The White Paper on Agriculture – more empty rhetoric

The White Paper on Agriculture has been a long time coming.  Its gestation would not have been helped by departmental changes.  Barnaby Joyce fired the Department head he inherited, Andrew Metcalf, who had no experience in the portfolio prior to his appointment in 2013.

Barnaby unaccountably acquiesced in or was forced to accept as the new Departmental Secretary Paul Grimes, who also had no experience in the portfolio.  Presumably someone thought Mr Grimes, as a former head of the Department of Sustainability and What Not, might be an ideal leader for a department that fosters rather than combats production.

Other matters that delayed the White Paper were the aspirations of rural socialists for favours to the salt-of-the-earth patriots who farm the land. And there is a great confected anger directed against the food chains who have been obtaining an increasing share of the food dollar leaving farmers a correspondingly smaller share.  The fact this progression has been underway for the past millennium has not deterred those who say it must be due to unfair and collusive monopolistic prices on the part of Coles, Woolworths, Aldi and a dozen other purchasers!

One unfortunate bone thrown to this vocal group comprises additional powers and resources given to the ACCC to roam all over the industry.  According to the White Paper, in a few sentences that are pregnant with a massive accretion of new regulation,

‘For markets to operate efficiently, some regulation is necessary. This is particularly the case where there is an imbalance of power in markets, including where there are a limited number of suppliers or buyers’!!

There are tax and depreciation changes that were much promoted by Robert Hadler in this morning’s AFR and boosterism (“Attack on barriers helps farmers”) of the policy vacuum by ambitious back bencher Dan Tehan on Monday.  But most of the White Paper’s action is business-as-usual involving seeking better access to markets and offering advice to farmers

Other than that there is much regurgitation of goals, including incongruously in view of the ACCC initiative, reduction of Red Tape.   The White Paper references a parallel process the National Review of Environmental Regulation which identifies 34 priority areas. “Streamlining”, “contradictory and incompatible regulation” “harmonise” “simplification” are all words placed in the mix.  But the major action on this is recognised as being in the state government domain with environmental legislation.  There is nothing concrete on how to unlock the vast areas of Australia that are excluded from agriculture as a result of environmental and native title issues that impede land use and water diversion programmes.  However, for the umpteenth time in 35 years the government is going to do something to accelerate approvals of agricultural and veterinary chemicals.

Perhaps the major illustration of the impotency of government is in another parallel review, an “Expert Panel” into the Water Act 2007.  This is supposed to advise on how to loosen the chains of the egregious Murray Darling Plan. I have written about this here. At present the Plan is legislated to take 2,750 gigalitres of the 7,000 assured for agriculture from the 24,000 gigalitres that enters the system in an area where, due to irrigation, one per cent of Australia’s land mass supplies 28 per cent of the nation’s agricultural output.   The Government wants to pare back the sterilisation of water use from agricultural production to 1,500 gigalitres.  But all the expert panel can discuss is machinery issues to facilitate trading of water, timing of reviews and the like.  Don’t hold your breath for the final report due in December.

There are so many of these reviews underway.  Will any of them provide a platform for reform?  Again, don’t hold your breath!

Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments

Q: should ministers appear? – A: absolutely not

I’m a long way off, but Tony Abbott’s decision to withdraw from representation on Q&A seems the ideal response. The issue was not freedom of speech but the deep left bias of the ABC. Trying to ambush a minister in the way that would never happen to an ALP or Green Member of Parliament, who would instead be protected to the fullest extent the ABC was capable of, has to be seen as the fundamental problem. There therefore has to be a message sent to the community that the ABC has gone beyond the bounds of its social compact, never mind its legal obligations. It is a red-green organisation which, in spite of its government funding and legislated requirements, cannot be depended on for accuracy and fair reporting.

Let the ABC now try to demonstrate what is obviously untrue. Let it try to show that it is even handed. Make it try to demonstrate what no one believes is even remotely true. The effort it made to create an anti-government incident via a former jihadist, for which they have still not understood just how biased this showed the organisation to be, must become completely understood across that part of the community capable of understanding the problem. If we are going to have a left-of-centre media, let those who peddle such wares try to earn an income from selling such views to an essentially conservative population. A billion dollars of government funding a year spent on left-wing propaganda is unacceptable.

