How to fix the American political situation, in one easy step

Are you ready for it?

Vote.

It’s as simple as that.

Vote in the general election. Vote in the primary election. Vote every time you can.

Maybe there’s an extra step. Maybe you need to register your affiliation with a party or as an independent. That’s easy pretty easy too. If you live in a state with closed primary elections, you’ll want to do that.

But after that, it’s pretty straightforward. Find some time on election day, one day every two years. Make it a priority. Vote.

Are you sick of crazy extremists holding political parties hostage?

Vote.

Water down their influence. Let Republican senators and congressmen know that if they face a challenge from the hard right in their primary, that you’ll be supporting them. Let them know for every tea party person they piss off, they’ll encourage a moderate.

The Tea Party have the power they do because they vote. They show up. They are disproportionately represented in those who vote in primary elections. So they get to elect their own and, worse still, they get to hold more moderate members hostage with the threat of their power.

But you know what? They’re not that great in number. They really aren’t. Their influence can be diluted.

You just have to vote.

 

In praise of Centrism

So Jonathan’s off on his boring “centrism is stupid” high horse again.  But clearly, it’s not centrism, but Jonathan who is stupid.

Centrism is the opposite of stupid: it’s a smart and sophisticated reaction to the world as it is, and to political reality.

Centrism recognises there’s some middle ground between a flat tax and a top tax rate above 50%. Centrism understands that society has some responsibilities to its citizens, but that they also have some responsibilities of their own. Centrism doesn’t think the Government is the solution to all our problems, but it doesn’t think it’s the devil, either. Centrism doesn’t think markets are the solution to all our problems, but don’t think they’re the devil either.

Centrism is about finding a reasonable middle ground.  Centrism is about recognising the complexity of the situation, and of the solution.  Centrism is interested in solving problems, not in grandstanding.  Centrism is interested in reality, not ideological purity. Centrism lives in the real world.

Centrism starts with the problem, rather than the solution. Centrism is willing to look anywhere for the answer. Centrism doesn’t rule out information that doesn’t fit its predetermined narrative.

Centrism is rationalist’s approach to policy.

Centrism understand nuance. Centrism acknowledges the difference between saying “we must do something” and saying “we must do something and it must be this”. Centrism listens to both sides, and considers the merit of each.

Centrism is hard. Centrism is not for the lazy. Centrism never offers a ready-made solution, but requires constant engagement with issues.  Centrism is quiet and does its work behind the scenes.  Centrism doesn’t inspire rallies (well, ok, Jon Stewart’s is the notable exception). Centrism sits quietly in the background, thinking and considering.

Centrism sometimes absolutely takes a side on an issue. But centrism doesn’t do that by default.  Centrism doesn’t ask “what is the centrist’s take on this”, but asks “what is the problem, and what’s the best solution.”

Perhaps the term “centrism” is a misnomer for what I’ve described.  Maybe centrism needs to rebrand. But to suggest centrism is non-ideological is to define ideology too narrowly.  It is ideological in its approach, rather than its outcomes.

There be trolls

On Monday evening, I got home from work and wrote a short piece about my disgust at the fact the Labor party was coupling fairly significant changes to the nature of redistribution in the Australian tax code to their attempt to price carbon.  I thought I was pretty clear: while I absolutely believe in progressive taxation, in pricing for negative externalities and specifically in the need to put a price on carbon, I was mystified and enraged by the government’s decision to compensate some household by more than 400% of the anticipated costs.

And then I stood back and watched the hoards go mad with ad hominem attacks and, strangely enough, conspiracy theories.

Usually, when I talk about policy, I prefer to analyse information and make judgements, rather than focusing on personal narrative (I’ll occasionally frame things in a personal way, but generally try to stick to facts for the core of a piece), but given my own story is apparently an important part of this, it’s worth recounting briefly.

First, it’s rather important to know that it was Jonathan Green, editor of The Drum, who asked me to write the piece, based on a tweet.  He sent me a direct message on Twitter and asked for it, and I wrote it that evening.

There was no conspiracy. There was no pay. I have absolutely voted for the Labor Party and Liberal Party in the past (and recently), as well as, at times, the Greens, the Democrats  and some independent candidates.  I am someone who taking voting very, very seriously, and I agonize over my preferences.  I number below the line.  I write letters asking candidates to further explain their position on certain issues.

