When Opposition leader Tony Abbott spoke at the 70th anniversary dinner of the Institute of Public Affairs on April 5, he knew he was among friends.
The IPA is a right-wing think-tank that promotes conservative politics in Australia. Other guests invited to the dinner were mining billionaire Gina Rinehart, conservative columnist Andrew Bolt and Rupert Murdoch, whose father Keith helped found the Institute in 1943.
The IPA is looking forward to the federal elections in September, where it is likely the Coalition will win government and Abbott will become prime minister. In preparation, they released a document in August last year called: “Be like Gough. 75 radical ideas to transform Australia.”
In it they urge Abbott to be as radical in implementing a conservative agenda as Gough Whitlam was in implementing a liberal one.
Their list includes ideas such as: eliminate laws that require radio and television broadcasters to be “balanced”, abandon the paid parental leave scheme, introduce voluntary voting, repeal plain packaging for cigarettes and rule it out for all other products, including alcohol and fast food, cut company tax to an internationally competitive rate of 25%, repeal the Fair Work Act and many more.
This is the kind of Australia they want to create, and although the Coalition’s campaign strategy is for Abbott to keep quiet on the details of his government's agenda, it is clear he agrees with them.
In his speech to the dinner Abbott referenced the document and named several of the IPA’s ideas he would implement if he was elected. “I want to assure you that the Coalition will indeed repeal the carbon tax, abolish the Department of Climate Change, abolish the Clean Energy Fund.
“We will repeal Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, at least in its current form. We will abolish new health and environmental bureaucracies. We will deliver $1 billion in red tape savings every year. We will develop northern Australia. We will repeal the mining tax.
“We will create a one stop shop for environmental approvals. We will privatise Medibank Private. We will trim the public service and we will stop throwing good money after bad on the NBN,” Abbott said.
How many things on this list Abbott can get away with implementing if he gets elected depends on the response he receives. A united campaign by all those opposed to these severe cuts is the only thing that can stop this conservative agenda in its tracks.
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