Public Funds, Private Service: Why there is room for cuts in the ‘Public Service’

semi-profile lol
 

Lee Kavanagh takes aim at the public service, and suggests some cuts which might be broadly agreeable to the left and the right alike.

At budget time, one particularly strange position is invariably on display: no cuts to the public sector! What this means is that a large number of people, despite having very little idea of what roles are performed by our nearly 2 million public servants or at what cost, are adamant that all of these servants be retained at their current pay. ‘I don’t know what they do, but they ought to keep doing it, and shame on anyone who says otherwise!’ So I propose a simple exercise: everybody who takes this position ought to look through the long list of government departments and their employees and see if it is really true that they’re all absolutely necessary. Peruse the list for yourself and see if you can justify each and every one of them.

The Left and National Identity

 
 virad

Virad Mathur explores why it is that so-called progressives around the world are never comfortable in their own skin when it comes to national identity.

 The two keys to understanding leftist thought are deconstruction and anti-establishmentarianism. What conservatives tend to call the natural order is to the Left merely an outcome that deconstruction can show to have occurred due to oppression by the establishment. The status quo and the history that led to it are undesirable and need to be challenged. The establishment that is responsible for it needs to be opposed. Its supposedly racist, sexist, homophobic traditional culture needs to be repudiated.

The Freedom to be Wrong

Recently the Attorney-General, George Brandis’ amendments to the Racial Discrimination Act have come under fire by the political elite, claiming they are in support of bigotry. In fact these laws simply take human rights out of the hands of the government and allow the free-exchange of ideas without external interference. Few people on either side of parliament are bigoted or want to make it easier for serious verbal damage to be done to our ethnic communities but the fact is that it is very difficult to legally define what constitutes ‘offensive.’

The 1995 amendments section 18 to The Racial Discrimination Act 1975 (Cth) by the Keating government made it illegal to ‘offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate’ others based on their race or ethnicity. At first glance these provisions may seem reasonable after all, for example, their is no doubt as to the humiliation that survivors of the holocaust must feel when extreme-right fringe-dwellers undermine their experiences by denying the atrocity ever happened. However it is by being able to withstand critique that the truth is all the more relevant. As John Stuart Mill said ‘If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.’ To have strength in our convictions we must be exposed to all contrary viewpoints. You cannot simply oppose something while being forbidden to know precisely what it is that you oppose.

Furthermore, with pre-existing statutory conditions on defamation and vilification there is adequate scope for the rights of individuals to be protected without imposing rigorous sanctions on the freedom of speech.

But this isn’t enough for ethnic advocates  with Jewish community leader Jeremy Jones fearing that the new legislation could open the door for holocaust deniers. Left-wing intellectuals argue that freedom of expression must be counter-balanced with the freedom to be free from verbal persecution.

I argue however, how can freedom of speech remain uncompromised if it is to be qualified by the  subjective standards of the government?

To bind free expression to the caveat of whether it conforms to the standards of the government of the day is to nullify it completely. If you believe in freedom of speech you believe in it on a sunny and a wet day, and uphold that no matter whether the speaker is Andrew Bolt or Sarah Hanson-Young, in the eyes of the law, their opinions are no more or less legitimate.

There are many that say that society is not comprised of an even playing field and that individuals like Cory Bernardi and Alan Jones are given a disproportionate  voice compared to the minorities they denounce  and that the government is required to step in as an independent arbiter. These people should be reminded that the government is in itself a class compromised of the upper echelons of society from the top-tier, sandstone universities and beset with a born to rule mentality fixated from birth. To have them as the qualifier of what is in good taste is to place severe boundaries on culture and expression.

Moreover, is there any practical outcomes to be achieved by the prohibition of free speech? History shows that when you try to put a cap on the bottle, the cap bursts off. With almost every government intervention there is a reasonable backlash which quite often strengthens the cause of the suppressed individuals. The fact remains that people aren’t cured from being a racist by governmental legislation, the process is cultural and starts from the bottom up.

