Article from the Sydney Morning Herald February 22, 2010
Rarely has a government promised so much, spent so much, said so much, and launched so many nationwide programs, and delivered so little value for money and expectation. Two years of Kevin Rudd has produced 20 years of debt, and most of it cannot be blamed on the global financial crisis. This alphabet soup is self-inflicted.
Asylum seekers. Unless the government can show otherwise, it appears that about 98 per cent of asylum-seekers are getting Australian residency. In contrast, the latest figures from the United Nations refugee agency show most asylum applications worldwide are rejected. The bulging Christmas Island detention centre has become a grossly expensive sham and a mockery of a core election promise.
Beijing. Supposedly Rudd's strong point, the relationship with China deteriorated badly last year after a series of serious missteps with Beijing.
Computers in schools. A million computers promised to schools, one for every student. This turned out to be much harder than it sounded.
Debt and deficit. The Rudd government inherited a massive $90 billion financial firewall when it came to office, via a federal budget surplus, the Future Fund and two infrastructure funds. In two years the budget has gone from $20 billion in surplus to $58 billion in deficit. Net federal debt has gone from zero to a projection of between $130 billion and $180 billion. It took the previous government 10 years to dismantle the $96 billion debt mountain that it inherited. It took Rudd one year to build it back up again.
ETS. The Copenhagen climate conference was a disaster. Rudd's emissions trading scheme is abstract, complex, expensive and polls show about 80 per cent of Australians do not understand or trust it. A T-shirt produced by Newcastle steelworkers distils the political problem: "Rudd's ETS: Higher Prices. Lost Jobs. 0.001 degrees cooler."
Fuelwatch. Big promise, empty outcome.
India disaster. Last year Australia degraded relations with the two emerging Asian superpowers.
Juvenile justice. The plight of young Aborigines is worse than ever, with ideology trumping pragmatism. Children are shipped off to violent foster families while government exhibits a mesmerised inertia in the face of pockets of endemic violence.
Kaiser. The aptly named Mike Kaiser, former ALP Queensland state secretary and state MP, became the umpteenth poster boy for the Labor patronage machine this month by landing a $450,000-a-year lobbying job with the national broadband network. The job was not advertised.
League tables. The government's one-size-fits-all league tables for schools, plagued by glitches and misleading data, is another centralised scheme that serves as a substitute for tackling the union-imposed rigidities on teacher performance.
Migration. Permanent migration to Australia surged 550,000 during the first two years of the Rudd government, the highest two-year increase in history. This is at odds with the government's rhetoric on reducing Australia's carbon footprint. It was also never mentioned before the election.
National broadband network. Last year the Rudd government spent $17 million looking for a private partner to co-build the network. The process yielded nothing. The government will now build and operate the network itself at a cost of $43 billion. A money sink.
Opposition theft. The Rudd government inherited the strongest budget position and banking sector of any major Western economy, which protected Australia from the global financial crisis. The government pretends this was all its own work.
Power. The national solar power rebate is a political debacle. The GreenPower scheme has failed. The renewable energy trading certificates scheme is in disarray.
Question time. Question time has blown out by 50 per cent over its traditional running time because of long ministerial answers and incessant points of order, while the time devoted to answering real questions, rather than Dorothy Dixers, has shrunk to less than 30 per cent of question time; a blatant corruption of the process.
Roof insulation. Send in the fraud squad. A good idea gone bad. Rampant false billing and over-charging. Cowboys everywhere. People dead. Houses unsafe. Systemic overspending. A hapless bureaucracy detached from the realities of the building industry.
School spending. The $16 billion Building the Education Revolution scheme is bloated with systemic overspending and over-charging. The problems were encapsulated by a builder who told me: "My company is involved in the BER work and it involves mismanagement, overcharging, schools being railroaded into decisions not in their interests, all hidden behind a smokescreen. It is the country's most expensive political stunt ever." Another money sink.
Tax increases. The federal budget in May will begin to reveal the consequences of panic, hubris, overspending and waste as the government seeks to offset its profligacy with higher fees and taxes. Superannuation was just the start.
Union power. The unions, having bankrolled Labor's election campaign in 2007, have received their payback, with an increase in union rights and powers. Union muscle-flexing is back, from the mining sector to small business. Endemic corruption, blackmail and violence in the building industry was finally curbed by the Australian Building and Construction Commission. Julia Gillard is shutting it down.
Vanity. See B, K, O, Q and U.
Whitlamesque. Spendthrift programs. Empty rhetoric. Self-congratulation. Deficit spending. Debt blowout. Two years of the Rudd government produces 20 years of debt and poses the question: worse than Whitlam?
X Y Z Generations X, Y and Z They will be stuck with the bill.