Guest Notes

Dis-con notes

16 April 2022

9:00 AM

16 April 2022

9:00 AM

How often recently have you heard that ‘Ukraine has changed everything’? It has certainly changed my previously intended vote in the upcoming federal election.

More than a year ago, I had abandoned the Coalition, saying that (apart from his family and church) Prime Minister Scott Morrison believed in nothing. Despairingly seeking some reason to resile from that, on 12 June 2021 in this journal I asked, ‘Why no action on the ABC?’ Perhaps one action that could woo me back to voting for the Coalition would be a strong prime ministerial move to slash the funding of a taxpayer-funded body which, years earlier, I had described as ‘Australia’s own Fifth Column’.

It was bad enough that this suggestion produced no response whatsoever. But imagine my disgust when, on February 6, 2022, the government handed over an extra $84 million to this organisation. Did it think that would ameliorate the constant attacks upon it? Or the outrageously biased ‘news’ which fills its airwaves? That settled it: wherever my vote went, it would not be to the Coalition. But then, as Russian tanks rolled across Ukraine’s borders on 24 February, ‘everything changed’.

Now the election has been called, we will see Scott Morrison and opposition leader Anthony Albanese going head-to-head, each seeking to convince us that he will make the better leader for Australia in the troubled times confronting us. Were the battle being fought on policy grounds, the Coalition, its own policy inadequacies notwithstanding, should at least be able to nudge out a Labor party so bereft of stated policies that it does not want to discuss them. Instead, with unfailing assistance from the ABC, the SBS and most other journalists, it seeks to focus on Scott Morrison’s character, with ‘Scotty from marketing’ the least of the epithets heaped upon him. None of which will alter my intention now to vote for the Coalition after all. Ukraine, as they say, ‘has changed everything’.

How, at this time, could any patriotic Australian contemplate putting our foreign affairs and defence policy in the hands of a Labor government? Whatever Albanese’s own predilections in that area, the Left within the Caucus would prevail. One has only to think of Senator Penny Wong as Minister for Foreign Affairs to get the picture.

Despite, as noted, Labor’s determination to focus on character assassination rather than its prospective policies, two recent statements really give the game away.  At the National Press Club on 5 April, its shadow Treasurer, Dr Jim Chalmers, said first that Labor ‘has no plans’ to raise taxes (apart from a piddling attempt to raise taxes on multinational companies operating here, which even if enacted will yield next to no revenue). He then went on to say that Labor would not feel bound to adhere to the Coalition’s ‘fiscal rule’ whereby total taxes must not exceed 23.9 per cent of GDP – too high a ‘constraint’, of course, but at least restraining it from even greater profligacy.

The first thing to say about Dr Chalmers’s remarkable statements is that his hand-on-heart-and-hope-to-die utterance about having ‘no plans’ is the most well-worn set of weasel words in the fiscal crook’s book (one employed by both sides of politics). A politician says he ‘has no plans’ to do something or other (not necessarily confined to taxes). Later, he does precisely that; but when accused of breaking his word, he flatly denies having done so. ‘At the time I made that statement, I truly had no plans to do’ whatever it was; ‘but circumstances have changed, and’ (invoking John Maynard Keynes’s famous dictum) ‘when the facts change, I change my mind’. So much for Labor’s ‘pledge’ not to raise taxes should it come to office. It is worthless – no more, no less.

Even more of a give-away on Labor’s covert taxing intentions was Dr Chalmers’s second statement. If Labor truly had no intention to raise taxes, why would it need to set aside the 23.9 per cent of GDP ceiling that constrains the Coalition? Is Dr Chalmers so logically illiterate that he cannot see the contradiction between his first statement and his second? Is that how he learned to think while a staffer in the office of that infamous Labor Treasurer, Wayne Swan? Whatever the reason, the logical incoherence beggars belief.

Labor is thus wide open to attack on fiscal policy grounds. But if Morrison had the sense to cut his own ties to it, he could also render Labor vulnerable on ‘net zero by 2050’ to which, at present, both sides are committed. Throughout the developed world, nation after nation is rapidly retreating from that shibboleth. To take one of the most outstanding examples, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who as recently as last November led the charge to the ‘net zero by 2050’ objective at the risible Cop 26 negotiations, is now saying the UK will need ‘a leave pass’ – because, you see, since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, ‘everything has changed’.

Six months ago (23 October, 2021), I wrote here (in company with several other, more distinguished contributors) that ‘ScoMo will lose, thanks to net zero’. But, as the sainted editor of this journal has recently been pointing out, the 180 degrees about-turn now in progress elsewhere on net zero provides Morrison with the perfect opportunity to turn the tables on Labor.

The only question, then, is whether the Prime Minister will have the wit to do so.

He would of course lose some skin from his own progressives, but their anguish would surely be muted during his campaign to keep them in office. Albanese, by contrast, would be unable to follow him – Green preferences, and his own predominant Left faction, would not let him.

So there you have it, Mr Morrison. Just get on with it!

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