Monday, February 20, 2023

Albo to close down independent truck drivers

Federal Labor is set to bolster the businesses of trucking billionaires and corporations. Unsurprisingly, the billionaires are more than happy to have this happen.

Naturally, Labor’s billionaire business boost is not being promoted in this light by Labor. Labor says that its plan is about making trucking rates ‘safe’. But no matter how this is looked at, the intention is to eliminate independent truck drivers as competitors to the big trucking corporations and billionaire trucking empires.

We know this because Labor set up a ‘safe rates’ scheme in 2012, but it wasn’t until 2016 that the Road Safety Remuneration Tribunal (RSRT) started dictating trucking rates. It was a disaster for the 35,000 affected self-employed, long-haul truck drivers. Large numbers of these truckies were in the process of being bankrupted. Several suicides resulted before the Turnbull government passed legislation to close down the RSRT in 2016.

This saved the livelihoods and businesses of thousands of hard-working, self-employed Australians. What we know from the 2016 experience is that the ‘trucking safe rates’ argument has a theoretical claim about safety, but is in fact about putting small business people out of business to the benefit of big business. That’s the truth.

The argument about safety is heavily promoted by the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and goes something like this… The TWU says independent truck drivers work too hard. They drive long hours and the rates they charge are too low. These low rates mean that independent truck drivers have crashes. So, according to the TWU, the independent truckies need to be forced by legislation to charge more. Then the roads will be safe.

But look at the argument from a different angle – that is, from the viewpoint of competition.

Self-employed independent truck drivers are big competitors to the big trucking conglomerates (and they tend not to be union members!). By the nature of their businesses, independent truckies are able to be highly flexible. If, for example, an independent truckie is long-hauling between Perth and Brisbane and different jobs pop up along the way, they can respond in ways that the management bureaucracies of big companies cannot. This gives the independents big competitive advantages.

It’s this flexibility and fast responsiveness to customer needs that is key for the independents. But this does not suit the big transport bosses. And it does not suit the TWU which effectively enforces membership through the big transport bosses.

Now that Labor is in government and seems to have the support of the Greens in the Senate on labour issues, Albanese’s Labor is looking to target independent truck drivers again. Labor has announced that it intends to re-introduce a scheme of ‘safe’ rates for ‘employee-like’ independent truck drivers. They will do this in the second half of 2023.

Again, they are going to control the rates that independent truck drivers must charge. This will be a repeat of 2016. Independent truck drivers will be pushed into hardship, bankruptcy, and suicide. Big trucking billionaires will get richer. This is Labor’s direct attack against Australian small business people


False Australian history

There’s no end to the Woke, cultural-left pushing ‘Yes’ to the Indigenous Voice in the nation’s classrooms. The left-leaning Australian Education Union fully supports the ‘Uluru Statement from the Heart’ and argues Truth-Telling should be taught ‘in schools through and in the curriculum and in the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers’.

Schools across Australia are teaching Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu to students; a book criticised by Peter O’Brien as well as Peter Sutton and Keryn Walshe as misleading and inaccurate in its depiction of Aboriginal history and culture as sophisticated.

In Victoria, the Minister for Education Natalie Hutchins, who subsequently tried to walk back on the comment, states that ‘the Voice referendum will be a defining moment in our nation’s history’ and it should be dealt with in schools as students need to understand ‘Victoria’s journey to the Treaty’.

Not surprisingly, a poetry anthology set for Victoria’s Year 12 English titled False Claims Of Colonial Thieves by Charmaine Papertalk-Green and John Kinsella is yet another disturbing example of the school curriculum being used to indoctrinate vulnerable students regarding Aboriginal exploitation and oppression.

According to the reviewer at the Sydney Arts Guide the poetry anthology is ‘a pin prickling polemic’ where the poems are ‘flinty and unflinching’ and act like ‘depth charges of various C-bombs – Colonisation, Capitalism, Culture, and Country’. The reviewer lauds the two authors for exposing the ‘genocide, rape, and apartheid’ inflicted as a result of European settlement.

Bruce Pascoe, made famous by his assertion Aborigines were highly civilised at the time of the First Fleet, also recommends the anthology. Pascoe writes the poets ‘take no prisoners’ and that it is not for the light-hearted as it depicts the ‘darkness’ at the heart of Australia.

The historian Geoffrey Blainey uses the expression the ‘black armband’ view to describe those guilty of painting the nation’s history as violent, oppressive, racist, and Eurocentric. Often ignored is that Blainey also condemns the ‘three cheers’ view.

The Year 12 anthology provides multiple examples of the black armband view. One poem talks about ‘past injustices, cultural cruelty, cultural genocide’ while another begins with the lines ‘the State is killing our souls, the State has murdered the people’.

A third poem titled Always Thieves argues those who arrived as a result of 1788, including ‘colonial officers, convicts, settlers, free man’ are all thieves and that the injustice and theft continues to this day involving ‘mining companies, politicians, governments’ with ‘dirty hands coated with traces of blood’.

