One remarkable thing about the Liberal government elected in 2013 is that, apart from those leaky boats and the carbon tax, it had no idea what it should achieve. The actuality is worse than that, as a number of hand-on-heart promises turned out to be non-core. Promises that should have been discarded, such as keeping the ABC whole, well fed and free from effective supervision, were kept. Meanwhil, promises which should have been kept, such as repealing 18C, were casually discarded.
It is never too early to get policies sorted, but first let’s see what the major parties have on offer at the moment. The Liberals’ policy page has the substance of a will-of-the-wisp. Searching for statements of policy on the Labor Party website is even more futile. It seems they have only one spelled-out policy: increase the proportion of renewable energy in our power supply to 50% by 2030. Thanks to a presentation by the Minerals Council of Australia to the Coalition Resources and Energy Committee in March this year, we can get a good idea of what that will do to the cost of power:
Renewable energy was 17.3% of Australia’s power supply in 2016, with the result that power is now twice as expensive as it should be. All things being equal, the cost of power will double again from here under Labor’s policy. The Minerals Council of Australia is unlikely to be providing such analysis again. BHP knocked off the previous chief executive because he wasn’t green enough for their liking.
There is no competition of ideas in the nation’s policy debate. It is a near-complete vacuum. To provide a framework for filling that vacuum we will use the organisation of the federal government by departments and agencies as shown here. There are 18 departments and 189 agencies. Let’s work through them in order of listing.
Repeal of 18C is first on the agenda. After that matters less important than the suppression of free speech can be addressed.
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
The Liberal Party went into the 2013 election with the undertaking to build 100 dams across Australia’s north. Such a precise number betrays they had no real idea what they were talking about.
What is needed is a study listing the remaining dam sites in Australia with an analysis, in the vein of this study of the water resources of the Kimberley, of the amount of water each would provide and capital cost. They could then be ranked in terms of internal rate of return. From that we could determine what is Australia’s potential for growth in agricultural production. No such study currently exists.
Department of Communications and the Arts
This is the department that runs the ABC and SBS, both of which can be abolished now that the internet provides abundant access to news content. The ABC was established in 1932 when it was thought that commercial radio stations might not give the public an unbiased news service in the then-new medium.
Now the situation is reversed: the ABC is biased to the point of toxidity while the internet provides a million points of light.
There are roadblocks to reforming the national broadcaster, but also ways around them. How would Managing Director and alleged Editor-in-Chief Michelle Guthrie react, do you reckon, were she informed that the national broadcaster is to be decentralised with head office re-located to, say, Dalby, or better yet, Andamooka.
Department of Defence
Major wars are traumatic events. Australian spending on its war effort reached 47% of GDP during World War 2. Prior to the war, defence spending had fallen to 1% of GDP. After the war, it was accepted wisdom that defence spending should be at least 3% of GDP for the country to have a chance of being safe and secure. Right at the moment, Australia has an aspiration to spend 2% of GDP on defence but has yet to generate the willpower to get to that modest level.
Far worse, much of the equipment we are buying is useless. In fact the last two Liberal prime ministers destroyed Australia’s defence capability – Abbott with his commitment to 58 more of the hangar queen F-35s, the latest manifestation of the Pentagon’s taste for baroque weapons systems that do wonders for procurement officers careers but little meet actual defence needs. Turnbull, as is his wont, then made things far, far worse by ordering French vapourware submarines.
If enemy aircraft can be interdicted far from our shores, we are safe. If enemy ships can be sunk far from our shores, we are safe. The role of the army is to destroy any forces that get through those two screens. The larger our army, the larger the enemy force that has to be landed.
Our armed forces are pathetically small, with only three combined arms brigades in the Army. We have only 9,000 frontline troops to defend a nation of 24 million. On top of all that, the management of the department, uniformed and civilian, is infested with social justice warriors. Those who believe hormone shots and silicon breasts are essential elements of the national defence deserve not promotion, speaking engagements and Australian of the Year nominations, but to be eliminated from the public payroll. It is that simple.
We have signed on to get up to 72 F-35s at some $200 million per aircraft with a commensurate maintenance spend to keep the things flying. The F-35 program is likely to be cancelled, so we should hedge out bets by acquiring the Gripen-E from Sweden. This aircraft is more capable than the F-35, has half the capital cost and one sixth the operating cost. The aircraft would be built in Australia, copying the arrangement under which Brazil will be building its Gripen-Es.
One of the few correct decisions that Abbott made as Prime Minister was to plump for the Japanese Soryu class submarines. The U.S. Navy rates these as the most capable diesel-electric submarines in service anywhere. To make them more suitable for Australian service all that needed to be done would have been to add an eight-metre section in the hull for more fuel.
