Prime Minister Gillard’s 2013 New Year’s missive to the nation was brimful of hope. Her administration, thanks to “strong public finances”, could get on with what it did best, helping to “modernise our country” and providing “welcome” assistance to ordinary Australians. The new School Kids Bonus meant that in 2013 the “typical family” was going to be $760 a year better off, while an injection of federal funds into education would ensure a Labor-governed Australia continued to become “a world leader in school education”. The PM even had a plan for electricity prices that would “hold bills down by up to $250 a year.” By July, 2013, the Gillard government would be ready to launch the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). No wonder the upbeat finish: “So let’s say Happy New Year to each other in a spirit of confidence and optimism.”
The spirit of confidence and optimism of January 1, 2013, turned out to be somewhat misplaced. Labor’s munificence was to be furnished by skillfully “nurturing the mining boom” – nurturing, presumably, a euphemism for expropriating. The Mineral Rent Resource Tax (MRST) would operate as Labor’s mechanism for redistributing wealth. Labor, back in 2011, had been talking of a $4bn annual windfall when the MRST came online, an estimate reduced in mid-2012 to $3bn, and subsequently to $2bn. For the record, after six months – by June 30, 2013 – the revenue raised by the MRST stood at $126 million. Hugo Chávez, were he still around, would have been dismayed at Labor’s inability to put the squeeze on our greedy, blood-sucking, parasitic capitalists.
Funds or no funds, in the middle of 2013 Labor remained keen to legislate the NDIS into existence. Labor’s Minister for Finance, Senator Penny Wong, found a “spare” billion dollars at the eleventh hour to launch a scheme that by 2018-19 would cost Australian taxpayers $22.2bn a year to run – except, as an official update in November disclosed, it would not be $22.2bn but $27.2bn.
Gillard’s pledge to “modernise our country” has left us with the national broadband network (NBN) debacle, a new report finding that the Labor plan, if completed, would be three years behind schedule and cost the taxpayer $72.9bn rather than the reputed $44.1bn, a blowout of almost $29bn.
We cannot be surprised that, according to economist Henry Ergas, the “benign outlook” contained in Treasurer Swan’s 2012-3 budget, which projected a cumulative surplus of $16.3bn to 2015-16, has “become a $123.8bn sea of red ink”. Prime Minister Keating bequeathed the nation a net debt of $95.8bn by the time he was thrown out of office in 1996, but the legacy of the Rudd-Gillard years, once the dust settles and the picture becomes clearer, could be worse in spite of the extraordinary mining boom that accompanied much of Labor’s period in office.
Labor’s Senators, on the Opposition benches after the September 7 election, sought to block the Abbott government’s request to raise the debt limit – a limit that needed extending in order to pay for Labor’s debts. The chutzpah of Labor obviously knows no bounds, including the risible notion that its 2008-09 “cash splash” saved Australia from the GFC. Self-delusion continues under Bill Shorten, Labor’s new parliamentary leader. In response to Holden’s announcement in early December that it would cease manufacturing automobiles in Australia from 2017, Shorten had this to say: “Holden wouldn’t have left under a Labor government. I don’t know why Holden left but I know I could have talked them out of it.” One hundred days of Coalition rule had negated 6 years of Labor’s economic genius.
After winning on September 7, the Coalition began trying to facilitate a revival of Billiton’s Olympic Dam $28bn expansion plan. The project has been on hold since December 2012 despite – or perhaps because of – Labor’s expertise at “nurturing the mining boom”. The Coalition’s Environment Minister, Greg Hunt, was recently reported in The Australian to be fast-tracking 46 new mining projects “after inheriting 371 unassessed projects from the previous Labor government, with 22 dating back to 2008.” Memo to any future ALP administration: Don’t count your Chávezian chickens before they hatch.
