Whitlam was a radical, according to the Institute of Public Affairs. A very successful radical, and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott could learn from him.

Abolish! Abolish! Abolish! Pic: Supplied

The IPA has released an extraordinary pamphlet: Be like Gough: 75 radical ideas to transform Australia.

You could even say it’s radical.

The argument goes something like: left-wing governments are more radical than right-wing governments and that swings the pendulum further left-wards so that even radical policies like Medicare “seem normal over time”.
Therefore when Mr Abbott becomes Prime Minister with an “intimidating mandate” he should go on a rampage. They’ve offered an eyebrow-raising list of suggested reforms.

It starts with repealing the carbon tax (no surprise there), sweeps through family benefits, privatising at will, shrinking the front bench and taking the occasional mean-spirited swipe at relatively innocuous institutions such as Harmony Day.

Abolish. Abolish. Abolish. Repeal. Repeal. Repeal.

The IPA is “an independent, non-profit public policy think tank, dedicated to preserving and strengthening the foundations of economic and political freedom”.

They are relatively influential, they are a bunch of smart people, and it’s quite a slick looking publication.

But you have to ask…

… are they serious?

They stopped short of saying we should get rid of Medicare – we should just means test it. But they implied fairly strongly that it’s a bad idea:

(T)he public’s bias towards the status quo has a habit of making even the most radical policy (like Medicare, or restrictions on freedom of speech) seem normal over time. Despite the many obvious problems of socialised health care, no government now would challenge the foundations of Medicare as the Coalition did before it was implemented.

Do you agree with any of the things on the list? What would you add? What would you rule out?

Comments on this post will close at 8pm.

Most commented


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    • Alfie says:

      01:45pm | 12/09/12

      Whitlam was “A very successful radical.”

      Errr…not according to history.

    • Rose says:

      02:11pm | 12/09/12

      Define successful! Many of Whitlam’s reforms have stood the test of time and have improved the lives of millions of Australians. Whitlam’s social reforms will ensure that he will always be fondly remembered by many. Economics is not the sole measure of good governance!

    • Richard says:

      02:12pm | 12/09/12

      Their point was, he effectively moved the “centre” of politcs to the left, because his government moved politics so radically to the far-left, that it normalised left wing thinking, made centrist thinking look right-wing, and made right-wing thinking seem far-right.

    • Franky says:

      03:02pm | 12/09/12

      49 is funny - You can’t have a private company that needs to maximise shareholder profits and at the same time maximise returns to members
      45 - income tax. Have been thinking about this myself and the right wing mantra of ‘job creators’. The job creators are the ones who spend every extra dollar. You have the cut off where the person has to think about whether to spend the extra dollar or put it in their pocket
      72 - CSIRO - you are kidding.
      76 - abolish the states. did they cost that? Save us a trillion a year

    • iansand says:

      03:10pm | 12/09/12

      Family Law reform
      Trade Practices Act ...

      3 changes off the top of my head that have changed the business and social fabric of the country

    • Rob says:

      04:10pm | 12/09/12

      Whitlam was so successful that he was embarrassingly and unceremoniously kicked out office as one would dump the trash.

    • Alfie says:

      04:59pm | 12/09/12

      C’mon folks, Whitlam was a complete bloody disaster for Australia. He was (rightfully) sacked before he turned us into a 3rd world country.

    • Inky says:

      05:53pm | 12/09/12


      Congrats on missing the point of the original statement, twice.

    • Babylon says:

      07:11pm | 12/09/12

      In Europe, When Portugal threw out its socialist left wing Government it joined 27 other European States that had already done so.

      The reason for the expulsion of these radical Left Governments was the lunatic spending and borrowing, which appears to be a characteristc of Left wing Governments.

      Europe has only 5 Socialist Governments remaining in power and it is notable that it is those countries that are still in the financial poo.

      Europe have voted 27 to 5 that if you want economic sanity, business growth and jobs then you must turn to the Liberal Conservatives.

    • Alfie says:

      07:10pm | 12/09/12


      I didnt miss it. I just fail to see any comparison/link to a ‘radical’ right wing government. There simply isn’t one.

