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tastywheat

Member Since 20 Nov 2009
Offline Last Active Jan 06 2018 12:18 AM
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#1189653 I do not, nor have I ever seen a penis ...

Posted by tastywheat on 08 March 2017 - 12:16 PM

Can't hate on that I guess; What day is Mens Day?

 

Celebrating a particular cause doesn't imply the exclusion of other causes.  Think of it in terms of equity vs equality:

 

equalityequity.jpg

 

Men face discrimination when it comes to custody, are far more likely to die in the workplace, and receive less help with mental health issues (leading to greater rates of male suicide).  These problems are not trivial, and positive discrimination is becoming more common, but Women's day does not trivialise or detract from these things.

 

Women are still at an objective disadvantage compared to white male counterparts in modern Australia.  They're more likely to be murdered and assaulted, particularly as a result of domestic violence.  They're less likely to be promoted to a leadership position, and they're less likely to be recognised for their skills and achievements.  There is a real pay gap of about 3 to 5% for women working in the same position, and for the same hours as men, even when accounting for other variables.

 

If we extend our attention to the developing world, which haven't yet experienced the progression fought for by Feminism, things get bleak.  FGM, human trafficking, forced marriages, being prohibited from going to school, all that really shitty stuff that humans do to each other.  Despite easy simplifications and popular notions, it isn't just about religion.  Ethiopia is a majority Christian country, that still has a rate of FGM among women of 74% (in anticipation: No True Scotsman fallacy).  

 

Most cultures (including ours) feature, or have featured some form of systematic oppression of Women.   Women's Day is about celebrating the progress we've made (like Women being able to vote), and looking for ways we can progress further (like equal representation in government).

 

If you're still stuck on the equity vs equality thing, International Men's Day is celebrated on the 19th of November. 




#1189624 I do not, nor have I ever seen a penis ...

Posted by tastywheat on 07 March 2017 - 11:47 PM

Not sure there's any rationality to the outrage.  If anything, the project has resulted in a public demonstration of cultural conservatism, which may well have been it's objective.

 

  1. The 'trial' is funded by a non-profit organisation.  No public funds have been spent.  120 businesses and community groups raised the money for the change, using their private funds, which they are of course entitled to spend anyway they please.
  2. As Mac Dude aptly pointed out, there's no confusion over male and female toilet signs.  It follows that there's an objective case for the idea that crossing signs contribute to male bias, but the significance of this is yet to be determined.

 

If the signs were truely arbitrary, then arbitrarily switching the male bathroom symbol for the female bathroom symbol should have absolutely no impact.  The fact that people are invested enough about protecting the status quo to start discussions (not just here, it's happening all over social media) is evidence in and of itself that the project has validity.




#1189534 What's on your mind?

Posted by tastywheat on 05 March 2017 - 08:25 PM

 

I like cats, but I don't understand the logic of cat lovers.


Not all cat lovers are the same :)

I've had dogs all my life but when our Jack Russell died our daughter wanted to get a cat. So now we have 2 cats in the house and I'd class my daughter as the crazy cat lady while the missus and I are simply cat lovers :)

However, our cats are indoor cats. The only time they go out is into the back yard with us walking around with them. We are well aware of the damage cats do and we are determined that our cats aren't part of that problem.

 

 

Yeah, poor choice of words from me.  Maybe kitty lunatics is a more accurate descriptor?  

 

The sort of people I'm referencing are a very small, but very vocal minority who think when they let their cats out, the cats harmlessly co-exist with nature, and couldn't possibly contribute to the extinction of local species (let alone running away/getting lost and becoming feral).  The sort that advocates that label the control of feral cats as animal genocide, as if the destruction of biodiversity associated with their introduction has nothing to do with them.

 

They're an absolute nightmare for biologists trying to control invasive species.  They manipulate community consultations, and consistently manage to attract negative media attention (while more important projects that could do with public awareness/support get ignored).  The impact is that cat projects have gained a certain stigma, which makes them hard to recruit for, and hard to get funding for.  The trial mentioned in the original post was successful, but the project didn't get funding because management were worried about negative publicity at a politically sensitive time (and in retrospect, this attention 2 years later vindicates that decision to some extent).




#1189414 So far so good...

