December 17, 2013
The basic defence of the Abbott Government by its friends is that it is suffering teething problems and that these need to be fixed because they are dogging the government. So Abbott needs to head off negative voter perceptions before they become entrenched and frame how the government is viewed. Various suggestions are then made by the friends of Abbot as to how the Coalition can best do this.
This form of defence overlooks--ignores?--- the criticism that Abbott's 100 days suggests that the legacy the Abbott Government is currently building is not a visionary betterment of Australia. Rather it's more an ideological score-setting in a thoroughly vengeful vein. A good example of this is disallowing the Labor government's declaration of threatened ecological communities in the Murray Darling basin as endangered under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act.
As John Quiggin points out:
The problems of the basin have dogged state and federal governments since the early 1990s when the over-exploitation of water resources forced the imposition of a cap on extractions. Intended as a temporary measure, the cap is still in place and is not due to be removed until 2019. The [Labor Govts's] water minister Tony Burke managed to put together a management plan which secured the agreement of all the relevant state governments, and the grudging acquiescence of all the key stakeholders. The plan cost more than it should have, with a lot of money wasted on dubious water saving projects like Victoria’s Food Bowl Modernisation project, and returned less water to the environment than the scientific evidence suggested it should have.
Quiggin adds that despite its limitations, though, it seemed that the passage of the plan in 2012 represented that rarest of political achievements in Australia, the permanent solution of a longstanding policy problem:
After a political process which mostly involved concessions to irrigators, the (scientifically justified) declaration of the most sensitive parts of the Murray as endangered provided environmentalists with the security they needed that the plan would be implemented in a way that was consistent with sustainable management of the basin. With the change of government, this prospect has disappeared. As in so many other areas, the Abbott government may not know what it wants, but it knows it wants to tear down anything done by Labor.
The ideological score-setting is due to the Abbott Govt acting in the interests of its corporate backers---in the Murray-Darling case the irrigators, in others Big Mining and the fossil fuel industry. Their rhetoric of ‘green tape’ reduction, and their view of environmental policy as an enemy of economic growth, will result in a form of economic growth that causes substantial environmental damage and marked inequality.
The rhetoric of the politics of the vengeful score-setting results in the blame game. The clearest example of this is that Labor's profligate spending caused this economic crisis of debt and structural deficits, even though most of the budget deterioration was due to a softening economy, rather than Labor spending. No matter, its all Labor's fault---the rhetoric is to blame Labor for everything--- and savage budgets cuts --as suggested by the Commission of Audit--- are now necessary to overcome the crisis.
So big spending cuts are going to start in May to avert the looming disaster caused by Labor's failure to achieve a surplus due to its excessive spending and economic mismanagement.