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Day to Day Politics: We badly need a change in government

Saturday 9 June 2018

We are in a post “World financial crisis” period where people have come to realise that it was greed and lack of regulation that caused years of suffering from recession, country to country.

Australia didn’t suffer as much because our government with foresight acted quickly. Only today with recovery imminent do conservative politicians dare mention the GFC. When at its most destructive they said it never existed.

Nevertheless, good things are starting to happen. Economies are picking up and employment is getting better. However, we have been left with a set of problems that are not solvable with traditional conservative economic remedies.

Before moving on we should at first visit our economic boom under the Howard/Costello Governments. Richard Dennis in the latest “Quarterly Essay” has a lot to say on this subject.

“Australia just experienced one of the biggest mining booms in world history. But even at the peak of that boom, there was no talk of the wonderful opportunity we finally had to invest in world-class mental health or domestic violence crisis services.”

 “Nor was there much talk from either major party about how the wealth of the mining boom gave us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in remote Indigenous communities. Nope, the peak of the mining boom was not the time to help those who had missed out in decades past, but the Howard government thought it was a great time to introduce permanent tax cuts for high-income earners. These, of course, are the tax cuts that caused the budget deficits we have today.”

 “Australia isn’t poor; it is rich beyond the imagining of anyone living in the 1970s or 80s. But so much of that new wealth has been vacuumed up by a few, and so little of that new wealth has been paid in tax, that the public has been convinced that ours is a country struggling to pay its bills.

Convincing Australians that our nation is poor and that our governments “can’t afford” to provide the level of services they provided in the past has not just helped to lower our expectations of our public services and infrastructure, it has helped to lower our expectations of democracy itself. A public school in Sydney has had to ban kids from running in the playground because it was so overcrowded. Trains have become so crowded at peak hours that many people, especially the frail and the disabled, are reluctant to use them. And those who have lost their jobs now wait for hours on the phone when they reach out to Centrelink for help.”


In essence Dennis is painting a picture of how different Australia might be now had the riches from the boom been spent on infrastructure and services like health and education instead of spending it on tax cuts to secure peoples votes at the next election.

The Neo-Conservatives of today have failed to catch onto the fact that those in the real world are in the early stages of revolt. Even those who benefited from Howard’s tax cuts have come to realise the injustice of it all. That Australia, for all its wealth and riches, was looking after the rich and privileged and that it’s those very same people they intend to reward again with the money of the less fortunate.

Richard Dennis again:

“Although people with low expectations are easier to con, fomenting cynicism about democracy comes at a long-term cost. Indeed, as the current crop of politicians is beginning to discover, people with low expectations feel they have nothing to lose. 

As more and more people live with the poverty and job insecurity that flow directly from neoliberal welfare and industrial relations policies, the scare campaigns run so successfully by the likes of the Business Council of Australia have lost their sting. Scary stories about the economy become like car alarms: once they attracted attention, but now they simply annoy those forced to listen.’


The reason I’m writing all this is because conservative governments have broken so much of the fabric of our society, destroying our democracy along the way while neglecting how humanity functions. It needs fixing, and it needs to be done quickly.

The ethics of health care often lags behind the benefits of technological advancement because it encroaches on old religious beliefs or mysticism. Rapid change brings with it the need for new rules and regulation that question traditional values and concepts.

So, I ask myself which of the major political parties is more qualified to embrace change, implement it, and legislate it. And do so with the common good as a guiding principle.

By scrutinising the historic social reforms of both of Australia’s major parties and comparing them we can determine who is best qualified to take us through this ongoing period of change and the political, social and economic reforms necessary.

The left side of Australian politics has implemented the following reforms or policies that have directly contributed to change for the better:

A National Health Scheme, a National Disability scheme, compulsory superannuation, a National Broadband Network, Paid Parental leave, major educational reforms, a price on carbon, equal pay for women, the Aged Pension, Mabo and the Apology, and of course the Hawke – Keating major economic reforms that have given the country 24 years of continuous growth.

It has never been afraid of change.

