A House of Cards

Hard-working, middle-class Australia trusted the Prime Minister to deliver. He lied.

Tony Abbott’s budget is a House of Cards. It is built on lies and on the backs of the people he has betrayed.

He promised no cuts to education. He has cut education by $30 billion.

He promised no cuts to health. He has cut health by $50 billion.

He promised no changes to the pension. He has effectively cut the pension.

He promised no new taxes and no tax increases. On budget night we got three.

Tony Abbott has been wearing a mask. For the last three years he has been pretending that he is a knock-about bloke, a man of the people whose word is his bond. The sort of bloke you have a beer with at the pub.

He has staked his reputation on the idea that when he says he is going to do something, you can take it to the bank. Last Tuesday night, that lie came crashing down.

This budget revealed Tony Abbott’s real agenda – a US style health and education system and a repeat of what Margaret Thatcher did in the UK to pensions.

The new tax to go to the doctor will make sick people sicker. It will discourage poor people from seeing the doctor when they really need to.

This will hit hardest in Western Sydney. The top ten electorates for bulk billing are all in Western Sydney. In my electorate 98.2% of doctor visits are bulk billed.

A lot of people in my community are on very low incomes. If their kids get sick they pull out the Medicare card not the credit card. Now all of them are going to pay.

The changes to universities will increase the cost of a degree and create a two-tier system. This is a bad idea. We need more people to go to university and TAFE.

University degrees are already expensive. This will make them more expensive.

It will mean a lot of students will pick the university they go to based on how much it will cost rather than the results they get in the HSC. It will also discourage a lot of young people from going to university at all.

The cuts to the indexation of pensions will really hurt. To give you an idea what this will mean, if these cuts had been put in place four years ago, a single pensioner today would be $1,560 a year worse off. That is a lot of money for someone living on about $20,000 a year.

Welcome to Tony Abbott’s Australia.

John Howard won four elections on the back of what were called ‘Howard’s battlers.’

Blue-collar workers who had traditionally voted Labor and through a lot of hard work were building their own homes and their own businesses.

These are people who get up early and work hard to give their kids the opportunities that they didn’t have themselves growing up.

These people voted for Tony Abbott too. They became ‘Tony’s Tradies’ and they believed him when he looked into their eyes and said he would do nothing to hurt them.

In this week’s budget, Tony Abbott betrayed them. He breached the trust they had placed in him.

These are the same people who will be hit hard by a tax on a visit to the doctor. They will feel the pinch of a tax increase at the petrol pump more than most and they are the ones Tony Abbott is now telling to stay on the tools until they are 70.

Consider Jim. Jim’s 40. He is an electrician who lives in Penrith and he drives his ute up and down the M4 motorway every day, trying to build his fledgling small business into something that he could hand over to his son or daughter one day.

Jim will now have to pay more for the tank of fuel he goes through every two days, he will have to get his wallet out every time his kids get sick, and he’s worried that his crook knees from years of climbing up and down ladders won’t carry him through to Tony Abbott’s new retirement age of 70.

Jim is not unique, Australia is full of people like Jim, people who trusted Tony Abbott before the election when he said he had their backs.

It is these people who Tony Abbott betrayed last week and it will be these people who will ultimately decide whether Tony Abbott’s House of Cards comes crashing down at the next election.

This piece was published in The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday 21st May 2014.