Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Noddy's guide to Coalition vs Labor policies - part one

Note to readers: I am going to leave this as the front post for a little while before bringing up part two. As I get comments, I will post additions. I am interested in the way comments help me tease out issues.

Tonight a few, not especially profound policy comments. In writing, I was thinking of DG's comments on Wallabies & tie colours. Do Australia's pollies need a good spank? where he listed some coalition policy initiatives that he considered to be important.  There he said in part:

I don't think there is any doubt where the Coalition would like to take the country; it wants to wind back some of the daft, lunatic and ruinous policies of the Rudd / Gillard administrations ... ill-conceived policies that seek to destroy the reformist achievements of the Hawke / Keating / Howard years.

Now it would be unfair and inappropriate for me to respond via full post to what DG said. I disagreed in part and responded in comments. But DG did get me thinking, so I thought that I would make some general policy observations here on a number of policy areas. In most cases I haven't done the detailed analysis required for full comment. They are just observations.


Evan agreed with me about the convergence of the main parties. I suppose that's one of the things that i trying to test. Are the Nats different? 

National Disability Insurance Scheme

This is an area where Government and Coalition are in agreement. I haven't worked through the detail, but one weakness strikes me. This is an area where action, case management, is increasingly being outsourced. In the funder/provider model, services can be delivered by either not for profits or profit providers. The aim appears to be to create a competitive market place responsive to the needs of clients.

I want to turn this one on its head. In addition to being a social policy, it's actually an industry development policy. The organisations required for delivery at the present time don't exist. They have to be grown. Can this be done in the required policy time horizon? I doubt it. look for vulnerabilities, risks, on both sides.


This is an apparent area of difference between the two. The Government is trying to lock things in. In reality, I actually expect no difference between the two.

Gonski is a funding mechanism. The "policy" content comes from the imposition of standardised national measurements, the NAPLAN tests. These have moved from a narrowly defined performance measure to another control device. The only difference that I can see between the two sides is over money. I see no evidence at this point of different approaches when it comes to questions of control and measurement.

Vocational Education

No idea.

Higher Education

Beyond every increasing controls and measurement, this is so far a policy free zone. 


No difference that I can see.

Foreign Policy

I wrote no difference that I could see. DG suggested two areas of difference, different attitudes towards Israel and Indonesia. I agree on Israel, the Coalition is likely to be more sympathetic than Minister Carr. On Indonesia?

My Abbott has emphasised the Indonesian relationship. But, or so it seems to me, both sides are equally guilty of saying things for domestic consumption (Labor live cattle exports, Liberal on boats are examples) that then have to be recovered, explained.

I understand the framework of current policy towards Indonesia, but I am not sure yet what a Coalition Government  would do different.

Economic Policy

This area has converged. I stand to be corrected, but I can't see a practical difference.

DG accepted convergence in macro policy, but argued that there were differences in micro policy. I think that's a fair correction and will look at micro policy in my next post.

Industrial Relations

I don't understand this one properly, but is is an area of difference. The interpretation of Mr Abbott's policies suggest either that he has been very creative within bounds or has simply adopted Labor positions. Expect Mr Abbott to be more flexible.

Stop the Boats

The main difference between the two here is that the Coalition is a lot harsher. From my viewpoint given what happened under Mr Howard, that's a problem. That's a personal perspective. I also think that there a practical risks with the Opposition's policy. Again, that's a personal bias.

I will stop here tonight. However, do let me know where I am wrong.


Neil said...

I am avoiding the election this time round, as much as I can, but I did like this post. On asylum seekers we do seem to be on the same page pretty much. I just find it all so sad.

Jim Belshaw said...

Thanks, Neil. I really want to focus on policy, not politics. On asylum seekers and indeed policies, regardless of the detail and variation in approach, policy without empathy and humanity creates barbarity. That's at least as i see it!

Anonymous said...

Either Jim or Neil:

Where are you getting the detail of the Liberal policies? Can you please provide a link to anything specific. And I hope not the Liberal website 20mb PDF; been there.

Just take one that obviously interests: industrial relations. Where is the detail on Mr Abbot's cunning plan?

Or is it just another laughable "stop the boats" one-liner you are analyzing?

I honestly believe I'm not the only ignorant pleb who would like to know where you are getting your inside information on 'the detail' of Mr Abbott's policies from?


