Working Life
Abbott Government-with Quentin Bryce

Abbott Government’s first year report card


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By the Working Life Team

Friday, 05 September 2014

A YEAR ago this Sunday, Tony Abbott was swept to power as Australia’s 28th Prime Minister with a 3.6% per cent swing, ending almost six years of Labor government.

The Coalition has a handy 35-seat majority in the House of Representatives, but with a hung Senate, it has found it far from smooth sailing in the Upper House.

Nevertheless, in 12 months Tony Abbott has left his stamp on the nation, for better or worse.

READ: 13 things we now know about Tony Abbott

On the eve of the Abbott Government’s first anniversary, Working Life asked 12 prominent national union leaders for their assessment of how the Coalition has performed, and how its policies have impacted on their members.

And on Monday, ACTU President Ged Kearney will have her say.

Acting National Secretary, Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union

Dave Noonan“Abbott’s slash and burn approach is deeply felt by workers in the industries covered by the CFMEU. Young people are hurting due to high unemployment, the record low number of apprenticeships, the cuts in training and support and the ease with which employers can continue to exploit overseas workers instead of giving young people a start.

“He wants everyone in our industries – where the work can be backbreaking – to work longer and retire with less.

“He has no plan for jobs. He hasn’t simply let manufacturing die, he has pushed it over the edge, hurting communities and the economy, in order to punish unions.

“He has ignored the needs of mining communities and backed big mining companies without exception.

“He has stood in our way when we strive to make our workplaces safer, by trying to tie us up in red tape and exorbitant fines – which will be exacerbated if he succeeds in reintroducing the ABCC.

“Abbott’s Royal Commission is a political witch hunt aimed at smearing our union, but the hearings have shown that we are passionate and effective in defending our members’ rights and safety on the job.

“And this is only one year in.”

National Secretary, Community and Public Sector Union

NadineFlood-120x108“365 days: 16,500 public service jobs to be cut; a 19% cut to the CSIRO; a $120 million cut to the ABC; 165,000 public sector workers facing an extreme attack in bargaining; up to 60% of workers’ rights to be stripped from agreements for pay offers of zero to 1.1%; and 75 Commission of Audit ideas for outsourcing and cuts at large.

“There are just too many nasties to count.

“The numbers tell a story but not the human cost. Of what it’s like to lose your job, or to keep it but fear losing your rights. Of a community seeing government services and support get cut.

“Tony Abbott has also given us numbers of hope: of 150,000 marching; of hundreds of community groups opposing his agenda; of 4000 joining the CPSU since the Budget, and of a movement that can and has to grow in voice, power and unity.”

Federal President, Australian Education Union

Angelo Gavrielatos-cropped“The Abbott Government has chosen to spend its first year entrenching inequality in schools by abandoning needs-based Gonski funding agreements with the states.

“Schools will miss out on two-thirds of the extra funding that would have been provided under Gonski and all schools will get a cut in real terms from 2018.

“That means fewer teachers, less support for students and bigger gaps between rich and poor schools.

“The Abbott Government also broke its election promise to introduce extra funding for students with disabilities in 2015, and will effectively cut $100 million from disability education next year.”

National Secretary, Maritime Union of Australia

Paddy Crumlin-120x108“Despite a sales job of a “no surprises, no excuses” government if elected, Tony Abbott in office is more “no regard for and no excuses” to the Australian electorate on the turnaround on virtually every key policy they stood for.

“Industrial relations has seen a virtual ideological jihad against trade unions and organised workers.

“Penalty rates under attack, the dilution of job security for Australian workers through a program to open the jobs market to overseas workers regardless of availability of the national workforce and the assisted demise of Australian manufacturing from cars to canned tomatoes.

“They give no excuses for a vision for Australia where we make nothing and still get overseas labour to soak up what remaining employment opportunities there are because they are cheaper and potentially more compliant.

“Australians do get a bit of special attention though. They have to pay for their university education alone and then look forward to less superannuation, and pension entitlements and more expensive health care at the stump end of their lives. What a gang!!”

Federal Secretary, Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation

lee thomas-120x108“For the past 30 years, Medicare has been the cornerstone of Australia’s system of universal healthcare.

“But after only 12 months, the Abbott Government is hell-bent on destroying it.

“Proposed co-payments for GP visits and other basic health services will make it unaffordable for people to see their doctor, forcing them into already-overcrowded hospital emergency departments, or worse still, putting off treatment altogether.

“Tony Abbott’s pre-election promise of no health cuts turned out to be a lie.

“The ANMF is campaigning against the Abbott Government’s budget through our Lies, Cuts and Broken Promises campaign.

National Secretary, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“In one year, the Coalition Government has attacked Australian manufacturing in an unprecedented way.

“As well as forcing the auto industry out the door – jeopardising the future of tens of thousands of workers — the Government has sought to undermine manufacturing across the country.

“It has failed to commit to shipbuilding, failed to commit to steel fabricators, and failed to support the industry at large.

“Manufacturing has always been the base of Australia’s economy – solid, skilled and a driver of research and innovation which spills across all sectors of the economy.

“Hitting manufacturing, as well as hitting innovation and research, will have long-term negative effects for Australian workers, for employment and for our economy at large.”

National Secretary, Australian Services Union

David Smith120x108“Ordinary Australians won’t be celebrating this Federal Government’s first anniversary and if the Liberal-National parliamentarians have any shame, they won’t be cracking out the champagne and cigars either.

“ASU members are facing the dire consequences of this Government’s decisions along with so many others. In local government, funding is being slashed with job losses and reductions in quality services to the community looming.

“In airlines, we’ve seen the Government try to undermine Australian content laws for Qantas and continuing to turn a blind eye to economy damaging offshoring occurring elsewhere.

“The Government’s so called “asset recycling” Bill to reward states and territories which privatise their assets will do untold damage to our electricity sector, among others, and hit consumers with the inevitable increases that come with profit based private companies taking over.

“The list keeps growing and on the eve of their anniversary, the Federal Government has gifted workers a multi-billion dollar cut to their retirement savings with the superannuation guarantee freeze and LISC cut.

“Sorry Mr Abbott, there was no honeymoon for you and certainly no “happy first anniversary” cards from the ASU either.”

President, National Tertiary Education Union

Jeannie Rae“Despite promises to the contrary before the election, the Abbott Government has outlined the most dramatic changes to the higher education sector in a generation.

“Funding has been slashed, fees will go up, private providers will receive public funding, and students will be charged at market interest rates on their debt.

“These changes will saddle graduates with mortgage-sized debts and create a two-tier system that locks students from poorer backgrounds and women out of the highest quality education.

“Courses will be cut and campuses will close leading to job losses, and more casualisation with four-in-five new jobs in the sector already short-term or casual contracts.”

National Secretary, Transport Workers’ Union

Tony Sheldon-120x108“After only one year, the Federal Government is looking to put lives at risk by “reviewing” Australia’s road safety watchdog – the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal.

“The Tribunal has powers to intervene when clients use economic pressure to force truck drivers and truck companies to act unsafely.

“Truck driving is Australia’s most dangerous job, with a workplace fatality rate 15 times higher than the national average. Yet major Liberal donor Coles has campaigned hard against the RSRT and some Government MPs have described the Tribunal as “red tape”.

“Our message to the Abbott Government is that road safety is not red tape, and the RSRT should be allowed to do its job in delivering safer roads.”

National Secretary, United Voice

David Obyrne120x108“The past year has exposed the Abbott Government’s mean-spirited indifference to low and middle income earners and families. Its persecution of helpless people is somehow monstrous, somehow pitiful.

“The 2014 Budget is striking for its relentless cuts to essential services and increased costs for those who can least afford them.

“The betrayal of cleaners who look after federal building and clean the very offices of the Government that made this despicable decision illustrates their vindictiveness. The dumping of the Commonwealth Cleaning Services Guidelines will see them lose 20% of their pay, on top of a dramatic reduction in working conditions and job security.

“These guidelines were established to protect cleaners in an industry with a long and well-documented history of underpayment, exploitation and unsafe work practices. Thanks to the Abbott Government these hard-working cleaners now face the future with anxiety and uncertainty.

“So much for Tony Abbott’s pre-election claim that no worker will be worse off. But we have always fought. Together, we will face and defeat this radical Government, and together we will win.”

National Secretary, National Union of Workers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“After a year with Tony Abbott at the helm, inequality and insecurity has grown rapidly. The only benefit in Abbott’s attack on everyone (except his own constituency – the 1%) is that people have pulled together and shown that we can resist extremism.

“What comes next is the creative and collaborative process of offering an alternative vision, something that the union movement can and needs to help build.

“With Abbott’s current attacks on the Fair Work Act, and other signals of tearing apart hard–won rights for working people, the attack on organised labour is only beginning.

“Nevertheless, organised and united, people power can win.”

National Secretary, Australian Workers’ Union

Scott McDine-120x108“The Abbott Government seems hell bent on winning the race to the bottom, by undermining Australian jobs and job security.

“Every aspect of the Coalition’s workplace policy – from loosening up provisions against the exploitation of workers on 457 visas, through to punishing the unemployed, seems aimed at undermining our social safety net.

“It’s incumbent on all of us to campaign for quality jobs with decent security, wages and conditions. We don’t want to leave Aussie kids without a future in a jobless wasteland.”

Tell us below how you would rate the Abbott Government’s first 12 months.

READ: 13 things we now know about Tony Abbott

Working Life is a forum to share ideas and opinions about work and life, both light-hearted and serious. The opinions presented on Working Life are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent policies or views of the ACTU.


Creative Commons License
We believe in the free flow of information, and content on Working Life is available to be republished online or in print under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.


    Friday, 5 September, 2014 at 2:52 pm · Reply

    The Government have shown a lack of long term vision for Australia by attacking every gain made over the years in the fields of education, health, environment, industrial relations, international relations, superannuation etc… They have reneged on every one of their promises before the election and still maintain their smug contempt for everyone on less than $100,000 income a year. They have achieved nothing and they certainly have not reduced the budget deficit. The list of woes engendered by their backward policies is almost endless, economically reckless, and leaves me scratching my head in disbelief.

  2. Jillian Lee
    Friday, 12 September, 2014 at 10:34 am · Reply

    As I see it the only promise the Government has kept is to stop the boats and we really do not know if that is true either as we hear nothing about it anymore, it is also the only thing that Tony keeps repeating “We have stopped the boats”, what about all the other election promises they made and have reneged on.
    The only thing Tony is big on is finishing off our manufacturing putting thousands out of work and onto the dole but he is a great guy over seas as he is giving all our work to companies overseas and building their emploment. Would it not be better to keep our manufacturing going with workers paying taxes instead of going onto the dole and taking instead of adding to government coffers.
    Shame the people couldn’t have another vote after 12 months of seeing how the in government has worked and if promises have been kept.
    But then again they are politicians and who would believe one in the first place.

  3. Robert Nathan
    Friday, 12 September, 2014 at 11:13 am · Reply

    The swinging voters of Australia that swung the pendulum in favour of this team of ‘no-talent’ pretenders, should be hanging their heads in shame! Every good progressive move by the Gillard government, in Education and Health, have suffered, as the electorate was warned by the Labor team before the election, This has proved to be so!
    No longer should the political persuasion of Rupert Murdoch be tolerated! ….. This power-drunk mogul’s political agenda is always aimed at installing a Liberal government. With the unneccessary cuts to The ABC, and the Australian Network, which services The Asia-Pacific, Look for this government to present Murdoch with digital control of this Asian area, as a gift for services rendered!
    Labor voters had no doubts of what Abbott, Hockey, and co. would get up to! The swinging voters have to consider ALL Australians in the next election, not just what is good for their personal selves!
    This team of ‘Career Politicians’, as Clive Palmer calls them, should not be allowed a second term!

