Finally, a REAL debate

Posted on August 9, 2010 by

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Am I alone in thinking the debate on the economy between Wayne Swan and Joe Hockey this afternoon was vastly more interesting and passionate than much of the jousting we have seen in this election campaign? I am no economist, and so the sparring over interest rates, GDP and all forms of financial statistics for me failed to hit a nerve. But there was a distinct air of spontaneity, and indeed courage of conviction that engulfed the whole affair, making for a much more lively and genuine piece of political theatre than we have been exposed to of late.

Without getting ahead of myself, their exchange seemed to me the closest we have come to a battle of ideologies in this election campaign, with the small-government Coalition promising lower taxes and bigger growth and Labor sticking to their guns on social issues, pointing to the stimulus package as a means of insulating everyday Australians from the perils of the economic crisis. Hockey’s scant allusion to political philosophy was of course lacking in the eloquence of Hume, Locke, Hobbes or Mill – to paraphrase, he declared the argument over the mining tax a philosophical one, with Labor seeking to pull their fastest runner back to the pack, and the Coalition wanting to set their fastest runner free and assist the rest of us to get up to speed.

Disregarding for a moment the tangible benefits of trickle-down economics, this invoked an old point of divergence between the two major parties – one that has been increasingly muddied since the embracing of neo-liberal economic policy in the Hawke/Keating era, and continued to full effect under Howard. The burning question here is around whether it is more beneficial, in the long run, to have a burgeoning privatised resources industry or one which is regulated, by government, to the advantage of the country as a whole. The Global Financial Crisis has shown us the dangers of unbridled capitalism, but there is much scope for further, open discussion about how we might achieve a balance between private growth and social need to achieve the best outcomes for Australia. I can only hope that if such age-old tensions are reignited we will see much more impassioned exchanges, with political leaders laying down and rigorously defending their core beliefs rather than simply appeasing the concerns of the latest focus-group.

Words – Dylan Bird

Image – Yahoo news

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Posted in: Comment, Dylan Bird