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Navigating the Ship of State

  • 06 September 2022
Sometimes steady as she goes takes you in the right direction. You can deal with unexpected events as you they arise. But at other times, as in the case of the Titanic, it can be disastrous. The potential threats prove to be greater or the ship more fragile than you had thought. You realise too late that you should have altered course abruptly and taken an ultimately safer, if less comfortable, route. Such is the benefit of hindsight.

The policy of the Labor Government can be described as steady as she goes. This does not mean that it will simply follow the policies of the previous government. Its reading is that the ship of state has been becalmed, responding haphazardly to the political winds and older maps but with no sense of direction or destination. It had become the ship of fools. The new Government then has committed itself to show that there are captain on board and a competent, disciplined crew that can work together. It will follow the same route as the previous Government but more effectively. 

The decisions the Government has taken have been mainly to re-establish public trust by overturning brutal or foolish decisions, calling enquiries into arbitrary conduct and policy making, promising good governance, and bringing together people to work cooperatively at difficult challenges. The actions are symbolic but can be efficacious if they change expectations and open the way to more ambitious legislation and regulation.  

The Government’s statements of policy indicate the same intention of avoiding radical change while modifying its goals. Prime Minister Albanese has promised to encourage a stronger and fairer economy built upon cheaper and cleaner energy, effective skills training, gender equality in wages, and cheaper child care. The Government will also stand by its promise to keep the tax cut for higher income earners and is encouraging gas exploration. Through such decisions it is preparing people for a period of unpleasant travel through storms after which there should be fair weather.

This policy supposes that the course planned is safe and that the nation is properly equipped to navigate it. At first sight the course is fraught with dangers. The virus, assumed to have been defeated two years ago, continues to mutate and to threaten economic growth and travel. The conflictual relationship between the United States and China continues to affect Australian relations with China and with our Pacific neighbours. The further division between