There are days when I am amazed at my own capacity for disappointment, and at the ability of others to rise above it all. Most of the time, I’m just amazed by Tony Abbott’s incapacity to connect with reality.
That’s not to say that he doesn’t connect with voters. He connects with so many of them, he almost won the 2010 election.
I trust he enjoyed his half an hour of free national television time last night. What was supposed to be a response to the Federal Budget was a repeat of the 2010 election stump speech: no costings, no policies, no specifics beyond “We’re better than them, and they didn’t get elected anyway”.
Fast forward one year to 2012, and very little has changed. The Government is less popular than the Carbon Tax that killed it, and Tony Abbott is reading that as a sign that his parliamentary demolition squad is working. It is. The Labor Party is as fragile as any political party I can recall seeing, and yet, more than one in four voters are still prepared to vote ALP when the next election is called.
He’s still as incoherent as ever, although he’s replaced the stunning silence of his stoush with Mark Riley, with an equally stupefying response to a question about a criticism he made of the budget. His response: “They just are”. Oh, how the internet loved that one!
But back to that last frontier, “reality” – an unknown quantity in the world of Tony Abbott. As reported in The Australian Mr Abbott failed to detail any savings measures in the speech, but said he was confident he could make $50 billion in budget cuts to fund his election promises. “Yesterday was a budget reply, it's not an alternative budget,” he told the Nine Network.
Fifty billion in budget cuts, eh? And he’s going to repeal the Carbon Tax, but maintain the changes to taxation that were introduced to offset the impact of the Carbon Tax.
“If you don't have the carbon tax, you don't need compensation and this is effectively carbon tax compensation,” Mr Abbott told Sky News. “I don't begrudge the Australian public this money at this time given they are about to get clobbered and power bills, gas bills and just about everything else is going to go up and up.
Yet again, Mr Abbott provided a whole load of nothing, aside from a vague comment that our children should be bilingual. Someone should remind him that many more of our children would be bilingual, if the Coalition had supported a programme that was already in place. I guess that’s not part of Tony Abbott’s reality.
Still, the lack of anything resembling the kind of Budget Replies we’re used to has given the Coalition time to formulate a new plan of attack, and this time the battleground is class warfare. Apparently.
Just a few weeks ago, Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey was referring to his ‘meagre’ package of $231,000 plus allowances. Tony Abbott, who also represents an electorate on Sydney’s North Shore, said that people on $83.000 salaries are not rich.
In comparison to Joe Hockey’s meagre earnings, an $83,000 package isn’t rich…but try telling that to sales clerk on $35,000, or a project administrator on $65,000.
As far as political challenges go, ‘Get off the North Shore’ is pretty average, but at least there is some reality there. Tony Abbott is the Member for Warringah, which sits adjacent to Joe Hockey’s seat of North Sydney. According to Joe Hockey’s website,Tony, tell me again why your receptionist, your driver, the waiter who brings your lunch should be paying tax to subsidise your children’s education. For that matter, tell me why I should be paying my tax to subsidise my boss’s boss’s kid’s education.
Relative to other parts of NSW, the electorate is also distinguished by having among the highest proportion of residents holding university qualifications and women in the workforce (almost 50% of women). Unemployment levels in North Sydney are among the lowest in Australia.
That’s not class warfare, that’s reality. That’s what you’re up against. In our reality, the majority of Mr Abbott’s Budget Reply speech wasn’t about the Government’s Budget, or about any budget that the Coalition would offer. It was a vague promise that the Coalition would do better because the ALP are a mess.
Based on Abbott’s response to the Government’s imperfect budget, the best thing the Coalition has going for them is that they’re not Labor.Why? They just are!