Please Don’t Feed The Trolls

by on 3 February, 2016

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Satyajeet Marar is a nutella conneisseur and law/arts student at Macquarie University

Satyajeet Marar explains why feeding the trolls isn’t such a good idea.

So, there is a dude who plans on holding a ‘neomasculinist” gathering at Hyde park. The same dude who has written articles saying that rape on private property should be legalised and that women are meant to follow the orders of men. I won’t mention his name or alias for reasons that will become clear as you read more of this article.

Let’s consider what actually happened here.

Until yesterday when the story broke, you had probably never heard of this person before. You wouldn’t know his face from a bar of soap with hairs stuck to it. He could’ve been just some other blogger writing random articles no one or few people read.

Anyone can go online and write an inflammatory article that would upset a large group of people. It’s quite easy, I often manage to write things that piss off people without even trying. In his case, the formula was simple. Find a highly touchy topic with 99% of the human race on one side of the fence and write a seemingly sincere defense of the morally indefensible other side. Do it in a way that at least attempts to sound like an attempt at a serious argument.

Step #2, sit back and watch the fireworks. Love and admiration are great, but they don’t generate hits. Hate on the other hand, works wonders. How else do you explain how an article more than a year old has gained international attention?

This guy doesn’t seem like an idiot – malicious sexist perhaps. But idiot? nope. He’d be a fool to think that he could make a public announcement about a meeting at a public place given all the heat on him. He insists that he’ll be Sydney in a few days, yet Peter Dutton clarifies that he has made no attempt to apply for a visa. What gives? Something smells strongly of shenanigans.

Because the people feeding this guy’s machine and helping him attract followers aren’t the dudes in fedoras with an ax to grind with women. They are actually the feminists, male allies, newspaper journalists and anyone else who has, with perfectly good intentions (except for some of the journalists), made this dude a target. I’m sorry to say ladies and gents, but you’ve been royally duped and you’ve given an internet troll exactly what he wants – helping him sell more books and website views in the process to jaded, disenchanted and bitter men on the fringe of society. Men who until now, did not know this guy existed and who were predisposed to endorse his misguided, bigoted views assuming they did not already.

Making things even more complicated, are the lines being rather unsubtly toe’d by his legions of detractors. Many have quite literally come out to say that him and his followers should be banned by police force from meeting publicly or privately to socialise or discuss their views in order to protect those to whom these views are offensive i.e. society as a whole. Though the views are offensive and I don’t have much sympathy for these sycophants, this again plays into their narrative of oppressed individuals threatened with a denial of their ‘freedoms’. This not only places an even greater focus on their views, but ironically affords them a degree of legitimacy they would not have gained on their own.

troll

One single article and an announcement about a meeting – a total cost of a few cents, are all it took to give this man international press coverage with even the Immigration minister of our country adding to the mix following demands from (ironically) the same people who want to shut him down. The public outrage machine, though perfectly justified, has given him something private companies pay millions for.

So let these dudes have their little boys club. Treat them as you would the drunken guy yelling obscenities about Zionist conspiracies outside the kebab shop. Once the trolls are no longer being fed, they will return back to their homes – under bridges and in the basements of disappointed parents.

Queen & Country: Elizabeth II’s place in post-colonial Australia

by on 27 January, 2016

Jack Wilkie-Jans writes on the legacy of Queen Elizabeth II

In Australia there is much social political discussion (or a resurgence of) around the topics of Australia becoming a republic and of changing its national flag, as well as the growing movements of Aboriginal sovereignty versus the proposed changes to the Australian constitution to officially include First Peoples of Australia. Such topics seem mostly- if not only- prevalent on or near January 26th.  While such discussions continue to take place and precedence in the mainstream, populist press there also remains a great deal of war and famine around the globe and we are seeing a continuing and growing humanitarian crisis stemming from the Middle East.

Over decades we’ve seen historic paradigm changes in regards to numerous social conventions, such as race relations and most recently positive challenges around the issue of sexuality and marriage equality, taboos which have otherwise stood for centuries. We’ve also been witness to the resistance- some of it savage- such change often meets. The world has also seen in recent years the passing of so many great international leaders and great personalities who have helped shape the 20th and 21st Centuries. Through all of this and through all of the upheavals and positive changes over the past 89 years, 63 years and 11 months, there is one person representing an institution who and which remains a steadfast icon of stability, trust, diplomacy as well as tradition & progressiveness alike: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

 

While several Commonwealth nations no longer have the Queen as their Head of State, she still remains the Head of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth, of course, is perhaps one of the Queen’s most magnificent jewels in her long career. A diplomatic feat unheard of in a world where monarchies are overthrown and republicanism has swept into the populist nationalistic discourse; transitioning the British Crown’s kingdom (upon which the sun never set- a remarkable feat of the Queen’s Great-Great-Grandmother, Queen Victoria) peacefully and sustainably into the Commonwealth would have seemed impossible under any other reigning monarch.

