May 18, 2007 | Graham

Where would we be without the “Bastard Boys”?

I don’t know why anyone worries about Howard stacking the ABC board when Auntie can produce agitprop like “The Bastard Boys” in an election year.
National Productivity and the inadequacy of our ports to handle the demand for exports have been issues in this election campaign. How much worse would things have been without Chris Corrigan?
I’m surprised that no-one’s tried to ask Kevin Rudd what he thinks about the docu-drama and whether he thinks Corrigan and Patricks were good or bad for the country. It bears fairly squarely on his claim to be the man for the future.
Howard’s been criticised for not being reformist enough, at the same time as he’s portrayed as being a political ideologue. He’s neither. His stewardship of the country has been unspectacular and stable. On the one hand he’s increased the size of government and kept most of the bounty of the economic good times to gift to privileged groups, like parents of new born children, rather than giving them back to everyone as tax cuts. On the other he introduced a GST and we now have tax scales which only apply the top marginal rate to the very highest earners. More of the economy is in the hands of companies – that’s good because their only reason for being is to save and invest.
While much of the economy’s bouyancy can be sheeted home to the commodity boom, it doesn’t explain everything. And even if it did, it’s hardly surprising that we do well in commodity booms, because our economy is more heavily focussed on commodities than most others. Good economic management in Australia means being able to exploit such booms.
There’s been a division of political labour in Australia over the last 25 or so years. That is that Labor gets to do the really hard economic reforms, because its constituency is relatively unconcerned about them, and the Liberals get to do the labour reforms, for the same reason.
I’m inclined to give Howard a last go, because while he’s been a reasonable steward of the economic reforms, his labour reforms haven’t had a chance to be imbedded yet. And without those reforms, we’re not well-suited to face the future.

Posted by Graham at 1:47 pm | Comments (13) |
Filed under: Australian Politics


  1. I don’t agree with most of what you wrote, without the mining boom and massive overseas borrowing to fund the housing boom the economy would be in tatters. The federal government is getting most of the tax dollars while the states are providing most of the infrastructure,even federal responibilities like the Hume Highway are ignored, since 1996 they have completed the Bookham bypass started by Keating and the Albury bypass, in 11 years thats it! there is still 130 Kms of single lane highway which is really crap and dangerous. Most of it is supposed to be dual by 2010, that is a joke as they haven’t even started yet.
    We have golden opportunity here and its being wasted, on pork barrelling target groups.I could go on for hours about enviroment, dodgy unemployment figures , current account deficit, hospitals , schools etc etc etc.

    Comment by Alan — May 19, 2007 @ 1:28 am

  2. There are more issues than purely economic about the state of this nation and its international reputation when itn comes tom the election. Howard has ruined the concept of the buck stopping with the Captain of the ship: consider a corrupted Public Service: no cans carried by Ministers as over refugees .ignoring proffessional intelligence advice aboutn going to war: being a false freind of the USA by going along with a fundamentalist idiot President instead of urging the truth. Giving aid and comfort to the enemy in Saddam Hussein….and so on. How consistent the right wing of Queensalnd and Australian politicians are in their corrupt morals .

    Comment by Brian Lynes — May 19, 2007 @ 5:53 pm

  3. I’m a little confused. Whenever someone seems to be making an argument for Corigan’s actions or the dredging of our bays they inevitably talk about “inadequacy of our ports to handle the demand for exports”. They never mention imports. For instance the number of imported containers coming into Sydney harbour this YTD is double those being exported. I wonder why 278,000 exported containers are more problematic than 607,000 exported ones? Surely they use the same machinery and other infrastructure.
    Do ultra-efficient ports help or hinder australian manufacturers?

    Comment by Cameron — May 19, 2007 @ 7:05 pm

  4. Alan, try getting out of the city for a drive, I live in country Victoria and believe me there are roads under construction everywhere we go.

    Comment by Ginger — May 21, 2007 @ 11:15 am

  5. Graham, I really think your definition of a company stinks. What matters is how much the directors can get out of their company both before and after the golden handshake. Also consider how much profit goes overseas and doesn’t get reinvested here.
    Where are the companies willing to invest in non-oil-based energy projects? Why did the latest solar-power technology project go to China? Why aren’t the ‘local’ car manufacturers investing in the local production of alternative-energy-powered vehicles?