A fourth poem called Don’t mine me leaves students in no doubt as to who deserves to be condemned when the poets write: ‘Don’t mind me Australia… While you are busy… Sticking explosives everywhere… Getting a hard-on blowing up land… Pumping chemicals deep into mother… Drip feeding our waters with poison.’

Drawing on post-colonial theory and the Black Lives Matter movement where the assumption is societies like Australia are structurally racist, the anthology tells students Indigenous voices are always silenced when they write, ‘You don’t want me to talk about… The concept and construct of whiteness.’

It’s ironic, at the same time the two poets in the prologue argue mining companies are guilty of inflicting propaganda on schools about the value and importance of mining they appear unaware that students being made to study their poetry is guilty of the same sin.

One of the exercises related to the False Claims of Colonial Thieves anthology, after adopting the persona of an exploited Aboriginal community, asks students to write to mining companies like BHP telling them to stop exploiting Aboriginal land and destroying the environment.

Even worse, as argued by Mark Lopez in School Sucks and who tutors Year 12 students in Victoria, the reality is the poetry anthology is just one of many chosen texts that ‘are overwhelmingly politically correct and left-wing’.

While students across Australia are presented with a jaundiced and one-sided view of Indigenous affairs and the impact of European settlement ignored are the facts, compared to the Uyghurs in China and the Kurds in the Middle East, Aborigines have achieved equality and the sins of the past long since been addressed.

Aborigines are Australian citizens, have equal rights, and at just over 3 per cent of the population receive approximately $30 billion a year in federal government support and benefits. As a result of the High Court Mabo decision, they also have extensive land rights to over 54 per cent of Australia’s land mass.

Instead of schools presenting students with an objective and impartial account of controversial issues like the Voice to Parliament the sad fact is the cultural-left has long succeeded in using the school curriculum to advance its ideology. Worse still, this has happened under both left-leaning and conservative governments, state and commonwealth.


The future of Australia's electricity supply is blowing in the wind

The events of the past few weeks have brought Australia’s energy future into sharp focus – we won’t have one. Green enthusiasts who dominate the public debate have insisted that much of the east coast’s reliable power supply must cease operating by about the middle of next decade, but there may not be anything to put in its place.

Those same activists insist that a vast network of renewable energy projects can take over the role of coal plants, ignoring considerable evidence that they cannot. However, state governments are relying on private investors to create this dense network, despite investment in the area having tanked.

Unless policymakers come to their senses, consumers who want to use electrical appliances, or even turn on the hall light in perhaps twelve years or so, may have to make their own arrangements. They might still be able to turn on gas stoves but not gas heaters (these still require power for fans), although policymakers are also doing their best to reduce gas supplies.

This heroic attempt at ruining Australia’s power supply is all the more remarkable for occurring during an international energy crisis and with the policymakers apparently oblivious to the notable failure of renewable energy to make much of a contribution to the overall energy supply, despite decades of investment.

As previously noted in The Spectator Australia (‘Engineering disaster’, 29 October 2022) a combination of billionaire activist Mike Cannon-Brookes and the state governments of Queensland and Victoria have organised the closure of the bulk of the reliable coal-fired power supply of the eastern half of the continent. At the same time the Victorian and Queensland state governments in particular, have been encouraging investment in renewable energy as well as pumped-hydro storage projects.

To date the response has been disappointing. Figures on renewable energy projects compiled by the Clean Energy Council show that just seventeen were completed and commissioned in 2022, representing 1,248 Megawatts (MW) of installed capacity, as opposed to forty-eight completed in Covid-stricken 2021 adding up to 4,589 MW, and 3,205 MW worth of projects in 2020. These figures are even less impressive when it is remembered that wind projects typically have an average output of about one-third of stated capacity. The average output for photovoltaics is somewhat less, but it is better for projects using the likes of solar concentrators.

There is no indication investment is improving. Wind farms under construction listed by the Victorian Department of Transport and Planning amount to just 864 MW in installed capacity – an effective average output of perhaps a paltry 300 MW or so.

One reason for investment in this area falling off a cliff, despite all the talk, is that markets did not do well generally in 2022. A count of initial public offerings on the securities exchange by professional services firm HLB Mann Judd shows that the number of new IPOs fell by 48 per cent in 2022, and total funds raised collapsed 91 per cent.

Another perspective is provided by lobby group WindEurope, which in January declared that orders for new wind turbines in Europe fell by 47 per cent, or nearly half, in 2022 compared with the previous year.

WindEurope complained about government interference in the European markets, but also noted that ‘inflation in commodity prices and other input costs has raised the price of wind turbines, by up to 40 per cent over the last two years’. Revenue had not kept pace with costs.

Despite the different conditions in Europe, the result was much the same as the investment market in general and renewable energy projects in Australia in particular, in that investment collapsed notably in the second half of 2022.

