NOAH’S RAINBOW SERPENT – observations by Ian MacDougall

The IPA Wish-list Reviewed

[POST 2013 ELECTION NOTE:

The text below remains unaltered since I originally posted it on 17 April 2013. However, Tim Wilson of the IPA was appointed by the Abbott government in mid-December 2013 to a $322,000 per year job as a Human Rights Commissioner. Like politicians (which a significant number of them have been) those seeking appointment to these highly paid jobs/positions/sinecures need no particular prior qualifications: just good contacts. Those who wrote the IPA Wishlist, reviewed below, were perceptive enough to see the Human Rights Commission (through the rhetoric) for what it was: yet another trough of dollars from which the government of the day could shovel out patronage to those it considered worthy enough. Worthiness, of course, is a relative concept.

I still support the original IPA position that the Commission should be abolished, so that us taxpayers have a reduced number of rent-seekers to support. Bureaucrats and an entitled few have never been the source of the rights we all have. Those rights only exist because we assume them, and because past generations won them by taking them, invariably against authoritarian opposition. I draw the reader’s attention to my piece on this site November 29 and the Birth of Australian Democracy.

I doubt if either Mr Wilson or the IPA will still campaign for the HRC’s abolition. The reader will please take note: the IPA Wish List, previously a glorious 100 items, now effectively stands at 99.

And in all probability, going down.

IM 4.01.2014]

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Politics commonly reduces to the art of presenting a sectional interest as the general interest: In evaluating any given party’s program, manifesto, wish list or whatever, our first question must be about who it might be designed to favour.

One issue at present in Australia and abroad is the growth of plutocracy: the combination of wealth and power. The bigger private capitalist organisations (like for example Gina Rinehart’s Hancock Prospecting) have control of wealth in excess of that of many of the world’s governments, and with that the ability to wield enormous political influence and to duchess very large numbers of retainers, lobbyists, journalists, media outlets and politicians. This process turns those people, arguably including the players of right-wing thinktanks, into the modern equivalents of the flunkeys found in a royal or baronial court during Mediaeval times.

It is with this fact of modern life in mind that one should read the wish list Be like Gough: 75 radical ideas to transform Australia by John Roskam, Chris Berg and James Paterson of the thinktank entitled the Institute of Public Affairs, or IPA*. (A rather grandiolorious title, don’t you tankthink?) Those who find these 75 ideas insufficient may gain their ultimate satisfaction from those authors’ supplementary 25 further ideas.

 

The original 75 are at:

http://www.ipa.org.au/publications/2080/be-like-gough-75-radical-ideas-to-transform-australia

The extra 25 are at:

http://ipa.org.au/publications/2110/25-more-ideas-for-tony-abbott

 

Let nobody dismiss this stuff as being so far to the right it can carry no influence. It has clearly influenced the thinking of Tony Abbott; a possible (may even the God of the Jesuits find this too much to stomach) future prime minister of Australia.

(UPDATE 1: SINCE THIS WAS WRITTEN, THIS CURSE OF THE ALMIGHTY HAS BEEN VISITED UPON US. BUT AS OF TUESDAY 10 FEBRUARY 2015, WHEN A SPILL MOTION WILL BE LIKELY MOVED AND DEBATED IN THE COALITION’S PARTY ROOM AT PARLIAMENT HOUSE, PM ABBOTT WILL EITHER BE GONE OR POLITICALLY DISABLED, TO BE A ‘LAME DUCK’ FOR THE REST OF HIS TERM. END UPDATE.

UPDATE 2: ABBOTT AS OF 6 MAY 2015  IS STILL HERE, GOD HELP US. THE PROSPECT OF THE ALP ROLLING HIM AT THE NEXT FEDERAL ELECTION HAS BEEN DIMINISHED BY THE APPOINTMENT OF THE CAREER TRADE UNION BUREAUCRAT BILL SHORTEN AS ALP PARLIAMENTARY LEADER. THIS WAS DONE AT THE INSISTENCE OF THE TRADE UNION BUREAUCRACY, WHO ARE IN CONTROL OF MASSIVE TRADE UNION MEMBERS’ FUNDS, WHICH ARE USED TO BANKROLL THE ALP. 

THE GREENS BY NOW WOULD BE AHEAD OF THE ALP BY A COUNTRY MILE WERE IT NOT FOR THEIR OPEN BORDERS REFUGEE AND ASYLUM SEEKER POLICIES. END UPDATE 2:)

In the lead-up to the September election, the IPA is doing a bit of banquet hall campaigning. As conveyed in an email from the people at GetUp:

It was the most exclusive of events: a glittering $500 minimum per head gala fundraising dinner last week for a right-wing think tank. Tony Abbott, Gina Rinehart and Rupert Mudoch took turns sharing the stage. Andrew Bolt was MC. Tony praised his fellow key-note speakers, especially Rupert, and promised the crowd a “big yes” to many of the think tank’s list of 75 policies to radically transform Australia.

