Saturday salon 7/4

1. Turnbull faces the music on Newspoll

Malcolm Turnbull got an unexpected surprise when Fairfax-Ipsos cheekily inserted a poll to gazump Newspoll by a few days. It had good news for Turnbull. By the usual method of allocating preferences according to flows at the last election the LNP was behind 48-52 TPP. However, when preferences were allocated as those polled indicated they would vote, the result was 50-50.

However Poll Bludger points out that the sample was only 1146, instead of the usual 1400.

Fairfax-Ipsos also said 62% reckon the Liberals should stick with Turnbull. Only 28% think he should be dumped.

There is little doubt that Abbott and his mates are making a special effort to unsettle Turnbull. We have the Monash Forum to promote coal, and the Pollie Pedal through the La Trobe Valley. Julie Owens, Labor member for Parramatta, has been on these pedals in the past, and tells Patricia Karvelas just how political they are.

At time of writing Newspoll has just appeared and it’s 52-48 to Labor. Turnbull will be happy with that, as he will think he can win from there.

There is some encouragement for Bill Shorten as he has narrowed the ‘better PM’ poll to 36 to 38.

Essential Report on 27 March also narrowed to 52-48 in favour of Labor, from 54-46 a fortnight earlier.

2. In the Land of the Free

Quite a lot has been happening in the Land of the Free. There is little doubt that President Trump would feel more free if he could wish away the investigations about collusion with Russia being undertaken by Robert Mueller.

    Multiple aides to the President continue to describe him as obsessed with the Russia investigation, becoming increasingly agitated as details about the probe emerge. Trump feels the investigation undermines his presidency and has grown increasingly bitter that it has not yet concluded, the aides have said.

Mueller’s mob have already laid charges on 19 people and problem is that Mueller wants to have a chat with Trump.

At least five major law firms have been invited to help Trump navigate the Mueller investigation. All have declined.

    Deliberations over an interview with Mueller have proceeded amid tumult within the President’s legal team. Midway through March, the lead lawyer, John Dowd, resigned amid disagreements with the President and increased scrutiny in the probe. That’s left Jay Sekulow, an outside attorney, and Cobb, who works in the White House, as the remaining lawyers representing the President in this matter.

3. American teachers fired up over pay

If you look at international comparisons, apart from learning that Luxembourg is the place to be, American teachers do a bit better or a bit worse that the OECD average. That last one, however, shows American teachers earning about 70% as much as similarly educated workers.

The real problem, hover, is that within the US there is enormous variety:

    While kids enjoy their summer vacations, most teachers are still working. Why? Because many across the U.S. are struggling to make ends meet.

    In fact, the amount teachers make can vary greatly by state. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the lowest 10 percent of high school teachers earn less than $38,180 and the highest 10 percent earn more than $92,920.

In Kansas the state supreme court recently rule that “public spending on education was unconstitutionally low”. It’s not just teachers salaries, of course, it’s buildings and the whole fabric of educational resourcing. Ironically, I understand the states doing worst are Republican states obsessed with small government.

You might say that people are getting what they voted for.

4. Centrelink’s robo-debt scheme is a scam, pure and simple

Emeritus Professor of Law at the University of Sydney and former member of the Administrative Appeals Tribunal Terry Carney headed a review of Centrelink’s robo-debt program and found that Centrelink has been enforcing debts that have no legal basis. In legal terms it is a scam, pure and simple.

The Finance department told them they needed to save around $2 billion, so they went out and scammed the most vulnerable people in the community.

The scheme uses averages to determine debts, not actuals. Carney thinks about 70 per cent of debts raised are wrong. For some unimaginable reason the Ombudsman’s review did not examine the legality of the operation.

This arrogant government is persisting. This scam must stop now.

There’s more at the SMH and a more complete article at The Guardian, linking also to Carney’s paper.

Previous post – Centrelink fail: Ashgrove pensioners billed for $45,000

71 thoughts on “Saturday salon 7/4”

  1. Thank goodness I am unlikely to be caught up in robo-debt but I feel very sorry for all those who have unjustly suffered because of it.

    Yes, robo-debt is a bare-faced illegal scam; fat chance that the perpetrators will ever be brought to justice though.

