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About Tony Abbott: we hate to say 'We told you so', but ...

By Alan Austin - posted Monday, 9 February 2015


That stench of hypocrisy – worsening by the hour – is from Australia's mainstream media – newspapers and electronic media run by Fairfax, Murdoch and the ABC.

Those 'news' outlets are now beginning to tell their customers what alternative publications have been saying for years – that the federal Coalition does not have the leader, the team, the vision, the policies or competence in economics to govern effectively.

Since December 2009 when Tony Abbott beatMalcolm Turnbull for the Liberal leadership by one vote, the alternative media has sounded warnings. Those were based on solid information available at the time.

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Articles here at On Line Opinion documented the Coalition's policy contradictions, its intention to reverse climatepolicy, confusion over proposed cutsto services, Abbott's intentionto shift wealth from the poor to the rich, his refusalto negotiate with minor parties, his 'whatever it takes' attitudeand the untruthful statements by both Abbottand Treasurer Joe Hockey.

Other new media to alert voters to Abbott's character were Crikey, The Guardian, New Matilda, Independent AustraliaandThe AIM Network.

Lenore Taylor wrotein The Guardian before the September 2013 election,

'Abbott wants to be a prime minister known for both truthfulness and economic management. But he's busy making promises that bring the first intention into direct conflict with the second.'

New Matildawarnedof 'the economic fantasy-land inhabited by the Coalition' and noted that 'the Coalition struggles to separate partisan politics from sound economic policy.'

The AIM Network was blunt:

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'... because we are looking at a litany of instances of lying, deception and bad behaviour over a long period of time, he [Abbott] simply doesn't have the essence of character which is one of the main ingredients in the recipe of leadership.'

The mainstream media, in contrast, ignored the evidence and advanced the message their wealthy backers wanted voters to believe.

The ABCdeployedFairfax chairman and senior Liberal Party member Roger Corbett, just three days before the election:

"I think he will probably be a pretty good PM because he's a very sincere, nice type of human being and I think he will be very dedicated, focused in the job. And we certainly need in the economic times we're about to go into some really clear and good leadership."

The Sydney Morning Herald agreed:

'The Coalition under Tony Abbott deserves the opportunity to return trust to politics.'

Sydney's The Daily Telegraph was more gung-ho, with the huge front page banner, 'AUSTRALIA NEEDS TONY'.

Now, at last, they admit they all got it wrong.

The Daily Telegraphand Melbourne sister publication The Herald Sun ran Laurie Oakes' analysison Friday of:

'a deep feeling of hopelessness among Liberals about the hole the government finds itself in under Abbott'.

Much of 'Abbott's plight', Oakes now laments, 'is due to his own bungles and misjudgements, but his Ministers bear some responsibility. Members of Cabinet's Expenditure Review Committee had a big hand in producing a shocker of a Budget.'

Exactly. But if you are so astute, Laurie, why did you not predict this earlier?

On the Coalition's lack of vision, the mainstream media before the election failed utterly to report the obvious.

The Ageacknowledgesnow, however, that:

'If Abbott has a successor, that person has to give this government a clear, agreeable organising principle ... It needs an overarching story of the world that makes sense of the pain we're being asked to wear.'

On economic management, the mainstream media praised fulsomely the Coalition's credentials. An Australian Financial Review editorial on election eve soothed,

'A strong mandate at the top, especially for a government getting a grip on its own finances, will lift business resolve. That by itself is a good reason for The Australian Financial Review to conclude Australia's prosperity would be better served by a Coalition government.'

The Daily Telegraphconcurred:

'Abbott's campaign shows a party and a leader advancing confidently and with calm authority towards power. A Coalition win on Saturday should immediately lead to action, especially by providing a shot in the arm for business and investment ... But the men and women who are best able to deliver it come from the Coalition.'

This has not turned out as the mainstream predicted. The new media, instead, got it right.

Crikeywarnedbefore the election that the Coalition could not:

'resolve the tension between Joe Hockey's insistence on fiscal rigour and Tony Abbott's "everyone comes out ahead" magic pudding approach to the budget'.

Independent Australiaalertedits readers to the specific risks:

'There are seven compelling reasons why handing the economy over to Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey will almost certainly see a dramatic deterioration in Australia's fortunes.'

Six out of those seven threats to Australia's economic wellbeing have come to pass. Already. After just one budget. (Fortunately, the global recovery has continued and Australia has not slipped into recession – although growth is now slowingalarmingly.)

On economic management also, the mainstream media are grinding their gears into reverse. Friday's editorial in The Australian concededthat,

'Joe Hockey's first budget is in tatters, drained of blood and purpose in the Senate, a casualty of political sloppiness, poor preparatory messaging and internal inconsistencies. The Treasurer is neither a skilled policy expert nor a fierce advocate, so has struggled to make the case to voters or the business community about the government's overarching fiscal strategy.'

On policy matters other than the economy, the alternative media belled warnings for years which the mainstream denied.

Now,The Australian finally acknowledgesthat,

'The Medicare co-payment has gone through a series of rapid and bewildering changes. The government may have to sacrifice the lion's share of the savings promised by its higher education package if it is to secure fee deregulation ... The result is a sense of confusion and policy backlog ...'

Well, what can we say? We told you so.

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About the Author

Alan Austin is an Australian freelance journalist currently based in Nîmes in the South of France. His special interests are overseas development, Indigenous affairs and the interface between the religious communities and secular government. As a freelance writer, Alan has worked for many media outlets over the years and been published in most Australian newspapers. He worked for eight years with ABC Radio and Television’s religious broadcasts unit and seven years with World Vision. His most recent part-time appointment was with the Uniting Church magazine Crosslight.

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