JavaScript disabled. Please enable JavaScript to use My News, My Clippings, My Comments and user settings.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

If you have trouble accessing our login form below, you can go to our login page.

Time is now for states to cut the waste

Date

Peter Reith

Former SA Liberal MP, turned Labor government minister, Martin Hamilton-Smith.

Former SA Liberal MP, turned Labor government minister, Martin Hamilton-Smith.

The defection of a state Liberal MP was not only a gross act of betrayal, but it also revealed that some politicians barely know the difference between Liberal and Labor.

If you can't see the difference between the parties, then it doesn't really matter if you join your opponents or not. South Australian defector Martin Hamilton-Smith was not just a lowly backbencher. He was a former Liberal leader in that state and carried the responsibility of his party’s values and policies. Obviously he can’t see the difference between the parties, so it’s not surprising that some voters think all MPs are as bad as each other.

Interaction between political parties is one thing, but there is no reason why there should be glaring differences, especially on economic issues, within the same party at state and federal levels.

It’s time for the states to embrace the end of the age of entitlement.

With a new federal Liberal government and mostly Liberal state governments, surely we can have more rational and consistent approaches to economic policy within the federation. The states should be looking at the new government with an eye to the possibilities.

The state premiers think that their tactical whinging over the budget was good local politics but many voters can see through grandstanding. Instead, the premiers would be doing their constituents a favour by taking a far more constructive approach.

I know the states have been walked over by the Commonwealth for years but to make progress the premiers will need to look like statesmen, not opportunists. The federation needs a new compact and hopefully the Abbott government’s proposed white paper will set out some steps to repair Commonwealth/state relations.

For starters, the states should reconsider some of their pet expenditures. The classic case this year was the absurd spectacle of the Victorian government giving $22 million to Coca-Cola Amatil for the SPC Ardmona plant in Shepparton while the federal government refused to waste more taxpayer’s money.

The Victorian Liberals should scrap the deals they have with the Nationals to sprinkle taxpayer monies around the state to buy votes. When the details of a very generous payout to an abattoir in western Victoria in the Premier’s electorate was revealed, the payout was justified because Labor had done the same thing. The fact that Labor wastes money is no reason for the Liberals to do the same. Likewise, the funding of Parmalat Australia with $25 million, Koallah Farm, Australian Lamb Colac and many others around the State are all just as bad as SPC.

Apart from the fact that it’s wrong to tax citizens to fund wealthy businesses, the scheme has big political risks as is obvious from the ICAC experience in NSW. Inevitably, Labor or Liberal or National parties will have funded some business beneficiaries and the same business person will be caught as also being a financial supporter of the government dispenser.

All the states run corporate welfare schemes; its time they cut the waste. Handouts are bad enough but many of the states are also keen on quasi bribes. Take one example last week when it was announced Victoria had lost an auction with Tasmania for a Qantas call centre. Tasmania won the contest. The Victorians had offered $7 million to Qantas.

The federal Liberals are not perfect as we saw with the funds promised to Tasmania for Cadbury in the lead up to last year's election. But at least the federal government is now trying to kick the habit. State Liberals should follow suit.

Not only should states stop wasting taxpayers' money, the federal government should make it clear to companies like Qantas and Coca-Cola that they frown on companies trying to buy off the states.

Peter Reith was a Howard government minister and is a Fairfax columnist.

43 comments so far

  • When will you get it that you are not Liberals anymore !!!

    Commenter
    JayPea
    Location
    Umina Beach
    Date and time
    June 03, 2014, 12:35AM
    • Oh Peter Reith,

      Just for you:

      Liberal Definition:

      Willing to respect or accept behaviour or opinions different from one's own; open to new ideas

      favoring or permitting freedom of action, especially with respect to matters of personal belief or expression: a liberal policy toward dissident artists and writers

      The LNP are no longer the Liberals. They are deep seated Conservatives. Malcom Frazer, John Hewson were liberal.

      Just thought I'd tell you that just in case you lost your way and you didn't know it.........

      Commenter
      Andy
      Date and time
      June 03, 2014, 6:56AM
    • When will you get it that we must move with the times yet Tony keeps us backwards. While the rest of the world moves forward with climate change.

      Commenter
      The Other Guy1
      Date and time
      June 03, 2014, 7:27AM
    • Reith brings up ending the Age of Entitlement when he really means that there will be a brand new Age of Entitlement with friends of the Liberals as the the only members of that club.

      Commenter
      Good Logic
      Date and time
      June 03, 2014, 9:12AM
    • Cant blame him as neither party hold their old values, even voters see that, and PUP is neither, kind of geared as a fit everyone party, as it should be. Maybe it is a good thing the others falling out of old pigeon holed themes

      Commenter
      Brian Woods
      Location
      Glenroy
      Date and time
      June 03, 2014, 9:23AM
  • The only waste I can see here Peter Reith is the stinking entitlements of politicians and their tax haven rich lifestyles which go untouched....spending on public health, public education is NEVER waste.

    Commenter
    JT
    Date and time
    June 03, 2014, 6:31AM
    • The end of the age of politician entitlement.......not an end to the welfare state. I do not want to see more young and old people living on the streets with more crime like the US. Peter Reith, go and live in the US if you want to live like that.....but its not for Australia.

      Commenter
      JT
      Date and time
      June 03, 2014, 6:36AM
      • "Apart from the fact that it’s wrong to tax citizens to fund wealthy businesses"...?

        Please explain the concept of Tony Abbott's 'direct action' policy on climate change as compared to Labor's carbon pollution tax / emissions trading scheme - in view of your own statement above.

        Commenter
        Dan
        Date and time
        June 03, 2014, 6:44AM
        • I would dare to suggest that most members of the Liberal party would not know what liberal meant! After all, the vast majority fit neatly in the "conservative" basket, a few in the "ultra conservative", and at least one in the "Christian Taliban".

          There is currently a gaping hole in the centre of politics; one waiting to be filled by progressive, economic rationalists!

          Neither of the current major parties are worthy of filling that position, and the loony one issue mobs are just dangerous!

          Commenter
          rob1966
          Location
          Sydney
          Date and time
          June 03, 2014, 6:45AM
          • @rob1966:
            No doubt that the Liberals have morphed into an extreme conservative club. One advantage though, they are easily recognisable by the rear view mirror strapped to their right shoulders. Always looking backwards for comfort (the good old days) and totally traumatised by their fear of the future.

            Commenter
            JohnC
            Location
            Gosford NSW
            Date and time
            June 03, 2014, 1:59PM

        More comments

        Make a comment

        You are logged in as [Logout]

        All information entered below may be published.

        Error: Please enter your screen name.

        Error: Your Screen Name must be less than 255 characters.

        Error: Your Location must be less than 255 characters.

        Error: Please enter your comment.

        Error: Your Message must be less than 300 words.

        Post to

        You need to have read and accepted the Conditions of Use.

        Thank you

        Your comment has been submitted for approval.

        Comments are moderated and are generally published if they are on-topic and not abusive.

        Featured advertisers