Open Forum: November 28, 2014

Posted in Open Forum | 1,166 Comments

Malcolm and the economy

The way to achieve growth is to encourage the private sector: lower taxes, less regulation and a cut to spending. Three stories, each highlighting how bizarre economic policy now is. First this: Budget cash to back innovation push.

Malcolm Turnbull’s sweeping innov­ation strategy will hit the budget bottom line as the package of more than 30 reforms, including new spending measures, will not be matched with savings.

The Prime Minister, who has told Industry Minister Christopher Pyne to “release his inner revolutionary” in setting the new innovation agenda, is understood to have ordered Treasury officials to prepare “second-round effects” modelling to demonstrate the long-term benefits of the reform package, despite the anticipated short-term hit to the budget.

And then on the matter of savings, we have this: Cutbacks eyed for superannuation tax breaks.

Tax breaks on superannuation could be scaled back to help fund income tax cuts for workers, under ideas Scott Morrison will air today in a bid to ignite a debate over the best way to use concessions worth billions of dollars.

The Treasurer will also raise the prospect of easing some of the rules that prevent people from building up their nest eggs, acknowledging that caps on their contributions can make it impossible to save all they need for a comfortable old age.

But Mr Morrison will use a major speech today to warn that super must not be turned into ­“estate-planning vehicles” for the wealthy to exploit the tax-free ­nature of the funds in retirement.

The suggestions widen the tax reform debate, as the government examines options that range from an increase in the GST to a “progressive” scale of super tax rates that could recoup as much as $6 billion a year in revenue.

And we should not neglect this either: Turnbull’s NBN deficiencies exposed by $800 million Optus debacle.

Leaked documents, which show that the company building the government’s national broadband network could be up for $375 million in repairs and upgrades of a key part of its multi-technology-mix (MTM) pose serious questions about the wisdom of the government in tearing up Labor’s fibre to the premise plans.

The stories are each part of Malcolm’s visionless approach to policy. He thinks government spending is good, private investment irrelevant, and national saving not central to his plans. We are dealing with a Labor government that is only being constrained by the conservatives in its ranks, the ones Malcolm is trying to rid the party of.

Everyone is perfectly aware that Albanese will lead the ALP at the next election. If Malcolm loses the unloseable, he will have to emigrate with the other millions heading to Europe.

Posted in Economics and economy, Federal Politics | 125 Comments

The Emperor’s Recycled Clothes

As reported today in the media, including in the SMH by Chris Kenny, the Labor Party has proposed to cut Australia’s 2005 measured emissions by 45% by 2030 and to lead Australia towards a goal of a totally emissions neutral Australian economy by 2050.  This presumably on top of the Labor Party’s prior announced policy of a 50% renewable energy target.  This later target presumably to be achieved through wind and solar because dams can’t be built for hydro, trees can’t be cut down to be burned and god forbid nuclear.

No numbers or costings or cost benefit analyses were provided.  No dependencies or contingencies were noted, such as action by China, India, US, Canada, Russia – you know the major emitters.

Henry Kissinger once said that “the test of policy is how it ends, not how it begins“.

This is how it begins and we all know how it ends.


Talk about shallow and cynical politics.  Can someone out there please advise what the impact on global temperatures will be of this policy.  Please be specific.  None of this leadership clap trap or Australia can afford it.  There is a cost to such a policy, what is the benefit please.

Another demonstration of economic and foreign policy developed in the social and gender studies faculties of inner city universities.

Posted in Uncategorized | 35 Comments

Guest Post: BorisG – On the Russia-Turkey incident

The shooting down by Turkey of a Russian bomber is the most serious military incident between Russia and a NATO country for decades. But whose fault is it? If the plane indeed violated Turkish airspace then Russia has done everything to provoke Turkey:

  • From September onwards, the Russians started bombing all rebel groups opposed to the Asad regime. This pitched Russia directly against Turkey, which is sharply opposed to that regime.
  • Moreover they are not just bombing all rebel groups, they specifically bomb turkmen people of North Western Syria, who are strongly supported by Turkey due to their strong ethnic and historical ties.
  • And against this background, the bomber flies either through a strip of Turkish airspace, or very close to the border.