Posted by tastywheat on 02 March 2017 - 04:12 PM

Nice one.  I used the same diet a few years back to help my old man sort through some health problems related to weight and diabetes.  It works well.  

 

One thing I learned over the long term is to augment it with ideas from Keto/Atkins/Slow carb diets.  The theory is that early humans needed to make the most of fruit when it became available, in order to survive winter or drought.  As a result, our bodies process high sugar foods differently, and they don't trigger a sense of fullness at similar levels of consumption to fat and protein.  We have a detailed understanding of this process by studying the Citric Acid Cycle, but for some reason it's still on the fringe of public awareness, and the focus is maintained on invalid ideas about fat consumption.  The key point being that a diet high in sugar and carbohydrates makes you hungrier.

 

Tim Ferris describes a 'Slow Carb Diet' in his book The 4 Hour Body which I found convenient to follow, and compatible with the 5:2 diet.  In a nutshell, eat more fat (avocado, olive oil, dairy), and less high GI carbs (sugar, fruit juice, white bread, jasmine rice etc.), and following the diet/lifestyle change will eventually take less effort.  You'll simply feel full when you've eaten enough.  

 

Kicking sugar is bloody hard for the first few weeks though, cravings to the point that my diet was interfering with my ability to work.  The problem is that any transgression kicks you back to the start, and the withdrawals/cravings repeat themselves.  However, after a few false starts, I got to a point where the cravings disappeared, the fast days were a breeze, and my body weight stabilised at a healthy level (13-16% body fat in my case).  

 

I've since fallen off the wagon unfortunately, the move to China disrupted by routines.  Now that I'm settled, and Winter is almost over here, I guess it's time to sort my diet and exercise habits out.




#1189345 how crap is this government ?

Posted by tastywheat on 01 March 2017 - 01:51 PM

Because technically they can claim it. This is currently being reviewed.


What gets me is that it was designed for rural members who have to cover huge electorates, these guys knew they were rorting the system...

 

Thanks for the explanation.

 

From my perspective, it's further evidence of the 'one government, two systems' corruption in Australia.  I don't think it's possible for this to have been a genuine mistake.  If these politicians were operating in the corporate world, I'm confident that intent to fraudulently claim benefits could be demonstrated.  At the very least, they have made fraudulent claims about their residential address.

 

It made me wonder exactly how much we spend on these sorts of entitlements.  The 2016-17 budget lumps all of it into a single opaque figure, but the 2015-16 budget provided a breakdown:

 

l21XBG0.png

 

Source: http://www.finance.g...2015-16-pbs.pdf, Page 53 [PDF Warning]

 

In total, we elect 226 politicians to run the country (150 in the House of Representatives, 76 in the Senate).  It follows that on average, we're spending $2.2 Million per politician per year on entitlements.  Don't get me wrong, some of that is absolutely legitimate spending, and necessary for good government, but $2.2M per polly?  That's outrageous.

 

I think a better system is to bring political entitlements inline with corporate benefits.  This would mean increased salaries, but fewer entitlements, with overall lower spending.  By offering higher salaries, we attract the right talent to the job, instead of trying to lure them through luscious entitlements that are systematically abused.  We also need an independent body overseeing the use of entitlements, and criminal penalties for when they are abused.

 

This is of course a daydream that isn't going to happen, Australian's are too apathetic and easily distracted to do the work necessary to force these changes.




#1189230 how crap is this government ?

Posted by tastywheat on 26 February 2017 - 08:31 PM

Like I said, it's not much more than communism with a different paint job.  Communism was a failure in part because it took the incentive away to perform and excel.  The only industries that thrived in communist USSR were the military and aerospace and that's because of the cold war and space race.  Aerospace also had domestic competition in that there were different burueas such as Antonov, Sukoi, Mikoyan etc.

 

As for other industries like agriculture and automotive, they floundered.  Production was inefficient and techniques decades behind the west.

Bring in UBI, and it'd simply be defacto communism.  The lazy would have their justification to remain idle.  The rich would resent paying higher taxes and simply take measures to minimize it.  And the not yet mentioned problem of immigration - countries like Australia and England are honey pots as it is, bring in the full blown welfare state and see what happens there.

 

It's fundamentally very different to communism.  Again, you're trying to take mental shortcuts, instead of evaluating the concept for its actual merits.  UBI still rewards people for working, and rewards people who are more productive with greater returns than those who are less productive.  To each according to their abilities still very much applies.