      Whitlam is a standout loser as I have said above.

    • Anthony says:

      01:50pm | 12/09/12

      Ask David Marr what Abbott might do, he seems to have intimate knowledge of Abbott. Hypotheticals like this seem like an exercise to invite partisan nut jobs slander people in public life.

    • Nafe says:

      02:45pm | 12/09/12

      Abbott will probably punch a wall next to someone’s head. Maybe somoene should as Gillard how he took the 2010 loss, Did he punch the wall next to GIllard?

    • Borderer says:

      03:41pm | 12/09/12

      If he did I would get him a set of glasses so he can improve his aim.

    • Bear says:

      05:20pm | 12/09/12

      “France….” Have you ever visited the planet earth?

    • Babylon says:

      06:56pm | 12/09/12

      A European Left Wing Summer Camp held “To put an end to Neoliberal politics” descended into in fighting and homophobic behaviour as the Lefties decided they did not like the Gays amongst their members.

      Article in the Daily Mail.co.uk discussing the anti gay European Socialist summer camp is BLACKLISTED by the Punch.

      One thing that typifies Left Wing Governments is reckless spending. The Australian Labor party is spending $100 Billion dollars a year more than the previous Howard Government.

      In Europe out of the 27 States only 5 remain left wing and those are the countries still in the poo thanks to extreme Left wing spending sprees. All countries have swapped to Conservative Governments to aid economic recovery, lay foundation for growth and create jobs.


      The Left is definitely more extreme. History shiws us the murderous regimes of Stalin and Pol Pot.

    • Richard says:

      01:57pm | 12/09/12

      Yes, as I commented on the facebook link of this wonderful manifesto yesterday, I 100% agree with everything on that list, with the exception of the “means test Medicare” one. Medicare should be abolished. But man, if any incoming Coalition government could implement this agenda, oh man how powerful, wealthy and strong our Country would become!

      However, John Humphries corrected me and said: ” Richard… I think means-testing medicare could be a great way to shift to a free-market health system. Once it is means-tested then we have created a competitive market in basic health provision for people who are above the means-test.

      The private providers will do a better job and poor people will want to move to the private sector if they could afford it… creating pressure for a shift to a voucher type system and ending government supply. Insh’allah.”

      Which is probably right, he’s a great man, John Humphries.

    • Tubesteak says:

      01:58pm | 12/09/12

      I tried downloading the list but it didn’t work. Something about connection error.

      From your summary it seems like there are some good ideas. I hope Abbott uses his majority to cut all useless cash hand-outs and middle-class welfare.

    • Rose says:

      03:45pm | 12/09/12

      $75,000 maternity leave payments…..the epitome of useless cash handouts and middle class welfare!!

    • nihonin says:

      04:27pm | 12/09/12

      ‘From your summary it seems like there are some good ideas. I hope Abbott uses his majority to cut all useless cash hand-outs and middle-class welfare.’

      Shit, that’d stuff up a lot of ‘in the pipeline’ or just about to spring the news ‘separations/divorces’.  wink

    • Tubesteak says:

      04:35pm | 12/09/12

      Absolutely. Lets hope he dumps that one. It was nothing more than a case of me-tooism

    • year of the dragon says:

      05:23pm | 12/09/12

      Rose says: 03:45pm | 12/09/12
      “$75,000 maternity leave payments…..the epitome of useless cash handouts and middle class welfare!!”

      Start with that one,

    • AdamC says:

      02:01pm | 12/09/12

      Most of those ideas are pretty good. There are a few that I do not agree with. Proposals like abolishing the ACCC and AIS, for example, are not really grounded in the real world, but it free market, classically liberal theory. Also, canning the NBN seems a little silly now that they have supposedly started building it.

      Repealing 18C of the Anti-discrimination Act (idea #4) should be an incoming Coalition government’s first order of business. (It won’t be, of course.) But Australia should go further by inserting a clause in the constitution explicitly guaranteeing freedom of speech and the press, with no qualification, as they have in the US.

