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A Government Is Not A Business, Repeat A Government Is NOT A Business

“Both the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court have operated at a loss for a number of years. ”

The Sydney Morning Herald, 15th July, 2015

If you run a public listed company, you have an obligation to try and maximise the return to shareholders. Of course, there are legal and moral qualifications for this, but basically, companies listed on the stock exchange exist to make a profit.

Governments exist to prevent anarchy.

Let me, repeat that for you, because it’s something that we all know, but, somehow, it seems to have been forgotten. Governments exist to prevent anarchy – they are there to set the laws by which the courts make their decisions and so that we know which side of the road to drive on. (And, of course, they once existed to build the roads as well, but now we seem to like the idea that companies can build the roads and we can pay to drive on them.)

Of course, some left wing types would argue that anarchy is a perfectly satisfactory thing and that the world is a chaotic and unpredictable place, so pass the spray can because I’m an anarchist and I once joined an anarchy group which disintergrated when we couldn’t agree on the rules.

Others, believe in anarchy as a system of economics. Some economists argue that there’s simply no need for anybody to organise the economy, while arguing that it’s absolutely necessary to have economists like them, telling us that there’s absolutely nothing that they need to be doing. It’s called letting the “free market” run things because government interference is a truly bad thing because it allows unprofitable businesses to continue.

As Mr Abbott argued earlier this week, solar and wind are now established technologies so they shouldn’t need the support of the government. The CEFC should be helping fund those industries which are still in their experimental stage and not profitable, while it simultaneously makes a bigger profit than when it was funding these “established”, profitable industries. This is why the Abbott Government gives subsidies to the fossil fuel industry: It’s still very much in its infancy. One can see this by the tantrums it throws every time its position is threatened.

497872-9bcb3a0a-d436-11e3-a788-f9855f7e436a

Image from heraldsun.com.au

Government’s do not exist to make a profit. They are not a business. From time to time, a surplus may be good. Other times, a deficit may be right for the economy. And, apart from that, if the government isn’t simply balancing its budget then it’s taking money off the taxpayer and not giving back an appropriate level of service. Imagine if you employed someone to clean all the windows in your house and they announced that they hadn’t cleaned three of the windows but this was a good thing, because it improved their profit margin. Well, that’s sort of what we’re being asked to accept from governments.

And given that we always told – even by conservatives – that the government had a role in providing the services that were necessary but either too large or too unprofitable for private industry, then it strikes me as some sort of strange logic, that there are so many complaints when the unprofitable services aren’t making a profit.

I remember some Victorian MP telling us that public housing had been unprofitable for years and that they were attempting to fix this.

????

And so we’re told that both the Family Court and Federal Circuit Court have operated at a loss.

I wasn’t aware that courts were meant to make a profit. But hey, it seems that everything is to be judged on whether or not it’s profitable.

Now, I don’t know if the politicians are aware of this, but Parliament House isn’t actually profitable either. Yeah, sure, it makes laws and stuff, but once you take into account all the cleaning and security staff, as well as the politicians themselves, then it has enormous liabilities and the returns from the Queen’s Terrace cafe and the Parliament House Shop go nowhere near covering.

In an effort to put a stop to this drain on the public purse, I’m proposing that we should have mass redundancies. Halve the number of politicians. Those that are left can be responsible for cleaning their own office, as well as paying a cleaning levy for the rest of the building. Security can be reduced, because like wind farms, they are an eyesore and there is some concern that they could be a health hazard.

As for the Houses themselves, well, sitting days are so rare, I propose that they could be rented out for seminars and the occasional music concert on days when Parliament is not sitting.

And to further enhance the profits, people could sponsor Bills by paying for them to be debated. After all, if people aren’t prepared to pay for something, then it can’t really be worth anything, can it? While this may seem controversial, it’s only a slight change from the current arrangements, except that instead of money going to the various political parties, it goes straight to revenue base of Parliament.

Mm, perhaps we should all reflect on this quote from John Lanchester:

“The economic metaphor came to be applied to every aspect of modern life, especially the areas where it simply didn’t belong. In fields such as education, equality of opportunity, health, employees’ rights, the social contract and culture, the first conversation to happen should be about values and principles; then you have the conversation about costs, and what you as a society can afford.”

