22 August 2010

What was that all about?

The election is over. Labor has clearly lost. The Coalition has clearly not won. What does that say about the policy issues debated during the campaign?

Sorry, what policy issues? Immigration? Labor says: not so many, stop the boats, send them to East Timor. Liberal says: not so many, stop the boats, send them to Nauru.

Foreign policy? Tragically, on election day we heard of two more Australian soldiers killed in Aghanistan, plus two more injured (and a couple more the next day). So who won the foreign policy debate? Er, what debate? The only mention of anything going on outside Australia was, as above, East Timor vs Nauru.

Some might suggest there is an underlying connection between what is happening in Afghanistan and the flow of refugees. Too complicated for "real" Julia and "honest" Tony.

An old saying goes that, in a democracy, a country gets the government it deserves. What did we do to deserve this?

12 August 2010

Fewer people, more helicopters

I've been watching Dick Smith's diatribe against immigration on the ABC. Like the majestic equality of the law, which Anatole France identified as punishing rich and poor alike for sleeping under bridges, we have a majestic equality of freedom of speech in this country, allowing rich and poor alike to make their own one hour TV programs to put their views.

Mr Smith, who lives in a mansion and flies a private helicopter, is perfectly entitled to worry about the impact of humans on the planet. It bothers me too. But it also bothers me to hear reasoning such as the following (I think I am quoting correctly): "We are currently about 22 million sharing the wealth of this country. If we grow to 44 million, we will all be half as wealthy."

That means that in about 1963, when our population was around 11 million, we must have been twice as wealthy as we are now.

Issues like global warming, wealth distribution, water usage, education expenditure, soil degradation, urban sprawl, etc. are in fact far too important to be turned over to this sort of simplistic argument.

01 August 2010

Sustainability, the new weasel word

The economic historian Niall Ferguson has described Australia's current "population debate" as asinine.

Ferguson is far from being a radical. The fact that he was invited to talk in Australia by the Centre for Independent Studies, a conservative think-tank, confirms this.

Everyone politician in the country seems to think that the only word they need to use to describe their views on population, immigration, climate change and the environment is "sustainable". A word that is used to mean just about anything ends up being totally meaningless, and that is precisely what is happening here.

When it comes to population issues, what they are really saying is their program is to convince anti-immigration voters that they are against opening the floodgates, and at the same time convince business interests that they don't want to cut back on the supply of cheap skilled labour that immigration has been bringing in. In fact, they have no policy at all.

To tell the truth, I rather prefer them to have no policy. Like most things, they usually work out better when the politicians don't interfere.