Ideas@TheCentre brings you ammunition for conversations around the table. 3 short articles from CIS researchers emailed every Friday on the issues of the week.
Liberal Democrat’s Senator David Leyonhjelm CIS leadership lunch speech this week revealed the challenges of life on the crossbench. He spoke of the role of minor parties, and his belief they are an important part of democracy in Australia. It was an interesting juxtaposition with the continuing difficulties within One Nation.
It’s not the first time Leyonhjelm has spoken to a CIS audience on these issues. In 2014 he and I spoke at an event titled Minor Parties, Major Impact, where we looked at the rise of minor parties at the 2013 election, which saw Clive Palmer’s motley crew and accidental politician Ricky Muir — among others — get elected.
At the time, a lot of us expressed the hope (if not unqualified) that minor parties might be a catalyst to finally bring some different policy options to Canberra. Instead, the minor party moment has come (and perhaps largely gone), in a flash of rank populism and hypocrisy.
In many ways, Leyonhjelm and the Liberal Democrats are exceptions that prove the rule on minor parties. Instead of luring voters seeking ideological and political consistency, as the Liberal Democrats have done, most minor parties have become grievance-harvesting vehicles, based around the popular appeal of one individual.
As the reality of politics intrudes on the ephemeral charm of the latest populist, the tide of voters moves on to the next demagogue.
It remains to be seen if Pauline Hanson and One Nation can withstand the internal pressures that overcame the Palmer United Party, and have seemingly overwhelmed the Nick Xenophon Team. But it is already clear that many of the same troubles have plagued all of three of their parties.
To run candidates nationally, they had to rely on inexperienced candidates and those who defected from major parties — in both cases the loyalty and appropriateness of the candidates eventually elected was always going to be questionable.
In some ways, this is even less surprising than the difficulties the minor parties have had with section 44 of the Constitution.
In response to my questions on this bleak assessment, Leyonhjelm responded that you get the politicians and minor parties you vote for. That sentiment may yet be the epitaph of this generation of politicians.
Governments love to champion the virtues of deregulation. Then proceed to quietly change into their nanny uniforms to introduce pointless and costly regulation, in the name of public safety and maternal-like benevolence.
Nowhere is this more apparent than the recent implementation of the NSW government’s 2013 legislation on mandatory childproof safety locks on windows in all apartments above ground level.
We know that regulation creates costs and inefficiencies. This is why any regulation:
But in practice, it is often impossible to satisfy these two criteria. Governments often have little clue about the size of a problem or able to prove that regulation will fix the problem.
What are the proven benefits of mandatory window locks? Simply put, there are none. The NSW government has not even attempted to prove that the law will reduce child injuries. After all, people are not being forced to use the locks – just to install them.
And the size of the problem? In fact, annual child injury rates are relatively low, according to figures cited by the NSW government. Each year, around 50 children are reported to fall from windows or balconies in Australia.
Obviously, any child injury is very sad and should never happen; but the problem should not be exaggerated. Put into context, there are over 3 million children aged under 10 in Australia. That translates to one injury for every 60,000 children.
Compare that to car accidents, which hospitalise over a thousand children each year. In effect, children travelling in cars involves 20 times the risk of open windows. Based on that logic, we would ban children from travelling in cars altogether.
Furthermore, the costs of mandatory window locks are substantial, with over half a million apartments in NSW and owners having to cough up the time, effort and costs of installation. Bizarrely, even households with no children must comply.
Unfortunately, these rules are just another manifestation of the nanny state, where personal responsibility is replaced by infantile dependence and adults are no longer trusted – even to close a window.
How is it that one man travelling abroad to end his life dominates the headlines but there is nothing to be said of the 115,000 Australians who die each year without access to adequate end-of-life care?
Often, euthanasia eclipses all other issues surrounding death and dying in Australia.
The real issue is that the ‘treat, cure, repeat’ model of health care that has successfully extended life is ill-equipped to deal with the new realities of death.
Today the typical Australian over 65 years has four chronic diseases and visits the GP roughly 10 times a year — using twice as many health resources as the average Australian.
This Australian will spend the last six months of their life in and out of hospital at least three times, participate in 90 procedures or doctor visits and be prescribed over 40 medications. They will likely die in hospital and will not receive palliative care at a cost of around 30,000 dollars for six months of life.
There comes a time when treatment to prolong life comes at the expense of quality of life. However, these decisions about treatment seem to be driven by what doctors can do rather than what patients want.
Doctors offer futile treatments and avoid genuine discussions about quality of life and death because they are ill equipped to have these conversations, they see death as a ‘failure’, and they have been trained above all else to treat.
Patients and their families have a cultural aversion to death. Often it is adult children who push treatment upon their beloved parents whilst acknowledging they would never want to be ‘like that’. Many doctors similarly provide treatment they would not want.
The cost (apart from the fiscal) of prolonging life to the extremes of frailty, age and capacity is that we are driving older Australians to look abroad to euthanasia.
There is extensive evidence demonstrating that palliative care prevents over-medicalisation, and reduces hospitalisations, emergency transfers and unwarranted medical intervention; by ensuring treatment is based on what patients and their family value in life — rather than being dictated by what doctors decide they can do to prolong life.
However, the real story of life and death without palliative care is suppressed and the much-needed change within the system — that is actually driving the euthanasia debate — is stifled.