Rail Nationalisation?

The Bracks Government today announced that it was buying back it’s lease with Pacific National to operate the Victorian country rail network. This nationalisation sets a horrible precedent. Instead Pacific National bearing the burden of an under-utilised rail network, now Victorian taxpayers are going to bear the burden.

Pacific National has blamed poor grain cartage, which makes sense considering there has been three years of drought and low harvest yields. But for the Government to take the ownership back makes no sense at all.

It’s a worry that Bracks may well use this third term to buy services which are better and more efficiently run by the private sector. Further, racking up a hefty debt to pay for it all.

What could be next on his wish list?
Power stations?
Phone companies?
Media Companies?

Rex Connor, eat your heart out.

The Economist got it wrong on the reasons for John Howard’s success as Prime Minister

I’ve just read a very poorly reasoned article about John Howard’s 10 years as PM in this weeks The Economist.

I felt compelled to write a letter to the editor about it here:

Sir – You claim that John Howard has retained Prime Ministerial office for 10 years primarily through luck playing “a big part” along with circumstances external to his leadership such as the economic legacy of the former Australian Labor Party (ALP) Government and China’s demand for Australia’s mineral wealth, which have “enabled Howard to shower money on voters at election times”.

To quote Obi-Wan Kenobi, “In my experience, there’s no such thing as luck”.

In ignoring key initiatives such as major reform of the tax system with the introduction of a progressive goods and services tax, industrial relations reform, waterfront reform, privatisation of Government owned businesses and introduction of free trade initiatives, you ignored the reforms which have produced Australia’s productivity growth and economic strength over the past ten years; the foundation for Howard’s success. However if I am wrong and luck is the most important factor in long term political success then I would kindly ask that you expand your marvellous newspaper to include a section on astrology, numerology and Jedi mind tricks.

Kindest Regards…

A Bright Future Fund

Peter Costello – take a bow!

In securing Melbourne as the headquarters of the Future Fund, the $140 Billion Investment Fund to be set up by the Federal Government to invest surpluses from the Telstra Sale and future Government surpluses, he has reversed the Sydney centricity of the Federal Government and guaranteed Melbourne as a strong financial centre forever.

Melbourne is a creative, vibrant and entrepeneurial city that has created and driven most things which Australians hold dear. From Dame Edna Everage, Fosters, Vegemite and the “Aussie” Holden to “Little Kylie”, Hey Hey It’s Saturday and our wonderful game of Australian Rules Football, everything that is and was good and great about this country has been born in Melbourne.

Such will be the Future Fund.

Water into a leaky bucket = An empty bucket

A very interesting article in the English Version of DER SPIEGEL, the respected German Newspaper.

It is with Kenyan Economist James Shikwati, who PLEADS with the West to stop aid to Africa.

In essence, what he is saying is something I have long believed in: That climate and history are not the causes of poverty and starvation in Africa, it is simply the lack of good government. The longer we pump money into the corrupt and incompetent African Governments, the longer they stay in power and keep the good people of Africa in a socialistic and subservient means of existence.

When we can free Africa from the grips of poor/socialistic/non-democratic Government, then the better of they will be. Look at Zimbabwe for example. It was a country which was democratic, free, capitalistic and prosperous. the Mugabe took over, used Government discretion to change things, impose his own wage, price and market fixes, and the next thing you know STARVATION occured.


Thumbs up for Benetton

Why should one of the world’s largest designer clothing companies bow down to some ill-considered and ignorant demand by some uneducated, reactionary extremist extremist organisation?

That is the question Benetton is asking as PETA has demanded it not use Aussie wool in its clothes.

Benetton is saying quite rightly that Australian woolgrowers produce the best wool in the world, so why stop using it? PETA, in other words, can get stuffed!

PETA’s grievances are based on stupid notions. They would have us believe that practices which are performed on humans (for our own good) are somehow immoral on animals. That minor surgery or procedures which may cause pain in the short term (for the long term good of the animal) are somehow totally unjustified, and that the perpetrators and anyone to do with them are evil.


So what next? PETH (People for The Ethical Treatment of Humans) banning dentistry because of the “pain and suffering” of patients?

