My name’s Tony from the ‘burbs and I’m here to help
Tony Abbott delivered a speech in which he portrayed himself - one of the most radical MPs of his era - as a mainstream kind of bloke.
The Budget in Reply speech last night wasn’t so much about Tuesday’s Budget and there was no demand on Abbott to produce a detailed counter to Wayne Swan’s economic statement.
It was a bid to soften the edges of his public image in contrast to the “class war” stridency of Julia Gillard.
His chief message was about himself. He has a wife, children, and a mortgage. He might be North Shore but cut him and does he not bleed rank and file blood?
And guess what? His parents were working class.
Abbott didn’t just reach back to his parents.
Peter Costello might as well come back to Parliament. He would feel nothing had changed - the people, the furniture, the policies.
Tony Abbott’s speech attempted to recreate the Howard/Costello period and reconstructed its platform as if it were a heritage project.
When not rebuilding priorities of a decade ago Abbott was demolishing those of the Gillard era, particularly carbon pricing and the mining tax, and on-shore processing of asylum seekers.
These would be big changes and come with massive costs. Nauru, for example, could name its price for reopening a processing centre.
One problem for the Opposition is that it keeps adding to commitments without putting them into an overall context or strategy. Abbott attempted that context last night but avoided most specifics.
For instance, Abbott has said he will retain the $1.1 billion increase in Family Tax Benefit A for 1.5 million families which the Government wants to pay with the mining tax. But Mr Abbott won’t keep the mining tax.
And on Budget night his finance spokesman Andrew Robb revealed a Coalition Government would be looking for a Budget surplus of one per cent of GDP, or national output.
That would currently be worth about $15 billion compared to this Budget’s $1.5 billion surplus and the $2 billion forecast for next year.
Mr Robb gave no timetable for reaching this target and said the Budget would have to be strengthened first when he appeared on ABC’s Latetline. But his commitment raised the eyebrows of Finance Minister Penny Wong and, she believes, was news to come of Mr Robb’s colleagues.
Un-answered is where the money would come from.
Meanwhile, the Government today attempted to claim early success for the Budget by reflecting in the 0.3 per cent in the unemployment rate for April. Certainly 4.9 per cent looks an impressive figure.
However, most of the new jobs were part-time and the growth in employment was in Western Australia and Queensland, and the decline big the big manufacturing states of Victoria and NSW, plus in Tasmania.
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