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

LRAfrontcover

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.

facebooktwitter

Now the wowsers want a tax on soft drinks

sugar-cubes

Last week they were calling for an increase in the the drinking age, this week our friendly neighborhood Nanny Statists want a tax on soft drinks.

ABC News reports on a research from the Obesity Policy Coalition, the Cancer Council and Diabetes Victoria calling for a 20 per cent tax on soft drinks:

“Even a small change in consumption can have a big impact over time; a small change in body mass index and weight can have a big impact on someone’s health outcomes,” Jane Martin, from the Obesity Policy Coalition said.

“This would have a bigger impact on people who are high consumers, so particularly young people, and they’re more price sensitive.

“The potential to change behaviour in adolescents … who are high consumers, drink a lot of soft drink, that can be very impactful because that can take them through the rest of their life and change habits early.”

Continue Reading →

facebooktwitter

Left wing establishment have no idea about the real world

In The Australian today ($), John Roskam responded to recent calls from the usual suspects for tax increases:

A high-profile group of unionists, academics and former public servants who oppose a corporate tax cut in the budget has been dubbed “the fatuous 50” by a conservative think tank.

Institute of Public Affairs chief John Roskam said many in the group had “spent so long on the public teat and no doubt have ­defined benefits superannuation schemes and won’t be affected by changes to superannuation”.

“Their real world experience, for so many of these people is limited to the university common room. They have little idea about what it takes to run a business, ­employ people and create wealth,” he said.

Mr Roskam’s jibe sparked an immediate backhander from the progressive Australia Institute think tank, which declared the group spoke for most Australians who wanted a clampdown on tax concessions for “the big end of town”.

In an open letter published in Fairfax newspapers, the group urged Malcolm Turnbull “not to cut tax at this time — and certainly not for companies”.

The letter comes as the government debates income and company tax levels as a proportion of GDP, which next year is set to rise above its long-term average of the past 30 years, and bracket creep puts more workers into higher tax brackets.

The “fatuous 50” letter also cite OECD data that suggests Australia is a low taxing country. Comparing us to other countries which are even worse is irrelevant, and reveals nothing about what Australian workers are experiencing.

In fact, recent OECD data confirms that Australian are working longer to pay the tax government already demands of them. I’ve collected the data hear:

Working-Longer-to-pay-higher-taxes

For a single, childless individual at the income level of the average worker, you have to work an extra week to pay your taxes than seven years ago (and this doesn’t even account for compulsory superannuation).

facebooktwitter

Culture of victimhood: The rise of argumentum ad victimam

steynQ&A

Now that argumentum ad hominem has become a bit old hat, (unless of course said hominem is in a category utterly beyond the pale, such as old white males), clearly there is a need for another form of argument which;

(a) doesn’t require an analysis of the issue at stake,

(b) has the firepower to shut down the opposing view, and

(c) provides an opportunity for ‘virtue signalling’.

Luckily the authoritarian, censorious and would-be virtuous among us can call upon what I would label argumentum ad victimam. Habitually employed by the opponents of any reduction in government spending, it is commonly heard at budget time. Indeed, it sometimes seems that the only examination of the budget that matters is an ad victimam one. Should an incumbent Treasurer propose, for example, to reduce the public spend on childcare by 0.5 per cent over the next four years, the Opposition and press will, in the blink of an eye, produce some benighted parent whose life will be made intolerable by their child no longer being eligible for subsidy.

The victim naturally has to elicit our sympathy, so welfare recipients need to be chosen with a little care. However, now that most of the population is in receipt of other people’s money by way of various ‘benefits’ it isn’t difficult to find personable victims for any planned curb in public spending. Children are a pretty sure bet, but even aged pensioners lacking obvious sex-appeal can enjoy their 15 minutes (or less) of fame.

This partly explains the curious phenomenon of the rise and rise of welfare expenditure in Western democracies, because it is both difficult to feel sympathy for the rich people (most of whom, let’s face it, are old white males) forced to cough up a few more tax dollars every week, and easy to feel sympathy for the children who will probably end up on drugs if they don’t get subsidised childcare.

It is not only in the arena of welfarism however, where we see the ad victimam technique employed; during the term of the previous federal government footage of a mistreated bullock in an Indonesian abattoir brought about the shutdown overnight of the entire live cattle trade to that country. A senior member of the same administration lamented, after a failed attempt to regulate the Australian press, that it might have succeeded had they had the cunning to parade a victim of Big Press (also known as Rupert Murdoch) before the Australian people.

Similarly, when Mark Steyn spoke in support of repeal of section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act on Q&A recently, the response from a Labor politician on the panel was to tell the story of a child called a “half-caste” by a neighbour, in order to convince us of the critical need for the existing legislation (which incidentally did not prevent this allegedly happening).

However shallow its ethical and intellectual basis, there is no doubt that ad victimam can be a very effective technique in debate. There is a nice illustration of this from the field of public health, where the anti-vaccination movement has gained considerable traction by emphasising the harm done very rarely to individual children by vaccines, whilst failing utterly to acknowledge the enormous benefit of vaccination to countless children and the wider community.

