Scoring points is not good politics
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.