Archive for July, 2015

Doctoring fiscal facts

July 28th, 2015 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to understand the budget problem. Governments are spending too much of our money. 

Australian Medical Association president Brian Owler – a neurosurgeon by trade – sees it differently.

“There is clearly a revenue problem,” Owler told the press club last week. “It’s not an expenditure problem.”

Owler’s diagnosis is seriously wrong, I write in The Australian today.

MRC-NRS-Fiscal (Robson) textThe revenue problem, if we are to call it that, is that the state takes too much of our money. Far from falling, government revenue has risen by 0.5 per cent as a ­proportion of gross domestic product since the 2008 financial crisis.

The trouble is that spending has risen five times faster, from 35 per cent to almost 38 per cent of GDP. Kevin Rudd and Wayne Swan’s emergency spending levels have become the new norm, while Owler and countless other rent-seekers demand it should be pushed even higher.

In a submission by the Menzies Research Centre to the National Reform Summit Tony Makin and Alex Robson write:

Australia therefore unequivocally has a government spending problem — not a revenue problem. Australian governments should resist the temptation to increase the tax burden under the guise of ‘tax reform’, and instead focus their efforts squarely on reversing the irresponsible fiscal profligacy of recent years.

Makin and Robson have the facts on their side. The evidence counts for nothing in the debate about whether to cut spending or raise revenue, however. It is a debate framed by ideology. It’s a debate between those who argue for a greater role for the state and those who believe that individuals, as a general rule, are best placed to spend their own money.


Here’s what we should recognise

July 21st, 2015 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

The buzzword for the proponents of constitutional amendment is ‘recognise ‘. After an exacting week touring remote Aboriginal towns in Central Australia, I comment in The Australian today about what we should be recognising:

Remote Central Australia last week

Remote Central Australia last week

If the proposal to remove race powers from the Constitution is to have any practical effect, we must acknowledge the racist assumptions that underpinned the failed policies of separatism and collectivism.

We must recognise that the rich and precious Aboriginal culture is not incompatible with individual enterprise, and that the pursuit of self-interest and public benefit go hand and in hand. Culturally inspired visions of the land are not incompatible with the individual property rights that underpin private enterprise and home ownership.

Above all we should recognise that the social evils destroying traditional culture are, by and large, symptoms of welfare. White public housing ghettos – like the one in Mount Druitt recently exposed by the documentary series Struggle Street – are little different from the wilderness ghettos of Central Australia.

The pernicious effects of the welfare life are indifferent to ethnicity.



The ABC needs a charter for the digital age

July 7th, 2015 | Uncategorized | 0 Comments

No amount of harrumphing in the Coalition party room will fix the ABC, I write in The Australian this morning. The government needs to re-write the ABC Charter for the digital age.

Digital disruption has rewritten the rules, yet the ABC is bound by a charter drawn for an analog world. The ABC Act was last revised by the Hawke government in 1983, informed by the Dix report commissioned by Fraser.

Alex Dix’s report was delivered six years before house-brick mobile phones and eight years before the first internet service. Viewers in most capital cities had a choice of four television channels at best; a quarter of households had no FM radio; the picture on one in 10 television sets was still black and white.

The Dix report identified the ABC’s biggest technological challenge as the introduction of videotape, a process delayed by a demarcation dispute between engineers and news cameramen. When a story broke, undeveloped film was driven back to the studio, run through a chemical bath, dried, hand-cut and loaded into a telecine machine. Yet the legislation needed to allow this hybrid broadcasting system, declared Dix’s engineering consultant Alan Morrison, was beyond the scope of the report.

Even in those primitive days, the ABC was uncertain what it had been put on earth to do. Dix describes it as “slow-moving, overgrown, complacent, and uncertain of the direction in which it is leading, despite the efforts of many talented and dedicated people who work for it”.

If the corporation struggled to find its niche against just three local competitors, it is hardly surprising that it struggles against hundreds, including the best from the US and Europe. When better-managed bodies struggle with digital disruption, it is hardly surprising if the ABC is confused.