Cormann shouldn’t think that West Australians have put away their baseball bats
Malcolm Turnbull would say: “It was a West Australian state election; it was fought on state issues. It was decided on state issues and the result was pretty much as had been expected for quite some time.”
However, the Prime Minister’s unhelpful intervention last year didn’t help. He travelled to Western Australia promising that he would fix the GST distribution issue. He left telling disgruntled Sandgropers that more time was needed before their state could receive any more revenue.
That sort of mealy-mouthed non-response was reinforced by Finance Minister Mathias Cormann telling us on the day after the election: “We have to be realistic on what a national government can do in relation to these sorts of issues. (Can he be serious?)
“The timetable is determined by what happens with the GST sharing arrangements moving forward. There is a flow-through effect, principally from the prices for iron ore and the royalty revenue that is generated on the back of iron ore exports.
“That will play out over the next few years and there is an expectation, in the not too distant future, WA’s share of the GST will start increasing again and, if and when that happens, there are certain options available where the floor can be established without actually taking money away from any other state.”
That pitiful explanation surely would have been one reason many West Australians reached for their baseball bats. But Cormann then added: “That is the way it should happen.”
It’s not just his political tin ear that should worry everyone. It is his complete lack of understanding of the damaging economic consequences of the way GST revenue is distributed.
Just to remind you, Western Australia receives only 30c of every dollar of GST revenue raised in the state. Every West Australian hands over $1736 to the other states and territories. By contrast, every South Australian receives a net $1052 and every Tasmanian receives $1953. Every Northern Territorian receives $10,734 while, wait for it, every ACT resident receives $400. That’s right — the place in the country with the highest incomes and the lowest unemployment receives more money than it hands over.
There is no doubt our system of horizontal fiscal equalisation is broken and has been for some time. It is the most extreme version of the principle implemented in any federation in the world. But all that the risible Finance Minister can say is: “That is the way that it should happen.”
Let’s just run through some of the problems with the system whereby the GST revenue is distributed as run by the arcane Commonwealth Grants Commission, a body that deserves abolition.
• The CGC consistently overstates the real tax bases of the donor states by failing to recognise that their high wages are offset by high living costs.
• Instead of thinking about an overall tax base (and capacity to pay) that the states and territories can tap into, the CGC considers each tax separately. There is no consideration of the impact that levying high taxes on one activity has on the scope to levy taxes on other activities.
• The CGC treats mining royalty income as the equivalent of other state recurrent tax income when clearly royalty income is highly dependent on variable, uncontrollable commodity prices.
• The CGC fails to take into account gambling taxes, so states that chose to limit gambling, such as Western Australia, are disadvantaged. This is just wrong.
At its heart, the system disadvantages states such as Western Australia that go to all the trouble of facilitating a mining boom, for example, but see 70 per cent of the proceeds handed to other states that didn’t lift a finger. So states such as South Australia and Tasmania, which deliberately run anti-business strategies — such as ridiculous renewable energy targets — benefit financially notwithstanding.
The idea this system can continue until Western Australia’ s GST share begins to rise — with the recent resurgence in commodity prices, this will not occur before 2020-21 at the earliest — is political nonsense. No doubt, premier-elect Mark McGowan will have a thing or two to say on the matter.
Even if West Australians were to have the patience of Job, the solution offered by Cormann — just wait — is unworkable. What he thinks can happen is that some sort of collar-and-cap can be imposed on GST relativities — say 0.75 to 1.25 — when the West Australian relativity falls within this range. The trouble with this “solution” is what happens to the Northern Territory because its relativity is above 5 and has been for years. Such a collar-and-cap would involve enormous redistribution away from the Territory.
Here’s a hint, Mathias: the system of GST distribution is broken, beyond repair. Busted. The idea that some states can be compensated to deliver the same standard of services to their citizens but are not required to do so must surely make him realise some political courage is required to fix the system now.
He should not think that West Australians have put away their baseball bats. In all likelihood, those bats will be within easy reach at the next federal election.
Original article here
Social Services Minister Christian Porter said the new data showed that taxpayer-funded benefits could be providing a disincentive to work.
By Sarah Martin The Australian 28 October 2016
Thousands of parents claiming government benefits are financially better off not getting a job, with new figures showing they receive at least $45,000 a year tax-free, more than the take-home pay of most Australian workers.
As the Coalition embarks on an overhaul of the welfare sector, new government data obtained by The Australian reveals that the top 10 per cent of those on parenting benefits, about 43,200 people, received at least $45,032 in 2014-15.
The amount is boosted when families have multiple children and claim a range of government benefits, such as family tax payments and childcare rebates.
Social Services Minister Christian Porter said the new data showed that taxpayer-funded benefits could be providing a disincentive to work — a systemic flaw that required government attention. “Among the many areas that require attention to system design is the fact that the broad generosity of the Australian welfare system manifests more often than people might expect in circumstances where the money people receive in welfare payments is comparable to being employed,” Mr Porter said.
“What is not in any recipients’ best interest is to be deprived of the incentives to reduce income from welfare with income from work.”
The minister, who recently announced that the Coalition will reshape the welfare sector to encourage people into work, said the government had a “moral” responsibility to address welfare dependency.
Under the current system, a single parent with four children who did not work and was not receiving child support income could receive more than $50,000 a year from the government, the equivalent of someone earning $65,000 a year before tax, such as a full-time teacher, nurse or entry-level public servant.
A single parent with four children aged 13, 10, seven and four years, who paid $400 a week in rent without any employment income or child support, would receive a basic parenting payment of $738.50 a fortnight, along with an energy supplement of $12 a fortnight and a pharmaceutical allowance of $6.20 fortnight.
This provides a base payment of $19,728 a year, which would then be augmented by family tax benefits A and B, further supplements for each child and rent assistance, which would pay an extra $32,331 a year.
Finally, energy supplements for each child receiving family tax benefits would total an additional $463 a year, bringing the total take-home pay to $52,523.
