We must beware how much ruin is in our nation

We must beware how much ruin is in our nation, by Greg Sheridan.

I have spent a good proportion of my professional time in Third World and developing countries, most on the way up, some on the way down, and some bobbling up and down. You get to see a lot of things that distinguish a successful country from an unsuccessful one, and particularly one on the way up from one on the way down.

Australia is a rich and successful society. But we are starting to go wrong. … Here are telling signs of a country going backwards.

Freedom of speech is buckling to the demands of identity politics:

In our country, the Human Rights Commission is the enemy of free speech and the enemy of a free media.

That’s a bad sign, for it shows a nation that has lost sight of what human rights actually are and has substituted the narrow, toxic aims of ideological conformity instead. It is no small thing that a former prime minister, Tony Abbott, and a former Labor Party leader, Mark Latham, have both called for the Human Rights Commission to be abolished.

The likely preservation by parliament of the worst elements of 18C is similarly a sign of the increasing dominance of identity politics and the always related desire to move the control of political discussion, wherever possible, into the hands of the judiciary or government tribunals that ape the judiciary. …

If this wicked legislation survives intact it will inevitably be used to prosecute the destructive agenda of modern, ideological identity politics.

I have spent a lot of time in nations whose chief civic identity is communal rather than citizenship-based. It’s never very pretty. It is a sign of the derangement of our times that we now push in that direction. In some senses, fighting identity politics is as important, or more important, than the arguments about free speech.

And, of course, identity politics, or communal politics, is always accompanied by a hysterical, populist fear campaign. That’s how you get people to identify primarily on the basis of communal identity rather than common citizenship. The Labor-Greens activist alliance will now presumably run just this kind of dishonest, dangerous fear campaign among ethnic communities. …

Our culture lacks confidence, undermined by the left:

The majority of young Australians, according to a Lowy poll, no longer believes democracy is the best form of government. I have seen up close a number of longstanding political systems topple. A loss of belief in your system is a typical precursor.

Similarly, the relentless ideological denigration of Western civilisation in the humanities departments of our universities betrays a loss of self-confidence. Even Australia Day is attacked. …


One of the most common features of a Third World country not making it is an inability to provide reliable electricity supplies. …

Investment uncertainty and delays:

Policy analysts often lament the impoverishment of nations that make big foreign investment projects ever more difficult. The grotesque saga of the delays, the veritable crippling by delay, of the Adani investment in Queensland is a textbook case. All levels of government want this project to succeed, the foreign investor has spent an enormous amount of money and wants to spend much more, thousands of Australian jobs would be created, but the ideological power of an essentially nihilist Green activist vision of development manages to make such an investment all but impossible. …

The PC alliance of bureaucrats, media, and academics that largely run Australia are tiring of democracy:

This is also a sign of what we might call the “deep state” of bureaucracy and tribunals becoming ever more ideological and impervious to the normal democratic decisions.

Economics is going tribal:

Countries going backwards often find their budget out of control. Our Senate has now made it impossible to control government expenditure. Left-wing populism will never countenance any meaningful spending cut, beyond gutting national defence. …

Obeying the law becomes optional for powerful political players:

Perhaps the most ubiquitous sign of a country that cannot function in a modern, decent way is that certain powerful interests decide that obeying the law is entirely discretionary. I have had former finance ministers in some countries tell me they simply did not have the power to compel certain entities to pay tax.

Sally McManus, the new ACTU secretary, says she and the union movement are entitled to break a law “when it’s unjust”. That means they are only obliged to obey the laws they think are just. …

A nation failing the development test often finds the state’s monopoly on the legitimate use of force is contested by powerful groups with economic and ideological objections to obeying the law.