Such hyperbowl

This is from Tim Blair and it must be shared as widely as possible. “Kevin Rudd reviews Gough Whitlam’s career, and reveals the gigantic aircraft component that brought Whitlam down”:

Of course, where the Australian heart lies and lay then is in parties of the compassionate and reforming centre who were mindful of the challenges that we faced in the world, in the economy, but still committed with an open heart to giving opportunity for all. That’s what Gough Whitlam stood for, through thick and thin, and despite this enormous conservative fuselage unleashed against him.

Posted in Australian Story | Leave a comment

Rafe’s Roundup 23 October

Books. Classics, fun book covers, New books at Connor Court.

A tribute to a great libertarian, Leonard Liggio.

Corporate welfare in New Zealand. A new report.

Around the town. IPA HEY. The Sydney Institute. Australian Taxpayers Alliance, Quadrant on line, Mannkal Foundation, Centre for Independent Studies.

Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog [new addition will appear on Friday mid-afternoon]. Don Aitkin. Jim Rose, feral and utopian!

Sites of interest. Richard Hammer, Free Nation Foundation. Aust NZ libertarian students. Powerline.

For nerds. Melvyn Bragg’s radio program. Stephen Hicks, always interesting for nerds. Interesting commentary on rural research: farmers are smarter than you thought. Conference at the Karl Popper Foundation.

From 18 to 21 February 2015 the Karl Popper Foundation at the University of Klagenfurt is organizing a symposium to mark the 70th birthday of Manfred Lube, the former Librarian of the University. Dr. Lube was responsible for planning and setting up the Karl Popper Library, and everyone who has visited this library within a library agrees that he has done a superb job. Dr. Lube has also developed and maintained the formidable online bibliography of Popper’s writings and secondary literature. The theme of the symposium, The Written Word, combines Dr. Lube’s professional interests with the philosophy of Karl Popper. The speakers who have been invited will present papers that bear on Popper’s theory of world 3 in various ways, both critically and constructively.

Posted in Rafe, Rafe's Roundups | Leave a comment

How to stop greenies in their tracks

I went to hear a quite entertaining presentation by the former comedian, Rod Quantock today, speaking on global warming. Well, we are all doomed and he has a pitch that is well honed and nicely presented. And myself now being ready to believe that we are past peak oil and may well be heading into very rocky terrain no matter whether the planet is warming, cooling or doing nothing at all, I asked what he thinks we should do. So he said, as a joke I suppose, that what we should be doing is starting twenty years ago. Since in his view we are anyway locked into massive heating with water and oil running out in the reasonably near future, and since there is nothing that can now be done about it, I cannot see why he believes it’s his duty to go around terrifying young children about a world with no Tim Tams (well I guess it’s a living). I am a bit on the aged side so most of this when it happens will be well past my bedtime (and his as well since we were born in the same year, apparently), so I might as well keep flying and enjoying life, along with Al Gore and the American President. No self restraint of mine today will make the slightest difference so why bother trying?

Yet in the conversations afterwards although not with him, I trotted out my global cooling story which really is a great pleasure for me in such moments. Because if you really do think we are at peak oil, and who is to say we are not, and we don’t switch pronto to some form of nuclear power, there is no story so pessimistic that it may not fit the facts of the world as it will unfold if oil really does become scarce. I don’t know and you don’t know what is happening. But David Archibald, who teaches strategic energy policy in Washington, wrote this in his Twilight of Abundance:

The logistic decline plot of world oil production shows that the year of peak output arrived in 2005. The oil market began tightening slightly earlier, in June 2004. The oil price today is three times what it was in that year, but oil output has not increased in response to that price signal. The reason it has not is because it cannot. Almost all of the world’s oilfields are producing as fast as their owners can make them. There is only a little spare capacity on the planet. Global production of conventional oil has been flat since 2005. The logistic decline plot tells us that the world’s supply of conventional oil will fall away soon, and rapidly.