So what is one to do for example, if invited onto the Q&A panel and served up an argumentum ad victimam? Well, as in the case of an ad hominem attack, if one is alert to the technique, at least one can recognise it for what it is. I would suggest pointing out that good intentions are not of themselves a sufficient basis for government action (and indeed if used as such almost inevitably result in unintended and unfortunate consequences).

The making of sound law requires sound principles, so that rather than focussing on individual cases, however appealing that may seem, we ought to be looking at the underlying principles as they apply to the population as a whole – but I acknowledge that these arguments are not easy to make in a public forum where issues are adjudicated by soundbite (and that is most of them).

There is a saying amongst lawyers that hard cases make for bad laws; perhaps we might borrow that concept and assert that pitiable victims make for bad laws.

facebooktwitter

Queensland’s proposed tree laws are the very worst kind of red tape

nat_veg_qld

Today I have a piece in Queensland Country Life arguing the new proposed vegetation clearing laws in Queensland will halt economic growth, suppress entrepreneurship, and damage our international competitiveness.

The strict changes will also reverse the onus of proof, retrospectively enforce the laws back to 17 March 2016, and remove exemptions for clearing high value agricultural land.

This is the latest in a series of contentious political games between the left and right of politics, with farmers and land owners sitting in between:

Jointly understanding that clearing is necessary for growth, and that farmers have the incentive to protect and cultivate their own land, meant very few clearing controls prior to the 1990s.

However, as the 1990s came so too did the growth and spread of conservation campaigns. Legislation changes in 1999 and 2004 largely phased out broadscale land clearing by the end of 2006.

Thankfully, in 2013 the then Newman government relaxed the clearing laws. But now the Labor government, following through on an election promise, will take us back to the 2006-2013 era when almost no broadscale clearing occurred:

Of course the environment must be protected and conserved. But what happened to the importance of economic growth and development?

Effective agricultural regulation draws a reasonable line between environmental protection and agricultural production.

It is undeniable that efficient agricultural production requires the felling of trees. By entirely preventing such clearing—even for high value productivity land—policy makers have clearly lost sight of the real purpose of regulation.

The proposed bill has been referred to a state parliamentary committee, which is due to report in June this year.

facebooktwitter

University of Queensland Union cupcake stunt perfectly illustrates progressive hypocrisy

cupcakes

The University of Queensland has been thrown into spotlight by a ‘Feminist Week’ bake sale stunt.

The UQ Union is charging people different amounts for cupcakes depending on their gender, race and sexuality. The UQ Union website explains the principles of the bake sale:

Specific to each faculty, each baked good will only cost you the proportion of $1.00 that you earn comparative to men (or, if you identify as a man, all baked goods with cost you $1.00!).

For example, if you are a woman of colour in the legal profession, a baked good at the stall will only cost you 55 cents!

Ironically, as one student commented on a student Facebook group page, the union may be contradicting state and federal anti-discrimination law in the process.

The very people who are usually the most stringent supporters of anti-discrimination laws are themselves discriminating. The hypocrisy never ends.

facebooktwitter

First they came for the Evangelicals, now they’re coming for the Catholics

The University of Sydney Union is at it again, this time targeting the 88-year old Catholic Society over the requirement that executive members are Catholic.

In a repeat of the situation facing the Evangelical Union, the Catholic Society is facing deregistration because of their “discriminatory” policy.

The Australian reports on this latest attack on freedom of association on campus:

“It’s a surreal situation,” ­society president Francis Tamer said. “We have been told we are discriminating against people ­because you have to be Catholic to be on the executive. Of course you do — we are the Catholic ­Society.”

One of the university’s best known Catholic alumni, Tony Abbott, agrees, saying “it seems like a hell of a double standard” given that Sydney University has long offered both a “women’s room” and a Koori Centre for ­indigenous students…

Similarly, Liberal and Labor clubs on campus have pointed out that they would expect their members to be Labourites and Liberals.

In the other ongoing case at Sydney University, the Evangelical Union voted 71-1 to not remove their requirement that voting members identify with Jesus Christ.

In response, the Union has delayed the decision to deregister the Evangelical Union, stating that the final decision is yet to be made due to legal complexity.

facebooktwitter

Political correctness rampant at Australian universities

dt_cover

From the Daily Telegraph today, which reported on a damning study authored by Matthew Lesh, into free speech at Australian universities:

RAMPANT political correctness is stifling free speech on Australian university campuses and students’ feelings are being prioritised over academic debate, according to a damning investigation by the Institute of Public Affairs.

Some campuses have banned the use of gender-specific words including “Mr”, “Mrs”, “man” and “sportsmanlike”.

And Western Sydney University has gone even further by outlawing the use of sarcasm.

IPA research fellow Matthew Lesh said the bans have led to many students being accused of sexism and others persecuted for their political views.

