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Viv ForbesOur Sacred Land & Other Essays (first published by Business Queensland and Common Sense in 1996), issue no. 119.About the Author»

The people of Australia, in a huge roar of disapproval, have sent a warning to Canberra: “Get out of our lives and out of our pockets.”

But the first act of the new government, an act of ominous pusillanimity, was to announce a huge federal ministry of 28. John Howard needs a small, tough, machete-wielding Cabinet to carry out the multiple amputations needed to downsize the octopus in the ACT.

The Model Ministry is ten, and their functions are listed in the table.

The Model Federal Ministry

  1. The Prime Minister
  2. The Defence Minister
  3. The Controller of Spending
  4. The Federal Liquidator
  5. The Minister for Sound Currency
  6. The Minister for Legislative Repeal
  7. The Minister for Tax Reduction
  8. The Minister for Decentralisation
  9. The Trade Facilitator
  10. The Office of the Bureaucratic Predator

No 1 is, of course, the Prime Minister, whose job is to set impossible reform targets for his ministers, and make sure they exceed them.

The No 2 Ministry, and the major purpose of the federal government, is Defence. The Defence Minister will have his defence budget frozen, but will also control the budget for the foreign office, with a free hand to find increased defence spending by slashing foreign aid and pruning embassies.

No 3 in the Ministry is the Controller of Spending. His job is to say “No” to all proposals for increased budgets from any other minister, and, within three years, to eliminate all subsidies to business, halve the dole and replace all other welfare payments with a uniform and universal negative income tax (as a first step towards returning welfare to the family, the churches and other private agencies.)

Model Ministry No 4 is the Federal Liquidator. His job is to prepare an inventory of all government assets, land, buildings and businesses and sell them as quickly as possible to retire government debt. For loss making “assets” with no market value, such as ANL, the preferred course is to convert them into public companies, and donate the shares to the employees.

No 5 in the Model Ministry is the Minister for Sound Currency. His job is to stabilise the purchasing power of the government currency. Two steps will be taken to assist this task. Firstly, all ministerial salaries will be reduced annually by the percentage decrease in the purchasing power of the currency. Secondly, all laws preventing the use of private currency, foreign currency, gold, silver or commodity money will be repealed.

Minister No 6 is the Minister for Legislative Repeal. His job is to repeal decades of useless laws, rules and regulations. The only laws that remain on the books should be those which define and protect contracts and property rights or which prohibit aggressive acts against the life or liberty of any peaceful honest person. All laws and regulations which prohibit or inhibit peaceful trade between consenting adults or which enforce or prohibit peaceful, private discrimination will be repealed. If there is any doubt as to the purpose or morality of any legislation it should be repealed. And, in determining priorities, the time-honoured union principle should apply — last on the books, first to go.

No 7 in the Model Ministry is the Minister for Tax Reduction. Her job is to prevent the introduction of any new taxes, veto any increase in tax rates, and reduce the number of taxes and their cost to taxpayers. The tax system should be designed to strengthen the federal structure of Australia, and to encourage fiscal responsibility at every level of government.

The federal government should be confined to income tax, which should be simplified, levied at a low flat rate, and stripped of all distorting exemptions, exceptions and special allowances.

The federal government should hand over the authority to levy sales tax to the states, vacating this field together, at the same time abolishing all federal handouts to state governments. Sales tax should be levied at a uniform low flat rate with no exemptions or exceptions.

Highways should be funded by tolls, state fuel taxes, or out of the defence budget, and local roads out of tolls and vehicle registration fees.

Local government should be funded by rates on land and fees for service.

Minister No 8 is charged with Decentralisation of Government. His job is to close down, or hand back to the states, all federal functions that duplicate state functions — this includes but is not confined to the federal departments of health, education, industry, police, industrial relations, housing, environment, aboriginals, forestry, arts, sport, transport, family services, small business and consumer affairs. We would be better off if government got out of most of these fields. But if they must interfere, it is best done by politicians who are closer and more responsive to the people being interfered with.

Minister No 9 (but an important ministry nevertheless) is the Trade Facilitator.

Man’s material welfare depends on production and trade. The importance of production is generally recognised, but the community is generally disdainful of traders, middlemen, peddlers, hawkers, touters, barkers, hucksters, scalpers, spruikers and salesmen. They are beset by trade regulations and restrictions, taxes and levies, licences and permits, local content rules and discriminatory health, safety, labelling and marketing regulations most of which are instigated by local competitors. The job of the trade facilitator is to sniff out trade barriers wherever they occur, and eliminate them.

The need to preserve free trade between the states was a principal purpose of federations, and is enshrined in the Australian Constitution. The Trade Facilitator should use this federal power to strike down all state laws and regulations that interfere with free trade between states. At the same time he should repeal all import and export regulations except those that are needed and used to control the spread of pests or contagious diseases. Taxes and levies on imports should be abolished or levied at a low rate on all goods with no special exemptions and exceptions. This will greatly reduce the cost of complying with and collecting these taxes.

All export licences, permits, taxes, bounties and regulations should be abolished, without exception.

The final Ministry, but perhaps the most important, is the Office of the Bureaucratic Predator.