There are seven billion on the planet. If we run out of oil without a cheap replacement a very large number of us will not survive into old age. We have the technology to build safe nuclear power but those, too, are off every green agenda. So just for fun, next time you are in such a conversation, do what I did:

Agree that we are running out of oil, in fact insist on it

Point out there are no cheap substitutes for oil

Say you think hundreds of millions if not more may die and relatively soon if some cheap source of energy is not found

Point out that neither wind nor solar are cheap and reliable and cannot be used as a replacement

Ask what should we do?

You will by doing this outdo any green-leftist on the planet with your pessimism. You will leave them as the optimists in the room and you as the only stone cold sober realist. The only problem then comes when you start to wonder yourself whether you might in fact be right. Because what if you are? What do we do then?

Posted in Global warming and climate change policy | 73 Comments

Guest Post: Zeev – New neighbourhood residential zones contribute to Victoria’s housing affordability crisis

Despite the difficulties ordinary Victorians face in renting or finding a home to live in, we now find new calls for restrictions on property development. The Liberal Democrats firmly believe that solving the housing crisis can only be achieved by relaxing zoning laws and reducing the incredible cost of Victorian housing. Foreign investment and negative gearing are red herrings in the housing affordability debate.

The government’s latest campaign is for the introduction of ‘neighbourhood residential zones.’ This new zoning designation prevents people from developing any residential property to over two stories in height. It is being introduced primarily in most of the South Eastern suburbs covered by the Bayside, Boroondora and Glen Eira Councils. But recently Labor has called for its introduction in Brunswick (and presumably Moreland). 80% of the residential properties in those areas will be covered by these zones. As The Age reported, based on past applications, Boroondara may well experience a “27 percent reduction in dwelling approvals across the municipality.” These zoning laws will artificially inflate housing prices.

Artificially inflated housing prices will leave low-income earners, singles, couples and those elderly who do not own their homes worse off as they will find it harder or impossible to own or rent their own homes. Indeed, they already have this effect, so it’s no surprise that homeless support and social housing organisations are reporting record homelessness in Melbourne and a lack of available housing. Minister Guy’s own advisory committee has described these new zones, however, as being “very likely to compromise the ability to meet [Melbourne’s target] projected growth in households in a way that also addresses choice, affordability and diversity in housing supply.”

Additionally, and contrary to popular belief, negative gearing and foreign investment do not decrease housing affordability. Negative gearing is simply a tax refund for moneys invested in attaining income—typically rental income—from property. Getting rid of it is another way of raising taxes. As for foreign investment, it is simply another source of investment capital. These issues simply do not affect the housing supply at all. Relaxing zoning laws will increase the housing supply and increase housing affordability, not outdated protectionism or tax increases.

The Liberal Democratic Party understands this. We want zoning laws relaxed so that property becomes affordable again. We believe mixed use zoning should be implemented across the State and that the Urban Growth Boundary should be abolished. Mixed use zoning allows developers to construct medium density multi-storey residential, commercial or industrial developments.  Implementing mixed use zoning state-wide and abolishing empower people to own and buy their own homes and drive investment and productivity in Victoria.

The Victorian Liberal Democratic Party will also replace our current permit system with one that does not pose a barrier to genuine, reasonable development. Permits should be considered by independent, private town planners, not local Councils. And if a planner fails to make a decision in 60 days then the application should be automatically approved. Giving planning powers to Councils and VCAT has proven an incredibly burdensome process that has delayed developments for years. This costly litigation benefits no one, and replacing it with a simple system will mean that reasonable developments will be approved. Building surveyors already do much the same with building permits. Property construction costs will drop as a result.

Cutting construction costs and winding back zoning laws is an easy way to stimulate development in this State at no cost to the taxpayer. And it helps people take back their property rights. Two birds in one stone.

If the Victorian LDP sounds like the party for you, now is the time to show your support and join us. We are also fervent believers in civil liberties—including repealing the State equivalent to section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act. But we can only get on the ballot in this State if you show your support. Sign up now for free online at www.ldpvic.org.au/?r=cat.

Then (and only then) print off this form and post it to the VEC at:

Victorian Electoral Commission
Reply Paid 68780
Melbourne VIC 8001.

This one will come down to the wire, folks. Every member counts if we are to hit 500 members writing back to the VEC in the next 2 weeks. There is a political home for classical liberalism in this State—join up now and become part of it.