    • JamesH says:

      02:05pm | 12/09/12

      Is this a giant joke?  Is it April 1?  Some of this just echoes things that the man on the street has been saying for years.  NT statehood is something the rest of us want but the Territorians don’t.  Funding to various programmes and schemes is questionable at best.  But to suggest that education, censorship, public health laws and Medicare should all be effectively abolished is to create anarchy.  if you get rid of everything public and have a total user-pays society, watch crime skyrocket and see rioting in the streets.  I take it this is something of a joke, reflecting the idea that we need balance and not radicalism one way or another.  Because if this is serious, these people are idiots.

    • Hmmmm says:

      03:46pm | 12/09/12

      NT residents are pretty split on the whole Statehood thing.
      We DO want it but not at the cost of some of the more ” Cowboy” powers the Territories have. However the euthanasia debacle / speed limit blackmail pretty much showed most Territtorians that the Feds can screw you over either way so as a result it isn’t high on our list of things to do..

    • Mark says:

      02:08pm | 12/09/12

      Shock horror!! An organisation dedicated to advocating for small government proposes abolishing/repealing instruments of government.

    • Adam says:

      02:08pm | 12/09/12

      Selling everything is hardly radical - this stuff has been going on for the better part of forty years. People complain about public services not working, but only after they’ve been gutted of funds. For argument’s sake, the IPA suggests privatising Australia post - but post offices in country towns are already shutting up shop because they’ve been forced to make profits, rather than being funded from tax to provide an essential service. There’s nothing more toxic for society than free-market rationalism.

    • nick says:

      03:02pm | 12/09/12

      Aside from closed-market socialism?

    • andye says:

      05:03pm | 12/09/12

      @nick - Well why don’t you continue arguing whether it is better to be punched in the head or the balls.

    • John says:

      07:16pm | 12/09/12

      The public service is bigger than ever… and you call that being “gutted”. You’re a strange chap.

    • Rebecca says:

      02:10pm | 12/09/12

      Some we know, some are predictable. But there are a few surprises which overall makes this a manifesto for social darwinism! No checks, no balances, no attempts at achieving equality. Paints the sort of society we see in post-apocalyptic movies.
      Numbers 22 and 23(which goes with 38 of course), what a surprise, not.
      54 - WorkChoices!
      59 - get rid of Turnbull.
      and good old no. 74.

    • JT says:

      02:11pm | 12/09/12

      Probably shorter to say no so I say no to

      7, 8, 9, 16, 20, 21, 23, 24, 26, 27, 28, 48, 60, 64, 67, and 68.

      Seems like a mostly common sense list of ideas and approach to government. No wonder Tory doesn’t like it.

    • JoniM says:

      03:46pm | 12/09/12

      I’m along similar lines with you JT.
      Agree with a lot of it !
      I would say no to 7,8,9,14,17 -24, 26,28, 32,48,57,62,64,&72;.

    • David says:

      02:13pm | 12/09/12

      There is much on the list that I would remove, or at least amend, and I do think the “argument,” as you call it, is invalid. Australian politics has a tendency to be moving toward the right. I do think most of those points need further explanation and investigation before any real constructive discussion can be had.
      Ultimately, the onus is on the IPA to explain why they want each point enacted, how they would see it benefit Australia (or states)  and the perceived “threats” of not enacting such policy.

    • sunny says:

      02:19pm | 12/09/12

      They’re trying too hard to be practical, and in the process ignoring some established practicalities.

    • Rebecca says:

      02:25pm | 12/09/12

      Oops, they left a few words out of no.61 “...public servant - and politicians - salaries…”

      How does no.68 work?

      No.45 - ah, Pauline Hanson’s flat tax is back.

    • Babylon says:

      02:28pm | 12/09/12

      If he gets the top job, Abbott needs to get control of the reckless spending of the Gillard Government.

      The Gillard Government has a $120 Billion budget black hole
      Its spending $100 Billion a year more than the Howard Government ever did.

      Up to 69% of the average Working Australian’s income goes in tax.

      We are working half the year just to pay Gillards tax bills with the flood levies and carbon taxes too.

      Nevertheless if we carry on with the Gillard Government we face even more taxes and levies to cover their reckless spending.