All this suggests that Turkey was provoked. However Turkey is also at fault:

  • By the Turkey’s own admission, the plane was only in Turkish airspace for 17 seconds.
  • As Putin stated correctly, it posed zero threat to Turkey.
  • Putin called Turkish leaders ‘accomplices of terrorists’. While Putin’s branding of Turkmen terrorists and his refusal to distinguish them from ISIS is a blatant lie, everyone knows that Turkey indeed has been until recently reluctant to take on ISIS, and by many accounts gave them support, if only by way of not sealing the border. This was the first time that someone officially called them supporters of terrorists. Good call.
  • Putin says the downing of the plane was a stab in the back for Russia. Since Russia and Turkey are pitched directly against one another, this is hardly a stab in the back. It is however indeed a stab in the back of the renewed attempt to build a coordinated coalition against ISIS. I don’t like conspiracy theories but I wonder if it wasn’t indeed Erdogan’s goal to disrupt this process.

No one looks good here. And from now on it is shaping as a contest of will between two autocratic leaders.

However on second thoughts, two comments in defence of Turkey’s position:

  1. Throughout the Syrian civil war, Turkey made it very clear who is to blame for it, but had enough patience and wisdom not send their troops even a millimetre across the border. Even in defence of Turkmen. This is remarkable patience, which is rare in this part of the world, and has to be commended.
  2. Everyone is blaming Turkey for not taking on ISIS. But Turkey is concerned that if and when ISIS in Syria is defeated, Kurds will come to take its place, and will pose a direct threat to Turkey (in light of their close ties with PKK). This is a serious and legitimate concern, isn’t it? Has the West given a thought on how to address this concern?

I don’t think any solution in Syria has any hope of eventuating without the support of Turkey. And that is a fact regardless whether we like Turkey’s Islamist and Hamas supporting leadership or not. I certainly don’t.

Posted in Guest Post | 96 Comments

Freudian displacement and the non-war on ISIS

Maurice Newman has an article in The Oz today on Waffling West empowers Islamic terror. And there he wrote, in the kind of article that has already virtually disappeared, about how there is something else that is the Number One issue to allow you to show you are being tough-minded even while studiously ignoring ISIS.

Left leaning, Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman sympathises. “When President Obama describes climate change as the greatest threat we face, he’s exactly right. Terrorism can’t and won’t destroy our civilisation but global warming could and might.”

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius agrees “climate change is a threat to peace” and a significant cause of terrorism, sentiments echoed by Prince Charles.

All this reminded me of an article some time back by Ed Driscoll on Freudian displacement. He began with this:

Tough language is borrowed from the war on terror and applied to the war on weather. “I really consider this a national security issue,” says celebrity activist and “An Inconvenient Truth” producer Laurie David. “Truth” star Al Gore calls global warming a “planetary emergency.” Bill Clinton’s first worry is climate change: “It’s the only thing that I believe has the power to fundamentally end the march of civilization as we know it.”

Freud called it displacement. People fixate on the environment when they can’t deal with real threats. Combating the climate gives nonhawks a chance to look tough. They can flex their muscle for Mother Nature, take a preemptive strike at an SUV. Forget the Patriot Act, it’s Kyoto that’ll save you.

But then a quarter of an hour later, having thought about his original post, Driscoll went on with a much fuller discussion on how fighting climate change gives some people the pretence of being tough. Link to it all since it is short but subtle, and explains quite a lot. A sample:

While the hawks among us worry about preventing the Armageddon that’s coming, our modern-day hippies just want to make sure the planet is pristine when it does. In fact, the more menacing terrorism becomes, the more some people seem to worry about the weather. Scared and unsure how to fight terrorists, they confront “climate change,” which only requires spending trillions of other people’s dollars on something that may not need fixing or may not be fixable. No wonder some of these people chain themselves to trees – they think money grows on them.

It’s funny when you put it that way, but it’s actually not funny at all. That the US could twice elect Obama at such a moment – and in Australia replace Tony with Malcolm – is the surest sign that we would happily sign the surrender documents if only it wasn’t all too obvious to the other side that this is what we have in effect already done.

Posted in Cultural Issues, International | 44 Comments

Guest Post: Riccardo Bosi – Knowledge Dispels Fear

It was a hot day just before Christmas in 1990. I was travelling through Sydney in a taxi and the cabbie was listening intently to ABC news radio which was covering the build-up of tension between Iraq and the rest of the world.

Saddam Hussein’s armed forces had invaded Kuwait some months earlier, and was now threatening the mother of all wars should the US led coalition of 30 countries, which now numbered 40,000 and was building up in Saudi Arabia, attempt to remove his army by force.

When the news item ended, the cabbie volunteered that he was confused because there were so many contradictory versions of events in the Middle East. He just wanted to know, with some degree of certainty what was going to happen if the coalition went to war and that he wished there was just one news service that would ‘tell us like it really is’.

I sat there, resisting the very strong temptation to discuss his desire for a single source of news, and instead knowing that knowledge dispels fear, decided to oblige him.

“The war will be short, it will be brutal and we will win”.

