A chance in Eden-Monaro to reject third-rate governance

[Published at Independent Australia 14, June, but with the headline seriously neutered. See note at end*. May be the end of the line with IA, sad to say.]

The political class keeps acting as though the Government deserves to be taken seriously, but the Government is grossly incompetent, corrupt, deluded and, by any reasonable standard of truth, illegitimate. That the Opposition can’t beat them constitutes its own calamitous failure. Voters in the coming Eden-Monaro by-election have the choice of people who could actually represent, and govern.

There are some things the federal Government could be doing in response to the rapid-fire series of disasters still unfolding in Australia.

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Eden-Monaro can vote to bring us together

[Written for a certain ACT newspaper, but no response so far.]

Citizens in the Eden-Monaro electorate, which surrounds the ACT, have a chance in the coming by-election to vote for a new path in Australian politics. We can turn away from scandal, corruption, in-fighting and incompetence and towards a fair-go, full-employment Australia with a clean and healthy future.

We can turn away from the divisiveness that is having such tragic consequences in the United States. We can work together, as we have through the fires and the virus emergency.

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If you want a better deal, change your vote

[A by-election will be held in my electorate of Eden-Monaro 4 July. This and some likely subsequent posts are in this context, intended for local media—but relevant more widely. Published 17 June at District Bulletin.]

Karen Porter

If you vote the same you’ll get the same. Don’t expect much to change if the old parties stay in power. The Coalition is good at promising but not so good at delivering. That’s because they don’t really believe in government services, they think you should fend for yourself. Labor, with its usual daring, is being Liberal Lite.

So don’t expect much help with bushfire recovery. Don’t expect much to be done to avert more catastrophes. Don’t even expect much help if the virus killed your livelihood, if you vote for the same-old.

In this by-election there are some real choices, choices that can move us towards a better, fairer Australia – more like we used to be, actually. So now I’m going to suggest you step away from your old tribe and have a look at some new talent. Do you really have much to lose?

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High cost of immigration: GDP gets the sign wrong

Much of the alleged economic benefit of high immigration is actually a very large cost. GDP is not accounting, and its misuse as a measure of welfare distorts our priorities, in this case egregiously.

[Can’t seem to interest anyone in this argument. Looks like it can’t be right I suppose.]

Kristina Keneally, Labor’s immigration spokesperson, recently set the dogs barking again by arguing that the rate of immigration after covid-19 should be lower than the previous very high rate. She argued that we should look to get Australians back to work before importing more people (though her choice of phrasing could have been better).

The sudden dramatic drop in immigration is evidently of great concern to some, judging by a spate of opinion pieces at the ABC (e.g. here and here) and elsewhere reiterating the usual claim that a high immigration rate is good for the economy, or even essential to the economy.

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Immigration imposes a large net cost, and should be reduced

[I’ve posted on this before, but the issue keeps coming up.]

Jane O’Sullivan https://theconversation.com/profiles/jane-osullivan-1809

The dramatic drop in immigration because of the Covid-19 closure of our borders is causing concern among advocates of a high immigration rate, who claim it is essential to the economy. But there is a widely-overlooked and very large cost.

Discussing immigration in Australia is fraught, with any questioning of policy likely to generate outrage and to be labelled racist, populist, nationalist and an assault on Australia’s economy. All of that has followed Labor spokesperson Kristina Keneally’s rather mild suggestion that total numbers of immigrants ought to be lowered after the coronavirus shutdown, especially of temporary immigrants.

The rather hysterical response is partly just over-reaction, partly confected by those who support massive immigration, and partly reflecting common economic furphies.

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After the virus, after neoliberalism: manage for quality of life, not quantity of stuff

[Published in New Economy Journal, 6 May.]

As Menzies foresaw, we have had economic anarchy, and both security and progress have disappeared.

A spirited contest of ideas has already started regarding how we emerge from the coronavirus shutdown. The Prime Minister is talking about ‘snapping back’ to what we were before. Some would like to use the crisis to jump to essentially an authoritarian corporate hegemony. Others would like to see a more sharing society with a more active government and embedded in a healthy natural world.

We are highly unlikely to just snap back, but if we want a more caring, equitable and durable society then we need to get clear about what needs to be done. Some are allowing that neoliberalism is dead, but few seem to be clear about what might replace it. Going back to something like our postwar system might be a good start, but we can do better.

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The betrayal, corruption and capture of the Liberal Party

[Published at Pearls and Irritations, 6 May]

The Liberal Party has strayed far from the vision propounded by its founder, Sir Robert Menzies, to the point of being captured by special interests.

According to former Senator Ron Boswell, Sir Robert Menzies, founder of the Liberal Party of Australia, said in 1970 

Australian Liberals are not the exponents of an open go, for if we are all to have an open go, each for himself and the devil take the hindmost, anarchy will result and both security and progress disappear

This is a clear repudiation of the idea of unregulated markets, an idea that came to dominate the world and the Liberal Party a decade or two later.

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Where the Government’s money comes from, and who it goes to, makes a big difference

[Published 3 May at Independent Australia]

Stephanie Kelton, Modern Money Theorist

Why would the Government buy bonds as it sells bonds? Why would it borrow money when it has its own money?

Various explanations have been appearing lately that purport to explain how the Government is raising the money it is suddenly splashing around to support (some) people through the Covid-19 shutdown. There are also explanations of how the Reserve Bank of Australia is engaging in ‘quantitative easing’ (QE) to support the economy through the shutdown and beyond.

It seems there may be at least three things happening: the RBA is buying bonds in order to inject extra money (‘liquidity’) into the financial sector and keep interest rates low; the RBA is funding some spending by the Government; the Government is borrowing money from the private sector by selling bonds.

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Please, NOW is the time to slow the virus

Covid-19 in Braidwood?

[Local experience, but it applies everywhere. The small town of Braidwood is between Canberra and the coast.]

I just returned from Braidwood’s bustling main street, midmorning Saturday 21 March, and it’s clear many Braidwoodians, and Canberrans, haven’t got the message about ‘social distancing’.

There are, plausibly, hundreds of infections in Canberra, and plausibly already some in Braidwood. Let me explain.

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Our politics is unworthy of us

 

We Australians in this bushfire summer have abundantly demonstrated our courage, resilience and ability to work together to do what needs to be done.

Not just firies on the front line but parents swallowing their own fear as they get their kids to safety, even if it’s only a beach with flames raging close by. Armies of other volunteers feeding and supporting emergency workers. People coping with many weeks of threat and uncertainty, people evacuating two, three, five times, refugees taken in. People piecing their lives back together, others supporting them in whatever way they can, floods of donations. In so many ways we have shown how we work together in adversity. Australians are not unique in this way, most people pull together when times are dire, but it’s a feature of human behaviour that we might be more mindful of.

It would be nice to report also how our parliament quickly put aside rivalries and worked to do whatever it could to support communities and emergency organisations in a time of great need.

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