JERRY ROBERTS. Labor’s deadline is near. Do we have an Opposition?

Feb 28, 2020

The Senate Economics Legislation Committee is due to submit its report on the Currency (Restrictions on the Use of Cash) Bill 2019 on Friday 28 February. Labor Senators on the committee have led critical scrutiny of the proposed legislation.

Will the report reflect their criticism and will Labor join the Greens in defeating the Bill?

The cash-ban bill formally known as the Currency (Restrictions on the Use of Cash) Bill 2019 is an outrageous attempt by the Government to support the banks when Australia moves to negative interest rates. Nobody is more outraged by this measure than Liberal Party rank-and-file but elected members are ignoring their concerns.

The bill was introduced to the Parliament in September and passed through the House of Representatives with surprising ease. Under this legislation Australians can be sentenced to two years in prison for spending their own money.

Fortunately, the Senate Committee did excellent work interrogating government and regulatory officials to reveal the phony nature of the black market, organised crime and taxation arguments put forward. Labor Senators Alex Gallacher, Kimberley Kitching and Jenny McAlister and Senator Rex Patrick of the Centre Alliance put the heat on witnesses brought before their Committee, which is exactly what our elected representatives are supposed to do.

Moreover, the issue has been covered comprehensively on You Tube by economist John Adams on the channel he shares with financial analyst Martin North and by roving reporter Robbie Barwick of the Citizens Party. This is a ray of hope for Australian democracy. Our mainstream media are part and parcel of the political and financial establishment and will regale us with endless trivial pursuits about leadership struggles, travel expenses and sports rorts but we won’t hear much about the serious stuff.

The single most concerning feature of Australian democracy right now is the strategy adopted by Labor in Canberra under the leadership of Anthony Albanese. The Party appears content to sit on its hands for the next two years, say as little as possible and do even less, keeping its nose clean while watching the Government make mistakes.

An Opposition in a democracy that fails to oppose bad legislation cannot sit back and disown the legislation when the public wakes up. Lazy Opposition members are as guilty as acquiescent Government members who toe the Party line. The Opposition has a vital role to play in a democracy. It is truly part of the government.

A Labor member of Parliament whom I encountered in a suburban shopping centre in Perth admitted that the Party “squibbed it” on the pivotal issue of the mining tax in 2010. If Labor “squibs it” with the cash-ban bill and cosies up to the Government and the banks, the Party will be even less likely to oppose the religious discrimination legislation which I personally regard as the most dangerous move made by any Australian government in my memory.

The religious legislation continues to fall apart on the drafting desk because of two inherent problems that won’t go away. The legislation is based on a big lie and is attempting to achieve the impossible. The lie is that religious freedom is under threat in Australia. This is the polar opposite of the truth and thus qualifies as a “big lie” as defined by Joseph Goebbels.

Australia is the gold standard for religious freedom. Our easy-going acceptance of various religions is the envy of the world. The impossible quest is the attempt to deal via legislation with an Israel Folau situation. Such matters cannot be codified. They are all about man management, as noted by rugby coach Alan Jones.

The best hope for the cash-ban and religious legislation is that Scott Morrison, now a good deal less confident than he was a few months ago, will have the wisdom to let them slide down the notice paper into peaceful oblivion.

If the bills stay alive we will rely on the Labor Party to find the four-letter-word our schoolboy football coach used to spell out in his memorable three-quarter-time speeches — G U T Z. Will our Parliament represent the people or will it represent the banks? That is the 64 billion dollar question.

Jerry Roberts is a member of the ALP

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