According to figures from the Australian National University, the median full-time wage for 2014-15 was $61,300 a year. After tax, this leaves the median wage at $49,831. However, the median overall wage — including part-time workers — was $46,500, which equates to $39,841 as take-home pay after tax.
One of the government’s first steps as it seeks to overhaul the welfare system has been to announce the $96 million “Try, Test, Learn” fund for trials of intervention programs for welfare-dependent young parents, the young unemployed and young carers.
Parents younger than 18 are deemed to be particularly vulnerable to the risk of long-term welfare dependency, with 70 per cent of the 4370 young parents receiving the Parenting Payment in 2014-15 expected still to be on income support in 10 years.
Taxpayers will spend an estimated $191 billion on future welfare payments for all people currently receiving the Parenting Payment, with current recipients having the highest average future lifetime cost of all payment groups, at $441,000 per person.
Young parents are expected to have a higher average future lifetime cost at $547,000 per person.
Mr Porter said the data being collected by the government showed that there must be “better ways” to encourage parents back into the workforce and off government payments.
“It is morally incumbent upon us in that in developing policy … and in making the welfare system fairer we look at mutual obligation and the requirement to prepare for, search for and accept work,” Mr Porter told The Australian.
“We need to find better ways to ensure parents retain current, work-ready skills or develop them even when receiving welfare so they are prepared for and able to accept work when it becomes appropriate for them to do so.”
Government attempts to scale back family tax benefit payments have been largely resisted by Labor and the Senate.
A compromise in the government’s omnibus savings bill this year preserved the energy supplement for current recipients, but reached agreement on a new schedule that limited access to the FTB Part A supplement to those earning less than $80,000 a year.
A Priority Investment report released last month showed that in 2014-15 there were 432,000 people receiving the Parenting Payment, of whom it is estimated that about half will remain on income support after 10 years, and only 22 per cent will have left the welfare system.
The average Parenting Payment in Australia is $29,100, and people can qualify if they have a child younger than six when partnered, or a child younger than eight if single. It is only paid to one member of a couple.
In a speech at the National Press Club last month, Mr Porter warned that without further action Australia’s annual $160 billion welfare bill would top $4.8 trillion for those presently on welfare.
Warning that the system faced having more households drawing income from the national purse, than contributing to it, Mr Porter said it was “like a snake eating its own tail”. “That is to say that it does not work so well after about halfway,” he said.
Original article here
For some people, it just doesn’t pay to get a job
Economists call it the impact of high effective marginal tax rates. It’s a fancy way of saying that, for some welfare recipients, work doesn’t pay.
The combination of relatively generous welfare payments (particularly if there are several dependent children), the withdrawal of payments if work is undertaken and the payment of tax means that adults in some families, particularly single parent ones, are better off staying on welfare than getting a job.
Ten per cent of people on parenting benefits, more than 400,000 people, each received more than $45,000 in benefits in 2014-15. This is well above the fulltime minimum wage, which is $35,000. Throw in receipt of the childcare subsidy for which no activity test applies and these parents don’t even have to spend much of their time looking after the children.
Many of those on single parenting benefits, particularly if they are accessed from a young age, will be in receipt of welfare payments even after their children have grown up.
The truth is that being out of the workforce does them no favours, nor their children. There is clear evidence of intergenerational transmission of disadvantage. The government is right to try to break this cycle, including assisting welfare recipients to become job-ready.
There are lessons the government could learn from Britain and New Zealand. In Britain, one principle is that no one can be better off on welfare compared with having a fulltime low wage job. There are limits on the number of children for whom benefits are paid.
New Zealand policy has a mixture of carrots and sticks. Early intervention in cases known to be associated with long-term welfare dependence is a hallmark of the policy.
For Australia, this is not just an economic imperative, it is also a moral one. Redesigning welfare payments is complex but the key is to ensure that work, not welfare, pays.
Original article here
Real environmental problems are being neglected: picking through the detritus left behind by Cyclone Haima at Manila Bay on Thursday.
Matt Ridley 22 Oct 2016 The Australian
After covering global warming debates as a journalist on and off for almost 30 years, with initial credulity, then growing scepticism, I have come to the conclusion that the risk of dangerous global warming, now and in the future, has been greatly exaggerated while the policies enacted to mitigate the risk have done more harm than good, both economically and environmentally, and will continue to do so. And I am treated as some kind of pariah for coming to this conclusion. Increasingly, many people would like to outlaw, suppress, prosecute and censor all discussion of what they call “the science” rather than engage in debate. We’re told that it’s impertinent to question “the science” and that we must think as we are told. But arguments from authority are the refuge of priests.
These days there is a legion of climate spin doctors. Their job is to keep the debate binary: either you believe climate change is real and dangerous or you’re a denier who thinks it’s a hoax. But there’s a third possibility they refuse to acknowledge: that it’s real but not dangerous. That’s what I mean by lukewarming, and I think it is by far the most likely prognosis.
I am not claiming that carbon dioxide is not a greenhouse gas; it is. I am not saying that its concentration in the atmosphere is not increasing; it is. I am not saying the main cause of that increase is not the burning of fossil fuels; it is. I am not saying the climate does not change; it does. I am not saying that the atmosphere is not warmer today than it was 50 or 100 years ago; it is. And I am not saying that carbon dioxide emissions are not likely to have caused some (probably more than half) of the warming since 1950. I agree with the consensus on all these points.
Some of my scientific friends accuse me of inconsistently agreeing with the scientific consensus that genetic modification of crops is safe and beneficial, but refusing to agree with the scientific consensus that climate change is dangerous. I agree with the scientific consensus on GM crops not because it is a consensus but because I’ve looked at sufficient evidence. There is no consensus that climate change is going to be dangerous. Even the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says there is a range of possible outcomes, from harmless to catastrophic. I’m in that range: I think the top of that range is very unlikely. But the IPCC also thinks the top of its range is very unlikely.
Besides, consensus is a reasonable guide to data about the past but is no guide to the future and never has been. In non-linear systems with feedbacks, like economies or atmospheres, experts are notoriously bad at forecasting events. There is no such thing as an expert on the future.
