Collapse of good policy decisions

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions. For a couple of decades now, Australia seems to have made quite a few decisions we should not have made and we have not made decisions that we should have. For the decade or two before that it was the other way around.

I use the words “Australia” and “we” rather than “the Australian Government” because we elect the Australian Government and so, vicariously, the Government’s decisions are our decisions.

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Costly submarine blunders

HMAS Collins

The wasteful incompetence of the Coalition Government was there to be seen this week, but you would have to look behind lots of flags, jingoism, and brass to see it.

The move by Australia to ditch the French-designed diesel-electric submarines in favour of nuclear-powered ones is an unspoken admission of eight years of bungling.

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Covid: the flight from science

I have just spent two months in the north of Western Australia, and contrary to Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s glib remark, the only people in caves that I saw were those looking at Indigenous rock art.

Morrison is mistaken if he thinks that the public in what hitherto federally has been the most pro-Liberal state in Australia will applaud his demand for opening state borders and an end to lockdowns even when Covid strikes.

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Chaplain idea an insult to youth

The crass insensitivity of some conservative Federal Members of Parliament sank to a new low this week.

Andrew Wallace and Assistant Youth Minister Luke Howarth, citing psychological damage to children that they said was caused by what they called exaggerated alarm over climate change, called for a boost to the school chaplaincy program.

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Successes in Afghanistan and Vietnam

Image from the broadcast of President Dwight D. Eisenhower and his farewell address to the nation on January 17, 1961, from the White House in Washington, D.C. (National Archives)

When US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this is “not Saigon”, everyone rightly scoffed. It was a mirror image right down to near identical photos of US helicopters evacuating the embassy in Kabul just as in Saigon 46 years earlier – another delusional re-run of a failed US foreign policy. When will they ever learn?

But there is another way of looking at this. Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq were highly successful missions. If just depends on whose eyes you are looking through.

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The decline of Federal authority

Further evidence that the Federal Government is losing its authority is emerging on several (related) fronts: Covid, climate and population.

The Covid crisis has affected Commonwealth-State relations more profoundly than at any time since the Commonwealth grabbed the totality of income-tax power in World War II. This time, however, the power is moving the other way, from the Commonwealth to the states. And Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is being pulled and pushed in different directions by different power centres, has little idea how to deal with it.

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Tax can be a revolting topic

Tax is such a dry subject, but with incendiary consequences. Perhaps more than anything it determines the sort of society you have. After last week’s tirade against Labor for agreeing not to oppose to the Coalition’s cut-taxes-for-the-wealthy proposal, a perspicacious reader reminded me of a little history.

In the early 1360s, John of Gaunt, then in his early 20s, had become the richest nobleman in England.

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Labor’s supine capitulation

A morally bankrupt, supine, irrational sell-out was committed by the Australian Labor Party this week when it said it would acquiesce with the third, and worst, stage of the Coalition’s tax-cuts-for-the-rich policy.

The tax cuts have been legislated, but many had hoped Labor’s policy would be to reverse at least the big cuts for people on more than $185,000. Now Labor has now agreed to what amounts to the rabid flat-tax fantasies of Reagan and Thatcher. 

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When and where will the buck stop?

US President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk saying: “The buck stops here”. If Prime Minister Scott Morrison had a buck-related sign it would say: “Send the buck lower down the food chain to anyone but me.”

The “buck” is a counter used in card games to indicate who is responsible for dealing. If you don’t want the responsibility, you pass the buck to somebody else. Morrison has been adept at that in recent weeks as it becomes clear that he and his government have made bad decisions on quarantine, isolation, and vaccines.

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