Monday, February 03, 2014

Tony Abbott proves liberal economic credentials with SPC decision

I WAS there the day Tony Abbott insulted a marquee-full of economists.  It was two and a half years ago and Tony Abbott was speaking at a lunch organised by the Melbourne Institute attended by some of the country's top public and private sector economists, including his now boss of Treasury Martin Parkinson.

Asked why most economists believed in a market-based solution to climate change, rather than his own Direct Action scheme, Abbott replied: "Maybe that's a comment on the quality of our economists rather than on the merits of argument."


It wasn't the first time Abbott had expressed disdain for economists:  "I have never been as excited about economics as some of my colleagues. I find economics is not for nothing known as the dismal science," he said in an interview in 2003.

But it should not be forgot that Australia's Prime Minister does, in fact, have a degree in economics from the University of Sydney.

And it seems like he has finally decided to use it.

Abbott pinned his free-market colours to the mast at an important speech at Davos earlier this month - the premier annual gathering of the world's economic and business elite.

The former Roman Catholic seminarian urged attendees to become "missionaries for freer trade" and fight protectionism whenever and wherever it may raise its ugly head.

Free trade was a well-trodden path to wealth creation, he explained. "Over time, everyone benefits because, in a global economy, countries end up focusing on what they do best. A more global economy with stronger cross-border investment eventually helps everyone because it generates more wealth and ultimately creates more jobs."

And, as it turns out, Australia is not very good at canning fruit.

Putting his words into action, Abbott last week successfully stared down a three hour bid in cabinet by Nationals colleagues to secure a $25 million taxpayer handout for the embattled fruit cannery, SPC Ardmona.

Free trade and the rigours of globalisation are perhaps the primary reason why SPC's factory - which must pay far higher wages than in competitor countries - is unprofitable. That, and it seems Australians don't much fancy tinned fruit any more.

SPC's cannery in Shepparton employs about 3,000 workers, but it has been operating at a loss of more than $400 million in recent years, according to local Liberal member Sharman Stone.

It's only natural to worry about the loss of Australian jobs.

But a job in an unprofitable company is a job already lost.

The premier will hold crisis talks with S.P.C Ardmona.. after the federal government rejected the fruit processing giant's bid for a bailout

The only way to create jobs is through the efforts of profitable companies.

As Abbott told Davos attendees: "You can't have strong communities without strong economies to sustain them and you can't have strong economies without profitable private businesses."

"After all, government doesn't create wealth; people do, when they run profitable businesses."

Has Abbott finally revealed himself as a true economic Liberal, willing and able to hold the line against the Nationalist impulses of his own party to protect failing businesses?

I hope so. His government's rejection of a foreign investment take over of Graincorp by a US food conglomerate was not a promising start.

But last week's decision, combined with the previous decision to stop handouts to Holden, marks an important line in the sand.

Abbott has signalled clearly that the era of rent-seeking businesses going cap in hand to government to plaster over the weaknesses in their business case is over.

Of course, Abbott's admission that we are not very good at tinned fruit raises an obvious question: what are we good at?

It's a question we need to ask ourselves again and again.

Turns out, we're good at plenty of things, not least being blessed with significant mineral wealth and a climate suited to cultivating a range of agricultural pursuits.

Our highly skilled and educated workforce is also great at delivering professional services, like accounting, banking and legal services.

And we're not too shabby at making some things too.

About 200 kilometres down the Hume Highway from Shepparton, a Melbourne based firm is manufactures high tech parts that are exported to Boeing for use in its aeroplane wings.

As Reserve Bank governor, Glenn Stevens, said recently: "I don't think we're in that space because we're cheap labour - they're good at it. They have excellent innovation and technology, and I can't see why there isn't a future for various kinds of manufacturing like that."

Abbott has declared Australia is "open for business" and this week's decision adds an important caveat. Australia is only open for one type of business: the profitable kind.

Economists would approve.


Australian voters' support for republic hits 20-year low.  Monarchy still strongly favoured

Increasing publicity in recent years for two very popular Princes  -- William and Harry -- has no doubt helped.  Duchess  Kate has been a big help too

Backing for an Australian republic has collapsed to a 20-year low, with just 39.4 per cent of Australians saying they support a republic.

