Denmark is not the paradise Bernie Sanders thinks it is

Candidates on stage before the first US Democratic Presidential debate

Observers of the American political scene watched closely as the front-runners in the Democratic presidential race, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, sparred each other in a debate last week which still has tongues wagging.

One reason for that is Sanders, who said during the debate that Americans should look to Nordic Europe for policy reform inspiration:

I think we should look to countries like Denmark, like Sweden and Norway, and learn from what they have accomplished for their working people.

There has long been a leftish affection within the Anglosphere for the high‑taxing, big‑spending government models offered up by the Nordic countries. But the notion that Americans, the British, or even Australians should simply replicate Danish, Norwegian or Swedish policies is not necessarily all that it is cracked up to be.

An article by science writer Ronald Bailey, which appears on Reason magazine’s blog Hit & Run, cautions against emulating northern Europe in America:

Basically, American liberals love Denmark because its government confiscates half of its citizens money and makes them pay high prices for energy. Strangely, advocating such policies out loud does not sound like a winning electoral strategy in 2016.

For some other reactions to Sanders’ call for a more Danish‑looking United States, you can read the reflections of Tim Worstall, Jeff Jacoby, and Marian Tupy.


PM kicks fundamental liberty “into the long grass”

Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, 17 May 2015:

[T]here was a broad consensus among lots of interested groups and stakeholders that the words ‘insult’ and ‘offend’ could be removed [from section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act 1975], leaving the words ‘humiliate’ and ‘intimidate’.

… I was very comfortable about that. I didn’t think that would have any negative impact.

Prime Minister Turnbull in parliament today, on whether he stood by those comments:

… Mr Turnbull said he backed debate on the issue but would not be reopening the matter.

“I think it’s very important for debates of this kind to be undertaken at the right time and place and in the right context… We have to bear in mind that we have in our society, as in all free societies, to balance the demands of free speech, of which we’re all in favour, with also ensuring domestic harmony.

“The short answer to your question is the government has no plans to change the Racial Discrimination Act at all.”

So much for the “broad consensus”. Ultimately, actions – or lack thereof – have consequences, as the IPA’s executive director John Roskam points out:

Free-market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs took out full-page advertisements condemning Mr Abbott’s decision to ditch his election promises [to repeal section 18C]. John Roskam from the IPA warned Mr Turnbull to expect another backlash from his own party.

“Malcolm Turnbull must realise just how significant freedom of speech is to so many people in Australia and to so many in his party,” he said.

“He can’t kick fundamental liberties into the long grass without consequences.”

Latika Bourke has more coverage here.

UPDATE: The prime minister’s full response is on hansard here.


GetUp prepares for the next bout of ‘green lawfare’


Late last week federal environment minister Greg Hunt approved (again) Adani’s groundbreaking Carmichael coal mine in central Queensland. The minister’s initial approval was overturned in August after activist litigation led to the discovery of a minor paperwork error.

Unsurprisingly, environmental activists are not taking this latest decision lying down. Within hours activist group GetUp had commenced fundraising to return to court, emailing its supporters to say that:

We’re still working with our movement partners to decide exactly which litigant will take the case, and who will play which roles – we’ll keep you posted with every update. It’s likely we’ll be supporting both environment lawyers and conservation groups, like we did with the Mackay Conservation Group challenging the mine the first time.

While people should absolutely be able to go to court to protect their rights, GetUp’s message sums up everything that is wrong with current federal environmental approval laws and why the Abbott government was right to try to amend them.

GetUp doesn’t know what case it will be running, or who will be running it, but because the law has a such a low threshold as to who can bring a case to court, the case will probably end up going ahead, leading to even more delays in a process that has already taken five years.

Mining is an internationally competitive business and if a company can’t develop a resource in Country A it can all too easily up stumps and go to country B. With examples like this, or this, or this, Australia risks becoming an investment no-go zone.

The proposed amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 must be passed by parliament as soon as possible.


Who said the Magna Carta was irrelevant?


Despite being 800 years old, the Great Charter is still powerful enough to unsettle the communist authorities in China:

A 1217 version of the Magna Carta was supposed to go on view this week in Beijing’s Renmin University. But Chinese authorities apparently blocked its appearance there; the document went on display instead in the house of the British ambassador to a very limited number of guests.

An official with the British foreign office said the decision was made “based on administrative and logistical practicalities.”

Observers have immediately seen the decision in the wider context of China’s authoritarian politics. The country is is in the midst of an ongoing crackdown on activists and civil society groups. Communist party diktat specifically rejects reference to “constitutional democracy” or universal values — principles that the Magna Carta is credited with having, to a certain extent, enshrined.

In a country where the rule of law is not practiced, the symbolism of the Magna Carta can be powerful indeed.


Paul Keating calls for a “Indigenous treaty”

Former prime minister Paul Keating is pushing for a treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples:

Paul Keating has backed a treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, describing it as the “unfinished business of the nation” and suggesting it could precede Indigenous recognition in the constitution.

… In an exclusive interview with Fairfax Media, Mr Keating says the push for Indigenous constitutional recognition has lost direction and needs to be given shape and form “by someone who believes in a treaty, someone who believes that the Aboriginal peoples need to be dealt with as a nation”.

