Green Activists Put Lives In Danger

by on 18 September, 2014

The Minerals Council of NSW report that police are investigating a dangerous act of sabatage by the far-left green radicals at Whitehaven mine at Maules Creek,where activists entered the site in the middle of the night cutting  187 down-lines attached to extremely powerful explosives, prepared as part of the mine operations putting at risk the lives of Whitehaven personnel:

This reckless and dangerous act of industrial sabotage is a wake up call for the NSW government.  Those responsible have directly threatened lives, including their own, by tampering with powerful industrial explosive charges used in mine operations,” NSW Minerals Council CEO, Stephen Galilee said today.

“Violent and dangerous activities have escalated in recent months. As well as deliberate trespassing and interference with heavy equipment by protesters, a security vehicle has been rammed, gates have been blockaded or destroyed, and now we have had industrial explosives being sabotaged,” he said.

“We have raised safety concerns about the trespassing of protesters with the NSW Government on a number of occasions. I hope we will now see action,” Mr Galilee said.

“Without action from the Government to deter this type of illegal access activity it is only a matter of time before someone is seriously hurt, despite the best efforts of police and emergency services personnel and site workers to ensure safety.”

“People have a right to protest, but it must be within the law. No-one has the right to put others at risk. And when people choose to ignore the law they should be held accountable for their actions.”

Home educators are true heroes

by on 16 September, 2014

In the context of a NSW Government Inquiry into homeschooling, Mike Sackville argues we should all give our gratitude to ‘hero’ home-educators:

Home educators are true heros who deserve our gratitude and respect.

Our gratitude because they save taxpayers around $12,000 per student per year, by taking their parental responsibilities fully on their own shoulders, without sending the bill to the government.

Our respect because they refuse to accept second best for their children. They see the educational, emotional, social, spiritual and physiological needs of their children as integrated and unique to each child, and they seek to provide an individually tailored response. Learning time is not compartmentalised and treated as something separate from real life. Social interaction is not limited to peers from a narrow age range.

As John Holt said,

I want to make it clear that I don’t see homeschooling as some kind of answer to badness of schools. I think that the home is the proper base for the exploration of the world which we call learning or education. Home would be the best base no matter how good the schools were [and] It’s a nutty notion that we can have a place where nothing but learning happens, cut off from the rest of life

Traditional Morality in the Modern West: A Relic of a Bygone Era

by on 10 September, 2014

Christopher Dowson

Christopher Dowson provides a provocative assessment of the social realities of modern Western culture and discusses the benefits of a renaissance of traditional morality.

A March 2012 article in The Economist magazine published in the context of the US Republican Primaries alleged that whenever Conservative politicians talked about ‘declining morals’ the result was inevitably relative. The article asserted that everything to do with ‘morality’ is relative to which side of the political compass you happen to fall on.

The author uses an example: So in the case of out-of-wedlock births, Republicans would probably see the increase as a moral problem regardless of the outcome. Whereas Democrats might feel more comfortable with, say, promoting a corresponding increase in stable familial relationships outside of marriage.

The author further asserted that abortions, infidelity, divorce, and teenage pregnancies were on the ‘decrease’ based on a few selective sources and therefore all this talk of ‘declining morals’ was a bit of a storm in a teacup. Now, The Economist is well-known for its libertarian, free-market utopianism (despite supporting Barack Obama in 2012) yet when it comes to social issues the magazine might as well be printed on toilet paper.

The Australian Asylum Seeker debate: a conflict of visions

by on 10 September, 2014

John SlaterJohn Slater argues that ad hominem attacks and accusations of moral bankruptcy have come to dominate Australia’s asylum seeker debate now for over a decade and that new boat arrivals or changes to immigration policy seem to spark a cacophony of righteous indignation rarely seen in mainstream public debate.

Rhetoric aside, it is strange that the bleeding hearts and the border hardliners are able to reach such starkly different opinions about ‘boat people’ despite having access to essentially the same information about who these people are and where they come from. For example, while Tony Abbott attributes the thousands of boat arrivals that occurred under the last Labor Government to its abandonment of offshore processing, activist Julian Burnside QC maintains that boat numbers are driven mainly by the ebb and flow of world refugee numbers.

Clearly, this is not simply a case of one side receiving an outdated brief. Neither is the controversy about whether Australia should take asylum seekers at all, with an annual humanitarian intake enjoying virtually universal support across the political spectrum. At its heart, the true difference between those who support policies like offshore processing, temporary protection visas and those who abhor them are a number of core assumptions about ‘boat people’ as they have come to be known.