Support was lowest among older Australians and Generation Y voters, with people aged 35 to 65 most supportive of Australia abandoning the monarchy.

An exclusive ReachTEL poll of more than 2100 Australians, conducted on Thursday night for Fairfax, shows 41.6 per cent oppose the country becoming a republic, and 19 per cent had no opinion on the issue.

Australians for a Constitutional Monarchy national convener David Flint said the findings were a "time bomb" for the republican movement, with support among 18 to 35 year olds at 35.6 per cent. More people in this age bracket oppose a republic than support it. Only people aged over 65 had a lower rate of support (30.7 per cent) for Australia becoming a republic.

"That is a time bomb, I believe, for republicans, because you don't have that investment for the future," Professor Flint said.

Not only were young people uninterested in a republic, he believed, they were favourable to the monarchy partly because of the star power of the "young royals", Princes William and Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.

But Geoff Gallop, chairman of the Australian Republican Movement, said: "Polls will come and go, but we've been encouraged by the support we've been getting, and our campaign will continue." Mr Gallop said higher support for a republic among Generation X and baby boomer voters could be explained by them having participated in the 1999 referendum, and remembering the 1975 constitutional crisis.

The poll was conducted less than a week after Prime Minister Tony Abbott named General Peter Cosgrove as the next governor-general, the Queen's representative in Australia. Mr Abbott said he could "not think of a better person" to fill the governor-general role than General Cosgrove. "Throughout his life, he has demonstrated a commitment to our country and a commitment to service," Mr Abbott said. "He has given service of the very highest order to our country. I am confident that in this new role he will continue to deliver to a grateful nation leadership beyond politics."

General Cosgrove was roundly endorsed by male voters in the ReachTEL poll, with 61.9 per cent of men saying the decorated veteran was a better choice than Quentin Bryce. Ms Bryce, who five years ago became the first female governor-general, is due to retire next month.

Women were more supportive of Ms Bryce, with 47.4 per cent saying she was a better governor-general, compared with 52.6 per cent of women supporting General Cosgrove.

In November, Ms Bryce used the final Boyer lecture of the year to publicly support the push for Australia to become a republic. Ms Bryce said she hoped the nation would evolve into a country where same sex marriage was legal, "and where perhaps, my friends, one day, one young girl or boy may even grow up to be our nation's first head of state".

At the time, Mr Abbott, a staunch monarchist, said: "It's more than appropriate for the Governor-General, approaching the end of her term, to express a personal view."

According to the ReachTEL poll, women were less likely to support Australia becoming a republic (with 36 per cent support) than men (with 43 per cent support).


Australian Trust In Government Is Suddenly Rising Faster Than Anywhere In The World

Mr Abbott take a bow

Australians are generally a more trusting lot than other nationalities, according to the global Edelman Trust Barometer out today.  This is led by a 30 per cent jump in people trusting government while the rest of the world looks down.

But when it comes to politicians, the leaders of government, Australians just can’t bring themselves to believe they tell the truth.

The Edelman Trust Barometer, which studies 27,000 people in 27 countries each year, shows Australia is moving against trend with a rebound in trust.

Globally, trust in government has fallen to an historic low of 44 per cent from 48 per cent.

But in Australia increased trust in the institution of government is up 13 percentage points to 56 per cent.

However, three in five Australians (60 per cent) do not trust government leaders to tell the truth regardless of how complex or unpopular it is.

And two in five Australians (40 per cent) do not trust government leaders to make ethical and moral decisions.

Michelle Hutton, chief executive officer for Edelman Australia, says that prime minister Tony Abbott was rebuilding trust and business confidence when he announced Australia was “open for business”.

“While this year’s results (Edelman Trust Barometer) paint a rosy picture for government and business, expectations are high and, as recent history has shown us, Australians have a low tolerance for leaders that fall short of what was promised,” she says.

And building trust can mean business success as well as doing better at the polling booth, says David Brain, the President and CEO of Edelman Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa.

“We’re found that trust has a consistent meaning in all languages,” he told Business Insider Australia.

He says trust for a business means money, with customers buying more goods or services, recommending to friends and being prepared to pay a higher price.

“We always ask the question: Do you trust them to do the right thing?”

