Tony Abbott, the ABC and SBS: when election promises become lies
Question time: Tony Abbott's vow laid the prospect of
becoming the victim of the same accusation he levelled so effectively
at former prime minister Julia Gillard. Photo: Andrew Meares
It was as clear as election promises go.
There would, Tony Abbott vowed the night before last year's
federal election, be "no cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change
to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS".
If it wasn't quite as neat as Julia Gillard's "there will be
no carbon tax under a government I lead", the breadth of it – a raft of
clear promises in a single sentence – laid for Abbott the prospect of
becoming the victim of the same accusation he levelled so effectively at
Ms Gillard for three years.
Ms Gillard, he declared over and over regarding the carbon tax promise, was a liar.
If that were so, then so now is he.
Leaving aside for the moment the changes that have occurred
and those foreshadowed to education, health and pensions, plus the
recent call for a debate on the GST, the cuts announced on Wednesday to
the ABC and SBS, which come on top of earlier funding reductions, are
perfectly explicit broken election promises.
Abbott, his Treasurer, Joe Hockey, and his Communications
Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, can do no more than hope that the lie in
retrospect about what would happen to the two public broadcasters is not
as potent across the electorate as the carbon tax proved to be.
Their problem, however, is twofold: the fact that the Abbott
Government has broken other promises, and the perception that it has
broken many more, even if it hasn't quite yet.
We shall deal here only with that one election eve sentence of promises.
No cuts to education? No cuts to health? There is a fog
surrounding both. The government is accused of tearing $80 billion out
of schools and hospitals over the next 10 years. The government counters
that this money was no more than a fancy floated by the previous Labor
Government that would never have been delivered, and so it was not going
to do so, either.
No change to pensions? Here is a promise clearly broken, in
both deed and intent. Pensions under the Abbott Government will be
indexed at the rate of inflation (CPI) rather than linked to a
percentage of Male Total Average Equal Earnings. On past performance,
pensions will now grow at a slower pace. And Mr Hockey has flagged that
the pension age will increase from 67 to 70 by 2035.
The GST, alone, remains unchanged. But only last month Mr
Abbott declared that there ought to be a "mature debate" about federal
and state responsibilities and added "the GST is a matter for the states
but certainly it is something which ought to be looked at … as part of
the tax reform process."
Voters may, of course, have come to wearily expect new governments will break election promises.
But Abbott put his own neck in the noose in 2011 when he
declared: "It is an absolute principle of democracy that governments
should not and must not say one thing before an election and do the
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