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Thread: General/Opinion

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Date: Tue, 27 May 2008 22:42:37 +1000

There are two type of people in the world ...
Those that divide the world into two types of people.
Those that don't.

- Old Jungle Saying.

In this morning's Age, the economics editor, Tim Colebatch, stated that there are basically two types of politicians. And these were Doers and pleasers. According to him, a doer was a leader who would look for solutions when confronted with a problem, and would make decisions. A pleaser, on the other hand would try to navigate through the troubled waters of the body politic by offending the least number of people. A pleaser would pretend that problems did not exist and would avoid decision-making.

I think most readers of The Age would, like me, have gained the impression that Tim Colebatch considers doers to be the more admirable group.

The new government have delivered their budget, and it has generally been well received. The opposition leader in his reply decided to make a stand on alcohol and petrol, two items that have been near and dear to Aussies for most of the previous century. It seems that Dr. Nelson's fight for our children's right to get cheap drinks did not make that much traction with voters. Perhaps in three or four years when the kiddies are old enough to vote, he might see some benefit from this courageous stand.

The question of petrol however did strike a chord with the public. Dr. Nelson committed his party to a policy of reducing taxes on petrol. And as his deputy Malcolm Turnbull has admitted, it is good politics, but bad policy. It is the hastily conceived, knee-jerk policy of the pork-barrel that came to typify the previous prime minister in his final days in office.

To return to Tim Colbatch's division, it is the policy of a pleaser. A doer would consider how to fundamentally restructure our use of petrol in particular and fossil fuels in general, and examine our use of motor vehicles and transport in general. The populist approach of tinkering with taxes is a short-term, ineffective response that would deliver minimal benefit. Even if they are talking about a radical approach like abolishing fuel taxes altogether (which they aren't). The proposals are only fiddling at the margins. Any benefit to consumers could be wiped out (or made redundant) by a busy day's trading on the futures' markets. It is a short-term policy that only looks as far ahead as the next opinion poll.

Already we are hearing similar rhetoric from candidates in the USA. But at least they have the excuse of an approaching election.

And it is curious that our new prime minister, despite the fact that he enjoys an approval rating that may be the biggest in the history of Australian politics, and despite the fact that the next election is almost three years away, has also announced that he too was giving serious consideration to the poll-driven, frivolous policy of tinkering with petrol taxes.


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