19 October: Canada Votes

by on 5 August, 2015

FrontCanadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has made history, calling the Canadian federal election for Monday, 19 October.

This in itself is not history making, although the campaign period is: a whopping 78 days. Yes, 11 full weeks of campaigning, which beats some rather remarkable feats.

The Only Solution To Politicians Rorting Travel Entitlements

by on 5 August, 2015

Another day, another travel scandal. Bronwyn Bishop was forced to resign as speaker for her use of a chopper, but this was just the latest in year after year of abuse. Mark Dreyfus used taxpayer funds for a family ski trip in 2013. Julia Gillard had taxpayers pay for a VIP jet to attend a friend’s wedding. Just yesterday we learned that Tony Burke MP used taxpayer funds for a family holiday to Uluru. The list goes on and on and on – and these are only the ones we’ve been able to find out about!

And every time we are promised that the problem will be fixed. The rules will be changed. A new code will be introduced. Things will be different.

And nothing ever changes.

The reason is simple: Politicians, like all people, love free stuff, and loopholes will always be found, rules will be twisted, and travel will be within the letter of the law while totally missing its spirit.

This is why the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance just launched a new transparency campaign for something different, something that is proven to work – and I hope you will be able to join us in making it law

There is only one thing that can break our politicians’ age of entitlement: Full openness, transparency and accountability to the Australian people. It is only when voters know how every cent is our money is being spent, that we can be assured it will be spent properly.

The solution is simple: Require every politicians and their staff member to publish online their travel, its cost, and its purpose, within 7 days of it being taken. Create an easy to use portal where every Australian voter can see what his MP and Senator has been doing, and if it is a wise use of funds.

Let 22 million Australians be the judge of what is right – and what is wrong. It is our money, and we have the right to know where it is going without having to submit expensive Freedom of Information requests, read through hundreds of pages of budget documents, or hope someone in the media will spot a story.

By allowing public scrutiny, politicians will have to justify their travel not just to bureaucrats or their fellow politicians, but to taxpayers. As result, extravagant travel and abuse will plummet. They might be able to fool their peers, but they won’t be able to fool their voters.

When the Federal Government passed laws allowing them to spy on us online, we were assured – if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. The same rule should now apply to them. If they have nothing to hide, then they should welcome this campaign without question.

The technology for such a portal has existed for close to a decade – in fact, an independent review commissioned for the Department of Finance suggested it back in 2010!  It will be cheap to set up, and will lead to better government through ending abuse and corruption. There is no argument against it.

With your help, we will be able to make the change we need – please join our campaign and email your local MP and Senators’ today!

Opening the books to scrutiny is the only way to make a difference.  At the end of the day, we pay for their travel and we have a right to know what they do with it. It’s as simple as that.

Thank you for your support as always,

Tim Andrews
Executive Director
Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance

Adam Goodes Sends Australia’s Race Industry Booming

by on 1 August, 2015

It may well be the case that the ongoing booing of Adam Goodes has gone beyond the pale of good sportsmanship and crowd decorum. But the saga says little about the state of race relations in Australia.

The central charge laid by the collective efforts of Australia’s race-baiting industry is that the fact that Adam Goodes is sometimes booed reveals an ugly racist impulse that is latent in Australian culture. It is one that deserves to be strenuously rejected.

Waleed Aly, a leading lobbyist of Australia’s race industry has said that it reveals that Australians are generally tolerant of minorities “until they demonstrate that they don’t know their place…the moment a person in a minority position acts as though they’re not a mere supplicant then we lose our minds… we say you need to get back in your box.”

David Rowe, an intellectual from the University of Western Sydney Agrees, claiming the reason behind the crowd treatment of Goodes is because “he won’t be a nice quiet Aboriginal boy who’s grateful to be a footballer.”

Colin Tatz of the Australian National University is of the same mind “We’re pretending that we’re one monolithic nation. But when one colour stands out from the crowd, it spills over into something very different.”

So let’s get this straight. Australians only like minorities who toe the line, know there place, and show appropriate deference to the bigoted white majority.

Since when did the revelry and rancour of fans at live football qualify as serious grounds to bemoan Australia’s lack of racial harmony?

Mike Baird: Another Labor-Lite Liberal

by on 21 July, 2015

Dean Hamstead calls for Mike Baird to appoint a Minister for Deregulation & Elimination of Waste!1924165_50280265534_4415_n

Today Mike Baird confirmed, by suggesting a GST increases, that Conservatives in NSW and Australia more generally are being forced in to voting for Labor or Labor-Lite.

“Yes, there’s more we can do, but efficiencies alone cannot be the answer,” Mr Baird says.

Thankfully Baird has an easy go-to to make up the difference. His answer? Make his state budget problems your house hold budget problems.

It’s hard to believe that just a week ago, Baird and co. were trumpeting their $2.1 billion surplus and $1billion in reduced spending. Further claiming that claiming that “revenue” (i.e. your tax dollars) is forecast to grow at 4.7% p.a.

Imagine a publicly listed company being so schizophrenic? Reporting record profits, then a week later issuing a profit warning. Such a board and CEO would surely not last long, with shareholders rightly looking to install someone more steady at the helm.

