Sinking Globalisation with Oil

It has been interesting to observe since the 1970s how the term ‘globalisation’ gained traction and found a place in our lives. It has threaded its way into our subconscious, evolving to a point where it relates to all things financial, economic, political and cultural. Indeed, it has been defined as the process of international integration arising from the interchange of world views, products, ideas and other aspects of culture.

Along the way, it was broadly dismissed by some detractors who mocked globalisation as the ‘Americanisation’ of the world. The International Monetary Fund identified trade, capital investment, migration and dissemination of knowledge, as the four basic aspects of globalisation. So what does it mean for globalisation now that the U.S.A. is moving towards a ‘protectionist economy’ trumpeted by the new president-elect?

Within weeks of the November 2016 U.S. Presidential election, the incoming administration announced that the U.S. will be withdrawing from the 12 nation Transpacific Partnership Pact or the cross-Pacific free-trade deal, meaning Australia may miss out on billions of dollars in benefits, reportedly ‘painting a bleak outlook’ according to the Australian Chamber of Commerce. If a free-trade deal meant that Australia ‘were to be winners’, then you can’t blame the losers for withdrawing, when clearly one major aspect of globalisation, trade, is no longer viewed as beneficial. So why are we surprised and what’s next?

The outlook is undoubtedly an environment where ‘capital costs’ will be higher, migration restricted and there will be a decline in shared aspirations as certainty diminishes with the effective dismantling of globalisation. The U.S. will no longer be criticised for their role as the ‘world’s police’, as they withdraw into protectionism and focus internally. The game changer for the U.S. ‘military establishment’ and clearly recognised by the new administration, occurred in 2011 when the U.S.A. became a net exporter of refined petroleum products and the world’s third-largest producer of crude oil and second-largest exporter of refined products. So where does this leave Australia in the new paradigm, particularly in relation to Defence?

That other transpacific pact, the 1951 ANZUS Treaty was an agreement to protect the security of the Pacific, which has over time provided some Australians with a false sense of security regarding our Defence arrangements, as they believe our ‘fall back’ position in defending our sovereignty is to rely on our allies in the USA & NZ. Well, maybe not anymore, it depends on what Mr Trump means when he says our alliance is a ‘special relationship’. It may be that we now need to prepare our Defence on the basis that support is no longer a given, if it ever was.

Certainly the U.S. have been looking at some of our more recent Defence policies and actions and would question why they should risk American lives to defend our inanity, based on some imprudent decisions in relation to matters like ‘Submarines’ and the ‘Port of Darwin’, the latter a strategic asset which forms part of the Australian-United States Alliance’s Strategic Defence Framework, now leased to a company with Chinese State interests.

Some would argue that the recent submarine deal demonstrates that we do have a long-term Defence plan, primarily for the benefit, welfare and votes from the good people of South Australia. The first of 12 submarines arrive in 15 years’ time, the last in 50 years i.e. 2066.

The 50 billion dollar submarine contract ($4.12 billion per sub) for equipment powered by ‘diesel electric’ technology was awarded to France after it was decided not to proceed with the bid from Japan. Apparently, ‘too soon’; it’s only 70+ years since midget subs breached Sydney Harbour.

Interestingly, it has been reported that the Israeli Navy is in negotiations with Germany to supply superior nuclear submarines for only A$600 million each. Not ‘too soon’ for Israel! So why the 595% price ‘mark-up’ for Australian taxpayers? Well, it’s not a matter of poor probity on behalf of Defence, when it’s a political decision. This is particularly concerning given that in the last 15 years we have witnessed the momentous shift in global economic power, the biggest since the Industrial Revolution, back in favour of our eastern neighbours.

So, looking at the global geopolitical trends, do you think we are adequately responding and adapting to our changing environment or alternatively are you reasonably satisfied with the current complacent status quo; the ‘she’ll be right, we’re the lucky country’ strategic plan? Pope J.P.2 made the point that we are ‘lucky’ because as a country we have never been really tested. So may the ‘Age of Luck & Denial’ continue and we’ll just ‘hope’ that the ‘reality test’ is not forced upon ‘US’… the clock is ticking!

22nd November 2016

In June 2010 Australian Emeritus Professor Frank Johannes Fenner, AC,CMG,MBE,FRS,FAA predicted the extinction of the human race within around 100 years.

Advertisements

Dead Set & Forget

Why is it that so many people are in denial about making provision for their death and providing instructions regarding their wishes when they die? Why are we so reluctant to make a Will?

