Other gems featuring Hugh Morgan» , Civil Disobedience»

Paul Coombes, “Get angry Australia: The Hugh Morgan message,”
Rydge’s, July 1985, pp. 18-20.

Western Mining Corporation MD, Hugh Morgan, has a message for Australia: Get angry before it is too late. Seen as a spokesman for the journalistically coined “new Right” Morgan has a blueprint for Australia. To this observer, however, Morgan is a political neutral. He is an economic realist. A pragmatist with a nationalistic vision to thrust Australia through the survival stakes of the 21st century.

He rejects the carefully sculptured socialist doctrines that have pervaded Australia and some other western economies as a responsibility cop-out. The cradle to grave welfarist theories are the path to mediocrity and a dependent slave culture.

With 20 years in the export environment of the mining industry Morgan is an absolute believer in market forces. He abhors the gravitation of power to public servants and politicians and their unproductive activities in the welfare distribution industry.

He sees the business sector as waking up to its survival responsibilities, but fears that:

The re-invigoration of the Australian economy could be killed by the institutional inflexibility of Governments, the raft of regulation being produced and the monopolistic, irresponsibly used power of the unions.

He wants Australia and Australians to get angry at these forces. He says:

We need civil disobedience in Australia. We must declare war on the authoritarian thinking of Parliament. We have seen the public service bloom in the welfare distribution industry.

No-one has consulted the young. The people who must tomorrow pay for the irresponsible promises of today. I call that child abuse. We must face this challenge. One day Australians will wake-up and get angry. And when the costs are understood they will reject what the unions, the politicians and public servants are doing to this country.

When Morgan speaks there is commitment, but he has a smiling way in his seriousness. He has strength, but it is contained within a much lighter physical frame than the presence he presents in pictures. There is no mad, fire and brimstone run over the bastards in this conservative radical. But there is serious, thought-through, intelligent commitment to his country. He wants Australia better for Australians who work to make it a better Australia.

Coming from a historical perspective he says:

Australia is in a constant fight for survival on the world scene. This is never ending. There is no escape. My observation is totally politically neutral. I have no party political purposes.

In fact when it is suggested he is heading for a career in politics — as has been suggested for other business leaders — he reels from the suggestion with a withering glance; like the child being offered castor oil, possibly for its own good.

He recognises there is some good in some politicians and public servants, but his plea here is for them to divest themselves of the huge amounts of power and resources they have accumulated over the years. In short he wishes they would contract mightily. He says:

If our business and welfare performance continues along the lines it has for the last 3 decades, at some stage in the future, in historical terms, the country is not sustainable and we will go into serious decline and fall — as other great nations have done.

We are 15m people occupying 5% of the world’s land mass. And there are other nations to our north who recognise the potential of this country. A potential we fail to recognise. We have climate, resources, stability and freedoms. We are not vigilant in the protection of these. We must be active in preserving and fighting for them.

There is a threat and we are not recognising this by taking defence too lightly and we are allowing a steady, irreversible decline in our economic strength. At the turn of the century we were the world’s richest country. In 1953 we were fourth; 30 years later we have slipped to about 20th.

Nearby countries like Singapore, without resources and limited space have staggering GDP growth, considering they came from a destitute position in 1945. Ultimately nations survive or fall. It is like the league ladder. If you start falling from the top 4 then the tensions and troubles in the club emerge and it is hard to climb off the bottom.

Australia has fallen from the top and we can no longer afford to take our sickies; develop flex-off time to a state of art of grab a year’s maternity leave. These are cancerous elements of indolence and ultimate surrender.

We seem to like the idea of a mixed economy, but we have been so drugged, or massaged, into accepting the socialist ethic that we do not recognise how far we have been dragged into the socialist ethic, away from the middle ground. In 1953, 27% of GDP was in Government hands. Now it is 43% with more than 30% of the workforce in the government sector — that is 30% of our people not exposed to market forces.

Continuing the football metaphor, Morgan stresses that this is 30% of Australians in the top 4 as of right, without having to perform for the position or within the position. They do not have to fight for their place or for the benefits. To him this is ludicrous, as in an enlarging, gorging, gluttonous government. He knows more is not necessarily better as the public sector accretes big benefits and runs up enormous future debts.

He does not believe all public servants and politicians are lazy or obstructive and sees some as trying to help — but for him the problem is the public sector and the blame rests with Australians who have let them become so numerous and strong as their presence and consumption impacts on our economic performance and the survival of the country.

For him politicians have been given too much responsibility by the electorate — responsibility they cannot handle. That partly explains their low standing in the community and the ossification of the public sector.

