Why Joe Hockey should not have sacked me.

As we face an ageing tsunami, Treasurer Joe Hockey has sacked the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing (and me as its chairman), declaring it to be irrelevant without stating why this is so. Shortly before that, Prime Minister Tony Abbott decided not to have a minister for ageing, downgrading the importance of millions of seniors in the life of the nation.

The sole reason for the dismissal of the panel, as conveyed to me privately by Coalition MPs, is that it was established by former treasurer Wayne Swan and it has been decided that every vestige of Swan’s term as treasurer must be obliterated. Such is the waste that politics represents in our national life. Continue reading “Why Joe Hockey should not have sacked me.”

Economic Growth or Quality of Life – measuring the progress of a nation.

Politicians and economists calculate the stature and prosperity of a nation by the annual percentage increase in its Gross Domestic Product. Governments rise and fall on the basis of this statistic, mainly because nations are declared to be in recession if there is negative GDP growth on three successive occasions.

However, the thoughts of many support the view that it is long overdue for this inadequate gauge of a nation’s growth to be declared the farce that it is.

I want to suggest that it should be replaced by a new measure that could be called General Domestic Prosperity. This means that a GDP will still be calculated, but it will have a new meaning and a different basis of measurement. Continue reading “Economic Growth or Quality of Life – measuring the progress of a nation.”

Is it a sin to sell a Government Asset?

More emotion is generated by the debate on Government Asset Sales than most issues that are littered around the political playground. Most of the comments are generated by the thought that there are votes to be won by perpetuating this battle — far more so than the remote possibility that there may be deep political convictions involved.

This means it’s time to try to take the discussion out of the hands of political opportunists and elevate it to a rational plane, as the balanced development of the nation will depend heavily the creation of many more new assets. Continue reading “Is it a sin to sell a Government Asset?”

Is Super very Super?

A comment on the explosive election issue of Superannuation

There are few, if any, certainties in life. Nevertheless, I am willing to put significant money on the real possibility that the September Federal Election will be decided by the votes of the rapidly growing ranks of Seniors, many of whom are not happy chappies.

Right now, there are a number of issues that will determine where the Oldies vote will go. One is the desperate shortage of Age Friendly Housing, while another is the blatant discrimination against Seniors who want to stay in the workforce or return to it. However, the most powerful one is the uncertainty and complexity of Superannuation, combined with the poor financial returns that come from it.

Let me lead you through a chat about my view of the basic principles of how a good National Superannuation Program could best be run, without commenting on any details of the complex legislation that has grown-up around it so ridiculously in Australia over two decades. Continue reading “Is Super very Super?”

Is there a prosperous future for the Australian Bush?

Have we killed the legacy of John Flynn?

Out where the sun goes down, the people of the bush call him “Flynn of the Inland”. He was the man who, in the first half of the Twentieth Century, made a valiant attempt to create a “Mantle of Safety” across the remoteness of the continent by building hospitals and hostels in places like Birdsville, Innamincka, Oodnadatta and Halls Creek, creating the Pedal Radio and establishing the Flying Doctor Service so that ordinary Australians could make a new life in the Outback and feel secure.

He also enlisted a team of Padres who ministered to people in areas covering countless square miles — marrying, baptising, counseling and burying them — no matter what their faith or lack of it. By any standards, his life’s work was a notable achievement which will be honoured by historians for generations to come.

Now, sixty years after his death, we should be honest enough to admit that we have not built on the solid foundation created by his extraordinary endeavours. Continue reading “Is there a prosperous future for the Australian Bush?”

Beware the Social Distortion of Money.

The world’s most favoured and heated topic of conversation is money. It dominates every facet of life, and it is true to say that most people handle it badly. Governments manage it particularly poorly, as I have mentioned often in other articles. This being so, I decided to do a bit more in-depth reading about money over the past few weeks.

My first port of call was a book called ‘What Money Can’t Buy’. It is an absolute classic, written by Michael Sandel. Its sub-title is ‘The Moral Limits of Markets’ and it vividly outlines the extremes to which people go in using their money to gain them privileges that others cannot aspire to. Continue reading “Beware the Social Distortion of Money.”

