FOR 11 years from 1996, the conservative Liberal Party and National Party, in coalition, ran Australia. During those years, there was a mining boom and loads and loads of money floating around.
But the government used it mostly to bribe middle-class voters by offering them, well, bribes. It ensured that they stayed in power. It’s called pork-barrelling in the country.
But it did the country no favours.
A baby bonus of $5000 was introduced. All you had to do was to have a child. Pretty simple. Most of the money that was doled out to women who had babies was, according to anecdotal evidence, invested in colour TVs and similar things.
The government also introduced a 30 per cent rebate on private health insurance. Even the richest in the land were given this rebate if they took out a policy. There is no way to imagine a greater waste of money.
It could well have been used to improve the public system known as Medicare which is one of the best in the world. But the conservatives let that system become run down.
A third waste of money by the Lib-Nat coalition was the first home-buyers grant. A sum of up to $7000 was paid to those buying their first home.
This has created a massive housing bubble as many people who could not afford suddenly found that they could buy homes. Estate agents scrapped requirements for a 10 per cent down payment – which is normal – and just sold homes to people who are eligible for the grant.
In the years to come, this will come home to roost and bite the country in the bum badly.
But try telling that to the bogans who are now home-owners.
It is a massive waste of money and all the funds that have been spent on these three vote-buying exercises could well have been used to build some better infrastructure for the country.
They could have put in a place an insurance scheme for the disabled. Or built better broadband for the whole country. Or improved the education system. Or built a fast rail system for those cities which lack them. Or…
But the Liberals’ leader John Howard, who was the prime minister for all of those 11 years, is a man with the imagination of a dry bone. And the morals of a Brooklyn hoodlum.
Now that the mining boom is over, the present-day government, a Labor coalition with the Greens and independents, has just brought down a budget with an $18 billion deficit.
The time of reckoning has arrived.