Failure of politics, failure of advocacy

An eye over the planetNiki Savva in The Australian reports on a falling out between industry associations over a joint approach to the carbon tax.

AIG, BCA, Minerals Council, ACCI and others couldn’t reach agreement in a telephone hookup. Someone subsequently leaked that Heather Ridout of AIG was the heart of resistance to action. Well, knock me down and call me Martha.

Sadly, it’s all too little, too late from organisations that more or less fell into line a decade ago, when their members’ interests demanded that they fight, and fight hard from the start.

Some industry organisations have seemed to operate merely as vehicles for their leaders to build contacts and status. Clearly there are a few of those. Or as organisations that simply held on and hoped they’d get their members a chance to stick their nose in the taxpayer trough. Clearly there are a few of those, too.

On key policy and broad cultural issues (dynamism, entrepreneurship, planning controls, defending capitalism) industry associations have dropped the ball over the past three decades.

Thankfully Peter Anderson of ACCI has manned-up. He is an impressive performer.

Our politicians, on the other hand…actually no, they’re on the same hand. They’ve dropped the ball too, for exactly the same reasons. Wanting to appear ‘nice’, excessively governed by PR and spinmeisters, unwilling to address hard policy issues that may require someone, somewhere to pay some price, slaves to conventional wisdom on every topic.

And grossly unwilling to engage in real political conflict. Contrary to the mouthings of commentators and our own Prime Minister, we are not in a world of hyperpartisanship. We don’t have too much politics. We have too little real politics.

We don’t have conflict over our political direction, we have posturing. We don’t have conflict over how our society should work, and how its institutions should support that; we have competitive ‘I feel your pain’ 10second TV grabs.

Our failures to engage in real political conflict and or to advocate with energy are coming back to haunt us. In a real way, with our prosperity, freedoms and institutions on the line. And our industry associations and centre-right politicians have to carry some of the blame.


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