The 48th best movie ever made

We just came back from the pictures where we saw Boyhood.

According to IMDb it is rated as the 48th best movie ever made in their list of the Top 250.

An exceptional film in every way. No spoilers from me other than if you like the movies, this is a film you should see. Will only say that the actors age during the film because they really are getting older as it was filmed across twelve years.

Posted in Cultural Issues | 6 Comments

Greg Sheridan on constitutional change

Which brings us to the question of Abbott. In a recent speech he nominated multiculturalism and paid parental leave as two issues where he has had a change of heart during his time in politics. In fact, his biggest change has been on the Constitution. For a long time he believed the only change to the Constitution should be to expressly forbid the foreign affairs power from eradicating any states’ rights. Now he counten­ances the most radical constitutional change in our history. Why?

I believe there is an element of moral greatness in Abbott and his support for these changes springs from a feeling of solidarity with Aborigines and the deep and good friendships he has established with some Aboriginal leaders. But he is going too far. An inflamed heart often produces a clouded mind. Or, less dramatically, sentiment and sentimentality almost never offer a good guide to policy.

That’s in The Australian this morning.

Abbott is going far too far – I have an alternate explanation. It involves terms such as “out of touch” and “arrogant”. More importantly he is focusing on things that are not the economy. He needs to think about the Clinton mantra – It’s the economy stupid. So at a time when economic growth is below trend, unemployment above 6 per cent, and inflation at the upper policy bound, Abbott is focusing on multiculturalism and paid parental leave?

That sounds like someone who doesn’t know what to do next. This is a very real problem – my sources tell me that the only person in the government who doesn’t know that the proposed constitutional amendment is DOA is Abbott himself.

So: Cut taxes, cut tax rates, cut spending, cut red tape, cut green tape. Do it now.

Posted in Economics and economy, Federal Politics | 57 Comments

Open Forum: September 20, 2014

Posted in Open Forum | 601 Comments

Green activists, rentseeking businesses and bureaucrats: a potent wealth destroying brew

Warming to a theme which I addressed in a post from the Hong Kong Mont Pelerin meeting, I had an article in today’s Herald Sun (not presently on line) which addresses the enemies of wealth and happiness, the regulatory inducing green left.  Here is an abridged version.

Former Czech President, Vaclav Klaus, addressed the formidable obstacles to western nations’ resurrecting the economic growth that we took for granted until 2008.  These obstacles stem from costs imposed on economic efficiency as a result of activist Non-Government Organisations (NGOs).  Those NGOs include Greenpeace and Lock the Gate which have targeted the coal and gas industries in Australia.  Their power is amplified when they link with subsidy-seeking businesses.

The most familiar NGO-inspired cost to economic efficiency concerns the greenhouse issue.  Irrespective of whether mankind’s carbon dioxide emissions will result in temperature increases, it is China and other developing nations that are driving increased emissions.

Those countries will not cut back energy use as this would deny them living standards comparable with our own. But, hounded by incessant green propaganda and lobbying by renewable energy businesses, Australia, like most developed countries, has emission reduction programs that raise energy costs. Importantly, the Renewable Energy Target requires a large proportion of electricity to be sourced from wind/solar at over three times the cost of coal.

Klaus sees this as a subset of more general regulatory interventions in commercial decisions, whereby bureaucrats channel the aspirations of NGOs to close down major business activities.

The great prize in Australia is the closure of the coal and gas industries responsible for much of the wealth that has allowed us to navigate the global downturn these past six years.

Green NGOs have already achieved success in timber, where they have devised regulatory arrangements that have reduced access to native forests, bringing about a 60 per cent reduction in production. The campaign is now focussing on imports forcing firms to verify that all timber is from forests that have paid their dues to a Greenpeace/WWF protection racket. The Abbott Government’s assault on over-regulation has retained new regulatory measures by the Gillard Government that endorse this. Those regulations require firms to exhaustively research all their supply sources or expose themselves to crippling regulatory penalties.

Such requirements destroy the information benefits provided by prices.  Milton Friedman described these in his tract I Pencil.  He demonstrated how prices incorporate market developments and demand changes markets so that by responding to price changes firms can make sensible production modifications without the “wholistic” paraphernalia of central planning that inevitably fails.

Greenpeace and WWF are now attempting to trash the image of several global brands, including Pepsi, because they refused to incur the costs of palm oil sourcing controls that was demanded of them.

Many developing countries have recognised the cancer created by these anti-business NGOs. China does not tolerate them and India under Prime Minister Modi has banned several, including Greenpeace.  And in the UK, David Cameron’s new minister for civil society has told charities to “stick to their knitting” and keep out of politics.

Gina Rinehart, though she was mainly addressing mining, put her finger on the growing dangers of  these NGO-induced regulatory controls when she said, “The government needs to better recognise this and world conditions, including various falling commodity prices and the contraction in jobs in Australia’s ­mining and related industries — and urgently cut bureaucratic ­burdens.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 95 Comments

The ABC – more extreme than Tanya Plibersek

Tanya Plibersek helps Waleed Aly on Radio National, Wednesday:

PLIBERSEK: I don’t see a role for Australia (in Iraq) beyond that immediate support for humanitarian intervention which prevents genocide.

