Have you ever noticed that politicians in general have a great ability to blame others? As an example, here Labor is blaming Prime Minister Turnbull (as he was the former communications minister) for a $15 billion cost blowout in the construction of the NBN. Here’s Turnbull in 2013 accusing Labor of the same thing (only the value is $12 billion in this case). Let’s put this simply – they both can’t be right!
The two major political parties have a number of differences in their policies, history and generally their philosophy on life. For the purpose of this discussion, it’s probably valid to suggest that parts of each party’s policy on any specific issue are genuinely useful but other parts of the policy look after the history and philosophy of the party rather than the common good.
Recently I took my kids to see Zootopia at the cinema. It is what you would expect to see from a kids’ movie from Disney, really well done animation, a reasonable story line, some ‘humour’ for the parents as well as the kids and, of course, a moral to the tale. Without giving away the plot completely, in a world where animals live in a civilisation like ours there are of course little tensions: in this case between the predators (lions, tigers etc) and the prey (sheep, rabbits and so on). The first rabbit to try and join the Police Department, which is predominately staffed by predators, is met with some difficulties and finally overcomes them through hard work and a lot of perseverance. Sure, the rabbit has self-doubt and at times seemingly insurmountable problems, but she finds a way to overcome the difficulties and eventually rises to the top. Hence the moral, if you work really hard and take the opportunities that are presented to you, you will achieve your aims.
Back in real life, people pay small and large fortunes to try and improve their lifestyle: it could be to make themselves fitter, improve their mind, improve their financial position or even to try to find a ‘soul mate’. To meet the demand there are a multitude of people and organisations that are prepared to ‘help’ you achieve your aims, usually at some cost and sacrifice to your time, wallet and current usual routine. While there is an element of dodgy behaviour by some in these industries, a lot of suppliers are good at what they do and do produce the results they claim to be capable of.
If we talk about making you fitter (the implication being that you would also be healthier, live longer and so on), gyms seem to be the current fashion. Gyms in general promote that if the participant works to their individually designed program, which over time encourages increases to the time exercising as well as the effort expended (heavier weight or more repetition), the participant’s goal of being a better person is achieved and they can then move mountains (probably not literally but you get the point). Weightwatchers and similar organisations work using the same methods, weekly motivational events with a somewhat competitive process around actual weight loss since the last meeting attendance – those who lose what is considered to be a healthy amount each week are congratulated for their work while those who fail are given time for self-reflection.
Self-help classes and literature are a dime a dozen. The premise here is that the participant is not a worthless person but does add value to not only their life, but the lives of those around them. It is usually a gradual process where the participant is exposed to literature, lectures or ‘one on one’ meetings that promote the concept that each person (including the participant) is a valuable member of the community and can overcome whatever their immediate problem is. Of course if a person has been told for years that they are not worthwhile, the self-help process may take years but still, if the program is followed, the participant should believe they are capable, productive and valued at the end of the process.
There are thousands of avenues available to potentially increase personal wealth and surprisingly a lot of them are legal. While this isn’t the place to discuss them, negative gearing and the use of tax havens (if you already have a lot of wealth) are popular conversation topics at present. There are also schemes that involved multi-level marketing, working a second job, as well as the usual range of books, lectures and methods promoted on line, through the real estate industry, share brokers, and so on. Again each of them has a plan that if a participant strives to complete the program and maybe foregoes that annual trip overseas to put the money into an investment, you will end up wealthier than when you start.
Everyone has probably seen the advertising for companies such as eHarmony, RSVP and so on: they all promise that you will meet your ‘soul mate’ provided you play by their rules (and pay the money of course). Generally, there is a listing of people who ‘match’ the participant’s personality profile and through communicating with the suggested matched people, a strong and long lasting partnership will develop. However, participants are expected to complete a personality profile and actively manage their membership to achieve success.
Regardless of the perceived improvement need, there are two recurring themes here. The first is that there is some work to be done. If someone going to a gym for six months can now lift an additional 40 kilos repetitively, it’s progress towards an objective. In a similar way, if a person with issues regarding their self-worth starts to work out why they loathe themselves, it really is progress.