The right side of politics has implemented the following:

The Howard gun buy back, the GST that benefitted the rich, an increase in immigration after the Second World War and Harold Holt introduced a bi-partisan referendum that gave indigenous people the right to vote in 1967.

And there I have to stop. The Liberal Party website sets out a comprehensive list of “Achievements in Government” and they are achievements as opposed to major policy reforms.

In a world where science, technology and the availability of information progresses so quickly change sometimes disregards opinion and becomes a phenomenon of its own making, with its own inevitability.

Conservatives oppose change and are wary of science and intellectualism, as was demonstrated by the Abbott Government.

They seem locked in a world that no longer exists without any comprehension of how much the world has progressed. Remember Abbott wanted to destroy the internet.

They believe in traditional values (whatever they are) without recognising the historical elasticity of society. That change is inevitable. We are governed by rules and regulations. It is the only way change can be civilised and cohesive.

Leaving individuals to pursue their goals without the infrastructure society provides and allowing Capitalism to go on unregulated can only lead to disaster. A society that has change for the common good at its heart can only be attained with conventions, guidelines, systems, laws, policies, instructions and procedures.

Whilst the central argument of conservative philosophy empathies, and overtly supports the rights of the individual it can never initiate the reformist zeal for change like the left.

I have concluded that a society facing the changes confronting us can only achieve worthwhile change under the umbrella of a social democratic philosophy.

An ideology that believes in equality of opportunity, an equitable share of the country’s wealth, individual rights and liberties within a societal framework that guarantees that no one left in need. Where government solves the problems of change with the participation of all that have a vested interest in it.

Change that only serves the secular interests of the rich and privileged is change doomed to fail. Every facet of society including the democratic process needs constant and thoughtful renewal and change. Otherwise we become so trapped in the longevity of sameness that we never see better ways of doing things.

My thought for the day

“I think acceptance and embracement of change is one key aspect of what we try to define as wisdom.”


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  1. babyjewels10

    Richard Dennis is spot on. As is your headline. Say it like it is, let’s not beat about the bush. WE NEED A CHANGE OF GOVERNMENT NOW. We need to share that headline around everywhere we can. We need that headline on all your (political) blog posts from now on until the election! I’m screen shotting it now and it’s going on my Fb timeline as well as a few groups I’m in. Thanks John.

  2. Wam

    To labor’s credit they have stayed back and watched without comment their AAA rating become the LNP achievement. They have jiggled up and down about debt and deficit,, effectively avoided rocking the economic boat against the LNP, with green support, pontificating on their perceived economic management. The lying arseholes are maintainers of appearance as understanding economics but are easily conned by big business, big religion and big presidents.
    The corollary is that the electorate believes they are not the wasters, not the taxers and are the source of our riches.
    We are rich, we are well paid, we can attend our ‘circuses’ and welfare looks after those that aren’t. Who in their right mind would want to risk that with labor? Talk to the workers, who support the lnp, and then tell me what changes do we face? What changes do we need?
    Who is the best president, ever? The man has all the attributes of pauline hanson and swans around waiting for a thought which he blurts out. My facebook is full of ‘ Pauline for PM share if you agree’.
    How lucky were are to have a leader best described a ray stephens song ‘along came jones’
    Still we have barnaby to attack the nats and the rabbott to attack the libs can’t wait for ‘jones’??
    Rooseveldt there are many ways of going forward

  3. Terence Mills

    Laura Tingle and Andrew Probyn have recently joined the ABC after many years in journalism with the Australian Financial Review and the West Australian newspapers, respectively.

    Tingle has come out with both barrells firing at the mean politics being played by this government in their attempts to undermine and underfund the ABC to satisfy other interests particularly those of News Corp.

    This article is encouraging :

  4. bearbrooke

    John Lord, one of your best ever essays. I am not, as you know, inclined to give unbound compliments so, absolutely I agree with your conclusion (advocacy for the acceptance and embracement of change), yet hesitantly I doubt the societal problems you identify are caused by a simple Left right, conservative socialist, split. It’s not that we badly need a change of government (from right to left); rather, we badly need to redefine and reshape our democracy.

