Monday 11 September 2017
The argument goes that you only do these things when you’re in trouble, experiencing panic, staring defeat in the face or simply doing your job badly. The latter being the most obvious.
Contrary to the old adage that conservatives have a built-in aversion to change, they are actually playing around with it.
Yes, although conservatives are not saying it and they continue to describe Bill Shorten as a Neo Communist, they are, believe it or not, saying that Neo Liberalism is dead. Different people describe Neo Liberalism as different things. What follows is my interpretation.
It was once simply called “economic rationalism”. It is a belief that it’s better to let the market sort things out, let it rip, and government should keep their noses out of it. It doesn’t need government intervention and the poor will be looked after by the drip-down effect from the rich.
Socialism on the other hand believes in government intervention in order to ensure there is a more equitable share of the country’s wealth.
Australian voters have always almost equally divided themselves into right and left, with a floating 10% changing their minds every election. It would now seem that the left and right have broken rank and decided that ideology is unimportant. They want governments to make fair decisions for the common good. And to a point, governments seem to accept it.
This can be evidenced in recent decisions by the Coalition. Take the Gonski reforms for example. It was totally unheard of for a conservative government to foster so much equality. Now they are talking about building or buying coal-fired powered stations. Bordering on socialism, I should think.
Turnbull still talks up company tax cuts, but the big ones he doesn’t make such a song and dance about anymore is the middle of Australian politics shifting, You would have to ask if all this full-on Soviet Socialist talk from the government about Labor might not equally be applied to it.
Trying to paint your opponents as a throwback to old-fashioned socialism while at the same time proposing the same ideology that was once anathema to you, is a bit rich.
Yes, the centre of Australian politics is shifting and the 10% of voters who once flip-flopped about who to vote for has widened exponentially. It might even be 30% as disenchantment with the two major parties has set in.
The debate about whether the Liddell mine should remain open was really a multi-faceted one. One that incorporated climate change, blackouts and whatever future coal had.
When one casts one’s mind back over the past ten years of Australian governance and we focus particularly on climate change and mining you get a glimpse – no, your eyes are opened – to what amounts to a gigantic policy f#@kup. The conservatives in their denial of climate change under a crass opportunistic former Prime Minister in Tony Abbott have done this country a monumental disservice.
On the other hand, Labor under Kevin Rudd (“greatest moral challenge”) never had the courage of his conviction to take it to the people. Abbott, the great “opposer” of Australian politics is responsible not only for the decline in interest on the subject but also the deterioration in respect for the body politic. But no one can dispute that fact that Labor and the Greens did instigate a price on carbon and the conservatives were responsible for destroying it.
These subtle but significant ideological changes allow Turnbull to be seen as promoting coal. Saying it is viable, to some degree, will satisfy the lovers of clean coal (no such thing) in the Turnbull camp, but in the long-term allow for the shift to renewables to continue unabated.
The Luddites in the government at some point will have to come to terms with the fact that business sees coal as a bad investment.
However, this subtle change in ideology doesn’t only apply to the Coalition. Labor, if Mark Butler is to be believed, is saying that coal needs to be part of the mix at least for now, even if it never eventuates. If that sounds silly, it’s true. With the experience of Brexit and Trump still burning in the labyrinth of political ears, both parties have decided that voters cannot be treated as gullible idiots anymore.
Both are serving up a sort of middle road pragmatic caring attitude that they are sympathetic to rising energy costs and stretched family budgets.
When you think back to Abbott’s attack on a price on carbon as being a tax (since admitted by his then Chief of Staff as being purely for political reasons and having nothing to do with climate change), the truth of his great deception, in light of the current crisis, hits home.
Whilst the current debate involves a lot of name calling (now we have “Blackout Bill”) and huff and puff interviews as witnessed on ABC Insiders yesterday when Scott Morisson ranted and raved, only making sense to himself.
Barnaby Joyce earlier added his dismissive “it’s everyone else’s fault”voice to the debate as only he can.
“We all incur a cost for the upkeep of our health. Why then should we not be liable for the cost of a healthy planet.”
So there seems to be a consensus building that recognises the fact that Abbott’s repeal of carbon pricing is responsible for most of the chaos and crisis with climate change and how it interacts with energy policy.
Voters know that we don’t live in a black and white world. They have experienced and seen through Abbott’s lies and the sort of politics he promoted. They have had enough and want him to go away. They want politicians (if they haven’t turned of completely) to explain to them in clear, precise and truthful terms just what it is the nation faces. They want to put aside the bullshit of philosophy and have governments deliver for the common good.
Whether this move to the centre is temporary or permanent, only the future knows but we can be certain that the old politics of philosophical absolutism is problematical. Having fixed positions in a rapidly changing technological world is highly questionable.
We dislike and resist change in the foolish assumption that we can make permanent that which makes us feel secure. Yet change is in fact part of the very fabric of our existence”‘Change sometimes disregards opinion and becomes a phenomenon of its own making. With Its own inevitability.”
One thing however, is certain. Neo Liberalism is under enormous threat. No longer can business dictate terms to government. A few years back the mining industry decided how much tax it should pay with a ferocious attack on the mining tax proposed by Labor.
More recently, both parties refused to be dictated to by the Catholic Church over school fees.
We might ask if the isms of left and right have gone past their used by dates. Many questions arise. Do they suffer from the tiredness of longevity? Is there a possibility that a new politic could emerge from a society deeply entrenched in political negativity and malaise, yet still retain the essential ingredients of a vigorous democracy where a wide-ranging common good test would be applied to all policy? Have left and right so fused into each other that they no longer form a demarcation of ideas? Could the ideologies of the two somehow come together to form this commongoodism? Who would decide the common good? How could one define it? Could capitalism embrace the common good if it were more astutely regulated?
A move to more common-sense politics would be welcome. It remains to be seen just how many people will participate in the marriage equality debate. Whatever way it goes, we will be able to read into it just what Australians are thinking about their democracy.
My thought for the day
“When our voices are silent against unfair,deceitful and dishonest government we get what we deserve.”
PS: VOTE “YES”.