The second issue is the sacrifice needed to get the results. They person going to the gym is probably not eating and drinking the same ‘comfort’ items that they used to consume over and above the continuing gym membership fees, while the person with self-worth issues is probably being assisted to process a lot of hurt and anger from issues that occurred in their past.
There is a point to this article – and here it is. If we teach our kids that they can achieve anything they want provided they put the work in, and there are probably millions of groups that will assist you and me to rectify some perceived issue that we have, why on earth do we accept the argument that the fault for [insert problem here] is solely the result of the ‘other’ side of politics?
Think about it. Zootopia tells our kids that they can be like Judy Hopp, the rabbit that wants to become a Police Officer; Weightwatchers (and similar programs) can show people how safely to take 60kg from their weight (with the resulting physical and mental good that come from that); people can be taught to treat themselves as a worthwhile member of the community; there are financial strategies that will increase your wealth to an extent provided you stay within the rules laid down by the authorities; and yes, eHarmony and RSVP do produce partnerships that last until ‘death do they part’.
Yet we started this article with an example of both of the major political parties blaming the other for an adverse outcome in a program that was seen to be in the public good. Labor’s NBN and the Coalition’s NBN are really two different animals. The Labor plan was to connect most Australian dwellings directly to a fibre-optic cable that at the moment could be used for fast internet and phone communications (and who knows what else in the future). The Coalition plan is for partly fibre optic cable to junction boxes on street corners, then existing copper cable to the dwelling; other parts of the system would use upgraded existing cable-television cable generally strung from power poles or in the same pits as the power cables in newer areas. It is slower and potentially cheaper (as there is less new work involved) but the maintenance costs are higher as the junction boxes need electricity to operate and the copper/cable TV cable is not new (with a greater potential to fail due to age). So they are not directly comparable in any case.
To be fair, Labor started the NBN journey and in all likelihood decided to make the ‘headline’ cost of the work the option where not much goes wrong – it makes sense, that’s the cheapest option. However, as we all know, Murphy was an optimist and things do go wrong; the hoped for cheapest option inevitably doesn’t happen. When the Coalition came to power in 2013, part of their platform was that the country could not afford Labor’s NBN, so they ‘reviewed’ it and changed it. Regardless of the benefits of each party’s plan and the cost differences, it is pretty unlikely that the Communications Minister has any more input to the day to day construction operations of NBNCo than initial policy setting and reviewing a budget – to claim that ‘the other side’ were the reason the estimate was ‘out’ is gilding the lily to some extent. Both sides have been in power for considerably more than the time needed to develop realistic estimates and discuss with the public the difference between an estimate and a guaranteed price. Clearly they both chose not to.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this isn’t the first article on The Political Sword that questions the wisdom of short term expediency versus the long term good of various policies (by all sides of the political fence) for the country and those who live here. Ad Astra wrote ‘The curse of adversarial politics’ in December 2008 and I commented about the problems with ‘absolutely’ ruling something in or out in ‘You reap what you sow’ in July 2014. Ironically, Ad Astra also asked in December 2008 Why does Malcolm Turnbull make so many mistakes. It seems that the more things change …
There is still a considerable percentage of the public who accept the argument that because the red team said this or the blue team said that, they should vote for the side making the accusation. There could be a million and one reasons why this is the case – although a lot of it is probably that people are just not interested, precisely because of the standard of debate and discussion in this country. Those that ‘don’t care’ are the real bunnies here. The first thing any ‘self-improvement’ program, like the ones we talked about above, will tell you is you have to do the work and make the sacrifice – which means that you have to stop blaming others for your problem and take responsibility for changing something that you can’t accept.
Regardless of how the Coalition would have run government between 2007 and 2013 (when Labor was in power), the fact is they weren’t and need to accept that we are at a certain point with the NBN, taxation, industrial relations or any one of a number of other functions of government. Should the current government want to change or improve on where we are, how about doing the work and making the sacrifice rather than suggesting it’s all the other side’s fault. After all, they were handed the keys to the prime minister’s office over two years ago.
And rather than blame the previous guy, perhaps next time they are in power, the ALP should comment that while they might have done it differently, the current position is what it is. Immediately following is an acknowledgement that they are in charge, they are prepared to do the work and sacrifice to make it better, and this is what is proposed.
This article was originally published on The Political Sword
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