02 September, 2015

Citizen terrorists are a sign of government failure

When the citizenry are identified as the prime terror threat against a country, this is indicative of a failure of government to address the concerns of the citizens.

Sadly, governments don’t see it this way. In their view, the government is not to blame, therefore they must do whatever it takes to crush the citizens rather than examine their own shortcomings.

No wonder Trump is leading the Republican polls in the USA, whilst here in Australia both major parties are enjoying their highest disapproval ratings in a very long time.

The #1 Terrorist Group = Domestic Citizens:

http://www.armstrongeconomics.com/archives/36768

21 August, 2015

The moral decay starts in Canberra

In the wake of the Ashley Madison security breach, it has been revealed that the suburbs around Parliament House in Canberra are the the worst offenders for cheating in the ACT, and amongst the top worst offenders in the country.

What does this say about our politicians and senior public servants (who are key residents of these areas)?

Oh… my… goodness…

If anyone’s wondering where Australia’s moral decay is coming from, they can start by looking at our politicians and our public servants.

Ashley Madison hack: Top cheating suburbs:
Ashley Madison
http://www.theage.com.au/digital-life/consumer-security/ashley-madison-hack-top-cheating-suburbs-in-melbourne-and-sydney-revealed-20150821-gj4iud.html

05 August, 2015

We really don’t need entitlements for our politicians

This entire scenario around travel entitlements for Australian politicians it turning into a disaster for all concerned.

In days gone by, nobody said anything because if a Labor person shone a light on questionable travel arrangements of a Liberal person, there would be a retaliation and another Liberal person would hit back with questions over the travel of another Labor person.

This is pretty much what is happening. Once the fingers started pointing, each side is desperately trying to get one-up on the other.

But what’s really sad here is that the extremely generous entitlements (including travel and pensions) that politicians receive are supposed to be as generous as they are in order to remove the risk of corruption. In theory.

In practice, however, these cheapskates continue to abuse the system in whatever ways they think they can get away with.

When Bronwyn Bishop eventually resigns, she’ll get a guaranteed pension of over a quarter of a million dollars per year, plus even more travel perks (even though she would no longer be serving the electorate).

In order to make the remuneration system fairer for everyone, how about we change it so that politicians get exactly the same benefits as ordinary workers!

A salary commensurate with their responsibilities (the current base salary is pretty fair, I think, as are the top-ups for special positions such as Ministers). However, they should get paid exactly the same superannuation as every Australian… 9.5%. And, this should be in a market-based contribution super fund, not a taxpayer guaranteed black hole.

This one change will pretty much force politicians to seriously look at the superannuation and pension system more sensibly.

Then there’s travel entitlements. Fair enough if it’s a work expense. Members should have a reasonable discretionary travel budget for to-from their home and their constituency (WA politicians would expect to receive a more generous travel budget than ACT politicians, for obvious reasons). Committee’s should have a budget for operations that would include a travel component, and Members would need to get Committee approval for travel on Committee business. Travel with official delegations should be approved by Cabinet, and Ministers’ travel should come with a travel budget for their portfolio.

Pretty simple and sensible stuff.

And, definitely no perks beyond their years of service. If they’ve worked hard to create a respectful and successful retirement system, then they have no need to have additional perks.

Getting back to Bronwyn. She’s currently served more than 18 years in Parliament. 18 years!

We really are jokers if we accept that spending any more than, say, 10 years in Parliament is going to produce good outcomes. I’d even say that 5 years would be pushing it!

Democracies all around the world don’t need career politicians. We need genuine representation.

The best way to ensure this is to impose term limits, to ensure that only committed people enter politics in the first place, and second so they can turn their energies towards serving the electorate’s interests best rather than how to get re-elected themselves.

Bronwyn Bishop would retire on a pension of $255,000 a year, plus free flights:
Bronwyn Bishop has served in Parliament for 29 years.
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/bronwyn-bishop-would-retire-on-a-salary-of-225000-a-year-plus-free-flights-20150805-gis178.html

24 July, 2015

Tax the rich! Tax the rich!

The Australian Labor Party’s annual conference is a critical event for the party that is desperately trying to regain its standing with the electorate.

So it’s little surprise that they are adopting superficial policies that make for excellent sound-bites, but will have zero (even negative) meaningful impact.

The policy, in particular, of what I speak is their newly adopted position to introduce a tax regime that takes aim at high income earners.

“Take aim”… yes. But meaningful… no.

It simply goes to show that the ALP is trying to buy votes from lower-income earners by promising to take more money from the rich.

Not that tax on “the rich” shouldn’t be more equitable. For that matter, tax on the rest of us should be more equitable also… why should we be financially penalised via taxation so the government can waste our productivity on meaningless, ineffective and unnecessary activities (or, rather, lack of activity).

That aside, these so-called “rich” have options. This includes accountants and lawyers who advice them on how to structure their affairs (including the nature of how their income is earned).

These options are exactly why “the rich” pay so little tax in the first place. They work within whatever the rules are. And if the ALP changes the rules, then “the rich” will simply change the way they play the game. Or leave. They can do that too, don’t you know.

Net result: “the rich” will not end up paying significantly more tax; the government will spend more, in anticipation of raising more revenue from “the rich”, and; ultimately, the government will raise taxes on lower income earners to make up for all of the government’s overspending.

Three cheers for politics… always screwing the little people, every time, even when they tell you they’re trying to screw the big shots.

Labor to slap new minimum tax rate on the super wealthy:
Anthony Albanese (left) with other Labor frontbenchers at the conference.
http://www.canberratimes.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/labor-to-slap-new-minimum-tax-rate-on-the-super-wealthy-20150724-gijnqq.html

21 July, 2015

Self-service checkout angst

Marketing experts are now worried that self-serve checkouts are going to cost business because customers would prefer to be served by a cashier.