Meanwhile, I see Mr Hockey held a press conference to tell Australia that our economy isn’t affected by what’s happening in Greece and China, because we have “momentum”. Mr Hockey told us: “So far as I am concerned and the Treasury is concerned, our budget forecasts for the Chinese economy remain unchanged.”

Well, that’s a relief. The forecasts remain unchanged. Forget events. It’s those forecasts that count. And the forecasts remain unchanged. Awesome! Plus I understand that it’s the Year of the Goat according to the Chinese Horoscope, which the person in the newsagency informed me means that we should all wear red. Or they may have said that I was “well read”… He was hard to understand because he was mumbling, and I didn’t like to ask him to repeat themselves for fear that they’d notice I had no intention of buying the Murdoch paper that I’d been reading.

Mr Hockey went on to tell the gathered press that Mr Bowen’s accusation that the government had been “asleep at the wheel” was just plain wrong, assuring everyone that the government was definitely not asleep at the wheel, but had found a nice, shady spot, pulled over and was having a nap in the back seat, while allowing Mr Turnbull to go and play on the road.

Actually, I’m making that last bit up, and I know that it’s impossible to tell these days. In response to various requests, I am investigating the possibility of a satire font, so that people know when I’m making it up and when I’m actually quoting the government, but until such time I wish to make it clear that the following things from previous writings are actually true, in spite of seeming like there were made up:

  1. Joe Hockey, not only said that poor people don’t drive, but DID in fact go on radio the next day to assert that he was just “stating the facts”.
  2. Tony Abbott really did say: “We don’t get enough credit for the environmental protection that has already been achieved and, while I’m on the subject, let me again congratulate [Environment Minister] Greg Hunt for his work in getting the Great Barrier Reef taken off the World Heritage Commission endangered list.”
  3. Christopher Pyne is actually a real person and Minister for Education.

 

24 comments

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  1. Keitha Granville

    And Social Security is not just welfare.
    Unemployed people are just sitting around waiting for perfect jobs to be given to them without having to make any effort at all. It’s so easy to live on $37 a day and fulfill all the requirements of the Jobactive Network provider. Too bad if you live in an area with no public transport – oh sorry, that doesn’t make a profit either so we won’t have that.
    Gocvernments are supposed to manage OUR money, to support US, the people who elected them. What happened to our REPRESENTATIVES ? They are certainly not representing me.

  2. Wally

    Excellent article Rossliegh but I have issue with 1 point “Christopher Pyne is actually a real person”, I find this very hard to believe and this is not the right place to write what I think he really is.

  3. stephentardrew

    A bunch of dystopian ignoramuses that believe their own lies.

    It will end badly.

  4. Terry2

    Neither is government supposed to be a ‘pea & thimble’ trick but we are about to see the most audacious scam ever perpetrated on the Australian community.

    Abbott says that he is all about small government and lowering taxes so, he starts by removing $80 billion of Commonwealth funding from Health and Education, over ten years and then suggests that the states should take over full funding of these essential services.

    Step up ‘defamation Joe’ who, in anticipation of the PM’s retreat with Premiers next week, is suggesting that the states seriously discuss taxation in an adult fashion because the states won’t have enough money to run health and education and they will need to get the money from somewhere : code for increase the GST which means the states bite the bullet and Abbott can say he is running a low tax regime – after all, as Tony will tell you (repeatedly) GST is a state tax !

    Now, where do you reckon that pea is ?

  5. Stephen

    The obvious font for sarcasm is Comic Font of course, but, that also applies to Coalition announcements so what can we use?

    As I say endlessly you think they must be running out of mind numbing stupid opinions, and yet these pronouncements keep on going backwards.

    We are accelerating to U.S. levels of discourse, I know it’s never been that great as a whole but!.

    Should I just give wanting or hope for improvements I’m 64 and it is getting worse how long can you keep waiting.

  6. Lee

    “As Mr Abbott argued earlier this week, solar and wind are now established technologies so they shouldn’t need the support of the government.”

    Well then, that suggests that coal miners are very incompetent business managers if they still need help after all these years.

    Having worked in public pathology for many years I’ve noticed that the private labs won’t touch anything that isn’t profitable. We offer a range of essential tests that are not profitable. People would die without them.

  7. i have a nugget of pure green

    Every Governments privileges are entirely dependent on the cohesion of the society that supports them.

    Even the Robber Barons of our time must use subterfuge to attempt hegemony.