 

Her Majesty’s altruism, insight and unmatched experience in world affairs has ensured the successful maintenance, albeit morphed, of not only the “empire” but more significantly her own House. Like in Australia, calls for a republic and independence have been heard loudly from the United Kingdom. The Queen weathered the storm of both Scottish and Irish secession, made it through the other side in one piece while also being able to not simply survive as the Head of State but also thrive due to her ability to heal and ‘make better’ as opposed to merely ‘making do’, ensuring her subjects gained more out of having her maintain. Arguably the two main benefits of maintaining the Queen as the Head of State ensures a nation’s stability and strategic ally in Great Britain amidst a world of turbulence; the other main benefit is the income generated by tourism to estates and also the general interest level there is in such a withstanding institution. Removing the Queen as the Head of State doesn’t so much gain something as it loses something never attainable again and the fact that places like Australia are reluctant to try out a new structure of governance/rule adds to the confidence in the understandable and manageable role of the Queen. Unlike a President of a republic, Vice Regals or the Queen, while assenting to legislative changes, do not sign executive orders. Unlike presidents, Monarchs and their Vice Regals are bound by conventions and preside above politics. The comfort in this security and unknowing of potential abuses of executive power by possibly elected figure heads is what keeps a minimally drafted republic at bay here in Australia.

New Caledonia: Beautifully expensive

by on 26 January, 2016

pi-nou-anse-vata-beach-mustcaption-rf-noexp-allsites-940x300At the beginning of January, my fiancé and I travelled down to beautiful New Caledonia—a French haven in the Pacific Ocean. While there are similarities with Australia and it reminds me of Queensland in some ways, I observed that New Caledonia’s standards of living are similar to, but markedly lower than our own. Once I arrived back home, I started looking into why and the reason became clear: exorbitant tariffs that raise the price of foreign goods, as well as a government monopoly on telecommunications.

Prices for basic consumer goods, groceries and other essentials, as well as café food, are all about 50% more expensive, if not twice as expensive as our own depending on the good or service in question. This is no coincidence: New Caledonia imposes a range of tariffs on imported food and goods. There is a minimum 5% tariff on the value of all goods, a further “general tariff” on other goods which is usually about 21%, a port and airfreight tax of 1-3%, customs duties of 0% to 20% and a further “locally manufactured products tax” (TCPPL) designed to make imported pasta, yoghurts, chocolate and ice cream unaffordable. There are also consumption taxes levied on imported products and agricultural tax. It is not hard to see how taxes could raise the price of overseas goods by a third or more once compliance costs are added on top. Indeed, the Australian government openly points out that New Caledonia’s “high cost of living [is] partly owing to heavy market protection.”

Luckily, Australia’s tariffs are low compared to the rest of the world and our living standards are correspondingly high. Yet unions, the Greens and to a lesser extent both the ALP and the Liberals have refused to embrace free trade. We saw this for example with the CMFEU’s media campaign against freer trade with China.

New Caledonia’s monopolised telecommunications industry is a sterling example of poor government service provision. Equipping ourselves with a SIM card complete with mobile phone and data usage would have made getting around, contacting relatives overseas and seeing the sights a lot easier. But the island’s Post Office has a legal monopoly over the provision of internet, mobile phone and telecom services and its offices were literally the only places on the island where SIM cards were available. Its opening hours were restricted to office hours, it closed entirely for an hour’s lunch, and closed for the day at 4pm. Moreover, prepaid SIM cards in New Caledonia were remarkably expensive at $81 per card (6195 XPF), which is more than ten times the price of a prepaid SIM card in Australia. International calling cards, which would have reduced charges further, were entirely unavailable in Noumea thanks to the monopoly. The Office seems more interested in ensuring that its employees receive extraordinary benefits than in delivering services to New Caledonians, let alone tourists.

In Australia, by contrast, any tourist can arrive at the airport and buy a basic prepaid SIM card for $20 to $30 with a range of carriers, many of them with airport shops catering to new arrivals. They are sold in a range of shops, milk bars and other stores, meaning that it is possible to buy one and call a relative or friend 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The contrast with New Caledonia’s monopoly provider could not be greater.

In these circumstances it is a wonder that in Australia the ALP and the Liberals have looked at New Caledonia as a something of a model to espouse. Back in 2007, Kevin Rudd established a monopoly on fibre cable internet in this country via the NBN, which has proven a waste of time and money. While the Liberals initially campaigned against the introduction of the NBN, they refused to privatise it while in office, promising instead to deliver fewer services at a lower cost. Promises aside, under both parties the NBN rollout has been accompanied by years of ongoing delays, price controls that ban the NBN from raising prices to meet demand, and bans on competition from private sector high speed fibre cable providers. And as is typical of government projects, the NBN is likely to blow its original whopping $41 billion taxpayer-paid budget under both parties. It is projected to cost $73bn under Labor and between $46bn to $56bn under the Liberals. It is strange that the Australian government is is so committed to preventing Australian from accessing affordable, privately provided high-speed cable internet simply because it cannot abide the very thought that their pet project may suffer for it. At least the NBN’s monopoly is limited to high speed cable internet and did not extend to other telecom providers. Otherwise we would be left as badly off as the New Caledonians.

As for the holiday itself, it was quite enjoyable. My fiancé and I relaxed on the beach for a week, reading literature and generally lazing about like satisfied cats. It was a wonderful experience, but we may go somewhere a little less expensive and a little less quiet in future.