Alas, Abbott was knifed before the Japanese choice could be set in concrete. Turnbull was more smarmy than usual in reversing his victim’s call and opting for a notional French submarine instead. To add injury to injury, in the interim, before the French submarines are supposed to arrive, we will be spending as much on sustaining the geriatric Collins submarines as it would take to replace them with newly built Soryu submarines. Cancel the French contract before the inevitably astronomical cost overruns involved in converting nuclear boats to diesel further boost the national deficit. No matter how much has been spent, any further expenditure is good money after bad. Scuttle the French deal and acquire the Japanese offering with haste.
With respect to the RAAF, some fixed roles should be given up to the Army. The Army should control its own fixed wing transport aircraft because the RAAF will be flat out keeping its own operations supplied and won’t prioritise the Army as much as it should. The Army needs at least 80 low-stall speed transport aircraft, such as the M28 Skytruck. It should also get at least 30 C-295 aircraft.
With respect to early warning, our Jindalee over-the-horizon radar network is now quite capable, but the radar stations are well back from the coast. We need to be able to see further out and to do that we need another row of stations on our northern coastline which will see threats, airborne and marine, another 1,400 km away.
The Army is now organised on a brigade structure, each combined arms brigade being of about 3,000 men and “organic” with tanks and artillery. Tanks continue to be necessary in warfare because your casualties are three times higher if you try to advance without tanks than if you didn’t have them. Our first problem is that we only have three brigades when at least three times that number might still be less than what we actually need.
Secondly, we have the wrong tanks. The 59 M1 tanks in service are powered by gas turbines which have half the fuel economy of diesel engines. They use 20 litres of fuel to start. They use just as much fuel at idle as when they are moving. They are impractical for use in the Australian operating environment. Our neighbouring countries to the north, Singapore and Indonesia, have much larger numbers of Leopard 2 tanks, which is the type we should acquire – at least a couple of hundred of them. It is the same situation in artillery – Singapore and Indonesia have self-propelled howitzer and rocketry. We don’t. And it’s not as if we don’t need them, just that no Australian government has been serious about defence for decades. We should go to South Korea for self-propelled howitzers and Israel for rocket artillery.
With respect to the RAN, what are missing are two types of aircraft. Seaplanes, such as the Japanese US-2, are needed to pluck people from the water and converted passenger aircraft, such as the Boeing 737, are needed as anti-ship cruise missile carriers.
Department of Education and Training
Much of what this department does at a cost of some $45 billion per annum is to try to achieve equality of outcomes instead of equality of opportunity. For example, child care rebates transfer money from parents who may not want or need childcare to those who think they do. Most of this department’s activities should be closed and individuals could decide what they need from their own resources.
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
This department spends $2.2 billion a year administering itself and gives a further $4 billion a year away to other countries. Some of that goes to nations which don’t need it, such as Indonesia, which gets some $350 million per annum. Foreign aid can be cut to about $500 million per annum, which is what we give Papua New Guinea. The cost of running the department could be cut to under a billion dollars annually. This is of a kind with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is trying to achieve in the U.S.
Any government that writes cheques to Yassmin Abdel-Magied quite obviously has more money than it needs. Although Foreign Minister Julie Bishop thinks otherwise.
Department of Health
This department spends $800 million a year administering expenditure of $64.8 billion per annum. Under its umbrella is the Australian Sports Commission, swallowing $290 million per annum as well as the Australian Sports Foundation for a further $48 million. Add in the Australian Digital Health Agency for $286 million per annum and there is a quick half billion in savings without harming anything productive.
Department of Human Services
Human Services runs Centrelink, Medicare and child support, using $7.5 billion a year in the process. Amongst smaller operations, it also has an energy-assistance payment of $75 a year for pensioners. There will be a lot more call for that it Labor’s renewable energy policy is implemented. There is much that could be done with respect to child support. For starters, the biological relationship between the parents and the children should be confirmed by DNA evidence. Otherwise, in a number of cases, the federal government would be participating in a fraud. The paying parent should also have guaranteed access to the children with the option of joint custody. This will make Australian society much fairer.
Department of Immigration and Border Protection
Australia’s immigration intake needs to be wound back. There are no benefits to having Australia’s population larger than it is now. Low tariff barriers mean that there are no economies of scale from having a larger domestic market. During droughts Australia’s wheat production falls to the level of domestic consumption. We do not want to become a net food importer at any time.
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science
This department spends $2.2 billion a year on a grab bag of things, at least half of which could be stopped without anybody noticing. For example, the last three incumbents of the position of Chief Scientist have all been duds. All three stated a belief in global warming. The current Chief Scientist wrote a report on energy supply that was, and deserved to be, widely derided. Similarly, this department has the CSIRO, also been captured by the global warmers. It also has the Australian Institute of Marine Science which seems to do nothing but promote global warming.
