Crikey is normally shy of the crass nationalism so readily found in the mainstream media. But for once, it’s worth pondering the effectiveness of the Australian political system, one that has delivered two fascinating outcomes this week.
Joel Fitzgibbon has resigned — correctly — for misjudgements that pale into insignificance compared to recent events in the UK parliament, where not merely is Gordon Brown’s premiership on its last legs, but the dominance of the major parties also looks likely to succumb to voter fury at the biggest corruption scandal there in generations. The entire Parliamentary institution has been shamed.
Australia’s governing class and economic policymakers — who bungled the boom and subsequent bust of the late 1980s — seem to have succeeded in, if not warding off recession, then certainly ameliorating the impacts of the downturn on employment — a critical economic and social achievement when the rest of the world is facing contraction and high unemployment. And it has been achieved with a level of debt and deficit that is, by any reckoning, among the lowest in the developed world. The United States, in comparison, has for most of this decade demonstrated a pathological inability to accept the need for more prudent spending.
Australia’s political system has many faults — witness the debate over climate change — but on the crucial issues of economic management and basic political accountability, it has functioned far more effectively than governments in other countries. More Australians are in jobs than would otherwise be the case. And Australian voters can have greater confidence in the accountability and trustworthiness of their MPs.
Voters might bear that in mind when the media next goes looking for next expenses rort or criticises MPs over their foreign travel or pay.