Archive for August, 2009

Libertarians and the Liberals

Tim Andrews wants to know if libertarians should join the Liberal Party. Various people including Danny Hayes, have commented. My response is below.

If you want to have a direct effect on Australian politics you need to join a political party. A minor party like the LDP is a waste of time, they have been unable to elect a single person to any level of government. That leaves the two major mainstream parties. If like Mr Humphreys, you believe the Labor party is your best bet then go ahead, join them. You can try arguing the benefits of the free market with the comrades.

I as a conservative libertarian ( if there’s such a thing as an Australian Reaganite, then I’m one) prefer the Liberal Party. Thats the party that supported the free market policies of Hawke/Keating and when in government privatized Telstra and the CES, freed up labor markets, turned a budgetary deficit into a surplus and was able to deliver tax cut after tax cut. That the party while accused of being socially conservative didn’t try to impose internet censorship, instead gave people a sensible choice.

Its a mainstream party that has to appeal to the broad electorate. So requires policies and leaders that have that appeal. However it is the party of enterprise and the individual , but its commitment to those principles are only as strong as the commitment of its members. We can certainly use more classical liberals so “should libertarians join the Liberal Party? -” Yes Please.

Government & Opposition agree to shaft us

Well, the ETS may have hit a hurdle but we are getting a RET – Renewable Energy Target. The result will be higher electricity costs:

The RET will work by forcing electricity companies to buy a certain portion of electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal.

Households and businesses will pay for it through higher power prices.

The Coalition has secured more exemptions for industry from the cost of the RET in the deal struck today.

That means households will pay a greater share.

Paul Kelly got stuck into the nonsense this morning:

HURRAH, the Rudd government and Turnbull opposition have agreed to pass the Renewable Energy Target, an initiative unjustified in economic terms that makes emission reduction costs three times more expensive than the price of permits under cap and trade and resurrects government planning that Australia spent half a century trying to escape.

This is an initiative driven totally by politics. In a new world of climate change tokenism it means Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull are heroes. Government support to create new renewable industries otherwise untenable has become the test of being “serious” about climate change.

Now there is a type of renewable energy that’s cheap, reliable and can be produced in sizable quantity, hydro-electricity. There’s opportunity for hydro power in Tasmania but that Labor and the Greens closed off that option years ago. And there’s that other emission free renewable (well recyclable anyway) energy source Green and Labor don’t like.

Small and Simple Souls

I just love this video:

Good news, Senate stops ETS

We just dodged a bullet:

THE Coalition, the Greens and the two crossbench senators have joined forces to block the Government’s emissions trading scheme in the Senate. The 11 Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme bills were voted down just after 11:15.

The bills will be re-introduced in November. If they are defeated then, the Government will have the trigger for a double dissolution climate-change election.

Climate Change Minister Penny Wong said shortly before the vote that the government still hoped to have the emissions trading scheme in place before the UN Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen in December….

I still expect the legislation to be eventually passed even if it takes a double dissolution to do it. The effect it will have on climate- Nil. The effect it will have on our economy- Disaster.

Federal & State politicians

Over at Thoughts on Freedom John Humphreys has been looking at ways of getting higher quality politicians into State parliament. The Commonwealth has the glamour of national and international power so attracts the more talented and ambitious. State politics are about bread and butter matters; transport, schools, hospitals etc. More mundane and less appealing but still very important.
He suggests that Federal politicians should have to work their way up through State politics first. This is supposed to weed out incompetents. In my view it would have the complete opposite effect , by putting more hurdles in the way of competent people many would just give up and do something else. What impresses me about the American system is that while their parliamentarians seem no better then ours, they do get good people at the executive level. Many of those leaders have no previous government experience, but their former careers provide them with the skills to be effective leaders, President Eisenhower and Gov Reagan come to mind. At the moment Meg Whitman, former CEO of eBay is making a run for California governor, if an Australian top executive , say Gail Kelly, wanted to be NSW premier, she would have far more hoops to jump through.

Its a matter of incentives. Look at executives in the private sector. Their salary package would be considerably bigger then a politicians’ but would be tied to their performance. Importantly they usually receive shares not just cash, making their total wealth very much dependent on their company’s performance.

In contrast a politician is paid for simply being elected. Their salary s not dependent on their achievement, even if they become a minister, an incompetent minister is paid the same as a good one. Hang in their long enough and you get the big prize, the superannuation pension. After 14 years in State parliament Reba Meagher was able to resign at age 40 on a $120,000 a year inflation adjusted pension for life. Politics is a great opportunity for ambitious mediocrities.

Heres is my suggestion. We live in a society that can create financial securities from carbon emissions, so can we create securities for good government? Social Policy Bonds proposals have been around for years. Bonds would be issued to be redeemed for cash if certain goals were met, ie low unemployment, low inflation high economic growth, effectiveness of state enterprises etc. Have a balanced score card approach with redemption price increasing for outstanding achievement. Then abolish pollies super and give them Good Government Bonds instead. Be generous , I’m happy for them to be multi millionaires if they do good, but they would have to preform.

Dangerous times

First I wake up to learn that the Federal Police have foiled a major terrorist attack on our military. Apparently some of the suspects are Somali who presumably came here as refugees. What a nice way to repay the country that took them in.

Then I read that Burma could be cooperating with North Korea to produce nuclear weapons. A couple of years ago it seems the Israelis took out the Syrian nuclear program. And the Iraqi war caused the Libyans to give up theirs. Now Burma wants the bomb. Just another member of the Axis of Evil I suppose, but I can’t help thinking sooner or later some terrorist group is going to get their hands on a nuke and make 9/11 look like a minor incident.

Let the members elect the Liberal leader

Lets face it, the way we pick our political leaders is hopeless. How many leaders does an opposition need to go through before an acceptable person is found? Now that Costello is gone Turnbull is supposed to have Abbott or Hocking or whoever is favor of the month after his job. And I have lost count of NSW Liberal leaders.

Under our two party system the party has to be a broad church with a spectrum of views, without a strong leader to give it direction it will flounder. That leader needs to have a united party behind them, they also need to show they are capable of connecting with the ordinary voter. The current system fails to do that.

There is an alternative. Have the Liberal party members, elect the Parliamentary leader. That’s what the Conservatives do in the UK. There the parliamentarians elect two contenders who then go to a postal vote of the members. If they can convince the members to vote for them they have a chance of convincing the ordinary voter. The leader is only changed if there’s a spill or a resignation. It would stop the never ending newspaper leadership speculation stories. As well giving the grass roots something useful to do would invigorate the party.

Such a proposal may provide journalist with fewer articles but it may also give the Australian people the leaders they want.