He asked how I knew and how could I be so certain, so I gave him the short answer. I was an Army officer and that it was ‘what we do for a living’. I said that he was no different in that he could reasonably assess the time needed to travel between the airport and the city, taking into consideration variables such as traffic and motor vehicle accidents, because it was what he did for a living. Having had his need for knowledge met, he did appear less fearful but no happier, as is often the case.

Knowledge Dispels Fear is the motto of the Australian Defence Force’s Parachute Training School located at Naval Air Station – Nowra, on the NSW coast south of Sydney. That’s where I learnt it.

Knowledge dispels fear but it does not bring happiness. I also learned that at the Parachute Training School and you’d be surprised at the number of Special Forces soldiers who are not happy about jumping out of a plane.

I have been reminded of this motto many times since the Paris attacks, specifically whenever I have heard the leaders of western nations telling their populations not to be fearful and to go about their everyday lives, otherwise the terrorists win.

Sounds nice but the exhortations from politicians, a group not noted for their honesty nor trustworthiness, are falling on deaf ears and for good reason. The paucity of knowledge on the part of the people is prodigious. Our largely incompetent leaders are allowing the enemy, in this case ISIL, unfettered access to inform the media narrative. We are warned not to overreact lest we fuel ISIL yet it is exactly this absence of an effective counter message from western governments that is providing aid and comfort to the enemy and those who would support them.

So, given that our own Prime Minister is also Absent Without Leave on this issue, I will now outline a possible plan to the military problem of ISIL. Please note it is a possible ground war plan only, much simplified and built on many assumptions, but it is a workable solution to the removal of ISIL from the Levant. This is a necessary precursor to the rebuilding of Syria and Iraq, and the halting of the humanitarian crisis. My purpose is to dispel fear by providing the knowledge that ISIL is not an invincible behemoth which our leaders seem to believe it is, but rather just another adversary that will be defeated on the battlefield.

The plan follows the ancient approach of setting the anvil and swinging the hammers, and is as follows:


Mission Secure boundaries


Mission – Secure Syria


Mission – Secure Northern Iraq


Mission – Secure Western Iraq

See the maps below for further information. Continue reading

Posted in Guest Post | 85 Comments

David Leyonhjelm highlights our tax dollars not at work

Posted in Politics, Shut it down. Fire them all., Taxation | 11 Comments

More economy-busting warming inspired measures in the pipeline

I have a piece in the Herald Sun this morning.  Here is an extract.

Most developed world economies — Australia included — are pledging at the Paris Conference to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by more than 26 per cent by 2030. China and India, the largest and third largest emitters, are merely saying that they will reduce their economies’ carbon dioxide intensity. This means they’ll double their emissions.

The previous major policy framework on carbon dioxide was the 1997 Kyoto treaty. Under this, developed countries agreed to a range of ambitious emission reduction goals.

Under the Kyoto framework, Australia adopted green energy targets that raised the cost of electricity.

The higher energy cost led to some deindustrialisation.

But all this meant was that developed countries imported rather than produced goods such as aluminium and steel that entail carbon dioxide emissions. Such actions relocate rather than reduce global emissions.

Even with such measures some Kyoto agreement signatories found themselves unable to meet their obligations and simply walked.

In Australia’s case, in addition to regulations that force a substitution of wind and solar for cheaper fossil fuel generated electricity, governments took measures to prevent land clearing.

Preventing land from being used productively meant lower emissions. But it also meant sacrificing income. Governments used their planning acts to deny landowners the ability to farm. This enabled Australia to claim its emission levels did not increase over the period 1990 to 2012. Landowners were denied compensation for the loss of their property rights.

With subsidies to renewables and Direct Action, Australia will be racking up at least $5 billion a year on mitigating carbon dioxide emissions. That’s similar to spending on roads and government schools.

The UN also plans a $100 billion a year fund to persuade developing countries to come to the party. Australia has said it will allocate $50 million a year to this.

There is, however, an elephant in the room.

The economy-busting taxes and regulations designed to suppress human emissions of carbon dioxide and mitigate climate change are taking place alongside a persistent refusal of the global temperature to increase.

Other than its supposed effects in causing climate change, carbon dioxide is a harmless gas essential to all life forms.

And, notwithstanding its increased emissions, temperatures have been stable for 18 years, oceans have not risen, rainfall has maintained its ever-chaotic patterns, polar bears are thriving and (Kevin Rudd’s great fear) there is no epidemic of dengue fever.

