Friday, August 24, 2007

Common Australian Political Myths - National standards (uniformities) are a good thing

This is the second most popular Australian political myth after having too many politicians. It just sounds so very very sensible. Surely, as one nation, we should have common standards throughout the country? Or the state, for that matter.

The reality is very different. A national approach my help. Or it may hinder. It all depends upon the circumstances. And upon the definitions used.

Australia has been experiencing a minerals boom. Unlike past booms where heavy demand in one sector has led to a wages explosion across sectors, this time wage rises have been quarantined. As a consequence, the boom has continued because inflationary pressures have stayed down.

Both parties have claimed credit for this and for the same reason. Each argues that their approach has destroyed the previous nationally uniform system under which a wage rise in any area was transmitted to the broader economy because of a standardised uniform national system that worked regardless of variations in industry or geographic circumstance.

So here we have a case where there is general agreement that a centralised, uniform, system did not work.

I could give many examples. At this point, I would only argue that every argument on national standards or uniform approaches needs to be tested on the facts, not simply assumed to be a good thing.

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