At no point did I receive any kind of request or instruction or payment from anyone except the initial request from Jonathan.  It was not part of some broad strategy.  I was not on Sky News last night pretending to be Eliza. I was at home with a head cold watching the first season of Pretty Little Liars on DVD.

The second thing that warrants clarification is the fact some people have pointed to my profile on here as evidence that I was a Liberal party plant, specifically quoting the words “Classical liberal.” The small-l is important there.  I thought this was pretty clear in my piece but, again, evidently not, since people kept saying if I don’t like redistribution, I clearly could NEVER have been a Labor supporter.  Liberty is a priority for me, both economic and social.  Sadly, there is not a party in Australian with true liberalism as the core of its policy priorities.

Economically, of course, this means I have more in common with the Liberal party.  This does not in any way mean I think flat tax is the way to go: I understand the need for progressive taxation, but generally, I think we should seek to ensure the progressive nature of our tax does not undermine the incentive to work and the responsibility of all able citizens to contribute to the best of our ability.  I do not believe markets are flawless, and I absolutely believe in market intervention when they are flawed.  For this reason, I am a very vocal advocate of socialized medicine.

Socially, though, and perhaps this is the bit that got lost in the piece, I have far more in common with the Labor party.  To be honest, I’m probably somewhere to the left of the Labor party.  I think the Labor party’s hesitancy to support gay marriage is appalling, and I think the government should get out of the marriage business entirely.  I firmly believe all women should have access to abortion.  I think we need to massively liberalise our immigration policy, accept more immigrants, and in fact I think we should be actively recruiting people who would qualify as asylum seekers, not just accept those who can afford to make the journey.  I think climate change is real, and serious, and that we need to do something about it.

I’m an unabashed fan of Malcolm Turnbull, but that is largely because he occupies the space that closely resembles my own political beliefs.  This is also why I can support the Democrats in the US completely- the mainstream view in the Democratic party is in favor of a limited safety net, and progressive taxation that isn’t too onerous.  That’s exactly the kind of public policy I like.

Recently, a strong Labor-advocate friend made a very convincing case that in order to be involved in Australian politics, I should join a party.  The closed nature of our system, something I’ve bemoaned at length, necessitates it.  I would much prefer an open party structure and less party unity, but given such fundamental change to our political culture is unlikely, I had few options. I could start my own party, one that is both economically moderate (and Grant will curse me for using that term, but you know what I mean) and socially liberal.  It would be a true liberal party, not a hybrid liberal-economic, socially-conservative party.

But, I’m one person, with limited time and other interests.  Much as I would like to do that, and perhaps I shall at some point, in the interim, membership of a political party seemed a better way to go, to be a small-l liberal voice.  But given my preference for the Liberal party’s economic policies and the Labor party’s social policies, I was unsure of which way to go.  He said I should join the Libs, but hang out with people who were also socially liberal.  I remained unconvinced, still feeling the pull of the Labor party’s are more liberal stance on social issues.

That was until Monday, when I realised that the Labor party’s fundamental believe in significant redistribution was so central to its beliefs that it would try to sneak it into something as important as a carbon tax.  That it would use the opportunity to remove a million Australians from the income tax system entirely.  That it would overcompensate some households with a combined income of $80,000 more than four times the cost of the program.  I tweeted about my frustration.  Jonathan Green saw the tweet and asked me to write  the piece. End of story.  I have committed many an error in my time, but I do not believe this piece was in any was disingenuous or intellectually dishonest.

Then people went a bit crazy, and accused me of all sorts of things. Rather than engaging with my argument, they invoked my age and gender to claim that I didn’t know what I was talking about.  They claimed I described myself as a “classic Liberal” rather than as a “classical liberal”. For goodness’ sake, they even suggested Media Watch investigate.  And when I offered to explain myself further, I got such generous responses as:

“can hardly wait. I’ll bait my breath in anticipation” (Source)

The sarcastic reply speaks volumes: it speaks of someone looking for dishonestly, looking for a gotcha, looking for a partisan ploy, rather than considering the virtue of an argument. How appropriate, then, that he should accuse me of disingenuousness when he writes questions without any interest in the answer, and challenges without any consideration of the merit of the reply.

Even the snarky responses when I said I’d write something answering challenges– the “oh god, she’s writing another piece”-type responses– illustrated the way this debate has gone: rather that looking at the merit of what I said, it was viscerally reacting to me.