Vladimir Vinokurov is a solicitor and a deputy Victorian State director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. The views expressed here are his own.

Vladimir “Zeev” Vinokurov is a solicitor and a deputy Victorian State director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance. The views expressed here are his own.

Invasion Day race-baiting does nothing to help Indigenous Disadvantage

by on 26 January, 2016

 

It seems that with every passing year, it becomes more and more fashionable to lament Australia Day rather than celebrate it. Indeed, a day founded on the idea of national unity is increasingly being used by race baiters as a platform to preach collective guilt and perseverate over historical grievance.

Few, if any Australians would dispute the historical injustices perpetrated against Australia’s indigenous population. So why should we have a problem with the growing minority that choose to infuse Australia Day with at atmosphere of division and bitterness?

It’s easy to condemn wrongs committed by generations several hundred years in the past based on the virtue and enlightenment of today. This is especially easy when all you’re doing attributing moral blame to people that died hundreds of years ago as opposed to seeking any specific reparations for Indigenous people.

However, what is far more difficult – yet infinitely more consequential – is to talk constructively about what can be done to rectify the disadvantage faced by Indigenous people living in Australia today.

Put differently, how many people do you know who have take to social media on January 26th to hang their head in public shame over living in such a despicably racist country care about Indigenous disadvantage the other 364 days of the year?

It’s worth checking out your local ‘Invasion Day’ event and glancing through the list of attendees. We can’t over generalise; many at these events are Indigenous people and leaders who still feel a keen sense of injustice over the events of the past. But how many are part of the same museli-chewing rent-a-crowd that show up to any opportunity to yell obscenities in public?

Clearly there is a lot of self-satisfaction to be derived from sharing Facebook images shaming your friends who intend to spend the day drinking around the pool rather than wallowing in their own self-hate. But rarely do people talk frankly about what these yearly exercises in national self-loathing are likely to achieve.

Above all, recasting Australia Day as ‘invasion day’ promotes the idea that spending a day celebrating what it is to be Australian is inherently hostile Indigenous people. Quite apart from raising awareness about Indigenous disadvantage, this actually politicises the issue. It signals that to be patriotic is to be unfeeling, even defiant of the wrongs committed against Australia’s first people.

Is this kind of thing likely to create political momentum that sees governments doing more to alleviate Indigenous disadvantage? It might, if the invasion day rent-a-crowd actually named any manner of tangible policy objective save for decolonising the entire continent. But let’s not pretend heaping scorn on Australia’s settlers does anything at all to address Indigenous life expectancy, unemployment or educational achievement. In fact, the Indigenous people afflicted most by these problems won’t be seen anywhere near a protest rally on Australia day. They’ll be out in remote communities, hundreds of kilometres away from the hessian sack-wearing beatniks you’re likely to see shrieking into a megaphone on the 6 o’clock news.

Truth be told, if you’re goal is to divide Australia into victims and oppressors, this is probably a fairly effective way to go about it.

We can navel gaze all we like about how much moral blameworthiness to apportion to the forbears of the Australian colonies for the death and disruption inflicted upon traditional Indigenous life in 1788. But for the motley crew of poseurs whose sole contribution to the plight Indigenous disadvantage is just that, it’s time to stop pretending you’re engaging in some noble act of civil disobedience.

Unless you genuinely want to Indigenous Australia to secede and form it’s own nation – in other words, instate a 21st century Australian apartheid – you aren’t helping reconciliation by choosing January 26th to pontificate about the original sin of Australia’s colonisation; you’re actually hindering it.

It would be unfair to say that this is the intention of Indigenous leaders who make no secret about their mixed emotions towards Australia Day. Still, what kind of tone does it set when someone like respected Indigenous journalist Stan Grant claims racism sits at the heart of the Australian dream? In the now well-known speech, Grant goes on to list some of the injustices faced by today’s Indigenous Australians, among which he mentions the booing of Adam Goodes and Indigenous life expectancy in virtually the same breathe.

Seriously?

Can we really put both these things down to the racism purportedly ingrained in Australia’s national character? On one hand, we have one of the most celebrated AFL players of a generation being booed by opposition fans for on-field bravado. On the other, we have a complex public health issue which all sides of politics have spent decades and billions of dollars trying to fix. If there was some known magic bullet (or dollar figure) that would bring Indigenous health into line with national averages, you’d be hard pressed to find a politician not willing to put their name behind it.

So what good do we achieve turning it into a self-loathing meditation about how innately racist we are?

Are there parts of our history that are challenging and regrettable? Absolutely. Yet if you look across the globe, it’s striking to note how few countries and civilizations haven’t been blighted by conquest at some point in history. Even Great Britain, the greatest colonial power the world has ever seen, endured a period of bloody occupation by the Romans early in its history.

Most countries take at least one day a year to celebrate their nationhood, often with far more fuss and officialdom and than we do to mark ours. Yet far fewer seem to feel a growing need to spend that day sulking in cultural self-flagellation.

Those who pretend that celebrating Australia Day counts is tantamount to re-committing the sins of our forbears like to think they are doing Indigenous Australia a service. But if in the future Australia Day does become a day mired by division, the race-baiters will only have themselves to thank.

