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.

Quick Plan for Sustainability

Hi All,

Perhaps I’ve had too much sun (I’m in the Whitsundays at the moment observing how badly the infrastructure and reefs were damaged by Cyclone Debbie 18 months ago), but I think it is time to ease off on wasting time trying to convince the Climate Change Deniers on Twitter and just implement a plan.

Here’s my quick one:

  1. Pick a Name – FairDinkum Power
  2. Put together a Management advisory team (primary requirement is that they are future looking, responsible and not beholden to any industry/lobby group. Probably require some more scientist and first peoples representatives)
  3. Create a documentary team to document and promote the project
  4. Create a structure – Probably a discretionary trust (with all Australian citizens and residents as beneficiaries) side by side with a superannuation fund (to give those Australians that care an opportunity to move some of their superannuation into an investment that has the goal of providing financially for their future through sustainable business opportunities) and a unit trust to allow investors with funds outside of super to invest
  5. Pick our initial core projects – massive renewable energy production (200%-1000% of Australia’s energy requirements – thermal solar, photo-voltaics and wind) with associated storage (battery, molten salt, maybe pumped hydro)
  6. Acquire a shit-tonne of land – it’s estimated that about 500,000 square km are required to power the entire earth, so lets start with 50,000 square km (1000km x 50km), ideally spread over a number of districts, specifically some in the east, some in the center and some in the west to get the maximum benefit of our time zone differences. It seems that the Nullabor plain, along the route of the existing road/train line would be most obvious, but that would be up to more qualified people than I to investigate and advise upon
  7. Develop on site manufacturing processes to build the equipment required and deploy it
  8. Build East-West power grid interconnectors
  9. Develop sustainable cities and future hubs along the route with an emphasis on sustainable living, separating the need to spend money on living accomodations (to allow and encourage people to move OUT of Sydney and Melbourne) from the necessity to exploit someone to try to get ahead and be able to buy a property
  10. Build reprocessing plants to convert plastics and other waste products into usable materials 
  11. Build technological food production processes (e.g. Sundrop farms) that use the excess heat and/or power from the power plants to produce foods
  12. Use excess power to run desalination plants to produce Hydrogen, Oxygen and fresh water for use in the sustainable cities 
  13. Develop plants to extract the Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere and ocean and use the excess energy to convert the Carbon Dioxide, Hydrogen, Oxygen and water into Methane, Amonia or raw Hydrogen to export as fuels
  14. If we get really clever, how about using the Carbon Dioxide, Hydrogen and Oxygen to create 3D printer feedstocks for use as building materials?

I’ve been trying to build up to this for the last 15 years, but I’m so tired of waiting for our politicians to lead that I feel I have no option but to put my hand up. Care to join me?

The Problem with Expecting Government to Lead Progress

The problem with our approach is that there is an assumption that our political leaders are our progress leaders.

Legislation and regulation cannot promote progress – all laws are aimed at controlling, limiting and restricting.  Where a law appears to provide a benefit and progress (e.g. education for all) it comes at a price that is imposed and enforced through legislation (i.e. taxes, which, if you don’t pay, result in you ultimately being forcibly brought in front of a court).

Even those laws that are “fair” come at a price to those that previously had advantage or privilege.   

Our political leaders are thus faced with an impossible task – to promote progress by imposing rules.

The underlying principles of a democracy are the separation of state (the rules that establish the country and how it is governed), the legislature (the parliament consisting of the politicians that make the rules), and the judiciary (the courts and legal processes that enforce the rules).

Significant progress comes from those that not necessarily break the rules, but those that figure out how to ignore the current rules and achieve progress regardless (or in spite??) of those rules.  The political leaders that are able to do that have various imperatives (ignoring the same ones as the rest of us – family, housing, etc):

  • Primary – to abide by constitutional and parliamentary rules that permit them to keep their jobs
  • Secondary – to continue to be endorsed by their political party
  • Tertiary – to get re-elected at the next election
  • Quaternary – to make the country a better place for their electorate through appropriate legislation

It’s no wonder they can’t make decent policy – they have to avoid pissing off the greatest number of people, rather than doing what is right!

