Australia’s Road Toll & What Politicians Could do to Save Lives!

As Australia’s summer holiday season draws to a close, we again conduct our synopsis into the horror ‘road toll’ that occurred over the break. Unfortunately, high road fatalities have become an expected and accepted part of our Christmas and New Year’s holidays. There is no doubt that witnessing the carnage is sickening, deeply distressing and plainly sad, as ill-equipped and unbeknownst drivers, many (70% of the population) from our capital cities, hit the highways for their holidays, largely unaware or incapable of adapting to the many perils associated with driving on country roads.

The annual response from the politicians is (as usual) re-active, as they postulate and howl nebulous ideas in typical knee-jerk fashion. Void of sincerity they predictably demand better roads, better vehicle technology and better education.  Lost on the tabloid media reporting this political rhetoric is that it’s actually only the politicians who have the power to enact meaningful change in these areas. Continuous education, improved roads and vehicle technology may have actually worked well over past decades, but it’s now time to reassess the current ‘cause and effect’ and implement new changes, rather than chant the same old mantras.

The historical statistics support how effective past initiatives have been in reducing the road toll and sometimes we need to look at where we have been in order to see where we are going. We tend to forget how much ‘things’ have improved, how far we have come and what has been achieved over many decades. In the years since I first got behind the wheel in 1970, Australia’s population was a mere 12.51 million. By 2015 it increased significantly by over 90% to 23.79 million, however, the numbers of road deaths over the same 45 year period declined by 68%.

In 1970 there were 3,798 road fatalities in Australia with the annual count trending progressively down to 1,209 by 2015. The statisticians explain ‘Road Fatalities’ as a measure of ‘losses per 100,000 per year’ which was 30.36 individuals in 1970 reducing to 5.08 in 2015, a decline of 83%. If you overlay 1970s statistics with the present day, the annual road toll would be in excess of 7,300 fatalities, an indication of how effective the safety initiatives have been. This is an extraordinary result.

As positive (and grim) as these statistics can be, we can no longer just rely on doing what we did yesterday. Our society and behaviours are continually changing at a rapid pace and if we are to address the new causes of road fatalities, then politicians need to respond and shift the policy direction accordingly. There is so much that can be done to further contain the deaths on our roads, if only politicians got fair-dinkum and tried a more innovative approach, rather than ‘babbling on’ about the same old initiatives that have been in place for years.

The latest and trending cause of fatalities relates to the increased number of individuals now driving unlicensed and or under the influence of drugs, with police detecting nearly as many ice, ecstasy and cannabis drivers (but not cocaine) as those caught drink driving. Drivers on Australian roads are able to get behind the wheel ‘off their heads’ on certain drugs because of a legal loophole that excludes testing for a number of drugs including cocaine.

With Sydney officially the nation’s cocaine capital why are politicians dragging their feet? Why not change the law as necessary and start testing drivers for cocaine, the drug of choice that fuels the benders for glitzy celebrities, the high-class and the top-end of town, the drug with no safe level of use?

It’s time for politicians to act. For example, why are we so busy advocating for driverless cars but choose not to explore technologies that would prevent unlicensed drivers from getting behind the wheel? The technology already exists to immobilize a vehicle without a valid ‘chipped’ drivers licence integrated into the vehicles connectivity systems. A recent government report revealed that 11% of all fatal crashes involved unlicensed drivers, who were considered responsible for the crash in 85% of cases.

The bottom line is that there are preventative measures that can be implemented to further reduce the road toll, but it requires politicians to be bold, to embrace change and not be politically paralysed by simply suggesting further reductions in speed limits!

The large majority of drunk and drugged drivers are unlicensed. We need to implement stricter random testing for all illicit drugs and promote the use of technology that takes control of a motor vehicle away from unlicensed drivers.

Perhaps then we can continue to reduce the unnecessary loss of life on our roads.

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” ― Albert Einstein

22 January 2018.


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

Why Australians Feel Good About Higher Taxes

In last month’s Federal Budget, the Government announced the introduction of an additional tax on the Financial Services Sector, or at least on five of the larger banks operating in the sector. This comes at a time when the Government is on one hand, advocating policies to reduce company tax, while increasing taxes on the other. (So unlike Governments to have contradictory agendas!)

