‘The government which stopped the boats can’t slow the planes’, concluded Michael McLaren, the Macquarie Media Network’s rising young star. He was referring to the Turnbull government’s ungracious and hasty dismissal of Tony Abbott’s carefully reasoned argument for a significant reduction in the immigration rate.
McLaren has long identified this as a frontline issue among voters, along with energy prices, seriously declining school standards, the failure to harvest water, crime and allowing jihadists to return, all coincidentally issues on which Abbott, the only potential leader, offers a solution. Politicians generally are now seen as the principal reason why the quality of life in our cities has been so damaged. They would be wise to listen to McLaren and 2GB’s powerful stable of conservative commentators. Not only does McLaren have his hand on the pulse of the rank-and-file, he has shown better judgement in assessing major events such as Brexit and the Trump ascendancy than many so-called experts in the commentariat.
On this occasion, a gaggle of Turnbull ministers had been summoned not to give even a decent consideration to the issue, but to slam Tony Abbott for daring to mention it. They did not anticipate the backlash. Not only have they been exposed for their indulgent and arrogant disdain for the public, they have ensured even more voters are seriously contemplating Abbott’s return to the leadership of the party and the nation.
In not even conceding immigration to be a serious issue, the ministers have only succeeded in demonstrating to ordinary folk what cocooned lives they lead. Not for them the daily struggle onto congested trains and buses, not for them living daily with the fear of crime, not for them the vain wish of buying a house at a price an average family can afford. The Turnbull ministers have shown themselves to be as unconcerned about the lives of the people as the aristocrats at Versailles. The difference is that while the aristocrats were forced into doing that by Louis XIV, the ministers voluntarily chose to turn their backs on ordinary Australians.
The ministers failed to mount a plausible economic defence for the immigration rate, principally because there is none. As economist Professor Judith Sloan explains, the only way to measure the economic impact of immigration is first to see the per capita increase or fall — and there have been falls — in GDP.
Then we must deduct the enormous costs in the provision by the states of massive new infrastructure, as well as the cost to each citizen of the additional congestion, the inadequate schools and hospitals, and being priced out of the housing market.
Unwittingly giving the fullest support imaginable to voters’ concerns, Infrastructure Australia’s chief, Phil Davies, announced days later that Sydney’s population would grow by an enormous 57 per cent in three decades. Melbourne and other cities will no doubt have similarly appalling fates.
Having seriously damaged the quality of life in our cities, the bureaucrats and the politicians seem intent on making our cities living hells. Infrastructure Australia admits that the time spent on our congested roads will double, demand for schools will increase by 70 per cent and access to hospitals, parks and open spaces will significantly decline. So where are the plans for a second Warragamba Dam to provide the water, and what will be done with the mountains of garbage and human waste?
Dismissing the current situation as just ‘growing pains’, Davies stressed that if we want to compete with global cities like Singapore and London, we need to be ‘smarter’ about how we grow. Echoing the Turnbull ministers’ attempt to gag dissent, the unelected bureaucrat declared that we must ‘stop debates about how much we grow’.
As for being smart, surely anyone knows that the smartest way to grow is by not being a glutton? And in any event, when did Australians agree to some competition with ‘global cities’,whatever they may be? (I have read the Googled references, but after wading through the gobbledegook, am none the wiser.)
And what is this competition about and how is it recognised? Adding to their already gargantuan CO2 footprints, will ministers and bureaucrats fly in luxury to some global city to have their names read out of an envelope by some celebrity? Will they weep profusely as they receive a gold statuette in the image of, say, that believer in an over-large Australia, Kevin Rudd?
The second unintended consequence of the disparaging of Abbott is that more people are now seriously contemplating his return to high office.
Abbott’s reaction to Turnbull’s ministers was to declare that he would not ‘cop gratuitous criticism from ministers who are only in government because I led them there’. No matter how much they squirmed when they heard this, they knew it to be true.
‘You’d think a government that’s lost the past 27 Newspolls might be curious about how it could lift its game,’ he reminded them. ‘But no, ministers have gone out of their way to attack a colleague who knows more about winning elections than anyone in the parliament.’
In speaking on immigration, Abbott has made it impossible for politicians to ignore this frontline concern among voters. No matter how much the commentariat squeal about Abbott never coming back, the fact that they so frequently say this only demonstrates how likely it is. With Peter Dutton disappointingly supporting the ministerial cabal, albeit courteously, Abbott has again demonstrated that he is the only person the nation can seriously consider to answer the problems which confront us.
If the Liberal party were like most parties in comparable countries, it would be open, transparent and democratic and the members would choose the leader. Their choice would be obvious. But on this the party has not yet come into even the twentieth century. So the choice of the leader is left to the party room. As the Newspolls roll on and the election approaches, they will realise that their only hope, like that of the nation, is with Tony Abbott.
Subscribe to The Spectator Australia today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Subscribe – Try a month free