MH has a new Editor-in-Chief!

Menzies House celebrated its first birthday at the start of this month, capping off what has been an interesting and exciting year for the website.

With the help of an incompetent federal government, a couple of state elections and of course last year’s federal election, we haven’t been short of material to post.

I have been fortunate to learn a lot through my time as the Editor-in-Chief of Menzies House; about politics, about the power of online political commentary and most of all about myself as a political thinker.

It has been a fantastic experience seeing the site through from what was simply an idea in December 2009 through to it now being the leading online community for Australia’s centre-right.

However, all good things must come to an end and it is with great pleasure that I write today to inform our readers that John Humphreys will be taking over as Editor-in-Chief of Menzies House as of today.

John has been a Contributing Editor of Menzies House since early 2010 and has a long history of political engagement. He is an economics tutor at the University of Queensland, where he is completing his PhD, and a researcher at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation. John obtained his economics honours degree from the University of Queensland before going on to work as a Policy Analyst with the Commonwealth Treasury, Consultant with the Centre for International Economics and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies. John also runs a humanitarian non-profit in Cambodia. You can read more about John’s background on the Editors page.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has been involved in making Menzies House a success over the past 12 months. Everyone who visits this site, comments on articles, shares posts with their friends and most importantly writes for Menzies House has been instrumental in our success. So to all of you, thank you very much.

Finally I’d like to thank Managing Editor Tim Andrews for his tireless work at outrageous hours of the day to ensure that the site runs smoothly.

It’s been a challenging yet rewarding experience managing Menzies House and in leaving the post of Editor-in-Chief I would like to wish John and the editorial team every success in 2011.

Chris Browne

Merry Christmas! (…we’re having a break)

UPDATE: We are still occasionally posting things in the meantime, so keep checking the website and scrolling down to see what's new (as this post will stay up top)! I particularly recommend The Very Best of Best Of The Web and also the Top 20 Menzies House posts of 2010 :) (TVA)

 What a year it’s been here at Menzies House! Since we launched at the end of January we’ve had a great mix of readers and writers that have helped grow the site into a fantastic community of conservatives, libertarians and everyone else in the middle (…of the centre-right).

I’d like to start by thanking everyone who has written for the website. There are too many of you to mention here, but without your contributions Menzies House simply wouldn’t exist. THANK YOU ALL!

A big thanks must also go to Tim Andrews who seems to do nothing other than trawl the internet for our entertainment and source new authors for Menzies House (at ridiculous hours of the night). Your work is greatly appreciated Tim – thanks.

We’re going to be taking a bit of a break over Christmas and then easing into the year in early 2011 before getting back to full speed (when the political world does) in early-mid February. Please keep writing for Menzies House over this time and send your articles in January to Tim Andrews (re-type tandrews @ because I’m going to be away with no access to the internet – hooray!

We’re looking to shake things up in the New Year with some new features and maybe a face-lift for the website, so be sure to check back regularly. The easiest way to stay in touch (for us, anyway) is to become our fan on Facebook – that way you’ll definitely get the heads up when we’re back publishing new articles. Alternatively enter your email in the field at the top-right corner of the site and you'll get automatic updates when new material is posted.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed running the site this year and on the odd occasion I’ve thoroughly hated it, too! But I am incredibly happy with what we’ve managed to achieve through the support of our readers and contributors.

So from all of us at Menzies House, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a happy and safe New Year!

Chris Browne – Editor-in-Chief

Coalition to look at a single flat tax rate

The Age reports that Abbott’s Coalition may consider adopting Henry’s proposal for a flat income tax system:

The Henry Review found that by exempting all Australians from tax on the first $25,000 earned, there would be no need for the present complex system of tax offsets that eases the transition to work as incomes climb above the present tax-free threshold of $6000.

The withdrawal of the offsets at higher wages has the effect of increasing the effective marginal tax rate charged over a broad range of incomes, decreasing the incentive to work.

The review also found that by taking more welfare recipients out of the tax system, a $25,000 tax-free threshold ”could also reduce the number of people who have to deal with both systems at the same time”.

Incomes above $180,000 would be taxed at a 35 per cent rate for earnings up to $180,000 and at 45 per cent for earnings on top of that. Only around 3 per cent of Australians would be touched by the higher rate.

The Henry Review said the 35 per cent rate and the $25,000 threshold were ”indicative” to illustrate the way in which a simple scale with a high tax-free threshold could keep the tax system progressive while largely eliminating entanglement with the welfare system.

In order to make the system simple, special provisions – including the Medicare levy – would be removed, meaning that for most Australians the headline rate of tax would be the rate they were actually charged.

Mr Abbott has twice indicated he was attracted to the idea during the campaign.

Sounds pretty good to me, what are your thoughts?


(Posted by Chris Browne)

Who is really running for Premier of South Australia?

Chris Browne questions whether voters realise just who they are voting for in South Australia.

Recent polls have shown that the South Australian election will come down to the wire. Mike Rann has been caught off-guard by Isobel Redmond, the energetic new leader of the Liberal Party who has changed what should have been a clear victory for Labor into a hotly contested election.

