Gratuitous Advertising: Support the ACT LDP

An email I received:

A few of us in Canberra are looking to re-establish the LDP as a political movement in the ACT. It’s still a very small group, but we are aware of the fact that the party was in fact established in the ACT, and we know that LDP supporters walk amongst us.

A small group of Canberran LDP supporters has come together to start planning the October 2016 election in Canberra.

If you are interested in getting involved, we meet first Thursday of each month at 6pm, Mooseheads downstairs. Naturally the next meeting is Thursday this week.

A worthy cause, well worth supporting.

Posted in Gratuitous Advertising | 20 Comments

Guest Post: Tim Andrews – Greater transparency for travel rorts

Another day, another travel scandal. Bronwyn Bishop was forced to resign as speaker for her use of a chopper, but this was just the latest in year after year of abuse. Mark Dreyfus used taxpayer funds for a family ski trip in 2013. Julia Gillard had taxpayers pay for a VIP jet to attend a friend’s wedding. Just yesterday we learned that Tony Burke MP used taxpayer funds for a family holiday to Uluru. The list goes on and on and on – and these are only the ones we’ve been able to find out about!

And every time we are promised that the problem will be fixed. The rules will be changed. A new code will be introduced. Things will be different.

And nothing ever changes.

The reason is simple: Loopholes will always be found, rules will be twisted, and travel will be within the letter of the law while totally missing its spirit.

This is why I just launched a new transparency campaign for something different, something that is proven to work – and I hope you will be able to join me in making it law

There is only one thing that can break our politicians’ age of entitlement: Full openness, transparency and accountability to the Australian people. It is only when voters know how every cent is our money is being spent, that we can be assured it will be spent properly.

The solution is simple: Require every politicians and their staff member to publish online their travel, its cost, and its purpose, within 7 days of it being taken. Create an easy to use portal where every Australian voter can see what his MP and Senator has been doing, and if it is a wise use of funds.

Let 22 million Australians be the judge of what is right – and what is wrong. It is our money, and we have the right to know where it is going without having to submit expensive Freedom of Information requests, read through hundreds of pages of budget documents, or hope someone in the media will spot a story.

By allowing public scrutiny, politicians will have to justify their travel not just to bureaucrats or their fellow politicians, but to taxpayers. As result, extravagant travel and abuse will plummet. They might be able to fool their peers, but they won’t be able to fool their voters.

When the Federal Government passed laws allowing them to spy on us online, we were assured – if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. The same rule should now apply to them. If they have nothing to hide, then they should welcome this campaign without question.

The technology for such a portal has existed for close to a decade – in fact, an independent review commissioned for the Department of Finance suggested it back in 2010!  It will be cheap to set up, and will lead to better government through ending abuse and corruption. There is no argument against it.

With your help, we will be able to make the change we need – please join our campaign and email your local MP and Senators’ today!

Opening the books to scrutiny is the only way to make a difference.  At the end of the day, we pay for their travel and we have a right to know what they do with it. It’s as simple as that.

Thank you for your support as always,
Tim Andrews
Executive Director
Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance

PS: Please take 5 minutes to click HERE to the only solution that will stop travel rorts! 

Posted in Guest Post | 19 Comments

Robert Conquest (1917-2015)

It is essential to mark the passing of one of the great historians and enemies of totalitarians of all varieties. Robert Conquest passed away on August 3 at aged 98. I think it is even possible that I read every one of his books [UPDATE: I just went to look at what he'd written - I got nowhere near it]. This is from The Telegraph in London picked up at Powerline:

Conquest personified the truth that there was no anti-communist so dedicated as an ex-communist. His career illustrated also what the Italian writer Ignazio Silone, another former communist, meant when he said to the communist leader Palmiro Togliatti that “the final battle” of the 20th century would have to be fought between the two sides they represented.

