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July 05th 2017 print

James Allan

The Liberals and Their Bills of Goods

The new measure of a government's competence is the same as the old: the number of bills passed into law. It is a line we haven't heard since the incompentocracy of the Gillard years, but the PM and his apologists have revived it as substitute for principle

circling the drainJust when you think the Liberal Party couldn’t get any worse, it does.  To reverse The Beatles, it’s getting worse – it’s getting worse all the time. Take the idiocy of measuring success by how much legislation is passed.  By the way, this is how many of the writers on The Australian seem to measure how well the party is doing.  You’ll recall that this was the old Julia Gillard line – ‘we’re the greatest government ever because we’ve passed 87 billion pages of new laws’, or sentiments to that effect.  Back then conservatives — people who believed in small government, less tax, and that doing nothing is better than doing something bad — would ridicule Ms. Gillard and Labor for such simplistic and wrongheaded measures of supposed success.

But not today.  Today’s Team Turnbull Liberal Party trumpets to all and sundry that it is running a successful government.  Why?  Simply because it is getting things passed into law.  But they are truly awful things that are being enacted.  You’ll recall the attacks on superannuation.  We read in a study this week that under those Turnbull government changes, people who save $400,000 in their super will be no better off than those who save $1,000,000.  You see the former will be able to access the aged pension and myriad other forms of welfare while the latter group will not.  So the taxpayer, in effect, will make up the difference.  These super changes brought in by Morrison and Turnbull are going to undermine thrift and saving.  Why bother slaving to save up that extra $600,000 only to be in the same position as those  who only accumulated $400,000?  There is no answer to that.  In the medium term this will hit the budget big time as pension payments skyrocket.

But heck, Team Turnbull got it through the Senate and onto the statute books.  Do you count it as a good thing?  I mean, they got it through Parliament and they seem to want to use that as the measure of all things.

Or what about the billions piled into Gonski?  Here is a supposedly Liberal government throwing billions of dollars at the education sector without asking for better outcomes, without stopping to ask if education outcomes are correlated to ever more taxpayer largesse (hint:  it would seem not), without wondering why they are favouring the teachers’ unions over the Catholic and independent sector, and without a concern in the world about how God-awful anti-federalist and pro-centralist it is.  Look, this is a joke.  No legislation would have been miles better than this legislation.

Or what of the banks’ levy?  Is that a good thing for a right-of-centre political party to do?  If you say ‘yes’ then you really ought to go and join Labor, unless you happen to think the Liberal Party is Labor in drag.  (Can one still say that word, Mr. Former Australian of the Year?)

Let me be blunt.  When a right of centre Liberal party starts measuring success solely in terms of getting stuff passed into law it needs to lose an election and lose it badly.  Team Turnbull could go tomorrow to Bill Shorten and promise to enact Electricity Bill’s entire wish-list of laws and the Libs would then get all sorts of things through Parliament. (Please, please don’t take me seriously. Please don’t. I don’t want to tempt the lefty morons on the bridge of the Liberals’ sinking ship with another appalling brainstorm.)  My point is that no one would think that just enacting what Labor wants is a good idea, no matter how much legislation made it through the Senate as a result.  And yet that’s what all the senior ministers are, in effect, saying.  They’re trying to brag about it, Gillard-style.  And that’s the yardstick half the writers on The Australian are also implicitly using in their sorry attempts to bolster Team Turnbull.

Well, I’m not buying it and nor should you.  Doing nothing is miles better than the big government, high taxing, stolen from the Labor playbook crap that Team Turnbull has the effrontery to be boasting about.

And that leads me to this final point.  What are the supposed conservatives in the Liberal cabinet doing?  I’m talking about Dutton and Corman and (if you’re super-generous and overlook his nasty attacks against Donald Trump) Josh Frydenberg.   How are you supposed Big Beast Conservative Ministers letting any of these left-wing bills out of Cabinet? I mean you could finish them off tomorrow simply by saying you don’t support them and you’ll leave Cabinet and go to the backbenches if they proceed.  That’s all it would take.  But of course none of you is prepared to give up the chauffeur and the big salary on a matter of – what’s that word again? – principle.  All the talk of you and the conservatives in the party being able to rein in Turnbull is just platitudinous posturing.  It’s rubbish.  Grow a backbone gentlemen, you’ll be fighting for the leadership of a devastated party down the road and we will not forget this cravenly pusillanimous behaviour.

