Friday, April 19, 2013

Like it or not, capitalism is the best way to help Australia grow and prosper as a nation

It might seem a trifle strange to some that the Labor Party describe people on incomes of $100,000 or more as "fabulously wealthy". Perhaps they have both forgotten that despite each of them earning twice that amount they nonetheless gave themselves a very hefty raise so they now collect about three times that or more. So now they are fabulously, fabulously, fabulously wealthy.

To add insult to injury, they declared moves they were making to shore up an out of control budget were really about making superannuation fairer. That might have been tolerable with some serious changes to superannuation but alas that was not to be.

It is no secret people at the top-income end of town have for some time been delighted - and perhaps even felt a little guilty - they have been able to take advantage of some superannuation opportunities introduced in the latter years of the Howard government. I do not have access to Treasury data, but anecdotally it seems these rules have ended up in practice being far more generous than intended. Quite why Labor hasn't chosen to limit these opportunities prospectively one can only be left to ponder. I think they should have.

I say prospectively because it has long been recognised that retrospective legislation is a bad thing. Instead Labor has, yet again, embarked on a "we'll attack the rich" campaign. This is just dumb, outdated politics. For starters when you keep attacking the truly wealthy they just take their factories, income, capital elsewhere. And the associated jobs disappear.

Like it or not, the capitalist system has been the greatest generator of income to lift people all over the world out of poverty. Under it some will get much richer than others. Without it the only ones who will get richer are the dictators and leaders. Constantly demonising those who end up richer just undermines, indeed attacks, the system itself.

If people make their money out of working harder, taking risks and being smarter we should celebrate their achievement. Attacking them as the hated "rich" is nothing more than the politics of envy.

The range of individuals and groups who survive off the capitalist system, even become enormously wealthy through it, and yet never say anything to defend it is a constant source of fascination to me. As an example of this one might look to the entertainment industry, where rock stars and movie moguls acquire mega wealth and yet all too few would ever defend capitalism.

Opponents of the capitalist system, with all its faults, have struggled to come up with something better. That's why they hang around in capitalist countries being critical rather than migrating to a place where socialism rules and things are much better. Maybe if such a nirvana existed they would head off to enjoy the fruits of their ideology. The trouble is the ideology when put into practice just doesn't bear fruit.

On the other hand, supporters of the system seem all too complacent. Every system needs support, replenishment and renewal. Sadly, every system has internal enemies as well. In the case of capitalism it is the shonks, crooks, cheats and ripoff merchants. Left alone, they will reproduce like a cancer.

Trouble starts brewing when people make money and few, if any, can see the fairness. There's no pretending that a profit means anything other than you are charging more for something than it cost you. Someone is paying more because you are providing what they want, or need, when and where they want or need it, at a price they are willing to pay. That's fair, because to achieve that requires skill, investment, effort and risk. That's the system.

Nonetheless, one can't help but get a sense that the population at large is uneasy at what they perceive to be a growing number of people making gains and even windfall ones, unfairly. The capitalist market place may well have delivered millions from poverty but, more and more, millions see it as the vehicle through which they will be ripped off. Caveat emptor (buyer beware) is as a principle fair enough. Sadly in today's world, people feel they have to exercise much more than normal, reasonable vigilance, otherwise they will be done over.

Let's take just a few examples. Confidence in the financial services sector is not what it could or should be. Product bundles in telecommunications have become so complex many mum-and-dad consumers just give up and stick with their current supplier. There is a growing sense that some chief executives and board members, while improving the shareholders' assets, have disproportionately improved their own positions.

Realistically, we accept that in all walks of life there are bad apples. We understand that the business community is not immune from that.

We should also understand that every time a bad apple gets away with a misdeed another cancer cell is implanted in the capitalist system.

My proposition, then, is this: to attack and undermine the capitalist system by setting "the rich" up as the enemy is dumb. To fail to deal with any cancer within is equally dumb, or dumber.


Council ban clouds Anzac Day memorial

Nillumbik Shire Council has caused fury by demanding Diggers pull down a banner promoting Anzac Day. Source: Supplied

A COUNCIL has caused fury by demanding that Diggers pull down a banner promoting Anzac Day.

The Montmorency-Eltham RSL got permission from a private land owner to erect the banner at the corner of Main Rd and Bridge St in Eltham.

But Nillumbik Shire Council gave the RSL 24 hours to pull it down.

"They told us they don't like signs on the corner," RSL sub-branch spokesman Alan Field said. "It's very disappointing and we are all up in arms over it.

"I was in disbelief when they told us. The council is not there to serve the community but there to punish us."

Victorian RSL branch chief executive Michael Annett said Anzac Day commemorations should be encouraged.

"It's disappointing that the Anzac Day ceremony is not allowed to be promoted, given other events are regularly advertised there," he said.

The dawn service in Nillumbik Shire attracts a crowd of more than 1000.

Mayor Cr Peter Perkins said council encouraged locals to attend by promoting the service on its website.

"Temporary signage and banners ... contravene the existing policy, which aims to protect the special significance of the Eltham gateway and its visual amenity," Cr Perkins said.

He said the decision would not be changed. The RSL had put banners in other areas where signs were permitted.

Nick McGowan, federal Liberal candidate for the seat of Jagajaga, said events had been advertised at the corner for at least 20 years and the council stance was shameful.

"This is what happens when bureaucratic stupidity takes over from common sense," he said. "It is a sign that encourages people to attend Anzac Day and I don't think anyone can object to that."


Queensland branch of the Medical Board of Australia faces axe

About time

THE State Government has taken an axe to the Queensland Board of the Medical Board of Australia, accusing it of putting Queenslanders at risk by allowing incompetent doctors to continue practising.