To combat racism and bigotry the onus is on individuals, families, schools, work-places and media outlets to inform the people that that is not okay conduct. The suggestion that we need a centralised body to do so shows a fundamental distrust for humanity arguing that teachers, family members and colleagues are incapable of taking the initiative themselves to combat discrimination. The attitude that only government can save us from ourselves ultimately plays into the hands of the policy-making elites in allowing them to dictate the terms in which we interact and, in doing so, depriving us of our individual responsibility.

Edited by Matt Russell

A Free Society Does Not Mean Free Higher Education

John Slater

In a recent submission made to the Government’s review of the demand driven funding model of Australian universities, universities within Australia’s “Group of 8” have argued that they should be able to abandon the system of Commonwealth supported places. Predictably, the case for charging students full fees is an unpopular one. In our rights inflated culture, education is often framed as the most basic of entitlements. As appealing as this may sound, rights don’t exist in the abstract.

What subsidized higher education really means is transferring the cost from the individual who stands to benefit to the anonymous silent majority of tax-payers.

Continue reading

The case for knighthoods

When Prime Minister Abbott called a press conference last week, there was little hint to what would be announced, was it new information in the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines MH370, speculation amongst the Canberra Press Gallery was rife.

The Prime Minister approached the podium and soon all was apparent, Knights and Dames within the Order of Australia had returned, the first appointments being outgoing Governor General Quentin Bryce AC, CVO and incoming Governor General Peter Cosgrove AC, MC. Instantly if one believed those from the opposition benches, the press and some commentators, 21st century Australia had somehow been transported to a feudal era where recipients of these so called Imperial Honours would patrol their outback estates upon a trusty steed, with his Lady and the local peasantry all forced to pay homage, or as other would have it the Prime Minister was awaiting to bestow it upon mining magnates or former politicians, there were even suggestions from some that he secretly coveted the honour himself. Sadly even those who were prepared to at least discuss the matter in more civil tones were often speaking from a position of ignorance, spreading misinformation to an already ill-informed public.

Continue reading

The Left and 18C – Missing the Point

Attorney General George Brandis’ plans to repeal s18C of the racial discrimination Act, otherwise known as ‘the Bolt laws’ has been met with louder-than-usual bleating from the left-wing commentariat. President of the ACTU Ged Kearney has labeled the proposed changes as an “extreme move by a government out of touch with our multicultural landscape.” Guardian journalist Alana Lentim has gone a step further, accusing the government of sending minorities a message that “the right to vilify them is more important than their right to be protected from racist insults.” Such attempts to characterize the government’s position as ‘anti minority’ are frankly laughable. The true case against the so called ‘Bolt laws’ does not rest on protecting those who seek to be racially offensive. The point is that s18C is a flimsy mechanism for regulating public discourse.

On its face, s18C appears reasonable enough, stating that an act which is done because of a person or peoples race, colour or ethnic origin will be unlawful if it is reasonably likely offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate. Upon closer inspection however, such language is painfully vague. When will an Act be deemed ‘offensive’? Clearly the term has a lower threshold than hate speech or harassment, but at what point would rudeness or even humour cross the line? If we are frank, the question of what types of instances the law does or does not cover is open ended. This takes us to the crux of the problem with s18C. What is “reasonably likely to offend” is a question to which reasonable minds can reach completely different answers.

We should recognize that the meaning of the term ‘offend’ necessarily draws on the subjective values and views of the individual. Sure, under the section the act would need to ‘reasonably’ offend, excluding eccentric reactions. Even so, the idea of a reasonable person is a fiction. There is no objective standard for what is racially offensive. Consider the following scenario.

Say a group decides to hold a public protest against the ongoing ‘Palestinian apartheid’.  During the protest there are chants about ‘Zionist scum,’ and some of the speakers call for the abolition of Israel. For interest’s sake, say the protest occurred in close proximity to a business with Jewish owners. I have no clue if this is the type of scenario that would breach the Bolt Laws. However, this uncertainty is exactly why s18C is so troublesome. The question of what is reasonably likely to cause offence or intimidation in practice will rarely have an easy answer. This highlights how as a piece of legislation s18C is a farce. Why should the legality of protests, blogs, opinion columns or even conduct in the workplace be determined by reference to what a judge deems in hindsight is “reasonably likely to offend”?  Surely there are less ambiguous, more targeted alternatives to s18C. Going back to our scenario, wouldn’t approaching the incident from a public nuisance perspective or looking to whether the acts were likely to incite racial violence perform the role of maintaining a civil society without delving into the fiction of what is reasonably offensive?

