Monday, May 28, 2012


Jenny Haines, 27.5.12

In all the argy bargy of recent Australian politics, it is useful to contemplate what Australia would be like now, if a conservative government had been elected in 2007.

There would probably be an unemployment rate in the double figures, a conservative government having engaged in massive sackings in the public sector and having refused to assist unprofitable firms in the private sector. That’s the market!

One or more of the Australian banks, large or small would now be bankrupt, there being no government guarantee of borrowings. That’s the market!

There would have been no stimulus packages which everyone took with glee, spent, then promptly forgot that the government ever gave it to them. Never was the government so popular when those stimulus packages were being handed out. But memories are short in politics.

Schools would not have the facilities that they now have as a result of the schools building program. Yes there were problems!  They were massively overstated.

Higher education would still be staggering along, taking in larger and larger numbers of direct paying overseas students to stay alive.

National health reform would never have commenced. My own profession nursing would be running on larger and larger numbers of lesser skilled workers, because like the Howard Government, the conservative government that succeeded them would not allocate monies to universities to educate sufficient numbers of registered nurses to meet workforce needs, much less the huge shortage of registered nurses nationally.

We would not have had a carbon tax, when just about every other country in the world is moving to address climate change through either a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme.

We would not have any mining tax and the massive profits from our resources would continue to go out of Australia to overseas countries.

Refugee boats would have been turned around where the conservative government thought they could get away with it. More refugees drowned.  More navy personnel would have been speaking out about their disgust at what they were being asked to do. Hysteria about refugees coming by boat would be a fever pitch again, while the majority of refugees who fly in by plane are ignored. Nauru would have been re-opened and once again we would be hearing and watching on the news, stories of refugees isolated from any chance of fair processing of their legitimate claims, taking desperate measures in their despair.

The gay marriage debate would never have reached even the stage of the permission of civil unions in several states, and there would have been no conscience vote allowed in Federal Parliament on the issue of gay marriage.

This is not to say that there have not been stuff ups, mistakes, and initiatives that have been badly explained to the electorate by the Rudd, and then Gillard Governments. Nor is it to make any excuses for what has happened. But it is useful, as we contemplate a possible Abbott Government in the near future, to think about what that government would look like.

How would an Abbott Government cope with GFC Mark 2, now underway in the world? Most likely they would cut government spending drastically, and let the market sort it out. That would cause a lot of economic, financial and business pain. Unemployment would definitely be in the double figures. Would they guarantee the banks? If not, some of them would be in trouble. Would they hand our stimulus packages? Probably not.

The education sector would face similar disparities in government allocations to those faced under the Howard Government where private schools were able to build new blocks and swimming pools, while public schools held classes in poorly heated demountables. The universities would have to continue to take in larger and large numbers of directly paying overseas students.

The health system would continue to be State based with devolution of decision making to the local level, read, the Coalitions mates, the medical profession. The empowerment of nursing would stop eg through Nurse Practitioners having Medicare rights. At the other end of the nursing profession, the deskilling of workface nurses would continue in deference to employer cost modelling.

The carbon tax would be abolished and lighter imposts placed on big business to monitor their carbon emissions. Tim Flannery’s appointment would be abolished and not replaced.

The mining tax would be abolished, and several government programs would be left without sufficient funding, including further stages of national health reform.

Refugee boats would be turned around. More refugees drown. Relations with Indonesia would reach an all time low as the Indonesians resent the Coalition preaching to them about their responsibilities.

Still no conscience vote allowed on gay marriage in Federal Parliament.

With parts of our media rabidly campaigning against the Gillard Government in every word, in every breath they take, it is worth reviewing the last 5 years and thinking deeply about what we want for Australia’s immediate future. Tony Abbott is a chimera. He is good at selling a message, especially a negative message. But he is not a leader, and he is not the leader this country needs at this crucial time in our history. We need to get this right. It is so important for all of us.