So Tony Abbott has kicked off the 2010 election campaign with a nice shiny new campaign ad. He is to be admired, I guess, for packing so many weasel words, mistruths and scare tactics into a mere thirty seconds. Here are just some of the fundamental flaws the seep from every pore of this man's being (it may not be exactly ten - at least I can admit when things aren't quite right).
Strong action to reduce Australia's massive debt - Australia's debt as a percentage of GDP is the lowest in the OECD. What debt we do have is a result of the fiscal stimulus that kept Australia well shielded from harsh effects of the GFC. Kevin Rudd has taken a decisive step to reduce this debt - the tax on mining profits. Tony Abbott and his ilk are jumping up and down screaming about this. Okay Mr Abbott, what measures do you want to take? Would they by any chance involve the slashing of services and untold misery for Australian families - as per the early days of the Howard government perhaps? (You were reducing Labor's debt then, you say - by causing pain to the most vulnerable in our society, rather than raising taxes on business and industry.)
Real Action on Illegal Immigration - a picture says so many words about how wrong Abbott (and Rudd, pandering to fear) is; just look at this thing. For a start, it is NOT illegal to come to Australia seeking asylum. This graphic shows hordes of arrows sweeping onto Australian shores (drawing the connection in the public's mind with boat people, as the arrows all arrive on the north west coast). "We've got to take strong measures now" intones Abbott. Why? By world standards, a tiny number of asylum seekers head for Australia each year. We could afford to do much more, in all senses of the word. The journey here by boat is so uncomfortable and hazardous, only the most desperate and determined would ever attempt it. The vast majority of people in Australia illegally are tourists who have overstayed their visas. (For more on asylum seeker myths, I enthusiastically refer you here).
And please take one more close look at that graphic. Among the points of origin suggested for these terrifying illegal hordes is...Iraq. Iraq? Where, Mr Abbott, your party enthusiastically joined the invasion against the express wishes of the majority of the Australian people? Iraq, where the ongoing war your idol John Howard devotedly supported has caused at least 100,000 civilian deaths? You are now pledging action on asylum seekers from Iraq? Excuse the language, but are you fucking kidding me?
Local Hospital boards - Abbott first floated this proposal at the 2007 Federal election. If it's such a great idea, why not at least try to implement it during the 12 previous years the Liberals were in government? Maybe because it's not such a great idea. If you think "anonymous, faceless bureaucracies" were bad, just wait till your local hospital is run by a locally appointed hospital board, where local business interests and local government power-players are running the show. Do you want the decision of whether your mother should receive experimental cancer surgery in the hands of Jim Bloggs of Jim Bloggs Fine Motors? Welcome to cronyism, nepotism and time wasting. In any case, these local boards cannot be truly independent - where will they get their funding from and who will they be accountable to?
I am a man who believes in getting things done - well physically no one can deny this. Completing an iron man triathlon is an achievement to be admired. Heavy exercise can induce a euphoric state - which in Tony Abbott's case has lead him to make proposals with no connection to reality whatsoever - such as, oh, that poverty cannot be abolished because of base instincts of human nature, that Bernie Banton's attempt to present Abbott with a petition to include a mesothelioma drug on the PBS was a stunt, that homosexuality makes him feel "a little bit threatened" (could Abbott be displaying the new gay stereotype?) that climate change is "absolute crap", that...you just pick your favourite Abbott statement taken out of context/misstatement/off-the-planet nonsense! There are lots to choose from.
Much was made in the press last week of Labor's slump in popularity in the latest Newspoll survey, the Liberals enjoying a gain on a two-party preferred basis. But for all the talk of dissatisfaction with Rudd, Abbott still received a 32% nod as preferred Prime Minister! I don't join with those who think having Abbott as Liberal leader is a blessing that guarantees a Labor victory in this year's election. If the man could get on message, he might do some real damage. At the moment though, he is just amusing, if you can ignore the very dark heart beneath his words.