Over the last several decades, the scope and influence of government has dwindled.
Assets have been sold, businesses privatised, services outsourced, public servants retrenched, funding cut, and deregulation pursued.
To what end?
We used to own the Commonwealth Bank and Medibank Private, giving us the ability to help determine interest rates and private health insurance premiums.
We used to own Telstra and the power generation and transmission grids, giving us control over prices and the crucial communication and energy networks.
We used to have a Public Works department to build and maintain the infrastructure we needed.
We used to have a Commonwealth employment service which actually hooked people up with jobs rather than imposing draconian compliance regimes and fines.
We used to run the aged care, disability, and mental health service sectors. Making them for-profit businesses has led to some terrible outcomes for clients.
We used to own our air and seaports and our railways. Now, foreign companies set prices and enjoy the profits.
We used to value the expertise and independent advice from an experienced public service. Now, departmental advice is regularly ignored by Ministers without explanation, and private consultants are engaged to produce reports with a desired outcome – or we just let the lobbyists like the Minerals and Property Councils and the gambling and hotel industry write scripts for the government.
When NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said “we allowed the building industry to self-regulate and it hasn’t worked”, she was congratulated for her frankness when she should have been castigated for her naivety and her abrogation of duty.
When you let the market rule, maximising profit becomes the only consideration.
Our regulators have become too timid, lacking the expertise, will, or funding to enforce regulations. Occasionally fines are handed out for transgressions but prosecutions are rare and jail time for company directors basically unheard of.
The government is so keen to attract investment that they are willing to offer tax concessions and royalty holidays and approvals based on promises rather than plans.
It’s all about the jobs, the government says. But what sort of jobs? The government itself could be making investments and providing services, creating secure employment where workers’ entitlements are protected and results are open to scrutiny.
The role of unions in protecting workers’ rights has been deliberately and systematically undermined.
Taxes for wealthy people and businesses have been coming down for years but this has not trickled down to lifting the lower end out of poverty.
Privatisation hasn’t resulted in lower prices. Outsourcing hasn’t resulted in better services.
Deregulation hasn’t shown businesses stepping up to fulfil their part of the social contract in return for making things easier for them. They have done what they can get away with at every turn. Very similar to the politicians’ response when they are caught spending public money on themselves.
Ethical businesses falling over themselves to provide the best product or service for the lowest price with the best interests of their employees, the community, and the environment uppermost in their decisions is a myth that small government proponents wish was true.
Like what we do at The AIMN?
You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.
Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!