So what, exactly, is on this think tank’s wish list?

•Public broadcasting – gone. The ABC to be broken up and sold off, SBS to be fully privatised.

•Corporations to be allowed to make secret payments to political parties.

•Medicare gone for most Australians.

•A return to WorkChoices, just by another name.

•The clean energy fund and the renewable energy target – scrapped.

•Funding for sport and arts – including the Australian Institute of Sport – axed. Same for science, with the CSIRO to be privatised.

It goes on. Never before has the extreme conservative agenda been laid out so clearly, but as they get more arrogant and brazen, our movement has the opportunity to do something we can’t count on any of the parties to do alone: fight back, effectively. 

 

So as part of that fightback (where have I heard that before?) campaign, I herewith post the IPA’s original series of 75 propositions, plus their supplementary 25. These along with my own critical comments (in this bold type).

 

Be like Gough: 75 radical ideas to transform Australia

IPA REVIEW ARTICLE

John Roskam, Chris Berg and James Paterson

If Tony Abbott wants to leave a lasting impact – and secure his place in history – he needs to take his inspiration from Australia’s most left-wing prime minister

COMMENT: sic!. Ben Chifley as I recall wanted to nationalise the banks. Gough would never have entertained such a thought.

No prime minister changed Australia more than Gough Whitlam. The key is that he did it in less than three years. In a flurry of frantic activity, Whitlam established universal healthcare, effectively nationalised higher education with free tuition, and massively increased public sector salaries. He more than doubled the size of cabinet from 12 ministers to 27.

He enacted an ambitious cultural agenda that continues to shape Australia to this day. In just three years, Australia was given a new national anthem, ditched the British honours system, and abolished the death penalty and national service. He was the first Australian prime minister to visit communist China and he granted independence to Papua New Guinea. Whitlam also passed the Racial Discrimination Act. He introduced no-fault divorce.

Perhaps his most lasting legacy has been the increase in the size of government he bequeathed to Australia. When Whitlam took office in 1972, government spending as a percentage of GDP was just 19 per cent. When he left office it had soared to almost 24 per cent.

Virtually none of Whitlam’s signature reforms were repealed by the Fraser government. The size of the federal government never fell back to what it was before Whitlam. Medicare remains. The Racial Discrimination Act – rightly described by the Liberal Senator Ivor Greenwood in 1975 as ‘repugnant to the rule of law and to freedom of speech’ – remains.

It wasn’t as if this was because they were uncontroversial. The Liberal opposition bitterly fought many of Whitlam’s proposals. And it wasn’t as if the Fraser government lacked a mandate or a majority to repeal them. After the 1975 election, in which he earned a 7.4 per cent two-party preferred swing, Fraser held 91 seats out of 127 in the House of Representatives and a Senate majority.

When Mark Steyn visited Australia recently he described political culture as a pendulum. Left-wing governments swing the pendulum to the left. Right of centre governments swing the pendulum to the right. But left-wing governments do so with greater force. The pendulum always pushes further left.

And the public’s bias towards the status quo has a habit of making even the most radical policy (like Medicare, or restrictions on freedom of speech) seem normal over time. Despite the many obvious problems of socialised health care, no government now would challenge the foundations of Medicare as the Coalition did before it was implemented.

Every single opinion poll says that Tony Abbott will be Australia’s next prime minister. He might not even have to wait until the current term of parliament expires in late 2013. The Gillard government threatens to collapse at any moment. Abbott could well be in the Lodge before Christmas this year.

Abbott could also have a Fraser-esque majority after the next election. Even if he doesn’t control the Senate, the new prime minister is likely to have an intimidating mandate from the Australian people. The conditions will suit a reformer: although Australia’s economy has proven remarkably resilient, global events demonstrate how fragile it is. The global financial crisis, far from proving to be a crisis of capitalism, has instead demonstrated the limits of the state. Europe’s bloated and debt-ridden governments provide ample evidence of the dangers of big government.

Australia’s ageing population means the generous welfare safety net provided to current generations will be simply unsustainable in the future. As the Intergenerational Report produced by the federal Treasury shows, there were 7.5 workers in the economy for every non-worker aged over 65 in 1970. In 2010 that figure was 5. In 2050 it will be 2.7. Government spending that might have made sense in 1970 would cripple the economy in 2050. Change is inevitable.

But if Abbott is going to lead that change he only has a tiny window of opportunity to do so. If he hasn’t changed Australia in his first year as prime minister, he probably never will.

Why just one year? Whitlam’s vigour in government came as a shock to Australian politics. The Coalition was adjusting to the opposition benches. Outside of parliament, the potential opponents of Whitlam reforms had yet to get organised. The general goodwill voters offer new governments gives more than enough cover for radical action. But that cover is only temporary. The support of voters drains. Oppositions organise. Scandals accumulate. The clear air for major reform becomes smoggy.