    Caesar knew the Mob ruled Rome.

  8. Vicki

    The Australian Government is a business. Australia is a registered corporation. If everyone started to dig a little they would find the truth. Come on really, how long are we going to bury our heads in the sands. I have found this information freely available so can you. Australia became a corporation to pay back debt. Look harder people. The Government is not for the people it is for sending our taxes and profits back to the Vatican via the crown. Start looking at the Crown Corp. Tony Abbot is merely the CEO.

  9. Lee

    “Australia became a corporation to pay back debt. Look harder people. The Government is not for the people it is for sending our taxes and profits back to the Vatican via the crown. Start looking at the Crown Corp. Tony Abbot is merely the CEO.”

    Please cite your source for this.

  10. diannaart

    The neo-cons have even stolen satire, now I’m really mad as hell.

  11. kerri

    I remember a friend, who is a dermatologist, explaining the total cock up that occurred some 10 years ago when business bought out a chain of hospital and medical services. The accountants came in and started asking questions like “How many stents do you use per month?” Side note; a stent is a device inserted into a failing artery to open it out and allow normal blood flow. At the time they were very expensive but essential to save the lives of the people who needed them. What the accountants were trying to do was finance consumables on a month to month basis. Needless to say they were told “well sometimes you may use 5 or 6 stents in one week and sometimes you may only use one in a month!” I compared the education system to this story for hubby’s benefit to point out that you cannot run “need” according to a bank balance.!!! If we were to run hospitals according to the model the accountants were aiming for, the month where on estent was needed would dictate how many stents were available with obvious consequences!
    You are so right Rossleigh! A Government is not a business! And voters are not just statistics!

  12. Lee

    Some years ago the Liberal government in SA handed control of Modbury hospital, one of the large public hospitals in Adelaide, over to the private sector. It was a failure and came back under public control approximately 5 years ago. It cannot be run like a business.

  13. randalstella

    I am testing to see if this post is gets through.

  14. Terry2

    well, I heard Hockey’s PWC speech and, unless I missed something, he didn’t actually say anything but, as anticipated above, he is laying the groundwork for Abbott to convince the state Premiers to petition him for an increase in GST.

    Interestingly several questioners took him to task about ruling out some sort of reining in of superannuation tax concessions but, like his boss he just calls that a new tax which he will not have a bar of.

    What’s the point , Joe ?

  15. stephentardrew

    Diannaart:

    The neo-cons are endless satire.

  16. diannaart

    Stephen

    The neo-cons are nothing more than a great big vortex sucking joy from everything.

  17. Andreas Bimba

    Please note governments do run businesses and can do so very effectively when those enterprises are set up correctly and they have competent management that is not constrained unnecessarily. It is a myth that the profit motive or free markets are essential for a productive and effective enterprise.

    The most efficient enterprise I ever worked for was the tunnelling operations of the former semi government Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works (now Melbourne Water) that were later sold off to Transfield. I later worked for Toyota’s manufacturing operations in Melbourne and they came a close second in enterprise efficiency of all the areas that I have worked as a professional engineer.

    Many of the privatisations such as Victoria’s electricity generation industry have increased costs to consumers with much more money devoted to marketing at the retailer level and to providing profits to the owners while staff numbers have been savagely cut and existing infrastructure allowed to deteriorate.

  18. Rossleigh

    randalstella – Your post got through.

  19. crypt0

    Christopher Pyne is actually a real person and Minister for Education.
    Ha ha ! Good one Rossleigh !
    I know that was satire, even without the satire font !!
    Next you’ll be telling us abbott is a truthful man working diligently for the benefit of all Australians !!

  20. Christel Nathan

    Rossleigh love reading your articles thank you

  21. rossleighbrisbane

    No, crypto, he became a real boy after his nose grew because of his lies and after nearly turning into a donkey on Pleasure Island, he went and found the puppeteer who’d made him, and then the good fairy turned him into a real boy… Pynochio -I remember it well.

  22. olddavey

    Abbott/Strop
    Says it all.
    We’re flucked!

  23. bleurgh

    You should write something about how the government created a piece of propaganda that revealed they believe musicians are earning $300,000 a year, the ATO said that only a handful of people in the entertainment industry earned over $180,000 in 2007 and instead of admitting they had f*cked up the federal government released a statement saying the figures were accurate.

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