Posted by: jkirkby8712 | February 27, 2011

Saturday, 26 February 2011 – a brief note on ‘political promises’

My Saturday began with a very early morning delivery of  new washing machine  – I had been asked to fill in at the radio station for the early shift, but had to decline because of this expected delivery, but I hadn’t really anticipated it would be this early!!  Now I’m waiting for my son to come and collect ‘his’ machine [reason for my purchase] to add to his new ‘bachelor pad’ as I saw him refer to it on Face-book the other day! I discovered later that visit would not be until tomorrow.

While I think of it, last night’s second ICC World Cup Cricket match for the day,  resulted in a win for one of  the host nations:  Match  9: Bangladesh  205 defeated Ireland  178  (Group B @ Mirpur (Bangladesh), Friday 25 February].   I see there is only one game scheduled for Saturday,  Sri Lanka vs Pakistan.

Tony Abbott [leader of the Opposition] had this message for the ‘Party faithful’ on Thursday

“Julia Gillard today announced a carbon tax. This is a fundamental breach of faith with the Australian people.  Days before the election, Ms Gillard declared to the Australian public that “there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead.”  Today she has broken her promise – and all Australians will now pay for that broken promise with higher electricity and petrol prices. Let us be clear, what the Prime Minister announced today is a carbon tax. From the middle of next year, Australian families will pay $300 more for power each year. And they will pay 6½ cents more per litre for petrol.  There’s a better way to tackle climate change than a massive new electricity and petrol tax. We have a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by direct action, without driving up electricity and petrol prices”.  I fear that over future months, we are going to hear more about the ‘broken promises’ than about Opposition alternative ‘better ways’.

In fact this whole question of ‘broken promises’ by politicians is a bit overdone in my view. We all know they do it, and for many reasons.  Now I’m not judging one way or the other the Labor Government’s decision this week to introduce a ‘carbon tax’ as a means towards combating climate change etc from the 1st July next year [although I think the urgency of the decision has a lot to do with Labor’s desire to retain the support of the Greens’ Party on that and many other issues.  Political, economic and international circumstances do change over time, and I think it is only correct that government’s react in order to meet those changed circumstances, and at times, that may mean a government has to change it’s direction, it’s plans, and of necessity, ‘break a promise’ that it may have made to the electorate at an earlier time. In this case, I’m not sure if it is justified or not, and there seem to be many different scientific, economic and broad based views on the need for a price on carbon in the manner proposed.

But the question of ‘broken promises’ comes up at an interesting time from my perspective  – I’ve been reading for some months now, John Howard’s autobiography, published last year, called ‘Lazarus Rising’, and he raises this very question in respect to the introduction of a General Services Tax [GST] after the 1998 election.  One of the criticisms levelled at he, and the Coalition Government at the time, was that in the lead up to the 1996 election, when Howard came to power,  he gave assurances that a GST proposal was ruled out in the next term of government if he won that election, and it was described as a broken promise to subsequently introduce such a tax. Howard defends that action in his  book in a chapter headed ‘The Holy Grail of Tax Reform’ and under the circumstances, I consider that defence was fully justified. He writes [on page 305] that:

“Taxation reform was a large piece of unfinished economic business for our country. It was something that I had believed in for a long time……………….I was again doing what I relished most in politics: campaigning for a much-needed reform.

I said that any changes would not take effect until after the next election and, as a consequence, any major taxation alterations would be the centrepiece of the economic debate in the next election campaign. This rendered nonsensical those arguments from the Labor Party that I was being dishonourable in advocating taxation reform when I had previously ruled out a GST. Those critics conveniently overlooked the fact that I was giving the electorate the opportunity to reject the Government if it did not like our taxation proposals. Surely a political party is entitled to change it’s position on a major policy issue without being accused of bad faith, if it submits the change for adjudication at an election?

Debate on taxation reform had occurred fitfully in Australia over some 15 to 20 years. It was not a new issue. Experience had told me, however,  that if ever it was going to be achieved, it had to be delivered by an incumbent government, in a strong political position and in the early stages of its time in office. The Howard Government in 1997 met those criteria.  The enthusiasm of the back bench…saw taxation reform as a cause to fight for, something positive to advocate for the future benefit of the country”.

Perhaps it might do Tony Abbott well to take note of his former leader’s words that ‘Surely a political party is entitled to change it’s position on a major policy issue without being accused of bad faith, if it submits the change for adjudication at an election?’ Maybe the essential difference here is that the Labor proposal has come early in it’s period in office, and unless the Coalition can force an early election, the Labor Government obviously has no intention of taking their decision to the people through an election – I suppose that is Abbott’s point, that the electorate have been misled!  Well, be that as it may, I really would like to see a less negative approach on his part to that and various other aspects of the Government’s programs.  A while ago, we were suggesting that the Prime Minister was been given poor advice as to the manner in which she should respond to major issues in the public. In Tony Abbott’s case it appears to be his ‘own advice to self’ that is causing him many problems these days.

My youngest brother [train driver up in Rockhampton, Queensland] was having a birthday today – 53 years old today,  I think he is!  He must have been working today –  I’m assuming that the rail lines on which he principally travels up there have been repaired and/or were not damaged in the recent Queensland floods – the Rockhampton area was one of the first hit areas early in January.  Anyway, I sent him a greeting this morning, suggesting that he was slowly catching up on me, although I kept slipping away from him J

I believe it will be late  Monday morning, our time when the annual Oscars [Academy Awards], and us Aussies have vague hopes of some successes  – in particular in the case of Geoffrey Rush for his role as the speech therapist in the movie ‘The King’s Speech’ for the award of the Best Supporting Oscar.  I think one of our commercial channels usually does a delayed telecast of the Oscars here on Monday night, but I will certainly not be waiting until then to seek out the results. The King’s Speech heads into the Oscar ceremony with 12 nominations – more than any other film. Australia’s other acting nominees, Nicole Kidman (Rabbit Hole) and Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom), are apparently not rated as having much of a chance, however they are in the last five in each instance, and to me that rates as a good performance base.

Meanwhile, at the time of writing, Pakistan were 3 for 127 in their World Cup Match No. 10 at Colombo in Sri Lanka [Saturday 26 February] against Sri Lanka.  Eventually, Pakistan, who won the toss and elected to bat, made  7-277 from their 50 overs, while the Sri Lankans in response, were never able to score freely in the run chase, eventually reaching 9-266.



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