    Worse than being illegal is that it is an admission, to the whole wide-world, of gross incompetence in managing public monies. Intelligently designed policies and diligent oversight would have made this marvellous and magical robo-debt unnecessary in the first place.

    Not that they will ever face court over it, but it would be interesting to have thorough investigations of all those involved with its creation or purchase. Suspending them on pay or forbidding them to contact for government business until such investigations were complete would undoubtedly save a lot of public money in the long run

    There is a nationwide campaign to stamp out bullying – so why is robo-debt excluded from condemnation? Have journalists and social commentators been ordered to avert their eyes, when it comes to robo-debt, and to concentrate on bad behaviour in the schoolyard?

  2. Prof Carney says the legal requirement for raising debts by Centrelink was set out in a court case in 1984, and the legal situation is very clear. Nevertheless Centrelink and the relevant minister baldly assert that robo-debt conforms with the law. We need to go back to the courts again.

    Tonight Four Corners examines how the Taxation Office bullies citizens and companies.

  3. On current politics, the Australian Electoral Commission has done a distribution, creating new seats in Victoria and the ACT. SA has lost one. The net effect is to add four seats to Labor’s column as a starting point.

    People are scratching their heads as to what Abbott is really up to. The only possible starter in a leadership change is Julie Bishop. Labor would remind everyone that as a lawyer she helped James Hardie, faced with asbestos claims.

    Abbott may hope to be recruited. The other name that is mentioned is Peter Dutton, who is facing a fight to save his seat. Redistribution slightly favours him, but all the other parties, the unions, and GetUp are committed to giving him a hard time.

  4. The Robo debt scandal is just another reason for considering UBI. Victims of Robo debt should be able to claim damages for stress, particularly given that most of the victims would already be living very economically stressed lives.

  5. Robo debt was always a scam, as Brian’s mathematical son informed us more than a year ago.

    In breaking news, Mr B. Joyce now says that Mr M. Turnbull should “do the honourable thing and resign, if he can’t turn the polls around by the end of the year.”

    Source: The Australian, online.

  6. Ah, yes, another in a long list of Government departmental incompetence, malfeasance and harmfulness.
    The ATO gets a rare scrutinisation for once too.

    So let’s have a UBI Department (UBID), this time it’ll work perfectly. More dependence on government can’t go wrong. And a sister bureaucracy to it, The Motivational Administration Department ( MAD ) will guarantee participation levels ensuring the whole thing is revenue positive.

    March on comrades!…

  7. You are right Jumpy. UBI done well has the potential to be a bureaucratic nightmare.
    The sort of UBI I have in mind would remove the need for unemployment benefits, old age pensions and a raft of child benefits. It would do this by making a weekly payment to everyone that is high enough to ensure that those on pensions, unemployment benefits or receive child payments etc. would not be worse off.
    To keep the system simple the UBI may vary with age but would not vary according to income, assets or domestic arrangements. So yes it would be a bureaucratic nightmare because it would need a lot, lot less bureaucrats to run it than our existing welfare systems and would reduce the cost of running government
    What I have described above would make most Australians better off. However, those lucky enough to be high income earners would be worse off because a UBI will reduce inequality.
    Because a UBI is very progressive it might allow most of us to pay a flat tax without making the overall tax/welfare system less progressive than it is now. A flat tax gets rid of the lurks that people use to avoid tax. So perhaps we could also reduce the size of the tax department.

  8. John D

    Your outlined UBI proposal is interesting. I realise it’s early days, could be lots of details to iron out…….

    Here is one you might consider: conscientious objection.

    For those fearless, independent, self-sufficient individuals, who have forever fore sworn to suck shamelessly on the teat of Big Government, I humbly suggest an Opt Out Provision so that all Libertarians and their family members can refuse to receive the UBI.

    In that way they could maintain at least part of their integrity, though you may find they would still use community assets such as roads, schools, hospitals funded by other people’s taxes.

  9. Well, funded by the top quintile of income earners and businesses MR A, but yeah, an opt out is good with any Government policy.