    Comment by Lesley de Voil — May 21, 2007 @ 11:50 am

  6. Lesley, you’ve got a pretty slanted caricature of what a company is and does. Most businesses in this country run as companies. I administer 5 myself. And most of them aren’t a conspiracy against shareholders and the public.
    Companies are just collections of human beings working under certain legal rules which limit their personal liability. If it wasn’t for the company structure there’s be a lot less of everything to go around.
    Cameron, are you suggesting that ports ought to be made to be deliberately ineffecient to stop people importing goods? I find that a bit bizarre.

    Comment by Graham Young — May 21, 2007 @ 11:22 pm

  7. Graham,
    Your assessment ignores the consiracy behind the waterfront dispute. You’re essentially saying that morality don’t matter, that economic efficiency trumps ethical and legal behaviour.
    Your assessment of the economic credentials of the Howard government also completely ignores the current account and trade deficit which have been used to buy our prosperity. The model practised by this government is the same as that practised by National Safety Council in the 1980s: Borrow and borrow and borrow to cover your debts.

    Comment by barney — May 22, 2007 @ 11:04 am

  8. I wasn’t specifically saying anything about morality, but I don’t think it’s possible to defend the waterside worker’s rorts on the waterfront on a moral basis!

    Comment by Graham Young — May 22, 2007 @ 4:06 pm

  9. Agreed Graham but it is equally impossible to defend the actions of Corrigan and particularly the government in conspiring to break the law.
    The thrust of your article was that Corrigan/Reith were right to take the actions they did and that the waterfront was reformed as a result. You seem to be arguing that the end justifies the means. By this logic Pinochet is justified in organising the terror in Chile.

    Comment by barney — May 22, 2007 @ 6:29 pm

  10. I’m not ignoring anything, Barney. By trying to have a narrow argument about what was “legal” or not you’re trying to undermine my central point without dealing with it. That point is that without Corrigan we would not be doing as well now as we are. If Rudd is going to criticise Howard because of bottlenecks on the waterfront then he has to explain how he would have done better.
    I’m also saying that a documentary which portrays the unions as the goodies and Corrigan as the baddy is not a fair representation of the facts. You can argue as to whether Corrigan acted entirely fairly, but the waterfront didn’t get into the mess it did because the waterfront unions played fair.
    If I had to choose sides, I’d be on Corrigan’s. In the real world you don’t get the choice of perfect alternatives.

    Comment by Graham Young — May 22, 2007 @ 9:45 pm

  11. Graham,
    At the risk of a conversation that bores everyone else stupid…
    And by ignoring my central criticism of your argument ie that the Corrigan/Reith actions were illegal and immoral, you take an “end justifies the means” position.
    In terms of the ABC, it is as legitimate to make the conspiracy aspect the framework for the narrative structure as it is to promote the reform aspect. Although i suspect it would not have created as good a story. As with the choice between a conspiracy and a stuff up, go for the stuff up every time so it is with drama. If you’ve got a choice between a great story about opposing sides with a consiracy thrown in as opposed to a dull story about waterfront reform what are you going to choose? Sure the writers erred more on the side of the wharfies and unions. So what? That’s where the drama was. I personally thought Corrigan came out of it ok. The fact that they highlighted the fact that Corrigan and Coombs still lunch together indicated that he has personal qualities which endear him to his opponents.
    Yes there were rorts. But those rorts were created and maintained by both sides, union and stevedoring companies. The tragedy (if that’s not too strong a word) of Corrigan was that he chose to deal with the rorts by getting into bed with a government which decided to subvert its own laws to achieve its own political ends.

    Comment by barney — May 23, 2007 @ 9:59 am

  12. Ginger I do live in the country and I travel to Sydney on the Hume Hwy at least 3 times a year, and it is a goat track in the single lane sections. You are lucky to live in Victoria you have the best roads in Australia. Around here (Albury area) we have roads so bad the council won’t fix them because they are scared to drive on them in case they break their machinery. The NSW govt thinks NSW stops at Gundagi and the Feds can’t find us on a map.

    Comment by Alan — May 23, 2007 @ 8:03 pm

  13. “The NSW govt thinks NSW stops at Gundagai” lol No way,
    NSW stands for newcastle, sydney wollongong

    Comment by matt — May 24, 2007 @ 3:53 pm

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