Australian Politics 2017-05-08 15:46:00

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Aussie politicians can learn a lot from Macron

Robert Gottliebsen is mostly right below and it is indeed a relief to have an economic realist in charge of France. 

But the main point of the whole election was attitude to the EU.  Marine Le Pen wanted France out of it.  And that attracted so many votes that Macron hopped on the bandwagon.  He too vowed to reform the EU and France's relationship with it.  In other words, LePen shifted the whole Overton window rightwards. 

The EUSSR is now under attack from all sides. Britain is leaving, Italians loathe it.  Greeks groan under its restrictions and Germany has a new nationalist movement -- AFD -- that is getting a slice of the vote similar to what LePen got.  To survive, the EU will have to have its wings heavily clipped.  The torrent of regulations it issues will probably be scrapped, at least



Coalition and ALP politicians in Australia could learn a lot from the victory of Emmanuel Macron in France. And if the rest of Europe learns, the EU might have a chance to regain momentum.

It’s the French equivalent of Donald Trump’s draining the swamp.

If we strip away the political rhetoric involved in debating the far right, we have a set of policies from Macron that would transform Australia. Of course, as in Australia, announcing policies in France is only the first step. Bringing them into action is much harder and, in the case of France, Macron has to assemble a political party to win a Parliamentary election to make his revolution work. But he has momentum.

So let’s go through some of the Macron policies that would either transform Australia or where there is clear relevance down under.

* Make budget savings of €60 billion ($A90 billion). Cut the number of public servants by 120,000 — through natural wastage, but excluding hospitals. That’s a huge fall in the public service but like Australia, France has a bloated public service with enormous waste and duplication. Remember: the French people voted for this. They understand the waste in their equivalent of Canberra. France will stick to the EU deficit limit of 3% of GDP.

* Boost people’s purchasing power by cutting their social security contributions. This is worth about €500 ($750) annually for someone on a monthly net salary of €2,200 ($A3,300).

In Australia, the equivalent is that superannuation contributions would be cut back. Unless superannuation can be used to provide a home deposit, it is becoming less and less relevant to young Australians.

* Lower corporation tax from 33.3% to 25%. Australia’s corporate tax debate is made more complex by franking. But the American action is spreading.

* Maintain retirement age at 62, but unify pension rules to reduce complexity. I suspect that there will be a hidden incentive to work longer, which we are mandating.

* Half of food provided in school and work canteens must locally produced or organic. Imagine what a boost that would deliver to our agricultural industry because the pattern would spread to supermarkets.

* Allow businesses flexibility on the 35-hour working week — but extra hours worked will be free of social security deductions. The same policy introduced into Australia would see much more flexibility in shift allowances and penalty rates. But because there was no super deducted, pay rates might not be reduced.

* Make fluency in French the main qualification for obtaining French nationality.

* At the age of 18, French teenagers will get a “Cultural Pass” worth €500 to spend on cultural pursuits such as the cinema, theatre, books. What a fascinating idea.

* Ban children’s use of mobile phones at school. A great idea.

* France aims at becoming the world leader in developing green technologies. France already has a huge nuclear industry.

* One million poorly insulated French homes must be renovated. Macron can learn from Australia. Don’t allow governments anywhere near the change and get the right technical people involved.

* Create a 5,000-strong force of EU border guards. Protecting borders was an issue that could not be ignored. Both Australian parties understand this.

* MPs must not work as consultants, nor employ family members.

* Cut the total number of parliamentary deputies and senators by about one-third. Another wonderful idea for Canberra.

* Reform the EU by giving the Eurozone a separate budget, finance minister and parliament. Macron is trying to also transform the EU which has its own monumental waste.

* In Brexit negotiations, insist that EU Single Market rules apply fully to all trade partners. That’s being tough on the UK.

To get these sort of policies required a new party. Currently the same applies in Australia. The party does not have to be extreme right or left.

Alternatively, one of our existing parties may wake up.

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Labor under fire for white ‘Australia First’ advertisement as human rights’ groups call it ‘racist’

The Labour party has always been racist and it pops into view occasionally.  They were the main bastion of the old White Australia policy

OPPOSITION Leader Bill Shorten has been forced to pull Labor’s new advertising campaign which sparked social media backlash, with many claiming it’s racist.

The Labor party has come under fire from human rights groups for its latest “Australia First” campaign which features almost all white Australians and calls on businesses to “employ Australians first”.

Today, Mr Shorten has acknowledged it was a “bad oversight” not to include more diversity.

He took to social media this morning to vow it would not happen again.

Earlier, Mr Shorten told reporters in Canberra that claims the advertisement was racist were “rubbish” but acknowledged it should have more diversity.

“I’m not in the ad making business ... but I certainly think we need to encourage as much diversity as we can,” Mr Shorten said.

“I’ve had a look at the final production and I think we should have had more diversity in it and I will speak to the Labor Party about that,” he said.

Mr Shorten said he would not apologise for Labor’s stance that there had been too many rorts in the 457 visa system for foreign workers and too many apprenticeships cut under the Coalition government.

Human Rights Watch Australian director Elaine Pearson slammed the ad on social media saying “What a horrible campaign”.

“Only white Australians? Where’s the diversity,” she said on Twitter.

Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young also called out the ad on social media this morning as white washing.

“As subtle as a sledge hammer. Honestly, what are Labor thinking? This is awful, just awful,” she wrote on Twitter.

The ALP launched the ad campaign in marginal seats featuring an image of Mr Shorten standing next to a group overwhelmingly comprising white Australians.