Worse, governments acclimatise to being in government. A government is full of energy in its first year. By the second year, even very promising ministers can get lazy. The business of government overtakes. MPs start thinking of the next election. But for the Coalition, the purpose of winning office cannot be merely to attain the status of being ‘in government’. It must be to make Australians freer and more prosperous. From his social democratic perspective, Whitlam understood this point well. Labor in the 1970s knew that it wanted to reshape the country and it began doing so immediately.

The time pressure on a new government – if it is to successfully implant its vision – is immense. The vast Commonwealth bureaucracies and the polished and politically-savvy senior public servants have their own agendas, their own list of priorities, and the skill to ensure those priorities become their ministers’ priorities. The recent experience of the state Coalition governments is instructive. Fresh-faced ministers who do not have a fixed idea of what they want to do with their new power are invariably captured by their departments.

Take, for instance, the Gillard government’s National Curriculum. Opposing this policy ought to be a matter of faith for state Liberals. The National Curriculum centralises education power in Canberra, and will push a distinctly left-wing view of the world onto all Australian students. But it has been met with acceptance – even support – by the Coalition’s state education ministers. This is because a single National Curriculum has been an article of faith within the education bureaucracy for decades; an obsession of education unions and academics, who want education to ‘shape’ Australia’s future. (No prize for guessing what that shape might look like.) A small-target election strategy has the unfortunate side-effect of allowing ministerial aspirants to avoid thinking too deeply about major areas in their portfolio. So when, in the first week as minister, they are presented with a list of policy priorities by their department, it is easier to accept what the bureaucracy considers important, rather than what is right. The only way to avoid such departmental capture is to have a clear idea of what to do with government once you have it.

COMMENT: So we have political paralysis because we have this institutionalised parliamentary dogfight, which begs the question: why two parties? Why not only one? Why not several of comparable strengths?

We have two major parties – the Liberal party and the ALP. We also have a handful of independents, and the small parties: the Greens, and the National Party: itself the descendant of the former conservative Country Party.

I suggest that we have two (2) dominant political formations because (a) we live in a market-based economy: because in any exchange on the market there are only really two players: a buyer and a seller. Their interests are always antagonistic, simply because the seller naturally seeks the highest price for whatever he or she sells, and the buyer’s interest lies in getting the seller to agree to the lowest possible price.

The biggest single market is still that for the working time of employed people. In that, the conservatives always represent and legislate in the interests of the buyers of working time (ie the employers) and the ALP was set up to win office and legislate for the employees: sellers of their working time.

An important difference between wage work and normal market exchanges is that the deal is normally for the purchase of the worker’s whole working day. Supply and demand pressures on prices the buyer might pay and the seller might expect to get are not as straight forward as in, say, a real estate auction.

But as well, and most important of all, is: (b) the political formation that goes into government has an interest in passing as much of the running costs of the state onto the constituency of its opponents: hence Hockey’s infamous 2014 budget, which favoured the richer half of the national population (the Coalition’s support base) over the poorer half (which inclines normally to vote Labor). The budget ‘crisis’ can be solved by either or both cutting government expenditure and increasing revenue, via carbon tax and resource rent (mining) tax particularly. But the Abbott government is against both, because much of its own support base is heavily into big business and mining.

Only radical change that shifts the entire political spectrum, like Gough Whitlam did, has any chance of effecting lasting change. Of course, you don’t have to be from the left of politics to leave lasting change on the political spectrum.

Both Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan proved conservatives can leave a paradigm-shifting legacy. Though Thatcher’s own party strayed from her strongly free-market philosophy, one of the major reasons the British Labour Party finally removed socialism from their party platform under Tony Blair was because of Margaret Thatcher.

Ronald Reagan not only presided over pro-market deregulation and tax cuts during eight years in the White House, but also provided the ideological fuel for the 1994 Republican revolution in the House of Representatives, led by Newt Gingrich, which enacted far-reaching welfare reform.

Here we provide a list of 75 policies that would make Australia richer and more free. It’s a deliberately radical list. There’s no way Tony Abbott could implement all of them, or even a majority. But he doesn’t have to implement them all to dramatically change Australia. If he was able to implement just a handful of these recommendations, Abbott would be a transformative figure in Australian political history. He would do more to shift the political spectrum than any prime minister since Whitlam.

We do not mean for this list to be exhaustive, and in many ways no list could do justice to the challenges the Abbott government would face. Whitlam changed the political culture. We are still feeling the consequences of that change today. So the policies we suggest adopting, the bureaucracies we suggest abolishing, the laws we suggest revoking should be seen as symptoms, rather than the source, of the problem.

