Archive

Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Queensland’s boring budget

June 3, 2014 Comments off

NOTE: This article was writing at the request of The Conversation, where it was first published.

With the release of their plan to sell and lease some assets after the next election, the state government has shifted attention away from their budget. Though in truth, it would have been quite easy to distract people from this budget, because there is nothing new.

This is a boring budget.

We already knew that the ever-elusive budget surplus had disappeared. Two years ago I commented in The Conversation that: “The forecast for a fiscal surplus in 2014/15 is nice, but it is hard to take long-term budget predictions too seriously” and also that “it is easy to predict future austerity and surpluses, but it is harder to actually make it happen”. Time has justified that skepticism. The government’s original estimate for 2014/15 was a $0.7 billion surplus, but they are now expecting a $2.3 billion deficit.

Read more…

The right to be a bigot

May 26, 2014 1 comment

Should people have a right to be a bigot? The current law (with significant public support) says that people cannot be racist, sexist, homophobic, etc in your private business dealings. On the rare occasions that people oppose such laws, they are generally accused of being racist, sexist, homophobic etc themselves… as happened to Rand Paul in America.

Despite that risk, this is my argument for why people should have full freedom of association, including the right to choose who they deal with, even when they’re being assholes.

By way of introduction, let me say that I can understand why people want to force others to behave according to their own morals, which is a fairly common theme through history. And I understand that forcing people to follow the morals of the majority is always a politically populist position that will generally win votes at the ballot box. But I argue that it is immoral, unnecessary and dangerous to give the government (made up of imperfect politicians and bureaucrats) the power to force people to associate with each other against their will.

My personal approach to social issues is fairly progressive in that I think we should encourage acceptance of different races, gender identities, religions, sexual orientations, lifestyles, etc… and I like to think that I have set a fairly good example through words and deeds, and perhaps influenced a few people along the way. However, I don’t think I should use violence (or the threat of violence through government) to force my morality on other people.

Read more…

March 28, 2014 Comments off

Sydney has The Centre for Independent Studies… Melbourne has the Institute for Public Affairs… Perth has Mannkal and Adelaide has the Bert Kelly Research Centre… but for over 2 million people in and around Brisbane, we sadly don’t have any large group or serious money to host classical liberal and free-market thinkers. What we do have are the ALS Friedman Dinners.

 

CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE FRIEDMAN DINNER MAILING LIST
2006-11-30_friedman
CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE FRIEDMAN DINNER MAILING LIST

 

Since 2011 we have hosted some of the best & brightest of Australia and a few visiting guests — including Dr Tom Palmer (USA), Prof Jim Allan, the Hon Dr Gary Johns, Prof Judith Sloan, Dr Jonathan Crowe, the Hon Senator George Brandis, Prof Deirdre McCloskey (USA, co-host Economic Society), Dr Alex Robson, the Hon Peter Reith, Prof Jason Potts, Dr David Martin-Jones, Prof Jeff Bennett, the Hon Bill O’Chee, and many more. Next on the list is Brendan O’Neill… who is touring from the UK (thanks to the CIS) and the Friedman Dinners will host his only event in Brisbane on the 10th of April. Should be good.

If you want to hear about future events coming to Brisbane, make sure you are on our mailing list.

 

Libertarian heading for the Senate

September 14, 2013 2 comments

In the 2012 American Presidential election, one of the side stories was the unlikely campaign of the libertarian-Republican Ron Paul, who brought a new brand of politics to the country by advocating significantly smaller government, personal freedoms, and peace. He was ultimately unsuccessful, but his brand of politics is having an ongoing impact on political debate. In America, his son is now a leading Senator and contender for 2016 President. And in Australia on the weekend the people of NSW elected a libertarian to the Australian Senate in the form of David Leyonhjelm from the Liberal Democrats.

A lot has been written and said about this unlikely outcome, and one or two things were even true. Pretty good for the mainstream media.

The discussion about the Liberal Democrats on ABC’s “the drum” TV show was particularly hilarious. Beyond the words “hello” it was hard to find any comment that wasn’t laughably, embarrassingly wrong. One commentator said that Leyonhjelm chose the name of the party because it sounded serious, but the party was started in 2001 and Leyonhjelm  joined in 2006. The reason for the name has been repeatedly explained — the Liberal Democrats believe in liberal democracy and wanted to portray that in the name. The AEC and all reasonable people don’t think that the Liberals should be able to claim a monopoly on a generic political word, especially when it isn’t even true in their case. If somebody wants to vote for liberalism, then the Liberal Democrats offers them that choice.