  10. John
    Appreciate you taking this seriously. I will too now.

    I’m not sure I agree with some of your conclusions but perhaps I’m lacking the details to be able to.

    As a start off point a theoretical number to work with and who is included. The mean average wage at the 2016 Cencus was $ 662. A livening wage is quite different in Sydney compared to Sarina for example. Also would the minimum wage law remain as is , lower or done away with all together ?

    Milton Freedman argued for many years in the top echelons of economists and politicians for a UBI based on a reverse income tax. I’d have to go brush up on the details but fundamentally everyone started the financial year with a negative income, and no minimum wage. It’s quite interesting.

  11. Here’s a clip ( 16 mins ) of him explaining some aspects of his UBI.

    Incidentally, it would take a brave Liberal Politician of today to argue against Milton Freedman, I can tell you that for free.

    They could only argue the rates.

  12. It occurs to me, Jump, that if everyone receives a UBI, actual wages for working could be lower.

    An obvious disadvantage would be that if a person was not strictly dependent on wages for living costs, she might get choosier about jobs. Might shun employers who treated her badly. Might work for enjoyment rather than sheer bl**dy necessity.

    Tough for employers who like mistreating their folk…..

    Fewer opportunities for unions to recruit members?

    And where would the “reserve army of the unemployed” be? Not in barracks?? Gone AWOL?

  13. Complexity Is Always Theft – whether the culprits are governments, religions, private businesses, organized crime, armies, systems of law and regulation, guilds and professional bodies or whatever.

    So many people become obscenely wealthy and powerful through maintaining unnecessary complexity that it will be very difficult indeed to root it out.

    For UBI to work it would have to be compulsory – with no watering down whatsoever to suit any high-and-mighty Libertarians. If any over-righteous Libertarians were allowed to get away with refusing it, the flood-gates would be open to deprive many, many other people, supposedly “undeserving” people, of their right to a share of the wealth of this country, (before the Australian collaborators and compradors give it all away for the modern-day equivalent of a few bottles of fire-water and a bundle of poorly-forged axes).

    By the way, the ABC must be on the chopping-block today after exposing disgusting scandals and criminal behaviour in both Defence AND Taxation last night.

  14. Jumpy/Ambi: One of the attractions of what I am proposing is the simplicity that avoids the need for bureaucrats to monitor what everyone is doing. Once you start wanting to vary the UBI to take account of things like location admin costs will zoom up.
    UBI would have to at least match minimum wage for me to even think about getting rid of minimum wages.
    I am strongly in favour of most people being on awards because it helps stabilize the economy. If wages drop because the economy is slowing down, customer purchasing power drops which slows the economy even more which……..

  15. OK John

    I didn’t mean anyone’s total income should drop.

    ‘Thought experiment’ : suppose my current wage is 40, and UBI is 30, then I could take any job paying 10+, and have the same or higher total.

    So with everyone on UBI, a wage would be a “top up” for many currently on low wages.

    For a high paid professional or manager, it would be petty cash. That is, assuming they maintain their current salaries and dividends.

    I agree that complexity and exceptions should be avoided.

    {confession: I wanted to tease J. He could receive his UBI and donate it fully to a charity by periodic bank transfer. J appears to be impervious to teasing.}


  16. Ambi/Jumpy: My preferred option for UBI is about simplifying part of the welfare system to the point where it doesn’t require
    expensive administration to police or discourage people from working. I certainly didn’t see it as a system aimed at subsidizing business by cutting wages.
    In the longer term UBI might be used to resolve some of the potential economic or people problems if either the robo economy or moves to cure our afluenza lead massive reductions in the available work. Under these circumstances an UBI might be about providing most of the income for most of us. In these cases UBI may be set to give people a reasonable life without depending on working. This might mean setting UBI far enough above the current minimum wage for awards to no longer be required. (But I would take some convincing.)

  17. John
    Is there a written example of what you’re talking about that has some detail ?
    Or is this something of yours you’ve yet to put down on paper ?

  18. I don’t want to harp on about the level, but we could use a ballpark starting point.
    The current Federal Minimum Wage is
    $694.90. $78 is withheld. So take home is $616.90.

    That’s just info that is current.

