Kevin Rudd: A Profile in Arrogance and Cynicism

Kevin Rudd should not be applauded for his handling of the GFC, writes Milton Von Smith.

Last Saturday
The Australian newspaper announced its decision to bestow the “Australian of
the Year” award upon Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, for “showing courage in the
face of fire during the global financial crisis and for displaying astute
leadership when Australia needed it most.”

Has the Oz taken leave of its senses? 

Let’s get real: Mr Rudd is no profile in courage. 

There is nothing “courageous” about Rudd’s central response to the crisis,
which has been to waste billions of taxpayer dollars on cash handouts, school
halls, the National Broadband Network, and other examples of fiscal
recklessness that are simply too numerous to mention. 

There is nothing “courageous” about Mr Rudd’s unwillingness to cut a single
income tax rate or threshold when designing his fiscal stimulus packages, even
though there is a vast amount of economic evidence which supports the
growth-enhancing effects of permanent tax cuts. 

And there is nothing “courageous” about announcing plans to increase income taxes
at the very height of an economic crisis. 

That’s right: in direct response to the GFC, one of Mr Rudd’s first policy
decisions was to increase income taxes. 

To see why, we need to go back in history.  On 14 October 2008 Mr Rudd and
Mr Swan announced the government’s $10.4 billion “Economic Security Strategy”,
most of which consisted of “courageous” handouts to pensioners and low income
earners. 

Then, on 5 November 2008 – less than two months after the collapse of Lehman
Brothers in the US, the Rudd government released its 2008-09 Mid Year Economic
and Fiscal Outlook (“MYEFO”).  Page 52 stated that:

“In the 2008-09 Budget, the Government made a provision for its aspirational
tax goals in 2011-12.  The Government said that achieving its aspirational
tax goals ‘will depend on economic conditions and the need to maintain fiscal
responsibility’. Given the dramatic deterioration in the global economic
outlook and associated increased uncertainty, the provision will no longer be
maintained.  The Government will reconsider the policy parameters
following an improvement in overall economic conditions.”

Got it?  Rudd cancelled these “aspirational” tax cuts – that is, he
increased taxes relative to the status quo ante -  because of the “need to
maintain fiscal responsibility.” 

Fine.  But then, less than three months later on 3 February 2009, Rudd
announced his massively wasteful $42 billion “Nation Building and Jobs
Plan”.  And just for good measure, he also announced plans to deliberately
plunge the Budget into the red and deliver the largest deficit in our nation’s
history. 

Thanks to Rudd, the Budget is in such poor condition that we will probably not
see another surplus until 2015-16. 

In other words, Mr Rudd will likely never deliver a budget surplus. 

So whatever happened to the “need to maintain fiscal responsibility”?  The
answer is that this phrase was simply another political fabrication, cynically
designed to get those bothersome future tax cuts out of the way and provide Mr
Rudd with more revenue for the wasteful spending increases he already had in
the pipeline but had not yet announced. 

Don’t believe me?  Remember: MYEFO promised to “reconsider the policy
parameters following an improvement in overall economic conditions.”

Well, economic conditions have now improved.  So will the aspirational tax
cuts be reinstated? 

No, of course they won’t.  In fact, we now know that Mr Rudd plans to
increase taxes even further to fund his fiscal profligacy. 

Just last week, Treasury Secretary Ken Henry said that “it would be prudent to
plan on the basis that the tax system will, over time, have to generate
revenues to meet substantially larger fiscal costs.” 

That’s not-so-well-disguised code for higher taxes. 

Let’s face it: the reality is that whenever Rudd mentions the phrases “economic
conservative” or “fiscal responsibility”, there is a very good chance that he
is about to do the exact opposite.

The “need to maintain fiscal responsibility” was never the real reason for
cancelling the tax cuts.  No, Rudd cancelled the tax cuts because he
believes that he knows best how to spend the hard earned incomes of Australian
taxpayers.  And that is that. 

In reality, Rudd’s policy response to the GFC has been driven by policy
arrogance, financial recklessness, and political cynicism – not
“courage”. 

If The Australian sees fit to give him an award for those qualities, then it is
of course free to do so. 

But please: don’t treat voters like children by trying to convince us that Mr
Rudd is “courageous” because he is good at increasing taxes, spending other
people’s money and leaving the bill for future generations. 


Milton Von Smith is a Canberra writer.

A good education doesn’t come from lots of money

Sinclair-davidson Ranking schools doesn't solve our education issues, writes Professor Sinclair Davidson.

At the expense of being somewhat controversial I want to make the argument that good education does not depend on lots of money, nor does it depend on lots of toys, nor does it depend on Canberra.  At the last election Kevin Rudd spoke of the need for an education revolution.  By this he meant lots of computers in schools.  At the time Alex Robson and I argued that the ALP plan was under-funded.  This policy hasn’t been a glorious success. 

