Ideas@TheCentre – The Centre for Independent Studies


Ideas@TheCentre brings you ammunition for conversations around the table.  3 short articles from CIS researchers emailed every Friday on the issues of the week.

Shorten’s weak stand on religious freedom

Helen Andrews

27 May 2016 | Ideas@TheCentre

bill shortenLast week Labor leader Bill Shorten announced his party will not join the Greens in supporting the abolition of religious exemptions to anti-discrimination laws.

“We haven’t seen the case made to make change,” he told a press conference. “At this point in time, let me be really clear about that.”

This less-than-resounding statement was followed by a more emphatic addendum on the superfluity of a gay marriage plebiscite.

“But also let’s be straight up here. It is a massive waste of money, $160 million being spent on a plebiscite on marriage equality. Why should some people’s relationships have to undergo the gauntlet of public opinion and taxpayer-funded hate campaigns?”

Casually referring to “hate campaigns” is not very reassuring in this context, considering that the very anti-discrimination laws in question are those under which the Catholic Archbishop of Hobart was subjected to a formal complaint seeking to ban a temperately worded booklet laying out the church’s teaching on marriage.

Even less reassuring is that the Labor party’s national platform says that anti-discrimination laws would be reviewed under a Labor government. No doubt the Greens would continue to push hard during such a review for the elimination of religious exemptions.

Shorten’s half-hearted semi-endorsement does nothing to quell the uncertainty that does so much to fuel the bitterness of the marriage debate. Those on both sides who are weary of the culture wars should work toward a stable, sustainable truce that protects minorities of all kinds, not prolong uncertainty by foreshadowing future U-turns.

Exemptions for religious groups protect good-faith adherents of traditional views like Archbishop Porteous. Religious freedom is a fundamental Australian value that deserves our politicians’ full-throated endorsement — or at least something stronger than “we haven’t seen the case made … at this point in time.”

How to play the man not the ball: negative gearing edition

Michael Potter

27 May 2016 | Ideas@TheCentre

man ballNegative gearing has yet again been splashed in the media this week. On Tuesday, a draft report arguing against the ALP’s proposed changes to negative gearing and CGT was leaked to the press.

The report was criticised because it was commissioned by Greg Paramor, managing director of property company Folkestone, after he met with the Treasurer. So does this criticism mean that politicians can never commission reports? If so, how would oppositions ever be able to get research done?

Or does it mean that links with political parties nullify a report? If so, should McKell Institute and Per Capita reports be dismissed due to ALP links, or The Australia Institute reports because they have links to the Australian Greens? Or does this rule only apply to the Coalition?

Other criticism focused on the report containing typos, with the critics conveniently forgetting that it is a draft — evidently a fairly early one.

But this is all playing the man not the ball. Noting it is still a draft, the report makes substantive points that should be the focus. It argues the winding back of negative gearing will result in large rent increases, leading to increased need for rental assistance.

It argues the existing system has reduced the number of households in rental stress and increased the number of rental properties, in contrast to arguments from the Grattan Institute. The report argues these rental effects will be put in jeopardy by any change. The report also argues the existing tax system hasn’t reduced homeownership, because the increase in rental properties offsets a decline in social housing.

It is these last points that should be the focus of the debate, not the superficial discussion that has occurred so far.

Early to bed Sydney bucks the world trend

Trisha Jha

27 May 2016 | Ideas@TheCentre

early to bedThe new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, last week announced the long-mooted beginning of 24-hour tube services in London.

While public transport evangelism is hardly novel for those of a certain political persuasion, what is interesting about Khan’s pursuit of the venture is the reason he gives for doing so. Specifically, he speaks of his “plans to support and grow London’s night-time economy — creating more jobs and opportunities.”

Jobs and opportunities! If only the people in charge of the Emerald City had such a firm grasp of free market economics as a Fabian socialist like Khan.

For all her other faults, the Mayor of the City of Sydney, Clover Moore, at least pays lip service to these ideas. It just happens her idea of ‘support’ almost exclusively involves ratepayers’ money being spent on the deeply weird and frankly baffling.

Anti-lockout campaign group Keep Sydney Open has supported following in the footsteps of other major world cities like Amsterdam, Paris and Zurich and creating a ‘Night Mayor’, who can bridge the gap between homebody bureaucrats and a vibrant night market.

But truth be told, this one’s on the state government. The economic problems in the heart of the city — perhaps best exemplified by the state of commercial property values — all come back to the hand-wringers up the road from us in Macquarie St. The government’s lockout laws have contributed to declines in foot traffic and a per-capita increase in violence.

Fun thou shalt not have; back to Baird thou shalt go.

On the other hand, while state government regulations are relatively easy to find and the ministers responsible easy to track down and berate, the same is not true of local councils that enforce all sorts of barmy restrictions, as a hapless Oporto in Bondi recently discovered.

Trading restrictions imposed at the local level can shift demographic changes in foot traffic which can give social license to exactly the kinds of anti-social behaviour the lockouts are intended to stop. Indeed, that is exactly the kind of policy night mayors are tasked with enacting.

If our state government and local councils could just get together and decide to set the market free, we might just find that the problem largely takes care of itself. But why let commerce run its course when the government could just meddle some more?