It is undeniable that the climate models have failed to get global warming right. As the IPCC has confirmed, for the period since 1998, “111 of the 114 available climate-model simulations show a surface warming trend larger than the observations”. That is to say there is a consensus that the models are exaggerating the rate of global warming.
The warming has so far resulted in no significant or consistent change in the frequency or intensity of storms, tornadoes, floods, droughts or winter snow cover. The death toll from droughts, floods and storms has been going down dramatically. Not because weather has got safer, but because of technology and prosperity.
As two climate scientists, Richard McNider and John Christy, have put it, “We might forgive these modellers if their forecasts had not been so consistently and spectacularly wrong. From the beginning of climate modelling in the 1980s, these forecasts have, on average, always overstated the degree to which the Earth is warming compared with what we see in the real climate.”
In 1990, the first IPCC assessment predicted a temperature increase of 0.3C per decade (with an uncertainty range of 0.2C to 0.5C). In fact in the 2½ decades since, even though emissions have risen faster than in the business-as-usual scenario, the temperature has risen at an average rate of about 0.15C per decade based on surface measurements, or 0.12C per decade based on satellite data; that is, less than half as fast as expected and below the bottom of the uncertainty range!
What about 2015 and 2016 both being record hot years? Well, because of the massive El Nino, the HADCRUT4 surface temperature line just about inched up briefly in early 2016 into respectable territory in among the lower half of the model runs for a few months before dropping back out again. That’s all.
So why is the atmosphere not doing what it is told? Actually it is. These results are precisely in line with the physics of the greenhouse effect. A doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere cannot on its own produce dangerous warming. The sensitivity of the atmosphere to CO2 is about 1.2C per doubling. That is the consensus, spelled out clearly (if obscurely) by the IPCC several times over the years. And that’s what we are on course for at the moment.
So what is the problem? Well, the theory of dangerous climate change depends on a whole extra step in the argument — the supposed threefold amplification of carbon dioxide’s warming potential, principally by extra water vapour released into the atmosphere by a warming ocean, and accumulating at high altitudes. And the evidence for that is much more shaky.
Recent attempts to measure the sensitivity of the climate system to carbon dioxide using real data nearly all find that it is much lower than the models assume. So, if it’s consensus that floats your boat, there is an emerging consensus from observational estimates that climate sensitivity is low.
What’s more, all the high estimates of warming are based on an economic and demographic scenario called RCP 8.5, which is a very unrealistic one. It assumes that population growth stops decelerating and speeds up again.
It assumes that trade and innovation largely cease. It assumes that the ability of the oceans to absorb CO2 fails. It assumes that despite all this the income of the average person trebles. And most absurd of all, it assumes that we go back to using coal for almost everything, including to make motor fuel, so that by 2100 we are using 10 times as much coal as we are today. In short, it is a barking mad scenario.
It is beyond question that global warming has generated enormous research funds, measured in many billions, that this has stimulated all sorts of scientists, from botany to psychiatry, to link their work to climate change, and that almost none of this money flows to those with sceptical views.
As the distinguished NASA climate scientist Roy Spencer has written, “If you fund scientists to find evidence of something, they will be happy to find it for you. For over 20 years we have been funding them to find evidence of the human influence on climate. And they dutifully found it everywhere, hiding under every rock, glacier, ocean, and in every cloud, hurricane, tornado, raindrop, and snowflake. So, just tell scientists 20 per cent of their funds will be targeted for studying natural sources of climate change. They will find those, too.”
Suppose I am right and our grandchildren find that we were greatly exaggerating the risks, and underestimating the benefits of CO2. Suppose they do indeed experience carbon dioxide levels of 600 parts per million or more, but do not experience dangerous global warming, or more extreme weather, just a mild and decelerating increase in global average temperatures, especially at high latitudes, at night and in winter, accompanied by spectacular global greening and less water stress for both people and crops.
Does it matter that our politicians panicked in the early 2000s? Surely better safe than sorry? Here’s why it matters. Our current policy carries not just huge economic costs, which hit the poorest people hardest, but huge environmental costs too. We are encouraging forest destruction by burning wood, ethanol and biodiesel. We are denying poor people the cheapest forms of electricity, which forces them to continue relying on wood for fuel, at great cost to their health.
We are using the landscape, the rivers, the estuaries, the hills, the fields for making energy, when we could be handing land back to nature, and relying on forms of energy that nature does not compete for — fossil and nuclear.
But there is a further reason why it matters. Real environmental problems are being neglected. The emphasis on climate change as the pre-eminent environmental threat means that we pay too little attention to the genuine environmental problems in the world, things like overfishing and invasive species.
And here is the maddest thing of all. Current policy is not even achieving decarbonisation. In 2012 Bjorn Lomborg calculated that 20 years of climate policy had reduced global emissions by less than 1 per cent. During that time the world had spent more than a trillion dollars to subsidise wind and solar power, yet between them they had still not achieved 1 per cent of world energy provision, and had cut emissions by even less.
Original article here
65 per cent of Americans say their economic system “unfairly favours powerful interests”
Maurice Newman 14 Oct 2016 The Australian
In the late 19th century, Russia’s aristocrats adopted French as their preferred language. While the starving were forced to eat rats, the ruling class merrily decorated palaces in gilt and amber. Unsurprisingly, this splendid isolation resulted in revolutionary change.
In the US, Washington’s understanding of the plight of the average family suggests a similar sense of detachment.
While not eating rats, according to a February survey conducted by the Pew Research Centre 65 per cent of Americans say their economic system “unfairly favours powerful interests”. It is a view that crosses party lines.
Yet, listening to Barack Obama campaigning on behalf of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, those Americans are just whingers. The President boasts of falling poverty rates and rising wages. He claims credit for economic growth. “Thanks, Obama,” he yelled, should anybody miss his genius. But a stump speech is one thing. In reality, racial division and the gap between rich and poor in the US has widened more under Obama than under any other president.