Jim Belshaw said...

Hi kvd. My Coalition summary is based on reporting (I read fairly extensively) including speeches except in the case of the NBN where I read the material. I am trying to summarise for the purpose of test.

Evan said...

I agree with you. The majors have converged.

And some of the things they have converged on I find frightful.

Anonymous said...

I'll just confine these remarks to 'economic policy' and 'foreign policy'. As to the former, there is probably broad convergence on macroeconomic policy (except in relation to the labour market); the major differences have to do with microeconomic policy. As regards foreign policy there are quite big differences: to name a few, a Coalition would never have bothered with Labor's costly obsequiousness to gain a seat on the Security Council (but would clearly not now bow out of this). Also, the Coalition has a quite different take on the middle east. Although both parties reject BDS, Carr is taking a harder line towards Israel (and in particular Israeli building in the Judean hills) than the Coalition is likely to adopt. There is probably a deal of domestic politics behind this - given the concentration of immigrants from the middle east in western Sydney. The Coalition too, will go a lot further in building the relationship with Indonesia as it seeks to repair the harm caused by the live cattle trade fiasco as well as to establish a modus vivendi on asylum seekers. Tony Abbott has declared that he wants to make Indonesia the first stop for all Australian Prime Ministers and had pledged to visit Indonesia within a week of becoming prime minister.


Jim Belshaw said...

I suspect that I would agree, with you, but DG might not!

DH, I accept you distinction between macro & micro. I will bring micro up in a later post. I will also put a correction up in this post.

Your comments on foreign policy are interesting. I don't see a difference in terms of fundamentals. I accept that the Coalition is likely to be more sympathetic towards Israel, but have issues about Indonesia. I have attacked both sides on the way that domestically driven policy responses and rhetoric have twisted foreign perceptions; live cattle is a classic example, but so were some of Mr Abbott's comments on turn back to the boats. I know what the general Labor Policy frame is towards Indonesia, but I don't know what the Coalitions are, at least how they differ, beyond the need to try to sell turn back the boats.

Am I being unfair?

Anonymous said...

Unfair? Possibly to the Coalition.

Boats inevitably will be turned back, with or without the acquiescence of Indonesia, as first port of asylum. Since 2010, at enormous cost, Australia has experienced an unplanned inflow of some 40,000 unskilled immigrants with poor or zero command of English and little immediate prospect of gainful employment or wider social integration. Most have discarded their identity documents. Experience tells us that five years hence more than 90% of them will continue to live off social security. Extraordinary (publicly-funded) appeal processes open to asylum seekers are congesting our legal system. While family reunions prevail, the problem will compound. This heavy influx conforms with no known public policy criteria and is unlikely to contribute to social harmony. Something has to give, surely?

My prophetic remarks on the Coalition's intentions about an early visit to Indonesia have been trumped (wedged?) by Ms Gillard's announcement this evening of her 11th-hour visit there. She'll be lucky if she gets half an hour with SBY.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jim - your headings:

Convergence: who are 'the Nats'? Or is that one of your trick questions?

NDIS: I thought existing rates of allowance were to be increased from near-penury to something approaching a humane level? But I didn't see where this involved an increasing army of 'carers' for 'service delivery' to 'clients'? Please don't tell me these benefits are subject to KPI's and all the rest of that self-serving crap.

Gonski: may or may not have been a good idea. But I don't think I'm the only one taken a little aback by the off-the-cuff WA increased offer.

Vocational Education, Higher Education: Any reading I've done for either 'side' is the sort of 'education is a very good thing' pointless comment. Perhaps being policy free zones is actually the better way to go?

Defence: From their website, the Liberal policy position involves purchase of three (3) drones; a green paper on Reservists; a new system of medals for those unfortunate enough to be killed or wounded on duty. Plus free dental care - which is a good thing imo. The Labor party, I'm guessing, would rely upon their past 43 white papers, none of which have ever been actually perused, let alone implemented.

ps re drones: these are the flying unmanned sort; not those amorphous lumps in the background when you watch Question Time.

Foreign Policy:It must be remembered that whatever Mr Abbott has 'emphasised' does not in any way constitute policy. cf 7.30 report where he was quite frank: "unless I wrote it down I was probably lying"

Economic Policy: should be left to the various online pundits. Neither their views, nor the positions of either party actually matter in any significant way, in any event.