Meanwhile the left continue to complain about the amount of funding that goes to private schools.  The Australian Education Union has long run a campaign arguing that private schools get more funding than do public schools.  In mid-January they released a report by Sydney University academic Jim McMorrow repeating these allegations.  The Australian reported this story on its front page.  Yet as other media outlets reported, this was a very misleading analysis; the Federal government does not provide the bulk of school funding in Australia, the State and Territory governments fund schools.  The share of funding to public schools from State and Federal sources is greater than the share of public school pupils.  If anything public schools are over-funded.

The Federal government is in the process of establishing some sort of league table system for schools.  Hot on the heels of the FuelWatch and GroceryWatch debacles the government will soon unveil SchoolWatch; actually called MySchool.  This has already been the source of some excitement with teachers threatening to strike and the government threatening to dock pay and so on.  It is a bit of a conflict of interest when the Minister in charge of MySchool is also in charge of Industrial Relations. 

This scheme to rank schools is a waste of time and detracts attention from the real issues.  What value is there in having parents know that the school they send their children to is in the top 50 percent or bottom 30 percent of schools, or whatever?  Without choice and opportunity to improve that situation this information will be demoralising for parents who do care, and irrelevant to parents who don’t care, about their children’s education.  Lets be blunt; there are such parents around.

Most parents probably don’t care too much about school rankings; they care about how their own children are doing at school.  School reports are becoming more and more opaque.  In Victoria, where I live, my kids’ reports provide graphics and symbols; apparently a ‘C’ is above expectation.  It’s not clear whose expectations form the benchmark but apparently comparing students to their classmates is not allowed.  That promotes competition and rivalry or something. 

Of course this doesn’t mean that all schools are equally good; clearly they are not.  If we think of a probability distribution some schools will be very good and most will be clustered around the average.  From a public policy perspective we only have to worry about those schools that are significantly below average.  We don’t need Canberra to tell us who they are; the local school authorities will know who they are and parents are likely to know about it too.  Policy should be aimed at fixing these problem schools.  

The usual Canberra tactic of threatening to cut funding is simply not credible.  Does anyone seriously believe that the students of poorly performing schools should be punished because of the failures of education bureaucrats?  Exactly; so while providing information to parents isn’t a bad thing it isn’t what parents are really interested in and it does little to promote improvements in education in those areas where it is needed.  If Canberra is going to get involved in schools it should enhance parental choice and opportunity for parents to improve things at the ground level.

Sinclair Davidson is a Professor of Institutional Economics at RMIT and blogs at Catallaxy Files http://catallaxyfiles.com/

The President’s Wasting Addiction to Words

David_archer David Archer asks whether the speech delivering prowess once considered Barack Obama’s forte has been ruined forever by a failure to match quality with quantity.

It may seem paradoxical to say of a President who built his early appeal and renown on speech giving, but the decline of Obama’s executive effectiveness may be due in significant part to the phenomenon of him speaking publicly too often.

After the bumbling comedy of the George W. Bush years with their new coinages and the fabled mangled nuggets known as Bush-isms, Obama seemed to offer a fresh and articulate contrast. Unlike Bush, Obama’s oratory invited no-one to ‘misunderestimate’ his abilities. In the campaign he was never adequately challenged by an aged John McCain either in formal speeches or in the debates.

Signs for concern, however, were apparent from the beginning. Early scepticism surrounding Obama’s extraordinary reliance on the teleprompter was well founded. Indeed, he was only outdone in teleprompter delinquency during the St Patrick’s Day visit of the Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, who accidentally delivered his own speech from the screen Obama had just finished using. The Taoiseach began: ‘We begin by welcoming today a strong friend of the United States’ and continued for a full 20 seconds before declaring: ‘That’s your speech!’ and gestured at the teleprompter asking indignantly: ‘Who said these things are idiot-proof?’ Obama’s addiction to scripted guidance led conservative commentators such as Mark Steyn to swiftly dub him ‘The Teleprompter Kid’ as well as ‘Hopey Hopey, Changey, Changey’ which mocked the infantile vagueness of his oratory.

Speech making along vaguely hopeful lines was destined to try the patience of the listener. English language pedants have long deplored the use of ‘hopefully’ far more than other whole sentence qualifying adverbs such as ‘clearly’ or ‘undoubtedly’. In part the purist’s complaint is that ‘hopefully’ is a new usage, but the main cynicism underlying the quibble is due to the fact that ‘hopefully’ in a sentence usually carries along with it an air of shrugging expected failure. This sense of the inevitability of failure is also likely to build cumulatively when ‘hope and change’ is endlessly deployed as a mantra from the soapbox, not least when actual quantifiable failure has emerged as the administration goes on.



