ANZ on coal: A middle ground approach


The ANZ Bank this week released a statement on climate change that touched on its future investment intentions for coal.

ANZ is considered to be the bank of choice for coal mines and coal-fired power stations in Australia, a point that has not been missed by environmental campaigners. To that extent, its comments on coal financing are more significant than others like Bendigo/Adelaide which committed to divest even though it doesn’t invest or NAB which said it wouldn’t fund the proposed Adani mine even though it was never asked. It is certainly easier to make feel-good statements when it doesn’t affect your bottom line!

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Bolt: today’s universities breeding tomorrow’s totalitarians


A must-read column by Andrew Bolt today:

WARNING: our universities are breeding a generation of totalitarians determined to shut down debates.

Take the University of NSW. Its Student Representative Council demanded other students cancel a lecture this week by former defence minister Kevin Andrews.

Andrews was against same-sex marriage, complained SRC president Billy Bruffey, and that would “cause UNSW students to feel victimised and isolated”.

Besides, “Andrews’ views do not conform with those of the University or its students”. Really? Andrews’ views conform with not one of the students’? And by what right does Bruffey stop students from hearing different arguments and deciding for themselves?

Yet how often we now see this effrontery. In South Australia, the Flinders University Student Association’s head declared she was “repulsed” by the proposal to have Danish academic Bjorn Lomborg set up a think tank at the university. Lomborg, she claimed, would run “a climate change denial centre on campus” putting out “Right-wing junk”.

I don’t know if she bothered to listen to the renowned academic she wants to ban because she’d know he was no “denier”. He merely believes the planet is warming less than once predicted, a fact the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change admits.

He also believes it’s not smart to spend trillions on “solutions” that make little difference to the temperature. But that important debate is now impossible on many campuses. In fact, students and staff at the University of Western Australia stopped Lomborg’s centre from opening there, falsely accusing him of “bad science”.

But global warmists aren’t the only ideological stormtroopers.

Socialist Alternative protesters have howled down a lecture at Melbourne University by former Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella and assaulted Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop at Sydney University.

In May, also at Sydney University, students, backed by two academics, burst into a lecture by retired British colonel Richard Kemp, chanting, “Richard Kemp, you can’t hide, you support genocide”. Kemp’s crime? To argue that Israel had tried very hard to avoid civilian casualties in its war with Hamas.

Watch out. Today’s campus totalitarians are tomorrow’s politicians, judges and journalists and our free speech is already in danger. We’ve seen even the Turnbull Government ban an American who had been booked to speak here against abortion.

Who will be silenced next?


The sad reality of green power policies


Yesterday’s announcement by Alinta Energy that it would close its two coal-fired South Australian power stations on 31 March 2016 and the Leigh Creek coal mine that supplies them on 17 November 2015 is the sad reality of Green energy policies and a harbinger of things to come elsewhere in Australia.

Alinta foreshadowed these closures in June saying that the facilities would not operate past March 2018, then in July said they wouldn’t operate past March 2017 and yesterday announced the final March 2016 closure. A total of 440 people are employed by Alinta at these three sites, including around 250 at the mine.

Environmental campaigners typically breeze into regional areas in their air-conditioned cars, scream blue murder about the impact of coal mines and coal-fired power stations, demand they be closed, talk up all of the magical job opportunities in renewable energy or tourism that are just over the rainbow, then return to the city for their next media opportunity leaving locals out of a job.

At the time of the initial June announcement the Greens read from their usual script shedding crocodile tears for job losses while suggesting that a solar power station would be a suitable replacement. Even the Victorian Greens jumped in at the time warning that the closure of Victoria’s Hazelwood plant was “inevitable” and calling for a renewables-rich transition plan.

The mayor of Port Augusta, Sam Johnson, spoke of Port Augusta as “the nation’s capital of renewable technology,” and the South Australian premier said that the government had “already established a taskforce” and that a “community engagement team would provide support and advice to regional communities.”

Later in June Mayor Johnson added that a multi-million dollar assistance package from the state government (presumably for the council to manage) would help to entice new jobs to the area.

When in late September Alinta announced that a solar plant was not commercially feasible, in response the council said that an ‘advisory group’ was dealing with the situation and the state manufacturing minister said that government had “people on the ground…talking to people about their needs and issues.”

After yesterday’s announcement South Australian Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis said that some workers would be able to join the public service and that Leigh Creek was “on the doorstep of some of the great tourism attractions.”

Incredibly, it appears that the Greens did not make any public comment on yesterday’s Alinta closure, with leader Richard Di Natale busy on a national tour.

