Australia’s Parliament is not the only institution that has been torn apart by the Coalition and corrupt corporate interests over the last decade, as Alan Austin reports.
CONGRATULATIONS Australia! Saturday’s election result was fantastic for observers dismayed by the recent deterioration of Australia’s democracy, economy, community and global reputation.
As of this writing, several seats remain in question. But we know that 13 impressive women have been elected – one Green, five Labor and seven extraordinary independents – so far. We know that the new lower house will have three Greens and maybe four. At least five high-profile Liberal Party men have left, including the worst treasurer in Australian history, the worst in terms of measurable results and for lying about them. And we know that Anthony Albanese, who everyone agrees is a great guy, will be the prime minister.
The incoming parliamentarians know their immediate tasks: correct the response to climate change, build an effective federal ICAC, recover lost wages, ensure that women are respected and restore international relations.
The nation can support this new Parliament with confidence. Then we can all get to work repairing the other institutions that have been maimed or rotted away over the last decade. Here are only five of them.
the tax office
Can a large government department suffer from schizophrenia? The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) publishes annual reports with grim warnings about tax evasion, which it declares illegal, unethical and punishable.
It also publishes an annual list of large corporations that pay little or no taxes. Why is this going on? Why doesn’t the ATO use its overt powers to enforce the law? Given the explosions in debt and deficits, this is a high priority.
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Arguably the most influential ABC broadcast before the election was Leigh Sales. 7.30 interview with Anthony Albanese in prime time on the eve of the election.
Sales informed his national audience that:
“Morrison’s government was hit by one of the worst and most complex health and economic crises in history and, compared to the rest of the world, Australia’s performance in both areas is exceptionally good. Low mortality rate, almost instant economic recovery.”
He then asked Albanese, “What’s the case for change here?” He did not ask if those electoral messages from the Coalition were correct. She postulated them as true.
The problem here is not the editorialization of ABC. It’s not like the national broadcaster is openly berating the party that caters to wealthy corporations at the expense of the majority of citizens. The problem is that those claims are not true.
Yes, the health crisis was serious. But the associated economic downturn was not “one of the worst and most complex crises in history”, as the Liberal Party claims. Compared to every other global recession in the last 100 years, this was a blip. More than 12 major economies avoided a recession altogether. Those who faced a drop in GDP bounced back almost instantly. Job losses were not widespread and most were restored in months, not years.
Australia also does not currently have a low death rate from COVID-19. Australia’s death toll so far this year is 220 per million, ranking 147th out of 227 countries, well below the bottom half of the world. Among the top 27 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, Australia ranks 26th.
The economy is not “Exceptionally good”. Measurable outcomes that show Australia lagging behind advanced economies include GDP growth, unemployment, decline in real wages, budget deficits, public debt, productivity, inflation, homelessness, spending wasteful, tax evasion and corruption.
The truth, if we look at all the health and economic data, is that former Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s handling of the global recession has been among the worst in the developed world.
The problem is not just a presenter. Entire sections of the national broadcaster now systematically mislead their wide audience with the constant repetition of Coalition falsehoods. Bags are needed from top to bottom.
Press Council of Australia
These same pro-Coalition lies routinely appear in most Australian media. Last Friday’s editorial in the Australian Financial Review called for a return of the Morrison government because ‘by any objective measure, the government responded appropriately’ to what he claimed to be the ‘deepest health and economic impact in a century’.
These claims are manifestly false, as are most of the claims of fact in the AFR’s cowardly appeal to stupidity and greed. Fortunately, the nation rejected that call.
A revitalized and well-resourced Press Council will combat these widespread breaches of trust.
The religions prominently represented in the last Parliament are Roman Catholic, Anglican, Pentecostal Christian and Jewish. It reflects poorly on all of them that Australia has seen a sharp decline in global rankings on corruption and integrity and a dramatic rise in mistakes, lies and broken promises.
All faith communities have been embarrassingly silent during the Coalition’s recent term. Contrast this with the visibility of Methodist leader Sir Alan Walker in the 1960s and 1970s, the rumble of God’s Squad chairman the Reverend John Smith in the Fraser years, the vigilance of the Anglican Brotherhood of St Lawrence during the Hawke period and the voices of Catholic priests Peter Norden (now a former priest) and Frank Brennan in the Howard years.
the liberal party
For the Liberal Party to fix the damage it has suffered under former Prime Ministers Tony Abbott and Scott Morrison, it should start by electing a woman as its leader, but not one of Morrison’s henchmen. That doesn’t give them many options. But really, right now, who cares?
change is possible
Anthony Albanese is only the fourth Labor leader to win the opposition job since the Second World War. Under the others, Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke, and Kevin Rudd, lasting social reforms were achieved in multiple areas simultaneously. This can happen again if the nation so resolves.
Alan Austin is an Australian freelance columnist and freelance journalist. You can follow him on Twitter @alanaaustin001.
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