by on 25 November, 2015


Jessica Van Zwam provides an optimistic assessment of the Turnbull Government’s acceptance of most recommendations of the Harper Review. 

Today we saw the drastic difference between Australia’s two main parties – highlighting just how much this country needs ideas that support innovation, not tax grabs. This broad acceptance of the review’s recommendations show Turnbull is following through on his commitment to be thoroughly liberal, at least in the economic sense.

A “defining moment in Australia’s economic journey” is how Business Council Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott refers to the Federal Government’s support of the Harper Review on competition, if implemented appropriately.

It is refreshing to see that the Turnbull Government, along with Treasurer Scott Morrison, plans to take on board the majority of recommendations put forward by the Harper Review. The government has today announced that it will be backing 44 of the 56 recommendations put forward. The Treasurer has also claimed that the government has not yet rejected any recommendations and that the remaining ones are still up for discussion in the future. This comprehensive review of Australia’s competition law is the first in 22 years and makes suggestions of changes to our taxi services, transport regulations and retail trading hours, amongst others.

In announcing the government’s response, Morrison has stated that the government wants to “unleash a spirit of competition”, helping the country adapt to changes in the global economy. He continues to note that “competition is one of the surest ways to lift long-term productivity growth and generate economic benefits that can be shared by everyone”. Rod Sims, the Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has already welcomed the government’s response, stating that “these reforms are the most significant of their kind in over 20 years and once implemented should boost economic growth significantly”.

As a full-time university student with at least another full year of tertiary study left, I welcome the government’s commitment to removing parallel import tariffs on textbooks. I stand with many others around Australia, who are excited to see significant price reductions on textbooks, leading to a lower cost of living for students. This recommendation essentially means that individuals or retailers can import certain products without it going through an authorised distributor or IP owner. However, it should be noted that this support will rely on the outcomes of an inquiry by the Productivity Commission into Australia’s intellectual property arrangements. They have also rejected the suggestion to also remove restrictions on second-hand cars. Regardless, it is always important to celebrate the government’s support of the removal of import restrictions and make a point that we truly are the party of freedom and deregulation.

The review again highlighted the importance of deregulation in placing taxis and ride-sharing as an area for regulatory review. This focuses on deregulating taxi licences and ensuring both minimum standards and competition among ride sharing services such as Uber. Whilst it is known that the regulation of taxis and ride sharing is an area of state responsibility, the government has come out in support of this recommendation; with a strong consideration of payments to states and territories for similar regulatory reviews where they result in reforms which ultimately improve productivity.

In a move which will modernise Australia and improve productivity, the government has also backed the review’s recommendation to remove the remaining restrictions on retail trading hours. This does hold the exclusion of Christmas Day, Good Friday, and ANZAC day, just a few days which remain incredibly important to Australian way of life and offers a good balance. Again, the government has stated that it will encourage the states to introduce this recommendation, hopefully leading to a win for shoppers around Australia.

These are just a few very promising outcomes which will be delivered by the Turnbull Government, or by the States where relevant, in response to the review. I, like many others, look forward to seeing these restrictions on competition and economic growth be lifted in the near future.

However, this celebration of competition by the Liberals comes as a stark contrast to Bill “Mr 15%” Shorten’s most recent tax grab. The policy idea was put forward by the Labor leader today and plans to increase the tobacco excise by 12.5% a year for four years until 2020. This comes as the Cancer Council announces a drop in teenage smoking rates, emphasising just how out of touch the Labor party is. They can’t even manage to get the support of the entire party caucus, as Senator Joe Bullock questions his party’s motives. Why Bill Shorten decided to end his failed ‘year of ideas’ with a nanny state-style tax hike which hits poorer Australians is beyond me.

The contrast in the kind of policy announced by the two major parties today is resounding. One looks to punish their own supporters, the other supports the notions of competition and deregulation. It becomes quite clear which party supports Australia and our citizens, and which truly doesn’t.

Jessica Van Zwam is a third year Bachelor of Arts student at the University of Western Australia majoring in Political Science, International Relations and Marketing. She is currently the Senior Vice President of Swan Young Liberals.

Why Australia should not sign up to the Paris Climate Summit

by on 23 November, 2015

Ahead of the terror attack that took place in Paris, climate change is not an immediate concern. Celeste Arenas gives the scientific and economic reasons not to sign up to the UN Paris Summit in December.

11651173_1125567404137282_902298289_nFollowing the unprecedented terrorist attack in Paris, the French government and other world leaders are set to continue the upcoming Climate Summit as planned. There are innumerable reasons, both environmental and economic to cancel the conference, but raising morale and refusing to submit to terrorism is the best reason to draw all the world’s leaders together in the same city that the horrific murder took place. Their presence is better served however, by aiming to resolve some of our biggest world problems; from the horrendous human rights violations that ISIS has committed, to the starving population of North Korea to the dictatorial suppression of people in Venezuela. Instead, they will gather to take action against climate change, whose unjustified concern has been exposed by the recent tragedies that have taken place. If leaders like Obama were right in saying that “climate change is the greatest challenge of our time,” legislation to curb carbon emissions would make sense. However, the science surrounding climate change is unclear at best and blatantly misleading at worst. A treaty based on dubious scientific claims will lead to an unnecessary economic decline hurting all the nations that sign up. It will particularly devastate developing nations without doing any good for the Australian economy. The very last thing the world needs at this stage is economic decline; the inevitable outcome of binding environmental legislation.