John Slater is studying a Bachelor of Law/Arts at the University of Queensland

A Step Backwards For Women’s Liberation

by on 20 January, 2016

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Bianca Talbot explains why our immigration policy should not come at the expense of women’s liberation:

There has been an overwhelming amount of quiet in our mainstream media in the wake of the Cologne attacks in Germany on New Year’s Eve. To add fuel to the fire, news has come out about similar mass attacks elsewhere, in Finland, Austria, Switzerland and Sweden—a country which is hailed for making gender equality one of the cornerstones of its society, yet failed to report similar attacks by recent immigrants at a music festival.

In contrast to what we would expect from civilised Western societies, German authorities and journalists maintained a deathly silence over the issue, with police publicly stating they experienced a ‘largely peaceful’ and ‘relaxed’ night. It was only when hundreds of German women protested outside of the Cologne Cathedral that light was finally shone on the attacks which the German Justice Minister Keiko Maas described as being seemingly ‘coordinated or prepared’. Over 600 German women have since come out with statements concerning assaults on that same night.

This flies squarely in the face of the very women’s liberation movement generations before us fought so hard for. Something is profoundly wrong if women in societies similar to our own are being assaulted en masse, in public. Cologne’s group of 1000 attackers have been identified as being mostly of Middle Eastern and North African appearance, but these details were kept quiet over fears of fuelling anti-foreigner sentiment amidst the current migrant crisis.

The relevant Arabic phrase here is Taharrush gamea, which refers to a type of sexual assault and harassment involving large groups of men against women in public spaces. Indeed, this is what occurred in the Egyptian Tahrir Square revolution in 2011, when groups of young men surrounded women, including the British journalist Natasha Smith, and violently assaulted them.

The World Economic Forum has published a Global Gender Gap Report in 2014 in which all the bottom countries on the list are Muslim-majority nations from North Africa and the Middle East: Yemen, Pakistan, Chad, Syria, Mali and Iran. This should serve as a warning to Australia. These are the countries of which we are obtaining the majority of our asylum seekers from. There is no doubt that a culture of female subjugation will travel with them as well.

With the arrival of refugees from these parts of the world, a dialogue needs to be had regarding how we are to address this issue. In this context, of course, advocating for more assimilation is completely acceptable when it results in further enhancing the dignity of women.

While compassion needs to be displayed towards those that are in need of safety, we should not forget the well-being of the women within our own community.

Unfortunately, however, today’s Western feminists have been for too long concerned with their own victimhood to trouble themselves with the plight of women elsewhere. But while we begin to import those seemingly distant troubles into our own homes, they will no longer have a choice but to address these issues.

Naturally, the type of cultural relativism that is normally embraced by today’s feminism will no longer have a leg to stand on now that its incompatibility with our standard of women’s rights is coming to light. Above all, the current fetishizing of multiculturalism cannot be maintained at the expense of Australian women’s health and safety. Now is the time to end the silence and start discussing how we are to best address the integration of newcomers into our country.

Bianca Talbot is a 4th year Law and Politics student at Murdoch University who is passionate about jurisprudence and constitutional law. She is also the current secretary of WALTA and a proud Mannkal Scholar. 

 

The Left have turned domestic violence into a culture war

by on 16 January, 2016

Tim O’Hare

We ended 2013 with new Opposition Leader Bill Shorten pledging to end domestic violence. Noble goal. Now fresh Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is indicating that he will also be a leader in combating it.

They are not alone. The first-term member for Gellibrand, Tim Watts has made it one of his signature issues, with former Governor-General Quentin Bryce chairing the ‘Not Now: Not Ever’ council and acclaimed journalist Sarah Ferguson presenting the documentary ‘Hitting Home.’

On a surface level this appears to be a positive step, with the issue of domestic violence achieving bipartisan support. Yet the question must be asked,“what outcome can this campaign really achieve?”

Domestic violence is an issue that affects depraved individuals across class, ethnicity, religion or gender. One would be reasonable to say that, no matter how many ad campaigns and airy speeches about it, wiping out domestic violence is as utopian as wiping out theft, rape or murder. These horrible realities will never truly go away, though they may be reduced over time through increased education, mental wellbeing and standard of living, as well as deterrents such as greater penalties for offenders and protection for victims.

All of these would be acceptable methods for our political leaders to advocate and, to their credit, many have. However that hasn’t stopped many from yielding to the temptation of turning domestic violence into a culture war which calls into question what we watch, say, think, feel and value along with our upbringing and how we interact as adults.

Yes there are undoubtedly some cultural factors when it comes to domestic violence, but how culture interrelates with values, mental health, relationships and other variables is complicated, suffice to say that no politician without qualification as a psychology professional can be sure which is the most prevalent.

However anti-domestic violence campaigners continue in the belief that that it is culture that is the problem and that politicians can positively influence culture. Combating the ‘culture’ around domestic violence through national political action is symptomatic of the Left’s inherent faith in government and its scope to solve issues in any sphere. In the words of feminist Carol Hanisch, ‘The personal is political’ or, as Mussolini put it, ‘Everything inside the state, nothing outside the state.’ It is simply politically incorrect in today’s emotive discourse to even argue that domestic violence can be addressed through practical changes in law enforcement and counselling for victims, rather than Federal political posturing.

