The NSW election and the Ashton by-election make it clear that Australians are fed up with ideology, donor-pandering, and political point-scoring and want their governments to do stuff and fix stuff.
The federal government should do itself a couple of favours. One, make the transition to electric vehicles a top economic and national-security matter and the other is to take the obvious steps to reverse the housing crisis.
NSW and Ashton tell us that the Murdoch press and all the big-business and vested interests can be stared down. If political parties make sound decisions in the public and national interest, they will be rewarded.
Moreover, such an approach would send the Murdoch press and Sky After Dark crew into a spiral of irrelevancy as they gee up the Liberal Party to lurch ever further to the right with the consequences that we saw on the past two Saturday nights.
Australia is lagging on electric vehicles not because of lack of demand. They are in high demand, but short supply.
Overseas manufacturers are dumping their fossil vehicles in Australia because we do not have an overall emissions cap on each manufacturer, unlike most other developed countries. So, while the manufacturers eke out the remaining life of their fossil-vehicle manufacturing plants, they will dump the product in Australia rather than sell us electric vehicles because they need to sell the electric vehicles in Europe to meet emissions caps.
We should impose an emissions cap now. We should also build more high-speed charging stations – another dampener on EV take-up.
The transition is critical for security and the economy. We import $20 billion worth of refined petroleum, mainly from Asia and another $20 billion in crude and other oils. More than 80 per cent of the crude oil refined at Australia’s only two remaining refineries is imported. We are more than 90 per cent reliant on foreign fuel.
The two remaining refineries (owned by multi-nationals) get government subsidies of $2 billion a year between them.
In short, the quicker Australia transitions away from imported fossil fuels to EVs powered by Australian sun and wind the better it will be for our economy, our security and our environment.
The Federal Government should work with the states to overcome the looming road-funding crisis as revenue from fuel taxes fall with the take-up of EVs. Whatever the High Court’s pending decision on the validity of Victoria’s EV road-use tax, the Federal Government should reduce any state’s road funding by whatever amount it collects in EV road-use taxes and come up with a national scheme rather than a hotch-potch of state vehicle taxes.
Doing nothing means we will be run over by multi-national car manufacturers; oil refiners; and petroleum-exporting countries and be left vulnerable to supply disruptions. And that is aside from climate change.
On housing, the Government has proposed a Mickey Mouse scheme whereby it will underwrite 30,000 social-housing dwellings through a stock-market arrangement. Meanwhile, it has been beguiled by property and retail big businesses to ramp up immigration to a total of 650,000 people in 2023 and 2024.
This is Orwellian doublethink at its worst. Orwell’s word “doublethink” describes how a person (usually in a position of power justifying bad policy) can hold two contradictory propositions in their head at the same time and believe in the truth of both of them.
Thus, our Federal Government knows there is a housing and rental crisis and a congestion and environmental crisis, on one hand, yet it firmly believes that high immigration is a “good thing”. Whereas rational people know that high immigration is the major cause of the housing and rental crisis and the congestion and environmental crises.
It is insane at best or duplicitous at worst.
Where on earth in the Australian land mass are the 650,000 people to be housed over the two years? And another 650,000 in the next two years? And another and another? Who is to pay for the dwelling construction? Or doesn’t it matter. As long as big business can grind into the maw masses of profit-making cheap labour, who cares where they will be housed or the pressure they will put on housing, congestion and the environment for the people (including recent migrants) who live here now.
It does not matter what their colour, race, religion, or fluency in English, no other country on earth is as stupid as Australia when it comes to opening the floodgates of cheap labour for the profit the few at the grave expense of the many and to the long-term degradation of the Australian environment and economy.
Ashton and the NSW result should be telling the federal government that it can just say no to big business and yes to the broad mass of people who hate and detest the idea of Big Australia and the importing of wage-slave labour that profits only a tiny few.
The housing and rental crisis could be turned around at a stroke, by reducing immigration to the pre-Howard years of around 70,000 – or less. Yes, immigration has done wonderful things for Australia in the past, but that was when it was moderate not rampant and when the economy needed the skills. Australia can now train people to do almost anything. We have a training shortage, not a people shortage.
Australia has one of the worst rental-housing crises in the developed world because we have one of the highest immigration rates in the world. $10 billion to build 30,000 dwellings will not come near to solving it. Cutting immigration from 650,000 to 140,000 over the next two years will.
If Labor had touted this massive immigration increase before the last election it would not have been elected. And even after the election, if it had to get parliamentary approval for it, it would fail. It is a massive undemocratic assault on Australian living standards. The setting of immigration numbers is done without public debate behind closed doors to satisfy party donors and big business.
The Ashton and NSW results should now tell Federal Labor that it can stop the immigration Ponzi scheme and still win elections easily.
This article first appeared in The Canberra Times and other Australian media on 4 March 2023.
Crispin Hull is a former editor of The Canberra Times and regular columnist.