Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Government Cannot Afford Any More Embarrassments

Is Kevin Rudd losing his grip on the political agenda? That’s the suggestion made by the front page headline of today’s Australian newspaper, following the announcement that the proposed Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will be postponed until at least the end of 2012. The Australian reports that this represents the latest in a series of policy reversals, adding up to the appearance of a government in retreat. When all the cards are put on the table it’s not hard to see why.

Despite the economic success of the government’s response to the Global Financial Crisis, the implementation of the home insulation program has resulted in tragedy and disaster leading to the ultimate cancellation of the program. Details are still emerging about the flawed process which lead to this monumental failure, and none of them are flattering for the government. In addition, the other big ticket item in the economic stimulus plan, the Building the Education Revolution schools construction program, has been revealed to be riddled with rip offs and rorts, resulting in inadequate and often unwanted facilities at ridiculous prices, rather than a once in a lifetime opportunity for real refurbishments.

The promise to build 260 childcare centres has been abandoned, and even the much vaunted agreement on health and hospitals failed to include every state, and in any event will not show any discernable impact on how hospitals are run for another five years. Even the pledge to participate in a series of three leaders’ debates leading up to the election appears to be floating away in the breeze. That in itself might be a minor thing, but it is just one more piece of the picture that Australians will be forming in their minds as they consider their options at the ballot box.

All of this adds up to a series of policy failures and disappointments which can’t help but take the gloss off the reputation of the government. Add to that the concerns about government debt and the budget deficit, and it would seem that Tony Abbott and the opposition have plenty of ammunition as the election inexorably looms nearer. At this point, the government still commands the lead in the opinion polls, but the question is whether that can continue to be the case if there are any more embarrassments between now and the election.

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