It is reported that approx. 45% of Australians do not have a valid Will, with the consensus being that most just don’t want to ‘jinx’ themselves by considering the issue of death. However in the same breath, people will tell you that they have taken out ‘Life Insurance’ in case they die and have also made provision for death when they nominate their ‘Estate’ as the beneficiary of their superannuation fund, yet none of that works if you don’t leave a Will. Who will receive the proceeds of your Superannuation, Life Insurance and assets/possessions when you die?

How do we make sense of this and how do we change behaviour? Don’t assume that ‘without a Will’ everything will just automatically go to your spouse or family. It may seem logical, but it’s not necessarily the case once lawyers and ‘Trustees of Superannuation Funds’ get involved with an estate where the individual has died without a Will, otherwise known as ‘intestate’.

If you don’t make a Will, you are probably going to make a bunch of lawyers rich and possibly bequeath a lot of your money to the Government instead of your family. Do the unselfish thing, look after your family first and don’t leave them with the additional stress and costs of a legal minefield, on top of the grief that may accompany your demise.

So please, for the benefit of those left behind, just sort it out and finalise your estate matters; make a Will. Do it now and then forget about it so you can get on with the business of living with a little ‘peace of mind’ for you and your family?

While you’re at it, also make provision for those situations where you are alive but are incapable of making decisions for yourself due to health and sickness, either temporarily or permanently. Have the comfort of knowing that you have made provision for your family or loved ones to have control and manage your ‘health care’ and ‘personal affairs’ when you cannot.

That’s a far better outcome than doctors, lawyers and judges taking over (for large fees) and making decisions on your behalf that may never have been your wishes or those of your family. It would be nice to know that your family and those who have your best interests at heart are making important decisions for you instead of a bunch of people you probably don’t know or possibly have never meet.

Just do it, so everyone can rest in peace…Yes, and while you’re at it, donate your organs. I guarantee in perpetuity that you won’t need them.

12th November 2016

Media Trumped

I’m perplexed as to why so many people seem ‘surprised’ with the outcome of the U.S. Presidential election. Particularly interesting was the manic, toxic reaction and atrocious behaviour by the mainstream tabloid media, who seem to have whipped themselves into some kind of hysterical bile-filled orgasmic crescendo of loathing, as they remonstrated against those with differing opinions. Is it a case of hyper-embarrassment because the tabloid media consistently get the big things wrong or is it simply that they’re detached and indifferent; an insular fraternity of cabals, who despise those of alternative persuasions? Clearly, the extreme, tabloid media’s failure to provide ‘diversity of opinion’ proves that they are out of step with Australia’s inclusive, tolerant society.

It must be humiliating for the doyens of the media, as well as the ‘politicians’ and ‘pollsters’ who comprehensively failed when it came to their coverage of both the U.S. Presidential Election and the June 2016 Brexit referendum. I suppose it’s bound to happen when they all have their noses in the same acrimonious trough. The politicians court the pollsters, the media suckle the politicians and the pollsters continue to make large predictions based on small samples. No wonder they get it wrong. Politicians need to listen to their constituents, the media need to get back to professional journalism, and pollsters need to broaden their reach beyond just the affluent (i.e. those with phones), and check in with the seemingly unnoticed, poor and disenfranchised, because they ‘vote’, as the U.S Election reaffirmed.

There was a time when journalists were researched and impartial. Their reports focused on ‘the story’. Now it’s openly biased opinion pieces, littered with vitriol from a smug and patronising media elite; a bunch of postulating sycophants removed from the realities of the real world who redraft media releases because they are incapable of unearthing real stories. They live in a small cocoon, influenced by like-minded narcissists, repeating the same old diatribe with few original ideas, continually chanting their ‘transcendental mantra’ of toxic ordure until it’s miraculously ‘factual’.

What I do find intriguing is that the media, academics and politicians on one hand seemed genuinely shocked with the outcome of the U.S. Election while on the other, keep telling us that ‘the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer’, as if they are or care about the poor, who (unknown to the media), ‘vote’! They recite this refrain out of habit, refusing to acknowledge that the rich sands have shifted around them. These media people, the ‘ideological elite’, are actually the wealthy privileged; the opposite of how they like to see themselves. The ‘affluent’ simply do not give any consideration to the disenfranchised working poor, in fact, they look down on them like common peasants, all because the working poor missed the opportunity to participate and benefit from one of the longest periods of post-war economic expansion. Really, why are they so shocked by this election result?