The Coalition, nonetheless, might have to offer the electorate something more than a sense of parents sorting out the fallout from their teenage children absconding with the family’s sparkling, diamond-encrusted, gold-plated credit card. Balancing the books and fixing the economy is actually something of a lose-lose proposition for the Coalition. If they fail to fix things the public will judge them to be as economically illiterate as their clueless Labor counterparts. On the other hand, one or two terms of LNP success might also see them turned out of office, with voters once again believing we can afford another dose of Labor’s largesse. The march of the modern-day Left proceeds on many fronts and so, therefore, must our defence of the country.
Since the late 1960s, leftist-progressive reforms have sought to alter education’s primary purpose from cultural transmission to the transformation of society. The consequences have been devastating, as any relatively objective evaluation of Australia’s educational standards, such as the international PISA survey, clearly shows. The Rudd-Gillard years, notwithstanding the funds spent on give-away laptops and new school halls, have only accelerated the decline. Between 2009 and 2012, for instance, the mathematical literacy of Australian high school students on a global scale slipped from 15th to 19th, scientific literacy from 10th to 16th, and reading literacy from 9th to 14th. The quality of education is hemorrhaging in this country and billions of Gonski dollars spent on “needs based” and “student centred” solutions will doubtless only exacerbate the problem. Australia must generate and reward teachers who are brilliant in their respective subject areas, and who can manage and enthuse young people. What we do not need is more billions spent on bureaucrats, advisors and administrators who exist in order to enforce the ersatz religion of progressivism.
The deleterious effect of progressive ideology on authentic and genuine progress – that is to say, reality – is also evident in Gillard’s New Year 2013 promise to “hold bills down” for electricity. The former PM was responding to skyrocketing charges for electricity during Labor’s two terms in office. A report in December 2012, Australian Electricity Prices: an International Comparison, noted that electricity was “becoming a lot less affordable for both households and businesses” in Australia and that electricity prices were now “a source of national weakness rather than strength”. The wiliness of the carbon-dioxide tax was meant to alleviate the concern for low wage earners, and yet the ALP-Greens’ inflexibility on their renewable energy target scheme made nonsense of Gillard’s assurance.
The threat the ALP-Greens pose to our way of life is not only encumbering our children with illiteracy and our children’s children with intractable debt, but also the soft totalitarianism that attends progressive-leftist ideology. The ALP-Greens might comprise a minority in the House of Representatives and various state parliaments around the nation, but our publicly funded broadcasters (the ABC, SBS and “community” radio stations) and quasi-autonomous advisory bodies are mostly one-party dictatorships. For instance, the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC), with an annual budget of $25 million that rose by $5.4 million under PM Gillard’s patronage, employs 143 like-minded leftists and yet imagines its groupthink epitomises diversity. The decision by Senator George Brandis, the Coalition’s Attorney General and Minister for Arts, to appoint IPA advocate and libertarian-conservative Tim Wilson as a new commissioner to the AHRC has caused dyspepsia amongst our ‘New Class’. This nascent ruling class, as Nick Cater puts it in The Lucky Culture (2013), appears unaware that even one-party states, such as the German Democratic Republic, tolerated the occasional (albeit token) political contrarian in their midst.
The choice of Wilson is a political decision in the best sense of the term “political”. In other words, very different from the kind of political calculation associated with PM Gillard’s choosing Mike Rann, a former state Labor premier with a tarnished reputation, to be our new High Commissioner to the United Kingdom. Beyond the appropriate intellectual and technical skills required for his new advisory role, Wilson brings with him a very distinctive – but no less legitimate – understanding of the role of human rights in a liberal democracy. Given the Human Rights Commission’s virtual silence on the controversies pertaining to Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act, we can presume the AHRC favours a leftist-progressive (or neo-Marxian) version of human rights rather than the libertarian-conservative one Wilson espouses.
