The bush is off the radar again

With a federal election to be held sometime later this year, the long election campaign is already under way.

Firing the first salvo was the prime minister with the announcement a few days ago that Australia will withdraw the majority of its troops from Afghanistan over the next 12 to 18 months. This is two-months earlier than previously scheduled. Her announcement will please the Australian public which is unhappy with the mounting death toll.

She is also talking up her government’s achievements, saying most of her agenda has been accomplished despite her minority government needing the support of the independents to get its way.

And it seems there is another factor which will help the government with its election pitch with voters feeling less pessimistic about their standard of living in the months ahead. This pleasing piece of information was found in the latest Newspoll.

According to The Australian newspaper, which commissioned the poll, the big fall in pessimism, despite the global financial uncertainty, is the result of a huge drop in the percentage of Coalition supporters who think their standard of living is going to get worse.

That’s bad news for the Opposition leader Tony Abbott who was spruiking yesterday his vision for the future, which includes reducing pressure on family budgets by abolishing the carbon tax. The reality is, however, the carbon tax has had little impact on the cost of living, and those who have been impacted have been compensated. 

Mr Abbott’s plan also includes reducing pressure on interest rates, but interest rates have fallen steadily throughout 2012.

Mr Abbott wants to protect the environment and reduce emissions through direct action to plant more trees. That’s very similar to Bob Hawke’s 1989 pledge to plant 1 billion trees to tackle other environmental issues, including severe land degradation, salinity and erosion. Estimates are 700 million trees were planted before the program was stopped following a change of government.

The prime minister says she wants to have the National Disability Insurance Scheme up and running by July 1 and deliver further education reforms. It is likely education will feature 

prominently in this election year with the Gonski Report calling for increased spending.

What is disappointing about both New Year resolution messages by our political leaders is the lack of specific references to regional and rural communities. In Mr Abbott’s case he repeated referred to the Coalition’s positive plans. Where then is The Nationals’ policy input for regional and rural Australia?

The bush also fell off the prime minister’s radar which means country voters will need to ensure their voice is heard come polling day or it is likely we will be taken for granted.


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