    Are we talking $650ish for a basic starting point.

    Also do dependent children get that ?

  19. Removing the minimum wage wouldn’t be a subsidy, but I don’t want to get diverted having to explain what and isn’t a subsidy again.

    Removing the minimum wage would increase taxable profits which I assume would be needed to pay for the model you’re getting at I think.

    Also removing it also remove a barrier to entry into the employment market for the totally unskilled so they can become skilled. That’s part of Milton Freedmans model I hope you has the time to look at.

  20. Also do dependent children get that ?

    I would assume everybody over a certain age would be eligible.
    What was Milton Freedman’s position?

  21. Milton explains that, better than I could, in the clip I posted 5:26 PM yesterday.

    No he doesn’t.
    At no point does he mention whether dependent children would be eligible for a UBI. In fact he doesn’t mention a UBI (which is not a negative income tax) at all.
    Maybe you should watch these videos before you link to them.

  22. Zoot
    Milton clearly states dependents do not qualify, they are deductions under his model of a GBI ( Guaranteed Basic Income [ economists most common term])

    Now, People are trying to discuss something seriously and in good faith, so piss off with your juvenile idiocy please.

  23. John, I’m far more interested in the ideas you have around a GBI than Milton Friedman’s at this point because I’m unclear as to how yours would function.
    Seriously, I’m genuinely interested.

    I think simplicity is best also and Friedman’s doesn’t do that to the extent I’d like, his remains just as complex if you disregard the flat tax attached.

  24. Milton clearly states dependents do not qualify

    Hate to press the point, but no he doesn’t. What he clearly states is that (same as under current income tax regulations),

    [dependents] are deductions under his model of a GBI negative income tax

    He doesn’t mention what follows if, for example, those dependents have an income of their own and the complexities that would arise, and Buckley is too busy talking over him to examine the possibility.

  25. I think simplicity is best also and Friedman’s doesn’t do that

    I agree 100%.
    Milton’s model is unwieldy and unnecessarily complex.

  26. Zoot
    Any thoughts on John Davidson’s ideas, that’s what I’m interested in, not aside examples of a GBI ?

    John brought it up and I put an example of a conservative version to illustrate its not a left/right ambition but could be doable.

    I assume you aren’t averse to folk discussing Johns ideas.

  27. It might be best to drop Prof Friedman, though he was very influential in the 1970s.

    What was that quote from Prof Junie Morosi, advisor to the Australian Treasurer……..?

    “Who is this Milton Friedman? Can we get anything on him??”

  28. So, if UBI replaces welfare payments, John, does the wage system remain pretty much as is?

    A flat rate of income tax could be concerning, being neutral rather than progressive.

    Middle class welfare?
    Allowances for babies and young kids?
    Hawke/Keating family tax benefits were supposed to be carefully targetted towards lower income families by means testing…..

    If you are preparing a post, I look forward to it.
    Reducing poverty should be an aim of any decent govt.

  29. John brought it up and I put an example of a conservative version

    And when you asked a question regarding John’s model I offered a reply and asked in passing what your conservative model’s answer would be. Don’t get your knickers in a twist.
    FWIW I suspect I will agree with John’s ideas when he expresses them fully.
    My concern is the fundamental need of many Australians to judge people on welfare as morally inferior. I fear any attempt to make welfare a fairness issue rather than a moral one will be met with intransigent opposition.

  30. zoot, it appears that Mr Abbott has today also advised the PM “not to get HIS knickers in a twist” (in that case, over immigration policy).

    CSIRO is now working closely with the Lingerie Advisory Board (LAB), to get the their Twistless Undies out of the lab and into the LAB.

  31. I’ve tried twistless knickers (undies) and they only work on some babies, not adults. Late teens is the worst time period knicker twisting.

  32. Just on late teens: someone told me that when their late teen daughter suddenly took to wearing G-strings, hubby came inside from hanging out the washing, to ask why the family “suddenly had so many eye-patches?”

    For the astronomically inclined, a warning:
    Beware Nicholas Copernicus!