An ardent Bolshevik as a young man, Conquest became a bitter foe of Soviet “Socialism”. He had first visited Russia in 1937 as a youthful devotee of the great experiment. It was a half century before he returned in 1989, having spent his life between chronicling the horrors the country had endured, and emerging, in the view of the Oxford historian Mark Almond, as “one of the few Western heroes of the collapse of Soviet Communism”. “He was Solzhenitsyn before Solzhenitsyn,” said Timothy Garton Ash.

The most dedicated anti-socialists are former socialists, which I have seen often. Of what he wrote, I have found his Three Laws of Politics amongst the greatest insights you are likely to find anywhere:

1. Everyone is conservative about what he knows best.
2. Any organization not explicitly right-wing sooner or later becomes left-wing.
3. The simplest way to explain the behavior of any bureaucratic organization is to assume that it is controlled by a cabal of its enemies.

But if you want his best quote of them all, it is his suggested title for the reprint of his The Great Terror after the Berlin Wall had fallen and his estimates of death by gulag had turned out to be too small: “How About”, he said, “I Told You So, You Fucking Fools?”. When dealing with the left, there are many instances when you feel like saying it, but no one has ever had the right to those words more than he did.

Posted in History | 23 Comments

“nothing was so permanent as a temporary government programme”

Remember the Temporary budget repair levy? The levy that was going to be temporary?

The federal government will not extend a levy on top earners even though its budget is being hit by revenue writedowns.

Assistant Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says the government will stick to its promise last year that the two per cent deficit levy on people earning more than $180,000 annually will only last for three years.

‘There’s no plans to expand or to extend that temporary budget deficit levy,’ he told Sky News on Monday.

Well. More fool us.

The Federal Government is reportedly considering an increase to the Medicare levy to fund the budget blowout, which would see the average working family forced to pay an extra $2000 in tax annually.

The suggestion was reportedly made by the Labor states as an alternative to increasing the GST, and would raise $13.8 billion annually, the Daily Telegraph reports.

It is less than half the $35 billion revenue expected to be raised by increasing the GST to 15 percent as proposed by the NSW government.

The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling was commissioned to cost the proposal and model the impact of a four percent Medicare Levy on the family budget.

Low-income earners would pay as little as $20 extra per year under the plan, with the average family paying $1923 a year.

Those on higher salaries and those paying private health insurance would be hit more than $4000 annually.

The Abbott government has not yet ruled out the Medicare levy plan proposed by the Queensland and Victorian governments at last month’s COAG meeting as the best way to fix both the federal and state budget problems. The federal opposition has also not yet ruled it out.

The Medicare levy applies at two percent for people with ­incomes over $20,896.

A doubling of the levy would push Australia’s effective top income tax rate to 51 percent, moving it to the top five income tax rates in the world.

Posted in Budget, Taxation | 70 Comments

Dealing with the red-green faction of the Liberal Party

In the poll showcased by Sinclair, this was the tally that mattered. So far as Coalition voters are concerned: Abbott 41% / Turnbull 21%. Among Coalition voters, the split thus is 66.1% Abbott and 33.9% Turnbull. And would you like to know why? From a few days ago:

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull added pressure by live-tweeting his morning journey by public transport from Melbourne to Geelong — the same journey for which Mrs ­Bishop notoriously claimed a $5227 helicopter bill in ­November. “One tram, one train, one car,” Mr Turnbull said.

My dim and distant memory is that Peter Costello refused the leadership in 2007 primarily because he was not prepared to put up with the continuous white anting from Turnbull. Life was too short so he gave it away, and we have missed out on a great potential Prime Minister. Instead we had Brendan Nelson, who was white anted instead. Then Turnbull, who white anted himself with his incompetence. And how he is doing the same with Abbott.

The red-green faction of the Liberal Party is a major problem, and I just wish they’d stop. The government would be in a much better position if there was less treachery. Abbott I think understands all too well what is happening around him. But you are forced to work with the materials you have. He remains the most conservative and free market Prime Minister we are likely to have any time soon. He’s not perfect. He’s only better than any and all of the rest.