… In the interview, to coincide with the release of Keating, by Kerry O’Brien, Mr Keating has played down the importance of a prohibition on racial discrimination in “our very vanilla, horse-and-buggy constitution”.

He said a treaty, or compact, that dealt with Aboriginal people as a nation would complete the process he called for in his Redfern Park speech of 1992. “I think a constitutional recognition could follow the formality of such a compact or treaty. In other words, it would affirm and or acknowledge, rather than being the primary vehicle for it,” he said.

The idea behind a treaty is a divisive one. Rather than acknowledging all Australians as equal, a treaty would divide Australians into groups based on race. The idea that Australians should be separated into different nations is a dangerous one, and should be rejected.

To learn more about the IPA’s Race Has No Place project visit


“Absolutely right” that controversial people are granted a visa

Controversial Dutch politician Geert Wilders was granted an Australian visa last week, and the IPA’s Chris Berg had this to say in comments to WA Today:

Institute of Public Affairs senior fellow Chris Berg has written multiple books on freedom of speech and democratic rights.

“I think it’s absolutely right that Geert Wilders should be granted a visa, if he obeys Australian laws,” Mr Berg said.

“If the government banned speech, then they’re [abridging] the freedom of other Australians who might listen to him speak.”

Mr Berg said everyone in Australia had the right to listen to Mr Wilders but it comes down to choice.

“Freedom of speech is a fundamental right, not just for the speaker but also for the people who might hear the speech,” he said.

“They’re under no compulsion to listen to him, but have the right to listen to his views.

“I’m pleased that Australia, if they want to, will be able to hear the arguments of Mr Wilders.”


In defence of the plastic bag


Plastic bags have taken a beating recently. They’re one of the most popular targets for environmentalists who see them as a visible example of indulgent consumerism.

One clear-thinking member of the Western Australian parliament isn’t falling for it. Western Australian Liberal MLC, and IPA member, Peter Katsambanis this week moved a motion to disallow a local council decision to ban the humble plastic bag:

“Although perhaps well intentioned, this local law from the City of Fremantle is beyond its power because this is a law or a decision that should be made on a Statewide basis to avoid unintended consequences, to avoid confusion, to not force retailers to do something that they do not want to do and to not change consumer patterns of behaviour that would perhaps hurt the retailers in the City of Fremantle,” he said.

We congratulate Katsambanis, and the other Liberals, Nationals, and Shooters & Fishers who stood firm on polyethylene polymer.

For an entertaining history of plastic bags and why they’re actually good for us, read this piece which appeared recently in Reason Magazine.


McCloy case shows why courts can not be relied on to protect free speech

Last week, the High Court handed down a significant judgment which determined whether various limitations on political donations breached the implied right of political communication in the Australian Constitution.

The case was brought forward by property developer and former Newcastle lord mayer Jeff McCloy, who was the target of a compulsory examination by the controversial anti-corruption agency, ICAC.

This time, ICAC won. However, as Chris Merritt reported in The Australian, there is a second appeal coming up in November.

In this case, the Court was specifically asked to consider whether provisions of the Election Funding, Expenditure and Disclosures Act 1981 (NSW) that:

were “impermissible burden freedom of communication on government and political matters.

All judges accepted the position that the Australian Constitution contains unwritten rights. Likewise, the judges accepted that the laws did indirectly undermine freedom of political communication.

However, almost as unanimously, the court rejected that the laws were not justified, saying the laws were aimed at a legitimate end of preventing “corruption and undue influence”. Even the “perception of corruption” was enough to justify the restrictive laws.

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Top 3 articles from this week you must read


Viscount Ridley

1. NSW Finance Minister Dominic Perrottet had an excellent piece in The Spectator, on the “mindless conformism” of the modern student Left ($)

2. In the United States, the Democrats had the first of a series of presidential debates this week. Robert Trasinski collected the 25 craziest moments over at The Federalist

3. And in The Times this week, Matt Ridley slammed mad new EU regulations which treat e-cigarettes worse than actual cigarettes. See it here.


Should athletes be jailed for doping?

David Howman, director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency

David Howman, director general of the World Anti-Doping Agency

Someone needs to tell World Anti-Doping Agency boss, David Howman, that it’s only a game.

Speaking at a sports law conference in Melbourne this week, Howman proposed that athletes caught using performance enhancing drugs should be jailed:

We think…that the real deterrent that cheating athletes fear is the fear of going to prison. Not the fear of being stood down from their sport for a year, two years, four years but a fear of going to prison.

Howman also suggested that sport needed a new international body that would police all integrity issues, in light of the recent FIFA fiasco (which I have previously written about on FreedomWatch here).

How big a disaster do you need to start reflecting on the issue of governance?…Don’t we need an independent body to oversee the governance of sport?

Howman is certainly on the money when he says international sporting bodies are corrupt and lack integrity. But I don’t think a big, unaccountable, international organisation is the best way to deal with other big, unaccountable, international organisations.

And, as much as anyone who watched the 2000 Grand Final might think Essendon players belong in jail, it is clearly ridiculously over the top for people who cheat in a sport to spend time in prison. Not to mention being a huge waste of taxpayers’ money.

Sport must get its own house in order – not turn to the big coercive stick of the state.