Government inquiry into the ABC demonstrates the case for privatisation

by on 1 July, 2015

Zaky Mallah on the ABC's QnA

Zaky Mallah on the ABC’s QnA

The campaign against the ABC’s politics sparked in the wake of its decision to have . A government review into the politics of a media organisation is never acceptable—and that is why we should not tolerate a taxpayer-funded broadcaster.

The controversy itself boils down to this: Mallah, reportedly an Islamist, appeared on the ABC’s “QnA” program to argue that he and others like him should not lose their citizenship merely by reason of a decision of a Minister. Liberal MP Steve Ciobo’s response was that Mallah should be stripped of his citizenship and the only reason he was not convicted of terrorism was that the anti-terrorism legislation was not retrospective. As it happens, Ciobo was wrong. Mallah was convicted of threatening ASIO officials but acquitted by a jury of certain terrorism offences. But in response, Mallah went further and claimed that the Minister’s ignorant comment “justified” support for ISIS amongst Muslims. Mallah is, by his own account, not a supporter of ISIS; he claims he only meant to say that the Minister’s comments were provocative. Perhaps the inaccuracy of Ciobo’s comments annoyed Mallah, but that is no excuse. And to make things worse, Mallah has been very rude about two journalists on his Twitter account. In fairness to the ABC, they weren’t aware of his rude remarks before the controversy over his appearance emerged.

As to the consequences of that mistake and the process of calling the ABC into account, I must say that what I fear far more than Mallah is the announcement of a government inquiry into QnA. Now, I freely concede that, in one sense, the ABC’s error has brought on this review. It is the government’s responsibility, after all, to ensure that the ABC operates in a balanced manner, in accordance with its statutory charter. But calling an inquiry, and effectively campaigning against QnA’s coverage of the debate, could well have a chilling effect on the reportage of the ABC. And if the government does attempt to “rebalance” the ABC by changing the ideological makeup of its board—as it likely will, given their current attitude—that will bring problems of its own.

Fundamentally, the problem with keeping the ABC accountable is that it is ultimately accountable to the government of the day. Within the context of the national security debate in particular, I fear what more “balanced” debate could bring with it. Should we hear more voices in favour of culling our liberties to implement a security state? How do we seriously propose to audit the ABC with a view to bringing about “balance”? How many pro-government voices should we have on the ABC? How many opposition voices? Half and half? Who gets to judge that figure and why? More to the point, how on earth can any person, let alone a journalist involved in current affairs reportage, be devoid of bias and opinion? Rebalancing the ABC to suit the needs of taxpayers is an impossibility.

Instead, the ABC should aim to please only one interest group: its viewers.  If the ABC were accountable to consumers, not politicians, a government inquiry into its conduct would be irrelevant—unless, of course, it would attempt to regulate what the media could say or do by force, as the former Labor government attempted to. Mallah’s appearance would then lead to a drop in ratings and profits for the ABC–or it might lead to more viewers, depending on the quality of the show and the tastes and opinions of the viewing public. That is as it should be. “Hands off our ABC” is right—the ABC should be accountable to the public, not politicians. That’s why it needs to be privatised.

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

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

PENSION – PILLAGING TAXPAYERS MONEY

by on 22 June, 2015

Would you ever give your money to another person to live on when they have their own money already?  In fact they could have more money than you.  Taxpayers’ money is being paid in the billions every year across Australia to pay for people who can afford to fund themselves.

A couple has $1 million in assets and has 10 to 15 years to live.

Do you:

  1. require the couple to draw down $50 to $70 thousand per year from their own assets to fund themselves; or
  2. require that the couple borrow $50 to $70 thousand per year from a Bank or loan provider and repay those funds at the end of their lives from the sale of the couples assets; or
  3. pay the couple from your own assets $35,000 per year effectively providing the couple an interest free, non refundable annual gift so the couple has income; or
  4. pay $20,000 per year from your own assets and require the couple to pay $20,000 per year towards their living expenses from their own funds.

Without seeking to insult your intelligence, the answer is clearly a) and the next best answer is b).  Would you ever give money to someone who already has adequate money to fund themselves or has assets which provide the potential to repay you funds that may have been loaned to them.

Unfortunately, incredibly, ridiculously and insultingly, the reality is that that pension system is operating exactly as shown at answers c) and d).

Under options C & D, you – the taxpayer are providing a couple who clearly has assets to cover their living expenses with an interest free, non refundable gift over 10 to 15 years of $200,000 to $525,000.  This amount will NEVER be repaid.]

The aged pension system is the most significant of the payments made within the Social Security and Welfare payments representing $50 billion of taxpayers’ funds and is projected to grow to $67 billion by 2018.

The pension was introduced in 1909 to support the elderly who were destitute who were over 65 when the life expectancy was 55.

Now over 100 years later the pension [or part pension] is paid to over 2.4 million people [85% of people over 65] and is described by the government as “basic income support for those Australians who are above retirement age but are not able to support themselves with their own means.”

