Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The debt elephant in the operating room

Comments by Barnaby Joyce

The old fashioned, but I think correct view, of spending public money is to approach it as no different from that of spending your own money. Amongst a myriad of quotes confirming this view, Franklin Roosevelt summed up the principle by saying “Any government, like any family, can, for a year, spend a little more than it earns. But you and I know that a continuation of that habit means the poorhouse.”

Government’s that do not manage costs end up costing the taxpayer. The pink batts disaster is the most prominent example. We are now paying to rip out or fix much of what has been installed.

The 19th century French economist, Frederic Bastiat, once suggested, in jest, that one way to stimulate the economy would be to break shop windows. At least the regulatory standards in the glazier industry may have been more up to scratch!

The Building the Education Revolution (BER) is turning into the B. Enormous Rip-off.

Mr Tanner was so correct when he said that he had to get the stimulus spending out without dotting the i’s and crossing and t’s.

Labor party management is an oxymoronic farce. Mr Tanner’s latest release of the monthly financial statements is so remarkable it is comical. The savings announced are because even they cannot manage to spend the absurd amounts of money fast enough. No increase in revenues, just that they cannot write the cheques quick enough.

The graph below shows that they are still writing them pretty damn fast, another $2.1 billion in the past fortnight.

The Murweh Shire Council in Charleville tells me that they can build a kilometre of sealed road for $200,000. So in the previous fortnight this Government has borrowed enough money to fund the construction of 10,000 kilometres of road in regional Australia.

Campbell Newman tells me that the Clem7 tunnel cost $2.2 billion, so the Labor party in the past fortnight has borrowed a little less than the cost of the biggest road tunnel ever built in Australia.

If we take the median price of a house at about $500,000, the Labor party in the past fortnight has borrowed enough to buy a third of your average suburb, and apparently this is all normal.

And what is so dangerous about this is that it is not a one-off. This is turning into rolling extensions of debt.

Their fig leaf is to say that we are not going to be $57 billion under water for 2009-10. Mr Tanner says $48 billion instead. Is this something to be celebrated?

It’s still, in raw numbers, the largest deficit in the history of Australia. We are supposed to take that as a good result. This is the Labor party’s panicked response to, in the Reserve Bank of Australia’s words, one of the mildest recessions we’ve had.

The excuse for everything from the Labor party is that spending money is a good thing. There is a vast difference between spending money well and wasting money. To go shopping is one thing, to wander home with 300 pounds of boiled tomatoes is something entirely different.

It is absurd to believe that these people can lord themselves as good economic managers, when they epitomise bad managers in all of its forms. In fact, chapter 1 in the book of How Not to Mange Your Business should give the current Labor government as a working example.

No control of costs, no control of delivery and no desire to change. This leopard can’t change its spots. The Labor party hasn’t delivered a budget surplus since 1989-90.

The Coalition delivered 10 surpluses in the last 12 budgets we delivered. The contrast is clear.


Sharia law would harm Aussie Muslim women

SHARIA law for Australia is being mooted again. The Australian Muslim Mission and Islamic Friendship Association of Australia are advocating its introduction, especially in relation to family and inheritance, as these would be "an advantage" for women whose civil divorce is not recognised in Muslim countries.

Arbitration courts for conferring an Islamic divorce or even settling disputes based in religion may appear innocuous and a useful option, but relevant experience outside Australia highlights some of the problems.

The saga of sharia law in Ontario, Canada, is instructive. Proponents of sharia courts had argued that the Canadian government should not interfere in religious practice or education. Established under Ontario's Arbitration Act of 1991, these courts dealt with a spectrum of family and business disputes and, although the procedure was voluntary, court decisions were binding.

Homa Arjomand, a Canadian migrant from Iran, had long been aware of decisions that discriminated against women in terms of marriage, divorce and custody. In some cases, domestic violence had gone unpunished, divorced women were faced with minimal alimony and custody of children, and underage girls were sent back to countries of origin where they were forcibly married.

