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Issue #1572      7 November 2012


The right wing’s wish list

There are plenty of vested interests out there, rubbing their hands together in excitement at the thought of an Abbott-led federal government. If you want to see a comprehensive list of what the corporate sector would like a future Coalition government to do, go to the website of the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) at and have a look for an article entitled Be like Gough: 75 radical ideas to transform Australia. The authors – columnists John Roskam, Chris Berg and James Paterson – were so pleased with their first reactionary wish-list that they penned another 25 suggested “reforms”.

The notion that Abbott should be like Gough is not a recommendation that Abbott PM should legislate progressive change of the order of Medibank, the abolition of tertiary education fees or the like. Quite the contrary! The reference to Whitlam is that he moved swiftly and radically to institute change in the political culture of the country. His government didn’t allow itself to held back by killjoy advice from the public service or the chattering of the media. It pressed on to swing politics leftward.

Or, at least, that is the self-serving recollection. Details like the last belt-tightening federal budget from Treasurer Bill Hayden are conveniently forgotten. The urging from the IPA for Abbott to crash through and swing the pendulum to the right is based on the legend of the Whitlam government. According to the conservative IPA trio, Gough established the trend towards big government and the nanny state that has not yet abated. The intervening decades of privatisation and de-regulation are not recognised by the authors. They’re still waiting for a rightward paradigm shift of the sort pulled off by Margaret Thatcher in Britain and by Reagan in the US.

The hundred “ideas” also make up a comprehensive list of the remaining social functions of the state and vestiges of the regulation of “free” (i.e. monopoly-dominated) markets. They propose that the ABC, SBS, Medibank, Australia Post and the CSIRO be completely privatised. An axe should be taken to public service jobs. The Fair Work Act should be repealed to be replaced by advice to “... individuals and employers to negotiate directly terms of employment that suit them” – i.e. bosses should call all the shots. Corporate tax should be reduced to an “internationally competitive” 25 percent. Free trade zones should be established and 457 visa programs greatly expanded. Anti-dumping laws should be scrapped and free trade agreements should be sought with all our major trading partners. The ACCC should go.

The “four-pillar” basis of what remains of regulation of the banking sector should be removed. “Corporate welfare” to the car industry should be withdrawn along with research and development funding and any other vestige of government intervention in the economy. Media cross-ownership laws should be pulled.

“Nanny state” measures such as the alco-pop tax, plain packaging for cigarettes and pre-commitment for pokie gambling have to go. A voucher system should be introduced for secondary education. Baby bonuses and first home buyers grants should be stopped. There is a thread running through the proposals of devolving powers, including income tax powers, to the states.

And, of course, there are the “culture wars” – the ideological struggle against the people. The Racial Discrimination Act should be wiped. There should be no requirement at all for the media to be “balanced”. The Australian Communications and Media Authority, which occasionally penalises the most egregious abuses of the broadcast media, ought to be dismantled. The allegedly “leftist” national school curriculum should be scuttled in favour of competing private ones.

It would be easy to dismiss these documents as fringe – a sort of neo-liberal wet dream. Unfortunately, most of the items on the wish list are also on the agenda of the federal Coalition. Joe Hockey’s sermons on the “entitled” generation are precisely the same message of big business first, all others to make their own arrangements. Many of the items are also on the mid to long-term agenda of the current government. The time for unity in action to advance a progressive agenda, to ensure a genuine left paradigm shift, is with us.

Next article – US and Australia in cahoots for years over Assange intel

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