Leading article Australia
Cover by Sarah Dudley, illustration by Ben Davis
4 March 2023
Lobb’s Hole doesn’t exactly sound the most appealing of places, and indeed it may well be the graveyard where Australia’s greatest white elephant finally goes to die. Construction workers on the Snowy Hydro 2.0 scheme at Lobb’s Hole, along with those at the Tantangara and Marica worksites in the Snowy Mountains, are complaining their food is infested with maggots and are threatening to walk off the site.
The Australian Workers Union has also complained of workers being run over by vehicles on the site due to poor communications, and as if that weren’t bad enough, we also learned this week that one of the no doubt multi-million dollar pieces of tunnelling equipment has got bogged – only a few hundred yards into the tunnel. Whoops.
Yes, this is the proud legacy of the prime ministership of the Liberal party’s disastrous leader Malcolm Bligh Turnbull and his Snowy Hydro 2.0 scheme – a concept that Mr Turnbull boasted in his otherwise rather tedious autobiography as being all his own idea.
What a metaphor for the Turnbull legacy: maggots feasting on the rotting flesh of a white elephant.
Indeed, Snowy Hydro 2.0 joins a long list of flatulent, grotesquely expensive and inefficient white elephants that are all the product of what John Stone dubbed in this magazine many years ago the flawed ideology of ‘Ruddbullism’. This was of course the political philosophy you get when you combine a monstrous ego with narcissistic vanity, idiotic ideological beliefs and near-zero practical skills or common sense intelligence. Pity the poor Australian voter, having not one but two such leaders within the space of a decade, both from supposedly opposing political parties.
Kevin Rudd gave us his pink batts, a disastrous scheme designed to ‘save the planet’ but which ended up costing the lives of four young roof installers instead. Rudd and his successors also saddled us with the National Broadband Network, a crippling scheme which has now as good as been abandoned after having cost the taxpayer squillions of dollars and never having lived up to the hype surrounding it. Remember all those amazing jobs that the NBN was going to create throughout rural and regional Australia, as enterprising young folk across our far-flung nation finally had the cyber-tools with which to launch their entrepreneurial visions? No, nor do we. Last week executives at Telstra suggested that NBN Co should ‘write off the entire $44 billion cost of building the high-speed broadband network because it is so inefficient’, according to the Australian Financial Review.
Julia Gillard and Bill Shorten’s National Disability Insurance Scheme, although in a different bucket, and with some self-evident and noble merits, is another grandiose scheme launched with a lack of adequate preparation and zero realistic assessment of the costs.
But why just stop at one white elephant when you can conceive a pair? Malcolm Turnbull, in league with Christopher Pyne, also gave us the French submarine fiasco, setting our defence capabilities back by decades and blowing several more squillion into the bargain.
Not to be outdone, Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg decided that the best white elephant of all is a whipped-up medical scare, bequeathing future generations a trillion dollars worth of debt racked up by paying people to sit at home because the government had allowed the states to pointlessly and counter-productively lock the entire nation down, thereby forcing bankruptcy and closures where none were ever needed.
Throw in the equally futile desalination plants that blight the shores of most of our capital cities and what we are blessed with is not two or three but an entire herd of rotting white elephants courtesy of a decade of Ruddbullism and narcissistic, non-conservative, irresponsible, left-leaning, big-spending politicians and governments, state and federal.
And now we have, in the Albanese government, a radical, leftist, even-bigger-spending-than-its-predecessors government, determined to fritter away a fortune in pursuit of the fraudulent net zero and other socialist scams.
Those maggots are in for a field day.