In order to better understand how these assumptions characterise the debate surrounding asylum seekers, it is useful to consider social theorist Thomas Sowell’s concept of visions. According to Sowell, differences in political ideology can be traced to two fundamental conceptions of humanity – the constrained vision and unconstrained vision.

Guided by idealism, the unconstrained vision believes humans are essentially good, well intentioned and morally perfectible. This makes the unconstrained vision optimistic about finding solutions to social problems, undeterred by the possibility of its grand utopian ideals causing unintended consequences. The constrained vision considers man to be inherently self-interested, motivated primarily by incentives as opposed to any unifying principle of morality. It also believes that well intentioned ideas often have unforeseen results. This leads proponents of the constrained vision to be sceptical of silver bullet solutions, preferring instead to talk in terms of alternatives and trade-offs.

Turning to the issue of asylum seekers travelling unauthorised to Australia by boat, the unconstrained or ‘utopian’ vision assumes that only the most perilous of circumstances could ever possibly compel a boatload of foreigners to leave their homes and risk their lives at sea.  The apparent gravity of this decision is enough to create a prima facie assumption that these people are bona fide refugees fleeing either war, persecution or a natural disaster. For this reason, the fact that over a thousand lives have been in recent years by people making this journey is not much of a drawback. Grounded resolutely in their belief that ‘boat people’ are escaping imminent peril, the utopian vision views the matter of deaths at sea as a distraction from Australia’s responsibility to ease worldwide human suffering. After all, surely allowing these people the chance to seek refuge in Australia is preferable to them facing death or destitution? This untempered idealism tends to lead followers of the unconstrained vision to equate the scepticism of the constrained vision with lacking empathy.

The constrained or ‘tragic’ vision approaches the matter rather differently. Remembering that those attempting to reach Australia by boat have often travelled through multiple countries, they are quick to point out that most ‘boat people’ have long escaped any immediate danger by the time they make the final leg of their trip to Australia. They are also realistic about the incentives of being settled in Australia compared to the majority of the world’s nations, including welfare and government support, economic opportunity and one of the world’s most stable political systems. As a rule of thumb, these factors mean holders of the tragic vision prefer to verify the claims of those seeking asylum instead of accepting them at face value.

This is not to say the constrained vision feels in any way vindictive towards asylum seekers. Rather, it is an acknowledgement of the desirability of life in Australia and man’s tendency to do what is in his or her best interest. Another element of the tragic vision is the careful consideration of unintended consequences. On this score, the tragic vision is keenly aware that accepting asylum seekers arriving by boat without qualification creates a black market for providing unsanctioned naval transport Australia. During the previous Labor government, this created the conditions for a booming people smuggling trade and over a thousand preventable drownings at sea.

The influential role of played by visions was illustrated recently in the reactions to the Government’s turning back of a boatload of Sri Lankan asylum seekers in July. In a classic illustration of the unconstrained vision, former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser drew an analogy between the Government’s actions and sending Jews back into Nazi Germany.  For Fraser, the gravity of the situation faced by those on board was self-evident. To question this could only be explained by a lack of compassion for the benighted Sri Lankans who had found themselves on the receiving end of the Abbott government’s immigration policies.

In relation to the same incident, News ltd columnist and exponent of the tragic vision Andrew Bolt reached the complete opposite view.  While reporting the story, Bolt argued that because the boat in question had travelled from India its passengers could not possibly have been facing immediate danger or persecution. Bolt also stressed a number of personal admissions by those on board that they had sought to come to Australia because of its ‘economic opportunity.’ On this basis, Bolt concluded the Sri Lankan refugees were rent seekers, not bona fide refugees and accused the “refugee lobby” of perpetrating a fraud. Emphasising the incentives of coming to Australia and the decisiveness of self-interest, Bolt’s reluctance to accept the Sri Lankan’s claims at face value is typical of the tragic vision.
Once the influence of visions in the asylum seeker debate is understood, it becomes clear that the indictments so frequently made by politicians and activists in public debate are usually gross misrepresentations of their opponent’s true position.  There is no doubt that if Andrew Bolt believed the plight of the Sri Lankan asylum seekers in question was truly comparable to that of holocaust his response would have been very different to making a blog post celebrating their return. Likewise, if Malcolm Fraser was persuaded that the same boat contained solely economic migrants, the spectre of genocide would have been the last thing to enter his mind. Rather, Fraser and Bolt were able to reach such starkly different views based on the questions they asked and the assumptions they relied upon. For Fraser, this process was guided by idealism. For Bolt, it was tempered by scepticism.