      The Gillard Government will tell you that their dodgy MRRT will save the day,
      - But currently this is a loan, because the mines wont start paying it for some 3 years hence when their costs are covered.
      - Thanks to the Gillard Government the Mining boom is slipping off to Africa. -
      - The royalty increases on iron ore or coal in Western Australia, NSW, Tasmania, South Australia and now Queensland, the Gillard Governments budget is facing a mining tax black hole well in excess of $4 billion.

      With the huge payouts to Industries to try and protect them from the carbon tax, backflips on closing Coal Fired Power Stations and dropping the floor price, the Gillard Governments Carbon pricing policy is descending into a job. Very far away from solving Global Warming as it was hailed to do.

      The tough Border control Gillard told us she would provide is another joke.
      - A total of 37 boats with 2,245 people on board have now arrived since the Gillard Government backflipped on Nauru.
      - We had the 5 illegal boat arrival cross Australia’s borders in just 24 hours and this represents a highly successful pay day for the people smugglers who have again made millions.
      The Gillard Government has had 4 disastrous attempts now to deal with the problem as promised.
      Abbott needs to pull the Gillard Government joke out and re institute the full successful Coalition solution.

      Damn right Abbott needs to abolish abolish repeal repeal.

    • Mahhrat says:

      02:33pm | 12/09/12

      What, Tony’s radical for doing stuff you don’t agree with?  C’mon, I’m not a fan of the guy either, but that’s harsh.

    • George says:

      02:34pm | 12/09/12

      Overall it sounds like a Randist’s wet dream.

      But I do like the flat tax rate and the removal of the first home vendor’s grant which actually makes housing more expensive.

      I think we should abolish the baby bonus for anyone with more than 2 kids and otherwise keep it, because I haven’t had kids and maybe I might so I’m not biased.

    • Gravelly says:

      02:46pm | 12/09/12

      David Marr?!?! The perpetually indignant, outraged flake?!

    • taxed citizen says:

      02:53pm | 12/09/12

      Too right ANthony :
      When I want to know what Tony is planning I just watch Insiders when Marr is casting his horoscopes.
      When I want to know what will happen to humanity in general, I watch Kruszelnicki on ABC and his evolutionary entrail readings..

    • Rebecca says:

      02:54pm | 12/09/12

      Let’s see, no’s. 15, 16, 17 & 27 against 50 & 51, uh huh.

      No. 58 - what about the ACT? Oh that’s right , too lefty too often.

    • SimpleSimon says:

      03:00pm | 12/09/12

      Means testing or abolishing Medicare are both bad ideas. Means testing is expensive, taxes won’t come down as a result of it, and the upper-middle class will froth at the mouth for what they see as another attempt to use their money to support the lazy and poor. As for abolishing Medicare altogether, well we’ve seen how well that’s worked for the millions of Americans who can’t get basic medical care. Medicare is an excellent initiative that should absolutely be maintained.

    • Rebecca says:

      03:05pm | 12/09/12

      I do so hope the coalition take this to the next election.

      The radical difference between this document and the types of things that Whitlam did are that are that his were intended to make society fairer and more inclusive. The ones in this document would make the USA’s social equality seem like nirvana compared to what we’d end up with.

    • tez says:

      03:07pm | 12/09/12

      Get rid of State Government

    • tez says:

      03:17pm | 12/09/12

      The only radical thing about the LNP is the National part

    • Rebecca says:

      03:17pm | 12/09/12

      What these privileged elitists at the IPA don’t seem to realise is that if society is run purely according to the ‘laws of the jungle’ then eventually they too will find themselves in an uncomfortable position in the food chain.

    • Economist says:

      03:47pm | 12/09/12

      I doubt it, they’re well connected and they’d have their business mates look after them. Many of them are infact ex public servants.

      I’m not going to bother commenting on the list, because it is a wish list, but some of it could get up. But I can guarantee you Abbott won’t take it to an election, he’d get one term and then we’d be back with Labor.

    • GetRidOfCommies says:

      03:49pm | 12/09/12

      No, what you fail to realise Rebecca is that nobdoy deserves anything they didn’t earn, least of all things they acquired through theft, which is all tax is.

