Taxi bailouts, threats to free speech at universities, ballooning budget problems ... what’s up in the land down under? Tim Andrews, executive director of the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance, will speak about those and other topics at Atlas Network’s Trendsetters NYC event on Sept. 21 in New York City. In advance of the event, Andrews gave Atlas Network a sneak peek of the topics that are trending in Australia.
Rise of nationalist populists in the Australian Senate
“Following bipartisan reforms in the 1980s and 1990s to liberalize Australia’s economy, removing regulations and opening the country up to trade with the world led to Australia experiencing one of its longest periods of prosperity in history,” Andrews said. “The 1990s and 2000s saw high economic growth, increases in living standards and productivity, low unemployment, and low inflation, while maintaining a federal budget surplus. Sadly, in the last decade, this bipartisan consensus has been replaced with a new consensus, one based upon more spending, higher taxation, and a spiralling budget deficit as multiple new unfunded programs are introduced.
“Despite some positive action in recent years, such as the repeal of the carbon tax, governments on both sides of politics have done little to address this. The result has been widespread disillusionment and frustration at the political classes, which has led to the rise of nationalist populist politicians, with a disturbing rise in protectionist and anti-trade trends. The result of this presently has been a gridlock in the federal Parliament, making it near impossible for positive reform in the foreseeable future.”
Repairing the budget
“Like many Western nations, Australia is at a fiscal crossroads,” Andrews said. “The government’s own Intergenerational Reports show that as costs spiral, there will be only 2.7 workers for each retiree. Based on present trends, funding existing federal entitlements by 2050 would entail doubling income tax, and this does not even factor in state governments, whose costs are rising even higher, or the recent cooling of international commodity prices and the mining boom winding down. While Australia remains more fortunate than many other countries, particularly in Western Europe, and time remains to avert the upcoming disaster and implement expenditure reform, this would require significant political will, which at present simply does not exist.”
“Technological advances present opportunities for innovation and the creation of a new economy, but all too often governments hold such opportunities back through outdated regulation or the creation of new taxes,” Andrews said. “One example from this last week was the decision by the Victorian government to implement a $2 tax on every ride taken to bailout the taxi industry. A recent report found that the cost of red tape and government regulation in Australia equates to $176 billion annually — a staggering $15,000 for every employed person in Australia. Furthermore, Australia’s nanny state is leading the world, with calls for [generic] tobacco packaging to be extended to alcohol and food, some of the highest levels of lifestyle taxes in the world, and ever-increasing regulations on the consumption of alcohol.”
Freedom of speech
“When Alex Wood, an 18-year-old student at the Queensland University of Technology, was asked to leave a computer lab reserved for the use of indigenous students, he flippantly posted on Facebook: ‘Just got kicked out of the indigenous only computer lab. QUT stopping segregation with segregation?’ and thought nothing more of it. Three Kafkaesque years later, together with his friend Jackson Powell, who responded with the (admittedly tasteless) joke, ‘I wonder where the white supremacist computer lab is,’ he is in federal court facing $250,000 in fines for breaching statutory prohibitions on causing ‘offence’ under the Racial Discrimination Act.
“This is simply the latest example in a growing line of cases in Australia designed to supress freedom of speech through the use of the state. The test, whether someone’s subjective feeling of being offended warrants state intervention, is the antithesis to fundamental liberal values of a democratic society, and is at the centre of one of the fiercest political debates in Australia at present.”
Moving toward liberty
“The Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance (ATA) was established as Australia’s first grassroots pro-liberty activist organisation,” Andrews said. “With chapters in all major capital cities, we are creating a truly national movement. The ATA focuses on creating a positive vision of the future, combining it with a powerful emotional and moral narrative. Simply explaining arguments for liberty rationally is insufficient. We must build a movement that captures people’s imagination and makes them want to be part of creating a better world — and that is what the ATA is about.”