Australian Way of Life

Beware the Technocratic Virus Spreading Through Our Parliaments

Written by
27 August 2021

The word “unprecedented” has been thrown around almost without a
thought over the past 18 months.

But from lockdowns and border closures to the single largest peacetime
budget line item—JobKeeper (A$90 billion)—was anything really
unprecedented?

Or was everything about our COVID-19 experience, including the onset of
unquestioned rule by experts, in fact, very much precedented?

For more than two decades, Australia has been run by a class of managerial
elites who are largely unencumbered by the wishes of the Australian people
as expressed at elections. Instead, they rule by technocratic mandate.

For example, since the Global Financial Crisis, experts at the Reserve Bank
of Australia have decided to place the official cash rate as close to zero as
possible to revive business investment and create full employment. But the
flipside of this has meant Australians have experienced the longest-running
structural decline in new private sector business investment relative to the
size of the economy.

Australians have also been signed onto the Paris Agreement against their
will, partly due to climate science expertise, despite expressing multiple
times at elections their opposition.

In 2013, Liberal Party leader Tony Abbott won a resounding victory after
promising to repeal the carbon tax, a tax implemented by the previous Labor
government in direct contradiction of earlier election promises.

​​​​​​​The “climate election” of 2019—which saw current Prime Minister Scott
Morrison win government on the back of resource-centred electorates—
provided further evidence for anyone still unsure of how Australians’ felt
about emissions reductions and economic security.

Sadly, this preference is now being ignored by the prime minister, who has
expressed a desire to implement a net-zero emissions target.

Australians, in some ways, are well-primed for the technocratic COVID era.

Our experience has given way to a desire from political leaders to remove
“politics” from democracy and focus on expertise. However, this is nothing
more than removing democracy from democracy.

Leader of the Greens and the federal member for the seat of Melbourne,
Adam Bandt, revealed this was indeed his preference.

Speaking to The Age newspaper, he said he thought voters in the federal
electorate of Higgins wanted “evidence-based policy,” and that the
“catastrophic failure to listen to experts in the COVID crisis will be
outstripped by the impacts of failing to listen to experts on climate change.”

Aside from the fact that Australia’s federal and state responses to COVID-19
were based entirely on “listening to the experts,” it raises the disturbing
question: What is the point of having elections if the job of a
parliamentarian is simply to implement “expert” advice?

Politicians in Australia are supposed to represent the views of their
constituents.

Their job is to listen to many different stakeholders, weigh up their views,
and make a decision that balances these insights with the best interests of
those who live in their electorate.

But this is not how democracy functions in Australia anymore.

This was made abundantly clear in the federal parliament in August when
the federal member for Dawson, George Christensen, was condemned by
colleagues for a speech he made in the House of Representatives.

Christensen argued that “lockdowns don’t destroy the virus, but they do
destroy people’s livelihoods and people’s lives.” There is ample evidence
supporting this statement, including a recent Institute of Public Affairs’
(IPA) analysis outlining how lockdowns are devastating small businesses.

The IPA surveyed a three-week period from the commencement of
lockdowns in Greater Sydney on June 26 and estimated that over 540,000
jobs were destroyed in small and medium-sized businesses across Australia.
That’s equivalent to 25,000 per day.

The experience across New South Wales, Victoria, and now New Zealand
confirms what many have argued since the start of the pandemic; that it is
impossible to eliminate the virus.

The federal government has now adopted this as its official position, with
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg arguing on Aug. 24 that “zero-COVID forever is
unrealistic … it is a fallacy that you can eliminate COVID … You must learn
to live with it.”

Yet, only two weeks prior to making this statement, Frydenberg and other
government members voted to condemn Christensen for expressing a
similar statement.

But the condemnation should never have occurred in the first place because
it was Christensen’s job to air the views of his constituents. Moreover,
parliamentarians should never be censured, condemned, or cancelled for
expressing any views in parliament, which is why they are given
parliamentary privilege.

Alarmingly, Federal Labor Senator Murray Watt even celebrated that tech
behemoth Facebook decided to censure Christensen by removing a video of
his speech.

Such is the state of Australian democracy in 2021 that an elected
representative of the people can be condemned for expressing an opinion
that goes against the supposed “expert” advice of the day, while their
colleagues support the actions of foreign corporations silencing the views of
millions of Australians.

The Great Southern Land has thrown vast resources at tackling COVID-19.
Yet, we should be wary of another variant: the highly infectious technocratic
virus that has infiltrated and undermined our democracy.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not
necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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Cian Hussey

Cian Hussey is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs

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