I will finish there.  The uselessness of the National Party and of Barnaby Joyce in  going along with this ever-leftwards drift is worth an article on its own.

Comments [23]

  1. Jody says:

    I shouldn’t be too worried if I were you; the government will quickly fall and you’ll have Labor and the Greens, open borders, increased taxes (watch out retirees), increased spending and a tidal wave of identity politics and its attendant issues. Then try turning on the power.

  2. Well written and well reasoned James, thank you. To answer Jody above, it is better to die fighting while on your feet than to ‘live’ in chains on your knees. The only difference between Turnbull and Shorten is speed with which all your/Jody’s worries will be implemented. Shorten will hit the accelerator to go over the economic and social cliff in true Thelma and Louise style while Turnbull will just roll downhill and go over the same cliff. We need somebody to apply the brakes and grab the steering wheel.

  3. Gogs says:

    So I ask this Party of small government: “How many bills did you repeal today?”
    And “Did the bills you passed today have sunset clauses?”

  4. Peter Sandery says:

    I was taught many years ago by one of my early political mentors that you could always tell how incompetent a government was by the amount of legislation they passed. He was dead right and whilst a member of the LNP I tried to make that point, plus many others, ,as others have done, to absolutely no avail.
    James’ comments about the pro-centralist, anti-federation Teachers’ Union juxtaposed with Gonksi2 and the PM’s earlier proposal about the possibility of giving more powers to the states by allowing them to re-introduce some form of income tax really expose the Federal Libs for what they really are – nothing more than a mob of venal pollies who have given up ideology for power. – Not much different from any other dictatorship really except they do it with the imprimatur of a complacent electorate who, if not careful will suffer the fate their complacency in the form of major civil unrest and all that goes with that.

  5. Rob Brighton says:

    You might want to ask Mr Pine what benefits are accruable to SA manufacturing whilst we are discussing big handouts to retain seats and glorify liberal enchantment with leftist policies.

    It seems that despite selling land adjacent to the sub-corp to local industry over the last 5 years or so, who quite reasonably expected to benefit from the 50billion contract by employing people to cut steel, weld things and undertake works to build subs have had that expectation sunk faster than a collins class sub.

    It seems that the land will be repossessed in the name of greater security.

    Adjacent services have been told that they won’t be needed and if they don’t sell they will have trouble getting their staff past the fences.

    So who will do all that work you may reasonably ask, from what I hear and from what some have heard from those who will be in charge of issuing contracts, it’s being imported.

  6. Bill Martin says:

    And who said that Turnbull was an incompetent, do-nothing fraud? He is proving all such unfair criticism dead wrong: he is singlehandedly and at warp speed destroying a once great conservative party. Mind you, he is ably assisted by a team of shameless traitors.

    • Bushranger71 says:

      Bill; the rot really started in 1996, when John Howard was elected.

    • Jody says:

      You obviously haven’t looked at the latest census data; Australia has changed since the 1950s and there seem to be a few people here who don’t get that. They’ll have to sooner rather than later.

      • en passant says:

        You are right as usual Jody

        Tell me how much Oz changed when we brought in millions of migrants from 1949 – 1970? Well, actually, it was the migrants (like me) who changed to become Australians.

        Alluha Akbar to you

      • Bushranger71 says:

        Jody; I was referring to more recent decline of the Liberal Party.

        Australia really had low prospects for development into a sound nation due to our colonialist hegemony and a flawed Federation model that did not adequately unify national purpose among Sovereign States.

        While the recent Census output underscores how fragmented the nation has now become demographically, there are more fundamental governance issues that have materially caused an increasingly disunited nation.

        The country was colonized in the days of sail and some magnificent port facilities were established all around our coastline, especially where more populous centres grew. Instead of preserving and enhancing these invaluable well-positioned infrastructure assets, as most other nations have done; Australia has to a large extent sacrificed them on the unproductive altar of waterfront development. A national coastal shipping line, which could have contributed materially to freighting around the coast, has also more or less been forfeited.

