CANBERRA OBSERVED: by News WeeklyNews Weekly
2002: when the chickens came home to roost
, January 11, 2003
Sometimes there is little satisfaction in being proven right even after years of being marginalised and considered irrelevant or alternatively, whenever briefly acknowledged, being branded as fanatical, paranoid and ultra-conservative.
Yet in an extraordinary turn of events over this past year there has been a massive swing of the pendulum of public opinion behind two out of the three of the broad issues this publication has long championed.
These issues can be simplified as defence, family and economics. In case of the first two - defence and family - the problems of neglect and policy error have become so apparent policy makers and the major political parties have suddenly recognised that urgent remedies are required to save the country and prevent more dire social consequences.Defence
It does not mean that public opinion is now synchronised with that of News Weekly
, far from it, but simply that the problems which we have been identifying for 30 years or so are now mainstream problems, and recognised as such. There will also continue to be intense debate about the way to fix these problems, and continual blindness to their root causes. But the rapidity of the turnaround in thinking is of Berlin Wall-like proportions.
How did this come about?
Defence is of course easily understood. East Timor, Bali and the World Trade Centre attacks, followed by the unfolding war on terror, have revealed to all but a few ageing baby boomer peaceniks the gigantic holes in Australia's defence strategy, infrastructure and military personnel.
Years of running down defence in favour of other supposedly more important areas of government, of envy of the New Zealand model of opting out of all regional defence responsibilities, of strident anti-Americanism, of naive globalism and anti-Australianism, and of defence mismanagement on a grand scale, have combined to deplete the most basic area of government to the point where it will take decades to turn around.
Yet at the beginning of 2003, apart from those dwindling veterans of the glorious Vietnam moratorium marches in the left of ALP and the foolish pretend-to-see-no-evil Greens and Democrats, defence is being lifted by the mainstream into its proper place as being vital and in fact more important than other superfluous areas of government.
Security too has been just as mismanaged and subject to political influence over the years so that Australia's intelligence organisations were at their most vulnerable and weak exactly when they were needed most. They remain seriously uncoordinated, under-resourced and under-trained to deal with the threat of terror beyond and within our borders.
The issue of family is more complicated, but the past year has seen the astonishingly sudden universal recognition of a problem News Weekly
has known for years - we are not having enough children.
Population, divorce and family breakdown, the fertility rate, and work-family balance are now all mainstream issues discussed and debated in the media, by politicians and policymakers.
In one extraordinary turnaround, the Australian Medical Association recently launched a health campaign in schools to encourage women to have children while they were young, fit and capable of having babies. Leaving it too late was riskier to the baby and the mother, the AMA warned.Illusion
In another, ABC newsreader Virginia Haussegger publicly grieved in the Melbourne Age
for the baby she may never have. The opinion piece struck a chord deep in the hearts of thousands of Australian women who had been sold the feminist dream.
Haussegger's article sparked an amazing debate and it happened because it came exactly at the right time from an unexpected source. Haussegger is attractive, intelligent, working in a well-paid career most people can only dream about, in an organisation not known for its conservative views, and yet she declared she had been conned by the feminist pioneers of the 1970s.
While feminism promised choice and freedom and a better society, it has actually spawned lack of choice, ill-treatment from men, considerable unhappiness and, in many cases, shackled women into jobs they'd prefer not to be in while denying them the joy of having children.
The right to "choose" caused hundreds of thousands of babies never to be born, psychological and health problems for many women, and arguably has done more to handicap long-term economic prosperity of the country than any other factor.
The problems caused by policy decisions in the 1970s are coming home to roost.
Policies politicians then claimed were going to be positive for society - such as easy divorce and access to abortion - are also part of the reason the birth rate is now so low.
Young couples, having been educated to fear the very thought of having children because it will deny them freedom, instead chase the illusion of security, money and career.
All that said, the reason the politicians and the media are suddenly on the case is none of the above, but simply that they want more baby taxpayers to fund the retirement of the sprendthrift baby boomers.
The debate is not being driven by common sense, traditional family values, or any rethinking about the joys and wonders of motherhood, but by sheer self-interest.
But at least it is a start, and as the birthrate continues to decline in the West (while the Muslim rate stays high), and as the tax revenues continue to be squeezed, policymakers can only go in one direction - ours.Number three
Finally to economics.
In this area it is almost impossible not to admit that News Weekly
readers have been trounced. The views expressed in this publication are still not even not in the ball park of public debate.
By most objective analyses, the economic rationalists and their true believers in the Treasury and economics departments of most universities appear to have convincingly won the debate.
Little Australia appears to have weathered every storm from the Asian crisis to the dotcom meltdown to the collapse in confidence from terror.
All the reforms and restructures of the 1980s including privatisation, the floating of the dollar, lowering of trade barriers, industry rationalisation appear to have paid dividends.Growth
Australia has experienced the longest period of straight economic growth since statistics have been kept, unemployment is low-ish, interest rates are low, and inflation remains low.
Housing prices have boomed. Australians, particularly in the big cities, are wealthier than at any time in our history.
While public opinion remains firmly against selling Telstra, no one would take any notice of any pressure group arguing for renationalisation of an industry.
Lifting tariffs simply to prop up manufacturers also now seems absurd when goods produced from China and Indonesia are a fraction of the price. The free market system and globalisation also seem to work bringing prosperity to greater numbers of people each passing year. Or do they?
The power of an idea is extraordinary and the current economic thinking is, just like feminism, seemingly impregnable.
But perhaps, like the sour and barren world feminism has produced, the global economists may also be creating a world of prosperity based on myth. And, putting aside all the other possible scenarios and consequences a war in the Middle East might produce, one word should give the people pause for thought.Debt
Australia's good times in particular are based entirely on the biggest borrowing binge in history mainly for unproductive housing. This prosperity can only continue as long as the overseas bankers are willing to fund the boom.
Any interest rate shock or fright about Australia's ability to repay the interest bill on the $350 billion current debt and the economy would rapidly spiral downwards.
In the United States, the debt build up of the 1990s is already slowly unravelling and in China and Japan the only thing stopping the bankruptcy of their financial systems is a desire to stave off the inevitable.
China itself personifies the problems between the indebted West and the manufacturing powerhouses of the East.
China is the forgotten flaw in the whole globalist concept of floating exchange rates because the Hong Kong dollar was pegged to the US dollar in 1994 and kept there.
Remember how five years ago all of Asia could not stand against the currency traders or even back to 1992 when the Bank of England itself was broken and was forced to devalue the British pound?
Remember how China was always going to be next? Well it still has not happened and a massive trade imbalance has been built between it and the affluent US with its all powerful dollar.
Argentina was the most recent casualty of the globalised marketplace in the past year. Who will be next?
The greatest stockmarket boom in history is now over and yet financial consequences are still to be felt defying the script of every other such bust.
Something, somewhere has to give, but when, where and how that happens is anyone's guess.