I’m writing this on the Australia Day weekend, and thinking our Prime Minister is right when he says we won the lottery of life, being born in this wonderful country.
We are certainly blessed not living in a war or terrorism prone country, and with so many natural resources. I am grateful we don’t have the blizzards and snow that our friends in Europe and North America have each winter. Perhaps I’m not alone in thinking this, given many have come to Australia from such countries, but not just for our weather!
They chose Australia because they believe they can make a better life for themselves and their families. A better life many believed not possible under socialist and far-left governments.
Europe and the free world sadly lost a courageous leader last year, Baroness Thatcher. Our political leaders are fortunate to have a leader they can emulate, a leader who well understood fundamental economic matters, critical for all countries and their standards of living.
Margaret Thatcher took courageous decisions on the interests of Britain, despite the obvious noisy detractors. It wasn’t a time where she had the luxury of being a nice leader. Britain faced too many economic and consequent problems, which needed addressing in Britain’s real interests. Thatcher steered through a lack of courage in her own political party, which had become riddled with lefties or ‘non-courageous wets’ and self-interested power mongrels, who didn’t grasp what was needed for their own country.
The latest book on her, The Authorised Biography by author Charles Moore, is worth reading and distributing widely. What Thatcher did for Britain our own leader should do for us — cut spending, cut waste, cut the shackles and back hard workers.
Australia likewise has a lot to learn from Europe and our European migrants. Why did they come here? Why did they pick Australia? And how did many of their countries end up in such a mess? We must learn how big overspending governments, and giant consequent debts, started to dampen or control their future — and most importantly, how we can avoid the same fate.
The Australian newspaper reported recently that an official Government analysis revealed more than five million citizens received income support from the taxpayer. That works out to be more than one in five getting federal welfare in some form. And that’s not in decline — nor is the cost, $130 billion annually from taxpayers.
Australians have to work hard or actually harder and smarter to create the revenue to be able to pay that bill. That’s in addition to things we have to have. The essentials like healthcare, defence, police, aged care, roads — the list rolls on — and still pay off our record debt. Something has to give, we can’t do all.
Put simply, we are not earning enough revenue for all we are spending. We are living beyond our means. But dare say that and you are condemned. The left don’t want to address the issue. Instead they get hysterical and personal about who speaks out — in this case, sometimes me. But many Australians are wide awake to where we are going wrong and they want to hear people speaking up. And they want leadership to address in the interests of Australia.
This ‘Age of Entitlement’ and its consequences, is creating problems for all of us, our children and grandchildren. Strong leadership will be the key. Fixing this is not rocket science. Acting on Government overspending has long been the challenge, and, harder and smarter work to build revenue in the interests of maintaining Aussies’ standard of living.
I was recently sent a report on political risks around the world. Unsurprisingly, many African countries (and Iraq) feature at the highest end of the scale. Yet it staggers me as to why one of the greatest multinationals operating in Australia, which made most of its money since the 1960s in Australia, is now considering risking its shareholders’ money in parts of Africa. These are in countries where it has to stop work and fly staff out repeatedly due to dangerous civil unrest.
This is a company paying royalties and other taxes in Australia, employing our citizens. A company that has returned dividends to many ‘mum and dad’ share market investors for decades — but now sees a big future elsewhere. It amazes me our politicians aren’t doing more to make them feel they want to continue to be loyal to Australia and return profits made here to continue to invest and benefit our country.
I will never forget after the increase of trade union militancy in Australia which undermined our ability to be a reliable, cost effective exporter and trade partner. A Rio Tinto (Iron Ore) executive said to me, ‘Orissa, it is Rio’s future, we won’t be expanding in the Pilbara, our costs have become too high’. And I soon learnt that it wasn’t just one senior Rio executive who said that, Orissa planning was real. Australian should never forget, if we want the multinationals to continue to invest their profits here, we have to put out the ‘welcome mat’ and provide good business reason why they should keep investing here.
Can you imagine where Australia would be if instead of the Pilbara, all Rio Tinto Iron Ore investments since the early 1990s had gone offshore to low-cost Orissa, or low-cost Africa? Both have massive resources of high grade, direct ship, iron ore. We’ve been very fortunate this didn’t occur, not from great leadership, but simply because of problems in Orissa and to date, Africa.
