Businesses and the Stimulus…

The coronavirus, bushfires and climate change are coming together as a perfect storm that threatens Australia’s economy.

So much so that, after 10 years of denigrating the ALP’s handling of the global financial crisis of 2008/2009 that the LNP are now engaging in a similar “cash splash” to “stimulate the economy”.

Let’s put this into perspective.  Unfortunately, to do so, I’ll need to go through some details of their “stimulus package”.

Firstly, they are planning on handing out $4.8 billion to welfare recipients – $750 each. 

My parents have a self managed super fund – it’s not huge and they receive part pensions, so they’ll get that.  Do they need it?  Not really.

Do I personally know, or spend time with people that are on Newstart, single parenting payments, or relying solely on aged pensions?  Not that I can think of.  But, if I were trying to live week to week on $560 a fortnight, I could move to Wagga Wagga and rent a 1 bedroom unit at $200 per week.  That leaves me with $80 per week for all other expenses (food, travel, health care, clothing, etc).

If I got a $750 hand out, what would I do with it?  Probably make a minimum payment on my credit card, and buy some minor goods and services.

I’m certainly not suggesting the government not pay this, but I suspect a significant portion of it will just go to the banks in credit card interest and payments for goods that have already been purchased.  i.e. it won’t really get spent in the community.

And, even if it is spent in the community, what will be purchased?  Food, petrol, clothing, new phones and other electronic devices?  A large proportion of these goods are either manufactured overseas or owned by companies based overseas.

So, what percentage of the $750 will be taken as profits or transferred overseas as payment for these goods?  If it’s spent on electronic gear, probably 50% or more.

What is the long term benefit to the original welfare recipient of the $750?  Probably not much.  They’re not likely to race out and:

  • Pay for a course that improves their employability
  • Buy a long term investment
  • Use it to upgrade their home (although maybe it almost covers the bond on a very small regional rental unit, so maybe they can help a struggling investor pay their bank)
  • Buy a better car (again, if it is used for a new car, most of it goes overseas, but $750 new cars are few and far between)
  • Get that knee replacement for which they’ve been on a waiting list for 2 years

According to https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-03-12/federal-government-coronavirus-economic-stimulus/12042972, “It’s not for us to tell those Australians how to spend their money,” (Treasurer Josh Frydenberg).

Which is correct (although, as an aside, read up on the “Indue” Cashless Welfare Card –https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/feb/06/i-feel-sick-thinking-about-being-forced-onto-cashless-welfare-its-so-insulting) which is what the government use to control what  some welfare recipients can spend money on, at a cost of over $10,000 per year, per card.  Which kind of makes old Josh a little bit two faced).

However, this wasn’t supposed to be about government bashing.

Ok, just another little one.  Josh is correct in saying it’s not his job to tell Australians how to spend their money.  But it is his job to put in place systems that allow Australians to spend their money on a better future.

He’s not doing that, so here is my slant on it.

But first, a little more background on the stimulus package.

The same ABC article states “The Government wants its stimulus to be temporary and offer an immediate boost to the economy rather than making permanent changes to the budget.”

Whilst 6,000,000 poor and welfare recipients (note, the family home is not considered an asset for pension eligibility, so someone with a $10 million home will also get the $$$) are getting $750 for a total of $4.8 billion, “Nearly 700,000 small and medium businesses will receive cash payments of between $2,000 and $25,000 to help pay wages or hire extra staff.”

The total cost of this measure is expected to be about $6.7 billion.

Also,

“Medium and big businesses will be encouraged to spend on equipment and other investments through an extension of the instant asset write-off, which means they can claim a tax break for what they spend.

This is currently restricted to companies with turnovers of up to $50 million, for maximum investments of $30,000.

But this will be significantly lifted, allowing companies with turnovers of up to $500 million to make assets write-offs of up to $150,000.”

https://pm.gov.au/media/economic-stimulus-package states

“Businesses with a turnover of less than $500 million will be able to deduct an additional 50 per cent of the asset cost in the year of purchase”

Cool, says this business owner, rubbing his hands with glee.  Let’s see, what can I spend this on?

Let’s assume my little IT business receives a cheque for $2000 in the mail.  What would I realistically do with it?

It goes into the bank account.  I could buy a new laptop with it.  Of course, 80% of the cost is then transferred overseas, so it adds $400 to the Australian economy.  Oh, hang on, many of the big distributors are foreign owned, so some of that $400 will go to boosting a foreign company’s bottom line.

If my business were in retail, I’m probably going to the wall anyway, so the $2000 goes to either my ticket to an overseas location to run away from my bankruptcy, or perhaps I can pay a weeks worth of rent to the big shopping mall owner I’m chained to.  Or pay that outstanding invoice to a minor supplier that’s currently 60 days overdue.

