Leading article Australia

Yesterday’s news

4 August 2018

9:00 AM

4 August 2018

9:00 AM

What a week. The so-called demise of Fairfax one day, the threatened demise of Malcolm Turnbull the next. The luvvies must be beside themselves. As the oldest continuously-published weekly in the English language, the Speccie has seen journals come and seen them go. Indeed, even in the brief ten years we’ve so far enjoyed being in Australia, we’ve seen players in the local media scene rise and fall. But we take no pleasure whatsoever in witnessing any decline in either the quantity or the quality of print journalism, and we trust that the good print journalists and columnists of Fairfax either remain gainfully employed or are able to put their talents to creative use elsewhere.

Inspiring this week’s cover by Sarah Dudley and Anton Emdin, Mark Latham is at his biting best as he looks back at the history of Fairfax and draws his own conclusions as to the cause for its decline and fall. And he sees, somewhat surprisingly, an upside where others see only doom and gloom.

But it’s not only Fairfax who look like being tomorrow’s fish and chips wrapper this week. The longevity of Malcolm Turnbull’s tenure in the top job is now looking increasingly dubious following the calamity of the five lost by-elections. (To lose one by-election looks like misfortune, but to lose five…?)

Both Neil Brown and David Flint this week reach a similar conclusion: that the Liberal party is floundering without Tony Abbott playing a key attack role against Labor and Bill Shorten.

As we have repeatedly pointed out, this is not a question of personality, but rather, one of policy and politics. The gulf that exists between Team Turnbull’s ideological cravings and the priorities of mainstream Australia for cheaper energy and a lower rate of immigration is inflicting massive and unnecessary damage upon the Liberal party.

The foolish and vainglorious ratification of the Paris Accord on climate change on the very day Donald Trump became president has poisoned any ability the Coalition has to sell a conservative economic message. Of course, this magazine supports tax cuts across the board, but the political reality is that as soaring energy prices cripple households and small businesses (we are currently seeing record numbers of personal bankruptcies), allowing your only real point of difference to Labor in an election campaign to be a tax cut for the big end of town is – and was – political idiocy on an unparalleled scale. Worse, now even this sensible and necessary policy might get dumped in Team Turnbull’s panic.

The pattern is clear. By choosing to mimic left-wing and progressive policies and values, the Turnbull Coalition deprives itself of any serious weapons with which to clobber Labor.

It’s my health record, Mr Hunt

Health minister Greg Hunt can sell coal to eskimos. But My Health Record isn’t coal, and Australians aren’t eskimos.

My Health Record was legislated by Labor in 2012, but Mr Hunt decided it should go national with an opt-out provision, not an opt-in one.

He approved it being done quietly with no information campaign. He defended its data security, even as hacks and cyber-attacks in Australia, Singapore and Britain proved otherwise.  He saw no problem with police, ASIO and the taxman accessing your intimate medical history.

To his credit, Mr Hunt has listened to the storm of criticism, and is beefing up restrictions on access for non health-related purposes. But he must go further and stop Mr Plod, Mr Taxman and voyeuristic researchers having access rights at all, and also ensure that if you opt out, you can take your children with you.

As it stands, your newborn will get a My Health Record whether you want him or her to or not.

My Health Record is your health record. Only you should control whether or not to share it. A de facto compulsion to surrender personal control to Big Brother is not the act of a ‘conservative’ government respecting personal liberty and choice. Mr Hunt’s tightening of Labor’s legislation is welcome, but if still in doubt, opt out.

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