Perhaps it’s worth a look at what did work with leadership elsewhere? In her second year as leader of the British Conservative Party, Margaret Thatcher famously said in a television interview, ‘The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people’s money.’ Great quote, let’s learn from it.
It was one of those ‘stop and think’ moments for Britain. The country then faced the burden of government starting to overwhelm the ability of the people to pay for its existence. Something had to change.
Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister and the changes started. Expenditure was drastically cut. The stretch of ‘the state’ — or government — into people’s lives was wound back. In Britain then, much like in Australia today, welfare dependence and Government overspending had been growing.
Prime Minister Thatcher was a rare kind of politician. She was a true leader. She didn’t just say it: she acted on her belief in the need to rein in spending taxpayer’s money, and instead encourage the entrepreneurial spirit and investment.
She understood that letting ‘risk-takers’ succeed was a way out of the economic dilemmas her country faced. Without enterprising people paying tax, governments had no money to provide — including what a country needed to do — pay for healthcare, police, defence, caring for senior citizens, roads and helping those truly unable to help themselves.
Her comments are often taken out of context by media and others who wish to distort, but it’s worth considering what she said. For instance, she said, ‘nations depend for their health, economically, culturally and psychologically, upon the achievements of a comparatively small number of talented and determined people’.
Many in left politics and the media speak of Margaret Thatcher’s principles and record as if they are from some irrelevant part of history. Her actions have been distorted and maligned, but her record of turning England around stands. The truth is, you need people with her strength to lead. Especially when a country has got itself into record debt, where it can’t even pay for the interest on its debt burden. We can learn from what she did, and we need to learn quickly.
And let’s not forget either another experience from recent history. This time in a country nearer to us, which also thrived under good leadership from another Briton — Sir John Cowperthwaite, who oversaw the transformation of Hong Kong. He arrived at a mainly very poor island, and quickly appreciated living standards needed to rise. He understood that small government and less intervention triggers growth. So he chose two paths: low tax and government spending, and a policy to ‘stand back and let business thrive’. And wow, did that work. Hong Kong grew and living standards rose and rose. Much like Margaret Thatcher, he believed in the entrepreneurial spirit and in people’s pride and desire to ‘do better’. Government’s job, he said, was to let it.
Of course, I will be criticised for airing such views even though the facts are there. I can already hear the left boiling with rage that I dare challenge their ‘bottomless pit’ and belief that money doesn’t have to be earned before it is spent mentality. More nasty twisted articles will appear, forests and splinters of them.
But, every day, Australia goes further into debt with no clear plan in operation to get back even close to where we were. It seems that when we find out there’s no money left, we discover more things to spend it on, and raise the debt ceiling.
Can they see they are just making things worse for our children and grandchildren as we’re not responsibly dealing with our mistakes? ‘Thank God for our children as they shall inherit the nation’s debt!’
Even the former Treasurer Peter Costello said late last year in a newspaper column that at his age, 56, he ‘doesn’t think he’ll ever see the debt eliminated’.
We must encourage industries that export while the world wants our products. We must recognise the critical need to be cost competitive and strive harder towards this. Australian mining and related industries face competition we have not seen before. Our competitor nations with their lower tax, lower cost base and in some, less regulations and approval burdens, add serious pressure and risk to our future. Let’s not underestimate that risk.
While Governments count on mining and mining related industries being prosperous, it’s important that all of this is understood in the context of the need to cut the burdens of wasteful government spending, taxes, regulations and approvals — and not just talk about it.
Australia needs to live within its means and reduce our budget deficit, and to do this also needs to enable investment and revenue from industry to grow.
The mining industry has long been the ‘go to’ sector to tax harder. In some cases, we have taxed our performers and revenue earners to the point they choose to go overseas. What about what happens to all the related businesses, their staff, the families who depend on the world locally?
The political left is torn and confused. One moment they hate our very existence and even want us closed down — but in another, they don’t want to stop spending the revenue that they count on from us in taxes and royalties. The ‘Age of Entitlement’ has consequences.
Australia needs to think harder about the world around us, what we can and should indeed learn from other countries. We need to prepare much better for our future. Now is the time to change some thinking and urge leadership. I warmly congratulate and thank all at ANDEV who do seriously think about such issues and Australia.
We all have a role to play in mitigating the thinking that’s not helping our country’s future, including the entitlement mentality of individuals, companies — and our leaders.