Monday, 23 April 2012

RELIABLE AND COMPETENT (Spectator leader April 13)

“Relaxed and comfortable” was the mantra of John Howard’s government, but looking back at what was clearly Australia’s golden decade, “reliable and competent” might be a more accurate moniker.

By and large, the previous Coalition government could be relied upon to deliver its election commitments in a competent fashion, to the benefit of the economy and the community. Of itself, this sounds a rather mundane and unimpressive boast. Isn’t that what all governments are supposed to do? But as we get well into the fifth year of Labor’s tumultuous and destructive period in office, “reliable and competent” appear goals as distant and unattainable for this government to achieve as Thorpie’s recent quest for another Olympic gong.

“Politically unreliable” and “managerially incompetent” would be a more accurate description of almost every federal initiative undertaken. The Rudd era fiascos of pinks batts, the ETS, and Grocerywatch seem like quaint slip-ups when compared to the latest multi-million dollar mishaps of Gillard, Swan, Conroy et al.

Whether it be the disgraceful duplicity of the Australia Network tendering process, the ongoing pork-barreling of the NBN with its whiteboard-style choice of which lucky Labor electorate gets what and when, the teeth-grinding behavior of Fair Work Australia, the inexcusable refusal of the government to front up to the Craig Thomson allegations, the Machiavellian maneuverings over who gets what out of the mining tax, or the vast sums being squandered before the carbon tax has even been introduced to keep the energy companies onside, what typifies Labor’s actions is a sly disdain for the truth combined with breathtaking ineptitude and financial recklessness.

The list goes on. Unions running amok. Business disquiet over the mooted diesel rebate removal. The abandonment of genuine, much-needed tax reform. The stuff-ups over asylum seekers, cattle exports, and gaffes such as threatening PNG sanctions. At every turn, in stark contrast to its predecessor, this government manages to be either unreliable in its commitments or incompetent in their implementation.

It requires no effort of imagination to predict that the big ticket items, the MRRT, the carbon tax and the NBN, will be as clumsily implemented as all Labor’s other ill-prepared and rushed-through schemes. Lack of consultation, a failure to anticipate problems and a fingers-crossed-behind-the-back management style will continue to be their hallmark, with inevitable consequences.

A billion lost here, a couple of hundred million gone there. Taxpayers’ hard-earned wealth is being frittered away through errors of judgment at an alarming rate. Meanwhile, business groups warn that our overseas competitors are eagerly poised to take full advantage of our self-inflicted imposts, whilst inevitably, investment in exploration for new mines is heading to cheaper fields abroad.

The tragedy for Australian prosperity is that there is one area where the Gillard team will always remain reliable and competent; clinging onto power through whatever means it takes. Miraculously, the carbon tax “compensation” payouts will competently deliver a bucktload of cash at precisely the right time for the next election. You can rely on it.

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