Friday, January 2, 2015


Both Australia and New Zealand elected 'conservative' governments at roughly the same point in the economic cycle.   In 2013 the Abbott government inherited a government budget out of control made worse by the slump in demand for minerals which generates much of Australia's wealth.  In 2008 the incoming Key government was faced with the double whammy of the Global Financial Crisis and a budget which, if left unchanged, was projected by the Treasury in their briefing papers to lead to decades of deficits.  

So, how have the two governments responded?    By any measure the Australian government has done it tough.    Certainly Abbott is no Key in persuading the electorate that hard decisions are needed while Hockey is no English in standing firm against competing interests.    Certainly their task was made more difficult by an electorate, weaned for decades on the 'lucky country' syndrome and where the so called 'good times' were seen as a God given right.    Their problems were exacerbated by an arcane electoral system which effectively handed power to a bunch of 'flakes' in the Senate with the ability to make or break the budget.   More about that later.

In New Zealand and despite the vagrancy of MMP the government has managed to convince the electorate the need to contain and restructure spending while at the same time maintaining essential service delivery.    The result and right now New Zealand is far outstripping Australia in almost every indicator .... in Australia the budget deficit has blown out to AUD40.4b and the country is unlikely to return to surplus before FY 2019/20, while here and, although the government may not meet its target of a return to surplus this year, it certainly will in 2015/16; in Australia unemployment is at 6.3% increasing with 777,700 out of work while in NZL the figure is 5.4% projected to fall further; in Australia inflation is running at 2.3% compared with 1% here and finally, consumer confidence in Australia is at 91.1 compared with 114.8 in NZL (noting too that of all the countries in the G20 only China and Indonesia top NZL in  that statistic).

So why is Australia so far behind the 8 ball going south at a rate of knots.    Part of the reason is an electoral system which saw the balance of power in the Senate shift into the hands of a bunch of   'independent' screwball senators, beholden to no-one and entirely capable of being bought by various sectional interests determined to protect their patch at the expense of the greater good.    Consider these three newbe senators as representatives of the Australian electoral system at its best/worst.   

Jacqui Lambie, Independent, Tasmania.    Elected under the Palmer United Party banner winning just 6.58% of first preference votes.   Five months later she resigned from the PUP to sit as an independent.    Served 11 years in the military achieving the rank of Corporal (hardly stellar progress).  Has 'interesting' views on President Putin ... "I think he has very strong leadership.  He has great values.  He's certainly doing his bit to stamp out terrorism and I guess you've got to pay the man for that." (source ABC Radio Oct 14).   Lambie is single and has two sons.   She described her perfect man as having "heaps of cash" and "a package between their legs".

Ricky Muir, Australian Motorists Enthusiasts Party. Victoria.    Elected with a record low of first preference votes of 0.51%.    In June 1914 in an interview on Chanel Seven's Sunday Night program Muir could not explain what 'balance of power'  meant   In July 1914 the Victorian State Branch of the Party voted to disband itself and expel Muir.   This does not prevent Muir from serving out his full six year term.

David Leyonhjelm, Liberal Democratic Party, NSW.   Political carpetbagger extraordinaire.   Member of Young Labor and worked on the 'It's Time' campaign which saw the election of the Whitlam government.  Later joined the Liberal Party but resigned when Howard moved to tighten in gun control laws.    Involved with the Shooters Party and was their Chairman for a period.   Later joined the Liberal Democratic Party which contests NSW State elections as the Outdoor Recreation Party.  His election with 9.5% of first preference votes was attributed to the Party occupying fist place on the ballot paper which had a record number of candidates (the Donkey Vote) plus voter confusion with the Liberal Party ... which had The Age newspaper opine that  Leyonhjelm was "probably the only senator elected because people mistook his party for another".

And we think MMP has problems!

The way it is going and looking at the numbers and you would have to say that the chance of Abbott winning a second term is somewhat problematical.    Still, November 2016 is some time away but, right now, Abbott and Hockey could learn much from Key and English.


gravedodger said...

Agreed Adolf

Even with a second chance after an electoral cockup, WA proceeded to continue the hamstringing of Federal Government by declining the heaven sent opportunity to make the lower house decision stick.

As Winston is said to have observed;
"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."
On another occasion he also opined;
Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.

If the creators of their Federal system thought that the Senate would benefit good government they sadly did not think it through, it is in 2015 merely a ghastly unstable sea anchor that threatens the ship of state.

Adolf Fiinkensein said...

Reposted with correction:

Excellent summary Vet.

However you ain't seen dumb or dumber until you start to examine state politics here.

Where else in the world does the deposed leader of the Liberal Party (equiv to NZ Nats)break a hung parliament by joining Labour in return for a ministerial post?

And for real sleazy horse trading, go no further than NSW.

Noel said...

I've never understood why Aussie voters preferred Abbot. He resembles one of the old cartoons where you could see the cogs in the character's head slowly turning before speaking.

The Veteran said...

Noel .... Perhaps the answer was that given the choice Abbottt vs Rudd ir was really no contest.