A modern-day leftist interpretation of human rights posits the AHRC as the defender of groups in society who feel – or, at least, the AHRC considers – exploited or victimised. The advancement of social justice, therefore, must sometimes occur at the expense of freedom of expression, this being the lesser of the two evils. The libertarian-conservative position, in contrast, insists that our customary individual human rights are the keystone of Western civilization and must never be surrendered, however well intentioned the cause. A libertarian-conservative might even argue that the AHRC should be scuttled forthwith because its very existence serves an obstruction to human rights, as Wilson and the IPA have at various times in the past contended.
The Opposition Leader, not unexpectedly, has seized on this point, and censured Senator Brandis for “putting people in charge of organisations that they don’t respect”. Perhaps Bill Shorten was overlooking the fact that his mother-in-law is simultaneously a republican stalwart and the current Governor-General. Beyond the obvious hypocrisy of Labor Realpolitik is the reality that leftist-progressives control a plethora of semi-autonomous government agencies, from the Australian Council for the Arts to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. As I argued in “Your Taxes, Their ABC”, the Coalition – for the sake of our nation’s future as much as the government’s – needs to either shut-down/privatise unrepresentative tax-funded entities or redress their ideological imbalance through affirmative action.
The problem, of course, is that leftist-progressives tend not to deem their way of seeing the world as ideological. They are right and the political right is wrong and there’s an end to it. Camille Paglia, one of a handful of progressive public intellectuals in America who remains true to her libertarian youth, now laments the fact that the Democrats – her party, by the way – have trashed “the whole legacy of free speech 1960s” through “punitive PC”, which she pillories as “utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist”. Ivy League graduates are “complete cultural illiterates” since they are no longer instructed by their partisan professors “to give respect to opposing view points”. Australia is similarly cursed, the hysterical reaction to Tim Wilson’s appointment to the AHSC as a “Freedom Commissioner” being just one case in point.
The Left’s condemnation has been virtually unanimous. Gerry Georgatos’ denunciation is worth a mention, given that he stood as a Senate candidate in Western Australia for the WikiLeaks Party, our very own self-styled anarchist outfit. Georgatos concurs with AHRC insiders who have allegedly claimed that Wilson’s selection “is so wrong that it is beyond words”. Our up-and-coming anarchist holds that it is not our traditional legal system and its strictures against defamation but, rather, AHRC commissars – apologies, commissioners – who defend the interests of the oppressed: “Freedom of speech and open slather do not go hand in hand – open slather extinguishes freedom of speech.” Armed with Sections 18C and 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act, an activist vanguard must wage war against the enemies of the people. Wilson, being a member of the Liberal Party and the IPA, has defined himself as just such an entity and so automatically foregoes any right to a place on the revolutionary tribunal, which explains why his presence there “is so wrong that it is beyond words”.
The intolerance of our so-called tolerant ‘New Class’ explains the campaign to delegitimise Wilson for politically and socially unacceptable thoughts. This, as Paglia would have it, is “punitive PC” in action. Prime Minister Gillard tried it on against Tony Abbott in October 2012 with her misogynist slur. This demonising of Abbott provided Labor with a brief boost in the polls and come January 1, 2013, hope lingered that ad hominem attacks on the Leader of the Opposition might get Labor across the line in August. In other words, the ALP had pretty well botched everything for 6 years, from Rudd’s home insulation scheme to Gillard’s carbon-dioxide tax U-turn, but Labor remained the party of the moral high ground.
On June 26, 2013, Bill Shorten and Senator Wong changed their allegiances to Kevin Rudd and Gillard was gone. The political assassination of our first female PM was unseemly, and yet the ABC and the leftist commentariat still managed to portray Labor as the party of the moral high ground and the Coalition as pariahs. Then again, two thousand people drowned at sea and the ALP’s PC high-mindedness remained unchallenged. The Coalition’s job is not only to create jobs, but also to defend the libertarian-conservative point of view across the board. The advent of Freedom Commissioner Tim Wilson instills some confidence and optimism to that cause.
Daryl McCann has a blog at http://darylmccann.blogspot.com.au