Before Australia commits to reduce emissions by 26% by 2030, one must first ask: why? Scientific inquiry requires natural scepticism, yet the debate over climate change is shut down, often by force. France’s top meteorologist and television personality Phillipe Verdier was recently fired for questioning the validity of climate change. The decision ironically proves the main thesis of his book that “any contrary views … not hostage to [the] planetary scandal … are eliminated.” He says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change “blatantly erased” data contrary to their conclusions and there is “little accuracy” in the IPCC’s climate models. This is the political setting under which negotiations over the climate are about to take place. There is a need to reverse the current trend that makes doubting the merit of climate change tantamount to religious heresy. Before catapulting Turnbull into this political arena, scientific scrutiny has to be applied to ensure the theory is as valid as its proponents claim.

Paris will be constructive, it is argued, because leaders have a united goal to mitigate climate change to “limit the increase the of Earth’s global surface temperature to only 2 degrees above the preindustrial level.” This is drawn from the fear that “current warming has proceeded at an unprecedented rate for the last 1,300 years.” These NASA graphs show a positive correlation between carbon emissions and temperature that escalate vertically from 1950 onwards. However, a graph like this is as accurate as Piketty’s graph on income inequality. Using highly selective data, the graph persuasively misleads the reader into thinking correlation equals causation. A graph on income inequality says the growing distance between the highest and lowest income earners makes capitalism bad for the poor. This graph on climate change says that increasing temperature in the past 200 years makes capitalism bad for the environment. Much like Piketty’s graph, current climate projections do not encompass full historical trends nor do they cover the degrees of difference between regions.

NASA’s estimates go back 650,000 years. This is old, but not as old as the planet itself. Temperature swings date back as far as 65 million years, according to Alaskan geologist David Lappi. His study points out the variety of different stages in the earth’s climate. From various ice ages to temperatures “drastically warmer than now,” the modern day is “cooler than usual.” This graph demonstrates that despite the high degree of variability, temperatures are consistently sliding downwards. Lappi’s study uses “oxygen isotope thermometry of deep ocean sediment cores,” which not only covers more areas of the earth’s surface but a wider time frame compared to NASA. Additionally, NASA’s projections are based on “atmospheric samples of ice cores” which researcher David Middleton has shown seriously underestimates the variability of interglacial carbon dioxide levels.

Lappi argues that the extent of volatility within Earth’s historical climate makes it possible to “pick virtually any trend you want depending on the dot you start from.” NASA chose a recent trend using a less precise measurement in order to claim that global warming is not only unprecedented but must be attributed to carbon emissions.

Cracks in this theory are evident in the false predictions made by environmentalists. By failing to address the variability in the earth’s historical and geographic climate, they have deterministically argued that global warming will increase temperatures worldwide. Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth predicted that the North Pole could be “completely liquidated by 2014” due to the “impending threat of global warming.” In fact, the total opposite has occurred as there has been “a dramatic increase in the amount of ice covering the pole.” In the past two years alone, polar ice caps have “grown by 63%.” Predictions along the same false alarmism of Gore continue however as Professor Peter Wadham argues “the ice area will be less than 1 million square kilometres by September 2015.” It is now November 2015 and even NASA has shown that “an increase in Antarctic snow accumulation … is currently adding enough ice to outweigh the loss of its thinning glaciers.” Any theory with such clear empirical evidence against it should be re- classified as such, instead of rising to the pedestal of undisputable scientific fact.

The second flaw in NASA’s projections is that global warming is a direct result of carbon emissions. Whilst the barrage of climate change literature suggest climate change is man-made, empirical data shows otherwise. Anthony Lupo, professor and former reviewer of the IPCC, explains that “climatological changes since the 1850s” are not unique as “there have been periods where there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere than today.”

Natural global warming is also determined by the sun as a 2014 Nature Geoscience study established an “unexpected link between solar activity and climate change.” According to geological scientist Dr Raimund Muscheler, inputs of solar energy “indirectly change atmospheric circulation” that result in “increases and decreases of temperature in certain regions.” Whilst the impacts of the sun on climate change are evidently significant, current models used in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change does not take solar activity into account. A climate model that does not include every major factor in its predictions cannot be considered the benchmark of global environmental legislation.

Here we have a have a conference that will attempt to eliminate the “vague threats of climate change,” when we know with absolute certainty that “poverty kills people.” Whilst the developed world’s carbon emissions have barely changed since the turn of the century, carbon emissions are rising mainly because of the unprecedented levels of economic growth in India, China and Brazil. These countries are now classified the “world’s largest polluters” as if rescuing entire populations out of poverty is a crime that must be punished.

