This Australian election isn’t really about the economy. That’s not why furious voters will on Saturday bury this miserable Labor Government.
It is more about sin.
Yes, sin is an unfashionable word, but no other explains why Labor is so widely despised and distrusted.
Arguments about deficits don’t explain this anger. Labor boasting how it saved us from recession won’t calm it.
Labor’s greatest failing is that has lied and cheated. It has smeared and divided. And when people protested, it grabbed their throats to shut them up.
These are Labor’s five great sins, sins which make it unfit to govern.
Sin one: Labor lied. All governments lie under pressure, but I cannot think of one that has lied so often and shamelessly.
Labor lied when it denied that by scrapping our tough border laws it lured over more boat people. It lied in 2010 when it said there was “no evidence” boat people were now drowning.
It lied when it said its carbon tax would help stop global warming. It lied when it said the tax wasn’t costing us jobs.
Labor lied when it blamed its record Budget deficits on a fall in the tax take, not on its massive spending spree. It lied when it called its tax grabs “savings”.
Rudd lied in this campaign when he claimed the Coalition could put the GST on food or planned $90 billion of cuts.
He lied again this week when he said Treasury and the Finance Department had found a $10 billion hole in the Coalition’s costings – a lie so outrageous that the heads of Treasury and Finance went public to protest they’d done no such thing.
People hate being lied to. It makes them feel like dupes. And it’s just wrong. A sin.
Sin two: Labor cheated. Rudd won the 2007 election after promising to stop “reckless spending”, take a “meat axe” to the public service and get the navy to turn back boats of asylum seekers.
In fact, he blew the Budget with wild spending on waste. He made the public service bigger. Instead of stopping boats, the navy ferried in their passengers.
Rudd cheated. Then Julia Gillard as prime minister cheated worse.
Gillard, having betrayed and replaced Rudd, won the 2010 election after promising there would be “no carbon tax under a government I lead”. In office she did exactly what she said she wouldn’t.
In 2010, Gillard also promised there would be a Budget surplus this year, “no ifs, no buts”. She cheated again. Her promised surplus became yet another massive deficit: $30 billion.
Gillard also cheated independent MP Andrew Wilkie, telling him if he gave her his vote she’d give him tough controls on poker machines. He did. She didn’t.
Voters hate being cheated. It makes them feel powerless – dupes of arrogant politicians who do as they please. Cheating people is wrong.
Sin three: Labor smeared. It’s not wrong to question the character of politicians because character counts, but smearing them with lies is when scrutiny turns to savagery.
That’s the line Labor crossed. Its MPs deliberately and falsely smeared Opposition Leader Tony Abbott as a misogynist, sexist, thug, bully. They called him nuts, a douchebag and a man who hates women.
Even now Treasurer Chris Bowen smears the Liberal candidate in his seat, distinguished former police officer Ray King, as a man with unexplained links to criminals.
This character assassination is not just destructive of our polity. It is nasty. A sin.
Sin four: Labor divided. Labor has deliberately and recklessly incited hatreds for political gain.
Under Gillard it pitted workers against “greedy” bosses, poor against rich, Australians against foreign workers and women against men.
Sometimes it was absurd, as when Gillard warned women against “men in blue ties”.
More often it was foul. One Gillard staffer passed on an inflammatory falsehood about Abbott to Aboriginal protesters who were then directed to an Australia Day function attended by the Opposition Leader, prompting a mini-race riot.
One Labor ad, astonishingly, even appealed to sectarian hatreds by showing a cartoon Abbott reaching in his wardrobe for a Catholic priest’s cassock.
A government should remind us of our responsibility for each other, not our hatreds. To do otherwise is dangerous. It is a sin.
Sin five: Labor bullied. I work for a newspaper group, headed by Rupert Murdoch, that has criticised these sins of Labor.
Labor’s response has been sinister. It has vilified Murdoch and his papers.
It has threatened the group and demanded critical stories be censored. Worse, it tried to put newspapers under a state-backed media policeman.
Meanwhile, media outlets and think tanks friendly to the Left were granted favors. The ABC had its funding increased and the Grattan Institute and university-run The Conversation were given big start-up grants.
Labor also bullied non-journalists. It tried to pass laws this year to ban Australians from saying things that could offend others on the grounds of their political opinions.
Critics of government policies were rung by an abusive treasurer Wayne Swan or publicly slimed, as was miner Andrew Forrest, called a tax avoider.
Such bullying – such muzzling – is an attack on free speech, the most precious freedom in a democracy. It is a sin.
Abbott, whom I rate highly as an honest and moral man, knows this election is at least as much about sin as the economy.
He tells me Labor’s fall has underlined how critical it is for politicians to honour promises and now talks as much publicly about Labor’s “trust deficit” as its “Budget deficits”.
He’s repeatedly vowed to make no promises he cannot keep.
It’s time Labor learned that lesson, too.
I know Labor has done good things and many Labor MPs mean well. But there must be an accounting.
Only the heaviest of defeats will put a price on Labor’s sins and perhaps spare us more.
Andrew Bolt’s columns appear in Melbourne’s Herald Sun, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and Adelaide’s Advertiser. He runs the most-read political blog in Australia and hosts Channel 10’s The Bolt Report each Sunday at 10am. He is also heard from Monday to Friday at 8am on the breakfast show of radio station MTR 1377, and his book Still Not Sorry remains very widely read.