If there is one thing that annoys me about Australia, it is Rebecca Gibney.
But let’s be honest, there is unlikely to be just one thing that annoys me about Australia, and indeed there are many. And one of those things, at times, becomes more than just an annoyance: it becomes a veritable bedsore of frustration on the upper thigh of my political consciousness. And that thing is vision; or rather, the lack of it.
Australian history really is littered with occasions on which vision was not displayed, and sometimes it feels like we are ashamed to stand up and proclaim a bold vision for our future, to stride forth in the world and to grasp our destiny. Sometimes it feels that while America is the Eagle, and Britain the Lion, Australia models itself most closely on the Quokka. And not a big strong quokka either: Australia is a sick, frequently coughing quokka with a sprained ankle. And that’s the way we’ll stay until we learn to have vision.
Luckily, that day is not far off, thanks to noted statesman, visionary and third-wave feminist Tony Abbott, who has this week laid out a sweeping vision for Australia that quite simply causes the throat muscles to contract with excitement. I’m not one given to hyperbole, but the National Press Club on Tuesday was not a good place to be if you had a weak pelvic floor or a susceptibility to sudden loud screams, because Tony Abbott, in the language of the youth, pwned this country, and pwned it good.
He set forward a vision so all-encompassing in its scope, so audacious in its ambition, so stirring in its call to action and perfect in its crystalline detail, that it almost defies description. The only question left for Australia now is: do we dare to be great?
What is Abbott’s vision? Well, to a certain extent asking that question sullies the whole concept, but if we must, we must.
First let us look at the title of his speech, "My Plan For A Stronger Economy And A Stronger Australia". Wow. I have to catch my breath just reading that. I mean, for a start, the word "my". He leaves you in no doubt it’s "his" plan. He’s not hiding behind bureaucrats or modelling or mysterious gypsies: this plan is all him, and he will stand by it. You have to admire that sort of courage.
Next, note what he is planning for: a "strong economy". When he said those words, an audible gasp rippled around the room. Is it really possible we have found the political leader who is willing to "think outside the box", "grasp the bull by the horns", and "push the envelope" in such a way? The leader who is willing to cut through the blather and white noise and say, YES, the economy should be STRONG, and to hell what the chattering elites think! A strong economy — we’ve been conditioned to believe it’s just a pipe dream, but maybe, if someone has the guts to chase a strong economy, we just might get there.
Then there’s that word itself: "strong". It speaks of power, of resilience, of fine, oiled muscles straining under the unforgiving sun, moving and flexing in an unbearably erotic way. THAT is the country Abbott is looking to create.
And amazingly, he didn’t stop at the title of the speech: he went on. He actually went into detail. Keep in mind he didn’t need to do this. He could have been the typical politician and speak in vague, airy-fairy terms. He could have been like the prime minister, whose every speech consists of a series of slow choppy hand movements and a blow-dry. But no. Abbott is cut from different cloth, tough, gritty, well-educated cloth, and he went the extra mile.
First he pointed out how the Gillard "government" has caused debt levels to spiral to the point that every man, woman and child owes $6000. Now that should cut through. Maybe you’re happy with your kids being harassed by debt collectors, but I’m not. Well played Tony. Then he elaborated exactly how he would fix this problem: namely, to build a stronger economy. Perhaps you’re sensing a theme here — a BRILLIANT THEME.
Building up a head of steam, Our Tone told us how he will cut taxes, reduce spending, slash red tape, reduce taxes, slash spending, cut red tape, and slash taxes. He will for example remove the carbon tax. Can you believe the guts it takes to make that statement in the current tax-happy political climate? Straight into the teeth of the powerful pro-tax lobby he charges, no regard for personal safety, caring only for his fellow Australians. When he is prime minister, we can stop stumbling under the burden of taxation, in particular the carbon tax that has destroyed so many families since its introduction.
Abbott proceeds to lay out the second prong of his stronger country pitchfork: telling people what he did before. Did you know that when he was Employment Minister he boosted employment? And when he was Health Minister he boosted health? And that the Coalition has delivered good economic management, and will do it again?
The best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour, is what Abbott is saying, so we can expect that as prime minister, he will bring the budget into surplus, introduce another Medicare safety net to add to the one we’ve already got, get the dole bludgers back to work, exercise daily, and possibly drop out of seminary and have some naughty sex. Predictable, he is, and you can be sure he’ll be looking out for us, because he always has before. On the other hand, on past behaviour, if we re-elect Labor they’ll undoubtedly trash the economy and refuse to reinforce British troops in Burma, just like they always have.
Indeed, Abbott pointed out that since 2007 real household wealth has declined and productivity has stagnated, with the government still refusing to say why. What happened between 2007 and now? What have they got to hide?
But here is the key to Abbott’s vision:
"No good government would ever spend more than a billion dollars putting pink batts into roofs and a billion dollars to take them out again. It wouldn’t spend $16 billion on over-priced school halls while the standards of academic achievement actually fell."
"A good government wouldn’t spend $2 billion buying Victorian brown coal power stations only to close them down; or $11 billion buying Telstra’s copper wires only to shut them down too; or $50 billion plus on a National Broadband Network that people don’t need and don’t want to pay more for."
Note the careful, almost forensic choice of words: "a good government". It’s not by accident that Abbott used the word "good". The Abbott plan revolves extremely heavily around being a good government, unlike the Gillard plan, which revolves around being an awful government, and before that the Rudd plan, which revolved around selling cheap cigarettes to China. The Howard plan, of course, was to get a good night’s sleep and lots of fibre, which was great, but we need a bold new plan, and the Abbott plan is it — good government, a strong economy, lower taxes, and fewer pink batts put in houses and then taken out again and then put in and then set on fire.
Under Abbott, school halls will be reasonably priced, and they’ll be quality school halls, not the shoddy Labor kind that make kids stupid. Under Abbott, brown coal stations will be bought, and put to work. Brown coal will earn its keep under Abbott. Under Abbott, $50 billion will never be spent on things people don’t need. There’ll be a strict $40 billion cap on useless things.
Money will be saved. Surpluses will be built. We will no longer have to rely on China for our prosperity: we will rely on other things, of a very specific nature to be elaborated upon at a later date. And the crowning glory: Abbott will spend one week a year living in remote Aboriginal communities, and he makes the solemn promise that if the Indigenous population doesn’t sort its problems out, he will come back next year too.
By sticking to tried and true conservative values like lower taxes, lower government spending, paid parental leave, racially based military intervention, and helping out disabled people possibly if we can find the cash, Abbott will rebuild this country from the smoking pile of rubble that it has become into the shining tower of gold and strawberries that it deserves to be.
So there is the Abbott plan, beautiful in its simplicity, ingenious in its construction, and inspirational in its conception: stop doing bad things, do better things instead, spend less money except on things that we should spend more money on, and a rock-solid guarantee that in all likelihood the government will make some pretty good decisions at some point.
And so, like a bracing zephyr, we are ventilated by Abbott’s promise for the future. We can finally have an Australia with vision, with hope and confidence. With Abbott at the helm, we can steer Australia out of Gillard’s squall and into the balmy waters of Liberal Bay, there to frolic among the flying fish of prosperity and the crown of thorns starfish of social cohesion.
As another Australian statesman once said: it’s time. Time for fiscal responsibility, time for political integrity, and time for a great man to step up and deliver on the almost-commitments he sort-of made. It’s time, and that crippled quokka is about to blossom into a glorious pademelon, or if Abbott can hang around for three terms, possibly even a rock wallaby.
He’s the man with the plan, and from now on, guys, everything is going to be all right.
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