While the Kyoto Protocol said developing nations were not required to curb their emissions until reaching an acceptable stage of economic growth, Paris will be different. All 192 nations attending; both developed and undeveloped will be obligated to reduce their carbon emissions. The crippling economic impacts this will have on developing countries led to Obama’s proposal of a Green Climate Fund. The only way developing countries can access these finances will be by “adjusting to renewable energies.” If Obama’s goal is to halt poverty reduction in the developing world, this is probably the best way to do it. The American policy goal to adjust to renewable energy in 1995 has been an ongoing failure that cost over $1,700,000,000,000 with “no clear carbon reductions.” This useless spending has only been offset by a heavy dependence and increasing production of oil as a primary energy source. If developing countries apply the same policy failure, this will devastate their ability to grow as they will not be allowed to use carbon emitting energy to sustain their industrial production.

The left are not wrong to talk about the economic disparity between the North and South. They are wrong however, to blame capitalist expansion for this divide. The emergence of global capitalism is the one mitigating factor eliminating the economic distinction of developed and developing nations. Climate legislation directed at developing nations is exactly what will keep these nations in poverty. A treaty obligating both developed and developing nations to reduce emissions at an equal rate will have similar consequences to the binding legislation of the European Union. Like Greece and Italy, nations that are better off independent will be led to economic catastrophe that is the result of political dependency. Individual bureaucrats will extract the benefits of increased funding but this will come at the expense of the economic growth for the everyday people.

As a developed nation, Australia will not face the same ravaging economic decline as Brazil, India or the Philippines. However, its dependence on coal makes it particularly susceptible to emissions cuts following the Paris Summit. Australia’s economic prosperity is largely the result of an ability to emit as many carbon emissions required in order to sustain production. In past climate conferences, Australia has been subject to the harsh labels as “one of the world’s worst polluters per capita” given the extent of its emissions and its low population. However, what is ignored in these remarks is Australia’s claim to one of the highest living standards in the world, a low rate of poverty and ongoing economic growth. Tony Abbott fully understood this when he passed legislation to the development of Queensland’s new $16 billion coalmine. He knew that “powering up the lives of 100 million people in India” is a higher priority than submitting to the unjustified political environmentalism of various lobby groups.

If Turnbull signs environmental legislation in Paris, he will acquiesce that carbon as the root of all evil, regardless of its economic benefits. Nothing could be further from the truth as coal is an integral part of achieving modern energy demand for 38% of the world’s population that still cannot access electricity.

Global leaders will be rightly welcomed in one of the darkest periods of Parisian history, but the redundancy of their goals has been exposed by the immediate concerns of global terrorism. Instead of gathering to rectify the situation, they will be working towards eliminating a non – existent threat by punishing the world’s most vulnerable people. The irony of this legislative indictment is the moral righteousness that will not only accompany the process but the recent context that has emerged. World leaders emboldened to stop global warming after the Paris attacks will only compound the number of victims to suffer needlessly.

Celeste Arenas is a 3rd year Arts student at the University of Sydney. She is the Community Relations Manager for the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance and on the Executive Board of Australia & NZ Students for Liberty, as well as on the Executive of the University of Sydney Libertarian Society.

Misplaced Pride

by on 20 November, 2015

Earlier today, the University of Western Australia replaced the WA State Flag with a ‘pride flag’ until further notice. UWA students Liam Staltari and Rebecca Lawrence respond.


In the latest manifestation of extreme political correctness, the University of Western Australia has today lowered the State Flag of Western Australia from its flagpole and instead raised the ‘Pride’ Flag – a rainbow flag considered a symbol of gay pride and the movement for same-sex marriage. The three flagpoles usually display the Australian National Flag, the WA State Flag and the Aboriginal Flag, rightfully enjoying pride of place in front of the University’s iconic Winthrop Hall.

Opposition to the University’s knee-jerk reaction to a vocal minority of student activists does not imply opposition to their inalienable right to champion the causes that are closest to them. However, we suggest that the continued social engineering being pursued by higher education institutions, including UWA, is inappropriate and must come to an end. This is just the latest example.

Following the Aboriginal Flag’s replacement with the ‘Pride’ flag on Thursday the 19th, it did not take long for the perpetually-outraged UWA Student Guild to lead a backlash alongside the Western Australian Student Aboriginal Corporation (WASAC). In a sadly predictable response, Vice-Chancellor Paul Johnson subsequently ordered that the WA State Flag be removed and replaced with the Aboriginal Flag, with both the Pride and the National Flags to continue to fly.

In removing the state flag in favour of another, the University opens itself up to significant potential reputational damage. While it may not seem important to some, raising the flags of our nation and our state each day is a significant symbol of respect to the community that all of us call home. Irrespective of one’s race or sexual orientation, in the state and national flags we find a reminder that there is more that unites our diverse community than divides us, and while many on the Left may fail to admit it, it is this concept that truly embodies the beauty of our pluralistic society. Indeed, the Western Australian Flag speaks to the coming together of all people, not simply those who belong to a particular minority.