Lastly, I’d like to address the Bill Shorten’s accusation that repealing s18C will give the “green light” to racial vilification.  This kind of cynicism makes the mistake of assuming that legislating against causing offense is the last line of defence protecting minorities from the ignorant, racist (presumably white) majority. Personally, I regret that Mr Shorten is so pessimistic about Australian culture that he thinks passing a law is the only way to maintain public morality. What he fails to consider is that in a free society, actions and opinions cannot escape the court of public opinion. When ABC reporter Jeremy Fernandez was subject to a racist diatribe earlier last year on Sydney public transport the public and media alike stood together in condemning the act. The same goes for the assault of an indigenous man on a Gold Coast bus last month. Indeed, John Howard continued to exact a political toll for his calls to slow Asian immigration decades after they were made. I don’t disagree with the Bolt laws because I want racism to be protected. I just believe that in a free and open society like Australia ideas should be left to rise and fall on their own merits. And if the evidence is anything to go by, bigoted views hold little currency.

The Embarrassing Failure of Australian Universities

There are three things that I learned during the economics degree in Victoria that I recently completed. The first two are:

  1. GDP is equal to Aggregate Demand: the total domestic consumption; investment; government expenditure and net exports in an economy; and
  2. The higher a country’s GDP, the higher the standard of living.

Prima facie, those theories look great.

When there is a Global Financial Crisis, it is natural to stimulate GDP – and to stimulate GDP all you have to do is create demand – the Government can easily do this by spending lots of money. The rest will, of course, take care of itself. An increase in GDP means more jobs, higher incomes, and more tax receipts.

The aggregate demand equation shows that as long as the government spends more money GDP will increase and jobs will be created, thus helping save the nation from recession.

But what if it doesn’t work? What if, unthinkably, simply spending money does not result in higher living standards? Is it possible that the economy could remain sluggish?
Continue reading

Minimum wage and Capital distortions

Brian Taylor

Many workers, especially in low skilled jobs, demand a certain level of job security and the offer of job security itself has proven to be a strong incentive for attracting job seekers to specific employers and industries.

One of the main challenges to achieving a higher level of job security has been the recent turbulent nature of the business cycle in Western economies. Many low skilled workers aim to maximise their job security even at the expense of higher wages and benefits, and to do this they must insulate themselves from the volatility of the business cycle in the macro-economy.

One of the time tested and simplest ways of doing this, is to get a job in the public sector. Thus, when there exists no minimum wage and nominal wage rates fluctuate freely in the market according to supply and demand, workers will attach a premium to public sector jobs and demand them more than for private sector job creation. Thus, the private sector would need to offer a higher relative wage rate plus benefits relative to equivalent jobs in the public sector for a given level of skill, risk and commitment.
Continue reading

South Australia’s Choice

Those South Australians who are both, old enough to be forced and unlucky enough to have registered will carry out their democratic duty and vote this Saturday. These people will make their way to church halls, schools and RSL’s all over the state to choose the next group of people to govern our great state. Here they will be confronted by a band of socially awkward, ethically challenged and dishonest people. These true believers waving shiny pieces of paper will try to convince the voters that their team should be trusted with honour of “leading” us.

Unfortunately for South Australians after the election we will end up with one of two – equally bad – outcomes. These first possibility, the re-election of incumbent Jay Weatherill, a second-generation politician who since becoming premier has done untold damage to the state by promoting an economic ideology based on ideas that were proven ineffectual generations ago. The other potential outcome? A “liberal” government led by Steven Marshall, who is very good at pointing out the lies and stupidity of the current Labor government, unfortunately his plan seems to be to replace it with a different brand of similar untruthfulness and stupidity.

A look into the track record of “Jay for SA” Weatherill shows little relationship between his big talking emotional rhetoric and the pathetic results and disappointing outcomes his government has delivered. Looking specifically at his economic credentials, given his role as treasurer, is truly scary. When he took over as premier (October 2011) South Australia’s budget forecasts for the 2013/14 year were as follows:

debt

Now that we are in the 2013/14 financial year we can see how poorly this government has fared. Given current forecasts show net lending and state debt are expected to continue to get worse and this governments history of overestimating their economic abilities, this situation does not bode well for South Australians.

