-wing Prime Minister"

A commenter on a recent article, Has the Coalition (already) broken a promise?, drew attention to a very interesting paper by staff from the Institute of Public Affairs  (IPA).

The IPA is the free-market think tank that invited Rupert Murdoch to speak last week at its 70th anniversary dinner (video of Mr Murdoch’s address here).

The paper is titled Be like Gough: 75 radical ideas to transform Australia and is authored by John Roskam, Chris Berg and James Paterson. The intention is neatly summarised in the opening para:

If Tony Abbott wants to leave a lasting impact – and secure his place in history – he needs to take his inspiration from Australia’s most left-wing prime minister.

The authors contend that no Prime Minister changed Australia as much as Gough Whitlam and he did it in only three years of “frantic activity”. They say that “virtually none of Whitlam’s signature reforms were repealed by the Fraser Government”.

Of course most of Whitlam’s reform program – especially the increase in government spending from 19% to 24% of GDP – is antithetical to the IPA’s agenda.

However the organisation admires Whitlam’s forcefulness – his famous ‘crash through’ style. It’s seeking to fire up the latent radical it hopes is lurking in Tony Abbott’s belly.

The authors say Mr Abbott has two clear choices if he wins government.

He could elect to “simply overturn one or two symbolic Gillard-era policies like the carbon tax, and govern moderately”. But that wouldn’t make him a successful leader because the “remorseless drift to bigger government” would resume when the Coalition eventually lost office.

Alternatively, he could grasp the opportunity “to fundamentally reshape the political culture and stem the assault on individual liberty”.

The paper provides the Opposition Leader with a list of 75 policies that would enable him to do just that. The initiatives would “make Australia richer and more free”.

The authors say it’s a deliberately radical list. Even if he only implemented a handful of them, it would make Mr Abbott “a transformative figure in Australian political history”.

He would’ve done more to “to shift the political spectrum than any prime minister since Whitlam”.

I’d like to think Tony Abbott was motivated more by making Australia a better place than “securing his place in history” but he is a politician after all. I expect the IPA knows its man in that respect.

Here’s the ‘Crash or crash through’ program the IPA hopes he will implement forthwith should he win the election on 14 September:

  1. Repeal the carbon tax, and don’t replace it
  2. Abolish the Department of Climate Change
  3. Abolish the Clean Energy Fund
  4. Repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act
  5. Abandon Australia’s bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council
  6. Repeal the renewable energy target
  7. Return income taxing powers to the states
  8. Abolish the Commonwealth Grants Commission
  9. Abolish the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
  10. Withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol
  11. Introduce fee competition to Australian universities
  12. Repeal the National Curriculum
  13. Introduce competing private secondary school curriculums
  14. Abolish the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA)
  15. Eliminate laws that require radio and television broadcasters to be ‘balanced’
  16. Abolish television spectrum licensing and devolve spectrum management to the common law
  17. End local content requirements for Australian television stations
  18. Eliminate family tax benefits
  19. Abandon the paid parental leave scheme
  20. Means-test Medicare
  21. End all corporate welfare and subsidies by closing the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education
  22. Introduce voluntary voting
  23. End mandatory disclosures on political donations
  24. End media blackout in final days of election campaigns
  25. End public funding to political parties
  26. Remove anti-dumping laws
  27. Eliminate media ownership restrictions
  28. Abolish the Foreign Investment Review Board
  29. Eliminate the National Preventative Health Agency
  30. Cease subsidising the car industry
  31. Formalise a one-in, one-out approach to regulatory reduction
  32. Rule out federal funding for 2018 Commonwealth Games
  33. Deregulate the parallel importation of books
  34. End preferences for Industry Super Funds in workplace relations laws
  35. Legislate a cap on government spending and tax as a percentage of GDP
  36. Legislate a balanced budget amendment which strictly limits the size of budget deficits and the period the federal government can be in deficit
  37. Force government agencies to put all of their spending online in a searchable database
  38. Repeal plain packaging for cigarettes and rule it out for all other products, including alcohol and fast food
  39. Reintroduce voluntary student unionism at universities
  40. Introduce a voucher scheme for secondary schools
  41. Repeal the alcopops tax
  42. Introduce a special economic zone in the north of Australia including (a) Lower personal income tax for residents (b) Significantly expanded 457 Visa programs for workers, and (c) encourage the construction of dams
  43. Repeal the mining tax
  44. Devolve environmental approvals for major projects to the states
  45. Introduce a single rate of income tax with a generous tax-free threshold
  46. Cut company tax to an internationally competitive rate of 25 per cent
  47. Cease funding the Australia Network
  48. Privatise Australia Post
  49. Privatise Medibank
  50. Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function
  51. Privatise SBS
  52. Reduce the size of the public service from current levels of more than 260,000 to at least the 2001 low of 212,784
  53. Repeal the Fair Work Act
  54. Allow individuals and employers to negotiate directly terms of employment that suit them
  55. Encourage independent contracting by overturning new regulations designed to punish contractors
  56. Abolish the Baby Bonus
  57. Abolish the First Home Owners’ Grant
  58. Allow the Northern Territory to become a state
  59. Halve the size of the Coalition front bench from 32 to 16
  60. Remove all remaining tariff and non-tariff barriers to international trade
  61. Slash top public servant salaries to much lower international standards, like in the United States
  62. End all public subsidies to sport and the arts
  63. Privatise the Australian Institute of Sport
  64. End all hidden protectionist measures, such as preferences for local manufacturers in government tendering
  65. Abolish the Office for Film and Literature Classification
  66. Rule out any government-supported or mandated internet censorship
  67. Means test tertiary student loans
  68. Allow people to opt out of superannuation in exchange for promising to forgo any government income support in retirement
  69. Immediately halt construction of the National Broadband Network and privatise any sections that have already been built
  70. End all government funded Nanny State advertising
  71. Reject proposals for compulsory food and alcohol labelling
  72. Privatise the CSIRO
  73. Defund Harmony Day
  74. Close the Office for Youth
  75. Privatise the Snowy-Hydro Scheme

This is an important document because it’s the agenda for change of some significant donors to the alternative government (or at least those parts they’re prepared to go public on).

A number of the minor initiatives aren’t especially radical and some would likely have broader support e.g. abolish the FHOG.

But if the Coalition were to win the election and follow the rest of the IPA’s program too enthusiastically, it’d likely crash rather than crash through. It might have as short a term in office as the Whitlam government (two years and eleven months).

I expect most of the more politically difficult ideas will go nowhere.

I note in passing that unlike the Leader of the Opposition, the IPA either doesn’t have a view on what role the Commonwealth should have in the funding of urban infrastructure like freeways and public transport, or concurs with current government policy.