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Can the Class of '22 fix Australian Democracy?

  • 22 June 2022
In an article written before the last federal election, George Megalogenis made one of his characteristically wise asides saying, ‘There is an unfortunate reflex in our politics – from those who practice it to those who analyse it for a living – to seek American or British analogies for our polarisation.’ In praising his insight, however, I am about to ignore his advice.

Scott Morrison never produced anything so dramatic as a Watergate break in, but there is no doubt that his approach to governance left in its wake a number of problematic legacies.

We know all about the ‘stroll out’ of the Covid-19 vaccine, and the equally slow response to the need for home rapid-antigen tests once the Omicron variant appeared. We know about his government’s failure to distribute funds in the wake of fire and floods, let alone do anything tangible about the climate change that caused them in the first place.

We also know that on his watch, Centrelink, in the form of the so-called robodebt debacle, raised, as a Senate report noted, ‘$1.73 billion in illegitimate debts…against approximately 433 000 Australians,’ and the report notes that ‘approximately 381 000 [of these] individuals were pursued, often through private debt collection agencies, to repay almost $752 million to the Commonwealth.’

This persecution of welfare recipients continued until ‘the Federal Court of Australia confirmed that the Government had no legal basis for pursuing these debts.’

We know about the Royal Commission into aged-care facilities, the 148 recommendations it made for improvements, and that even before their report was the released, Commissioners Tony Pagone and Lynelle Briggs had criticised the Morrison government for failing to properly monitor Covid outbreaks in aged care facilities, saying that had ‘the Australian government acted upon previous reviews of aged care, the persistent problems in aged care would have been known much earlier and the suffering of many people could have been avoided.’

'The astounding thing is that we managed to leverage the change of 21 May 2022 within the confines of a system that inherently favours the status quo, the preferential voting system tending to channel votes back to the major parties.' 

We know the 2020 report by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) into $100 million dollars’ worth of funds provided as grants to various sporting organisations around the country found that the ‘award of grant funding was not informed by an appropriate assessment process and sound advice.’

We know that the banking Royal Commission turned up instances