Rhetoric built around such nebulous notions as hope and change was always liable to run into roadblocks in reality. Obama’s utterances have been handicapped by the material emanating from his speech writing and policy making offices. To state baldly that the so-called ‘stimulus’ measures would prevent unemployment from rising above 8% was an exceptionally naïve hostage to fortune, which will continue to haunt the President while unemployment remains officially above 10%  with the real rate five or six points higher. Likewise, Obama’s pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay detention centre by January this year is another missed target of which he should be reminded. Obama has run into many of the same problems that Bush encountered in trying to move on the detainees. The current policy of returning terrorists to Saudi Arabia to be ‘rehabilitated’ in one of the most corrupt kingdoms on earth does not inspire confidence.

The Chinese have a saying that a great fortune depends on luck, a small one on diligence. Obama was, of course, lucky from the outset in his campaign. Relying on liberal amounts of stardust in lieu of experience he was able to eventually eclipse the relentlessly ambitious Hillary, and then overcome a poor Republican ticket with a campaign whose mishandling of its response to the financial crisis presented a perfect storm. Obama was also fortunate that candidate McCain chose to take the high road and refused to publicly scrutinise his deep links to Pastor Jeremiah Wright and his crazy church Marxist rabble-rousing shrouded in the sheep’s clothing of black liberation theology. After the liberal luck, the absence of diligence is now diminishing Obama’s small fortune of political capital. As the economic responses deployed by the administration have failed to reach their goals for economic recovery the rhetoric of ‘hope’ continues to grate on an electorate which is experiencing novel and deepening levels of deprivation.

Comparing Obama to another slippery demagogue of recent memory is instructive. Obama and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair share many vocal traits: a grinning charm, evasive logic, tendency towards the Messianic, and a sense of aloof arrogance among them. The arrogance likely comes from being surrounded by fawning sycophants prostrating themselves before power at formative stages of their careers. It was the current British shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague who observed early on that there would be four stages to Blair’s New Labour: first there was fascination, then there would be admiration, next would come disillusion, and finally contempt. According to the opinion polls the prophesied contempt will be registered heavily in the coming UK election, in which a Conservative victory and the scathing rejection of the Blair/Brown years that would represent is an odds on favourite. It may be that Obama’s standing, in the heightened pace of the US presidency, is already on a similar downward trajectory. The road from fascination to contempt need not be long.

For many of the public, fascination with Obama arrived with his 2004 address to the Democratic conference, a speech which catapulted him into the political stratosphere. At the time the speech, set in juxtaposition with the nominee’s speech, made the young US Senate candidate a rising star and also revealed the candidate Kerry as a slow and boring old Boston Brahmin dullard by contrast. It may, in fact, have helped Bush win re-election rather than boost Kerry. Bush’s own nomination acceptance speech was wisely preceded at the Republican convention by then Governor George Pataki, one of the least inspiring speakers known to man, and someone liable to make even Bush seem like Pericles reincarnated. Obama’s 2004 speech, although undoubtedly captivating, was riddled with as many rhetorical sleights, false choices, statistical chicanery, and emotional appeals as a typical episode of The West Wing. It was, indeed, a harbinger of what was to come.

The speech writing team behind Obama was never better than average. Of what was good in his addresses, the man himself delivered much of the substance. This was a welcome departure from the committee composition of modern politics that serves to obscure a candidate’s native abilities. Some might even describe Obama’s self-composition as Lincolnesque. His young speechwriter Jon Favreau was under worked and hopelessly over hyped.

However, since the inauguration the speechwriting team have been as slaves hunched over hot laptops, toiling to meet the insatiable demand for output. Both Obama’s supply of substance and his time to compose have long run out. He has given more speeches in his first year than any other president, but quality has been dwarfed by quantity. From George Washington to Andrew Jackson presidents used to give, on average, three public speeches a year. Those blessed days are long gone. By one count, in his first year Obama gave 411 speeches, 42 news conferences, and 158 interviews. These days we are inundated with lines that are at best ingenuous, and at worst painfully awkward. Absurd moments, such as the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize have been met by absurd lines, such as when Obama solemnly intoned ‘I do not bring with me a definitive answer to the problems of war’. Had this been a stump speech with a call and response element, it would have been met in schoolboy parlance not with ‘Yes We Can’ but with ‘No S**t, Sherlock.’

There has been a credibility gulf between the destiny-laden grandstanding of Obama’s foreign tours and his effectiveness as an advocate for his country. Town hall meetings in Strasbourg and Shanghai, and big speeches in Berlin and Cairo succeeded in impressing large audiences of people who cannot vote for him, and, in the latter case, a population which is often actively hostile to American interests. Obama’s two pitches in Copenhagen, his boondoggle trip to win the Olympics for Chicago, and his effort to obtain a meaningful climate change agreement both fell flat. His attempts to steer his own party towards agreement on health care reform have seen bulky bills passed in House and Senate with every kind of special interest bought off. He seems better at issuing lofty prophet-like proclamations than successfully engaging in the prosaic business of negotiation. Even Nicolas Sarkozy, who now seems practically an elder statesman by comparison, has described Obama as ‘weak’ and ‘not always up to standard on decision making and efficiency.’