The Liberal coalition Government is ‘banking’ on this new tax levy being more popular than Labor’s failed Mining Tax, which the coalition Government subsequently repealed. This new populist policy is the Government’s attempt to leverage off the creed that all Australians hate banks, apparently because they are well managed global businesses whose apposite profits are too big.

Therefore, the thinking is that the public will be happy if the so-called ‘greedy’ banks are taxed more than other companies and as a consequence, the Government gains a popularity lift from you, the electorate. This is a desperate ‘socialist solution’ by a Government who is supposed to be encouraging private enterprise to grow the economy; no wonder we are confused about what this Government is supposed to stand for!

The Government is taking advantage of the public’s naive ‘bank bashing’ mindset by virtually condoning hatred against a small number of profitable institutions just so they can pass their bias, uncompetitive and oppressive policies unimpeded. The Government is counting on the gullibility of the public who have been conditioned by successive financially incompetent Governments, and the media, to believe we have been ripped off when in fact the Bank’s ‘Return on Equity’ is somewhat moderate compared to many other publicly listed companies (see below).

I keep hearing the media and politicians say that the Banks should pay this new levy and not complain because they (the banks) are so hated and more unpopular than politicians, (if that’s possible). But who are they? Well, ‘they’ is essentially you, whether as an individual shareholder or more likely in your superannuation fund, or if you have a bank mortgage or a bank account, not to mention if you have exposure to any of these banks’ subsidiaries.

Anyone with any relationship, direct or otherwise, with the Banks will pay for this new levy/tax. If there is an additional cost to business, someone pays and in the final analysis, the people who own and deal with the banks will pay the additional tax the Government has conned you into feeling good about.

Let’s face it, I don’t think that getting a dividend yield of 6% as a shareholder of a Bank is an ‘obscene’ return, in fact, far from it given the ‘capital risk’ you carry. So this ‘clever’ new policy is only a slick revenue grab, that somehow ‘the constituency’ has been duped into thinking they’ll love!

If Government-cultivated hatred and loathing is driving a prejudicial policy agenda in Australia, where we single out and indiscriminately penalise certain groups or sectors in our community; then we are on a slippery totalitarian slope with despotic overtones. 

Another consideration in this subterfuge is the randomness of the policy, there is no reasonable basis for the new tax. Apparently, the Australian Government supports a Fair Taxation System unless the ignorant decide the industry is so unpopular that it justifies a discriminatory socialist policy. If you implement a tax just because you make a large profit, then why not apply the new tax to companies that make larger ‘returns’ than the Banks do and if not, why not? Would that not be a reasonable and equitable basis to apply a tax, with a just ‘outcome’ for all Australians under the ‘Fair Taxation System’?

I have scanned the various market segments and randomly identified 14 companies with a higher ‘Return on Equity’ (RoE) than the five banks targeted. Should companies like those listed below also be identified as ‘bad profitable corporate citizens’ to be singled out and penalised for being commercially viable?

What is going on in Australia when you virtually need to apologise for being successful and profitable? Talk about the tall poppy syndrome; it’s economic emasculation of epic proportions! If making a profit is so obscene and offensive that we need to disincentivise success, then it is a crippling legacy to pass on to the youth of Australia: a future of limited opportunity courtesy of a pathetic, lazy, short-sighted, spiritless and tired leadership.

Return on Equity:

  • Amcor 86.9%                          
  • CSL 41.5%
  • JB Hi Fi 37.8%
  • Woolworths 32.1%
  • Rea Group 28%
  • Sirtex Medical 27.7%
  • Telstra 26.8%
  • McMillan Shakespeare 23%
  • ResMed 21.2%
  • Breville Group 20.4%
  • Flight Centre 20%
  • Ainsworth 18.2%
  • BHP 16%
  • Corporate Travel 16%
  • CBA 15.7%
  • MQG 14.2%
  • WPC 13.2%
  • NAB 12.2%
  • ANZ 10.1% 

‘He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career’ – George Bernard Shaw

3rd June 2017