31 August 1998

A Political Manifesto

OK. By now most of us have heard of the One Nation controversy sweeping the country, and no doubt have formed our own opinions on how the country should or should not be run. I personally would like to make it clear that in my opinion, if there is an anti-Christ, then David Oldfield fits the bill - firstly for the hateful agenda that One Nation are pushing, secondly for the weirdo element that One Nation are bringing out of the woodwork, and thirdly for the obvious and shameless manipulation of a bunch of simpletons into doing his bidding.

But this has lead to a good thing - people are now starting to think about which ways the country can be directed.

I personally hate the way that One Nation means I now have an obligation to vote properly at the next election. Before, I was quite happy to vote informal, and up until the age of 24, I hadn't even enrolled to vote. Given the choice as we usually are between Candidate A and Candidate B, and finding that other than cosmetically, the major political parties' policies are identical, the voting process for me has been an exercise in merely escaping the fine levied for not voting. Given that the two addresses I usually quote are in safe Labor and safe Liberal seats respectively, where I put my numbers really does not make a difference.

I could whinge like this for hours, but I won't. Instead, allow me to present you with a theoretical overview of some suggestions to make the country run better.

1. Unemployment and Trade

High unemployment in this country is caused by a combination of high imports compared to low exports and a general economic lull.

Why are imports up and exports down? The two are unrelated - exports are down despite the Keating Government's recognition of the fact that our secondary industry base is next to non-existent, and also that most of our exports are from our primary producers, and most primary commodities are in the middle of a price slump. Consequently, we only export low value commodities, and this means that dollars coming in are not going to be able to match those flowing out.

Thus when we can't match more efficient producers - read more heavily subsidised ones - we disadvantage ourselves by not following suit and subsidising ours. However, this is economically unfeasible. We can't afford this - in Europe and North America, agricultural subsidies are paid for by tariff protection on imports, and while this could be seen to be in breach of GATT treaties, retaliating as proposed by the loony right is not going to lead to us producing anything more efficiently in the long term.

It is interesting to note, that the loony right proposes that primary industry be protected. This is such a load of rubbish for all the reasons that I will now explain.

  1. On paper, primary commodities are going down in price. This means that by protecting, for instance our pork producers, we are going to be forking out more and more in subsidies, and reaping less and less in tariff income. This may not sound good to the pork producers of Queensland, but stuff them. If they were producing more complex goods than pork products, we wouldn't be in the situation we are now.
  2. Australia is ideally placed to produce manufactured and processed goods. By this I mean that we have barely any arable land to farm and graze on. We really should not have as big a forestry industry as we do, as we can not sustain it. Yet we do have one of the biggest mining industries in the world, and as most manufactured goods ultimately come from the ground, we have a vast supply of metal, coal, and other stuff for producing manufactured goods. We don't have enough oil, but with prices as low as they are at the moment and likely to stay low, I don't see why we should worry.

It also follows that imports are high for no other reason than the fact that we don't produce anything that will compete.

The slump in our economy is a serious problem that will only be fixed by government intervention. Yet this problem can be fixed at the same time as our trade problems.

Most interestingly, in fixing this problem, it can also be seen that our problems with our rapidly plummeting exchange rate can also be fixed at the same time.

1.1. State Owned Industry

I propose a return to state-owned industry.

"You lefty sonofabitch, Dikkii," one of you has just said. Never mind the fact that I'm an unrepentant capitalist pig.

This has to sound eerie to all you un-left types (ie those who don't want to admit to being deemed 'right'), but, in spite of the 'world's greatest treasurer's predictions a decade ago, Australian industry has been unwilling to go into secondary industry, nor even out of the industries they are currently in.

But think of this - a state-owned car company

Now, in these days of economic rationalism, it makes sense for a car to be made in Australia by an Australian-owned car company. If this were the case, thousands of jobs would be created, and a company would be created with a view to being floated/sold off in, say, ten years time.

The government may even choose to do it in partnership with private enterprise, if they were reticent about picking up the tab themselves.

