Australia For Sale

In the midst of Australia’s worsening Energy Crisis and the debate around extending the life of old ‘dirty coal’ Power Stations, many Australians are asking: why does Japan pay less for Australian LNG (gas) than Australians do?

You would think that this ridiculous situation would be ringing alarm bells in Australia but not so, as Australians don’t tend to be too concerned or worried about the sustainability of their country’s long-term natural assets and resources. Meanwhile, our Asian neighbours are taking full advantage of our complacency. They act to secure their own nations’ future by implementing inter-generational food security plans, by purchasing productive farmland courtesy of Australian’s ignorance and stupidity.

Take China for example: they have a population of approx. 1.4 billion people with an increasing demand for a nutritious, secure, clean, and sustainable food supply.  They could purchase agricultural produce from Australia, but soon won’t need to, because Australia is selling their prime farmland instead.

I’m not against balanced foreign investment, clearly it’s a necessity, however, I do question the wisdom of allowing one country to increase its stake in Australia tenfold in the short space of 12 months, with China now owning 25% of Australia according to the Australian Tax Office’s Agricultural Land Register.

What happens if this trend continues? Should Government act immediately to control Australia’s sovereignty?

This shift in the ownership of agricultural land in Australia is of critical concern as it means that a proportional amount of local agricultural produce may no longer be available for supply and consumption in domestic markets. The new owners are not interested in making commercial profits in Australia, nor do they intend to trade produce on local markets. They are only interested in producing, processing and transporting the finished product directly into China to meet their growing consumption needs.

Not only are we losing ownership of the land, but also the food it produces. It is also an effective loss of future export revenue for Australia which has been surrendered for short-term capital gain on assets we now have no chance of ever owning. We have been continually warned of the consequences of accepting excessive Chinese investments by the likes of world-leading economist Professor Niall Ferguson yet we choose to blissfully ignore the bleeding obvious.

At the current rate of change, Australian agricultural produce will be unavailable to Australians in much the same way as Australian LNG is restricted or in limited supply for the domestic market, because Australians have sold off control of their own natural resources.

Can you imagine not being able to buy an Australian Prime Steak in Australia unless you can afford to import it from China? If Australia keeps ‘giving away the farm’, we’ll end up with massive food inflation or more likely, Australians just won’t be able to buy food produced in Australia.

It will be a sorry reminder for those old enough to remember the restrictions imposed on Australians under the old British-Australian Meat Agreement when you couldn’t source or afford to buy locally produced meat: only this time the arrangement will be permanent.

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. Martin Luther King Jr.

17 October 2017

Advertisements

Australia Creates a Power Supply Crisis

One thing I have learned over the last 40 years is that if you set the wrong targets, you get the wrong behaviour and, in turn, the wrong outcomes.

If you want to fix a problem, you look at what actions are necessary to resolve it. Setting Renewable Energy Targets (RET) will not resolve a Power Supply Crisis, only action will!

So what is needed? We need Power Stations that produce reliable ‘baseload supply’ when renewal energies sources do not… and we need them built now! What we don’t need is further delays talking about fanciful targets, while power stations continue to be closed without being replaced. 

It is simple supply and demand economics: the lower the supply the higher the price, the greater the chances of power blackouts and that’s what we have now, prices soaring at a rate of 20% pa!

I want to be clear: I am in favour of renewable energy and clean energy technology and I’m certainly in favour of lowering greenhouse emissions. However, the priority must be a top-down solution where we secure a reliable baseload power source to cover demand when intermittent renewable supplies are inadequate to meet peak loads or when weather conditions are unfavourable.

Build what we need not what we want! Wanting to build a power supply network based on Renewable Energy Targets has managed to bring the system to its knees, it has not worked, it has failed. We clearly have the wrong outcomes, all because Australia has taken a bottom-up (arse-about) approach to resolving a simple supply problem.

Build clean energy power stations. There are plenty of options for a country of only 24 million people and ample raw materials like coal and uranium, which can easily supplement renewable power sources, which still only accounts for approx. 40% of the energy supply when weather conditions permit.

