For reasons that can only be explained by a desire to beat insomnia, we decided to watch the PM’s address to the Minerals Council of Australia at the speed of live on ABCNews twenty-bore.
We thought she did pretty well and was perhaps even a little over-the-top in her niceness to the assembled mining corporate bureaucrats.
Some of our dearest friends make good coin from the mining caper and we celebrate their fortune with great enthusiasm, so our outlook is as friendly as one can be.
The Australian’s headline – and the Marlon Brando impersonator Liberal spokesdude whose quotes sustained the yarn – following the event caught our eye:
Hang on a second, I thought. Her speech wasn’t that bolshie, was it? Maybe we’d just dreamed it.
So we went to the script, lovingly prepared by the PMO speech-writers famous for bon mots like “we are us” just to check that it wasn’t our imagination:
Mining is our economy’s “strong right arm”.
When Australians see those great images of the industry, big yellow trucks the size of apartment blocks and open cuts as deep as Sydney Harbour and trains as long as the Story Bridge, we all feel a real pride in the vast continent we share and the endeavour we’ve made to develop it.
Right on, comrade.
She continued, lavishing praise on what is almost certainly the best, most productive, best-skilled, mining industry in the world:
Any more than luck built a mining industry that supports the jobs of hundreds of thousands of Australians, that develops and exports advanced mining services and leads the world in production of so many commodities.
No, it took hard work, good ideas, tough business leadership, a skilled and creative workforce, generations of private endeavour.
Is this really a class war speech? In fact, when reading the words, there’s a love of country that oozes out of it that I didn’t really catch in the delivery. And maybe, that’s the trouble with the struggling incumbent. But the words are wonderful and quite correct in its summary of what we’ve built and how we’ve done it and the challenges ahead. I think it wonderfully embodies the optimism and patriotism that some Labor moderates exemplify and all should:
Many places on earth are resource-rich.
Few nations turn natural resources into national wealth as well as Australia does.
In reality, so many countries manage their mineral wealth badly that in the developing world they call it “the resource curse” and in the advanced world they call it “the Dutch disease”.
Australia’s success in managing our resources has been built on much more than chance.
This is one of the keys to understanding your industry’s success – and it is one of the keys to understanding our future success as a nation.
You see, our national endowment is not just the value of our natural gifts or the value of our national talents.
It’s the way we use those talents to make something out of those gifts.
The way we take our skills and knowledge, and use them to transform our natural resources, environment, location: the way we turn these things to our purposes.
This endowment was not just given to us – it was made.
We made our location an advantage when we all worked hard to open this nation to Asia.
We made our environment an advantage when we all worked hard to protect it and to show it to the world.
Just as our natural resources only become an advantage because you make the most of mining.
Because of the work you do, and the work your people do, to extract its value, to find markets for it.
Making mining succeed is the work you do every day – and in modern Australia, it’s a big part of the work of Government too.
And mining will benefit from much that this Government does in coming years, what we do for growth in the world – and for growth at home.
We hold no brief for any former Socialist Forum Labor lawyer, and lest you think we’re being selective, here’s the part referred to as “class war” rhetoric.
So we’ve got a plan to keep up the fight for growth, in the world and at home.
And yes, we’ve got a plan to spread the benefits too.
We are going to cut taxes, lift pensions and lift family payments.
Now, I know you’re not all in love with the language of “spreading the benefits of the boom”.
I know everyone here works hard, competes in a tough global environment; you take big risks and you earn the big rewards.
You build something.
Australians don’t begrudge hard work and we admire your success.
But I know this too: they work pretty hard in car factories and at panel beaters’ and in police stations and hospitals too.
And here’s the rub.
You don’t own the minerals. I don’t own the minerals.
Governments only sell you the right to mine the resource.
A resource we hold in trust for a sovereign people.
They own it and they deserve their share.
I think we’ve been crystal clear since the Budget.
We want growth and then we want the benefits of growth to spread to all.
If that’s the Australian equivalent of class war, little wonder this shining city on a hill gleams so brightly. As the PM pointed out, our GDP growth is 8.8%, aptly the Chinese numbers of prosperity.
Is Tony Abbott’s position really significantly different from this? We doubt it.
While thinking optimistic thoughts, maybe the best encapsulation of just how well Australia is doing, and why, was written by Scott Steel, who works for the Queensland Public Sector Union rebranded as “Together”. We’ve linked to it before, and will no doubt do so again. It’s a fine analysis.
Of course, what business craves from government more than lower taxes, more than less regulation is certainty and predictability. And often the perceptions of that are just as important as the reality.
A hung Parliament has fed genuine fears in business and in the community of uncertainty, with the additional problem of the Greens party and leftist-leaning independents having the whip hand over a Labor government with mostly growth-supporting and mostly moderate inclinations.
That’s why the PM’s fine words don’t, won’t, can’t cut through. It’s a cruel and tough situation. Some of her colleagues, a distinct minority, think it would all be easier if they changed the leadership. Not true. It wouldn’t even be damage-control. A leadership change would confirm and reinforce the perception that Labor cannot govern itself and therefore cannot govern the nation.
They have no political capital left, exhausted not so much by the leadership change from Rudd to Gillard but by the circumstances of Rudd’s dysfunction that made it so very necessary.
Running on empty, they are driving towards a big, deep cliff.
And even a solid speech, pitched, we think at least, exactly right as a near-perfect representation of usually popular Labor moderate thoughts and values falls on deaf ears or is easily misrepresented in a profoundly silly way.
To quote someone involved in the government at senior level “We are so f*cked, I could cry.”
Indeed, they are.