 

Poor people cost society money far beyond just the welfare checks they're given.  Instead of needing a bigger government to manage things like homelessness, education, health, and poverty related crime, we can instead give that money directly to the people, and let them take responsibility for solving their own problems.




#1189228 how crap is this government ?

Posted by tastywheat on 26 February 2017 - 08:06 PM

OK, I watched those 3 short ones and no enlightenment to be had.  The third one claims in fact that the US would save money.  Please.  And referring to themselves as a welfare state in their current situation, come on!

 

Fair enough, all of 3 minutes doesn't give a lot of time to explain things, but there was not one single mention of inflation or increased tax burden.  I think scruffy put it the right way, it's just communism with a new paint job.

 

Yet again, you have to use economic definitions for things like inflation, instead of simplistic layman's perspective you're relying on above.  You've studied this stuff, so you really should know better.  Inflation is a rise in prices, and a fall in purchasing power of money.  A UBI system necessarily needs to be funded with increased taxes, so it's not an injection of additional money into the system (which would cause inflation).  It's a redistribution of wealth and labour.

 

In order to determine whether it would save the US money, you actually have to do the math, and the practicalities are complicated enough for (Noble prize winning) economists to need trials to work out how it functions in the real world.  You can't determine these things from back of the envelope calculations (like the one I did). In addition to reductions in bureaucratic expenses, you also have to take into account economic stimulation.  A gross and inaccurate simplification of this is that poor people when given more money will spend it on good and services, where as rich people will tie it up in investments which are less productive (e.g. property, expensive material assets), and sent more of it overseas (via foreign goods, investment, and travel).  It follows that redistributing more of the money available to poor people grows the economy more effectively than tax concessions given to rich people and business, so UBI could potentially result in growth that would make the system cheaper than the current status quo when taking into account the reduction in government spending/size.

 

You should also expand your thinking to take into account long term conditions.  Yes, the computer revolution was supposed to give us all more free time, and that didn't happen.  But with increasing globalisation, robotics, and AI, we're entering an entirely new era, and we can't rely on historical knowledge to accurately predict what will happen in the future anymore.  There are good early indications that workers are going to be displaced, and certainly traditional service work and labour is less valued now than it was a few decades ago.  There is objective evidence for this in the growing wealth divide:

 

Inequality%20Change-in-household-incomes

 

Part of this is genuinely because the wealthy are more productive, but there's also very good evidence that it's because of unfair concessions and economic opportunities given to the ultra rich, and it has nothing to do with their productivity.  It follows that creating a fairer tax system, and eliminating poverty through UBI (which in turn stimulates the economy), is going to be necessary in order to maintain stability in society.

 

A final point is that you shouldn't be so lazy in your thinking.  Polarising every idea into left/right, repeating ideas that you haven't personally evaluated, finding the easiest superficial flaw. and then dismissing new ideas before you have evaluated the whole concept, is objectively shitty ideology, that makes you less of a person.  It's the sort of behaviour expected from grumpy old people who have lost touch with reality, because they can't be fucked putting in the mental effort to keep up.




#1189205 how crap is this government ?

Posted by tastywheat on 26 February 2017 - 12:19 AM

Which people?  I've not read or seen a single article relating to it from anyone with credibility.

 

 

I'd suggest in order to see or read something, you'd have to be paying attention, or at least willing to do a bit of resarch.  It's obvious you haven't even read the wikipedia article, given that it has a dedicated section on advocates.  Big name supporters you're more likely to recognise are Elon Musk, Martin Luther King Jr., Stephen Hawking, and Bertrand Russell.  Advocates who have won Nobel prizes in Economics include Christopher Pissarides, and Angus Deaton.




#1189187 how crap is this government ?

Posted by tastywheat on 25 February 2017 - 02:41 PM

It's still inflation.  Whether the payrise that goes with it occurs or not.  And as I said it would just serve to widen even further the gap between our currency and that of the emerging economies, making it less attractive to base multinational businesses here.

