Where are we goin’…….?
ALP has spread Europe's disease
GREG SHERIDAN, FOREIGN EDITOR The Australian March 21, 2013
SIX years of Labor government, by this year's election in September, will result in a new Australia. We have contracted the European disease. Labor has taken us towards the most spectacularly unsuccessful model of government in the developed world today. We will have almost all the European pathologies but none of the European security of a big local market and a benign security environment.
Europe's present distress is our future. Everyone knows that part of Europe's problem is excessive welfare. As Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel has remarked, Europe has 7 per cent of the world's population, 25 per cent of global gross domestic product and 50 per cent of the world's welfare payments.
Julia Gillard is taking us far down that road. The disability insurance and Gonski reforms combined will require more than $20 billion a year from Canberra.
But European dysfunction also involves a kind of corporate-state approach to government and culture best exemplified in Benito Mussolini's Italy. Before he was a fascist, Mussolini was a socialist. The corporate state envisaged government leadership of the economy and culture. InEurope, many of the biggest firms are state-owned or government linked, public broadcasters are powerful and universities are mainly state institutions.
Labor's astonishing attack on the free media, through its attempt to arm government with a sanction over what newspapers can publish, is European in spirit, though worse even than most European jurisdictions.
The corporate-state approach to ideology and culture has been a terrible failure in Europe.
We are copying that failure. Here, the ABC gets $1bn a year from government. It has a strong left-of-centre bias. That means it tends to favour more government regulation, especially of its competitors, and a narrow view of what is acceptable content in the media.
It was striking to see in the parliamentary committee this week Labor and Green politicians referring to particular columns or editorials they disagreed with. The context was meant to be an inquiry about the structural regulation of the media. Citing perfectly mainstream columns they simply didn't like suggested media regulation would be influenced by these dislikes. Manifestly, this is a terrible way to arrive at government regulation. It is a naked example of politics intimidating a free and independent institution.
In Australia, most culture-forming activity is ultimately funded by the state. As well as the ABC there are the government-funded universities and the countless journals, blogs, publishing houses and the like that the ABC and the universities run. The commercial media are perhaps the only really independent, big culture-forming institutions wholly beyond the endless, hydraulic ideological pressure that comes from government funding.
This is very similar to much of Europe. The US is different, with its rich tradition of commercial broadcasters, private universities and independent think tanks.
Social ideological orthodoxy has been prominent in Europe, and a terrible failure. It has led to revolts by alienated parts of the electorate, who often choose irresponsible vehicles for electoral protest, in part because they have been excluded from mainstream political discussion.
European political culture has typically seen the triumph of an urban, professional, symbol-wielding class, employed mostly by governments and government-funded bodies. Part of their ideological outlook is a contempt for traditional Christianity. Their trenchant inner-city values involve a desire to mock Christianity. We see the local version of this on ABC TV when Shaun Micallef is broadcast exclaiming: "Jesus H. Christ on a bike", or in the sitcom based on life at the Lodge in which a staff member bears the name Jesus, to facilitate lame jokes confusing profanity with the name of the founder of the Christian religion.
Ironically, if newspapers did this, under the government's regulatory proposals they would probably be censured, but in the ideological world view of the ABC this is cutting-edge satire and moral courage.
In countless specific policy areas, Labor has taken Australia down the failed European road, often outdoing even the Europeans, as with our uniquely costly carbon tax. Similarly, defence spending is savagely reduced, replicating European insouciance about national security without the benign strategic environment Europe enjoys. Since Labor changed policy, about 35,000 boatpeople have arrived in Australia. Most of them will stay permanently and bring two or three relatives under family reunion. The majority are unskilled Muslim immigrants never chosen by Australian policy. The vast majority of Muslims are law-abiding, good citizens but the minority who experience difficulties is substantial. The key difference between Australia and Europe is that we have emphasised skilled migrants while Europe's experience has been unskilled immigration, much of it asylum-seeker, and generous family reunion. As a result, immigration is a disaster in Europe.
Labor's economic management has been poor. It inherited a $20bn surplus and has delivered consistent deficits. Gross government debt is $270bn and rising. The economy looks good only because of John Howard's inheritance and because the minerals boom has made every resources-based economy temporarily look good. But Australia is making no preparation for lean years ahead.
The labour market is being reregulated at a frenetic pace, replicating one of the central failings of European economies.
In foreign policy we have moved towards the European consensus and away from the Australian tradition on issues such as Israel and become more affected by the UN mindset than our distinctive circumstances.
Above all, government has become a thing of electoral symbolism, short-term fixes, bribes to sectional interests. The fiscal rigour and micro-economic reform of the Hawke-Keating Labor Party is utterly gone.
The centre-left vote in Australia is permanently fractured and this contributes to Labor's inability to make decisions encompassing the whole national interest.
No Labor government in memory has been so dependent on a dwindling trade union base, which it is using coercive government power to resuscitate.
Europe's staggering failure is our new model.