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Sunday, August 18, 2013

Conservative or Progressive? Left or Right?

The past 4 years have been a political minefield throughout the world.  Repercussions from the Global Financial Crisis lead to a lot of countries implementing harsh austerity measures, banks had to be bailed out and the Eurozone was in danger of collapsing.

Minority governments have existed in many OECD countries.  Citizens of the world have been unhappy with their governments and this has lead to a resurgence in far left and far right parties in countries such as France, Italy and Greece.

The UK conservative government has also been propped up by the liberal democrats.  This minority "conservative" government has legislated "progressive" policies such as gay marriage,  and maintaining foreign aid budget at 0.7% of national income.  Interestingly, The Economist thinks that this is the way to go as the UK's Generation Y has turned both socially and economically liberal.  The magazine also recommends young people to go to the polls in large numbers to take a stand in their country's politics.  It is only then that young people will be able to determine their collective future.

How has the UK managed to do what Australia could not?  Where are the policies coming from?

NZ also led by a conservative government legislated gay marriage as did France, who are led by a centre left party.

In Australia, 81% of 18-24 year olds support marriage equality. Yet Tony Abbott has said that Australia is inherently conservative.  Is this really the case?  Are the young in Australia both socially and economically conservative?  Where are the policy discussions in Australia taking place?

Economic policy discussion at the moment in Australia is centred around budget surplus/deficit.  During the John Howard era, it was the cash rate.  Why was this the case?  The LNP have led Australia to believe they are better economy managers than ALP.  They have done this by holding out their trump cards of cash rate and budget surplus/deficits.  The ALP, most notably under Julia Gillard, took the bait and made it their challenge to achieve budge surplus.

The irony in this is that cash rates are set by the independent Reserve Bank.  Budget surplus and deficits have been made such a big talking point as it sets LNP apart from ALP.  In trying to achieve budget surplus, the ALP shone a light onto their "weakness".  Cameron Clyne said recently that Australia has a debt problem, it does not have enough debt.  He said the debate around debt in this country was very immature.

Discussions around economy has to be more than whether a government can achieve budget surplus or deficit.  There has to be a long term vision around industry and jobs.  Australia is very lucky to be in the Asian region where the countries are showing the biggest growth.  Any future leader should use at least part of the Asian white paper as a starting vision and build on it.  Julia Gillard said in 2025, Asia will be the world's middle class.

Foreign aid budget has fallen on the wayward recently as well; however as Bill Gates pointed out, by helping the region around us, we are only helping ourselves in the long run.

In policy discussions, there is a need for us to take off our glasses and see the world without labels.  We need to forego whether we are Labor or Liberal voters, conservative or progressive, left or right.  It is only then we can form an unbiased opinion on policies.

The policies we set now, will determine our future.  If the young do not think long term, who will?

Endnote: The NZ parliament broke out into a beautiful Maori love song after the passing of gay marriage bill.   

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