Scor­ing points is not good pol­i­tics

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - WORLD -

IT’s been another low, mean week in fed­eral pol­i­tics.

Barn­aby Joyce fi­nally stood aside as Deputy Prime Min­is­ter be­cause of the cu­mu­la­tive ef­fect of an af­fair, an untested ha­rass­ment claim and the moral hec­tor­ing of his Prime Min­is­ter (who shares a lot of blame for his ap­palling lack of po­lit­i­cal man­age­ment). Jobs Min­is­ter Michaelia Cash threat­ened to ven­ti­late ru­mours no one had ever heard re­gard­ing Bill Shorten’s staff.

For­eign Min­is­ter Julie Bishop was pinged for charg­ing tax­pay­ers $32,000 for her part­ner’s travel but not in­clud­ing him in her per­sonal in­ter­est dis­clo­sures be­cause “he was not her part­ner” (go fig­ure).

La­bor se­na­tor Kim Carr threw a barb at Vic­to­rian se­na­tor James Pat­ter­son about “Hitler Youth” and Bill Shorten dis­closed $17,000 in free travel only af­ter the per­son who paid for it dobbed him in for be­ing two-faced on the Adani mine.

Have you no­ticed how nasty, shrill and per­sonal it’s get­ting in Can­berra? It seems the fewer real dif­fer­ences there are be­tween gov­ern­ment and op­po­si­tion, the more in­tense and bit­ter the con­test be­comes be­cause it’s about per­son­al­i­ties, not pol­icy.

We all know that our pub­lic life and our na­tional con­ver­sa­tion should be on a higher plane. I think our MPs know that, too, but they’re now so obsessed with scor­ing points, and the death spi­ral of bad polls, mean­ing it’s less about mak­ing a dif­fer­ence, and more about mak­ing a splash. Sadly, we’re all the poorer for it. If our lead­ers thought as much about our well­be­ing as they do about do­ing each other in, we would all be bet­ter off. It’s not as if we’re short of things that need fix­ing — in­deed, here’s my list:

1. Re­duce the up­ward pres­sure on power prices by declar­ing that emis­sions re­duc­tion is a lower pri­or­ity than af­ford­abil­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity. Scrap the sub­si­dies for all new wind and so­lar power. And get crack­ing and build a new coal-fired power sta­tion to stop prof­i­teer­ing by big power com­pa­nies and demon­strate that Aus­tralian coal has a use here as well over­seas.

If we can spend $10 bil­lion or so on a new Snowy 2.0, how about a Hazel­wood 2.0, or a Lid­dell 2.0?

2. Don’t stop im­mi­gra­tion but scale it un­til in­fra­struc­ture, hous­ing and in­te­gra­tion has caught up. Right now, our rate is one of the high­est in the de­vel­oped world and we’re hurt­ing.

3. Stop pan­der­ing to po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness. We don’t need to change Aus­tralia Day or even to de­bate chang­ing it be­cause it ac­knowl­edges the mo­ment mod­ern Aus­tralia be­gan. We don’t need to pro­mote gen­der flu­id­ity in schools dressed up as anti-bul­ly­ing. And we must stop mak­ing ex­cuses for peo­ple who have bro­ken the law or ripped off the sys­tem, like send­ing NZ crim­i­nals home.

4. Stop pre­tend­ing that more fund­ing is the an­swer to ev­ery prob­lem. Our record ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing hasn’t stopped Kaza­khstan beat­ing us and ever-in­creas­ing indige­nous spend­ing doesn’t seem to be clos­ing the gap.

5. Don’t for­get get­ting the bud­get un­der con­trol and tack­ling our $500 bil­lion debt.

6. Keep re­turn­ing Ji­hadis out of the coun­try be­cause our courts will never lock all of them up. Britain has tem­po­rary ex­clu­sion or­ders to keep ter­ror­ists out and we should, too.

7. Stop apol­o­gis­ing for our coun­try and the rich­ness of Western civil­i­sa­tion. We should never hold back from ac­knowl­edg­ing the val­ues and cul­ture that has made Aus­tralia the envy of the world.

8. Sup­port the gov­ern­ment’s plan for drug and al­co­hol test­ing for wel­fare re­cip­i­ents and the na­tion­wide roll­out of the Cen­tre­link debit card that lim­its wel­fare spend­ing to the ne­ces­si­ties of life, and not gam­bling, drugs or al­co­hol.

9. Let’s get se­ri­ous about the in­fra­struc­ture our coun­try needs if peo­ple and goods are to move around freely.

10. Let’s cut red tape be­cause bu­reau­cracy and reg­u­la­tion is stran­gling small busi­ness.

The gov­ern­ment is ac­tu­ally do­ing a few of these things but when politi­cians get into the gut­ter or think they can ex­ploit the sys­tem, even the good sto­ries don’t get out.

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