What’s Left ? What’s Right ? Views at Byron
In a panel chaired by Mungo MacCallum, here at the Byron Writers’ Festival, I said the most fundamental issue is the size of the public sector. Social democrat and labor parties around the world cannot urge more public spending as a share of the economy when we are up against the debt and tax limits so apparent everywhere. Otherwise we just become public prodigals. And end up producing fiscal crises that bring a conservative backlash – as with Thatcher or Kennett or the Tea Party.
Robert Manne was impressive with a rip-roaring attack on The Australian for its dogged attacks on the science of climate change. He argued the paper produced Abbott’s leadership based, as it is, on climate change denial.
But Manne offered a reasonable suggestion for social democrats. First he said Gillard could be seen as a principled leader taking a stand for the pricing of carbon, the first Australian Prime Minister to fight through to success on a difficult reform. He said, further, that the Labor-side could take up:
- dental services, to make good Howard’s withdrawal of support for dental services and give access to the poorest
- national accident insurance, as refined by former state minister John Della Bosca and the Productivity Commission
- a defense of taxation (to me, the difficult one given what I’ve written above).
General agreement that the dividing line dividing left and right in Australia is carbon pricing. Noteworthy again is the withdrawal of conservatives from any serious interest in the environmental agenda, to me a mystery of the universe in both Australian and US politics.