It is no longer paid solely to the destitute but to the vast majority of elderly Australians.  It is no longer basic income support as pension payments are paid far in excess of the level best described as basic income.

The vast majority of pensioners own their own homes.   The median house price in Sydney is $900,000 and in Melbourne is $650,000.  This would suggest on the face of it that a significant percentage of people in those cities receiving the pension have assets exceeding the lifetime pension and yet they seek to rely on the pension as their primary source of income.  Despite their asset wealth they will never repay one cent of the pension received.  Whilst pensioners own house does not produce income, it is a store of value from which funds can and should be repaid on sale.

2 simple examples demonstrate this atrocious use of taxpayers’ funds

EXAMPLE 1

A couple own their own home worth $1 million.  They have no other assets.  They receive $33,500 per year for 17 years totalling $569,500 [A pension starts at age 67.  Life expectancy is 84 and increasing.  A pension can be expected to be paid of 17 years and will continue to lengthen as medicine and technology increase life expectancy]

On passing and sale of their assets, no funds are ever repaid to the taxpayers.

EXAMPLE 2

A couple own their own home worth $600,000 and have $300,000 in savings/superannuation.  They earn 6% per annum on their savings or $18,000 per year.

The government doesn’t worry about the actual income received by the couple in determining pension levels – they “deem” that the $300,000 generates $9,306 and ignore the actual income.

The government then decides that the $9,306 that this couple receives tax free from superannuation will only reduce the pension by $961 from $33,500 a year to $32,539 [The first $7,384 a pensioner couple earns does not reduce the pension level at all – and then it reduces by 50 cents for every dollar earnt].

Over 17 years this couple will take from taxpayers $553,163.  This couple has an after tax income of $50,000 per year which is higher than the median family income in Australia.

No funds are ever repaid.

You must find this incredible.  We collectively as taxpayers must be idiots for accepting this.

I am happy to open this paper to discussion, comment or criticism and would welcome you writing to me at pensiondisgrace@gmail.com.  There must be something that can be done to correct this. Please do not say that you paid your taxes all your life so you are entitled to a pension.  Taxes are not paid for that purpose.

By Robert Hill

Xenophobia and fear of foreign property investment sparks anti-Chinese racism

by on 30 May, 2015

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Racist fliers being handed out by the so-called “Australian Freedom Party.”

Everyone nowadays seems convinced of the fallacy that foreign investment—particularly Chinese foreign investment—is driving housing prices up and squeezing Australians out of housing market.

The Liberals and the ALP have picked up on this sentiment and introduced new restrictions on foreign development, including fines for “illegally” purchased property and extra tax payable by foreigners on new developments.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost. In Sydney, the so-called “Australian Freedom Party” are distributing pamphlets that term foreign Chinese investment “ethnic cleansing” and “invasion.” It it is clear this dangerous racist nonsense has been caused by successive governmental intervention into the housing sector for political gain, both by increasing restrictions on development generally and blaming the resulting price increases on foreigners.

Why we should blame foreigners for having the audacity to choose to live here is simply beyond me. That is especially so when they choose to purchase property and clearly have the means to work and contribute to our society .Rather than decrying foreign investment, we should welcome the opportunity for more people of all backgrounds to spend their money on our shores. The more money foreigners spend here, the wealthier we become.

In reality, the cause of the housing affordability crisis is simple: restrictions on property development are preventing people from constructing the homes they want to develop, live in and sell.

Apartments in particular are a popular bugbear apt to prompt local residents into action and protest. In parts of residential, inner-city Melbourne, for example, it is almost impossible to build buildings over two storeys in size as a result of the introduction of so-called neighbourhood zoning laws. Yet the inner city suburbs are precisely where such apartments are most in demand. Accessible, close to the city and public transport, they are ideal for singles and couples. Similar restrictions on commercial and industrial developments also apply. And what holds true in Melbourne also broadly holds true throughout the rest of Australia. As Alan Moran points out, “Australia’s regulatory induced scarcity of land increases the cost of a fully serviced housing block complete with telecom, water, energy and road infrastructure from less than $100,000 to $300,000 or $400,000.”

The impact of more development on local housing prices is often complained of, but this overlooks the extraordinary benefits that come with more development: lower commercial and retail rent, lower retail and construction costs, and other savings that are passed on to consumers and intending homeowners. Simply put, life gets much cheaper if people live more closely together. That is, after all, why people congregate in cities and towns: for ready access to jobs and affordable accommodation.

With reportedly over 100,000 homeless people in Australia as result of dangerously overinflated land prices, relaxed zoning restrictions could not come any sooner. Nor should we be forgiving towards the politicians who have misled so many Australians into believing that our zoning restrictions are necessary, or that foreign property development is an evil to be decried.

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

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

 

Is Alabama about to resolve the marriage dispute?

by on 26 May, 2015

By Damion Otto 

Alabama’s state Senate has passed a bill that will end the need for government sanctioned marriage licenses, leaving it to individuals and civil society to decide what marriage is. After July 1st—if the bill becomes law—couples will only be required to lodge a contract with the authorities to keep a legal record of the marriage.

