"Those who thought the cold war was over and hoped for a better world are being proved to be wrong."
2:38 Mar 3rd, 2014 | 0 notes
Former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser
I don’t agree with Fraser’s central point that currents events in Ukraine are a result of the West’s failures in the past, but the divide between the two hemispheres is very much real.
6:08 Feb 6th, 2014 | 12 notes
Whoever is responsible for @DeptOfAustralia you deserve a fucking medal. These are glorious.
Update: Leslie Nassar is Dept. of Australia’s wonderful, wonderful creator.
Wine, Travel Agents, and Tax Credits
8:55 Feb 3rd, 2014 | 2 notes
Screw the Super Bowl, the 2013 Tax Expenditure Statement was released last Friday and it’s far more exciting.
The sums contained in the Statement are eye-watering. In the 2013-14 financial year, the Australian government will forgo $113.69 billion in revenue as a result of the twenty-nine largest tax expenditure programs. This doesn’t include the other 326 tax expenditure programmes buried in Australia’s gargantuan tax codes: the Income Tax Assessment Act 1936 and Income Tax Assessment Act 1997, which combine to be 6758 pages long. Wow.
In total, Australia spends around eight percent of GDP each year on these 355 tax allowances, deductions, credits, exemptions, concessions and deferrals—more than any other country in the rich world. The only countries that come close to our level of tax wizardry are economically stagnant Italy, and politically sclerotic America.
Unfortunately, individual tax expenditure programs suffer from the same politics as any other government program. For the majority of tax expenditures (including such gems as the $11 million per year ‘Consumption tax exemption for privately produced wine’), their costs are dispersed among all taxpayers, while their benefits are concentrated on a select few. This combination means they are hard to get rid of: any politician who dares threaten a tax handout will suffer the wrath of its beneficiaries intent on protecting their sacred (taxpayer-funded) cow.
To be sure, not all tax expenditures are as indefensible as, say, the $95 million a year in GST exemptions for travel agent services (but only if your holiday is overseas, because that makes sense), or the $280 million a year we pay to people living in the middle of nowhere because they live in the middle of nowhere (I’m not kidding, it’s called the ‘Zone tax offset’). There are, for example, a plethora of worthy tax expenditures targeted at armed forces personnel. But herein lies the problem: yes, our servicemen and servicewomen are deserving recipients of government tax benefits, but so are parents receiving tax breaks on their child care, businesses receiving deductions for environmental protection activities, and farmers receiving accelerated write-offs for water conservation projects, and so on, and so on. Pretty soon everyone has a tax credit or deduction, and we end up with the torrent of more than $113 billion gushing from the Treasury each year. Almost every good cause can be justified, packaged into a tax deduction and added to the national credit card.
The federal government is expected to raise $364.9 billion in revenue this year, after the $113 billion has been given away as tax expenditures. Imagine how much we could cut personal and corporate income taxes if we did away with even just a portion of our annual tax expenditures, and imagine how much simpler our 6758 page tax code could be. The argument is similar to that made against Australia’s unique system of dividend imputation: the details and benefits of such a complex system are often overlooked by, or unknown to, those not already in the game—only insiders reap the benefits. As for imputed dividends, tax expenditures are more opaque, more time consuming to deal with, require more bureaucracy, and are far less efficient than their alternative: broad tax cuts which benefit everyone and are easy to understand. Simple.
It will take superhuman determination and courage to fix Australia’s huge tax expenditure mess, but if Prime Minister Abbott is serious about cutting red tape and boosting productivity, doing so should be at the top of his agenda.
Read the rest of the gripping 2013 Tax Expenditure Statement here.
"Those living in dictatorships often harbour the delusion that the point of democracy is that you get the government you want. Those living in democracies soon realise that is not the system’s most salient feature: rather, it is that a large number of voters get the government they do not want and are expected to put up with it until the next election"
- The Economist
9:35 Jan 15th, 2014 | 0 notes
7:26 Jan 9th, 2014 | 12 notes
James, Sarah ft. Nav and her a$$
Holy moley look at my derpy face, oh gosh.
