One of the most common complaints about Australian politics today is that it is too obsessed with the trivial. Instead of focusing on policy, it gets bogged down by personality. Instead of featuring inspiring vision, it is loaded with attacks on individuals. Instead of thinking about the future, the political class just cannot get past partisan bickering.
Given all that you might think that a long list of policy suggestions from a think tank would be warmly welcomed. You’d be wrong.
The cover story for the August edition of the IPA Review, ‘Be like Gough: 75 radical ideas to transform Australia’, was our wish list for an incoming Abbott government. It was unashamedly radical. We didn’t expect it to be greeted warmly by the media or the left. But even we were surprised at the ferocity of the response.
‘I feel sick reading this list’, tweeted one. ‘How to ruin Australia in 75 easy steps’, said another. According to one concerned citizen, the IPA wants ‘Australia to be a lawless wasteland, like, say, Afghanistan’. Others were quick to tell their friends how ‘dangerously influential’ the IPA is.
The list was covered in the Courier Mail (journalist Paul Syvret said ‘read it and shudder’) and on The Punch, who asked ‘are they serious?’
Well, yes, we are. We’re serious about being a loud voice for freedom in Australia. And we don’t mind being the only people in public debate who think that government should actually shrink in size rather than increase indefinitely.
But we’re also serious about ideas. That’s something many in the media and on the left say they’re interested in too.
If our list had been the usual inane progressive ideas—the kind of things said at Kevin Rudd’s 2020 summit—it probably would have been warmly welcomed, or not noticed at all. But because we challenged the sacred cow of Australian politics since Gough Whitlam—that every year government must grow larger—we were condemned.
What this shows is that those who bemoan a lack of ideas in politics are really bemoaning a lack of ideas they approve of. They don’t want to hear ideas or vision that clashes with their world view. They don’t want to hear that maybe taxpayers’ money should be returned to them rather than spent by wise bureaucrats in Canberra, and they don’t want to hear that maybe people should be left alone by the government to make decisions in their own best interests.
The IPA exists to make sure this point of view is heard in public debate. Thanks to our members, we will continue to do so.
In this edition of the Review we return to our original 75 ideas in search of savings for the next federal government. In order to simply balance the books and start paying back some of the debt (let alone start seriously reducing taxes) the next federal treasurer will have to enact some of the largest cuts to spending in Australian political history. By implementing just a fraction of our ideas, the government could reduce spending by billions of dollars.
We also add 25 more ideas, many suggested by IPA members. Like the first list, they’d all leave Australia more prosperous and free, but still probably won’t appeal to those who think government knows best.
Our cover story this month, by Chris Berg, makes the case for capitalism you probably haven’t heard. Capitalism isn’t just about the cool gadgets and technologies that it produces and that statism never could. Capitalism is the millions of tiny innovations that occur every day and immeasurably enrich our lives— thanks to the profit motive.
Simon Breheny, the director of the Rule of Law Unit at the IPA, writes about an extremely concerning proposal currently being considered by the Gillard government. Many Australians probably have no idea that the government wants to force internet service providers to store all their private internet usage data so that ASIC, the ACCC, ASIO and potentially many other departments can access it easily. They should.