Another witless commentator said that Glenn Druery arranged front parties to funnel preferences to the Liberal Democrats in 1999… two years before the Liberal Democrats was even started. Fail. In fact, the Liberal Democrats were one of the only small parties that were excluded from the Druery coalition this year. Are facts even vaguely relevant for the ABC chatterati?

Read more…

Senate voting reform

September 11, 2013 Comments off

With the possible Senate victory of the Motoring Enthusiasts on 0.5% of the vote, and the Sports Party on 0.2% of the vote, there has been a growing call for reform to the way that we vote. One of the more sensible suggestions doing the rounds is that people should have more control over their preferences, for example by being able to preference parties “above the line” on the Senate ballot paper. Perhaps. That is certainly something that should be considered.

Another idea being promoted is that small parties should be required to achieve 4% or 5% of the vote before they are allowed to sit in parliament. The rationale is that unless a party can show they have serious public support, then they shouldn’t be there representing the public. This argument fails for two reasons.

First, there are 226 people in the federal parliament, meaning that each politician makes up 0.44% of the total. The idea that a party doesn’t deserve 0.44% of representation because they only get 3% of the vote is an absurd example of Orwellian double-talk. If we are to exclude the micro parties, then the 15% of people who prefer those options will be represented by nobody, while all the big parties will be over-represented.

Second, by making the 1% and 2% parties irrelevant it becomes much harder for those small parties to ever grow into bigger parties, creating political stagnation. The system will be limited to the current big parties, only interrupted by an occasional billionaire. The Greens currently get about 8% of the vote, but go back 20 years and they were a 2% party. Their occasional successes helped them to build a profile and grow, and provide more political diversity.

The Senate system is certainly strange, and it’s reasonable to look at reforms that help make preferences more transparent. Or better yet, the new parliament should re-think our absurd attachment to compulsory voting. Forcing people to vote devalues the voice of people who carefully consider their vote, annoys people who don’t care, leads to lower quality public policy debates as parties appeal for the all-valuable ignorant vote, ensures that some segments of the voting public can be taken for granted, results in many informal and donkey and joke and random votes, while being a pointless infringement on free choice. For no benefit.

If we are going to reconsider the way we vote in Australia, voluntary should be on the table… but having an arbitrary cut-off that biases the system against small parties should be an absolute non-starter.

 

 

Senate fun’n’games

August 20, 2013 1 comment

I have been distracted with Senate preference flows for the last two days, and noticed a few things. Many people have talked about how Pauline Hanson could win in NSW (with micro-party preferences), and Katter might win in QLD (with Labor preferences), and the Nats might get the forth spot in WA (with Wikileaks preferences). That would shift Senate balance of power away from the Greens.

It should be noted that with Palmer and Labor preferences, the Greens are still a very good chance in all states. If they are lucky, it’s actually possible the Greens could *increase* their representation.

But there are some other interesting cases.

Family First have picked up some nice preferences in South Australia, Tasmania and Queensland and have a chance of being back in parliament. The Shooters & Fishers Party look like they have a good preference flow in WA and could be fighting with the Nationals for the last spot. Fishing has a chance in Queensland. And even the Democrats are in with a chance, with a good preference flow in Victoria. There is also a slim chance that Labor might only get one Senator in QLD, with their 2nd spot going Green on the back of Palmer preferences. For the LDP, there is a chance in Queensland and Tasmania, but they both require a lot of luck. The wonderful Rachel Connor also has a mathematical chance in Queensland, but that requires even more luck. But we can dream.

Full state by state analysis is below…

Read more…

2013 Senate race

August 17, 2013 Comments off

Most interest in the federal election has been on whether the Liberal-National Parties (LNP) or Labor will win control of the lower house and form government. That makes sense. But the race for the Senate is in many ways more interesting, unpredictable and has very important consequences.

On current polling, Tony Abbott and the LNP will win government, but without the Senate they will not be able to pursue their agenda. At the moment, the Greens have balance of power in the Senate and they are openly hostile to the LNP. However, that could be about to change.

Read more…