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The synthesis


Economists now argue that the end purpose of international trade is to maximise its benefit to the wealth of the country and its citizens.  In the immediate present this is achieved by getting imports a cheap as possible and selling exports for the highest price available.  As already remarked, an artificially low currency achieves a superior economic outcome to global import tariffs and is far superior to selective tariffs, on some imports only.

All such interventions sacrifice this present wealth for some hoped for future gain.

With the exception of one or two dissident voices, on both sides of politics, there is now bipartisan support for free trade and free enterprise.  Australia is now one of the World’s principal advocates of free trade and argues that industries that are not internationally competitive are a burden on national (and collective) wealth.  Most previously government owned trading organisations have been privatised. It is argued that international competition leads to improved efficiency, productivity and is an incentive to innovate.

As predicted by Jackson, Australia has moved to become a service economy.

For example, the largest industry sectors are now Retail trade, Property and business services, and Health and community services.  Manufacturing is now on fourth position.

There is little doubt that Australia’s very strong economic growth performance and relative insulation from international economic downturns is an outcome of its ability to exploit the moment and extract the best available advantage.

It can also be argued that the last remnants of protection have now been stripped away and manufacturing has reached a more or less stable base and share of the economy consisting of: 'industry that is land (eg food) or minerals based; industries based on skill, innovation or design; and industries with a high degree of natural protection by virtue of their bulk, non-durable nature or ability to satisfy specialised local demands'. 

But manufacturing is still at the mercy of implicit protection (or rather its opposite).  It can be seen from the earlier discussion that the value of the Australian dollar is now the single greatest determinant of manufacturing viability and growth (or decline) in Australia.  In addition to the implicit protection afforded by a low dollar, and corresponding lack of protection afforded by a high dollar, rapid fluctuations in the value of the dollar and cost of capital militate against businesses that are highly capitalised and need a continuous, relatively stable return on that capital. These fluctuations both affect viability and make it difficult to predict return on investment.

External influences on the dollar’s value include money market speculation, the country’s trade performance and international investment flows.  The principal visible trade drivers of a strong Australian dollar are our mineral and energy exports but agriculture, trade in services and manufacturing itself are important contributors.

The various Governments’ fiscal behaviour has an influence on internal distributions of wealth and on savings, in turn influencing investment, and the longer term dollar valuation.

The remaining (benign) facility to smooth fluctuations and influence the dollar’s value (through money market operations and interest rate manipulation) now rests with the independent Reserve Bank (established in 1960 under Menzies).

While government has substantially withdrawn from direct market manipulation and participation in support of local manufacturing it continues to play a number of important roles that directly or indirectly support or influence manufacturing viability.  These include:

•  labour laws and regulations;
•  regulation of occupational health and safety;
•  regulation of business practice, including accounting standards and competition;
•  regulation of emissions (airborne, water, noise);
•  local planning and zoning;
•  maintenance and expansion of transport infrastructure (roads, rail, ports, airports);
•  ensuring the appropriate availability of electricity, gas, water, and waste disposal;
•  ensuring an adequate information technology and communications infrastructure;
•  participating in international standards;
•  regulations affecting export reputation (eg export meat and dairy);
•  providing support for research and technology development;
•  providing export development services;
•  negotiating international trade agreements and partnerships;
•  ensuring high standards of basic education and literacy;
•  providing and/or supporting skills, trade and advanced education;
•  ensuring a healthy population; and
•  maintaining law and order and the protection of property.


Taxation plays an important role providing revenues to support these services and redistributing wealth to steer society in agreed directions.  Such redistributions include present resource taxes and of course progressive income taxation. But any such redistributions are inevitably opposed by those disadvantaged; and governments need to be strong and decisive when making changes.

This has not been the case in recent history.  For example of the 138 'Henry' Tax Review recommendations (a review commissioned by the present Commonwealth Government) hardly any of the substantial recommendations have been implemented; and those few have mostly been watered down.

Important to the present discussion were recommendations 45 to 50 in section C1 — Charging for non-renewable resources.  These have largely been set aside after heavy lobbying by mining  interests and some States.

Also of interest, but completely ignored was recommendation 25 in section A3 — Wealth transfer taxes: 'While no recommendation is made on the possible introduction of a tax on bequests, the Government should promote further study and community discussion of the options'.

Even recommendation 1, setting out the global principles, has been largely ignored:

Revenue raising should be concentrated on four robust and efficient broad-based taxes:

  1. personal income, assessed on a more comprehensive basis;
  2. business income, designed to support economic growth;
  3. rents on natural resources and land; and
  4. private consumption.

Additional specific taxes should exist only where they improve social outcomes or market efficiency through better price signals.

Such taxes would only be used where they are a better means to achieve the desired outcome than other policy instruments.

The rate of tax would be set in accordance with the marginal spillover cost of the activity. User charging should play a complementary role, as a mechanism for signalling the underlying resource cost of publicly provided goods and services.

With both specific taxes and user charges, revenue would be a by-product of the tax or charge, not the reason for it.

Other existing taxes should have no place in the future tax system and over time should be abolished.


All taxes need to be simple with clear guidelines and a minimum of exceptions or exemptions. For example under no circumstance should an entity (a person or a business) be taxed and then be compensated for the taxation impost.  I have remarked on the proposed carbon tax in this context elsewhere on this website.



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October 2009





In summary


India was amazing. It was just as I had been told, read, seen on TV and so on but quite different to what I expected; a physical experience (noise, reactions of and interactions with people, smells and other sensations) rather than an intellectual appreciation.

Read more: India

Fiction, Recollections & News

The Greatest Aviation Mystery of All Time



The search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 was finally called off in the first week of June 2018.

The flight's disappearance on the morning of 8 March 2014 has been described as the greatest aviation mystery of all time, surpassing the disappearance of Amelia Earhart in 1937.  Whether or no it now holds that record, the fruitless four year search for the missing plane is certainly the most costly in aviation history and MH370 has already spawned more conspiracy theories than the assassination of JFK; the disappearance of Australian PM Harold Holt; and the death of the former Princess Diana of Wales; combined.

Read more: The Greatest Aviation Mystery of All Time

Opinions and Philosophy

Bertrand Russell




Bertrand Russell (Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970)) has been a major influence on my life.  I asked for and was given a copy of his collected Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell for my 21st birthday and although I never agreed entirely with every one of his opinions I have always respected them.

In 1950 Russell won the Nobel Prize in literature but remained a controversial figure.  He was responsible for the Russell–Einstein Manifesto in 1955. The signatories included Albert Einstein, just before his death, and ten other eminent intellectuals and scientists. They warned of the dangers of nuclear weapons and called on governments to find alternative ways of resolving conflict.   Russell went on to become the first president of the campaign for nuclear disarmament (CND) and subsequently organised opposition to the Vietnam War. He could be seen in 50's news-reels at the head of CND demonstrations with his long divorced second wife Dora, for which he was jailed again at the age of 89.  

In 1958 Gerald Holtom, created a logo for the movement by stylising, superimposing and circling the semaphore letters ND.

Some four years earlier I'd gained my semaphore badge in the Cubs, so like many children of my vintage, I already knew that:  = N(uclear)   = D(isarmament)

The logo soon became ubiquitous, graphitied onto walls and pavements, and widely used as a peace symbol in the 60s and 70s, particularly in hippie communes and crudely painted on VW camper-vans.


 (otherwise known as the phallic Mercedes).


Read more: Bertrand Russell

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