The vision I have for a state-owned car company is one that makes a car that is the most efficiently produced car in the world. A car where engine parts, panels, taillights etc can be readily exchanged between models. This manufacturer would be starting out from scratch, and would be able to eliminate all work practices that were inefficient, before any work was begun. And, as Australia produces massive amount of steel, this would reduce costs further, as raw materials wouldn't have to be freighted around the world.

And it wouldn't just have to be a car company. The same thing could be done with black goods and pharmaceuticals. I honestly believe it would work - and we'd make a killing at the same time.

1.2. Massive Infrastructure Projects

We all know how these things get the voting public in, and we all know how they spark optimism on the stock market - just take the example of the high speed train link between Sydney and Canberra. A train using technology that's 30 years old gets the nod just 'cause it's been tried and tested. That blows. 30 years old? Surely that means it's already out of date?

Well, anyway, the upshot of that is that it increased investor confidence, and that is a good thing as can be seen by the resulting shot in the arm that the economy was perceived to have had (not to mention, the impact that it will have on the coalition's chances of getting re-elected).

What I'm proposing here, is projects that are so big, they would employ hundreds of thousands of people, and quite possibly change the climate of a great portion of Australia.

1.2.1. A Sea link between Lake Torrens and the Spencer Gulf

This is such a logical thing to do, I cannot believe it hasn't been done yet. Lake Torrens is below the surface of the sea, and it isn't far away from it. A canal could be dug, big enough to take cruise ships, or even cargo ships, and this could take advantage of South Australia's undoubted mineral wealth. A shipping canal, incidentally, would be cheaper than rail infrastructure, for this distance, anyway, and would also be able to take more tonnes of cargo.

Then we'd have a flooded Lake Torrens. What next? Lake Eyre? Possibly. But we have to bring more industry into the area. What I now propose is something I believe hasn't ever been done anywhere in the world before.

1.2.2. An Artificial Mountain Range in the South Australian Desert

And a big one at that. This could be built, say, somewhere north of Roxby Downs, and could actually be built quite huge - I'm talking at least three or four thousand metres above sea level.

This would create weather conditions in the desert that would induce precipitation - ie rain and snow.

Yes folks. A ski resort can now be built from scratch, with the world's greatest access. An airport can be built just down on the other side of the snow line with a resort above in mind. The road up to the resort can have no bends in it.

So at the end of it all, there would be massive amounts of tourism, as the biggest ski resort/alpine national park in the country could be built there. That's not all, though.

The snow and rain that would fall on a big mountain would cause serious irrigation of the surrounding area. Voila! Flowers in the desert. Not to mention the fact that the countries biggest hydro-electric scheme could be built at the same time - and in these days of diminishing fossil fuels, we need it.

It would also solve the problem of what to do with our sewerage and landfill problems. Just treat it, pack it up and ship it to the spot, where it would be deposited to form the biggest dump in the world. No more dumping it at sea. No more filled up valleys. No more reclamation of our beautiful waterways.

And don't say it can't be done. In Japan, they have a history of reclaiming land by bulldozing mountains and filling in harbours with the rubble - this wouldn't be different and it would solve a lot of ecological problems.

2. Tax and Welfare

Tax is a problem that is causing all sorts of problems at the moment. Some say that we have a complex and unfair tax system. The coalition government think that they can remedy this by getting rid of a few indirect taxes and replacing them with a broad-based consumption tax. The Labour opposition think that this would be unfair.

Highly hypocritical, in light of the fact that a few terms of government back, they promised L-A-W tax cuts and no GST and then had the tenacity to not only not deliver the promised tax cuts, but then go on to raise wholesale sales tax.

But I would like to make it clear that I do not support the government's tax package.

While it removes a few little tax idiosyncrasies, it fails to go the whole distance. It removes unfair taxes like FID and GDT as well as wholesale sales tax which penalises exporters, it still leaves Payroll Tax.

For goodness sake, Payroll Tax???

We want to increase employment, not penalise businesses for hiring people.

Although I applaud income tax cuts, it means that now, the government has suggested a 'user-pays' system for people buying things, which means that the battlers of society will now have to fork out extra for food.

