And not just because of a couple of bad weeks for the Abbott Government, but for the long term impact this Federal Government will have.
Conservatives Officially Bad At Economics
Yes, the mood has been set for a defeat in 2016 (unless something truly dramatic happens—like a coup by Julie Bishop). But the damage being done to the conservative brand is deep, and unprecedented in recent history (which of course is the only history that matters to electorates—that and mythological history). It’s not that they’re doing the usual unpopular things, that is, cutting anything with the word ‘public’ in it: school, hospital, broadcaster (as Albo put it), because we would expect that of conservatives, and so would their supporters. No, it’s that they’re clearly failing on what people expect them to be good at: the economy.
Labor supporters know that conservatives have never been very capable with the economy. It just appears that they are because of the work of previous Labor Governments, notably Hawke and Keating.
Our Economy’s Really Not Great
The electorate saw Howard and Costello’s Liberals as good economic managers, and that perception is being smashed by the current government. As Ben Eltham put it, “The fall in national income is starting to flow through to the broader economy. Growth is anaemic at just 0.3 percent for the quarter, in seasonally adjusted terms. Unemployment is rising. Business confidence is falling. Consumer confidence has been in negative territory for nine months now—the longest period since the global financial crisis.”
This will taint the conservative brand for the foreseeable future.
A Helpful Narrative For Getting Rid of Tories
The speed at which this Government has demonstrated their incompetence makes their narrative such a potent weapon to be used in not just their defeat, but the defeat of the mythology that Liberals are better with the economy. Often we hear on the campaign trail things like, ‘I just think the Liberals are better with the economy—and they’ll get the budget under control.’ In a couple of weeks, we will confirm just how false that is with the size of the deficit revealed in the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook (MYEFO).
Abbott Can’t Do Complexity
The budget position cannot be blamed on mitigating factors. Because complex environments are something they’re meant to break through. Remember, he’s a tough man with simple answers. They might try the excuses of falling commodity prices, Senate intransigence or Labor’s legacy, but none will be convincing.
Because the only promise they can’t break is their promise to be a simple and commanding government. They’re the people that would make all things better by removing the carbon price. ‘That’s happened, so why isn’t everything better,’ people will rightly wonder.
This is what makes it all so beautiful. Simplicity was what made him so effective in winning, and it’s what will be his undoing. It’s a great takeaway for future politicians: politics is complex, and three word slogans don’t work, in the long term.
Mark Kenny from Fairfax agrees, “the rampaging opposition leader specifically ruled out using changed budget circumstances to justify breaking promises. Now he wants precisely that room.”
The Recession We Shouldn’t Have to Have
And rightly so. Because the cuts to productive Government spending have affected the economy. What’s needed is infrastructure spending, but this Government’s brought nothing new. The recession on the horizon will be the recession we didn’t have to have.
As they salivated in ravenous pursuit of their unbridled ideological agenda, they were oblivious to the horrified dry-retching of their audience. And now they’re waking up to the hangover. This is three years of pain with a lot to gain in the future for a progressive Australia and for Labor.