Friday, January 16, 2015

Friday incidentals

A brief round-up post today. There won't be a post tomorrow because I will be away.

Out of sight, out of mind. We worry about Martin Place of the French attacks, but do nothing about Boko Haram in Nigeria.

Mr Abbott's back down over one part of the medicare changes was, I suspect, inevitable.  It continues a pattern of Government proposals that simply can't be got through. I don't quite understand why Mr Abbott took the course he did when he must have known that it would fail.

In ‘The political system is failing to deliver’, Don Aitkin picked up Paul Kelly's point that the current Australian political system makes real change possible. I don't accept that, nor do I accept the view that the failure of an electorate to accept particular changes jammed down its throat is an example of the electorate's unwillingness to accept change. It's a-historical and also conflicts with my own experience.

Finally, the case of the Swiss National Bank is interesting. However, further comment here will have to wait until Sunday.


Winton Bates said...

Thanks for the link to Don Atkin's article, Jim. Very nice! But you still disagree?

Jim Belshaw said...

I do, Winton, at several levels.

First, I should say that there are elements of Don's analysis that I strongly agree with. I imagine that you can guess these from my previous writing.

Part is semantic. Change happens all the time, if only because we have to respond to external events. It is incremental. Often, we can only tell what were significant changes in retrospect.

Don is talking about bigger changes, things that we might call "reforms." In doing so, he mixes together (or so it seems to me) very different things.

If you look at the big changes in Australian history connected with political action, they have happened in all sorts of circumstances.

They have happened in competition between major opposing parties or groups. Examples include the adoption of representative government in NSW, the Robertson Land selection acts, the adoption of the tariff, union legislation.

Other changes have happened because of a consensus between major parties or groups. Examples include the Deakenite social contract (this began contested), Depression economic policy, the ending of white Australia, the micro-economic reforms of the 1980s.

Some really big changes have emerged because the existing political order broke down, allowing the emergence of new entities: the ALP, the Country Party, the Democrats, the Greens.

Have events since the 1970s and especially the professionalisation of the political process made real change more difficult? Like Don, I have sometimes argued yes if from a somewhat different perspective.

I am not sure, however. I think conscious big change is still possible, but only if you put away short-termism, recognise the importance of time.

I am out of time in this response, at le4ast for the present.

Winton Bates said...

I think it has become more difficult to engineer bipartisan support for economic reforms than it was in the 1980s.

Jim Belshaw said...

I'm not sure that's true Winton, although my first reaction was to agree with you.

If you take the tariff issue, by the time the Hawke Government was elected there was a consensus that tariffs must come down, that the economy must be opened up. The only real dispute was the how.

That consensus took a long time to form and was part of a broader set of changing attitudes.