Perhaps the biggest barrier to a more honest discussion of how visions impact the immigration debate is the dubious use of morality to lend authority to political attacks. Several months ago, prominent refugee rights activist Julian Burnside QC took to twitter to make the following pronouncement, “You don’t need a bleeding heart to know that asylum seekers should be treated humanely: just a beating one.” Without questioning the sincerity of Burnside’s plea, this assertion totally misapprehends that for the tragic vision, the answer as to whether the passengers on a newly arrived boat are genuine asylum seekers is still pending.  There is no evidence that those in favour of using hard-line offshore processing policies for boat arrivals believe that such treatment should continue as a punitive measure once asylum is granted.

Given a fair assessment, tough border protection measures are about trying to deter economic migration by sea so that Australia’s refugee quota is filled based on the merits of each individual’s claim, not their means to reach Australia’s shores. However, blinded by utopianism Burnside will never really sympathise with the logic of deciding claims for asylum based on merit, since all cases must necessarily be worthy of our compassion. The concerns addressed by offshore processing; deterring economic migration and ensuring Australia’s humanitarian intake is sustainably managed hold no favour under Burnside’s unconstrained vision of humanity.

The purpose of this article has not been to attempt to demonstrate the superior virtue of one vision over the other. It has been to expose how beneath the political rancour lies a clash of worldviews that goes to the root of how society and those within it are perceived and understood. The way forward, if there is any, is for proponents of both visions to cast aside the moral indictments and be honest about the premises and assumptions upon which they stake their case.

John Slater is the current President of the University of Queensland Liberal National Club and is in the third year of his Law/Arts degree. John’s main ambition is to lift the profile of classical liberal ideas in Australian political debate. In particular, he is interested in exposing the failings of left wing economic policy, fighting state paternalism and changing the perception of right-of-centre political thought. John has also been involved in grass roots campaigns against curfew laws limiting night time trading hours for pubs and clubs and the former Labor Government’s SSAF tax on students.

Unexplained wealth laws endanger our community

by on 9 September, 2014

VVVladimir Vinokurov argues that the Victorian government’s unexplained wealth law abolishes the presumption that you are innocent before proven guilty of a crime and suggests the law be opposed by every Victorian.

Under the new law, if police suspect you of acquiring property unlawfully, you will lose it if they apply to a Court. The law does not require police to prove their suspicions. Quite the opposite: the onus is on you to prove that you lawfully acquired your property. If you don’t keep receipts, if you paid cash, or if you don’t remember how you bought your property, or if you don’t want to undergo the public embarrassment, stress and expense of proving your innocence in court, then you are in strife.

For example, suppose that an elderly woman is stopped for speeding by police. The woman has a large sum of cash in her purse. She may distrust banks, or get paid in cash. Marijuana is found on her person. She is a recreational user. The woman is arrested. There is a reasonable suspicion that she is a marijuana dealer: she has marijuana and large amount of cash in her possession. The cash is confiscated. No charges are laid. This elderly woman now has two options. She can contest the order on the basis that she is guilty until proven innocent, or lose the money. She cannot even use the money to fund her legal defence.

This woman may not have time to prepare herself for court. She will get no notice of the application nor be entitled to contest it unless the court is satisfied that she should have that basic legal right. She will have about two weeks to give a written, sworn statement explaining whether she owns the property in question. It doesn’t matter if this information is self-incriminating. The right to silence is gone. If she doesn’t contest the order in six months, she will lose her property. She cannot elect to have a jury hear her case as with other allegations of criminal offending.

Those who deal in legal, if poorly recorded transactions will be more vulnerable under these laws. This includes small business people or casual workers who earn money ‘cash-in-hand.’ So these laws will affect everyone but they will hit the most vulnerable hardest.

Worse, if the police reasonably suspect that you have engaged in “serious criminal activity”, it is not even necessary for them to suspect that the property was unlawfully acquired. All your wealth and assets are up for grabs if you are in this special category of presumed offenders. It doesn’t matter if your offending has nothing to do with your property. This is simply draconian.

The government should only be entitled to take your property if it has proven at a trial that you have acquired it unlawfully beyond reasonable doubt. Anything less is state-sponsored persecution.

Vladimir Vinokurov is a solicitor and a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, a party devoted to promoting civil liberties.

As good as the masters they serve

by on 30 August, 2014

Sean Jacobs reviews ‘The Professionals: Strategy, Money and the Rise of the Political Campaigner in Australia’ by Stephen Mills.

In any arena a mix between competition and technology is likely to result in growth. The demand for political professionals in Australia has been amplified by an obvious contest between the two major parties, while technology has helped researching voter preferences, promoting political messaging and easing campaign coordination to service the political professional’s ultimate goal – electoral success.

A clear distinction between a professional and amateur is, of course, pay. But the type of service is key. In 1915 Archibald Stewart became Labor’s first federal secretary and, despite receiving a payment of ‘fifteen guineas’, his role contrasted sharply with today’s paid political professional.