9:39 Dec 24th, 2013 | 1 note
Merry Christmas, friends :)
Forget obesity as a disease; it’s a ruse. For whatever reason, the majority of the population can no longer say I have had enough. For whatever reason, the majority of human beings respond to advertisements inviting them to enter a pleasure state by eating a day’s worth of calories in one sitting, again and again. In the face of this, we are stuffed. We could say, “You are free agents, totally free, so pay for your own consequences.” We could make people pay at the point of choice, via a food tax, or we could limit choice. The other option, always unspoken, is: let us have our cake. Let’s just eat and eat, get fatter and fatter, and work out how best to live with it. This is where we are heading now: fatness, outside of morality, as an accepted consequence of the world as we have made it.
We can decide as a country, as a world, that we are going to consume what we have until we’re done, eating as much as we wish and treating all the concomitant diseases by diverting substantial amounts of government revenue into medicine and pharmaceuticals. If we do choose this path – and we are most of the way there already – we must be honest about what we are choosing to do: to spend our country’s money on the consequences of indiscriminate consumption.
If you come to me, your doctor, and you ask me to make you thin, for now I will have to cut you or drug you, as these are the only weapons I have to ward off the sirens. There will come a time when patients stop asking their doctors to make them thin. It will either be because fatness is rare again, or because it has become entirely accepted. The choice is in your hands. Are you going to eat it?
9:29 Dec 2nd, 2013 | 3 notes
Excerpt of Karen Hitchcock’s essay ’Fat City: What can stop obesity’ in the most recent issue of The Monthly.
An incredibly thoughtful piece from an individual on the front line of the fight against obesity. Her conclusion? That obesity is not a disease, but a consequence of choice.
Some of the facts Hitchcock cites are shocking: ‘If you are overweight, you cost 25% more per year to keep healthy than a slim person. If you are obese, you cost 45% more.’
"In the long shadow of these upheavals, we gather to ponder their meaning and to commemorate the values that shone in their wake: courage under pressure, ingenuity in adversity, bonds of mateship and above all, loyalty to Australia."
6:58 Nov 11th, 2013 | 2 notes
An excerpt of former Prime Minister Paul Keating’s address at the Australian War Memorial, 11 November 2013:
The First World War was a war devoid of any virtue. It arose from the quagmire of European tribalism. A complex interplay of nation state destinies overlaid by notions of cultural superiority peppered with racism.
The First World War not only destroyed European civilisation and the empires at its heart; its aftermath led to a second conflagration, the Second World War, which divided the continent until the end of the century.
But at the end of the century, from the shadows, a new light emerged. Europe turned its back on the nation state to favour a greater European construct. Individual loyalties are now directed from nationalist obsessions toward an amorphous whole and to institutions unlikely to garner a popular base. It is difficult to imagine these days, young Europeans going into combat for the European Commission, or at a stretch, the European Parliament.
This advent means that European leaders are no longer in a position to ask or demand the sacrifices which once attended their errant foreign policies. A century beyond Armageddon, young men and women are now freed from that kind of tyranny.
The virulent European disease of cultural nationalism and ethnic atavism not only destroyed Europe, it destroyed the equilibrium of the world.
While a century ago Australia was an outreach of European civilisation, here we had set about constructing an image of ourselves, free of the racial hatreds and contempts which characterised European society. Though White Australia institutionalised a policy of bias to Caucasians, within Australia we were moving through the processes of our federation to new ideas of ourselves. Notions of equality and fairness – suffrage for women, a universal living wage, support in old age, a sense of inclusive patriotism.
And our sense of nation brought new resonances; Australian stories, poetry and ideas of our Australian-ness. We even developed a celebratory decorative style in our architecture and named that Federation. We had crystallised a good idea of ourselves and had begun to break free of the dismal legacy of Europe’s ethnic stigmatisation and social stratification.
By 1915 we had no need to reaffirm our European heritage at the price of being dragged to a European holocaust. We had escaped that mire, both sociologically and geographically. But out of loyalty to imperial Britain, we returned to Europe’s killing fields to decide the status of Germany, a question which should earlier have been settled by foresight and statecraft.
Those bloody battles in Flanders, on the Western Front and at Gallipoli nevertheless distinguished us, demonstrating what we were made of. Our embrace of a new sense of human values and relationships through these events gave substance to what is now the Anzac tradition. For whatever claims Britain and its empire had on those who served and died on the Western Front and at Gallipoli, the primary claim remained Australia’s.