What a moronic mindset; Australia exporting its coal to fuel the rest of the world’s ‘clean coal’ power stations, yet we refuse to build them at home! Is that how Australia achieves its Targets, by exporting their greenhouse emissions overseas and then taking the high moral ground for having a lower carbon footprint? Meanwhile Aussies are literally suffering in the dark through a long cold winter, particularly the youth, poor and disadvantaged!

Now, I know the solution sounds too simple and sensible, so I’ve probably lost the Green anarchists, the academic left, the wealthy and the under 35s; the politically apathetic demographic who are more likely to whinge the loudest when the system fails.

How can Australia get something so simple so completely wrong? “She’ll be right!”… I don’t think so!

See also Governments eliminating Greenhouse Emissions by shutting off the Power.

8 July 2017

Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Government keeping ‘Financial Advice Services’ Affordable for Wealthy Australians

In the past, I have written about how the financially disadvantaged in our communities are the demographic that would probably benefit most if they were able to access affordable financial advice services. However, the costs of such services are so expensive that it has effectively been priced out of the reach of those who need it most: the young, vulnerable and working poor. (See: Government Absent on Credit Act-Disadvantaging Vulnerable, Youth & Working Poor).

The high-price factor is due to the massive costs associated with unnecessary, excessive and ineffective legislation, compliance, regulation, governance, licencing etc. plus the expense of supporting multi-layers of inefficient reactive government enforcement agencies/bureaucracy. The whole structure is broken because the system favours the wealthy and ‘enforcement’ is incapable of preventing those who are not members of the industry (i.e. the unlicensed criminals) from ripping off consumers, which is the main source of losses.

When will policymakers realise that new legislation does not make criminal activity more illegal, when it was illegal in the first place. So whats the point? The impact of more legislation is simply that it causes additional compliance obligations, which increases the cost for honest business operators, who pass on the added expense to consumers, pricing services out of the reach of those who need it most. (It won’t change the behaviour of criminals)!

This knee jerk response from Government is a case of being seen to be doing something because they are not prepared to acknowledge that government compliance agencies have failed to enforce the existing laws. The reality is enforcement agencies are not doing their job to identify criminality. The bureaucracy is such a protected species who align themselves with Government, while pointing the finger of blame at industry in order to hide their incompetence. So as a consequence all we get is more costly ineffective compliance and regulation.

Would it not be better if the industry, the policymakers, the enforcement agencies and even the product providers and ratings agencies all worked together for the benefit of consumers, rather than the opposite: instead of all the parties being ‘hostile’ with the industry isolated. As a result, the product providers and rating agencies are taking control of the industry unabated, yet no one is receiving the right advice and consumers are the losers. What a mess!

Mind you, the Financial Services industry has not helped itself. Those representing the industry have the difficulty of managing a weak and indecisive body that has limited influence, direction and control. They busy themselves trying to convince the public that they are a Profession, not an Industry, desperately trying to pitch the ‘value of advice’, yet deriving little revenue from it. In reality, they are lorded over by their commission-driven masters, the product providers, who actually pull all the strings. Finance advisers are just facilitators for the Product & Platform providers, Insurance companies and Fund Managers, predominantly controlled by the five major Australian banks.

As with all business models, the emphasis is always on what drives revenue and the problem for the advice industry is that they just can’t sell ‘advice’ as a value proposition. The pity of it is that, in truth, the right strategic financial advice is the most important and essential cornerstone to successful planning and should always be the first step. A consequence of appropriate advice may, at a later point, involve some type of investment product but unfortunately the forces that control and drive the industry influence the wrong behaviour (and therefore outcomes) as the weak advice industry allows the ‘trail commission tail’ to wag the dog; yet one cannot do without the other unless you sidestep regulatory protection altogether, which is exactly what has started to happen.

The Government needs to look at measures to abridge the present prohibitive governance and compliance red tape, as these costs make the provision of services unaffordable for consumers and unviable for the advice industry. Something must be done to preserve the advice industry, if not, control defaults to the Banks and insurance companies, and that would be like giving the foxes the keys to the hen-house. Another consequence of the ludicrous levels of Government compliance, regulation and bureaucracy is that the product providers are finding new ways to move their wares without providing appropriate advice i.e. avoiding the industries’ compliance regime.

