Poor old George Megalogenis must have whiplash. In his 2012 hubris-dripping treatise The Australian Moment, he described how:
There’s no better place to be during economic turbulence than Australia. Brilliant in a bust, we’ve learnt to use our brains in a boom. Although the Great Recession continues to rumble around the globe, we successfully negotiated the Asian financial crisis, the dotcom tech wreck and the GFC. Despite a lingering inability to acknowledge our achievements at home, the rest of the world now asks: How did we get it right? This is the page-turning story of our nation’s remarkable transformation since the ’70s. One of our most respected journalists, George Megalogenis, traces the key economic reforms and brilliant moments of collective instinct that opened our society to the immigration of capital, ideas and people to just the right degree. He pinpoints the events that shaped our good fortune and national character, and corrects our selective memory where history has been misunderstood or misdirected by self-interested political leadership. No one writing today is better at reading the numbers and telling the story around them than Megalogenis, and no one else has been able to coax our former prime ministers to candidly re-assess each other’s contribution to the Australian Moment. Fraser, Hawke, Keating, Howard and Rudd, as well as Whitlam’s confidant Graham Freudenberg, go on record for the first time about many aspects of the internal politicking, decision-making and bids for the legacy of our astonishing period of significant reform. The Australian Moment demands we reconsider what we have achieved and our place in the global economy, and how we might purposefully approach the future. A groundbreaking work in the tradition of The Lucky Country and The End of Certainty. ‘Megalogenis is Australia’s best explainer – a historical bowerbird who has woven a sparkling narrative answering the big contemporary questions of how the hell we got here, and how we go about not buggering it up. A brilliant read.’ Annabel Crabb
MB treated the palava with the contempt it deserved at the time. Now, George is back, this time with The Australian Panic in a new Quarterly Essay:
In this urgent essay, George Megalogenis argues that Australia risks becoming globalisation’s next and most unnecessary victim. The next shock, whenever it comes, will find us with our economic guard down, and a political system that has shredded its authority.
Megalogenis outlines the challenge for Malcolm Turnbull and his government. Our tax system is unfair and we have failed to invest in infrastructure and education. Both sides of politics are clinging defensively to an old model because it tells them a reassuring story of Australian success. But that model has been exhausted by capitalism’s extended crisis and the end of the mining boom. Trusting to the market has left us with gridlocked cities, growing inequality and a corporate sector that feels no obligation to pay tax. It is time to redraw the line between market and state.
Balancing Act is a passionate look at the politics of change and renewal, and a bold call for active government. It took World War II to provide the energy and focus for the reconstruction that laid the foundation for modern Australia.
Will it take another crisis to prompt a new reconstruction?
But, but, but…