Stewart, according to Mills, ‘literally provided secretarial services to the executive, handling correspondence and minutes, organising transport and logistics for executive meetings… and banking the meagre annual fees paid by the states to sustain the modest national operations.’ A modern political operator – cleverly interpreting data and coordinating messaging – was little use at a time when politics was an amateur sport ruled overwhelmingly by ‘recalcitrant states.’

The need for political professionals in Australia didn’t take off until after World War Two and, even then, only accelerated in the late 1960s and 70s. Labor’s Ben Chifley, after losing the 1949 federal election, complained that his team had not only been outspent but ‘suffered a terrific barrage over the radio and through the press for twelve months.’ Driving the offensive was Donald Cleland – the Liberal Pary’s first federal director – whose military background served as ‘the prototype Australian election campaign professional.’

Future Labor counter attacks not only required additional resources and wider publicity but a greater degree of ‘head office’ direction. ‘The left hand never knew what the right hand was doing,’ one Labor official observed of the post-war years. ‘Western Australia could say one thing and New South Wales the other. There was no coordination.’

In the following decades economic growth and the ascendance of television demanded that federal-state party divisions be managed to present a cohesive picture. ‘By the late 1960s,’ writes Mills, ‘the long cycle of post-war economic prosperity had ameliorated social conditions; nineteenth-century patterns of social and industrial organisation that had shaped party loyalties were eroding.’

Labor adapted swiftly to the changing political terrain. In 1968 Labor’s Mick Young, in helping to re-elect South Australian Premier Don Dunstan, broke new ground by replicating the techniques of New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. This, Mills writes, was ‘the first time US-style advertising had been seen in an Australian campaign.’

A few years later Gough Whitlam’s ‘It’s Time’ slogan opened up new campaigning frontiers and, for the first time in Australian history, parties campaigned on a national scale. ‘It’s Time,’ in the words of Phillip Lynch, was ‘the brightest and most bouncing baby ever to be conceived and brought forth within the marriage of advertising and politics.’

But the successes of political professionals also expose their limitations. Whitlam – despite the clever and innovative political campaigning – proved disastrous when in office. The modern incarnation of ‘It’s Time’ – Kevin 07 – trod similar patterns of decline once the campaign gloss had worn off.

Campaigning is of course different to governing. ‘A campaign is not a time for much original thought,’ notes former Liberal federal director Andrew Robb. ‘It is a time for tactical manoeuvring and carrying out plans and procedures developed in an earlier, more normal climate.’

Ultimately, however, political professionals are only as good as the parties and the candidates they serve. Mills alludes to this when referring to the advantage of ‘campaign discipline’ that thrives on not only skilled candidates but cohesive parties. As Australian elections have consistently shown –ballot boxes inevitably punish poor governance and bad policy decisions that grow from undisciplined parties and individuals.

Is one party a clear front runner in the modern game of professional politics? According to Mills the international demand for the services of Linton Crosby and Mark Textor ‘confirms the supremacy of the Liberal Party’s campaign professionalism.’ But as his book demonstrates the pendulum has always swayed between the major parties – a dynamic that will only increase as competition and technology are at play.

Sean Jacobs is the co-founder of New Guinea Commerce - a website committed to economic growth, good governance and next generation leadership in the Indo-Pacific.

Labor Lies: How to Overpromise and Underdeliver

by on 29 August, 2014

Scott LynScott Lynn argues that Labor cannot be trusted due to its lies and economic mismanagement and that the Abbott led team has it right at present. 

Federal Labor under Bill Shorten and Tanya Plibersek wants you the Australian people not to know that health funding for public hospitals will increase by 9%, 9% and 9% over the next three years and 6% in the fourth year. Labor blindly and irresponsibly claim, with their horrid core and outlook on display trying to convince us, that $50 billion has been ripped from hospital funding – funding that was never put in – talk about slackness and incompetence. It would be like saying you are going to do the grocery shopping for your roommate, and as they are thinking what a wonderful person you are, you blow it and do nothing, eventually they will mistrust you and you will need to find someplace else to live.

Again, having no real idea of how to deliver things in theory or do so in reality, Labor falsely argues that $30 billion of money that Labor never set aside has been cut. How can something get cut, if it was never set aside in the first place. Labor politicians, supporters and minders must be delusional. How else could they continue on with their fixed false beliefs? In reality schools will surpass previous funding records for education from the Federal Government. $64.5 billion over the next four years, $1.2 billion more than Labor. Labor must be on something strong and no I wouldn’t want any with the side effects that it appears to be having on them. They are out of their minds. Remember Labor ripped $1.2 billion out, but the Liberals have put it back in because Labor couldn’t or wouldn’t.