Conservative governments have a very narrow idea of what the ‘culture wars’ consists of. The culture of government that threatens our liberty is not just ensconced in the ABC studios, or among a group of well-connected and publicly funded academics. ABC bias is not the only problem. It is the spiralling expansion of bureaucracies and regulators that is the real problem.

We should be more concerned about the Australian National Preventive Health Agency – a new Commonwealth bureaucracy dedicated to lobbying other arms of government to introduce Nanny State measures – than about bias at the ABC. We should be more concerned about the cottage industry of consultancies and grants handed out by the public service to environmental groups. We should be more concerned that senior public servants shape policy more than elected politicians do. And conservative governments should be more concerned than they are at the growth of the state’s interest in every aspect of society.

If he wins government, Abbott faces a clear choice. He could simply overturn one or two symbolic Gillard-era policies like the carbon tax, and govern moderately. He would not offend any interest groups. In doing so, he’d probably secure a couple of terms in office for himself and the Liberal Party. But would this be a successful government? We don’t believe so. The remorseless drift to bigger government and less freedom would not halt, and it would resume with vigour when the Coalition eventually loses office. We hope he grasps the opportunity to fundamentally reshape the political culture and stem the assault on individual liberty.

SOME OF THE IPA PROPOSALS AND COMMENTS ON THEM:

 

1 Repeal the carbon tax, and don’t replace it. It will be one thing to remove the burden of the carbon tax from the Australian economy. But if it is just replaced by another costly scheme, most of the benefits will be undone.

COMMENT: The carbon tax has been woefully introduced and explained by Julia Gillard, who is not the greatest of communicators, even about things she believes in. (Remember how cavalier she was with the emissions trading scheme policy?)

Mainstream climatology and scientific opinion is definitely not with the IPA* authors on this, which is one possible reason they also want to get rid of the CSIRO as we now know it.

They should just keep reciting this mantra: the atmosphere is big enough to look after itself, and needs no coddling from us down here on the ground. They will most likely be wrong, and living in a fool’s paradise. But provided they do nothing else, they will do little harm to the rest of us.

2 Abolish the Department of Climate Change

COMMENT: This makes sense, but only if you are a carbon denialist. Otherwise, the wisest course is to follow the one advised by the late Margaret Thatcher: to give the planet the benefit of any doubt. That leaves the IPA making a pretty stupid call, analogous to some extremist pacifist outfit calling for abolition of the Defence Department: in 1939.

Abbott is reluctant to make any policy statements, presumably lest they be attacked and shown to be hollow.

3 Abolish the Clean Energy Fund

COMMENT: See 1 and 2 above

6 Repeal the renewable energy target

COMMENT: See 2 above.

7 Return income taxing powers to the states

COMMENT: Former Victorian Premier Sir Henry Bolte was in favour of this, but on investigation found that collection costs would be far too high: from memory about one third of the revenue to be raised. However, collection costs thanks to modern electronics may have gone down.

It would induce the states to compete with each other for population by racing to the bottom on tax reductions. A commonwealth government so inclined could impoverish states further by refusing to underwrite their health, education and other programs financially, leaving them to do it for themselves.

8 Abolish the Commonwealth Grants Commission

COMMENT: This makes sense, but only if state income can be cut free of its present dependence on problem gamblers, liquor licensing and such.

Overall, there is a certain Tea Party, states’ rights flavour to 7 and 8, for which the authors give no supporting argument. One might assume it is reflexive anti-federalism: the sort of campaign associated with the backblocks Right which in times past gave us the campaign to install former Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke-Petersen as PM.

9 Abolish the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

COMMENT: So there is no watcher in the marketplace monitoring the activities of the inevitable spivs, shonks and outright crooks.

10 Withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol

COMMENT: See 2 above.

15. Eliminate laws that require radio and television broadcasters to be ‘balanced’.

COMMENT: OK: provided free to air broadcasting is available to all program makers (like access to the Internet). So this would necessitate a further deregulation: namely an ending of licenses to broadcast. Deregulate the airwaves!

21 End all corporate welfare and subsidies by closing the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education

COMMENT: Hopefully, not to be confused in the public mind and before the 2013 election with self-inflicted radical brain surgery.

22 Introduce voluntary voting

COMMENT: Surprise, surprise.

As a general rule, democracy should be widened to include in the decision making process all who wish to be part of it. But in the nature of the present political game and the way it is played, this will favour the Tory side of politics. My money is on this being the reason for it, whatever the rationale.

23 End mandatory disclosures on political donations

COMMENT: What???

Why do you suppose donors might wish to make their donations and the name of the recipient party a secret? Out of pure modesty and shyness, perhaps?

For that matter, and now that you mention it, why is the IPA itself so coy about its own funding?

24 End media blackout in final days of election campaigns

COMMENT: This is clearly calculated to favour the party patronised by those with the deepest pockets. I wonder which one that might be. Any guesses?

