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Wren's Week: Liberal Party are intergenerational thieves

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The Liberal Party is robbing future generations of a decent living (Screenshot via YouTube)

Liberal Party policies are designed against the well-being of future generations in order for the current generation to live comfortably, writes John Wren.

SINCE MY LAST COLUMN, Victoria and South Australia have also gone into lockdown as a result of cases that leaked out of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s “gold standard” COVID-19 response. Both the Victorian Labor and SA Liberal State Governments have reacted swiftly. Both have been critical of the NSW Government’s response.

The Victorian outbreak seems to be getting under control, although additional cases are being identified that are largely already in isolation and thus are not spreading. Similarly so in Adelaide — both states demonstrating the wisdom of locking down hard and fast. Both states will likely be out of lockdown long before NSW which will be lucky to emerge by the end of August.

But this week I want to write about intergenerational theft — a term first coined ironically by the Liberal Party to sledge Labor taxation policies.

Why now, you ask? Well, a week or so back, the Federal Court ruled that the Federal Government has a duty of care to future generations to protect them from harm caused by climate change. The case was brought to the Federal Court by eight teenagers who are fighting the expansion of a local coal mine.

Given that the primary role of any Western democratically-elected government is to protect its citizens from harm, it seems odd that such a court ruling should be even necessary. It should be hard-wired into any politician’s brain. That it isn’t exposes a flaw in our democracy in that many decisions are taken with only a short time frame in mind, often only the next electoral cycle.

This means that it is nigh impossible to make decisions with positive long-term outcomes in mind. Vicious short-termism will decimate good long-term policy — Julia Gillard’s ETS is an example. It was an excellent policy that was having an immediate impact on Australia’s emissions and would have put us, a decade later, in a much better position than where we are now. Unfortunately, ideologue Tony Abbott, with the assistance of the Murdoch media, successfully rebranded the ETS as a “carbon tax” and the rest is history. We are now one of the world’s worst per capita carbon polluters.

In response to the court ruling, Environment Minister Sussan Ley announced that she would be appealing the decision. She was effectively saying she has no duty of care to protect children from the negative effects of climate change. That anybody could actually come out publicly and state that they have no duty of care to protect children is reprehensible and goes to the (tiny, stone-cold) heart of the Liberal Party. It demonstrates a profound lack of human decency and basic morality. They have effectively abrogated all care for future generations in the pursuit of profit now. It demonstrates a failure of the free market.

But this should come as little surprise to readers.

This decision steals from future generations in that those generations will need to live, at great cost in a warmer world, with greater meteorological extremes. Future generations will need to pay for site and climate remediation. Future generations will likely have shorter lifespans and poorer standards of living as a result. The Liberals think this is okay. They are stealing from our children and grandchildren in order to live well now. It is pure intergenerational theft.

But we have seen other examples of this.

Negative gearing and discounted capital gains tax have meant a blowout in property values that has put homeownership out of the reach of most of our younger generations. Where once it was an Australian rite of passage to be able to buy your own family home, this is sadly now a rarity. Our young people are doomed to a life of rent-paying, subsidising the incomes of the wealthy older generations. This, too, is a form of intergenerational theft. Proponents of it argue that those properties will be inherited by the younger generations, however, this is also a furphy.

The Liberals have privatised aged care. It can cost millions to move into a quality facility and family homes are typically sold or used as collateral to fund the relocation into these facilities. This means those properties are no longer available to be left to the next generation. Alternatively, these properties are used for reverse mortgages to fund retirement in the home with a similar outcome.

The ever-increasing costs of tertiary education are another example. My generation (I’m in my 50s) had the benefit of taxpayer-funded university education. The current generations do not have this and many rack up huge HECS debts as a result. They enter the workforce already many tens of thousands of dollars in debt, making homeownership even more unlikely.

This is something my generation never had to contend with and it’s abhorrent. Again, it’s another example of intergenerational theft. Indeed, Australians are in a situation where we expect those doctors, nurses, engineers, lawyers and other professionals who care for us either directly or indirectly to go into substantial debt to pay for their right to be educated to a standard that they can care for us in our dotage. How can that be considered fair?

There has also been much noise in the last week of the extreme wastage the of Government’s JobKeeper COVID-19 response program. By wastage, I refer to the millions paid to companies that didn’t need it. As a result of the massive largesse, Australia has racked up 2 trillion dollars of debt and yes, you guessed it, it will need to be paid out by future generations.

As can be seen, the conservative Australian Liberal Party policies are geared against the well-being of our younger people and our unborn generations. Much of the wealth the current generation is sitting on has been usurped from our children and grandchildren. Ours is the first generation that will leave our subsequent generations worse off. In so doing, the Federal Liberal Government has failed in its most primary directive — that is, to leave the place better than when they found it.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has failed monumentally. Malcolm Turnbull before him failed and prior to him, Abbott, the destroyer, added to the damage of John Howard’s legacy.

Why anyone under 35 would vote for the Liberals has got me beat. They would be like turkeys voting for Christmas.

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