Ultimately, whilst a $25,000 grant to a business will sound like a massive amount of money to someone receiving $750, an extra $25,000 in the bank doesn’t normally change the strategic direction of a business.  That doesn’t even cover a month’s worth of wages for my small business with 4 staff.  Imagine what it doesn’t do for a business with 20 staff.

So, if I have a financially viable business and receive a $25,000 cash grant from the government, what could I do with it?

  1. Pay it as a bonus to directors, who then pay tax at their marginal rate
  2. Send the directors, key staff and their family members to explore business opportunities in  an overseas coronavirus haven as part of a strategic decision to ensure business continuity (i.e. a junket paid for out of pre-tax dollars and mostly spent overseas)
  3. It shows up as a profit, so it could get paid to the business owners as a dividend
  4. Pay it as a bonus to staff (nah, what capitalist in their right mind would do that)
  5. Buy some actual business equipment:
    1. As a farmer, I could put up a small shed, buy a small tractor, get a couple of truckloads of hay for my starving cows, etc.
    1. As a white collar business (office workers), buy new computers, software, paint the office, replace the kitchen, rent some nice artwork from a Superannuation fund on a long term contract
    1. As a service business, I could buy a new small car, new phone, some tools, a trailer, etc.

Ah, but I haven’t mentioned this gem from https://pm.gov.au/media/economic-stimulus-package.

  • “$700 million to increase the instant asset write off threshold from $30,000 to $150,000 and expand access to include businesses with aggregated annual turnover of less than $500 million (up from $50 million) until 30 June 2020. For example, assets that may be able to be immediately written off are a concrete tank for a builder, a tractor for a farming business, and a truck for a delivery business.
  • $3.2 billion to back business investment by providing a time limited 15 month investment incentive (through to 30 June 2021) to support business investment and economic growth over the short term, by accelerating depreciation deductions. Businesses with a turnover of less than $500 million will be able to deduct an additional 50 per cent of the asset cost in the year of purchase.”

What does that really mean?

Well, I have until 30 June to be able to claim an “instant asset write off” of up to $150,000.  Normally, if it’s worth more than $30,000, I have to depreciate it over a number of years.  About 3 for a computer system, 5-10 for a delivery vehicle, 25 years for a building, etc.

Damn, so I can go and buy a $150,000 BMW today and claim the entire purchase price on the businesses tax return this financial year.  Not only can I claim the $150,000 as an expense, I also get to claim an additional 50% of the cost.  So, the business gets a $225,000 tax deduction.  Holy crap, I need to make some profit, so I can make it disappear on my new car!

Actually, it’s not quite that clear (which is good, clarity means I have to pay tax like all you non-business owning plebs out there):

  • The $150,000 includes 10% GST (which my business immediately gets refunded, so it really only costs the business $136,363, so only a $204,545 tax deduction ☹.  Unless I buy a $165,000 car with $15,000 GST, then I’m back to my 😊.  I love tax perks!).
  • If I buy a $150,000 BMW car that is used for private use, then Fringe Benefits Tax applies which means I need to pay my accountant to ensure my log book totaling 100% business use is legit.  As long as I garage the vehicle at work and travel to and from work via pushbike or public transport, that should work out. Especially, if the staff also use it during the work day for client visits.
  • But if I buy the new Tesla truck (or a stupidly big polluting 6.7L V8 truck) for $150,000 and, if it qualifies as an exempt vehicle (https://www.ato.gov.au/General/Fringe-benefits-tax-(FBT)/In-detail/Exemptions-and-concessions/Fringe-Benefits-Tax—Exempt-Motor-Vehicles/?anchor=Eligiblevehicles#Eligiblevehicles), then no FBT applies

You know the best bit?  After 30 June, it’s a new financial year.  The $150,000 car isn’t an asset on the businesses books as it was written off (financially, not accidentally).  The business can now dispose of it as a 2nd hand vehicle.  As long as we keep the GST gods happy – i.e. declare the market value of the vehicle properly (https://www.ato.gov.au/Business/GST/In-detail/Your-industry/Motor-vehicle-and-transport/GST-and-motor-vehicles/?page=3#Reportingmotorvehicledisposals) and pay $12,000 GST to the ATO, declare the value properly to the RTA and pay the stamp duty (3% of about $120,000 = $3600 – see sidenote) then we can sell the vehicle as we see fit.  E.g. to the director of the business for, say $5,000). 

