Tuesday, January 01, 2019

Britain is now getting "boat people" too

Australia and Britain are both surronded by seas, which is a substantial barrier against illegal immigration.  The barriers concerned beat Mr Trump's wall by a mile.

But for years various mainly Muslim illegals streamed into Australia by boat and were generally referred to as "boat people".  Australia put up with that for a while but the Australian navy  now intercepts the boats and sends the would-be migrants back whence they came. 

So it is ironic that Britain too is now receiving illegal immigrants by boat.  The Royal Navy is a formidable force so with a bit of political will Britain's boat people could be stopped too

British interior minister Sajid Javid says the fast-growing number of would-be immigrants crossing the English Channel from France in dinghies is a "major incident".

Nearly 70 people have been intercepted in the past three days as they try to reach England by crossing one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

Javid is also seeking an urgent call with his French counterpart over the weekend, his ministry said.

"He has insisted the Home Office treat the situation as a major incident and has ... asked for daily updates," it said in a statement on Friday.

It added that Javid wants to ensure everything possible is being done to deter migrants from attempting the dangerous crossing, "amid concern that it is only a matter of time before people lose their lives".

The Member of Parliament for Dover on England's southeast coast, Charlie Elphicke, has called for more government funding to deal with the arrivals and the Home Office said Javid has asked border officials to look at options for bringing in extra patrol ships.


Australia's latest export: Chinese wedding photos

Lina Xing and Wei Jiang have travelled more than 8,000 kilometres from their hometown in Nanjing in China’s north, to Sydney. They're not here for a sightseeing trip, but a 'pre-wedding' photo shoot.

On a warm summer’s day, the young couple smile as a photographer captures them posing in front of one of the world’s most iconic locations; the Sydney Opera House.

They're not yet married, but Lina is in her wedding dress and Wei, his suit.  "I’ve always wanted to travel to Australia," Ms Xing told SBS News. "It’s also a good opportunity to go on holidays."

Her fiancée agrees. "Firstly, Australia is a very beautiful country. I've always wanted to travel here. Also, I have a few friends who live in Australia so I can use this opportunity to visit them. And I can enjoy the beautiful scenery here."

They’re part of a growing number of Chinese couples flocking to Australia to use its picturesque landmarks as a backdrop for photo shoots conducted before their wedding day.

Unlike wedding photos in Western countries, they are taken in China before the special day to be displayed prominently at the wedding reception and posted on social media. It allows the couple to spend more time on their wedding day with guests, rather than sneaking away for photos.

In a country with a new rich generation, the images serve as a symbol of status, and couples spend big for the day-long photo shoots which involve several locations and outfit and hairstyle changes. 

A standard package costs $5,000 for the day; add on flights and accommodation and couples spend upwards of $8,000.

For Mr Jiang, it’s a price he’s willing to pay. “I think it’s worth it because actually, it doesn’t cost that much also because now China's economy is going really well."

Australian businesses are reaping the rewards of the high-value market.

Sydney-based wedding photographer Robert Wen has run Pepper Images for over 15 years. He says when he first started working in the industry he only had domestic clients but these days the majority of his bookings are from couples in Asia.

"In the last three years, we see demand increasing from overseas especially from China, Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong," he said.  "Young couples are willing to travel to Australia get the pre-wedding shots. I personally think it's a side effect of the Chinese economy booming."


Shorten risks causing the greatest havoc by sticking by his promises

What sort of a prime minister would Shorten be? What sort of a government would he lead? Would a switch to Shorten Labor “change the country”, as Paul Keating once unsuccessfully warned about changing governments?

The Canberra press gallery and media-political class tend to betray their green-left bent and messiah complex by anointing every Labor leader as the next big thing. Kim Beazley, Simon Crean, Mark Latham, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard were all going to shake up the nation for the better, apparently. None of them did.

Perhaps the most encouraging portent for Shorten is that the commentariat is less ebullient about him than they were for Latham, Rudd or Gillard. The gallery loves the “vision thing” and craves charisma, and Shorten is a little less woke, a more mundane saviour, in the vein of Beazley or Crean, who were both sensible but lacked cut-through.

