‘Patriots’ depriving the rest of a national day

We approach yet another Australia Day – the national day that most nations celebrate their identity and/or birth – with continued human confusion and muddle about both. Geographically we are certain about what Australia is. Humanly we are not.

Every Australia Day reminds us of the two big unresolved matters of Australian identification: finding the proper place for indigenous people and removing the obsolete place of the British monarchy in the Constitution.

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The GG, constitution and pandemic

The Governor-General, General David Hurley, has tested positive for Covid. We wish him a speedy recovery, of course, but it gives rise to the question of whether Australia needs a Governor-General at all, and more broadly how have our constitutional arrangements stood up, and how well will they stand up in the face of the pandemic.

In the past several months we have seen endless speculation over the election date, adding to the uncertainties of the pandemic.

In the past week we have seen the confusion over state-federal responsibilities with the Novak Djokovic case. 

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A pattern of pandemic mismanagement

A pattern is emerging in the Federal Government’s mismanagement of the pandemic, and it is almost certain to continue with the next big phase of it.

Without strong action by the states and territories Australia would be in the appalling strife of the US, Britaiin and many European countries. And even NSW has backed off pandemic action since Dominic Perrottet took over as Premier.

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Biased grants likely to be unconstitutional

The Liberal Party’s reputation as the party of fiscal rectitude and guardian of the tax-paters’ hard-earned money took a battering with this month’s revelations about the distribution of $2.8 billion across 11 federal grants schemes in the three years straddling the 2019 election.

The 11 schemes which all permitted ministerial discretion showed that the money overwhelmingly went to Liberal marginal electorates and virtually none went to safe Labor electorates.

Aside from the ethical and economic questions, there is a good argument that many, if not all, of the grants are unconstitutional and unlawful. More of that anon.

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Fear of China drives needless arms build-up

It is easy to be fearful about China: that it is grabbing territory in the South China Sea; that it is building a vast navy and new nuclear missile platforms; that it iscapable of cyber attacks that can bring down infrastructure in the West; that it will soon overtake the US both economically and militarily and dominate the world.

Worse, it is on the verge of invading democratic Taiwan. As a result of all this fear, governments in the West – especially Australia, Britain and the US – have engaged in a massive arms build-up with the aim of projecting naval power across the world now and in the future.

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Tax changes needed to meet inequality

The need for major tax changes in the face of growing inequality has been obvious for some time, but this week’s Productivity Commission report on wealth transfers adds to the case.

The commission reported that more than $120 billion was transferred in inheritances and gifts in 2018. Of that 90 per cent was in inheritances. It has doubled since 2002 and it keeps growing, adding to inequality.

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Three freedoms to make religion Bill unnecessary

The past fortnight’s “debate” on religious freedom has a subtle irony about it. Australian law at present makes it unlawful to discriminate against people when dealing with them in the public sphere on a range of attributes.

These attributes are basically what “God” or “Fate” or the vicissitudes of life gave people over which they have virtually no control: gender, sexuality, disability, skin colour, age. But the religious freedom Bill is going to make it unlawful to discriminate against people for belief in a human-made construct: religion.

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EVs: more tax avoidance for the well-off

This week I took the first step towards setting up a tax-avoidance scheme. It is perfectly legal and practically foolproof. It only relies on the continued foolishness of the Federal Government – which is pretty much guaranteed these days.

The step was to put an order in for an electric car. That included a test drive along Australia’s most spectacular road: the Captain Cook Highway north of Cairns – the Coral Sea and the reef on the right and rainforest or cane fields to the left.

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