Opinion | Williams’ Word with Ray Williams

BUT WHICH LIBERAL PARTY?

Australia has good electoral laws designed to ensure voters are aware of who they are voting for but, somehow, it has all become a bit of a muddle with the Liberal Party and that muddle must surely be cleared up before the next election.

Even the most dedicated Liberals must wonder who runs the show and just what the Liberal Party stands for. With the constant internal sniping in the government ranks, it is becoming increasingly difficult for the Turnbull Government to govern.

A snap election is always on the cards, but before that happens the voters need a much clearer How to Vote card and have it clearly shown to the voters: just who are the true representatives of the party Mr Menzies created?

Is it a Liberal Party or a Conservative Party? Is it Team Abbott or Team Turnbull? It surely can’t be both and the voters at this stage have no clear indication of which team the individual candidates will back. The voters need to know which camp the Liberal candidates would support, the traditional Liberal ideals (Team Turnbull) or the far right faction (Team Abbott).

Take the Very Fast Train, for example. Back in the Howard era when local MP John Sharp was Minister for Transport (he was a first-class politician), he had evolved a scheme whereby a consortium was prepared to build the fast train. All they wanted from the Federal Government was a tax break for 10 years. That proposal was turned down by the Howard team.

Mr Sharp was very disappointed and in my interview with him at the time I got the impression the whole concept was tossed out without much thought or discussion. We would have had a fast train service now, had the Cabinet been a bit more logical in its thinking.

SLOW TRIP TO SYDNEY

And that is the thinking of some of the Liberal’s political leaders today. When he was prime minister, Mr Abbott even scrapped the committee that had been set up to plan for a VFT.

But there are still some leading Liberals who accept Australia will need a VFT one day in the future and our own Angus Taylor has been trying to keep the issue alive, and for good reason, despite the stick-in- the-muds in their own party.

It has been estimated that the cost of the land needed for the VFT would be about $720 million if acquired now, but that cost would balloon to $3.5 billion if it was sold to developers.

There are surely some long-term thinkers in the Liberal Party ranks. Their attitude to global climate change is an example: some recognise the science but others refuse to do so. It is quite unfair to the voters if they have to try to find out for themselves which candidates support the scientists and which ones do not.

We don’t know when the next election will be held, but recent history has shown it could happen very quickly and that means the Liberals, if they are to be considered suitable to run our country, have to make it clear: who among their candidates is a member of Team Abbott and who is Team Turnbull?

Otherwise the Coalition should not expect strong voter support whenever that next election is held.

VOTERS SHOULD KNOW

Before his election to the top job, Mr Abbott made a series of promises. His government would be ‘steady as she goes’ without any surprises and there would be no cuts to the funding for the ABC and SBS, yet those cuts were among the first actions of that new government. There seemed to be no relationship between the promises Mr Abbott made and what actually happened.

Then there was that terrible 2014 Budget that was so far to the right of what was promised, the parliament refused to accept it.

That wasn’t all. Team Abbott also made cuts to a number of instrumentalities, such as the CSIRO. Not much forward thinking there.

CLEANING UP

There has been a concentrated and effective campaign to reverse actions by some State and Territory governments to close down greyhound racing because of continued reports of cruelty to the animals.

Long-time participants in the sport say there is no need to ban their sport and that could be true. All they need do is simply ban gambling on the races. If the true lovers of the sport are genuine they will agree that there is no need for betting and if gambling disappeared, so would its unpleasant supporters who see it as simply another way of making money, and that can involve manipulating the results. There should be no connection between any sport and gambling if it is to be considered a true sport.

Many years ago one of Australia’s top race callers saved your old scribe a lot of money. A teenager at the time, but working in radio, I had the task of setting up the broadcasting gear at a race meeting. Bored, I asked the caller (I think his name was Cliff Carey) if he had any tips.

He replied something like this: “Yes, lad. I have a tip for you. Keep your money in your pocket.” He said anyone who expected an honest race was likely to be upset. “If you have 10 horses in a race, you have 10 owners, 10 trainers and 10 jockeys, and some of them are far from honest. Keep your money in your pocket.”

That advice has saved me lots of money. It has also made me aware that if the lovers of a sport really care, they should oppose any gambling on their sport. Sadly, it appears the professional gamblers, through their TV advertising, are very much involved in some of Australia’s most popular sports. And that is very sad indeed, but the smart ones ‘keep their money in their pocket’.

  • Ray Williams has been a Post columnist since retiring from the newsroom in 1993.
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