Moreover, the removal of the WA State Flag to accommodate a display of political correctness as part of a single-issue campaign like that concerning same-sex marriage is unwarranted and disrespectful. The Western Australian Flag is a symbol of the proud and rich history of our State, pre-dating even the Australian National Flag itself. Its lasting relevance was recently re-affirmed when the WA State Parliament passed the State Flag Act 2006. At this time, Hon Colin Barnett MLA (now Premier of Western Australia), posited that

“The flag is a symbol of our shared history, culture and identity, which has been forged through triumph and adversity.

Our flag represents the pride we have in the achievements of all Western Australians”.

In this we can see that ‘pride’ is multi-faceted, and it is certainly not zero-sum.

Yet it is the simplest point that may well be the most poignant. Before all else, these flags are flown on the grounds of the University of Western Australia. For the oldest and most distinguished place of learning in this state, which bears its name for good reason, to fail to fly the flag of that same state, is unacceptable. This is an organisation that was established under, and remains governed by, an Act of WA State Parliament.

More than that, this is an institution which invites bright minds from across the state to share in its academic life, and to embody the very best ideals of our state. To be sure, tolerance and diversity are among them, but so too is a lasting respect for our shared history and identity.

Universities have always been a haven for free expression, a hub for exploring challenging ideas, and a breeding ground for new and exciting innovation. This is not a bad thing – indeed, it is the opposite. However, we mustn’t forget that the University of Western Australia is also a public institution, with a history that now spans over a century and an academic tradition that transcends any individual campaign or partisan cleavage.

And as such, sometimes it is necessary for the University Executive to stand their ground in denying the demands of a vocal minority of students. While both the UWA Student Guild and WASAC have a legitimate role to play in advocating for the rights of different groups on campus, it is vital that this be done through the right avenues and that the Guild in particular seeks to represent all students, not just particular cohorts. Suggesting that the WA State Flag (or, as pictured below, the Australian National Flag itself) be lowered to make way for an unofficial flag to be flown on a public university campus is certainly not one of those avenues.


It would not have been disrespectful for the Vice-Chancellor to have tempered this demand with another alternative. Yet once again, the same tired pattern of bowing to the wishes of the mobilised Left – be it contrary to free expression or to the heritage of the WA community – rises to the fore.

In closing, it should be noted that this controversy has prompted a review of the processes surrounding flag-flying at UWA. As was said at the outset, this is not a matter of petty political point-scoring, nor is it a means to attack any one group – if you feel strongly about the need to respect this key symbol of our state then we strongly encourage you to make a submission to this review.

If this is a lesson that still must be learned by some, then there is no more fitting an institution to teach it than the University of Western Australia.


Liam Staltari is a sitting UWA Student Guild Councillor, a 2016 UWA Delegate to the National Union of Students and the President of the WA Union of Liberal Students. Rebecca Lawrence is a past UWA Student Guild Councillor, a two-time UWA Delegate to the National Union of Students and the Treasurer of the WA Union of Liberal Students. They are both currently in their third year of UWA’s Bachelor of Philosophy (Hons.) Undergraduate Degree.

Why We Have Misunderstood The Donald

by on 20 November, 2015

I normally keep my pro-Trump talk limited to my Facebook feed, but I felt it was important to correct the record for those who thus far have completely misconstrued Donald Trump in the GOP Presidential nomination race, which has been raging over the last six months.

What people don’t get about Trump is why he is so popular. As of today, he is ahead by a considerable margin in almost every single poll conducted nationally or locally in the United States and beats Hillary Clinton in all head to head polling. If you can get your head around that proposition and do some research, you will find no historical precedent for such a sustained and high-polling lead in the history of US Republican primaries.

On the surface, Trump is a loud-mouth celebrity who uses Twitter and television to convey his bombastic energy and controversial statements. Whether he is insulting other GOP candidates for their ‘pathetic’ polling, or their looks, it is very hard for the Donald to stay out of the media for more than 24 hours. Even when the Paris Shootings occurred on 13 November, one of the first politicians the global media turned to for a response was not Angela Merkel, David Cameron or President Obama, but The Donald, who said it was ‘terrible, absolutely terrible’ and that there would have been far less casualties if Parisians were allowed to carry concealed weapons (i.e. more guns).

This persona is deliberate, planned and has a proven track record of gaining attention. His world-famous television show The Apprentice has had 14 seasons, 185 episodes, and in every one of them, the world has gotten to know the business tycoon as a wealthy, straight-talking, charismatic-but-insensitive alpha male with a model for a wife, and successful children. It was this persona that makes Trump completely uninterested in paying PACs for advertising to promote himself because the name-recognition is already so large that it’s impossible to go anywhere in the US, let alone the world, and have someone say: ‘Who’s Donald Trump?’

But there’s something else that people wilfully ignore; the man is extremely shrewd and most of all: cautious. No one gets to where Trump gets financially or in business based on reckless, controversial, or stupid decisions. The man who said: ‘Sometimes the best investments are the ones you don’t make’ give us a clue as to how he would approach, for example, US foreign policy.

