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Crikey says: populism and doing what’s right

Paddy Manning: how you could really save Qantas. Why the economy is doing better than glum Joe Hockey says. Peace in Syria? Only in pockets, Crikey reports from Beirut. Guy Rundle on the (industrial) revolution in upstate New York. The journo union spat. We save some money from that expensive royal trip.. And do men really make more than women?

Both sides of politics have had good sport hurling insults at each other over Qantas this week. The government accuses Labor of populist politics; Labor accuses Coalition figures of being hopelessly inconsistent between their time in opposition and government.

Treasurer Joe Hockey was in quite a pickle given his own previous statements, having to explain his former professed opposition to greater foreign ownership of Qantas. And did he stand by a previous statement that “when companies have majority foreign ownership or majority foreign control then it actually has had an impact on the social responsibility of those companies in Australia”, his opposite number Chris Bowen asked him? “In relation to Qantas, no,” Hockey said, and sat down.

Commendable honesty from Hockey, but it would have been more honest if he’d simply admit that one of the few luxuries of being in opposition is that you can hold any position you like without the responsibility of having to implement it.

Let’s accept that both sides have been guilty of populism and inconsistency in shuffling between government and opposition, let’s acknowledge that hypocrisy is the grease of parliamentary politics, and move on to the substance of the issue: the government has made the right call on Qantas, and moreover made it despite the political risks attaching to it. One of the fatal flaws of the Rudd government was its inability to hold a tough line against corporate rent-seeking; the Abbott government has, not without some inconsistency, demonstrated greater discipline in the face of business pressure.

There is much to criticise about this government, but credit where due: its decisions on the car industry, SPC Ardmona and Qantas are important in breaking the back of an Australian business culture of demanding regulatory or financial assistance from governments.

If only Hockey would extend it to all the other areas of the economy, where sectors like mining, financial services and agriculture get distorting and inefficient assistance from Canberra …

5
  • 1
    Peter Evans
    Posted Friday, 7 March 2014 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Turn it up! All this government has done is further deeply politicise government hand outs. If you’re a company prepared to publicly back the Libs and bash their enemies, parrot their propaganda, then hold out your hand and ye shall receive!

  • 2
    Michael
    Posted Friday, 7 March 2014 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

    The age of entitlement may be over, but perhaps only for unionised workforces. Lets see whether tax breaks for sectional interests suffer any pain (yes, I’m looking at you, the wildly concessional 20% FBT rate for private use of cars…).

  • 3
    AR
    Posted Friday, 7 March 2014 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Watch how much feather bedding the favoured receive from their government minions in the next couple of years.
    Double Dissolution, ASAP!

  • 4
    David Hand
    Posted Friday, 7 March 2014 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    It’s not all bad to shift one’s position regarding a challenging matter. It takes guts to own up to a previously held view that you no longer hold.

    I congratulate Crikey on such a journey, and a pretty quick one at that. On 27 Feb, barely a week ago, you said,

    What is required here from Canberra is comprehensive industry policy. Not empty rhetoric.”

    So you’ve finally worked out that the government does indeed have an industry policy, just not the big government big union model you and your subscribers pine for.

    I was surprised to note you advocating even more retreat from government intervention. Slow down guys. Such shifts in editorial positions can be confusing.

  • 5
    CML
    Posted Friday, 7 March 2014 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    And just how to you expect Qantas to survive when it has to compete against airlines on the same routes, who ALL receive ‘government hand-outs’ of one kind or another?
    Emirates, Etihad, Singapore and the airlines in China anyone???
    Hockey is an idiot!

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