But then decades of talk about renewable energy and investment in all sorts of wild and wonderful projects has barely shifted the dial on renewable energy’s contribution. A control panel for the National Energy Market (the eastern Australian grid) compiled by the Australian Energy Market Operator shows that in the past 12 months just short of 70 per cent of electricity came from black and brown coal plants, and just short of 20 per cent from solar and wind. Another 7 per cent came from hydro (which counts as a renewable) and a few per cent from gas.

This does not seem very different from the energy mix of preceding years, but the really bad news for activists is the total energy mix figures for Australia compiled by the International Energy Agency. This analysis adds in the use of fuel in domestic and freight transport, gas for cooking and industrial use plus the power required for electrical generation. In 2021, despite all the talk about net-zero emissions, wind, solar and biomass collectively amounted to just a few per cent of the total energy task.

As for gas, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission released a gas inquiry interim report in January which forecasts a 12 per cent shortfall in supply for the east coast this year, although the problems may really start about 2027 or so. The commission then makes the far from surprising suggestion that governments could reduce the barriers faced by producers seeking to bring new gas supply to market.

But governments and environmentalists have reacted to the obvious problems by doubling down on discouraging the industry. The federal government reacted to price increases for gas by instituting a mixture of price controls and reserving gas for domestic consumers. As a result, producers including Senex Energy, Beach Energy, Cooper Energy and ExxonMobil have stalled or put under review proposed investment in new gas supplies.

In addition, environmental activism and the late-2022 court decision which required Santos to consult more extensively with indigenous groups over the $4.7 billion Barossa project it plans north of the Tiwi Islands (north of Darwin), have imposed delays of up to two years on a range of gas projects. To top off all of this, a project to build an LNG gas import terminal at Newcastle in NSW, which could have supplied 80 per cent of the state’s needs, was axed in early February, with the South Korean developers citing volatility in gas markets. Another proposed LNG import plant in Victoria is facing endless delays in approvals.

Investment in green energy projects may revive of course, but there is a long way to go and there are still the major problems of whether intermittent power can replace coal plants, and of dismantling all the barriers blocking gas development. Australia’s much-vaunted energy transition may simply mean switching to no power at all.


Winning life’s lottery: Australians are richer than many feel today

It’s hard to imagine many Australians today feeling richer than they did this time last year.

The share market and superannuation funds went backwards in 2022, property values are still going backwards, grocery expenses and other household bills are spiralling higher much faster than wages growth, and mortgage costs are multiplying thanks to Reserve Bank interest rate rises.

We are collectively feeling poorer right now and pulling back on our spending, or at least planning to. That’s what the Reserve Bank wants Australians as a whole to do, so inflation will drop back to normal levels without smashing the nation into a recession.

But the reality is that Australians are far from poor, when our wealth – financial and otherwise – is put into perspective.

Whenever I’m feeling a little financially inferior, which usually happens when reading newspaper articles about executive salaries or Sydney property sales, there’s a website I visit to make it all better.

Simply type “how rich am I” into your search engine and you’ll find a site that compares your income with the rest of the world.

For example, a couple both earning the average Australian wage of $92,000 a year can punch in their post-tax income ($69,800 according to tax calculators) and discover they are among the richest 1.1 per cent of households on the planet.

If they earn the median Aussie annual wage of $65,000, a more accurate income measure because it’s not skewed higher by high-earning CEOs, they still sit among the top 2.3 per cent of wealthy households globally.

We are also punching well above our weight when it comes to holding wealth. The Global Wealth Report 2022 by financial giant Credit Suisse ranked Australians as the world’s wealthiest – with median wealth per person sitting at $US273,900 ($400,000), three times as much as US median wealth despite the large number of US billionaires.

Per person, we are twice as rich as people in Britain, Japan, France, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden and Qatar. New Zealanders are the world number three, behind Belgium.

Median wealth per person in China is $US28,258 ($41,000), in India it’s $US3457 ($5200), and in Africa it’s $US1111 ($1600).

These global wealth and income comparisons are striking, but also seem unfair to the many Aussie battlers struggling on lower wages or equally-low welfare payments, and have been watching their groceries, utilities and other living costs climb just as much as higher-income earners.

We live in an expensive society that has become much more expensive. Fortunately there are welfare safety nets that rise in line with inflation, although there are always people who argue that welfare payments are way too low.

It’s not just money that makes us wealthy. There are no automatic weapons carried by citizens on our streets, and crime rates are relatively low.

Australia’s capital cities regularly rank highly in The Economist Intelligence Unit’s global liveability index, although Covid lockdowns knocked us down a few places recently.

We often complain about Australia’s struggling health system, but our skills, facilities, cleanliness, medicines and costs rank us among the 20 best healthcare systems globally. And there are plenty of financial safety nets available.

Australians are certainly winners in the lottery of life – it just doesn’t feel that way for many people at the moment.




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