Far too often, President Obama has clumsily attempted to deploy charm as a weapon.  As George Will has observed trenchantly, charm when deployed too liberally is liable to become a wasting asset. This is particularly true when much of the charm seems forced and punctuated by off-the-cuff moments when the speaker very badly misjudges the mood.

Two mishandled mood moments will suffice for illustration. Watching Obama appear after the news of the Fort Hood massacre broke television viewers were perplexed to see him beginning his comments, which happened to be in front of an American Indian delegation, with a grinning and jovial ‘shout out’ to ‘Dr Joe Medicine Crow’. Only after a couple of highly awkward minutes of presidential cheerfulness in which he congratulated the American Indians on a successful conference, did he turn to the matter at hand, namely that 13 US servicemen had just been shockingly murdered on their own base, with dozens more seriously injured. This sombre news was delivered briefly and with a disorienting air of aloofness. The cool detachment which once seemed an asset was suddenly a liability. When Bill Clinton used to say that he could ‘feel your pain’ you knew for sure he was lying but at least the old dog put up a performance.

The other ill-judged moment to mention is when Obama, without the benefit of the facts, announced to the press that the officer from the Cambridge, Massachusetts police department who arrested his friend, an eminent academic, had ‘acted stupidly.’ The effect of this press conference reply, which led to the farcical White House ‘beer summit,’ may have been to help bring about the crucial Democratic loss of the senate seat formerly occupied by Ted Kennedy.

Throughout it all, from the campaign’s beginnings through the presidency’s opening season, Obama’s magnificent voice has helped to lift a number of mediocre scripts. His deep and booming cadences with their ‘heard-it-on-the-mountaintop’ resonance have lent banal prose the air of the numinous. Kool-Aid drinking rally attendees were caused to feel that they themselves, indeed, were ‘the change they had been waiting for.’

For some, the crowd-working pulpit-fervour of Obama has remained a cause for admiration rather than disillusion. But a great voice can only take you so far with poor writing. Consider, for example, the later movies of Elvis Presley. The cognitive dissonance that underlies much thinking on the left has rendered clear communication impossible. Money squandering stimulus programmes which resemble the most wasteful congressional earmarks and counter productive initiatives such as ‘Cash for Clunkers’ have been announced and discussed with a stony faced seriousness which evokes bathos and lends them to ridicule. The discussion of serious matters of life and death, such as military policy in Afghanistan, has been marked by dithering and obfuscation. Many observers are now left wondering if the dazzling zenith of Obama’s meteoric rise has already come and gone.

During his address to the joint session of Congress in 2009, Obama was heckled by a partisan representative accusing him of lying. One year later, in the State of the Union address it was a Justice of the Supreme Court, no less, who mouthed ‘not true’ after Obama made an attack on the court’s Citizens United ruling that betrayed a worrying disregard for the separation of powers even as he feinted to acknowledge it. The speech was his longest yet as president, clocking in at 70 minutes, yet sceptical commentators have characterised it as a series of bullet points rather than a demonstration of independent thought. Little in the speech did much to dispel fears that we may never see a balanced federal budget again in our lifetimes. After the Philadelphia campaign speech which Obama gave on race, many expect him to come up big in times of polling difficulties. On the evidence of the State of the Union that capacity may be exhausted.

Obama has been trailed by the whiff of absurdity for a long time now. Remember that this was the man who, upon surging to victory in the race for the Democratic nomination, announced in St Paul like some delusional and demented parody of King Canute that ‘this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and the planet began to heal’. He needs the tide to roll back a long way, because too often in his first year he has seemed as though he would be out of his depth in a shallow puddle. Conservative commentators who view Scott Brown’s election to the US Senate from Massachusetts as evidence that the high water mark of the Democratic ascendancy has been passed have been quick to attribute this to Obama failing to rein in his far left wing. They should also consider the effect of his too frequent speech making in helping to shatter the image of an eloquent mind.

It was Shakespeare who wrote “True hope is swift, and flies with swallow’s wings; Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings.” False hope is an altogether different creature.


David Archer is a freelance writer, a risk analyst for companies looking to invest in emerging markets, and a public affairs consultant. He has worked in the FTSE 100, and as a manager and editor at two major Washington think tanks. He currently divides his working life between Washington and London, and ghost writes for an MEP.

Young Liberal Convention – LIVE BLOG

4:30pm – Close

4:28pm – The Young Libs support removing gender as a criterion for selection to specialised categories of military service.

4:07pm – Good debate going on about women serving on the front line in our defence forces…

3:47pm – A motion was just passed calling "on the Commonwealth Government to officially recognise, and develop formal diplomatic links with, the independent democracy of Taiwan". Do you think this might impact relations with China or should Australia stand up for, and recognise, Taiwan? Comment below.

3:40pm – The Young Libs also oppose Labor's proposed ban on alcohol advertising in sport. A good thing, from where MH is sitting.

3:36pm – That motion was passed

3:34pm – Young Liberals are discussing a motion from Queensland that the practice of acknowledging the 'traditional owners' of the land on which official ceremonies are held should be abolished.