25 End public funding to political parties

COMMENT: And corporate; don’t forget corporate.

While we’re at it, why not privatise all those parliaments?

26 Remove anti-dumping laws

COMMENT: So foreign firms can drive local businesses broke, then move in, jacking up their prices as they do so. The present differentials between local and overseas electronic goods and software prices are relevant here, and a pointer to what is to come if this wish is granted by the electorate.

Another fine example of market selectively deregulationist naivete. IPA*

27 Eliminate media ownership restrictions.

COMMENT: So Gina Rinehart can cop the lot; buy all the media ground out from under her critics’ feet, including Fairfax.

28 Abolish the Foreign Investment Review Board

COMMENT: This is another example of the aforesaid and wretched market selectively deregulationist naivete.

It could only be likened to another kind of self-inflicted radical surgery: a self-blinding by the ‘wise monkey’ who wants to see no evil. Or to turning off all the lights.

29 Eliminate the National Preventative Health Agency.

COMMENT: This does not read like a well-considered proposal. I would not rule out it being the product of long and concentrated tankthink by a powerful team of naïve IPA* market selective deregulationists.

30 Cease subsidising the car industry.

COMMENT: Given that GMH after $250 million in Federal Government subsidies is clearly on the way out of manufacturing in Australia, this is reasonable. But as well, end all subsidies to all private industry in all forms, including tax concessions. We have the start of a big list here.

31 Formalise a one-in, one-out approach to regulatory reduction.

COMMENT: This is designed to stop ‘red tape creep’, and as such is laudable. But it assumes that the present number of regulations is the optimum.

32 Rule out federal funding for 2018 Commonwealth Games.

COMMENT: Privatise the commonwealth games!

33 Deregulate the parallel importation of books.

COMMENT: The publishing trade has always fought for protection of Australian-published copies of overseas-authored books. I would argue that we need a healthy publishing industry in this country.

Deregulation opens Australia to foreign competition in everything, sending jobs offshore, and meaning that Australians in future may well have to follow the capital overseas, leaving the only jobs here in industries where Australia is naturally competitive.

Thus no premium is allowed for retaining Australian culture by retaining the population in which that culture is found. The corollary of deregulation and open borders in trade has to be open borders to immigration. Just as the local clothing market has been swamped by cheap imports from China, so the present local population could be swamped culturally by unrestricted immigration. The ‘market mechanism’ here would be that immigrants from the poorer and more populous countries of Africa, the Middle East and southern Asia would keep coming until the ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors equalised, and it made as much sense for Australians to migrate to say, Pakistan or Yemen as vice versa.

‘Deregulation’ is always selective in its effect. Always.

Remember also that there simply can be no such thing as an unregulated economy. Private property (ie private use of goods and land) is the most fundamental economic regulation of all, and I am sure the authors of this impressive list cannot be in favour of scrapping that. But such is IPA*.

This sort of (compulsive and selective) deregulation is a bit like allowing ‘useless’ wild species to go extinct, or going through one’s possessions and taking anything of no immediate use to the rubbish tip.

35 Legislate a cap on government spending and tax as a percentage of GDP.

COMMENT: What is the optimum percentage? (Hint: it is probably not a round number.)

36 Legislate a balanced budget amendment which strictly limits the size of budget deficits and the period the federal government can be in deficit.

COMMENT: Banks are pools of capital, and have a smoothing effect on economic activity: analogous to the role played by capacitors in an electronic circuit or dams in the water supply. (Check out those regions whose water supplies don’t have dams or reservoirs, and where they draw their water where they can find it, leaving supply to nature and demand as whatever it may be. Like, say, Somalia.)

Borrowing has a legitimate economic function. Large capital works such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge are commonly built on borrowed money.

Again in Tory thinking, selectively deregulationist naivete is set to trump rationality.

37 Force government agencies to put all of their spending online in a searchable database

COMMENT: Provided the bureaucrats don’t have to spend too much time justifying themselves to selectively deregulationist fools like the IPA, out on their IPA*.

38 Repeal plain packaging for cigarettes and rule it out for all other products, including alcohol and fast food.

COMMENT: This attack on what the selective deregulationists see as the ‘nanny state’ assumes that public health is not a legitimate government concern. You can’t have this and low public health costs, including hospital costs.

39 Reintroduce voluntary student unionism at universities.

COMMENT: That will, of course, end student unions as we know them, and terminate a few budding political careers before they can get going. Then again, Tony Abbott began his career in student politics. So perhaps the idea has merit.

40 Introduce a voucher scheme for secondary schools

COMMENT: Provided the middle-class welfare rorts and tax dodges introduced when Peter Costello was Federal Treasurer are ended. They help pay the fees demanded of parents by private schools . Many of those parents’ incomes are tax-minimised thanks to the said Costello.

Also: ensure that the professions and trades are likewise deregulated.

