Twirling towards freedom

The Best Day of Our Lives

I’ve seen the disaster that this government has done for itself by saying one thing and doing another, Jon. I don’t want to be like that. I really don’t. If we do win the election and we immediately say, oh, we got it all wrong, we've now got to do all these different things, we will instantly be just as bad as the current government has been and I just refuse to be like that… Before polling day you’ll know exactly what we’re going to spend, exactly what we’re going to save, and exactly how much better the budget bottom line will be under the Coalition.” 

Tony Abbott interviewed by Jon Faine, ABC Local Radio, 30 August 2013.

During a pre-election interview that Tony Abbott must now regret giving, ABC presenter Jon Faine pointed out to the would-be prime minister, “Well, it’s the old Magic Pudding argument, isn’t it? You can’t keep taking out, it doesn’t regenerate, there isn’t automatically more there.”

Sadly unable to find a Magic Pudding, treasurer Joe Hockey has found a few other things to cut into: education, welfare, the arts, disability services, public transport, the public service, the ABC, healthcare, indigenous programs, clean energy and conservation. We don’t really know why. Nobody’s been able to find much evidence of a “budget emergency”, either. And even if one had turned up, Abbott still had this pre-election exchange to explain away:

REPORTER: The condition of the budget will not be an excuse for breaking promises?

TONY ABBOTT: Exactly right. We will keep the commitments that we make.

After congratulating the treasurer on his first budget Tuesday night, 7.30’s Sarah Ferguson wasted no time in asking: “Is it liberating for a politician to decide election promises don’t matter?”

Breaking election promises isn’t anything new in Australian politics. I’m sure I wasn’t the only journalist who filed away Abbott’s election eve promise – “No cuts to education, no cuts to health, no change to pensions, no change to the GST and no cuts to the ABC or SBS” – just waiting for him to execute a back-flip.

But never before has a government gone back on its promises with such undisguised glee. When I saw mention on Twitter yesterday morning of Joe Hockey dancing to “Best Day of My Life” before he delivered his budget, I actually assumed it was a GIF. 

Coming in on a wave of anti-Labor sentiment, the Coalition now seems convinced that they can piss on our shoes and tell us it’s raining. The lies are so bald-faced, and the excuses offered up so flimsy that I don’t even believe we’re seriously expected to swallow either any more. In defence of his dance routine, after admitting that the disabled, the elderly and the sick were unlikely to be dancing with joy over this year’s budget, Hockey noted that it is not the best day in his life, “but it is the best day for Australia.” 

In a press conference yesterday afternoon, Abbott said with a straight face: “I think we have fundamentally kept faith with the Australian people.” Well, he might be right there. Many of us expected to be gouged by this budget, and it looks like 99 per cent of us have been. 

Michaela McGuire

Michaela McGuire is a journalist and the author of Last Bets: A True Story of Gambling, Morality and the Law and the Penguin Special A Story of Grief. Visit her blog, Twirling Towards Freedom.

@michaelamcguire

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