Yet that hasn’t stopped both sides of politics from weighing in. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said “All disrespect for women does not end up with violence against women, but let’s be clear, all violence against women begins with disrespecting women”. It is worth noting that Malcolm Turnbull is not a qualified health professional or Sociologist and such far-reaching statements to ascribe the basis of all domestic violence to be related to sexism are without academic corroboration.

American Psychiatric Nurse and family counsellor Michael Samsel has said ‘One position is that sexism causes domestic violence. In this view, men are encouraged and taught to abuse women, and think of them as acceptable targets. Since however, only a minority of men (probably under ten percent) act as primary aggressors, it seems necessary to assume an additional factor or factors that are specifically determining.’

The feminist belief that domestic violence comes from a sense of patriarchal domination over the woman is being called into question with research by Pam Elliot and Patrick Letellier on domestic violence amongst same sex couples. A 2014 study by North Western University in Illinois found that, while one quarter of women in heterosexual relationships experience domestic violence, that rate is between 25 and 75% for gay, lesbian and bisexual individuals. This deviation in statistical data is attributed by lead research Dr. Richard Carroll as being due to the stigma around being a sexual minority.

Nevertheless, this hasn’t stopped anti-sexism campaigners from using the issue of domestic violence in your stock-standard sexism debate. Such was the case that The Drum’s John Barron criticised a cricket ad calling for attractive bartenders questioning whether that was appropriate during domestic violence week. Meanwhile, the more extreme, Australian Greens have attacked children’s toys such as barbies and trucks as promoting traditional gender roles which leads to an unsubstantiated link to domestic violence.

In a more extreme case in 2014, we saw feminists take to Twitter to rant against the patriarchy after 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six people, four men and two women, after expressing contempt at women for refusing to go out with him.

It was certainly clear that Elliot Rodger had a pent up hostility to women but so too was it that Mr. Rodger was a deeply disturbed individual with psychotic tendencies, such as the use of violence as a form of revenge and a lack of empathy.

But this level of nuance is beyond the narrative polemicists seek to perpetuate. There are tens of thousands of men in the world with outdated attitudes to women, a minority of them actually commit violence.

However those who argue that there are degrees to sexism and that it doesn’t all follow a slippery slope into violence are routinely criticised for not taking this problem seriously.

Yet with each bit of so called dialogue in our ‘national conversation’ on domestic violence the actual instances of violence are made peripheral to a larger culture war. Proponents would say that they are arguing for combating sexism in any form, which would seem benevolent enough. But the problem is coming to an agreed upon understanding of what constitutes sexism.

In recent times it seems there is a disconnect between the opinion of our political class and the broader public about what is sexism, with cricketer Chris Gayle being fined $10,000 for making an unwanted pass at a journalist.

Greens Deputy Leader Larissa Waters made headlines in 2014 calling for a boycott of barbie dolls saying that gendered toys ‘“Out-dated stereotypes about girls and boys and men and women, perpetuate gender inequality, which feeds into very serious problems such as domestic violence and the gender pay gap.”

Once again, neither of these claims have any grounding in academic literature. No psychologist would attribute the emotionally and demographically complex problem of domestic violence to the toys people played with as children and it has been illegal since The Equal Pay Case, 1969 (Cth) for an employer to pay a woman less for the same amount of work.

Yet that didn’t stop Larissa Waters from making that point and she faced no rebuke from her leader Richard Di Natale or reasonable scrutiny over the veracity of her claims from the media. The more our politicians and media presenters talk about the need to have a ‘conversation’ about sexism and domestic violence the less focused the direction of it seems to be.

And like with all public campaigns, from road safety to obesity, it’s very rare that these campaigns don’t result in more government intervention. Such intervention may be good if it meant heightened police presence and counselling for victims of domestic violence. But we already know that it’s not going to be that limited.

Once you start a ‘national conversation’, from ads in busways to an annual week each year with ABC specials every night then the temptation amongst every stakeholder with an axe to grind is to link their pet issue with domestic violence. From pornography to rap music to the gender pay-gap, issues of grievance are aired and the government is given a free kick to intervene more while tenuously connecting it to domestic violence.

What’s worse is that its so much harder to oppose government intervention tenuously connected to domestic violence, for fear of appearing non-empathetic.

When Assistant Treasurer Kelly O’Dwyer made a legitimate point that Labor’s plan for compulsory work-place leave for victims of domestic violence may result in a reduction in jobs, she was criticised for being heartless by Labor and the left-wing media.

This exposes a sick contradiction in our political discourse. Politicians like Larissa Waters, can conveniently exploit domestic violence to peddle their agenda yet those who question it are the sick ones?

Once Pandora’s Box is opened, there’s very little chance of these government interventions being wound up. Should there be no change for example in rates of domestic violence as a result of barbie dolls being banned, anti-domestic violence crusaders will use this as justification that we are not doing enough and advocate further intervention. Meanwhile, sober-minded politicians will be unwilling to attempt to unwind this increased regulation for fear of being labelled acquiescent to the perpetual problem of domestic violence.

