Monthly Archives: March 2011

Do my arduous work for whatever I feel like paying you… or starve

The problem with the world these days is that poor people won’t come and restump my house for a fiver. Nor will they pick my fruit for 10c a basket. I have to pay working class people actual wages to do these things.

Why should I pay a reasonable wage for this back-breaking labour?

That’s why I’m voting for Tony Abbott.

Not only does Tony’s plan basically give me a new and extremely cheap workforce that knows that if I tell Centrelink that they didn’t do what I told them to do then they will be cut off and can starve in the street – but it also enables me to avoid paying my present workers so much. What are they going to do? Quit and be forced to do the same work for even less? Ha ha.

I was a bit worried that Tony Abbott not actually being in government might be some kind of impediment to my plan to build a giant marble monument to Sir Bob for nothing more than the cost of materials and some gruel. But, fortunately, those idiots in Labor who I’d never vote for in a heartbeat anyway are promising to be just as “tough” on my potential cheap taxpayer-funded workforce:

Ms Gillard has already flagged the Government will toughen up welfare rules in the budget and says it will continue the process.

Oh, yes.

As for Tony’s promise to cure 60% of the disabled by forcing them back to painful work – what a visionary! We’ll see if any of them thank him. But I doubt they will, the ungrateful parasites.

A house-buying strike? At least it’s got the REIV worried

You might have noticed that I’m a little concerned about the housing affordability issue at the moment. I think I’ve gone so far as to suggest it as one of Australia’s most critical problems that will do enormous damage our community in the medium term.

And, insincere expressions of concern by politicians who just use it as an excuse to bash immigrants, or by the real estate industry who use it as a cover to bully governments to give them more of what they want (which nobody but an idiot would think is lower prices) aside, it’s felt like very little genuine push for reform on the issue has made it anywhere near our advertising-dependent newspapers. Or the national broadcaster that so often simply parrots them.

If this man is happy, first home buyers probably won’t be

So I was glad to see yesterday that a group of angry young people have set up Prosper Australia, to draw attention to the plight of this houseless generation – and that it’s finally being reported. Steve Keen supports it. GetUp! might well pick up the campaign and run with it.

Now, I don’t think that the immediate proposed action – a purchasing strike – will do very much. For one thing, the people promising to strike aren’t really able to buy a house at the moment anyway. (I will protest against the high price of Ferraris by not buying one!) For another, if that’s the only reason that house prices drop, then they’ll lunge upwards as soon as those people start buying again.

But I do think the noise being made on the issue is vital, because we’ve created a serious crisis for this and future generations that’s only getting worse.

What can we do?

It’s silly to blame it on immigration or population growth – this is an enormous increase in prices well ahead of any increase in population. Nor is it – as the real estate lobbyists self-interestedly suggest – slow approvals for subdividing ever more remote packets of land. It’s to do with the amount of borrowed money to which people have access in order to bid each other up with at auction, and the number of people with enormous access to such finance via equity in their already inflated homes outbidding homebuyers to buy their own investment properties. The numbers of people with multiple houses have surged at the same time as the house prices – hardly a coincidence. In fact, it’s a vicious circle – the more the prices go up because of investors, the more investors want to get in on this cash cow and the more equity they have so the more they can borrow so the more they push up prices.

So that’s what government needs to tackle. It needs to take into account the people who’ve just jumped on the property ladder at the present inflated prices who will be affected by an actual drop in prices in the sense of negative equity – but it needs to resist their calls to keep the market as inflated as it was when they hopped on. It needs to stop the ponzi scheme and try to minimise the damage to the people who’ve been stuck with it. It doesn’t need to protect investors – part of the reason why all this capital is being stuck economically uselessly in housing is because investors think it’s safer than the stock market. Disabuse them of that misconception.

Raise CGT to something closer to income tax – why should you work hard all day and be taxed at a certain rate where somebody just sitting on property and doing nothing earns more and is taxed less? Consider a higher CGT rate for property investments that aren’t adding to the housing supply (but of course maintain the zero CGT rate for a person’s primary residence). Remove negative gearing. Get rid of inflationary grants like the FHOG that simply go straight to vendors and in fact, by increasing the amount people can borrow, inflate prices by more than the value of the grant. Increase renters’ rights at the expense of landlords’, so that becoming a landlord is a less attractive proposition.

Won’t that increase rents? No, because it’ll enable a whole generation desperate to buy a home presently stuck renting to escape the rental market, reducing demand.

Make no mistake, this is a real problem, and if not addressed we’re going to become a nation of landlords and tenants, with all the social problems associated with massive inequality.

