2010: Voting for Liberals

Fibre to the Dunny. For the Win!!1

In a G’day world podcast I appeared on in 2007 I stated I was voting Liberal. It should come as no surprise I am doing the same in 2010

At the beginning of Tony Abbott’s reign as leader of the Federal Liberals, I will admit I was uncertain of his ability to be the Prime Minister of Australia. Through this campaign, Mr. Rabbit has shown a wiser and more mature head. Having met Tony in person, spoken to him one:one and in 2004 manning an election booth – I am certain what we see with Tony is what we are going to get. Whilst I am no longer a member of the Liberal Party, I would consider myself a "small-L" liberal.

On one of the occasions where I met Mr Abbott when he was Minister for Health (2003 I think), we talked about the importance of Information Technology. He was no more a techhead as he was a Doctor; and was not convinced with my ranting on the power of the internet. A senior Liberal advisor stated firstly that all industries lobby about their importance to the future. Information technology is no different. Secondly, that once the politicians care about your industry, it becomes a political football. Increasing control, regulation comes with increased investment. Welcome to where we have been for the last 5 years.

This election Geeks have suffered a cognitive dissonance: vote Labor, get a government funded National Broadband Network (NBN) but with a coupled Filter/Censorship position. Vote Liberal, and you get no Fibre installed into your home but no Filter. Greens supporters will make the observation: "vote Greens". They’re too progressive and socialist for a country boy like me. Or, their attached policies are not to my liking. Larger Government, more public servants and more control of our lives by a nanny state rubs against my grain.

In the 2007 election, Rudd promised $4.7b for Fibre-to-the-Node NBN. This expanded into $43b Fibre-to-the-Home; spanning 93% of Australians as a mechanism for countering the GFC. Whilst there is no pure business plan to spend $5.37b per year over 8 years, Labor has failed to sell a complete social plan for the need for an NBN. There is no vision. Whilst the Minister in charge is shackled by the Filter debate, the geekerati will not help.

To illustrate the importance of internet access, this election Liberals are promising to invest $6.7b (I think) into internet connectivity. Not as generous on funding, and therefore speed – but within their budget constraints. To the Liberals, the largesse of the NBN is a place to grab forward committed funds to reduce debt. They have no vision for the use of the internet and how it has the potential to transform. The Liberals best warrior, Malcolm Turnbull, has been sidelined. I would hope that Malcolm gets re-elected and we find a pragmatic policy that is affordable. A cut down NBN; copper conduits purchased from Telstra with smarter negotiation. And with a vision for its use 30-50 years out.

Fibre, along with wireless, is the future. Both. This is not an either-or.

Oh, and if Labor get back in, the Filter will arise. Games and apps for phones and other like devices will require expensive classification. With or without a wonderful fibre NBN, our creativity will be throttled at the borders. Even if the Greens hold the balance of power in the Senate, Mr Conroy (if Communications Minister) will find another way to implement his filter.

But the NBN is not the main game as far as I am concerned.

My concerns with Labor is its propensity to plough Australia into more debt. Bad management by both Rudd, but also Garrett et al have resulted in significant wastage of my tax dollars. Less sovereign debt will leave Australia in a better position to deal with the shock of a slowly collapsing US and Europe. The argument that a Government can always tax more to repay debt: this is on the assumption that business is healthy enough to be taxed (and employ staff to be taxed) and there is a healthy world economy that consumes Australia’s exports.

Apart from spending hand over first, Labor has a track record of wastage. Reports on the Building the Education Revolution (BER) state a low wastage %. This is certainly not the case with the Insulation program, another GFC program. Government purchasing should be efficient and not waste taxpayer dollars.

Interestingly, the most progressive policy that taxes the big end of town this election comes from the Liberals: Paid Parental Leave funded by a levy on large business. I think that it is important that women can both have kids if they choose, and continue to work if they choose. Within the economic realities of today, the Liberals have the most attractive policy.

Like all elections, those marginal electorates are receiving the most attention. This is our system working. You have to make your electorate a marginal electorate if you want the same attention. Simple.

I am not so concerned with the “men in smoky backrooms” or voting by random party members that control the levers behind our Federal politicians. It is the same on all sides of politics. Continuing greater transparency on donations and lobbyists would be nice. But nice never wins.

My wish is for all parties to reduce middleclass welfare, and reduce taxation. Or, at least, funnel money into places where the market will fail. Roads, Hospitals, Education.

And here lies the drum. Both parties are using the flow on tax to wrest constitutionally state-based concerns (Education, Health) into the Federal sphere. If this reduced the management overhead, I would support this. The model that seems to be created to increase bureaucracy. More wasting of money. Both parties need to not waste money on overhead.

Politics is never simple: A vs. B; black or White. It is grey with multiple dimensions. This leaves us all wiggle room to argue and discuss; he said she said style conversations. Promises kept; changes in position. Hypotheticals. Rhetorical constructs. It is great to live in a country where we can openly discuss, argue and most importantly: vote.

As I hold a portion of my wealth in US$ and locally in cash – higher interest rates and a lower exchange rate that a ALP/Greens Government is likely to induce. And Fibre to my home, paid for by you buggers at $5000, sounds good too. But it is not good for the future of Australia. That’s why I am voting Liberal. As I am now in Mr Rabbit’s electorate, he has a safe vote in my hands.