We can only applaud Paul Kelly, The Australian’s editor at large, for his assessment of the current election campaign last weekend. Of specific importance was his observation about where we have arrived as a nation when it comes to how we think about politics:
“This election looms as the death knell not just for economic policy reform but even for the capacity of leaders to conduct frank discussions with the public. Just weeks after a budget that increased spending over four years on the National Disability Insurance Scheme to $157.8bn from $116.1bn the previous year – a trajectory unsustainable and a program more expensive than Medicare – the debate from the people’s forum became whether Morrison lacked compassion by saying he had been “blessed” not to have children with disabilities.” Kelly summed up the principal on display in this particular episode: “Of course, the ephemeral, not the substance, was the media story.”
The Ephemeral Effect in Australian politics
The phenomenon Kelly referred to has been apparent for decades. What might be casually referred to as the Ephemeral Effect in Australian politics (including the media which report and interpret politics in this country) has developed steadily year after year in this nation’s life. Looking around similar societies throughout the world, the phenomenon is not isolated to Down Under but has come to dominate political discourse and debate in affluent nations everywhere.
The Ephemeral Effect might be defined as the steadily increasing precedence and dominance of popular culture sentiment and shallowness over what is really important to the common good and the future of our society. We are swayed by popularity but not by what’s actually important. Fundamental principles are not discussed, not debated and even abandoned. It applies equally to politicians and the media who regard themselves as the high priests and interpreters of political life as the most important subject for the nation’s contemplation. It is really a form of blindness.
A policy begging to be embraced
While the politicians scramble and vie for the tiniest advantage which might deliver power throughout this campaign there is one policy which would virtually guarantee either of the major political parties a solid winning-margin victory were they to embrace its underlying principle and communicate it clearly to voters: economic justice for families delivered via family based taxation or FBT (see report by Adam Wesselinoff Page 3). That neither party is even talking about this issue tends strongly to confirm the observation from Paul Kelly that the transient and the ephemeral increasingly rule. Yet this particular blindness comes at the cost of the development and progress of the nation and of economic justice for those who make it up.
The heart of Australian life is not Canberra, the mining industry, the agricultural sector, industrial relations or the supposed rights of activists to impose their often-bizarre ideologies over the entirety of the Australian polity. The heart of the nation is its families, for upon the welfare of the family unit the rest of the nation depends.
Taxation discrimination against families
For decades, families and the marriages upon which they are based have been steadily subjected to increasingly tectonic financial pressures, including discrimination against them imposed through Australia’s taxation system. Meanwhile, the cost of relegating the family unit in terms of taxation and financial policy can be seen clearly in the prevalence of financial stress as a factor in divorce.
According to every indice known to the social sciences it is the family made up of children and their natural parents living in a stable, loving and affectionate relationship which is the very best place for children to be and for their future as contributing members of society. This is not to deny that there are many single parents who do a better job of parenting than their married peers but that is a subject for another time. Destroy the family unit and the things required for it to exist in a stable fashion for the mutual support, benefit and flourishing of its members and one effectively reduces the nation to an ever more disintegrating reality with real long-term economic and financial costs for everyone.
Aussie political parties … here’s your chance
The increasing economic burdens and the cost to Australian families generated by the politics of transience is increasingly clear in all the studies and opinion polls. The political party which (a) wakes up to the need and the advantages of reorienting taxation, financial and economic policies to benefit the family, (b) embraces this as a principle of national importance or priority and (c) successfully communicates that it will address these issues in concrete measures which benefit families will reap the political fruits of that principled position. Stunning electoral victory is within range of whichever party realises this fact first.