EDITORIAL: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
How long can the Gillard Government survive?
, December 11, 2010
As the year 2010 comes to an end, it may be useful to draw together some of the threads which have emerged in Australia over the past year, to look forward to what might eventuate in 2011.
The present year began with Kevin Rudd apparently impregnable, the Labor Party in government in all states and territories except WA, and the Greens recognised as the rising power in public life.
Before the end of the year, Kevin Rudd had been deposed by his own colleagues, a federal parliamentary deadlock culminated in a Labor-Greens alliance under new Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and the federal Coalition emerged as a credible alternative government, under Tony Abbott.
Last week's dramatic change of government in Victoria, where Labor suffered a swing against it of over 6 per cent, despite a lacklustre campaign by the Liberal and National parties' opposition, reflects a change in the public mood in a state which has been Labor's heartland for most of the past 30 years.
There were a number of reasons for the swing, which had been predicted in these columns. Some of these were the result of mismanagement and the influence of radical environmentalists.
Voters rebelled against the soaring costs of utilities such as water, electricity and gas; the diversion of country water to supply the cities; massive cost blow-outs on projects such as electronic ticketing on public transport and the desalination plant; the bushfire tragedy; erratic and unsafe public transport, long hospital queues and road congestion.
Additionally, Labor MPs alienated sections of the Christian community through legalisation of abortion, support for homosexual marriage and the use of anti-discrimination legislation to inhibit free discussion on issues such as homosexuality and Islam.
While these issues influenced only a small proportion of voters, it was enough to swing a number of electorates in Victoria, changing the government.
Arising from the outcome of the federal election, there was also a mood against independents who were perceived to have misused their power and against the Greens who had been elected on an environmental agenda but appear more interested in pursuing their radical social agenda on same-sex marriage and euthanasia.
All these issues will play out nationally, in the months ahead.
Elections are to be held in the next 18 months in both New South Wales and Queensland, where unpopular state Labor governments are facing probable defeat. While local factors undoubtedly play a role in both states, there is a general perception that despite rebadging themselves by replacing leaders, policy is driven by factional warlords and ideologues who have pursued a radical environmental agenda at the expense of industries such as forestry, power generation, agriculture and mining, and against the interests of the people.
In 2011, the federal Labor Government has foreshadowed policies which are likely to erode support for the party, even within its own base.
Despite the Labor Party's stated policy in support of the institution of marriage, defined as comprising one man and one woman entered into for life, the Federal Government recently supported a Greens' motion for a consultation on gay marriage (which will certainly lead to legislation), and prominent Labor parliamentarians, including Mark Arbib and the federal Minister for Finance, Penny Wong, have already indicated their support for a change in the law.
With Labor having a working majority in the House of Representatives, and Labor and the Greens having a clear majority in the Senate from July 2011, the stage is set for a rerun of this issue in 2011.
The Greens' Dr Bob Brown has already introduced into the Senate legislation to permit euthanasia in the ACT and the Northern Territory, a move which parallels initiatives by Green MPs in various states to legalise euthanasia.
The Prime Minister has announced a new 30 per cent mining tax and, additionally, a new tax on fossil fuels, including petroleum and coal. Both measures will be pushed hard by Labor in 2011, causing higher prices for both export industries and consumers, and will be deeply unpopular with voters.
Part of the softening-up process is that ANU economist and Labor's climate change guru, Professor Ross Garnaut, is being commissioned to produce an updated report to justify the government's new taxes. Since the failure of the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference in 2009 to set global targets for reducing CO2 emissions, and scientific evidence showing that global temperatures have not risen for the past 12 years, Professor Garnaut will require all his powers of persuasion to make a credible case.
The fact is that most people - feeling the impact of rising taxes and charges, put in place by both state and federal governments, and rising interest rates - vehemently oppose further taxes.
The introduction of utterly unnecessary new taxes could spell the end of the Gillard Government.Peter Westmore is national president of the National Civic Council.