… Mr Lesh called for university guidelines and policies restricting intellectual freedom to be abolished…

“It is impossible to develop and discuss ideas in an atmosphere where certain concepts are restricted.” Cases highlighted by the IPA include: Students at Macquarie University will be accused of harassment if they say something regarded as “not welcome”.

Don’t dare say “man the offices” at Newcastle University or commend someone for being “sportsmanlike”, as anything with the word “man” is off limits, along with “Mrs” and “Miss”.

The University of Sydney’s Union has threatened to deregister an 86year-old evangelical society because it requires members to declare their faith in Jesus.

Mr Lesh also said a bid to set up a Men’s Shed group for male students to support each other at Sydney University was blocked for being “too masculine”, but was allowed to go ahead after it appointed a Queer Officer, a Women’s Officer and an Ethno Culture Officer.

The paper’s editorial also had this to say:

Politically correct excesses now dominate thinking at our universities, leading to a call from Institute of Public Affairs research fellow Matthew Lesh to abolish university guidelines and policies restricting intellectual freedom.

“We have policies that now forbid sarcasm and making people feel ‘uncomfortable’,” Lesh told The Daily Telegraph. “We need to have a public debate about this.

“Universities depend on free and open intellectual debate. It is impossible to develop and discuss ideas in an atmosphere where certain concepts are restricted.” But how is a debate over these issues possible given so many severe limitations?

The moment debate participants feel awkward or unwelcome, or if a point is made that may contain dangerous levels of sarcasm, the whole debate would be called off.

We need a debate on a better name for our over-protective institutes of tertiary learning. Maybe kinderversities?

facebooktwitter

Fixing the federation: sharing income tax with the states

monopoly_income_tax

Australia’s federation is broken. Power has been excessively centralised. States cannot fund their services. And the blame game between the states and the Commonwealth is never ending.

In very exciting news, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has confirmed that the federal government will be pursuing a policy of sharing income tax revenue with the states:

Under existing laws the Federal Government is the sole recipient of income tax. The Prime Minister wants to reach agreement with the states to lower the percentage of tax collected federally, allowing the states to collect a portion of income tax funds directly.

“We would withdraw from a certain amount of income tax that would be available to the states and we would agree that that would be the maximum they would levy for a period,” he said.

Mr Turnbull went on to acknowledge he would not be able to control whether the states increased the percentage of tax collected in the long term.

This proposal spurs from the ongoing debate over how to most effectively fund health, as well as education, in the long run.

Let’s go back to first principles.

The idea of dividing powers between a central government and regional governments is one of practical good governance.

Central governments should only undertake roles that cannot be more effectively completed at a lower level—by those with the most knowledge and relevance to the policy.

The federal government should not be directing the picking up of rubbish, local councils should not be interfering in foreign policy.

However, governments can only be accountable and responsive to local needs if they are collecting their own revenue—a feature seriously lacking in Australia’s federation.

In 1901 the states collected 87 per cent of government revenue. One hundred years later this has decreased to below 20 per cent. Nevertheless, the states are still largely responsible for delivering substantial services, including schools, hospitals and public transport.

To address this imbalance the federal government provides over $100 billion in payments to the states every year. This represents about a quarter of the federal budget, and around half of state budgets. By comparison, American states receive about 22 per cent of their revenue from the federal government, and Canadian provinces around 17 per cent.

The centralisation of revenue has led to the loss of many of the benefits of a federal system. Our states, tied to federal government dictations, are increasingly unable to be innovative or be responsive to local needs.

There is an ongoing blame game between the federal government and the states — the Commonwealth blames the states for lacklustre service delivery, states blame the federal government for lack of revenue.

There is excessive duplication, overlap and high administrative costs.

If successfully implemented, giving the states a share of income tax could seriously improve our federation.

It would finally allow the states to fund their own services, allowing voters to assess where their money is going and hold the respective level of government to account. It would enable beneficial competition between states to provide the most services at the lowest tax rate.

A state income tax will help us once again receive the benefits of a federal system that our constitutional framers envisaged.

facebooktwitter

Renewable energy subsidy addiction revealed

Interesting article recently for The American Interest on how a proposed reduction in solar power subsidies in the cool, cloudy, north eastern US state of Maine, next to Canada, is causing angst in the solar industry:

… the original justification for these subsidies was that by stimulating greater consumer demand, there would be a massive increase in production leading to dramatic falls in production costs. Eventually the subsidy regime…could die away.

… that subsidized solar is growing in foggy, cold, sun-challenged Maine, while without huge subsidies it is in trouble in sunny Nevada, tells us everything we need to know.

… it’s an example of how poorly-designed government subsidies divert resources and slow the march of progress. The technology just isn’t there yet—the current generation of commercial solar panels don’t work well enough for people to install them unless they get fat subsidies and tax write-offs.

The public interest—and the climate—would be much better served by shifting resources from subsidies for substandard and inefficient green tech to research into next generation alternative energy sources that can compete on the merits.

Couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

facebooktwitter