Australian Politics, Climate Change, Cuts, Greg Hunt, Kevin Rudd, Liberal National Party, Tony Abbott

Week Ten : Keating Versus Abbott – The ABC Interviews

Last Tuesday night was a particularly delectable affair on the ABC. Kerry O’Brien had the astute honour of interviewing former Prime Minister, Paul Keating, who is one of the most formidable political, economic and social minds of Australia’s history. Now, I may be prone to hyperbole every now and then, but Keating has long been my personal idol, a veritable intellectual behemoth and probably one of the best things to happen to this country.

During the interview with Kerry O’Brien, you got a real sense of where Keating came from, not only a politician but also as a person. He was clearly a man of conviction, vision and ideas. I was particularly impressed when he said “ Having enemies worries some people, for me it is a badge of honour”.  It seems to cut deep into the current polity, which is more concerned with polling than with what is actually best for the country.

Keating was also a man of class. He had the ear of the working people and the respect of the knowledge class.  Yet most importantly, he didn’t try to portray the illusion that he was just the “everyman”, who lacked an interest in cultural and intellectual pursuits like Howard did. No, here was a man with an appreciation for neoclassicism, a fondness for antiquities and clocks as well as a thirst for knowledge. His Prime Ministerial career was far too short, but his legacy in parliament was considerable.

If there was anything to bring me back into reality, it was a recent interview with Leigh Sales,Tony Abbott and the Prime Minister’s pause utterances last Wednesday Night on the 7:30 Report.  The interview kicked off with the apparent mandate for the Coalition’s electoral win – the repeal of the Carbon Tax.  Sales queried what Abbot would do in the event that the bill to repeal the tax is unsuccessful.

Abbott: Well, um, I won’t make the assumption that it won’t get through the parliament. The Labor Party are deeply divided on this Leigh. It said that Bill Shorten himself would prefer to let it through. Certainly, if you’re fair dinkum about supporting worker’s job security, about saving families $550 a year, getting power bills down by $200 per year, gas bills down by $70 a year, you will allow the Carbon Tax Repeal legislation  to go through.

Abbott continued to press the apparent mandate the LNP government has in terms of repealing the carbox tax, despite the fact that the true source of the Coalition’s win was that they weren’t the ALP and lacked their party politics that inflicted itself on Australia since 2007. The Prime Minister did provide assurances to the claim that the ACCC will act as a “price police” to monitor the ease of cost of living pressures. However, considering that the Carbon Price had a negligible affect on the cost of living, I find these claims remarkably hard to substantiate.

Perhaps if you say things loudly enough, the masses will believe it. It seemed to work while the LNP were in opposition.

Sales then addresses the topic of of the LNP’s direct action policy and whether it will be able to secure the 5% reduction in emissions. The Prime Minister was “very confident” that they will be able to achieve the reduction, even though Greg Hunt MP saying on breakfast radio that the 5% reduction will be unconditional. Abbott made no assurances that if the 5% emmissions cut wasn’t reached, that he would increase spending. Rather, the direct action policy is capped and fully costed and it will work. No. Matter. What.

The interview continues with the standard model answers – namely contingency plans are completely unnecessary because the plan will work. Furthermore, anytime the question was raised that the public would be interested in accessing information, which informs Government policy, Abbott responds with derision or pulls out his often quoted slogans of “Stop the Boats”.

I’ve watched the interview several times and quite frankly there isn’t enough wine in my house to dissect Abbott’s responses without falling into an alcoholic stupor. For the sake of my mental sanity, I will leave my analysis there. I do hope that as Abbott’s term in government continues, he will stop blaming the legacy of the ALP and actually start taking accountability for his actions.

Until then, this girl can dream. Oh wait, one of those dreams nearly came true – Kevin Rudd has retired from Parliament, which meant that any attention  directed at Abbott’s woeful interview performance went straight back to the Kevin Rudd for More Kevin Rudd Party. Well played, KRudd.

Next week, I look at the Coalition’s Government’s approach to the so called “asylum seeker problem” over several bottles of white wine while on a boat. I suspect the coalition’s approach to human rights will make me feel even more nauseous than the combination of wine and motion sickness. Wish me well.