41 Repeal the alcopops tax.

COMMENT: Not a good public health move.

See 38 above.

42 Introduce a special economic zone in the north of Australia including:

a) Lower personal income tax for residents

b) Significantly expanded 457 Visa programs for workers

c) Encourage the construction of dams.

COMMENT: So reservoirs of water are OK, but not those of money?

Why not just split Australia into two countries and be done with it? Better still: make each state and territory an independent nation.

43 Repeal the mining tax

COMMENT: The assumption behind this is that the mine proprietors ‘own’ the minerals they dig up. They don’t: any more than a landholder owns them by virtue of the landholding above them.

‘Privatising’ commonly owned natural resources makes about as much sense as privatising the air we all breathe, and is the modern counterpart of the 17thC enclosures of the common lands of Britain.  As I said above, private property is the most fundamental economic regulation of them all, and heartily approved of by the ‘deregulators’ infesting the political thickets all over the world. Profits-based resources taxes make sure that the people who own the minerals in the ground get maximum benefit from them.

In the words of economics journalist Peter Martin: “The Norwegian petroleum tax is an example of how profits-based resources taxes, even very high ones, don’t necessarily discourage investment. If the taxes are well designed they can generate big returns for taxpayers and allow resource companies to make enough profit to cover their costs of capital, many economists say.” (Read the rest at http://www.petermartin.com.au/2010/07/meanwhile-in-norway-where-rspt-is-set.html )

44 Devolve environmental approvals for major projects to the states

COMMENT: The present Murray-Darling schemozzle is what you get with this approach.

By the time popular discontent and food shortages favour the whole thing being taken over by the Federal Government, it will probably be too late to save that river system, at least as it used to be known.

45 Introduce a single rate of income tax with a generous tax-free threshold.

COMMENT: Totally regressive, and fundamental to plutocracy: Guess why.

Wealth begets power, and power begets wealth. It is in everyone’s interest to limit the wealth, and thus the political reach and power of wealthy individuals, unless one wants a plutocracy, or a career as a court flunkey in one.

46 Cut company tax to an internationally competitive rate of 25 per cent

COMMENT: This is a race to the bottom on taxation of dividends received by offshore investors. Taxation of company profits before distribution to shareholders is the cleanest and simplest way. Otherwise the government has the messy task of collecting income tax from non-citizens resident overseas.

Overseas shareholders of Australian companies must be made to pay their fair share of tax.

48 Privatise Australia Post

COMMENT: Thus creating a ‘royal monopoly’.

Why not privatise all the roads, bridges and waterways while you are at it?

49 Privatise Medibank

COMMENT: There was never anything wrong with Medibank  that draconian penalties for the rorters of the medical profession would not have cured, and smartly.

50 Break up the ABC and put out to tender each individual function

COMMENT: To see the inevitable effect of this, take a trip to the US and watch TV there.

Or back in Australia, switch on any commercial TV or radio station. Select any one of the brainless programs at random. But do it quickly before all those stations go broke thanks to the spreading popular control over infotainment (Internet, DVDs etc.)

Have fun while you can.

51 Privatise SBS

COMMENT: See 50.

52 Reduce the size of the public service from current levels of more than 260,000 to at least the 2001 low of 212,784

COMMENT: Or better still, privatise the whole thing! But remember what you pay for is what you get.

If you want to ring up a government department, there has to be someone to take the call, preferably someone who knows a few answers.

As with all wish lists, you have to be careful what you wish for.

53 Repeal the Fair Work Act

COMMENT: Better still, write an Unfair Work Act.

And while you are at it, end enclosures of public property via mining concessions and similar fiefdoms.

(See also Ian Macdonald’s and Eddie Obeid’s alleged corruption in NSW relating to mining concessions at http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/icac-told-of-obeids-100m-deal-20121112-298h4.html#ixzz2C3UNmmaB)

54 Allow individuals and employers to negotiate directly terms of employment to suit them.

COMMENT: A race to the bottom.

And end all cartels and ‘royal monopolies’ while we’re at it. But the idea has merit. Company executives are the employees of the shareholders, and by the same token should negotiate their contracts with the shareholders directly, or with their disinterested representatives. (NB: the latter cannot include board members, because board and executive salaries are in practice linked.)

55 Encourage independent contracting by overturning new regulations designed to punish contractors.

COMMENT: Which regulations are “designed” to punish contractors?  We need to see more detail on this.

56 Abolish the Baby Bonus

COMMENT: Relates to 53 above

57 Abolish the First Home Owners’ Grant

COMMENT: As the grant is funnelled straight into property prices, this is not a bad idea.

But at the same time, land use and building has to be deregulated to encourage falls in real estate prices. Humpies and shacks could shortly be all the rage in the greater metropolitan areas.

58 Allow the Northern Territory to become a state

COMMENT: This is presumably intended to favour Tory numbers in the Senate.

