Nation better off under an economically astute Abbott
IN May 2012, Victorian Liberal powerbroker Michael Kroger revealed he was sick of going to lunch with Peter Costello and hearing that the former long-serving federal treasurer regarded Tony Abbott as a “DLP stooge and an economic illiterate.”
Unsurprisingly, Costello’s opinion of the Prime Minister’s supposed lack of economic skills and abilities seems to be shared by a number of federal Labor shadow ministers, including Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen. As it happens, one of the most critical assessments of Abbott came from former Labor prime minister Julia Gillard, who described him as an “economic simpleton”.
In fact, the London-born, Sydney-based Abbott gained a bachelor of economics and a bachelor of laws at the University of Sydney. Then, as a Rhodes Scholar at Queen’s College, Oxford, in the early 1980s, Abbott successfully completed a master of arts in the highly regarded course philosophy, politics and economics (PPE). This prestigious degree has historically been designed for men and women seeking a career in politics and public life. It also caters for those wishing to become journalists, a career that Abbott embraced by working for ‘The Bulletin’ magazine and then for this newspaper, for which he was a leader writer. This was before he became press secretary to Coalition leader John Hewson from 1990 to 1993.
Tony Abbott then entered federal parliament in a 1994 by-election as the Liberal member for the Sydney northern beaches seat of Warringah.
Contrary to the many naysayers, as Prime Minister, and in close partnership with Joe Hockey, Abbott has a clear economic commitment and a very definite plan of action. This includes reducing the tax burden, deregulating the labour market, reducing Australian government debt, promoting free trade, increasing competition via the Productivity Commission review, privatising Medibank and boosting national production by cutting back a vast number of unnecessary regulations.
Indeed many of Abbott’s economic and fiscal plans were spelt out as far back as 2009 in his feisty book ‘Battlelines’, which he wrote while languishing in opposition.
Abbott’s parliamentary secretary, and the person leading the government’s deregulation agenda, Josh Frydenberg, has usefully summarised the Prime Minister’s economic narrative. Frydenberg maintains that nobody is more cognisant of the economic challenges facing Australia than Abbott, who, before he became minister for health and ageing, was minister for employment, workplace relations and small business under John Howard.
According to Frydenberg, the member for Kooyong, Abbott’s fundamental message is clear: “We urgently need to significantly cut red and green tape, avoid any unnecessary spending, reduce the overall tax burden and build more flexibility into the labour market.”
Together with the Coalition’s ambitious infrastructure agenda, Abbott has laid out a clear and distinct pathway to boosting Australia’s productivity and economic growth. At the same time, with the crucial aid and input of frontbenchers with economic portfolios including Hockey, Andrew Robb, Mathias Cormann, Bruce Billson and Arthur Sinodinos, Abbott’s economic agenda is likely to help create hundreds of thousands of new jobs. As a direct result, this will distinctly improve the living standards of ordinary citizens throughout Australia.
The Coalition government has already made an auspicious start. Hockey is currently overseeing the Commission of Audit and David Murray’s review into our financial system; Greg Hunt has given environmental approval to more than $150 billion of major projects; and Abbott himself is working hard with Robb to conclude free trade agreements with Japan and China – as the federal government recently secured with South Korea.
So here is my prediction for the rest of this year. Especially if he can repeal the carbon tax, as far as national competitiveness, economic growth and overall wellbeing are concerned, Abbott and his Coalition government will be found to be well and truly up to the job and Australia left better off overall.
Ross Fitzgerald’s memoir ‘My Name is Ross: An Alcoholic’s Journey’ is now available as an e-Book.
‘The Weekend Australian’, January 25-26, 2014, INQUIRER, p 14