I propose a fairer tax system that goes further, and would still allow us to cut income tax rates and raise welfare payments.

2.1. A narrower-based GST

This would not apply to food, rent, power, public transport and other things that the poorer members of society need in order to survive. It could not be accused of being regressive. Indeed, where any of these are being sold to personal consumers, it would be seen to be fair.

Of course, by food, I don't mean that in a five star restaurant. Food sold here would have to be taxed.

2.2. An increase in Excise Taxes on Petrol, Alcohol and Tobacco

This goes without say. None of these are good for anybody. Incidentally, in case you wanted to speak up to defend alcohol, it's interesting to note that while current stats say, in the States, that if everyone drank a glass of wine a day, 25,000 lives would be saved from such ills as cancer, heart disease and suchlike, current stats also say that if everyone stopped drinking altogether, about 30,000 lives would be saved from other ailments, as well as third party deaths resulting from, for example, drink-driving.

Do your maths.

2.3. Removing Payroll Tax

This one is stating the bleeding obvious.

2.4. An increase in the Luxury Goods Tax

Of course, this one would have to be looked at. But I think that the definition of what is a 'luxury good' really needs to be looked at, in light of the fact that, for example, tampons get taxed as a luxury good.

"Hmm. I just won the lottery. What will I buy? A Ferrari? A house in Woollahra? Oh I know, I'll buy a box of tampons."

(Apologies to that Adam Spencer guy on JJJ)

2.5. Increasing welfare payments

Increasing welfare payments would ensure that low income earners get a better wage. How? I will come back to this in a moment.

2.5.1. A quick lesson about capitalism

I'm gonna digress here and lead a big spiel about capitalism. The left bag capitalism as being a tool of the ruling elite to oppress the under classes, and propose that other economic systems should be examined as alternatives.

Well, it can't be done.

Capitalism is like gravity. It is always there, and it sucks. But it can be used to an advantage.

But didn't they used to have socialist economies that didn't feature capitalism?

No. All they had was a scenario where markets were controlled to a certain extent. Markets. That word capitalism again.

Socialism failed, because markets cannot be manipulated. Originally, the government proposed that prices be fixed at an unreasonably low or high level. This meant, as demand increased over time, that shortages or surpluses would occur. So, in order to keep the economy ticking over, the government would pick up the difference, buying those VCRs which didn't sell and importing loaves of bread to sell to the masses, in order to peg the prices. In the end the rubber band had to snap back. The Rubber Band Principle

This merely says that if something is overpriced or underpriced, the price will eventually have to adjust.

This can be applied to, for example, a Coke ®. If, say, a 375mL can of Coke® is priced too high, the price will eventually come down as those who would usually buy it realise that they are not going to get value for money, and the number of units sold drops too far.

But it can also be applied to other examples: The Stock Market

Let's just say that a stock market index, for example, the Dow Jones, has been appreciating at the rate of 4% when the underlying stocks have been posting profits that have only been appreciating by 2%. There will have to be a correction, eventually. The Exchange Rate

How about when a currency is consistently depreciating, despite the fact that it's economy is staying constant, it's government is posting fiscal surpluses, and inflation is next to non-existent. The value of that currency will eventually have to be revised upwards. Democracy and revolution are capitalist decision making processes

Anywhere where a decision is made is capitalism in action. Consider the action in buying a Coke ®. You can either buy a Coke ®, a Pepsi ®, another brand of softdrink, a beer, a loaf of bread, something else, or nothing at all. Very easy. What is going to give you the most value for money at that particular point in time? If you want that Coke ® bad enough, you will have already weighed up all the pros and cons and you will have decided that the Coke ® is the way to go.

You will have noticed that in those pros and cons, some of them will be non-financial. A pro, for example, is that Coke ® tastes good. A con, on the other hand, is that it rots your teeth.

Hence it can be seen that other decisions you make, whether financial or not, are inherently capitalist.

Do you go to the toilet? Or do you put up with the pain at the pit of your stomach until your bladder ruptures?

Democracy can be viewed this way. On polling day, do you do any of the following?