Is it time to embrace Community Capitalism?

Those grand times when some people made lots of money ceased forever when the Great Financial Crisis hit the world in 2008. It is a lie to promise people that it will happen again in its old freewheeling way.

Capitalism in the form that we once knew it actually died that year, and rigor mortis set in rapidly. It is beyond resurrection and will be replaced gradually by something more meaningful to the era in which we live. Continue reading “Is it time to embrace Community Capitalism?”

Is the mining boom over?

Is the mining boom over? No!  BHP’s panic decision not to proceed with the expansion of their mine at Olympic Dam reflects bad management of what was once Australia’s greatest company.  Is there a softening of world demand for resources? Yes!  Mainly caused by the recession in Europe, but the resources market was overheated and needed to calm down.  Will the softening continue? Yes!

What harm will this do to the Australian economy? Continue reading “Is the mining boom over?”

Who won the Games?

Australia went backwards at the London Olympics, but the Brits have enjoyed great success both in a sporting and organisational sense, except for their inability to sell tickets. There is no doubt that the Games did wonders for the morale of the British people. It has been at rock bottom for a long time for a wide range of political, economic and social reasons, a large measure of which is related to its fateful decision to join the fiasco known as the European Union half a century ago.

The Olympics have cost Britain a lot of money, and the debate about whether they have or will ever receive value for money will go on for a long time. Continue reading “Who won the Games?”

The pain of being like Spain

Premier Campbell Newman made headlines when he declared that Queensland’s economic position is similar to that of Spain. His remarks reminded some commentators of Paul Keating’s famous forecast that Australia could become a banana republic, a comment that caused him to suffer a fair bit of flak for years afterwards.

Of course, Newman knows, as we do, that Queensland’s position is nothing like that of Spain. His State has the backing of a strong Australian dollar, while Spain is tied to the Euro which is well on its way to being a terminal currency. Spain has 25 per cent of its population unemployed, whereas Queensland’s percentage is one quarter of that. Additionally, Queensland’s debt, and that of Australia, is miniscule compared with Spain’s.

So, why did Campbell Newman make such a dramatic statement? Continue reading “The pain of being like Spain”

Is it a sin to sell the farm?

The gossip around town is that a majority of Australians believe that, when foreigners invest in farming in Australia, they actually dig-up the land and take it back home, lamentably leaving us with a continent which is just a massive hole in the ground.

From what I hear, the same majority enthusiastically applaud Australians who invest overseas; this is seen as courageous entrepreneurial activity by fine Australians who want to help lesser beings to prosper from our benevolence. Naturally, we expect that they would not have the audacity to protest about our presence in their nation.

All of this means that the loud cries to stop foreign investment in any Australian business are sanctimonious hogwash. The reality is…. Continue reading “Is it a sin to sell the farm?”

The Decadence of Entitlement

Speaking at the Prime Minister’s Economic Summit in Brisbane in June, Reserve Bank Governor, Glen Stevens, told 150 business leaders that Australia’s economy is one of the strongest in the world, and yet Australians are overwhelmingly unhappy with their lot in life.

He found it somewhat of a puzzle that this state of mind exists when most Greeks and Spaniards would gladly leave their homeland right now and come to live with us. Nevertheless, he accepted that the voters were angry and acknowledged that this was a problem for politicians to deal with. Continue reading “The Decadence of Entitlement”

Is it possible for a budget to be popular?

Ben Chifley was one of Australia’s finest Treasurers. At one point in his career, he was reported as saying that it is utterly impossible to produce a budget that a majority of voters will find acceptable.

Both Peter Costello and Wayne Swan will testify that Chifley’s comments were close to the mark. So, it is not a surprise that this year’s budget was greeted with hysteria by lots of otherwise intelligent people who believe that they have a holy calling to say the worst possible things that they can think of about everything that the Gillard government does. They truly believe that if they can be seen to have had a prominent role in bringing this government down, they will have earned the right to be treated with great warmth when St Peter greets them at the pearly gates of Heaven. Continue reading “Is it possible for a budget to be popular?”

