I want to give the current government the benefit of doubt and to illustrate what I think we should expect from a responsible government.
Let’s assume, for a moment at least, that there is some kind of budget crisis and that there is some justification for seeking to reduce the deficit and perhaps run the country in a surplus in a sustained manner.
If these measures were taken by a responsible government to respond to a real need then there should be detailed and considered documentation. This might be on government websites or on that of the governing political parties. There would be more than just evidence that they have considered the matters. There would be scholarly articles written by experts. There would have been a public consultation process that collected and considered the views of people affected by any policy or action by government.
To be specific about the current proposed federal budget, the government would have a comprehensive review of Modern Economic Theory which opposes austerity measures. It should be unacceptable to a government to have a group of economists claiming that a government is irresponsible without all of their objects being refuted comprehensively. They should welcome criticism as an opportunity to explain their actions and educate the community affected by their actions.
On the issue of continued use of fossil fuels, there should be detailed documentation to demonstrate that not only have all of the risks been considered, but there is good reason to continue with current practice of mining coal and going on to exploit unconventional gas (that is, coal seam gas). This would demonstrate that we don’t need to be concerned about climate change, pollution, disposal of ash, destruction of large areas of land, quality of groundwater, acidification of the oceans, melting of the ice caps, sea level rise and the consequences to human populations of displacement and reduction in productivity due to more unstable weather conditions.
I cannot conceive of how continued reliance on fossil fuels can be justified. Responsible government in the current situation would consider a matter of utmost urgency and importance to find other sources of energy and to restructure the economy so that we are not reliant on coal, gas and hydrocarbon resources. It would build a strong scientific base to the economy. It would declare a state of emergency and involve the community in recreating the country in line with the current situation.
Responsible government would never say that they know what they should do but cannot get the community to agree. They would involve those involved in a process in which they have access to the relevant information and can see a detailed consideration of all of the factors involved.
When a member of the voting public writes a letter expressing a concern, the Member of Parliament receiving it would not only provide an answer, but refer the voter to a comprehensive discussion of the issue.
To me it is inconceivable in responsible government for a member of parliament to tell lies. Not enough said, but I will leave it at that for now.
It is also inconceivable for members of a responsible government to taunt opponents. Their aim would be to include the whole community in decision making. Every statement by opponents would be an opportunity to patiently direct them to the facts that are documented, or to set about to obtain the facts and to involve the community in finding the best and most appropriate solutions.