    Issues are complex — I’ve a simple list of factors that are forcing change ubiquitously.

    Globalisation which is inevitable and should be welcomed.
    Privatisation of essential infrastructure and services — a catastrophic mistake.
    Degradation of the environment — inevitable with an exponentially growing population.
    The concept of perpetual economic growth — the foolishness of this is self evident.
    Science, technology and the availability of information (which you mention) are altogether altering social and natural environments — we cleverly but chaotically and thoughtlessly employ these in ways that effect changes that are too frequently destructive.

    You rightly say ‘conservative’ governments have broken much of the fabric of our society … in Australia, both Liberal and Labor governments are ‘conservative’.

    So who do we elect in their place? Which party will effect urgently needed political change? The answer stares us in the face. The party exists but has been so demonised and is so demanding that we radically change our thinking and, too, that we so drastically remake our democracy, it is so revolutionary we are vehemently not prepared to accept it.

    I agree with you, the real world is in the early stages of revolt (hook into Chris Hedges, who articulates this brilliantly) but I suspect you and I John Lord are among the majority who are not quite ready to embrace changes we know will happen — we are ‘almost’ revolutionaries.

  5. Harry

    I tend to think the key issue is that a radical, free market version of capitalism has infected much of the globe. It is this noxious, exclusionist, self-focused ideology that is to blame for the high inequality, and disadvantage we see today, where money and what it buys are all that matters.

    Real resources, both ecological and human are finite. Any economic reform or new economic or social policy in our country has to start by recognising this fact.

    We have to make sure that we utilise our resources in a sustainable way. We have to ensure that the output from utilising these resources are distributed fairly for the benefit of all.

    In this context, the primary responsibility of government must be to balance our economy – and the competing interests in our society – not the government budget.

    We need a change of government but let’s hope Labor’s election will result in real change!

  6. Terence Mills

    Hearing today that Trump will leave the G7 meeting early to avoid attending the sessions devoted to climate change and global warming is, in a nut shell, what the planet is up against.

  7. Andrew Smith

    Personally I blame John Howard and the Libs wholesale adoption of US obsessions from the ’80s for economic rationalism or neo liberalism from the Chicago School, a form of socialism for the top people and competition for the rest. In tandem with an increasingly narrow and shall mainstream media not to inform but to manipulate and shape Australians opinions (insularised us from the outside world), agitprop ably supported and promoted by Murdoch et al.

    One suggests to any Australian venturing beyond our borders that when meeting others to listen, ask questions and show interest in other nations and culture. This is not possible due to our penchant for collective narcissism, obsession about sport, especially AFL/NRL, talking ourselves up, telling others stuff about property prices, super and all things ‘immigration’.

    I suspect Howard and his pollsters knew long ago that as the WASP and/or Irish descent demographic (dominating upper median age vote both LNP and Labor) slowly declined in comparison to our more diverse population, they can be bought off financially, WASP (including wannabe Catholics) reinforced and spooked by ‘immigrants’ simultaneously. Hence we have oligarch type economy, hollowing out of institutions and underpinned by Nativism or eugenics, which has become seemingly entrenched.

    Image of society beyond the wildest dreams of old oligarchs and plutocrats, alongside Trump and Brexit; our part of the Anglo world has really lost the plot trying to emulate the US and UK?

  8. DrakeN

    My favourite little mantra:

    “The Price of Progress is the Pain of Change.”

    Those without the emotional and intellectual capacity to observe and embrace neccessary changes to existing situations are the ones who are resisting human progress.
    They are, unfortunately, a voting majority.

  9. helvityni

    I wholeheartedly agree with your post ,Andrew Smith, the US and UK are not the best role models for Australia; there are countries that are much more progressive than those two, we are a fairly young nation, let’s not be so stuffy and old-fashioned…

    Welcome the best of the ‘newcomers’ into our governments, even the US had a black President, and the macho Spain has more women than men in their government, the Finns were not worried having a female President for two terms…

  10. Wam

    Good one, Andrew, little johnnie was a nasty influence long before he won by a slice of birthday cake and we are still suffering from decisions made from his driven hatred of all things unions and labor.
    The lnp mormon/catholic cartel is strong and, like the religions of men, will not hesitate to lie for god. The one nation is entrenched in its hansonian stupidity. The green’s are in an amditious frenzy. Bill is right up there with Mr Lord’s conclusion and, being poikilothermic, will become active when conditions warm up.
    ps Boris has wondered how trump would approach brexit? Wouldn’t that be fun?

