If This Was A Business

I’ve just been watching the news reports on the High Court case bought against the government for its use of the Contingency Fund to pay for the Marriage Equality postal survey. It occurred to me that if parliament were a business then the board would be calling for heads to roll. If you look at the enormous salaries paid to members of parliament (and for anybody who thinks that MPs don’t get paid a fortune I suggest you look at the Newstart allowance or wages for cleaners and the like to see the disparity) you have to ask where is their output? Why are they abrogating their duties to the shareholders (the electorate)? I suggest that as they are not carrying out the requirements of their job i.e. governing the country, making decisions that require the enactment or repeal of laws, they should be deemed as being on strike and their wages should be withheld.

Labor, The Greens and the cross benches are all implicated in this. You are all meant to be in parliament to further the good of the nation. Opposition for opposition sake should have died out with Tony Abbott’s demise as Opposition Leader. The public of Australia expect more from our parliament. They expect that the good of the nation is put first. Parliament is elected to act not equivocate. We should not be having a postal survey full stop. Parliament should not be the playground of internal party factions. The people of Australia have elected the parliament to act – get on with it.

A Marriage Equality Bill should be put before the Parliament and voted on. If the outcome does not suit the majority of voters they will have their chance to have their say at the next election. If the government won’t put a bill forward or blocks a Private Members then the opposing parties should pass a vote of no confidence in the government and those Coalition members that have pursued Marriage Equality should, at the very least, abstain from voting.

COME ON PARLIAMENT, ACT!

Change Has to be in the Air (Part 1)

The financial crisis of 2008 bought the failings of the Capitalist System (as it currently operates) in to stark relief. The bastions of capitalism, the banks, had abused their market position to initially write loans to clients with doubtful ability to repay them, using valuations that were dubious at best and fraudulent at worst. The Banks then on-sold those mortgages to unsuspecting/careless brokers and second tier banks. When the inevitable happened and the borrowers were unable to repay their loans, the Banks coerced governments into supporting the Banks with the mantra “To big to fail”.

The end result was that the working poor and the middle class ended up paying for the Banks’ systemic failures through cuts in social services, losing their jobs and losing their homes. The worst  of it was that everybody other than the rich were the ones that felt the pain. Superannuants were hit by the falling stock market and the cuts in interest rates. Governments around the world instituted austerity programs, cutting pensions and raising taxes on ordinary people. Social services were curtailed and yet not one banker in the United States was prosecuted. When questioned about such outrageous schemes such as short selling (where you sell shares that you do not own at a discount in order to drive the price down so you can make a profit by forward selling the same shares at a later date for a higher price) the response was that its legal because we’re the players in the market and we make the rules. I’d like to see anyone else who sells property that they don’t own,  successfully argue to a judge that what they did wasn’t fraud.

But this was all just a sideshow in the market place. The recent research released in the United States showing that the wealthiest in society have increased their wealth in the last twenty years by 80% and that productivity per capita has shown a marked increase (although its slowing now) while at the same time real wages have dropped by almost 8%. As Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robots start eating into employment rates in the developed world the days of full time employment are disappearing.

In Australia, the problem has already reached previously untouched rates of under-employment and part time employment. With housing costs in the major capital cities rising to heights that make home ownership much harder for ordinary workers attain and even rental rates beginning to verge on the unsustainable something has to give. Its this sort of exclusion from society that leads to anti-social behaviour and increased crime rates. Even as the unemployment rate falls, wages are not increasing. This stagnation in wages growth hurts the economy in several ways – reduced ability to spend means that GDP drops on a per capita basis (and the capitalist system relies on increased consumption to keep the wheels turning) and the tax take by governments is reduced. But there is a solution.

(In the next instalment we talk about one possible solution)

The Robots Are Coming

Zan and Dr Karl’s guest today  is Quantum Physics Professor Stephen Bartlett. While they discuss heady quantum mechanics  topics, it confirms that with the increase in computing power, especially when quantum mechanics can be fully utilised in computing, the robots are coming. ABC news have been running articles all week on the future workplace that includes robots. As noted in the article on the 7.00 PM News, 5/7/2017, it will not just be labouring jobs that will be lost or those doing repetitive tasks. There are already computer programs that can find case studies in law that means lees junior lawyers or law clerks doing research for court cases.

Time for a new societal structure – stay tuned.

Amongst the Sadness, a Shining Light

In a world saddled with sadness as innocents abroad have their lives or loved ones taken by acts of violence either malevolent or accidental, a light has shone in the world when researchers at RMIT revealed their success in creating a paint made of  cheap and readily available materials that has the ability to use Solar Energy to convert airborne water into Hydrogen and Oxygen. The fact that they have achieved this is remarkable in itself but then they topped that by deciding to release the details without seeking a patent so that the technology can be taken up by others to make it commercially available as soon as possible.

