Lies, damn lies and economics

There must be a federal election coming — the infamous yellow and black Clive Palmer funded billboards have made a reappearance. One of the billboards has a statement that suggests COVID19 related restrictions and vaccinations are a waste of time because it is still possible to be infected. It’s claimed the vaccine and restrictions are an attempt to restrict your ‘freedoms’.

There are two small problems in Palmer’s logic. First, there is no guarantee of ‘freedom’ in Australia because there is no Bill of Rights or similar legal instrument. Second, if Palmer had bothered to listen to the health experts and the State Premiers, he would have heard that restrictions on movement and constant requests to ‘get vaccinated’ were to ensure that the health system actually has enough infrastructure to cope with the potential hospitalisation of those that do need assistance to recover from a bout of COVID19.

Health facilities and infrastructure cost money to build and run. While we have seen evidence of the federal government ‘printing money’ to increase stimulus, the state governments who run the hospital systems around Australia don’t have the ability to ‘print the money’ to build new hospitals to cater for a large influx of sick and dying COVID19 patients, a likely outcome if there had been an uncontrolled pandemic. The reality is someone has to pay for it, and in the case of services supplied by state or local governments we pay through our taxes. Palmer should know this — he was a Federal MP for a short period of time.

As usual, Palmer is making the ‘facts' suit the particular biases of his likely followers. His followers are likely convinced that the ‘income tax’ component they see in their payslips is wasted and things were much better for them (and others) in the glory days — whenever they were. Palmer hasn’t spelt out how he will protect ‘freedom’ — would it be the introduction of a ‘Bill of Rights’ to enshrine ‘freedom’ in legislation or some other process?

It’s very easy to suggest in retrospect that the pandemic restrictions weren’t needed as our health system wasn’t swamped (unlike other places in the world). Retrospect is always 100% correct and in this case the proposition hasn’t been tested against a ‘let her rip’ strategy that was ineffective at best in the UK and parts of Europe. Recent news reports also suggest that the public health systems in a number of Australian states are close to, or at full capacity without pandemic related illness. Full capacity is good from an economic point of view, but considerably below what is desired if you are the one on an ambulance gurney at 3am waiting for a bay in Emergency or a bed ‘upstairs’ to become available.

Palmer’s followers will probably only think about the need to potentially conserve health services if they, or one of their ‘nearest and dearest’, are the one in the gurney at 3am. They also won’t consider the need for schools, public transport, roads, regulatory bodies (that for example ensure that granny has food to eat and some comfort in Happy Memories Retirement Village, regardless of the operator’s desire to make bigger profits) and so on unless the lack or insufficient supply of the particular service directly affects them. When the service is not there on demand, the rationale is “it’s the ‘gummints’ fault” which further reduces their trust in the ‘gummint’.

And that’s the problem — ‘trust’. Palmer’s political party and others of a similar outlook only get their oxygen to survive because the large political parties have lost the trust of a considerable number of Australians. As evidence consider that the election results and opinion poll estimates suggest that either of the ‘major’ parties are flat out getting 40% of the electors directly supporting them. Even more concerning is the ‘marketing’ of the Liberals, Nationals, CLP and LNP as a combined force — except when facing an election. In a parliament that has a requirement of 50% plus 1 of the votes to form the government, there are a lot of people that feel they are unrepresented.

Some electorates take the plunge and elect someone without a large party machine of acolytes and rent seekers that have to be accommodated. When that happens, we get representation of the likes of Helen Haines and Bob Katter and the Parliament is all the better for it. However, for the rest of us, unfortunately if we choose to vote for an alternative to the major parties, almost inevitably our vote ends up with the one we typically hold our nose while numbering one higher than the other one on the ballot paper.

Arguably, the Gillard Government that relied on the support of the trio of Bob Katter, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor was the most effective government Australia has had in the past 50 years. The reason is simple — to survive the government of the day had to actively listen to the concerns, aspirations and ideas of people ‘outside the ALP tent’. Gillard and current Opposition Leader Albanese (who was Leader of the House) did so, which is to their eternal credit.

Yes, there is an election coming up. Palmer’s advertising is effectively a lie as there is no legislated ‘right’ to freedom in Australia and he hasn’t articulated what he would do to create the ‘right’, How do we know? We asked weeks ago and are still waiting for a response, any response, even a ‘we’ve got your email’. The problem is that people like Palmer can promise utopia because they know they will never have to deliver. Based on the contents of Palmer’s advertising, he doesn’t understand the economics of health care at a basic level or the distribution of powers between states and federal governments, which is concerning from someone asking for your vote so he can run the country.

Voting for the major political parties is like buying a Toyota or Kia. It’s a justifiable, safe and reliable decision and a considerable number of others also make the same decision. Do you trust the car manufacturer or dealer to consider your individual objectives rather than theirs — of course not. However there are alternatives in a number of electorates. This time around, look at all the candidates and read the material shoved into your letterbox (despite the ‘no junk mail’ sticker). Make the candidates accountable and remind them they are there to represent you, not the powerbroker and rent seekers that seem to infest the political parties. Ask questions, insist on answers and vote accordingly.

What do you think?

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