10 May 2023
Here’s an amusing game to play… Listen to any ABC News bulletin – television or radio – and after each story, say the words, ‘And the government should do something about it!’ Unsurprisingly, you’ll find that nine times out of ten it will make perfect sense.
This, more than any survey of how much airtime is given to one political party or the other, is an excellent way to unearth the unconscious bias of our national broadcaster.
ABC News has become The National Whinge, containing story after story of everyone with a problem that has yet to be solved by the State, written by people whose view of government is skewed to the infantile.
The idea that it’s not the role of government to play mummies and daddies with the people seems to be outside the awareness of the typical ABC employee. Given the billion-dollar taxpayer-funded monster’s role in shaping our national psyche and culture, this perception seems to have bled into an entire generation (or three) of Australians.
Seldom do we hear an interviewer or presenter pose the question, ‘Is this the taxpayer’s responsibility?’ or ‘Can the government afford to fix it even if it thought it could?’ or, heaven forbid, ‘What have those affected done to help themselves?’
The truth of bias is most often found in what is not reported, said, or challenged, than by what is. And in the case of the Australian ABC, the bias is towards more government, more intervention, more of the time. This view is dressed up as benevolent social justice-seeking, as if the ABC is giving voice to the oppressed in the pursuit of a universal and noble good. It isn’t. It represents only one side of politics’ approach to dealing with problems and ignores the other – far more effective – side. Conservative and classical liberal politics and economics believes the best solution to most social ills comes not from the top-down hand of government, but from an emphasis on personal responsibility, the character and behaviour of the individual, and where a collective group approach is required, that such an approach is driven from the grassroots, bottom-up, at the coalface of the problem at hand.
Graham Young, head of the classical liberal think-tank the Australian Institute of Progress, believes the problem of The National Whinge is even worse.
‘The person they’ve used as the example of [the problem] suddenly, because they’re a victim, becomes an instant expert on what you can do,’ Young notes in an interview this week for my ADH TV show The Other Side Interviews. ‘And the next thing you know they’re Australian of the Year and they’re telling us we all need to spend another billion dollars on this problem and because “I’ve suffered from this problem I know what to do.” It’s crazy.’
Young believes this government-must-fix-it mindset explains the outrageous levels of debt almost all Australian governments find themselves in and the problem won’t be solved until our expectations change.
‘Welfare ought to be a trampoline rather than a safety net. There’s always going to be need, but you want to deal with that need as efficiently as possible and you want it to be as small a proportion of the economy as you can possibly manage.
‘The whole philosophy of liberalism comes down to the individual being the best person placed to work out what their needs and preferences are and what costs to trade-off. It doesn’t always come back to the individual, it comes back to civil society, but the idea is that decisions are made as close to the problem as they can be.’
The myriad of problems and negative unintended consequences of Australia’s over-centralised micro-management of the Covid outbreak is a classic example of this phenomenon of excessive government intervention at work. With thousands of unexplained excess deaths, thousands more stories of tragic separation from loved ones, and damage to the health and livelihoods of millions, our national reflex to seek nanny-state solutions too quickly may be a lesson we need to ponder and learn sooner, rather than later.
Damian’s full interview with AIP Executive Director Graham Young is now available on demand at The Other Side Interviews on ADH TV.