It was J.K. Galbraith who said: ‘Nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory.’ And Peter Garrett who turned the phrase into a political anthem.
A short memory is well and good for the politician who messed up in the first place, but for the public who bear the brunt of a government’s bad policy there is little forgiveness.
Let us recount just some of their greatest failures over the past five years of Gillard and Rudd. I am sure there are many to add, but here goes.
• We have the carbon tax from a Prime Minister who promised a citizens’ assembly to generate ‘consensus’, told us she was from the party of ‘truth-telling’, and said there would be ‘no carbon tax under the government I lead’.
• The mining tax, which was first announced with no industry consultation, then introduced with so much industry consultation it produced zero revenue.
• The company tax cut, which was never delivered but saw Labor MPs like the Member for Deakin, Mike Symon, write to his constituents the day before the backflip saying the tax cut would be a boost to small business.
• The Henry tax review, which sat in the Treasurer’s cupboard for six months before being released, only then to be undermined because barely a handful of its 138 recommendations would be accepted.
• The 2012-13 surplus, which was a rolled-gold guarantee, then a commitment, then an objective, then a guiding principle, then an expectation, and that has now been brazenly dumped altogether.
• More than 200 inquiries and reviews, the daddy of them all being the 2020 Summit.
• The four biggest budget deficits in Australia’s history.
• A net debt of $147 billion with an interest bill of $20 million a day and a debt ceiling of $300 billion, from a starting position of $70 billion in the bank and a debt ceiling of only $75 billion.
• An NBN which started with a commitment of just over $4 billion, that had no cost-benefit analysis, and has now blown out to $50 billion, already with more than 1,300 staff but only 7,000 customers.
• A bungled Australia Network television tender which led to a police investigation and forced compensation payments.
• Government waste on a grand scale, from Pink Batts that led to hundreds of house fires, overpriced school halls, set-top boxes that were cheaper at Gerry Harvey’s and $70 million advertising a carbon tax no one wants.
• The embarrassing Green Loans, Grocery Watch, Fuel Watch and Cash for Clunkers.
• The bloating of the Public Service with more than 20,000 new hires, the rolling back of anything Tony Abbott was responsible in the Howard government; from the successful Chronic Disease Dental Scheme to work for the dole, the private health insurance rebate and the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Not to mention the blank cheque given to unions, with amendments to the Fair Work Act, the stacking of the commission with political appointments and wilful blindness towards union militancy.
• The introduction of more than 20,000 new or amended regulations with only 104 repealed, drowning small business in a sea of red tape and burdensome regulation.
• Defence spending dangerously cut to its lowest level since 1938.
• More than 30,000 unauthorised arrivals and 500 boats with hundreds of lives tragically lost at sea, riots in our detention centres, a $6 billion budget blowout, and the farces of the East Timor solution the Timorese government did not want and the Malaysia solution the High Court wouldn’t allow.
• The misdirection of our aid spending that has seen Australian taxpayers funding a statue in New York to commemorate the end of slavery in the Caribbean.
• The farce of the live cattle export issue, which cost millions of dollars and thousands of jobs.
• The dumbing down of our foreign policy by our Prime Minister, who would rather be sitting with a class of schoolkids than representing the country meeting fellow world leaders abroad; an Asia Pacific Community that never got off the ground but only damaged our relationships in the region; the leaking of a private telephone conversation with President Bush over the G20; calling the Chinese ‘rat f—ers’ and the bypassing of a trusted partner in Japan on Kevin Rudd’s first visit overseas. (The current Foreign Minister Senator Carr has also launched into Papua New Guinea, calling for sanctions if it delays elections, while destroying decades of bipartisan support for our democratic friend Israel by abandoning it at the United Nations.)
• The backflip and embarrassment over the supertrawler; the copying by the Leader of the House of lines from the movie The American President in a speech to the Press Club; a Treasurer who pretends he is Bruce Springsteen and then goes on to call Republicans in the United States ‘cranks and crazies’ to shore up his political base; a Prime Minister who cheapens our parliament with a trumped up and false charge of misogyny only to then back Peter Slipper after the substance of some repugnant text messages became public; an Attorney-General who compromised her role as the first law officer calling the sexual harassment claim against Peter Slipper ‘vexatious’ and an ‘abuse of process’, before providing Slipper with privileged access to the judges’ car park; the AWU and Craig Thomson scandals, the Australia Day riot with its confected anti-Abbott manoeuvre orchestrated from within Gillard’s team, and the redirecting of $375 million of foreign aid to asylum-seekers.
With such a record it is no wonder Labor figures are in despair, with Labor elder statesman Senator Faulkner describing his party as ‘very short on courage and very long on cunning’.
When the faceless men in the Labor party made history by deposing Kevin Rudd as prime minister, they sought to justify their actions on the basis that the Labor government had ‘lost its way’. It’s a phrase Gillard seems to have forgotten about.
But voters have longer memories.
Josh Frydenberg is the Federal Member for Kooy