What he didn’t say is that real median household income is lower today than in 2007 and remains lower than the peak reached in the 1990s.
Actual unemployment is nearer 10 per cent than the advertised 5 per cent, and home ownership is the lowest since 1951.
This attrition of the middle class continues to leave behind increasing numbers of average Americans.
If the people on the street are hostile, Obama’s preferred successor, “business as usual” political insider Clinton, is the ruling class’s favourite.
Many senior Republicans prefer her and are united in their disdain for the blunt, vulgar, anti-establishment and erratic political outsider Donald Trump, who disrespects women and whose policies they fear will upset their supporters’ taxpayer-subsidised apple carts.
After the weakest expansion in history, the US economy is again slipping into recession.
Manufacturing capacity utilisation remains below 75 per cent. Profits have been in retreat for six straight quarters and show no sign of improving. Wage growth is slowing, productivity is down and gross domestic product growth for the past three quarters is the lowest outside of recession. Forecasts continue to be downgraded.
According to the Heritage Foundation, “over the last 10 years, federal government spending has been at the highest level it has ever been in American history”. Eleven states have more people on welfare than are employed. With monetary policy producing no noticeable dividends, Treasury officials will be tempted to run bigger deficits and rack up even more debt.
As Albert Einstein observed, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Not only will the next US president have to deal with social tensions and a weakening domestic and global economy, but a Federal Reserve chairwoman who believes social objectives are part of her role. Having fuelled the dotcom bubble and the subprime crisis, Janet Yellen’s Fed continues on its reckless ways, rewarding speculators and widening inequality as it goes.
The Fed is so in Wall Street’s thrall that keeping the market up has become an unquestioned mandate. No wonder average Americans think the system is rigged against them.
Yet the election campaign, the debates and media coverage scarcely deal with this. They concentrate on sizzle, such as Clinton’s scandalous neglect of national security, the Clinton Foundation pay-to-play allegations and her alleged forked tongue.
But it is Trump’s juvenile objectification of women, his alleged misogyny, racism and bigotry, and refusal to release his tax returns that dominate mainstream media headlines and send the Twittersphere into a twitter. The media and the debate moderators shamelessly favour Clinton.
Whatever the intention, the various claims and counterclaims simply emphasise the unsuitability of both candidates for the role of commander-in-chief. But, short of an unforeseen event, one of them will be president.
There is no doubt the international community would rather deal with a president Clinton than a president Trump.
Trump is seen as unpredictable and the US’s enemies would prefer Clinton who, as former secretary of state, knows how the game is played and will be easier to deal with. The Iranians will certainly prefer her.
A president Trump would renegotiate trade deals and require US allies to contribute more to defence arrangements. A Trump presidency would be more inward looking and less reverential to international bodies such as the UN. At home, he is the only candidate seriously talking cuts to federal spending, reining in the Federal Reserve, eliminating burdensome business regulations, reducing corporate tax rates and enforcing border security.
But the reality is, his economic plan falls short on spending cuts. To quote former director of the Office of Management and Budget, David Stockman, it is a “dog’s breakfast of some plausible ideas (and) really bad fiscal math”.
That said, it promises more hope than Clinton’s proposal, which is right out of an Obama-Bernie Sanders playbook: a mix of status quo and rank populism, including tax cuts for middle-income earners, means-tested “free” tertiary education, increases in the minimum wage and tax hikes for the rich.
Stockman’s overall assessment of the scene is dismal. He says: “After two decades of massive monetary stimulus and monumental expansion of global debt … we are now in the payback cycle.”
He believes “beltway magic has pushed the nation to the fiscal brink” and that “the nation’s sputtering remnant of a capitalist economy will be crushed by the welfare and warfare states on which the imperial city feeds”.
Clinton is a creature of the beltway and offers even more unaffordable magic. Trump is the heretic and only candidate who, given the opportunity, could rein in the corrosive, powerful interests that drive Washington and divide the US.
Voter turnout will be crucial but, despite the deplorable nominees, Trump may still be the US’s better bet.
Original article here
Pauline Hanson: “Non-custodial parents find it hard to restart their lives, with excessive child support payments that see their former partners live a very comfortable life.”
Fleur Anderson 25 September 2016 Australian Financial Review
The federal government’s independent auditor has flagged an investigation of the $3.5 billion child support system, a move that could provide further ammunition for Pauline Hanson’s claim that the system is unfair to non-custodial parents.
It’s the latest in a push to test the integrity of the child welfare system, which some claim is plagued by rorting by some parents trying to dodge child support payments and some childcare service providers who are blamed for almost $600 million in incorrect government payment claims.
The Australian National Audit Office has listed the child support system as a priority issue for audits for 2016-17 and plans to focus on the arrangements between the Australian Taxation Office and the Department of Human Services.
In the weeks following the federal election, Nationals MPs reported to their partyroom that anger over the child support system was a sleeper issue that risked losing voters to One Nation unless major parties started taking notice.
The accuracy and effectiveness of the child support system is based on parents lodging accurate tax returns to give their assessable taxable income.
In 2014-15, about $3.5 billion was transferred between separated parents to support about 1.2 million children.
In the same year, the ATO and Department of Human Services were behind 65,678 enforcement actions on parents’ tax returns to collect an extra $27.4 million in child support payments.
Another 105,202 tax refunds were intercepted to garnishee $121.5 million in child support.
But fathers’ rights groups and One Nation say the child support system must be overhauled and the formula that dictates the amount of child support payments should be reviewed.
The audit will focus on the effectiveness of the agencies’ enforcement activities, including intercepting tax refunds and reviewing the accuracy of parents’ tax returns.
One Nation leader Senator Pauline Hanson said in her maiden speech this month that some parents were left caring and providing for children without any financial help from the other parent, while others refuse to work altogether to avoid the payments.
“The system needs to be balanced, taking in the age of the child on a sliding scale and both parents’ incomes should be taken into account,” Senator Hanson said.
“Non-custodial parents find it hard to restart their lives, with excessive child support payments that see their former partners live a very comfortable life.”