  33. Ambi: The key point about UBI payments is that the amount may vary with age and time of the year but won’t vary with income, assets, or domestic arrangements. The won’t varies are important because the result is a system that doesn’t need policing and thus reduces the cost of government. (Cost of government in this context doesn’t include money that is paid to welfare recipients.
    Introduction of an UBI may by combined with things like award changes or changes to the tax system. However, I see the size of the UBI, how it varies with age, what effect it has on the disability pension and whether it is combined with changes to the tax system as separate issues.
    I have said before that in terms of progressiveness what counts is the progressivety of the combined tax/welfare system, not the extent to which individual welfare payments and taxes are progressive.
    A UBI is very progressive because the % of income coming from an UBI will be higher for low income earners. By contrast, a flat tax is neutral. A combined UBI and flat tax will still be progressive.
    I have played around with UBI/flat taxes in the past and concluded that it gets out of hand if you include the very rich. However, it may make sense if it includes most Australians while retaining high marginal tax rates for the very rich. To me the big attraction of flat taxes is that they make life simpler and remove the attractiveness of numerous tax avoidance schemes.

  34. John, further to that, we saw our accountant the other day, and he reckons dead set that if we had a tax on revenue for companies at about 4% it would produce around the same revenue as company tax now from those who pay tax. In addition it would catch the multinationals who want to play here and pay no tax.

    Best of all, he says, it would decimate the profession of accountants (he’s cool with that now that he’s near retirement). There would be no need for complex tax returns now churned out by all and sundry.

  35. Thanks John and Brian.

    Yes, we don’t necessarily need every separate component to be progressive. But “flat tax followed by high marginal rates for huge incomes” isn’t quite completely flat, and tax minimisation by the very wealthy would still be attractive to those very few taxpayers and their accountants.

    Low tax on revenue? Good. Like the GST on spending, which we fools pay. Sounds a bit like the proposed tiny tax on bank transactions (can’t recall its name); or the flat tax on overseas air tickets once proposed to fund the UN??

    Plenty to think about. Good work, John.

  36. Trump again…
    The US media is full of Trump but the reporting style is incredibly repetitive, each network micro reviewing every Trump move. It’s easy to get lost and switch off, yet complacency is Trump’s friend – be warned.
    The New York Times ran a piece by Madeline Albright last week. It is a pretty good article IMHO and adds a little (scary) clarity to the time of Trump.

  37. AMBI: I would only support a flat tax /UBI combination if it was set up so that the net contribution from the very very rich would not drop as a result of the change and the change would leave no-one near the bottom of the pile worse off. . To achieve this the flat tax has to be set at least at the current top marginal rate and the UBI set at a rate that would look after the people near the bottom of the pile. The flat tax would be lower and the system flexible if high income paid a surcharge in addition to the flat tax.
    Brian: A flat revenue tax has its attractions but it means that industries with a high level of vertical integration pay less tax than those where various levels in the process are owned by different companies. There is a solution to this problem. It is called the GST. (As you well know I am in favour of getting rid of company tax by increasing the GST and leveling it on exporters. It would make no difference to the repressiveness of the tax/ welfare system.)

  38. A tax on revenue by 4% ?!

    So large turnover/ small margin companies raise their prices by 4%.
    And small turnover/ large margin companies pay less tax.

    The first lot sell mostly the necessities, the second lot sell mostly discretionaries .

    And this replaces company profit tax ?

    You’d get more sane advice from the Tax Pack wrapper.

  39. To paraphrase:
    A tax on revenue of 4% ?!
    Replacing company tax?!
    We’ll all be rooned!!!!!!!!!

    Thank you for sharing.

  40. One must consider the behavioural adaptations to taxation.

    As tax reduces the activity in the area it’s directed toward, the level influences how much reductions.

    A subsidy enhances activity in the area it’s directed toward, the level influences how much enhancement.

    Even Keynes gets this basic fundamental truth.

    Start a business and find out.

    ( I feel I may need to explain what a subsidy is again. I hope not )

  41. Tobin tax – thanks Brian.

    JohnD at 1.43pm: thanks.

    I surmise a typo crept into your last sentence…. “the repressiveness of the tax/welfare system”

    But Jump may consider the highlighted word perfectly correct.

