Tax cuts

Mr. Howard – we don’t need no stinking tax cuts (and I use the word “stinking” in more ways than one). Put the surplus into public services, the services that most Australian’s want and need. And if you’re going to cut taxes – how ’bout instead of giving handouts to the rich you instead scrap the superannuation taxes.

Or hey, even better, how ’bout you ditch the exhorbitant taxing of second jobs and instead tax a person based on their entire income, instead of slugging second jobs at the highest marginal tax rate (48.5%). This would do more to incentivise people to work than cuts for the highest tax bracket – how many rich people do you know that have second jobs? By taxing at the normal rate across the entire income will also not allow the rich loopholing their way into lower taxes either.

The unfortunate thing is that Latham has hinted at the same rise in the highest tax rate as part of his “ladder of opportunity” spiel. Although it seems his tune has changed recently. Worrying…

Gigs

Had an AWESOME gig with my band Glance last night at the Annandale. I have to say it was the most fun gig I can remember having! It was waaaay loud on stage (which is not necessarily a good thing), but the energy level was just wicked and I had an absolute blast. Big shout out to y’all that came down. Can’t wait for our gig on Friday at the Pavilion at Bondi! Sweet!

Transcommercial Enterprise

World Changing: The Transcommercial Enterprise.

An interesting article about how the nature business is shifting to incorporate ethics as a core part.

Some key points:

“But SRI [Socially Responsible Investment] is only part of the equation. Increasingly, large institutional procurement contracts ˝ from governments, labor unions, hospitals, schools and universities ˝ are predicated on social or environmental performance standards: they won’t buy paper unless it’s recycled, won’t buy cars unless they emit less pollution, won’t buy uniforms made with sweatshop labor, etc. Taken together, these are multi-trillion dollar markets. The NGO sector aloneis thought to be generate $1 trillion a year and employ at least 19 million people. That sort of buying-power, combined with new standards, is itself a huge market disruption.”

I strongly believe in the power of socially responsible investment (also known as “Ethical Investing”) as a way to encourage ethical practices. My superannuation is invested with Australian Ethical for this reason. Australia’s superannuation funds are one of the largest sources of investment capital in this country. A little bit of thought about where to direct those funds can have a big impact on business.

“Corporations can now build fairly intimate relationships with customers. We all know that corporations are honing their marketing research down to us as individuals, amassing data on our preferences and buying patterns, trying to anticipate our needs. But we don’t often think about how this truth extends two ways: we’re more and more informed about the goods we buy and the companies which make them. Intimacy goes both ways.”

This is an interesting view, and not one I am 100% convinced about. There is that whole William Gibson thang about information outing itself or being outed, which to an extent is true. However, there is still far too much secrecy within corporations, and a distinct lack of accountability. There needs to be a seismic shift in how business is done before the type of intimacy described in the article is a reality. It is, of course, a worthy goal, but not inevitable.

“The Tech Bloom is redefining our economic landscape, and it’s barely just begun. Distributed collaboration produces better results ˝ any company which lines itself up against it, instead of aligning with it, is toast. But the Tech Bloom requires those corporations who would benefit from collaboration to act as collaborators themselves, rather than owners.”

I like this term: “Tech Bloom”. I’m seeing it in my job, and definitely feeling it as an activist and a technologist who has interest in social outcomes. It is a different way of doing business (and politics for that matter), with huge potential, but it is not without it’s pitfalls. People still need to pay the rent, which means alternative business models are required to enable the tech bloom to continue. There will be some pain before the new models of doing business find their feet. People will lose money, businesses and livelihoods trying to work this out.

“Transcommercial enterprises won’t see doing the right thing as good PR or a desirable goal… if it doesn’t interfere too much with profits. Instead, they’ll see doing the right thing *as* the path to profits. If there’s a conflict between doing the right thing and doing the profitable thing, that just means that there’s a market opportunity for figuring out how to make the right thing more profitable.”

Interesting take. I think that this kind of thinking – seeing the challenges as an opportunity – is sorely lacking in government. And also in large companies, companies that would have the cash to throw at finding alternative ways of doing things. Both the public and private sector need to wake up and start putting some real energy into doing things better, working towards doing things right.

I see huge untapped market potential for environmentally friendly and socially responsible business ideas. Sure they’re hard to bring to fruition, but there’s your competitive advantage and barrier to entry in one. Put the hard yards in and get ahead of the pack. People are looking for solutions. Collectively, we need to provide some answers.

This is, I suppose, what I think the answer to my previous point is. If collectively we can come up with innovative solutions to social and environmental problems, there is a real opportunity for entrepreneurs to actually bring the ideas to market. If there’s one thing the open source community hasn’t done well that’s get things polished for the broad market. The same will be true for these technologies once they start to mature and come to fruition.

