As an urban, socially progressive liberal (no, not ‘Liberal’ … just liberal), I usually find modern Australian politics migraine inducing. My recent piece on incompetence in politics may have been a giveaway of my general attitude about the contemporary political landscape, but the outfall from the second budget by the current Government has sent me straight into a spiralling, throbbing migraine.
The first budget of the Abbott Government was an unmitigated economic, political and social disaster which, together with a few other choice ‘captain’s calls‘, almost culminated in Tony Abbott losing the Prime Ministership. It appears if it wasn’t for a conservative Christian email campaign to save him, we would most likely be under the leadership of Prime Minister Turnbull by now.
The second attempt by the Abbott Government at a budget has also proved to be a bit of a shemozzle as highlighted by recent, less than complimentary headlines:
- Paid parental leave. Could the Coalition have been any dumber? (The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 May 2015)
- Stupidity of Abbott and Hockey indicates they have not learnt from mistakes of last year’s budget (The Sydney Morning Herald, 16 May 2015)
- Federal Budget 2015: Hidden nasties you may have missed (news.com.au, 15 May 2015)
- Here lies Tony Abbott, a feminist (The Sydney Morning Herald, 15 May 2015)
- How the latest budget proves the ‘budget emergency’ was a pack of lies (SBS, 14 May 2015)
It didn’t help that Scott Morrison, our illustrious former Immigration Minister, now Social Services Minister, called some new mothers ‘rorters’ and Treasurer Joe Hockey was linked to agreeing with comments accusing them of ‘fraud’?!
After all, how dare these mooching mothers take a government provided paid parental leave and then supplement it by their employers’ paid parental leave, especially when the government scheme was … always intended to complement, and not be a substitute for, arrangements workers made with their employers?! The fact the wives of senior Government Ministers have done exactly the same is, of course, utterly irrelevant!
Admittedly the latest Fairfax-Ipsos poll indicates the Government’s second budget has improved its standing with voters, even though the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry already warned some employers may respond by dumping their own paid parental leave schemes, which would be an unintended and socially regressive outcome.
Paid parental leave was meant to be Tony Abbott’s signature policy as Minister for Women, and the enduring legacy of his Prime Ministership. His latest budget may now unravel decades of progress and that would have a negative impact on children’s health.
Walking away from a decent paid parental leave scheme, both an economic and social imperative, to save an estimated $1 billion over three years, is very disappointing. Especially considering the policies, projects and schemes the Government managed to find funding for, including:
- $10 billion over four years for Australia’s refugee detention policy;
- $5 billion over three years for a concessional loan scheme for infrastructure projects, which is widely seen as code for funding coal projects in the Galilee Basin in Queensland;
- an estimated $2 billion a year diesel fuel rebate for the mining industry;
- $500 million a year for Australia’s continued military involvement in the Middle East;
- $60.6 million a year over four years for the National Chaplaincy Program; and
- $4 million for Dr Bjørn Lomborg’s Australian Consensus Centre,
just to mention a few.
The admittedly brutal, but incompetent post-budget interviews by Government Ministers didn’t help selling this latest budget either.
(Treasurer Joe Hockey talks to Leigh Sales on the ABC’s 7.30)
(Finance Minister Mathias Cormann talks to Emma Alberici on the ABC’s Lateline)
(Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull talks to Waleed Aly on Channel Ten’s The Project)
It remains to be seen whether the proposed changes to paid parental leave will find sufficient support in the Senate.
And all this brings me right back to the incompetence of politics, and one giant migraine.