Even if I set my sights lower and buy a $30,000 car in this manner, the business could get a $45,000 tax deduction this financial year, I could personally buy the car for $5,000 in 4 months time, pay $3,000 GST (I’m not devaluing the car to avoid any risk of the ATO challenging the businesses GST returns) and a bit of Stamp Duty.  All up, I get to personally pay about $4,000 for a $30,000 car, the company pays the $3,000 GST and gets a $45,000 tax deduction out of it.

Oh, and this is per item.  So, I could buy 20 x $150,000 BMWs as long as they’re not all on the one invoice….

All in all, it throws some money out there, some of it is used to buy goods and services from Australian businesses, some to buy goods and services from overseas companies and some disappears into trusts, trips and wealth creation schemes for business owners and operators.

#ScottyMustGo

Mr. Morrison,

Sometimes (OK, maybe most of the time) in life we “have a go, to get a go”, we “say yes to the universe”, we “act with confidence to develop confidence” or we “fake it till we make it”.

Ultimately, these are all strategies for developing new skills, confidence and striving for better things.

Schools these days are all about it being OK to make mistakes.  They’re not wrong, but it’s also not the whole story.  We also need to learn from those mistakes.

Sometimes, as hard as it is, we need to acknowledge that we are out of our depth.

For the first 12 years after I left school I worked in the public service.  I was recognised as intelligent, I had ideas that were implemented and that I still see in the community, but nobody but my family knows I was responsible for.  I learnt skills, helped others and was somewhat content.  But ultimately, I couldn’t deal with the internal politics, the wastage, the unfairness and the process of getting promoted.  Eventually, I quit after experiencing what these days would be termed bullying from a manager many levels above me in the organisation structure.  Funnily enough, he didn’t really bully me, he bullied others and I tried to stand up to him without having any of the skills necessary to do so.

I’ve spent the last 20 years trying to build a business.  I have done so with a certain level of success, but at a significant cost to my own sense of mind.  Frankly, I knew for a couple of years before doing so that I was ill suited to sales and staff management. 

I struggled to develop a system or routine and follow it.  I can’t discipline or demand outcomes from staff.  I can’t sell a product or service that isn’t 100% right for the customer.

I can spend spend many days, weeks, months or even years developing a system, incorporating new information and technology and, once I am sure it is up to my high standards, I ignore it and do something else.

Over 20 years ago I wasn’t sure why, but I just knew I wasn’t suited to running a business.  But I tried anyway.  And tried, and tried.  Because I couldn’t face applying for jobs or the idea of working for someone else.

But proper success has always eluded me.  I have never been able to take advantage of my staff or my clients.  I try to take responsibility and not apportion blame to others.  Ultimately, I take advantage of myself and my own good intentions.

3 years ago I received a diagnosis of ADHD and this year I’ve received a diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Level 2.

So far, treatment hasn’t provided me with any significant improvements.

Perhaps though, I’m starting to realise maybe I don’t need to be so tough on myself.  Maybe it’s OK not to be a super high achiever.  It doesn’t help that my lifelong goals, ambitions and dreams have all been much larger than most people seem to have.

It might be OK, but at the same time, I can’t say I’m comfortable with the idea of downsizing and giving up on big ideas.

It’s a challenge.

Sometimes in life, we need to realise that we have not “succeeded” at the task at hand, but have “succeeded” at “faking it”.

I am sorry to say that I have been one of the Twitter brigade that have lowered themselves to screaming abuse at you.

I should have been better able to deal with my disappointment, disbelief and downright horror at the way you and your government are treating people and the environment.

My excuse is that I’m autistic.  But, it’s not really fair on you or your family.

For that, I’m sorry.

But, just because I couldn’t control myself properly, doesn’t mean I’m wrong.

Frankly, and I say this father to father, you’re out of your depth as Prime Minister.

It must have taken a great deal of courage and political manouvering to get to that position.  You’ve tried to lead, you’ve hired “empathy consultants” and you’ve made many speeches.  Time after time, they have fallen flat.

Yesterday, your forced attempt to shake hands, and then turning your back on a person that was asking for help was the icing on the cake.

Your mistakes are not about how you deal with specific issues.

Your mistake is that you are unsuited to the job. 

I don’t know you.  Based on what I’ve seen in the media, in your speeches, in the policies your government have released and in what look to be shady deals done by the members of your government, I think you’re a despicable human being.  Many of your actions seem to be directly in contravention of general Christian principles.

I want to say I’m probably wrong.  I don’t know you, I’ve never met you, none of the LNP government ministers I’ve emailed has ever responded to me, so all I’m going on is what I’ve seen in the media and on Twitter.  Managing staff based on hearsay from third party witnesses is a road to failure.