Aware of Islamist ideology and methods in the Iranian theocracy, Arjomand was alerted by a speech of Syed Mumtaz, leader of the Canadian Society of Muslims. In 2003, at the launch of the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice, Mumtaz declared that a "good Muslim" should choose sharia in preference to Canadian secular courts. He also said the new organisation was seeking to institute sharia tribunals. Arjomand believed these tribunals would restrict women further, imposing laws such as those that limited daughters' inheritance to half the portion of sons, and others according to which a woman's testimony counted for half that of a man.

She suspected women would be coerced into accepting participation in the arbitrations and although secular courts were not bound to approve sharia rulings, Muslim women would feel too intimidated to challenge Islamic court decisions. She feared these developmentswould compromise Muslim women's rights to equitable treatment under Canadian law and lead to a parallel legal system, so she launched a campaign against sharia courts in Canada.

Eventually Ontario's Premier Dalton McGuinty brought in legislation to ban all faith arbitrations. In 2006, Arjomand received the Toronto Humanist of the Year award.

In Britain, the Arbitration Act 1996 allows for alternative dispute resolution through sharia tribunals whose rulings are enforceable in county courts or the High Court. According to a report by the Civitas Institute, at least 85 official and unofficial sharia courts, often operating in mosques, arbitrate cases of family and financial disputes. Civitas has argued that any judgments that discriminate against women could be inconsistent with human rights law and has called for legislation to prevent legal enforcement.

Members of the Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation in Britain have drawn attention to oppressive laws they escaped by migrating to the West and their desire to be governed by legislation based on universal human rights. Unwitting endorsement of traditional Islamic law and practice, they have warned, could increase domestic violence and "honour crimes" to the levels in their countries of origin.

A parallel legal system exists in Malaysia, affording fewer rights and protections to Muslim women in the context of polygamy, divorce, custody and inheritance. Women's rights activist Marina Mahathir, daughter of Malaysia's former prime minister, has labelled this "a kind of apartheid, not based on skin colour but religion".

Non-Muslim women have benefited from progressive secular laws while Muslim women have been subject to increasingly restrictive sharia laws (a shift also observed in parts of Indonesia). For example, Malaysia's parliament passed amendments to family law that would have made polygamy and divorce easier for men. They were eventually rescinded in 2006 following a campaign by women's rights activist Zainah Anwar and her organisation Sisters in Islam; the cabinet subsequently decided to allow the attorney-general rather than the religious department to assert control.

Reformers in many Muslim countries are battling for repeal of discriminatory sharia laws they claim are based on a narrow, patriarchal reading of the holy texts and not in keeping with the egalitarian ideals inherent in authentic Islam. On a wider level, progressive Muslims recognise that international law and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights have precedence over religious considerations. These views were expressed in the Arab Human Development Report 2005, with the recommendation that Arab states remove sharia-related reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, particularly article two, which prescribes the principle of equality.

Quotas for women in legislative and political spheres also were advocated in the report.

These principles would appear to offer more advantages for Muslim women than traditional Islamic law and practice. In contrast, parallel sets of family law, sex discrimination in Islamic jurisprudence and growth in sharia law in neighbouring Muslim countries restrict women and could be troublesome for Australia.


More computer nonsense -- "centralizing" data services

How often have we heard that before? If it works at all it will cost a bomb

TAXPAYERS have been told a plan for federal government data centres will save up to $1 billion over 15 years, but according to the opposition, the target is farcical. Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner unveiled yesterday the whole-of-government strategy to centralise all procurement of data-centre services until 2025.

Instead of buying services directly, agencies would rely on a panel of data-centre suppliers, to be established by the end of the year, Finance spokesman John Sheridan said. "We aim to have the panel working by the end of this calendar year," he said. On whether the government would build its own data centres, Mr Sheridan said: "We intend to investigate the notion of government-owned data centres."