3:20pm – The reason that the ALP wants a Bill of Rights is to codify their beliefs in law, argues John-Paul Langbroek MP, Leader of the Queensland LNP

3:04pm – The Young Libs are currently discussing the viability electronic voting, with great points coming from both sides of the debate.

2:54pm – "The best way to stop boat people arriving on our shores, is to help establish stable democracies in our neighbouring countries…" – James McGrath. MH thinks he's hit the nail on the head. What do you think? Comment below.

2:37pm – James McGrath (Deputy Federal Director of the Liberal Party of Australia) spoke of his time recently in Sri Lanka campaigning where 4 murders, 20 attempted murders and countless incidences of violence occurred against the opposition party. Australia sure is a lucky country…

2:23pm – Senator Ryan concluded his speech by arguing that the Liberals should not allow the government to unnecessarily increase revenue under the guise of cleverly-named schemes, but instead should call them what they are: new taxes.

2:12pm – "The language of the market as been adopted into the armoury of the left" – Senator Scott Ryan on how the left have used language to try and justify poor economic policies

1:58pm – The Young Liberals officially do not support compulsory internet filtering. MH thinks this is a good thing!

1:49pm – Menzies House just sat through a rendition of God Save the Queen by the Young Liberals before they passed a motion supporting a four day weekend to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee in 2012. What do you think about this? Comment below.

1:41pm – Is it any surprise that the previous motion was passed unanimously?

1:37pm – Federal Young Liberal President Rachel Fry is moving a motion to congratulate Tony Abbott on his election as Leader of the Opposition.

12:41pm – In case you're wondering…they're at lunch, so not a whole lot to report until they kick off again soon!

11:53am – An even longer standing ovation at the end of Tony's excellent speech…

11:52am – "The Coalition can win the next election…it's been 80 years since Australia had a one term government…however that means we might be due for an upset" – Tony Abbott (followed by loud applause)

11:49am – "On Tuesday, I will launch our new policy on climate change that will achieve the same emissions reductions as the government, or more, without creating a big new tax…" – Tony Abbott

11:45am – Tony Abbott says that over the past two months, the Coalition has made the transition from an Opposition in exile to a real alternative government. MH couldn't agree more, Tony.

11:42am – "It could be concluded that Mr Rudd is, in fact, using the Prime Ministership to court the top job at the United Nations…" – Tony Abbott

11:40am – "Mr Rudd has increased government spending from 24 to 28% of GDP, showing that it's easier for governments to spend money, than make a difference…" – Tony Abbott

11:32am – "Even the Prime Minister himself is worrying that his government is all talk and no action…" – Tony Abbott

11:26am – Tony Abbott just entered the room to rapturous applause and a very long standing ovation

11:16am – The media is stirring, awaiting Tony Abbott's arrival…

10:53am – Advice from Alistair Coe to budding politicians – be careful about posting pictures on Facebook!!

10:47am – Alistair Coe MLA (ACT) is sharing his experience of political correctness interfering with a proper education in schools

10:40am – Julian Leeser during a Q&A session said that a long term economic benefit of building a nuclear reactor is to develop skills today, ready for a potential nuclear energy industry in Australia in the future when it becomes economically viable.

10:33am – "Australians need to have a serious and informed discussion about nuclear power" – Julian Leeser

10:25am – Julian Leeser is talking about changing attitudes in society and politics regarding nuclear energy, and how people are warming to it. Except the ALP…

10:13am – Julian Leeser, Executive Director of the Menzies Research Centre is discussing how the Menzies Research Centre came to be and how similar overseas organisations such as the Heritage Foundation operate.

10:07am – Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells just finished up an excellent speech and Q&A session

Liberal Party Membership Fees

Alistair-Coe

Drop membership fees and let more people into the 'broad church', writes Alistair Coe.

Whilst we constantly hear about how the Liberal Party is a broad church, rarely do we hear a discussion about how many are in this church.

In the 1940s, Menzies spoke of a need to change the direction of Australia and he successfully rallied the ‘forgotten people’ into a movement. In 1996, Howard spoke with broad appeal and made the average person on the street want to cast a vote and do away with the elitist Keating government. In 2007, Rudd successfully conjured up a groundswell to change the nation’s leadership. However, what both Liberal and Labor have failed to do in recent years is convert support to supporters, votes to money. Whilst this piece primarily discusses membership fees, we should remember there are many other aspects of the Party we should be reviewing (e.g. the branch structure, how we harness people with particular policy interests or people living our philosophy in a busy life without the time to be actively engaged in the present structure). 

