Some readers have said I have been uncharacteristically quiet on Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme and want to know what I think about it. Well, as Kevin Rudd would say, can I tell you? Yes? I can? Well, I will. I am a strong supporter of it, as it seems sensible and practical; it provides a solution to a long-term problem; the leader is clearly passionate about it; it will probably be popular and win votes, especially among women; and there seems to be no other real solution on the table. But for me, there is also another good reason to support it. Governments these days seem to regard their main function as taking as much of peoples’ money as they can get away with and spending it on schemes that governments believe only they have the wisdom to invent. But on the way through, competing state, federal and local governments churn the proceeds and rake off a percentage to fund an ever-expanding structure of incompetent bureaucracies.
For example, you are taxed to pay for an enormous Medicare bureaucracy to produce the miraculous result that I get free medical treatment when I could easily pay for it myself. But the paid parental leave scheme takes the socially and economically desirable objective of looking after children and pays for it by a payment made directly to mothers. Its advantage over alternatives like tax rebates and government-run schemes is that it pays parents directly to look after their children in those formative months rather than having a vast machine churning the money around, running expensive government schemes and collecting the inevitable government commission. It is not welfare, because the mother is paid what she would otherwise earn and contributes to the economic value of the larger family. Moreover, if this can be started in the formative months, it will engender a new attitude to parenting. Why, some parents might even take up the radical proposal of teaching their children to read and write, appreciate healthy eating and acquire some social skills. Now could others please get behind their leader and say publicly that this is a policy they actively support?
While on the election, one very odd thing that has emerged is how casual the parties seem to be about checking the background of their candidates before letting them loose on the unsuspecting public. In several cases this time, the parties seem to have dredged up some desperate flag bearers who are clearly not electable because their backgrounds are so unsavoury or they are so intellectually challenged. Take Geoff Lake, the Labor party’s dud in Hotham who abused a wheelchair-bound fellow councillor in language that would make Kevin Rudd blush. The checking procedures are clearly so lax that an axe murderer could easily slip through. We laugh at the Americans and their painfully long vetting process, but it certainly avoids the gaffes that have hit our major parties this time.
Meet our new Race Commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane. He is very well qualified, having come from a formative career as a columnist on the Age and a few years pointing out our many shortcomings and our need for cultural awareness training. I suppose we should be grateful for having the light thrown into the darker corners of our lives, but I am becoming increasingly irritated by these people with grand titles talking down to me and telling me that we are all a lot of racists and then going off to host TV shows with charming titles like Mongrel Nation. But our new Race Commissioner at least promises to be an effective one; after only a day on the job he discovered two new forms of racism, which is not bad for a day’s work and an example to other public servants on how to increase productivity. First, there is casual racism. Apparently we are all prone to outbreaks of casual racism which can just slip out on the sporting field or anywhere else when you are not looking. Like Eddie Maguire, who recently likened an Aboriginal football star to an ape, except that Eddie is part of the football, progressive, ALP nobility and therefore got away with a class in anger management. If he were Andrew Bolt, he would be in prison by now. The second type of new racism is cyber racism; apparently lurking behind every computer is a racist in a raincoat and only too ready to be stirred into action and ply his vile trade across the internet at any opportunity. As to how this pernicious weed of new racism is to be eradicated, get ready. Young Tim is working up a raft of programs on cultural awareness, public education, changing attitudes and of course lots of ‘conversations’, which are what you have after going on ‘journeys’ like Kevin Rudd and have revealed to you new truths hitherto concealed from all other mortals. And if you want to be part of these conversations, you already are; you will be paying for them.
Sadness is an unavoidable part of life and it impinges on us all too regularly. In the course of our comfortable lives we should spare a thought for Christopher Lane, gunned down in another cowardly attack in the US, reminding us that John Howard’s gun laws have probably saved us from our own shooting tragedies; the two British girls scarred by acid thrown by cowardly Muslim extremists; the 7 million refugees from the arch monster of Zimbabwe; the millions displaced in Syria and our brave soldiers who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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