Vladimir Vinokurov is a solicitor and Victorian State PR officer for the Liberal Democratic Party.

Posted in Guest Post | 11 Comments

Guest Post: Rabz on the pernicious impacts of “Broad Based Taxation” in Australia

Here is a current list of taxes that can be levied by government on individuals residing in this country:

  • Airline Fuel Tax
  • Airport Access (taxi) Tax
  • Airport Departure Tax (Passenger Movement Charge)
  • Alcohol Excise
  • Boat License Tax
  • Boat Mooring Tax
  • Capital Gains Tax
  • Cigarette/Tobacco Excise
  • Council Rates (including rated land value tax)
  • Customs Duties
  • Development Tax (on improvements to properties owned by individuals)
  • Dog/Cat Registration Tax
  • Fishing License Tax
  • Goods and Services Tax
  • Insurance Tax
  • Land Tax
  • Landlord Tax (level and type varies across jurisdictions)
  • Luxury Car Tax
  • Marriage License Tax
  • Medicare Levy
  • Medicare Levy (additional component for those without private health cover)
  • National Park Access Fees
  • NDIS Levy
  • “One Off” Levies such as Gillard’s Qld Flood Levy
  • Parking Tax
  • Personal Income Tax
  • Personal Income Tax – Deficit Levy
  • Petrol Excise
  • RET/Green Levies on Electricity
  • Road Tolls
  • Shooting License Tax
  • Stamp Duty on Property Purchases
  • Superannuation Tax
  • Utilities Tax (including charges on electricity, gas, water and telephone/internet)
  • Vehicle License Tax
  • Vehicle Purchase Tax (stamp duty)
  • Vehicle Registration Tax
  • Wine Equalisation Tax

These are the taxes that I know of, although not included for example, are taxes on gambling – which for the purposes of this piece, shall be treated as an entirely voluntary tax, similar to speeding fines.

If anyone knows of any taxes applicable to individuals that have been omitted, please feel free to point them out in the comments, barring of course, taxes paid by individuals operating a business.

The “incidence” of these taxes falls directly on the taxpayer. What is also important to consider is the indirect incidence of the myriad taxes (not to mention regulatory costs) that are imposed on businesses, which serve to drive up costs for consumers – that is, the producer passes on most if not all of these taxes directly onto the consumer.

Of the taxes identified above, income tax and the GST would probably constitute the most significant imposts on individuals year to year. Obvious exceptions would include the purchase of a property, meaning a stamp duty slug that may be the equivalent of an individual’s yearly income tax bill (which is then defrayed over the period of ownership of the property). Incidentally, I would argue that property stamp duty is a de facto CGT on an individual’s home, paid up front, as opposed to when the property is sold.

What infuriates me the most about the list above (apart from the sheer number of taxes) is that we are constantly and incorrectly, lectured by various leftist dunderheads that “Australia is a low tax country”.

I defy anyone to calculate their actual total annual tax bill based on the inclusion of all the taxes that might be incurred above and then still agree with that leftist assertion in the previous paragraph.

I’d also be interested in hearing from commenters who may have had a go at calculating their actual tax burden as a percentage of their gross income, as opposed to for example, just their personal income tax rate. Needless to say, people would also need to offset these taxes against any government benefits, rebates, etc, that they may receive due to their (often unwilling) membership of the new bought and paid for welfare beneficiary class.

As certain Perfesser might opine, the need for regulatory reform is obvious.

Posted in Guest Post, Taxation | 191 Comments

Wednesday Forum: October 22, 2014

Posted in Open Forum | 672 Comments

What mainstream media can learn from the past

He’s talking about American media where the contagion is astonishing. Australia really is spared the worst of it although we are obviously not unaffected (seen Q&A lately?). I just thought I would clarify. Here’s the text that comes with the video.

Posted in Media | 23 Comments

Industry policy, shmindustry policy

The Abbott Government has established a plethora of reviews covering a multitude of issues. Off the cuff they include Energy, Renewable Energy, Education, Defence, Competition, industry and yesterday we had a Green Paper on Agriculture released.  

