Friday, May 26, 2017

New 50c coin commemorates Mabo and 1967 referendum

The events concerned were significant so it is not unreasonable to commemorate them but what about some centenaries that could have been commemorated?  In 1917 Lieutenant Frank Hubert McNamara became the first Australian airman to receive the Victoria Cross; in 1917  The two halves of the Trans-Australian Railway met; in 1917 The second plebiscite on the issue of military conscription was held and defeated. But who cares about old white guys and their history these days? 

But while we are on the subject, I might at least note what the 1967 referendum actually showed.  I am guessing that you won't see much discussion of that in the media.  For a start it showed a big majority (91%) of the population voting in favour of Aborigines.  So even in those days of inspissated darkness,  Australians were NOT generally racist in any sense.

But the second finding is more interesting.  Who were the blackguards who voted AGAINST Aboriginal recognition?  As Mitchell showed, they were the people who had most contact with Aborigines.  So dislike of Aborigines can be reality-based rather than based in any racist ideology.  Pesky!  Details here

The face of Eddie Mabo is etched into the newest 50 cent coin, as the Royal Australian Mint commemorates 50 years since the 1967 referendum and 25 years since the Mabo decision.

As well as the historic figure, the coin features Torres Strait Islander and Australian Aboriginal flags, and iconic pamphlets from the referendum.

Designed in collaboration with Eddie Mabo’s granddaughter, Boneta-Marie Mabo, the coin was unveiled in a ceremony at Old Parliament House.

Also attending the event was Minister for Indigenous Affairs Senator Nigel Scullion, and people who were involved in the 1967 referendum campaign.

Ms Mabo said she was proud to represent her family. "I am so honoured that the Royal Australian Mint invited me to work with them as an artist to design the coin and that they have given me the opportunity to be a part of such a nationally recognised celebration which means so much to me and my family," she said.

Royal Australian Mint CEO Ross MacDiarmid told SBS World News the anniversaries were two of the most significant events in Australian history.

"Once we realised that these things were coming together and it was also the start of the national reconciliation week it seemed obvious to us that we could create a coin that was going to be a recognising the significance of both of those occasions," he said.

He hopes when people come across the coin they will "stop and reflect on what message might be associated with that coin."

Four million of the coins will be released into circulation at buildings in Canberra, such as the National Library, the National Portrait Gallery and Parliament House, and from there they will make their way around the country.


ABC axes Yassmin Abdel-Magied's Australia Wide program

The ABC is axing the program hosted by Yassmin Abdel-Magied a month after the television presenter and activist sparked outrage over her Anzac Day comments.

Australia Wide is set to be shelved in the coming weeks as part of the national broadcaster's sweeping restructure. As well as programming changes, as many as 200 jobs are being slashed in order to reinvest $50 million a year back into regional and online content.

Abdel-Magied has hosted Australia Wide since 2016. Last month, the presenter courted controversy after publishing an Anzac Day Facebook post that suggested Australians should also remember the suffering of refugees on Manus Island and Nauru.

The retribution was swift and brutal, with many accusing the part-time ABC presenter of politicising a day designed to remember those killed defending their country.

At the time, an ABC spokesman stood by Abdel-Magied – arguing her views do not belong to the national broadcaster. However, as part of the ABC's ongoing restructure, staff were recently told it is time for Australia Wide to go.

Sources inside the ABC told Fairfax Media that management were using the the axing of the community-focused program as a convenient opportunity to show Abdel-Magied the door, or at least minimise her on-screen time


Energy costs threaten manufacturing in Australia

Predictions of the demise of manufacturing in Australia as the economy slowly becomes more service oriented are increasingly widespread. The reason – we are told – has mostly been an uncompetitive labour cost structure. We just can’t make stuff as cheap and as quickly as they can in China, Vietnam or India.

But there are two problems with this. First, manufacturing is far from dead and remains our fifth largest employer: more than double the entire financial, insurance and property sector. The second is that it may no longer be labour costs but something else that could threaten the viability of our manufacturing sector.

That something is energy and the cost of it. Only 20 years ago or so, Australia enjoyed some of the cheapest energy costs in the developed world. Now they are among some of the highest and most worrying is that they are predicted to continue to escalate well beyond inflation. Some hawks are even suggesting prices may double within the decade.

Responding to this is going to mean much more than turning off a few domestic lights at night or switching to energy save mode in the office. A bit like the city kid who hasn’t seen a cow and doesn’t know this is where milk comes from, we city slickers can easily get detached from the bigger reality – and in terms of energy consumption in Australia, the reality is that domestic and commercial are not the major consumers.

Manufacturing – our fifth largest industry – consumes nearly a quarter of energy in the country: more than double the entire residential sector and more than the entire residential and commercial sectors combined. This graph from the Office of the Chief Economist spells it out:

Transport is the largest consumer of energy (chiefly fuel) while in manufacturing it is chiefly electricity. What produces electricity is mainly coal, although renewables are fast on the rise (subsidised as they are for the time being). The graph below courtesy Origin Energy data shows generation by energy source:

So here’s the problem. In public policy and media discussion, much of the debate over energy costs seems to revolve around domestic and perhaps also commercial considerations. The cost of cooling or heating the home, the cost of appliances, even the cost of leaving the TV on at the wall occupy our minds and our thinking and much of the policy debate in the daily media. The answers, we are told, rest in renewables and as a nation we seem happy to embrace them: roof top solar for example was adopted quickly (many of us due no doubt to a mix of environmental responsibility plus a desire to break free from the power companies). We seem content with policies which cast coal fired power as the enemy and renewables as our saviour, without much question on the wider economic impacts beyond "will I still be able to have the lights on and fridge running?"