What about annual funding for schools you might ask? Well, Federal funding to schools will increase by 34% between the periods of 2013-14 to 2017-18. Labor want you to believe their falsehood that these increases are not happening, but you know what, we the people need to tell them to take a long walk off a short pier. And if they say things are being cut from beyond 2018, you tell them they are trying to lead Australians astray, because funding will be channelled through increases through the Consumer Price Index and enrolments at schools.

Labor want to blind side you, so you don’t know that pensions have actually gone up, in March 2014 the base rate of the pension went up by over $14 a fortnight for singles, along with an almost $11 increase for each individual in a couple. Labor will tell you that the Liberals have cut these things, but they have not.

Labor does not want you to know that the world’s biggest carbon tax has been removed and yes Australia had it. The Labor-Green toxic carbon tax had not even a negligible effect on carbon emissions, as it had adverse effects on almost anything that needs gas, water and electricity, costing the average household approximately $550 a year. The Victorian Liberal government has also recently found delivered savings of on average of $100 over the next four years on water bills for households, looking after you and your hip pocket.

Labor’s changes to border protection cost over 1,100 deaths at sea, every single one of these deaths did not need to occur. But what about the financial cost of such an ineffective and horrid bit of legislation that was passed through the parliament under Labor? Labor’s border protection budget went off course by over $11 billion dollars – yes, not $11 million but $11 billion.

Labor’s NBN plan was also ill-conceived especially seeing that it was meant to be completed last year, but no only 3% of Australians had access to it under Labor. They promised an internet revolution and failed to deliver, and instead left us in the dust waiting with nothing happening on a large scale. At least under a Liberal led government most people will have the opportunity to access high speed broadband between 25 to 100 megabits per second by 2016 and 50 to 100 megabytes per second by 2019. This is much better than being left in the dust twiddling our thumbs. Labor was more interested in fibre to the press release.

The number of premises that had been passed in November 2013 was just over 381,000, but by the end of June 2014 over 490,000 premises had been reached. The Liberal led government target to reach by the end of June 2014 was 467,000, so thumbs up to them. Labor promised that over 1.1 million premises would be reached by springtime last year. But there is even more bad news, as only 7% of eligible customers signed up under Labor.

Labor’s ill-conceived home insulation program, otherwise known as the ‘Pink Batts’ disaster is also something they would prefer that we as Australians should forget. But I don’t think it is wise to brush aside that of the financial cost of their ill-conceived and poorly implemented plan that exceeded over $2 billion, caused over 200 house fires, approximately 70,000 repairs and 4 very unfortunate and unnecessary deaths.

Over the period of just six budgets Labor irresponsibly increased spending by over 50% or $137 billion dollars. Even worse, if nothing is done to pull back and re-adjust to fix the budget and move forward, Australia as a country will be headed towards a debt so great it will reach $667 billion in just 10 years. Plus, the interest on the debt that we have to pay this year is $12 billion. $12 billion dollars that could be better spent on health, education, defence, roads and rail.

Now, the Liberal led Abbott government is supporting apprentices, in a way that Labor never did in its wasted six years. Since July 2014, the Government has supported apprentices with a $20,000 loan over four years of training. Labor never did that, as they were more concerned with sending dead people $900 cheques (my beloved but deceased grandad got one), made Australia drop from 10th to 56th in minimising the wastefulness of government spending, while also implementing a Fringe Benefits Tax on cars when Australian car manufacturing and car sales didn’t need any more obstacles put in their way.

Under Labor employer and employee co-operation standards plummeted from 47th to 103rd in the world, pay and productivity dropped from 40th to 113th, while hiring and firing the appropriate people went from 63rd to 133rd in the world. Unions were given an extraordinary and overzealous level of access to worksites. A fine example of this was when unions visited the Pluto LNG project over 200 times in just 3 months, just a tad excessive – NOT! Well Labor did abolish the building and construction watchdog after all, just think about it. What could they be up to, what connections do they have with criminal elements within society do they have connections with? Merely thinking about it is a frightening proposition.

Labor even weakened Custom’s capacity to inspect air and sea cargo, with just 5% being inspected which enables dodgy people to deliver illegal guns, drugs and other items to and from our shores. In 2007 when Labor came to power, approximately 60% of air cargo and sea cargo was inspected. You have to take your hat off to the Howard government for keeping us very safe. But Labor would rather leave you in the dust and blame the problems they caused on the Liberals, talk about irrational behaviour.