Critics have accused Senator Greg Albritton, the bill’s sponsor, of trying to stifle the move towards marriage equality, an accusation he denies:

“When you invite the state into those matters of personal or religious import, it creates difficulties… Early [in the] twentieth century, if you go back and look and try to find marriage licenses for your grandparents or great grandparents, you won’t find it. What you will find instead is where people have come in and recorded when a marriage has occurred.”

Regardless of his motivations, Albritton makes a valid point.

When the state monopolises the right to define marriage and excludes certain citizens, political conflict is inevitable.

Proponents of same-sex marriage feel that same-sex couples are victims of state-mandated discrimination. Conversely, opponents believe that marriage is a sacred institution, primarily for the purpose of procreation, that cannot—or should not—be tinkered with to cater to people with a non-traditional lifestyle.

Government intervention in the institution of marriage is a relatively recent phenomenon. It has created friction in society and inevitably results in a zero-sum game: whoever wins the debate will force the other side to abide by their values. By invading the private lives of its citizens in this manner, the government facilitates a cultural clash that undermines social cohesion and creates political turmoil.

By abolishing the requirement for government approved marriage licenses, the Alabama Senate is moving to placate anxieties on both sides of the debate.

Ousting the government from the personal lives of its citizens means that same-sex couples will no longer feel marginalised by government, whilst opponents can maintain their traditional conception of marriage without fear of top-down changes to the definition.

The issue of same-sex marriage needn’t be a zero-sum game, nor does it need to be a political one. The Alabama Senate has recognised that if it uses its power to define marriage, the policy tug-of-war will be unending. Its solution to the acrimonious dispute is to deregulate the institution of marriage. This allows people the freedom to choose the type of marriage they want, leaving the decision to recognise it up to civil society.

Whether there is a right or wrong answer to the same-sex marriage debate is beside the point. The issue is about the legitimacy and social harm of allowing the government to enforce a particular view on society and invade our personal lives.

Damion Otto is a student at the University of Western Australia and a Liberal Party member.

 

Take A Stand For Academic Freedom

by on 25 May, 2015

 

Academic Freedom in Australia is in grave danger – and we need to act now before it is too late.
Last week, cowed by a shrill vocal minority of far-left activists, the University of Western Australia cancelled its contract with internationationally renown academic Bjørn Lomborg to establish a leading research centre to apply cost-benefit analysis to development projects .

For daring to apply evidence to public policy, Bjørn Lomborg was hounded out of our universities.

What have we become?

Academic freedom is at the heart of any university. To expose students to new ideas, to teach them to think critically, to challenge accepted wisdom – this is what a university should be about. And it is this fundamental principle that is now in grave danger.

By giving in to a few shrill online protests, the University of Western Australia has admitted that it is a closed shop. That it is shut to ideas. That challenging the accepted left-orthodoxy is not permitted.

Is this what we want our education system to be?  Run not by evidence or ideas, but by what the mob wants?

I think we are better than this. I want our universities to be world-class. But that means we need to take a stand now.

This is why I am calling on you to join our campaign in support of academic freedom:  We need to send a loud message that can not be ignored- academic Censorship will NOT be tolerated!

The Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance will be running an open letter in full-page newspaper advertisements proudly supporting academic freedom.

By joining our campaign, you will be publicly stating your opposition to this disgraceful attempt at academic censorship, and putting your commitment to intellectual freedom on the record. 

Rise and Rise of the Leftie-Conservative

by on 22 May, 2015

Christopher Dowson

Christopher Dowson

Yesterday Mark Latham published an opinion piece for the AFR entitled ‘Rise and Rise of the Right-Leftie’. It was a critique of left wing economic policies infecting the right wing of the ALP: “While one expects the party’s Socialist Left to be soft on spending, this problem has also infected Labor’s Right faction” wrote a disappointed Latham, who reminisced about the late ALP ‘free-marketeer’ Mr Peter Walsh. It got me thinking about the Liberal Party recently and the Abbott Government’s seemingly unrelenting pursuit of becoming, as the IPA’s Chris Berg observed, a Fraser Government ‘Mark II’.

Abbott and Hockey came in with a wrecking ball in the 2014 budget but failed to sell any of their budget measures to reduce Australia’s ‘debt and deficit disaster’ bequeathed to it by the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years. Instead of reducing the debt, Hockey and Abbott increased spending and added new taxes, culminating in this year’s budget which even the ABC described as ‘almost Keynesian’. What happened to the so-called right ‘conservative’ faction of the Liberal Party? Have they been squeezed out by (heaven forbid) Liberal ‘Moderates’ and ‘pragmatists’ (I call them Leftie-Conservatives).

It’s no stretch of political jargon to label Abbott a Moderate: he’s happy to tax and spend but at the same time he wants to reduce the deficit. He’s eagerly pushing to recognise Aborigines in the Constitution by 2017 but is ‘not enthusiastic’ about recognising gay marriage in the Marriage Act. He says he is becoming a supporter of Federalism, but keeps shtum when WA demands he re-examine the unfair GST distribution which subsidises mediocre economies like Tasmania and Victoria. He said he was a ‘fervent supporter of free speech’ but decided to abandon repealing s. 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act because the ‘time wasn’t right’ – whatever that means.

The media-savvy and domineering personalities of arch-Moderates like Malcolm Turnbull and Julie Bishop have formed the centre-piece of the modern Liberal Party front bench. Bishop has wisely kept out of domestic disputes and has focused all her energy overseas in her role as Foreign Minister, scoring goals left, right, and (mainly) centre in dealing with the MH17 and MH370 tragedies, the ANZAC memorials, and the Bali executions, leaving Abbott and Hockey to cop most of the unrelenting flak from the media.

Turnbull is the consummate politician, who could have his own daily variety show on ABC if he so chose (although he kind of already does with ‘QnA’). But he’s also a Moderate with some very fundamental Catholic beliefs, which makes him all the more mysterious. He recently distanced himself from Hockey’s language about ‘double dipping’ mothers, saying that it was important for government to look after working and stay-at-home mothers – this is directly in accordance with his Catholic beliefs which put priority on protecting and nurturing the family far higher than crony capitalism. He also came out last week again to push for 18C reform, something most moderates have been reticent to do since Moderate-in-Chief of the Senate, George Brandis, totally botched the selling of the reforms to the public. But here again we have not just the consummate politician, but the consummate Moderate: Turnbull supports same-sex marriage but wants more government assistance to mum-and-dad families, one view is patently anti-Catholic and progressive, while the other is entirely Catholic traditionalist. Turnbull is a staunch Republican and small ‘l’ liberal who wants to run a tight economic ship and reduce the deficit, but simultaneously wants to penalise businesses with an ETS or some other carbon taxation scheme. A conundrum inside a conundrum, just like Abbott.

What happened to people on the Right who spoke their minds and were consistent with most of their conservative ideologies? Well:

  • Eric Abetz has been lumped with the employment portfolio and seems to have been told to ‘fly under the radar’;
  • Cory Bernardi has been abused as a bigot and racist, and rendered irrelevant by the powers that be within the PM’s office (Bernardi has even been accused of being a closeted homosexual by Liberal MP and Moderate Warren Entsch);
  • Kevin Andrews has been dumped into the Defence portfolio (where Minister careers go to die, as was the case with Stephen Smith under Rudd);
  • The talented Brett Mason was made a parliamentary secretary in 2013 and then sidelined completely in 2014 (eventually leading to his retirement this year); and
  • Former Howard stalwarts like Ian McDonald have been booted off the front bench permanently and into obscurity (or some occasional Senate committee).

Some hope remains however, with talented MPs such as Dean Smith, Scott Morrison, Mitch Fifield, Christian Porter and James McGrath still waiting in the wings for potential front-bench positions in the future. Yet at the current trajectory, the ‘right’ of the Liberal party is being dragged more and more into a Moderate hybrid, i.e. what I call Leftie-conservatism, and the issue is not so much one of personnel but rather of consistent convictions and ideology within Cabinet.

Some Moderate Liberal pundits will argue that ‘pragmatism’ is the only way to win elections in politics and might even defend Tony Abbott’s record so far as being ‘pragmatic’ with a hostile Senate. I say that is utter hogwash. The electorate respects politicians with convictions, and societies in general are, inherently, conservative not radical or progressive and don’t need to be duped into voting for you. Yes, compromise is a great tool, especially when negotiating with the crossbenchers, but negotiation requires movement around the edges, not compromise of core values. If the Senate consistently blocks policies which form the basis of your core values, the only solution is a double dissolution. Abbott demanded Gillard take the carbon tax issue to a double dissolution, but was too scared to take his important budget measures in 2014 – including university fee deregulation – to one himself. Why? Because he probably thought he would lose, which just proves a deep lack of conviction.

Moderates might point to the unheralded success of the Moderate David Cameron in the UK recently and say: ‘Aha! It works’. The reality is different however, with multiple factors leading to Cameron’s re-election (chief of which being the incompetence of Ed Milliband as well as the dire SNP threat). His Leftie-Conservatism with his pro-EU pandering, his climate change propaganda, his absurd obsession with legalising gay marriage, and his weak stance on immigration, in coalition with the Lib-Dems, alienated his Conservative base and many questioned whether the Tories were Conservative at all anymore and not simply a gaggle of opportunists.

Now go back to Churchill for example, who – although an opportunist and a poor strategist – was never shy about taking his often unpopular views to the electorate – and winning. Look at Margaret Thatcher, who knew her ‘dry’ Tory government would be subjected to scorn and disdain from unions, working Britons, and left-wing university students, but allowed none of those groups to deter her from liberalising and improving the UK economy. Look at John Howard, whose own personal polling was always a bit ropey as preferred PM, but always took his Conservative views to the electorate, and was always validated, lasting four consecutive terms without any backflipping or sidestepping of his core values. The idea that being a ‘fusionist’ or ‘pragmatic moderate’ who makes his decisions on the basis of poll numbers each month is somehow an effective way to serenade the public into voting for you is utter rubbish and such a mentality needs to end, before it festers in (and destroys) the Conservative elements of the Liberal Party. To paraphrase Latham’s words: ‘the implications of Leftie-Conservatism for a future Abbott government are horrendous’.

Christopher Dowson works in government policy and legal areas and also holds an LLB/BA(Hons) and MA. He was co-founder of the WA current-affairs show The Oak Point on WestTV and is a member of the WA Liberal Party Policy Committee.

Reform or Risk Missing the Gas Boom

by on 21 May, 2015

By Damion Otto

Leaders in the resource-industry have warned that unless Australia immediately reforms its economy, it is in serious danger of missing out on the benefits of the looming natural gas boom.

Politicians know- all-too-well that Australia’s resource boom is drawing to a close – it is the leading excuse they use to defend their budget deficits and fiscal mismanagement. However, it is not true that our resource-rich country has ran out of things to offer.

The second-wave of the liquid natural gas (LNG) boom is beginning to take hold globally. With its large stocks of natural gas Australia should be well-placed to benefit, as long as governments can properly respond to the challenges the industry faces.

Instead of complaining about how the declining price of iron ore impacts their budget deficits, governments need to dismantle the barriers to investment that they have created in the Australian marketplace.

At the Australian Petroleum and Exploration Association conference recently staged in Melbourne, Roy Krzywosinski, Chevron’s Australian managing director highlighted the impediments to the industry:

“Among the problems were too much regulation to get approvals, an inflexible industrial relations systems, high labour costs and taxes and government policies that don’t support investment”

These comments illustrate the clear need for reforms to make Australia more conducive to business investment if it is to avoid the “serious risk” of missing out on the benefits of the upcoming LNG boom.

Industrial relations regulation needs to be relaxed to allow a more dynamic workforce and tax incentives need to be extended to all job-creators in the economy, not just to small business.

There is more to lose than just the Abbott Government’s legacy if it stays on its current path as Fraser Government Mark II. With budgets going into the red all over the country, and political pressure to keep it that way, economic reform is urgently needed to ensure that Australia’s standard of living continues to be the world’s envy.

Abbott has claimed: “[T]he age of reform has not ended, it was merely interrupted.” But he is yet to put these words into action. If our governments fail to act, then Australia could miss out on the fruits of another resource boom. And we will all be poorer for it.

Damion Otto is a 3rd year university student at UWA Perth and a member of the Liberal Party.

FTB or no FTB – That is the question

by on 11 May, 2015

Christopher Dowson

Christopher Dowson

…Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous budget cuts, or to take arms against a sea of libertarianism.

In addition to a slew of cuts to the Howard era legacy of the Family Tax Benefit (FTB), according to Treasurer Joe Hockey’s Mother’s Day announcement, almost 80,000 new mums will lose some or all of their government parental leave payments under the Federal Government’s upcoming budgetary measures. According to news reports, it will see almost half of new mothers lose access to the full $11,500 available under the Government’s existing scheme from July 2016. The situation at the moment is that mothers can access parental leave payments both from the Government scheme and from their employer, if their workplace has one. The Government scheme provides 18 weeks of leave at the minimum wage to primary care givers earning $150,000 a year or less.

Tony Abbott told reporters that he was a big supporter of paid parental leave (PPL), but for a “whole host of reasons” the government had decided “the time was not right for the fullness of the policy that we took to the last election”. I find this utterly cowardly and it smacks of the same backflipping and ignorance of core Liberal values as did the 18C debacle. Mr Abbott once touted himself as a member of the Conservative faction of the Liberal Party, as opposed to the Turnbull-ite libertarians and their ilk (with their repulsive “every individual for themselves”- Ayn Rand mentality). Of course, all Liberal Party members agree that subsidies are generally a bad thing and distort the free market. Government meddling is always to be resisted when it comes to the dollar sign. But when it comes to issues of social conscience, culture, and morality – it is a whole other issue and should not be sacrificed for the sake of budgetary outcomes. It takes temerity, guts, and adherence to your core values to produce lasting and effective social policies. Ask John Howard.

Subsidising Australian mothers is not something to be labelled as ‘double-dipping’. Just because an employer might choose to provide parental leave schemes does not automatically disqualify the government from complementing such schemes with its own family policies. Large cuts to Howard’s flagship Family Tax Benefits scheme are also in the works, with an emphasis on childcare subsidies instead of family subsidies.

Abbott waxed lyrical about the economics of the matter: “We are changing the economics of going back to work so that we will get more work, so that families will have more opportunities to increase their income.” Oh excuse me. I’m expecting the Prime Minister to release a new autobiography soon called: “How I Helped the Budget by Hurting Families: My Ayn Rand Enlightenment and Other Libertarian Pipe Dreams”. What utter tosh. Supporting families does not mean encouraging them to outsource their responsibilities as parents to childcare centres. Supporting families means facilitating parents, especially mothers, to provide quality one-on-one time with their children so that the crucial developmental stages of the child’s life are enhanced. This mentality of becoming a careerists, relentlessly pursue promotions, quickly popping out a kid, and then getting back to the daily grind ASAP in order to boost the economy, get more cash, and “launch” generally, is repulsive and completely anti-Conservative in every way.

We all know economics-obsessed libertarians rely on statistics to justify concepts like unrestrained free trade, deregulation and so on, so let’s indulge them. In 2010 – 2015 the Australian fertility rate was stable at around 1.9. Now let’s look at some of the countries from which Australia receives a large proportion of its permanent migrants: In India (from which we received 29,018 permanent residents last year) the fertility rate is around 2.5. Now, other countries from which we receive a large amount of refugees include: Afghanistan with 5.1, Bangladesh 2.2, Somalia with a staggering 6.6, South Africa 2.6, Iraq 4.0, South Sudan 4.9, Syria 3.0, and so on. You don’t really need to be an ABS statistician to argue that Australian families are on the lower end of fertility rate rankings.

Encouraging Australian families to have larger families, or at least more families, is a long overdue policy imperative which John Howard successfully attempted in his time in government (after his FTB policies and baby bonus initiatives, the fertility rate climbed from 1.5 to 1.9). The benefits of a society based on strong family structures are manifold and include: safer and more cohesive communities, better educational outcomes, stronger interpersonal relationships within communities, and obviously the strengthening of the population and its traditional welfare institutions such as volunteer groups, churches, charities and so on, mitigating the need for massive state welfare spending.  Even Malcolm Turnbull, the Libertarian par excellence, revealed his semi-traditional Catholic mindset with his speech to the 2003 Population Summit, where he said the key goals in Australia’s family policy for the future ought to include:

…the promotion of pro-natalist policies designed to ensure that, ideally, our birth rate increases closer to the replacement level of 2.1…the recognition that children are a social good and not merely a private, optional pleasure…[and] the recognition that there is nothing any of us are likely to do which is more important to the future of this nation than to bear and raise children.

I could not agree more with the Communication Minister, and I believe these goals are being utterly jettisoned by the Abbott government’s new budget agenda which would probably make even David Leyonhjelm ask: “I thought I was the Libertarian here?” Putting the almighty dollar above the nurturing, strengthening, and development of children and families is national self-sabotage of the highest order, geared towards corporations and crony capitalists instead of the most fundamental units of society: communities and families. Yes, in an Ayn Rand world (perish the thought!) we would put the individual at the centre, whose choice to have children is a luxury, a mere private ‘pleasure’ as criticised by Mr Turnbull above. Yet such a narcissistic mentality will have devastating consequences for Australian culture and its traditional values of faith, family, and freedom as opposed to progressive capitalist ones such as wealth, consumerism, unrestrained liberty, and individualism. Just look at what’s happening to Europe. As John Paul II wrote in his 1981 encyclical Familiaris Consortio:

…signs are not lacking of a disturbing degradation of some fundamental values [of the family]…At the root of these negative phenomena there frequently lies a corruption of the idea and the experience of freedom, conceived not as a capacity for realising the truth of God’s plan for marriage and the family, but as an autonomous power of self-affirmation, often against others, for one’s own selfish well-being.

In his autobiography entitled Battlelines, Tony Abbott stated in a section entitled ‘Child Drought’ that:

Supporting women who have children should one of the important duties of government…Through the provisions of significant childcare benefits, government policy supports mothers in the paid workforce, especially full-time ones. What government does not currently do is provide help for women in middle-income families or for women taking time off work to have a baby. The result is that many women have fewer children that they would like.

That was then. Nowadays, Tony has adopted a disposition of ‘pragmatism’ where core values are mere impediments to achieving legislative outcomes. Like Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard before him, Abbott is living up to the title of consummate ‘politician’, with Machiavellian guile, backflipping where politically expedient, and tossing out principles and convictions for the sake of opinion polls. Credlin has taught him well.

My final message to the Conservatives who still hold out against the Liberal Party apparatchiks in Canberra is this: Stay true to your values, fight the good fight, stand up for culture and tradition over cash and fiscal ends, protect and encourage Australian families, and please do not support Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey’s anti-family agenda in the upcoming budget. And as the old Battlelines Ghost of Tony Past begins to fade away as Budget Morning dawns I feel like a miserable young Hamlet:

But, soft: behold! lo where it comes again!

I’ll cross it, though it blast me. – Stay, illusion!

If thou hast any sound, or use a voice.

Speak to me.

Christopher Dowson works in government policy and legal areas and also holds an LLB/BA(Hons) and MA. He was co-founder of the WA current-affairs show The Oak Point on WestTV and is a member of the WA Liberal Party Policy Committee.

Why ‘taking on big business’ is a poor idea

by on 9 May, 2015

sean-jacobs

Dropping tax rates is an effective but underappreciated revenue maker

By Sean Jacobs

‘Some regard private enterprise as if it were a predatory tiger to be shot,’ said Winston Churchill. ‘Others look upon it as a cow that they can milk. Only a handful see it for what it really is – the strong horse that pulls the whole cart.’

Thirty-one year old ALP Senator Sam Dastyari is clearly not one of the handful. A recent profile of Dastyari exposes not only an alarming ignorance of tax and economic growth but everything that is slowly becoming wrong with Australian politics, which catapults people with little knowledge of the wider world (and commerce) into positions of power and responsibility.

Dastyari is currently Chair of the federal Senate Economics Committee, and has used his position not to generate ideas on economic growth but to attack companies like BHP and Leighton while leading the so-called Coalition of Common Sense that has blocked much-needed reforms to reduce Australia’s debt.

He wants to talk about ‘tax avoidance’ in Australia as a priority issue. But this is at a time when the list of more urgent economic reforms is getting longer – unemployment and debt are becoming fused parts of the Australian landscape, regulation and compliance is increasing, productivity is dropping and China’s internal attributes, upon which Australia heavily relies, aren’t showing the same enchanting metrics of dynamism. This is on top of an older Australian population that is increasingly evacuating the workforce.

I feel that Australians, especially future Australians, need to reacquaint with the pivotal role that business plays not just in a free market economy but a free society. Australian companies, both small and large, already pay tax. They also provide capital and jobs, while adding to innovation, lowering costs, enhancing productivity and stimulating economic growth. The government does not do this – business does. And the penalty of higher taxes simply makes these great outcomes harder.

We also forget that some companies take years to be successful. McDonalds and Amazon, for example, operated at a loss and teetered on bankruptcy for years before turning a profit. ‘We have learned that true rising standards of living are the product of progressive enterprise,’ said Robert Menzies, ‘the acceptance of risks, the encouragement of adventure, the prospect of rewards.’

If companies do not pay tax, or operate outside the rule of law, they face obvious penalties. Ensuring compliance with the law is good and decent. But enforcing show trials and shaking down business, all in the service of public awareness campaigning or shock value, is not the best way to either grow the economy or collect more revenue.

So-called big businesses, just like wealthy individuals, respond when tax rates shoot up. The volume, timing and nature of income can be shifted to ultimately pay less tax and, when it’s time to actually collect any money, leave the government empty-handed.

This is basically what has happened between the high spending days of Rudd’s 2008 stimulus spree and current reality – future income was overstated and now a wider gap exists between spending and revenue. Now unsurprisingly, on top of debt payments and an expanding social welfare system, more money is required and someone needs to pay more tax.

Constantly changing legislation, in an attempt to keep up or get ahead of private enterprise, is actually a blunt and rarely optimal revenue tactic. The government, quite simply, cannot keep up. Australia, instead, should actually lower taxes. Seemingly counterintuitive, reduced tax rates have long been proven to stoke dynamic growth and greater revenue in other meritocratic and like-minded economies. Going back to 1920s America, for example, the United States Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon was surprised to observe that ‘a decrease in taxes causes an inspiration to trade and commerce, which increases the prosperity of the country so that revenues of the government, even on a lower basis of tax, are increased.’

Even the great Adam Smith, from the mid-to-late eighteenth century, simply observed that ‘high taxes, sometimes by diminishing the consumption of the taxed commodities, and sometimes by encouraging smuggling, frequently afford a smaller revenue to government than what might be drawn from more modest taxes.’

Economists will argue tooth and nail about the validity of tables, formulas and data. But if there’s any common sense allowed into the public discussion on Australian tax reform it most certainly lies in this approach – drop taxes and create jobs, growth and opportunities. More revenue and a growing economy awaits.

Liberal Party restricts free speech through anti-terror laws

by on 8 May, 2015

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

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

Prime Minister Abbott’s new law criminalising “hate preachers”—those who advocate, but do not themselves commit, acts of terrorism—is illiberal and entirely unjustified. Abbott has flagged that it could be used to target groups like Hizb ut-tahrir, an Australian Islamist group that is often silent on whether it condemns acts of terror here, and often praises acts of terror abroad. The law carries a harsh penalty of up to 5 years’ imprisonment, and they could have a range of unintended consequences. It could also censor some of the same controversial material as section 18C of the Racial Discrimination, which the government once promised to repeal. And in an eerie echo of one of his predecessors, Prime Minister Robert Menzies, Abbott is risking a constitutional challenge in enacting these laws. So why is he introducing them?

In considering whether restrictions on advocating terrorism are justified, we must remind ourselves that living in a free society means allowing every person to live express themselves as they see fit unless they are actually harming others. Obviously causing people physical harm is something we shouldn’t tolerate. Nor should we tolerate direct threats of immediate harm: threats to kill, or the like. But the onus must be on those who would restrict our speech to prove that the restriction in question is justified.

This law is unnecessary. There are already laws that criminalise incitement to violence. These laws should adequately address those circumstances in which extremists counsel their followers to commit specific acts of violence.