But that’s all I’m left with as you don’t engage on Social Media (releasing press statements and videos isn’t engaging – it’s lecturing), don’t listen to scientists and professionals and seem to think that you have been appointed by God to lead the country based on your own personal principles.

It’s time you learnt from your mistakes.

The country needs leadership.  The job of Prime Minister is not to know everything or do everything themselves. 

Nobody thinks you should have been on a fire hose.  But we do think you should have brought together experts to develop effective policies, then fund and implement those policies.  Regardless of whether it fits with the LNP narrative.

Our political system is broken.  Labor and the LNP are both beholden to companies, institutions and others.  You are not elected by those groups.  You are elected by individuals and you need to be governing for those individuals, not attempting to rule them.

You have proven time and time again that you can’t listen to us.  That your personal beliefs and connections are more important to your governance than representing the citizens of the country.  That your political nous, whilst obviously exceptional, doesn’t not make you qualified to lead.

This can’t be easy for you, but it is time for you to acknowledge that you have risen way above your skill level and to resign.

Please do it for yourself.

Please do it for your family.

Please do it for the country.

Why do we vote?

Hi,

With all the recent talk about the Australian federal election it occurred to me that there is a big focus on “how to vote”, but not so much on “why to vote”. I’m curious what percentage of the population is actually interested in the election and actively thinks about why they vote. If you have a moment, please complete my 2 question survey below!

https://tinyurl.com/y438wpdk

Thanks Michael

The Last Week of the Election Campaign

I don’t think Labor is the answer.

But I can’t abide the lies and mistruths spouted by #LNP and their media cronies. #LNP talks about minimising government, but what they don’t mention is that there are two parts to government – controlling people through rules and providing government services. The current #LNP don’t cut jobs, then introduce “efficiency dividends” which are related to salaries, generally of those departments providing government services. So, the government agencies cut salaried positions but then have to outsource to contractors and consultants. Serco, Paladin and other big companies then make profits providing services that should not profit generating. We, the tax payer are taken advantage of by these big firms and who owns those firms? Offshore companies with hidden owners, trusts, distributions and the like.

Meanwhile, they implement more and more controlling legislation aimed at building the wealth of capitalists that rub shoulders with other capitalists. The only way capitalists make money is by taking advantage of something or someone.

Getting mining or water rights that allows them to flog off those rights to an overseas company that then comes in, extracts minerals which get sold overseas, profits are shifted offshore and what does Australia get? We get to buy the minerals back when they have been “value added”. So more of our money goes offshore. – Having a large population of people that don’t earn enough money to rent a decent house or provide for their kids is perfect for them. They can buy up all the houses and rent them. With all the tax breaks they get they can build their wealth, while average people struggle trying to participate in a game they were never part of

I’ve had my share of investment properties, I’ve traded shares and options, but in the end it’s all been for nought. I have a bloody big mortgage, my business stresses me out constantly, I have no hope of achieving anything good with my life, unless I can figure out how to get in the ear of someone rich and get a leg up.

They talk about human rights, the right to shelter, food, healthcare, education, but we are only granted those rights by those that seek to profit from them.

Living a good life shouldn’t be about having to get a leg up.
Get a job, leave home, save some money, buy a house by age 25-30. This shouldn’t be out of the reach of most. If you don’t have a Uni education and get a minimum wage job paying $35,000 pa, by the time you spend $300 a week on rent, buy some food, take out a loan for a car to get to and from work and all the other life costs, you’d be lucky to save $2000 a year. You have to live in a city, because small towns have dried up – big farms don’t need labour anymore – they use big automated tractors and machinery so you have to save $50K for a deposit. That’s 25 years.

Meanwhile, those that have are profiting from your time, rent, etc.
How does a police officer earning about an average wage end up with wealth in the hundreds of millions? It’s not through hard work, although I’m sure he did enough of that. It’s through what he knew, who he knew and his willingness to take advantage of government contracts, subsidies, handouts and tax perks. Now he is the “Minister for Home Affairs”.

This guy is now in control of the AFP, ASIO, Customs, etc and hands out contracts worth hundreds of millions of $ to overseas companies with shady ownership structures, with no accountability.

Mark, you and I have both owned investment properties. Neither of us have made a fortune from them. Why not? Well, because we bought the wrong properties at the wrong time, in the wrong place. Governments make decisions all the time that screw over the little people. Those in government and their mates are the ones best placed to take advantage of the screwed over.

This is not a Labor/Liberal thing, it’s just a consequence of being a little guy.
I don’t know all the micro and macro economic factors of the 70s and 80s, but interest rates in the USA and UK in the late 70s/early 80s were in the high teens and Australia’s went up to peak in 1989.

