Rediscovering the language of moderation

I’m a big fan of joined-up thinking. You know, not just looking at each individual piece, but looking at how they fit together (or not) and what that tells us about The Big Picture. But there doesn’t seem to be much joined-up thinking in contemporary Australian politics.

Take, for example, “economic management”. Senator Andrew Bartlett wrote about this very point yesterday:

The battle for bragging rights about which party is supposedly the best economic manager is faintly ludicrous, given that both sides at various times have made a point of emphasising how similar their basic tax and economic policies are to the other – with the partial exception of workplace relations. The posturing about supposedly conservative good economic management is even more absurd – and indeed somewhat alarming – when one realises that these almost identical economic policies are neither conservative nor even very coherent.

Yes. I don’t understand how these facts all fit into one coherent picture:

  • Lots of money coming in from big mining boom.
  • Schools, hospitals, roads, trains, ports all in need of “urgent” fixes.
  • Reserve Bank worried about inflationary measures.
  • $34 billion in tax cuts! Spend, spend, spend!

Bartlett quotes a piece from George Megalogenis in The Australian which ends:

The task for Australia’s political class is to rediscover the language of moderation. Leadership at this stage of a 17-year growth cycle means telling voters that they can’t have it all.

But how do you tell Howard’s Battlers, the Kath & Kims of Australia, they they can’t have it all, and that the world isn’t just about them repeating the mantra of “I want! I want!”? The answers, it seems, is that you don’t. You just stay in your state of denial and hope for the best.

The Coalition launches its re-election campaign today — yes, I know that the entire year so far therefore has not been a campaign, just some sort of cheese grater. So it’ll be interesting to see whether they’ll propose a coherent plan for Australia’s future that actually addresses these core economic issues. My money is on the “No” vote for that one.

2 Replies to “Rediscovering the language of moderation”

  1. It’s weird how tax cuts are being used to soften the interest rise blow, while at the same time fueling the next one to some extent.

    Mr.Latham’s comments from the grave really hit the nail on the head: “There is no crisis for the hundreds of thousands of families that have already put themselves into debt and built large new homes, the so-called McMansions, across the country. In most cases they are enjoying a quality of housing well beyond the expectations of their parents and grandparents before them…..The dominant ethos is greed, not generosity. I expect a Labor administration to be even more timid, more conservative…. “

  2. @jason: There is indeed an awful lot of short-term thinking. It’s only natural that politicians whose jobs depend on a 3-year electoral cycle won’t look any further. We can’t blame them for that since that’s the selection process we’ve created.

    It used to be that public servants, who had tenure and other inducements to longer-term thinking like knighthoods, would provide those long-term plans. However as the top levels of the public service have been moved to individual contracts, again short-term, then they’re naturally keen to deliver the answers that the politicians want.

    Australians who earn the median wage are amongst the top1% richest people on the planet and have, as you point out, fantastically good housing, but still whinge that they’ve got financial problems.

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