Throwing blood at surgeons who specialise in maxillofacial surgery, particularly wisdom teeth removal?

Banning sport because it can lead to injury?

PETA will be irrelevant within a year or two – they’re a bunch of frauds whose only strength is their ability to draft moronic actors and singers to “raunchy” (for American standards) photo shoots.

“Relieve Me” or “How I Sacked the Taxman”

I have long believed in small government and small taxation.

In Australia, this has seemed like a pipe dream due to the lack of control of the Senate and state governments by a truly liberal force.

However, now it seems there is a liberal force in Australian Parliament. Two relatively new members of Parliament, Sophie Panopoulos and Mitch Fifield, have brought about an informal policy group which is pushing for real tax reform in Australia.

Very, very happy
Better than tax relief

The GST package was a good start, but not good enough. Australia is still heavily taxed and still has an extraordinary number of taxes and taxes by another name: levies, charges, surcharge, fees etc., all of which contribute to distortions, inequities and reams of paperwork for people and businesses in Australia.

Taxation reform is necessary on the most basic levels because, when choosing whether or not to work, you trade spare time with the ability to earn. Most of us don’t have a choice – we work to support our lives and families. But others, namely retirees and part time workers, are essentially punished if they choose to work. The incentive is not there.

Further, Australia is facing a skills shortage as the population gets older. Part of this problem is that older people don’t want to work too late, but also because, as the Aussie tradition goes, many bright young things piss off overseas as soon as they can plug themselves into the global job market. Whether it’s London, Singpore or elsewhere, many of the most talented and high profile Aussies have no interest in staying in a country which takes close to half of everything they earn in tax.

What makes a lot more sense is a simple progression of the GST system. Firstly, take away every single tax that exists apart from the GST and income tax – stamp duty, bank levies, blah blah blah – there are literally hundreds.

Then take away deductions. People shouldn’t be able to deduct anything from tax. It causes inefficiencies. If people such as plumbers feel hard done by, then they should charge more – the effective market rate for their services.

Then, take away the weird scale rates of income taxation. Make it simple: No tax payable up to $20,000. 10% up to $40,000. 15% payable up to $60,000. 20% up to $80,000. 25% up to $100,000 30% payable on everything over that.

Then boost the GST by maybe 5% – so that it’s a 15% GST. (Mind you these figures may not add up in terms of a decent revenue base but you never know…)

So – Aussies pay a maximum 30% of their wages to tax (matching the corporate tax rate and doing away with the stupid and wasteful 17% shelf company industry) and 15% on consumption with no deductions for food or any other distortions.

A simple piece of tax legislation which would eliminate the need for thousands of jobs at the ATO, thousands of pages of boring and complicated tax legislation, complicated and hassled tax returns. All these tax minimisation schemes and arrangements would be useless and money would be directed to effective, growth fulfilling investments instead of the most tax effective ones.

The bigger picture: attracting back the skills and talents of the over 1 million Aussies who live overseas. Growing Australia’s skill base. Making this country the most progressive, modern tax regime in the world.

Freedom, Chocolate and Foxes – Down with the nanny state!

The British Labour Government has introduced a raft of bills into Parliament which ban particular activities and make others compulsory – minor activies including eating habits, smoking and recreation.

These restrictions on personal freedoms, while well meaning and with noble goals, are wrong and unjust if they impose an outcome on individuals who might not choose to or have the means to comply. In a piece by The Economist, they argue that “The question of just how much should be done reaches right down into the principles underpinning liberal democracy. According to those principles, the government is entitled to interfere with people’s behaviour only in so far as it affects other people. Otherwise, well-informed individuals should be allowed to make their own choices. If they want to harm themselves, that’s up to them.”

I believe strongly in the principles of classical liberalism; that no Government should force people into or away from any activity unless that activity harms others. The key to freedom isn’t that a Government legislates it but that people are unrestricted in the participation, creation and expression of freedoms. People know what they want better than anyone else, including Government, therefore they should have the unadulterated ability to pursue their wants (again, unless it harms others). When a Government bans, restricts or promotes an activity, no matter what the cause, it takes away the ability for a “sovereign individual” to make their own choices and fulfil their own wishes.