Don’t get me wrong, some people challenged me a couple of valid points, and I respect them greatly for it. One criticism that I think is worth responding to was that I didn’t analyze the Coalition’s carbon tax.  My response, of course, is that I didn’t analyze the Government’s Carbon Tax either- my post was rather about the excessive redistribution packaged with the carbon tax.  But I should have mentioned the redistributive effects of the Coalition’s carbon tax plans, which, overall, I am no great fan of.  I do consider them less insidious as they do not fundamentally alter the degree to which our income tax system is progressive, but I should have paid heed to that.

But for the most part, the replies were ill-considered and reactionary, looking for some grand scheme where there was none. One particularly snarky and poorly-argued blog post used my biographical information on this blog as “proof” that I was always a Liberal party voter.  Beside being poorly-researched (a cursory glance at the “politics” tag on my blog will reveal posts such as this and this and this, which describe my political philosophy more fully and the fact it doesn’t really naturally fit with any major political party in Australia), it implored me:

My ardent suggestion to young Erin would be, especially if she’s going to put her ideological views into the ether, that she crystallise them, if they aren’t already,

Well,  here’s one thing I can promise.  I will continue to allow my views to crystallise. I will continue to read voraciously. I will continue to consider the opinions of others and whether their arguments are convincing And I will do all these things in the hope that I never become someone who is so convinced of their own eternal correctness, who becomes so mired in their own ideology out of habit, that they don’t listen to others and consider their arguments on merit.  I long to be like my political hero, Abraham Lincoln:  big enough to be inconsistent.

Why Michelle Bachmann could be President

 Once upon a time, I counted myself a Republican.  It’s a true story.  And not just a Republican, but a hard-core, social-conservative Republican.  I was anti-abortion-rights, pro-death-penalty, pro-prayer-in-schools.  I was your cliche, full-on, religious-conservative Republican.  And I lived in the US at the time, and was surrounded by friends who felt the same.

*edit*: A point for new readers: this is notable because I am now a passionate supporter of the Democratic party, and interned in the office of a very progressive House of Representatives Democrat.

Yes, I changed.  I changed a lot.  I feel like I learnt a lot about the world, and realised the danger of using one’s personal religious beliefs as the basis of Public Policy.  And my personal beliefs changed too.  But the lasting legacy of all that is that I understand cultural conservatives, and I take them seriously.

Cultural conservatives are serious people.  They are not to be laughed at.  I mean, you can laugh at them if you like, but that doesn’t really help the debate.  They are people who passionately hold a set of beliefs, believe they are right, and that they can invoke a higher authority to justify their rightness, and who will fight, fight, fight for what they believe.

Which is why Michelle Bachmann’s announcement, also, should be taken seriously.

Because, unlike Palin, she speaks a very specific language to a very specific set of people.  And while some may laugh at “authenticity”, to the community she’s a member of, she drips it.  She’s smart and knows policy, and has a set of beliefs that inform her ideas consistently.  You may not agree with that set of beliefs, but to those who do, she is an incredibly powerful figure.

Bachmann isn’t a pale imitation of Palin; if anything, it’s the other way around.

Bachmann may seem like an absurd figure to 80% of Americans, but if she can get those 20% to all vote, and convince a quarter of the rest to all vote and not to vote for Obama, she’ll be President.  Her path to the nomination is not remotely unfathomable: she’s got a strong ground game in Iowa already in place, and her appeal to the base is incredibly strong.  Her capacity to get-out-the-vote among social conservatives is phenomenal.  And she has both social and economic conservative credentials.

Liberals will write her off at their own peril.  I have full faith that Obama can defeat a run-of-the-mill, bland Republican.  Bachmann, on the other hand, scares me.

On "celebrating" death

All over my facebook today, people are citing the fake MLK quote about celebrating death and making quite disparaging remarks toward the people who are expressing pleasure with the fact Osama Bin Laden is dead.  I’ve wanted to engage in a conversation about it, but given both the fact it’s not in one place, and Facebook’s comment length limit makes an adequate reply difficult, this seems a better place.

First of all, I think there’s a lot of naivety around the reality of international relations, international law and the nature of modern conflict.  The Obama administration made a conscious decision to minimize collateral damage in Abbottabad by sending in ground troops (as opposed to a drone strike).  When the officers arrived and were fired upon, is it really realistic to expect them not to fire back?  This may not be war as we’ve known it before- it’s a war with non-state actors, a decentralized war- but it’s still war.  And when you’re dealing with non-state actors who have fundamentally changed our understanding of warfare, who have adopted a strategy of extreme violence toward civilians, it’s impossible to employ old school diplomacy.

