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A new era in the Senate

By David Leyonhjelm - posted Monday, 30 June 2014


The first of July 2014 will be my first day as a Senator, representing NSW and the Liberal Democratic Party.  I hope history will say it was the day we got to work putting Godzilla back in its cage.

Godzilla is that blundering monster that our governments have become, with their hands in our pocket and noses in every room of our house.

I am the first politician elected to an Australian parliament on a purely libertarian platform, with a mission to lower taxes, remove regulation, and put an end to the nanny state.

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To see the challenge I face, you only need to stand at Canberra’s War Memorial and look down Anzac Parade. From there you can look towards the modest building that was once our Parliament House and on to new Parliament House.

At the first sitting in Canberra’s old Parliament House in 1927, taxation was less than 10 per cent of GDP, with most of this directed to core government functions like defence, and only the Speaker of the House, the President of the Senate, the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Government in the Senate and Ministers had their own offices.

These days, taxation is around 30 per cent of GDP, most directed to social security, health and education, and on sitting days there are 5,000 people in new Parliament House in more than 4,500 rooms.  They are not there to produce anything; they are there to make legislation, tell others to make legislation or more likely, tell someone to do something entirely unrelated. Others are busy spending your money to let you know what a great job they are doing or what a bad job the people down the corridor are doing.

But of course, Parliament House is only the nerve centre of the monster. According to the latest figures, Australia has 1.9 million public servants – as many people as there are men, women and children living in Perth. Their salaries alone amount to $134 billion, or more than $100 dollars a week from each person in Australia. Much of this could be more prudently spent by individual Australians for their own purposes. It never seems to matter how much money is taken from us, it is never enough to satisfy the beast or those who believe they are entitled to it.

Public servants are mostly dedicated, well-meaning employees who spend their days in busyness. But the public service also tends to attract people who think they know what’s good for us, and are intent on delivering it whether we need it or not.

When there are so many people being busy on our behalf, they start to encroach on our lives; drafting laws we don’t need, spending money on things we can do for ourselves, spending money telling us what to do, and finding new ways to collect the money so they can do it all over again.

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But if you corner any one of them at a barbecue, stories soon emerge about waste and mismanagement, the entanglement of bureaucracy, and how people in their organisation are cavalier with your money.

They might tell you why the Department of Industry spent $75,000 on coffee machines and a further $45,000 on a contract to service them; why Centrelink spent $4.6 million on a new logo; and why the Government committed $16 million to help a profitable corporation upgrade a chocolate factory in Hobart.

And these are just small examples that do not begin to explain the $10 billion we pay for government spending on corporate welfare or the tens of billions taken from us and then redistributed as welfare handouts to middle class people who don’t need it.

How does this happen? It is simply, as the economist Milton Friedman put it, what happens when people are allowed to spend money in the worst possible way – by spending someone else’s money on somebody else.

In my term in Parliament, I want to convince Australians to reconsider whether handing their money over to the government is better than keeping it themselves. I want them to understand that disapproving of something does not justify it being prohibited or heavily regulated. I want them to understand the connection between the liberties they care about and the liberty of others, and to understand that individual freedom is universal, precious and must be fiercely protected.

We need more people in the Senate intent on putting Godzilla back in its cage, but in the meantime I will bring argument, reason, pleading and occasionally, blackmail, to the fight.

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This article was first published in the Australian Financial Review.



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About the Author

David Leyonhjelm is the Liberal Democrat Senator for NSW.

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