  1. Vote for the Liberal candidate;
  2. Vote for the ALP candidate;
  3. Vote for the One Nation candidate;
  4. Vote for someone else;
  5. Vote informal; or
  6. Not even turn up to vote?

In Australia where voting is compulsory, you may have decided that a fine is affordable, and thus, as you really can't be bothered turning up at the polling place, you stay in bed all day sipping pina coladas.

(Actually, this may be a financial decision making process, as you may have sussed out their respective tax packages before considering your final decision and seeing how much you'll be affected)

Let's say you decide to vote for someone, because they'll put pressure on the Indonesian government to 'get the fuck out of East Timor' (little reference to graffiti scrawled on the wall of our house, recently). Doing this, in effect would give you value for money, so to speak, as you would like to see an end to Indonesian repression in East Timor. Capitalist decision.

But let's say that you live in a country that is being ruled by a fascist military junta. You have the following decision

  1. Put up with it;
  2. Speak out, in the hope that those in charge will come to their senses; or
  3. Revolt.

You know that if you make the last decision, you have to work out whether the cause you are fighting for is the right one (you don't want to replace the current junta with another that's just as bad), whether the chance that you'll be killed or incarcerated is a big enough risk to take or whether the existing junta is really bad enough for you to take that sort of action. (Really, has there ever been a good 'fascist military junta'?)

Again, capitalist decision, which ever way you look at it.

Incidentally, revolution is a case of a rubber band snapping back, as the government is overpriced, and not appropriate value for money.

So how, if you increase welfare payments, will this cause an appreciation in the minimum wage?

Let's face it. Human beings are essentially lazy and greedy. So if the dole is more than the minimum wage, people are more likely to quit their jobs and go on the dole. Thus, if employers want employees, they are going to have to offer more.

I propose that welfare payments get indexed to a rate above that of the current rate of inflation. This would ensure that employers pay their employees fairly.

3. Education

3.1. Secondary Education

I would like to see a system in place where everyone gets a fair education. For a start, it is now being seen as increasingly vital that people not leave school until they finish year 12. Secondly, there is confusion between states regarding final year qualifications. Thirdly, it is seen as being important to get a good mark in order to get into a good course that will maximise your income on graduation from uni. Fourthly, it is increasingly obvious that not enough money is going into government schools.

I propose that year 12 be made compulsory for all school students.

Now, don't give me that bull about some students being not smart enough to hack it. There are students graduating from uni with certified cases of cerebral palsy. This means that they are officially not very bright, if IQ tests are anything to go by. If a student wants to pass badly enough, they will.

Next, I propose that a national certificate of education, with tertiary entrance qualification to be put into force in order to iron out discrepancies between states.

This is just common sense.

The third one, I will try to fend in just a moment, and the fourth one - no more money for non-government schools at the expense of government schools.

This is contentious. On one hand, there is the argument that the government should look at their own schools before any others, and on the other hand, there is the argument that parents of kids who go to private schools pay tax as well.

So make private school fees tax deductable.

3.2. Tertiary Education

Enough with these high cut-offs to get into certain courses, for example medicine and law. Put more money into these faculties so that more students can study them.

Open up these courses so that anyone can do them. The professions would say that this opens them up to unemployment, but that doesn't matter - the rubber band principle says that after a couple of years of this, the courses would shrink back in size, as graduates fail to find jobs and the resulting publicity makes school leavers fully aware of this.

The rubber band principle also says that doctors and lawyers fees would also come down in price, as more of them are forced out into the marketplace, which can only be a good thing.

One thing that could also be pointed out here, is the legal doctrine that says that you can be found guilty if you a break a law that you are unaware of.

Considering that a law degree takes 4 years, and not many people get into it, this is grossly inequitable and unfair. Therefore, it is in the interests of all Australians, that they should be able to get into this course if they want to.

And instead of taxing people for getting an education, the government should be providing incentives for kids to get educated. So make all uni fees tax deductable.

4. Conclusion

So that is some of my ideas to make the country run better. Ultimately very expensive, but they all pay for themselves.

And you've gotta love that.