Let’s hope GetUp! and Prosper Australia can make the waves that are needed. They’ve already achieved one important coup: the Real Estate Industry of Victoria is vigorously opposed to them. That’s a definite good sign.

When should free speech on race be constrained?

There’s an interesting court case going on at the moment in Melbourne involving a trollumnist and some remarks he made about particular members of a particular ethnic group. The trollumnist in question and his specific views and that specific case are not the focus of this post, but rather the general question of where precisely the line on commentary on race and culture should be drawn.

Obviously, suggesting or implying that someone fraudulently claims benefits to which they should not be entitled is already covered by defamation. The point of the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 is to extend protections to offended groups rather than individuals.

It is possible it went too far.

We’ll see how the Court interprets what Parliament legislated, but let’s discuss what we think the rule should be – even if that requires a change to the Act itself.

For my part, I’d agree that there should be some limit. If you had an ideologue calling for Jewish shopkeepers to have their shops smashed, that should be over the line. If you had a crank inciting hatred against Muslims by declaring that they were evil and inventing a whole host of outrageous smears against them – well, maybe that would cross the line, depending on how extreme those claims were and how likely they were to devolve into violence.

But if you have someone arguing, contrary to the evidence, that no remedial assistance is needed for a particular disadvantaged group that happens to have a racial or cultural link – well, maybe that’s just part of political debate.

Where should we draw the line? How about – beyond hurt feelings, at the point at which targets who didn’t read such an article start to feel real consequences from it.

NOTE: I won’t be publishing any comments that directly refer to a case currently being heard.

If rightwingers vote for Hanson, then clearly it’s the Greens’ fault

I might not be a NSW voter, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be outraged at the Greens on their behalves.

Did you know that on the weekend, most of the Greens’ how-to-vote cards did not tell their voters where to put their preferences? They left it completely up to the individual voter. Like we can be trusted to make up our own minds. HOW ARE WE TO KNOW which party the Greens enthusiastically endorse and can be made to take responsibility for if they won’t put them second? How are we supposed to know who a vote for the Greens is for if no other parties are mentioned? What, it’s just a vote for the Greens? How can we tell which party to be afraid they’re in an alliance with if they won’t put one second? Are we supposed to believe they just want to represent us directly and frankly are not so keen on the other parties which is precisely why they’re running against them?


Bob Brown might be comfortable leaving preferences up to voters and concentrating on the job of representing their viewpoint in parliament – but if the Greens won’t tell us about the other parties, how are we supposed to find out about them? Why can’t we rely on the Greens to do the job of the media for them?

You know what happens when the Greens don’t preference anyone? They don’t preference anyone. But you know what else can happen? Other people who vote for Pauline Hanson can get her elected, maybe, if there are enough of them. And that’s clearly the fault of the Greens Party that didn’t preference her and the Greens voters who didn’t vote for her. Who else are we going to blame – the right-wing voters who like her and cast ballots for her?

Basically, if the Greens can’t live up to the ludicrous faux expectations of political opponents who wish them harm, then WHAT IS THE POINT OF THEM?

PS Why do they still insist on representing lefties?

Housing crisis noticed: convenient scapegoats named

The Age finally notices that there might be a massive downside to inflated house prices:

In the case of the Melbourne greenfield market, which accounts for 42 per cent of annual lot sales for all five markets, the percentage of affordable lots has fallen from nine lots in every 10 to three lots in every 10 over the past 30 months.

Based on independent qualitative research, first home buyers in new estates have, in the past, represented from 50 per cent to 80 per cent of total demand. With the purchasing capacity of the average first home buyer being limited to about $400,000 for a house and land, it is critical that land prices are kept at or below the $200,000 price point to remain affordable.

The median lot price in Melbourne has increased by 22 per cent over the past 12 months with the current median being $219,000 for a 448 square metre lot.

Thank you for noticing! And acknowledging that this might be a bad thing!

But the relief is short-lived. As usual, they completely ignore the major factor that’s keeping the prices high: the vicious circle of high prices meaning investors (with equity in at least one other property by definition) have more money to spend, outbidding first home buyers and pushing prices up, leading to investors having more money to spend and so on. No, it’s immigration and planning:

The dramatic reduction in the ability of Melbourne’s new developments to deliver affordable housing has been due to unprecedented demand driven by net overseas migration, delays associated with legislating new supply and the time taken to secure, plan and develop land holdings. In short, the procurement and planning process has been unable to keep up with demand.

Note that they don’t here mean the building of new infrastructure so that the young people forced out to Deer Park can actually get to jobs in the city. They just mean making life easier for developers, and creating an easy scape-goat for young people’s anger.