Industrial Relations: The Liberal Party will gently roll back those few aspects of what is now left of the shreds that the Howard government couldn't be bothered to immolate. Apart from that, I agree - not much difference.

Stop The Boats: The single most insulting line that Mr Abbott has not only put out, but consistently maintained. The continuing, constant repetition of this one line is indicative, I think, of the contempt he has for the intelligence of the nation he seeks to govern.


ps re 'the Nats': I must confess to a wistful sense of loss from the days of 'Black Jack' McEwen. And in researching how to spell his name, I stumbled upon Warren Truss - which is the first time I've seen his name for well over, I forget how long, because it wasn't interesting at the time.

Anonymous said...

Scratch what I said above. According to this article this morning:


- there have only been two detailed policy announcements thus far - workplace relations and broadband.

It appears as if the others residing on the Liberal website are 2010 announcements. I guess it is fair enough this far out from the election that there has not been more detailed announcements, but the time must surely be approaching for the Liberals to get into a higher gear.

The third policy is about Northern Australia according to the article.


Jim Belshaw said...

Hi DG and kvd. Sorry for the slow response!

DG,first. I will respond to kvd in a second post.

DG disagree with you. At a humanitarian level there have been too many injustices in the current approach, I don't see much difference between the two, to make me comfortable. But on pure economic grounds, the debate has pushed both sides to measures that are costing us an arm and leg. If you take the total budget now spent on border protection and flow on effects, I'm pretty sure we could get a much better result if the political responses were removed.

Jim Belshaw said...

Now kvd. I may not have agreed with Mr McEwen on some issues, but neither he nor Doug Anthony would have allowed the Nats to be so submerged. And no, it was not a trick question. I don't actually know what the Nat's unique policy positions are.

Jim Belshaw said...

kvd, on your specific policy comments, Mr Abbot's approach, and this includes Northern Development, involves lots of inquiries. There is nothing wrong with this despite Mr Rudd. But it doesn't help in the short term in focusing on differences.

On NDIS, I am not an expert. There is more funding. But the overall approach does appear to involve both KPIs and outsourcing. My comments on resource and industry issues come from chats with friends in the area who talk about delivery issues. The existing big providers are overloaded, but those coming behind who have to take up the new load don't exist. It's actually very difficult and expensive to create a new supplier.

In the specific case I was looking at, there is a present large gap. If you pay enough money, supply will come, but its the lags that kill you.

Anonymous said...


Editorial in The Age. Note the reference to the 'Stop the Boats' Liberal position.


Jim Belshaw said...

Very interesting, kvd. The Fairfax press has a campaign on, but it's hard to argue against the line in that editorial. It's actually very sad; I'm sure that books will be written about it later.

The rot began with Mr Rudd and those that surrounded him. If you look back at my writing, you will see my growing concern. Maybe he has learned, it's hard to change basic personality traits, but his re-appointment may in fact be the only way to clear the policy air and to prevent a total rout.

I take no pleasure in saying this. I feel, as do many others that I have talked too, that Mr Rudd's own games have helped bring the ALP to this point. Yet, and this is part of the point of the editorial, we cannot leave Mr Abbott and the Coalition unchallenged. They have to earn their victory, not be given it by happenstance.

The boat people is an example, although this is an area that DG and I would part company. Leaving aside all questions of morality, the costs involved with what we are now doing would go a considerable distance towards funding critical infrastructure. It's grossly inefficient.

We scribblers, and I include you in that class. have limited impact. But, to quote Don Chipp, all that we can try to do is to keep the bastards honest. Honest is not just a question of morality, but the willingness to ask basic questions about the semantic clouds that surround so much of what we do today.

Anonymous said...

Just a follow up on that editorial


- which is fairly indicative, I think, as to where we are now.

It seems people have now made up their minds that an election between leaders Ms Gillard and Mr Abbott will not be 'interesting' - indeed a foregone conclusion, therefore...

Never mind policy positions, never mind track records, never mind the distaste for Mr Rudd - we need to change leaders. Simply because AFAICS that would be more 'interesting'.

And if Alan Stokes worked for me, he wouldn't.