On the one hand, we might expect Trump to be a crazy world leader firing nukes everywhere when he got irate, and dropping bombs on anyone he wanted: ‘I would bomb the sh** out of [ISIS]’ he said, to a raucous applause. On the other hand, we forget that this is a guy who wrote The Art of the Deal and cautioned against making risky decisions without fully understanding the consequences of ‘every single deal’ one makes. ‘I’ve been dealing with politicians all my life. All my life. And I’ve always gotten them to do what I need them to do,’ Trump boastfully said in an interview. This persuasion, caution and calculation comes across in his measured statements warning against removing Assad or undermining Putin. Those are remarkably mature and astute foreign policy attitudes which none of the other GOP neocons have even entertained.

So simultaneously, Trump appears to be a paradox: A loudmouth, controversial celebrity figure but also a smart and cautious man with a good helping of political nous. Sticking with foreign policy here, compare what Trump said about retaining Assad and stabilising Syria by allowing Putin to take out ISIS, with Carly Fiorina’s comments: ‘We must be prepared to take out Russian jets if necessary and enforce a no-fly zone over Syria’. Despite being on the verge of psychopathy, Fiorina demonstrates her unadulterated neoconservative nutbaggery which would without doubt lead to World War III. I would rather have a guy like Trump negotiating with Putin than a nutcase like Fiorina, any day of the week.

So why do establishment candidates, politicians, media pundits, and the commentariat in general want Trump to fizzle out and fail? It’s because they either misunderstand him or despise what he stands for. Trump’s base, as reported in the Wall Street Journal recently, is a massive collection of white middle class workers. There are also large amounts of Latinos who support Trump despite his ‘controversial’ comments about illegal migrants from Mexico. The middle class is a disappearing one in the United States. A study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this month revealed that between the years 1999 and 2014, white middle-class Americans aged 45-54 were the only demographic to show a consistently higher mortality rate than other ethnicities and social groups. The WSJ reported that Trump’s supporters were in ‘full revolt’ against the failures of the US political establishment:

For decades, white working-class men have been the most volatile element in the American electorate. Changes in the economy have hit them hard, and administrations of both political parties have done little to protect or compensate them. They have lost status in our society and even in their own families, many of which have crumbled. Practitioners of identity politics often have fingered them as the adversary, and upscale environmentalists have been all too willing to ignore their economic concerns.

This is exactly why Establishment ‘[neo]conservatives’ despise Trump, just as they despised Pat Buchanan in the early 90s. They will attempt to paint Trump as an amateur, ‘blowhard’ celebrity not fit for office, but such fake smears only make Trump more popular among the middle classes. Trump’s promises of keeping jobs in America instead of mass outsourcing provides security and comfort to a working class who have lost their entire livelihoods to foreign corporations after the rise of ‘free trade’ fanaticism, often resulting in familial decay and even suicide, hence the high mortality rates among middle-class working white Americans.

If we are to properly and seriously analyse the merits of Presidential candidates, we should immediately jettison the phoney critiques of Trump from Establishment voices, and start listening to the actual voters who want to improve their lot in society. Trump is cautious and makes extremely careful decisions, and that is how he has been so successful throughout his entire career. Read his book The Art of the Deal and you will see a man who is hardly a reckless blowhard, but a calculating winner. Trump is honest and controversial with his political views because he speaks a kind of truth which is obviously resonating with most Americans today after the disastrous years of the Obama administration. And to the politically correct journalists at The Guardian or Huffington Post, to politicians like Jeb, Rubio or Hillary, and other progressivist ne’er-do-wells, Trump’s truth will sound like hate and ‘bigotry’. But as a sage once said: truth often sounds like hate to people who hate the truth.

How Should We Respond To Paris?

by on 16 November, 2015

Yesterday’s attacks in Paris were horrific, but things will only get worse as the growth of Islamists in the West outstrips the capacity of intelligence agencies writes Jack Baker.

The scale of yesterday’s attacks in Paris showed a sophisticated level of planning and complexity. Eight men attacked six locations, leaving 129 people dead. The terrorists attacked with Kalashnikovs, grenades and suicide bombs. They took hostages and slaughtered civilians in front of each other. French President Hollande declared it “an act of war that was committed by a terrorist army, a jihadist army”.

The problem of radical Islam is now too big for our intelligence agencies to handle. On 11 September 2001, the United States was caught off guard. This led to a significant growth in the size and remit of intelligence agencies across the Western world. The Bali bombings in 2002 killed 88 Australians and should have made us realise we weren’t immune from jihadism. The Madrid bombings in 2004 and the London bombings in 2005 hit Europe and demonstrated that locally-born Muslims were prepared to perpetrate mass murder on their own societies to further their religious and political beliefs.

Only the effectiveness of Australia’s intelligence and law enforcement agencies to-date has prevented mass casualties on Australian soil. This was demonstrated through foiling terrorist attacks through Operation Pendennis in 2005 and 2006 and Operation Neath in 2009. But the problem has since grown exponentially. Deadly attacks on free speech and criticism of Islam are now standard fare. The Danish Muhammad cartoons resulted in hundreds of deaths around the world and the French Charlie Hebdo Muhammad cartoons resulted in the murder of defenceless writers and artists earlier this year.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité

by on 15 November, 2015


By Mohamed Rumman

The magnitude of this terrorist attack is one Western Europe hasn’t seen since the 2004 Madrid bombings. 7 seemingly co-ordinated attacks, killing 160 people and injuring 200. A state of emergency declared, the Paris metro shut down and French borders closed. An attack that will be in the memories of not only the citizens of France, but the world for years to come.

