Sunday, June 19, 2016

Party Games 7/55 Australian Country Party

The Australia Country Party is setting itself up as an alternative to the Nationals as party for the rural areas. It's policy areas primarily focus on better support for rural areas, and protectionist trade policies. The former I can support, the latter I can not.

An example of their protectionist trade policies is their plan to introduce government price controls for agricultural products, and that this price should higher than the international market price. What this is saying is that all Australians should pay more for their food so that farmers can have more money. Now, while I can understand the frustration farmers may feel with market conditions, for example the recent brouhaha about milk prices1, I don't think government legislated price controls are an appropriate response. I would support stronger powers for the ACCC to investigate and punish companies that are found to be abusing their market power.

Another item that concerns me is their proposed changes to the constituiton. They are seeking to repeal sections 25 & 51 and add recognition of indigenous peoples. Their motivations for this are positive, but they show some misunderstanding of the constitution. They say that they want to repeal section 25 because it allows states to exclude people from voting based on race. This is not the case. Section 25 reads "For the purposes of the last section, if by the law of any State all persons of any race are disqualified from voting at elections for the more numerous House of the Parliament of the State, then, in reckoning the number of the people of the State or of the Commonwealth, persons of that race resident in that State shall not be counted." This does not permit the states to exclude people based on race. What this does is create a consequence for the states if they under their constitution and laws exclude a person from voting based on their race. If they do, they will have fewer representatives in the federal parliament because the people they exclude won't be included in their counted population when working out how many representatives each state is entitled to. Now as it stands I don't think any states do or are likely to in the future exclude people from voting on the basis of race, so losing this section won't make much of an impact, but I would like my legislators and political parties to have a better comprehension of the constitution than a call centre phone monkey with a science degree.

 Tax policy is another area of concern. They want to make it so tobacco tax revenue can only be used for health related matters, which ignores the overall fungibility of money.  They also want to give seasonal workers a much higher tax free threshold, but this I fear would just mean the employers of seasonal workers will reduce the before tax rates they pay so they see the benefits instead of the workers.

 Overall, this is a party that farmers and their associates will like, but for a city slicker like myself they're not bringing much to the table (and to be fair, I'm not the demographic they're looking to represent).

1) In relation to the recent cases of milk companies retroactively cutting the prices they pay farmers I have three main thoughts. First, I can appreciate the anger of the farmers being told this (if my work told me they were cutting my pay by 10% as of 6 months ago, I wouldn't be very pleased either), second, I'm not sure I like that such clauses are allowable under contract law, and third, I'm not that sympathetic to people complaining about the terms of a contract they signed and agreed to some time ago because now the terms don't suit them as much. If they were complaining about unfair terms in a new contract they were being presented with, I could get behind that, but after agreeing to a contract, it's harder to make the case.

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