Nation’s sour mood belies our many riches

Nation’s sour mood belies our many riches. By Greg Sheridan. This is a backgrounder to the Australian election, coming up on May 21.

Numerous surveys say Australia has the highest, or near to the highest, standard of living in the world. Our disposable income is also close to the top. You can argue about slight relativities and our exchange rate can fluctuate, making us a little richer or poorer. But bottom line: we are rich.

Our health system is one of the best. There is no better place to get sick than Australia. Having spent 40 years travelling the world, I assert that with no fear of contradiction.

Even on Covid, the Morrison government is unusually modest in touting its achievements. Take one simple statistical comparison. The US has about 13 times our population. It has had about a million Covid deaths. The same proportion of deaths would give us more than 75,000 dead Australians. Instead, we’ve had about 6500 Covid deaths. You can argue the statistics at the margins, and they don’t mean everything Australian governments have done on Covid was necessary or justified, but in the grand scheme of things it’s a pretty good outcome.

Our unemployment rate, famously, is now 4 per cent. Australia is a high-cost society in every area and salaries have not been rising much, but we are still individually as well off as people anywhere. We enjoy an extremely generous welfare system. Indeed, we are drowning in transfer payments. …

So why the sour mood? I’d say that the root cause is that the ruling class bureaucracy is very firmly in control in Australia, and gradually becoming less competent and more corrupt. We are becoming a socialist country, censored and conforming. This rubs many of us up the wrong way.

Our mainstream conservative party, oddly enough called the “Liberal Party”, is just the team B of the bureaucratic globalists. It is putting up no real resistance. The only real opposition to the bureaucrats and their allies are the 10% – 15% voting for the numerous “far right” parties, all of whom are unprofessional and make a lot of factual errors. The professionals are still nearly all locked into the bureaucratic power structure.

I think underneath there is a formless sense that something in our national circumstances is wrong.

For a start, we have apparently put a permanent end to economic reform that lifts productivity. …

John Howard left us with so much money in the bank, and such a good credit rating, that we can live for a while longer on the credit card. …

Our wealth comes from commodities and is still disproportionately dependent on China. …

We know we are absolutely dependent on the US for security….

Centrism in politics is better than extremism, but there is a bland, mediocre nothingness at the heart of Australian politics, which barely rises to the level of technocratic managerialism, where there ought to be some guiding philosophy or idea.

The author is gradually grasping his way towards articulating the problem, but is still just mostly itemizing symptoms.