We have just come off ANZAC day commemorative services where the air was full of wholesome praise of those values that unite us as a nation. Much of it truthful recollections of past deeds mixed with a little myth. There are only two days in the year where that is so. The other being Australia Day. I think about this a lot each year and reflect why we cannot translate this fleeting national sincerity of purpose and identity into a more progressive narrative that defines a new way of how we manage the country for the challenges both economic and social. “We live in challenging times” so I was told repeatedly yesterday.
Let’s agree with that. So some background. In 1927 when the National Parliament moved from Melbourne to Canberra, there were 3 national organisations representing Business, Returned Servicemen and the Australian Medical Association. Each now struggles to be heard coherently if at all. Today there are over 200 different national organisations and 600 registered lobbyists in Canberra representing a plethora of interest groups each angling to have their interests triumph over the other. This scenario is played out again in each State capital. Consider the consultants, consider the reports, consider the duplication, consider the political chicanery and consider if you will, the waste. So for two days of the year we think nationally, we feel good about ourselves and experience a sense of reinvigoration and the very next day it is business as usual…the mindset is “we have a better region than the one down the road, we are certainly living in a better more progressive State than the one next door and we are the lucky ones living in the best part of the world”. We jettison the national interest in favour of narrow sectional interests….really!
For many of us our daily work is about engaging in rational discussions on how best to grow our economies (as part of the whole) and removing the self and government imposed restraints so that people can be employed and investment is attracted to where it is needed. It is about being positive and engaging in consensus positions on the things that matter. It is not about some ideological contest of mad ideas masquerading as politics. It is not about a struggle of the left or the right. It is about how we can progress as communities and nationally. It is about building a sustainable and lasting future. We must be serious about this and truthful and transparent in prosecuting our arguments and the reasons for them. Too much of our community lives are invested in frivolous exchanges and irrelevant contests around unachievable ends.
Here is a start for an ongoing discussion. We need to remove the state borders. These are artificial lines on a map. There cannot be any rational reason for example to pay $5K to have your NSW naval architect surveyed plans registered in Queensland for survey insurance purposes of a built here in this state . We need to think and act nationally. We need national policies and action agendas on aboriginal and islander affairs, environment, energy security, water security, land tenure, occupational health and safety, business taxation arrangements and stamp duties, health, employment laws, a national rail and road network…the list of duplication is endless.
Wherever you turn there are “input” costs on your life and your businesses and they are growing daily. They cannot be sustained. Consider the insurance costs in our region compared to others. Consider again the complete and utter confusion in each state around the issues of energy supply and costs. The differing opinions between wholesalers, distributors, retailers and regulators. We need a guarantee on both the supply and cost and a nationally enforceable policy to ensue appropriate behaviour. Not only is this smart politically but smart economically but requires a changed mindset.
This our next great debate. Our economic governance structures need immediate overhaul.