 

You're using a very simplified meaning of the word, instead of what it means in economics.  Inflation is defined by an effective reduction in purchasing power.  It follows that raising GST, if balanced with other measures, does not cause inflation.  You don't have to take my word for it, just look at the national inflation rate for 2000:

 

dhosTGk.png

 

Source: http://www.tradingec...a/inflation-cpi

 

Note that there wasn't a 10% jump when GST was introduced?  The rate wasn't 'amended' to adjust for GST, you'll find the same graph regardless of which source you use.

 

 

Also, how would changes to domestic tax policy widen the gap between "our currency, and other emerging economies"?  Specifically, what are the economic mechanisms that would drive such a change?




#1188837 What car do you drive?

Posted by tastywheat on 18 February 2017 - 01:20 AM

No car, but I do have an ugly scooter:

 

FBaDHzh.jpg

 

Looks aside, it has neat features.  It's electric, running on a 60V 36Ah battery.  This gives me a 60km range at 60km/h, or 120km at 20-30km/h.  The battery is removable, and takes around 4 hours to charge from any standard 220V socket.  It has automatic headlights, cruise control, ABS brakes, underseat storage that will fit an average grocery bag, gyro indicator cancelation, and a smartphone app that will give me it's GPS location, battery status, and allows me to lock/unlock it remotely.  It cost the equivalent of around $1000 AUD (5000rmb), and is pretty damn convenient for city riding.

 

It sucks when it rains, and I miss the speed of my old motorbike.  However, it's quicker than most cars off the mark, fun to ride, and cuts straight through Chinese traffic.




#1188718 how crap is this government ?

Posted by tastywheat on 15 February 2017 - 11:55 AM

Eh, they are more than rumours and publicly available "facts" are often doctored.

 

I was probably over-stating in calling him a moron, but plenty of less than sharp people have achieved what he did.

 

The Peter Wright case was a rather classic example, just why the then very inept British government took that to court is a bit of a mystery, I don't know if you have read the book, I have, it gives no secrets away at all.

 

Cheers

 

The thing that makes a fact a fact, is that they are verifiable, and for biographies, usually through multiple sources.  To say they're 'often' doctored makes it sounds like you support the recent 'alternative facts' movement, which I'm pretty sure is not something you would subscribe to?

 

This isn't directed at your views on Turnbull.  I haven't read much about his past, so I have no idea.  It's more general commentary on the way political discussions have changed over the last few years, where the meaning of the word 'fact' has been eroded, and knowledge of how a fact is established and independently verified lost.

 

The internet, and particularly social media, has turned into this engine that reinforces and radicalises existing mindsets, more so than it promotes people to question or expand them.  We've past the peak of informed discussion that seemed to happen in the early to mid 2000s, and instead of the internet challenging us with alternative perspectives with it's easy access to information, the ability the exclude and censor alternative views seems to have simply created bigger and bigger echo chambers.  Over the last year or so, those echo chambers have reached critical mass, and emboldened people to take conversations usually reserved for small private groups into the general public discourse.

 

I'm not just talking about Trump supporters and Brexit.  It applies equally to things like anti-vaxxers, the regressive left (e.g. the otherkin movement), even simpler things like the gluten-free diet.  These groups are expanding and solidifying their views, despite easy access to independently verifiable information.

 

I don't know what the underlying cause is, but I'm deeply concerned about the ramifications.




#1188625 Thanks Obama

Posted by tastywheat on 12 February 2017 - 07:34 PM

So, the workforce participation rate is 1/3rd less and unemployment 3.5 times more.

And precisely what does non-participation mean?  Generally it means someone's either primary carer of someone (mainly a young kid) or on a long-term disability pension.

 

So, this post raises 2 questions.

 

Firstly, do you now agree that the 90% figure had no basis in fact? i.e. It was fabricated or exaggerated to push a particular agenda?

 

Second, I can't tell you why the workforce participation and unemployment rates are worse than those for non-immigrants, though I suspect if you really wanted to, you could hazard a few guesses based on common sense.  That's not the question I'm interested in though.  

 

What's more important, is how you see this particular issue in relation to others we currently face, and therefore what amount of time and resources it deserves.  

 

If the goal is to reduce unproductive spending, which has a greater impact?  Politician entitlements, negative gearing on investment properties, corporate subsidies, public school chaplaincy programs, or a minority of a minority group who are unemployed?

 

If the goal is to increase public security, which has greater impact?  Updating bail laws to ensure dangerous people are not released prematurely, providing greater support to the 1 in 11 Australians who experience serious domestic violence each year, or incarcerating ~1,262 asylum seekers because they arrived by boat?