Secondly, I think there’s a kind of reflexive anti-Americanism that much of the world is prone to fall into.  In the class I’m teaching this semester, Americanism and Anti-Americanism, we talk about anti-Americanism as a prejudice, a tendency to approach the US in a certain way, which is often negative.  Too often, empathy and compassion are put aside when we talk about a hegemon, as though their perspective is unworthy of the same concern we show for the citizens of less powerful nations.  Rather than judging people for their emotions, I think we should try to understand them. And that includes Americans.

Accusing people of “celebrating death” is, I think, an oversimplification that lacks nuance, empathy, and understanding.  If one sees the death of Osama as a symbolic, if not actual, end to the War on Terror, it is entirely understandable that people would want to celebrate.  Sure, some are probably celebrating the fact Osama is dead, but more- many more- would be celebrating the sense of relief, a symbolic end to a tumultuous decade, the endurance of America. Bin Laden was someone who desperately, passionately, wanted to destroy the United States. Celebrating the fact the nation endures despite that is, I feel, more than worthy of celebration.

This reader’s response from Andrew Sullivan’s blog was, I think, quite eloquent:

I keep reading a lot of accusations from well-meaning critics who say that those Americans who chant “USA!” and wave the flag, or are even just plain happy right now are somehow “celebrating death”.  (I’m particularly irked by David Sirota’s finger-wagging piece). Going beyond the obviously flawed comparison of a terrorist celebrating the death of an innocent civilian to innocent civilians “celebrating the death” of a terrorist, I feel an urgent need to point this out: We are not celebrating death.

A mass-murdering and very powerful lunatic is dead, yes, but our joy just comes from the simple fact that he is not going to kill anymore.  His cohorts will, yes.  Like-minded fanatics may continue to do so as well, sure.  But this one – the biggest terrorist there is – will not.

If the news had come in that he was no longer dead, but instead had just been put on a rocket and shot into space, or simply been captured and brought back to stand trial, we would STILL have been singing in the streets and cheering on our nation and our armed forces and Obama and … well just cheering because what the hell else have we had to cheer about in the last 10 years?  A 1-1 draw with England in the World Cup?

I’m a progressive Buddhist.  I abhor all violence, as it is the perpetuation of suffering.  I don’t celebrate the death of Osama Bin Laden any more than I’d celebrate the death of anyone.  It is sad that it came to this, but what I do celebrate is the look in the cheering faces of my friends and family, my fellow Americans and my fellow human beings around the world, who for the first time since the fall of the Berlin Wall can all find a few moments of peace and rest from a world overflowing with anxiety and fear.  And I don’t care much that this massive catharsis just so happens to come at the expense of a dead bogeyman.

Finally, I think it’s easy, in Australia, to occupy a moral high ground.  We are remarkably safe, by global standards, and enjoy a remarkable standard of living.  It’s easy to forget that this is the case largely because we enjoy American protection- ANZUS is a real, great, and very important thing.  The world is an often dark and complicated place, international law is constantly being challenged to take into account new realities, and there are times when the right thing is incredibly difficult to discern.  I’m reminded of that part of The West Wing, where Leo and the President are talking about the assassination of Shareef, and they discuss the absence or presence of moral absolutes- the whole Shareef series of episodes illustrates, I think, the complexity of this kind of situation.

International politics is tricky business. Modern war is even more so. It’s tragic, and it’s horrible.

But I don’t think there’s any problem in saying that yes, the US got this one right.

 

A new Australian political party?

I voted today, in the NSW election. I’m going to be in Melbourne on election day and, to be honest, I just really wanted to vote.  I numbered all the way to 311 on my upper house ballot. It was fun.

But in perusing all the different party groupings on the upper house ticket, I’m astonished by the parties that do exist and, more relevantly, by the parties that don’t.  There are plenty of representatives of fairly obscure interest groups, but no party that represents the political space that I, and a lot of my peers, occupy:  a space that is more genuinely liberal, and interested in maintaining liberty.

I’ve been saying forever that I’d like to be part of starting a new party, but I’m starting to think it’s time.  It would be a long term project: while we’d contest elections within five years, we’d fully expect to take 10-12 years to get any kind of a footing.  Broadly, the party would be based on the following principles:

1. Protection of individual liberties. Minimise government interference in the way people live their lives, both directly and indirectly.  Fight for a Constitutional Bill of Rights that protects political liberties, including freedom of speech, assembly, worship, and freedom from unlawful search and seizure.