  11. johno

    Methinks a change is as good as a rest. And boy oh boy, do we need a rest from this present bunch of zealots.

  12. Andrew Smith

    While also observing how Labor becomes ‘wedged’ on cultural or identity issues, forgot to mention the new found obsession with security and/or defence measures, supposedly to protect a/the nation.

    Australia is drifting towards Hungarian, Russian, Turkish etc. style measures not just against foreign influence or interference (like some western nations have), but also NGOs, justified privately to protect ‘conservatism’ or ‘sovereignty’ i.e. the old status quo. Meanwhile, conservatives and nativists demand the right to freedom of speech to demonise, gaslight or smear anyone they choose; very popular with Putin, Erdogan, Orban et al., and Australian elites in politics and media.

    I can understand why the usual suspects in Oz are paranoid, as our national brand decline has correlated with the rise of Howard, NewsCorp with nativist politics and old attitudes in our ‘elites’. Interestingly Germans view or stereotype Australia(ns) as conservative, shallow and racist, while for British it’s WASPish and racist, yet assume they have special rights in Oz, then complain of too many Asians…..

    Good news is that demographics over a generation will inevitably change Australia no matter how much is done to impede the progress of indigenous, ‘immigrants’, youth and moderates.

    As thespian Lex Marinos explained once on lack of diversity in the arts, there are a group of Australian performing artists whom are one of the few if any groups representing Australia’s true diversity. Currently in Hungary, the Australian football team preparing for the World Cup; they themselves or at least the code has had to deal with dog whistling etc. too.

  13. David Stakes

    They cut Gov services because they are in a priviledged position with money, So they never have to use them. And cannot understand why people need them.

  14. David Bruce

    The current Australian Government franchisee is trying to prevent a disaster of titanic proportions by rearranging the deck chairs. They will be the first to try and “man” the lifeboats. If the Australian tax payers are not completely fluoride sedated, I am hoping there will be a worthy response to deal with the criminals who claim to be the adults [ruining] running Australia’s prosperity. Today I was told we have a debt of more than AU$700 billion…

  15. paul walter mate David Stakes.

    Yes, if it was THEIR skins at risk there would be a diametrically different and opposed response.

  16. Phil

    You are correct John Lord – we do need a change of government and yes, the ALP is the better choice of the only two on offer.

    But the ALP is certainly not of the left. The ALP is very clearly far closer to centre right than the idiotic far flung LNP which is teetering near the radical right wing edge – about as proximate as a political party can get to being declared insane.

    The existential problem of unmitigated climate change that government policy must address is being made worse by the day by this insane LNP whose only reason for existence is to hold on to political power by driving its neoliberal juggernaut down the throats of every ordinary working and non working, disabled and able bodied, man, woman and child – and of course to eradicate their cursed trade unions. This is insanity by any definition.

    Biologist Gregore Hagedorn in a guest post at the Cassandras Legacy blog run by Ugo Bardi of the University of Florence writes here:

    Its a worthwhile read not the least because the biologist Gregore concludes with both positivism but also a warning thus:

    “The truth is: We have the technologies, we can solve the energy (see, e.g., Bardi & Sgouridis 2017), food, biodiversity, transportation, equity, etc. problems.
    But we are not using the solutions at the necessary scale. We are procrastinating and seeking excuses: whether it is that the problem cannot be solved or that they will solve themselves thanks to a sudden explosion of exponentially growing innovation. We are celebrating ourselves in the media for deploying positive solutions at small scales. At the same time, we are directing the general economy through taxes, tariffs, and subsidies at many orders of magnitude into the opposite, destructive direction.
    We are not building a house for our children, we are burning it down. Our greed for money, for personal power and sex, for eating meat and other luxury foods, for playing with ivory tower problems has us care more about ourselves than about the future of our children”

    My take on this is that the LNP has neither the ability nor the will to solve the problems we face despite the fact that “We have the technologies, we can solve the energy, food, biodiversity, transportation, equity, etc. problems” – the LNP is not interested.