 

You pre-empt that I'm going to make excuses for immigrants who choose to abuse our welfare system, when actually, I'm just trying to set the facts straight, and re-direct objectively shitty ideology onto more important matters, that are more likely to improve Australian society.  

 

I may be empathetic, and more willing to give people the benefit of the doubt in liu of hard evidence, but I'm not a SJW.  I don't engage in these conversations to inflate my ego, or laude a contrived sense of self-riteousness.  I've done my best over the years in an earnest attempt to try and convince people to question their positions.

 

I'm angry at the direction Australia is heading because people like yourself get caught up in this political mis-direction, and either don't have the understanding, or the energy necessary to verify the arguments they spread.  

 

Australia is in a precarious position right now, and we desperately need need strong, intelligent, rational leadership to navigate current affairs if we want to maintain the prosperity we enjoys over the next 3-5 decades.  

 

Instead, because of the dissemination of bullshit (on both sides of the political spectrum), we're seeing a surge in support for people like Pauline Hanson, who quite literally doesn't have detailed policies for things like how to transition to a service based economy, how to manage climate change, how to manage decreasing competitiveness from our education system, how our health system is going to deal with the ageing population etc.

 

This is the sort of shit that should spawn Facebook rants and forum threads, but instead we keep coming back to asylum seekers, which if we pay attention to the facts, should rank low on our list of priorities.


I'm a bit passed caring who did what legally or otherwise tbh.

 

If you don't care about the subject matter or accuracy of your arguments, I'm not really sure how you expect people to respond?




#1188614 Thanks Obama

Posted by tastywheat on 12 February 2017 - 03:27 PM

As to the swap ...illegals cos our Gov said they cannot enter Aus. << I gather they came by boat

 

What they did was not illegal under either Australian, or International law.  Parliament actually put out statement on the issue, to clarify misconceptions that were being perpetuated by misinformed politicians:  http://www.aph.gov.a...415/AsylumFacts

 

The issue of asylum seekers is an expensive and regressive distraction tactic in my opinion.  Our current policies have little basis in security, cost effectiveness, or law.  It's political posturing at it's worst, manipulating weakness in Australian culture that can be traced all the way back to the White Australia Policy.  I call it weakness specifically because it is the opposite of strength.  It's driven by indolence and fear.  People who perpetuate it actively avoid information that would allow them to better understand the situation, and cling to phrases and positions that bear little relation to facts, that serve only to reinforce their position.  It's a blight on Australian culture that directly contradicts the ethos we're supposed to pride ourselves on (i.e. giving everyone a fair go).

 

The situation is complex, but the options to manage it have always been relatively straight forward.  Mitigate security risks with onshore and community detention.  Invest in efficient and accurate systems that minimises processing times.  When visas are granted, allow the recipients to work and contribute to Australian society, instead of forcing them to rely on welfare by including no-work clauses.  Give people agency to risk drowning at sea over the war/death/torture/persecution they're fleeing.  Invest, knowing that it will save money and lives over the long term, in overseas camps and controlled processes that reduces the underlying problem, and opportunistic people smuggling.

 

Don't get angry over the idea of someone choosing to flee to a developed country with opportunities and safety, over a closer country that might offer a similar culture, but fewer opportunities and less safety.  That's entirely their prerogative, and chances are, you would make the same decision.  We're surrounded by sea, far away from the war zones creating refugees, meaning we will likely never face a refugee crisis on a similar scale to what's going on in Europe, and there is no value in drawing such a comparison.  We should instead be concerned with the realities of our particular situation.

 

Get angry that our government throws away $55 million on obviously shitty deals to avoid responsibility, that we waste up to $3.3 Billion per year unnecessarily incarcerating ~1,262 asylum seekers on foreign islands.  Get angry that instead of simply managing the security and costs associated with our obligations to the refugee convention, our politicians detract from more serious issues (domestic violence, education, health, economic prosperity) to draw attention to how badly they are managing these obligations, because it taps into hardwired behaviour that was relevant to us as hunter-gatherers (distrust of outsiders/change), but is currently extremely low on a list of threats to our prosperity.

 

 

Over 90% of Afghan refugees still unemployed after living here for a year.