Some major projects that the Liberal led government wants to implement in Victoria for starters include the East West Link to cut our travel times driving around the Melbourne Metro Area, the Regional Rail Link and duplicating the Princess Highway. In terms of taking the freeze of petrol excise we need this to happen to help fund major projects like the ones listed above, but some amendments need to be made. Yes, we need infrastructure like the proposed Perth Freight Link to get our goods quicker to us; and yes we need major upgrades to the Bruce Highway in Queensland; but Doncaster in Victoria needs a tram up to Westfield Doncaster or even a train stop nearby, in an effort to provide more travelling options for commuters. It is time to put the Paid Parental Leave proposal on hold until the budget is back in the black – that is a commitment that should be implemented, and a very worthy one that shows a Liberal led government can deliver, especially when Labor cannot.

In 1991, Bob Hawke introduced to parliament a medicare co-payment of $3.50, so just imagine all the things the different cures or relief treatments we could have discovered in mental health, dementia, motor neuron disease and cancer. Therefore, I propose that the Abbott led Federal Liberal Government make amendments to their $7 proposal and instead implement a $3.50 co-payment ($10 billion would be raised for the medical research fund) that would be able to bolster and advance any future treatments that you have. I would exempt those on the pension and a disabled pension from paying $3.50 and would make sure that all school children did not have to pay the fee, those completing year 11 and 12 would be covered too, regardless of their age and place of study. Forget Labor, forget the Greens and certainly forget about Clive Palmer and his cohorts because I don’t think they have really thought about the even greater things that we can achieve in the field of medicine.

In the end we need to consider that Labor can’t deliver the goods most of the time, but the Liberals can, do and will. Though sometimes it takes a while to get rid of Labor’s mess and move forward.

Scott Lynn is a Deakin University student employed in the Aged Care industry. He is expected to graduate later this year. 

Is the Budget fair? Facts and Fallacies

by on 28 August, 2014

John SlaterJohn Slater argues that the debate about whether or not the federal budget is fair is a question of values, not fact. 

Ever since Joe Hockey’s first budget speech four months ago, the measures proposed by the Coalition to reduce the nation’s ballooning deficit have been relentlessly criticised for lacking fairness. According to the Labor Party and the Canberra Press Gallery, this unfairness lies in the fact that the Coalition’s return to surplus would be achieved supposedly at the expense of the poor and vulnerable in society. While these attacks have proven to achieve their political purpose of stoking the emotions of impressionable voters, they are based on an understanding of the budget that lacks perspective.

In reality, the budget is not a series of sound bites but the sum total of proposed Commonwealth spending for the upcoming fiscal year. To have any credibility, criticisms of the budget made on the grounds of fairness need to confront the substance of how the budget as a whole taxes and spends rather than nit-picking at cosmetic changes.

Many of Joe Hockey’s detractors have spent the last few months gleefully quoting the Treasury’s own modelling of how the budget is projected to impact different income brackets. According to these estimates, “lower income” families stand to lose an average $844 from the budget compared to a meagre $517 impost on “high income” households. In isolation, these numbers may well lead a fair minded person to believe the budget unreasonably burdens those in society who have the least.

However, to speak purely in terms of “losses” tells only half the story. It ignores that for high income earners, losses mean paying more tax. That is to say, giving an even greater proportion of their income to Treasury coffers than before. On the other hand, the losses borne by low income earners are in fact a small reduction in existing entitlements and benefits. This means that lower income earners will be receiving less from other taxpayers than they did previously.

For people who think there is a difference between giving up what is yours and receiving what belongs to someone else, this distinction is worth talking about. If we are to honestly confront the question of fairness, we need to do more than make shallow assertions about how the budget changes the status quo in wilful ignorance of the bigger picture. We need to consider who are the real lifters and leaners in the context of the budget overall.

The budget’s ‘debt levy’ pushes Australia’s top marginal income tax rate to 49%; now above the OECD average. In addition to those who give up basically half their income to the government, only the top 40% are net contributors to the Australian welfare state, not receivers. Economist Adam Creighton goes further, claiming that only the top 20% of households give more to the government than they receive when other publically funded services like hospitals and schools are taken into account. As far as benefits go, high income families receive around $310 every year.

By contrast, low income earners can expect to pay a negligible $2 more tax under Hockey’s budget. More relevantly, they would still receive an average $12,604 in transfer payments per year. In substance, the widely condemned $842 ‘cut’ to low-income earners only amounts to a 6% reduction in overall entitlements. For all the talk about ending ‘middle class welfare’, middle income families would still receive $2,223 every year from the Commonwealth treasury after being cut by 13%.

