Former prime minister Tony Abbott says the Turnbull government should cut immigration to ease the pressure on house prices and infrastructure, warning it is one of a raft of changes needed if the government wants to avoid losing the next election.
Launching a book of essays entitled Making Australia Right written by disgruntled conservatives, Mr Abbott said it was time to end the “big is best” thinking of federal Treasury and scale back immigration “at least until housing starts and infrastructure have caught up”, in order to ease house prices. He did not nominate by how much immigration should be cut.
He also took issue with the government for wanting to subsidise coal-fired power stations using the funds from the Clean Energy Finance Corporation.
Instead of “pandering to climate change theology”, he said it would easier to take pressure off power prices by abandoning the Renewable Energy Target, a subsidy scheme which mandates that 23 per cent of energy by 2020 must come from renewable sources.
“We subsidise wind to make coal uneconomic so now we are proposing to subsidise coal to keep the lights on. Go figure. Wouldn’t it be better to abolish subsidies for new renewable generation and let ordinary market forces do the rest?” he said.
“Of course, that would trigger the mother-of-all-brawls in the Senate, but what better way to let voters know that the Coalition wants your power bill down, while Labor wants it up?”
Mr Abbott said his proposals equated to those of “a sensible centre-right government” and if Mr Turnbull wanted to win the next election, “that means finding policy that’s philosophically acceptable, economically responsible and politically saleable”.
He said the Humans Right Commission should be scrapped, all new spending vetoed and for the government to hold a referendum at the next election to end Senate obstruction.
He wants the Coalition to reconsider a proposal cooked up by the Howard government in which the government could put a bill to a joint sitting of Parliament without a double dissolution election if that bill is blocked twice, at least three months apart.
“The Senate has changed from a house of review to a house of rejection,” he said.
“Let’s make the next election about government versus gridlock.”
Mr Abbott took several potshots at his successor, including Mr Turnbull’s decision to build the next fleet of submarines in Adelaide for $50 billion.
Mr Abbott, who wanted Japan to build the subs, said the government needed to “ensure that our armed forces are about protecting the country, not just creating jobs in Adelaide”.
And he lightly mocked Mr Turnbull’s innovation agenda.
“Of course, we’re agile and we’re innovative and we’re the world’s most successful immigrant society but Kazakhstan, apparently, now outranks us in education achievement and we’re no longer the place where everyone wants to invest.”
Mr Abbott said the government’s “challenge” was to be worth voting for and to win back the people who are giving up on us like the Making Australia Right authors.
“It won’t be easy but it must be possible or our country is doomed to a Shorten government that will make a bad situation immeasurably worse.”
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