Posted in Media, Politics of the Left | 113 Comments

Remember the Finkelstein Review?

You would think Craig Emerson would recall media policy under the previous Labor government. But no:

By asking the ABC whose side it is on following the airing on Q&A of a question from a man who had been charged with terror offences, Australia’s Prime Minister was essentially accusing the national broadcaster of supporting terrorism. It’s part of a pattern. Eighteen months ago, the Prime Minister accused the ABC of taking “everybody’s side but Australia’s”. It seems the Prime Minister will decide who is on Team Australia and the circumstances in which they are selected.

Under the previous Labor government we had a Prime Minister in Julia Gillard who didn’t ask who was on Team Australia’s side – a legitimate question for the Australian Prime Minister to ask of the Australian taxpayer funded Australian Broadcasting Corporation – but who was on Team Gillard’s side. When journalists investigated her own role in some union activity she organised for journalists to be sacked from their jobs, and had a full on inquiry into the media. Her partner in incompetent governemnt Bob Brown took to singling out and abusing News journalists at his press conferences. All that for criticising the government. Abbott isn’t just suggesting the ABC is anti-government, he is suggesting the ABC is anti-Australia – a very clear distinction.

Posted in Hypocrisy of progressives, Media, National Security, Sink the Fink | 20 Comments

Rafe’s Roundup July 7

A bonus edition, there is so much material to report. This comes without the repetitive “around the town section”. I hope that section is working as a portal to provide quick access to the think tanks and some other good people and sites.

Climate. Ocean warming does not explain the pause (or decline) in warming. h/t commenter Ivan Denisovich

The paper is corroborated by a recent paper finding the oceans have warmed only 0.09C over the past 55 years, a rate of 0.016C per decade, and a 34% deceleration from the rate of 0.024C per decade over the past 135 years found by this study. Further, climate alarmists claim that the “missing heat” is hiding below 1,500 meters deep, but this paper finds the oceans have instead cooled below 1,500 meters over the past 135 years.

In addition, if man-made CO2 was warming the oceans, there should have been an acceleration of steric sea level rise over the past 50 years due to thermal expansion, but no acceleration of sea level rise has been found over the past 203 years.

Matt Ridley talks on climate change, with a list of his publications.

Economics. Deirdre McCloskey, economist and cricket-lover extraordinaire. Productivity gains with a 4 day working week. The road to Greece.

Over the half-century between 1963 and 2013, entitlement transfers were the fastest growing source of personal income in America — expanding at twice the rate for real per capita personal income from all other sources, in fact. Relentless, exponential growth of entitlement payments recast the American family budget over the course of just two generations. In 1963, these transfers accounted for less than one out of every 15 dollars of overall personal income; by 2013, they accounted for more than one dollar out of every six. The explosive growth of entitlement outlays, of course, was accompanied by a corresponding surge in the number of Americans who would routinely apply for, and accept, such government benefits.

What can we learn from Bolivia?

As Bolivia’s first indigenous leader, Evo Morales’s presidency has given the marginalized and poor a new found sense of pride. Refusal to cooperate in the US war on drugs and a decidedly laissez-faire attitude to informal and small-to-medium enterprise means that the state’s presence as an antagonistic force in the lives of ordinary people is at a historical low. This, in combination with a banking system flush with savings and low debt has been key to the bursting on to the scene of small enterprises run by indigenous entrepreneurs who have successfully leveraged their culture and trading channels to climb their way into the burgeoning middle class.

Science and technology. Technology in Australia 1788-1988. The cunning of nature, a single celled creature with an eye.

Nature, red in tooth and claw. Pavel German finds the Golden Mantled Tree Kangaroo! My friend Pavel German is actually a Russian who achieved the feat of getting out of the country before the fall of the wall.

Culture. Australian Society for Sports History. Top video clips of the ’80s. Buckle up, grab an oar, find the map and buy a ticket. Here is a selection of exemplary travel writing from the likes of Paul Theroux, D.H. Lawrence, Patrick Leigh Fermor and Jan Morris. You may never set foot in Afghanistan, or row down the Nile, or reach the remotest corner of Patagonia, but these books will be your guide to some memorable reading. London Review of Books. Spectator Culture House. Another London Review of Books. Karl Popper on education.

For nerds Econ.lib.