The point is that the Treasury modelling which has been held out as incontrovertible proof of the budget’s unfairness only tells us about how the budget deviates from existing policy settings. However, when examined against the backdrop of the budget as a whole, two things become clear about Hockey’s ‘tough budget’. The first is that these so-called ‘cuts’ do little to change that Australia’s tax and transfer system is highly progressive and one of the most redistributive in the world. In other words, the conventional wisdom of taxing the rich and giving to the poor remains unchallenged. The second is that generalised statistics citing the budgets ‘impact’ removed from the question of who pays and who receives paints a dubious picture of reality.

The same can be said for more specific budget measures also branded as regressive. While the $7 GP co-payment may appear to consume a higher proportion of the poor’s discretionary income than wealth households, it is easy to forget that the real cost of a GP visit is not $7, but around $60. When it comes to funding the other 86% not covered by the co-payment, middle and high income earners contribute far more under the Medicare levy even though they use bulk billing far less, often opting for private healthcare instead. In short, a co-payment does little to diminish that the funding and provision of healthcare in Australia remains extremely generous to those whose needs exceed their means.

The issue of whether the budget is fair is really a question of values, not fact. Joe Hockey’s conception of fair as spelt out in his budget would see those earning over $180 000 giving up basically half their incomes. The majority of families, especially those in lower income brackets would benefit as a result.

The challenge for those who continue to attack Hockey’s budget is to forego political opportunism and make the case that the budget should be balanced by further increasing the tax burden on middle and high income earners to fund further entitlements for those at the lower end of the income spectrum. Unsurprisingly, we are yet to see the Labor Party’s case for ‘fairness’ spelt out in such candid terms.

John Slater is the current President of the University of Queensland Liberal National Club and is in the third year of his Law/Arts degree. John’s main ambition is to lift the profile of classical liberal ideas in Australian political debate. In particular, he is interested in exposing the failings of left wing economic policy, fighting state paternalism and changing the perception of right-of-centre political thought. John has also been involved in grass roots campaigns against curfew laws limiting night time trading hours for pubs and clubs and the former Labor Government’s SSAF tax on students.

The Australian Nanny State: Barbarians at the Gate

by on 27 August, 2014

John SlaterJohn Slater argues that the Nanny State is no way of combating social ills in modern Australia.

Australia is increasingly becoming a country where individuals are not trusted to make decisions for themselves. Indeed, we are fast accepting that it is the role of a ruling class of politicians, commentators and activists to improve society by interfering with the choices made by private individuals. On the surface, these measures may appear well-intended, even egalitarian.  In reality however, this kind of social engineering is not only steeped in state paternalism but almost always fails to achieve its utopian aspirations.

Nothing illustrates this more than the recent howls from the nanny state lobby to introduce earlier lockout times for pubs and clubs and other restrictions on alcohol consumption in response to several tragic but isolated incidents of violence. Leading this crusade in Queensland is facial surgeon and Labor politician Dr Anthony Lynham. At first glance, it might appear reasonable to accord Lynham’s views on this matter some weight considering his years of experience dealing with the aftermath of violent beatings, some of which undoubtedly involved alcohol.

However, upon closer inspection, there is no real reason why Lynham’s aptitude as a surgeon affords him any credibility as a public policy maker. His former occupation involves a high level of specific medical knowledge, precision and dexterity. His current job involves combining evidence with one’s own values to reach a reasoned public policy solution. Looking at the evidence, the pitfalls of attempting to influence the drinking habits of many different types of people who frequent nightspots by simply making it harder for them to purchase alcohol have been well-documented. As have the flow on effects, such as job losses, business closures and the proliferation of drinking in private houses and other unlicensed venues.

On the values side of things, Lynham’s views ignore the desirability of targeting punishment at wrongdoers, instead inconveniencing everyone equally. Despite these inconvenient truths, legal barriers to accessing alcohol at certain times of the day are consistent with the nanny state mentality because they make it harder for individuals to engage in behaviours they think are immoral. The fact that the majority of people who buy a shot after 1am do not go on to commit crimes is ignored because it doesn’t support the role of government as an arbiter of right and wrong.

Of course, nanny-statists will often make the impassioned plea that restricting individual liberty is justifiable if the outcome on balance is for the benefit of everyone. The reality is that this rationale is rarely, if ever, borne out in practice. It has come as a surprise to some that cigarette sales have actually increased over the past two years despite the introduction of former Health Minister Nicola Roxon’s Orwellian plain packaging laws. Moreover, heightened tobacco excises have simply seen smokers favouring cheaper cigarettes and a growing black market. This is consistent with the medical consensus that an addiction to smoking can involve a host of complex physical and psychological factors.

