To be effective, a government should identify the problems it wants to tackle, specify what it will do about them, implement relevant policies, then carry a majority of the public with it.
In the run-up to the 2013 election, the key issues were prosperity-sapping new taxes, out-of-control people-smuggling, log-jammed big cities and governments that were spending too much for too little return.
Hence the election mantra: stop the boats, scrap the taxes, build the roads and balance the budget. And with Operation Sovereign Borders, the abolition of the carbon and mining taxes, the big urban road projects and the measures in the 2014 budget there were programs to get all this done.
Back then we were a great country let down by a bad government. The issues today are more fundamental. Leaving aside the Covid crisis, our economic and security challenges are much deeper and are compounded by an underlying cultural self-doubt.
Even so, the key problems need to be identified and explained, and specific measures of improvement still need to be decided on and justified. Australia's biggest long-term challenge is this notion of national illegitimacy based on dispossession of Aboriginal people and supposedly ongoing racism, sexism and environmental despoliation.Wittingly or not, this is being fed by schools required to teach every subject, from Latin to physical education, from an Indigenous, Asian and sustainability perspective.
There's not much the federal government can do to produce principal-led, parent-responsive, academically rigorous schools with well-paid, professionally respected teachers but it could help to avoid making a bad situation worse by vetoing the proposed draft national curriculum.
It's almost impossible to overstate the importance of challenging the black-armband brigade at every turn, even while continuing to focus on bread-and-butter issues. Lower wages, higher house prices and more clogged urban infrastructure have been the unavoidable consequence of doubled immigration averaging a quarter-million a year for the past 1½ decades.
For universities and businesses, very high immigration has become the lazy way to higher revenue and lower costs. It's not enough that immigration increases overall gross domestic product; it has to increase GDP per person if it's to make Australians more prosperous, and not just the newcomers.
Of course, newcomers determined to join Team Australia should be welcome, but that normally should mean doing a job Australians can't. Spouses and dependent children of permanent residents and relatively small numbers of genuine refugees aside, our immigration program should comprise people who have a job to go to from day one at market wages with an employer-paid foreign worker tax. Not having the 160,000 a year typically admitted on spec as skilled migrants but who rarely end up working in their area of supposed skill should help to take migration back to Howard era levels. It also would help to end the somewhat demeaning notion that migrants are needed to boost our cultural diversity and to overcome our lack of skills.
During the past two decades, Australia has gone from having some of the world's lowest to some of the highest energy prices, largely because our power system has been run to reduce emissions rather than to produce affordable and reliable electricity. Our manufacturing sector has shrunk and, with it, our strategic self-reliance. There should be no new subsidies for intermittent wind and solar power, and the ability to supply 24/7 should be a condition of selling into the grid. If Snowy Hydro can build a gas-fired peaking plant in the Hunter to help keep the lights on, it also could build a new low-emission coal-fired plant to help supply baseload power. And in a system based on engineering and economics rather than ideology, the Howard era nuclear ban, a sop to the Greens, should be scrapped.
Political correctness has become entrenched in big public companies, in part because union superannuation funds are major shareholders. Superannuation contributions are our money, not the government's or the funds'. On top of all the other taxes, we shouldn't have to pay a 12 per cent superannuation tax so the government can reduce its pension bill one day.
At the very least a centre-right government should not increase compulsory super contributions further and it should allow younger people to use their super savings as a deposit on a home, given that owning your own home is the best guarantee of security in retirement.