By: Kaye Lee
Whether it was Joh Bjelke-Petersen saying “Don’t you worry about that” or Tony Abbott saying “The adults are back in charge”, the comfort of handing over the reins just isn’t there.
Don’t get me wrong. I would love to sit back, knowing that clear heads and steady hands were steering the ship, that lookouts were warning us about icebergs and bad weather ahead, secure in the knowledge that, if something unforeseen should happen, a spot in the lifeboat awaits with a short period of discomfort before being rescued.
I would like to think that we are being governed by people of integrity who base their decisions on the best expert advice available to further the interests of society at large. People who saw themselves as the guardians of our common wealth and recognised that includes our environment, our way of life, and our reputation as a responsible global citizen. People who see the needs of society as more important than the fiscal balance, who raise revenue from those most able to pay, and who prioritise spending to best satisfy our needs and wants. People who understand the threat posed by climate change and income inequality. People I can respect, admire, and most importantly, trust.
Which is perhaps why I have been feeling uneasy. Actually it has gone way past uneasy – threatened would be a more appropriate description.
We are being ruled by people who want to be remembered, not for any public legacy, but for being “open for business”. They are systematically peeling back all protection against the rampant greed of global corporations at the behest of their donors and their lobbyists and foreign governments.
Tony Abbott has mistaken the IPA for an independent advisory body and is assiduously working his way through the wish list prepared by those who fund this “think tank”.
We are being ruled by a man who destroys his opponents.
Tony ended up in court several times during university days, always accompanied by a high-powered legal team. Even when the police were witness to his destruction of public property, no conviction was recorded.
When Pauline Hanson posed a threat by dividing the conservative vote, Tony organised a slush fund to destroy her, funding the legal action that saw her go to gaol, the conviction later being quashed.
His politically motivated relentless pursuit of Craig Thomson and Peter Slipper for relatively minor misdemeanours has destroyed both men’s lives and left them with serious mental health issues. The fact that Tony and many of his party have been guilty of greater indiscretions appears to escape him in his lust for power.
Rather than engaging in an honest contest of ideas, Abbott, in a move reminiscent of J Edgar Hoover, compiled a dirt file about Julia Gillard’s past, and proceeded to waste years in parliament accusing her of criminal activity, insisting, as he did with Thomson and Slipper, that police spend precious time investigating. After intense investigation and grilling by the Royal Commission, Ms Gillard was found to have done nothing wrong.
With hundreds of millions being spent on media monitoring and metadata retention, we can expect this tactic to be employed more often.
Motivated by nothing but political retribution, Abbott is happy to spend tens of millions on witch hunts like the Royal Commissions designed to destroy Gillard and Rudd, yet he resists such an investigation into children in detention. He made the unprecedented decision to make cabinet documents available to the RC into pink bats. One wonders if Labor would do likewise for an investigation into the involvement of Coalition MPs in the attempt to bring down a democratically elected government otherwise known as Ashbygate.
Whether it be climate change or asylum seekers, Abbott ridicules reports from experts criticising this government’s actions and attacks the messengers. The UN is talking through its hat and we are sick of their lecturing, Gillian Triggs is a Labor Party stooge, Save the Children workers are lying political activists trying to provoke criticism of our immigration policies, and Barak Obama was “misinformed” about the reef.
Public servants have been gagged, threatened with the sack if they criticise government policy. Journalists face gaol if they report on sensitive government operations. NGOs who are critical soon find their funding disappears. Ministers are told when they may speak, what they may say, and to whom. All department heads appointed by the Gillard government are being sacked, losing decades of valuable experience and expertise.
Unions have been vilified and undermined with the actions of a few being apportioned to all. Unless you happen to be a friend of Tony’s that is. Despite the evidence mounting up against his darling whistleblower, Kathy Jackson remains at large living the millionaire lifestyle.
Any pretence of transparency, accountability, and budget honesty has been abandoned.
The blue books offering advice to the incoming government were withheld. Freedom of information requests are denied. Ministers refuse to publish their diaries. Journalists are denied access to detention camps and information about asylum seekers is withheld. Free Trade negotiations are carried out in secret and cost benefit analyses and tender information are deemed “commercial in confidence”.
Previous reports and reviews have been discarded with hand-picked people commissioned to do new ones, the only selection criteria being you must be a climate change denier who favours big business, IPA membership preferred. The government maintains editorial rights to reports and will exclude any findings they choose. Advice about taxation reform is sought from the big four accounting firms and the superannuation companies call the shots about their tax concessions. The banks and mining companies continue to make record profits whilst receiving government subsidies.
PEFO has been totally ignored with Abbott insisting that Labor left a deficit of $48 billion and a debt of $667 billion – a claim that earned him the Golden Zombie Award from ABC Fact Check which the Australian Broadcasting Corporation gives to the year’s most persistent falsehood that, “despite being killed off by fact-checkers, lurches back to life.” It will look good on the mantelpiece next to his Colossal Fossil award.
Despite the finding of widespread corruption exposed by ICAC, the two major parties resist the call for a federal ICAC and the disclosure of fundraising by Joe Hockey’s North Sydney Forum got Fairfax sued.
The independence of bodies such as Infrastructure Australia, NBNco, and the Human Rights Commission has been under attack with people sacked and advice ignored in pursuit of a political agenda. Others such as the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia, the Australian National Preventative Health Agency, the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, and the Climate Commission have been defunded.
We are also seeing the wholesale offloading of our assets so Tony can temporarily make his budget bottom line look better. In so doing he is denying a revenue stream to future generations for his short term political gain.
Everyone from the IMF to the Pope have identified climate change and rising income inequality as two of the greatest threats facing humanity. Others would argue that peak resources and overpopulation pose more urgent threats. The Pope is similarly vocal, as is the UN, on the need to help and show compassion to the millions of displaced people in the world. On all these global problems our government is either mute or actively working against the world effort.
We are not being governed by altruistic enlightened representatives of the people. Rather we are being ruled by self-serving lobbyists for big business whose vision only extends to the next election and whose method is whatever it takes.