Some of the reviews – that on Agriculture being a prime example – are nothing more than wish lists.  The agricultural green paper wants less regulation except where regulation might strengthen farmers’ hands: getting mining royalties, subsidising energy audits, bashing Coles and Woollies, concessional loans. The green paper also seeks expanded roles for the bureaucracy with counselling, debt mediation, and additional regulatory codes. 

Barnaby Joyce picked the best eyes out of it, giving a heads-up to Sid Maher  in which he identified 27 new dam prospects, an anathema to a bureaucracy with a thirty years of opposition to these. 

Last week’s release was the Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda. Its focus is on deregulation, skill formation and programs for skilled worker employment and investor immigration.  It restores the conventional and generally available R&D support that Labor took from major companies, and re-establishes incentives for employee shares ownership. 

The spending showpiece is $35 million a year for five new growth centres covering food and agribusiness; mining equipment, technology and services; oil, gas and energy resources; medical technologies and pharmaceuticals; and advanced manufacturing.

If this money is to be wasted it is at least an improvement on the $60 million a year for 10 “Industry Precincts” under the Gillard Government’s Australian Industry Participation Plan (AIPP).  AIPP was also to include a $378 million venture capital finance facility, tailor made, like the Industry Precincts, to be headed by socialist luminaries who would fritter away the money in vote-buying failures.

More insidiously, Labor’s AIPP also brought massive new red tape to force major project firms into high cost local sourcing and it embarked upon a new aggressive anti-dumping program designed to ferret out area where overseas suppliers are just too competitive.  Naturally, these aspects were greeted with warm applause from union chieftains, including Paul Howes, who saw it as a means of wresting back some of the jobs their cost-inducing industrial policies had destroyed.  Deloittes in its client advice struck a sober note, saying, “major project proponents should not underestimate the significance or resource commitment of being required to submit and report on an AIP Plan”

The famous five new growth centres identified by the Competitiveness Agenda appear to fit with general perceptions of ideal Australian development (though “advanced manufacturing” in spite of its evocative title seems to cover everything from robotics to “sustainable green processes”).  The problem is that the committees judging the beauty contests of worthy ideas and paying for them with Other People’s Money so often underperform and tend to be swayed by fads and political considerations.  And that outcome remains likely even though the Liberals generally avoid Labor’s policy of appointing political time-servers onto such committees. 

On a more positive note, the Competitiveness Agenda’s subsidy scheme is placed within a supportive framework that seeks to lower costs rather than increase them.  And Josh Frydenberg, the Parliamentary Secretary for deregulation has focussed attention on aspects of the policy that promote this.  He has claimed savings of $700 million a year with 10,000 regulations abolished from his first announced regulation cut.  In foreshadowing further cuts, he instances 140 pieces of legislation burdening the plastics industry.

Mr Frydenberg also said the government will avoid duplication and recognise overseas approvals for chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Such a process was recommended in a 2008 Productivity Commission report but its antecedentary reaches back into the 1980s, when, as head of the Office of Regulation Review, I made the same recommendation in two reports to government.  Nobody put a cogent case against this but political and bureaucratic interests ensured that, 25 years later, the same proposals emerge.   Time will tell if Josh Frydenberg has the clout to ensure his proposals are followed through. 

Time will also tell if all these reviews achieve mutually consistent outcomes.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 67 Comments

The Whitlam legacy: Big government

Federal government expenditure has never recoved from the Whitlam era:

Whitlam Legacy

From the Budget Papers.

Posted in Budget | 102 Comments

… the cold steel of rationality.

Gary Johns goes very hard in the Australian this morning.

Many more must join the fight, the first task of which is to name the enemy within — the killer priest, the ANU vice-chancellor and trustees, and scores of green NGOs. These should be made to feel the cold steel of rationality, which by the way, cannot be made without coking coal.

He writes:

The mystery is why the disease of divestment has spread so far and wide. Partly, it is because the climate change research pool has been tainted by a culture of silencing dissent in pursuit of public funds. Partly, it is a consequence of the growth of green non-government organisations, most with taxpayer privileges, and partly because industry has given up arguing the case for science in the service of progress.

No so much of a mystery – good people did not speak up.

Posted in Divestment | 64 Comments