This year, Australian results reveal an average increase in trust across all government, business, non government institutions and the media, rising by eight points among the informed public to 58 per cent.


Trust in business has hit its highest level since the Edelman Trust Barometer started covering Australia in 2009, rising 11 points to 59 per cent among the informed public.

Australians now expect business to play a much bigger role around the debate and design of regulation, with 73 per cent believing government should not be working alone when setting policy.

Despite increasing confidence in business and its role in broader society, Australians largely want government to apply greater scrutiny on the private sector.

According to the Barometer, almost half (47 per cent) claim the financial services industry does not have enough regulation, while 58 per cent want increased regulation on the energy sector.

Ms Hutton said:

    “It has typically fallen under the remit of government to create the context for change. Today, people expect businesses to play a bigger role in shaping a positive future, trusting business to innovate, unite and deliver across borders, but as the Edelman Trust Barometer reveals, only under the watchful eye of government. CEOs must now go beyond their operational remit to become chief engagement officers, educating the public about the context in which their business operates.”

Small Business

Australians show a preference for family-owned (76 per cent) and small to medium-size enterprises (67 per cent), trusting these types of businesses to do what is right.

Less than half (42 per cent) said the same of big business, demonstrating the continued support Australians show for local businesses.


Australian army in the grip of homosexual correctness


In what may come as a surprise, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) is now prohibiting Christian soldiers from practising their faith, even when not in uniform or on duty. It was certainly a surprise to me — not so much because I have served this nation while being a practising Catholic for more than 16 years, but because it was written in black and white in a letter from the Chief of Defence Force (CDF), General David Hurley. It was titled Notice to Show Cause for Termination of Appointment.

These are the exact words that the highest-ranking military officer in Australia signed off on last August:

“I respect your religious beliefs and your right to have, and express, opinions contrary to ADF and Government policy. However your public articulation of these matters whilst a member of the Army Reserve, whether or not you are on duty, or in uniform, undermine my confidence in your ability to uphold the values of the Australian Army and your effectiveness as a leader in today’s Army.”

In a more recent letter, the CDF stated that he accepted I had served well since 1997 in both permanent and part-time capacities. He also acknowledged that I had performed well on operations, received the US Meritorious Service Medal, was a competent officer with Arabic skills, reported well, was cordial in the workplace and had been cleared by Defence in both administrative and disciplinary investigations.

Unfortunately, it was in a letter titled Termination of Service Decision. In it, the CDF concluded my retention was not in the Army’s interests.

My crime was not to perform badly in the workplace. In fact, the ADF has not allowed me to participate in any Defence activities for a year because the leadership believe my personal political activities to protect the right of Christian schools not to hire homosexual teachers are offensive. Therein lies my sin: I have offended the Defence Force Gay and Lesbian Information Service (DEFGLIS).

The fact that this organisation exists probably comes as a surprise to many, and quite possibly a shock. It has been given command of Australian soldiers speech, even when out of uniform, and Defence flies its members to international military conferences promoting homosexuality. It campaigns politically to remove freedoms and funding from Christian schools, with the specific aim of forcing them to hire homosexuals. But it does not just confine itself to that issue. The DEFGLIS Chairman, Squadron Leader Vince Chong, appeared before a parliamentary committee to support homosexual marriage. He was given this opportunity precisely because of his role leading this Defence-backed lobby group. He even received a Defence Force commendation, not because he was good at his job, but for his activities managing DEFGLIS and its political campaigns.

How times have changed since I signed up as a bright-eyed and cheery teenager to serve this nation. When I joined to protect the freedom that Australians enjoy, I never imagined facing the sack because I expressed Catholic beliefs that a not-yet-formed, Defence-supported, homosexual lobby group would find disagreeable.

The only reason that DEFGLIS has such an influence over my career is because the ADF has allowed itself to become politicised and politically correct. Defence leadership have formed the view that wherever there is a clash between Christian values and homosexual political activism, the latter will prevail. Christian members can serve today, but only if they are silent. Going by this trend, chaplains will be pulled tomorrow. By Friday next week, Christians will be banned, around the same time it becomes compulsory to wear the Army’s new cufflinks that proudly display the revered Rising Sun emblazoned over a rainbow backdrop.

