Friday, April 26, 2019

Personal reflections on Australia's 2019 elections 1 - a macro view

Australia goes to the polls on 18 May for a House of Representatives plus half Senate election. The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) has now released full candidate details. William Bow has a useful summary of total numbers by party. Interestingly, the AEC reports that a record 96.8% of eligible Australians had enrolled for the 2019 federal election. This is the most complete electoral roll in history with youth  (18-24 YOs) enrolment  also an all-time high of 88.8%.

I haven't really commented on the election, although I have been following it in a mild sort of way. The public opinion polls continue to suggest a significant Labor Party win, although the coalition position has strengthened a little in some marginal seats. Pre-poll voting is just opening. With so many people now voting before polling day, the significance of last minute changes in trend has reduced.

I won't cry tears of blood if Labor wins. I don't personally like Mr Shorten, that's just an emotional reaction for I have never met the man. But I am not worried about Mr Shorten becoming PM. We don't live in a presidential system, although .some would like to present in that. way.

I disagree with some of the Labor policies, some very much, but they are within the general ball park. Further, the fact that I see some of the Labor team as very  credible tempers my concerns about Mr Shorten. It might not if he were president!

On the other side of the ledger, I won't cry tears of blood if the Coalition is returned. In fact, that might be better for certain things I support. However, any general support I may have had for the Coalition Government has eroded and for a number of reasons.

I don't like the hard men and women of the Liberal Party. To my mind, they put ideology in front of practical pragmatic action that might benefit the country.

The 2014 Hockey/Abbott budget was a disaster because it was seen as, and indeed was, unfair. That budget lay the base for a Labor response that, to my mind, has gone too far on the other side. But it's hard to blame Labor. They played the hand they were dealt quite well.

I think that the decision to drop a carbon price was silly, that Mr Abbott's campaign on the issue was downright dishonest. I support market mechanisms. I also support coal mining and indeed the use of coal in power generation so long as there is a carbon price on Australian emissions. Without that, my arguments are weakened.

Australia's electricity system has become a mess. That mess dates back to decisions taken in the first half of the 1990s, something that I wrote about at local level here, where certain ideological principles determined policy. We were promised benefits through lower prices that did not eventuate. Governments, state and federal, compounded problems through their subsequent actions. .

The NBN is another sore point. I did not want Mr Turnbull replaced by Mr Morrison because I could see no gain in it. That does not mean that I was a strong Turnbull supporter.  Rightly or wrongly, I consider that Mr Turnbull replaced the old concept of the  divine right of kings with a divine belief in the overwhelming power of his own intellect.

The original concept of the NBN may have been flawed, but Mr Turnbull's melded model retains the flaws and adds new ones. The end result looks like a lower performance mess. Thinking about this, there were two central problems.

The first was Mr Turnbull's belief that he knew what people needed when it came to bandwidth and speeds. I think that that has already been invalidated. The second was his belief that he knew the technology, that it was possible to meld very different systems. The end results was an NBN that retains the flaws in the original model while introducing new ones.

Refugees is the last area I want to mention. This is one that we have debated here. My core concern is a simple one. Start from the premise that we do need to protect our borders in a strong way. The question then becomes how we do this in the most humane way. I think that the Government has simply failed here.

I don't want to make this a long post. In my next post on the elections, I will look at some of the patterns as I see them.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jim, interesting post. I just wanted to put in my 5 cents on the immigration question. Not really disagreeing with you that something needs to be done differently. However I am not sure that we need to be cutting numbers, but there are too many people in major cities. Would it be a fair thing to suggest that infrastructure needs to catch up and go beyond the major and minor cities and into the other liveable land we have in this country? So, perhaps if we had the infrastructure and places to work, people who are new could be happy to go somewhere other than the majors, and be confident that they could make a life and bring up their children properly?

Jim Belshaw said...

Morning GL. You won't get an argument from me. I came down finally in favour of reduced immigration because I saw little point in just feeding people into Sydney and Melbourne.

There are some problems with the way that the immigration numbers are calculated because of the influence of overseas students on the numbers. The numbers include temporary visa holders of whom student are about half.

The problem I have with current approaches to regional development is that the provision of infrastructure alone is not sufficient. Sustained growth occurs when developments feed into each other. The problem with current approaches to regional development is that they totally ignore the existence of regions as such. The result if fragmentation and lack of focus.

Anonymous said...

Oh Dear God, JDB, just be thankful you no longer live in the ACT. This is a totally minimalist view, but there is not one of the hopefuls (and sitting) candidates that I would let loose in the backyard with a scoop and a dog poo bag. There was a quote in a Steve Martin film of many years ago (I can't recall the title), but the character was regarded as so stupid he 'wouldn't know shit from Shinola' (a brand of I think, dark shoe polish). Our incumbent senator, 'thou whoreson Zed', to cite Mr Shakespeare, is a reactionary Duttonist. It's downhill from there on. I wouldn't think that any of them could identify, pick up, and dispose of dog poo in a socially acceptable manner.

Anonymous said...

BTW, RSC is currently staging a role reversal Shrew.The male roles are played by gurls, with the names changed to eg, Petruchia, Lucentia, and the boys are playing the gurls, but with no change; so e g the male Kate is still Katherine, but he is the victim of Petruchia's autocracy. Country Life gives it 3 stars.

Jim Belshaw said...

I fear that I am too much of a traditionalist Kate to like so much fiddling! Each time a Canberra person suggests that Canberra is representative of Australia, I just point at the political reps!