Posted in Federal Politics | 36 Comments

Tuesday Forum: August 4, 2015

Posted in Open Forum | 1,008 Comments

Is this the case for Tony?

From the latest Essential Media Report (this updates every week).

The case for Tony

It looks like actual Liberal voters are the only people who support Tony Abbott. By contrast much of Malcolm Turnbull’s support comes from ALP and Greens voters. To be sure those people are very unlikely to vote Liberal at a general election. Most of them? Yes.

Right now, however, the Liberals don’t have a majority of voters voting for them anyway. The Essential Media Report has the 2PP at 47 – 53. So they are going to have to pick up votes somewhere. This is where Turnbull can come in.

Here is a very good quote from Milton Friedman (via Greg Mankiw):

I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or if they try, they will shortly be out of office.

Youtube clip here.

Here is the thing: There is no downside to either the ALP or the Greens totally ignoring the Abbott government’s agenda (what’s that you say?). Abbott simply cannot create an environment where the wrong people would do the right thing (i.e. support good policy in the Senate). But a third of ALP and Greens voters would be open to Turnbull being leader. He could create such an environment.

So here is Abbott’s problem – neatly explained in the Essential Media Report. Not enough people outside of his own rusted on support base reckon Abbott is up to the task of being PM. If the Liberals already held a majority of the vote that wouldn’t matter. But they don’t. The Liberals are in a position of having to pick up votes from here to win the next election. That means broadening their appeal.

Posted in Politics | 53 Comments

Going Dutch

The AP story is obliviously written by an American who still thinks European countries are run by royalty. Nevertheless, he gets the point well enough to see the future everywhere in countries that, amongst other things, have been invaded by non-productive sponges and drones. We are back to a modern version of the ancient Marxist maxim: those who do not work, do not eat.

King Willem-Alexander delivered a message to the Dutch people from the government in a nationally televised address: the welfare state of the 20th century is gone.

In its place a “participation society” is emerging, in which people must take responsibility for their own future and create their own social and financial safety nets, with less help from the national government.

The king traveled past waving fans [!!!] in an ornate horse-drawn carriage to the 13th-century Hall of Knights in The Hague for the monarch’s traditional annual address on the day the government presents its budget for the coming year. It was Willem-Alexander’s first appearance on the national stage since former Queen Beatrix abdicated in April and he ascended to the throne.

“The shift to a ‘participation society’ is especially visible in social security and long-term care,” the king said, reading out to lawmakers a speech written for him by Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s government.

“The classic welfare state of the second half of the 20th century in these areas in particular brought forth arrangements that are unsustainable in their current form.”

The cradle-to-grave welfare state will go. Dependence on the government, other than occasionally and in small amounts, will disappear. If you are not self-supporting, no one else will be obliged to provide for you what you cannot earn yourself. We shall see if there is enough support for such measures in Holland in 2015. By 2030, it will be on its way to being universal since the welfare state can no longer be sustained.

Posted in Economics and economy, International | 31 Comments

On this measure, Abbott is doing well

When did it become even remotely sensible to judge a government by the number of pieces of legislation passed under its watch?  Albo tried this one on, but I’m pretty sure no one was buying it when he boasted about the number of bills passed during the Gillard minority government.

The mind boggles, as impenetrable and deeply regulatory bill after bill is passed.  And yet, an academic could seriously think that the number of bills passed is a guide to a government’s worth.  But this is what one Associate Professor Sally Young, University of Melbourne, has done.

Is she kidding?

And to link the non-passing of useless laws as somehow connected with the lack of progress which she asserts is quite breath-taking.

Cats – we should have all become Political Science academics.  You can obviously just make it up, according to your own prejudices.

And recommending a dead politician become Speaker of the House – what the heck.  If it can happen in Weekend at Bernie’s, why not the House of Reps.  It’s all in a day’s work for academics in political science.