So the (Labor-voting) ACT must be included as well, as its population exceeds that of the NT.

59 Halve the size of the Coalition front bench from 32 to 16

COMMENT: Better still: put Tony Abbott in charge of everything.

60 Remove all remaining tariff and non-tariff barriers to international trade

COMMENT: And all remaining barriers to free competition in extraction of minerals, exchange of goods services domestically, including mining tenements and leases, the cartels controlling entry to the professions, local regulations governing use of property for retailing purposes. Etc. Etc.

Be careful that in your rush to deregulate you don’t open a Pandora’s Box.

An additional note here: we all buy and sell in various markets. but our attitudes are commonly inconsistent.

When we go to buy, we want sellers to be in a frenzy of undercutting one anothers’ prices.

But when we go to sell, we want a closed shop. We want to be the only cab on the rank, with an inflexible take-it-or-leave-it price, and with eager takers outnumbering the disgruntled leavers.

Buyers of the labour services of others (ie employers) thus favour union-busting and other forms of labour-market ‘deregulation’. But as sellers of the goods their employees produce, they want to corner the market as far as they can. To appear consistent, they often want to do this while making noises in favour of ‘free trade.’

No matter what they might say, capitalists (like me) abhor free markets if they have to sell on them, but they love them when buying on them. Nobody should be surprised to find this IPA* list expressing this inconsistency and self-contradictory approach to markets. It is quite well done here indeed, and full marks for trying.

So in short, we all incline to be monopolist free-traders: selectively monopolist as sellers, and selectively free-traders as buyers.

61 Slash top public servant salaries to much lower international standards, like in the United States

COMMENT: I am all in favour of that. But at the same time, an incoming government could slow the drift into enhanced inequality and plutocracy by regulating corporate and executive incomes through sliding scale taxation. Corporate operators are in the strategic position to award themselves as they please. So tax their incomes down to more reasonable and less obscene levels, but leave them the right to compete with one another in the scramble to claim the highest on-paper and before-tax income: for the status it confers.

62 End all public subsidies to sport and the arts

COMMENT: See 53 above

64 End all hidden protectionist measures, such as preferences for local manufacturers in government tendering

COMMENT: See also 53 above

65 Abolish the Office for Film and Literature Classification

COMMENT: So nobody knows the sleaze or ‘adult’ content of what they are about to see on TV? ??!!!!  Does some honcho at the IPA* have shares in a porn movie studio?

68 Allow people to opt out of superannuation in exchange for promising to forgo any government income support in retirement

COMMENT: This encourages short-sightedness: the inevitable trap of capitalism.

Please bear in mind that we will need at the same time a big public spend to build more prisons:  for many of those tempted in youth by short-term gratification will fall into relative destitution in their autumnal years, and many will likely take to crime as the only means of survival they can see.

Again, a good example of IPA* selectively deregulationist naivete.

69 Immediately halt construction of the National Broadband Network and privatise any sections that have already been built

COMMENT: In other words, create a bunch of private adfotainment local monopolies out of it.

70 End all government funded Nanny State advertising.

COMMENT: This would have to include such things as the Howard Liberal Party’s massive penchant for self-promotion.  At public expense.

71 Reject proposals for compulsory food and alcohol labelling

COMMENT: So food companies can get away with murder. This is a policy favouring the analytical chemist with access to a well equipped laboratory and lots of time to spend in private analytical work before going downtown to browse around in Woolies or Coles.

This requires food vendors to let the buyers in on what they the vendors know about the product they are selling. Alternatively, if they are ignorant on that point, it requires them to find out.

72 Privatise the CSIRO

COMMENT: Private companies only do research related to their specific fields of activity and where patents can be taken out; not research for the general public good.

Two examples out of a CSIRO plethora: the rabbit disease myxomatosis would never have been researched and introduced by a private company. Nor could a private company have produced the CSIRO’s highly successful bush-fly (dung beetle) program; because neither could be toll-gated.

I am sure the wish list’s authors are familiar with the effects of these programs, even if they might be excusably ignorant of the work that produced them.

The effects are a largely rabbit-free modern Australia, meaning higher agricultural productivity all round, and our everyday ability as individuals to step out of doors in summer without becoming a walking installation of flies.

75 Privatise the Snowy-Hydro Scheme

COMMENT: ie turn it from public property into a private water and power oligopoly. Make sure those politically bipartisan operators, Eddie Obeid (ALP) and Arthur Sinodinos (Liberals) of that neofeudal outfit Australian Water Holdings are kept up to date on it. They might be interested.

76 Have State Premiers appoint High Court justices.

COMMENT: The High Court is a federal court, but this would make it a ‘states’ court’ the way the Senate is a states’ house of parliament.

The next quite logical step in this process is having elected local councils appoint magistrates and judges of the district courts.

