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Opinion Piece

Abbott’s own history wars

Originally published in SBS News, December 4 2013

After years in opposition, the Coalition knows the attack playbook by heart – and it’s determined to avoid the same tactics being used against it, writes Simon Copland.

In his time as Prime Minister John Howard was known to actively engage in Australia’s History Wars. Coming into office Tony Abbott seems to be taking a leaf from his book. This time however, he’s not trying to re-write the history of the British colonialism, but rather of his own Government.

For example, Mr Abbott recently removed a significant chunk of his most controversial speeches from his website. This includes some of his famous speeches, including ones in which he declared ‘climate change is crap’, that we should simply put a tax on carbon to solve climate change, and a speech in which he declared that abortion was “a question of the mother’s convenience”. In the education sphere, in the lead up to Christopher Pyne’s announcement that we would ‘go back to the drawing board’ on education funding, the Education Department scrapped all references to the Gonski School review on its website. It seems as though Gonski has been officially rubbed from Government records.

The moves are cynical at best, or actively destructive at worst. This is a fundamental attempt to hide from their words of the past, clearly an attempt to avoid any type of “there will be no carbon tax under a Government I lead” sort of criticism. And you can see why. After declaring that there would be no surprises under a Government he leads, Abbott has been full of surprises – a ‘boulevard of broken promises’.

But it goes beyond trying to hide from scrutiny of broken promises. The Government’s acts of silence have also moved to shield itself from any criticism of the promises they’re keeping – criticism it happily laid onto the ALP. Moves to silence the debate around asylum seekers for example, whilst potentially having real positive impacts, is clearly designed to stunt any criticism of the Government’s policy – the very sort of criticism the Coalition gave out on an almost daily basis. It is an attempt to hide from its actions, and therefore hide from scrutiny of what it’s doing. The Government has even tried to deny its destructive role in the previous Parliament, and move to stop the ALP from being able to use similar tactics. This is a cynical attempt to hide from the tactics and scrutiny it laid onto the ALP over 100 times in the last Parliament.

The Coalition seems desparate to avoid all the tactics they used ruthlessly against the ALP over the past few years. They’re doing everything they can to take away the opportunities of attack – removing past incriminating evidence, changing the parliamentary rules, and hiding important information.

And whilst I am not a fan of much of what the Coalition did in the past few years – the ruthless attacks on character and the constant destabilisation – the Coalition is showing itself to deserve a taste of its own medicine. Recent policy backflips on issues like Gonski deserve a ruthless attack – the sort of attack Abbott laid onto the ALP for the carbon tax. The Governments tactical moves in Parliament and on asylum seekers show a weakness that deserve to be exploited.

Maybe all these actions are happening due to a sense of guilt. Guilt in what they did in the past, and guilt of what they know is coming in the future. But they can’t get away with it. The Coalition is trying to hide from the attacks it used so effectively for the past three years. They don’t deserve that luxury.

Simon Copland is a freelance writer and climate campaigner. He is a regular columnist for the Sydney Star Observer and blogs at The Moonbat.

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About Simon Copland

Simon Copland is a freelance writer and climate campaigner. In his spare time he plays rugby union and is a David Bowie fanatic. He is a regular columnist for the Sydney Star Observer, blogs at The Moonbat and tweets at @SimonCopland.

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