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Meagre gruel

Three terms of Coalition government - for what?

4 July 2020

9:00 AM

4 July 2020

9:00 AM

Think back to 2013 when the Coalition came into office. Having won that election, and two more, under three different leaders/prime ministers, and hence having been in power for some seven years, what have these Coalition governments accomplished? I mean that question substantively not elector-ally. Yes, they’ve won three elections on the trot. But one hopes (wrongly, some- times) that politicians go into public life to accomplish things – to try to reshape the country in ways that will make it bet- ter according to the value systems and ideas about how the world works that they bring to the table. Fingers crossed, not too many of our politicians are just in it for the chauffeur-driven limos, the fame, the self-aggrandisement, etc. So in substantive terms, what has this seven- year-old series of Coalition governments accomplished?

Take your time and ponder. I have. And what I’ve come up with is pretty mea- gre gruel. Top of my list, they stopped the boats. Thank you Mr Abbott. And they’ve struck some pretty good free trade agree- ments. (Ditto, mostly.) And Mr Morrison has been excellent confronting China of late and turning his back on Huawei.

But if you try to say they’ve been a tax-cutting outfit, and manage to do so with a straight face, you should move to Los Angeles and look for acting work. We have high indi- vidual tax rates in this country. And as for corporate tax rates, what, we’re the OECD’s second or third highest? Mean- while I’d bet fewer than one Australian in a thousand could name why we had a double dissolution election. It was so fringe, so tangential, that no one remem- bers.

Double dissolution elections should be for big things. Issues that are epoch defining and that can’t get through the Senate with its obtuse, obstreperous, big spending independents. And then there’s the other side of the ledger, the patent failures (and I mean failures for a party supposedly committed to smaller govern- ment, freedom of the individual, the little guy). Here, in no particular order, are the first ten I came up with in two minutes:

1) Spending some 250 billion dollars on useless submarines that won’t be fit for purpose and won’t arrive for decades all to save one or two South Australian seats.

2) Energy costs. When I arrived in early 2005 Australia’s were the lowest in the democratic world. Fifteen years later, over half of them under Coalition govern- ments, we have the world’s highest. One expects Labor to drink the renewables Kool Aid. One doesn’t expect the Liberal party to be over half-filled with renewa- bles, rent-seeking zealots who have done nothing to give this country even halfway affordable energy, but gloat about pumping water uphill.

3) The ABC. Even in my decade and a half in this country it’s grown worse and worse, more and more one-sided. To say it has become the propaganda wing of the Greens party would be a tad unfair. But only a tad because sometimes you have to admit its political coverage could be writ- ten by Labor staffers. Here is a fact. Not a single presenter, producer or key player on any current affairs TV show is a con- servative. That’s not true on the BBC. It’s not true on Canada’s CBC. Yet all of us on the right, half the country, have to pay taxes to fund this billion-dollar-a-year- plus behemoth that hates our views. It’s a disgrace and the Coalition does nothing. Does any reader believe that Mr Trump wouldn’t have fought to fix the ABC, made that a top priority

4) Anything to do with individual freedom. Start with s.18C and the hate speech laws in this country. It’s a flat out disgrace we have to live in a country where offending someone is a pseudo- unlawful offence. Ditto for humiliating or insulting them. Yet most of the current Liberal party MPs in Canberra clearly could not care less. Some of them have said so more or less openly. And that attitude to basic individual freedom has manifested itself with religious freedom (I say that as an atheist you understand, but one who values freedom for them too). Oh, and with the incredibly heavy-handed (and, as each day’s new evidence is showing, needless lockdown) response to the Wuhan virus. Who would have guessed it would be a Coalition government that opted to lock down the country and destroy myriad people’s businesses, livelihoods, and, yes, lives? The Coalition can’t even inject some freedom into our labour relations, which are outdated and ranked 93rd in the world for flexibility.

5) The NBN. What a joke! What a waste of money. It should have been shut down on day one of our side getting into office. If you have principles against gov- ernment-run behemoths, act on them!

6) The universities. I work there. This is a universe with world’s high-est paid and in ratio terms most numer- ous administrators, a wasteland in terms of finding conservative academics, and no friend to free speech (contra Herr French). The Liberal party’s response? Let’s consult with VCs. Ya, that’ll fix the problem. (And for a full, book-length account of the dire state of our universi- ties see William Coleman’s edited collec- tion Campus Meltdown.)

7/8) World’s highest per capita immi- gration. This ties in to the bogus claims about no recessions in three decades. We have been running a Ponzi scheme. There have been three recessions (before the corona virus) in per capita terms. Basical- ly it’s stagnation, low wage growth if any, high taxes, and Keynesianism run riot. Good for the wealthy and big business.

9) Appointments. From the High Court to the Human Rights Commission to the AAT to just about anything our side of politics has a lousy – make that a pathetic – record in appointing conserva- tives to anything. Throw up your hands in despair, readers.

10) This one is more controver- sial but I think the Coalition has done a horrible job handling the Wuhan virus, from the lockdown to being pretty much the world’s biggest spending per capita responders to all the damage the govern- ment itself created.

And that’s just the first ten. Point out any of these to most people on our side of politics and immediately you are presented with the same rebuttal. I call it ‘What About Laborism’. It goes like this: ‘Sure, we may be a pretty hopeless out- fit. We may be looking at our side’s worst political class of people in decades, one unwilling to fight for anything much and one even worse at the state level. But you know what? Labor would be worse. What about Shorten? What about Albo? What about Labor?’ And that’s true enough. True, and yet meagre and exiguous gruel, soon to be made worse in these coming trying times.

Or as John Cleese was wont to say, sarcasm dripping down his chin, ‘that’s high praise indeed!’.

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