An interim audit by the Auditor-General of 21 government departments and agencies – including Education, Communication, Defence, Employment and Defence – for the year to June 30 this year found childcare compliance was the significant adverse problem facing government bookkeepers.
Thanks to a 2013 change to the monitoring of childcare operators, compliance moved from inspections of childcare centres and family daycare operators to asking parents to confirm their child’s attendance in child care.
As a result the potential incorrect payments blew out to an estimated $693 million by June 2015, before being reined in to $587 million this year.
Education minister Simon Birmingham, who now has responsibility for the problem which has switched between the Education department and Social Services since 2014, said recent measures to close loopholes allowing “child swapping” by carers claiming payments has helped stop more than $400 million in suspect claims from being paid.
A $27 million crackdown introduced to Parliament last week explicitly ruled out people claiming childcare subsidies where the care was provided by the child’s own parents in their own homes “or even in the back of the car”.
“These new measures will ensure there are much tighter controls on who cares for our children – it is not good enough that existing rules have been able to be ‘worked around’ and these measures will put a stop to it in the interests of child safety and the protection of taxpayers,” Mr Birmingham said.
Original article here
Gradually, the masses are realising something is wrong
Maurice Newman 27 September 2016 The Australian
When your news and views come from a tightly controlled, left-wing media echo chamber, it may come as a bit of a shock to learn that in the July election almost 600,000 voters gave their first preference to Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party.
You may also be surprised to know that still deluded conservatives remain disenchanted with the media’s favourite Liberal, Malcolm Turnbull, for his epic fail as Prime Minister, especially when compared with the increasingly respected leader he deposed.
Perhaps when media outlets saturate us with “appropriate” thoughts and “acceptable” speech, and nonconformists are banished from television, radio and print, it’s easy to miss what is happening on the uneducated side of the tracks.
After all, members of the better educated and morally superior political class use a compliant media to shelter us from the dangerous, racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, sexist, welfare-reforming, climate-change denying bigots who inhabit the outer suburbs and countryside — the people whom Hillary Clinton calls “the deplorables”.
They must be vilified without debate, lest too many of us waver on the virtues of bigger governments, central planning, more bloated bureaucracies, higher taxes, unaffordable welfare, a “carbon-free” economy, more regulations, open borders, gender-free and values-free schools and same-sex marriage; the sort of agenda that finds favour at the UN.
Yet history is solid with evidence that this agenda will never deliver the promised human dignity, prosperity and liberty. Only free and open societies with small governments can do that.
Gradually, the masses are realising something is wrong. Their wealth and income growth is stagnating and their living standards are threatened. They see their taxes wasted on expensive, ill-conceived social programs. They live with migrants who refuse to integrate. They resent having government in their lives on everything from home renovations to recreational fishing, from penalty rates to free speech.
Thomas Jefferson’s warning that “the natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground” is now a stark reality.
The terms “people’s representative” and “public servant” have become a parody. In today’s world we are the servants and, if it suits, we are brushed aside with callous indifference.
Like the Labor government’s disregard for the enormous emotional and financial hurt suffered when, overnight, it shut down live cattle exports on the strength of a television show.
Or like the NSW parliament passing laws banning greyhound racing in the state. There was no remorse for the ruined lives of thousands of innocent people, many of whom won’t recover. Talk of compensation is a travesty.
Or like the victims neighbouring Williamtown and Oakey air force bases, made ill from toxic contamination of groundwater. Around the world it’s known chemical agents used in airport fire drills cause cancer, neurological disease and reproductive disorders, yet the Australian Department of Defence simply denies responsibility. The powerless are hopelessly trapped between health risks and valueless properties.
Similar disdain is shown for those living near coal-seam gas fields and wind turbines. The authorities know of the health and financial impacts but defend operators by bending rules and ignoring guidelines.
If governments believe the ends justify the means, people don’t matter.
When Ernst & Young research finds one in eight Australians can’t meet their electricity bills, rather than show compassion for the poor and the elderly, governments push ruthlessly ahead with inefficient and expensive renewable energy projects.
This newspaper’s former editor-in-chief Chris Mitchell reveals in his book, Making Headlines, how Kevin Rudd, when prime minister, brazenly attempted to use state power to investigate “the relationship between my paper and him”. Rudd’s successor, Julia Gillard, wanted to establish a media watchdog to effectively gag journalists.
None of this is fantasy and it explains why people are losing confidence in the democratic system. Australians feel increasingly marginalised and unrepresented. They are tired of spin and being lied to. They know that data is often withheld or manipulated.
As they struggle to make ends meet, they watch helplessly as the established political class shamelessly abuses its many privileges.
It appears its sole purpose in life is to rule, not to govern. This adds weight to the insightful contention by the Business Council of Australia’s Jennifer Westacott that Australia is in desperate need of a national purpose.
It’s no wonder, to paraphrase American author Don Fredrick, that a growing number of Australians no longer want a tune-up at the same old garage. They want a new engine installed by experts — and they are increasingly of the view that the current crop of state and federal mechanics lacks the skills and experience to do the job.
One Nation may not be the answer, but its garage does offer a new engine.
This is Australia’s version of the Trump phenomenon. Like Donald Trump, Hanson is a non-establishment political disrupter. However, unlike Trump, who may soon occupy the White House, Hanson won’t inhabit the Lodge.
This leaves Australia’s establishment and the central planners very much in control. It means we will remain firmly on our current bigger-government path, financed by higher taxes and creative accounting.
Nobel laureate economist FA Hayek observes in his book The Road to Serfdom: “The more planners improvise, the greater the disturbance to normal business. Everyone suffers. People feel rightly that ‘planners’ can’t get things done.”
But he argues that, ironically, in a crisis the risk is that rather than wind back the role of government, people automatically turn to someone strong who demands obedience and uses coercion to achieve objectives.
Australia is now on that road to tyranny and, with another global recession in prospect and nearly 50 per cent of voters already dependent on government, the incentive is to vote for more government, not less.
