During the weekend I was yarning to staunch Liberal supporters in several states, and I have never seen so much anger with a Coalition prime minister.
It’s not the potential increase in income taxes via a levy that angers them but rather the fact that they were misled by their leader. The main weapon Tony Abbott used against Julia Gillard was that she lied over the carbon tax. And he could not have made it clearer that there would be no rises in income taxes in his government. And it was that message of trust and predictability that Liberals delivered around the country. Their supporters now feel betrayed.
The anger among staunch Liberal supporters is intensified by the fact that the Prime Minister and Treasurer and other senior ministers in private briefings made it clear, in the year before the election, that they knew the budget had deep problems. Their solutions -- including an end to state and federal duplication, less regulation, promotion of independent contracting and an end to the building company/union cartel-style agreements, and less dependence on the welfare state -- all made sense. Higher income taxes were ruled out.
Last week, in indicating an income tax levy might be coming, Tony Abbott claimed that a five-year levy was not a tax. Everyone in Australia knows that is complete and utter nonsense and for Liberal supporters it doubled the sense of betrayal.
Some Liberal politicians are trying to indicate that a careful examination of the words used in the election campaign shows Tony Abbott did not specifically rule out a tax rise. That makes Liberal supporters even angrier because many of them had conversations with people who have become senior ministers.
What is sad for Australian democracy is that two successive prime ministers have now made clear promises in an election campaign and then dumped those promises in the first year of office (although to be fair we must wait for the budget to determine if and when there actually will be higher income taxes).
In the case of Tony Abbott, trust and predictability were his signature themes. That means we now can’t trust what leaders of the major parties say in election campaigns. It makes a mockery of democracy and election campaigns and is a good way to make someone like Clive Palmer prime minister.
The actual tax probably makes sense given it is important that we bring the budget under control, although as Senator elect Bob Day points out, higher income taxes cost jobs (How the Senate could thwart the audit's proposals, May 2).
If Tony Abbott was going to break his promise he had to be honest with the Australian people and admit that the levy was a tax and that he was breaking a promise, but argue that it was necessary because the budget problem was far worse than he thought and all parts of the community must share the burden. In other words, the national interest is more important than the election campaign.
The job of being prime minister is not an easy one. I suspect that parts of the public service are not up to standard and are angry at the cuts to their numbers.
Bad advice was certainly the case when the Prime Minister announced that purchasing the Joint Strike Fighter would give us air superiority in the region when the American General in charge of JSF operations clearly says that the JSF will not give air superiority. It is the F22 that delivers air superiority (Misguided Abbott strikes out on the JSF, April 28).
Both these mistakes came within a short time of each other. When such events take place in the corporate community it makes sense for good executives to have a short break, but I guess prime ministers can’t do that.