The ‘advantaged’ who profess to be egalitarians, like ‘talking the talk’ but they certainly are not ‘walking the walk’, given their lack of action and disregard for the working poor. In the U.S. approx. 15% or 45,000,000 people live below the poverty line predominantly in rural and inner city parts of the country. A 2013 UNICEF report ranked the U.S. as having the second highest relative child poverty rates in the developed world. So if you are a poor citizen of the U.S.A. then you have nothing to lose if you vote for change. So they did!

How dare they!

9th November 2016

Broken – What Detention Now Means for School Children

In July 2016 the Government announced the Royal Commission into the Protection and Detention of Children in the Northern Territory. The Royal Commission has been established to enable the swift inquiry into the treatment of children in detention facilities and child protection in the Northern Territory.

I gather the inquiry will be looking at how competently the bureaucrats have performed in executing their ‘duty of care’ to the children in Government custody.

I think it’s reasonable to assume that a number of these children are indigenous (97%) as now we are hearing that the Government is looking at a new inquiry into Aboriginal Incarceration Rates and/or a new Royal Commission into Juvenile Justice in the Northern Territory.

How about a little less conversation, a little more action, please!

If only Governments had adopted the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (1987-1991) there would be no need to repeatedly have the same expensive talkfests, just because as a nation we are incapable of executing ‘action’ when it comes to the Indigenous community.

We just keep doing what we did yesterday and wonder why nothing changes; no wonder there is so much despair in Indigenous Australia.

To be seen to be doing something, Government’s only solution is to ‘spend more’, $5.9 billion per annum and essentially on more bureaucrats. The problem with more money is that it just makes an incompetent system incompetent on a larger scale, while nothing actually changes on the ground.

God help you if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in custody, under the jurisdiction of these incompetent bureaucrats, because there is no chance of ‘breaking the cycle’ unless of course Governments adopt the same level of commitment to Indigenous affairs as they do to stopping boats.

2nd November 2016

Age of Entitlement – Unsustainably Extended

It’s clear from actuarial forecasts that the Government is on an unsustainable course with ‘welfare’.

Circa 1910, the Federal Government introduced a welfare payment scheme to essentially help feed Australians who were; 1/ living below the ‘poverty line’, 2/ living well beyond their life expectancy and 3/ were too old to work.  This scheme still exists today and is known as the Aged Pension.

The Australian Aged Pension in 1910 was subject to a residence qualification of 25 years and was available to men from age 65 and women at age 60. Life expectancy in Australia for the period 1901–1910 was 55.2 years for males and 58.8 for females.

Today, 106 years later, life expectancy has improved by about 30 years, to approximately 85 years (or 75 if you are an Indigenous Australian) yet surprisingly the Aged Pension still remains available at age 65. So based on these statistics, it is understandable why the Government is starting to progressively move the Aged Pension qualifying age up to 67 years as well as undertake a number of other welfare reforms.

We are starting to see more onerous qualifying rules in many areas following the Review of Australia’s Welfare System (McClure Review); the purpose of which was to “identify how to make Australia’s welfare system fairer, more effective, coherent and sustainable and encourage people to work”. We are being told to be more responsible for our own financial well-being and to aim for a higher standard of living, well above the poverty line where the Aged Pension sits.

Crucial to framing an incentive to achieve financial independence in retirement was the Keating Labor Government’s 1992 introduction of a compulsory superannuation guarantee system as part of a major reform package addressing Australia’s retirement income policies.

The new reality is that we need to be accountable for funding our lifestyle when we cease working (or retire), unless of course you are content with living on the poverty threshold by relying on Government welfare to survive i.e. approx. $35,000 per annum per couple (Aged Pension).

Australia’s median gross household income in 2013-14 was $80,704, some 130% above the Aged Pension entitlement. So what does ‘financial independence in retirement’ actually mean in dollar terms and how much ‘capital’ do we need? Clearly we all have different circumstances but the point is that in reality, we need extremely large amounts of ‘capital’ for a below average retirement ‘income’.

For example, the levels of capital ‘self-funded’ retirees need to enjoy a joint sustainable indexed pension of $50,000 p.a. is a tidy ‘nest egg’ of approx. $1,000,000.00 (30 year annuity assumes 4.75% return, 2.00% inflation).

Given the magnitude of these numbers, you would think that the Government would introduce policies that complement their welfare objectives, but not so. If you read the 2016 Federal Budget glossary it states “In the 2016-17 Budget, the Government announced a package of reforms designed to improve the sustainability, flexibility and integrity of the superannuation system. It set out a clear objective for superannuation: ‘to provide income in retirement to substitute or supplement the Age Pension’ which guided the superannuation changes”.

So what was the Government’s significant reform to superannuation? They reduced the amount you can invest in superannuation by approx. 42% per annum yes, totally illogical and contrary to the policy objective.