The details of their work were revealed in The Age ( Solar Paint -16/07/2017 ) and I can only say that I find their reasoning reassuring – there are good people in the world. Lets just hope that the businesses that take advantage of their largesse don’t attempt to take advantage of consumers. This has the potential to change the world for the better – Donald can forget about ignoring Climate Change, this one discovery has the potential to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions back to previously unobtainable levels.

Thank you  RMIT lead researcher Dr Kourosh Kalantar-zadeh and your team.

You’ve Gotta be kidding me!

The Business Council of Australia (BCA) has teamed up with the BHP CEO, Wesfarmers CEO, Qantas CEO and the boss of Energy Australia to demand that the Senate crossbench pass the company tax cuts. According to the BCA, the full company tax cuts should be left on the table because, wait for it, “it is the only plan  Australia has got to drive growth and investment”. You are joking right? The only hope, according to these clowns, is that multinational companies who currently spend most of their time dodging paying of their fair share of tax in Australia must get this tax cut because its the only thing that they have come up with to improve growth in Australia. I would suggest that these CEOs hand in their collective badges if that is the best that they can offer their shareholders. Where are the visionary plans, where is the investment in new sources of energy production, where are the plans for creating meaningful jobs, instead  a tax cut so that the rich can have an extra coffee on Sunday served by a part time worker on reduced penalty  rates. How about coming up with full time jobs for young Australians, not in shuffling paper and pretending to create wealth by shuffling said paper, but in real wealth creation jobs such as manufacturing or agriculture.

We all know that at best, by the Productivity Commissions own research, after 20 years the expected increase in GDP due to this tax cut is less than 4% OVER TWENTY YEARS. This is not a plan, this is simply the rich continuing to line their pockets while governments have to reduce their services in order to balance the books. If the rich want to see what happens when the poor say enough is enough, just continue on this path of greed and indifference to the plight of ordinary working Australians. Its appalling the way that young people are being treated at the moment with only casual work and/or part time work, house prices and rents getting further out of reach, employers using sham contracting to further cut wages… all of this is leading towards a dangerous situation.

The American Dream

For those wishing to see the future of Australia as seen through the eyes of the Liberal dries and their cronies, have a look at the Four Corners (http://iview.abc.net.au/) episode broadcast on 13th March 2017. Prepared by a french documentary team, it shows the end results of a low wage policy and how extremely profitable companies are abusing their power and using dubious methods to cut the wages of their employees. One example, GE, distributed $26 billion to its shareholders last year while at the same time closing a locomotive factory in one state and opening a new one in Texas where they are able to pay their employees half what they are paid at the existing plant.

We continue to see this sort of behaviour in Australia. The Liberals privatised the power market in Victoria with the promise of cheaper power through competition between retailers and improved efficiencies in production of power. The end result has been ever increasing cost of electricity to consumers and ever increasing profits to both power retailers and wholesalers . Its worth noting how the retailers have no qualms in ripping off consumers that return solar energy back to the grid. Retailers pay wholesalers approximately $0.28 per kilowatt for power but only pay customers $0.06 for the power they produce to then sell it to the next door customer for full price. The market supposedly has its behaviour controlled by market pressure but, as we constantly see, this is simply untrue. Large companies collude to limit pay rises for their employees while scratching each others backs when it comes to executive pay. Consumers have little power in the market – they have to take the prices offered because companies operating in a global market can sell their goods to whomever pays the highest price (e.g. natural gas shortages in Australia because the asian consumers will pay more for it). Governments cannot force them to take lower prices as they would then be accused of attempting to nationalise an industry or of breaching free trade agreements. The reality is that the rich, that is the shareholders, don’t care what poor people have to pay as long as the  rich continue reaping obscene profits and have the ability to live the lifestyle they desire.

Rich Australians, compared to their overseas counterparts, are more self serving and less altruistic. Occasionally one of them makes a grand gesture that makes it into the media because it is so rare. I commend those people but would encourage them to become the conscience of the rich and show them they need to share the wealth with all Australians, especially their employees.

Fair Fair Work, Hardly

I’m amazed that the Fair work Commission still believes in the trickle down effect and that the various business associations are the only one’s that know how the changes to penalty rates will effect both employment and employees. If anyone believes that the reduction in penalty rates for Sunday will automatically result in increased employment is naive at best, lying at worst. I would expect the majority of employers will pocket the resulting savings because the Fair Work made its ruling to improve productivity. That is to say the Commission was looking for a reset where the same amount of work is carried out for a reduced cost. Employers will not increase employment by 25% if their current staff is meeting workplace output demands. Equally, employers not currently opening on Sundays because the wage outlay is unlikely to be covered by the Sunday trade will not have reason to believe that this has changed as a result of the 25% cut.