Twiggy Forrest

The latest saga to annoy us while we try to eat our poached eggs at breakfast is the revelation of a taxation deal that Twiggy almost made with Kevin Rudd in the dying hours of the Rudd era. For a number of reasons, we can give thanks that it did not come into being, but I can assure you that his proposal would not have been implemented even if Rudd had survived.

Forrest should be comforted by the fact that many of us had exciting conversations with Rudd about revolutionary projects that were promised to happen the following day, but were lost in the great hole that swallowed up the remnants of Rudd’s short attention span. Continue reading “Twiggy Forrest”

How Green was my Valley?

My headline has stolen the title of a great novel that I read back in my school days. Written by Richard Llewellyn, it told the story of humble people who lived in a lovely valley in Wales where suddenly, out of nowhere, miners found lots of coal. Their quality of life descended into the depths as their landscape turned into an awful scene of squalor, grime, coal dust and unethical politics.

I was greatly moved by it and read it several times, particularly as my father was a lowly-paid manual labourer in a timber mill, located in an isolated bush community where the forests were slowly being decimated.

Now, more than 70 years later, I have a leading role in the building of a railway which will enable several new coal mines to open in the Surat Basin in Central Queensland in a much cleaner environment to Wales. This leads me to want to make a few objective comments about the emotion that surrounds the current mining boom in Australia. Continue reading “How Green was my Valley?”

The New Age of Australian Philanthropy.

The rapid ageing of the world’s population (from which Australia will not be exempt) will create significantly increased demand for medical facilities and research, as well as a great need for research and development to create the new products and services that seniors will need to help them adapt to a new world of advanced technology.

The good news is that Australia is uniquely placed to lead the world in this ground-breaking era if we are prepared to significantly invest in its achievement. One innovative way will be through philanthropy. Continue reading “The New Age of Australian Philanthropy.”

The Bell Tolls for the Euro.

Every day I read the voluminous comments of eminent economists and columnists who make predictions about the future life or ultimate death of the European Community and the Euro. Just like climate change scientists, they are poles apart in their viewpoints, and so I can’t claim to be providing you with ground breaking comments that will be accepted by all. I just want to raise a few basic issues.

The concept of a united Europe was a good idea that gained life soon after the end of World War 2, but it has proven to be a flawed vision. The great nations of Britain, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Austria, etc, have been at war with one another for at least a thousand years, and the lack of trust that generated those wars has not abated. Continue reading “The Bell Tolls for the Euro.”

Can we build a great Australia with taxes that are fair and just?

The recent Tax Forum in Canberra was a worthwhile exercise, despite some cynical coverage by sections of the media.

Having been one of the 180 delegates invited to attend, I can say that — yes — some of the speeches were boring, and some people came along to push the barrow solely for the benefit of their particular narrow-interest groups — but — by and large, the debate concentrated on what was good for Australia, and a number of important matters were given a good airing. Continue reading “Can we build a great Australia with taxes that are fair and just?”

Give Infrastructure Australia a FREE REIN

The infrastructure revolution that Australia so desperately needs will not occur unless all governments give Infrastructure Australia the power that it needs to build national projects with a minimum of government interference.

It was originally established as an advisory body on infrastructure to Federal and State governments, but they were told in advance what projects every government wanted to push — most of which were not in the national interest. They were pork barreling projects designed to help politicians win elections, particularly in marginal seats, and bore no relationship to the long-term needs of the nation. Continue reading “Give Infrastructure Australia a FREE REIN”

ASSET SALES are great if the money establishes NEW ASSETS

Federal and State Governments have a desperate need to generate a considerable volume of new funding to finance the creation of new assets to serve the people — but it is clear that they will never be able to do this from their general revenue.

It will happen only if they go into many meaningful investment partnerships with the private sector, as well as selling their old assets so they can create a continual rolling over of funds from the old to the new. Continue reading “ASSET SALES are great if the money establishes NEW ASSETS”