Posted in Rafe, Rafe's Roundups | 7 Comments

Do we really want racism enshrined in the Constitution? Discuss

I suggest we do not. As Greg Melleuish explains, our constitution is about workability, not identity.

When Australia’s Founding Fathers came together in the 1890s to draw up a constitution to enable the colonies to federate, what did they think they were doing? Looking at the debates and the Constitution itself, one thing is certain. They were not drawing up a document that defined what it means to be an Australian.

They were engaged in creating a document that would be acceptable to all parties and enshrined the political and legal principles which they had inherited from Great Britain. They looked to their British inheritance because they believed, quite correctly, that the (unwritten) British Constitution worked. They wanted a system of government that would be durable.

What they produced is not an exciting document embodying abstruse political principles, but one that has been very successful in setting out how Australian federalism will work.

It is beyond belief that after all the damage done by the exponents of passive welfare, identity, affirmative action, sanctimonious and divisive gestures, people are gathering in Kirribilli to deliver more of the same.

A bit of sanity. Academic Dr Anthony Dillon, who identifies as part-Aboriginal, on the disempowering demands for recognition and apologies.

Posted in Cultural Issues, Hypocrisy of progressives, Politics, Rafe | 30 Comments

Q&A Forum: July 6, 2015

Posted in Open Forum | 326 Comments

Monday Forum: July 6, 2015

Posted in Open Forum | 921 Comments

If only the taxpayer could boycott the ABC too

It is being widely reported that Tony Abbott has ordered his frontbench to boycott Q&A. Okay – but is that really an appropriate action for the executive? After all the ABC is a government agency funded by an appropriation from the Parliament. I can understand why a Piers Akerman might boycott the ABC – he has no other means to express his disgust that the organisation – the executive government, on the other hand, does have the means, yet not the will, to modify ABC behaviour.

I keep reading that the ABC is out of control or that it is not complying with its charter. To make these arguments is to miss the point. The ABC has no control. The ABC suffers from a profound governance problem – the controlling shareholder (i.e. federal government) exercises no oversight into the ABCs activities. The ABC has the trappings of control – a board that seems to exercise zero control over the organisation. The controlling shareholder is so disengaged that it no longer appoints people to the board, rather it appoints the people who appoint the people. Really? That is how the government thinks over $1 billion of taxpayer funds should be administered?

Then there is the issue of the ABC charter embedded in the ABC Act. It is widely accepted that the ABC does not comply with the charter. Why should it? The charter is not self-enforcing. The ABC Act contains no mechanism to monitor compliance with the charter and to punish deviation from the charter. The Board is powerless to do so and the government unwilling to do so. It is not simply a case of when the cats away the mice will play – there are no cats. The ABC is not out of control, the ABC has no control.

So for Abbott and his front bench to boycott the ABC is very lazy policy and simply of continuance of the hands off policy that has allowed the ABC to degenerate to its current form. A far more sensible policy would be exert control over the organisation and insert enforcement mechanism into the charter.

Of course, the counter-argument is that government shouldn’t control the media. I agree – but then the government shouldn’t own the media either.

Posted in Budget, Federal Politics, Hypocrisy of progressives, Media | 96 Comments

The rise of the unsustainable welfare state

Some people were always aware of the need to be alert to the “undeserving poor” who rort the system. Here are some blasts from the past. A sample from Benjamin Franklin:

I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I travelled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer.

The roots of poverty (especially second and third generation poverty) and persisting inequality lie in the welfare state and the poverty traps generated by the entitlement mentality. The New Deal and the 1960s US “War on Poverty” created entrenched inequality and unsustainability as well. Actually it is the middle-class rorts that have really made the system unsustainable, like the “blind” pensioners in Greece and the affluent Australians who have their child-minding subsidised. Plus red and green tape which are the legacy of middle-class activism. Not to mention Keynesianism.

This is the picture that is worth a thousand words.

Posted in Economics and economy, Market Economy, Rafe | 37 Comments

It’s clear, negative gearing has a positive influence

In The Australian today:
Let’s be clear: John Daley, who heads the Grattan Institute, is perfectly entitled to his obsessions, among which negative gearing seems to figure prominently. But Ogden Nash had a point when he warned that: “Of obligations, by far the solemnest / Burden the ­conscientious columnist.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments