FACTCHECK: Has the Federal Government Cut Spending?

by on 17 December, 2014

timAndrews1

Is the Federal Government Really Cutting Spending? Tim Andrews from the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance looks at the numbers:

Almost every day we hear shrieks in the media about how the Federal Government is drastically slashing spending.

Even the Federal Government uses the rhetoric of cutting spending and “budget repair”.

But is this actually true?

Is the government cutting spending?

Make no mistake – our public spending levels are out of control, and things are only going to get worse as debt piles up, and our aging population puts increased costs on health and welfare.

Our economy is already being held back by big government. So spending cuts are desperately needed.

So is the Federal Government actually making them?

Because unlike politicians, the numbers don’t lie:

5 Lessons from the Sydney Tragedy

by on 17 December, 2014

1003914_567133449990733_506421512_nViral-video sensation Topher Field sets out his thoughts on the recent tragedy:

I believe there are 5 clear lessons from the Sydney Lindt store attack.

1. Live and love every day. This is the latest in a string of tragic events around Australia that remind us how uncertain life is and how precious it is. Live every day to the full, love completely and without reservation, and never part from your loved ones in anger if there is any way to avoid it.


2. The police cannot protect you. The police WANT to protect you, they will do everything they CAN to protect you, but the reality is they can’t. It’s just simple physics. They can’t be everywhere, and attackers (be they terror motivated, or just common criminals) will pick places and times when their victims are vulnerable. All the laws in the world would not have stopped this attack. And once again we see someone with a long and violent criminal history being released by our court system to strike again. It’s a story we’ve seen repeated far FAR too many times over in this country. In short, if you believe you are safe because of the police, our courts, or our laws, then the truth is you are not safe, you’ve just been lucky so far.


3. It’s true that VERY few Muslims will ever commit an act of terror, and the vast majority would work to STOP such an attack if they could… yet it’s ALSO true that the vast majority of terrorists today self-identify as Muslims (Whether rightly or wrongly is mostly irrelevant). We need to acknowledge that and deal with that reality, not wish it away because it is confronting and politically incorrect. The Muslim community needs to find ways to identify and stop these sorts of people before they strike, for the sake of their reputation and acceptance within Australian society, and for the sake of all Australians.


4. It’s not a surprise to see it happening so close to home, and judging by other western cities around the world it could get a lot worse before it gets better. Terror attacks (by which I mean random attacks designed to make a political point or score religious brownie points, rather than criminal attacks which are targeted and designed to personally benefit the criminal) have become frequent in Europe and most go unreported over here. Anyone saying ‘I can’t believe it happened here’ hasn’t been paying attention, or has been lying to themselves for the last few years. This is not the last time it will happen in Australia


5. This attack re-enforces my view that we need to be able to defend ourselves at an individual level. Terror attacks have morphed. They have become individual, lone wolf, strike anywhere at any time attacks. In many ways they make no sense and it’s hard or impossible for police or ASIO to anticipate the where, when or who of these attacks. In other words, they can’t really be stopped in advance, only dealt with once they are underway. And the best person to deal with an attacker is one of the intended victims. We all saw the pictures coming out of Sydney. The police were there in their hundreds, the best people we have were on the scene with the most advanced weapons money can buy, and all they could do was stand outside and hope. All those guns in all those highly trained hands were worth less than a single gun in the hands of one of the staff or one of the shoppers would have been. The ability to INDIVIDUALLY defend ourselves has once again become necessary. Less than 20 years ago Australia issued permits for people to carry firearms on themselves as they went about their daily lives for their own protection and the protection of everyone around them. It’s time to re-introduce such a system. We can see clearly that criminals can get guns, even people with a long criminal history (or should we say ‘especially people with a long criminal history’) can get them easily enough. And when someone attacks us the first thing we do is call for help from people with guns (the police) who, as we’ve seen, can’t always help us. So the only people who have been disarmed by anti-gun laws are the victims themselves, which are the very people who most need them and the people who are best placed to use them. It’s long past time to re-introduce sensible personal gun ownership into Australia.

Some people will hate me for saying the above, and so be it. I’ve said EVERY SINGLE ONE of the above 5 points numerous times before, and I’ll keep saying them for as long as it takes to see some common sense in our laws and in our responses to those who would do us harm.

The following is reproduced from a Facebook post with permission. You can follow Topher Field on Facebook HERE.

#Illridewithyou Shows Solidarity to Racist Straw Man

by on 17 December, 2014

10155850_10154935100595096_437419834123704628_nSai Chiang argues the #illridewithyou campaign is inherently problematic:

A major Twitter campaign began trending on the afternoon of the Sydney Lindt Café siege which left two innocent civilians dead: #illridewithyou.

The hashtag encouraged people to protect Muslims from racist Australians by offering to ride with them on buses, trains and cars. This ostensibly heart-warming gesture came as a result of one twitter user, Tessa Kum becoming saddened when she saw a Muslim woman considering to remove her veil inside the train on the day of the siege.

However for the less media-savvy, one would reasonably presume that this is a response to some kind of widespread anti-Muslim attack in our city. As Bill Shorten wrote on Twitter, “Australians tonight doing what we do best – uniting to overcome intolerance and hate.” What hate? What intolerance? There was certainly hate and intolerance, but it was happening inside a café and not a train carriage. Another Facebook user wrote, “Come on Australia, we’re better than this – #illridewithyou.” Better than what exactly?

The left has successfully managed to turn the greatest evil of the day, the evils of Islamic terrorism to the evils of racism. But where are all these evil racists? Let’s find out.

In the morning following the tragedy, I witnessed first hand the love of real ordinary Australians as I along with hundreds of others brought flowers to pay respect to the dead and to take the opportunity to thank the police for everything they have done. The sea of flowers left by hundreds of mourners was a most moving scene and it brought tears to the toughest of men. In my short visit, I saw among the hundreds gathered a number of Muslim women wearing their religious headscarf. They showed no fear of the fabled angry mob, and two even thought that it was safe enough to bring their children along! There was no animosity, no angry look from anybody and no racist attack.

Sydney Seige

by on 15 December, 2014

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all the hostages and police involved in this morning’s siege in Sydney.

Gunmen have taken hostages in the Lindt chocolate shop in Martin place, and a jihadist flag has been held up against the window.

UPDATE: Like all Australians, we are devastated by the tragic end to the events in Martin Place and the loss of innocent life. Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone and their families. A truly tragic day.

 

Giving Away Our Soverignty

by on 12 December, 2014

Terje Petersen argues that immigrants to Australia shouldn’t be let in for free but should instead pay an immigration tariff of $25,147 each:

There are many reasoned arguments as to why immigration is good for the economy and good for the country. Some estimate that global GDP could be increased by 50 to 150% if people if completely open immigration was implemented globally. Without wishing to dismiss such arguments there is however a sense in which letting foreigners into the country is akin to giving away our sovereignty. Let me explain.

Australia is a vast nation with lots of land. For the purposes of this discussion I’m going to assume that large tracts of it are currently worth next to nothing. For example if a million illegal immigrants secretly arrived tomorrow, secretly set up camp in the Simpson desert and then secretly did their own thing there for the next 50 years or so, it is not as if we would feel deprived of the land they occupied. The reality is that we are not using lots of our land.

Some of our land however is extremely valuable and this tends to be land in cities where there is a high amount of established public infrastructure. Libertarians will at times argue that some of this public infrastructure should be privatised or even given away to Australian citizens. However they would not generally argue that ownership of this infrastructure should be given as a gift to foreigners. Given that public infrastructure is essentially owned by the Australia people, via our sovereign government, any admission of additional new Australians represents a dilution of our equity in this stock of public infrastructure. Of course in such a vast land we have the capacity to build new cities with additional public infrastructure but none the less any admission of new Australians represents a dilution of our equity in the current stock.

The stock of public infrastructure in Australia is worth in the order of $600 billion. With a population of 23.7 million this equates to a per capita value for public infrastructure of $25,147. At the margin this is the amount by which our equity in public infrastructure is diluted each time an immigrant is admitted into the country.

This dilution of equity does not occur with private infrastructural, such as housing, because private infrastructure is not owned collectively by all Australians. It is owned individually and privately. An immigrant that moves to Australia may get to use the same footpath you use but they don’t get to use part of your house. The footpath will become more crowded but your house won’t.

Lessons From Victoria: The Perils of Internal Parliamentary Centralisation

by on 12 December, 2014

Amidst the navel gazing and blame-shifting in the fallout of the disastrous Victorian State Election result, one simple story has so far escaped media attention.

This is an issue that cuts through the spin and goes to the heart of the Victorian Liberal’s woes – and, more importantly, is a cautionary tale for the Abbott Government – one they ignore at their peril.

Few members of the public would remember the radical and historically unprecedented changes that former Victorian Liberal Premier Ted Baillieu made to staff selection mechanisms upon his election.

And why would you? The internal hiring processes of a government is hardly front page news.

But what was instituted really was revolutionary. Under the Westminster system, Members of Parliament traditionally had the right to determine their staff. Under the new system, however, all Ministers had to have their staff cleared by Premier’s office in what was then dubbed the “Star Chamber”, run by factional warrior Michael Kapel. The result was brutal – hundreds were denied positions, with only Yes-Men let through, staff guaranteed to not challenge the head office line.

The Victorian election result was the inevitable outcome. Too focussed on the goals of appeasing the Leader’s Office, staff were either unwilling or unable to give the advice needed to enact meaningful reform for Victoria. Short term goals trumped the long term, and, with talent and political insight being almost guaranteed as a veto quality in job applications, despite a few good staff slipping through, is it any wonder after 4 years of a sclerotic yes-man regime, that the Victorian electorate voted as it did? Granted, the Victorian Government, did have a number of quality staffers who got through the process, and their number certainly increased following the elevation of Denis Napthine to premier, but the rot in the government set in early, and this certainly was a contributing factor

More disturbingly – and perhaps more tellingly – is that this practice of refusing all but yes-men has spread Federally, and even expanded in scope.

Following the previous Federal election, rules issued by the Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff, Peta Credlin, set out that – not just ministerial staff, but all parliamentary staff, had to be cleared by the Leader’s office.

Just think about this for a moment. Every backbench constituent officer had to go through an approval process by the Prime Minister’s Office.

Why the Right should stand with Joe Hockey

by on 12 December, 2014

Reilly Thomas

Reilly Thomas explains why the Coalition should resurrect its Treasurer, not replace him. 

There has been quite a bit of talk about the performance of Australia’s Treasurer, Joe Hockey, recently. Much of this talk has boiled over into speculation about the Treasurer’s future, including, if reports are to be believed, within the party room. The name of Malcom Turnbull, who is always mentioned seemingly whenever a high-ranking member of the Government gets into a bit of trouble (not least, the Prime Minister), has been floated as a possible alternative.

However, there are two general, core reasons why the Right, especially Liberal Party members, should continue to support Hockey, particularly in the public sphere.

The first reason is that Hockey has not performed as badly as a lot of the rhetoric would suggest. He was a successful Shadow Treasurer, and was widely regarded as one of the opposition’s chief salesmen. He was a rival with Turnbull in this regard, especially considering a widely held perception that Turnbull often does not quite completely believe what he is saying. With the exception perhaps of his expressions of support for the Paid Parental Leave scheme, nobody could really substantively accuse the Treasurer of the same crime.

Even looking at Hockey’s current stretch of time in office, it is unrealistic to burden him with too much of the blame regarding the passage of the Budget, and to attribute this as ‘poor performance’.

The Treasurer faces significant economic challenges. Unlike other Ministerial portfolios, such as Immigration and Border Protection, the actions and decisions taken by the Treasurer are only one of many factors influencing the economy and, as such, it is an upward battle for any Treasurer at the best of times. And these have definitely not been the best of times. There shouldn’t be any need to convince any right-wing person of the mess Hockey inherited.

With such a mess to begin with, Hockey always had a mammoth task ahead of him. And then there is the political situation of the Senate. Although the Government has passed almost 99 percent of revenue measures, attempts to reduce the deficit have been consistently blocked by an obstructionist ALP devoid of any alternative policy suggestions, the Greens, a mixed bag of independents, and what was until recently, the ‘Clive Palmer bloc’- a rampantly populist group with zero ideological or policy consistency.

No doubt, Hockey was banking on the hope that enough Senators would break from populism and see the bigger picture involved in the budget repair, unfortunately, they haven’t.

Hockey has also faced difficulty within Cabinet in constructing a budget narrative. Reports are beginning to emerge of the Prime Minister’s office insisting on delaying plans to reveal the situation outlined in the National Commission of Audit, hampering the Treasurer’s wish to begin a national conversation on the necessity of cuts and like measures well before budget day.

So, my point is, Hockey himself has not performed as badly as to warrant political execution- factors outside of his control must be taken into account, when assessing the individual minister.

The second reason why the right should stand with our Treasurer is that it is the only viable, pragmatic step towards Coalition political victory and, with that, successful Budget repair.

If Hockey were to be replaced, there is no reason to think that this would break the deadlock in the Senate. A new face, selling the same measures, as the Labor Party proved during Rudd-Gillard-Rudd, is nothing but a cosmetic change, and not actually that effective.

The long-term political cost of this cosmetic change far outweighs even the most generous suggestions that a new Treasurer would bring a fresh start for the Government. It would provide an endless target for the Opposition, who would point out that a man who served for years as Shadow Treasurer was dumped after little more than a year in the actual job. The Prime Minister’s judgement would be repeatedly called into question, and these political games would continue right up until the next election.

In addition, the suggestion that Turnbull in particular would replace Hockey is absolutely nonsensical. There is no way that Abbott, who is struggling with personal approval ratings himself, would promote the man widely seen as the alternative option for the Liberal leadership.

The Coalition needs its Treasurer to have a resurrection, not a replacement. It needs to stand firmly with Hockey while he tightens his message and reworks his approach, and its supporters should do the same. Hockey shouldn’t be replaced, he won’t be replaced, and anyone with good will towards the Liberal Government, and its budget repair effort, should be working against destabilisation, in order to enable him get on with it.

Reilly Thomas is a student studying Politics and International Relations, and Business Law, at the University of Western Australia. He has been actively involved in working with like-minded students in strengthening the presence of the Right on-campus.

The West and Islam: Cultural Introspection in the 21st Century

by on 11 December, 2014

Christopher Dowson

Christopher Dowson believes that the solution to the clash of civilisations between the West and Islam lies in what he calls ‘cultural introspection’, that is, each party’s ability to look within as opposed to externalising the blame on the other. 

In 63 B.C., during Cicero’s Second Catiline Oration (at §15), the famous rhetorician asked:

“But why are we speaking so long about one enemy; and about that enemy who now avows that he is one; and whom I now do not fear, because a wall is between us; but are saying nothing about those who dissemble, who remain at Rome, who are among us?”

Over two thousand years have passed since Cicero uttered this prophetic warning and it’s clear that our society has not taken it to heart. By ‘our society’ I do not refer simply to ‘the West’ or Anglosphere countries, but also Muslim cultures across the world. The interface between the West and Islam has produced enmity and violence whose primary victims are their societies’ innocents. These people are ordinary Americans, Australians, Brits or Europeans whose beliefs are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Scientologist, atheist and agnostic among many others. Neoconservative interventionism as well as fundamentalist Islamism are the toxic by-products of both Western and Muslim worlds and for the most part, the response by Western governments, the media, and political pundits, as well as Muslim community and religious leaders, has been to externalise the problems facing their societies.

It is easier to proclaim that we have a ‘Muslim problem’ and vow to stop Islam from taking over our country, just as it is easier to argue: ‘We are moderate Muslims! The West is just xenophobic!’ The problem for both the Western and Muslim worlds is that they lack what I call cultural introspection; the ability to look inside one’s own culture and pinpoint the causes which have exacerbated existing problems and weakened their societies from within. The word introspicio ‘to look into’ is, coincidentally, first attested in Latin by Cicero himself, and serves as a useful basis for this analysis. As Cicero would say, we talk a lot about the ‘hedonistic West’ or ‘barbaric Muslim countries’ but say nothing about those who dissemble, who ‘remain in Rome’, who are among us, weakening our society from within. This article is designed to highlight a few of these internal cultural problems on both sides and subsequently come to a better understanding of where improvement can occur between our two cultures.

To begin with Islam: We are told that the attraction for young, impressionable Muslims to join extremist ideologies such as Salfism or Wahabism, stems from poverty, lack of opportunity, and a lack of education about the West and the positive aspects of its history. In addition to these factors, there is also a need to externalise problems on an outside oppressor. As an interesting example, Carl Jung spoke of this as a universal phenomenon in human psychology: ‘The importance of the archetypes in man’s relationship to the world is emphasised; they are seen to express man’s highest values, which would be lost in the unconscious if not for their projection onto the external environment’.[1]

For young Muslims as well as young Westerners, disillusionment is one of the most powerful motivating factors in conversion to radical ideologies. For extremists, it is easier to blame the West for their misfortunes than to take self-responsibility and lift their followers out of a cycle of poverty and violence. It is far easier to blame the West for the geopolitical problems of the Middle East instead of criticising Saudi Arabian excess and treachery against the rest of the Muslim world (as well as Turkey). A clear example of this tendency to externalise the blame comes from Osama bin Laden’s following fatwa in 1996:

The people of Islam awakened and realised that they are the main target for the aggression of the Zionist-Crusaders alliance. All false claims and propaganda about “Human Rights” were hammered down and exposed by the massacres that took place against the Muslims in every part of the world.[2]

Hyperbole and externalisation of foreign oppressors are the main motifs of the 11,000 word document and it is no surprise then that these motifs reappear in the videos of young ISIS fighters around the world blaming everyone else but themselves for their violence, hatred, and misfortune. One of the most important areas of improvement in the Muslim world is for their religious and community leaders to emphasise cultural introspection. Not simply to declaim organisations such as Al Qaeda and ISIS as ‘un-Islamic’ (which is actually false), but to ask why these groups are able to become so popular and alluring to disenfranchised Muslims in the first place.

Acknowledgment that texts like the Koran do contain justifications for violence is a first step. The next step would be to stress that Islam is no longer a religion of the 7th century, and that it has often been practiced in the past as a moderate, peaceful, and morally conservative religion which aims to co-exist with other cultures, not to evangelise or subjugate them. Teachings by Imams on the importance of fighting extremist ideologies will be the most important way for Islam to weaken the influence of groups like ISIS. To convince moderate Muslims that it is the traitors within that are doing more damage to them and their religion than any Westerner.

For those Muslims who emigrate to the West to live better, safer, and more prosperous lives, it is equally their responsibility to discourage their friends and family from embracing extremism and to encourage self-responsibility and education instead of aggression and militancy. The destruction of extremism in Islam will not be by American fighter jets or soldiers, but rather by an internal reform which takes the fight to Salafists and Wahabists and widely discredits their ideologies once and for all. The willingness to fight those violent traitors within Islam (whose numbers are growing daily) who tarnish the perception of the many passive Muslims dedicated to living peaceful and harmonious lives with Westerners, is the most important step in resolving the problem of fundamentalist Islamism.

It would, of course, be quite naïve not to understand the role played by Western neoconservative ideology in deliberately destablising the Middle East and subsequently providing the spark for global jihadists to unite against the West and all it stands for. A list of CIA and US military covert and overt interventions in Syria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Kuwait and many more demonstrates a lot of the mistakes of US foreign policy. We might well say the US was justified in fighting the spread of Soviet Communism in the 1980s by arming the Mujahideen in Afghanistan (and subsequently spawning the Taliban), but as Westerners, we must be introspective and realise where Western foreign policy has failed, where it has been successful, and where exit strategies and alliances needed to be improved and refined. These topics are far beyond the scope of this article, but they are important considerations because much of the information about Middle Eastern geopolitics comes from Western news outlets which oversimplify, misconstrue, or just ignore important historical factors which have shaped the region stretching back to the fall of the Ottoman Empire after World War I.

Yet more fundamentally, we in the West need to be introspective as to who exactly are those traitors within our walls who are destablising our own culture. When we see news stories such as this (http://800whistleblower.com/boys-now-allowed-to-join-girls-athletic-teams-in-minnesota-schools/) where an activist judiciary voted to force the state’s public schools to allow boys on their girls’ sports teams, we begin to get closer to the answer. The recent amnesty agreement by US President Obama allowing millions of illegal immigrants to become US citizens with the stroke of a pen, is another example.

The progressivist campaign to incite hatred, racism, and violence in Ferguson and New York, the need to revise history into a guilt-based curriculum as opposed to fact-based, the constant demands to reduce military and defence spending, the attack on Christianity and faith in general, and the rise of moral relativism all begin to uncover the internal problems affronting the West. The degradation of standards in education as well as in social mores inspires progressivists to shout ‘more freedom, more rights, more liberty’ at whatever cost. The evidence of this degradation abounds and I don’t need to point out some of the cultural problems that we witness on a daily basis even here in Australia.[3] Westerners who witness this, who lack the proper historical education, and who – like many young Muslims – become disillusioned, find it easier to blame their problems on foreigners, especially Islam.

It is easier to be Islamophobic than to admit that Western society has gone beyond ‘progress’ and has now reached ‘regress’. Yes we can criticise Islamic ideologies, and yes this is the luxury of free speech and the free exchange of ideas and opinions in the West, but we can’t palm off our problems and responsibilities simply to externalise them on foreign cultures. To truly improve relations between Islam and the West, and to return our culture to one of traditional values, morals, and stability, our younger generations need a far better education of history, a better understanding of causes and effects, and most importantly, primary sources and actual facts – not historical revisionism. We cannot hope to be a strong and cohesive society if our own intellectual elites, our governments, and our media are so dominated by progressives who have no regard for tradition or history unless it involves guilt, revision, and reinterpretation.

Many Westerners wouldn’t know that Osama bin Laden was once an ally of the United States. Many Westerners wouldn’t care about the British Mandate in Palestine and the multiple attacks by Jewish terrorist group Irgun which killed dozens of British officials. Yet, they could tell you that Islam is a violent religion and that there are a lot of Muslims coming into their country degrading their ‘values’. Similarly, many young Muslims would never have heard of Martin Luther or the Reformation which divided Christianity. Many may never have heard of the Faisal-Weizmann Agreement or the broken agreements by the Arabs which initiated the Israeli-Palestinian conflict spanning much of the 20th century. Yet, they could tell you that Israel are warmongering aggressors and that the West is a hedonistic, immoral society who wants to control the oil and resources of the Middle East.

These incongruent worldviews stem from one problem, and one problem alone: the complete lack of cultural introspection. If the Muslim world is to stop the spread of fundamentalism, the burden is on its own religious leaders to educate their younger followers and actively encourage the battle of ideas against violent Islam, to reform their religion into a peaceful and modern ideology whilst still maintaining its socially conservative traditions. And if the West is to deal with its growing problems of cultural and moral decay, it should stop blaming foreigners and ‘Islam’, and instead realise that progressivism and all its acolytes are the true ‘traitors within Rome’.

[1]. Jung, C., Collected Works of C. G. Jung, Vol. 9, Part 1. 2nd ed., Princeton University Press, 1968. pp. 92-94.

[2]. http://www.pbs.org/newshour/updates/military-july-dec96-fatwa_1996/

[3]. See my earlier article on this topic: http://www.menzieshouse.com.au/?p=5838

 

Christopher Dowson LLB BA (Hons) is a postgraduate student at the University of Western Australia, a member of the WA Young Liberals and co-creator of current affairs show The Oak Point on West TV.

Joining political parties isn’t enough for liberty

by on 8 December, 2014

10822622_10152531371642683_688174069_n-150x150Lee Herridge argues that the real aim for believers in small government shouldn’t be winning elections, but persuading people of the idea of liberty:

In the wake of the Liberal Party’s loss in Victoria last weekend, there has been much discussion on this site about the merit, or otherwise, of liberty-minded people being involved in political parties.

It is indisputable that the Napthine/Baillieu governments didn’t live up to the small government message that the Liberal Party touts, and it would be hard to argue that the Liberal Party has ever properly matched the reality of their actions in government to their rhetoric. In my own state of WA, Barnett government has recently unveiled a $1.13b sports stadium, on top of the $440m redevelopment of the Perth city foreshore, all during a time when the government is already struggling to stay in surplus, debt is ballooning to over $29b and WA has already lost its AAA credit rating. The Liberal governments in Queensland and New South Wales have been busy implementing the police state and the Abbott government’s first budget was pretty weak tea if you wanted to see some real cuts to the size of government. Overall, there is lots of cause for genuine liberals to be wondering how seriously the Liberals takes their belief that they “work towards a lean government that minimises interference in our daily lives”.

There have been a number of people on this site that have spoken at their deep disappointment in the Victorian Liberals and explained why they left for the party, and as a member of the WA Liberal Party, I know the frustration they speak of. Some make the case for staying in the Liberals, and others to move to the LDP, I would argue that both miss the point. Membership in political parties can be worthwhile but ultimately, the main game for liberals should never be winning elections but persuading people of the value of liberty as a set of ideas. Without a wide number of people convinced of the virtue of liberty, neither liberals in the Liberal Party or the Liberal Democratic Party have any real hope of enacting meaningful substantive change into the future.

The East-West Link was a dud anyway

by on 7 December, 2014

 

1609697_10152650821929989_322121146_nThe East West Link, the Liberal government’s key election promise, was a shameful white elephant. The estimated cost of the first stage ran at $6.8 billion dollars, of which $2 billion would come from Victorian tax payers, and $1.5 billion from Australian tax payers generally. That’s $3.5 billion dollars in public funding. The overall long term cost to the taxpayer would run at an estimated $17.8 billion dollars. These are government figures so they are probably optimistic estimates; indeed academics believe the costs will be higher. The Liberals framed the 2014 Victorian election as a referendum on this this road. Thankfully, the electorate knocked it back. It was a dud.

Imagine that you work for a commercial lender being approached by a developer for a loan for a multibillion dollar project. The developer says there is a cost benefit analysis and that the project will be profitable, but doesn’t give you the analysis or the details. However, you and the developer go a long way back; you trust the developer. This is despite the developer’s shonky history and reputation for dishonest dealings. You give the developer the loan anyway. At this point, if your employer becomes aware of your actions, you will probably be fired for incompetence.

Now suppose that you are a voter being asked to vote for the Liberals because they support the East-West Link. The Napthine government did not disclose its cost-benefit analysis to the public for the East-West Link highway project. It simply asked the public to trust the government. It claimed that you could because of its “economic credentials.” This is no different to a developer asking the bank for a loan, and saying “trust me” rather than handing over the information. How are you, as a voter, able to assess whether the project is worthwhile? You can’t.

Regardless, several of the former government’s own MPs have acknowledged that the Liberals are not to be trusted. The Napthine government spent its term in office subsidising profitable companies like SPC. It raised taxes and charges. It increased government spending. It even promised to spend more on renewable energy schemes than Labor. It had no economic credentials to so much as to presume to bargain with in the first place.

I am not opposed to road projects. Quite the opposite: I want as many roads built as the public demands. The difference is that I don’t pretend to know how many roads the public wants; what their size might be; or where they should be directed to. I am not an engineer and nor am I financier. I do not have the knowledge or expertise to make judgments about whether a road project is worth it. Nor do politicians. I recognize that engineers and investors already invest private money in roads when it is profitable to do so. That’s why toll roads exist: to ensure that roads can profit investors much as supermarkets, banks or other private companies do.

The private sector may have invested some funds in the East West Link, but they have also refused to do so without billions of dollars of public funding. That means the project, as it is currently designed, simply isn’t worth the money, trouble or effort for the private sector. If that’s the case, we must ask ourselves why politicians are willing to spend taxpayer’s money on it. Public choice economics has the answer. The father of public choice theory, James Buchanan, describes it as the study of “politics without romance.” As economist Adam Thierer puts it:

“When one begins to ponder infrastructure management problems through the prism of public choice theory, the resulting failures we witness become far less surprising. The sheer scale of many infrastructure projects opens the door to logrolling, rent-seeking, bureaucratic mismanagement, and even outright graft.”

Politicians are willing to engage in infrastructure projects as long as they look good to the public and appeal to key special interest groups, like major construction companies. The government calculates that other constituencies, like pensioners whose properties are compulsorily acquired, will be insignificant electorally.

As voters, we are regularly being asked to vote on mammoth infrastructure projects costing tens of billions of dollars. The National Broadband Network is a good example. Its initial estimated cost was $40 billion dollars. Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott slammed the Federal ALP for refusing to release its business plan to the public. Denis Napthine adopted the same cavalier approach as Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard. Releasing a business case for the East West Link would only leave it susceptible to criticism that would undermine his electoral prospects.

The best way to stimulate infrastructure spending and economic growth is to cut public funding to infrastructure projects—and cut the taxes that fund them in the first place. Tax cuts will return money to the people that earned it. It will let taxpayers vote with their wallets on the infrastructure they want. Private developers will then fund that infrastructure appropriately if we let them.

The public needs to make up its mind on infrastructure projects. Do we really want election campaigns that take months and years to be centred on infrastructure projects that politicians are not equipped to assess or properly deliver? Do we want the incredible cost and uncertainty that comes with politicians announcing and then cancelling infrastructure projects for political gain? Or do we just want the job done properly, in a timely manner, at the least expense for all involved? If so, the private sector is the way to go.

It will be interesting to see whether it will cost less taxpayer money to simply cancel the East-West Link. If so, I for one hope the ALP does, and quickly.

Vladimir “Zeev” Vinokurov is a solicitor and an associate editor at Menzies House. The views expressed here are his own.