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Scotland the Brave requires innovation and dignity, too

I AM a proud Glasgow man: a descendant of the Scottish nation and peoples. My great-great-grandparents on my mother’s father’s side came from Glasgow in the 1850s. That seems to be enough these days for others to make great claims about their antecedents, so let’s go with it. My Cornish, English and Irish forebears can sit this one out; I will claim them later when I can find a use for them.

Anyway, there is my poor old homeland on the rack, thinking of breaking from mother England. The Scots have a rare moment to reflect on their good fortune and why it came to be so. The white paper, Scotland’s Future, opens with the silken words: “The central purpose of independence is to make life better for people living in Scotland. Only a Scottish parliament and government will always be able to put the interests of the people of Scotland first.” Apparently, being well off has something to do with ruling oneself.


Car industry in its death throes

WILL Tony Abbott have a dollar float, tariff or GST moment? Or, will he be content to axe the tax, stop the boats, balance the books and leave the remainder to entrepreneurs and the workforce? As important as these are, there is another looming intervention required to make the economy better and, with it, a better society.

The new Labor member for Scullin, Andrew Giles, in his first speech, restated an old adage: “We wish to live in a society rather than simply fit into an economy.” He reiterated: “Let me be clear: I wish to live in a society.” Such is the romantic thinking that has locked workers into jobs that their neighbours have to support through taxation and out of jobs where they could support their neighbours.


Shining a light (if it’s not broken) on culture of entitlement

IMAGINE the scene. My old trade union secretary mate is away on union business. He stays at a country hotel and after dinner and television feels the need for some recreation by expressing his manhood in a most complete manner. He rings up a lady who sells her services by the hour. Most unfortunately he injures his back during said recreation. What are my friend’s chances of successfully claiming workers compensation? Not as remote as you may think.

Fortunately, the majority of the High Court (4-2) would not grant his claim. The High Court knocked back a similar case recently, but it was a close-run thing and may well be revisited. The reasons are intriguing. The majority had to pull a rabbit from the hat to stop the case from succeeding. Indeed, the High Court had only six judges out of the usual seven decide the case because the seventh, Keane J., had decided the matter in the Full Federal Court in favour of the worker. Keane J. was recently appointed to the High Court and could not hear the matter. The decision is, in effect, 4-3.


Cost of social health agenda

COME the revolution: we’ll all be healthy. Mind you a few could die on the way, but what the heck, the important thing is the cause. The cause is the “social determinants of health”, and you are funding it.

The World Health Organisation has convinced many governments worldwide that “social determinants of health are the genesis of many health problems”.

In a submission to a Senate committee earlier this year, established to respond to the WHO report, an enthusiast explained: “Take as an example two people growing up in different communities. One is from the north shore of Sydney, who has educational opportunities, is encouraged by his or her parents, has adequate food and has parents who are not alcoholics.

“Compare that person to the extreme case of somebody growing up in the community of Yuendumu, just out of Alice Springs, where there are not the educational opportunities and encouragement.”

In a stunning insight, our enthusiast concludes “their health outcomes would be very different”.

Health, it appears is not about addressing individual choices any more. Poor dumb fatties are powerless, and only social engineers, posing as the medical profession, can solve this one. Except, of course, they cannot.


History yes, culture no

IN 2010, Ernest Munda of Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia killed his common law wife of 16 years, with whom he had four children. He was sentenced to prison for seven years and nine months, with a non-parole period of three years and three months.

The taxpayer funded an appeal to the High Court that his sentence was too harsh. He claimed that the Court of Appeal of Western Australia failed to have “proper regard” to his personal circumstances as a “traditional” Aboriginal man. In particular, “an environment in which the abuse of alcohol is endemic in indigenous communities”, was not taken into account.

The High Court knocked him back. The court reiterated that while a person’s background could play a part in mitigation, it needed to be “weighed by the sentencing judge”. At present, judges have discretion, but in future, if Aboriginal culture is recognised in the Constitution, do not be surprised if the likes of Ernest Munda get lighter sentences.


Let’s get realistic about reducing carbon emissions

ON Friday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will release a summary of its report for policymakers. It will reinforce the view among many scientists and policymakers that a great deal of the increase in air temperature that the world has experienced, until recently, is due to man-made emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The contribution remains contentious and its impact remains contentious.

What to do, if there is a problem, is especially contentious. How does a government frame policy in response to uncertainties of man-made climate change and its impact? What should the Abbott government do?


A bad government that lost its way and lost an election

WELL done, Australia. You elected a Coalition government with a strong majority and you disposed of an incompetent Labor government. But judging from the spin over the weekend, Labor was defeated because it was a good government that “lost its way”.

Former Rudd cabinet minister Tanya Plibersek blithely scored her party “nine out of 10 for governing the country, (but) none out of 10 for governing ourselves”. Others remarked that no cabinet minister had lost their seat. True, but many resigned months ago. As former Howard government minister Peter Reith remarked, “it was as if the policies never counted”.

But policies do count and their competent implementation counts even more. The mandate from the electorate on boats, carbon pricing, the mining tax and reducing debt is crystal clear.

Tony Abbott will be judged on the competent implementation of those policies, and more besides.


Cleaning up Labor’s mess

WHY should the Coalition have to clean up the mess each time Labor governs? It must be galling to come to power every turn of the electoral cycle and have to clean up the debt of the previous team.

The Kennett government in Victoria had to clean up the Cain-Kirner mess, as is the Newman government in Queensland cleaning up the Beattie-Bligh debt. The first recommendations of the Queensland Commission of Audit to the Newman government in February were to arrest the deterioration in the state’s financial position and to pay down debt to regain the Queensland government’s triple-A credit rating. Will an Abbott government have to do the same for Rudd-Gillard? Reluctantly, of course it will, but how quickly?


Lib young turks must break chains holding nation at bay

YOU can put down the binoculars, this race is over. It is time to think about what the Abbott government needs to do in order to create the prosperous Australia that its leader is promising.

The business of repairing the federal government’s own accounts will be long and gruelling, but it is not the same as building conditions for wealth creation. The ease of doing business in Australia is declining. This decline must be reversed.

The Abbott government needs to work on two tiers – in two teams – to reverse the decline. In order to remain in government, the first tier must repair the budget and solve important headline issues such as boatpeople and abolishing the carbon tax and allied programs. The second tier must work away in the background, reinventing government.

Government is not simply a cash cow for electoral sweeteners, nor is it a Keynesian plaything. Its major purpose should be to assist where the market and individuals cannot reasonably be expected to cope: call them market and personal failures.

Where these are not warranted, it should get the hell out.


A spend and tax Prime Minister in search of another wish list

THE trouble with Kevin Rudd is that the more you see him, the less he does. Off to Afghanistan for a few hours to announce nothing at all, just a photo opportunity of no particular consequence. It seems the electorate may have to suffer this behaviour until September 21.

Unfortunately, Rudd has never had any idea what he was doing in office. I submit three case studies to prove the point.