Aly: But there is no genocide happening right now …

Plibersek: Well there are thousands of people who have lost their lives. There’s 1.8 million people who have been displaced … I’m not really sure that you could downplay the seriousness of what’s going on there.

Aly: But can we call it a genocide? As I understand it there was the threat of genocide but then there were Iraqi air strikes and there was the arming of particularly Kurdish forces and then there was that famous altercation where ISIS lost control of the dam … so the genocidal threat seems to have abated. If that was our aim shouldn’t we have drawn a line under that?

Plibersek: So now we’re only talking about mass atrocity crimes and we shouldn’t worry, is that the proposition you’re making?

Posted in Australian Story, Cultural Issues, Tough on Crime, tough on criminals | 89 Comments

Thursday Forum: September 18, 2014

Posted in Open Forum | 980 Comments

Damn foreigners – obeying the law like that.

There is a very amusing article in the AFR this morning:

New Zealand wine companies are ratcheting up their use of an Australian government rebate originally designed to help small local wine producers.

Preliminary figures show that the subsidies paid to New Zealand producers in 2013-14 will surpass the $23 million claimed by 213 New Zealand entities in the previous year.

Australian Taxation Office assistant commissioner Tom Wheeler said the final 2013-14 figures are not publicly available yet, but it is anticipated that total rebate claims will rise to beyond the $23 million paid the previous year.

“We, however, expect a slight increase in the number of claimants and rebate claims for 2013-14,’’ he said.

The New Zealand wine companies have a 100 per cent track record when it comes to playing within the rules on claiming rebates under the wine equalisation tax rebate scheme. A crackdown by the ATO found there are no New Zealand entities in their sights for suspect claims.

Who do those New Zealanders think they are? First the come here and sell a superior product to local produce (certainly the white wines) and at low prices, and then they fully comply with the law of the land!

It’s just outrageous.

More importantly – this story highlights the fact that multinationals trading into Australia normally do so in a law abiding manner where they comply with the rules we impose – claims that they somehow rort the system should be treated with scepticism.

Posted in Economics and economy, Taxation | 27 Comments

Over-nannied

over- nannied

That is a parking sign in Sydney.

The need for regulatory simplification is obvious.

(HT: Jason)

Posted in Take Nanny down | 44 Comments

Selling off the farm, literally

Yesterday it was merely the price of houses (discussed in the AFR today). Now it is our dairy farms that will have, so far as I can tell, absolutely no Australian content or input other than the physical existence on this continent.

ONE of China’s biggest milk companies is buying up dairy farms in Australia, convinced it can generate higher milk production and bigger profits here than most local dairy farmers are achieving.

The Ningbo Dairy Group says that to produce as much fresh milk as it would like to fly to China from its Victorian farms, profitably and rapidly, it needs to bring in Chinese employees, fast-track construction of a new milk processing plant and cut through government red tape. . . .

Ningbo Dairy vice-president Harry Wang said the key to its profitable Australian dairy investment lay in vertically integrating the group’s Australian operations, with it owning and controlling all parts of the supply chain.

They come here, bring their own workers, build their own infrastructure and export the produce back home. What’s in it for us I am not at all sure. He does, of course, put his finger on the problem faced by our own domestic producers:

The downside of Australian dairying to the Chinese newcomers is the low milk price paid by Australian processors to farmers, high labour costs, excessive red tape, a slowness to innovate and the lack of good young workers.

I will just repeat my conclusion from yesterday’s post. We used to pay for our balance of payments deficits through increased investment and the revenues that previous investments had brought about. Now we pay for our imports by selling off the farm. The first could go on for ever and made us prosperous. The second will be a disaster but no one is willing to stop the inbound flow of funds.

Posted in Economics and economy | 222 Comments

Closing shop

There is a kind of glibness in this presentation of “The Great Unravelling”. They don’t really believe it, but I do. This article about a CBC program warning Canadians that cash may be seized from them by “law enforcement” officers in the US is quite an eye opener.

The title says it all: Canadian News Outlet Warns Canadians That US Law Enforcement Officers Will Pull Them Over And Seize Their Cash. Thus in answering the question posed in the video, this is from the comments:

this country is closing up shop. won’t be here 50 years from now

The wolves are circling but no one seems to be paying attention. Nothing lasts forever, but the fracturing of the United States is happening before our very eyes, something I never thought even remotely possible not all that long ago. The question is no longer will it fall apart, but how can it be made whole again? To this I cannot think of any answer at all. And while the decay is not as advanced in Australia, without the US where do we go from there? What’s fifty years in the scheme of things? Most people alive today will still be alive then. Lots of surprises but there is a brutality in history that you would not want to ignore.

[Both the video and the story from Instapundit.]

Posted in Cultural Issues | 18 Comments