Shorten has proved to be a disciplined campaigner and pragmatic leader who operates within the confines of ALP orthodoxies.

As a union man — a machine man — he is unlikely to run his own race in the way Rudd did, to the great detriment of his party, the nation and his own career.

Under Shorten it is hard to ­imagine we would see the perpetual personal indulgence of Rudd: the 2020 ideas summit; the bizarre essay decrying capitalism; the moral crusade over climate change; the grandiose and counter-productive diplomatic flourishes such as lecturing the Chinese, in China, in Mandarin; and, most damaging, the panicked, overblown and mismanaged stimulus response to the global fin­ancial crisis.

Rather, as prime minister, we might expect Shorten to subject his every decision for the approval of cabinet, caucus, the ALP nat­ional executive and his old comrades at the ACTU. The policy implications of this might not be reassuring but it should make him steadier — less mercurial — than Rudd.

This points to the core concern with Shorten — and it provides a complete contrast to the flaws we saw from his recent Labor and Liberal predecessors. Rudd, Gillard and Tony Abbott undercut their standing by breaking promises: Rudd promised to be an economic conservative but was the opposite; Gillard specifically ruled out a carbon tax, then snuck one in; Abbott promised to keep his promises, then broke his word, including by increasing personal income tax.

By contrast, Shorten could wreak the most havoc by keeping his promises. He deserves credit for being upfront and honest about his intentions to increase taxes, ­increase spending and enact ­energy policies that will put ­upward pressure on energy prices (even if he does not concede this point), but the prescription could be highly damaging.

While voters are crying out for governments and leaders who are as good as their word, as prime minister it would be best if the former union leader pulled back on his more worrying ambitions.

Just as the nation enters its first year of having the budget back in the black, Shorten’s spending plans would jeopardise the ­surplus. Just as the nation was set on a path of lower taxes for personal incomes and companies, Shorten Labor would increase taxes on housing investment, ­personal incomes and retirement income.

Just as the nation was realising the primacy of reliability and ­affordability in the electricity market, Shorten Labor would double down on the climate-driven, subsidised renewable energy crusade, creating more uncertainty and ­increasing price pressures but doing nothing for the planet as global emissions continue to rise.

An increase in labour market regulation, reversal of weekend penalty rate reductions and reintroduction of sector-wide ­industrial bargaining could hamper investment and dampen jobs growth.

A union movement veto on major economic decisions could entrench a retreat from three ­decades of economic reform, dating from the Hawke-Keating Labor years.

Overall, we might see a sclerosis across the economy, but more expansion of the size and reach of government. Perhaps this would not so much change the country as accelerate some of our most worrisome trends.

Away from the economy we might see a tsunami of political correctness and identity politics, from eradicating gender on birth certificates to shunning the study of Western civilisation at universities. Again, this would be nothing new, just an acceleration of regrettable trends.

Shorten’s record and background suggest he should be ­reliable on the US alliance and strategic and security issues, ­despite constant pressure from the ALP’s socialist left factions.

We can only hope that the retro­grade steps in economic management and progressive-minded tendencies in social policy are tempered by Shorten’s pragmatic and disciplined instincts for survival and success. Otherwise we will need to wait for a corrective from the Coalition side that it has failed to grasp in government.

Eventually the conservative side of politics will coalesce confidently ­around the values and imperatives that matter. But, just now, that seems too far away.


No more stop/go: How we killed off Australia's inflation problem

Before we let 2018 go, do you realise it’s the 25th anniversary of the introduction of the Reserve Bank’s target to achieve an inflation rate of between 2 and 3 per cent? It’s a milestone worth celebrating.

Why? Because it’s worked so well. For the past quarter century, we’ve had inflation that has fallen within the target range “on average, over time” and hence been low and stable.

This week the Reserve Bank issued a volume of papers from its conference to discuss inflation targeting, and whether it needed to change. (Conclusion: it didn’t.)

In that 25 years we haven’t had a serious worry about inflation – which certainly can’t be said of the 20 years before the target was unveiled in 1993.