The left-wing media echo-chamber will be an enthusiastic cheerleader.
Original article here
It does make you wonder whether some journalists ever talk to ordinary Australians. Five minutes in any pub in the country will render such polling unnecessary.
By Chris Mitchell The Australian 26 September 2016
How to walk a mile in another’s shoes? That is the question great reporters seek to answer when they interview their subjects.
In a time when there has never been more media but it is light years wide and only atoms deep, there is little reward for doing what great newspapers seek to do: provide their readers with genuine understanding of issues and people’s views and motives.
This is a shouty, shallow and callow media age in which young Lefty tyros are rewarded for sharp opinions and violently executed tweets. Their opponents in the right-wing blogosphere too easily drift into hate and conspiracy over genuine inquiry.
So on a range of issues the Left and Right yell at each other in what psychologists refer to as “different emotional languages”, like a husband who really cannot understand what his wife is saying about why their marriage is going awry.
I got that feeling very strongly last Tuesday morning when I heard Andrew Bolt being interviewed by Fran Kelly about Tuesday night’s very interesting program with Linda Burney on Aboriginal recognition. Kelly was perplexed Bolt seemed not to agree with all the received Radio National wisdoms she was trying to get him to concede.
And yet the thinkers behind recognition, people such as Noel Pearson, have always known Andrew — with his ability to articulate the honestly held and genuine concerns of his readers — was the biggest danger to any potential referendum, even if it was first proposed by Andrew’s confidante Tony Abbott.
Just as with same-sex marriage and Muslim immigration the megaphones of the Left show no understanding of, or even empathy for, the great middle ground of Australian public opinion, which is where these issues will be decided.
Those in the maximalist camp on Recognition give every indication of preferring a loss to a win on slightly less ambitious terms. Wiser heads in the movement know proponents who argue for a treaty now would be smarter to take it one step at a time.
Still, I had real admiration for Bolt, who showed tremendous courage to expose himself to a full tilt ABC ideological crusade with newly elected federal Labor MP Burney. The Twittersphere was a feral sewer about him that night and next day.
Having been into the ABC’s Ultimo fortress in inner Sydney several times lately I can say the pursed-lipped tut-tutting is almost overpowering when a critic of the corporation crosses the threshold. Good on Bolt for doing it I reckon.
It was also gutsy of diminutive Burney to front a couple of conservative, and physical, giants in Bolt and Liberal Party federal MP Cory Bernardi in the latter’s Adelaide electoral office.
It is unlikely Bolt or Burney will ever persuade each other but viewers may have sensed an increased recognition on the part of each of the participants of the other’s genuine passion.
An Essential Media Poll published in The Guardian on Wednesday highlighted this sort of hyper partisanship and the inability of many in journalism even to understand how their own country feels about issues.
Given what has happened in Europe since German Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the nation’s borders to Syrian refugees a year ago it should have been no surprise to The Guardian or the ABC that half the nation wanted a ban on Muslim immigration.
The poll showed 49 per cent supporting a ban and only 40 per cent opposing. John Barron, hosting The Drum on ABC TV, seemed shocked that even large numbers of Greens and Labor voters supported such a ban.
It does make you wonder whether some journalists ever talk to ordinary Australians. Five minutes in any pub in the country will render such polling unnecessary.
The ideological and media divide is just as wide for same-sex marriage. The sheer brutality of the Left’s reaction to any Christian spokesperson either opposing change or supporting the plebiscite promised by the Coalition elected less than three months ago is vile.
This is not just a challenge for journalism. It is also a problem for the body politic.
If journalists don’t understand how their audiences feel and the media and politics become ever more sharply partisan, how will reformers ever bring about social, economic and political change?
This Balkanisation of social attitudes and the subsequent prioritising of opinion over reporting that seeks to explore and understand is making Western countries increasingly difficult to govern. Even something seemingly uncontestable such as repair of the federal budget now elicits sharply partisan divides among journalists and politicians.
I support recognition but would never think a referendum should even be held if a proposition was so ambitious it was guaranteed to fail.
A libertarian on same-sex marriage, I would nevertheless defend to the death the freedom of Christians, let alone Muslims and Jews, to stick to their religious convictions.
I think a ban on Muslim immigration would be the most dangerous thing the country could do if it really is interested in preventing young men from self-radicalising online.
After all, teenagers feeling so alienated from mainstream society today that they seek solace in the websites of Islamic State would only feel more like outsiders were all Muslim immigration banned. But it should sure as hell be obvious to any thinking journalist why in the face of so many attacks on Western targets during the past two years many Australians would be attracted to such a proposition.
If we try to walk a mile in another’s shoes, we might begin to see why Aboriginal kids would think it unfair to suggest they should just be happy to forget about their heritage and history and again accept what is being offered them. But we might also understand why Bolt believes people today should not be atoning to people many generations and multiple ethnicities away from the brutalities of white settlement.
We might understand the complexities of race from the position of the other person, as Stan Grant has so eloquently tried to explain.
Original article here
Introducing, The NoPhone Air
It was at a retreat in the middle of nowhere in Canada that two young entrepreneurs unveiled the next big thing in tech. They called it “the least advanced NoPhone ever”. The device inside the sleek, slimline packaging had no buttons, no screen and no way to tweet, take a selfie or even make a call.
In fact, the NoPhone Air was nothing but an empty package, the size of a smartphone.
It was a joke. But the dig at the relentless pace of reinvention in the mobile phone industry, at the same time as Apple launched the iPhone 7, tapped into something very real: the growing desire to turn off, tune out, unplug.
The signs suggest smartphone addiction has hit iPeak. Next month, the Light Phone — which is the size of a credit card and can make calls, store ten numbers and do nothing else — will be launched in the US by two friends who met at a Google “incubator” for whizzkids and grew jaded by the constant pressure to come up with increasingly addictive and life-consuming apps.
