Motorbike helmet cameras – let the riders decide


A man went to court this week to challenge a $289 fine for infringing Victorian road rules. He got a little bit of good news as the fine was reduced to $150, but he is still out of pocket and has had three demerit points added to his license.

Clearly from the size of the penalty it was not a particularly serious offence. So was the driver just a little bit over the speed limit, or making a turn without indicating? No, the man in question, Max Lichenbaum, is a motorbike rider and his offence was, believe it or not, having a camera attached to his helmet. Not that having a camera in your helmet is necessarily an offence, but apparently this particular camera attachment did not comply with the arbitrary standards imposed by VicRoads.

The defendant’s main argument against the fine was that it was impossible to know what VicRoads’ standards are. Mr Lichenbaum’s lawyers made valiant attempts to get hold of the standards but could not do so, either by phone or by visiting the VicRoads offices. However, while the magistrate accepted the standards were currently not accessible to the public, he could not be sure that this was the case at the time of the offence in March 2014. They may have been available in a library which was open to the public on the ground floor of the VicRoads building but which has subsequently closed.

Clearly there is a problem here, both with a specific lack of transparency about these rules, but also with the fact that so many aspects of modern life are subject to laws, regulations and standards. Continue Reading →


WATCH: Leyonhjelm on the true history of the Nanny State

In parliament this week, NSW senator and chairman of the Inquiry into Personal Choice and Community Impacts, David Leyonhjelm, defined the ‘Nanny State’, and explained how the phrase came about. Watch the senator’s remarks below:

For more, see the IPA’s Chris Berg’s opening statement to the Senate’s Nanny State inquiry last week, here, while the IPA’s submission to the inquiry can be found here.


Top 3 articles from this week you must read


Peter Hitchens

  • Peter Hitchens argues that now the UK Labour Party has elected a real lefty to be leader maybe the Conservative Party can elect a real conservative.
  • In the wake of the recent Syrian refugee crisis, Victor Davis Hanson’s explanation of why refugees flee to the West in the National Review is worth revisiting.
  • And on the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II becoming the longest reigning British monarch, Mark Steyn offers a timely defence of the British monarchy.

Email: The IPA’s Chris Berg and Simon Breheny give expert evidence to senate Nanny State inquiry at Parliament House in Canberra

Last Friday 11 September 2015, the IPA’s Chris Berg and Simon Breheny appeared as expert witnesses before the Senate Economics References Committee inquiry into personal choice and community impacts, colloquially known as the Nanny State inquiry.

The three key points we made were:

  • Paternalism is deeply undemocratic
  • Policy makers are as prone to making mistakes as consumers
  • Politicians and bureaucrats do not know what is in our best interests

Click here to read the media release the IPA published on the day of the hearing, and click here to read the IPA’s written submission.

Continue Reading →


Why do we need a federal environment minister?


The bloated size of the federal ministry following the 2013 election


News in this morning’s papers that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has excised federal water policy responsibilities from the environment portfolio raises an important question.

Why do we actually need a federal environment minister?

Australia survived for most of its life without one, with the first appointed in 1971 under the short-lived McMahon government. Like most bureaucracies though the concept quickly took root and has spread its tentacles as widely as possible.

However, a casual look at the Abbott government’s Administrative Arrangements Order (which assigned Acts of Parliament to ministers following the 2013 election) reveals that the environment minister’s responsibilities could easily be divided up between industry, science and energy portfolios or repatriated back to the states.

Environmental policy is largely about land management, which is actually one of the few policy areas that is still exclusively a state government responsibility. Australia’s diverse array of national and state parks are the result of state government management over the decades, which they have successfully managed to do alongside the development of cities, farms, dams and light and heavy industry.

While some sort of “approval process” is reasonable for major projects, including resources projects, these can and should be done at a state level and as quickly and efficiently as possible. No approval process should take five years and the bouncing between the various federal and state entities is part of this problem. The quality of government output should always be more important that the length of time it takes.

