For those who have been following my posts of the Great Australian political policy stuff-ups, I have decided to, instead of continuing downs the path to a long excruciating conclusion, to bring my research to an abrupt if not obvious end.
The Liberal National Party has governed for the majority of the post-Menzies years and obviously, it would be they who would have made the most major policy stuff-ups.
So, to date, I had completed Menzies, Whitlam and a list from the IPA. Rather than letting my list linger like a bad smell, this post contains a list of my findings of the Greatest Australian political policy stuff-ups.
So let us start with Sir Robert Menzies.
The Communist Party Dissolution Bill was passed by parliament. After it was enacted in October, the law was challenged in the High Court and, on 9 March 1951, was held to be unconstitutional.
A referendum to alter the Constitution so as to grant parliament the power to outlaw Communism was lost narrowly.
In September 1950 Menzies agreed, without any serious scientific or political consultation, to allow the British to test a nuclear weapon on Australian soil. On October 3, 1952, the British detonated a nuclear bomb on a ship — HMS Plym — off the coast of the Montebello Islands in Western Australia.
This was a site they had chosen themselves with no Australian consultation.
Perhaps the biggest ever cover-up in Australian political history is how we became involved in the Vietnam War.
On April 29, 1965, PM Menzies shocked the House of Representatives when he rose to speak. With gloomy voice, he said that he had received a letter from the South Vietnamese government to join the war.
It was a lie.
Cabinet decided to re-introduce compulsory military service, which had ended in 1960. The National Service Act enabled the government to conscript men for a two-year term with a further three years in the Reserve. Marbles denoting birth dates were drawn from a lottery barrel to select those who would be called up. Between the first ballot in 1965 and the last in1972, some 63,000 men were conscripted.
500 died in a war that was none of our business.
I have omitted Harold Holt, John Gorton and Billy McMahon.
Whatever your political disposition there cannot be any doubt that he changed the nation, with many excellent policies, for the better.
As for the other side of the ledger, the economics, I would suggest that history is beginning to look favourably on the intellectual giant that he was.
Others who lived in his extraordinary times would disagree entirely, particularly with his economics. I concede this and leave you to your view.
His time in government could be considered uneventful along side Whitlam or any of those that followed. By placing economic management at the centre of politics he sought to explain how economic activity sat with the social life of a nation.
However, he never understood the new paradigm of economics that had begun under Whitlam. It was a policy fail of monumental proportion.
The then Treasurer John Howard understood it and wanted to implement what Hawke and Keating did later.
He defeated Malcolm Fraser and arguably became Labors brightest ever Prime Minister. A reformer who did more than any other to reform the Australian economy. He had such fine cabinets that policy errors are difficult to find.
His major error was that he clung to power for too long and in doing so prevented an orderly leadership succession.
Keating was the big ideas man who couldn’t sell them. He had a vision of Australia becoming of a republic, justice for our first nations people, a larger connection with Asia, and his support for Marbo was set in stone.
His policy errors were that he believed in a GST but didn’t introduce one and that he amended the Migration Act to provide for mandatory detention of irregular arrivals that was to be a disastrous decision.
During the decade of his Prime Ministership, he made many poor decisions.
He became Prime Minister in 1996. His legacy will be long debated. On the one hand, he was the consummate politician who read the public mood like no other. On the other hand, he was a sly conniving politician who pandered to popular sentiment. The lying little rodent as one of his ministers describes him.
It was in his rein that the decline in our democracy started. He introduced changes to the tax system and introduced a GST that affected pensioners and lower paid workers the most.
Much of the blame for the gas shortage that Australia is suffering from now can be blamed on Howard. He very irrationally sold it all to China at a bargain basement price. It is but part of the energy debacle that exists today.
Perhaps the decision to commit Australian forces to the second Iraq War is his worst. Without a scintilla of proof that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, without even asking if there were any he sucked our nation into a quagmire of terrorism. It was a decision to please George Bush and nothing more. The war on terror still continues today.
Domestically he increased the first homebuyers grant and increased immigration. All of which increased demand. Investors entered the market and years on we suffer from his idiotic decisions.
