Sunday, March 06, 2016

Could there be an Australian Donald Trump?

Robert Gottliebsen

Don’t be shocked by the fact that Donald Trump is now the front runner for the Republican nomination for President of the United States of America.

Instead, understand the forces that have led to his rise and be aware that those same forces are building up here in Australia. In a few years, those forces could well cause either of our major political parties to take a radical turn away from the conventional approach to government.

The business community needs to understand that many of the basic assumptions now being embraced, such as globalisation, free-trade agreements, migration and bad behaviour on sharemarkets (start with shorting and legal insider trading), are now being challenged.

The main force driving support for Trump is that the US middle class is being hollowed out and salaries are not rising. Even worse many are losing their jobs and are being forced to take a salary cut to earn an income. And if the middle class is struggling, it makes it even tougher for low-income people.

At the same time, the whole population is watching appalling behaviour on Wall Street and believes that technology, globalisation and free-trade agreements are pushing the profit share of the US economy higher and higher. If you let that happen in a democracy, then expect a voter backlash. In the US it was simply a question of when and whether the backlash would come from the right or the left.

I have always believed that unless the current US hollowing out of the middle class was addressed, the voter backlash would radically change the presidency in either 2020 or 2024 and could usher in an era of US isolationism.

That still might be right, but we are watching Donald Trump brilliantly handle these issues blaming free trade and migration for destroying the American dream. Trump promises to make America great again.

Remember we are talking politics not whether Trump is right or wrong, so saying Trump is wrong or can’t achieve his goals is irrelevant. This is a sales pitch.

Just as importantly, Trump has isolated another force that may be just as powerful around the world — ordinary people both in the US, Australia and many other places are sick and tired of the political correctness that has infiltrated so many of government bodies and the media. When incomes and jobs were booming it was tolerated. Trump is probably the most ‘politically incorrect’ political aspirant the world has seen since Ronald Reagan.

He has therefore become a folk hero among a lot of people. That does not mean he will win. The Democrats’ Hillary Clinton is a conventional candidate and she is hot favourite to secure the presidency. However, she is already being drawn to the Trump line on issues like the abuses on Wall Street.

Fascinatingly, the Democrats number two candidate, like Trump, has pitched his campaign to appeal to those in the American middle and lower income levels who are being hit.

But whereas Trump’s remedies come from the right, Bernie Sanders remedies come from the hard left.

In the UK, the Labour Party is being led by the hard left, while in Germany the opposition against migration is coming from the hard right. These events are a perfectly predictable response to what is happening in those communities.

In Australia, both our major parties pursue conventional policies and are united on the refugee issue, although there are internal differences within both parties.

But if by 2019 there is still an Australian income recession and the free-trade agreements have not delivered benefits to the middle- and lower-income levels, then the party that loses the 2016 election might well embrace radical polices, either to the left or right. And the Greens have an eye to the gap.

The problem for the US, Australia and all developed countries is that technology is going to replace vast swathes of middle class jobs. Much of Australia’s posterity has come from migration but if we see the current income recession drag on, then Trump- or Sanders-type policies will become popular.

The Business Council is trying to get the government to lower company tax — an incredibly dangerous political move given the income recession and the fact that Australian corporate tax rates after franking credits are not way out of line. What would have been far more sensible for the Business Council in the current environment would have been to advocate allowing companies to start new ventures that are taxed at a lower rate but not to have the benefits of franking credits for the profits of those ventures.

And we are seeing private health premiums rise, which hits the middle class, because governments are simply lazy or incompetent and will not tackle the duplication and waste in the system.

The rise of Trump is an alert to everyone.


Xenophobia jeopardising foreign investment in Australia, Tourism Minister warns

The xenophobia is mostly coming from the ALP and its unionist supporters

Xenophobia could be jeopardising hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign investment needed by Australia, Tourism Minister Richard Colbeck has told the ABC.

Senator Colbeck, who is also the assistant minister for trade and investment, said he was "significantly concerned" about the negative rhetoric surrounding the recent sale of Tasmania's Van Diemen's Land farm to a Chinese buyer — particularly given the dairy giant has always been foreign-owned.

"Sending negative messages based on what can only be described as xenophobia really do concern me," he said.

Senator Colbeck said the one million Chinese tourists visiting Australia every year were taking that negative message home with them.

"One of the most frequent questions I get asked (by overseas interests) is 'are you genuinely serious about foreign investment because the rhetoric we hear in the community indicates something else'."

Senator Colbeck said large investors from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were questioning whether Australia genuinely welcomes foreign capital.

"When you are looking at people who are investing in sums of $100 million at a time they look very closely at where their money is going to go," he said.

"Obviously they want to get a return on it but those subtle differences (in sentiment) can be the difference in them investing here or other places and so our ability to grow our economy in the way we are looking to do it can be limited by us not being seen as a welcome place for foreign investment.

