April 27, 2012
Over at The Conversation Stephen King interviews Graeme Samuel. The issues are wide ranging but they do centre around the quality of public debate in Australia. Samuel central argument is that that we are really looking at a very, very bad political debate. By bad he means:
bad as being highly populist, and therefore less principled. Less focused on fundamental principles, fundamental philosophy and fundamental attitudes about what’s in the public interest, rather than looking much more at what is popular in the short term. We’re seeing debates occurring now which are recidivist, in economic terms, in a way that I thought would never, ever occur...we are talking about issues such as subsidies for different areas in the manufacturing industry. We are seeing a potential re-examination of whether or not the value of the dollar ought to be manipulated. It’s called manipulation now, rather than “fixing” the exchange rate..We’re seeing issues about putting in place other forms of protection for different industries. Raising the spectre now of the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB) having lower thresholds at which it might examine acquisitions.
What we’re not seeing is the principled, analytical debate that we used to see in the years of Paul Keating, and in the early part of the Howard/Costello regime. So why is this the case?
Minority government. Majority government is one solution. The other is that business has to take up the debate.
I immediately thought of the media campaign of the Big Miners, the coal-fired power station owners, and the Murdoch media's relentless attacking a reforming government. Then I thought of '"feeding the chooks"---the lazy corporate journalism wherein the Canberra Press Gallery uses Tony Abbott's gibes deployed in his ceaseless criticism of the federal government, rather than thinking for themselves.