Friday, December 04, 2009

Abbott loses credibility on carbon policy

The following letter was published in The Australian on 4 December 2009. I reproduce it here for your enjoyment.

The Liberal Party of Australia has lost all credibility with its rejection of market-based policy responses to climate change ("Abbott’s tax-free carbon plan”, 3/12).

Tony Abbott has committed the Liberals to meeting a 5 per cent emissions reduction target by 2020 through direct action. It appears that this direct action will be a combination of government investment and regulation. By supporting this approach the Liberals are, in essence, supporting the type of command-and-control Stalinist approach that they purport to oppose.

Foolishly the party has adopted a climate change response that involves picking winners rather than letting private market participants respond to incentives dictated by market forces. It seems that the Liberal Party is committed to losing its economic credibility and the next election.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Safeguards for energy users

The following letter was published in The Australian Financial Review on 12 October 2009. I reproduce it here for your enjoyment.

In your "Radical plan to guarantee energy supply" (October 9), much was made of the Australian Energy Market Commission’s recommendation to support greater flexibility in retail energy pricing.

Energy retailers praised the move arguing that the additional flexibility proposed by the AEMC should be seen “as a minimum”.

There was no coverage, however, of the fact that the AEMC emphasised the need for best-practice consumer protections as an important safeguard in a retail market characterised by rising prices under the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme and a more flexible price setting mechanism.

Energy is an essential service that all Australians require to participate effectively in society. Once the CPRS comes into force, compensation through the tax and transfer system will be insufficient on its own to protect the most vulnerable energy consumers from impending CPRS-related price increases.

A robust consumer protection framework is needed which provides consumers with access to payment plans and other hardship assistance as well as protecting them from unfair disconnection.

Victoria, the nation’s most competitive energy market with the most flexible price setting arrangements, provides a good model for the national consumer protection regime currently being considered by the ministerial council on energy.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Civil liberties

Jack the Insider commented on the new laws announced in New South Wales and South Australia to restrict the activities of Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. He makes a very valid point about how quietly the Australian public accepts restrictions on civil liberties that are a foundation of our democratic system.

Since the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, many governments hastily implemented "anti-terror" laws. Such laws often proved poorly designed, subject to abuse and a catalyst for sloppy investigative work. In countries like the United Kingdom, this led to the laws being water down. Australia has also had limited success in the application of similar legislation. It seems that police anti-terror investigations became lazy because the requirement for police to have sufficient evidence to charge a person within 24 hours of their arrest was removed. There have been few successful prosecutions despite a number of arrests.

Now, it appears that New South Wales and South Australia have not learned from the experience of poorly designed anti-terror laws and are hastily throwing together similarly draconian regulations. In light of recent violence perpetrated by Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs, both states are seeking to introduce laws that allow the government to ban any organisation that it deems to be "criminal".

I acknowledge that new laws may be needed to respond to organised crime and/or terrorism. However, it is important that any such laws are well designed, thoroughly debated and respect the fundamental freedoms that have maintained our democracy for so long. It is equally important that ordinary Australians examine government policy proposal with a critical eye and with thought to the potential consequences of such policy responses.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Schapelle Corby

I wrote a letter to the newspapers following the conviction of Schapelle Corby for drug trafficking in May 2005. They did not publish it. However, I came across it in my files and thought I would include it here. It responded to the emotive attacks on the Indonesian judiciary in the wake of their verdict. I read today in The Daily Telegraph a story about Corby and I remain amazed by the continuing interest in her case four years after she was convicted. The letter appears below.

Generalised criticisms of the Indonesian judiciary are unwarranted and unhelpful. The Schapelle Corby guilty verdict will inevitably lead to emotional criticisms of the Indonesian legal system from certain sections of the Australian community. This is an entirely natural response given the divisive public debate over Corby’s guilt or innocence. However, it needs to be remembered that many in the community applauded the guilty verdicts in the trials of the Bali bombers as evidence of reform and balance in the Indonesian judiciary. Criticisms of specific inadequacies of a verdict are preferable to generalised value judgements of a sovereign nation’s judiciary. These double standards can only serve to damage perceptions of Australia in Indonesia.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Quote in The Jakarta Globe

The Jakarta Globe quoted me briefly in their article on smoking. The editors of the Globe have taken a noble anti-tobacco stance. You can find the article here.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Range Voting

My Post article on the Indonesian electoral system provoked a number of email responses with further ideas on electoral systems.  Amongst these were emails from two campaigners who advocate in support of range voting (also known as score voting).  In their opinion (and I have some sympathy with their position) range voting is the ultimate democratic preferential voting system.  In range voting each voter gives each candidate/party on the ballot list a score out of ten or out of one hundred.  The winner is determined by the candidate/party with the highest average score at the end of counting.  It is very similar to the system of determining a winner in a diving competition.  

I maintain that this system is to complex and ungainly for most electorates.  However, the more I have thought about it, the more I find the system attractive at least in an academic sense.  If you would like to know more I would strongly recommend that you check out the range voting website to understand the beauty and complexity of this novel electoral system.       

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Anti-smoking presentation

My recent presentation to the Jakarta Foreign Correspondents Club received some media coverage on Sky News Australia and on a radio programme called Asia Calling. Unfortunately, the selected quotes on that radio programme were not, in my view, the best of the presentation. Please enjoy the following linked stroies at Asia Calling (English, Bahasa Indonesia) and Sky News.