Sweetness & Light

Step Aside, Argentina. It’s Australia’s Turn

Travel is great, so far as it goes. But even all these many decades since the dawn of global roaming, we’re still mostly locked into the same old format.

We buy a ticket, climb aboard, bump along for a while in the sometimes awkward company of fellow humans, alight at some pre-determined point on the earth’s surface, drink dodgy local water, spend a week sweating and shivering in a hotel and then return home.

The more evolved among us crave a dimensionally superior tourism experience. We’ve been there before when it comes to national borders. Not impressed at all with your basic seven-continent destination menu. That’s because, rather than skipping across oceans, we want to skip entire eras.

Tim Blair appears in every Quadrant.
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And little wonder. Envy-inducing authors have been teasing us about time travel since Enrique Gaspar penned El Anacronópete in 1887. In that pioneering work, Madrid-born Gaspar—a diplomat and writer who sounds more like a potent Spanish cigarette brand—sent his protagonist back in time so he could marry his niece. On second thoughts, maybe it was more pervy than pioneering.

By comparison, subsequent time-travelling novels by Mark Twain (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court) and H.G. Wells (The Time Machine—telegraphing his punches in the title there) were and remain positively wholesome, except for the torment they excite in men’s souls about the possibility of jumping generations.

And not in the sordid way intended by Senor Gaspar’s degenerate central character.

Well, here’s the good news. Time travel is here. For a modest outlay of only a few thousand dollars, anybody at all can board what appears to be a standard international flight and be catapulted forward by several decades. I did it myself in January. I paid my fare and I saw Australia’s future—a particularly alarming version of Australia’s future, it must be said—with my own astonished eyes.

A minor point of clarification: technically, all I did was fly to Buenos Aires, Argentina. But that’s where our whole country is headed if certain Australian trends continue. Spookily, at about the same time I was conducting in-depth Buenos Aires bar research, the Australian’s foreign editor Greg Sheridan filed a column precisely summarising my time-vaulting theory that Argentina now is where we might be in thirty years or so.

“Argentina, like Australia, has a small, well-educated population and a big territory with agricultural and mineral riches,” Greg wrote. “Under Juan Peron it developed stylised and ideological politics, featuring ever-growing transfer payments, crippling budget deficits, pro-trade-union industrial relations, second-rate nationalism and creeping authoritarianism.”

All sounding very Aussie so far. Very Aussie indeed, and more so by the word. “Its government and people assumed there would always be money to spend,” Greg continued. “The political system became toxic and abusive. The only thing people believed from government was cash in hand. It’s the path to ruin. It’s the path we’re seemingly on.”

You bet we are. At present, according to Box Advisory Services accounting firm director Davie Mach, small-to-medium Australian businesses have anywhere between six and twelve tax laws to follow, depending on their location, nature of work, trading areas and so on. That’s not so bad, but it is of course getting worse. Under state and federal Labor governments, there is a renewed regulatory mood afoot in Australia with an accompanying hunger for taxation “justice” (translation: shaking down achievers and investors, enriching deadbeats and scammers).

Vault ahead to Australia’s potential future, which is Argentina’s ruinous present. Argentina demands company payments on more than 160 different taxes, meaning this once-wealthy and pro-business nation has become progressively poorer and is now ranked among the world’s worst in terms of taxation agony. “This not only creates enormous economic pressure to entrepreneurs,” Argentinian IT innovator Manuel Araoz wrote last year, “but an administrative and compliance nightmare.”

Yet here in Australia we keep adding—or refusing to cut or eliminate—taxes, regulations and compliance requirements on everything from housing to transport, energy to publishing and childcare to Chiko Rolls, for all I know. You don’t end up in Argentina’s shattered situation due to isolated seismic events. You get there incrementally, one tax, one rule and one regulation at a time.

Interestingly, Argentina’s economic circumstances—which may be curtly assessed as a Titanic-level dumpster fire omnishambles—were not entirely caused by dumb old leftism, although leftism is hugely to blame. Much of the Argentine economic anti-miracle is due to Peronism. Greg Sheridan provided a useful overview above of this particular bespoke political structure, which isn’t easy to define in traditional left-right terms.

Perhaps University of Rostock academics Wolfgang Muno and Christian Pfeiffer, writing for the European Consortium for Political Research, might illuminate matters. Take it away, boys:

“In summary, Peronism under Peron was developmentalist and nationalist-protectionist, establishing a conservative welfare state. It was, in general, more conservative. Under Menem, there had been a neoliberal shift and, overall, the ideology was generally more economically liberal and socially conservative. The Kirchners’ era, meanwhile, saw a resurgence of developmentalism, protectionism, and economic nationalism. Their period of governance was markedly more progressive left, as evidenced, for example, by support for LGBTQ+ rights.”