"We will need something in the order of a trillion dollars in foreign investment between now and 2050 [to be globally competitive]."

"So not only should we welcome foreign investment, but we need it."

Figures show that 1,000 jobs are created with every $1 billion of foreign money invested here, he said.
'44 cents in every tourism dollar spent in regional areas'

Senator Colbeck said the number of Chinese visitors to Australia rose 21 per cent in 2015 and their expenditure increased 45 per cent to reach a record $8.3 billion.

Overall, there were 6.9 million international visitors to Australia last year, 8 per cent higher than a year earlier, according to figures released today by Tourism Research Australia.

Total visitor expenditure climbed a record 18 per cent to a new high of $36.6 billion.

"One of the Government's priorities has been to encourage more investment and visitation in regional areas and I'm thrilled that the International Visitor Survey showed strong growth in regional tourism," Senator Colbeck said at the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARE) conference in Canberra.

"Forty-four cents in every tourism dollar is now spent in regional areas and our natural attractions are a key asset with visits to farms increasing by 14 per cent and visits to national or state parks increasing by 13 per cent.

"Visits to wineries increased by a massive 37 per cent, a key indicator that Tourism Australia's targeted marketing campaign, 'Restaurant Australia', has been successful in marketing our world class food and wine to the world.

"Australia's strong international education sector is also having a great impact on visitors.

"The total trip spend for education visitors increased by a huge 30 per cent for the year to $8.7 billion."


Journalist wins gender discrimination case against Islamic group

An Islamic group has been ordered to stop segregating men and women after a journalist won a gender discrimination case against it.

Journalist Alison Bevege had attended a lecture hosted by Hizb ut-Tahrir on October 10, 2014, but was forced to sit in women's-specific seating at the back of a venue in Lakemba, in Sydney's south west - so she sued the group and five of its members for sexual discrimination.

On Friday, the New South Wales Civil and Administrative Tribunal said the action was unlawful sexual discrimination, a decision welcomed by Ms Bevege, who told Daily Mail Australia it was a 'win for everyone - progressive muslims and non-muslims'.

In its finding, the tribunal ordered a member of the group to ensure attendees of further meetings were aware that segregated seating arrangements were not compulsory.

Ushers at such events also must be made aware and not instructed to enforce segregated seating.

Ms Bevege, who was 'really happy' with the outcome, said at the lecture she was made to sit with women, and she did not want to leave and give up the opportunity to ask questions at the end by arguing or leaving. 'I had to sit down the back like a second class citizen'.

She had attended the 'politics and plots of the American led intervention in Iraq and Syria' public lecture with the hopes of asking questions and writing an opinion piece, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

At the tribunal's hearing - which no representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir attended - it received documents which said Ms Bevege had not contested the seating and that she would have been allowed to sit with men if she asked.

The group's spokesperson, Ismail al-Wahwah, said the segregation - a 'fundamental consideration in Islam' - was so noisy children were at the back of the venue and did not distract from the lecture, and also so women and children were closer to exits in the case of an emergency.

Although the tribunal ruled against the Islamic group, it rejected a claim made by Ms Bevege for $100,000 compensation.

She had said the money would go to four charities, as she had not suffered financial loss or damage, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.


Pell says meeting with Australia abuse survivors was 'hard and honest'

Cardinal George Pell, a top adviser to Pope Francis, has vowed to help survivors of sexual abuse in his native Ballarat in Australia after meeting a dozen abuse survivors for more than two hours, which he described as "hard" and "emotional".

It came after four nights of intense questioning via video link by a royal commission in Australia that revealed he had never pursued rumours of clerical abuse by priests.

In his controversial testimony, Pell never wavered from his claim that he was kept in the dark about the abuse committed by one of the worst paedophile priests in recorded history, Gerald Ridsdale, even though other senior officials were aware of it. Some of his statements were deemed "completely implausible" by Gail Furness, the counsel who questioned him.

While the cardinal’s testimony was largely dismissed as "dishonest" by the group of survivors from Australia who travelled almost 10,000 miles to Rome to hear him testify, at least one said he believed Pell would help abuse survivors going forward, particularly in areas that required the church’s financial support. The commission is studying institutional responses to child abuse and the Catholic church has been the subject of an intense investigation.

Pell, who is considered one of the Vatican’s top officials and has oversight of the church’s finances, said after meeting the survivors: "I heard each of their stories and their suffering. It was a hard and honest and occasionally emotional meeting.

"We all want to try to make things better, actually and on the ground," Pell said in a statement that he read in front of journalists waiting for him at the Hotel Quirinale in Rome.

He also said he would work with a special Vatican commission to protect minors that was created by Francis in 2014. In Pell’s testimony, he seemed to have only passing knowledge of the committee’s work.


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