2. And while we’re working on the Constitution, let’s become a Republic.

3. Where markets work, leave them be.  Where they don’t, intervene to correct them, but interfere as little as you can.

4. Reform the welfare system. Don’t abolish it, but look at the incentive structure and try to provide incentives for people to work where they can. Reduce middle class welfare, including Baby Bonus and First Home Buyers Grant.

5. Where possible, tax to price for negative externalities and shift the savings to income tax reductions.

6. Let people live the lives they want. Stop state-sanctioned discrimination. Institute Civil Unions for the legal recognition of partnerships, and allow “marriage” to be a purely personal label in which the state has no role.

Such a party might be described as Libertarian, but that label isn’t correct, as it would neither advocate the abolishment of the Australian welfare state, nor of progressive taxation.  It would, however, be an economically moderate voice, adopting a neo-liberal approach to markets, while also rejecting social conservatism and middle class welfare.

I’m genuinely interested: would such a party have a constituency in Australia? Would people join?

Prices and Costs and Carbon Tax

There’s a great new blog, Bleeding Heart Libertarian, that I’ve been fondly reading over the last week, dealing with issues of markets and social justice.  There was a quote in a recent post that kind of reflected, in a funny way, my thinking about the Carbon Tax:

Taxation, to be justified, must serve a genuine public purpose (I won’t discuss here what those are). When the majority forcibly dispossesses people of their resources in order to subsidize others in their pursuit of private projects, it violates the principle that persons should be free to set the ends toward which they will use their powers

I would argue that the same hold for minorities forcibly dispossessing people of their resources through their behaviour, which is why I am entirely in favour of a Carbon Tax.  Jonathan says I should never again utter the phrase “price for negative externality”, but I actually think it’s a really important thing for people to understand and consider when thinking about a Carbon Tax.

Markets don’t always work. They don’t work when incentives are wrong (ie. health care), and they don’t work when consumers are disempowered (again, health care).  They also don’t work when part of the cost of something isn’t carried by either the supplier or the consumer, but by the broader public.

Such is the case with carbon.

The price of carbon and the cost of carbon are two completely different things. The cost of carbon already exists. It is somewhat paid by those consuming the carbon, but mostly, it’s paid by people who don’t.  The idea of a carbon tax is for is to bring the price of carbon more closely in line with its cost.

All this complaining about how things will get more expensive is kind of ridiculous. The cost already exists. It’s just that, for the most part, the wrong people are paying it.  So maybe it’s time to turn off the 106cm flat screen TVs if you can’t afford the electricity bill.  Don’t expect others to bear the costs of your TV-watching habit.

Carbon tax is about making a market correction, and ensuring that it is those who consume carbon who are paying for it.  Like all other attempts to account for negative externalities via taxation (alcohol, cigarette, fuel and junk food taxes), it’s a good idea.

*edit* I should note that, to avoid this tax being completely regressive, I do think the additional cost of carbon should be taken into account when adjusting welfare payments. Not an electricity subsidy directly, because it’s necessary that the incentive-correction isn’t nullified, but an accounting for the overall rise in the cost of living that is related to the rising price of carbon, just as all welfare payments should be adjusted for CPI regularly.

The value of ease

Last night, I had the privilege of attending a USSC event in Sydney, in which former Prime Minister John Howard spoke about the US-Australian relationship.  I was genuinely surprised by Mr Howard’s graciousness, particularly toward past and present Labor party members, and his humility.  I hadn’t expected to be so impressed by him.

Content-wise, though, there was a lot to disagree with him about, not the least of which were his comments on the US Political system.  He strongly advocated the Westminster Cabinet (and incorrectly said the US doesn’t have a cabinet. Which it, of course, does. It’s just not part of the legislative branch.)

Howard’s arguments seemed to keep coming back to the ease with which legislation can go through and, I think, be controlled by the leader of the government.  He said the big problem with the US system was that it was difficult for the President to make things happen.

That is the absolute and very beauty of the US System.

The accountability, the checks and balances and the separation of powers is what makes the US system so strong and effective. It’s also what makes it slow.  But it was designed to be slow. It was designed not to concentrate too much power in one place. Judicial review is absolutely central- something Howard also argued against- and it is good that it should be.