And the government just sweeps the problem under the rug, skews the figures by putting the long-term unemployed onto disability pensions.

 

This is factually incorrect.  You appear to be parroting drivel from Andrew bolt from about 6 years ago, that was debunked at the time, and then distorting the lie further by mixing it with recent criticism of the disability pension system.  It took me 60 seconds to verify this was the case.  I challenge you to invest a similar amount of time, and present any evidence you have to back this claim up.  

 

I'm guessing you're going to be too lazy, or too dishonest to care.




#1186959 how crap is this government ?

Posted by tastywheat on 07 January 2017 - 04:03 PM

I ended up moving to China to get work.  I've never seen the engineering industry in such a bad state.  Last I heard (mid 2016), there was about 1,600 new engineers a month applying for the dole in Queensland.  Besides the shift to an extraction tax as opposed to a profit tax which would stop transfer pricing mentioned previously in this thread (which likely has the biggest impact on tax revenue), there's a number of other things to government can - and should - be doing to improve things.

 

I went to a couple of 'Ideas Boom' events in Brisbane and at the Gold Coast.  Absolute crock of shit.  All marketing, zero substance.  I was attempting to get a startup going at the time, so I was genuinely hoping Malcom Turnbull's government was going to be more than hot air.  Suffice to say, I was far too optimistic.

 

If we want to transition away from an extraction based economy, we absolutely need better support for science and innovation.  I've seen the same pattern repeated over and over:  An Australian comes up with a brilliant idea or performs breakthrough research, and then is forced to sell the idea or move overseas due to a lack of local support.  Of my uni friends who work in science, the vast majority were forced to move overseas in order to find postdoc positions and financial stability.  Most of my ambitious engineering friends work overseas, because the only interesting research in Australia occurs in an academic setting, with the research products then promptly sold and shifted to overseas owners.  Most of them would prefer to live in Australia, but there's no good opportunities for them here.

 

There's complicated factors that have resulted in this situation, but there's a few clear steps the government can take.  We need to improve our education system, so that we continue to produce skilled and innovative people.  The Gonski reforms were mostly good policy, and scrapping them was a bit like selling your house to pay off your mortgage.  Sure, you reduce the deficit, but you're also reducing assets that would have accumulated wealth over the long term.

 

We need better support for investment, and innovation.  There's programs like the NEIS, or the New Enterprise Innovation Scheme that halfway do this, but are poorly designed and implemented.  For example, in order to qualify for the NEIS, you need to be on the dole.  It doesn't support you if you're currently studying or working for an E-corp style multinational, and have a great idea.  

 

Secondly, it requires you to do a business training course.  This is good policy, but the implementation is outright negligent.  It's palmed off to training organisations that have inadequate accreditation, with virtually no oversight or quality control checks.  In my case, I was given a 1,000 word Word document that was supposed to be a template for a business plan.  It was riddled with spelling, grammar, and stylistic errors.  No face to face training, no other training materials, and an utterly incompetent person giving me 'feedback' in the form of a couple of emails, and a 10 minute call once a week.  I shudder to think how much the government was paying for this 'service'.

 

Finally, if you're renting, there's a a chance you'll be disqualified from receiving the payment after completing the training.  NEIS required you to establish a place of business, which is fair enough.  If you want to run it from home as a lean startup, this requires you to get permission from your real estate agent/land lord.  Mine turned me down for policy reasons, over any objective interests.  My only other option was to rent a commercial space, which NEIS does not provide enough funding for.  Proper support for tech hubs, profit-neutral incubators/accelerators, and share spaces would also be a worthwhile expenditure.

 

For investment, we really need to wipe the slate clean and redesign the tax policies.  The system currently strongly favours the wealthy in making unproductive investments, and completely neglects small investors likely to support innovative startups.  It's also unnecessarily complicated, which further contributes to it being unproductive from an economic perspective.

 

I'd prefer to be working in Australia at the moment, but I literally couldn't find even retail work in my area (too old or overqualified), let alone something in mechatronic engineering (too niche in a collapsing industry).  So I sold my shit, took a flight, and now teach physics and chemistry 12 hours a week to high school students.  I get to continue working on my startup in the manufacturing centre of the world, and chances are if it turns into a successful business, it'll never come back to Australia.  There's simply no incentives to hand over profits to a government who has done very little to support me.




