Flat White

Why isn’t Tony Abbott part of the bushfires royal commission – and other missing common sense

27 February 2020

5:06 PM

27 February 2020

5:06 PM

Common sense is certainly not common in Australia’s current political class. If we must have a bushfires royal commission, the obvious person to head it and produce a timely report based on common sense is the man in public life best known for fighting bushfires, Tony Abbott. 

At least the Coalition has come to their senses over one of their most foolish mistakes. In rebuilding fire-ravaged land, they recognise backpackers as playing a crucial role. But not so long ago they tried to ram through legislation so hostile to backpackers that common sense should have told them that it would only result in fewer coming to Australia. Apparently, the politicians did not have the common sense to realise they had other choices. Fortunately, the Senate put an end to the plan to seize almost one-third of backpackers’ meagre earnings —most of which they usually spent in Australia — without the standard tax-free exemption of $18,200.  

This was the same government who shot themselves in the foot and taught the ALP how to steal from self-funded retirees. Common sense would have warned that the result would be that a significant number of alienated Liberal party foot soldiers, crucial for fighting elections,  would leave the party or go on strike. As they did. Fortunately for the Coalition, the ALP opposition then revealed that they would target the SFRs more severely and become, as described here, a government of ‘thieves, thugs and constitutional vandals’. To the surprise of the mainline media and the pollsters, but neither Alan Jones nor The Spectator Australia, they were defeated.

In the light of the recent High Court coup, the government will probably now do what common sense always made obvious, appoint judges committed to applying the Constitution as it was intended. But they are unlikely to do anything about addressing the fundamental problem which has haunted us for over a century and seriously damaged good government, the illicit power any four black-robed adjunct members of the political class enjoy to make the Constitution mean whatever they want it to mean. (The only proposals for reform were published in Flat White last week.)

Instead Coalition politicians will continue to waste time working on proposals for indigenous constitutional recognition and reviving the disaster that ATSIC was.

Common sense should tell them that such measures will be of absolutely no benefit whatsoever to the indigenous people. All they would do is to create a new layer of politicians whose incessant demands and chatter will obsess the media and worse, give the greenest of lights to that powerful part of the political class, the activist judges.

If it’s not indigenous recognition,  they’ll be talking about a reform to face the people less often than now (four-year terms), coordinating Senate terms with the House, or if MHR Jason Falinski has his way, pushing that old standby which even Graham Richardson declares ‘comatose if not dead and buried’, a politicians’ republic.

There will be no mention of real reform, that is, tapping into the good sense of ordinary Australians which the founders recognised by requiring parliamentary plans for constitutional change be approved by the people. Highly innovative at the time and supremely democratic, unfortunately South Australian premier Charles Kingston was talked out of a common-sense proposal to extend this to citizen initiated referendums on any legislation. Alfred Deakin persuaded him that responsible government would effectively achieve a democratic equivalent.

But this was before a rigid two-party system emerged and well before the control of those parties was captured by the powerbrokers. It is a disgrace that Australia has retained this odious Tammany Hall system to a degree greater than in any comparable country.

In the meantime, the first prize for flouting common sense must surely go to Malcolm Turnbull, apologist for the most extreme version of man-made global warming theory which, as reported in this column, is only now supported by about 40 per cent of climate scientists.

His latest widely reported foray into public policy is that it is ‘nuts’ to build a coal-fired power station in Australia. 

It is wonderful that a former Australian prime minister can speak to Australia and the world with such rare eloquence and present such a powerful argument.

Few foreign governments seem to be taking notice, whatever nonsense most publicly espouse. Just as examples, 27 new coal-fired stations are being built in the EU to join 468 existing ones, 446 to join India’s 589, 45 to join Japan’s 90 and 1171 to join China’s 2363. Meanwhile in Australia, against all common sense, we are told by the political class that closing down our six remaining stations will stop global warming and rising seas. Where is their common sense?

On every occasion on which Turnbull has sought power, and on every one of his failed projects all flouting common sense — the fake and flawed politicians’ republic, the safe seat which even Labor refused, the coups, the raid on the defence budget for political purposes including the submarines disaster, retaining the NBN, separating the ownership of water from land, Snowy 2.0, targeting the SFRs and backpackers and ratifying Paris, he has had the foolish support of too many in the political class and the media.   

And next to energy, common sense surely indicates an urgent need to harvest water. With immigration, the population has increased substantially, yet since the Hawke government, any significant program to build dams is off the political agenda. As a result, the population increase has been jammed into the three eastern capitals while most of the continent is emptying. No serious programme of building dams is even on the table.

Australian conservative politicians should look to the example of President Trump who has identified state inaction, especially in California, similar to Australia’s. He has already acted to water 850,000 additional acres and provide up to 130,000 jobs. Common sense clearly resides in the White House.

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