Effective democratic government requires balancing the ease with which laws can be enacted with the dangers of concentrating too much power in the hands of too few.  While the US may err on the slow side, Australia is far further toward the side in which small numbers of individuals have too much power and too little accountability.

Australians seem to work on the notion that because we haven’t had any really major problems (Whitlam aside), our inherently flawed system is ok. But it’s not.  It’s too insular, it is too restrictive, it encourages division, discouraged bipartisanship, and concentrates entirely too much power in the hands of too few.  Our leaders are still only elected by their local electorate, yet are expected to be accountable to the whole country. They act in secret. There are selected by their party faithful, and protect their own interests.

It’s a system that is too easy to corrupt, too easy to take advantage of, and our lack of judicial review limits the ways in which government can be challenged. The notion that governments are always benevolent is a very poor foundation for a Democratic political system.

Thoughts on Lara Logan

It’s truly horrible to read about what happened to CBS Foreign Correspondant Lara Logan, who was raped and beaten while covering events in Egypt.  Much of the conversation around the issue has been appalling, but I can highly recommend this post from The Pursuit of Harpyness as an incredibly well-written and insightful take on what happened, and the reaction.

Let's talk about risk

So everyone’s talking about the flood tax. The “tax on mateship”. Whatever. Both parties have behaved more-than-a-little cynically in their approach to the situation, and everyone’s talking about the solution- a flood levy- rather than the underlying problem which is, of course, risk. More specifically, it’s a conversation about what risk should be socialized, and what risk shouldn’t.

It makes perfect sense that unforseeable risk should be socialised.  Which is why I like socialised medicine. It makes sense that people shouldn’t have to bear unreasonable financial hardship because of something they had no choice in. It’s also why I like pricing for negative externalities (cigarette, alcohol and junk food taxes are excellent examples): it shifts the cost from the public at large back toward the population that is choosing to take part in a risky activity.

Building a home on a flood plain is a risky activity.

After the Queensland floods, I think helping people who live in, say, Toowoomba, is really wise.  It wasn’t the most logical thing in the world for them to have flood insurance. They lived on a mountain. The risk was comparatively unforeseeable. They deserve help.

But I’m not ok with helping people who not only had foreseeable risk, but benefited from it. People who, say, bought expensive houses in riverside suburbs that continued to appreciate. These people made a decision knowing full well there was the possibility that there could be floods. They took a risk which didn’t pay off, and are now likely to be compensated by the broader public for their loss. (Yes, I know the “the dam will save us” argument, but that doesn’t at all entirely rule out the chance of floods).

So they made a decision. They weighed the risk versus the reward. Presumably, many of these people have had property prices increase substantially in the intervening years.  By socialising their loses, while the rewards remain private, the burden is being unfairly shifted.

Want to live in a flood prone area? If you can’t afford insurance or can’t get insurance, that should factor into your decision making process. I am of the firm belief that people who live in the bush and don’t have fire insurance because they can’t afford it actually can’t afford to live in the bush.  It is entirely foreseeable that when you live in a country with regular fires, in an area surrounded by trees, there’s every chance your house will burn down.

I live in the city. There’s a relatively larger chance my car will be stolen or my home will be broken into, or that one of my neighbours will have a kitchen fire and burn the whole apartment block down.  Accordingly, as part of living where I live, I have taken precautions against those eventualities.  And if I hadn’t, as I didn’t when I first moved to Sydney, it would be entirely unreasonable for me to expect society at large to pick up the bill for a conscious decision I made. I *could* have paid for contents insurance. Instead, I paid for gym membership. I took a risk. But the reward or consequences were mine and mine alone.

The scale of the disaster in Queensland doesn’t change the fact it has happened to individuals, individuals who made decisions that had consequences prior to the flood.

Want to levy for the rebuilding of roads and infrastructure? That makes sense. Want to levy for the provision of mental health services for rescue workers traumatised? Great idea.  Levy me to help pay the bills for people who lived on a hill, not in a flood plain, yet were flooded. But levying to assist people who, for whatever reason, chose to take consciously take a risk with the possibility of reward creates a dangerous precedent for risk-sharing in private investment in Australia.

The notion of a permanent disaster fund to respond to anything other than infrastructure concerns is a bad, bad idea. It’s socialising risk without socialising the reward.

PS I should add, I am aware of the problems some have with getting insurance, and I think the government should start a kind of “Public option” for insurance in catastrophe-prone areas, so those paying into the fund are the ones likely to use it.

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