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Hanged Without Trial

January 1st, 2013 by Viv

Viv Forbes
Written July 1998

To be rational is suddenly unfashionable, so it is with some trepidation that I rise to its defence.

I think I was the first of the breed to promote these ideas locally in modern times. Judy and I called a meeting in our home in Taringa on 14 April 1975 to discuss a new concept “Morality in Politics”.

What we promoted was Classical Liberalism, a principled defence of free enterprise, free trade, individual freedom and responsibility, and limited constitutional government. Judging from the small crowd that attended, and later joined, our “Workers Party” and “Progress Party” it was not a popular concept. We were the kill-joys of politics – once these principles were accepted, anyone with half a brain could determine rational policies, which usually led to attacking bloated government and all their hangers on.

These were the heady days of the great interventionists Whitlam, Gorton, Anthony and Chipp (supported as always by their mendicants in academia, the public payroll, the unions and the ABC). But with our tiny oar, and a roneo machine in the lounge room, we proceeded to stir the great stagnant swamp of public opinion.

Rationality in politics was such a novel idea that it slowly caught on. Within ten years, our proposals to sell all government businesses, abolish all subsidies and handouts, cut taxes and slash red tape became fashionable debating topics. We found it difficult to maintain our reputation for extremism, and even Malcolm Fraser was seen wearing an Adam Smith tie.

But action took far longer than words. Simple obvious first steps like the sale of TAA/Qantas took years instead of months. Sale of Telecom is still being argued, the abolition of subsidies and handouts will have to await the next millennium and sale of the ABC will take forever.

John Hewson and Paul Keating represent the high water marks of rationalism in politics (and that was not a very high HWM). Keating, of course, only applied his blow torch to business, and did not challenge the three monsters of welfare, bureaucracy and union monopoly. Hewson’s foolish notion of asking if we wanted a new tax killed him, and a lot of better ideas perished with him.

The upsets of the Queensland election have brought a bleating procession of Lib/Lab politicians saying “We will have to explain our policies better”.

Is there no end to their arrogance? I live in an electorate that voted 40% for One Nation and put a professional politician back on the streets. We understand their policies all right. That is why we are now waiting with axe handles for Johnny, and Kim, and Cheryl’s old mob.

While we struggle with taxes and levies and drought and market collapse, they pander to every trendy minority in the land. While we drive old utes, they tour Australia and the world (first class) seeking new local layabouts and international con-men to aid with our money. While we work from daylight to dark, we see their clients on sit-down money in front of every pub in the land.

We can’t cut a tree, we dare not disturb a sacred stone, we must not be discriminating in selecting new tenants for our rental cottage, and we can’t fire a troublesome worker without risking our homes in legal fees. And now they say the land bought, cleared and made productive by our grandfathers belongs to someone else. And in case we get stroppy about that, they take and smash up our guns because some maniac runs amok in Tasmania.

We understand Lib/Lab policies perfectly. That is their big problem, not ours.

None of them can claim a mandate from me. Elections now are a choice between a calamity and a disaster. I vote from the bottom up. The Demo-greens go last, Lab/Lib next, then the Agrarian Socialists. Then it is a toss-up among the Independents and minor parties still standing. It is the politics of the unpalatable alternatives.

Most voters knew little about Pauline Hanson, but they sensed that anyone who upset Howard, Beasley, the ABC, the intellectuals, the Arts beggars, the Aboriginal hangers on and Malcolm Fraser must have something going for her. As for the media (an increasingly distrusted group) the higher they heap it, the sweeter she smells.

However, we are seeing a new surge of bi-partisan irrationalism, and people seem proud of this achievement. With the rise of One Nation we now have the choice of three brands of socialism – International Socialism from the ALP, Agrarian Socialism from the Nats, Bureaucratic Socialism from the so-called Liberals, and now National Socialism from Pauline’s mob. They all agree on many things – ON & the Greens want to reduce immigration, ON and the ALP oppose the GST and foreign investment, ON and the Nats want subsidised money, ON, the ALP, the Nats and John Moore all want a return to McEwen’s protectionism – unanimity on all the same tired old policies.

Is it any wonder the baying hounds are now hunting down the last of the beaten rationalists? Our ideas are to be hung without a trial. Unemployment, education, health services, land tenure, aboriginal self-esteem, taxes, red tape, the efficiency of government monopolies, the crime problem and the drug problem are all as bad or worse that they were when we gave Malcolm Fraser a huge mandate to fix them, 23 years ago. (Some people with shorter memories had similar hopes for Howard, whose name will now join Malcolm’s as “those two useless disappointments, F&H”).

So, unless the true liberals can rediscover their principles, we will suffer another dose of intervention, tariffs, subsidies, welfare, wage and price controls, monetary manipulation, luddism, patronage, isolationism, xenophobia and intolerance, from all sides of politics (and gloating from within the warrens of the ABC).

The two touchstone ideas that now ignite the bush are “No sale of Telstra” and “Subsidies for pig men”. Both policies assume that Australian farms will not survive without subsidies. What rot. We have the most efficient farms in the world. Our chief problems are “Made in Parliament”. The farming industry I know best is cattle grazing. On one large Queensland property last year, 60% of their gross revenue went directly into government coffers. Anyone who is forced to work 60% of his time for others is surely a slave?

Do we farmers want more “help” supported by more levies and taxes? And do we want the provision of phone, fax and Email services to the bush to remain so unprofitable, so regulated and so subsidised that we are hostage forever to whatever crumbs of technology that some superannuated public servant in Canberra believes is sufficient?

Subsidies to government or other monopolies guarantee that no new technology or services will ever appear. Had we had an open market in telecom 20 years ago, the bush would now be connected to the world by radio or satellite, and not still worrying whether the mail truck will get through or if a tree has fallen on the phone line.

However, even though the irrationalists are celebrating, the surge in support for One Nation is NOT evidence of a widespread outbreak of imbecility in the electorate. What caught the imagination of many people was the beauty of the central idea of “One Nation”. This was put simply on radio recently by a shearer from Dubbo, who said:

“I work beside aboriginal shearers all day. We both work hard, for the same pay. We both go home to a similar house in the same town. We both pay the same taxes, but he gets special welfare for his kids. That stinks.”


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