Wednesday, February 01, 2012

But one reflection on Tony Abbott's Press Club Speech

Tax cuts by the end of a first term, dental care within the Medicare safety net and closer government ties with the aboriginal community were just some of the highlights of Tony Abbott’s speech to the Canberra press gallery today.

Not surprisingly, Government frontbencher Bill Shorten labelled the speech a “diatribe of negativity” and “This is like groundhog day for Dr No”. But while it’s all too easy to suggest that Abbott is obstructionist and/or negative we need to understand that the job of the opposition and it’s leader is to hold the government of the day to account. I also feel compelled to address the hordes that suggest the speech lacked the required minutiae to warrant serious deliberation. Recall, Abbott and his senior staff have repeatedly said that they do NOT intend to reveal the full Coalition policy package and associated cost accounting ahead of the next federal election. Now if this hasn't sunk yet, read the last sentence again.

Central to his economic vision is getting government spending under control, lifting productivity to moderate borrowing and take indirect pressure off rates resulting in a reduced tax burden.

Also noteworthy was Tony Abbott's commitment to a National Disability Insurance Scheme. Here Shadow Minister for Disabilites, Carers and the Voluntary Sector, Senator Mitch Fifield has a few words to add.

Today Leader of the Opposition Tony Abbott delivered a speech to the National Press Club in Canberra, in which he reiterated that a National Disability Insurance Scheme will be a priority for a Coalition Government.

I have attached his speech for your information, with the relevant section highlighted. He said in his speech:

“After all, the measure of a decent society is how it looks after its most vulnerable members".

Once the budget is strongly back in surplus, our aim is to provide the additional services that Australians yearn for but know can’t be built on debt. To be sustainable they have to be the social dividend of a strong economy.

The coalition strongly supports the Productivity Commission’s recommendation for a disability insurance scheme but, with an estimated price tag of $6 billion a year (roughly equal to the Commonwealth’s current interest bill) this important and necessary reform can’t fully be implemented until the budget returns to strong surplus.

It’s one of the reasons why it’s so important to return to surplus quickly. And it’s not the only important social initiative that would become deliverable once the budget is back in the black.”

Tony also responded to a question from a journalist regarding the NDIS, saying:

“There is a process which the current government has announced, and which the Coalition supports. There’s a scoping study currently underway. There are various studies and work being undertaken by the Council of Australian Governments, because this does have to involve both the states and the commonwealth, and let’s wait and see what comes out of that process. I think this is an important and necessary reform. I think it really is a test of our quality as a society - what we can do more and better for people with disabilities. But we do have to accept that in the end, everything has got to be paid for, and it would be so much easier to pay for important and necessary reforms like disability insurance if we didn’t have the waste and extravagance which we’ve seen almost every day from the current government.”

It should be noted that the current Government have not allocated a single new dollar to an NDIS over the forward estimates.


Senator Mitch Fifield

Senator for Victoria
Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600 Tel 02 6277 3666 Fax 02 6277 5758
42 Florence Street Mentone VIC 3194 Tel 03 9584 2455 Fax 03 9584 8347|
Once again, today’s speech was designed only to communicate a broad vision, this was no secret.

As a final point it was no surprise that Channel 7's Mark Reilly put the hard question to Abbott:
Mark Riley, Seven Network. Mr Abbott, thanks very much for your address. I just want to take to your part of it… take you to a part of it where you talk about the Medicare-funded dentistry at $4 billion a year being an aspiration and not a commitment. People, I think, at the moment are finding it hard to believe government commitments. How can they believe in aspiration of $4 billion a year? It doesn’t just mean it’s unaffordable or is this a new way of ensuring that you can’t be held accountable for breaking a promise, you just don’t make it in the first place? But one promise that you have held there is the paid parental leave scheme in saying that you’re going to lower taxes and that business is doing it so tough. Why is it the right time for business to be hit with a $2.7 billion new tax?
Let's compare this to his question to Julia at her last Press Club address:
I think a few of us have been reflecting on this in the last few weeks and certainly in the last couple of days, very sharply, on our responsibilities. When we see a gentleman in Gladstone trying to encourage people to take up arms against the government, a woman in Melbourne being shoved out of a public meeting and harassed down the street to tears, you confronted in a shopping centre by people screaming and Liberal Party members calling you liar and then a radio station coming here and broadcasting all day on the first day back of Parliament to whip climate change opposers into a frenzy. How do you see our responsibility and the way that we should be reporting this matter?
It's clear it wasn't so much a question as an attempt by a Canberra journalist to prop up Gillard.

Pleasing it was to see Abbott's response to Reilly draw some laughter today.

Tony Abbott:

Thank you Mark for that question and it is good to see that the tough questions are being asked here at the Press Club, particularly by you ...

Unlike some 12 months ago, when Reilly literally ambushed the Opposition leader this time around Abbott did not come close to punching a journo in the gob. Recall my views on Seven's shame and Mark Reilly here ...

For those wishing to read Tony Abbotts entire speech to the press gallery click here.