ABBOTT’S OFF-BROADWAY TRYOUT
The return to power of the Liberal Party in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia in recent years has provided the perfect dress rehearsal for Tony Abbott as he prepares to storm the federal stage.
Across the nation, the new breed of Liberal state premiers are providing a curtain-raiser for what we might expect from the Main Event – a combination of indiscriminate slash and burn in the name of fiscal responsibility and old-fashioned political payback.
So that means kicks up the backsides of polyester-suited public servants, the dismantling of arts and literacy programs (for Liberals, an activity as pleasurable as pulling the wings off flies) and the lots of straight-faced concern trolling about how they are doing this all for the sake of budget respectability.
Cheering from the box seats – like one of the grumpy old men in the Muppets – is Jeff Kennett, who is publicly urging Abbott to take the cue from ‘Can-Do’ Campbell and put a broom through those pesky taxpayer-funded social services.
“It is what Liberal governments are called upon to do,” says Jeff without a hint of irony, “to repair the damage of their Labor predecessors who have no genuine management experience and consistently spend more than they earn.”
So that means bravely following Can-Do and sinking their born-to-rule boots into kids’ literacy programs, AIDS prevention and efforts to deal with climate change. (Notice how the austerity never extends to policing? After all, security will have to be stepped up to deal with crazed public servants reduced to crime to feed their families.)
The only question for Abbott, as he waits in the wings, is whether he follows the softly, softly approach of Baillieu in Victoria and O’Farrell in NSW or throws Wagner on the family hi-fi and rides into town like the Valkyrie Newman.
Given Abbott’s insistence he will balance the budget while paying a non-means-tested parental leave scheme, while scrapping the mining tax and the carbon pricing scheme AND retaining the increase in the superannuation guarantee levy AND honouring the disability support program, some Wagner looks in order.
There’ll be more blood on the streets of Canberra than in a Martin Scorsese movie. If it’s wearing a cardigan and driving a Prius, you can be guaranteed it will have a large target on its back.
In Queensland alone, Newman says the bureaucracy has 20,000 jobs the state can no longer afford. Yet, of course, the state can continue to afford to subsidise turf clubs and other white-shoed Liberal Party grandees, whose snouts fit neatly in the public purse.
And, of course, much of what the Queensland premier is now doing was never mentioned as part of his agenda before he stormed into office with a huge majority. But that’s no matter, because he has been able to justify the slash and burn by resorting to the old trick of saying ‘OMG, I never knew the budget was in such bad shape’.
Abbott has a trickier problem…
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