      The problem with this list is it doesn’t go far enough. I would cut all government welfare - everything: the dole, pensions, disability payments, healthcare, education - the lot. If you want it, you pay for it.

      Why should I pay for you to have kids and why should I pay for you to get treated by a doctor. The only person I am responsible for is me.

      It is a sick society that forces anyone to give to others against there free will.

    • Rebecca says:

      04:39pm | 12/09/12

      So GROC, what would you do if you became permanently incapacitated? Are you wealthy enough to support yourself forever? Or will you have to beg on the streets? Or just die?

      What about young couples who have a severely disabled child? Do you expect them to shut up, go home and scrounge around to support the survival of their child and themselves?

      What are you, a Spartan?

    • marley says:

      04:54pm | 12/09/12

      @GetRidofCommies - get your damned car off my road.

    • Richard says:

      05:34pm | 12/09/12

      Agree that Abbott won’t take it to an election, or would implement it in government… the IPA are hard-line free marketeers, Abbott is more of a Big Government Conservative.

    • GetRidOfCommies says:

      05:35pm | 12/09/12

      @Rebecca - those peoples problems are not my problems and I shouldn’t be forced through threat of state violence to support them. I am made sure to save enough to support myself if I ever become disable and other people need to learn how to make provisions for themselves to.

      @Marley - I would love for our roads to be privatised. User pays. The quality would be better and traffic would be reduced.

      I also forgot to mention that the report doesn’t go far enough with labor laws. They need to be completely removed and all labor is based on prexisting contract law.

    • Debbie says:

      03:30pm | 12/09/12

      Some ideas on the list seem very sensible, others are beyond stupid. Abbott will most likely embrace the stupid ones as would most politicians, which is the reason Australia will never reach its potential.

    • SimpleSimon says:

      03:34pm | 12/09/12

      Wow. I just actually read that pamphlet. Now I’m not convinced it’s really serious. A flat tax? Really?

      Does “Means test tertiary student loans” mean that you can only get HECS if you could otherwise afford to just pay for uni? It’s for students! If they could afford to just pay for uni up front they wouldn’t be asking for HECS!

      Abolish compulsory super in exchange for a promise? This can’t be serious.

    • Al says:

      04:30pm | 12/09/12

      While there are some on the list I would broadly agree with they can’t realy work practicly.
      The main one being the ability to opt out of superannuation and forgoe any government support in retirement.
      I realise this is (most likely) meant to be aimed at high income earners who can then invest said money and support themselves, their would be many on low incomes who would do it simply for the extra cash now and on retirement have no income at all. Unless they have family to support them they would die in a few weeks at most after retirement.
      Perhaps if there was a proviso that meant the option only applied to people earning over a certain amount or who had assets worth a particular amount (of course then there would be claims of class discrimination).
      Some of the others are OK, and some are not in my opinion.

    • Inky says:

      05:19pm | 12/09/12

      I can’t actually access the list, but just from what’s being said in comments from the pro-list people, it sounds like a terrible idea that panders to people who’s world ends with them.

    • Ellis says:

      05:49pm | 12/09/12

      It is not a radical pamphlet.

      It is eminently sensible.

      I would support all of the policy ideas with great enthusiasm although it unfortunately falls way short on some aims. I could think of many more government departments that could be shut immediately.

      All in all a good start with plenty of room for improvement.

    • RedDog says:

      06:45pm | 12/09/12

      Stalin and Hitler were social workers,  Ghenghis Khan was from child protection

    • Jimmy says:

      06:46pm | 12/09/12

      Add the removal of limited liability (seriously, if I can’t have a guarantee that my food contains just what I expect it to now that labelling – an implicit contract – is no longer required to be all-inclusive, I want to sue the pants off the guy responsible, not his corporate front) and open up the borders and I’ll take this seriously. Otherwise you’re just trying to have your cake and eat it too you rascally libertarian scamps, you.

    • Tony Marphis says:

      07:00pm | 12/09/12

      “The IPA is “an independent, non-profit public policy think tank, dedicated to preserving and strengthening the foundations of economic and political freedom””

      LOL…and so are GetUp!


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