August 12th 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The lessons for euthanasia are there for the learning

EDITORIAL Shorten's agenda will cripple Australia

CANBERRA OBSERVED Candidates must polish their paperwork skills

FOREIGN AFFAIRS EU v Poland: disquiet on the eastern front

EUTHANASIA How safe will Victoria's 'locked tin' be?

ASIA-PACIFIC AFFAIRS Pacific likely to focus for Taiwan's Iron Lady

PHILOSOPHY Aristotle and the virtues as products of reason

FEDERAL POLITICS Backbench marriage push angers Coalition colleagues

MUSIC Time and times: Melody is moments gathered for an instant

CINEMA Dunkirk: When survival is victory

BOOK REVIEW Just socialism by another name?

BOOK REVIEW The rightness of goading the left


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Shorten's agenda will cripple Australia

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, August 12, 2017

Over recent months, the focus of attention has been on the actions of the Turnbull Government, and its difficulties with the Senate. One result is that little critical attention has been given to the agenda being progressively unveiled by Labor leader Bill Shorten.

Over the course of recent months, Mr Shorten has outlined a raft of policies that will fundamentally change Australia – for the worse.

His announcement that he will hold a full national plebiscite in Labor’s first term to canvass support for a republic, to be followed by a full referendum on the issue, will revisit a divisive issue that the electorate decisively rejected in 1999.

At that time, the Labor leadership strongly backed the push by the Australian Republican Movement, then led by Malcolm Turnbull, for Australia to become a republic whose president would be appointed by Parliament.

The 1999 referendum, which cost $66 million at the time – it would now cost about $150 million – was decisively rejected by a majority of voters in every state.

While the Labor leader is enthusiastic about wasting public money on two national votes on this issue, he has refused to permit the Australian people to have a vote on the Labor-Green push for same-sex marriage, despite the fact that most Australians want a vote on the issue.

He even opposed a proposal that the national marriage plebiscite be conducted to coincide with the next election, to reduce its cost.

Mr Shorten’s enthusiasm for constitutional change is not confined to the republic issue.

He also backed the federal government-funded push for a referendum on indigenous recognition in the constitution, a divisive form of tokenism which will do nothing to resolve the deep underlying issues of Aboriginal disadvantage, but will vandalise the constitution and divide the community by embedding certain rights for Aboriginal people which are not given to other Australians.

New carbon tax

Mr Shorten has also called for the imposition of an “emissions intensity scheme” – in other words, a tax on fossil fuels similar to that embraced by the Rudd government in 2009, which preceded the replacement of Kevin Rudd as prime minister.

The Opposition Leader, a climate alarmist who is courting the green vote, has also announced that under Labor there would be a 50 per cent renewable energy target by 2030.

To put this proposal in context, it is important to remember that just 14 per cent of Australia’s current electricity usage comes from renewables, if one includes hydropower in this category. Only 6 per cent currently comes from wind and solar power, according to Origin Energy.

As Labor and the Greens have prevented any expansion of hydro-electricity generation for decades, it is inconceivable that there would be any increase in electricity from this source in Australia in the foreseeable future.

So to meet Mr Shorten’s target, the amount of wind and solar power, now just 6 per cent of the total, would have to rise to about 42 per cent in just over 12 years, an inconceivable figure. As Mr Shorten has repeatedly stated that Labor will meet his quoted figure, he should be challenged to show how such a target could be achieved.

Wind and solar power suffer two major disadvantages: they are by nature intermittent and require expensive battery backup; and they rely on generous subsidies, paid for by fossil fuels, to be competitive.

The inevitable effect of Mr Shorten’s energy plan will be to make electricity in Australia both more expensive and less reliable. The effect of an excessive reliance on solar and wind power was seen twice in South Australia over the past year, where electricity prices are now higher than anywhere else in Australia, and the state suffered two significant blackouts.

The closure of the 1600-megawatt Hazelwood Power Station in Victoria earlier this year has radically increased the likelihood of electricity shortfalls and possible blackouts, in both South Australia and Victoria.

Tax on the brain

In relation to tax policy, Mr Shorten has announced a number of measures that will radically reshape the tax system by clawing back more money from hard-working Australians.

He has promised to increase the highest marginal tax rate, a measure that will undoubtedly lead to the engagement of even more lawyers and accountants to devise clever tax-minimisation schemes.

He has promised to end “negative gearing” on property losses – a measure which will reduce rental stocks by forcing some property owners to liquidate their assets, and which was considered seriously but rejected by previous Labor governments.

He has also vowed to impose a 30 per cent tax on distributions from family trusts that provide a means of income splitting widely used by small business owners and farmers.

Farmers, apparently, are to be exempted. Why not small business owners, who are often working for next to nothing to keep their businesses afloat?

More broadly, family-based taxation should be available to all families, in place of the individual-based system we have today that penalises families.

Mr Shorten’s agenda will be a disaster for Australia.

Peter Westmore is national president of the National Civic Council.

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