  42. The effect of prices, taxes and subsidies is more complex than you think Jumpy:
    Some products are price sensitive. (Use changes a lot in response to price moves.) Some, like many essentials are price insensitive.
    In some cases it is more complex than that. For example, some people will buy the more expensive product because they think a high price means better quality or adds to their prestige. (I remember visiting a vinegar factory when i was studying. They only produced one product but had two brands: A high priced brand for those who were impressed by high prices and a low price brand for those that wanted as cheap as possible.
    Taxes and subsidies are a bit more complex than you say too. For example, subsidizing a certain coal company would be throwing money away.
    Raising company tax may have little effect on a company that produced a price insensitive product and, depending on what the tax is used for may boost the fortunes of a company that produces goods and services used by government.

  43. But John, I thought you wanted a flat tax for simplicity yet the complex implications of it you admit.
    Everything, and I mean everything, is price sensitive to either a minor or major degree.
    ( I’d appreciate you not telling me what I think, apparently that’s zoots job )

    A tax on revenue ( not your suggestion) would do the opposite of what markets are best at, ie encouraging production in areas of high demand.

  44. Jump:

    You’d get more sane advice from the Tax Pack wrapper.

    I think Ken Henry’s tax review (2011?) made a suggestion along these lines. I’d like to see what economists have to say.

  45. I’d appreciate you not telling me what I think, apparently that’s zoots job

    To paraphrase is to put what someone has said (or written) into different words. No mind reading is involved.
    Sorry to disappoint you, but only you can tell us what you think.

  46. The Henry Review and the (near deafening) silence which the Rudd Govt greeted it with, was one of the signal failures of that govt.

    An opportunity for reform, set up by the govt, advised by clever and experienced economists and other specialists……..

    Kevin’s failure on climate policy is often cited as his largest blemish. I think the disappearance of the Henry Review may have very poor long term effects. I suspect that Ken Henry is disappointed too.

  47. Ambi, that has jogged my memory. The Henry review was commissioned in 2008 and published in 2010.

    After the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference disaster, Rudd spent the summer break relaxing and writing a children’s book. Wayne Swan spent it reading the Henry review. Then Swanny couldn’t get Rudd to read it or discuss it seriously. Rudd then plucked out the mining super-tax. That went well!!

    The failure after that can be sheeted home to Swan, however. He claims to have implemented the majority of Henry’s recommendations over the next three years, but it was all around the edges. The main structural changes were avoided.

    I never did read the thing – I believe it is 1000 pages plus – so I’m not really sure what it contained. However, there was a story about Henry getting the idea about a simplified revenue tax, or some such, from someone in a pub in Central Qld when Henry was on leave working on his favourite project – saving the norther hairy-nosed wombat.

  48. I suspect that Ken Henry is disappointed too.

    Henry has been quite explicit and philosophical about this. He says that modern Australian governments have no balls when it comes to meaningful change.

  49. Geof H, I think the time of Trump is not that far off. I expressed my view at a recent event that I think Trump must have been an aspergers baby. The person with whom I was speaking agreed. Aspergers people have lots of great qualities and are exceptional performers in the field of their speciality, but they also have, along with many other autism spectrum people, personality traits which make it very difficult for them to perform in the long term when they are in command of other people. It is those personality traits that, in my opinion, we are seeing in Trump, and again in my opinion in Abbott, and possibly also Mark Latham (we dodged a bullet their).

    Imagine Trump with an Emperor like direct command of a military force and a mandate to rule for life!! How could that turn out? Oh well, Putin and Assad, probably.

  50. The Henry Tax Review Recommendations are not that much of a big read.

    Essentially a grab bag of social engineering and revenue raising only a deep Keynesian could concoct.

    Interestingly there’s not much mention of Banks. He’s a Chairman of one now btw.

  51. Jumpy: Not sure I want to read your mind, but, you have to admit you have been pushing the same old, same old line for years.
    The point I was making is that the effect of prices, taxes and subsidies are more complex than what you were saying

  52. J, B

    All I recall is summaries of the Henry Review by journalists.
    (J, I believe Brian was referring to the full review, not an executive summary.)