#1186946 how crap is this government ?

Posted by tastywheat on 07 January 2017 - 02:00 AM

Some commentary on the new(ish) Centrelink debt recovery program.  

 

Welfare fraud is a serious issue, and not something to be taken lightely.  It's a burdon predominately shouldered by the working and middle class, that's absolutely parasitic to our economy.  It's also often associated with anti-social behaviour in other forms, further detracting from 'civilised' Australian society.

 

First, the outrage:  My issue is not with the idea of better regulating welfare payments, it's with the completely unnecessary stupidity of the system.  Averaging income over 26 weeks arbitrarily most affects people who actually work and pay tax, and has absolutely no impact on true dole bludgers who never work at all.  If the ATO were to implement a system that sent unnecessary letters to 1 in 5 tax payers suggesting that they needed to pay back significant sums of tax unless they uploaded proof of income from up to 6 years ago, this shit would absolutely not fly.

 

So, that's the outrage narrative.  What's actually going on?

 

The Social Services minister has suggested the system introduced 3 months ago can recover $400 million in overpaid benefits, from 27.5% of the population who are dependant on some form of welfare.  To put this in perspective, total taxation revenue for 2015 was $445,965,000,000, so the $400 million is only 0.09% of the total government revenue.  On a scale the average human can more easily grasp, it's about $62 per welfare dependant person ( though the distribution is most definitely not uniform).

 

Given these figures, it's reasonable to suggest that $400 million, in the context of 20% of people receiving incorrect notices, is fairly trivial from an economic perspective.  If the aim was to reduce the deficit without impacting the economy, the government could earn this money back by simply cancelling the school chaplains program, which costs $430 million per year, with no measurable economic benefits, and very little social disturbance.

 

If you extend this idea further, 'trimming the fat' from the lowest hanging fruit that provides no economic benefit (dole bludgers in the abstract sense), there's $30 billion provided in tax exemptions to religious organisations.  The Catholic Church accounts for around half of that, at $16 Billion.  This allows them to run for-profit private schools that are tax exempt, and to transfer profits to the Vatican which have been extracted from the Australian community without challenge.

 

Some of these exemptions return to the economy in terms of charity, and community cohesion, which should not be overlooked.  Sometimes a tax exemption is worth more than the taxes you would have collected.   However, in the case of the Catholic Church, clearly it's not a zero sum game.  There are individual churches in Sydney which have amounted $1.2 Billion in wealth, and pay less tax than roughly 2.1 million small Australian businesses who actively contribute to the Australian economy.

 

So if it's not about the money, what's it about?  I'd suggest it's about distraction and posturing.  The boffins in Canberra have accurately predicted that the debt recovery scheme will draw as much support as it does detractors from the general public, and support specifically from demographics likely to vote LNP.  They want to present an image of being tough on welfare dependancy, despite the scheme not actually engaging true dole bludgers.  

 

The controversy created distracts attention from more pressing issues, like the management of the Australian economy in response to global economic forces.  Objectively, the growth rate now hasn't been this low since the Global Financial Crisis of 2009.  The relationship between growth and debt is complicated, but there's good evidence to suggest that debt doesn't necessarily impact growth.  A quick survey of successful families, public figures, and corporations objectively confirms this ideology, though a more nuanced understanding is required as the situation scales to national levels. From my perspective, this means the government that's been in power for the last 3 years can't necessarily continue to blame their predecessors for current conditions.

 

As good Australian citizens, I think we have a duty to call bullshit.  Given the resources available, how difficult is it to implement an automated system that takes into account income periods reported in the Centrelink database, instead of arbitrarily dividing it by 26?  It's basic logic that I imagine most Atomicans could implement pseudo code in a single session, and a fair bunch of you could implement in practice in a couple of weeks worth of work.

 

The point to keep in mind is that this is actively costing us real tax money in terms of wages for public servants who have to deal with these issues, politicians who want to argue about it instead of focusing on their social duties, and more public servants to examine it in the inevitable inquiry.  It also costs us potential.  20% of people who have done no wrong, and are no longer dependant on welfare, wouldn't need to stress about it.  Politicians could be directing their efforts towards more important endeavours.  The number of public servants could be reduced, or their efforts could be better applied to other social, economic, and environmental issues.