Where is the national debate about how rapidly rising electricity costs may cripple our fifth largest employer in manufacturing? There are countless stories of significant innovation in manufacturing where even our high labour costs haven’t been the death blow we’ve been told. Away from the trendy inner city coffee shops, energy costs – more specifically the cost of electricity – are becoming a bigger and bigger concern for these businesses and enterprises involved in manufacturing.  It would be criminal in a public policy sense if our national energy policy was more finely tuned to the sensitivities of the inner urban greenie doing their bit for sustainability by growing some zucchini plants in a broccoli box on their balcony, while the industries that power one in four jobs are left out of the debate.

I am not full of hope. The recent Federal Budget announcement of an inland freight line from Melbourne to Brisbane (hoo-ray by the way!) met with a suggestion from The Green’s Sara Hanson-Young that the steel used should be Australian, and preferably from Whyalla. ""If you care about the steel industry, then make sure Government money is being spent on Australian steel and give those steelworkers in Whyalla actually something to smile about," she said.

Well yes. Except for one thing. Making steel is massively energy hungry. To do so, you not only need loads and loads of reliable energy, but the cost of energy is critical. Increase that cost and making steel becomes uneconomic. Massively so. Plus, Whyalla is in South Australia. Their experiments with renewables and reliability to date have hardly been stellar. What do the likes of Sara Hanson-Young have in mind? A solar powered steel smelter?

The energy source that once powered energy hungry industries like steel manufacturing is coal. And coal is very much on the nose, especially with The Greens but also the wider community too. The logical connection between the cost of replacing coal with renewables and the cost and viability impact that will have not just on steel but right across the manufacturing spectrum, seems to rate little thought.

If we are to make this energy transition, we need to have a sensible debate about the impacts on industry and how they can handle that transition without suffering needless economic hardship. Otherwise, yet more might look at closing their Australian operations and head for more cost friendly markets. Letting that happen without at least trying to prevent it would be economically reckless in every sense of the word.


What Australia can learn from Donald Trump’s first budget

Behind the rhetoric that dominates President Trump’s budget — lower taxes, higher defence spending and medicare cuts — is an incredibly valuable lesson for Australia. It is possible to slash government duplication and waste to bring national budgets under control.

One of the biggest money raising exercises proposed by President Trump comes from embracing what I call "the Andrew Robb strategy" of redefining what governments should do.

Robb proposed this when he was shadow finance minister but when Tony Abbott won the subsequent election Robb was given the trade portfolio and redefining government and cost reduction was shelved.

We went on administrative spending sprees and instead of ending duplication with the states we increased it. By expanding the ministry we created jobs for the faithful and blamed the Senate for cuts not passed.

As we all know, the Trump’s administration has a deep element of chaos and his budget is even more speculative than the Australian budget. Vast amounts of the US public service administrative jobs have not been filled so it’s easy to announce measures and another to implement them.

Nevertheless the strategy has clear application for Australia. Let me share with you a few extracts: "Deficit spending has become an ingrained part of the culture in the Nation’s capital.

It must end to avoid passing unsustainable levels of debt on to our children and grandchildren and causing serious economic damage.

"When debt levels keep increasing, more and more of the nation’s resources are required to service that debt and are diverted away from Government services that citizens depend on.

"To help correct this and reach our budget goal in 10 years, the Budget includes $US3.6 trillion in spending reductions," Trump says.

Back to my words. Almost half that $US 3.6 trillion or $1.4 billion comes from reorganising government and applying what Trump calls the "two-penny plan" to non-defence discretionary spending. Previously he used the term "draining the swamp". Those "two penny" programs are separate from social services and medicare payments.

The "2-penny plan" involves reducing non-defence budget authority by two per cent each year, to reach approximately $385 billion in 2027, or just over 1.2 per cent of GDP. Trump admits that "this reduction may seem steep, but the strict and disciplined discretionary policies (already proposed in the budget blueprint) will serve as a down payment on the out-year reforms the Administration will unveil, as it seeks to downsize the mission of the non-defence discretionary budget in the coming years".

In addition Trump proposes comprehensive overhaul to the US tax code to make it simpler, fairer, and more efficient "Our out-dated, overly complex, and burdensome tax system must be reformed to unleash America’s economy," he says.

Compared to Australia the US tax system is simple. The amount of money the US plans to spent on the non-defence discretional spending does not fall all that dramatically but there is little growth. Currently the Australian government and opposition do not take these sorts of issues seriously. We may struggle out of our problems in the way proposed by the Treasurer. But if he is wrong and the opposition comes to government and makes the situation worse then we will have a crisis. To solve the problem either a right or left wing government (you do not have to be right wing) can turn to the Andrew Robb plan or the "2-penny plan" of the US.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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