September 23, 2012
Let me start with this. The justification for the mining tax was to ensure that the entire community would benefit from the minerals boom, the implication being that selling resources bestows no return to the rest of us outside the extractive industries and therefore requires a tax to share the wealth. But with the mining boom about to recede we are being told that, as a direct result, we will all have to get used to a lower standard of living. Absolutely right, but just as the loss of the mining boom has reduced everyone’s living standards, the boom, while it lasted, drove them higher.
Alas, our Prime Minister and her Treasurer were clueless about how we all benefit from growth, even in a single sector remote from our lives, and accordingly peddled one of the most ignorant and pernicious of all socialist memes: the resources of the nation belong to the people. The consequences of their tenure in office will be to our collective detriment for years to come as investors spurn putting their money into Australia, lest Labor return to the Treasury benches.
Watching the ruin they have created I therefore find listening to Gillard and her Treasurer hard on the nerves. But with Australia’s worst Treasurer in living memory – a Jim Cairns clone, only worse – speaking of the Republican Party of the United States as “cranks and crazies”, it really does make you wonder just how obtuse some people are. And to add insult to injury, our interim Prime Minister has backed her Treasurer by repeating the same again, as if she were a font of political and economic wisdom, and adding the weight of her endorsement to his puny and inane judgment.
Forget the fact that, in a few months, there is at least a 50-50 chance the American President will be a Republican. There is no doubt that a President Mitt Romney would just glide past such foolishness since what the Treasurer or Prime Minister of Australia think about him and his party is little more than dust on the balance, given the weight of woes he would inherit. And it also doesn’t much matter since, whatever may be the views of our Prime Minister and her Treasurer, their influence in Washington will be negligible. Whatever they say will make not a whit of difference one way or the other to what actually gets done.
People whose idea of a stimulus package consists of pink batts and school halls, who believe wasting billions on the National Broadband Network is equivalent to the Snowy Mountain scheme, who think they are doing the nation any good at all by increasing the rate of taxation on the one strong industry we had, and who believe that a carbon tax is the key to our future prosperity, are the last people you might think would have the gall to introduce the words “cranks and crazies” into public debate.
Here in Australia the Government pretends that it has some kind of strategy for getting the budget back into surplus, a charade of which two things may be said. The first is Gillard and Swan have at least recognised a surplus is actually something that ought to be achieved. If there are therefore any cranks and crazies around in the US, it is the people who have been complicit in allowing the level of debt to rise to $US16 trillion, with not a strategy in sight to bring it back down or, indeed, even to reverse its upwards course. What do our PM and Treasurer think of an Obama administration that has not presented a budget to Congress in three years? For Republicans to try to get some kind of fiscal action out of a Democrat Senate is just what anyone with sense would want them to do. If there are cranks and crazies around in the US, they are almost entirely found on the Democrat side of the aisle.
But the second matter shown by our own leadership team is the matter of just how badly these people have mangled the one economy that has been in their charge. Handed not just a deficit-free economy but an economy entirely free of debt, handed on a plate a mining boom designed to feed into a Chinese boom, they have managed in just five years to create massive debt. Moreover, they are about to oversee a forecast fall in living standards evident in the shrinking of the private sector at the present time.
From the start they have never had much idea about what should be done and what needs doing. They have followed the socialist path of least resistance: re-empowering unions, spending money they don’t have, and because they have mismanaged our finances, leaving Australia literally defenceless in an increasingly dangerous world. The surest sign of Gillard and Swan’s poor judgments is that they can unselfconsciously go about calling others the very names most appropriately applicable to themselves.
The Quadrant Book of Poetry: 2001 - 2010
edited by Les Murray