The dust hadn’t even settled, as the events that were unfolding in Paris on Friday were still underway. Nonetheless, social media became flooded with apologists and bigots alike, both failing to make the essential distinction that will help us win the war against the jihadists.

This is not a war of religions, peoples, or borders. This is a war of ideologies. Islamists who will use any means to destabilise and terrorise the very foundations of our democracies. They will attempt to divide us, make us question our neighbours, beliefs and freedoms in an effort to destroy our civilisation.

Islamism is a violent political ideology thrusted by a corrupted and barbaric interpretation of Islam, hell-bent on domination through a global caliphate. It has no respect for borders or sovereignty. No respect for citizenships or allegiances. And will crush any challenge through criticism or discourse because freedom of speech and the marketplace of ideas is not in its lexicon.

When commentators on the left argue that we should essentially turn a blind eye to extremism, through the same old adage that all religions have problems with fundamentalists, it serves no benefit to either the Muslim community or the western world. It allows this problem to fester in the grassroots, as tensions ferment and communities become more and more isolated.  Nor do the commentators on the right who feel it reasonable to stir up tensions in an already volatile environment.

Jihadists want Muslims in the west to feel alienated within their own countries. An IS recruiter’s job is made easier when normal everyday Muslims are targeted by their governments and harassed by their fellow countryman. It seems as though the first cycle of perpetual motion has taken place, and as it begins to build momentum, tackling the issue of Islamic extremism will become more and more difficult as an unwilling Muslim community will feel as though it is signing its own death warrant.

The real question that needs to be asked is why have we for so long accepted Islamists to dictate the terms of this debate, we have allowed them to hijack Islam, the fastest growing, and very soon the largest religion in the world. We have allowed them to dictate what can be and can’t be published with regards to drawings of the Prophet and Charlie Hebdo. We have allowed this fallacy of its Islam versus the West to be left unchallenged.

Jihadism is on the rise, attacks on Western capitals are becoming more prevalent and social harmony is deteriorating every day with the rise of far-right extremists who further add to the chaos.

If we continue on the path we are going, shackled by political correctness and blinded by hatred, we risk to see the destruction of Western civilisation as we know it.

The motto of the revolution “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” applies now more than ever.

Mohamed Rumman is the Vice president of the UTS Liberal Club and incoming treasurer of the UTS Student Association

Solidarity with Paris, Beirut and Baghdad

by on 14 November, 2015

Today we stand in strong solidarity, sympathy and prayers for three cities hit by unabashed terrorism. No one could imagine the horror that would develop today as 160 people have been confirmed dead and 40 more feared dead after a series of bombings and shootings across France’s capital. More than 43 people died on Thursday when ISIS declared responsibility for suicide bombings in Beirut. At least 26 people have been killed in two separate ISIL attacks on Baghdad.

In Paris, the scene of the crime was the Bataclan music festival in Eastern Paris just 200 metres away from the former offices of the Charlie Hebdo magazine, the scene of another terror attack in early January. Hundreds of concert goers were struck by terror as three men shouting “Allahu akbar” burst into the hall. There was instant “gunfire, bloodshed and grenades thrown into the crowd.” Survivors were rounded up and a tense standoff prevailed for over two hours. Police are only now uncovering “a scene of horror and apocalypse inside this music hall” according to a journalist on French television.

More than ever, France deserves to be protected by defensible borders as a sovereign nation. Hollande has done today what he ought to have done ages ago by increasing border controls. EU legislation will only let Hollande do this for a period of up to two months.

The attack on Lebanon is not unprecedented, but the terror has gotten bolder as sharing a border with war-ravaged Syria makes it “an accessible target.” With Hezbollah having a growing presence in the country, Lebanon has been described as “a stable instability” where “various factions have lived in relative peace.”  This has been cruelly undermined by the “factional struggles between Islamic terror groups” that are emerging as Hezbollah and ISIS fight each other with civilians in between.

A similar situation has emerged in Baghdad today as ISIL killed 26 people and injured dozens more by targeting the funeral of a Shia fighter killed in battle. This followed a “roadside bomb detonated at Shia shrine” which killed 5 and wounded at least 15 others.

There has been international reaction of sympathy towards the extent of attacks but also a formidable reluctance to call out Islamic extremism for what it is. While President Obama called this “an attack on all humanity and the values we share,” he left out ‘Islam’ from his terror statement on Paris even after twitter erupted with celebratory messages by members and sympathizers of Islamic State. The bearing of responsibility for today’s attack was savagely clear but Obama still said “I don’t want to speculate at this point in terms of who was responsible.”  

