THE MOST DEPRESSING WORDS YOU WILL READ THIS MORNING – come from “The Australian”‘s Paul Kelly, who for the past few decades has seen it all and chronicled it all:
Australia is undergoing a decisive change in its political values — Malcolm Turnbull has reinvented his government as a pragmatic, populist, public investment vehicle and Bill Shorten in reply has taken Labor even further to the populist, ideological left.
The edifices of Australia’s aspirational politics and market-based reforms are being torched in an end-of-generation bonfire. Occasionally in a nation’s history you can identify a point of transformation and it is likely that this week is such a marker.
Politics is now a contest about the nature of tax increases, the scope of monumental social spending initiatives and the type of government intervention. Australia is becoming yet another Western-world laboratory for the anti-market, populist revolution fuelled by resentment towards finance and corporates, the breakdown of the social contract, big-spending social democratic reforms and a drumbeat for redistribution and equality.
Farewell, sweet Australia, it was nice knowing you. Kelly famously titled his classic history of the 1980s economic reform, which remade the old sleepy, closed Australia, “The End of Certainty”. With the interruption of one recession, we have enjoyed more than three decades of unprecedented growth and expansion, with Australia becoming one of the world’s economic powerhouses as well as an exciting, open, vibrant country and society. Perhaps Kelly is now writing the bookend, “The End of Prosperity”.