Meanwhile Bill Shorten tests Malcolm’s machismo and wants to go the Full Monty in destroying the economy  by calling for the madcap idea of zero emissions by 2050 with a 45 per cent cut by 2030.  Malcolm himself is testing the waters by constantly briefing journalists to inure us for a return of arch warmist ally, Martin Parkinson to head his department.  Does the nation have a death wish?

Posted in Uncategorized | 19 Comments

Guest Post: David Leyonhjelm – The state doesn’t own your life

In 1997, Kevin Andrews succeeded in pushing a private member’s bill through Federal Parliament. It overturned the first legislation permitting assisted suicide in Australia, enacted in the Northern Territory.

Since then, not only does assisting someone to commit suicide remain a serious crime in all States, it is also a crime in the Territories. Three states have life imprisonment as the maximum penalty, while in others the maximum penalty varies from 5 to 25 years.

This is extraordinarily cruel. The denial of the right to die at a time of our choosing can result in a lingering, painful death. It is also at odds with the fact that we have both a fundamental and legal right to choose whether we wish to continue living.

It’s important to state this clearly, because people forget suicide was once illegal and failed attempts often led to prosecution.

In Medieval England, suicides were denied a Christian burial. Instead, they were carried to a crossroads in the dead of night and dumped in a pit, a wooden stake hammered through the body to pin it in place.

But punishment did not end with death. The deceased’s family’s belongings were handed to the Crown. This remained the case until 1822. The suicide of an adult male could reduce his survivors to pauperism.

From the middle of the 18th century there was a softening of public attitudes towards suicide. While it is obviously still an occasion for sadness, there is also a recognition that people do not belong to their families or to the government. An individual may have good reasons to take his or her own life.

But there is a catch. The law says we are only permitted to die by our own hand, without assistance. Indeed, in three states, reasonable force can still be used to stop a person from committing suicide. And if we are too weak or incapacitated to end our lives ourselves, we are condemned to suffer until nature takes its course. It is a serious offence for anyone to either help us die – or even to tell us how to do it for ourselves.

One of the consequences of this is that it can compel people to end their lives sooner than they would like. Understandably, people prefer to avoid the risk that they will become incapable of committing suicide themselves.

There is no better marker of individual freedom than the ability to decide what to do with our own body. If the law prevents us from making free choices about it, then we are not really free at all; our bodies belong to the State.

Legalisation of assisted suicide is long overdue in Australia. Opinion polls show more than 80% of Australians are in favour, across all political parties. It is high time governments accepted that on this deeply personal matter, their intrusion is not warranted.

Despite what some people think, this is not about bumping off granny to inherit the house. Assisted suicide is simply helping someone to do something that they would do for themselves, if they were not so ill or feeble. The absolutely essential element is voluntary consent, which is emphatically not merely implied consent or acquiescence.

Of course, consent must be verified. Medical practitioners are no better qualified than anyone else to confirm this, but clearly the decision must be genuine. One of my concerns with Senator Di Natale’s Dying with Dignity Bill – although I support its general intent – is that it over-medicalises the process, giving too much power to doctors. This is apart from the fact that it may lack a valid Constitutional head of power.

In the short term at least, the easiest way to smooth the path to legalising assisted suicide would be repeal of the Euthanasia Laws Act 1997 – the ‘Andrews Bill’ I referred to earlier. It removed the power of each of the Territories to legalise assisted suicide, with a specific focus on repeal of the Northern Territory’s law.

While it is not feasible to simply reinstate the Northern Territory act, repeal of the Andrews Bill would send a signal to States and Territories that their legislatures may now turn their attention to this issue. As a bonus, it would support Federalism in law making. For too long, the Commonwealth has waded into areas that are properly the business of the states.

To that end, I plan to introduce a Private Senators’ Bill before the end of this year to repeal the Andrews Bill and set the Territories free.

David Leyonhjelm is the Liberal Democrat Senator for NSW.

Posted in Guest Post | 131 Comments

Regulation nation, wins and losses

A win, winding back climate derangement in Britain. Saving billions to lower the cost of power.

Losses. How much more damage can the king of the regulators, President Obama, do before he goes?

The costs of regulation.

Here are some very depressing bits of information I’ve shared in the past.
Americans spend 8.8 billion hours every year filling out government forms.
The economy-wide cost of regulation is now $1.75 trillion.
For every bureaucrat at a regulatory agency, 100 jobs are destroyed in the economy’s productive sector.
The Obama Administration added $236 billion of red tape in 2012 alone.
A World Bank study determined that moving from heavy regulation to light regulation “can increase a country’s average annual GDP per capita growth by 2.3 percentage points.”

So what’s President Obama’s plan to deal with this regulatory morass?

Well, he wants to make matters worse.

See above.

Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments