So our Federal politicians spent over half a million dollars on flags last year.
Oop. Sorry not year. Last 6 months.
In the last 6 months of 2014, MPs spent half a million dollars on flags.
According to the AFR, Liberal MP and former Australian tennis hero John Alexander topped the flag spending at $17,949, followed by independent MP Bob Katter on $13,320 and National MP Bruce Scott on $12,236.
Katter said: “I'm utterly ashamed of myself that I was number two. I have a lot of work to do.”
But now Treasury has decided it needs to nip this outrageous patriotism in the bud, and effective this financial year, the flag budget will be limited.
Katter, of course, was outraged. “It shows monumental stupidity and a total lack of Australianness in the government.”
Now I love a good flag as much as the next person. I’ve got one in the office. But 20 grand in six months on flags is a little excessive isn’t?
And half-a-million dollars worth all up? That’s pretty extreme. Wasn’t there a budget emergency?
(Oh, no. That’s so budget 2014. Everything’s fine now.)
Apparently the flag budget is there to allow MPs to doll out flags as gifts to worthy individuals and organisations. Gifts. That’s nice. Couldn’t they just send some flowers? Maybe a nice card?
And maybe the flags are being used to build national pride, in which case you could argue that it’s public money well spent. But I doubt it. It sounds to me like just another PR campaign dressed as policy.
Anyway, I’m not going to go on about the stupid things governments spend money on. I’ve only got two blogs a week.
But let me ask you this: How much ownership do you feel over the amount of money our government spends on flags?
I mean, does the will of the government in regards to flags reflect your will?
What about the statement “Aussies spend an excessive amount on flags.” Would you agree with that? I’ve got a statistic that says it’s true…
Chances are you’ve never thought about it, and it’s one of the millions of things that government’s do that the public has no idea about.
And this, in my mind, is one of the big flaws of what we call ‘democracy’. We get one vote every few years, and on the basis of that one expressed preference, a whole suite of policies are implemented. From child-care to the economy to the environment to flag supply.
And the idea is that your representative ‘represents’ you. But there’s 100,000 voters in each electorate. The idea that anyone could represent the diverse interests and values of 100,000 people is ridiculous.
Our parliamentary system is set up to create the illusion of ‘people-power’ while doing absolutely nothing to facilitate it.
(Or maybe I’m just bitter cos no one gave me a flag.)
Anyway, it’s a crap system, but I’m willing to admit, that for now, it’s the best we’ve got.
But now put yourself in the shoes of the average Greek person. After the GFC, they wake up to find that their government had gone and spent a whole bunch of money they didn’t have (mostly on flags and ouzo I think), and now there were a lot of angry German bankers on their doorstep.
And now the Greek people are being told that they have to pay up (give up benefits and sell off public assets) because it was “their” debt and “they” were responsible for it.
(C’mon mate. You’ve had your fun with your flags. Time to pay up.)
And at the same time, everyone’s making holier-than-thou comments about the national character.
Imagine the Kiwis looking down their noses at us and saying, “Oh those Aussies. They partied hard, blew all the money on flags, and now they’re too lazy and irresponsible to do anything about it.”
And if you think it couldn’t happen here, think again. All governments live beyond their means. They can’t help it. The ‘democratic’ contest practically locks it in. The aim of the game is votes, and the easiest way to get votes is to buy them.
And look at us. 20 odd years without recession, a once in a century mining boom, and still we’ve got a ‘budget emergency’ and deficits as far as the eye can see.
Governments, no matter what stripe, will always spend whatever money is available to them.
(Which is why I’m a fan of lower taxes, but that’s another story.)
And this is where Greece got into trouble – because there was simply too much money available to them.
Once they joined the Euro, the banks were happy to lend them way more money than they were good for.
And they were happy to extend the government credit they knew they couldn’t repay, because they knew whatever happened, they’d be sweet. The banks wouldn’t be picking up the bill.
Either Frankfurt and the EU would, or the Greek people would to avoid losing EU membership.
And maybe you could say the people should have stepped in at this point and stopped the government from taking on too much debt, but the books were cooked (thank you Goldman Sachs). No one knew what was going on.
The more I look at it, the more I think the failure here is in the disconnect between the concept of government, and the people they claim to represent.
Big government doesn’t represent anybody. It’s just an expression of well-resourced interests and lobby groups. How do you hold a people accountable for the sins of a government that was only out to screw them over as well?
And this is the elephant in the room in the whole Grexit drama. Democracy, as we know it, is a joke.
The emperor has no clothes.
Anyway, that’s the results of my fact-finding mission. And it seems the EU has found another agreement (at least for now). My work here is done. I’ll be back home later this week.
Best of luck, Greece. You’re going to need it.