The problem is that no-one seems to have thought through the real effects on employees and the rest of the economy. This ruling has resulted in 600,000 employees having their Sunday penalty rates cut. Many of those affected are people who use weekend shifts as their sole income as they undertake full time study. Others use the weekend shifts to make it through the week to week struggle. I personally know people on the Disability Support Pension that have been able to undertake limited Sunday shifts which results in greater return for their restricted labour.

The Commissioners need to realise that their actions will result in the lowest paid workers in Australia having their wages cut and the likelihood that this will have an adverse effect on EBAs that will be negotiated over the next few years. It seems as if this is a deliberate attack on the poorly paid in an industry that provides services to the wealthy – are they aiming to reduce costs to the rich at the expense of the poor?

God dammit, He’s back again

The belligerent buffoon has returned. Fresh from showing his two-faced climate belief credentials in the lower house as he joked about coal fired power stations, the country was melting under severe weather with even more records being broken today. Still its good for a laugh to pass the lump of coal around while South Australian’s lost power again, not because of renewable generation but because power companies were playing the system to increase the wholesale price of electricity and refusing to take up the Regulator’s request to increase output. But, hey, we’re not in parliament to look after the people, we are in parliament to look after ourselves (just ask Senator Ian McDonald as he bleats about having his entitlements cut even after he has lived off the public purse for 30 years and currently earns, nay receives, around $200,000 per year)

Its one thing to play political point scoring, its quite another to dismiss offhand the problems that are facing Australians and the rest of the world. This is the same clown who thinks there is nothing wrong cutting the Newstart allowance to 22 and 23 year olds and paying them under the Youth Allowance instead. Apparently landlords don’t charge full rent for these people and supermarkets offer them a discount on their food – buggar me I hadn’t realised. But wait there’s more – not steak knives but how about giving companies a tax cut while cutting welfare payments, lining up the old and the disabled for the firing squad while allowing multimillionaires tax breaks using negative gearing which keeps pushing up house prices especially for first home owners. But Scott the Twot says it will improve the economy and increase wages. Its a miracle! Mind you his own modelling says that the increase in GDP will be in the vicinity of 3.5% AFTER 20 YEARS! I thought he was bad as Immigration Minister but as Treasurer he seems to have become totally blind to the needs of the poor, working families, and ordinary hard working Australians in small business, while being only to happy to accomodate the rich, multinational companies, many of whom are dodging paying their fair share of tax.

This has to stop, you cannot persist in this thoroughly disreputable theory of Trickle-down Economics. It hasn’t worked, the disparity between rich and poor continues to grow and the vast majority of us are feeling powerless hence the desperate moves to whacko right wing political parties. If you want to save Australia, if you want to save the western democratic system, this basic current tenet of capitalism has to change. We can no longer (as if we ever could) trust the market to self regulate. They won’t act fairly because they know they will not be punished by governments, quite the opposite. If they stuff up governments use the taxes of the poor to bail out the rich, greedy capitalists. The poor have no power in this unequal relationship. This why governments have to intervene. If there is no shift in the current positions of the major parties, they will fail within four terms of the parliament and we will end up with unstable coalitions of either right or left leaning parties and policy failures as illustrated in the United States of America in both the Presidency and Congress.

You have been warned.

Time For Change

I wonder if you agree with me – its time to change Australia Day. Let’s face it, 26th January is really Sydney Day or, at best, NSW day. It really does not reflect anything about Australia as a whole. A true Australia Day would probably be the 1st January as a nod to our independence from Britain in 1901. But I think a more meaningful day would be 3rd June, the day on which the Mabo decision was handed down in 1992. This decision finally acknowledged the existence of the Aboriginal nations prior to white settlement and for the first time, acknowledged links with country.

I would say that this is the day that Australia finally matured into a fully fledged nation albeit with plenty of work still to be done. Nevertheless, it makes Australia one country belonging to us all.

3rd June has my vote.

The World is Watching

Well its started, Donald is President. I hope, against all hope, that this narcissistic bombast can control his temper, listen to cooler heads and do something constructive without trying to line his own pockets.

Notably a great many women of the world have had their say and they’re not happy. But I must note that they are not citizens of the United States, so they should hold THEIR governments to account and ensure that their governments don’t blindly follow Trump’s lead. They must also ensure that ALL their population is sharing in the wealth of their nation. Its often easy for well off liberals to want social justice but they fail to realise that there are many people who don’t share their ability to earn and who fail to see social justice as a priority as they’re struggling to put food on the table and a roof over their heads.

Remember, charity starts at home, so make sure the less well off in your society are coming along for the ride.