In those earlier years we were continuously worried about high inflation. It reached a peak of 17 per cent in the mid-1970s, averaged about 10 per cent for that decade and 8 per cent during the 1980s.

All the other advanced economies had high inflation rates at the time, but ours was higher and took longer to fix.

Our problem was usually linked with excessive growth in wages, and the “wage explosions” of the mid-1970s and early 1980s prompted the authorities to jam on the brakes, leading inevitably to severe recessions.

Even though inflation remained high, a third and more severe recession in the early 1990s was more the consequence of the authorities’ overdone attempt to end a boom in commercial property prices.

Steadier hands

It’s not by chance that this year we reached 27 years of continuous growth since that recession. Before it, we had recessions about every seven years, all of them caused by the authorities jamming on the brakes – and then, when we crashed into recession, stepping on the accelerator, a “stop/go policy”.

The first reason we haven’t needed to worry much about inflation since then is that, as part of the adoption of the inflation target, responsibility for setting interest rates was moved from the politicians to the econocrats running an independent central bank.

They’ve been a much steadier hand on the interest-rate lever, moving rates up or down according to the needs of the business cycle, not the political cycle.

Another reason we’ve stopped worrying about inflation is that this year is also the 35th anniversary of the floating of our dollar in 1983. A floating exchange rate – which, remarkably, has almost always floated in the direction needed to keep the economy on an even keel – has made it a lot easier for the Reserve to keep inflation low and stable.

A third reason is the extensive program of “micro-economic reform” begun by the Hawke-Keating government in the 1980s – including the deregulation of many industries and the decentralisation of wage-fixing – which has made our economy much less inflation-prone than it used to be.

Managing expectations

Yet another factor was the realisation at the time the inflation target was adopted – informally by the Reserve in 1993, and then formally by the incoming Howard government in 1996 – that the key to lower inflation was to get “inflation expectations” down to a reasonable level.

Why? Because there’s a strong tendency for the expected inflation rate in the minds of shopkeepers and union officials to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If they expect prices to keep rising rapidly, they get in first with their own big price or wage rises.

We’ve spent the past 25 years demonstrating that if you can get everybody expecting inflation to stay low, you have a lot less trouble ensuring it actually does.

The hard part was how to get from the high expectations of the late-1980s to the low expectations we’ve had for most of the past 25 years.

The healthy recession

Bernie Fraser, Treasury secretary turned Reserve Bank governor, the man who introduced the target, knew what to do: define what was an acceptably low inflation rate – between 2 and 3 per cent, on average - and keep the economy comatose until you actually achieved the target, then keep it low until everyone had been convinced that “about 2.5 per cent” was what today we’d call “the new normal”.

How did Fraser achieve this? He did the opposite of what his predecessors did whenever they realised they’d hit the economy harder than they’d intended to. Despite knowing we were in for a bad recession, he let the interest-rate brakes off only slowly, and didn’t hit the accelerator.

In other words, he made the recession of the early ‘90s longer and harder than it could have been. I think he decided that, since we were in for a terrible belting anyway, he’d make sure we at least emerged from the carnage with something of value: a cure for our inflation problem that wasn’t just temporary, but lasting.

And that’s what he delivered. With low inflation expectations embedded, he was able to stimulate the economy to grow faster and get unemployment down. It went from 11 per cent after the recession to 5 per cent today.

Getting in before 'some dickhead minister'

At the time the inflation target was adopted, some people worried it meant the Reserve didn’t care about unemployment. As events have demonstrated, that was wrong. To Fraser, low inflation was just a means to the ultimate end of low unemployment.

I rate him the best top econocrat we’ve had in 50 years. He was wise and caring, with the best feel for how the economy worked. Peter Costello gets the credit for formally adopting Fraser’s inflation target, pursued by an independent Reserve Bank.

But another person also deserves credit – Dr John Hewson. It was Hewson who, as Coalition shadow treasurer, made the most noise about the need for an independent central bank with an inflation target.

Fraser decided he’d better get on with specifying his own target before “some dickhead minister” tried to imposed a crazy one on him.


 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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