A perfect example of this is the personal insurances industry. You don’t have to watch too much free to air television to notice that in recent years we have been overrun with commercials for all types of personal insurances. The reason for this is simply that the insurance industry had to find a new ways to move product when the ‘advice industry’ stalled due to bureaucratic and regulatory overload and Government indecisiveness.

The problem with mass product marketing is that consumers end up with the level of cover that they want, not what the need! The outcome is that most consumers are now significantly under-insured, or have no insurance at all. Many are paying for cover they don’t need or have the wrong policies.

These policyholders are then conditioned to believe they need to increase their cover (and premiums) annually by some obscure or irrelevant indicator such as CPI, when in reality they should be reducing the amount of cover in line with their needs, which generally declines annually as we gradually approach retirement (the obvious exception being Income Protection Cover).

Something needs to change in order to make financial advice more accessible for those who clearly need it most. Otherwise unscrupulous product providers and their enablers in the media will continue to take advantage of the financially vulnerable.

Unfortunately, Governments use the passage of legislation as a benchmark of their success; they actually need to reduce the red tape around compliance if they really want to assist those consumers needing help. That’s counter-intuitive and therefore a major hurdle as it’s a concept that is extremely difficult for Government to grasp. They all need to stop making the finance advice industry the enemy and engage with them to find a workable solution for those who currently cannot afford these types of services.

I’m not against regulatory controls, but it only works if enforced, otherwise it just increases the cost of services and makes it impossible for the industry to reasonably compete against unlicensed, dishonest and fraudulent shysters who continue to rip consumers off carte blanche. The Government, compliance agencies and the industry all need to start working together for the benefit of the consumers. What a novel idea!

The conventional view serves to protect us from the painful job of thinking. – John Kenneth Galbraith.

23 February 2017

Dry Rivers, Wetlands, Environmental Water & Awesome Wells

On October 30th 1938, 23-year-old American actor, director, writer and producer, Orson Welles narrated a nationally broadcasted radio program, with a contemporary adaptation of The War of the Worlds, a 19th-century science fiction novel. It was performed as a live simulated news bulletin, a realistic dramatisation: a Martian invasion of earth was in progress. It reportedly caused nationwide confusion and mass panic when listeners thought that the arrival of the extraterrestrial beings was actually occurring.

Even though the episode was performed as a Halloween event, the accidental hoax had been executed and the myth that became the legend was created. As is the case today when the media realised they had been duped, they reported ‘widespread outrage’ and then led the apparent protest demanding greater regulatory intervention from the bureaucracy. Some things never change!

The Wellesian ruse may not fly nowadays, but what is interesting is how well-educated and intelligent people still get caught up in fictitious fables, leaving themselves susceptible to mythical fabrications and as a result are easily conditioned, manipulated, persuaded and indoctrinated.

So how does this yarn relate to Australians? Well it’s about the manoeuvring, misrepresentation and untruths perpetrated by those relatively new Australians, who after 200 years still don’t understand the harmony of our environment down under, in Terra Australis Incognita (the great unknown land), as they continue to impose reckless policies, pushing a flawed agenda from questionable research based on the European experience; generally misguided, opportunistic and with ominous intent. Let me explain.

Australia is a continent of 7.692 million square kilometres. It is the driest inhabited continent in the world with 70% of its area arid or semi-arid land. It is also the smallest continent in the world, the lowest, flattest and (apart from Antarctica) the driest, with a mean annual rainfall below 600 mm. Yep, it’s as dry “as a dead dingo’s donger” to quote a line from Australian Novelist Di Morrissey (Heart of the Dreaming, 1991). 

Europe is the wettest continent. In 2012 the UK’s annual rainfall was 121% more than Australia’s mean average. The Australian continent also has a vast ‘dry river’ system, carved out of the harsh landscape over many thousands of years; the result of extreme conditions in the cycles of prolonged, severe droughts and flooding rains. The longest of these dry river systems is the Murray, some 2,500 km in length. (The Thames by comparison is 350 km long).

