So much has been written about the irresponsible extravagance of the Budget that it is difficult to be original. It is also difficult to exaggerate the rupture of traditional Liberal values that the whole ghastly thing has brought about. The torrent of money that has been pouring out of Canberra is bad enough. Billions have been added to the deficit on dubious assumptions and guesswork and even more dubious programs and schemes. Achieving the Budget surplus that we have yearned for and towards which we seemed to be inching, has now become more like the search for the Holy Grail: it is out there somewhere, but beyond the reach of mere mortals. And the news that in a couple of years we will be up for a national debt of a trillion dollars, 40 per cent of everything we produce in this country, has put future generations into hock, and with even more debt to follow and no solution in sight.
But for a student of politics as a science, the big question for me is how a political party that claims to have traditions and values can throw them all away in this cavalier fashion, pretend that it still stands for something when it stands for nothing and then have the effrontery to pretend it is a reliable and responsible manager of the economy. Covid-19 was bad, but the government is making it worse.
Equally intriguing is how those who should be the true custodians of that tradition can remain silent. There must be some explanation for how a party that built its traditions and success on free enterprise, small government, self-help and the responsibilities of the individual can just walk away from all of that and embrace what, to all intents and purposes, is a socialist regime.
But the thing that really appals me about the wanton extravagance we are witnessing at the moment is that Johnny-come-latelies like Morrison and Frydenberg can just drift in from nowhere and claim they have the right to decide what is in the best traditions of the Liberal party and what is not, when what really motivates them is the popularity of spending other peoples’ money. Above all, they have the impertinence to justify the Budget on the ground that it is ‘Menzian’ as if only they know what this means. Even the Menzies Research Centre now falsely claims, like the Treasurer, that the Budget is ‘in the Menzian tradition.’ Menzian indeed?
How can this be? Frydenberg and the modern Liberals say it is ‘the Menzian tradition’ to encourage home ownership. But is it Menzian for the government to encourage people to go into debt by buying a house on 2 per cent deposit and letting the government look after the rest? Is it Menzian to encourage people not to save for a home but to go into a lifetime of debt? You may as well say that Vladimir Putin is in the Menzian tradition for saving his humble roubles to buy a 300-bed weekender by the Black Sea.
It used to be Menzian for governments to exercise restraint in their spending. How then is it Menzian to let a government’s own spending amount to a third of the nation’s gross domestic product?
To be Menzian used to mean that there was an obligation on citizens to look after themselves, not turn to the government to solve every issue that life throws up. So, is it Menzian to encourage parents to dump their kids in a child-minding centre where the government will pay 95 per cent of the cost? Is it Menzian to say that the population is so woebegone and hopeless at solving its own problems that we need 24 government ‘satellite centres’ for mental health and a network of counsellors and social workers to solve every imaginary stress and strain? Mental health is the new fashion and the first bill for it is $2.3 billion! What happened to the Menzian notion of striving for success when millions in government money will now be doled out for attempting suicide – but only for those who fail?
And it was Menzian to look after the elderly and the disabled, but not at the cost of new billions of dollars for the former and a duplicate of Medicare for the latter? The ALP would not dare to match the government in its spending in those fields.
It was also Menzian to make business look after itself, because if we do not, it will look to the taxpayer to bail it out, as it now has. Was it Menzian to give business an open credit card on JobKeeper, without showing need and with no restraint on using the money for dividends and executive bonuses? Was it Menzian for the government to pay subsidies to Qantas, petrol refineries, power stations, transport, breweries, fashionable sports teams and any industry that demands a crutch from Canberra for ‘help’, ‘support’, ‘investment’ and ‘funding’?
How can we be proud of the country of Menzies when its government is doling out for an Aboriginal electoral system where only race will get you on the roll, only race will get you elected and only race will give you permanent access to government coffers.
Surely you vote for a political party because you want it to do things, things that you judge are in the public interest and from which the people and the country will benefit. But where is the public interest in destroying self-help, free enterprise, thrift and small government. And how can you tell the public that the Liberal party will strive to achieve these goals when its track record and all its rhetoric are now to the contrary? As Scott Morrison could more accurately have said: ‘We want a fair go for a government that wants to have a fair go at you.’
That’s it for me and the Liberal party that I joined when I was 15. It has abandoned all it stood for and I have abandoned it.
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