    So the LNP is doing exactly what Gregore says – ie “directing the general economy through taxes, tariffs, and subsidies at many orders of magnitude into the opposite, destructive direction” – insanity.

    I feel at present that the ALP has not put in place the critical policy priorities needed to take us other than more slowly toward the “destructive direction” of this insane LNP.

    I desperately want to be proven wrong for the childrens sake.

  17. nexusxyz

    Australian governments (both Labor and LNP) introduced the idiocy of neoliberal economics promoted by self interested dull ideologues. This has gutted the productive part of the economy and massively expanded the parasitic ‘FIRE’ sector on the back of hundreds of billions of lost investment. It’s lost as property contributes nothing to the future. Australia is nothing more than a rent-seekers paradise built on top of a property bubble. This has trashed our core services and is undermining our communities. Our political institutions are the retreat of the inept and corrupt. The last destructive acts have been to give the country away and facilitate uncontrolled migration. The neoliberal morons actually think it adds value to the economy.

  18. Kyran

    What a wonderful read!
    If you look at things AS THEY ARE, of course you would argue that we desperately need a change of government. The reference to the GFC underscores that. At the time, the biggest part of the problem was, as agreed by governments globally, the banks were too big to fail. The primacy of the banking system was adjudged more important than the sovereignty of the governments. All of the global financing, private and public, was restructured to assist the corporations, because they were too big to fail. It was better to have austerity for the people than risk the collapse of the banks, the new global religion.
    All of that hardship for the people was generously agreed to by governments around the globe with an undertaking that the banks would be broken up so that we, the people, would never be exposed to that sort of risk again.
    Ten years on and we are back where we started. Instead of regulating the banks, we have privatised global financing and regulation through the IMF. Instead of reducing the size, reach and power of the banks, we have merely enshrined their sanctity.
    At the risk of sounding defeated, the ABA released their Banking Reform Program at the same time they conceded the need for a RC, to which Turnbull eventually acquiesced.

    Here’s the defeatist bit. What’s the bet that the recommendations of the RC will largely reflect their preemptive report?
    If you look at changes within the confines of how things stand, a change of government is a rudimentary requirement. If you were into ‘disruptive’ behavior, instead of worrying about the targeting of groups such as trade unions, activist and advocacy groups (to the exclusion of associated entities, such as the IPA), you would simply skip that part of the exercise. Why don’t these groups stop worrying about associated entity legislation and simply register as their own political party? They would enjoy the same exemptions under the ACCC, the Privacy Act, the taxation regime, the oversight of the Australian HRC. There are dozens of exemptions they could enjoy, and they might even get their own AEC donation every election.

    “The reason I’m writing all this is because conservative governments have broken so much of the fabric of our society, destroying our democracy along the way while neglecting how humanity functions. It needs fixing, and it needs to be done quickly.”

    And that’s the gritty bit. This mob are SOOOOO pathetic, and the fundamental issues are so urgent, they have highlighted that we need to look beyond a change of government. Seriously, we need to change the whole way we do governance.

    “I have concluded that a society facing the changes confronting us can only achieve worthwhile change under the umbrella of a social democratic philosophy.
    An ideology that believes in equality of opportunity, an equitable share of the country’s wealth, individual rights and liberties within a societal framework that guarantees that no one left in need. Where government solves the problems of change with the participation of all that have a vested interest in it.”

    All of the things you have mentioned are enshrined in the UN Declaration of Human Rights. A document started decades ago, hoped for by people across the globe, and routinely dismembered by the governments supposed to be protecting them. Never before have we had the opportunity to effect change at this level in a peaceful and genuinely democratic fashion, based on humanity rather than the sanctity of corporations.
    Thank you Mr Lord and commenters. This is such an important discussion. Take care

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