Friday, October 29, 2010

Abbott and Reform

Recently Tony Abbott gave the 2010 Alfred Deakin speech which was on the topic of reform. As is perhaps to be expected, he used the opportunity to take a swipe at the governments policies without offering much by way of an alternative. Along the way he criticized the NBN, the mining tax, the recent proposed changes to health care funding and carbon pricing, saying none of these are true reform but mere Labor power grabbing at the peoples expense.

I can't say that I agree with his analysis of these subjects. The NBN is an investment in infrastructure that I think will be of much more benefit than could be initially estimated, just as someone trying to estimate the value of building the telephone network decades ago would have failed to consider all the value derived from things utilizing that infrastructure such as faxes, DSL internet and more. I also believe that the NBN is one of those infrastructure systems where having a non commercial standardized underlying system that everyone has access to equally is a good thing. Roads are another example of such a system.

The mining tax, while terribly introduced by the Rudd government is something that to me seems eminently rational. Mining companies dig up minerals from land that is held by the government in trust for all of Australia, so it is only right that they pay the Australian people for what they take. And while the government was suggesting taking a 40% cut, they were also going to take a 40% cut of any losses. And while you may want to haggle over the exact amount, the principle is sound.

Tony also suggests that he is for a market based solution to reducing carbon emissions, and yet opposes introducing a carbon price. I can only ask how can you have a market without a price?

I haven't got anything to say on the matter of health care as I don't know much about the most recent proposals, but my recent time in hospital has made me even more supportive of public health car for all in general.

As an alternative to Labor's "reforms", Tony harkens back to the Howard days for some of his own examples of "reform". Work for the dole, while a good idea, is hardly what I'd call reform. More of a tweak really. And while helping disabled people to live independently is a good thing, doing so by cutting their welfare to drive them into the workforce is hardly the best way to achieve that goal. The only example of reform that wasn't Tony resting on his laurels was a suggestion to raise the tax free threshold to $25,000 and then have a single tax bracket from there's to $180,000, but that comes from the Henry review, which was started by the Rudd government.

Tony also said that in a hung parliament the opposition has an even greater responsibility to not just be the opposition, but to be a credible government in waiting, with viable policies of its own. Based on this I'd say the Coalition has a long way to go yet.

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