Australia does have a domestic violence problem. But the more our leaders give rise to airy rhetoric advocating large-scale cultural overhaul rather than practical solutions the more the real instances of domestic violence remain unaddressed

The Moral Case for Economic Freedom

by on 15 January, 2016

Kerrod Gream

Kerrod Gream analyses the effects of economic freedom and the positive benefits for those poorest in society.

“The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer” is the catch cry of the left, but this statement is hardly based in reality. With Australia’s income statistics showing that the lowest income households had an increase of 5% between 2009-2010 and 2011-12, with middle income households having an increase of 4% in disposable income.   This in addition to total share of household income between 2007-08 and 2011-12 increased for low and middle income households, and decreased for high income households. This holds true against the argument from the left.

 

 

Changes in Mean Real Equivaliesed Disposable Income

[i]

It’s common to just look at home for the overall quality of life, but of course being a first world nation even our poorest are well off comparatively to underdeveloped nations. It is however a problem of today that we don’t grant those nations the same benefit we had while developing, with calls to remove cheap energy sources such as coal and force them to use inefficient sources such as solar, and to only continue to buy goods from those of us better off. Economic freedom overall is something that should be looked at and the benefits to the poorest not only in first world nations, but in the most impoverish as well. It does have a casual link between economic freedom and the overall wealth the poorest in society hold.

With this being the case it’d be best to look at the relevant cases as to the effects of income when looking at economic freedom. The Fraser Institute does a yearly analysis of economic freedom based on a variety of factors, these being: size of government, legal structure and private property rights, access to sound money, freedom to trade internationally, and regulation of credit, labour and business.  Australia regularly scores well on this metric having scored between 7.9-8/10 between 2005-2010, and scoring 7.88, and 7.87 in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Having been ranked 5th in the world in 2009-10, in 2012 we had dropped to 8th.

But these statistics are best looked at as a global analysis. Nations that are in the top quartile of economic freedom had higher GDP Per Capita; with the top nations having an average per capita GDP of $38,601 in 2013, compared to $6,986 for those nations in the lowest quartile.[ii] While GDP Per Capita does give a good overview we are best to look at the situation for the poorest 10% in each quartile.

In the top quartile of nations the average income of the bottom 10% was $9,881, with the bottom quartile’s bottom 10% of earners having just $1,629 on average in 2013.[iii] This however has improved since 2008, with the bottom 10% in the nations in the highest quartile having an average $8,474 yearly earnings, compared to $910 for those in the bottom quartile of nations with economic freedom. [iv]

Economic Freedom and the Income Earned by the Poorest 10%

[v]

These benefits of higher income levels result in higher life expectancy, with the average life expectancy in the top quartile nations at 80.1, and the lowest quartile sits at 63.1 years.[vi] Those in more economically free nations report a higher life satisfaction, averaging 7.5 out of 10, compared to 4.7 in those in the least free quartiles.[vii]

This is all before addressing income share, this is the share of income between different sets of people. Income share of the poorest 10% is generally pretty consistent across all quartiles of nations based on economic freedom. With those in the highest quartile of economic freedom having the largest share of income at 2.64% this however isn’t reflected in the second highest quartile with the poorest 10% in those nations having the lowest income share. What this effectively shows is that the income share of the poorest isn’t highly affected by different government policies, and redistribution, but rather that it’s fairly consistent across the quartiles of economic freedom. This also shows that the poorest in society have a slightly greater share of the economic pie in economically free nations.  With the best overall result in not redistributing produced wealth, but by increasing the size of the economic pie, as it were.

Economic Freedom and the Income Share of the Poorest 10%

[viii]

Economic Freedom and Economic Growth

[ix]

Looking on this basis the only moral argument to help the poorest in society is not by centralised government control, as that harms economic growth and income levels of the poor. We should continue to strive towards market solutions, rather than centralised solutions, and increase the overall share of wealth not just redistributing the wealth that we have. While the rich may be getting richer, the poor are also getting richer and the best way to help those in the poorest is to encourage economic growth with greater economic freedom, and less government intervention.

 

Kerrod is President of the University of Sydney Economics Society, and also serves as the chairperson of Australia and New Zealand Students for Liberty.

[i] http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/6523.0Main+Features22011-12

[ii] Fraser Institute, “Economic Freedom of the World 2015 Report”

[iii] Ibid

[iv] Fraser Institute, “Economic Freedom of the World 2010 Report”

[v] Fraser Institute, “Economic Freedom of the World 2015 Report” pg 24

[vi] Ibid

[vii] Fraser Institute, “Economic Freedom of the World 2010 Report”

[viii] Fraser Institute, “Economic Freedom of the World 2015 Report” pg 24

[ix] Fraser Institute, “Economic Freedom of the World 2015 Report” pg 23

Where Are The Feminists When You Need Them?

by on 4 January, 2016

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Celeste Arenas – disillusioned feminist

Celeste Arenas wonders why Western feminists are largely silent on the violation of women’s rights worldwide.

Trigger warning: this post may offend feminists who care about trigger warnings and not about basic women’s rights abuses.

The cries of “misogyny, rape culture, patriarchy” are pretty much on full blast whenever and wherever you see a third wave, Western feminist. Normally found within the bounds of university campuses, academia and tumblr, they are generally free to say whatever they like to whoever offends (sorry, triggers) them.

