There have certainly been some changes in how governments go about their business. In the past, when trying to work out what laws they should make to restrict peoples’ rights, invade their privacy, burden them with more red tape and vaporise their few remaining sparks of incentive, governments had the decency to go through the motions of assessing what was good for the people as a whole. Even if they then did the opposite, which they usually did, at least they could say they were governing for everyone.
These days, they do not even go through that pretence. I first suspected there was something strange going on in this regard when the Rudd government locked itself away with the big shots of the mining industry and asked them what they would like the new mining tax to say. Halleluiah! They devised a tax that produced no revenue! When it dawned on everyone at the next budget that this was the result, we all ran around affecting surprise, when it must have been blindingly obvious that this would be the result.
Now, I see we are following the same course with proposed changes to our media laws. The Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, whom I hold in the highest esteem, has just announced that there will be no reform to those laws unless and until there is agreement between the media owners on what those changes should be. I find this quite bizarre. First, such a freeze on reform would seem to lock out the potential for new media owners; how can there be any scope for new entrants when the overriding concern of the present owners is to keep them out? As Groucho Marx would have said “I would not want to be a member of any club that would admit new members without my permission”. Secondly, discussion on changes to the law have centred on whether the audience reach of a broadcasting licence should be the present 75% or increased to 100% of the population; surely, that is a decision that effects the public and the final decision should be made with regard to that and only that test. The same applies to the suggested change to allow a media owner to operate in radio, TV and print in the same market; again, that effects the entire population and is a matter solely for the government’s assessment of the public good, not the interests of current owners.
Also up for urgent attention is the overlap between the internet and other media and, when the internet is so all-pervasive, the public interest should be paramount. Needless to say, the media has welcomed the deferral until it agrees on the terms of a new regime and that is where the danger lies; when clubs get together, the last thing on their minds is the interests of anyone outside the club; the first thing on their minds is, as it should be, their healthy self interest. If the reluctance to go ahead with media reforms is due to the prospect of a fight with media owners, surely people will vote for good government decisions that benefit everyone.
It was the former Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Tip O’Neill who said: “All politics is local”, meaning that parochial issues always carry the day. He was right. It is also at the local level that governments continue to expand their writ, extract every drop of revenue they can squeeze out of people, waste a lot of it and get involved in things that are none of their business. When I was living in St Kilda and at risk of rising sea levels until Professor Flannery showed me the light, the City of Port Phillip decided that it would leapfrog over state and federal governments by taking over refugee policy. Now I have moved to higher ground and under the vassalage of the City of Stonnington, that body has hit on its own hare-brained, Jo-Stalin-meets-Lewis-Carroll idea of seizing 450 blocks of land owned and occupied by individuals and businesses and turning them into mini parks. The council will not identify the land and will not buy it until it is in the mood, making the property valueless as no-one else will touch it. In the understatement of the century the council describes the land grab as a “non-traditional opportunity” to acquire land. However, as the council has picked up the weasel words of other governments as well as their avaricious habits, it decided at its last meeting to defer the proposal to give itself the “opportunity to further investigate and further explore”.
The hearings of the Human Rights Commission into refugees are a wonder to behold. Not only is it extraordinary to find a government body investigating a minister and sitting in judgment on the policies of an elected government applying laws passed by the parliament, but it is all being done at our expense, again. Not only do we spend billions of dollars to keep illegals out, but if they get here we then reward them by paying for them into the indefinite future, as well as for the never ending litigation stirred up by guilt ridden do-gooders.
Now we apparently have to pay for public hearings by this grandiose commission, including its own counsel, so the minister can be vilified and the commission justify a report you could write for them today and which will be nothing but another diatribe. Is there no end to this nonsense and is it any wonder that people hate paying taxes to keep this absurd industry functioning?
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