  4. bill boyd
    Friday, 12 September, 2014 at 1:49 pm · Reply

    Surprise, Surprise! Every thinking workers knew that the times they were a changing when Howard got to power and the labour movement failed the workers when they refused to delete the ABCC from the scene. It is the hidden agenda of the conservative party to destroy the social fabric of this country so that it makes it easier to convince Australians that the USA has the answers to our problems . ( continued push for a republic that will eventually7 become a push for the next state of the USA).
    There is talk of computer voting as this can be manipulated to favour the LNP and the time is coming when this country will see mass revolts from the workers that are not imagined now and will make past endeavours seem like cake walks. The time is now to cause the LNP government as much embarrassment as possible so that they spend time defending their actions
    There is an enquiry into union activity ( witch hunt for political purposes) and now is the time for the combined unions to push for an inquiry into the grubby behaviour and secret deals between the LNP and the corporations ( straight out corruption in Government) as there are daily reports of LNP members being caught with their hands in the till.

  5. John Whyte
    Tuesday, 16 September, 2014 at 9:49 am · Reply

    ABYSMAL!!!! Is how I mark Abbotts score card. The BIGGEST liar we’ve seen in Parliament perhaps since Federation. How can a man drunk on power be at the helm? He is inexorably steering us onto the rocks! His ‘illegal’ witchhunt into the unions will primarily serve to scar him, and his ratbag lying govt. He is the pathetic slave of big business who DONT vote….people do, and it will be people who consign him to the dustbin of history! He absolutely has NOT stopped the boats. He has created our very own Guantanemo Bay on Manus Island. He has embarrassed and shamed us as a nation on the international stage. He has his head up his bum on climate change. He, as the lackie and slave of America, has dragged us into the THIRD invasion of Iraq, at considerable cost to an economy, which according to the grossly inept Hockey, is on fire. He has secretly conspired with the ‘war monger’ beaurocrats, that have massively paid jobs, to grossly exaggerate the security threat to Australia from unknown terrorists, raising our threat barometer to high, based on ‘no clear evidence’ and ‘no imminent threats’, which will only serve to make us a bigger target. This will serve to put the population unnecessarily on edge, mistrusting, and eroding the cohesion our society has fought long and hard to achieve. This is subtle, divisive, and despicable. He has clearly signalled to corporate power that ‘greed is good’, and ‘profit at ANY expense’ is the new mantra. He has created absolute mayhem in the broad workplace with cuts. He has viciously slashed at the fabric of society, leaving almost no stone unturned, in the name of the biggest lying budget in history. If our economy/budget is ‘on fire’ we should surely not be feeding the fire, and spending money like water, but investing in ways to strengthen it. A slash and burn moronic mentality will cause much grief and pain in the electorate, and we can draw comfort that the electorate will undoubtedly turn on him. Considerable comfort can also be drawn from the perfectly legitimate ICAC in NSW, kicking off the cutting of the rot from the political scene, with NINE heads so far, amply demonstrating the rotten corrupt core of the LNP. Bring on the next election!

  6. Tony
    Monday, 25 May, 2015 at 4:10 pm · Reply

    After all the wrecking Abbott and Co have started on Australian workers ,seafarers,airlines cars,ships etc,not one MP has lost one penny in wages,super,pensions and perks.What Australia cannot afford is the “political industry” in this Nation,Too many MP,s that cost too much,bear no meaningful pain.I would like to see just one honest Journalist do a root and branch investigation into Politicians,what they all cost in total dollars,the corruption that hangs over them like a stench,who their benefactors and backers are especially the Libs.There is a National Party but in name only,they are Liberal lackeys and without their crawling support,the Libs would never ever get elected on their own.Abbott is a liar and the worst PM I have ever seen in 50 years in this Country and his Party ,especially the WA Mafia are a disgrace.

  7. Tony Weekes
    Monday, 25 May, 2015 at 4:21 pm · Reply

    After all the wrecking Abbott and Co have started on Australian workers,seafarers,airlines,cars,ships etc,not one MP has lost one penny in wages,super,pensions,perks.What Australia cannot afford is the “political industry” in this Nation. Too many MP,s that cost too much,bear no meaningful pain,I would like to see just one honest Journalist do a root and branch investigation into Politicians,what they all cost in total dollar terms,the corruption that hangs over them like a stench,who their benefactors and backers are,especially the Liberal Party ie Murdoch. There is a National Party but in name on;y,they are Liberal lackeys and without their crawling support the Libs would never get elected on their own.Abbott simply cannot or will not ,tell the truth,he is the worst PM I have sen in almost 50 years in Australia and his Party especially the WA “Mafia” are a disgrace.

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