South Australia already has the nation’s highest unemployment rate and highest electricity prices. With these power stations and mine, hundreds of men and women who were employed in a regional location on a commercial basis delivering a legal product that provided reliable electricity to the wider community are now out of a job. As Alinta employs half of the people in the town of Leigh Creek, vague hopes of future renewable energy and tourism jobs, and state and local government job taskforces will likely ring hollow.

Given that the Greens want every coal-fired power station in the country to be closed, and with mainstream politicians falling over themselves to sign off on escalating green-friendly targets, this story is destined to be repeated many times over in coming years.


The Fair Work Commission has done it again


The controversial Fair Work Commission has done it again, deciding that CFMEU-affiliated miners were entitled to a productivity bonus while they were on a three month strike according to yesterday’s Australian Financial Review.

Employer Thiess had argued that it should not be forced to pay a productivity allowance when people weren’t actually working. Not unreasonable considering that strike pay is actually illegal under the Fair Work Act 2009.

However the commission decided that the allowance represented payment for “past aggregate indicators of workforce performance” and sided with the employees.

This decision, which defies common sense, is another example of why this body needs to be overhauled.

Whether the issue is unfair dismissals, drug and alcohol testing, the content of workplace agreements or the regulation of unions and employer organisations, too often commissioners make decisions based on a subjective interpretation of what is “fair”, rather than an impartial application of the law. Recent examples include findings that unfriending someone on Facebook constituted bullying and that a worker who drank too much at an office Christmas party, then abused, bullied and harassed a number of his colleagues, was unfairly dismissed, partly because he was never actually refused a drink.

The commission has a remarkably top-heavy judicial structure consisting of;

  • One President
  • Two Vice Presidents
  • Eighteen Deputy Presidents, styled as;
    • Two vice presidents
    • Seven senior deputy presidents and
    • Nine deputy presidents
  • Nineteen Commissioners
  • Eleven additional members, including four deputy presidents, two commissioners and five Expert Panel members.

As well as judging individual workplace relations cases, the FWC runs the industrial award system, decides the minimum wage and regulates unions and employer organisations. With some exceptions it also shapeshifts into its own appeals court with significant influence over whether or not appeals are even allowed.

In its August submission to the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption, the IPA highlighted some of these shortcomings, and called for:

  • the creation of a new, separate appeals body, along the lines of the NSW Court of Appeal or UK Employment Appeals Tribunal, to put an end to partisan arguments about ’employer versus union’ decision making;
  • the regulation of unions and employer organisations to be excised from the FWC and transferred to a new, stand-alone authority; and
  • the duties imposed on unions and employer organisations and penalties for non-compliance, to be the same as those that apply to companies under the Corporations Act.

The Fair Work Commission is clearly a body that is unable to meet the expectations that stakeholders have of it. It needs to be reformed.


Global poverty now down to single digits


One of the most important of human achievements has been the very significant reduction in extreme poverty experienced by men, women, and children throughout the world.

And in what is sure to be good news, the World Bank has just released a study informing us that one billion people rose out of extreme poverty since 2000, and that in spite of the global financial crisis a few years ago.

The same study reveals the heartening news that the global poverty rate, calculated as the number of people earning $1.90 or less (on an purchasing power parity international dollar basis), is estimated to have fallen into single digits this year.

In 1990, the global poverty rate was a sobering 37.1 per cent but has precipitously fallen since. This is what the World Bank had to say about this amazing achievement, in a press statement:

The number of people living in extreme poverty around the world is likely to fall to under 10 percent of the global population in 2015… giving fresh evidence that a quarter-century-long sustained reduction in poverty is moving the world closer to the historic goal of ending poverty by 2030.

A major underlying driver of this trend toward greater enrichment for all is, unquestionably, the market‑based economic growth and development that has come as many countries turn their backs on socialistic planning, and turn to private sector entrepreneurs with lower taxes and less prescriptive regulations, and welcome global trade and investment.

It is astounding to think that, due in large part to the greater exercise of our economic freedoms to buy, sell, trade, and invest, our ancestors were once gripped by mass poverty themselves but managed to ingenuously lift themselves up towards the building the wealth and decent living standards we enjoy today.

And, as the World Bank report shows, more people around the world are following the same tried‑and‑true formula to such a feverish extent we can credibly believe in a future where poverty is history.

Humanity has come a long way toward a common enrichment, but there is more that we can do to support other people around in the world in their quest for poverty‑destroying economic freedom. Watch this excellent video featuring IPA researcher Peter Gregory, as he explains how freer markets are helping save lives in Cambodia.  Continue Reading →


Bono: the private sector will pull people out of extreme poverty

Bono, the lead vocallist of U2, had this to say at the UN’s Private Sector Forum:

I’m late to realizing that it’s you guys, it’s the private sector, it’s commerce that’s going to take the majority of people out of extreme poverty and, as an activist, I almost found that hard to say

Easy to hear though. Perhaps Bono saw the IPA’s video on how private enterprise operating in free markets is lifting people out of poverty in Cambodia?:


Divestment Roadblock!