There were similar concerns about the introduction of supermarkets. They forced people to pick their own groceries and put them into a shopping basket, rather than have a store clerk run around doing it all for them. That was about 100 years ago.

These so-called marketing “experts” clearly don’t have any appreciation for history. Or common sense.

Self-service checkouts risking consumer loyalty: marketing expert:
Generic shopping photo of hand with money at electronic self service supermarket checkout Aug 2012
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-21/forcing-shoppers-to-self-checkout-risks-consumer-backlash/6636702

07 July, 2015

First-home buyer interest rate delusion

As I’ve previously pointed out, when interest rates eventually rise it won’t be the catalyst to a house price crash than many (first-home buyers) are hoping for.

Even if rising rates will bring prices down (and that’s a very by if), first-home buyers will at best have the privilege of paying more (higher rates) for the loan.

But, more likely, the scenario will be compounded greatly by increasingly tight lending criteria as well. Meaning that even if they could afford a loan at a higher rate, the banks will be far less willing to splash credit around.

In short, easy credit at low rates has certainly contributed to rising house prices. But, a future with tighter credit and higher rates will not improve things for first-home buyers.

If I were a prospective first-home buyer in Melbourne or Sydney right now (or any other place, but particularly in these two cities), I don’t think I’d be rushing out to buy a place. But I might be looking for a smart home purchase, something that is a little out-of-flavour and has scope to add value to (i.e. renovate or extend in the future), and only then if I had a serious deposit (20%+). Plus I’d want to be locking in a low fixed-rate for as long as possible.

But I certainly wouldn’t be looking to get into a cheap investment property simply because rising interest rates and falling rental returns will leave many caught, unable to afford to keep such places and unable to sell them to recover their capital.

Why first-home buyers want RBA to hike rates:
Low interest rates mean rising prices and more difficulty for those wanting to get on the property ladder.
http://news.domain.com.au/domain/real-estate-news/why-firsthome-buyers-want-rba-to-hike-rates-20150707-gi6nh9.html

Dawn Fraser is the new poster-child for Australian racism

Sorry Dawn. You are a racist. Period.

The thing about people who say things like, “Australia… if you don’t love it, then leave,” and, “go back to where you came from,” is that they claim to be the most patriotic Australians.

In reality they’re actually communicating: “I don’t like your attitude / culture / clothes / nose / etc. And because I’m too lazy to make an effort to appreciate your uniqueness, I’m going to tell you to piss off instead.”

Dawn’s comments are typically Australian racism trying to desperately masquerade as patriotism.

Pure class, Dawn. Pure class. Not! You racist.

Nick Kyrgios labels Dawn Fraser a ‘blatant racist’ following verbal attack:
Dawn Fraser (right) suggested Nick Kyrgios should go back to where his parents came from.
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-07-07/wimbledon-2015-nick-kyrgios-labels-dawn-fraser-a-racist/6600824

The superannuation infliction

The greatest beneficiaries of Australia’s pension system (including both superannuation and the public pension) are the baby boomers.

The losers… younger Australians who are going to be bled dry in order to sustain the pensions of the baby boomers!

It is now being proposed that the super access age (the age at which someone can access their superannuation) be raised from 55 years old to 65.

Of course, this won’t apply retroactively. That is, it won’t apply to baby boomers. It will only apply to younger Australians.

In effect, what this will impose is that younger Australians will be forced to work longer in order to:

  • Continue to draw a salary so they can pay more tax in order to fund the public pensions of the baby boomers; and
  • Continue to contribute superannuation in order to maintain an income stream for these superannuation funds that are providing private pensions for baby boomers.

Talk about ageism!

Raising super age could save $7b:
Holding off: The Productivity Commission has modelled what would happen if the preservation age was raised further.
http://www.smh.com.au/business/federal-budget-would-save-7b-a-year-if-workers-unable-to-access-super-before-65-20150706-gi6b6y.html

01 July, 2015

Rising rates will compel people to buy

Everyone’s now going around saying that Australian house prices will crash when interest rates rise.

No.

Clearly they have a simplistic mindset: low rates good, high rates bad.

Higher rates may impact on first home owners, particularly if they’re mortgaged to the hilt. But worst of all, it will affect the people whose first house is an investment property rather than a live-in property. This group of “investors” will face rising costs, without matching rises in rents.

But, for the rest of the market, rising rates will compel people to go out and lock in low interest rates before rates move too high. That is, buy now, lock in low.

This isn’t to say that there won’t be any sort of reckoning in Australia’s rather pricey real estate market. Just that rising rates will not be the trigger.

House prices in a bubble — but what will make them pop?:
“Housing is showing some bubble-like features, but it lacks a trigger to pop it near-term.”: UBS senior economist George Tharenou.
http://www.smh.com.au/business/markets/house-prices-in-a-bubble--but-what-will-make-them-pop-20150701-gi21tw

30 June, 2015

Resurgence of Greek immigration to Australia

As Greece has continued to slide backwards economically (in no small part due to failed austerity measures that aim to protect bonds holders at the expense of Greek citizens), the young and the ambitious have been fleeing the country in search of greener pastures.

In the past, Australia has been a favourite destination for Greeks, and since the GFC it seems it has once again become a prime destination for them.

Everyone in mainstream media is quick to point to the influx of Chinese money as the source of escalating real estate prices in Australia. But I contend that the inflows are far more diverse than that, and includes enormous amounts of money exiting Europe (including Greece) trying to escape the coming economic armageddon facing that continent.

Greeks embark on Australian odyssey for new life Down Under:
A woman shops for Greek ornaments in the Oakleigh suburb of Melbourne, Australia
http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/dcd542c8-1e74-11e5-aa5a-398b2169cf79.html