Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Two wasted years

Tumultuous week in federal politics, with the totally useless Abbott replaced by the man he earlier replaced as leader, Malcolm Turnbull.

Then the announcement of a new Cabinet  and some, not all, of the under-performing idiots Abbott appointed being dumped.

There's been an immediate jump in the polls for the coalition, as predicted, with the LNP just in front of Labor for the first time  since I can't remember when.

We mustn't forget that Abbott's LNP didn't win the last election, the useless self-centred leaders and factions of Labor lost it. Abbot has always been hugely unpopular and very few voters wanted him as Prime Minister, but the electorate was desperate to remove Labor so we got him.

And what a disaster the last two years have been.

It started with the first budget, almost universally outed as totally unfair and containing many broken election promises.

The broken promises piled up rapidly - cuts to pensions, cuts to the ABC and SBS, threats to increase GST included.

Fortunately the Senate refused to pass the more draconian budget proposals - and that's why we almost never vote for the governing party to have a majority in the Upper House.

Abbott used scare tactics, absolutely predictable, warning that Da'esh was coming to get us all, that the economy was about to collapse, that boat people were 'illegal' and would swamp us...it just went on and on.

He scrapped sensible ideas like the carbon price, which is a good example of his negative outlook. It was all in three word slogans, like stop the boats, axe the tax but there were no positive plans, it was all about stopping and scrapping.

So we floundered along for two years, with budgets not approved, no new policies, no plans for the future.

Turnbull was beaten by Abbott by one vote for the leadership and he won it back by ten, 54 to 44.

I really believe he needs to grasp the nettle, face off the right wing loons and get the party back to centre-right. Unfortunately I think he'll pander to the right, trying to keep them onside to avert another challenge. And that will be a huge mistake.

All parties, reflecting society, have lunatic fringes, left and right. The far left of the Labor party are just as mad and dangerous as the far right of the Liberal party, but they're in the minority, just as they are in society.

They can be faced down, treated as the (vocal) minority they are in reality.

Just like the raving shock-jocks, who have a faithful but small following, they're given much more credence than their numbers suggest.

In what I assume is a gesture to the far right, Turnbull has retained Greg Hunt and the breathtakingly stupid Peter Dutton, who have demonstrated the jobs are way beyond their capabilities. He's also kept Mathias Cormann as Finance Minister, a man who assisted failed Treasurer Hockey with his extreme policies and only spouted party slogans in answer to any questions.

So while I'm hugely relieved that the dangerous, idea-less idealogue Abbott has gone, my judgement of Turnbull will depend on how well he stands up to the fanatics on the far right.

So far, admittedly very early days, he seems to be wobbling, suggesting no changes to the Abbott party agenda.

But he's also talking about cabinet decisions rather than captain's picks, so I'm hoping he wants the move back towards the centre - which he's so often promoted in the past on so many issues - to be a cabinet decision. If that's the case it would obviously strengthen his hand and head off a challenge to his position.

All we can do is watch this space.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Community expectations.

Seems that two good things may have resulted from Bronwyn Bishop's resignation as Speaker.

One of course is that it's got rid of the worst Speaker our Parliament has ever had.

Resigning in disgrace is just the first step though. The AFP has to investigate (what she's already admitted) and legal action needs to be taken against her.

The second good thing is that it's highlighted just how entitled our politicians think they are, taking our money to pay for their private expenses - weddings, theatres, limos, charter aircraft, family (business class) travel and all the rest of the rorts.

The Bishop saga has forced PM Abbott to order a review of the whole system (yet another one) so that poor old pollies aren't confused any more about what constitutes reasonable expenses.

There's a disconnect, the idiot Abbott has discovered, between what the pollies think they're entitled to and what the community thinks is reasonable. But he's already confirmed that he doesn't give a damn for community expectations, by saying that we the taxpayers should pay for pollies to attend party fundraisers.

Not a good start.

But while they're looking at how they can behave to meet community expectations, there are plenty of other areas that need looking at.

Acting like adults is one, instead of the infantile schoolyard antics we've been getting in Parliament ever since Abbott squeaked into the Liberal leadership.

Acting in the national interest is another, instead of acting in their own personal, political or financial interests at the expense of the national interest, as they do now.

For the LNP specifically and topically, appointing what we are supposed to have, an independent Speaker is a community expectation.  Bishop brought the position into disrepute, as did Abbott by appointing her and he must now make amends.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Stupidly low interest rates

We have ridiculously low interest rates as the catalyst for the financial problems we've been, and still are, living through and all the financial wizards can think of is to lower them even more while the ramifications are ignored.

Just take Australia, which is not untypical of many other countries.

Interest rates are at historic lows, have been for years, and still there's talk of lowering them even more.

At the same time there's hysterical talk about what they say is the biggest challenge of our times - an aging population. We're told the future is dire with fewer and fewer workers paying taxes to keep ever more pensioners. And something has to be done about it, we're told.