The department puts a lot of effort into worrying about innovation, seemingly without understanding a fundamental truth: government can’t do anything about innovation except provide a good patents system and a low tax rate. This department should be halved before its green-eyed warmists and those who think governments are good at picking “winners” have a chance to squander even more billions of other people’s money.
Department of Environment and Energy
Another department large devoted to global warming. It runs the Australian Renewables Energy Agency, the Climate Change Authority, the National Wind Farm Commissioner, the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and the Clean Energy Regulator. It also has the Bureau of Meteorology which also sees its mission as promoting global warming. When Abbott repealed the carbon tax he left in the place the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act (NGER) of October 2007 — John Howard’s last dark deed before he was voted out of office. Thus the parasitic and energy-sapping climate taxes and regulations came back in full force. Their main effect, apart from chilling pensioners who can’t afford to heat their homes, has been to enrich funders of wind farms and other parasitic energy-sappers and rent-seekers while suppressing growth and economic activity.
First order of business will be to repeal the NGER and all the other global-warming legislation. Environmental matters should be sent off to another department and the new Department of Energy should be devoted to ensuring Australia’s energy future. That starts with liquid fuels – petrol, diesel and jet fuel. In an increasing fractious world, Australia now imports half its fuel requirements. We only refine half of what we consume and the rest has to be imported as bowser-ready product. We need to stockpile fuel, just as we are required to do as a signatory to the International Energy Agency. Our commitment is to hold a stockpile equivalent to 90 days of imports. We need to go well beyond that and hold a stocks equivalent to at least 180 days of consumption. This would cost about $15 billion for the liquids and a similar amount for the storage capacity.
The next thing to do is to make Australia self-sufficient in transport fuels by preparing for the time when petrol and diesel made from coal will be cheaper than from refining oil. To do that we should build three 5,000 barrel/day coal-to-liquids plants, one each in the black coal states of Queensland and New South Wales and the third on Victoria’s brown-coal fields.
Thirdly, we should skip using uranium-burning light-water reactors and go straight to thorium molten salt reactors. Australia should start its own program, as the Dutch are doing, to commercialise that reactor technology. We could end up at the forefront of Western and have a major export industry.
Agencies No Longer Needed
ABC – Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Even if it weren’t biased, there is no need for the ABC now that the internet is with us.
Asbestos Safety and Eradication Agency
We stopped mining asbestos decades ago and it has been banned for just as long. Asbestos can only harm you if you breathe it in, and only as fibres of a certain length. It is time to let it go.
Australia Council for the Arts
This is another nesting site for those who decry Australian culture, not to mention of nest of cronies scratching each other’s backs.
Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research
As an indication of the utility of this agency, it puts out blog posts with titles such as “Building gender equality in Myanmar”. It is not needed.
Australian Civil-Military Centre
This one is a doozy. You shall judge it by the title of the reports it produces, including Side by Side, Women, Peace and Security; Gendered Crises, Gendered Responses; and Conflict-related Sexual and Gender-based Violence. It seems to be a sheltered workshop for the chronically unemployable. This agency will not be missed.
Australian Egg Corporation Limited
In 2013 this company was fined $30,000 for faking an egg shortage during an oversupply to boost their profits. The Australian Government should sever any legal connection it has with this entity. See page 38 of the Egg Corporation’s annual report to see the extent of taxpayer assistance, then wonder why, if eggs are so vital to the nation, we don’t also have a National Toast Authority?
Australian Film Television and Radio School
The cost of video and audio recording equipment, and editing equipment, has fallen to near zero. There is no need now for the public to be funding education in such things.
Australian Human Rights Commission
What has been noticeable about this agency for the last few years is the loathing that the commissioners have had for Australians and Australian culture. No doubt Dr Tim Soutphommasane enjoys touring the country he insists is full of racists who cannot pronounce his name properly, but the common good would not be diminished were to pay his own travel and hotel expenses. Just close it down.
Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Studies
Anything that sets out to divide Australians by race or class should be eschewed. Thus this agency should be shut down.
Australian Institute of Family Studies
In this day and age, you would expect an agency with such a title to have an anti-family agenda. And so it does. A recent publication “explores the collective impact framework and its ability to create population-level change on complex social issues.” This agency is a sanctuary and citadel for social justice warriors. Shut it down.
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
This institute collects health data. There is not much for them to do so they overwork the problem to justify their existence. They should be folded into the Bureau of Statistics.