The Light Phone Video
In London, Liverpool, Berlin and Los Angeles people are participating in “killyourphone” workshops, creating their own signal-blocking pouches with glue and copper-coated cloth, and dipping their devices into cement to take a symbolic time-out from Tinder and Twitter.
Even Kanye West has called time on his timeline, declaring: “I got rid of my phone so I can have air to create,” in a tweet that has so far been retweeted 38,000 times by people who have, presumably, yet to embrace his example of digital detox. The singer Katy Perry appeared to agree, replying: “Unplug to connect.” The actor Eddie Redmayne also confessed to having swapped his smartphone for an old-fashioned handset because he was sick of “being glued permanently to my iPhone”.
Given that the average user taps their phone 2,617 times a day, with 89 per cent of us unable to resist checking our device at least once between midnight and 5am, it is perhaps inevitable there has been a reaction that has prompted a surge of interest in “retro tech”.
Your phone away from phone
Dumbphones are now de rigueur, with old, trusty, uncrackable Nokia handsets selling for hundreds of dollars on eBay. About 4,700 Nokia 3310s, a classic, 16-year-old model, have been sold on the online marketplace in the past three months — two every hour. And 23 Nokia N70s have been sold every day over the same period.
It was partly rebellion against the Apple ethos and partly a desire to return to something that had been lost, that encouraged Joe Hollier, a 26-year-old skateboarder and graphic designer from Brooklyn, and his friend, Kaiwei Tang, who spent a decade designing phones for Motorola, to launch their own bare minimum device.
The pair met on a Google program for new talent two years ago.
“Everything was about creating apps to get users hooked, rather than developing something people needed,” said Mr Hollier. “We felt that is not how it’s supposed to be.” Worst of all, he said, “they were trying to frame it as if we were making the world a better place, by getting people addicted and selling them more stuff. I couldn’t help but call B.S on that. We felt they were missing the point.”
They created the Light Phone — a dollars 100 device, available in the UK by the end of the year, which shares the same number as your main number, forwarding on calls and offering little else, for the times when email and gadgetry may not be necessary. They call it “going light”.
“Do I really need a computer in my pocket when I’m skateboarding, or going out for dinner with my girlfriend? No,” said Mr Hollier.
He realised that constantly checking what other people were doing on Instagram and Facebook was chipping away at his own contentment.
“I found I was getting lost in these scroll holes. I would always come out of them feeling not necessarily good about myself. My smartphone was sucking me in. As soon as I stepped away — I call it breaking through the fomo threshold, getting over the fear of missing out.”
“I felt free. I realised I was happier in those disconnected moments, when I can watch a sunset, appreciate my friends. We want to make a product that helps people appreciate their lives, not control their lives.”
He stressed that the Light Phone was not a substitute, but simply a supplement. “It doesn’t have to mean going completely off-grid. It could mean just taking 20 minutes to get a coffee.”
He insisted his product was refining, rather than regressing. “We’re sparking a conversation. What do I want my technology to do for me?”
Aram Bartholl, 42, a conceptual artist in Berlin, started his killyourphone workshops a couple of years ago. “We all have these little computers in our pockets but we don’t really know how they work or who’s recording our data. For me, the pouch is a way to think a little more about what they do, and how we live with them.
“Suddenly, you have a person who’s used to technology sitting down with scissors and glue and a sewing machine — a machine from another revolution — in a completely different social situation. It gives connection a whole different meaning.”
Lucy Bannerman,The Times – The Australian 24 Sept 2016
Original article here
Business blows up as turbines suck more power than they generate
THE AUSTRALIAN JULY 20, 2016 By Michael Owen, SA Bureau Chief
Farmer Peter Ebsary hosts four turbines from the Snowtown wind farm in South Australia’s mid north. ‘We get a financial return and don’t have to do anything.’ Picture: Kelly Barnes
Wind turbines in South Australia were using more power than they generated during the state’s electricity crisis, which has prompted major businesses to threaten shutdowns and smaller firms to consider moving interstate.
The sapping of power by the turbines during calm weather on July 7 at the height of the crisis, which has caused a price surge, shows just how unreliable and intermittent wind power is for a state with a renewable energy mix of more than 40 per cent. Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox yesterday said the rise in prices, already the highest in the country, had disrupted industry and served as a warning for the rest of the nation. “That is a serious blow to energy users across SA and has disrupted supply chains upon which thousands of jobs depend,” he said.
“The real risk is if this volatility becomes the norm across the National Electricity Market.
“In June, electricity cost South Australia $133 per megawatt hour on average — already a high price. But since July 1, electricity prices have spiked above $10,000 per MWh at times.”
Mr Willox echoed warnings of the South Australian government on the weekend, saying “We will see similar episodes again, and not just in SA”, and backing calls for major reform of the NEM.
“Changes in the pattern of energy demand and the ongoing build-up of wind and solar make life increasingly difficult for ‘baseload’ electricity generators across the country,” he said.
The power crisis comes amid growing pressure from independent senator Nick Xenophon to invest hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars into struggling South Australian businesses to save jobs, and as the Turnbull government attempts to establish a hi-tech submarine manufacturing industry in the state.
An analysis of data from the Australian Energy Market Operator, responsible for the administration and operation of the wholesale NEM, shows the turbines’ down time on July 7 coincided with NEM prices for South Australia reaching almost $14,000 per MWh
NEM prices in other markets have been as low as $40 per MWh with the AI Group estimating this month’s power surge in South Australian electricity prices had cost $155 million.
While all wind farms in South Australia were producing about 5780MW between 6am and 7am, by 1pm the energy generation was in deficit as the turbines consumed more power than they created. By mid-afternoon, energy generation by all wind farms was minus-50MW. The situation forced several major companies, including BHP Billiton and Arrium, to warn the state government of possible shutdowns because of higher energy prices, forcing Treasurer and Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis to intervene by asking a private operator of a mothballed gas-fired plant in Adelaide for a temporary power spike.
BHP, which employs about 3000 people at its Olympic Dam mine in the state’s far north, said its operations in South Australia were under a cloud.