And at least some readers are buying it:

Here’s how you fix the property market in Australia. Just need a government brave enough to do it.

1. Stop ALL foreign investors from buying ANY residential property in Australia – PERIOD !
2. Have to be a resident in Australia for at least 5 years before you can buy property here

Bottom line, is you cannot outbid cashed up Asian investors (foreign or domestic) at an auction.

Posted by JohnS | Melbourne – March 28, 2011, 11:41AM

Sorry, JohnS – you cannot outbid cashed up investors of any race. Because they’ve got a hell of a lot more equity in their existing properties than you have savings.

I no longer expect commercial media to actually tackle the real causes – negative gearing, inflationary grants like the FHOG, ridiculously low capital gains tax, insufficient protections for young people forced into long-term renting. That’s hardly what advertisers want. But it would be nice if occasionally the independent media had a go.

Until they do, the problem is only going to get uglier.

Actually, the Greens should be pretty happy with any increase on Saturday

I’m finding very amusing all the triumphalism from hardline rightwingers that the Greens’ small increase in vote in NSW means that THEY’RE FINISHED. That THEY’VE PEAKED. That they “will die on the vine without Liberal help”. That >insert attempt to persuade the progressive voters they despise to abandon the main progressive party here<.

What hubris.

Yes, the 3rd party that gets little coverage during the campaign – except from The Australian (that has pledged to “destroy” it) when it can beat up a mis-statement at a forum by one candidate, subsequently corrected, into a sledge of “anti-Semitism” against the party as a whole – apparently failed to win any lower house seats in a system stacked against any broad-based 3rd party doing just that.

Big deal. Did any Greens supporters really think the party was going to do particularly well on Saturday? I don’t even live in NSW and it was still obvious to me that they wouldn’t.

Clearly many NSW voters are pretty disengaged with politics – you can tell this by the fact that many of the right-wing parties actually campaigned on the “carbon tax” as if the state parliament could do anything about it. And clearly many voters believe that (a) only big parties can win elections, and therefore if you want to hurt one big party you must vote for the other and (b) that “a vote for the Greens is a vote for Labor” – rather than what it is, a vote for the bloody Greens.

But the point is most Labor voters would just have thought “I want to punish Labor, and the only way I can safely do that is to vote Liberal”. Of course they didn’t go to the Greens. To go to the Greens they’d have had to understand that (a) they could preference who they like (many don’t) and (b) that if the Greens plus Labor formed a majority it would not be anything like the Labor government they were turfing out. Without the hubris that comes from being able to treat Parliament with contempt, which is what Labor did and the Liberals are about to do, because you don’t have to worry about a Parliament you completely dominate, a Labor-Green government would be a very different beast to the previous government. It certainly wouldn’t be privatising electricity, for example.

But how many voters wanting to punish Labor would be thinking about the distinction between a minority and a majority Labor government? It’s hardly surprising they lunged en masse to the other big party.

The other factor is how much money Labor threw into the few seats in which the Greens were competitive. They could do that this time, with the resources you get as incumbents. But next time… well, next time they’ll have much less to draw on. The Greens vs Labor contest will be very interesting in 2015. Labor will really want to hope for News Ltd to pull something very special out of the bag if it’s going to fend off a genuinely progressive party in progressive seats. (Not that there are too many of those in NSW.)

As for the line that the Greens need the Liberals’ preferences – that’s about as damning an indictment on our electoral system as you can get. To win a single seat, any “left” party needs to get the approval of the right-wing party? How absurd is that!

But that’s what you get with single member electorates – a system in which, by definition, in each electorate some 30-70% of people are actually unrepresented. A system in which a party can get 14% of the vote and one seat; a system in which you can get over a million votes and win NO seats. It’s a long way from genuine democracy.

So – laugh it up, those gloating about how the system they’ve maintained keeps out genuine competition. Thrill to the benefits you get from making the barriers to entry so high that alternatives can never get to the point where they seriously threaten you. Giggle over your unassailable position. Congratulate yourselves on how little you have to care what the people actually think.

It’s not like we can do anything about it, after all.

Hope our presence here won’t jinx it

Although Victoria installed them in government a few months ago, not everywhere in Australia is run by the Liberal Party.

Just a few hundred kilometres to the north is the state of New South Wales, where this morning I woke up under a Labor government.

I could get used to this. Maybe we’ll stay here an extra couple of days to really soak up the being-governed-by-Labor feeling.

UPDATE: Oh, NSW. We’re so sorry.