Tender documents would be issued in the third or fourth quarter to facilitate the selection process. The minimum floor space required by agencies will be 500sq m, with a lease period of 10 years and optional extensions of up to five years. The government spent about $850 million a year on data-centre services and occupied about 30,000sq m of floor space, equivalent to that of the big four banks combined, Mr Tanner said. He expected the footprint to hit 60,000sq m in "coming years".

"The government's data-centre equipment is not centralised," he said at a CeBIT data centre conference in Sydney. "It's spread across Australia, located in not just large enterprise data centres but also in cupboards, converted offices, computer and server rooms, and in commercial and insourced data centres. These are primarily older data centres that are reaching the limits of their electricity supply and floor space. With government demand for data centre ICT equipment rising by more than 30 per cent each year, it was clear that we needed to reassess how the government handled its data-centre activities."

Mr Tanner said $1bn could be saved through Labor's data centre reform program.

The government's green goal was to reduce the 300,000-odd tonnes of carbon its data centres generated each year to 260,000 tonnes annually over the next five years.

Government data centres have traditionally been in the ACT to be close to the corridors of power, but Mr Tanner said facilities outside the ACT would be considered.

The $1bn savings figure came from a review by British efficiency expert Peter Gershon, who investigated ways the government could slash technology and communications costs.

The data-centre strategy announced by Mr Tanner was based on a secret report prepared by the Australian Government Information Management Office. Opposition finance spokesman Barnaby Joyce took Labor to task for not actually delivering savings of $1bn.

"This is beyond bad, it's farcical," Senator Joyce said. "When they avoid the expenditure that's fine, but when we avoided the expenditure we apparently gutted the health budget. "Let's put their lexicon into their words and say they expect to gut the data-centre costs for $1bn over 15 years. And even when they're gutting these costs, it pales in comparison that in the last fortnight they've extended their gross borrowings by $2.1bn."

He said Labor's economic management was comical and tragic.

"These are definite signs of people who have never managed a business before in their lives . . . that they have no control on costs and then they grasp at straws by these nebulous statements of avoiding costs somewhere in the future, but the actual fact of where we are is just pandemonium," he said.

There was no proof in the AGIMO report as to where and how the cost "avoidance" would be achieved, because it was not publicly released. "That goes into the library of reports that the Labor Party has never released . . . just like the Henry tax review and the McKinsey-KPMG national broadband network implementation study."

A spokesman for Mr Tanner said the AGIMO data centre report could not be released because it was "commercial-in-confidence".


Grass is also Green

You may have heard of Peter Spencer, the desperate Australian farmer who went on a hunger strike to draw attention to the fact that government bans on clearing vegetation had stolen his assets and destroyed his business. Peter is just one of many Australian farm families reduced to desperation and even suicide by seizure or sterilisation of their land to satisfy the voracious green god.

The most massive injustice occurred a couple of years ago, when, as a sacrifice to the Kyoto god, the federal government conspired with state governments to ban vegetation clearing on all property, even freehold. This was done in an underhand way to allow the government to seize carbon credits from landowners without paying compensation.

Many well meaning people, while not happy with the tactics and the refusal to pay compensation for property seized or devalued, think that there will be some environmental or climate benefits to come from all this.

Generally there are none.

Even if extraction of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere was a good idea (and it isn't), no tree can keep extracting it on a long term basis. Every living thing (including trees, grass, cows and humans) borrows carbon from the environment as it grow, stops extracting it at maturity, and hands the valuable carbon back to the environment when it dies and the body rots. Net life time extraction equals ZERO. It is absolute scientific nonsense to believe that trees can have a long term effect on so called greenhouse gases. Like everything politicians touch, short term appearances and secret agendas are preferred to long term reality.

