Abbott’s plan of attack: what can we expect?

Tony Abbott outlined precious few plans for government before the election. His immediate plan is to implement new punitive refugee policies. He wants to introduce legislation to repeal the carbon tax on the first day of the new parliament. The Clean Energy Finance Corporation has already been instructed to effectively cease operating.

The Liberals would dearly love to take axe to spending. But Abbott was forced to pledge there will be no cuts to health, education or pensions. For all the talk of a “budget emergency”, the Liberals were cautious before the election, promising to cut only $6 billion more than Labor over four years.

There will be 12,000 job cuts in the public service, 6000 of them by July next year. Abbott claims these will be found through natural attrition. The “efficiency dividend” will be raised to 2.5 per cent, which the CPSU estimates will cost another 6250 jobs.

To prepare for further cuts Abbott has promised to begin establishing his “Commission of Audit” in his first week. The Commission will have four months to review all areas of government expenditure. The Howard government did the same thing on coming to power in 1996.

Abbott has said recommendations could be implemented straight away, unless they conflict with his promises to avoid specific cuts.

There will be the usual vindictive Liberal attacks. Aboriginal legal services face $42 million in cuts, a fifth of their budget. Days before the election we heard plans for a special team to veto funding for university research the government considers “wasteful” and “futile”.

Abbott has released initial plans to attack the unions, including bringing back the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) and setting up a Registered Organisations Commission to pry into union finances and governance.

He wants the ABCC up and running within 100 days, and if the old Senate blocks it until July, he has signalled other measures could be imposed in the interim, including placing police on construction sites. A review of the Fair Work Act will begin the push for more major attacks on workers’ conditions. These may be postponed until Abbott’s second term.

The Liberals already face pressure from big business to go further. According to the Financial Review, “among business heavyweights… the Queensland model [of Campbell Newman’s government] is one they expect Abbott to embrace”.

If unions and the left don’t make it clear we will fight him, Abbott’s confidence to go on the attack will grow.


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