As we reported in News+Views this week, a good friend and leading economist said something important in a private conversation. Australia has had so many failed Prime Ministers in recent years because the economic and social problems confronting then are so difficult. The budget deficits are growing debt at a worrying rate. Increases in spending on health and education are failing to improve things. Nearly half of adult Australians take more from the government than they contribute. The outlook for young indigenous Australians is far below that for kids with middle class non-indigenous parents. All these trends are simply unsustainable.
Because successive governments, backed by government officials who would not be officials if the didn't backing those in power, keep telling us all is well. As a result the 'punters' (ie voters) are baffled to find that in reality their kids educational standards are falling behind the world's best standard, medical treatment gets increasingly expensive and poverty refuses to be banished. Of course, the half of the population getting more than they give have no interest to challenge the status quo.
'When ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise.'
There are small signs of better approaches to come. What is the real reason money is not the cause of poor teaching? Can medical services be improved without further massive spending increases? (Henry's favourite beef is the necessity to see an MD to get medicines and regular referrals to specialists reissued despite being on exactly the same drug and specialist checks for 15 years now.) Here there are some signs of progress - debates on allowing marijuana to be used legally to treat chronic pain, and on the case to allow assisted death with, of course, the essential safeguards.
Systematic debate and discussion is the starting point for public policy progress. This was the message of the Hawke and Howard governments and it is more important than ever as a fractured party system heads us in the European world of multiple parties and the frequent need to form coalitions to govern. The paucity of debate and discussion fits into my friend's model. People unable to perceive the national woes or to persuade the voters of solutions in a calm and reasoned manner fail the test of effective government.
The current US presidential election offers another scary model. When the established elites (Hillary Clinton's Democrats) fail to improve lives and to keep its member's reputations clean, the extreme populist fringe (Donald Trump's Republicans) finds a fertile field. Imagine if you can a Trump Presidency. Free trade rollback, immigrants who do many of the least attractive jobs sent home, tearing families apart, abuse heaped on liberals and other minority groups, lies and half-truths a regular part of Presidential commentary, giving Russia greater support than traditional allies like Australia in trade and geopolitical matters.
Imagine if you can, President Trump's finger on the nuclear button.
Enough Henry. Let us turn our gaze on more cheerful matters.
The sporting life
A fairy-tale come true. The Western Bulldogs became the 2016 AFL Premiers by winning their fourth hard match in a row - West Coast in Perth, Hawthorn in Melbourne, GWS in Sydney and finally the Sydney Swans at the 'G' in Melbourne. The Bullies' second premiership after 62 years.
It was the battlers vrs the smooth boys from Sydney, Melbourne vrs Sydney and the Underdogs vrs the favourites. HoImage of the weekw the relatively (to all four finalists) young Doggies held it together for four such games is beyond reason. Clearly faithful supporters, a wonderful coach, an utterly united support team, from the Chairman to the boot studder and brilliant team players, many with star quality in any team. The team is not yet in the Premiership 'window' as one expert noted, so are we seeing the birth of a footy dynasty?
Tonight's Rugby (League) has been described as the mirror image - played in Sydney, the favourite coming from Melbourne, the home team, the hometown battlers the Cronulla Sharks never having won a Grand Final. Roy Masters on Offsiders today made another significant point. All teams in both sets of finals had very experienced coaches, men who had worked their way into the top jobs of their respective clubs.
Image of the week