It's strange then, that there aren't any Mike Rann posters up around the metropolitan area of the city promoting the Premier, nor any television ads. On the flip-side, "Redmond is Ready" posters are covering electricity poles and light posts in every direction out of (and in) the city.

So the question begs: are Labor trying to hide their embattled and tired leader? And the more pertinent question that has not been approached by even the most daring media commentators is that if Mike Rann wins, will he remain premier until the 2014 election?

The answer is clearly that he won't. So who are South Australian electors really voting for if Labor wins?

Of the senior Labor Ministers, only the Treasurer Kevin Foley can really lay claim to the position. Other senior Ministers including the accident-prone Attorney-General Michael Atkinson and poor-performing Transport Minister Pat Conlon have done more to damage the government in the last four years than help it. This has surely been realised by the caucus, leaving both men with no chance at the top job following an inevitable leadership spill. 

The problem with Treasurer Foley is that he isn't electable. His very public personal life would presumably be the primary reason that he would be overlooked for the leadership. Other talent such as Tom Koutsantonis, who racked up 60 driving convictions while he was Road Safety Minister, are political liabilities who the party cannot afford to consider for senior office. 

Because of Mike Rann's unwillingness to promote the potential talent within his party to the front bench at the expense of poor-performing relics such as Atkinson, he has left his party with an incredibly shallow pool of potential leadership talent. This has agitated his back-benchers that are itching to spill the leadership within months of an election, regardless of the result.

Instead of promoting itself, the ALP is spending much of its campaign resources running a negative campaign painting the Liberal Party as the "L-Plate" party. But once you look at potential post-Rann leaders within the ALP, that same criticism could be leveled at them, too.


Since writing this article, this was posted on AdelaideNow. I still don't buy it – he might intend to serve another full term as Premier if he gets elected but I doubt the Labor caucus is thinking the same thing…

Chris Browne is Editor-in-Chief of Menzies House.

Are unions as relevant and powerful as they once were?

Chris_browne Chris Browne asks if unions are becoming even more irrelevant than they already are.

I stumbled across this article today detailing how some unions are outsourcing recruitment. It seems that even the union movement now can't figure out exactly what it is they are trying to sell to workers, so they outsource it to professional marketing firms instead.

It brought back memories of the one and only time I was a member of a union. I was 15 years old and starting my first job at a fast food restaurant (I can't say which one, but there is a Colonel involved). The group of new employees were asked to sign a whole bunch of forms including the bank details form, superannuation form, union membership subscription and employee agreement.

I wasn't aware at the time (like 99% of other 15 year olds entering employment for the first time) what a union was or why the form was there amongst the others. A kind representative of the SDA Union was present to tell us that it was best if we all sign it. So we did.

A couple of months into the job I realised that I was receiving no benefit from being a part of a union whatsoever. This conclusion was reached without any political prejudice or preference; I just wasn't getting anything for my money.

Following an excruciatingly long phone call, the union said that they would stop taking my money and cancel my membership. Well, they didn't. I phoned back about six weeks later to follow this up and hit a brick wall on the other end of the line. I finally managed to convince them to stop taking my money by issuing a very hollow threat of legal action against the union if they continued to take membership fees.

About four years later I found myself in a similar situation at a major retailer when taking up a summer job. I was wiser that time and was the only person in the room of 16 people not to sign the form. Most of the others were starting their first jobs in exactly the same situation I was in some years earlier.

Unions claim to have membership levels in the hundreds of thousands, but how many of those are actually aware that they are members? How many have been fooled, coerced and now targeted by marketing firms into joining the union movement? My guess is that it would be well into the tens of thousands, if not considerably more.

I will pay credit where credit is due, however. The Australian Workers Union national secretary Paul Howes said that his union doesn't use recruiting firms because you can't "outsource core union work". 

When the rest of the unions realise that their primary duty is to represent workers and not target them maybe they will be able to attract members in their own right without employing third-party recruitment firms.

As for me, I'm never joining a union. Following my experiences with the SDA and my political views that have developed since, I simply will not join. That's not to say that unions don't have a place in the modern Australian workforce. But if they are to ever regain some semblance of relevancy they need to redefine the way they operate and practice what they preach: protecting the interests of Australian workers. That is something we haven't seen in a while.

Chris Browne is Editor-in-Chief of Menzies House.

It is time for Australian military leadership in Afghanistan

With the Dutch pulling out of Afghanistan, Australia should finally take a lead role in the war we helped start, writes Chris Browne.

Following recent domestic political events in the Netherlands, Dutch forces in Afghanistan are likely to be withdrawn from around the middle of this year.

At present, the 1900-strong Dutch force in Oruzgan is leading coalition efforts to train Afghani forces, win the hearts and minds of locals, provide security and, of course, remove the Taliban insurgency. Australia has approximately 1500 personnel in Oruzgan province and despite the widely reported fact that NATO is struggling to maintain sufficient forces in Afghanistan, the Australian government has given no consideration to expanding our efforts in the region.

It is a difficult choice for any government to commit to sending young Australians soldiers to war. However, our government must also recognise that the Afghanistan war is one that Australia and the western world cannot afford to lose.

