Granted, it’s a hard list to top, how many politicians have been found to be cynical, dishonest, and deceitful? Hundreds upon thousands of them, but this Tuesday in Australia, Tony Abbott took the top spot. He is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, a phenomenal liar. In Tuesday’s budget, he broke almost every promise he made to the electorate in his campaign of a year ago:
“No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST, and no cuts to the ABC or SBS.”
Those were the words that came out of Abbott’s mouth in September 2013. With supreme duplicity, he has reneged on all of them. This is the same man who said in June 2013 “we’ve had too many politicians who say one thing before an election to win votes, and then do the opposite after the election.” It was almost as if he had the gift of foresight.
“No cuts to education:” University fees are set to soar into the stratosphere as they are put onto the open market. As recently as November 2013, the minister responsible said this was an impossibility because “we promised that we wouldn’t.”
“No cuts to health:” Even the poorest Australian families will now have to pay to use Medicare from anything as simple as a GP appointment, through the whole raft of services. This so-called “co-payment” is only $7 but could spiral out of control very quickly with any serious medical condition. It’s called a “co-payment” even though it is a tax, as this Abbott government promised, yes, that’s right, no new taxes. Emergency departments at the hospitals will now charge as well, and the ambulance service was never free in Australia. Doctors are already anticipating unnecessary deaths. Moreover, the “best friend that Medicare ever had” (that’s Tony Abbott, describing himself) is going to impel the states between them to save $80 billion in health and education.
“No cuts to the ABC:” The national public service broadcaster is to be hit with an “efficiency dividend” and that will come after it has had to cut staff, close the foreign bureau, and cut programming.
For too long, the theory goes: Australians have been living in an “age of entitlement” and the time has come to pay the price. Even politicians will have to do their bit. Yes, they are going on a wage freeze. Whether this will impact too much on the Abbott household is debatable as he is one of the highest paid of all the world’s leaders. He will still earn $507,000 per annum, rather more than the President of the United States who takes home $425,000. Britain’s David Cameron, another staunch conservative talking “tough” decisions for the sake of his country struggles by on a mere £142,000 ($238,000). Joe Hockey, the treasurer who delivered this budget, is privately worth more than $10 million with all prime assets in his wife’s name. Moreover, Mrs. Hockey chose Budget Day to show off a new Carla Zampatti outfit valued at $750–representing a lot of visits to the doctor for a family on a low-income.
Additional surprises in the Abbott-Hockey “no surprise” budget were a rise in fuel tax, a rise in the retirement eligibility age to 70, tougher measures on benefit claims, including for the disabled, and an increase in tax for the higher-earners. One of the only schemes not to face “sacrifice” is Abbott’s pet project–the Paid Parental Leave scheme.
The counter-argument is that all this is needed now if Australia is not going to go the way of Europe and slide into recession. Like everywhere else, the aging population is going to place undue strains on all resources. Australians believe in a “fair go” in which they would not want to push their debts onto future generations. Australia is not in crisis, not at all. Their spending is just three percent short of the GDP. The theory is to prevent one from happening.
That being the case, these budget cuts have fallen so hard and so harshly even the Business Council of Australia, an organization with only really one aim in mind to protect big business, said they were concerned about the effects on “families and young people.”
Abbott clearly decided to take the gamble of dispersing with the truth. Some will say this demonstrates his strength and purpose. This is not just a conservative, but rather a stern, ideological, and zealous Conservative. Others will say, with incredulity, that this man, Tony Abbott, is surely the most cynical, deceitful, and dishonest politician ever.
Opinion By Kate Henderson