Even more concerning to South Australians should be recent revelations that Mr. Weatherill’s latest costing estimates contain errors of basic arithmetic. It is understandable for people of different political persuasions to disagree on the economic costs and benefits of a certain project and engage in robust debate regarding those differences. However few people would think it acceptable for the treasurer of a state to make errors of mathematics then when confronted about these mistakes palm of queries to their spin doctors the way Mr. Weatherill has.

Moving on to the states other potential leader should not make South Australians breathe any easier. Steven Marshalls background of running a small family business seems to have been totally erased from his mind if you look at the profligate way his Liberal party is throwing money around in an attempt to buy votes. In an election that is looking more and more likely to deliver the new Liberal leader a comfortable enough victory, most would think he would try and get off on the right foot by getting the state back on a stable financial footing. However the pork barrelling is well and truly on a roll. In the last few days the Liberals have promised $800,000 for people with eating disorders, $12 million for companies who hire apprentices, $500,000 per year for a “local disability innovation fund”, $300,000 per year to the racing industry plus $15 million for the Murray Bridge Horse racing club. Basically all these bribes intended to do nothing more than buy votes have come in the space of 2 days.

Essentially any South Australian voter who believes in the merits of a free market as opposed to a top-down planned economy is faced two bad choices.  If confronted by a madman who said, “I can chop off your arm or your leg”, I’d imagine the majority of people would try and figure out a way to keep all their limbs in tact. I truly hope the voting public of this state realise choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing an evil. If we are to end up with a more economically conservative, pro-market, pro-freedom government, we need to start by making it clear that we do not accept the status quo. And that means choosing to keep all of our limbs.

So You Think You Can Write Winners Announced!

image from www.menzieshouse.com.au At long last, and after much delibertation, it is with great excitement that I announce to you the winners of our So You Think You Can Write contest for aspiring young writers! 

I can only express my thanks to everyone who contributed to this competition. The length of time it took our judging panel to come up with the winners is testament to the extremely high caliber of submissions we received, and – for me personally – judging the final winner was one of the hardest decisions I have had to make.

There were many excellent young posts, however, there can only be one winner of the $750 prize, and that is: JOEL SILVER, for his post "The Corruption of BDS by the Radical Left

Congratulations to Joel for winning the Grand Prize!

The second prize to be awarded is the "People's Choice" Prize – voted upon by you, our readers, with $250 up for grabs. This was very, very, very close, with – literally – only a couple of votes between the two frontrunners. However, despite a late surge in votes for the second place writer, the winner of the people's choice award is 16 year old Thomas Murphy, for his piece on Why Labor has failed on Border Protection. Congratulations to Thomas! 

Additional prizes awarded by our judging panel:

Best Post Exposing The Greens, winning a signed copy of James Dellingpole's New Book, Watermelons: The Green Movement's True Colors - Nathaniel Mikhaiel: A Rose by any other Name would Smell as Sweet

Best Post On Climate Change/Carbon Tax, winning a personally signed copy of Dr. Patrick Michael's Book, Climate Coup: Global Warming's Invasion of our Government and our Lives -Mark Sharma: Say "No" to Carbon Tax

Best post on riling the left, winning a personally signed copy of Andy Semple's book, Witch Doctors Vengence, Nick Sowden: Twibbon Extremists

Best exposition of conservative values, winning a  personally signed copy of Senator Bernardi's Book, As I see It - Murray Gillin: Progressive Conservatism

Best exposition of conservative/libertarian fusionism: A copy of FS Meyer's What is Conservatism - Jessica Muslin's contraversial post, Take Marriage Away From Government.  

On top of this, our judging panel have decided to award an additional award for Best Economic Post to Niklous for What Killed RedGroup. Prize TBD, but it shall be something off Amazon…

So there you have it! Thank you to everyone who contributed, and to everyone who read and voted in the people's choice awards! WE 

and we hope to receive many more posts from you shortly! 

Tim Andrews
Managing Editor
Menzies House