OK,  I’m kidding about the timeline — but I do not jest about the Army’s new and freely issued jewellery. The cufflinks came out late last year, the same day The Australian reported the ADF had briefed the new Abbott government about a funding shortage.

There is no greater example of this politicisation than in the ADF’s decision to allow uniformed participation in the Mardi Gras (below). This permission grants homosexual members dispensation from rules that all other ADF members must follow regarding political activity and unacceptable behaviour. Defence policy on political activity clearly states that members are entitled to join political parties and express political views, but not as Defence members. Uniformed political activity is rightly banned. That means that I can campaign against homosexual marriage, but not in uniform. Nor can I presume to speak on behalf of Defence while doing so.

However, DEFGLIS has not only convinced the CDF that my personal activities in that regard are homophobic, but that I should lose my commission as a result. But that is not the extent of the problem. The constitution of the Sydney Mardi Gras states clearly that a key object of the parade is political activity. Defence personnel marched, in uniform, with Labor, the Greens, Australian Marriage Equality and even the Wikileaks Party, who were campaigning for Julian Assange, the man holed-up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London for releasing classified documents. Conservative parties and politicians are routinely and roundly  ridiculed and abused by the Oxford Street paraders. It is blatant hypocrisy for the ADF to tell Christian members that they cannot conduct private political activity, while allowing homosexuals the opportunity to campaign in uniform.

Unfortunately, despite concerns over this politicisation, this is not the greatest problem with uniformed involvement at the Mardi Gras. There is currently a Royal Commission into child sexual abuse. Defence is hypersensitive to sexual scandals. Yet it allowed homosexual members to march in solidarity with groups whose official Mardi Gras description informed the public that they were sexual perverts. Soldiers marched with groups of almost entirely naked men who performed lewd, sexual acts in front of watching children. It is a breach of ADF computer usage policy simply to view the official Mardi Gras website. Its image gallery shows photographs of Defence personnel alongside pornographic images of other Mardi Gras participants.

I detailed graphic evidence of this in an internal Defence complaint, highlighting that ADF policy forbids sexually explicit activity in its workplaces, activities or social functions. I also presented evidence that Defence insulted Christians by marching with homosexuals carrying signs stating ‘Jesus is Gay’. However, this was trumped by a one-page, unformatted complaint DEFGLIS lodged against me, alleging that I was homophobic.

The DEFGLIS complaint was elevated to a high-level investigation under Defence (Inquiry) Regulations 1985. My 26-page document was dismissed on the basis that I had provided no evidence. In the new age world, pictorial evidence that Defence personnel supported homosexuals engaging in sexually explicit behaviour in front of children is trumped by allegations of homophobia. Months later, via Freedom of Information, I discovered that Defence’s only comment on my evidence was that it would not be good for PR if personnel marched with groups carrying signs stating “Mohammad is Gay”.

I was also charged with 12 counts of breaching military law. The logic was that I had brought the military into disrepute by pointing out that its members marched in a sexually explicit parade.

Although Defence disciplinary and administrative investigations eventually cleared me of all wrong doing, it is of little comfort. The CDF is pursuing termination of my commission anyway. In the same letter in which he limited my rights to practise my faith, General Hurley wrote that rather than placing any “significant weight” on whether or not I had “technically breached” Defence law or policy, he would give greater weight to his own view that I was demeaning of homosexuals, transgender persons and women. This was even though a Defence inquiry had cleared me of those allegations, as put forward by DEFGLIS.

I wish to continue serving in the Australian Army. I am proud of my service and of what our military should be. I do not intend to lose this battle, but I also believe in Divine Providence. To paraphrase the words of the great American comedian, Bob Hope, the ADF has just made homosexual political activity legal, maybe it’s better I’m kicked out before it becomes compulsory.


1 comment:

Paul said...

I suppose I'm meant to object but I have to agree with him. I want a military that fights wars and defends this country, not one that flounces in a big Gay parade. The pendulum has swung way too far on so many issues now. I'd love to know just who is doing the pushing because it seems calculated to divide, which implies someone wishes to rule from within the division. Honestly, there's so many self-absorbed Gays who can't seem to look past there own vanity and contrived "pride".