Cut the corporate stranglehold

Covid has caused quite a lot of changes of heart, most recently the Federal Government’s attitude to paying sick leave to those who do not have it. Before that, it was increasing unemployment benefits and giving free child care. It gives rise to the question: why did it take a pandemic? If they could be afforded when the economy is on its knees why couldn’t they have been afforded earlier when economic times were much better?

When this pandemic ends, people will ask for, or perhaps demand, a fairer system. This is what happened after World War II. In the quarter century after the war, income and wealth distribution became more equal. There was a much greater trust in governments and institutions.

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Only some of the way with LBJ

At last, after more than half a century of Harold Holt’s “All the way with LBJ” and the USA, Australia is showing some caution and seeing some reality.

At the Ausmin talks in Washington this week, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and Defence Minister Linda Reynolds politely declined the US’s typically bellicose and militaristic invitation to join it in more forays over and into the territory and seas illegally claimed by China in the South China Sea.

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Govt debt is not to be feared

There is no equivalent of a trench-coat-bedecked debt collector with rottweiler and baseball bat at the front door demanding that the Australian Government repay its debt. Nor will there ever be.

To the contrary, there is an orderly queue of businesses and individuals desperate to buy more Australian Government bonds which would put Australia into greater debt. Why? Because they know the Australian Government will never, cannot ever, default.

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The real lesson from the regal letters

Every time proponents for an Australian republic cite the Whitlam dismissal as a case for it – as they did this week in spades – they set the cause back, for the simple reason that it reminds many Coalition voters that the monarchy enabled them to get rid of a Labor Government so let’s keep it.

Unless the republican movement can get wide support, including Abbott’s “Team Australia”, the cause will remain elusive.

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Something rotten in the states of America

Just how rotten is the United States political system? “Rotten” as in it will only take a small kick for the whole edifice to fall in, let alone a big kick like Covid. The idea is about as fanciful as the collapse of the Soviet empire seemed in 1987 when President Ronald Reagan famously demanded: “Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

Yet, a short time later, a little chink in the Iron Curtain at the Hungary-Austrian border saw the whole rotten regime collapse.

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Sinking money into the military

When the Government announced this week its $80 billion increase in military spending over the next decade to $270 billion, there was no chorus of “Where is the money coming from?” that usually accompanies pre-election promises of, say, increased dental services or childcare subsidies.

An ingrained acceptance of higher military spending prevails. With health, education and welfare, on the other hand, the attitude seems to be that “taxpayers’ money” is somehow being wasted or squandered.

Yet the acid question is not “Where is the money COMING FROM?” but “Where is the money GOING TO?”

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Tragedy leading to higher living standards

You could replace the words “Black Death” with the words “Covid 19” in the following quote from a Medieval historian: “The Black Death was a great tragedy. However, the decrease in population caused by the plague increased the wages of peasants. As a result, peasants began to enjoy a higher standard of living and greater freedom.”

Covid 19 has not and will not cause the death of between a third or half the population as the Black Death did between 1349 and 1370, but in Australia (with immigration on hold) it will produce a significant slowing, if not falling, in population growth.

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Endemic stacking and corrupting

Revelations in the past week of branch stacking in the Labor Party in Victoria and misuse of travel allowances across the political spectrum come just as voters’ confidence in politicians and politics was increasing as a result of their handling of Covid 19.

Every now and then someone gets caught stacking or rorting and is removed, but the endless recurrences across all parties suggest the problem is endemic. To use a domestic simile, the institutional response is like someone cleaning the kitchen benches and floor which will have to be done again and again, instead of acknowledging that vermin have infested the whole kitchen and radical, more robust, and permanent solutions are needed.

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Coalition regresses to the mean

In the past week, the Coalition Government has slowly but inconsistently wound back the concessions it made in the face of the Covid-19 crisis. It said it would end free childcare but would continue tax concessions to business. This is the Coalition going back to its old tricks of helping well-off businesses while at the same time kicking the less fortunate in the guts. This is regression to the mean – in more ways than one.

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Lessons from Sheean VC case

In the new environment of political leaders being more willing to accept expert advice, it seemed a little perplexing that the Government would reject the unanimous recommendation of the Defence Honours and Awards Appeals Tribunal to award Ordinary Seaman Teddy Sheean the Victoria Cross.

The tribunal’s membership is sprinkled with Admirals, Generals, Air Marshals and administrative-law heavyweights.

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