Health Minister Lawrence Springborg issued the 10 board members with a formal notice to "show cause" why they should be allowed to continue in their role.

They have 14 days to reply to a six-page legal letter which also accuses them of being "much more lenient in relation to medical practitioners than other regulated practitioners".

Mr Springborg said the board also ignored some cases and allowed "untenable" delays in investigating serious complaints.

The show-cause letters went to board members identified as acting chairman Dr Christopher Kennedy, associate professor David Henderson, associate professor Warwick Carter, Professor Richard Hays, Dr Nicola Murdock, Professor Tarun Sen Gupta and "community members" Fiona Chapman, Michael Clare, Peta Frampton and Terence Selva.

Mr Springborg acted after two reports tabled in Parliament revealed a "disturbing picture" of a complaints system that was broken.

A series of articles in The Courier-Mail highlighting the failings of state and federal watchdog agencies prompted two government inquiries.

Mr Springborg said the latest inquiry found that 363 of 596 files examined were not handled in a manner that was timely, appropriate or complied with legislative objectives.

The ousting of the board will be a triumph for former medical board investigator and whistleblower Jo Barber, who raised the alarm in The Courier-Mail last year.

She accused the board of shielding doctors and covering up complaints.

Her accusations sparked an inquiry by the Crime and Misconduct Commission which ended with lawyer Jeffrey Hunter recommending charges against six doctors he believed were criminally negligent.



by Peter Smith

Nobody with a life outside of “Greensville” cares very much anymore about climate change, earlier known as global warming. Do you even hear it now being discussed over cafe lattes in Balmain? No, you don’t. Only Tim Flannery and his alarmist ilk care. But political parties in Western democracies, as we have learnt to our great cost on the immigration front, have a life of their own, distant from the populace.

They have great moral purposes to pursue. Therefore governments of whatever complexion continue to pour billions of dollars of borrowed funds into schemes and businesses to support the production of inefficient energy. Nothing like this has happened before. We know that because industrial progress has largely been unremitting; built on cheap and progressively cheaper energy. Going backwards has not heretofore been favoured, if for no other reason than nasty nations, insistent on making progress, would have taken advantage, and invaded and subjugated their more primitive neighbours. And we know that because it regularly happened.

Is it possible that governments have collectively lost their senses? Yes, it is, when plagues of locusts or other pests in future years might effectively ground the ethanol-dependent US fleet and Air Force. Ditto here, if the Katter Party, aka, the Ethanol Party, has its way.

The risk to alarmists is that governments will catch up with the climate insouciance of their electorates and stop wasting money. Among other things, money will be saved by sacking people like Flannery and removing all of those research grants directed towards proving the undisprovable, which is that climate change does indeed exist and will eventually engulf our grandchildren in the most horrible of fates. Only research grants based on climate propositions which potentially can be shown to be false, in Popperian fashion, will be left standing; and few in number they will be.

What to do? The answer chosen by the alarmists is to become more alarmist in the hope of panicking the common man and woman or, at least, raising them from their torpor.

Hence we had Mr Flannery spruiking the latest report of the Climate Commission. He spoke of the angry summer; of 123 records broken; of it all taking us into new climate territory; and so on into what the PM might call hyper-bole. I don’t want to comment on this except to say that in Sydney I thought it was a very mild summer. Those who want a less personal, more scientific, debunking of Flannery’s flannelling might care to look at an excellent article in The Australian by Murray Salby, professor of climate at Macquarie University. He shows conclusively, so far as I can tell, as a non-scientist, that the summer just gone was unexceptional.

What does this all mean? In my view it means that alarmists seemingly have little affinity with the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This doesn’t mean that carbon dioxide is not warming the planet and thereby laying in store future grief. It means that snake-oil salesman are pushing the line and lessening our ability to find the truth. Let me give an instance from Flannery’s performance on the ABC’s 7.30 program.

Leigh Sales referred to figures showing that global temperatures had plateaued for the past 15 years or so. Flannery could have said, as did Dr Rajendra Pachauri when similarly challenged, that 15 years was too short a period to draw a conclusion or he could have tried to give some possible scientific reasons why the effect of CO2 emissions was being offset. Instead he chose to say that temperatures had not plateaued, but had continued to rise, when the temperature of “the oceans, the air and the land” are taken together. This is pure and simply sophistry at its most blatant and disgraceful. How can anything this man says be taken seriously after this?

If I were to suspend a solid body in a pan of water over a fire, the water would gradually heat as the hot air rose and transfer its heat to the surface of the solid body and, in turn, to the innards of the solid body. If I were to extinguish the fire I would expect the temperature of the whole mass of water and the solid body to continue to rise for a while. This is only my schoolboy physics or is it common sense?

In any event, the point at issue is not whether the temperature of the water and land are rising but whether CO2 emissions are materially heating the atmosphere. If the atmosphere cools or remains at a constant temperature for long enough in the face of rising CO2 emissions, it will be difficult to maintain the view that man-made global warming is a problem requiring the expenditure of billions of dollars and a resort to wholesale reliance on inefficient and unreliable green energy.

What is at stake is much too important to be the plaything of vested interests, fools or charlatans on either side of the argument.

According to Professor Salby, who I referred to above, the mean temperature in Australia in January this year was lower than in two previous Januaries during the time since 1979 when (accurate) satellite measurements have been available. And he notes that the summer from December to February “is even less remarkable”. If this is so, and it is surely verifiable, how can this summer be evidenced as being particularly untoward and “angry”?

We need people of objectivity and moderation in the climate arena, not snake-oil salesmen, if we are ever to get at the truth and put in place whatever practical and cost-effective action might possibly be called for; if in fact any such action is required.


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