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Australian Politics, Climate Change, Greg Hunt, Liberal National Party, Tony Abbott, Uncategorized

Week Nine : Abbott and Hunt InDirectly Acting on Climate Change

Greg Hunt MPI decided to tackle the Coalition Government’s Direct Action Climate change policy for this particular blog post because it was an area of policy I lacked any understanding off. It seemed I was also not alone in my ambiguity – the Liberal National Party Website did little to furnish my understanding of something of critical importance. (LNP: 2013) Suffice to say, the LNP website didn’t provide any meaningful analysis or material as to what the Direct Action policy would entail, rather it was just a broad sweeping critique of the Carbon Tax and the Emissions Trading Scheme.

I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, but a clearly structured policy position wouldn’t go amiss on such an important issue.

The LNP’s position can broadly be described as building a fund of $1.5 Billion over a three year period to pay for a variety of greenhouse gas abatement strategies. It is anticipated that the “fund” will replace the Carbon tax controversially set up by the Gillard Government. (BS: 2013) The LNP are critical of Gillard’s Carbon Tax legacy as apparently it has caused a rise in cost of living pressures and has generally been ineffective, despite numerous reports demonstrating otherwise (SMH: 2013)

As a disclaimer, I thought it would be best to articulate my position on climate change.  To me, climate change represents the most significant economic, social and scientific challenge in modern history. My views closely align with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (affectionately known as the IPCC) who have conducted studies which have found that global warming has affected the way people live. Most importantly still, the IPCC has found strong evidence that the changes in climate are the result of human activity.

I find it incredibly frustrating when we elect to have “debates” about the existence of climate change, considering the strong scientific consensus. The debates between the “believers” and the climate change deniers presupposes that these polar views have equal merit and weight.

They don’t. We need to get our shit together, you hear?

To Quote Dr Ken Hentry, the decision to pursue a “direct action” policy which uses a green army to combat climate change is “bizarre” to say the least. (The Australian: 2013) The Direct Action policy is contrary to the well informed advice that has been provided to Government which explicitly states that an emissions trading scheme is the best way to reduce emissions. If 33 out of 35 of Australian’s leading economists agree that an ETS is the way to go, one would expect that a Government would take heed such learned advice. (AFR: 2013) Unfortunately, Abbott’s proclamations of governing for everyone sound remarkably hollow.

The ALP has recently pushed towards having an Emissions trading scheme as a central policy platform for addressing climate change. (ABC : 2013) It’s a move I generally support. However, Shorten has been criticized for not standing firm on the Carbon Tax and there are concerns within the ALP membership that this policy backflip is a poor move.

The reactions about Shorten’s decision to ditch the tax and support an ETS reflect a long standing ALP policy decision. The Carbon tax was constructed as a way to set up a Government created price on Carbon emissions which will be eventually moved onto the market. Therefore, Shorten’s position isn’t viewed as particularly forceful against the LNP’s direct Action policy, it doesn’t contradict with the traditional ALP position.

Climate change is a complex issue on both sides of politics. For some supporters, the answer seems clear – Just. Do. Something. However, that “something” still remains elusive, even with the widespread scientific and economic consensus. It represents a fundamental tension in modern day democracy, which is fuelled by election cycles, a lack of political courage and vision. The topic of climate change has also been a significant issue for the ALP, with Cassidy describing the issue as positively “diabolical”. (ABC: 2013). Seeing as the climate change issue has seen the political downfall of two Prime Ministers, a position needs to be found by the opposition and that a commitment to the position is unwavering.

Until next time, load up your books, the Direct Action Policy Green Paper comes out over the Christmas break. Don’t look too excited now.te Ch

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Australian Labor Party, Australian Politics, Cuts, Liberal National Party, Tony Abbott, Uncategorized

Week 5: Is that a wedding in your pocket, or is my expense allowance pleased to see you?

Believe it or not, Abbott has been our Prime Minister for a little over a month now. Potentially more frightening still, the ALP hasn’t decided who will be the next opposition leader and, like that  Arts student we all know and love, has requested an extension on the ballot.

Over the past few weeks, Abbott has slashed funding for anything to do with Science, making the decision to eliminate the science department or any other branch of Government that hints to the existence of climate change. Personally, I’m not shocked at all by these announcements and I continue to baulk at people who do so.

