14 May 2011

George Megalogenis on the state of Australian politics

In his column in today’s edition of The Weekend Australian , entitled Just keep digging, George Megalogenis writes with his characteristic insightfulness about the state of Australian politics and political leadership as demonstrated by the way in which budget week played out.

He begins:

Wayne Swan delivered a predictably safe budget. Tony Abbott delivered a more than predictably contemptuous reply speech.

If there was nothing at stake but the right to captain Australia on autopilot, the policy timidity of Labor and Liberal, perversely, might serve the national interest.

Politicians are at their most dangerous when they insist on fiddling with every little thing a government does to prove they are in charge.

But the world is changing in ways that demand a more active government.

Later in the piece:

The Australian people hung their federal parliament last August as a form of bipartisan punishment. They stripped a first-term Labor government of its majority but didn't want an Abbott-led Coalition in its place.

Any lingering hope that a none-of-the-above election result would force one or both main parties to grow up vanished with this week's budget debate. Labor couldn't afford to pick a fight so it took baby steps back to surplus.

Abbott and his shadow treasurer Joe Hockey betrayed an almost comic lack of seriousness in their budget response this week.

They didn't seem to mind the contradiction of demanding hard-ball cuts while insisting that no family be worse off, including those on the top rung of the income ladder.

He concludes:

The Gillard and Abbott generation will repeat [the mistake of the Fraser years] if they imagine the the quarry will keep bailing us out.

The quarry is, in fact, sending an early warning that government by middle-class welfare cannot protect living standards any more than tariffs and centralised wage-fixing did in the past.

The role of government remains what it always was: to build things that the market won't; to regulate business without pricing it out of business; and to educate a workforce that is nimble enough to catch the next wave of prosperity when the world asks us to do something other than dig.

But that requires sacrifice at the kitchen table to help government prepare us for the future.

This is George Megalogenis at his best. Access the article in full here.

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