Unlike Jeff Kennett in 1992, John Howard in 1996 or more recently Campbell Newman in Queensland, the Abbott conservative government has not immediately gone on the rampage with a wave of privatisations and cuts to vital public services and core workers’ rights.
Rather than being upfront about his reactionary agenda Abbott has sought to sneak it in, though the attempted press black out on reports of refugee boat arrivals has proved an embarrassing fiasco for the arch racist Scott Morrison.
Behind the scenes the new government has been quietly carrying out a purge at the top of the public service of any officials who might have an ounce of principle or might not totally toe the Liberal line.
Treasurer Joe Hockey has announced that he will further delay the overdue mid-year budget review until January so that it won’t negatively impact on pre-Christmas sales. Meanwhile he is examining every budget item looking for further cuts to those already imposed by Wayne Swan. Already he has announced the slashing of the foreign aid budget.
We shouldn’t be surprised if Hockey “discovers” a totally “unexpected” black hole that compels the government to ditch its promises and announce a series of further cuts. This is the standard move from the Liberal playbook.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne is conducting his own review of the education system which will simply be an excuse to impose more cuts on top of those previously announced by the Labor government, slash “unprofitable” courses and impose the costs of education on students.
To Abbott’s embarrassment Pyne could not help himself from revealing his own reactionary agenda. He called for the rewriting of Australian history courses taught in high schools as they were too “politically correct”. He also called for the abolition of funding for student unions.
In the workplaces the Coalition is moving to make enterprise agreements more “flexible” (i.e. to cut penalty rates and other pro-worker provisions) and to re-establish the Australian Building and Construction Commission, the Gestapo like force used to terrorise building workers who stand up for their rights.
It is also tightening up the right of entry provisions to make it much harder for unions to represent workers, and further limiting workers’ existing minimal rights to take legal industrial action.
And if you happen to lose your job Abbott has another treat in store. The unemployed are all going to be forced to do utterly demeaning work in order to get their miserable pittance of a dole. How they are going to have time to actually find a job is a mystery.
One thing that Abbott has not concealed is his climate denial credentials with his move to purge the public service of anyone that could provide a serious scientific assessment of the progress of global warming. On top of that he has refused to fund a series of vital rail and other public transport projects in favour of even more toll roads and express ways.
As to his social agenda, what could be more symbolic of Abbott’s intentions than that he appointed himself to be the minister in charge of women’s affairs. The government has condemned the ACT government for introducing same sex marriage legislation and is investigating a High Court appeal to overturn it.
Abbott is set to continue with Howard’s racist paternalistic treatment of Aborigines, epitomised by his appointment of Labor renegade Warren Mundine as one of his key advisers on Aboriginal affairs.
All in all then the Liberals are going to try to force us to swallow some highly toxic medicine in order to prop up the profits of their big business mates and to undermine our ability to stand up for our rights. We have no choice but to organise and fight them.