Politically Oblivious Friend: Did you know they were going to cut back the science department? I’m shocked and appalled. Plus what about climate change?

Me: Well, Abbott has held the view that, and I loosely quote, climate change is a lot of “crap”. So it’s hardly surprising that he would do such a thing.

POF: But … I voted for the LNP and I expected better.

Me: That’s your first mistake. Never mind. Take some panadol, have a nap. You can even cry into this framed photo I have of Turnbull when he was leader of the opposition. Remember those days? He stood for something, and not just on something or someone. Just think – this could be over in three years if you play your cards right.

POF: Thanks. I feel a bit better now. I’d better go, I think I hear the women knocking on the cabinet door again. God they’re persistent.

One area of political life which hasn’t been subject to budgetary thriftiness is weddings, also known as the great economic stimulant of the Abbott Government. It was recently announced that Prime Minister Tony Abbott claimed $600 to attend Peter Slipper‘s wedding, the very man who holds the dubious honour of being a political pass the parcel that no one ever seems to want. Naturally, Slipper is flabbergasted at the flagrant hypocrisy of Abbott being able to repay the amount he was able to claim in 2006, an opportunity that was never afforded to him and he now faces potential charges for the misuse of cab charges. (SMH:2013) Apparently attending weddings are an expensive business. Attorney General George Brandis and veritable Comedienne of the National Party, Barnaby Joyce also claimed considerable expenses to attend Michael Smith’s wedding. It apparently costs a few thousand dollars in tax payer funding to attend the wedding of a shock jock. ( SMH: 2013 ) Prime Minister Tony Abbott also claimed thousands to attend Mirabella wedding, however in light of Ms Mirabella’s delightful reputation, he should have just kept the money as payment for a community service. ( ABC : 2013)

The scary thing though is not the fact that Brandis apparently dominated the dance floor, but the formerly loud voices of accountability aren’t being heard. I’m not one to say this too frequently, but where is Chris Bowen when you need him? He politely requested the LNP “come forth” and admit they were wrong. Christine Milne  has announced that the Greens will propose accountability legislation once Parliament resumes ( SMH: 2013) however I can’t imagine that would garner much support as both sides have shown how capable they are at helping themselves to the public purse.

There have been public calls to tighten the scope for politicians to claim back compensation. I understand that the Department of Finance and Deregulation specifies that expenses for official business such as “meetings of a Governent advisory committee or taskforce are permitted”. I also understand that claims can be made for “functions representing a minister of presiding officer”.  (I don’t really, but let’s pretend that I do) We should make things much more straightforward and eliminate the legalese – “if in doubt, there’s no pay out”. Therefore, any event that does not relate to the good governance of Australia is not entitled to receive tax payer funding, particularly times in budgetary distress. That’s right, I’m looking at you weddings.

Dr Hewson summed it up beautifully when he said that the LNP were at the risk of loosing their reputations as economic managers by retrieving funds from the taxpayers purse. Abbott will need to take swift action on the issue of MP expenditure in the same way Howard did in 1996-7. It will cost him a few ministers, but if history teaches us anything it’s that Australian voters have remarkably poor collective memories when sport is on the front page.

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Australian Labor Party, Australian Politics, Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd, leadership, Tony Abbott, Women

Week 4 : A Conversation with Gillard and Summers

Credit - Instagram: @theagonisedone and Twitter: @Fiona_MH

Credit – Instagram: @theagonisedone and Twitter: @Fiona_MH

I was incredibly fortunate to be able to attend the Gillard talk which was at the Sydney Opera House last night with two amazing friends of mine. Regardless of your political affiliation, to be able to see a woman of such intellect, passion and charm such as Ms Gillard was an opportunity not to be missed.

Credit: Instagram - @theagonisedone

Credit: Instagram – @theagonisedone

On my way into the Opera House, I turned into something of a fan girl. I walked past former treasurer Wayne Swan, who was wandering around the Quays, and squeaked with nervous joy. I also saw other ABC personalities such as Mike Bowers, with his trademark camera in tow and radio presenter Fran Kelly. It was at that point I realised I watched far too much ABC for my own good.