Usually demanding a safe space, the average third wave feminist forgets they have one – the free, democratic country in which they live.

Whilst endlessly campaigning against the media and how it hurts women’s feelings, its time to ask a real question: where is the campaign to end the continual, open and unapologetic oppression of women on a daily basis? There is a constant condemnation of “mansplaining,” but where is the condemnation of countries where misogyny and rape culture are actual issues and the patriarchy has no intention of relinquishing its control?

Saudi Arabia has a toxic, oil based, terrorist fueled relationship with the Western world. While most world leaders don’t have an interest to change this, it is ridiculous beyond belief that the feminist movement has tolerated this relationship with similar complacency.

Swedish foreign minister Margot Wallstrom challenged the dubious relationship between the two nations, calling out on Saudi Arabia for its systematic subjugation of women. The political reaction from both countries should be enough to anger any humanist, let alone those who supposedly champion women’s empowerment. While Sweden continued to reassure its Saudi partners, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation condemned Sweden for messing with its “rich and varied ethical standards.” There is nothing ethical about forced marriages, requiring a male guardian at all times and punishing female victims for rape crimes.

scum1

The End of Feminism – Emily Hill. Spectator, Oct 2015

This was the perfect opportunity for the plethora of tumblr warriors and women’s rights activists to use their voice and influence for #change. Instead, it got a blank response. Where have they been hiding? Are they too busy finding micro aggressions to see the huge, macro aggression staring them right in the face? Too busy critiquing consumer culture to remember the woman prohibited from entering a shop by herself?

Maybe something more sinister at work and the silence is not merely a result of distraction. Many social justice warriors have caught the morally bankrupt, cringe-worthy disease of cultural relativism. This is the infliction of barbaric rituals on another human being, usually to instill fear and hierarchy, justified in the name of social or religious values. Faisal Saeed Almutar put it best when he said “Respecting human rights is more important than protecting cultural rights .. Humans have rights, culture and beliefs don’t.” There should be no tolerance for the blatant misogyny across Saudi Arabia and many other Middle Eastern countries. It should not be excused for political reasons, and especially not for “cultural ones.”

Despite their current shortcomings, 21st century feminists inherited a legacy from liberal, 20th century feminists who genuinely sought to establish a voice for women in the political process. Now that women in the Western world have that voice,  it’s time to use it for the right reasons and under the right circumstances, to liberate the women who are continually and systematically oppressed.

Celeste Arenas is a 4th year Arts student at the University of Sydney. She is the Communications Director for the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance and a Campus Coordinator for the Institute of Public Affairs. She also serves on the Exec Board of Australia & NZ Students for Liberty.

The Issue With A Local Government Rate Cap

by on 28 December, 2015

A local government rate cap is not the solution, argues Cr Chris Cornish:

It was suggested in a previous Menzies House article, ‘My issue with Local Government’  that  a legislative cap on local government rate increases to that of CPI is a good idea. But it isn’t.

Whilst it’s not a new idea, NSW have had a peg since 1977, it’s still a bad idea. And that’s despite Victoria recently announcing a CPI based rate cap will apply from 2016/17 and Western Australia also considering a rate cap.

The solution to controlling rate increases is to target the expenditure side of local government and not the income side. This is because the income side can easily be substituted with different funding methods, none of which will lead to a more financially responsible or sustainable local government sector. Quite the opposite in fact.

These include:

  1. Transfer funds from reserves. Reserves are funds set aside to fund future projects. It is responsible to have reserves, and in fact contribute to reserves on an annual basis, so that any planned future project will have the required funds available. Transferring dollars from reserves is a practice which is currently employed if a local government doesn’t want to increase rates to a politically unpalatable level. I don’t support this practice as it is raiding your long term savings to cover operational costs.
  2. 2. Use debt. Follow the lead of the State and Federal governments and rack up the credit card. Borrow funds so the current electors don’t have to bear the financial burden, and so that any rates cap can be met. Instead just leave the mess to a future generation.
  3. Sell assets. Again, follow the lead of State and Federal governments and sell long term assets to balance the annual budget. If it is a big asset sale then surplus proceeds can go into reserves for a repeat of point 1.
  4. Postpone necessary spending.  This is an insidious strategy because ongoing and regular asset management is of critical importance for responsible local governments. Whilst it would be very easy to delay, say, $1 million in asset maintenance, the impact can be costly and service levels will probably drop. For example, if you delay re-surfacing a road for an extra few years, you run the risk of the road failing and having to totally reconstruct it at a cost four times more.

The other problem with the rate cap proposal is that CPI is a poor peg to use when setting council rates. “CPI is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by households for a fixed basket of goods and services” (ABS). The fixed basket of goods bears little resemblance to the costs incurred by local governments; so why use it as a benchmark?

Media misleading on corporate tax

by on 27 December, 2015

Over the course of the last several weeks we have seen a fresh wave of outrage from those who would see businesses pay more tax, citing the ATO release of corporate tax figures as evidence. Unfortunately, the ABC and other media have been misleading with their reporting of these figures, and have not represented the corporate tax payments in a meaningful way.

