Privilege overrides health policy

The Grattan Institute asked a pertinent question this week: why do we subsidise private health insurance? It offered a couple of sound poliy suggestions, but they completely missed the political mark.

Coalition Governments have offered incentives for people to take out private insurance and penalties if they do not.

Continue reading “Privilege overrides health policy”

Defence: the appalling US corollary

The defence commentary that bloomed in the wake of the publication of Hugh White’s “How to Defend Australia” has largely failed to mention the appalling corollary to White’s wise assertion that Australia has to prepare itself for the possibility that the US would not come to Australia’s defence if attacked from without.

The corollary is, of course, the question as to why, over the past decades, have we sucked up to the US, done all its bidding, and entered wars at its behest that really had nothing to do with us? Why did we expend so much blood and treasure when, now, at the critical juncture of the rise of an aggressive China we will not be able to expect the help we have relied upon from the US these past 75 years.

Continue reading “Defence: the appalling US corollary”

Why manus and Nauru will not be closed

Immigration is now a win-win for wealthy elites and the Coalition. The election has shown that not only does high immigration provide cheap labour and new consumers for big business it also provides the resentment that bolsters One Nation’s vote which dribbles through to the Coalition on preferences.

Continue reading “Why manus and Nauru will not be closed”

Speech and the balance of intimidation

Many Australians have the misguided idea that we have freedom of speech in Australia. They have been watching too many American movies.

The recent plea by leading media figures and others for greater freedom of expression; Israel Folau’s fight against his employer’s restriction on his speech and the latest of a string of court defamation rulings once again reinstating the speech restrictions of Victorian England just simply would not be necessary or not happen in the US. 

Continue reading “Speech and the balance of intimidation”

Look out Australia, military disruption on way

Concern is growing that the US military budget is being squandered on merely improving the small numbers of large, expensive, heavily manned, and hard-to-replace systems and not looking at disruptive military technology of swarms of intelligent easily replaceable often autonomous machines. Australia seems to be going the same way.

Australia will spend $200 billion in the next decade, mainly on new submarines, frigates and jet fighters – just a few hundred of them. Each would be very expensive to replace yet will become very vulnerable to emerging technologies which by comparison will be quite cheap – in the millions rather than billions of dollars – expendable, and numerous.

Continue reading “Look out Australia, military disruption on way”

Tax system still rotten, despite election

There are about half a dozen reasons why Labor and the crossbench in the Senate should block the Government’s tax package next month. 

First, upper and upper-middle income earners already got a generous tax cut last year. Second, the all-or-nothing approach amounts to blackmail. Third, it is bad economics and risk management. Fourth, in these says of fake news, election lies, and massive spending, who knows if a government has a mandate to do anything? And fifth, the cuts will undermine more than a century of a progressive Federal income-tax system which imposes higher rates of tax on higher incomes.

Continue reading “Tax system still rotten, despite election”

Transport policy takes us on Argentine road

Transport should not be a hostage to politics and ideology, but in Australia it has been since before the rival colonies of NSW and Victoria decided to have different railway gauges in the 19 th century and it is likely to continue and get worse with the re-election of the Coalition Government.

It goes well beyond the usual sod-turning and ribbon-cutting of wasteful new roads in marginal seats. Now questions are arising which will determine whether Australia remains among the top economically prosperous nations or, whether like Argentina a century ago, we squander our advantages and drop on the scales of international performance.

Continue reading “Transport policy takes us on Argentine road”

Freedom opens a pandora’s box

Freedom of religion is firmly back on the agenda. But it is a Pandora’s box. Oddly enough, Barnaby Joyce got it almost right this week when he said that Rugby Australia’s sacking of Israel Folau “got a lot of people annoyed. People were a little bit shocked that someone could lose their job because of what they believe. It made everyone feel a bit awkward and uneasy.”

Continue reading “Freedom opens a pandora’s box”

And the winner is . . . bread and circuses

Two thousand years ago, the satirist Juvenal said of Romans whom he thought had abandoned the moral and noble: “Two things only the people anxiously desire – bread and circuses.”

Not much has changed. Except we might translate “bread” as “the hip pocket nerve” and the “circuses” are the showmanship so brilliantly displayed in the election campaign by Scott Morrison wearing a baseball hat and kicking footballs.

Continue reading “And the winner is . . . bread and circuses”