For example, implementing laws that are aimed at saving the Orangutan by limiting deforestation, requiring certified sustainable palm oil plantations and production are only really effective if everyone covered by those rules abides by them.  There are always desperate people that can’t feed their families that are going to feel that Orangutan meat is a viable food source.  The only way to save the Orangutans is to:

  1. Make sure all the people in the areas where Orangutans live have all their basic needs met:
  2. Adequate housing
  3. Proper education
  4. Effective health care
  5. Meaningful (to them) employment
  6. An environment that holds a significant promise of a better life by doing something other than killing Orangutans
  7. A safe environment free of oppression and exploitation
  8. Implement laws that prevent corporations from exploiting natural resources
  9. Almost no more deforestation (where deforestation is necessary, e.g. building a train line, then massive reparations need to be made – e.g. knock down a tree, plant 10 more (not that that alone deals with the habitat loss)
  10. No more widespread and wholesale destruction of land in the pursuit of the minerals beneath
  11. The cost of remediating any damage needs to be factored into large scale projects and put into trust at the beginning of the project

Unfortunately, without the opportunity to profit from some sort of exploitation, many companies will go out of business and 1st world economies will crash.  Profitable business is based on finding a resource that is cheaply available, adding value and then selling for a profit.  It’s always easier to just chop down a tree for timber than it is to plant the tree, wait 20 years and then harvest it.  It’s also much more difficult (probably impossible) to mass produce clothing in a country with employment laws such as ours and sell them at a price that is competitive with the clothing imported from a country where wages and working conditions are much lower.  This goes for just about everything.

With so few Orangutans left in the wild and in limited locations, the challenge is large, but manageable (tongue in cheek) – probably only a few 10s of millions of people in Indonesia need to be accommodated.

Even in countries such as Australia where, few of us need to individually exploit the environment to take care of most of our basic needs, we:

  • Have higher expectations of what “basic needs” are (how many iPads, phones and computers do we really need in one house???)
  • As a well-regarded society with high living standards, more people want to come to our major cities, which pushes prices up making housing more unaffordable for the majority
  • With health care advances, the cost of healthcare rises, requiring more regulation and taxes
  • The general approach to investing and economics requires us to raise capital and provide a return on that capital.  The government is especially fond of saying that we need to attract foreign capital to allow us to build infrastructure and other costly projects.  They overlook one simple fact – the reason foreign capital wants to come here is that the owners of that capital expect to take much more money back out over the longer term
  • Ultimately, all “progress” has a cost and someone or something is taken advantage of.  The best we can hope for is that the cost/disadvantage is one that someone else is happy to pay (if scientists invented a drug that prevented cancer, dementia and heart disease, but that drug cost $1million per year, per person, then only the rich would have access to that)

With climate change, the challenge is much more difficult as the ultimate solution is to lift the living standards of all people throughout the world.

The elephant in the room is that, if you provide all people around the world a good, basic standard of living, then they will all want to improve that standard of living, adopting the issues of more advanced countries such as Australia.

Where climate change is concerned, in a democracy, the politicians simply cannot afford to take a long term view and implement appropriate laws.  If they:

  • Put in place a carbon tax that increases the cost of living for all,
  • Simply ban the use of plastics without the company that generates those plastics having to guarantee that 100% of the plastics will be recycled at the end of the products lifespan then pretty much all imports will stop and the economy will grind to a halt and we’ll all starve,
  • Ban the use of fossil fuels, more people will die from heatstroke (god forbid we have to give up our airconditioning), starve (how the hell would we distribute food throughout the country without fossil fuels?), and not be able to get to work,

Then there will be a backlash at the next election (or earlier if they lose the support of their party as happened last week) and the laws will get changed and adjusted.

Slow and steady is the approach of the parliament.  Don’t rock the boat too much. 

Australians seem to treat their parliamentarians and the parliamentary system as just another sporting arena – my party beat your party! 

I’m not suggesting we abandon the political system we have, but there needs to be a separate entity focussed on national and international progress.

All Australians (or all humans?) should belong to it and reap the benefits of it.