Naturally, Andrew Bolt calls him out: “I’d be more inclined to listen to Mike Baird if I heard him say the overall tax burden would fall, but this sounds too much like just another grab for even more taxes to underwrite massive social welfare spending”.

My answer? Stop wasting money on crap that the government has no need to be involved with, that includes crushing business with ever more regulations.

Business’s and households know that from time to time you have to go through the budget and work out what you can live without. Fighting the tendency of “nice to haves” becoming “can’t live withouts” is part of being a fiscally responsible and self sufficient adult.

Let’s contrast Mike Baird’s whining with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, who cut taxes six times including the largest income tax cut in the history of Louisiana. In the USA it’s a race between Conservative run states to get out of the way of people living their lives and running their businesses.

Why pick out Louisiana? Consider this quote from Incitec Pivot CEO, James Fazzino “The state of Louisiana is open for business. They continue to ring us every month and ask, ‘What else can we do’ because they are about employing ­people in Louisiana,”. Sad times when an Australian company looks elsewhere to invest $850million.

I imagine an Australia where our states compete with each other to bring business, jobs and people to their state. An Australia where new businesses thrive and people can hope for more than a retirement spent in line at Centrelink. Where Government facilitates rather than tolerate world class technology, mining and business services.

Dean Hamstead is a technology consultant for medium and large enterprise at ByteFoundry. He is also working to improve the use of campaign technology here in Australia.

If Bronwyn Bishop should resign, then so should Mark Dreyfus

by on 18 July, 2015

The revelation that Speaker of the House Bronwyn Bishop used her MP travel entitlements to charter a $5 000 helicopter trip from Melbourne to Geelong has been rightly labelled excessive and unjustifiable.

However, Labor’s response to Bishops misstep smacks of hypocrisy. According to Bill Shorten, Bishop’s actions were “shameful” and “colossally arrogant.”

Perhaps. But if so, then what of Senator Helen Polley’s $26 000 bill chartering flights between Launceston and Hobart?

Polley claims her duties as a backbench Senator kept her so busy that economies of time required her to catch a plane instead of a car. But as Government whip Andrew Nikolic deftly pointed out, once time spent boarding and disembarking at either end and transport to and from the airport is factored in, the $26 000 exercise could only have saved Polley less than an hour.

Shorten accused Bishop of ‘wafting around above our heads in taxpayer-funded helicopters’ while at the same time ‘cutting the incomes of vulnerable Australians.’

But when we filter past Shorten’s class warfare invective, are the cases of time-poor Polley and toffee-nosed Bishop really that different?

Labor’s finance spokesman Tony Burke has emphatically demanded that if Bishop signed off on the trip knowing she was attending a party fundraiser, she should resign.

If we apply Burke’s exhortations to his own side however, where does that leave shadow Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus, who just a few years ago billed two nights at a luxury ski resort to the Commonwealth credit card?

As a respected Queens Counsel and former first law officer of the Commonwealth, what justification did Dreyfus have for leaving longsuffering taxpayers to foot the bill for his winter getaway?

Even the Greens; the self-styled torchbearers of virtue and integrity in Australian politics cannot claim to be sin free when it comes to using entitlements to indulge on the public purse. Senator Larissa Waters spent more than any other Queensland state or federal MP refurbishing her plush electorate office in the inner city suburb of Paddington, including outdoor patio and artificial turf. At a cost of $414 000, Waters the only MP to outspend Waters across the whole country was South Australian Senator Anne Ruston.

When discussing the rorting of politician’s entitlements, there is good reason for both sides of politics to tone down the grandstanding and asinine pot shots. That is because with busy schedules and vaguely drafted rules, MP’s from all parties have found themselves guilty of being a little heavy handed with the public purse.

Disaffection and distrust harboured by the public towards Australian politicians is already at an all-time high. This is not helped when every instance of overreach is shamelessly paraded by the opposition as proof of the Government’s purported moral bankruptcy.

A better solution would be a clearer set of rules concerning entitlements to complement rigorous standards of transparency and disclosure. The mooted idea of an independent office tasked with approving all expenditures sounds promising, if somewhat impractical. But scapegoating Bishop is hypocrisy writ large.

Government inquiry into the ABC demonstrates the case for privatisation

by on 1 July, 2015

Zaky Mallah on the ABC's QnA

Zaky Mallah on the ABC’s QnA

As we know, the government has announced an inquiry into the decision to have Zaky Mallah on QnA.

A government review into the politics of a media organisation is never acceptable—and that is why we should not tolerate a taxpayer-funded broadcaster.

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

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

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

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

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

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

PENSION – PILLAGING TAXPAYERS MONEY

by on 22 June, 2015

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

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

Do you:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 simple examples demonstrate this atrocious use of taxpayers’ funds

EXAMPLE 1

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

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

EXAMPLE 2

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

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

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

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

No funds are ever repaid.

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

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

By Robert Hill

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

by on 30 May, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Is Alabama about to resolve the marriage dispute?

by on 26 May, 2015

By Damion Otto 

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

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

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

Regardless of his motivations, Albritton makes a valid point.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Take A Stand For Academic Freedom

by on 25 May, 2015

 

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

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

What have we become?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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