Article by K. O'Bryan

28 May 2015

In a compelling and sensitive speech at Parliament House, the day before ANZAC Day, when Gina Rinehart launched her second book, Gina invoked the qualities of mateship, self-reliance, dedication and self-sacrifice that defined the spirit of the first of the Diggers and inspired the nation.

Linking the challenges of 1915 to the issues facing Australia today she offered  both a warning and a way forward for the country and its leadership.

Borrowing from the new concepts embodied by President Modi of India in his economic and political blueprint from Red Tape to Red Carpet she urged the Government to reduce the burdens imposed by petty bureaucracy, remove the restrictions on creative enterprise at every level, redefine and restructure the laws on taxation, and support the work and risk taking of Australia’s entrepreneurs in a world that is both demanding and extraordinarily competitive.

Is she right in this?

I am a child of the Great Depression.

My father owned a one-man business as a hairdresser and tobacconist in a small country town in Victoria.  His career as a tobacconist ended before I was 5 years old as he was not much of a businessman, having given most of his stock away on credit to those who could never have hoped to pay for it.  But he was a great barber!

Times were very tough in the late 1930s on a young married man and his wife and child.

I can well recall when tripe and onions (grown in our own veggie garden) with white sauce made by my mother was a major dinnertime treat.

The local butcher bartered the occasional package of lamb chops or marvelous fresh sausages for a haircut and shave.  The much-loved town GP took no payment for treatment of our family and many others, but accepted fruit and vegetables, or an occasional chicken.  He too never paid for a haircut.

There was some support from government which itself was severely strapped for cash.  Make work projects that left a lasting legacy such as the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Snowy River and Hume Dam projects helped men find work, and work they did.

Taxes were low, there was no capital gains tax or GST, government was small, and when war came it was funded in a large part by the sale of Liberty and Victory Bonds.

My father went off to war and came back.  His war was different from the Great War but the Anzac spirit was alive and well.

He picked up his scissors and combs and worked another 30 years.  He supported all of us, paid for his home and died owing nothing to anyone.  The church was packed at his funeral, many more waited at the cemetery.

My Dad and Gina Rinehart are worlds apart in global knowledge and wealth.

Yet there is a great and compelling synergy in her description of the Anzac spirit and his life and times. Mates were everything. Loyalty was a prized attitude of mind, self-dependence and personal responsibility were taken virtually for granted, as what one did. You looked after yourself and each other as best you could.

His like does not exist today. Time and government has passed them by.  The old order of personal responsibility and independence has given place to a huge bureaucracy and governments bent on micro-managing and thus usually impeding the development of resources, enterprises and entrepreneurs.   

The workplace, it seems, must be tightly controlled at all times whatever it is and wherever it may be, resulting too often in there eventually being no place to work. Just look at what happened to Tasmania, once the apple Isle, producing excellent apples.

Small business is beset by rafts of regulations and directives imposed to cure a supposed ill or injustice, or for whatever short term goal seems best to the bureaucrats and their political masters.

They then live forever on the statute books, impeding creativity and risk taking, and stultifying initiative. And imposing a giant cost burden, adding to Australia’s problems of being a very high cost nation.

Taxation is so wide ranging and complex that it requires high priced professional help even for the smallest of businesses. New taxes are imposed, amended and re-imposed.  Everything and anything that the treasury officials can see as a potential source of income is at risk. The country and its businesses, large and small, are being strangled by a rampant, aggressive and rapacious drive for more and more spending. 

And still the deficit grows! Do any of our politicians even know where the money is spent? It’s not theirs, it just seems that spending by government of our taxpayers money is out of control.

Gina Rinehart is so right in her plea to the Government of Australia to recognize the dangers of falling commodity prices, international  competition from lower cost countries, the burdens of newly imposed taxations on the great national wealth producers in many areas of the country’s economy, and the potential for Red Tape to prevent the production of the Red Carpet

It would be well for anyone who has a vested interest in the success of Australian business worldwide, and especially in Asia, which means of course all of us -including especially our politicians and their servants – to take heed of her words.

Otherwise the Australian goose with all of its immense golden promise is in imminent danger of extinction.

Courtesy of K. O’Bryan

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