This naive, theoretical, bureaucratic nonsense that apparently asserts ‘less is more’ reflects very poorly on the judgement of our Governors, particularly if we are to believe the notion that ‘simplicity and clarity lead to good design’. So what is going on?

NB: None of the above applies if you are a retired Politician, Government Bureaucrat or Public Servant, with taxpayer-guaranteed defined retirement benefits.

1st November 2016

Human Rights, 8 Commissioners & 18C’s

There seems to be a lot of noise and discussion about repealing or overhauling Section 18C because of claims that it restricts freedom of speech and also diminishes the right to a fair trial.

Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act makes it unlawful for someone to do an act that is reasonably likely to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate someone because of their race or ethnicity.

It seems to me that perhaps the problem isn’t so much with the law but rather the bureaucrats at the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) who allow the ‘intent of the law’ to be abused by entertaining vexatious complaints. The AHRC misguidedly believe they are instigating audacious actions against Australia’s vilest bigots and racists, who are in their opinion a couple of young honest university students in Queensland and a  respected Cartoonist/Artist. The AHRC clearly don’t get outback much!

The AHRC mustn’t have much to do if these cases are the absolute worst racial discrimination injustices in Australia needing prosecution. Their actions actually diminish the integrity of 18C, and I question how they justify their existence: whether taxpayers are getting value for money; whether the AHRC is contributing to the betterment of our society and whether these bureaucrats are meeting the public’s expectations?

So what is really going on out there? The head of the Prime Minister’s Indigenous Advisory Council, Nyunggai Warren Mundine’s recent article in The Australian details the crimes being committed against indigenous women and children, violent physical assault, death and abuse perpetrated against people who cannot protect themselves. Yet we continue to tolerate inept bureaucratic ‘Government Agencies’, like the stewards at the AHRC, who fail in their responsibilities to protect the human rights of truly vulnerable Australians.

That is why the spurious actions of the AHRC have the effect of diluting the efficacy of 18C; suppressing debate on the real injustices occurring in remote indigenous communities and empowering the predators and abusers who perpetrate despicable assaults/crimes against indigenous women and children.

The contemptible indignity of it is that while indigenous women are being brutally beaten to death, the Australian Human Rights Commission is preoccupied with people who have had their ‘feelings hurt’…shameful!

To add insult to bereavement, taxpayers fund the AHRC to the extent of approx. $23,000,000.00 p.a. The average remuneration of an AHRC employees is approx. $140,000.00 p.a. so you can see that the ‘fat cats’ certainly look after themselves and you can also understand why there is no money left for the victims of the real injustices perpetrated against indigenous communities.

Why does the AHRC muzzle the truth by suppressing debate and shutting down free speech, which has the effect of continuing to deny traditional Australians their basic Human Rights?

1st November 2016.

Unroyal Abuse Commissioned – Good for $ome, Your Honour

There are some things that are so wrong that it’s just easier to ignore; dare we risk feeling that deep nausea stemming from our moral conscience. A bit dramatic, but our Government and the bureaucrats that they appoint represent us and we cannot abrogate our responsibility with silence.

Example:

The Government recently appointed the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. While the ‘terms of reference’ start out by saying that ‘all children deserve a safe and happy childhood’, it’s basically a historical investigation into sexual abuse in Australian Institutions over the last 50 years where the perpetrators are now either dead or in jail.

So why has the Government spent $502,800,000.00 on a Royal Commission that does not even address the horrendous crimes being inflicted on children right now? Why are we excluding the most vulnerable people in society just because they weren’t abused in an institution?

Some would say that the most vulnerable are those Aboriginal children in remote communities, conveniently outside the terms of reference of the Royal Commission.

The Australian Institute of Family Studies publication (October 2016) estimates that less than 30% of all sexual assaults on children are reported and that the reporting rate is even lower for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children. In some states, it was concluded that the sexual abuse of Indigenous children was widespread and grossly under–reported, with an estimated 88% of all sexual assaults in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities going unreported.

So, not being able to accurately define the extent of the problem is apparently a good enough reason to exclude the most vulnerable from the Royal Commission’s terms of reference even though they advocate that ‘all children deserve a safe and happy childhood’.

So do taxpayers think they are getting value for money ($502,800,000.00)? Like most things involving Government, all the budget goes towards administration costs (the bureaucrats) and very little gets to the pointy end of the problem.

Perhaps another Royal Commission in 50 years’ time will adequately explain to victims why we did nothing while they were being raped, only this time we can’t pretend we didn’t know about it.

31st October 2016