I find the current political, cultural and economic climate in Australia – the lucky country – to be confronting. More so than at any time during my fifty-plus years living in Australia. Sure, Whitlam and Cairns caused problems but they were a mere blot on the fertile landscape. What’s happening now might not easily be undone.
“Australian residential customers are paying the highest electricity prices in the world – two to three times more than American households,” reported the AFR last August and earlier in March reported, “Manufacturers slugged by power price hikes.” Lots of people in the street, unions purportedly representing workers, politicians almost to a man and woman, most of the mainstream media, the leftstream media topped by their ABC, and most academics have become inured to Australia giving away its competitive advantage in cheap energy.
Any debate which happens is about whether Liddell should be closed or Snowy 2.0 built. It’s all a sop. Meanwhile, subsidised solar panels, wind farms and battery banks drive out cheap coal power. Meanwhile, believe it or not, we export record amounts of thermal coal to countries still interested in producing cheap power. It’s a Monty Python skit and most of those with influence or power to do anything about it are comatose. We are sleepwalking down the international economics ladder.
The choice on the political front is between Turnbull and Morrison et al or Shorten and Bowen et al, with Albanese awaiting his chance stage left. I realise that the times when we had giants like Menzies are long past, but we had within memory Hawke and Keating and Howard and Costello. There has been a precipitous slide in quality within a few short years. The choice is between lefty greens of Turnbull and Pyne hue or even leftier greens. I prefer the former between the two, but it’s Hobson’s choice between two clapped-out nags.
I also prefer a political party which sees economic sense in Australia reducing its corporate and business taxes in line with international trends. But what does Morrison offer? A derisory progressive reduction in the corporate tax rate from 30% to 25% by 2026/27. And, even then, such is the reckless and poisonous state of partisan politics that this feckless attempt to make Australia more competitive is doomed to failure. A rhetorical question: What is going on?
On the immigration front what is going on is a permanent dilution and deconstruction of our peerless culture. This isn’t a question of numbers, though these are much too high, it is question of who is being invited in. Luke Foley nailed it. “White flight,” he said. I might have even voted for him if he’d doubled down instead of wimping out. And who wouldn’t fly (or at least try to if they had the means and weren’t poor and ripe for plundering) if their Anglo-Australian suburb was changed beyond recognition by the political elite conniving its flooding by alien cultures.
And can anyone, anyone at all among the political class, tell me exactly what Sudanese crime gangs are doing living in Melbourne? Why are we increasingly seeing hijabs and niqabs on the streets? Exactly which country has benefited from Islamic culture. None, that’s right. As reported by Pew Research, Islamic countries are in the less developed section of the international league table for good reason. Their religious culture is a dead-weight on progress.
Let me switch topics from the extreme undermining of Australia’s economy and culture to the mundane business of bagging banks, which has always been an Australian sport. Nothing wrong with that. Bankers are largely mediocre, arrogant and over-paid. But that is the very nature of the beast and it won’t be changed by any number of royal commissions. What we need from banks is that they lend money and don’t go broke. All else is trivial. Australian banks have been very good at doing that while, for example, foreign banks fell apart in 2009 and 2010, bringing whole economies down with them.
I will get to the point. This banking royal commission should be shut down in early course. Okay, it has shed light on scurvy behaviour among financial planners, many employed by banks. Most of this information was already out at an official level but it is never a bad thing to publicly expose spivs and swindlers and their nefarious activities. Banks should run away from financial planning, as they had already begun to do, because it attracts too many people bereft of common decency and conscience.
Low-hanging fruit plucked, where did the commission turn? It turned to small business lending. At random among hundreds of thousands of small business loans (I jest) it picked a case involving a Ms Flanagan who acted as a guarantor for her daughter and her daughter’s partner. Now the case is sad. The lady is reportedly sick and you have to feel for her plight when the business went bust and the bank called on the guarantee. The event ended better than it might when Legal Aid in NSW was able to intervene and persuade the bank to allow Ms Flanagan to remain in the house rent free – it was reported – until her death.
Why is the bank at material fault in any of this is my question? Apparently, Ms Flanagan received independent legal advice before signing and I understand that this is a bank requirement. Why is the case before a royal commission? Has it nothing better to do with its time? And when are we going to get a banker who won’t wilt under questioning from economic know-nothing smarmy lawyers? The primary duty of care for a parent offering to guarantee a loan for their offspring falls squarely on the loving offspring – not the bank.
According to government statistics (Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) there are about 2 million small businesses (0 to 19 employees) operating in Australia. They are a vital engine of growth. They employ almost half of those contributing to the economy’s output. Most, if not all, have relied at some point on bank finance. Between 25 and 30 per cent of new small businesses fail within the first two years, and more go on failing in subsequent years. The cost of having a thriving small business sector is that many small businesses fail. And it is by no means clear which businesses will succeed and which won’t. Lawyers may not grasp that fact of business life; economists and bankers do. Banks will not, and cannot, lend to small businesses without taking security. And any serious diminution in such lending would have the economy grinding to a halt and going into reverse.
Banks cannot be expected to employ enough social workers to form a view of the personal impact on borrowers or guarantors if any particular loan goes bad. And what are they to do anyway? Refuse to grant a loan because the borrower or guarantor has a disability? That would go down well. People, in any event, will go elsewhere, and might eventually end up with loan sharks – who might not stop at taking their house.
I can’t imagine this royal commission will come up with something that won’t further inhibit banks making loans to small business. That would be disastrous. Put it together with soaring power prices and high corporate taxes and the economics picture is not promising. We don’t have any natural right to be prosperous. It has to be earned and re-earned every day. Put economic malaise together with cultural malaise and this lucky country might be running out of luck. And I haven’t even covered the progressives’ march through our schools and universities. Let’s hope she’ll be right.