Papers & Submissions

Submission: National Integrity Commission

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Last week, Simon Breheny and myself sent this submission to the Senate’s select committee relating to the establishment of a ‘National Integrity Commission’.

Drawing on the historical experience with state level anti-corruption agencies, we argue that a “federal ICAC” would lack accountability, invite abuses of power and wield coercive powers which violate the legal rights of individuals.

Such a body would have characteristics that are inconsistent with democratic principles and the rule of law.

Read our submission here.

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IPA research: The state of legal rights in Australia is getting worse

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Great coverage ($) from Chris Merritt today in The Australian on new IPA research showing the declining state of fundamental legal rights in federal legislation passed in 2015:

The audit, by the Institute of Public Affairs, shows that federal statutes contain 290 provisions breaching legal rights, up from 262 the year before.

The attack on legal rights is ­focused on the privilege against self-incrimination where federal laws now contain 116 separate breaches of this privilege compared with 108 in 2014.

The fastest-growing category of breaches is laws that abrogate the right to silence.

The number of breaches of this right has more than doubled — up from 14 in 2014 to 33 last year.

“The long-term trend indicates that more legal rights are being breached over time,” said Simon Breheny, the IPA’s director of ­policy.

… While the Coalition government had raised expectations by commissioning an inquiry by the Australian Law Reform Commission into fundamental rights and freedoms, the government had not lived up to those expectations.

Mr Breheny believed regulators, bureaucrats and politicians still considered it legitimate to abrogate legal rights in the interests of regulatory goals.

“Over time, there has been an erosion of respect for the importance of common law rights and fundamental legal rights and this culture has led to a bureaucracy and political class that consistently undermines rights,” Mr Breheny said.

“Labor and Coalition governments are equally responsible and the failure of either side of politics to arrest this trend is deplorable.”

The IPA’s report, Legal rights audit 2015, can be accessed here.

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IPA submission to the Senate’s Nanny State inquiry

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The IPA has sent a submission to the Senate Inquiry into Personal Choice and Community Impacts. Included in the submission is a collation of excerpts from a range of published works on the economics, philosophy and practicalities of paternalism generally, and as applied to a wide range of particular policy areas.

Australia has a long history of paternalism. We invented the word ‘wowser’ to describe everything from early closing to restrictions on mixed-sex bathing. Historically, paternalism has been justified on mixture of moral, religious and social grounds. Today those arguments are now framed under the banner of public health.

It is the view of the Institute of Public Affairs that individuals should be free to live their lives according to their values and their preferences. The only activities that can be legitimately constrained are those which have a direct, material impact on the rights of others.

The submission can be accessed here.

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Submission: Tobacco-free Generation

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Yesterday, I made a submission to the Tasmanian Legislative Council’s inquiry into the Public Health Amendment (Tobacco Free Generation)  Bill 2014.

The bill would restrict the retail sale of tobacco products to all citizens born after 1 January 2000, amounting to a phased, prohibition by stealth. Perversely, it would intentionally create second-class citizens, who would forever be unable to purchase such products.

You can read the full submission here.

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IPA submission to the inquiry the of section 35P of the ASIO Act

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The IPA made a submission to the Acting Independent National Security Legislation Monitor’s inquiry into section 35P of the ASIO Act.

From the submission:

Some constraints on freedom of speech are justified. However, they are only justified to the extent that the conduct crosses the boundary between words and actions.

This submission addresses a provision which we believe is a clear threat to Australia’s freedom of speech rights: section 35P of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979, which creates a new offence of unauthorised disclosure of information.

Section 35P is an excessive limitation on free speech which is not justified in a liberal democratic society.

Continue reading the submission here.

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The case against tax reform

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In 2015 discussion of taxation reform fills the policy air.

The Abbott government’s Re:think Tax Discussion Paper is the most recent example of this, canvassing a wide array of changes to the way in which governments taxes Australian businesses and individuals.

But why are ordinary taxpayers so imbibed with a sense of dread about the very prospect of reforming our taxation regime, which on any fair‑minded account is afflicted with numerous structural problems?

Australian taxpayers appear to have an inimitable talent for smelling a policy rat, and they fear that in fact taxation reform will not deliver good outcomes.

But why, then, are their fears well founded?

The Case Against Tax Reform, originally written by prominent Australian economist Geoffrey Brennan in 1987, answers this by making the persuasive case that an old tax is a good tax.

Without an explicit policy objective, upfront, that tax reform aims to reduce the overall size of the public sector, Brennan suggests what tax reform simply gives politicians and bureaucrats an easier capacity to collect revenues, raise spending, and grow government.

The danger is, if tax reformers get their way, we’ll end up, post‑reform, with a heavier GST load, a still heavy personal and corporate income tax, and continuous yet unsustainable increases in government spending.

The great value of Brennan’s forgotten classic warning against big‑government tax reform is that he encourages the reader to ask fundamental questions: In whose interests should tax reform serve? The taxpayer or the government?

The re‑publication of Geoffrey Brennan’s The Case Against Tax Reform by the Institute of Public Affairs is both a forceful and timely reminder of just whose interests tax reform is meant to serve.

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Submission: Plain packaging myth exposed

Last week, I made a submission to the Commonwealth government’s post-implementation review of the Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011.

My research demonstrates that the plain packaging policy experiment has failed to achieve its central objective – reducing tobacco consumption. Plain packaging has stripped away property rights and is based on a foundation of paternalism.

You can read the full submission here.

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IPA Submission to inquiry into cyberbullying and the ‘Childrens’ e-Safety Commissioner’

cyber-safety-submissionThe IPA put in a submission to the Department of Communications’ inquiry ‘Enhancing Online Safety for Children’. The proposed Children’s e-Safety Commission is a threat to freedom of speech and digital liberty, and will do nothing to protect young Australians from ‘cyberbullying’. It is available here.

The government and much press commentary has suggested there are almost no remedies for serious bullying online and offline. However, there are a large number of laws which can help young people if they are being bullied.

The submission concludes that the best way to protect young people from bullying is through education, the existing legal framework, and by utilising the technologies and institutions available for users to take control of their online experiences.

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The draft Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012

The government’s exposure draft of the Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill 2012 is major threat to freedom of speech and thought. Here’s the IPA’s submission to the Senate Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee inquiry into this deeply dangerous piece of legislation.

As we argue, “In a very real sense, these laws are not anti-discrimination laws. They are laws designed to give the government authority over our lives in completely new and unjustifiable arenas. This is an excessive and indefensible increase in state power.”

We’ve also produced a one-page fact sheet into this radical piece of legislation, available here.

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