We live in challenging times and our governments need to do better.
I have been a solicitor for 26 years and have a degree in politics fromMacquarieUniversity. I believe it is time now for people to cast off the view that people should not talk about politics and rather be brave enough to put some of their ideas in a blog linked to their business website.
My interests are clearly in the law reform area but also in tax reform, environmental and social policy. On tax reform I have experience here as a solicitor who practices in conveyancing for more than 16 years. In this capacity I am responsible for collecting stamp duty for the NSW Office of State Revenue. We are also obligated to advise on tax issues such as capital gains tax and GST.
As a matter of social conscience and to provide employment for junior lawyers we also practice in criminal matters and in mental health enquiries under the NSW Mental Health Legislation. I also practice in employment law.
We also practice in Family Law and in Care and Protection Proceedings where children are taken from their parents by the NSW Department of Human Services because the child is at risk of abuse or neglect.
I also worked as an Environmental Lawyer for Sutherland Shire Council for four years and for the NSW Department of Planning as legal officer and acting senior legal officer for three years as well as acting in Land & Environment Court proceedings for 15 years. I have practiced in complex litigation and in appeal work which provides me with knowledge of the law of Procedural Fairness which all Governments and administrative decision makers must comply with.
I have an interest in the environment and sociology.
I set out my ideas in descending order of what I believe as the most important priorities in our society at the present time:
High interest rates –
Structural economic reform is necessary so that interest rates can be lowered as soon as possible. I deal with this later in the blog.
Peak Oil –
I have for some time converted my car to LPG. This is a fuel which derived from natural gas with Australia has abundant supplies. In my view we need to adopt a precautionary approach given that in the media it has been reported that the discoveries of oil are not being made while there is increasing demand for oil. Accordingly we should adopt the Brazilian approach of having our own plan to deal with transportation issues if this critical scarce resource becomes so expensive as to put our economy into recession. I think we should convert our motor vehicles to LPG similar toBraziladopting ethanol as the fuel run to its country. I put this as a number one priority because clearly even though our interest rates are set to a higher level compared to the rest of the developed world which enables our economy to be stimulated by covering interest rates. A major oil shock with increases in price could push the country into recession. This is not necessary if as a society we develop a good interim fuel source for transportation in our large country.
Tax reform –
At the moment the economics of supplying new houses are in urgent need of reform. It is my understanding that up until the 1980’s the State Government absorbed the costs of infrastructure for water, sewerage and power in the cost of allotments in new subdivisions. This is no longer the case and these costs are now borne by the developer.
At the time the GST was introduced it was intended that there would be stamp duty abolished. This is unrealistic however clearly there is a need to abolish it in terms of new residential premises as a step the Government can take in terms of making it viable to create and develop new housing and indeed other employment generating construction activities.
Amend GST legislation –
Stamp duty on new residential premises is part of the income that the State Government relies upon to provide services would need to be replaced. One way of achieving this would be to increase the GST but only on goods by 2.5% to 12.5%. It is suggested that this would have a tendency to reduce carbon emissions which is another critical issue for our society as the production of goods produce less emissions. I can see that this would put further pressure on the retail sector however the critical issue here is to reduce interest rates and if further tax reform is carried out then this should be possible.
Payroll tax –
I also think the payroll tax should be replaced with a carbon tax levied on a similar basis as the payroll tax i.e. on large employers whose turnover exceeds a certain amount but the tax would be levied on the emissions of carbon rather than on a number of staff.
Carbon tax –
The proposed carbon tax should be amended to exempt electricity bills for low usage such as households for basic lights, cooking and hot water usage and for small business. It will also place further downward pressure on real estate values as middle income earners will be worse off. Stamp duty rates on property $500,000.00 to $1mil should be reduced.
Increase tax free threshold –
I also support the increase of the tax free threshold to $25,000.00 but also believe that the rate of tax levied on the amount of income up to $60,000.00 should be reduced to 15%. This would make employment more attractive and therefore reduce welfare dependency.
Welfare reform –
The proposed changes in the tax free threshold reduce rate at which social will act as an incentive to work however the rate of reduction in welfare payments for part time work acts as the major disincentive. Currently welfare payments are reduced above a certain low income level by 50c in the dollar. This should be reduced to 40c in the dollar.
The Government income to effect this change can be achieved by requiring recipients of the disability support pension to comply with medical advice whether that medical advice is to stop the consumption of illicit substances to the rate of unemployment rates or otherwise. Welfare payments would need to be reduced in an appropriate manner such as making an offending recipient receive unemployment benefits which is set at a lower rate for the first breach of medical advice by one month. The second breach could be a reduction for two months and the third breach three months and subsequent breaches a permanent reduction.
If this change is made then the replacement needs of the workforce in terms of new entrance to the workforce compared to those retiring should reduce the need for high immigration thereby reducing pressure on new infrastructure which would reduceAustralia’s need for foreign capital needed to construct infrastructure.
Reform of Care and Protection law –
Resources need to be allocated for parents of children who are in care. A time period needs to be prescribed for s.90 Applications for parents such as three years, after which time foster parents of children in care should be able to apply to be legally able to b the parents of children in their care for more than three years.
In making this suggestion it is noted that foster parents can make application for parental responsibility of children once they have been in their care for two years, however this requires the consent of the natural parents.
I believe in the interests of children and natural parents would be better served if any application to vary care arrangements must be made within three years of the date the children are placed into care, and that after such time the foster parents may make application to adopt the children as their own. This would necessitate a change to the adoption procedures as such application should be able to be considered in the Children’s Court or the Federal Magistrates Court.
Environmental protection/ climate change –
It is my view thatAustraliashould adopt the American approach of proper conservation easements in exchange for development rights on other less environmentally significant land.
This is important for biodiversity in my local area being Northern Rivers NSW and a need has been identified for wildlife to move from the great dividing range to the coast in excess of 15years however there has been no legislative action by any level of Government to make provision for this, rather nature conservation is done on a peace mill basis. Consideration should be given to allowing appeal rights with rezoning proposals together with strict criteria as it being consistent with State and Regional planning policies.
The current system of rezoning is too cumbersome and places very large upward pressure on real estate prices due to delays in the system.
I suggest this is because if the economy is strong then there is more likely to be monies available for further nature conservation.
I also believe it is imperative of Government regulation known as direct action to require all plastics to be biodegradable. This should reduce the waste stream particularly in rural residential areas as it would be less costly for composting as it would not require the separation of plastics from other organics.