Believe it our not, our enemies read the news too. When they see that the Dutch are pulling out and that NATO is having trouble finding a replacement, it gives them hope. It is also a potential propaganda and recruitment tool for an enemy that Coalition forces are on the verge of defeating. The message that we are sending to our opponents is simple: if they resist for long enough, we will eventually give up. This is certainly not the message we want to be conveying through our actions, or lack thereof.

Australia should accept responsibility for ensuring that allied forces in Oruzgan are maintained at their current level, with or without Dutch assistance. We have the resources and the experience to manage this role and our forces can increasingly rely on the burgeoning Afghan National Army (ANA) for day-to-day security and patrol operations. We will also have total command of our own troops and operations in the province; an important thing for any deployed Australian force.

The US has committed a further 30,000 troops to the conflict recently in the hope of crushing the insurgency once and for all. The least we can do is support our most important ally and help finish what we started.

Chris Browne is Editor-in-Chief of Menzies House.

Justice has been served

The full force of the law should always be applied to those seeking to destroy our nation, writes Chris Browne.

All too often when watching the evening news I find myself shaking my head in disbelief at the soft sentences handed down to serious criminals. Brutal murderers, rapists and serial offenders regularly seem to get sentences befitting petty theft and all too often justice isn't served.

Yesterday however there was a change. Five men that conspired to attack undisclosed Australian targets with stockpiles of explosives, firearms and ammunition received sentences of between 23 and 28 years.

Quite frankly, I'd like to see them sentenced to longer periods behind bars. But within the parameters of the law and considering the infamous leniency of our judicial system, their sentences were a pleasant surprise.

Justice Anthony Whealy described their motivation as "intolerant, inflexible religious conviction" and said that they showed contempt for Australia's Government and institutions. In my book at least, as a proud Australian and from a non-legal background, that accounts to nothing less than treason. But that's an opinion for another day.

It is heartening to know that the Australian judiciary has officially sent the message that as a nation we will not tolerate religious extremism and terrorism within our borders. All we need now is for the executive to ensure the security of our borders by imposing tougher border protection measures. Only once that is achieved can we be assured that all arms of government are working together in their full capacity to protect our national sovereignty.

Chris Browne is the Editor-in-Chief of Menzies House.

The case for medicinal marijuana

The debate in Australia needs to begin, writes Chris Browne.


It’s a bit taboo, particularly in Australia, to talk about legalising a prohibited substance. 

With debate raging around the world about the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, it is high time we had that same debate here, too. 

Recently I have been reading a plethora of articles from the United States regarding the legalisation of marijuana for medicinal purposes and wondered why we can’t discuss it so openly here. 

But in mid-January Australian columnist and former newsreader Tracey Spicer broke convention and wrote a powerful argument in favour of the legalisation of medicinal marijuana. 

She argued succinctly for the debate to begin in Australia at a political level as a matter of urgency. I couldn’t agree more. 

Tracey reported that cannabis has been used in Chinese medicine since the 3rd Century AD. It is now used for medicinal purposes in many western countries and increasingly throughout the United States. The recent acceptance by the US Department of Justice to recognise state laws that legalise medicinal marijuana is yet another step in the right direction in that country. 

But what about Australia? 

The Herald Sun reported in January that a group of Victorian doctors are seeking approval to treat multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferers with Sativex – a marijuana-based mouth spray. Their chances of success are, at best, slim. 

This is because of the social and political taboo surrounding ‘drugs’. Yes, the campaigns against the recreational use of street drugs are necessary. But what many people don’t consider in the marijuana debate is that GPs are already prescribing ‘drugs’ that are notoriously worse. 

Drugs like morphine, which is a highly addictive opiate, or over-the-counter nasal decongestants that contain pseudoephedrine, which is an amphetamine, are just two examples. 

These types of drugs are dangerous and have the well-documented capacity to be fatal. However, when administered in measured doses as prescribed by medical professionals, the risks are often manageable and serious side-effects are infrequent. 

The same can be said for marijuana.  

Early last year while in Latin America I met a fascinating Peruvian man who claimed that using marijuana in measured doses as a medicine had greatly reduced his dependence on epilepsy medication and decreased the frequency of seizures. 

I’m not a neurologist and have no way of qualifying the viability of using marijuana to treat epilepsy, but I must say his argument was convincing. This was especially so after he invited me to view his extensive collection of published information on the medicinal use of marijuana that he had consulted prior to trialling the alternative treatment. 

In many nations around the world, marijuana is legally used in various forms (in modern medicine it is rarely smoked) to help sufferers of diseases including cancer, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer’s, to name a few. 

It is time that we removed the stoner movie stereotype of the giggling, red-eyed, snack-eating teenagers from our minds and instead began a rational debate both in society and in the Federal Parliament on the role that marijuana can play in medicine. 

The longer we wait for political leaders and medical professionals to discuss the use of alternative medicines like marijuana, the longer more Australians have to suffer as a result of their inaction.

Chris Browne is Editor-in-Chief of Menzies House.