Freedom of speech as a human right was savagely undermined by terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo and it is continually oppressed by radical Islamic extremism throughout the Middle East. How many more people will have to be killed in order not to offend anyone? Sympathy is all good and well but it doesn’t bring back the dead.

Why are lawyers so expensive?

by on 13 November, 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.

Everyone complains about the cost of lawyers, but few look at the cause: occupational licensing laws. Occupational licensing requires anyone who intends to become lawyer to comply with a range of requirements to practice law. These including studying a law degree that is too long, formally applying for “admission” into the profession in an unnecessary ceremony, as well as meeting cumbersome training and supervision requirements that are sometimes unnecessary. These requirements cost law students years of time and tens of thousands of dollars to comply with. The more expensive it is to become a lawyer, the fewer lawyers there will be and the more they can charge. There can be no doubt that this partly explains why lawyers are expensive.

The sheer expense of hiring a lawyer undermines the individual right to obtain legal representation. It means that hiring a competent, effective lawyer can be unaffordable for poorer members of the public. Even wealthier people may find their resources drained by legal fees. The expense of becoming a lawyer also undermines the right to pursue a career of one’s choice, especially poorer students who lack the financial support to study full-time for years and comply with red tape. Lastly, these laws reduce the quality of legal services. The fact that competent would-be lawyers are being excluded from the profession means that existing lawyers have less incentive to operate competently because they have less competition.

The problem starts with the law degree, which must include 11 “core compulsory subjects” but takes three years of full-time study to complete as a result. The degree costs about $10,000 per annum with government subsidies and more without them. Many solicitors may never encounter some of those subjects in practice. Few lawyers practice in constitutional or administrative law. Some solicitors exclusively practice in criminal law or commercial law. Only some do both. It is simply not necessary to study them all in order to practice law. Students should have the choice of studying criminal law and procedure, commercial law subjects or both. Splitting up the degree will reduce costs and create new pathways to legal practice.

But the red tape doesn’t stop there. Graduates must undertake “practical legal training” before they can practice law. They must pay several thousands of dollars to learn what they otherwise should be learning as junior lawyers. If they are not, they can take the course. The problem is that everyone is forced to take it whether or not they have learnt the basics of legal practice. Even experienced overseas barristers have been forced to undertake this training. Forcing this requirement on everyone is unnecessary and wasteful.

Formal admission ceremonies further increase costs. As of 2015, Victorian admission ceremonies alone cost $926. This is a substantial hit to the savings of many graduates. The ceremonies take place monthly, but applicants must apply months in advance to become admitted—further delaying their careers. In the meantime they are simply expected to make ends in meet.

The restrictions pile on after admission. As of 2011, would-be barristers must pass a bar exam and undertake a 2 month readers course, costing thousands of dollars in total, to practice. The exam is unnecessary: barristers typically spend hours to prepare for specific cases, and thinking up answers on the spot will not get you far in the courtroom. Moreover, the exam covers material that graduates may have just covered at university. It’s no wonder practising barristers, even junior barristers, weren’t required to sit the exam: it has nothing to do with upholding standards.

Similarly, solicitors are required to practice for two years under the supervision of another lawyer before they can do so independently—unless they are overseas, or happened to open a practice before that rule was imposed. The inconsistencies in these requirements expose both their arbitrariness and their actual purpose: keeping people out of the profession.

Running a law firm is also unnecessarily cumbersome. By law, all practitioners must obtain “practising certificates” and insurance coverage from a single government-appointed insurer. A competitive insurance field would reduce costs. On top of that, barristers must buy robes and wigs. Costumes can cost thousands. Renting chambers (if practitioners choose to do so) and paying for practising certificates and insurance every year, taken together, costs thousands more.

While there is a great deal of concern about the supposed oversupply of law graduates, the simple fact of the matter is that they are legally forbidden from working without complying with these requirements. The expense of doing so means they cannot compete with established practitioners, which brings prices up.

It is also hard to argue that these regulations protect the public, given that so many current practitioners were exempt from them when they entered into the profession.

By contrast, deregulation will help society at large—especially the poor. Legal fees are just one factor at the margin that can lead to financial insecurity. Reducing costs will help those who are financially at risk.

Nor are regulations the only way to protect the public. Lawyers’ societies could still accept, reject or expel members on the basis of reputation, skill, honesty or competence just as the regulators do now. Ratings systems and online review websites  can also serve an important role in keeping the profession honest. These measures are informative and cost effective. Lastly, in serious cases incompetent lawyers can still be sued by clients for breach of contract, just as they are today.

Those concerned about upholding the standards of the profession forget that some legal work is already competently performed by non-lawyers with knowledge of the law. Tax agents and accountants, police prosecutors, patent attorneys, and industrial advocates all provide legal representation in their chosen fields right now. Indeed there are prosperous, stable nations with reliable justice systems like Sweden and Finland in which anyone can practise law without a licence. There is no reason why Australia cannot adopt a similar system for lawyers or other trades and professions, for that matter.

The case for deregulation is clear: it empowers the poor, the public as a whole and law students. Occupational licensing laws must be repealed. The law must recognise that for many lawyers, the years of study and tens of thousands of dollars spent obtaining a licence to practice is unnecessary.