    It seems to have been a characteristic of PM Rudd, to announce or commission a review, or ask public servants to prepare a position paper urgently, and then ignore the product.

    Just as Mr Costello was described as “all tip, no iceberg”, it seems Mr Rudd was “all announceables, no follow through”. *

    Yet the follow through is the nuts and bolts of governing and reforming.

    The other is glitz, spin, puffery, and lies.

    * A forlorn ex-Minister of Health, described how KRudd went flying from State to State, from hospital to clinic, making media announcements, without consulting her. This was when Health Reform was his One Big Thing. At one point, she thought the only way to find out his latest brainwave, would be to book a seat next to him on his next plane trip.

    And so well hidden by his colleagues and staff while he was Mr Popular PM.

  53. The religious twist at the end does not diminish the science message. All of the other information checks out including the African split which occurring very dramatically elsewhere as well.

    Ambi, “yet the follow through is the nuts and bolts of governing and reform”,….great comment. Substance does matter though.

  54. One of the reasons we are even discussing UBI at all is that we are desperate. There are perfectly good systems in place, but either poorly implemented or perverted out of all recognition, for ensuring that everyone in the whole of Australia gets a Fair Go; that everyone has sufficient food, potable water, shelter, free access to toilet and bathing and laundry facilities, clothing, safety, tranquillity and privacy, respect, freedom of thought and opinion, very basic health services, hope and opportunities for self-fulfilment – and, heck, I haven’t even mentioned the luxury of a few coins to spend on whatever one wishes. That’s not much to ask for. But it is far too much for our wonderful decision makers to allow each and every one of us to have!!!!!

    We are desperate and now seeking exotic remedies for the gross injustices and appalling economic inefficiencies when the remedies are right there in front of us, as they always have been. No, I’m not suggesting that each of us goes out and tries to arrest a known drug-dealer who operates in plain sight of the authorities, (that would be downright suicidal), nor demands a crooked business pay their rightful tax, (that would get you a fast trip to the looney-bin), nor writes angry letters to your favourite or unfavourite puppet politicians, ( that has proven to be futile – such people are merely seat-warmers without any real power or influence themselves).

    Sorry, just now I can only identify some aspects of the unnecessary misery inflicted on our fellow citizens; I do wish I had some practical suggestions for bringing back the concept of a Fair Go for Everyone and for abolishing the economic disaster that is Welfare For The Rich.

  55. Graham

    You are eloquent in defence of and remembrance of the Fair Go.
    In John Howard’s terminology, we need practical Fair Go more than we need symbolic Fair Go; as you point out, the social structures are there and not fully used.

    But there are a few points which can give some hope, perhaps:

    1. People have never stopped talking about the “egalitarian tone” in Australia

    2. The negative reaction to the 2014 Federal Budget, which reaction endured for months (and likely for years) was attributed equally to its perceived unfairness, and the elements of broken promises.

    3. Charities and volunteers continue to put in hours and efforts daily, to assist the poor, homeless and hungry.


    Yep, I’m just a “cock-eyed optimist”, apologies to South Pacific.

  56. GB well said. Ambi too. So I get to the end of that, agreeing with it all and then Geoff M’s recent call is ringing out “What are you doing about it” or words to that effect.
    I’ll have to review my modest reformist efforts and see what I can do to be more effective, even if it means re-engaging with the Hon member for Leichhardt who has (sadly) proclaimed his intention to not retire. Actually Warren Entch is not the worst you can get but is very much the populist. That may not be an issue if there is a change of government next time around

  57. Thanks, Ambigulous. There is hope – so long as people continue to believe in something better, and don’t surrender to apathy, bullying, propaganda or despair. Charity volunteers are leading the way; let’s follow their fine example.

    Geoff H.: Good on you. I, myself, am compelled to abandon contact with political players; I’ve heard too many earnest statements and heart-felt undertakings. When I see them being so ungrateful and so brave as to bite the hands that feed them, then I might be tempted to listen to their spin and waffle. This evening, I’m putting together some basics for a young family outside the charity environment who, through no fault whatsoever of their own, are living in Third World conditions in prosperous Australia; don’t see any politicians or eminent businessmen giving a hand – nor do I expect to see them dealing with the realities of life, nor with the results of their foolish policies and practices either. Cheers.