Did Whitlam/Hawke/Keating cause it? I don’t know.

But it is 30-40 years later. World financial markets, the people in government, the structure of government, the structure of business and international relationships are completely different.

Most of the politicians from that time are dead, or close to it. Today’s political parties are different from those of yesteryear.

Is Bill trustworthy? I don’t know him from a bar of soap. I’ve seen video clips and he talks about Labor policies. I’ve seen video clips of Morrison and other #LNP pollies and whenever they are asked a question, their answer goes something like “Well, Bill will tax, tax, tax and labor, labor, labor, then they mumble something about the budget being in surplus next year”. Which they’ve been saying for the last 6 years.

Are there dole bludgers that will take advantage of an increase in the dole? Sure, but I’m sure it’s a small %. I’d rather our government gives our taxes to people struggling to eat who will spend that money in their local community than sending it offshore to the Caymans via their big donor mates.

Oh dear, I’ve done it again. I could go on all day, but what’s the point?
Catch you later guys! Hope you’re all well.

As you can see, I’m not….

Egging

Ok, so it’s been a long week and I’m struggling with it being my 50th birthday today. So, cut me some slack please. #EggBoyHero#auspol#votethemout

It has become apparent that there is some confusion about the legal status of an “egging” in Australia.  There are various opinions on what is and isn’t acceptable and it is apparent that we need to document some rules to apply in future events.

I would like to propose some Eggislation with the following guidelines:

  1. Firstly, physically interfering with someone’s person is generally considered assault and, as such the perpetrator of an egging should be aware that:
    1. They will likely be charged and found guilty of common assault, assuming no physical harm comes from the act, in which case, more serious charges may apply
    1. Targets may have personal protection measures in place and the officers in charge of that protection may implement physical measures to protect their principal
    1. Accordingly, egging perpetrators should be aware that they are likely to suffer physical interference whilst enacting said egging which may result in physical injury
    1. Egging perpetrators will have to pay $1000 in reparations to the target of the egging
  2. With that said, sometimes the democratic process fails and more visible, physical action is deemed necessary by one or more individuals
  3. Actual political assassination is still considered undesirable in Australia and so an egging is considered the ultimate rejection of a public figure and, where applied to a sitting member of parliament:
    1. Is synonymous with an actual political assassination
    1. As such, the target of an egging (Eggee) should consider themselves mortally wounded with their political life in immediate danger of annulment
    1. For the egging to be considered successful, a subsequent change.org petition to have the member of parliament removed needs to get 1 million signatories
    1. A second change.org petition will be created to obtain signatures by those that feel the Eggee should retain their role
    1. Should the second petition obtain more votes than the primary petition, the target will keep their role
    1. Should the first petition obtain 1 million signatures (and assuming the second petition does not gain more signatures), both petitions will be presented to the Governor General who will:
      1. Request the Eggee to “Show Cause” why they should not be expunged from parliament
      1. Review the facts of the matter and make a determination as to why the will of the people should not be acted upon
      1. Should no good reason be found to overrule the will of the people, the Eggee will have their governmental appointment annulled and lose any and all subsequent rights, pension entitlements, etc. arising from their parliamentary role

#FridayClimateWork – Original Post

Hi All,

I read a new article this morning which made me jump out of bed and whack together the attached draft mind map. This is nothing new for me – I’ve been dabbling with these ideas for 20 years but in the last 2 years, I keep writing big long email/businessplanish documents (https://www.mikileaks.net/category/sustainability/).

It seems we need to make things simple and communicate understanding – graphics and video is probably a better way to go than my big long emails, but emails help me think.

The problem is that I can’t spend enough time focussing on anything (well, that and I’m a shy, introvert type at heart that would rather not speak to new people and definitely don’t want to talk to people that disagree with me).

I need a bigger team of people with some specialists, but feel like I need to put the team together and start making tentative steps first, which of course I can’t do because people need to earn a living.

So, maybe I should do a kickstarter/crowdfunding process, but they take a sizeable commission and again, I would put the thing up there, but then forget to actually work the process. And even if I did, can I communicate it in a way that anybody would engage with?

Oh crap, gotta go to work.

Any feedback on the mindmap or https://www.mikileaks.net/category/sustainability/ would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance and sorry for wasting your time, if you feel I have done so!