Paris: Not Always A Good Idea

by on 12 November, 2015

If you believe climate change is a scam, then you should probably support the upcoming climate summit in Paris. Based on the success of the past, there is an almost 100% guarantee that carbon emissions will not be reduced. Its real outcome is paying lip service to climate change and fooling everyone into believing that beaurocrats working in teams will help the environment. Paris will be only be a success if it is funded by climate sceptics who know that lavishly extolling hypothetical changes to a coal based economy will surely keep environmentalists distracted from the very real emissions they have no plans of reducing.

Consider firstly, the determination of the UN conference organizers to uphold their environmental principles in this $280 million dollar conference. Nothing deters them, not even the carbon footprint of flying representatives from 196 countries thousands of miles worldwide. This can only end well. Maybe as well as the recent study which found that climate change reduces fertility rates and the only solution is “air conditioning.”

One can only hope that a UN coordinated “Global Whining Conference” in Paris will deteriorate to the same abyss of incompetence as Copenhagen and Kyoto. If the outcome is as arbitrary and logistically impossible as every other time this has taken place, then individual nations will be saved from amputating their economic growth for no reason at all.

Some say global warming is the “greatest moral challenge of our time” and others say it is the “greatest hoax in history.” Yet both sides of the political spectrum have reason to believe this conference will be another waste of time, money and energy. John Howard refused to sign the Kyoto agreement and hundreds of green activists protested the summit at Copenhagen. Nothing could unite the former and the latter but a mutual disdain for the UN climate change strategy: failing to deliver the outcome it proposed. Copenhagen was disparaged by sub-zero temperatures and a lack of consensus while Kyoto’s three greatest “sinners,” India, China and the US never even had reduction targets to begin with.

If climate change will truly lead to the global catastrophe that many scientists, journalists and activists predict and the goal remains to transition into more efficient and less harmful forms of energy, then there is no time to repeat the failures of the past. It is time to take a hint once proposed by Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

What is most likely to happen is a diplomatic kerfuffle, where global leaders try to prove that they are making history. As they awkwardly pose for photos, affirm each other’s environmental concern and hope to God that the Parisian weather warms up at the same speed as their projections, there is a nagging voice at the back of everyone’s minds. The perks of a taxpayer funded trip to the food and fashion capital will be offset by the unspoken awareness that no substantial changes will result from these meetings and they only reason they are there is because everyone else is. The risks of seeming uncool are too high, but this is predicated on the other daunting task of convincing constituencies the ill-conceived notion that beaurocrats can change the world for the better.

Gladstone, Cleveland, Reid: Liberalism at a crossroads in 1892

by on 10 November, 2015

zgpicA detailed comparison of George Reid, Grover Cleveland & William Gladstone examining the fate of classical liberalism in the anglosphere by Zachary Gorman:

To those with even the scantest knowledge of politics it is well known that the word ‘liberal’ means very different things in Australia and America. Here ‘liberal’ is the title of the leading centre-right party and was earlier the name assumed by both Reid and Deakin while preaching their versions of anti-socialism. Across the Pacific the word ‘liberal’ almost means socialist and it is generally used to describe the left-wing of the already centre-left Democratic Party. Some Australians think that their foreign cousins have got the word liberalism more correct, hence the description ‘small-l’ for those on the left of the party. Meanwhile many American’s have rejected the Democrats’ big government definition of liberalism, leading to the rise of a libertarian movement which opposes the expansion of Government when instigated by either major party. More recently the already confused state of liberalism in the Anglosphere has been further complicated by the brief re-emergence of the U.K. Liberal Democrats as a centre-party which is not entirely comfortable with the left or the right.  This state of confusion has not always existed. Liberalism used to be virtually synonymous in each of the countries, a situation which reached its zenith in 1892, a year of liberal triumphs and tragedies that laid the seeds of the present liberal dichotomy.

The common liberalism of 1892 was of course classical liberalism, but it is important to remember that that is a retrospective label. For the men and women who lived and breathed it there was nothing ‘classical’ about their beliefs beyond the fact that many of them had read the classics and could quote Roman and Greek examples in defence of Libertas. Liberalism was a practical ideology, based on deep philosophical underpinnings but never set in dogmatic stone. Its core beliefs were individualism and freedom; hence its followers wanted limited government, particularly economy in expenditure and low taxation. Most held a Whiggish hope in the steady progress of mankind and particularly in individual enterprise as the vehicle of that progress. Globally, most liberals supported Free Trade as something that was not only economically beneficial and amenable to freedom but also good for the poor who could buy what they needed at the cheapest price unencumbered by government. There were local beliefs beyond these central tenets, and even differences over how the core tenets should be prioritised and interpreted, but the commonality of cause was more marked than any disagreement. Wherever they were based liberalism’s adherents may have read Adam Smith, Richard Cobden and even Thomas Jefferson, but beyond a common culture it was to some extent a historical coincidence that people fondly recalling the Glorious Revolution or the American Revolution would have so many beliefs in common.