  58. GB:

    One of the reasons we are even discussing UBI at all is that we are desperate. There are perfectly good systems in place, but either poorly implemented or perverted out of all recognition, for ensuring that everyone in the whole of Australia gets a Fair Go;

    I got my professional kicks out of being an innovator and finding better and simpler ways of doing things so I am inclined to be sceptical about statements like

    There are perfectly good systems in place, but either poorly implemented or perverted out of all recognition,

    Problems change, the tools available change and attitudes change.
    I think it is easier to come up with better ideas if you start by ignoring the past and then go back and look at the past after you have come up with a bunch of ideas.

  59. Good advice. Thanks, John.

    Instead of saying, “There are perfectly good systems in place, ….”, I should have said something like, “there are existing laws and procedures, …..”.

    Attitudes do indeed change, hence the neglect and abandonment of so many of our traditional organizations and movements by those they are supposed to support or represent: sporting clubs, lodges and service clubs, ethnic groups, churches, ex-service organizations, unions, political parties, universities, rural groups. This is happening because these organizations and movements became fossilized and out of touch with the changing reality of everyday life.

    I do agree that the tools available have changed – social media and access to online reference material being the most important.

    Problems have certainly changed. The past 35 years have seen the destruction of Australian manufacturing industry, the re-colonialization of our economy and our sovereignty, the worsening of life for so many Aborigines, the impoverishment of so many ordinary Australians by out-and-out plunderers and unconvicted criminals, the ongoing degradation of our natural heritage, the stifling of local innovation and enterprise.

    Yes, I do have quite practical ideas for how things could be made better for all. The trouble is that if I put some of them up here online, I would soon have a herd of earnest young men in body-armour, waving around ridiculously short-barrelled sub-machine guns and screaming out unintelligible orders, bursting through my bedroom window 90 minutes before dawn. 🙂

    I too enjoy being an innovator and a pioneer; been one all my life. Most of the kicks, though, came from my superiors who didn’t like anyone who just might disturb the status quo and their serenity. And I did learn eventually, the hard way, to NEVER mention, in a CV or in a rare interview, having been the first one or an early one to have done or been something new.

  60. Graham

    Have you heard that old definition?
    “A conservative is someone who believes nothing should ever be done for the first time.”

  61. GB: Guess I was one of the lucky ones whose ideas were listened to and implemented. However, agree that talking about innovations probably doesn’t help with some CV’s. People either don’t believe you or perhaps feel a bit threatened.
    The weakening of many organizations has been driven by inceases in the working hours of the people who used to be the driving force behind these organizations.

  62. Thanks for your patience, John. Now that I have retired from paid employment, I feel free to skite about any pioneering or innovative I was involved in – but it worries me that younger and brighter people could well become discouraged by negative (and sometimes downright hostile) attitudes to pioneering and innovating and to the good old Australian attitude of “give it a go”.

    You are right about some people not believing you – even when you have documents and photos that show, clearly and verifiably, you were actually involved in something new or different or significant. Quite funny when that happens, (though not funny missing out on a position because of that disbelief); no doubt there has been psychological research into that weird sort of disbelief

    Excessively long working hours is a sovereign remedy for efficiency and prosperity. Most of the excessively long hours worked are nothing but Stakhanovism, translated directly from Stalinist Communism. The worst I saw was among medical residents (new graduates) in major hospitals where they worked unnecessarily long hours; most incidents happened because of sheer tiredness far more often than through any lack of clinical experience

  63. Graham

    That problem with medical residents – even going as far as suicide – has been recognised. I think RN covered the matter last year. But as to what is being done about it…

    Stakhanovite is a wonderful word that should be treasured.

    I’ve heard often that “company men” in Japan had to stay very late, couldn’t leave until the boss left, but were all doing nothing productive for many hours at the end of the day. Comical. Not helpful for their families.

  64. Ambi, I understand in some cases at least they go out and party together, then get home late at night the worse for wear, make demands on their poor wife, who had to give up her career because she married, and then get up early to catch the fast train to do it all over again.

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