Banning the clearing of scrub regrowth in our grasslands is also a backward step environmentally. Everyone can see and understand tree forests, but no one appreciates the grass forests beneath their feet. Natural fires created our grasslands long before humans occupied Australia. They are valuable environmental landscapes far more important to humans than the stupid carbon credit forests and eucalypt weeds now invading them. With closer settlement and excessive areas locked up by governments, fires no longer protect our grasslands and landowners must use machinery to maintain their grass. Preventing this is like telling a market gardener he is not allowed to chip weeds invading his vegetable patch. Every landowner tries to guard the long term value of his land. No one has a monopoly on knowledge on how to do it. Some properties may need more trees, some less - if more trees are a benefit, landowners will grow them without coercion.

Does anyone seriously believe that a few green politicians and activists can devise one dictatorial land plan for every property from Longreach to Wagga and then use legal bludgeons, land confiscation and a desk bound bureaucracy to enforce the co-operation of landowners?

The Senate is currently carrying out an enquiry into some aspects of this massive land mismanagement. It is a bigger scandal than the home insulation scheme, and few politicians are free of blame. The Senate will be surprised at the injustices that will be revealed by this enquiry.

The Carbon Sense Coalition has (in some haste) made a Submission to this enquiry. We urge you to read it and print it out for friends. See it here


Mass immigration kills Australian culture, says demographer

With support from both conservatives and the Greens

TRADITIONS based on heritage, sporting culture and common language are threatened by mass immigration, a leading demographer has warned. Monash University population expert Dr Bob Birrell has said the huge influx of people with few or no English skills had created social problems in Melbourne suburbs such as Dandenong, Sunshine and Broadmeadows and most major cities were feeling the population strain, the Herald Sun Dr Birrell made the explosive comments in an article for Policy, a magazine published by the Centre for Independent Studies, a right-wing think tank. In a plea to the Rudd Government to slash the current immigrant intake of 180,000 a year, Dr Birrell warned that the predicted population of 35 million by 2050 would be a disaster for urban living and the environment. "One would have to wander deaf, dumb and blind through Australian capital cities to not notice how urban congestion has already reduced the quality of life," he said.

The intake dominated by people from non-English speaking backgrounds was transforming Australia, Dr Birrell said. "We are losing core elements of what was once shared. Almost all could once aspire to a house and land ... and sharing a common language, sporting culture and heritage," he said.

But mass migration was creating ethnic enclaves in suburbs with cheap housing, and planning rules were forcing Australian-born "losers" and non-English speaking background migrants to live in congested neighbourhoods, "cheek by jowl".

Kevin Rudd has made it clear that he believes in a big Australia. In a recent speech he declared that migration was "good for our national security, good for our long-term prosperity, good in enhancing our role in the region and the world".

But the Federal Opposition and the Greens said questions needed to be asked about Australia's immigration plans. Opposition immigration spokesman, Scott Morrison, told the ABC there should be an inquiry into how many people the nation can support. "It's about what the carrying capacity is," he said. "We need to get that perspective from regional areas as well as metropolitan areas, where issues of congestion and housing affordability are major problems as well as public transport.

"What's more important, is the process for planning. For example, the states and territories have no input into questions of immigration and migration intakes but they're the ones at the end of the day that have to service the needs that are created by it."

Greens Leader Bob Brown said there should be an independent national inquiry into Australia's population target. "So that politicians do have an idea of the carrying capacity of this country, its infrastructure, its ability to deal with those quite worrying projections of 35 million people by 2050," he said. "We've got to do better than just say well let it happen."

Other leading academics have also questioned the challenge that mass intake of migrants will pose. In their book Australia's Immigration Revolution, Andrew Markus, James Jupp and Peter McDonald agrue that while immigration "offers `the most immediate and simplest short term measure to deal with labour and skills shortages" it also comes with serious questions about social cohesion.

Prior to the 1950s 80 per cent of immigrants came from the United Kingdom. Between the 50s and the 1960s migrants from continental Europe became the majority.

After the abolition of the White Australia policy in the early 1970s the mixture of migration changed again. Today, the largest proportion of immigrants come from Asia and Oceania. China and India rival New Zealand and Britian as the biggest source of immigrants.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Of course the killing of Australian culture may be the intention. As the Americans have found, open borders leads to cheap labour and "divide and rule".