Monday, August 23, 2010

Australia sits on the fence

As much as some on the left and right might want to make of it, there were not two profoundly differently views of how Australia should be governed offered by Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott. Neither offered inspiration and indeed both may be in parties quietly wondering whether the previous leaders of both major parties would have had a better chance at winning.

Julia Gillard offered a vision of "the state is here to help", which sold the total lie that somehow the Australian Federal Government had anything to do with Australia largely escaping the global financial recession. Indeed, it is more that Australia escaped in spite of the Federal Government's efforts to waste the money of future taxpayers by borrowing and spending pork like it was going out of fashion. None on the left in Australia care to note how without a Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, without laws that forced banks to lend to those who could not afford to pay and without net Federal government debt (one of the positive legacies of the Howard administration), that the banking sector down under was far less vulnerable to the vagaries of the property bubble.

Ah but Australia does have a property bubble right? Well yes, and that is something that Gillard and Rudd have helped maintain, with a great deal of help from China (and its neighbours) treating Australia as the great mining pit of the southern hemisphere. Nobody can start to pretend that the key reason for Australia's immunity from recession and having its property bubble pricked is the maintenance of high commodity prices whilst China still rides a wave of immense increases in domestic productivity, fueling domestic domestic.

So Gillard tried to sell the snake oil that Labor saved the Australian economy. The biggest snake oil of all was that somehow the Federal Government deserved a share of mining profits over and above existing taxes.

Tony Abbott rightfully knew this, and confronted both that and the persistent claims that Australia should kneecap its economy to help most countries in the world grow their CO2 emissions. However, he himself was a little more disconcerting. It is clear his social conservatism turned many likely Liberal voters off. The poor results for the Liberals in Melbourne likely reflect that.

Yet as much as Gillard and the ALP might like to play on it, neither she nor Kevin Rudd (hardly socially liberal himself) have a glorious record on personal freedoms. The attempts to employ a Singapore/UAE/China style filter on all Australian ISPs smacks of the nanny state par excellence. Bearing in mind that New Zealand politicians sometimes have the tendency to follow our cousins across the Tasman, this was rather disconcerting.

So neither deserved endorsement, and neither got it.

Instead, Australia has rather quaintly dabbled with the Green Party, which if it was honest would effectively shut down much of Australia's primary industries if it could. Like Green Parties elsewhere it blends some social liberalism with a warm cuddly embrace of higher taxes, more government, bans, compulsion and an anti-Western foreign policy.

However, its single House of Representatives MP wont be the deciding factor, it is the independents. The big question is what pork they will demand for their constituencies to grant Gillard or Abbott a majority.

The longest standing independent is Australia's Winston Peters - Bob Katter. Katter was with the National Party, and resigned because he was opposed to privatisation, deregulation and free trade.

Oh and just before those on the left get excited he was also a fan of the politician that has been perhaps Australia's closest example of genuine fascism in recent times - Joh Bjelke-Petersen. The man who banned street protests, who had his political opponents in his own party under Police surveillance reporting directly to him.

Although Katter was with the Nats (and is a climate change sceptic), his father was with the ALP, so where he swings could be about the amount of pork he gets.

Other independents are ex National or Liberal (Rob Oakeshott andTony Windsor) and left because of differences over whether Australia should be a republic or of a clash of personalities. Both of them are likely to be warmer towards Abbott. Another possible independent is Andrew Wilkie, an ex. Green (and ex. Liberal), who is probably warmer towards the ALP.

So who knows what will happen.

However, if it is about pork, the danger is that the "winner" gets tainted for giving preferential treatment to certain electoral divisions (a "division" is a constituency in the Federal Parliament). Let's hope Australian taxpayers don't get such a blatantly raw deal.

1 comment:

Craig said...

Hi Scott,

Bad news, we already have the internet filter:

http://computerworld.co.nz/news.nsf/security/new-zealands-internet-filter-goes-live

Cheers,
Craig