Many people may not realise, but in its natural state you could cross the Murray River by walking the riverbed in times of drought. Then in 1919 as part of the Murray River irrigation plan, construction was commenced on the first in a series of ‘locks and weirs’. The river was subsequently dammed with four major reservoirs and some 15 locks. The irrigation system produced what is now considered to be one of the most productive food bowls and diverse agricultural regions in the country, as well as creating a myriad of artificial man-made wetlands with their associated salinity problems.

One of Australia’s truly unique ‘natural’ wetlands is Lake Eyre. Its formation is connected to the mythological dreamtime story of Wikunda hunting the kangaroo that became Lake Eyre. The Lake Eyre Basin covers 1 million square kilometres and is located outback, some 718 km north of Adelaide. Australia’s largest dry salt lake carries water on average about once every eight years and has only filled to capacity three times in the last 160 years. When water does flow the lake returns to life; a natural spectacle as huge numbers of waterbirds flock to the area. The stark landscape comes alive with wildflowers and even native fish return to the lake.

It is truly amazing; nowhere else in the world compares. So why do we take any notice of these ‘foreigners’ telling us how to manage our unique waterways based on research conducted elsewhere, particularly when they want to ‘drought proof’ these relatively new man-made, unnatural wetlands, that are a consequence of damming a massive dry river system.

I’m talking about ‘environmental water’. We have been led to believe that it’s necessary to waste billions of litres of water on regular flows to maintain these recently created artificial wetlands and then wash the surplus productive water out to sea. What a load of drivel! Lake Eyre clearly proves that wetlands simply do not need intervention with constant water flows.

Environmental water is just another myth that has been forced upon us, based on the irrelevant European experience. We know that the Earth’s present ‘axial precession’ means that the southern hemisphere’s seasons are somewhat more extreme than the northern hemisphere. This is Australia: try to learn something from those who have had a spiritual, physical, social and cultural connection to the land, the traditional owners for the last 60,000 years or more. As I mentioned earlier, how can well educated, credible and intelligent individuals be so gullible, as they embrace these fictitious, fabricated untruths, without even considering the intent of the power brokers who are funding a program based on extraneous data?

In Australia we have a unique environment like no other continent or country. European settlers need to learn how to adapt to their new environment, not change it. Stop destroying productive land, stop maintaining saline-soaked swamps, stop washing valuable water out to sea and stop doing it in the name of the environment. I’m tired of watching these enviro-warriors getting it wrong, planting trees instead of native grasses and now unsustainably mismanaging our most precious resource.

Start asking questions of politicians, why are they attempting to use ‘unsustainable water policies’ as blackmail to leverage ‘bargaining power’; it’s a guerrilla tactic that makes no sense. This week we saw a range of duplicitous Machiavellian manoeuvres by our representatives against the occupants of the driest continents on earth, threatening to waste an additional 450,000,000,000 litres of so-called environmental water, by flushing it down the Murray and for no rational, practical or logical reason other than a shameful, strategic, political ploy for the Senator’s personal career advancement!

They’ll want to ‘drought proof’ Lake Eyre next! These lunatics are from another planet; maybe ‘Mars’.

The line between reason and madness grows thinnerRosa Parks.

1st December 2016

Knowing When It’s Time for the Subterranean Dream

Well, I remember when I was young, how the world was in the midst of the Cold War, as well as the Southeast Asia conflict. But of course, there is always a war somewhere, it’s a given in any lifetime. That said, the Cold War period was different, that constant uncertainty growing up, going to school, doing time, knowing that we were potential fodder for a foreign war, didn’t leave you overly motivated or ambitious. It’s hard to explain now, but we were well aware that we lived constantly with a threat of nuclear annihilation; fortunately we were told ‘obliteration’ was an instant death.