The theme of the campaign is “Employ Australians First”.

It is understood Labor MPs have also voiced concerns about the ad.

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Budget 2017: foreign citizens get $15bn in welfare

Sad that it took the LionHelmet to raise this issue

About 870,000 non-citizens, mostly from Britain, New Zealand, Africa and the Middle East, are claiming $15 billion a year in welfare­ benefits, according to new analysis by the Parliamentary Budget Office, raising questions about the generosity of Australia’s social security system.

The analysis, requested by Libera­l Democratic Party senator David Leyonhjelm, estimated that 710,000 non-citizens from nations with which Australia has no social security arrangement, includ­ing Britain, Vietnam and China, claimed an average $17,500 each annually in welfare, totalling 83 per cent of the $15bn total.

“At present, around 2.5 million (non-citizens) live in Australia and are eligible for welfare,” said Senator Leyonhjelm. “While I believe refugees should continue to be elig­ible for welfare to help them find their feet, the vast majority of non-citizens are not refugees and should not require handouts.”

More than 150,000 non-citiz­ens from countries with which Australia does have a bilateral agreement, such as New Zealand and India, were estimated to claim $15,500 a year each, making up the remainder of the total.

Eligibility for pensions, allowances and family tax benefits is based on residence rather than citizenship. Eligibility for the Age Pension, Australia’s biggest welfare payment, requires a minimum of 10 years’ residency.

John Wanna, a professor of public policy at Australian National University, said Australia was one of the most generous countries in the OECD for payments to non-citizens. “We’re one of the few in the OECD where somebody who doesn’t work can go straight on to benefits,” he said, noting that in Europe access to social insur­ance was often predicated on prior ­contributions.

British citizens made up the largest share of the total, at 170,000, followed by Africa and the Middle East (90,000) and China (50,000). “Before 1949 everyone here was simply a British subject,” said Professor Wanna. New Zealanders who arrived before­ 2001 are eligible for welfare.

The government has recently tightened eligibility for skilled temporary visas and citizenship, paring back eligible job categories and toughening English-language and residency requirements. “Citizenship still doesn’t really give you that much; a lot of people in Australia still vote who aren’t citizens.”

Senator Leyonhjelm said limiting welfare to citizens “will discourag­e those with poor job prospects from coming to Australia, and will build support for immig­ration within the Australian community”.

Social security and welfare is the largest area of government spending, projected to grow from $158.6bn this financial year to $191bn by 2020.

The new figures “represent the total number of adult welfare recipients affected by limiting welfare payments to only Australian citizens, except where a reciprocal social security agreement is in place with the non-citizen’s home country”, the PBO said in its costing. “It includes both those who would have their total transfer income­ reduced and those who would lose all of their transfer income­.”

The PBO excluded payments to non-citizens from countries where expatriate Australians would receive similar payments, mainly age and disability benefits, as a result of bilateral agreements. A deal struck with New Zealand last year gives Australians access to age and disability benefits. Thirty international social security agreements allow Australians “to claim payments from other countries where they have spent part of their working life”.

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Stamp duty rip-off forcing sellers to stay put

AUSTRALIA’S "worst tax" is stopping nearly half of potential sellers from listing their homes, driving up demand and impacting affordability, a new study suggests.

The survey of 2700 of homeowners, commissioned by LJ Hooker, found 44 per cent of respondents who wanted to sell their home in 2016 but decided against it cited transactional costs such as stamp duty they would pay on their next property as the reason.

Just over half said they would likely go to market if stamp duty were lessened, while 61 per cent would have gone to market if it were scrapped altogether. LJ Hooker said 60 per cent of survey respondents who requested an appraisal last year decided against selling.

"Homeowners are staying in their properties for longer periods of time which is reducing the necessary turnover of stock," said LJ Hooker network chief Graeme Hyde. "With an increasing and ageing population, it’s important all market demographics have the confidence to buy and sell in the marketplace to aid sustainability."

Soaring property prices, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, have flooded the coffers of state governments with stamp duty receipts. Stamp duty generally accounts for around one quarter of all state government taxation revenue.

"As stamp duty is pegged by the state governments to property prices, we’ve seen transactional costs rise exponentially," said LJ Hooker head of research Matthew Tiller. "In Sydney, the sale of a median-priced property costs a buyer around $40,000. In Melbourne, the 5.3 per cent duty adds $37,520 for buyers."

CoreLogic figures showed an 8.9 per cent drop in listings and a 9.2 per cent drop in transactions in 2016. Transaction costs, including stamp duty, now account for up to 8 per cent of the value of the home, "reducing the incentive to buy and sell in the same market", Citi wrote in a report this week.

The Property Council, which has long advocated for a complete abolition of Australia’s "worst tax", says stamp duty can add more than $60,000 to the cost of a typical Sydney home over the life of a mortgage when interest is taken into account.

Earlier this year, Victoria announced it was scrapping stamp duty for first home buyers on homes valued up to $600,000. In NSW, where a similar exemption exists for new homes up to $550,000, Premier Gladys Berejiklian has conceded it must be explored for existing properties.

Last year, a report by the McKell Institute think tank recommended scrapping stamp duty and moving to a "simpler, fairer" land tax system, which would remove upfront costs on purchasing a home and bring benefits in its own right.

"A stable and simple form of revenue that cannot be avoided, land tax would improve housing affordability through incentivising a better allocation of housing, while also allowing for transport infrastructure to be financed through value capture financing," the report said.

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