Mike

Dividend Franking Credits and Labor’s Policy to Remove Refunds

The thread below evolved on Twitter yesterday and it made me realise that:

  1. Not everyone understands Dividend Imputation
  2. There are some elements of Labors plan to cut Dividend Imputation Credit refunds that might be unfair to a small group of people

Current info (as at 31/1/19) from the Australian Taxation Office about franking is at https://www.ato.gov.au/individuals/investing/in-detail/investing-in-shares/refunding-franking-credits—individuals/

What it essentially means is that anyone earning an income and is on less than the corporate tax rate gets to offset some of their personal tax liability with the franking credits. At the moment, in the below examples, Persons A and C still get tax refunds of some of the franking credits.

DescriptionPerson APerson BPerson CPerson D
Salary/Wages$18,000$30,000$30,000$0
Tax Payable$0-$2,242-$2,242$0
Fully franked dividends$10,000$0$10,000$10,000
Value of Franking Credit$4,285$0$4,285$4,285
Net Income$32,285$27,758$42,043$14,285

My understanding is that, under Labor’s plan, person C will still get a refund of some of the tax credits, whilst Persons A and D would lose the refund of $4,285. Neither of those people could be considered wealthy based on the numbers above.

As soon as Person C stops working, they lose the ability to claim those excess franking credits.

One comment on the Twitter thread was that “anyone with $200,000 worth of shares is wealthy”.

As with everything, the bigger picture needs to be taken into account. For example:

  • If that person bought their shares in a float 20 or 30 years ago and took advantage of Dividend Reinvestment, then they may have only invested a relatively small amount of money
  • If they are now forced to sell their shares they have to pay capital gains tax on their shares when they sell them and they lose the benefit of the dividends
  • If that person did not seek sound financial advice (or if they sought unsound financial advice from a bank or other predator…) during their working career and is retiring (or made redundant) then they may not have invested in the most tax advantageous manner (i.e. Superannuation)

Meanwhile, the wealthy have poured (and can continue to pour) stacks of money into superannuation and can receive their income, tax free – https://www.moneysmart.gov.au/superannuation-and-retirement/how-super-works/tax-and-super

My point is simply that a blanket rule change can unduly affect the less well off in society, whilst the rich still have big super accounts and other investment structures that mean they won’t pay much, if any tax anyway.

I think if Labor introduced a modest means test, especially for renters that don’t own any investment assets, then that would be a good thing and allay the fears of many.

With that said, cancelling the dividend refund will simply encourage the rich to put more funds into superannuation or other tax advantaged structures and investments.

Please note, I am not an investment advisor or qualified accountant. I don’t have a big share portfolio and have spent 20 years running a business that isn’t likely to be worth much if I can ever retire. I do have a discretionary family trust which was meant to be used to build family wealth in, but the first 15 years of business put us significantly behind. I should have just rorted the government as a contractor and I’d have earned 2-3 times as much money in the last 15 years. I’m just really frustrated by our current crop of political leaders that release policies that are unfair on some whilst the rich just keep getting richer due to their political influence. I really hope Labor remembers to represent everyone and doesn’t bow to the unions as has happened in the past.

What Can We do Individually?

I was asked last week to do an impromptu presentation about sustainability to my drama impro class.

Afterwards, I received some great feedback that indicated I may actually have a bit of knowledge about the subject.

I was also asked what the average person can do.  My initial response is “it’s too late for the average person to do much.  We need massive, concerted action.  However, it then occurred to me that the average person might not know where to start with massive action, so here are my tips:

Plastic Pollution

  • Choose products with less packaging
  • Recycle as much as possible
  • Soft plastics can be recycled at Coles and Woolworths (?)
  • Choose shops that use biodegradeable plastic bags (Aldi??, ???)