As part of his blueprint for Australia Morgan wants various things to happen in various areas: the political; the bureaucracy; the law; the States; business and unions.

Politicians
He says:

They should get rid of a lot of their functions. The socialists say there is not enough control, but in the past 12 years Parliament has passed 12,000 Acts and 30,000 regulations.

Politicians must restore respect for Parliament and Australians must challenge the new class of the bureaucratic elite. That means declaring war on the elite, constraining their power and forcing them to return to concepts of the efficiency of the market place.

Under market place rules there is some injustice and hardship, but no-one can convince me that it is worse than the problems of public sector administration with its constant run of foul-ups.

People have been educated in the dangers of the market place. No-one is educating people about the dangers of public administration. There has been a well-orchestrated hate program against business and profits.

Public opinion must swing to educating the politicians to divest themselves of their powers and resources. We need a Federal Parliament to look after only defence, foreign affairs, trade, the judiciary. Australia does not need anything else from the Federal Government.

Bureaucracy
He says:

Australia is suffering the death of a 100 grade 1 clerks. A lot of what is done is unbelievable, as are their conditions of employment, leave and super benefits. A few work like hell, but we would not miss them. Public servant grabs made Bottom of the Harbour schemes look like amateurs at play.

But people behave according to their circumstances and as the public service has become institutionalised the blame must rest with us as we have allowed the structure to develop.

We have got to stop wanting from governments and do more for ourselves. All the statutory authorities and government businesses could be privatised — Qantas, Telecom, Australia Post, TAA, the banks, the ABC and the education system. It would make teachers perform if they had to attract their own students by offering a quality service to get their pay.

The legal structure
He says:

There has been an erosion of the rule of law, basically through the incursion of the executive into the function of the courts and the rise of relevant law against common law, where judges are now required to interpret law in terms of what they think the legislators were supposed to mean.

The Family Law courts are a classic case. The fight is still over property and custody. There was never a problem of couples getting away from each other. As we move from one bombing of judge to the next we see this highlighted.

Tax is another area where bureaucrats and ministers are making non-examinable, regulation based decisions. This is taking away the rights of the citizens and the courts.

These discretions are also taking away the power of the courts. But respect for parliaments is also declining because they have taken on too much and cannot perform effectively, thus causing a decline in the authority of parliaments.

This was demonstrated by the recent strike by revenue collecting public servants. They denied revenue to Government. There was not a whimper from the Government. Remember what happened when Fraser tried to do the same thing.

The States
He says:

There is insufficient respect also for the States. They have rejected revenue raising powers and put themselves at war with Canberra — yet Canberra has revenue powers that were never anticipated by the Constitution.

Very simply I want the States also to divest themselves of their functions and departments. There would be more respect for the States if they raised their own funds.

Business
He says:

In the past 20 years business has been exposed to the cruelty of international competition and that is a good thing in that we have partly moved away from reliance on Government help, handouts and protections.

There has been tremendous re-adjustment. Dunlop is a prime example. We are building-up a manufacturing sector because we are facing international realities. The cries for Government help have been reduced.

Business problems today are the ones of institutional factors in the bureaucracy and Government. We have got to continue the de-regulatory thinking. Business is more serious than ever before in trying to help itself.

The unions
He says:

They have more power than is good for them. They are not accountable and there are only 2 restrains operating — the law of torts and S45 D and E of the Trade Practices Act. The Government wants to remove the latter.

The unions are a state beyond the State. What this means is that whoever is responsible for restraint is constantly under threat from a young Turk who has no restraint and will promise the rank and file anything to get control of a union. I want unions to be under legal restraint.

The Accord can be seen as an attempt to limit the activities of the unions. To the extent that it fails we are face with chaos. Labour has been removed from the market place and responsibility before the law through the monopolistic powers of unions. The public sector unions are not the worst of all.

With the rising tax burden and regulatory government, Morgan wants less from these sectors and not more — as more ends up on our taxes to pay for the bureaucratic, governing, interfering elite.

Although he smiles when he says it, he is serious about civil disobedience. He cites this possibility with the dairy farmers pouring their milk down the drain and the tax department not handing over our taxes to the Government. He says:

If the public servants won’t hand over the taxes, it is a short step for us not to pay taxes. We need civil disobedience to declare war on the authoritarian thinking of Parliament.

The big question is whether business and individuals have the guts to make such a play. Will there be a new nationalism to Save Australia Inc?

Right now the stakes are super high — survival. And it is in the hands of those most impacted by government and bureaucratic acts to take the game by the throat, get angry, say enough is enough and we will make sure a lot less Government is a lot better.