2 June 2021

Ross Gittins: “[W]hat stands out as the underlying cause of our difficulties — apart from human fallibility — is the way both sides of politics at both levels of government have spent the past few decades following the fashion for Smaller Government. Both sides of politics have been pursuing the quest for smaller government ever since we let Ronald Reagan convince us that ‘government is not the solution to our problems; government is the problem’. The smaller government project has had much success. We’ve privatised almost every formerly federal and state government-owned business. We’ve also managed to ‘outsource’ the delivery of many government services formerly performed by public sector workers. … And here’s the thing: pandemics and smaller government are a bad fit. The urgent threat to life and limb presented by a pandemic isn’t something you can leave market forces to fix. … But when you examine the glitches — the repeated failures of hotel quarantine, the need for more lockdowns, the delay in stopping community spread, and now the slowness of the rollout of vaccines — what you see is governments, federal and state, with a now deeply entrenched culture of doing everything on the cheap, of sacrificing quality, not quite able to rise to the occasion. … Spend enough time denigrating and minimising government and you discover it isn’t working properly when you really need it.”