"We will keep the promise that we made. It's not the promise that some people thought we made, or that some people might have liked us to make," Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Sunday December 1, 2013 in relation to funding of education in Australia.
Prior to the September 7 Federal Election in Australia, the issue of funding for education threatened to become a "wedge" item for the Liberal-National Party Coalition. The then Government (Labor) was using the Gonski Committee recommendations to illustrate a clear difference in policy - one (the Gonski Reforms) that would provide equitable funding for every student and the existing system that ensured non-government schools that were able to charge fees on top of funding received had a distinct financial advantage over government schools. When the possible wedge became apparent, the Coalition promised to meet Labor's Better Schools funding promises and this was promoted as showing that there was no difference between the parties. Voters went to the September7 election clearly believing that the Gonski Reforms would apply no matter who the new government might be.
Tricky Tony! Right up there along with Tricky Dickie (President Richard Nixon) of so many years ago.
There is no doubt in my mind that, despite Tony Abbott's statement today, his statements prior to the September 7 election and the public relations exercises that accompanied these regarding education were deliberately designed to have people think that the Gonski Reforms were now "set in stone". What Abbott is now saying is "We haven't changed a thing. If you believed something other than what we are now saying then you were stupid!"
Prime Minister Abbott, we expect people like you to "to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth". If we examine your words closely, it is clear that you told us the truth but you didn't tell us the whole truth - you provided us with a statement that could be labelled "suggestio falsi" - a Latin phrase meaning suggestion of
something which is untrue. I'm not a lawyer but I understand that suggestio falsi
are grounds for rescinding an agreement because suggestio falsi amounts to a
fraud whenever the party making it was bound to disclose the truth.
The problem that I have with what we are now seeing from Tony Abbott is that, despite all our hopes for a good government, he is proving the truth of a statement he made many years ago (prior to the 2010 Federal Election) when he said in effect "you can't trust anything I say. The only things that can be relied on are those that are in writing." Like many others, I had hoped that this soundbite was just a throwaway line and that the truth was different.
Clearly I was wrong. Tricky Tony is telling me that he cannot be taken at face value; that I have to examine the fine print on anything that is written and to pin him down to very tight specifics on anything that he says.
Prime Minister I am not stupid and neither are most of the other people who voted for you and your Coalition Parties in the last election. We believed you when you said you would govern for all Australians. We believed you when you said your government would not give us any surprises. We took you at your word and I for one am now bitterly disappointed.
The question I am now asking is "Is Tony Abbott simply tricky or are you downright dishonest?" Either way you are quickly losing my trust. Your actions over the next few years will give us the answer - tricky or dishonest could mean you head a one-term government.
I'd love to know what you think. Please leave your comments below.
More information about Doug Long at http://www.dglong.com