Ideas@TheCentre – The Centre for Independent Studies

Ideas@TheCentre

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.

Without a prayer...

Peter Kurti

16 October 2015 | Ideas@TheCentre

6ad5b001-1e47-4dc9-9d49-d138867850f0Industry minister Christopher Pyne has come under pressure because of remarks he made about school prayer. Pyne’s critics want to see religion banished from Australian schools — and from society in general.

But religion doesn’t lead directly to radicalisation any more than a glass of red wine with dinner leads to rampant alcoholism.

So praying is not the problem. People should be free to speak to their gods and to listen to what they think their gods as saying to them. That’s not the problem.

The real issue is how people respond to what they think those gods want from them.

Far from driving prayer out of schools and away to the shadowy margins, religion needs to become a mainstream subject in the classroom.

But religion needs to be handled in our schools with great care. Many fine Australian Muslims deplore what a few extremists are doing to us in the name of Islam.

They and their families want to enjoy all the benefits of our free and open society, to enjoy our lifestyle, and to splash around in the surf on weekends like everyone else.

And they know this way of life is under threat when the deadly antics of fanatics fuel suspicion and fear. Teenage assassins are a scourge here and now.

So religion in schools can’t just be about prayer. Children also need to learn from responsible teachers about the historical, social and cultural elements of religion.

Our children need to learn about religion; what it is, why different religions appear to teach different things, and why some Aussie teenagers are prepared to kill in the name of their god.

Teaching about religion, teaching about prayer, and teaching about citizenship go hand in hand. Leaders of our churches, synagogues and mosques need to work with our teachers to open the minds of our kids, and to dispel the evil idea that a god commands murder.

Substituting ethics classes for religion is not going to hack this problem. Like it or not, religion is a hot topic in our society.

Pretending it’s not relevant, or dismissing it as meaningless bunk is to miss the point completely. No one is asking you to be a believer too; you are just being asked to open your eyes.

The Empire strikes back — and the force is with consumers

Patrick Carvalho

16 October 2015 | Ideas@TheCentre

84c5444a-ba8c-4c8d-86c8-c1783b35257aPeople of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.”

Adam Smith (1776) 

It is time for the taxi companies to accept that competition has come to their long-protected industry.

Better to expend energy on improving services and affordability rather than striking back with anti-competitive behaviour. At last, may the force be with Australian consumers.

The ACCC has just issued a draft determination to deny another concerted anticompetitive movement from the taxi industry to set up the cartel-like booking app ihail.

In principle, the app could streamline the booking and payment procedures of different taxi networks, making it easier – and hopefully more reliable – for consumers to use. But the problem lies in the details of the proposal.

First, the initial members of the ihail joint venture — Yellow Cabs, Silver Top Taxi Service, Black and White Cabs, Suburban Taxis and Cabcharge — would right from the start control up to 80% of the market. That is, a marketplace dominance not due to excellence and efficient services, but from outright collusion from supposedly competing networks.

Further, such artificial oligopoly could also be used to squash the fast-paced competition from new entrants in the on-demand transport market, such as Uber, goCatch and Ingogo, with the potential to drive up prices and reduce service quality.

Indeed, some of the submitted provisions featured flagrant anti-competitive behaviour. For one, ihail planned to use only the Cabcharge payment system – which effectively contravenes a recent ACCC ruling on a previous attempt to curb taxi payment competition.

Another attack on competition would come from the ability to prevent ihail taxi drivers from using other on-demand transport apps, keeping potential start-up apps at bay.

Moreover, consumers would not be given the option to choose which specific taxi company they are booking from the ihail network — ultimately, a blatant erosion of both consumer rights and internal competition in the industry.

The ACCC interim decision is a win-win for competition and consumers.

Taxi hailing apps should compete on level playing field

Michael Potter

16 October 2015 | Ideas@TheCentre

18e90608-008a-42ca-8b15-6f6d6d705deeThe ACCC should focus on regulating monopolies and keep their nose out of regulating the details.

The ihail app should be allowed, as long as taxi drivers aren’t prevented from using other apps, and all taxi apps (including goCatch and ingogo) have equal access to taxi communication and booking networks — which are near-monopolies. Any preferences for ihail should be removed, so all hailing apps compete on a level playing field (or more accurately, a level driving field).

However, all other differences between ihail and the other taxi hailing apps are perfectly acceptable. As long as equal access is guaranteed, other issues -including ihail’s potential market share or the financial viability of other hailing apps – should be ignored, contrary to the ACCC’s comments.

Therefore, ihail should be allowed to mandate payment by Cabcharge, as there is no monopoly in payment services, and ihail should be allowed to provide incentives to drivers for better, faster service. Users will choose ihail, goCatch or ingogo based on the variety of services they offer, and taxi drivers will choose which apps to use based on the benefits. Equal access to the taxi networks should ensure there are no competition issues.

However, there is a broader issue. All these booking apps simply permit easier access to an overpriced and inefficient taxi system. Competition is best served, not by just increasing access to taxis, but by increasing competition for broader transport services.

Regulations that outlaw ride-sharing services (such as Uber and Lyft) should be removed; this will allow much more substantial improvements in efficiency and quality of services than merely opening up the hailing of taxis to more competition. And if Uber and Lyft are permitted, then ihail should be allowed to have preferential access to taxi booking networks. The competition provided by Uber and Lyft will minimise any damage to the customers.