Why not read it before voting?

May 28, 2009

When politicians vote on legislation do they know what they’re doing?

After the British parliamentary expenses scandal Boris Johnson had this great article on Monday – (click the link to ‘MPs’ expenses in pictures’ for the more bizarre things UK taxpayers cough up for).

Boris said MPs should be forced to read every line of every law they vote on. But with government so big, is this possible? I asked some IPA researchers to calculate how long it would take to read all the legislation currently in the federal parliament.

5 weeks! And that’s reading non-stop for 8 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Is it a surprise Yvette D’Ath didn’t know the size of the deficit?

This is enough to drive you to drink. But if you live in Oldham in the UK you’ll now have to queue behind rope barriers to get a beer (and you can’t buy a round for your mates either). Don’t laugh – it’s about to happen here too.

What would the great essayist HL Mencken have made of this? His lines include “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public” and “Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.” Here is Mencken in his own words in 1948.

Last Friday the IPA’s Alan Moran told the Senate what the ETS would do to the Australian economy (see page 25).

In the Sunday Age, Chris Berg wrote about “New sheriff needed to ride shotgun on heritage suburbs“. Tom Switzer analysed xenophobia in the Wall Street Journal Asia, and in the Australian Financial Review, Alan Moran argued that the Commonwealth Treasury doesn’t understand how the economy works.

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“Saddle up your horse and ride out of town”

May 21, 2009

What can you do with your property?

Not much if you live in Melbourne’s City of Port Phillip. Last week a man was convicted and fined $52,500 for demolishing his semi-detached unit without a permit.

This morning we sent the IPA’s Chris Murn to take a photo of the rubble.

If he had applied for a permit, the council wouldn’t have allowed its demolition anyway because they declared the mundane-looking unit had ‘heritage’ status (it was built in the 1940s by the Housing Commission).

When the government tells you what you can’t do with your own property, they as good as confiscate it. Just because this sort of thing happens all the time doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get angry when it does. (If Port Phillip Council thought this house was so special they could have just bought it!)

The Mayor was positively joyful at the conviction: “Saddle up your horse and ride out of town now if you think you can get away with it”.

Politicians intimidating the public doesn’t only happen in Australia. Read this letter from Congressman Barney Frank that’s just been released trying to tell someone what they can and can’t say about government policy.

And did you see what happened to Arnie yesterday? Californian voters rejected his proposal to raise taxes. Instead Arnie is going to have to cut costs (what a radical idea!) The only law that was passed was one prohibiting politicians getting pay rises when the budget was in deficit.

If you’ve got a spare 52 seconds watch Tory MEP Dan Hannan taking apart the world’s bailouts.

In the Australian Financial Review, I started a trend when I doubted the Treasury’s budget projections. And today Alan Moran argues that the Treasury simply doesn’t understand how the economy works.

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From Ridiculous to Real

May 14, 2009

You heard it here first.

The IPA was the first to tell you the Rudd government was ‘Whitlamesque’. Some of you wrote back to me saying – DON’T BE RIDICULOUS! But look at the ‘Underlying cash balance’ (ie deficit/surplus) column of table 1 in this budget paper from Tuesday night.

Michael Stutchbury of The Australian, Peter Swan of the University of New South Wales, and Stephen Kirchner of the Centre for Independent Studies now all see the parallels with Whitlam too.

We’re relying on Treasury forecasts of more than 4% GDP growth to get us out of this deficit. But why should we believe Treasury? After all a year ago Treasury predicted in 2009-10:

In his budget speech on Tuesday Wayne Swan said “our public finances are among the strongest in the developed world.” Well – he would say that wouldn’t he? The boss of Bear Stearns, Alan Schwartz said in March last year “Bear Stearns’ balance sheet, liquidity, and capital remain strong.” A few days later his company went broke…

In The Australian last Friday, Alan Wood talked about why the IPA is the only organisation willing to speak out on the economic consequences of the emissions trading scheme. (My original piece in the Australian Financial Review is here.)

I enjoyed this Observer article: “The masterpiece that killed George Orwell.” And Spiked writes that Britain is closer to 1984 than you think.

In the Wall Street Journal, Tom Switzer remembers the Thatcher Revolution. Alan Moran and Chris Berg covered the budget yesterday for ABC Unleashed and Crikey, and in the Sunday Age Chris also wrote the “Road to hell is not paved with poker machines“.

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Krazy Kevin’s Closing Down Sale

May 8, 2009

The Australian economy will shrink next year by an estimated 1%.

Yet according to the IPA’s Julie Novak revenue to state governments will increase by 6%.

So where’s the money coming from? Kevin Rudd’s borrowing it – so he can bail out state Labor governments. The story made the front page of The Australian on Monday following the release of this IPA report.

On the topic of spending – ‘Krazy Kevin Rudd’s Closing Down Sale‘ is very amusing.

The IPA wasn’t surprised that the government backed down on the ETS. All along we’ve been saying the ETS is a bad idea. We said this yesterday – this 12 months ago – and this more than 12 years ago.

Monday was the 30th anniversary of Margaret Thatcher becoming PM. One of the best pieces about it was Boris Johnson’s.

The IPA reaches far and wide. The other day we entered the debate on whether Abu Dhabi should build a new capital city. Three years ago the IPA Review did a cover story on ‘Australia’s 13 Biggest Mistakes‘ – not surprisingly Canberra was on the list. Abu Dhabi now has to work out whether it wants a capital like Canberra!

In the Business Age, Julie Novak analysed Tuesday’s Victorian budget. Last Friday in the Australian Financial Review, I talked about where neo-liberalism goes next, and in the Wall Street Journal Asia Tim Wilson had a free market perspective on the swine flu.

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