Those Australians fought and died not in defence of some old world notion of competing empires and territorial conquests but for the new world – the one they belonged to and hoped to return to.
This is why Australia was never in need of any redemption at Gallipoli, any more than it was in need of one at Kokoda 30 years later. There was nothing missing in our young nation or our idea of it that required the martial baptism of a European cataclysm to legitimise us.
What the Anzac legend did do, by the bravery and sacrifice of our troops, was reinforce our own cultural notions of independence, mateship and ingenuity. Of resilience and courage in adversity.
We liked the lesson about supposedly ordinary people; we liked finding that they were not ordinary at all. Despite the fact that the military campaigns were shockingly flawed and incompetently executed, those “ordinary people” distinguished themselves by their latent nobility.
The unknown Australian soldier interred in this memorial reminds us of these lessons as much as he reminds us of the more than 100,000 Australians lost to us by war.
Read the full speech here.
"Welcome to the wonderful, wacko world of the former government": Prime Minister Tony Abbott forgets the first rule of diplomacy
8:11 Oct 28th, 2013 | 11 notes
There is really only one rule of international politics: leave you domestic politics at the door. Really, no one wants to hear that, nor will they understand what the hell you are talking about. Above all, it just looks very petty and unbecoming of a leader on the world stage.
It appears however, that no one told this to Prime Minister Tony Abbott. Here’s what he had to say about the former Labor government in an interview with The Washington Post:
They made a whole lot of commitments, which they scandalously failed to honor. They did a lot of things that were scandalously wasteful and the actual conduct of government was a circus. They were untrustworthy in terms of the carbon tax. They were incompetent in terms of the national broadband network. They were a scandal when it came to their own internal disunity. They made a whole lot of grubby deals in order to try and perpetuate themselves in power. It was an embarrassing spectacle, and I think Australians are relieved they are gone.
With blistering speed, Fairfax Media got a quote from respected academic Norman Ornstein on the affair:
It really does violate a basic principle of diplomacy to drag in your domestic politics when you go abroad. It certainly can’t help in building a bond of any sort with President Obama to rip into a party, government and - at least implicitly - leader, with whom Obama has worked so closely. Perhaps you can chalk it up to a rookie mistake. But it is a pretty big one.
Clinton Fernandes, associate professor of international and political studies at the University of New South Wales, had this to say:
President Obama would never have made similar comments about his Republican opponent Mitt Romney in this country. Nor would David Cameron have said anything about the opposition leader in this country. Generally speaking the convention is that you don’t go to a foreign country and attack your political opponents at home. Their commentators will be privately thinking that this is extremely uncouth. The image that Prime Minister Abbott will have left his interlocutors with is one of coarseness, amateurishness and viciousness.
Prime Minister, you won the election, remember?
7:00 Oct 24th, 2013 | 16 notes
Anyone with an internet connection can look up Greg Hunt on Wikipedia.
The entry for a few delicious minutes on Thursday included the following pearl: “Since the 2013 election, Hunt has become the Minister for the Environment. He has already proven to be terrible at his job, to no surprise”.
We can’t be entirely sure whether this is accurate. Just about anyone with an opinion, wicked or otherwise, can edit Wikipedia.
Indeed, if you’d clicked on Mr Hunt’s entry a bit earlier, you might have come across the following:
"He [Hunt] is notorious for using Wikipedia to conduct research on environmental issues on Wikipedia despite having access to a vast bureaucracy staffed by some of the finest and most dedicated minds in the nation, like some total turd. Critics concede that his 1990 Honours thesis on the necessity of a carbon tax was probably more academically rigorous than the manner in which he comports himself as one of the most powerful people in the country, but others defend their characterisation of the Environment Minister as an utter weiner."
This no longer appears on the site, having been excised with some haste. Mr Hunt or his staff and supporters, as anyone who searches the Wikipedia site can discover, appear to spend inordinate amounts of time frantically revising and removing unhelpful, uncomplimentary and occasionally defamatory insertions of material concerning the Minister’s alleged life and times. Wikipedia has now disabled editing of Hunt’s page by unregistered users.
I am amused by this.