Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Dispatches from across the Ditch

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Alan Emerson reports that Australian rugby commentators can claim success in one respect at least.
The issues in Australia are little different from those in New Zealand and many Australian newspaper headlines could equally apply here, Alan Emerson says.
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Just returned from the annual migration to Australia and it has been fascinating.

For a start, the news headlines in Australia and New Zealand are similar.

The cost-of-living crisis is huge in Australia and responsible for the current government’s hit in the polls. Having said that, the opposition Liberal-National coalitiondoesn’t, on current polling, have any chance of forming a government in the foreseeable future.

Interest rates are the other big-ticket item, with howls coming from homeowners and the banks as popular in Australia as they are in NZ. That’s despite interest rates in Australia being lower than those here. You regularly read of mortgage sales and homeowners just walking away and that “more Australians are in arrears than at the height of the covid epidemic”.

As with NZ, the Reserve Bank of Australia was in the news with a change of governor recently announced. The outgoing governor, Philip Lowe, made the point that excessive wage outcomes along with productivity growth would further stoke inflation and lead to higher interest rates. 

He made the additional point that there was no point increasing immigration if Australia didn’t increase the necessary infrastructure to support it. A fact our National Party ignored last time it governed.

Law and order is another major issue but with a different twist to NZ. In Queensland, for example, the well-resourced police are telling the government that “they can’t arrest their way out of the current [crime] crisis”. They complained that “criminals are now so brazen that they run at the police instead of running away from them”. Queensland was further described as “being in a state of lawlessness”. That’s despite having “the toughest laws in the nation”.

The issue, apparently, is the leniency of the courts – and governments on either side of the Tasman can’t do much about that.

Unlike NZ, Australia has a budget surplus for the first time in 15 years, largely due to coal and iron ore exports. There’s an Australian Infrastructure Facility, which was described by the Greens as a “fossil fuel slush fund”.

Climate change mitigation is discussed at length and it seemed to me to be more discussion than action. Coal electricity generators due for retirement have had their lives extended. It is estimated that for Australia to reach its climate targets by the end of the decade will require AU$1.5 trillion ($1.62 trillion) and a workforce of 200,000. The cost, we’re told, is equal to the cost of the reconstruction of Europe after World War II.   

There was considerable commentary on the fact Australia will not and cannot meet its climate change goals.

Inflation was another headline in Australia, although it has started to come down. “Experts” believe it will rise again as Australian wages increased.

So the issues in Australia are little different from those in NZ. In fact many Australian newspaper headlines could equally apply here. Rudimentary research would suggest that they could equally apply in Canada as well.

In addition to those issues we have controversy over co-governance. In Australia it’s the issue of The Voice referendum, which would give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people a seat at the table.

As in NZ, those in favour of co-governance and The Voice seek to minimise the effect, while those opposed tend to exaggerate. Supporters in both countries tend to be on the left of the political spectrum while those opposed are on the right.

The Aboriginal people maintain that billions of taxpayer dollars are spent trying to close the gap between them and the rest of the country. That it isn’t working and they want to be part of the discussion.

Their arguments are a lot more rational and reasoned than many back here. What I did find interesting was the Australian Jewish Council telling Australians that The Voice isn’t the Jewish way and then stridently warning Australia not to legitimise Palestine. Fortunately, we don’t have those issues here.

Where Australia is markedly different from NZ is over China and defence.

There was considerable discussion over the threat from China. That China’s trade block of Australian goods had little effect, that China is a bully, that the PM shouldn’t visit China and that those with sister cities in China should abandon them forthwith.

That was coupled with much sabre-rattling on the threat of China along with the strengthening of AUKUS. There was no problem with Australia being set to make hi-tech missiles for the United States and to work to dominate the space defence race. Australia and the US give the impression of being joined at the hip.

I was pleased we aren’t part of that discussion or of AUKUS.

On the lighter side, watching a Bledisloe Test with Australian commentators was awful. They appeared intent on trying to convince me that to be an Australian sports commentator you need an IQ in single figures.

They succeeded.

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