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|Editions > 1998 > July > Gold||Sunday May 26, 2013 - Melbourne Time: 19:34:30|
The cliché 'a week is a long time in politics' certainly is the case given the extraordinary Queensland election results that are currently resounding around the nation. Just a month after Peter Costello released his Budget and its $2.7 Billion surplus, it seems all this groundwork for tax reform and a GST may have all come unstuck.
The fact that almost one in four Queensland voters were prepared to move to the extreme right, electing candidates from a Party espousing, in the most part, sketchy policies, certainly has led to a rethink by the major Parties.
As well as the difficulties created, both in Australia and internationally, through the racial intolerance promoted by One Nation, the economic policies being espoused by Ms Hanson and her cohorts raises the question of whether electors are making an informed decision.
Voters being lured by the promise of a return to high tariff protection, cutting foreign investment, slashing foreign aid and immigration and a tax payer funded people's bank offering 2% loans, indicates how little many people understand economic realities and the global marketplace that now dominates our world.
Is this the politicians' fault for not clearly explaining the reasons for their policy decisions or clearly spelling out policy objectives? But, Queensland voters flocked to One Nation which provides very little policy detail. Then is it the fault of the media for failing to analyse One Nation's policies in depth? Much of the media has sensationalised the oddities espoused by One Nation and its supporters, assuming the public will see through and dismiss most of its proposals as simplistic and unworkable.
But with one in four Queensland voters defecting to One Nation, the protest vote cannot be ignored. Undoubtedly, there are sectors in our community suffering more than others from rapid changes that have and will continue to take place. But, as a nation, are we failing to talk up the positives.
Yes, unemployment is too high, but it is not as high as in the 80s. Moreover, most people are better off than they were 5 or 10 years ago, interest rates are at the lowest level in 30 years and inflation is extremely low.
The Asian economic crisis is impacting on us, but with our dollar losing value our exports become more competitive, and with imports not as attractive this should shift our current account in the right direction. Those intending to travel overseas are worse off but, on the positive side of the ledger, Pauline Hanson aside, Australia is a more attractive destination for overseas visitors and domestic travel becomes more enticing to Australians contemplating a trip overseas. So why all the gloom and doom and insecurity?
Moira Raynor, author of 'Rooting Democracy', describes Australia's situation as 30-40-30. Thirty percent doing very nicely thank you very much, 40% who have jobs but are not sure for how long and 30%, including a large number of our young people, who are largely missing out with little chance of rectifying this situation.
So who is to blame? The economic rationalists have come in for a serve in recent times as politicians and commentators look for reasons for the Queensland result. In numerous editorials, FOCUS has raised the issue of the multiplier effect, particularly in rural and regional Australia, as governments close services and jobs disappear.
'Small government' proponents argue that the private sector will fill the gaps, but this has not always happened. Moreover, striving for 'greater productivity', really means 'more profit' which often translates into 'jobs having to go'. As a result, those with jobs are working longer and harder, while those without a job face a bleak future.
There is no doubt cities are better placed to provide a greater buffer for their residents than rural and regional areas. In the last edition of FOCUS, we quoted Professor Gerritsen, from the Australian Centre for Regional and Local Government Studies, who sees the city CEO being concerned largely about quality of life or amenity issues, while the rural CEO is often wholly preoccupied with how to keep his or her community alive.
For some years, Local Government has been trying to channel information through to the other spheres of government about what is happening in communities. The Australian Local Government Association has long argued that it is vital it is represented at key policy forming forums to feed through how policies are impacting on the ground and what people are saying. Maybe now the other spheres will finally sit up and take notice.
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