AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEWDont be surprised if you dont hear much from Tony Abbott between now and September. The man who would be Prime Minister appears to have gone into hiding, with his team fearful hell say the wrong thing and his Liberal colleagues worried hell promise too much.
Since the Prime Minister announced the September 14 election date, the man who once wanted cameras to follow his every move has noticeably reduced his media commitments, abruptly walks away from press conferences, and is keeping tight-lipped in Question Time (minus the odd interjection he seems unable to restrain).
It seems that now that the scrutiny is being applied, Mr Abbott has nothing to say.
Last year, Australians endured a political debate mired in the personal, the trivial and, so often, the nasty. Yet beyond the grounds of Parliament House, the desire is for a debate about real issues and real plans.
Labor has set out its plan a plan to ensure a strong economy and support jobs and growth. A plan for education reform, health and aged care and a national disability insurance scheme, and to boost skills and innovation so we can succeed in the Asian Century.
Does anyone know what Tony Abbotts plan is for Australia?
The Liberals spruik a supposedly ready-to-go set of policies, yet Australians have no idea what they are. No details have been provided on substance; how much theyll cost or how theyll be paid for.
The Liberals strategy for electoral success is to make politics a policy-free zone.
All we hear from the Opposition is that theyll release their policies in due course, along with a growing list of excuses to avoid scrutiny. Really, the only thing stopping Tony Abbott from releasing costed policies is Tony Abbott.
Indeed, despite having access to an unparalleled resource in the independent Parliamentary Budget Office, the Liberals are now declaring they can't release their policies or their costings until just before the election.
You don't need another budget update to know Mr Abbotts policies don't add up. He promises more spending and lower taxes but doesnt disclose what savings hell make to pay for his promises.
The only way to get out of this magic pudding world is to make massive cuts. But not only is Mr Abbott refusing to disclose these, he is also opposing other savings measures such as the Governments reforms to the private health insurance rebate and the Baby Bonus to make them sustainable into the future.
This Labor Government has offset all new spending since mid-2009, and, with revenues over five years declining by more than $160 billion, the Government will have to continue do the same post-September. So, Mr Abbott needs to be upfront with Australians about what he would cut to pay for his $4 billion infrastructure promises, his $770 million tax rebate commitment and his article of faith to remove the means testing of the private health insurance rebate, among others.
We do know that Mr Abbott will establish a Commission of Audit, a well-worn Liberal tactic used by Premiers Newman, Baillieu and OFarrell to avoid disclosing their real plans prior to an election and keeping secret the massive jobs, education and health cuts headed their way.
Australians deserve a little more respect from the man who wants to lead the nation.
The upcoming election will be held against a backdrop of a fast-changing world. The central challenge for political leaders and aspirants is to ensure Australias continued economic resilience in this time of change.
How do we enhance the opportunities and lessen the risks for the next generation? How do we ensure that our children can not only compete but prosper in the Asian Century? These are the questions that matter to Australians. And they cannot be answered with repetitious platitudes. A responsible plan demands more than a slogan. It requires real policies that make explicit savings and spending decisions.
So lets have the policy debate Australians want. Reveal your policies, Mr Abbott, and let Australians in on your real plans.