Brilliant writing. Essential reading.
The senate is the problem. It is no longer a house of review but a house of resistance. They see themselves as a shadow government. Take the new senator Tim Storrer for example. Been in the place for 5 minutes. Literally. He’s the junior woodchuck who knocked the tax bill on the head yesterday. Storrer came into the senate only last month as part of the Xenophon team due to a citizenship problem with the previous candidate and then jumped ship (same as the Pauline Hanson candidate) to become an independent last week.
Storrer was the 4th and final candidate on the Xenophon ticket and got a mere 189 votes at the 2016 election. Like so many others he is simply grandstanding and gaming the system
“…..Consider Victoria, home to the world’s most liveable city. The last state Liberal government took almost four years to get around to signing contracts for its most important piece of infrastructure. The East West Link would have connected the two halves of Melbourne and greatly enhanced the efficiency of the city. It would have helped the Liberal-voting eastern suburbs more than other parts of Melbourne.
A great and dishonest campaign was run against it, led naturally by the Greens. At first Daniel Andrews said if he were elected he would have to honour contracts signed by a previous government. But under pressure as the election approached, he promised to tear up the contracts.
He duly did this and spent about $1 billion of state money to get nothing. Infrastructure Australia has just renominated the link as a critically important project.
Now, the Andrews government’s main big proposed infrastructure is the West Gate Tunnel. It is useful to all of Melbourne but will benefit most the Labor-voting western suburbs.
The Greens are opposed, of course, because they are essentially an anti-development, anti-human, nihilist and extremist political force. But behold! The Victorian Liberals are now opposed to this project as well on some specious grounds, and even voted in the upper house to deny permission for it to continue.
The Andrews government would well merit defeat at the next election. Presumably then you could conceivably get a worst-case scenario in which neither project goes ahead. And the poor, blighted, innocent citizens of Melbourne would have gone a decade with precious little new, big, serious infrastructure.
In that time, Melbourne’s population will have grown by more than a million people. This is why so many people have turned against immigration. As I wrote last Saturday, I believe profoundly that Australia needs a much bigger population, not least for national security. But as readers pointed out to me with great justice, we cannot do this unless we are much more energetic about infrastructure. I would put it more grandly and call it nation building.
The Australian affliction today is that our politics has lost all ambition for national development. The only ambition left is for redistribution and virtue signalling on contentious social issues.
No leader is addressing the crisis in our political culture.
If the Turnbull government should come to an end at the next election, one central question for our national culture would be: what national development have we got from six years of pro-business, pro-development, centre-right government?
The Liberals came into office talking about northern development. In six years, what new town has been started in the north? From Brisbane to Cape York, all that water doing nothing. Apart from the narrow needs of some minerals projects, what has the federal government done for northern development at all?
When the Coalition was first elected it talked at length about building new dams. What new dams have been built?
As a commentator I thought that the Liberals were right to oppose Labor’s emissions trading scheme and then its carbon tax. But it never occurred to me that was all they were going to do about energy. The Liberals are now just about as responsible for our catastrophic energy prices as Labor.
It’s difficult for the public to penetrate the flummery that both government and opposition talk about energy policy, but let’s be straightforwardly empirical about it. Since the Coalition was elected, how many new fossil fuel-powered electricity stations have been built? The Coalition talks about the promise of the latest generation of ultra-high efficiency, low-emissions coal-fired power stations. We are the greatest coal exporters in the world.
Yet where is the ultra-high-efficiency coal-fired power station built under the Coalition?
As the last resort of all desperate causes, and of many Third World governments that cannot get their infrastructure houses in order, the latest and perhaps only chance for the survival of a prospect for new coal technology is the move to Chinese money and Chinese ownership.
We have also had two terms of Coalition government with no advance on industrial relations reform. What about tax reform? It is an indictment of the overall successful Howard years that the Howard government never lowered the top marginal income tax rate or cut the corporate tax rate. Donald Trump can do it. Tony Blair did it. Paul Keating did it. But the Coalition government could never do it in Australia.
The corporate tax cut proposed by the Turnbull government, which would certainly be good for investment, jobs and growth — in other words, for nation building — is itself astonishingly anaemic because it is to be phased in on the never-never. Promises about future spending or tax levels in 10 years are as close to meaningless as anything can be.
So here we have a centre-right, pro-business government, at a time of low unemployment, that in effect has been able to do almost nothing. As the relevant prime ministers, Tony Abbott and Malcolm Turnbull must take ultimate responsibility for their respective governments.
And yet this is not meant primarily as a criticism of either man, both of whom are immensely capable in different ways. It is, rather, an analysis of just how utterly dysfunctional our politics has become and the real cost we are paying for this as a nation.
The Senate is an enormous obstacle to good policy. But the point is not to find excuses. There are plenty of excuses. Everyone has someone else to blame.
Our immigration outcomes are so messy partly because we have the most unbalanced federation in the world, with our states raising a smaller proportion of the money they spend than comparable states in any similar federal system.
At the same time, our universities and approved public culture have turned against the story of our nation building.
We are turning against our own national interests, the chief of which is to build a bigger, better, more secure version of ourselves. As GK Chesterton once observed, the true conservative understands that to preserve a white fence post, you cannot leave it alone. You must constantly repaint it. We’ve lost that ability.