Trust academics to take something unclear and add confusion. Even so, what comes through is that Peronism, like our own modern Labor and Liberal parties, treats economics as an emotional or sentimental pursuit. Peronism put “fairness” — a terrifying word when spoken by social justice types — at its economic core. “The two arms of Peronism are social justice and social help,” President Peron wrote. “With them, we can give a hug of justice and love to the people.”

He gave them, through applications of Peronism that far outlived himself, hyperinflation and other elements of economic devastation—all in the name of fairness. For example, hugely expensive electricity bills were judged to be unfair. A sensible response to this might be reducing the cost of electricity production by smashing unions and such. But Argentina went with fairness instead, which means subsidies.

This causes absurd outcomes. “The average European spends around US$40 a month on electricity,” the Economist noted last year. “The average Argentine spends around US$5—eight times less.” But with all those paybacks flying around, Argentinian taxpayers are hammered each year by an electricity subsidy cost of US$12.5 billion.

Australia’s taxpayers are copping the same treatment thanks to our various governments’ also equating subsidies with fairness. Electricity bill relief payments of up to $500 were delivered last year by a federal government that by its anti-coal actions is causing those bills to surge. It’s a Buenos Aires squeeze play.

Speaking of taxpayers, Argentina doesn’t have many of them. “The formal private sector (contributing to taxes) is only eight million people,” reckons our IT guy Manuel Araoz. “The rest of the private sector is six million people working informally.”

They’re off the books and out of the banks. Sensible folk. Araoz goes on: “Twenty million people (50 per cent of the 40 million population) depend on a monthly payment from the state (4.3 million government employees, seven million retired and eight million people who live off social plans).

“Let me say that again because it’s incredible to me: 50 per cent of the population’s livelihood depends on the Argentine state.”

We’re currently at 2,430,400 public sector employees nationwide and counting. Watch that number. Meanwhile, let’s add some postre Balcarce sweetness to this otherwise sour Argentinian dish. The country’s non-slum regions are completely charming. Buenos Aires is more intricate and visually rewarding than Paris. With an average age of just thirty-two, Argentina is impressively energetic.

Our currency goes an enormous way, so get over there, spend up big and help the people. They’ve earned our assistance by helping themselves. Argentina last year elected as president the free-market, small-government advocate Javier Milei, whose January speech to the World Economic Forum set Davos alight.

“Unfortunately, in recent decades, the main leaders of the Western world have abandoned the model of freedom for different versions of what we call collectivism,” Milei said, in probably the only rousing commentary Davos has ever heard. “Some have been motivated by well-meaning individuals who are willing to help others, and others have been motivated by the wish to belong to a privileged caste.

“We’re here to tell you that collectivist experiments are never the solution to the problems that afflict the citizens of the world. Rather, they are the root cause. Do believe me: no one is in a better place than us, Argentines, to testify to these two points.”

President Milei then returned to Buenos Aires where he’d earlier sacked 5000 state employees. Here’s a thought: maybe Australia’s future needn’t be the present beaten and busted Argentina. Possibly, if we learn from mistakes there and here, our future might look more like a revived and restored Argentina.

We’d be free from enforced collectivist “fairness”. Time can’t move quickly enough. 

18 thoughts on “Step Aside, Argentina. It’s Australia’s Turn

  • john mac says:

    I pray Dutton (if elected) takes many leaves out of Milei’s book and rolls back all of Labor’s disastrous , pernicious policies . The whole green madness has got to go , and take a scythe to the public service , particularly those Indigenous related institutions , and cut funding to the arts , defund the ABC , slash Immigration , bring back military service , protect cash as our currency and stop sending money to countries who loathe us . Hey , a guy can dream !

    • Lawrie Ayres says:

      A nice dream too.john mac.

    • nfw says:

      Dutton do something? I fall about laughing. How’s that prosecution of all those foreign (read Chinee) shelf strippers going Dutton?

    • Libertarian says:

      Sorry John Mac, you’ll just get Matt Kean hiking taxes and imposing levies to fund trade union policy we wanted them to abolish. Two electoral cycles of nothing, the trade unions get back in and continue as if nothing happened. Blaming the inevitable consequences of dysfunctional policy on the Liberals.

      We’re currently swapping international status with Argentina, the march through our institutions is almost complete.

      • john mac says:

        Firstly , Libertarian , I said “I pray” , not “I expect” , secondly , what is the viable alternative ? We must go with our best option, surely ?