To be a competitive modern-day Party, the Liberals need to expand the supporter base and convert Liberal supporters outside the Party to supporters inside the Party. A view I’ve held for many years is that the entry fee for supporting the Party is too high. The average fee for an adult membership is $69 (ACT $65; NSW $90; QLD $80; SA $59; TAS $70; VIC $96; and WA $25). Some armchair critics scared of seeing new blood in the Party say that lowering membership fees will increase factionalism because it’s cheaper to sign people up to the Party. However, if the price is lower and more Australians join off their own bat, the percentage of members recruited by factions will be less. Given that an average of 37.2 per cent of the population  votes Liberal (average first preferences, 1996-2007), I find it hard to believe that lowering the fee will not make it more attractive to more Liberal voters. On taxation, the Party favours a broad base with lower rates. However, we don’t always practice what we preach when it comes to our own membership.

I deliberately use the term ‘entry fee’ as membership should not be the only way to contribute. Some, if not most, of the Divisions of the Party have set up ‘Friends’, ‘Supporters’, or ‘Clubs’ to try to harness support. This is certainly a step in the right direction. However, I am keen to know how successful they’ve been and who is signing up. If they are tapping into existing supporters, this is good, but it is not broadening the pool of donors. More generally, if we have more supporters, we will have more people for campaigning, more people to invite to events, more experiences to tap in to and more tentacles reaching further into the electorate.

A major problem in our political culture is disengagement. The world of politics and political decision making can often too easily be perceived as distant from the broader party support base, which can lead to many erstwhile supporters to feel apathetic about whether their support will make a difference. It’s up to the Party organisation and MPs to engage the base and share the ownership. In my 18 months of doorknocking as a candidate, and later as a member, not once have I been unwelcomed at the doorstep of a Liberal voter.

We must have a suite of options for people to subscribe to our philosophy. Our base wants to be engaged, our base wants to contribute and our base wants to see change; all we have to do is ask. 

Alistair Coe is the Liberal Member for Belconnen, Nicholls & Hall in the ACT.

A stronger society or stronger government?

Julie-Bishop The Hon Julie Bishop MP argues that government should not play a central role in society.

Analysts have read much into the recent stunning win for the Republicans for the Massachusetts Senate seat held by John and then Ted Kennedy for over half a century.

One thing is for sure, the result was a political earthquake.

It will not be lost on centre right political parties across the globe, from Washington to London to Canberra, that the Republican candidate, Scott Brown, ran on an unashamedly conservative agenda in a traditionally Democrat state.

Smaller government with less government interference and lower taxes were cornerstones of the Republican campaign.

Drawing parallels with current Australian politics is almost irresistible.

One of the more dangerous legacies of the Rudd Government will be that it has sought to be everything to everybody, offering a solution to every challenge facing our society.

Kevin Rudd is a proponent of Big Government. He has presided over the expansion of a mega-socialist-style-bureaucracy with its tentacles reaching into every corner of our lives.

There is no problem that Kevin Rudd says he cannot solve, no aspect of society that he thinks should be free from Labor’s intrusive agenda.

Many Australians will end up feeling powerless because Kevin Rudd claims that his government holds all the answers. There is less room for individual choice or personal responsibility.

However, for the vast majority of people, their choices and decisions regarding education, work, debt, saving and the like will be far more important at the personal level than the decisions of government.

This comes as no surprise to the Liberal Party, which was founded on a belief in the power of the individual, ensuring they have the freedom and choice to make those personal decisions that enable them to build better lives for themselves and their families.

The Liberal Party understands that government has a role to play in providing a generous safety net for those who need it. We believe that government should help create the economic and social environment that improves standards of living and quality of life, but, overwhelmingly, individuals have the greater power to improve their lives.

In contrast, Kevin Rudd believes that the government should be at the “centre” of economic activity, and that his government, through a rapidly expanding array of taxpayer funded programmes and new laws, has the solution to society’s ills.

While Mr Rudd’s promises to lower petrol and grocery prices and fix hospital waiting lists have been exposed as a cruel hoax on voters, he has continued his populist posturing.

Community concerns are understandably raised about alcohol consumption. The Prime Minister declares war on binge drinking and seeks to raise taxes on one form of alcoholic drink to influence behaviour. According to Mr Rudd’s agenda, it is the government that must tackle high levels of alcohol consumption rather than society and the individuals within it.

The Rudd Government thinks individuals cannot be trusted to access or monitor appropriate internet usage in their own homes so the Government rides to the rescue with a national internet filtering plan.

Wall Street bankers in the United States are targeted for excessive bonuses during the recent global financial downturn. Mr Rudd declares a war on bankers’ salaries in Australia and promises to regulate executives pay. The power of individual shareholders, the owners of companies, does not figure in his thinking.

A hallmark of Mr Rudd’s prime ministership will be his self portrayal as the equivalent of Australia’s Lone Ranger, riding to the rescue of all and sundry.

A few years back on a visit to regional NSW, I met with a group of locals concerned about the decline in their town, with the closure of shops and other services.

They asked, “What is the government going to do to keep our town alive? “

I asked where they had been shopping, doing their banking and having their cars serviced. Rather sheepishly, they admitted travelling through the town to a larger regional centre some 50 kilometres away for the “greater choice”.

