While we were told a few days ago that Abbott was going to take a long summer holiday, he now says there will be “all sorts of announcements in the weeks and months ahead”. At one level this is consistent with the proposal in my letter published in today’s Financial Review (see below) that the government develop more meaningful explanations of the rationale of budget and other policies.
However, the last two announcements are scarcely encouraging from that perspective:
- The change in health policy from a mandatory upfront charge on patients by the government to (in effect) a mandatory upfront “charge” (= less rebates) on doctors who treat a (smaller) group of patients may be regarded as “fairer”. And it is estimated to produce similar savings overall. But it appears these savings will still fund the anomalous proposed Medical Research Fund ie no net improvement in the structural budget deficit, no additional deterrent in usage of subsidised health services, and a continued puzzle over the rationale of having an MRF;
- The announcement that $200m will be donated to the Green Climate Fund will not add to total spending because there will be a comparable reduction in spending on foreign aid. But for Abbott to reverse his earlier judgement and say that he now thinks “it’s fair and reasonable … to make a modest, prudent and proportionate contribution” is not likely to improve the government’s political image (see below “PM pledges $200m to climate fund”). And it provides no substantive explanation of policy on global warming and will leave that up in the air. Judging from media reports of divisions within Cabinet on the global warming issue, the donation decision may reflect some kind of compromise designed to do no more than keep the peace.
It is certainly a disturbing development for the growing numbers of sceptics who have experienced 16 years of temperatures which contradict the so-called scientific consensus. Added to that is the report that Lord Stern (one of the originators of the dangerous warming thesis) is telling the Lima conference that it is not necessary to have a binding agreement to reduce emissions – presumably he is saying that because, while he knows that no binding agreement will be reached, he and others like him want to ensure that climate change conferences continue. Abbott should have stuck to his original decision not to send a minister to the Lima conference.
It is difficult to envisage that these two decisions will help improve polling.