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Summer 2005 cover

National Observer Home > No. 63 - Summer 2005 > Editorial Comment

In This Issue

In this Issue "Editorial Comment" is concerned with the urgent need to replace the outdated and inappropriate Australian Taxation system by a new system. The government of Mr. John Howard, which will shortly control both the Senate and the House of Representatives, will have a unique opportunity to introduce and implement a sensible modern system. Unfortunately the Treasurer, Mr. Peter Costello, will need to be succeeded by a better motivated politician who has a genuine interest in introducing advantageous measures. Mr. Costello has shown no interest at all in introducing a new and effective system or even in ameliorating the present system.

The social and economic problems that are raised by abortion are discussed by Mr. Richard Grant. Falling fertility rates in Western countries are found especially in Australia. The birth rate is far less than the replacement rate. There is an ageing population, and there will be an unacceptable change in the composition of Australian society unless birth rates are increased. In 2002 approximately 100,000 abortions took place. If the children aborted had instead been born, the fertility rate would have been approximately 2.45, or well above the population replacement level of 2.1. Instead of trying to solve the problem of decreasing birth rates by increasing immigration – many immigrants currently accepted by Australia do not assimilate properly and are inappropriate – there should be an attempt to reduce the abortion rate. This objective can be assisted by government support for women who wish to avoid abortions. This support should be supplemented by greater financial inducements for those who have children, and especially for third, fourth and further children. The young of a country are its most valuable asset, and not enough is being done in Australia to provide proper encouragement for young parents.

"The U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement" contains a discussion by the Editor of many of the disturbing aspects of the Free Trade Agreement that has recently been negotiated with the United States. The ineptness of the Australian negotiators has been discussed in a recent important book, How to Kill a Country: Australia's Devastating Trade Deal with the United States, by Professors Linda Weiss and John Mathews, with Elizabeth Thurbon. The article in this Issue of National Observer sets out many important passages from this book, which should be studied with care.

Dr. Sharif Shuja discusses the political situation in India in "India's 2004 Elections: Implications for the Future". The victory by the Congress Party in those elections has important implications for Indian society. The preceding government had achieved large increases in manufacturing and production in India, but these gains had not percolated through to many poorer Indians. Dr. Shuja notes: "More than a quarter of the population continued to live below the poverty line, unemployment was on the rise, prices of essential commodities were rocketing, social tension had increased and atrocities against women and minorities were increasing. The United Nation's 2003 human development report calculated that 45 per cent of Indian children under the age of five were underweight. An estimated 300 million Indians survive on less than $1 a day, and 160 million lack access to clean water." The victory of the Congress Party may be seen to reflect impatience that current economic policies were not producing general benefits sufficiently widely.

The rift that has been developing between the United States and the European Union is discussed by Mr. Max Teichmann in "United States Foreign Policy: Does Europe Matter?" French animosity towards the United States is not new. But the French have been joined in these matters by Germany and also by centre-of-left parties in many other European countries. The European Union itself adopts many policies of the left: bureaucratic control is promoted, as are high-tax policies. These considerations have been significant in the relative economic stagnation that has come to afflict the European Union. They are also an important factor driving European anti-Americanism. Those on the political left have found if difficult to restrain themselves from attacking President Bush, for example, who is a proponent of low taxes and small government.

There are many similarities in the divorce laws of England and Australia. In both countries divorce rates have become very high, and in both countries the prevailing family court ethos has been to advance mothers and detract from the rights of fathers in relation to children. This ethos has been particularly harmful to children. If practicable, children should spend substantial time with both parents, and to minimize or abrogate contact with fathers is detrimental. Unfortunately family court judges and officials have overseen a gradual worsening of a position where mothers are able, by manipulation or simple perjury, to prevent their children's father from having appropriate access. In this regard the article "Do the Courts Regard Fathers as Redundant", by Mr. James Bogle, an English barrister specialising in family law, is very pertinent.

Mr. John Stone is generally regarded as Australia's foremost commentator on current affairs, and his article "What Mr. Howard's Government Needs to Do" addresses the opportunities that have arisen to implement radical reforms in industrial relations and in other important areas. The deregulation of the labour market should, as he explains, be a special priority. The Australian arbitration system is damaging, and it impedes economic growth and lowers average living standards. It also prevents many Australians from obtaining employment: employers are compelled by industrial awards to pay unsustainable wages, and in consequence employment that might otherwise take place is prevented. This is especially damaging to the young, who wish to obtain employment but are often unable to do so. Mr. Stone points to the need to take legislative action to repair these matters. What is needed is not simply the implementation of policies announced by Mr. Howard's government during the past three years (which policies have not gone as far as is appropriate, since they were formulated in a modified form so as to maximise their prospects of being passed by a hostile Senate), but a series of new and radical policies. These policies ought to include the termination of the existing arbitration system and the enactment of laws that define clearly the liability of unions and of union officials for encouraging or abetting illegal industrial action or acts that cause physical or economic damage.

National Observer No. 63 - Summer 2005