Brown Study

Brown study

14 December 2019

9:00 AM

14 December 2019

9:00 AM

The newly elected Morrison government is now just over six months old, so it is probably a good time for a trial balance to see how they are going. And a good starting point must be the top, at the position of the prime minister himself. All the indications are that Scott Morrison has settled into his job, is in control, has no rivals and seems to have the unified support of his party. That augers well for him, the Liberals and the stability of the government. The verdict: no problem there.

Then, close to the top comes the public service and the announcement last week of the big shakeup, reducing the number of federal departments and streamlining their functions. It is probably, like the curate’s egg in Victorian novels, good in parts. It is certainly good if it makes things more efficient, which it presumably will. But did it really deserve the accolades showered on it as if modern government was being invented for the first time? I doubt it. The problems with it are two-fold. The first is that the more concentration that is given to the public service, the less attention there must be to the private sector or, more precisely, to individuals who just want to go about their business. And that business is acquiring assets, not registering for handouts. Indeed, the public service, even if it becomes more efficient at delivering handouts is not going to give the economy the kickstart that it needs, as only individuals doing their own things can provide that sort of stimulus. Secondly, what a pity it was that the first major event since the re-election of a free enterprise government was to eulogise, not free enterprise, but the delivery of government services, which are essentially mendicant. So, the verdict here: not bad, but don’t get mesmerised by it.

Next, the government increasingly looks and sounds as if it has already forgotten why it was elected and how that miracle came about. The electorate rejected the dreamworld of too many proposed changes too soon, especially changes that might affect their material well-being and prosperity. They will go along with some reformist notions, but they recognise that work, investment, prosperity and scope for advancement are paramount, especially their own. Nor was this commitment just a flash in the pan or a convenient notion to get them through the Saturday of an election; it is deep- seated and it is permanent. An important part of it is the role of older citizens. So, after a successful campaign that did an amazing job of recognising their worth, it was odd to find Josh Frydenberg wandering off on a tangent of his own where the same citizens were told to look forward to a bleak world where they would have to work longer! The real lesson here is to keep coming back to the themes that did so well in the election campaign and not to worry about adverse reaction from the media or so-called experts.

Here, then, are a few themes that should be pursued, consistently with the approach taken at the last election. Immigration numbers should be reduced substantially and particularly the numbers of refugees. And the strongest advocates for reductions in those numbers will come from recent arrivals themselves. Indeed, as they live in the outer dormitory suburbs, they suffer more from traffic jams and inadequate services than your average journalist or MP. Then there must be something done about stagnant wage growth; here, the good news is that there is something that can be done. Exemption from awards and enterprise agreements should be permitted for limited free bargaining by small groups of employees; the only way that individuals can get a fair price for their labour is to bargain for it. No, it is not Workchoices; it is common sense and it is giving people freedom to run their own lives.

The next big issue that requires attention is Aboriginal affairs. It is starting to smother this country like a miasma.

Those who say they feel their grip on their own country is slipping because of it – the same people who voted for the Coalition – are not extremists but realists. The government must therefore stop the Treaty and Voice nonsense which grows louder and worse every day; there are already demands for reparations which will drown this country in litigation and compensation if it is not stopped. The government need only reassert its primacy over treaties to achieve a lot, but it remains silent and very soon it will be too late. Also, under the same heading, there should be a stronger stand against the republic push and against any changes to Australia Day and other national symbols. The verdict on these issues: there is a danger of forgetting why the government won the 2019 election and who voted for it.

Finally, the tricky issue that grows more significant by the day is the environment. It is made the more difficult because of the left-wing disposition that the issue is taking. The trend in public opinion is that more positive recognition by and action from the government is needed; if nothing else, bushfires have guaranteed this trend. The trouble is that if there is a policy at the present, and I don’t know what it is, it is not presented either as clearly or as forcefully as it should be. It has also got tangled up with the presumed minister, Angus Taylor, who is simply not getting the message or indeed any message across, other than that he seems to get into extraordinary trouble. Of course, whatever is done on the environment will never satisfy the feral Left. But some imaginative proposals, short of the left-wing hysterical agenda of banning coal and its export and destroying our economy, are urgent and will be well-received. How about starting with an honest appraisal of nuclear power?

The verdict overall on the first six months: scope for improvement.

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