But the low interest rates are adding enormously to the problem, making it much worse than it needs to be.

People self-funding their retirement solves the problem.  So that's the objective, to get as many people as possible to fund their own retirement.

But with the interest rates we have, self-funded retirees are only getting two or three percent return on their savings. You need more than two million in the bank to earn enough to live on, and not many have managed that.

Self-funded retirees have done the right thing, saved to fund their retirement only to find that the interest rate setters have killed that possibility off.

So inevitably they're going to have to look at a government funded pension as a top-up - except that our current apology for a government has introduced a means test to try to head that off. "Can't afford it" they say.

Well, if interest rates were at a sensible level, a neutral rate of around six to seven percent, they wouldn't have to go elsewhere for income, their savings would be producing it.

A neutral rate would mean that both borrowers and savers would be fairly treated, with a reasonable amount being payed or earned.

The justification for the low rates is that it will boost the economy because companies will borrow the cheap money, invest it, expand, hire more staff and push the economy along.

Wrong. It simply isn't happening. It doesn't work any more but the rate setters haven't realised it yet.

Getting companies to invest, expand, hire is far more complex than offering them cheap money.

Government policy, confidence, stability, costs of operating are all more important than the cost of money.

It's way past time that interest rates were put back to a neutral level and governments started to do their job properly.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Transparent Abbott

Our increasingly strident, hysterical Prime Minister has toned it down for his two days in Singapore.

One thing does occur to me though, having read in the Straits Times that yet another drug runner is to be executed.

We recently endured much political posturing from the PM over the executions of two Australians in Indonesia, claiming an abhorrence of capital punishment.  Has he raised the issue of capital punishment with the Singaporean government?

Monday, May 04, 2015

Left behind again?

I'm reading all sorts of stories about 3D printing, amazing stuff.

Jet engine parts by Rolls Royce, guitars, motor cycles, even houses, built by 3D printing. The story a few days ago from the US about young kids lives saved by 3D printed body inserts. The police have shown us guns produced by 3D printing, and so it goes on.

It's obviously the way of the future that'll have at least as much impact as the internet.

Whole manufacturing industries will be replaced by 3D production lines, for example

The question is whether Australia is in on the action.

It's something we need to be pursuing very, very seriously. We need to be aiming to be world leaders in the new technology so that even if we don't reach that goal at least we'll be somewhere near the top of the ladder.

Sadly predictable is the fact that I don't see much written about Australia's efforts in it.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Look what you made me do

The flood of comment in mainstream media and online over the Indonesian executions has predictably included plenty from the 'serves them right' brigade.

Typical of the comments is a letter in today's Sydney Morning Herald, which begins: "How many bleeding hearts will be lamenting at graveside vigils for young drug addicts whose lives are destroyed by profiteering drug smugglers."

It's all the fault of the drug suppliers you see. Users have no say in the matter, no choice, no responsibility. It's not their decision to take drugs, it's a decision forced on them by the suppliers.

I can't even begin to understand why they've ignored me and just about everyone I know. It's  surely in the suppliers' best interests to have us all buying their product, so why haven't they made us take their drugs?

Or could it be that in fact it's the users who've created the market? That the users actually make their own decision to take drugs and then go to find some?

Extrapolating the 'it's all the dealers' fault' claim, chemists  must be responsible for some people becoming addicted to prescription drugs. Bars must be responsible for some people being alcoholics. Fast food outlets must be responsible for some people becoming obese.

If there was no market there would be no supply.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A ministry of incompetents

Incompetent. Lightweight. Clueless. Inept.

I was cynical about the ability of our federal ministers from the beginning but they're even worse than I expected them to be.

On ABC radio within an hour we had Scott Morrison, Minister for Social Services, considered one of the best-performing ministers, and Greg Hunt, Environment Minister, serving this up:

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Okay. I mean, you've got to find some money, it's not just a spending problem that you've got at the moment though is it?

SCOTT MORRISON: No, I'd largely disagree with you. I mean it's the expenditure blow-outs that has been the problem over the past six years. I mean you don't chase revenue short-falls down a hole.

What you do is make sure you get your spending under control because that's what you can control. That's what governments can control..."

A man recently touted as the next Treasurer believes governments can only control spending, not revenue.

Greg Hunt offered what appeared to be a Monty Python sketch when he was interviewed by Linda Mottram.  That's here.

I should remind you that this is a federal minister, not a ten year old in a school debate

Tony Abbott's come up with plenty of examples of his own, stuff like 'climate change is crap', but my favourite is probably: "As Minister For Women, what have you done for women?" 
TONY ABBOTT: I removed the Carbon Tax".

Then there's Smokin' Joe, so out of touch and out of his depth that only someone like Tony Abbott would even think of keeping him as Treasurer.

Abbott said there were no women in coalition ranks capable of  being ministers, except for one, Julie Bishop. Ironic isn't it that she's the only minister I'd exclude from the list of total incompetents.

They're not only an embarrassment, the're doing untold harm to the country.