Budget Savings, Protecting Voluntary Agencies, Clinton’s Health, Syrian War

More Budget Savings Needed

With the imminent resumption of Parliament some warming-up is occurring. In The Australian Finance Minister Cormann is reported as making new claims that the Coalition has already made large budget savings ($221bn over 10 years locked in) and that more could be made with Labor support. It appears Cormann refers to possible savings additional to those proposed by Turnbull to implement a miniscule $6.5 billion in budget savings said to have been agreed by Labor. But why hasn’t the Coalition detailed some possible additional savings?

Why also hasn’t Labor been constantly reminded that, thanks to ministers Keating and Walsh and the Coalition’s support, the then Labor government in the mid 1980s reduced federal outlays by more than three per cent of GDP ? I had some involvement in this response to concerns about the increase in external debt (gross) from  9 to 40 per cent of GDP over the previous ten years, accompanied by the lower terms of trade.

And guess what? Over the eight years since the Coalition’s last year in 2007-08 external debt has again increased by about 30 per cent of GDP and the terms of trade have again dropped.  Unfortunately, on this occasion such a warning signal has led to an increase in government outlays of 2.5 percent of GDP since that date. The response should now be obvious to both major parties.

Turnbull’s Proposed Amendment to Laws Governing Workplace Relations

During the election Turnbull announced that he would legislate to protect the Victorian voluntary Country Fire Authority (CFA) from action being taken by Victorian Premier Andrews to ensure that the United Firefighters Union acquired de facto control over the CFA. On the surface this seemed an appropriate initiative to provide reduced regulation in this segment of the labour market  and to reduce the unwarranted power of the union directly supported by the Premier and his government (Premier Andrews has close relations with the most aggressive and law breaking union, the CFMEU). Turnbull obtained strong support from the CFA and his announcement probably helped his re-election: some say that the resultant antipathy to Premier Andrews and Labor in Victoria may have prevented a Labor victory.

The legislation now proposed would involve a rather strangely titled Fair Work Amendment (Respect for Emergency Services Volunteers) Bill, would be a joint bill by Turnbull and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash and would seek to ensure that an enterprise agreement or a clause in such an agreement cannot be used to undermine the capacity of an emergency services organisation to deal with its volunteers. But even if this amendment is passed by Parliament, it would be open to different interpretations. As indicated in Judith Sloan’s comments  (see Turnbull’s Proposed Change to FWC Legislation), the Fair Work Commission is prone to interpret legislation in favour of unions.

More generally, it is passing strange that Turnbull should involve himself post-election to such a degree in what is essentially a limited reform. If he is prepared to legislate to protect volunteers from union involvement, why not do the same for individuals/other groups who are prepared to work under conditions which are not accepted by unions? That would of course require a major change in the role of the Fair Work Commission. But it would improve the operation of the labour market and improve productivity.

US Presidential Election –Can Hillary Make It?

The US Presidential election is not until November and Hillary Clinton currently has a handy lead over Trump.  But questions are now being increasingly raised as to whether, at aged 68, she has the medical capacity to be President. Last week John Stone drew my attention to a series of online videos which indicated that she has had seizures and other illnesses and which suggest she may not have that capacity. Stone noted that it is known that some years ago Hillary  suffered a blood clot in the brain and had had to be hospitalized and he pointed out that she never holds press conferences. Another US report refers to a recent interview on a California radio show with a doctor who expressed concern at Clinton’s health and referred to blood clots in her legs and a rare clot that she experienced after a fall in 2012. Such talk led the Clinton campaign to dismiss around mid August questions about her health as right-wing conspiracy theories and to her doctor to state that she is in “excellent health”.

Then on NBC news on 22 August Rudy Guiliani, former NY Mayor who is a close adviser to Trump, claimed that Clinton’s heath is failing and referred to the videos I mentioned (see Guiliani on Clinton’s Health). This was mentioned in last night’s SBS news.Meanwhile, while Trump has repeatedly stated that Clinton does not have the stamina to be a President, he has not made so far any reference to the adequacy of her health.

In any election campaign it is difficult to assess who is telling the truth. But it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that it does seem that Clinton carries at least a risky medical situation. It seems likely that this will become a major issue closer to the actual election and that, in the meantime, Australian government and Opposition spokespersons need to have regard to the increased possibility of a Trump win.

US Involvement in Syrian Civil War

There is rarely a day goes by when we see and hear news of the horrendous war within Syria, which seems to be steadily destroying habitation in most parts, not to mention the deaths and injured. The attached editorial from today’s Australian (US Role in Syria) argues with some justification that “the lame duck US President is too weak even to support a no-fly zone that would halt Russian attacks against humanitarian convoys”. This is of course just one example of Obama’s retraction of the US as a leader of the western world and his failure to recognize that, under Putin, Russia is taking over regardless of the casualties it is causing and of its support of dictatorial regimes. It will be too late for any successor to Obama to correct the situation.

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