We experienced a once in a century mining boom that resulted in untold budget surpluses. At the end of it, there was little left. Howard had squandered it on over-60 superannuation tax holidays, other super concessions, and family payments to middle-income households, age-based tax concessions, and lots of income-tax breaks for middle to higher-income households.
Most of these presents came in the budget of an election year to buy votes.
All he achieved was increased inequality and making the rich richer.
He had an almost fetish like need to pamper to the rich by increasing Federal funding to the richest schools which they have spent on non-educational luxuries.
Like his other concessions they have all been difficult to remove and they, to this day, remain a burden on the budget.
Being the royalist that he is he played a “divide and rule” role with the 1999 Republic referendum instead of leading the nation through it?
He eroded Medicare by mischievously misdirecting money into tax deductions for inefficient private health insurance. In doing so he tried to return Medicare to a 1960s style healthcare system.
Howards Treasurer Peter Costello sold two-thirds of Australia’s gold reserves for the rock-bottom price of $US306 per ounce (Today, gold is about $US1590 per ounce).
He was blessed with a prodigious intellect and will best be remembered for the apology to our indigenous “Stolen Generations” and his handling of the World financial crisis. He also coined the phrase “the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time” in reference to Climate Change.
Home insulation scheme
The Pink bats’ scheme because of its poor administration became a policy disaster for Rudd. Reports of house fires, possible fraud and the deaths of four young insulation installers led to numerous enquiries.
After a Royal Commission instigated by Tony Abbott, Rudd accepted his Government’s responsibility for systems failures that led to the deaths, describing them as a “deep tragedy” and acknowledged the pain of the families involved.
Building the Education Revolution
This saw 23,670 school building projects around Australia rolled out in quick time.
Tony Abbott continuously complained about cost blowouts resulting in an enquiry headed by Brad Orgill, the former CEO of UBS Australasia.
3% of complaints about the scheme were proven, but the commission found that most projects were an advantage to the school and the community. Ask your local Primary School Headmaster what he or she thinks.
Gillard followed Rudd and so began the revolving door politics of the last 10 or so years. She led a minority government and Abbott, the Murdoch press and the shock jocks immediately began attacking her on the basis of her sex.
She had some handsome policy victories such as the Royal Commission into Child Abuse, the National Broadband Network, putting a price on carbon, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and reforms to education. Not bad in anyone’s book.
On the other side of the ledger in terms of policy stuff-ups her failure to stop unemployment from rising clearly went against her.
Sure this was complicated by the GFC that we were still recovering from but also from a silly obsession with a budget surplus.
Abbott came to power after 6 years of the most negative opposition the country has ever seen. If nothing else he was the most professional liar to ever walk the halls of parliament.
His negativity was famous. It both gained him government and lost it for him. He was the worst Prime Minister the country has ever had and came into power without any policies and left without any.
He did have success in stopping the people smuggling trade but it divided the nation.
He removed the price on carbon, a terrible decision only based on politics, and the minerals resources tax.
That said there is nothing more to say about this characterless man of no redeeming features. His greatest success was that he turned his party from its Liberal beginnings into the far right conservative one it is today.
Malcolm Turnbull entered through the revolving door and instantaneously chucked all his principles into the nearest rubbish bin. In doing so, he became the greatest hypocrite of a Prime Minister the country has ever seen. He also fell into the lying mindset of Abbott.
The policies on the many things he had carried with him like Climate Change he gave over to the far right of his party. He might lay claim to Marriage Equality but that was undoubtedly people led.
It is too early to judge Scott Morrison but he too has thrown away policies on energy, climate change and many others.
He shows all the qualities of Abbott and Turnbull. Of one who wants the rich to become richer in the expectation that they will share some of their riches with their fellow humans. Fat chance.
My thought for the day.
“In the recipe of good leadership, there are many ingredients. Popularity is but one. It, however, ranks far below getting things done for the common good.”
Great Australian political policy stuff-ups (part 3): Whitlam – how does history judge him?
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