The opening of the talk was electric – Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” came blaring out of the speakers as Julia Gillard stepped out on stage. What greeted her was an auditorium of adoring fans giving her a much deserved standing ovation. I personally was a bit overwhelmed by the wave of love and emotion that I nearly shed a tear or two. The love in the room for her was simply awe inspiring and I think it was a way for supporters to try to tend the wounds of her time in office. My friends and I were also absolutely delighted that she looked radiant – I think at one point we all swooned and had a bit of a feminist girl crush on her. Gillard looked revitalised, happy and the twinkle in her eye had resiliently returned. Plus, Tim did an excellent job on her hair.

The talk itself was a revelation – her strength and resolve are an inspiration not only to women, but to everyone who has had to endure such hostility. Her charm really came to the fore in the conversations, she was witty, funny and just an absolute delight to listen to.  It was a real shame that most Australians simply never got the opportunity to see that side of her, they were too focused on the vitriol. At least now we will be able to take some time to reflect upon Gillard’s accomplishments while she was PM of a hostile government – they were significant and too lengthy to list here.

Credit - Instagram @theagonisedone

Credit – Instagram @theagonisedone

Looking at Gillard last night, my friends and I reflected upon how different Australia could have been if she was given the respect she very much deserved. But at least Gillard came back into the welcoming arms of her audience and hopefully we reminded her that history will be kind to her, and there were people who will remember her legacy as the First Prime Minister.

After the speech and after having a few vinos overlooking the Harbour, I rewatched the passionated Sexism and Misogyny speech. I remember that day so vividly when I first heard the speech. I was so proud of my Prime Minister to call out the vitriol and the sheer disrespect of the opposition and it was a speech that seemed to resonate with a lot of women, not only in Australia but worldwide. Listening to it again, it was just disheartening to see how minute the progress had been for women in the LNP, with only Julie Bishop in cabinet. We have gone from a female PM, Governor General and growing representation in parliament and the Senate, to just Julie Bishop. It really makes you think.

This morning, my dad proceeded to ruin my breakfast by telling me about what Alan Jones thought about the talk. Apparently he was absolutely livid that Gillard was not only alive and well, but people would actually fork out

Instagram - @theagonisedone

Instagram – @theagonisedone

money to hear her talk. I simply don’t understand Jones’ hostility – his party won, the status quo has returned and the Earth as we know it continues to spin. Leave us progressives to unite and celebrate an intelligent, articulate and highly skilled political leader. His rage also extended to the ABC who kindly decided to broadcast the speech. In true Jones’ style, he called for the ABC to be privatised to prevent this nonsense from being shown to the people. Misogynist, thy name is Alan Jones.

Thank you Gillard – thank you for showing women what is possible and thank you for your service to improving the lives of Australians. History will be more than kind to you. It wasn’t easy being the first, but someone had to do it. Let’s hope that is is easier for the next future Prime Minister and that we all learn to be much more mature about women in power.

I’ll be taking the next few weeks off this blog as apparently I need to study my law textbooks and not the ABC. Hopefully, by that time, Abbott will have stopped the boats, developed a policy position and the ALP will have a leader. Not going to hold my breath on any of those though.

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AusAID, Australian Labor Party, Australian Politics, Cuts, DFAT, Liberal National Party, Tony Abbott

Week Two: The Marriage of AusAid and DFAT

The Abbott Government recently announced that AusAid will be subsumed into DFAT in a bid to reduce “duplication and waste” across the public service.

The decision to integrate AusAid into DFAT will have clear implications upon aid delivery. First, this represents a considerable cut to DFAT and AusAid.  The AusAid Director, General Peter Baxter has already resigned in response to the reforms. It is expected that the merger will affect 1300 AusAid employees, who will see their numbers dwindle by way of “natural attrition” (SMH: 2013) These fears are enhanced after the then opposition announced it could make cuts totaling $4.5 Billion over the next three years.

It is, however,  unclear what this means for Australian aid recipients. Some analysts are expecting that this will mean our aid delivery will become more closely aligned to our diplomatic objectives. Surely this can’t be a bad thing – aid has been traditionally been used to further diplomatic objectives and build relationships with key strategic regions. At least, this is how aid has been traditionally been used as a foreign policy tool. Consider the Marshall Plan, developed by the US after World War Two, which saw the rebuilding of Europe. Or the favourable trade and aid policies afforded to East Asian nations, such as Japan and Korea. That was a mutually beneficial relationship – The US gained access to invaluable growing markets and the recipients were able to benefit from favorable trade conditions and millions were lifted out of poverty as a result.