Australian Institute of Marine Science
These people are best known for lying about the state of the Great Barrier Reef. That is understandable in these false concerns help justify their existence but tourism operators in north Queensland are objecting because claims that the reef is dead are stopping tourists from visiting. Australia is surrounded by lots of ocean but nothing will change once this particular set of lying scientists are closed down.
Australian Pork Ltd
There is no need for the Federal Government to get involved in the promotion of pork. Leave that to the pork producers themselves.
Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency
This agency doesn’t have much to do. It should be folded into the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.
Australian Research Council (ARC)
Have you been wondering where the money to fund commercialisation of thorium molten salt reactors will come from? It will come from this agency which in early November announced grants for research totalling $225.6 million for 2017. Research topics include improving our ability to model tidewater glaciers. There aren’t any such glaciers in Australia but the researcher who landed the grant should be able to get some interesting trips to Alaska and beyond.
One of the most notorious grants made by the Australian Research Council was in 2011 when it gave $24 million to the University of Western Australia to establish a Centre of Excellence in the History of Emotions. Some of the money handed out annually might do some good but most vanishes down the academic s-bend.
Australian Sports Commission
The main role of this agency is to increase the number of gold medals won at the Olympics. The hundreds of millions involved could be put to better use. Believe it or not, there is also an Australian Sports Foundation.
Australian Strategic Policy Institute
Set up to provide another source of strategic advice, this agency has drifted to become another sheltered workshops for unemployable academics. Most of what this lot produces is dross.
Australian Wool Innovation
Funded by a compulsory levy on wool sales, this agency does far less good than the grower’s funds it consumes. Shut it down.
Governments around the world, and private industry too, spend tens of billions of dollars a year on cancer research and have been doing so for decades. The chance of any Australian government research in cancer doing any good is infinitesimally small. Close it down.
Commonwealth Grants Commission
This agency was founded in 1993 to achieve equality of outcomes between the states. Today that amounts to taking most of the GST raised in Western Australia and giving it to the mendicant states of South Australia, Victoria and Tasmania. Even the ACT, pampered and clean as it is, is given more than its fair share of GST revenue. The concept might have been valid back in the 1930s but now South Australia and Victoria are pursuing an ideological agenda to destroy industry. There is no reason that Western Australia or anyone else should reward South Australia and Victoria for blowing up their coal-fired power stations. Close it down and each state should keep all the GST raised within its borders.
This is a scientific organisation that believes in and promotes global warming. Therefore their standard of research is execrable. The CSIRO has drifted off to irrelevancy. Besides we need all that money, currently mostly wasted, for the thorium molten salt reactor.
Family Court of Australia
The creation of the corrupt Lionel Murphy, this mob have always been a malign influence on Australian society. It should be shut down and the role of sorting out divorces etc. should be handed back to the Federal Court system.
Grains Research and Development Corporation
Funded by a compulsory levy on grain growers, this lot do far less good than the money taken from growers. The levy is a big suppressor of farm profitability and value. It should be shut down as soon as possible.
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority
Shut it down and fire all the staff. Consider the following extract from this letter dated 12th May, 2017 by the authority’s chairman, Russell Reichelt:
The Great Barrier Reef Outlook Report 2014 found the overall outlook for the Reef ecosystem is poor and worsening. This assessment was reached after taking into account 150 years of past and accumulating human-caused impacts such as poor water quality and crown of thorns starfish outbreaks, and then secondly taking into account the very poor forward outlook for the reef under the present and increasing levels of Greenhouse Gases in the atmosphere.
Humans do not and have not ever caused crown of thorns starfish outbreaks. The letter goes on for 11 pages, mostly with more rubbish about the great global warming monster. Lying to the public should never be rewarded.
Workplace Gender Equality Agency
This agency was instituted as a result of an act with the same title. No discussion need be entered into – this is one for the bin. Senator Leyonhjelm provides a longer discussion of the usefulness of this agency here.
Borrowing by the government competes for funds with the private sector and depresses economic activity. Expenditure by government tends to be poorly targeted, thus things like the $24 million Centre of Excellence in the History of Emotions and its retinue of academics.
The recent history of debt in this country is that the Howard government paid off the debt it inherited from the discredited Keating regime and built up a surplus. After Howard, the Rudd/Gillard tag team of poor governance ran up debt again while cutting back on vital national interests such as defence. It was expected the following Abbott government would have some fiscal rectitude and get the budget back into surplus straight away. Abbott didn’t have the stomach for that and government debt continued to blow out.
Of course the current Turnbull circus has abandoned any pretence at good governance and the increase in debt is accelerating. This can only end in tears.
Cutting back on government expenditure, as outlined above by department and agency, will achieve that without resort to increasing taxation.
David Archibald is the author American Gripen: The Solution to the F-35 Nightmare