QANTAS and Virgin have been singled out by the media as large corporations who have paid no tax. In the year 2013-2014, QANTAS’s annual report1 lists their revenue and other income as $15.35bn. Their total income is listed in the ABC transparency report2 as $14.9bn. These are large figures, but do not tell the whole story as to the taxation situation at QANTAS- in 2013-2014 they recorded expenses totalling $19.12bn, meaning a statutory loss before tax of $3.77bn. Similarly, Virgin Australia’s annual report3 for the same year listed a revenue of $4.3bn, yet paid no tax. The reason, not displayed in other media reporting, was that they had a statutory net loss of $355 million.

In Australia, corporate tax is paid out of net income- that is, revenue minus expenditures. Even the largest companies may have a small taxable income, if they are operating with narrow profit margins or are making a loss. The breakdown of different incomes and expenses, and how they relate to tax paid, is shown in the figure below:

This is the reason that the ABC has been so misleading- by providing a comparison between the taxes paid to a financial figure irrelevant to tax owed- the operating revenue. This is shown in the misleading figure4 below:

This graph is technically true, but it omits that the ‘income’ is not the value used to determine corporate tax owed. As with QANTAS and Virgin, no companies with zero taxable income will pay income tax, a key point not mentioned in the ABC graph. A more relevant way to look at the data is to find the tax paid by businesses as a percentage of taxable income. By doing this, we remove businesses which did not make a profit, and so were ineligible to pay corporate tax. This result is shown below, using data taken from the ABC source on tax transparency:

This paints a very different story, with 67% of businesses with a positive taxable income paying over 25% corporate tax (the statutory rate is 30%). Even considering businesses that made a loss, or otherwise had no taxable income, 46.5% of the total paid over 25%, despite over a third being ineligible to do so.

The frequent claims that the biggest companies and mining giants pay little tax couldn’t be furthest from the truth- the 20 companies with the greatest turnovers all paid tax, with an average 24.8% tax paid out of their taxable income. These 20 businesses and their respective tax rates are displayed below.

 

This is not to say that corporate tax avoidance does not exist, but it is not the magical pudding that the left propose we tap into to make up for the government spending problems. There are legitimate ways through which businesses may reduce their tax payable on their taxable income. The ABC and Triple J discussed some of these, including:

  • Prior year losses (a company can deduct losses from a previous financial year from its taxable income in the current financial year)5
  • Research and development (money spent on R&D earns tax credits)
  • Franking credits (a company can offset its tax liability against the dividends it pays to shareholders)
  • Companies claim depreciation on asset values and some claim research and development tax concessions4
  • Some multinationals have already paid tax on income made overseas and do not have to pay tax on that income again here

“”

The Triple J report identifies profit shifting overseas as a potential area of tax evasion, and cites Apple moving billions in profit to low taxing Ireland over previous years (Apple paid 29.96% tax on their taxable income, but only had a profit of $246m out of $6.1bn). The claim is often made that corporations such as Apple, Microsoft and Google all maintain headquarters in Singapore (statutory corporate tax rate of 17%) solely as a shell- allowing them to profit shift. The latter is true, and companies do gravitate towards low taxing nations- but the headquarters are not shells- they are real establishments that operate in low tax regions. Apple has recently made the move to Singapore, where their Asia-Pacific headquarters is now located6. There is no legal reason that this is not allowable- tax is paid where economic activity is conducted, and so the income may quite legitimately be transferred to the location of the headquarters.

With a statutory tax rate well above the OECD average of 25.3%7, there is a strong incentive for businesses to take their profits overseas to more hospitable taxation climates. If we want to deal with the issues of profit shifting and legitimate tax avoidance, as opposed to the misleading outrage fuelled by the misinterpretation of the ATO data, the first issue to address is this disparity between our corporate tax rate and the rest of the OECD. To remain competitive and to encourage investment in Australia, we should be seeking not to raise the corporate tax, an act which would only deter investment and negatively impact the worker- particularly low skilled labour8- but instead lower it. OECD research has shown that a 1% increase in corporate tax results in a 3.7% decrease in foreign investment, undermining the case for an increased corporate tax rate to generate more revenue9.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1]

http://qantas2015-annualreport.reportonline.com.au/financial-report/consolidated-income-statement

[2]

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-17/tax-transparency-report/7036708

 

[3]

http://www.virginaustralia.com/cs/groups/internetcontent/@wc/documents/webcontent/~edisp/annual-report-2014.pdf

 

[4]

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-17/leigh-says-liberals-never-wanted-public-to-see-tax-data/7037958

 

[5]

http://www.abc.net.au/triplej/programs/hack/a-third-of-top-australian-companies-pay-no-tax-ato-figures-show/7038232

 

[6]

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-12-17/almost-600-companies-did-not-pay-tax-in-2013-14/7036324

 

[7]

http://www.ipa.org.au/sectors/economics-deregulation/news/3346/why-multinationals-are-not-avoiding-australian-tax/pg/4

 

[8]

http://www.sbs.ox.ac.uk/sites/default/files/Business_Taxation/Docs/WP1216.pdf

 

[9]

http://www.budget.gov.ie/Budgets/2015/Documents/Literature_Review_Economic_Effects_Corporation.pdf