The existence of a separate, federal environment ministry is symbolic of the growth in the size and influence of the national government and bureaucracy since Federation, to the detriment of the private sector, economic development, and individual freedom. The current plethora of federal government ministers, assistant ministers, parliamentary secretaries and their bureaucracies encourages rent seeking and the relevant minister or bureaucracy to play to its stakeholders.

Why does there need to be a federal education minister and parliamentary secretary when the federal government doesn’t run a single school and traditionally has no role in the curriculum? Doesn’t the very existence of assistant ministers and parliamentary secretaries prove that the federal government has too much power for too few people? Why do we need a Minister for Social Services and an Assistant Minister for Social Services and a Minister for Human Services and a Parliamentary Secretary for Social Services? Why do we need a federal Attorney-General and a Minister for Justice and a Parliamentary Secretary to the Attorney-General?

Check out the difference between the breadth of the current ministry and the first Barton Ministry in 1901, or even the first post-war Menzies Ministry. To see something even worse, and a potential harbinger of things to come, check out the current shadow ministry!

Transparency and accountability in government is important. The more positions there are, the more bureaucracies there are, and the confusing split of responsibilities between the three levels of government makes it too easy for the public sector to shift blame when something goes wrong.

Smaller, more accountable government will always lead to better government.


Turnbull must reform to lift 11th-ranked Australia’s economic freedom


This week the Canadian think tank the Fraser Institute released the latest edition of its annual economic freedom index, providing an internationally comparable perspective of the freedom to make, buy, sell, trade and invest (the IPA is a co‑publisher of Economic Freedom of the World).

As it turns out, the report hands the Turnbull government an ambitious economic agenda on a platter ‑ and that is to urgently improve Australiaʼs flagging economic freedom rankings.

In recent years the Australian position on the international economic freedom league table has declined markedly, from fifth position in 2010 to eleventh in 2013 (the latest available figure).

The key issues that are driving our slide in economic freedom since 2010, relative to that of other countries, have been the growth in the domestic regulatory burden (especially on the labour market front), a less consistent legal frameworks and regime of property rights protection, and our worsening performance in maintaining sound monetary policy arrangements.

Although our index scores for government size have improved, all that really means is that other countries are doing a worse job in maintaining fiscal discipline compared to us.

The IPA has shown in recent times that, on our own terms, we have allowed our size of government to disconcertingly drift in an upward direction, the Australian tax burden has become internationally uncompetitive, and our public debt is now unsustainable.

But far from merely pointing out the problems we face, the IPA has also made numerous suggestions for change. The new prime minister could try this, and also this, as basic templates for reform.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull can rightly point out the Australian drift down the international economic freedom scale as another unwanted legacy of the former Rudd‑Gillard government, but the policy challenge ahead is to unwind the damage previous administrations have left behind.

That can only be done by the public sector taking a back step economically, and so enabling people to more freely discover new and innovative ways to economically aid others both here and abroad.

There is simply no other alternative if we want a brighter, freer future for all Australians.


Milton Friedman on why Uber is resisted by the taxi industry

The Tasmanian taxi industry is in revolt over Uber:

Tasmanian taxi drivers are attacking the State Government’s support for ride-sharing app Uber.

At last week’s Liberal State Council the Government said it would not regulate to stop the sharing economy.

Drivers believe there are already too many cabs on the road, forcing them to work 12-hour days, and they are worried more competition will make the problem worse.

Taxi driver of almost 50 years, Peter Fitzgerald, said it would affect his livelihood if Uber were to start operating in the state.

Milton Friedman addressed the issue of occupational licensing and the motivations behind its enforcement in 1962 in his famous work Capitalism and Freedom:

In the arguments that seek to persuade legislatures to enact such licensure provisions, the justification is always said to be the necessity of protecting the public interest. However, the pressure on the legislature to license an occupation rarely comes from the members of the public who have been mulcted or in other ways abused by members of the occupation. On the contrary, the pressure invariably comes from members of the occupation itself.

And so it is here with new entrants to the taxi industry in Tasmania. The calls for the continuation of the licensing regime that grants taxis a monopoly over this sector of the transport industry are coming not from members of the public but from taxi owners and drivers themselves. If this was a true consumer reaction to the emergence of Uber perhaps legislators would be justified in heeding their calls.