I would say this latter is likely to be controversial and a hard political sell.

77 Allow ministers to be appointed from outside parliament.

COMMENT: Tricky, given our Westminster system (eg how do they report to Parliament, or participate in Question Time, not being members?)

The American system, which presumably inspires this, is based quite differently. The various cabinet secretaries report to and are directly appointed by, the country’s very powerful elected monarch (known to all as the President)

78 Extend the GST to cover all goods and services but return all extra revenue to taxpayers through cutting other taxes.

COMMENT: Thereby favouring those who buy their big ticket items (GST-free) overseas.

Elementary, my dear Watson. I detect the hand of a gauche, cynical and at the same time naive bunch of Moriarty’s IPA* disciples behind all this.

79 Abolish the federal department of health and return health policy to the states

COMMENT: Epidemics do not respect state borders, and it is only a matter of time before we have a big one to deal with: like the virulent avian flu that has recently broken out in China.

80 Abolish the federal department of education and return education policy to the states.

COMMENT: See 40 above

82 Abolish the Australian Human Rights Commission.

COMMENT: OK. It is a sinecure for ex- politicians and the well connected anyway. Not only such as those, but rent-seeking ideologues like Timmy Wilson, formerly of the IPA.

83 Have trade unions regulated like public companies, with ASIC responsible for their oversight

COMMENT: How are public companies ‘regulated’ by that toothless tiger called ASIC? (Think how, say, the scandalous AWB was handled.)

85 Repeal laws which protect unions from competition, such as the ‘conveniently belong’ rules in the Fair Work Act

COMMENT: OK, provided all protections of individuals and companies from open competition are likewise done away with.

86 Extend unrestricted work visas currently granted to New Zealand citizens to citizens of the United States.

COMMENT: Is this to be bilateral?

If not, it is more selectively-deregulationist IPA* naivete.

89 Adhere to section 51(xxxi) of the Constitution by not taking or diminishing anyone’s property without proper compensation.

COMMENT: Provided it has not been thieved in the first place. (“When Adam delved and Eve span/ Who was then the gentleman?”)

90 Repeal legislative restrictions on the use of nuclear power.

COMMENT: What????

Ever heard of Fukishima????

What day-nursery playground* are you lot from?

91 Allow full competition on all foreign air routes.

COMMENT: What??? Unilaterally???

How about open slather for all the world’s air carriers on Australian domestic routes while we’re at it? It would be a world-first!

92 Abolish the Medicare levy surcharge.

COMMENT: And deregulate the provision of medical services, pharmaceuticals, etc. I am sure you will get the enthusiastic support in this project of that Medieval craft guild known as the AMA.

93 Abolish the luxury car tax

COMMENT: Agreed. But only provided the owners of the luxury cars pay for the roads they drive them on, and don’t dodge taxes via company-owned cars, family trusts, private super funds, and similar middle and upper class welfare schemes.

94 Halve the number of days parliament sits to reduce the amount of legislation passed.

COMMENT: Or preferably, abolish Parliament altogether, thereby saving heaps. Tony Abbott for Fuehrer! Or better still, privatise Parliament!

95 Abolish Tourism Australia and cease subsidising the tourism industry

COMMENT: And all other direct and indirect industry subsidies

96 Make all government payments to external parties publicly available including the terms and conditions of those payments.

COMMENT: An excellent suggestion. And likewise all payments by ‘external parties’ to political parties and politicians,

And while we’re at it, by lobbying think-tanks like the IPA.

Also, require all lobbyists to make their submissions to politicians in open session, as in a court. Prohibit by law the private lobbying of a politician. He or she after all is a publicly-paid decision maker. Such private lobbying should be seen as of equal gravity to the offence of private lobbying of the judge by a party to a court case.

97 Abandon plans to restrict foreign investment in Australia’s agricultural industry.

COMMENT: Ever heard of the Irish famine? Through all the famine years of the 1840s, Ireland was a net exporter of food. Guess how that came to pass.

(HINT: foreign, ie English, ownership of Irish agricultural land was involved, and a right to freely export produce out of Ireland.)

Suggested reading: Julian Cribb, ‘The Coming Famine’ –the global food crisis and what we can do to avoid it’: published incidentally by the abovementioned CSIRO.

99 Rule out the introduction of mandatory pre-commitment for electronic gaming machines.

COMMENT: Provided state finances cease to be underwritten by problem gamblers.

(See also 8 above.)

100 Abolish the four pillars policy which prevents Australia’s major banks from merging

COMMENT: So one bank; (one Fuehrer? one Reich?)

OK. But only provided all other forms of economic regulation go as well.

And I mean all. Not just your own selection from amongst them to suit yourselves.

——————ooooooooOOOOOooooooooo—————–

*To conclude after reading all this, I would say that ‘IPA’ stands for ‘Interesting Playtime Activities’.

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