Have you noticed how, in a parliamentary democracy, an Opposition can – if it doesn’t actually care about damaging the country to do it – sabotage Government policies that may well otherwise have worked?
In the case of Government efforts to reduce unauthorised arrivals by boat, all their opponents have to do is constantly advertise to potential arrivals that, contrary to the reality they’ll find when they get here, it’s really “easy” to get into the country now, and they’ll be treated “like kings” when they do, “better than ordinary Australians” – that this Government is “soft” and we’re “an easy target”. (“People smugglers” probably have cuttings from News Ltd papers all over their office walls.) If there’s a message being sent overseas about Australia’s immigration policies being overly-favourable, that message isn’t being trumpeted by a Government that keeps trying to make their lives harder and more unpleasant, locking up children in detention just as its predecessor did – it’s being trumpeted by the Opposition and its media cheerleaders. And is very likely making the problem worse. (Within the parameters of the fact that there was a global surge in refugee numbers, and you’d expect with dramatically more people in the region seeking refuge the numbers arriving in Australia would increase even if no policies changed.)
So, yes, the constant advertising Australia as a target for “people smugglers” is less than helpful for the country, if the aim is to reduce arrivals by boat. But it’s very helpful for the Opposition, if the aim is to win government by blaming the Government for the arrivals by boat it and its cheerleaders in the media have actually done everything in their power to encourage.
And the carbon tax is another example. Businesses want some certainty – for the policy to work, they need to know that if they invest in developing renewable technologies they won’t have their efforts destroyed by the government suddenly changing its mind and reversing tack. Which is exactly what the Liberals are now promising to do if they win the next election. That promise itself makes it vastly more difficult for the policy to achieve its aim – of encouraging investment in renewable technologies to ultimately replace things like coal. But the coal industry has power now; if it plays its cards right with its representatives in Canberra, the Coalition, its competitors, the future renewable businesses, can be smothered before they ever have a chance to get themselves some representation.
Who’s going to seriously invest in renewables under the Government’s plan if the Coalition is just going to cancel it in two years? And so a plan that might well have worked, that might have created a sustainable, long-term industry for the benefit of all Australians, and reduced the risk of catastrophic climate change, is sabotaged purely for political gain.
Same with crime, where they’re always telling potential criminals that “this Government” is “soft on crime” so, you know, you might as well give it a shot… and if people are encouraged, by the (erroneous) belief that the courts are “soft”, to commit offences, and crime rates rise, then that’s good news for the Opposition! (Not such good news for the people of the State in question, but that’s apparently not what’s uppermost in their minds.)
I’m not suggesting Oppositions shouldn’t criticise Governments, of course. I’m simply noting that, in areas where it’s the message that affects the problem – where a policy is to deter behaviour (eg crime) or encourage behaviour (eg a market) – it’s important for the electorate to consider who exactly is making the problem worse.
And to consider that rewarding that behaviour by putting those people in Government, encourages the next lot to do everything in their power to sabotage the country to get their own way.