“Shortsighted multinational corporations with outdated thinking have hardly been driven from the field. Instead, they are counter-attacking, trying to use captured government agencies to regulate away innovation and trade agreements to break the back of citizen power.”

This is so true – see record labels for a prime example, or oil companies with the US and Australian government. Can anyone tell me, honestly, why our tax dollars are being spent on research for new fossil fuel technologies?

The government has invested AUD$60 million in the Stuart shale oil project. Compare this with the AUD$1 million spent on investigating hydrogen as an alternative power source. I’m sure that money is spent on R&D around renewables, but it seems to be a fraction of what is required to see Australia competing in a global renewable energy market.

Moot Point

Josh Marshall:

“I think it’s a moot point.”

That was White House Chief of Staff Andy Card today on whether pre-war claims about Iraq’s WMD capacity were “faulty.”

Hmmm, so the entire pre-text for war is now a moot point. So what Andy is trying to say is… if the US wants to invade another country it can come up with some pie in the sky reasoning, go and do it and pretend that the reasons put forward to justify the invasion don’t actually mean anything.

This post actually reminded me of a conversation I had with some friends the other day. We were talking about the fact that the US administration’s invasion of Iraq has done more to increase nuclear proliferation than it has to quell it. One of my friends pointed out that it seems that most countries, particularly those named in Dubya’s (in)famous ‘Axis of Evil’ speech, have now announced plans to develop nuclear weapons capabilities. In all cases where there has been a real threat because there is credible evidence that a country has nuclear capabilities, the US has taken a diplomatic approach to calm the situation.

So this begs the question, why then was the US so quick to invade Iraq? If there was credible evidence that Saddam truly had WMD, would the US have invaded, or would they have instead, as they have on all other occasions, negotiated and applied diplomatic pressure?

(The third Iraq war started on March 17th 2003. Nearly nine months have passed, and despite inspectors being deployed around the country not one piece of credible evidence of a nuclear or biological weapons program has been uncovered.)

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And more…

Of course, Mark Latham has his own website.

It includes his speech that labeled George Bush “incompetent and dangerous”. Here it is in context:

“Bush himself is the most incompetent and dangerous president in living memory. It is a bit rich for him to be preaching democratic values when he himself failed to win a democratic majority in the 2000 presidential election. His war with Iraq is more about revenging his father’s mistakes, it is about the things that happened in Iraq and Kuwait in the early 1990s and it is about securing domestic political advantage. It is more about those things than a rational assessment of the best way to defeat terrorism. Post September 11, Bush needs to be seen to be acting, giving the American electorate a sense of revenge and puffed-up patriotism. If he cannot catch Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein is the next best thing, the next best strategy, for the American Republican Right.”

Interesting sentiment, one I think is shared by many in Australia, Europe, and even America.

But he doesn’t stop there – in relation to Prime Minister John Howard he says:

“In his statement to the parliament, the Prime Minister dismissed the opposition to war as anti-American prejudice. That is what he saidˇ`This is just anti-American prejudice.’ Fancy the member for Bennelong lecturing us about prejudice. This is the same Member of Parliament who opposed sanctions against South Africa, who wanted to cut Asian immigration, who opposed the Mabo judgment tooth and nail, who welcomed Pauline Hanson’s first speech in this place as an outbreak of free speech. He still refuses to say sorry to the stolen generation and, to this day, cannot bear to utter the word `multiculturalism’. Fair dinkum, this bloke has a PhD in prejudice; he has no right to be lecturing anyone else. “

Yep – pretty much sums it up for me…

More on Latham

Loud Latham rings history’s warning bells – op ed by Gerard Henderson of the Sydney Institute.

Gerard obviously knows a lot more than me about politics, but when he says that “In Australia, politics gravitates towards the centre”, I have to chuckle. If the current Howard government is centrist, than I’m a communist. That’s obviously not what he’s saying directly, but it’s certainly implied in his comments.

With relation to his comment that Latham comes behind both Kevin Rudd and Kim Beazley – he states that “It certainly does not explain the fact that Rudd (who is not well known) is more popular than Latham.” Umm, I saw Rudd on more news bulletins than I saw Crean over the last year. I think he is more well known than a lot of commentators think.

In my circle of peers Latham is pretty well known, admittedly partly because of what Henderson describes as “hyperbolic bad language”. But regardless of this, or perhaps because, a lot of the people I talk to are happy to have Latham as the new opposition leader, even if they preferred Rudd previously.

UPDATE: Just saw a news bulletin. Now the press is saying that Latham is catching up to Howard in opinion polls.

More $$$ for Halliburton

Guardian: Iraq delays hand Cheney firm $1bn.

According to the article, Halliburton (a company to which US vice-president Dick Cheney was a director) is allowed to make 7% profit. Let’s see – 7% of 1.7bn = 119,000,000 (or 119 million if you don’t want to count all those zeros). Still no WMD. What was this war about again?

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