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Credit : AAP

Unlike many aid organisations, I’m not entirely sold that this is a terrible idea. But then again – this largely is dependent upon how you define “aid” and what its purpose is in the global economy.

You see, some hippies like the Chief Executive of World Vision, Tim Costello, believe that Aid is for the betterment of mankind. Costello has a tendency to go on about “helping the poor” or some other hippy nonsense about feeding the hungry.  (ABC News: 2013).  Generally, this argument is entrenched in the heats and minds of do gooders who believe that people shouldn’t live in absolute poverty. They argue that we have a duty, as members of the developed world, to help those in need.

If that warm, fuzzy stuff doesn’t get you, these Aid loving freaks also suggests that this severely undermines our credibility on an international stage. Archie Law from ActionAid is a proponent of this argument – that by linking aid with trade we are effectively lowering our reputation internationally. He bases this ridiculous assertion on a few telephone calls with key international players, and the way the UN treated him when we had this policy presumably under Howard. (Radio Australia : 2013) Sure, whatever Mr Law, you my good sir are a Law unto yourself.

Other players on the conservative side of the political fence view it slightly differently. Greg Sheridan, Foreign editor of The Australian believes that this represents the most important reform to aid since … well ever.  He believes that aid was being used as a political instrument to garner international support in the UN and a seat on the Security Council. Sheridan argues that alleviating poverty, promoting development and ensuring that this work is in accordance with the national interest is what good aid is all about. (The Australian: 2013)

Correct me if I’m wrong, Mr Sheridan – but isn’t landing a seat on the UN security council in our national interest? Isn’t it in our national interest to develop a benevolent reputation in the international community? To show that we have a commitment to improve the global economy and combat poverty?

Nah.

On a serious note however, I do agree that we need to refine how we distribute our aid. Big aid doesn’t always mean effective distribution and I concede he makes a valid point about needing to target where we allocate our funds. Perhaps we will be able to achieve greater economies by integrating AusAid with DFAT. Perhaps the Abbott Government will push for a stronger, regional focus where our money can be effectively monitored, managed and used to the betterment of the Asia-Pacific region.  As it presently stands, I’m not sold, especially with Abbott’s disappointing announcement of cuts to foreign aid. But that’s not to insinuate it might not happen, after all, I live in perpetual hope.

The central problem of these reforms is that the focus is not about making aid more effective, but about pushing aid further off centre stage, while blurring the lines of accountability. I for one am disappointed – Australia should have a positive role to play in the global community. I quietly hoped that Abbott’s catholic values of charity and loving thy neighbor would shine through.

I was wrong. But we have three years for me to be proved otherwise.

If you want to know more about aid and why it matters, be sure to check out organisations such as Oxfam, Care Australia, RESULTS Australia or ActionAid. If you don’t want to know more, be sure to read The Australian.

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Australian Labor Party, Australian Politics, Cabinet, Julie Bishop, Liberal National Party, Tony Abbott, Women

Week Two – The Cabinet’s Open but the Women are in the Basement

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Source: Tracey Nearmy: AAP, from The Drum (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-05/tony-abbott/4865344)

            Yesterday afternoon, Prime Minister Elect Tony Abbott announced his cabinet and ministry. It was a triumphant conference; in fact his speech was so engaging I only needed 10 cups of coffee to stay alert for the full 15 minutes. Take that for inspirational speeches President Obama. For a man who was just reading a list, he should be nominated a Golden Globe for the number of pause utterances used in a single media conference.

My criticism of his media performance aside, the line up for the next LNP Government was well and truly less than inspiring. The first notable difference of Abbott’s Government was that titles for ministerial positions were much shorter. None of this “Minister of Education, Workplace Relations, Health Care, Shiny Shoes, Tea and Middle Australians for more Kevin Rudd” nonsense the ALP were apparently all about. No sire. In fact, I received an email this morning from the Excessively Long Business Card Association expressing dismay at the state of the new Government.

