Thursday, April 1, 2010

The quaint politics of Australia

For the past month, the dominant topic in Australian politics has been the government's failure to deliver on the home insulation scheme. That's right. We're talking about insulation--the itchy, pink fiberglass stuff you have in your attic.

The Australian government is not trying to figure out how to extricate itself from wars of aggression, because it did not start any. It is not trying to figure out how to provide health care for all its citizens, because it figured that out in 1975. It is not trying to figure out how to regulate its financial system to prevent another meltdown, because their financial system was regulated such that it did not have a meltdown. As a result, Australia gets to deal with boring stuff like home insulation.

Here is my understanding of the situation. As an energy efficiency initiative, the goverment of Australia launched a massive program to subsidize home insulation. Not surprisingly, many inexperienced, greedy, and/or fraudulent companies entered into the insulation installation market. To date, 4 installers have died, and around 100 houses have caught fire. The public is outraged. Actually, I think the media is outraged, causing the public to get outraged, but that is another story. In any case, the government was forced to pull the plug on the program.

Interestingly, nobody talks about the companies responsible for the deaths or fires. The right wing opposition party's complaint seems to be about the execution of the program, not about the program itself. They suggest that more scrutiny and regulation of the private market were necessary. More scrutiny and regulation...from the right wing! It is almost like the right wing in Australia accepts that private companies are motivated solely by short term profit and must be regulated accordingly. Weird. Also, the right wing party in Australia is called...The Liberal Party! What the hell? Is there a Coriolis Effect in Australian politics?

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