15 Years of Freedom: The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Today marks the 15 year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. The greatest symbol of oppression and truma of the socialist years stood from 1961 to 1989, dividing a city and cleaving the social, business and functions of Berlin in two.

On one side stood West Berlin – a liberal-democracy, free, capitalist and thriving.

On the other stood the East and a system which stood for mediocrity, for individual suppression to a “greater good” and an overbearing, totally dominant Government which invaded every part of people’s lives. A system which was miserable and depressing.

It’s no wonder that the Socialists built a wall to keep people from escaping.

Having travelled to Berlin, seen the reminants of the wall and the Checkpoint Charlie Museum, I saw that the fall of Communism and the destruction of socialism as a valid means of governance was more than an ideological or theoretical battle; it is about freedom of humanity and spirit. There is no viablility in the suppression of human will. People must be free – in thought, in trade, in expression, in association, in their daily goings on.

What was worse – Soviet Era Labour Camps or Soviet Era design?

In the words of John Adams:

“There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.”

Or alternatively from John Stuart Mill:

“The only part of the conduct of anyone for which he is amenable to society is that which concerns others. In the part which merely concerns himself, his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”

That is where Socialism fails. Where people believe they are achieving a greater good and imposing their will upon others, no matter how worthy their cause, individual liberty is compromised. That is why the wall fell. That is why FatHam lost. That is why, despite the “Ostalgia” which has had a brief revival in East Germany and other former Socialist countries, it will fail.

The “good old days of Socialism” are an oxymoron and a load of rubbish. Listen to the youth, the sovereign individuals who embrace freedom and look forward to participating in something John Lennon called, “the brotherhood of man”.

A Right To Life, a Right To Freedom

The Federal Health Minister, Tony Abbott, has recently weighed into the abortion issue, claiming that the rate and ease of abortions in Australia (including the full Medicare funding of abortions) be re-examined.

Further, some members of Parliament (such as Peter Garrett, who Votes FOR trees and AGAINST women’s rights to freedom) have called for a ban on abortions over 21 weeks, forcing the pregnant woman to have an ultrasound prior to the abortion (to understand what she would be terminating) and the removal of Medicare funding of abortions.

Unfortunately, the Governor-General has also decided to break with convention and participate in the debate, which is wrong for two reasons: firstly, the Governor-General should never participate in political or at least topical debate, even if he prefixes the discussion with the non-partisan, non-committal “it should be looked at”. Secondly, it is wrong because while the notion of abortion may be acceptable or not acceptable depending on a moral, ethical or religious standpoint, Government should not play a role in deciding to remove the rights of women, who for whatever reason, may decide to handle their pregnancy in any particular way.

To put it bluntly, the hand of Government should not be in a woman’s womb.

Thankfully, some high profile members of the medical community have spoken up against this new political debate. Let’s hope that the rights of women are maintained and that there are no changes to abortion law.

Straight Talking on Gay Marriage

One of the stories which has received little coverage in the aftermath of George Bush’s re-election has been the vote in seven US states to ban same sex marriage. There was some conjecture or doubt over whether many American states could possible allow same sex marriage in the event of legal loophole or challenge; sadly, these votes stamped out that right.

The same sex marriage issues has been discussed the world over for many, many years. The rights of same sex couples to share a bed, assets and entitlements as couples has been frought with emotion and homophobia by it’s opponents. As a strong classical liberal, I believe passionately in the rights of people to pursue individual freedoms and pursuits without government interference (as long as it does not harm anyone else). Obviously gay marriage is one of those rights I believe in.

If gays care to get married, it should be reflected in a simple change to relevant marriage acts. In the shorter term – a possibly less controversial path – there may be some allowance for legislative change (with or without reform on the gay marriage issue) in superannuation reform, changes in defacto and family law and also the rights for the defacto partners of the deceased to have the same rights to the estate of the deceased as any male-female partnership would entail.

Given the number of priorities in Australia covering issues from industrial relations to tax reform, it’s difficult to see this issue gaining any traction for a very long time. If it does, hopefully it moves in the right direction, rather than mimicking the recent US votes.