A better government beats government big or small

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Signs are everywhere that Prime Minister Scott Morrison has returned from the Glasgow COP26 summit and has gone straight to campaign for the federal election.

Over the past few days, Mr Morrison has engaged in the kind of meet-the-people exercises associated with the election campaign, including a haircut and a gnocchi-making session in front of television cameras.

At the Victorian Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, however, the Prime Minister gave a more substantial speech, including what he said was a motto he intends to apply in the future.

He said he believed in solutions based on “positive capitalism” rather than “government don’t.”

He attacked “governments seeking to control people’s lives and tell them what to do, with interventionist regulations and taxes that only increase the cost of living and force businesses to close.”

He said that was behind his decision to take a light approach to meet Australia’s net zero target in 2050.

The problem for Mr Morrison is that, as he admitted, the COVID-19 pandemic has given Australians a lesson in the vital role governments play in the modern economy.

Thanks to robust but most importantly effective public health policies implemented by federal and state governments, Australia has prevented tens of thousands of deaths. The United States has suffered 700,000 deaths, a per capita rate more than 30 times that of Australia, due to its laissez-faire approach.

Mr Morrison acknowledged that this showed government intervention “has its place”, but said it was “time to break the habit”.

In some ways he is clearly right that the balance between government and society needs to change. No one wants a return to lockdowns, curfews and overzealous oversight. Borders, both state and international, should be opened quickly now that more than 80% of the population is vaccinated.

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