I am pleased to report that the Christmas season was full of peace on earth and goodwill towards men. Well, that was pretty much the case, except that it was somewhat marred by events in North Korea where the regime marked the season by a bit of avuncular assassination. In essence, Kim Jong-un, the Dear Leader now running that particular entity decided that his uncle Jang was getting a bit too big for his boots and after having had him physically dragged from a party meeting, stripped him of his official positions, gave him a fair trial and promptly executed him.
The long delay in court proceedings is apparently not one of the major challenges facing North Korea. But what really interested me was the wonderful language used to describe these events. You have to hand it to the North Koreans; their invective surpasses the cold war rhetoric of their Chinese allies and mentors in its ferocity. The Chinese, you will recall, were content with branding their traitors and defectors as ‘running dogs of capitalism’, ‘splitists’ and ‘revisionist lickspittles’. Their highpoint was to describe Chris Patten, the then governor of Hong Kong, as ‘a tango dancer for a thousand years’, a label made all the more menacing by the fact that no one had the faintest idea what they were talking about, although it sounded pretty bad. Building on those years of accumulated experience, the North Koreans hopped into Uncle Jang. True, they started a bit wimpishly, I thought, by painting him as a mere ‘wicked political careerist, trickster and traitor’. But they soon warmed to their task and became positively lyrical as they labelled him as ‘despicable human scum’, ‘worse than a dog’ and having ‘perpetrated thrice-cursed acts of treachery’.
My conclusions: the Dear Leader is probably unhinged; the Chinese must despair of their eccentric ally and may cut it loose; and 2014 will see more missiles being hurled around Asia as a grand diversionary tactic.
Although there has been some criticism of the Abbott government, I think it has done well and it certainly deserves unqualified praise for at least one decision that is well on the way to being implemented. That is the establishment of the Commission of Audit. This is not just a razor gang looking for token savings, or repealing a regulation here and there, but an examination of all areas of government activity that could just as well be performed by private enterprise. After all, the basic criticism of so many Coalition supporters is that governments do too much, private enterprise is squeezed out, there is no incentive to do anything and the relentless march of big government with its ever increasing tax burden seems to continue, no matter what the political complexion of the government of the day. Well, now is the time for Coalition supporters, some of whom have been critical of the government, to do something positive to stop the march of government.
But, I hear you ask, what are you doing about it? I am doing exactly what I ask others to do: put in a submission, put some feeling into it, support it with facts, enlist support from others and get ready to kick up a fuss if the Commission does not listen and act in a positive way; if it recommends cutting some of the functions of government and the government itself reneges, that will be the time for criticism, not now. In my own area of arbitration and mediation of the thousands of disputes in federal tribunals, the government has a virtual and expensive monopoly that cannot possibly be justified. It should lose it. The work can be done just as well by private professionals, at no extra cost to the parties and a saving to the bottom line of the budget.
I have argued in this column on several occasions that one of the smart new ways that money is skimmed off the government is for the private sector to get between the taxpayer and the government and cream off a percentage as the money passes by, as with toll roads and airport car parks and franchises. A classic example under our noses at the present is the ABC’s deal with Kerry O’Brien to film the Keating interviews. O’Brien films the interviews, the ABC pays him, shows the series and sells the DVD, we pay the ABC and O’Brien gets his take. And, of course, it all benefits the ALP establishment. Imagine the reaction if I said to the ABC: ‘I want you to give me a contract, but without a competitive tender, to film some interviews of John Howard to cement his reputation as one of Australia’s great prime ministers; you will pay me for producing them, although it will really be taxpayers’ money; you will show the interviews for free, so that we can build up a market for the DVDs at Christmas and we will share the proceeds of sale. Oh yes, two other things: although it is all taxpayers’ money and you are a public body, I want the details of the deal kept secret; and I will be doing it through a company owned by my wife and me, but how we split the proceeds between us for tax purposes is our own business. No worries.’ The café latte cups would be rattling with rage from Balmain to Brunswick.
For those who are wondering if I kept my promise to put on my website the names of the 40 gallant Australian soldiers who died in Afghanistan, this has now been done. You may see them at www.neilbrownqc.com.
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