As many smokers will attest, even modern nicotine products and counselling services are often of little assistance to those struggling to quit. Yet those who argue in favour of plain packaging believe a helpful solution to this complex problem is forcing grotesque images of deformed body parts in the faces of smokers as often as possible. In this case, acknowledging that most people are aware that smoking is detrimental to one’s health would be uncomfortable. Far more convenient is the assumption that the populace is either too dumb to understand smoking is bad or simply can’t be trusted to have the choice left in their own hands.

The same policy failures can be found in the aftermath of Kevin Rudd’s “alcopops” tax” on pre-mixed drinks, introduced off the back of a crescendo of hysteria surrounding Australia’s so-called binge drinking epidemic. Not only were teenage and underage drinking rates unaffected following the introduction of the tax, drinkers turned to straight spirits over exorbitantly taxed pre-mix drinks. One wonders whether the anointed in the Labor party ever considered that young people might have the initiative to mix their own drinks instead of wasting their money. The fact is, penalising consumers based on their preferences rarely works in practice.

Although making something more expensive will certainly mean people buy less of it in the short run, the real test is whether this changes behaviour over the long term. While Rudd’s alcopops tax did cause people to buy less Vodka Cruisers, it had scant impact on Australia’s drinking culture at large. Unfortunately, the outright failures of plain packaging and the alcopop tax are unlikely to deter nanny-statists from similar schemes into the future. Instead, they will continue to celebrate the successes of their policies based on their intentions rather than the outcomes they actually achieve. Aside from lobbying for more rules to protect people from their own free will, Nanny Statists are also awfully concerned with making society more moral.

This usually involves adopting whatever strikes social commentators as politically correct and proclaiming this as an objective standard of morality which the rest of us are bound to follow. Earlier this year, popular clothing store “ICE” was hit by a tidal wave of confected outrage for selling a singlet bearing the slogan “property of an Aussie boy.” In an official statement, the label explained that the slogan was intended as a light hearted play on words referring to the trend of clothing labels using the phrase “property of.” In context, this was intended to be read as “girlfriend of an Aussie boy.” Feminist group “destroy the joint” were quick to condemn ICE on twitter for labelling women as ‘property,’ a surprisingly literal interpretation of the obviously light-hearted slogan.

That said, it really isn’t much of a shock that these keyboard activists chose to understand the shirt in a manner allowing them to claim maximum offense. Indeed, given that ICE is a female clothing brand and the garment was designed by an all female team, viewing the shirt’s slogan in this light remains palpably absurd. In this instance, the fact that the moral guardians at destroy the joint had completely misunderstood the shirt did not stop ICE pulling the singlet from its stores. The use of the term ‘Aussie’ alongside an Australian flag was also enough to provoke accusations of racism, even though its design and release was meant to coincide with Australia Day. It is a shameful reflection of the apathy of the silent majority that the use of our country’s name as an adjective has been tainted as a mark of prejudice.

Following a press release by ICE apologising for any offence, actual buyers of the brand took to Facebook to express their disappointment at the removal of what until then had been a popular purchase. As it turned out, the biggest opponents of ICE’s clothing weren’t its customers but a group of people who considered their moral compass to be more finely tuned than the rest of ours. When it comes to the Australian nanny state, the barbarians are not even at the gate – they are inside it. As history has shown us, reversing this erosion of individualism cannot be left to politics. The onus must fall to everyday people to object to this thinly veiled paternalism and to do so loudly.

John Slater is the current President of the University of Queensland Liberal National Club and is in the third year of his Law/Arts degree. John’s main ambition is to lift the profile of classical liberal ideas in Australian political debate. In particular, he is interested in exposing the failings of left wing economic policy, fighting state paternalism and changing the perception of right-of-centre political thought. John has also been involved in grass roots campaigns against curfew laws limiting night time trading hours for pubs and clubs and the former Labor Government’s SSAF tax on students.

The ‘Righting’ Of Australia’s Foreign Policy

by on 20 August, 2014

Jared BainbridgeJared Bainbridge explores the distinctively strong Abbott Brand of Australian Foreign Policy and its implications for the way our allies and trading partners view Australia, and why the left are confused as to its effectiveness.

In recent months we have seen Abbott come to the fore with a firm hand on the foreign policy front. In doing so he has dispelled the caricature created by Labor of Tony Abbott – The International Embarrassment. Not only did the fear mongering of Labor never eventuate, it has been soundly defeated by the substance of Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop which has been on display since the election, particularly in response to the MH17 disaster. The over-arching message from the Government being that ‘Australia is no push-over and is to be respected’. What is getting surprisingly little coverage is how Labor branded Australia as ‘appeasing’ in foreign policy during much of its 6 year term in office and why this was never considered ‘embarrassing’.