Here is an excerpt from Young’s piece – in The Age, of course:

To work out how effective the Abbott government has been in terms of legislating, I’m drawing upon data prepared by Nick Evershed​ for The Guardian two years ago that I’ve updated with the Abbott government’s performance. This method takes all the Commonwealth of Australia Numbered Acts and assigns them to a government based upon the act’s date of assent. It then counts total acts for each government and divides them by the number of days it was in office to arrive at a rate of acts per day that accounts for different lengths in a government’s tenure.

Even Billy McMahon’s government of 1971-72 passed more legislation – and McMahon is often dubbed Australia’s worst prime minister.

This isn’t a perfect measure because a bill might be introduced under one prime minister and passed under the next; and a lot of legislation is routine, technical amendments. This approach also values quantity over quality and doesn’t measure how important the legislation was or its impact. But it does show one key performance indicator we would expect of a government: that it can pass legislation.

On this criterion, the Abbott government is the least efficient government of the past 44 years. Even William McMahon’s government of 1971-72 passed more legislation – and McMahon is often dubbed Australia’s worst prime minister.

To date, the Abbott government has passed just 0.372 acts per day since it came to office, compared to 0.438 for the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd governments (and Gillard had to contend with minority government), 0.452 during John Howard’s tenure, 0.476 for Paul Keating, 0.491 for Bob Hawke’s governments, 0.481 for Malcolm Fraser, 0.472 for Gough Whitlam, and 0.436 for McMahon. Barring some unexpected burst of productivity in the latter half of this year, the Abbott government is on track to have the worst record for passing legislation since the late 1960s.

Legislative malaise may help explain why some key statistical indicators relating to health, education, poverty, Indigenous Australians, women’s progress and home ownership, show the Abbott government has conspicuously failed to make progress. The Abbott government may have “stopped the boats” and repealed the carbon tax but these are not policy measures that have a demonstrably big impact upon the lives of ordinary Australians.

The Abbott government’s failure to implement so many of its own pre-election promises has contributed to a perception of it as an inefficient government. It has also experienced some very public reversals and botches on policy, including the Medicare co-payment, delaying payments for unemployed young people, cuts to the age pension, race discrimination law, jobseekers applying for 40 jobs a month, deregulation of higher education, and Tony Abbott’s signature paid parental leave policy.

The unexpectedly harsh budget of 2014 is likely go down in Australian political history as the worst received federal budget and especially because, unlike “horror” budgets of the past, all the pain inflicted didn’t even achieve what it was intended to do – it didn’t reduce the deficit. Gross debt jumped from $59 billion in June 2008 (or 5 per cent of GDP) to about $430 billion by June this year (26.3 per cent of GDP). The Commonwealth’s debt-to-GDP ratio is now at the highest level since the ABS’s quarterly records began nearly 30 years ago.

Posted in Uncategorized | 30 Comments

Being lectured by Clive Hamilton

Here is Clive Hamilton buying into the Goodes debate:

Throughout most of Australia’s modern history white society has worked hard to make Indigenous Australians disappear.

Here is Clive Hamilton buying into the Sydney housing market debate:

Wealthy Chinese buyers are making Sydney’s housing problem worse

A case of the pot calling the kettle … um … er … something.

To be fair to Hamilton, anti-foreign bias is not considered racism. Somehow, even in polite company, it is considered acceptable to complain about Chinese buying up Australian property. I particularly enjoyed the Guardian editor’s explanation:

This article generated strong response when published on 18 February 2014, including concern about racist undertones in its original headline “Wealthy Chinese buyers are making Sydney’s housing problem worse”.

The author and Guardian Australia disclaim any racist intent. Both are conscious of Australia’s racist past. Neither believes that legitimate issues for public debate – here, housing affordability – should be avoided simply because the discussion may be viewed through the prism of that past.

Remember: when lefties get caught being racist it is “legitimate issues for public debate”. For everyone else it “is a more insidious form of racism because it hides behind a moral principle that no one can dispute.”

Posted in Hypocrisy of progressives | 34 Comments