So, the first week of the election campaign has gone pretty much to plan. We've had a debate in which both sides mouthed platitudes. The leaders are flying frantically from place to place across the country and vying for air time in both senses of the word. The Murdoch press has amplified its long campaign to get an Abbott government elected to the point where it is a tortured scream. As expected, the initial enthusiasm for Kevin Rudd has worn off and the polls are suggesting a big Coalition win. Even the recruitment of former premier Peter Beattie as Labor candidate for the Queensland marginal seat of Forde seems to have backfired.
If my place is any indication, perhaps one reason the election is tilting towards the Coalition is that they are the only ones doing any campaigning. I live in the marginal Labor seat of Moreton, and have yet to see any material from sitting member Graham Perrett. Not even via e-mail. I know his office has my e-mail address because he replied to my recent angry message about the PNG "solution".
On the other hand, LNP candidate Malcolm Cole has e-mailed me several times and flooded my actual mail box with flyers. The latest one tells me about the Coalition's "six point plan" for Australia. It's a depressing read.
These things are generally written in code. The words sound encouraging and reassuring, but once you start to dig into what they mean it can be quite scary. This one is a classic of the genre. Here are the six points with my translations.
1. We will build an stronger, more productive and diverse economy with lower taxes, more efficient government and more productive businesses that will deliver more jobs, higher real incomes and better services for you and your family.
"Lower taxes" for businesses, "more efficient government" means cutting services (note we will have "better" services but the quantity thereof is not mentioned), and "more productive businesses...more real jobs, higher real incomes" is code for business-friendly changes to the industrial relations system.
2. We will get the Budget back under control, cut waste and start reducing debt - to keep interest rates as low as possible and to protect the Australian economy from future economic shocks.
This is another way of saying "more efficient government", code for budget cuts.
3. We will help families get ahead by freeing them from the burdens of the carbon tax - to protect Australian jobs and reduce cost-of-living pressures, especially rising electricity and gas prices.
The reference to families is of course a piece of misdirection to distract you from the fact that the main beneficiaries of removing the carbon tax will not be families, they will be big businesses, particularly those like mining companies that generate a lot of pollution. This pollution will now once again be free, insofar as the costs of the resulting environmental degradation will also be borne by someone else. We're not sure who yet.
4. We will help small businesses grow and create more jobs - by reducing business costs and cutting taxes as well as cutting red and green tape costs by $1 billion every year.
This point is code for the removal of environmental protections which now result in two types of tape, presumably since the tape manufacturers are unable to source red dye in the required quantities. The $1b figure is completely meaningless since no-one knows what this all costs anyway.
5. We will generate one million jobs over the next five years and two million new jobs within a decade by growing a bigger, more productive and prosperous economy.
This is a statement of hope. The government hopes that if it cuts spending, taxes and regulation and makes the industrial relations system more pro-business this will result in employment growth. Note the jobs will not be "created" by government but "generated", a much more ambiguous term. In fact all the direct government actions hinted at in these six points will result in fewer jobs. What is the opposite of "created"? Obviously a word that can't be used in an election pamphlet.
6. We will build new roads and highways to get things moving - with an emphasis on reducing delays and bottlenecks to improve people's quality of life.
At last, something that requires no translation - more roads!
While this message does require a little decoding, it is not hard to see what kind of government this will be. They will cut taxes to business and to pay for this they will have to cut services, but these cuts will go under the name of reducing waste and cutting bureaucracy.
Environmental protections will be rapidly removed and the carbon tax will go, accelerating the degradation of the natural environment and our contribution to global warming. The costs of this degradation will be borne by future governments and therefore not Tony Abbott's problem.
Cuts to environmental programs will not be enough to pay for the tax cuts. Welfare, health and education will all be in the firing line. Costs for many of these will be shifted back to the States, which will come as a shock because in the last couple of years Liberal state premiers have been working hard to shift them in the other direction.
Despite the fact that we need to be preparing for a post-oil future and developing transport options that reduce carbon emissions, the government's transport policy will be about more cars and trucks.
Apparently the majority of Australians are planning to vote for the party that is promising us this. I can only assume they either haven't read the six point plan, or did not know how to decode it.