        We once had government-owned airports, but these were mostly passed off to Local Authorities and/or private operators, thus abdicating national control of strategic assets along with ports.

        Similarly for communications. The whole nation was once pretty well serviced by standards of the day for telecommunications by the Postmaster General’s Department; again not only a vital strategic asset but also large revenue earner for government.

        Fast forward to this century, and the 2 most glaring deficiencies of this nation are lack of a cohesive Foreign Policy and an Industry Policy.

        We have drifted from being former Colonialist to now being more or less a vassal State of the US due to their hegemonic influence as the major direct foreign investor in Australia and our further cementing of the US Alliance via involvement in their wars of choice.

        Our regional diplomatic performance has been dismal, as oft highlighted by highly regarded retired Diplomat Richard Woolcott, AC and we have become somewhat a pariah State vis-a-vis the ASEAN Plus Three Regional Bloc of Nations due to our close relations with the US, who have vigorously opposed Asian economic co-operation.

        Successive Federal Governments have deliberately deskilled Australia through abandoning support for widespread well-established apprentice and technical training schemes. The Industry Commission was abolished and the sound technical/industrial base the nation once possessed is fast disappearing.

        Overall, Australia has more or less self-destructed because it has strayed away from fundamentals of nation building.

        Sufficient loyalty to the nation probably no longer prevails to support unwinding of many handicapping factors and if high immigration is permitted to continue, national identity will likely be lost before mid-century.

        All mainly due to inept governance and the greed associated with largely laissez faire capitalism.

        • Doubting Thomas says:

          Much of what you say I agree with. But I disagree with the idea that government-owned infrastructure is inherently a good thing or that private ownership is necessarily bad. Just one example which, in microcosm, illustrates the potential, and likely, problems with government ownership and control.

          I dropped out of university in 1958 and needed a job. My father had an old friend who worked at the time as the Personnel Officer for the PMG in Sydney. Dad took me to see him at work. A quick phone call and I had a clerical job at the Sydney Office of the Immigration Department. While all this was happening, I was admiring the telephone this guy was using. People of a certain age will recall that the standard PNG phone back in those days was an enormous heavy, thick black bakelite monstrosity with a cord that inevitably twisted itself into knots that could only be straightened by letting the handset hang and spin until it untangled.

          This phone was a light-weight phone very similar to American phones, and something like it became the standard Australian phone about 10 years later. The thing that intrigued me was the coiled handset lead. As a country bumpkin I’d never seen anything like it outside the movies. When I asked how it was that he had such a modern phone while everyone else had the old black monstrosity, and if he had a coiled handset lead why couldn’t everyone? His answer was that the PNG engineers didn’t like them because they thought they were likely to break. Nearly 10 years had to pass before readily available modern technology was made available to the public by the PNG monopoly.

          There are a million stories about the obstructionism of government infrastructure monopolies like the PNG. Choice in telephone technology did not become readily available until, if I remember correctly, until well into the 1970s. And the government allowed, if it did not actually encourage, General Motors Holden to rip people off for decades with sub-standard products. Australia’s own car did not even have turn indicators until about 1956 despite their being available in the US and Europe in the 1930s. It did not have a standard heater or car radio until well into the 60s. Air conditioning? Not until well into the 70s. It’s competition that brings about all these things, not government ownership or government-protected cartels.

          • Doubting Thomas says:

            Delete PNG, insert PMG.

          • Bushranger71 says:

            Interesting discussion DT.

            My father had a lifelong career as a PMG Telephone Technician (47 years) and talked me out of joining the Air Force to follow in his footsteps. Did 2 of 4 years at Technicians Training School and then changed tack to Postal Clerk/Telegraphist. 2 years hence; I joined the RAAF anyway.

            I do acknowledge how government monopolies can become sluggish monsters and firm ministerial oversight is essential to assure efficiency. Less likely to happen these days with the current calibre of Politicians and when top Public Servants are paid about twice as much as those at top of the political realm. How the bloody hell did that happen?

            I am not convinced that the nation has really benefited from selling off income producing government assets under the guise that privatization increases competition, produces greater efficiencies and lowers costs. Witness the proliferation of Telcos and ISPs now and how their costs have escalated recently.

