There’s the Australia that exists in reality. Then there’s the second Australia, created by the media and the public imagination. Which one do you live in?
We live, it seems, in two Australias.
One exists in so-called “reality”, allegedly observable via evidence and facts. The other one exists in the mind of many in the media and the government’s critics in business.
The purported “real” Australia doesn’t look too bad. It has low unemployment, low inflation, remarkably low interest rates, a huge pipeline of business investment, low government debt and steady economic growth. Its government shepherded the country through the global financial crisis by protecting the banking sector and providing fiscal stimulus, and is now engaged in a dramatic fiscal contraction that has allowed the country’s central bank to cut interest rates. Its tax-cutting government has presided over a 1.5% fall in tax to GDP ratio. The world’s credit rating agencies are sufficiently impressed to have given Australia the best possible sovereign ratings, and its currency has, to the chagrin of its exporters, become a reserve currency valued by forex traders and central banks the world over.
The country is governed by a minority government that, in spite of predictions about how unworkable it would be, has produced a long succession of legislated reforms, albeit of the small-to-medium variety, but some big ones as well: a carbon price, further big improvements to its already world-leading superannuation system, an overhaul of health funding, and cuts to the absurdly generous middle-class welfare bequeathed to it by the previous government.
Its Prime Minister, initially clumsy and forced in the role, has over time grown into it, and now even appears competent on the world stage, with a close relationship with President Barack Obama. The country is the world’s 12th largest economy and one of the few developed economies still showing vigour.
All that stands in dire contrast to the Australia which, we’re told, is actually out there and which we can read and hear about in the media.
“The Australia portrayed in the pages of newspapers and on talkback radio increasingly bears no resemblance to reality …”
That Australia is an economic wasteland, on the way to joining Spain and Greece. It is labouring under a crushing public debt burden. Its pro-union industrial relations laws have slashed productivity and threaten to derail the country’s resources boom. A “sea of red tape” stifles innovation. The government has bungled relations with China and its name is mud in Washington because we’ve cut defence spending.
The country has a property bubble and its over-reliance on foreign borrowings that mean our banks will collapse when there’s another financial crisis, necessitating vast bailouts. It’s the government’s fault that mining companies all tried to invest in new projects at once, bidding up the cost of labour and other supplies.
Its carbon price (instituted because the Prime Minister, being a woman, was easily controlled by extreme environmentalist Bob Brown) has sent consumer prices through the roof, and all for nothing because climate change is a giant conspiracy, or even if it exists, Australia can’t do anything about it despite being a massive carbon exporter and the world’s most carbon-dependent major economy. The country’s “Communist” mining tax, despite raising no revenue, is deterring investment. Corrupt union officials oversee our biggest superannuation funds, even if those funds out-perform funds overseen by the big banks.
Indeed, the stain of union corruption is everywhere, for the Prime Minister herself is corrupt. Corrupt how, corrupt in what way, isn’t made clear despite acres of newsprint and investigative journalists working full-time for months on the “story” and even the ABC, criticised by its media watchdog program, goaded into action; but somehow, in some unspecified way, she acted corruptly just under two decades ago, and is now somehow stifling an investigation of it, including making files disappear (and then reappear, presumably just to throw people off the scent). But she has Questions To Answer.
And to distract from this corruption, the Prime Minister plays the gender card, claiming she’s a victim of a misogynist campaign, while her deputy engages in class war, trying to demonise successful entrepreneurs. Worse, she’s planning a Stalinist assault on free speech intended to censor her media critics.
The Australia portrayed in the pages of newspapers and on talkback radio increasingly bears no resemblance to reality; the “coverage” is an ever more lurid fantasy based on the arch-villainy of Julia Gillard, simultaneously weak and incompetent at governing but fiendishly clever and ruthless at covering up her crimes, while the country she leads goes to wrack and ruin, or at least it will When The Boom Ends or When The Next Global Crisis Occurs or When Financial Markets Lose Confidence. That’s if she lasts. Surely she’ll be gone within weeks. Some new revelation, some smoking gun, some crucial piece of evidence will destroy her prime ministership. Just you wait.
And we wonder where we’ll get quality journalism from when the internet finally destroys newspapers.