Climate Change

  • Run airconditioners a couple of degrees higher than you’d prefer and heaters a couple of degrees lower than you prefer
  • Put up with a bit of discomfort if you can. We (my family) haven’t really enjoyed the last few weeks of hot weather, but we’re all still alive.  Water sprays and fans are much cheaper to run than air conditioners
  • If you need to run an air conditioner, cool the smallest area you can – there’s no point in running air conditioners to cool rooms that nobody is using
  • Try shading parts of the house – bricks and roof tiles heat up much more from direct sunlight than ambient temperature
  • Make effective use of insulation and draft stoppers.  Consider double glazing.
  • Drive the car less
  • It would be fantastic if everyone could afford to buy an electric/hydrogen/zero emission vehicle, but they are all still far too expensive. In the meantime:
    • Don’t buy a new ICE (internal combustion engine) car. There are so many 2nd hand vehicles in Australia, there will be something to get you through the next few years
    • It’s always been said a new car loses 10% of its value as soon as it’s driven off the lot and then they lose about 10-20% of value a year. ICE vehicles are going to lose value much faster than that in the next 10-20 years.  Especially big petrol guzzlers.  If you must buy a new ICE vehicle, pick a hybrid or vehicle with good fuel consumption if possible
    • The only real reason for having high capacity engine vehicles that use lots of fuel is if you run a business that needs to transport equipment or goods
    • If you love camping and/or other recreational pursuits that require a large vehicle, consider whether you can share a large vehicle with someone else and use a smaller vehicle for day to day commuting.  If you go camping twice a year, rent a 4WD for those trips – it will likely be cheaper than driving that 4WD all year round
    • If you do need a petrol/diesel powered vehicle, consider if you can buy bio-diesel or somehow offset your emissions.  An average vehicle uses between 3 and 5 tonnes of CO2 every year based on 13000km travelled. 
    • It is estimated that it takes 30-40 years for a tree to grow big enough to have absorbed 1 tonne of CO2 during the entire 30-40 years.  So, to offset 5 tonnes of CO2 produced by a vehicle each year, 5 trees would need to be planted and survive for 30-40 years.  Consider subscribing to a carbon offset service such as https://cncf.com.au/donate-a-tree/ which plants native trees. However, various studies have shown that the entire Earth can’t plant enough trees each year to offsite emissions – we HAVE to reduce emissions massively
    • Look for more efficient electrical products
    • Consider not buying yet another TV, computer, laptop, tablet, etc.  Every device that is manufactured, uses energy in the manufacture and shipping.  Most of that energy is currently supplied by fossil fuels

Money – choose where to spend it more wisely

  • Why buy a $1500 iPhone when a $200 LG phone provides the same functionality? Imagine if everyone chose the LG phone and invested the remaining $1300 in a company investing in sustainable energy or even spent the extra on solar panels for their house?
  • When you buy a $1500 phone on a plan, you’re still spending $1500, they are just letting you pay it off over time.  Isn’t it better to spend $200 over 2 years than $1500 over 2 years?
  • If you can’t afford to invest $1300 for every $1500 worth of value, you can’t afford an iPhone.  The Earth, your kids, the animal world and future generations can’t afford your iPhone
  • Become a producer before a consumer.  Buy sustainable energy generation before you decide to spend energy on air conditioning.  Imagine if we all thought about the whole lifecycle of the product we were buying and then made smart decisions before buying consumption products
  • Review your superannuation investments.  Consider moving them from default funds to ethical funds such as https://www.myfuturesuper.com.au or https://www.australianethical.com.au/
  • The more money we deny the fossil fuel industries, the quicker they are going to close shop

International business

  • Foreign companies invest money in Australia because they want to take more out of it. Every time you buy a product made overseas, some of the money you spend goes overseas.  For many products (cars, electronics), most of the money goes overseas.
  • Many large Australian companies are partly or completely owned by overseas interests.  In many cases, these companies make use of loopholes to transfer money out of the country as expenses to the locally operated companies, reducing or eliminating their need to pay tax in Australia.  If you buy your electricity or phone services from one of these countries, consider if it makes sense to switch to an Australian company
  • However, even publicly listed Australian companies often have large overseas shareholders, so many of the profits still leave Australia as dividends paid to shareholders.  One good aspect of this is that tax paid on those dividends is not refundable or counted as a tax credit to the overseas shareholders

Politics

  • Most of us hate or ignore politics.  However, these people are the ones making decisions and laws on our behalf
  • Preferences are not understood by many.  One of the Queensland senators only received 19 votes.  But, he was part of a party that directed preferences to him, so he still ended up earning $200,000 a year and he is a fairly radical type that few people believe in or like (he also quit the party that directed the preferences to him)
  • Please:
  • Do not just vote the way you always have
  • Read about the policies of your preferred party/candidates and also the policies of the other parties/candidates
  • Read about successes, fails, lies and commitments made by the different candidates
  • Make sure you understand how preferences work.  If you don’t understand the preference system, investigate it or ask for assistance from the AEC representatives at the polling booths

Resources

https://www.michaelwest.com.au/ – website dedicated to highlighting large corporate shenanigans

https://cncf.com.au/ – A carbon neutral fund

https://www.myfuturesuper.com.au/  – Superannuation fund specialising in sustainable/ethical investments

https://www.australianethical.com.au/ – Superannuation fund specialising in sustainable/ethical investments

The Long Road to Social Media

I have enough trouble sorting my own thoughts out, let alone everyone elses.

Although I’ve had a Facebook account for over 10 years, I avoided using it as much as possible, firstly because I couldn’t wrap my head around the number of interactions going on and secondly because I never really know what to say. I’ve always wanted to avoid stirring up trouble and rocking the boat. I have enough trouble sorting my own thoughts out, let alone everyone elses.