“The security and reliability of power have been a significant concern for BHP Billiton and the sustainability of Olympic Dam,” the miner’s head of corporate affairs, Simon Corrigan, said.
Opposition energy spokesman Dan van Holst Pellekaan said the snapshot of wind power operations in the state showed the Labor government’s energy policies had created an oversupply of cheap wind energy at times but that forced it to import from interstate when prices shot up.
“This wouldn’t be a problem if we still had a reasonable amount of base load generation but we don’t,” he said.
Mr Koutsantonis yesterday said improved interconnection for a “truly national electricity market” would drive prices down immediately. Federal Energy Minster Josh Frydenberg declined to be interviewed yesterday, but said he would convene a Council of Australian Governments meeting as soon as possible.
Not everyone is unhappy — farmer Peter Ebsary hosts four turbines from the Snowtown wind farm in South Australia’s mid north. The wind farm, owned by TrustPower, is the state’s largest.
“We get a financial return and don’t have to do anything … we just sit back and collect the money as long as the wind blows,” he said.
Original article here
Opening of the new Midland Hospital, Perth WA
Efficiency and accountability better for health than handouts
- LAWRENCE SPRINGBORG
- THE AUSTRALIAN
- APRIL 1, 2016 12:00AM
Once again, premiers are in Canberra demanding just one thing to fix their collapsing state-run public health systems.
Lined up at the national money dispensary like addicts at a methadone clinic, they’ll seek the sweet liquid sensation of cash to repair health systems too long in the red and state budgets failing under the constant strain.
Under-represented in the meeting’s lexicon, as it always seems to be, is the much-needed commitment to improving government productivity and efficiency.
Here is what I have learned from direct experience: fixing the structural problems of healthcare does not mean responding to an ever-increasing state-based addiction to large cash injections.
Better patient care is about quality, not quantity.
Four years ago, the end-stage cash cravings of mismanagement in Queensland Health were so bad that Treasury forecast this one portfolio would go on to consume every available cent of state revenue, stripping all resources from every other Queensland government function by about 2030.
That was the so-called “power-dive into the abyss” of economic mismanagement under the Beattie and Bligh Labor governments and its main destructive force was the appalling Labor-union control of Queensland Health.
It was the time of the disastrous health payroll fiasco, in which a $7 million contract administered by Labor blew out to cost Queenslanders about $1.25 billion. That’s like paying $300 for a Mars Bar or $2.5m for a Holden Commodore.
In the middle of the sandwich, thousands of Queensland nurses and other health staff were underpaid, overpaid, or not paid at all. The state’s independent auditor-general found the construction costs of three new hospitals blew out by $2.2bn because of poor planning and management.
The Independent Commission of Audit found after the Liberal National Party’s election in 2012 that, in the six years of the previous government, there had been a 42 per cent increase in health expenditure yet there had been just a 16 per cent increase in services for patients — those providing the patient services were getting three times the benefit of the patients. A lot more was being spent to get a very small improvement.
The perception of health as an impossible, ungovernable quagmire is false. Even at that dire time in Queensland, a considered, sensible blueprint for better healthcare was readily available. It was drawn up, publicised and implemented by the LNP in a few short months during 2012-13.
I’m pleased to say that more than one year on from the election of the Palaszczuk government, some key elements of that blueprint appear to have stuck, at least in a rhetorical sense. In fact, growth in demand for quality healthcare does require the investment of additional funds, but increases must be moderated. Attached conditions must cut waste, find efficiencies and redirect funding into frontline services. True reforms empower patients. Their genuine choices are the best measure for improved performance. Empowering politicians and union bosses will achieve only the opposite.
In Queensland under the LNP, chronic health deficits became sustained health surpluses, which were reinvested into local health services; a failed system of centralised power was replaced by devolved control to autonomous hospital boards; regular public reporting of local health performance was introduced; a genuine partnership between public, private and non-government sectors flourished with the delivery of additional and enhanced services to public patients; and moribund grants (for example, for fake Tahitian princes) were replaced by competitive, complementary service delivery contracts.
In hard numbers, Queensland cut its 2012 surgery waiting list of 6485 patients to 76 in less than three years.
Long-wait dental waiting lists went from 61,405 to zero. The waiting list for specialist outpatients. which had grown by 90 per cent during the previous six years, was reduced for the first time. On-time delivery of urgent surgery rose from 86 per cent to 98 per cent; semi-urgent surgery from 73 per cent to 94 per cent; and non-urgent surgery from 90 per cent to 97 per cent.
Before Labor left government in March 2012, Queensland Health had double-digit budget increases but recorded deficits of $320m in 2010-11 and $173m the year before that. It was drowning in cash, while its policies allowed hospitals to shut their doors on arriving ambulances even as patients died in the back of them.
Another health budget deficit was forecast for 2011-12, but under the LNP it turned around in the last quarter to break even and then amassed more than $500m in surpluses in the three years I was health minister.
Between 2011-12 and 2014-15 the budget for Queensland Hospital and Health Services increased at a more modest and sustainable average of about 5 per cent a year.
Today, these fundamental differences in approach are accepted even by Bligh’s Labor successors. In the Palaszczuk government’s Queensland Health budget service delivery statement for 2014-15, it wrote that (under the LNP) these formerly alien concepts “have led to the generation of surpluses over the last three years while still delivering increased activity across the system. This control (they promise) will be maintained over the current financial year.”
That’s it in a nutshell; and it’s rare praise indeed to be so endorsed by my Labor opponents.
Principles of better health management, productivity and efficiency (the simple respect for taxpayers’ scarce dollars) delivered three years of stability with modest budget increases and surpluses in every Queensland hospital and health service.
Any additional funds from the commonwealth to the states should come with serious accountability strings attached, otherwise more money will be spent to get lesser services for patients.
Maybe the commonwealth should take the lessons from Queensland and insist on full independent efficiency audits, demonstrating real benefits to patients, before the cash flows.
Lawrence Springborg is Queensland Opposition Leader. He was health minister for three years in the state’s Newman government.
Original article here