It’s not all bad. Today I keep hearing how ‘peachy’ those days were, when the certainties in life were Coca-Cola, blue jeans and Elvis. Well maybe for some. My growing recognition of reality was quite different: isolated, remote, and tedious. You were never really taught anything that was relative to ‘living in the day’. You just eventually worked things out for yourself or figured it out through observation. With little apparent optimism for the future, the foundations of our lives felt unstable, like we were always treading water. There was no real certainty, direction or ‘givens’ in life.

For the most part, looking back tends to get overshadowed by the good things subsequently learnt, the things you weren’t materially aware of at the time. I think my experience was planted deeper in authenticity; we dared to be bold and take risks, we had fewer choices, our survival skills were sharper and we were not sheltered from the unsavoury realities of life i.e. pain, poverty, disappointment, failure, hardship and a non-interventionist death.

Some things just were. You didn’t think about it nor question too much. It’s like the three-quarter ‘drop post’ that was always kept in our vehicle; it was just there for no apparent reason. Then one day while droving sheep on a remote stock route, its purpose became clear. I was wide-eyed and motionless with what I witnessed. While it was quick, the sound was something a kid doesn’t easily forget, even though it was subsequently explained ‘that putting a stricken animal out of its misery was a case of being cruel to be kind’. That was that and we get on with it, as I came to terms with the thought, that the peace associated with death was clearly preferable than observing a deeply distressed animal, that could not be saved or relieved of its unbearable anguish. By not prolonging the inevitable this ‘being’ did not suffering a painful and protracted death at the hands of the elements and nature.

I later learned that my experience was nothing compared to the severity of the real cruelty endured during the 1937-1947 droughts in eastern Australia, as stories were recalled of farmers forced to walk off their land, leaving thousands of sheep to starve to death in the paddock. No one could afford to shoot them in post-depression and wartime Australia. People were basically struggling to survive at a time when the charitable works promoted by animal welfare groups, such as the RSPCA were unknown or out of reach.

At least when I was a young man, we could afford to destroy maimed stock that had survived trauma like ferocious scrub fires.  I realise now that my experience as a kid was not one of cruelty but of compassion and kindness. It takes an unpleasant type of courage, care and commitment to humanely put a suffering being out of its misery. There’s a learning here for us all.

An American Professor of animal science, Temple Grandin is a world-renowned spokesperson and consultant to the livestock industry on animal behaviour. She has been quoted as saying that “Nature is cruel, but we don’t have to be.” She is obviously right, but it leaves me wondering why we can’t apply the same kindness to humans at the end of life as we do with animals. How did we become participants in this slow cruel form of ‘legal euthanasia’ that we practice when it is accepted that there is no ‘quality of life’ and ‘natural’ death is imminent? We don’t have to be cruel, so why are we?

Why do we allow physicians to hide behind a 12th-century Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm” through inaction when their only option is to try and keep you comfortable while they starve you to death. It is unbelievable that doctors require a legal document to prevent resuscitation, just to force the medical profession to allow nature to take its course and for doctors to behave compassionately.

What is really going on here? Why the aggressive and expensive treatments that fail to improve the lives of the terminally ill, with no chance of quality and comfort for the individual? Or are they just experimenting on us? The ‘medical machine’ sells prolonged care because time is money when they know they cannot offer remedial treatment or a cure. It’s wrong that families are being robbed of the opportunity to grieve because a protracted death has been crafted into a ‘welcome relief’. We know that the profession does not make the law, but they are a powerful lobby group, hence things don’t change!

It has been reported that 25% of medical budgets are funding the final days of life; it’s a big industry. Perhaps prolonging the inevitable is something to do with medical research or is it just a very profitable business making mega profits, from those who have no voice, no representation, the comatose and infirm?

It’s certainly not about being kind, compassionate, humane or progressive. The blame lies at the feet of the policy reprobates and their insane bureaucracies; a culpable, complicit and avaricious ‘medical profession’ and the atheists, agnostics and believers who choose to use God as an excuse to secure their wealth and power. After all these years, I’m still fearful of being someone else’s ‘fodder’!

17th November 2016.

Broken – What Detention Now Means for School Children in Australia

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