  • Lawrie Ayres says:

    Much was made a few weeks back when the head of ASIO told us about a spy in our midst who was sucking up to a foreign government. Many thought that that was traitorous behaviour and deserved the rope and a long drop. But when we see what Chris Bowen is doing to our electricity grid and transport we should ask who he is helping. It isn’t us. China makes a mint out of selling us solar panels that work sometimes and wind turbines that blight the country landscape. The steel for the transmission towers comes from China as does the cement because it costs too much to make it here. Then for those few stubborn entrepreneurs who want to run a business Tony Burke steps in with more leave days than work days and increased wages with no demand for more productive work. He’s been taking lessons from Dire Straights “Money for Nothin” and he doesn’t mind using yours. The Teals approach to the growing number of people doing it tough is to tell them to eat cake while the Greens remain firmly attached to the taxpayer teat as they have been since birth. None have given thought to how we might make Australia great again or even how we might pay our debts.To ensure that the once famous Australian ethos of having a go is dead and buried they now bring in hundreds of thousands of Never Australians.

    • Ceres says:

      Can’t disagree with anything you say Lawrie. Dire Straits indeed.
      Every day there’s a new Labor horror that awaits us. The spin and and camouflage titles for their destructive agenda (The Voice, Safe schools, Nature Positive) is so obvious to anyone with two brain cells, it’s sickening.

  • Brian Boru says:

    Ironically, today I have just read the following.
    “Tampons, toothbrushes and toasters to have ‘nuisance’ tariffs cut.
    The federal government will cut the 5 per cent import tariff for nearly 500 items, including fridges, pyjamas, and dodgem cars.
    Treasurer Jim Chalmers says the tariffs are burdensome for business, raise little money and ultimately lead to higher consumer prices.
    Taxes on imported fridges, pyjamas and even dodgem cars will be scrapped in a federal government bid to clear away “nuisances” for businesses.

    Treasurer Jim Chalmers announced on Monday the government would remove the 5 per cent tariff applied to nearly 500 imported goods, listing white goods, personal care necessities and theme park equipment as among the affected items.

    Mr Chalmers said these tariffs were raising very little money since a series of tariff loopholes had allowed most businesses to gain exemptions.

    But he said the exemption process was unnecessarily costly for businesses, and that these compliance costs were being passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices.”
    Mr. chalmers must have read Tim Blair’s mind. Pity that previous Coalition governments had not acted similarly to cut out this kind of useless rubbish.

    • ianl says:

      Pathetic smugness from Boru again.

      Yet Bowen, using tax money, is paying $2bn to coal-fired stations to keep them open while simultaneously legislating to close them down.

      Lefty apologists like Boru find such details difficult to deal with, so instead magic is used: that is, if one refuses to report or even mention something, then it never happened. Deep into Lewis Carroll’ childhood as we step through the Looking Glass.

      • Brian Boru says:

        ianl, if you think I am any sort of apologist for Bowen’s policies on power stations you are 180 degrees from correct. I certainly don’t see myself as any sort of lefty apologist but I admit to not being able to resist pointing out hypocrisy in those with obvious bias. I get equal enjoyment from doing that to those of the left or the right in politics. (Of course Tim would not have known of Chalmers announcement when he wrote this article.)
        At the moment it seems to me that both shades of politics foster a sort of cargo cult mentality that the government will provide. That’s not going to help us and Tim Blair was correct in pointing out the dangers of Peronism. But I have read that Peronism has deep roots going back to contrasting landownership structures in 19th-century agriculture in Australia and Argentina. So it goes a lot further than just a simple left or right argument
        But thank you for your reply which has given me the opportunity to answer your bias.

        • Brian Boru says:

          Another thought is that our media strongly fosters the cargo cult mentality of government always providing so maybe that”s where the origin of the fault lies.

  • Tim Humphries says:

    Can’t agree more, Tim, well said!

  • jackgym says:

    It all began in Victoria you know, this living with Stockholm Syndrome. It’s slowly spread throughout the rest of the country to evolve as Banana Republic Syndrome.

  • john mac says:

    Yes Lawrie, if the green madness/contradiction could be boiled down to one thing, it’s the wind turbines. Everything about them screams insanity, from the total uglification of the landscape, to the tonnages of concrete for each base, to the non- recyclable nature of the materials, to the barrells of oil per year for lubrication, the desecration of birdlife, the actual transportation and erection costs/logistics, the lifespan and the biggest laugh of all – no wind no power!

  • lbloveday says:

    Help please.
    Who is in the photo?
    Looks familiar, looks familiar to mates, but that’s as far as we got.

  • Daffy says:

    OK, here’s the new tax policy: married couples with children under 15 average their incomes and taxation is calculated on the two averaged incomes (ie working wife earning 200k, stay at home husband earning 0, both are taxed as though each is earning just 100k). No social welfare at all, just Milton Friedman’s reverse tax system: bang goes most public servants administering social security. No company tax. No payroll tax, Sounds bad? Apart from the disaster of our energy system destruction, I’d be surprised if tax receipts didn’t go up with the huge productivity and investment leap this would encourage.

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