This begs the question. If the locals are not prepared to invest in their local community, should taxpayers have to do so via government programmes?

Therein lies the weakness of Mr Rudd’s agenda with government playing the central role in society.

Individuals who feel or are told they are powerless are less likely to take action with regard to their personal challenges and the challenges of society.

There is less incentive to join volunteer groups and to donate time and energy to community projects when government not only takes all the responsibility but will actively intervene.

The truth is that while government fills an important function in society, it can never replace or supplant the efforts of motivated individuals.

We do not need more and bigger government.

A stronger society with empowered individuals is the key.

The Hon Julie Bishop MP is the Member for Curtin and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition.

Kill the IPCC

Patrick-Michaels

Put the IPCC out of its misery, writes Dr Patrick Michaels.

Another day, another IPCC-gate.  Just last week, it came out that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change based its alarming statement that massive Himalayan ice cap will largely disappear in 2035 upon nothing but hearsay and propaganda.   

Every scientist who has studied the glaciers there knows that they are exceedingly thick and even if it warmed substantially, they will be around for centuries.  Under pressure, the  IPCC  finally ‘fessed up that it was lying for political purposes.  Murari Lal, a senior author (who holds a PhD in Geophysics) told the London Daily Mail  ‘It related to several countries in this region and their water sources. We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action.”

IPCC’s critics are absolutely shocked!

If this is true, then it seriously affects the credibility of the lead author of this  chapter, climatologist Martin Parry of the United Kingdom.  That’s because any climate scientist seeing the 2035 figure would (first) laugh and then (second) search for and root out the perpetrator.  It makes one think that the highly respected Parry didn’t read the chapter of which he was the senior author.  I think  his saying “I missed it” isn’t going to get much traction, either.

The source for IPCC’s claim was a propaganda piece put out by the World Wildlife Fund. 

In response to the UN’s nonsense,  India recently conducted its own survey of high-altitude glaciers in South Asia and concluded that, while there is some recession, the rates are in general quite modest.  IPCC Chief Rajenda Pauchari, fully aware of the 2035 gaffe, called the Indian report “voodoo science”.

What Pauchari didn’t state is that he also runs the India’s Energy and Research Institute (TERI), which got a half million dollars from the Carnegie Foundation to study the effects of glaciers melting as rapidly as IPCC said they were.

Also  last week, University of Colorado’s Roger Pielke Jr. found that the IPCC had claimed certain peer reviewed articles demonstrated increasing hurricane damages caused by global warming.  Indeed, the work in question did not.  Rather the opposite;   in the original paper, Stewart Miller and Robert Muir-Wood said, “We find insufficient evidence to claim a statistical relationship between global temperature increase and normalized catastrophe losses.”

As they say, IPCC’s got a history.  It was started by the UN in 1987, chartered “to initiate action leading as soon as possible to…a possible future international convention on climate”. The scientists who write the IPCC’s many volumes are nominated and chosen by their governments. The IPCC cannot avoid being political.  Let’s translate its 1987 charter into common language: the UN wants you scientists, chosen by your governments, to give us an excuse to regulate the entire world. 

And so the IPCC did its job. It published its first science compendium in 1990, and an updated one in 1992 as support for a proposed Framework Convention on Climate Change, also known as the Rio Treaty. 

The Rio Treaty merely stated a “goal” (whatever that is). of limiting carbon dioxide cocentrations in the atmosphere below “dangerous” levels (whatever those are).  These “goals” eventually became specific emissions reductions targets and timetables that were agreed to in the 1997 Kyoto Protocol to the Framework Convention.  The Kyoto Protocol mandated reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide of around 5% from the industrialized world.  They rose by a larger amount.  The few nations that actually complied with its dictates only did so with statistical sleight of hand.  Although the reductions were supposed to be from a 1990 base year, Germany included the wildly polluting German Democratic Republic in its base, despite the fact that it didn’t exist for most of 1990 and was rapidly de-industrializing. 

Kyoto was a massive failure.  The green plan was then to resurrect a stronger agreement last December at Copenhagen.  That failed, too, in no small part because it had become clear, thanks to the climategate emails, that the IPCC’s authors were now nakedly coloring the IPCC reports to push emissions reductions. Jonathan Overpeck, of University of Arizona, exhorts his colleagues to use “only that science which is policy relevant” and that would support executive summary bullet points that had already been written (email 1121392136 14Jul05).  Finally, under a threat of a Freedom of Information inquiry, they asked each other to destroy emails pertaining to long-term climate records the 2007 IPCC report (email 1212073451 29May09).  The fact that they requested this two years after the publication of the IPCC’s latest report is very suspicious, and the subject line of this particular email is “IPCC & FOI”.

The attachment of “gate” to this scandal is more than appropriate.  In its original 1973-4  incarnation, little bits of information, snippets of foul play, and deletions of records dripped out one-by-one over a year.  Ultimately the person responsible, President Richard Nixon, had to resign.

