Big Changes Ahead

We are in the final sitting week of the 43rd Australian Parliament. There is an air of expectation on both sides of the chamber that something eventful will occur this week. What counts as ‘eventful’ will always be a subjective assessment. Most would likely consider the replacing of Julia Gillard as Prime Minister as eventful. Given the build-up, I would also consider her retention of the job in a similar vein.

Lamentably, the Senate has seen Labor and the Greens conspire to truncate the debate on dozens of important bills – allowing less than 15 minutes of actual discussion before forcing them to a vote. While the benignly named ‘time-management’ process is not unusual, the number of bills that the government has sought to impose it on is breathtaking. It is expected that by the end of this week, the government will have guillotined debate on over 210 bills in this parliament alone.

Some of these bills have had next to no discussion or opportunity for input by the Senate. Unfortunately, the consequences of the lack of process have been demonstrated in some of the policy failings that have done so much damage to the government’s credibility. It also highlights the danger of providing absolute power to the left-of-centre parties. Like totalitarians everywhere, the political left are brutal abusers of having the numbers. Of course, being able to bludgeon anything through the parliament is one thing, but having to depend on the Greens for support is a veritable recipe for disaster. Labor has learned this lesson the hard way.

However, Labor’s lesson has also hit every politician hard. I cannot recall a time when the stocks of Australian politicians and politics has been so low with the voting public. The people seem desperate for an election in the hope of re-establishing some reputable structure within our parliamentary chamber. They can only hope that the ‘new paradigm’ of Windsor, Oakeshott et al will not be repeated for many more years.

The challenge ahead seems a relatively clear one but the success of implementing solutions will ultimately depend on the state of the economy. This is where an accumulation of dark clouds can be seen right around the globe. For many years, the central banks have been fuelling a fight against deflationary forces. Their money printing and negative real interest rates have bought time against, but not destroyed, the deflationary vortex. That vortex is now gaining control and looks set to impact most of the major economies.

China has been fuelling Australian growth through the commodity boom which has slowed significantly. Europe is descending into civil unrest. The USA is suffering under the Obama ‘tax and spend’ doctrine and Japan’s Abenomics isn’t working quite as it was intended. The warning signs are there and Australia will not be immune to the impacts of any co-ordinated slowdown.

This means a new government will certainly have their work cut out for them. In such an environment the key to success is taking the people into your confidence. You need to let them know what they can expect from the government they elect. We are all tired of policy surprises that are cooked up on the back of an envelope in the dead of night to satisfy some random political whim. They want their government to deliver what they say they will and use a sound framework for making important decisions.

That way, the people will know the end game and are more likely to wear the vicissitudes of the economy and their politicians with equanimity.

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