The problem with banning terror advocacy lies in its vagueness. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, and advocating terrorism is not the same as threatening specific people with immediate harm.  Consider this: is calling for the overthrow of Kim Jong Il and the North Korean government an act that “condones” terror? What about the Iraqi government? What about the Australian government? Are the manifestos of our ineffectual socialist movement, which regularly call for revolution in Australia, cause for harsh jail terms and imprisonment? Moving further afield, some Australian writers have even penned articles in newspapers in support of what is commonly regarded as a terrorist group—Hamas. Hamas is a listed terrorist group in Australia, Europe and the United States. Should we jail all of these writers? Surely, for real liberals the answer must be no: people should not be jailed for words unless there is a real and immediate threat of violence expressed by their author. Debates about wars and the discontented rumblings of the far left, or other peaceful extremists are simply not a matter for law enforcement.

Even if advocating terrorism can be harmful because it persuades people towards extremist views, the costs of banning such speech could be even higher. That’s why we shouldn’t restrict people from advocating for terrorism. Restrictions could incite unrest amongst extremists, activate their membership and cause their ideas to become even more popular as a result. This may create even more terrorism in turn.

The historical record shows how this has occurred in places such as Weimar Germany. Weimar Germany’ many attempts to censor vehemently racist and anti-Semitic opinion only stirred the Nazi movement into a frenzy of outraged activity, and Nazi leaders were quick to use episodes like the imprisonment of Nazi propagandists as an excuse to hold rallies or protests in their support. Julian Stretcher, the editor of the Nazi newspaper Der Sturmer, was reportedly jailed and then released to cheering crowds. These incidents demonstrate how censorship can bolster support for extremist movements by giving them attention and activating their supporters. The acts of censorship committed by the Weimar regime may well have normalised subsequent acts of censorship by the Nazis—even if it was censorship for a different cause entirely.

Hizb ut-tahrir’s leaders are not blind to the power of censorship: they have accused Australia’s political class of being hypocrites who use the rhetoric of liberalism as a tool for the maintenance of political power, even as they seek to suppress extremist opinions like their own.

What Abbott seems to forget is that people’s views can change. Reason and persuasion will win over far more extremists than brute force ever will. Indeed, part of the point of tolerance is to teach people to be tolerant in turn. People’s views can be, and often are turned away from extremist opinion in Western society for precisely this reason. That is partly how our liberal, tolerant society came into being: through the successive decisions of many people to live and let live, and extend tolerance to more and more people of different backgrounds and beliefs.

The laws have other drawbacks. Conceivably, even expressing understanding for the motives of combatants in war time might be regarded as a breach of this law. For instance, columnists often write that they can empathise with the motivations of terrorists even as they condemn their means. Human empathy is normal; even those who oppose terrorists should attempt to understand them. But if a columnist also strongly condemns the present policies of the government, he may fall afoul of these laws if he does not trouble himself with also explicitly condemning terrorism. It is all too easy to see how the controversial conflicts of our time and the columnists who write about them might fall afoul of these restrictions in the right circumstances.

It is not to the point to claim that these laws do not exclude “genuine debate.” What constitutes genuine debate lies in the eye of beholder. The potential for censorship remains. Just as Andrew Bolt got himself into legal trouble because a judge thought he wasn’t being sufficiently sensitive to the feelings of his subjects, so too, a judge might find that a columnist was advocating terror rather than engaging in debate because he was not being sufficiently sensitive in making the case for an unpopular rebel cause.

From a classical liberal perspective, therefore, the government’s approach to this issue is befuddling. On one hand it once claimed to support freedom of expression, particularly if the subject matter is offensive, in calling for the repeal of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act (which bans racially offensive speech). On the other it condemns offensive speech in support of ‘radical’ causes of which it disapproves. There is a profound contradiction here. No doubt the spread of racially offensive speech is a justification for the censorship of racist ideas under the Racial Discrimination Act; but many of those very same offensive ideas will be expressed by those who fall afoul of these provisions. Indeed, the government’s explicit intent is to repress the expression of extremist views like those put forward by the increasingly prominent Islamist group Hizb ut-tahrir. But ultimately, this law, like section 18C, could substantially restrict the scope of political debate even further than its enactors may intend.

It is also worth noting the historical irony: Abbott is in a sense the ideological successor of the first Liberal Prime Minister, Robert Menzies. Menzies led a campaign to ban the Communist Party and criminalise the expression of communist beliefs in Australia and was nearly successful in the attempt.

The High Court struck down the laws Menzies introduced on the basis that they were outside the scope of the Commonwealth’s law-making powers and had nothing to do with national defence. After all, a political party is merely a group of people, and communism, like Islamism, is a set of beliefs, not a bomb. A person’s associates and ideas, in and of themselves, are not the same as acts of violent terrorism and revolution.

Today, Mr Abbot’s law could also infringe upon another constitutional limit to legislative power: the implied freedom of political communication, invented by the High Court in the early 90’s.

Despite Menzies’ failure to ban communism, Australia survived the Cold War—and Robert Menzies lived on to become Australia’s longest serving PM. Perhaps Mr Abbott hopes to follow in his footsteps.