This morning I made the mistake of reading the ramblings of Paul Sheehan. Now, because his lack of a coherent argument upset me so much, I thought I’d subject you to my ramblings on the subject of Paul Sheehan.
Ok, part of me thinks that he’d be better ignored. But another part of me worries that if we just ignore people writing in nationally distributed papers, the next thing you know, someone in the current government will read it and use it as evidence.
Because that’s one of the things that’s truly disturbing about much debate in the media these days. Opinion is mistaken for evidence. We seem to think that the truth is simply a matter of votes.
So Mr Sheehan’s column was spuriously titled:
“Baird has same problems as Abbott; an upper house dominated by electoral fluke”
Apparently, lower houses have clear mandates, but upper houses are elected by “flukes”. As he put it:
“On Saturday we saw, yet again, a clear mandate to govern being muddied by uncertainties in election for the upper house. The Legislative Assembly may be the oldest parliamentary body in Australia but it is also dominated by machine hacks and minor-party blackmailers. For years, the balance of power has been determined by electoral fluke, not representative politics.”
So the lower houses aren’t dominated by “machine hacks”? Mm, well that’s good to know. And he’s doesn’t seem to grasp the concept that one might actually choose a “minor-party blackmailer” (why the hyphen?) because one actually supports what they’re doing. How many Democrat voters felt betrayed when Meg Lees did a deal to allow the GST, for example? (The Democrats? Who were they?). And we could have a long discussion about how the distribution and deals that led to the Ricky Muirs and Steve Fieldings being elected with a toenail’s worth of votes, so it’s hardly the fault of the electoral system when it the decisions of the major parties on preferences which throw up these strange results.
However, it’s not just the frustration of mandates that trouble our Paul.
“The problem in NSW is replicated in federal politics, where the Senate is also dominated by the electoral fluke. This has exacerbated the end of the commodities boom. The boom will not be repeated when the commodities cycle turns because Australia now has a justified reputation for red tape, green tape, black tape, high costs and union extortion rackets.”
Ok, so it’s red tape, green tape, black tape, high costs and union extortion rackets that are exacerbating the end of the commodities boom. Gee, and I thought it was the lack of demand. But hey, we just get rid of all that red tape – you know, that red tape that led those deaths in the roofs during that “pink batts fiasco” – and all other safeguards and regulations then the end of the commodities boom won’t be half so bad.
Of course, Sheehan overlooks that much of his rainbow tape was put in place by governments who had a mandate. Although I suspect that in Sheehan’s world view only LNP governments have a mandate; left wing governments are another electoral fluke that only occur when we have the strange convergence of people voting for the Labor Party or Greens. (Yes, I am reluctant to call Labor “left wing”).
But Australia’s “justified reputation” means that when the commodity cycle turns then companies won’t mine here any more. They’ll mine the Cayman Islands. Or set up drilling for oil inside a Swiss bank, because, well, there’s less red tape.
However, the bit that made me splutter my toast was his use of Andrew Liveris. After establishing that Mr Liveris was a bright and successful man who graduated from the University of Queensland (and an Australian, what more could you ask?), Mr Sheehan went on to tell us that Liveris had been CEO and Chairman of Dow for a number of years and that Dow was spinning of its chlorine business, something that had always been one of its core products.
This, apparently, should send a “shiver down” our collective spine. Because chlorine is like commodities. “Highly cyclical. Capital intensive. Unpredictable. Volatile.”
So what does this mean for Australia? I mean why is Sheehan using a commercial decision by an individual to talk about Australia’s government policy?
“If only national economies could be transformed in the same way. Instead, our politicians must be preoccupied with competing interests rather than the national interest.”
Ah, those “competing interests”. If only politicians could say something like, “There is only ONE national interest and we will determine that in the Lower House and the circumstances under which it comes to Australia!”
He then goes on to talk about how the NSW upper house may stifle the “dynamism” of privatisation.
Ok, so somebody thinks Dow shouldn’t rely so heavily on chlorine as a product and this is more evidence that the upper houses stifle elected government’s. Ok, I can almost buy that if I squint and look at it from a certain angle. But it’s the next few paragraphs that make we wonder whether Sheehan thinks before he writes, or whether he writes down the most absurd thing he can think of in the hope of becoming Andrew Bolt.
After lamenting the tragedy of governments not be able to implement their mandates unfettered the “flukey” upper houses, he goes on to say:
In Queensland, seven weeks ago, voters elected an unknown leader, Annastacia Palaszczuk, with little management experience, no major policy beyond opposing privatisation, and no plan to rein in the state’s debt, which had exploded under Labor. Her government is already in trouble.
In Victoria, 17 weeks ago, voters elected a Labor government closely aligned with the corruption-riddled Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union. The new Premier, Daniel Andrews, then moved quickly to shut down the construction industry’s Construction Code Compliance Unit, loathed by the CFMEU.
He then complains that the polls suggest that Shorten could become PM without a coherent strategy just by constant sneering and making “racist insults” to the Japanese.
All of which seems rather strange given that his whole thrust has been about the denial of all that’s right and proper when elected governments are prevented from implementing their mandates. This is just wrong, according to Sheehan. Unless, for example, part of their mandate was a promise to CFMEU. (Actually, the CFMEU is the elected government in Victoria – the Liberals assured us that if we voted Labor then that was giving the green light for the CFMEU to run the state!)
Well, at least Queensland has no Upper House, so there’ll never be a threat to democracy there, eh Paul?