I am concerned in terms of what the contracted portfolios means for forging clear lines of accountability to ministers. For example, let’s consider the Government’s ill-advised decision to cut Science from the ministry.  The Minister for Industry, the Hon Ian MacFarlane, will subsume this position however this is not particularly clear. We live in a system which is reliant on an absurd notion called Government Accountability. The Executive is accountable to the Government and the Government is accountable to the electorate. Or at least, I think that’s how it works, I fell asleep during Public Law.

The Abbott Government’s ministry strongly sets the tone for the next three years. It is here to Govern with its shiny mandate, from the safe, conservative centre, with limited prospect for substantial reform. Abbott’s ministry doesn’t exactly scream a vision for the future, with science and research /development type portfolios making the cut. These structural changes are concerning for several reasons. First, my  concern relates to the economic viability of Australia in the future. It is anticipated that the Australian Economy will slow down further to reflect the global economic conditions and this will be compounded with the halting of the mining boom and uncertain consumer demand. Some guy called Keynes discussed the concept of counter-cyclical economic management – effectively  now is the opportunity to invest in capital which will put us in good stead to be leaders in the global economy. We need to start creating the jobs of the future and developing the infrastructure to ensure we grow for another 21 years. A government which is uncommitted to the structural reforms needed to ensure that growth will only create future stagnation.

My second concern is that this ministry will shape the type of Australia they hope we will become in the next three years and it looks remarkably like the vision Howard wanted in 1996 – 2007. I didn’t share that vision then and I don’t share it now. The Ministry suggests a strong return to nationalistic sentiment, a compelling example is promotion of Border Security to the cabinet and the elevation of sports in the ministry.

The Abbott Government has also rightly been criticized for the lack of women in Cabinet and ministerial positions. In the Cabinet, we have Julie Bishop and … well that’s about it really. I have tremendous amount of respect of Bishop, she is sharp, fierce and incredibly intelligent. But even this feels tokenistic. There is a stronger showing of women in the outer ministry, with Sen. Fiona Nash (great first name by the way), the Hon. Sussan Ley, Marise Payne and Michaelia Cash. LNP, give yourselves a pat on the back, 5 out of 30 is pretty much 50%. Good show old boys.

Much of the arguments used to counter claims of the poor female presence in cabinet are based on merit. I agree with this argument – to a point. It is hard to foster female talent when there isn’t a quota in place, as there is under the ALP or the Greens. It’s hard to foster that talent when the LNP operates like a glorified gentleman’s club. And it’s hard to foster talent when none of the LNP leaders has expressed any particular interest in bringing women to the fore and nurturing female talent. Of course, quotas and affirmative action policies aren’t the only way to help women make a positive contribution, it can also be attributed to the party’s culture and ability to be inclusive to new, key talent. The LNP has failed to demonstrate any of these attributes and continues to stay loyal to that particular tradition.

But it’s ok feminists – calm your farm. Tony Abbott expressed sincere disappointment about the lack of women in Cabinet. This is despite the fact that he more or less decided the list. It will just take time for the women to keep knocking on the door of cabinet until such a time they break the doors down.

If this were indeed the case, and it clearly isn’t, it would have been fantastic to see women in the role of Parliamentary Secretaries where they could gain the exposure and experience they needed to become fully fledged, Ministerial fighting machines. So far we have Sen. Concetta Fierravanti-Wells. Oh, and a few crickets in the mix. Yeah.

This is incredibly disappointing. It is clear that aside from the electoral buys of the Paid Parental Leave Scheme and Abbott’s daughters clinging off his arms at any available opportunity, we don’t have a government that supports women or the future of the economy. We do however, have a Government that is intending to slip underneath the radar, to bring sports to the front page and return to the idyllic age of the 1950s.  I hope the women that voted for the LNP and the people that wanted better services, better jobs for the future and a stronger Australia pause and reflect that the Government stands for. Remember, we had a woman Prime Minster, a government with the higher proportion of female representatives in our history, disability care, part of an NBN and potentially marriage equality.

What I’m getting at here is – don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos.

And on that note, I’m going to go flick through my binders full of women and knock on a few cabinet doors just to see what will happen. I might even plan a trip to Afghanistan, just to work out how they run Government.

For a full list of Abbott’s first ministry, check this out – http://www.scribd.com/doc/168478869/Tony-Abbott-s-first-Ministry

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