            I agree Australian car manufacturers were far from innovative and seemed unable to think outside the square. For example; the VW Kombi and Mitsubishi Express style van designs had great potential for an Australianized product as an economical family mover, tradesman, recreational/nomad lifestyle transporter; yet nobody seemed to come up with a conceptual similar design. A really lost opportunity, as VW Kombis now fetch near $200K. Perhaps more the result of unimaginative management than anything to do with government influence.

          • Jody says:

            I laughed when I read your description of those old bakelite phones; we had one in our home and when you dialled the thing sort of clicked as it returned to zero. A we also had a separate ear phone where you had to stand on tippy-toes to speak into that cone!! When you went to get mother after it rang the cord swung like a pendulum!! Our phone was connected via a direct line to the BHP, where my father worked – so it was internal. My mother used it memorably on 24/12/1958 to tell my father she was in labour and he’d better organize somebody to be here on Christmas Day!!! My father complained that when he worked at BHP he was amongst the top income-taxpaying demographic in the country but NOT the top income-earning group. If you can make any sense of that!!

  7. Warty says:

    It was interesting, some commentator (I don’t remember which one) said recently that Barnaby Joyce was looking a tad more grumpy of late. I think we all know why. He knows full well there are rats in the larder, and he is required to turn a blind eye to the fact. There was a fine round of King Island cheddar in there, and on an upper shelf a fifteen year old New Zealand epicure just waiting for the right special occasion. It’s half eaten now and the wax wrapping is all there is of the King Island.
    I heard there’s a bloke in South Australia, who apart from installing his own generator, is gathering around him a fine bunch of yokels. Their sleeves have been pulled up and they’re ready for a fight, despite the fact a good many of them are as old as I. The larder is well stocked after pains-taking provisioning, steel rat-proof doors too and not a great deal of information getting out about the possible date for the feast day.
    You see, the squire noticed how some of the other provisioners had inadvertently allowed in a few knock-about characters who’d managed to get their grubby fingers into plumb puddings, or run amok in wine cellars, with news of their shenanigans leaking out to those who cannot keep their mouths shut. So the squire is being all careful like, in the hope his elderly might turn into shock troops after being plumped up with good South Australian fare. I’m afraid I’ve already lost control of my waist line, but I’m ready for the plague of vermin.
    I do wish Pauline well, with her little shop, but I can’t see it becoming a major provider. And the old boxing blue . . . he needs to find a new supplier altogether: the old one is bankrupt.

  8. Keith Kennelly says:

    Bushranger,

    The depth and nuance you show is what is needed. Hanging onto simply ideas and assessments is what has bought us to the state of play today.

    While Whitlam changed things as did Hawke and Keating the rot they initiated should have been nipped in the bud bu Howard.

    The worst of his policies was his climate change policies.

    Tony Abbott will start rolling things back.

    That’s why the managerial elites hate him.

    Howard, I now recognise, was one of them.

  9. LBLoveday says:

    Quote: “Why bother slaving to save up that extra $600,000 only to be in the same position as those who only accumulated $400,000? There is no answer to that.”
    Yes there is Mr A, and you provide it later in your article when you wrote “…a matter of – what’s that word again? – principle”. Those who “save up that extra $600,000″ would NOT be in the same position as those who “access the aged pension and myriad other forms of welfare”, but proudly and honourably self-sufficient.

    • Tezza says:

      I think you need to consider the incentives implicit in the policy, and its consequences at the margin, LB. James’s point is not to deny you your warm glow of self-respect. It is simply to say it is a loopy policy that destroys thrift, because people will follow the bizarre incentives the government has created.

  10. Doubting Thomas says:

    Bushranger71, the situation is a mess and I have no idea how to fix it. I find it outrageous that Darwin Harbour could be effectively put under the control of a potential enemy, and that Telstra and Australia Post could have been placed effectively outside Ministerial oversight.

    It’s probable that you and I are RAAF contemporaries and, if so, I was curious to know whether you encountered the VW Kombi as a crew van. My experience with it was as an ATC vehicle. I hated them with a passion.