However, last year I took the plunge and started posting the odd thing. 

In May I also created a Twitter account, which perhaps wasn’t the smartest thing to do. I’m now pretty much addicted to it.

But, be warned. I’m furious about so many social injustice and environmental issues, and my tweets reflect that.

I’ve got to the point where I think constantly about what is wrong with the world. I write stuff in essays, emails, business plans and the like, but never show anyone because my thoughts are just too big.

This mornings reading comes from Julian Burnside, a respected barrister. This article – http://www.julianburnside.com.au/how-the-world-decided-to-help-refugees/ makes so much sense about how we should close down Manus Island and Nauru. It costs US $650,000 per year, per refugee to keep them there. Large amounts of that figure go to the private companies that run the internment camps. Why do we do that? Because the current government has core principles of “minimising government” and “offshore detention”. Whilst I also would like less government, there is no point in minimising government if it costs us more, is in breach of our human rights obligations and is downright cruel.

Suppose you went on holiday overseas and ended up interned in a camp for 5+ years because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Now, imagine that happened to you because you were fleeing a war or something that might kill you or your family.

For those of you that have always voted Liberal Party of AustraliaNational Party Of Australia or one of those other right wing parties, please don’t just vote for them again because that is how you have always voted. Please do some reading about refugees, asylum seekers, global warming, the way the media operates, the cotton industry/Murray Darling Basin shennanigans, etc.

Many of these parties are no longer the parties they were 20-50 years ago. I urge you to rethink what your party of choice is, read widely about what they do and what the “other” side does.

We as a country need to stop thinking of our political parties the same way as we think of our sporting teams. These guys have real power over real people and they are hurting a hell of a lot of us.

If you do some reading and watch some videos of speeches from all sides of politics and still feel that you need to vote for the current government, then I thank you for doing so.

If you want to know how much this concerns me, I spend every day trying to decide if I can be a force for good on this planet or if I should remove myself from it to do my bit for climate change. The jury is still out as my best never seems to be good enough.

The Legal Divide

Meanwhile, the poor bloody bugger of a bus driver spends a few years in jail, contributes nothing to his super in that time, comes out at retirement age without a job, perhaps loses his house and family because he made a mistake and probably has a sizeable legal bill too.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-12-23/montague-bridge-bus-driver-rally-calls-for-lighter-sentence/10664536

Ok, so let me get this straight. Guy goes to work, makes a mistake and doesn’t see something at his eye height and goes to jail for a few years. Supposition on my part, but surely we’ve all had the experience of our eyes playing tricks on us.

It seems highly unlikely that he went to work with the intention of driving into the bridge. It is possible he was playing with his phone or otherwise distracted in a criminal way, but the news reports don’t indicate that.

Then, parliamentarians go to work, ignore science and voters wishes and represent their own personal beliefs and those of their campaign contributors. Cause untold hardship to refugees, fail to perform their duties, oversee health systems and coal burning that kills people,
completely fail to take action on environmental issues for 10-15 years and are resoundingly criticized as having done a very bad job. Their negligence and active undermining of science is likely to significantly affect future generations and the environment.

They get dumped at the next election and then get immediate access to very large superannuation benefits without having to wait until retirement age. And they can then get jobs paying $100’s of $1000’s per year with their cronies in industry.

Meanwhile, the poor bloody bugger of a bus driver spends a few years in jail, contributes nothing to his super in that time, comes out at retirement age without a job, perhaps loses his house and family because he made a mistake and probably has a sizeable legal bill too.

How is his position different to politicians that offer au pairs visas, take helicopter rides at taxpayer expense, permit environmental catastrophe under their watch for “making mistakes”?

(I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt by assuming they actually are good people, making mistakes and not evil plotters, however that is purely an assumption on my part and probably open to challenge).

As much as Australia is meant to be a classless society where we are all equal, the reality is far from that. The wealthy “Haves” are on a completely different track to the working “Have Nots”.

If one of the pollies ended up in court over charges of making a mistake at work, they’d probably have their legal bills paid for them and, if the charges were not proven, sue the person that brought the charges and get a sizeable payout.

Is traffic law really the only law where intent isn’t required to prove guilt?


5 February 2019

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-05/27inept27-theives-bungle-attempt-to-rob-canberra-mcdonalds/10783048

This guy used a gun and balaclava to commit an armed robbery (granted, they didn’t get any money, but the intent was absolutely there). He got a sentence that almost two years shorter and a smaller non non parole period. Granted, Victoria and the ACT are two different jurisdictions, but the discrepancy is profound.