We’re seeing the same with climategate and the IPCC.  Wouldn’t if just save everyone a lot of time and trouble if Rajenda Pauchari resigned and the United Nations disbanded the IPCC.  Neither its head nor its body have any remaining credibility, so why not put it out of its misery?

Patrick J. Michaels is Senior Fellow in
Environmental Studies at the Cato Institute and author of  “Climate of Extremes:  Global Warming Science They Don’t Want You to
Know’.

“Fear the Boom and Bust” – a Hayek vs. Keynes Rap Anthem

Renown author, blogger, and George Mason University Professor of Economics Russell Roberts last week teamed up with award-winning producer John Papola to launch launch Econstories.tv, – an exciting new project to help people learn about economic theory in new ways.

This is there first production – an in depth discussion on the differences between Keynsian and free-market economic policy.

Enjoy! 

‘Big Australia’ Policy needed to save us from ourselves

Stephan_knoll

Australia needs a larger population, argues Stephan Knoll.

The release of the intergenerational reports has sparked a debate on population policy within this country. With projections of Australia reaching a population of 35 million by 2050 there are fears about how we deal with better fertility rates and migration in terms of infrastructure, job creation and social cohesion, however, there are great benefits of a ‘Big Australia’, the first and foremost of those being growth. Australia’s youth need to grapple with this issue as population demographics will most greatly affect those working over the next 40 years. 

Australia is a country of migrants. From Aboriginal settlement somewhere between 50,000 to 100,000 years ago, English settlement in the late 1700’s and the more recent European, Asian, Middle Eastern and African migration, Australia has grown into a rich and diverse multicultural nation. With a legacy and history such as we have, it seems somewhat hypocritical to now start talking of winding back migration to hold back population growth. Migrants have brought much cultural diversity to this country. As families settle and over generations assimilate into Australian culture new migration helps to bring one very important aspect into the Australian psyche, respect and appreciation for the Australian way of life. 

Strong migration helps Australia on an international scale. A larger population would help Australia to compete more easily internationally, as well as helping to have a more secure military presence and one better able to defend itself. Without wishing to seem alarmist, as the world population moves from 6 billion to 9 billion by 2050, the competition for food, land, water and infrastructure will become more fierce. Australia can help to contribute to solving this by keeping higher migration levels to deal with the population surge abroad as well as being seen as a good international citizen. 

There are concerns that higher migration levels come at the expense of social cohesion. Over recent years we have seen riots in Cronulla and turmoil over the building of Muslim schools on Camden NSW expose a racist undercurrent, one that has turned the Australian flag into a symbol of hatred and exclusion instead of patriotism. Reducing migration only gives in to those elements and cements Australia’s growing perception abroad as a racist nation. In the same way that anti segregationist policies in the US caused turmoil and discomfort in the short term, over time increased migration will be difficult but necessary to combating racism caused by fear and ignorance. 

Population growth will help Australia to become a more sustainable and efficient nation. Australia has some of the least dense cities in the world. Melbourne with a population of 3.9 million has a density of 1566 people per square kilometre. By comparison Tel Aviv in Israel, with a population of 3.15 million has a density of 7533 and Berlin, Germany, with a population of 3.4 million has a density of 3842. Australians will have to deal with smaller home sizes but will be able to be better serviced in terms of transport, amenities and other social infrastructure. 

Suggestions that we cannot support the population on the grounds of lack of rainfall and natural resources are false. Tel Aviv is over 4.5 times as dense as Melbourne but has less annual average rainfall at 530mm compared to 650mm. Sydney at a density of 2058 people per square kilometre and an average rainfall of 1175mm also has some way to go and smaller cities such as Adelaide even more so (Density of 1295 people/km² and rainfall of 520mm). In Adelaide, fare prices for public transport only cover 20% of the cost of provision of those services. This leads to diminished services as governments seek to contain costs. A more dense population helps to encourage more efficient and better serviced public transport infrastructure leading to greater uptake of its use. 

By far the most compelling reason to keep higher growth rates, both natural and migration is age demographics. Currently 13 percent of the population is over 65. The intergenerational reports suggest that this will still rise to 22% by 2049. By scaling back population growth we will distort this even further and risk putting this country into permanent structural deficit for a generation to come. The Federal Labor Party member for Wells in Victoria Kelvin Thomson has come out and advocated for capping of the population to 26 million. At this level those over 65 will represent 29.6% of the population and reduce the ratio of working persons to over 65’s from 4.75 to 2.1. 

In the end the only answer is to continue on the current path. There are challenges to supporting a larger population and Australia will be relying on policy makers to have the foresight to deal with emerging issues to ensure that we are able to maintain and improve the Australian way of life. There are great benefits of a ‘Big Australia’ for growth, sustainability, international relations and demographics the real result of which would be a stronger, richer and more proud Australia. 

Stephan is General Manager of family meat and smallgoods business Barossa Fine Foods. He is also heavily involved in the Young Liberal movement in South Australia.