In case you missed it in the lead-up to the dual AFL/NRL Grand Final Weekend (which was even longer for Victorians), the campaign to force superannuation funds to ditch their investment in detention centre operator Transfield Services has hit an unexpected hurdle.

As I covered here in August, activists opposed to Australia’s offshore detention policy had already convinced Australia’s sixth largest superannuation fund, HESTA to divest its shares in Transfield, and were hopeful of convincing the nation’s largest industry fund, the $92 billion Australian Super, to do the same.

However last Thursday, Australian Super’s chairwoman, Heather Ridout (pictured), was quoted in the Australian Financial Review saying that Transfield, should not be “politically punished” for government policy, and described the argument that Transfield shareholder returns may be damaged by reputational loss through involvement with detention centres as “spurious.”

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Email: Anti-discrimination laws are chilling freedom of speech


In an important article for the Australian Financial Review last week, IPA Executive Director John Roskam explained how illiberal anti-discrimination laws undermine free speech:

Anti-discrimination laws aimed at preventing people from being offended are chilling freedom of speech in Australia. Such laws are a bigger threat to freedom of speech than outright regulations or control of the media because they’re so insidious and because they affect everyone, not just journalists.

This follows a complaint in Tasmania last week against the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart Julian Porteous to the state’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner.

The IPA issued a media release on this last week, noting that this is what we predicted would happen when the Tasmanian anti-discrimination laws were expanded in 2013. The IPA’s Simon Breheny concluded:

Even if the complaint is rejected by the commission, the fact that the legislation contemplates such a complaint on a topic of genuine and significant public and political debate shows the overreach of the Tasmanian regime.

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Council minstrels to promote Melbourne smoking bans


press release from the City of Melbourne this morning reads:

Roaming street performers will get on their soapboxes as part of a creative week-long education campaign to remind smokers to butt out in declared smoke free areas in the City of Melbourne.

Speakers’ Corner performers will spread the smoke free message through comic poems, songs and improvisation at declared smoke-free location in the central city from today until Saturday…

The note goes on to explain exactly which areas of the CBD it is now illegal to smoke in. The policy throws up a number of similar examples but if you’re ever in need of a great illustration of the sheer arbitrariness of government decisions the fact that it is illegal to smoke in Howey Place but not in the adjoining Presgrave Place has got to be one of the best.


Arbitrary: red = smoking ban; green = no smoking ban.

But of course that’s really missing the point. The vital takeaway here is that wandering minstrels will be spruiking the council’s decision to ban smoking.

Somehow, when residents contemplate the essential ‘community services‘ their rates are supposedly collected to fund, I doubt this is what they have in mind.


Capital gains tax discount for start ups: Not bad, but could be better


Senior members of the Turnbull government have been making plenty of headlines lately about the need to boost innovation in the Australian economy. The latest iteration of this comes from the backbench:

The Turnbull government is considering abolishing capital gains tax on start‑ups to encourage entrepreneurs without risking direct government investment in the notoriously fickle tech industry.

A proposal by Coalition backbencher David Coleman, a tech industry veteran, to abolish capital gains tax on investments in private companies that are less than two years old and have annual revenue of less than $1 million is being looked at by the task force writing the governmentʼs tax white paper strategy.

It is fairly easy to discern what the underlying policy motivation for this idea might be, given industry bodies have pointed out Australia has one of the lowest rates of venture capital investment in the developed world.

The IPA has also indicated that our rate of new business entries have been flagging in recent years, in an indication that entrepreneurial activity may need some further encouragement if Australia is to economically prosper in the short to medium term.

The instincts displayed by the Coalition backbench appear to be sound, in that there is an emphasis on lowering taxes to some extent, but I think it would be better if Mr Coleman and others with a similar view take their line of thinking one step further.

Instead of simply looking to ‘play winners’ by discounting capital gains tax for one part of the corporate sector (i.e., start‑up firms), why canʼt there be a more ambitious reformist push for abolishing the dreaded capital gains tax altogether?

Economists are in general agreement that taxes on capital exudes great harm upon the economy, draining our productive potential and making whichever place imposes capital taxes a less attractive place to invest (a thorough Canadian study with general ramifications internationally is here).

In an opinion piece for the Australian Financial Review, David Coleman revealed his personal aspiration to signal to the world that Australia is open for business.

That is all well and good but to be sure that the rest of the world hears the signal loud and clear, it would be even better to put out the case against harmful capital taxation altogether.