In 1541 Henry VIII passed an act forbidding “Artificers, labourers, apprentices, servants and the like to play bowls at any time save Christmas.” The Act was not repealed until 1854 — that is, 304 years later.

This illustrates the fact that there is nothing so permanent as a government regulation. And like all regulations, it was introduced with good intentions — to prevent good yeoman playing bowls when they should have been practising archery.

Every government introduces some new bureau, department or authority, but I cannot remember one ever being abolished. Even John Howard, with years to observe the bureaucratic beast, reduces the number of ministers from 30 to 28. But, were any departments abolished, any activities removed, any taxes repealed or any bureaucrats sacked? Not one. It was merely a rearrangement — same garbage, different flies. It will be followed by an orgy of reprinting letterheads and stationery. Nothing else will change.

The Bureaucratic Predator should be one who looks on bureaucracies as Rome looked on Carthage. The enemy must not merely be defeated, it must be destroyed utterly — sacked, razed, burnt, pulled down brick by brick, and the ground ploughed and sown with salt.

This job should be let out to tender for a period of three years, the successful tenderer getting the right to 10% of the total budget for all eliminated bureaucracies for 5 years.

This then is the Model Ministry. I doubt we will see it in operation in the life of this parliament, but those in the tax consuming industries and their apologists in the media should take warning — compared to some of us out here, John Howard is a pusillanimous pinkie.

(in order of appearance on Economics.org.au)
  1. Lang Hancock's Five Point Plan to Cripple Australia
  2. Put Windmills in National Parks
  3. Magnifying National Disasters
  4. Please Don't Feed the Animals
  5. Buy Birdsville Made?
  6. The Economics of Flood Risk
  7. Touring Bureaucrats
  8. Our slip-shod laws to blame
  9. Why Wind Won't Work
  10. A Profusion of "Prices"
  11. R.I.P. Ron Kitching - pioneer, explorer, author, family man, entrepreneur, scholar
  12. The Carbon Pollution Lie
  13. Closing Down Australia
  14. The Anti-Industry
  15. The Pyramid Builders
  16. Carbon Tax Bribery
  17. Crown Monopolies
  18. Carbon Tax Job Losses
  19. What Next, a Tax on Water?
  20. Carbon Health Warnings Coming Soon
  21. Growth Mythology
  22. The Tax Collection Industry
  23. Propaganda Puts Paid to Proof
  24. The Milk of the Welfare Teat is Watered Down
  25. "Crops for Cars" as Bad as Everlasting Drought
  26. Poll speech sets record
  27. The Emissions Trading Casino
  28. The Contract Society
  29. A Model Ministry
  30. The Five Point Plan to kill the economy with High Cost Electricity
  31. Put a Sunset Clause in the Carbon Tax
  32. Stuck on Red
  33. Time to Butcher "Aussie Beef"
  34. Carbon Tax Lies and Bribes
  35. The Middle of the Road
  36. United against taxes
  37. Call for Govt administrator
  38. Property & Prosperity
  39. "The Science is Settled" BUT Durban Climate Summit Not Cancelled
  40. No End to Fuelish Policies?
  41. The Right to Discriminate
  42. Sell the CES
  43. Free Water Costs Too Dam Much
  44. Creating Unemployment
  45. Viv Forbes Wins 1986 Adam Smith Award
  46. 1985 news item on Tax Payers United, Centre 2000 and the Australian Adam Smith Club
  47. Having the numbers is not the same as having the truth
  48. Who's Who in the Workers Party
  49. David Russell Leads 1975 Workers Party Queensland Senate Team
  50. Caught in a welfare whirlpool
  51. Global Warming Season
  52. Mining in Queensland, Past, Present and Future
  53. WEATHER IS USUALLY UNUSUAL
  54. Political branch formed
  55. Ron Manners on the Workers Party
  56. Viv Forbes on Libertarian Strategy and the Constant Resources Myth
  57. The New Brisbane Line?
  58. Carbon Lies
  59. We Mine to Live
  60. Save the taxpayer
  61. Solving Three Canberra Problems
  62. Vested Interests in the Climate Debate
  63. Carbon Tax Retrospective?
  64. Carbon Price Propaganda Taxes the Truth
  65. Don't Burn Food for Motor Spirit - Feed People not Cars
  66. Two Big Climate Taxes
  67. Greens Rediscover Hydrogen Car
  68. Atlas of Australia
  69. Shutting Out The Sun
  70. Safety Mania
  71. Coal - Sinking in the Swamps
  72. Hobbling the Competition
  73. Cubic Currency Coming
  74. "Dear Government"
  75. Viv Forbes mocks Flannery in 1988
  76. What we have is not a drug problem but a drug law problem
  77. Smoking, Health and Freedom
  78. Privatise Now! while they are still worth something
  79. The Electoral Act should allow voters to choose "none of the above"
  80. The New Federalism
  81. Sunset for Solar Subsidies
  82. The mouse will roar
  83. The Road to Homelessness
  84. Planning & Prosperity
  85. Viv Forbes and Jim Fryar vs Malcolm Fraser in 1979
  86. Quip, Quote, Rant and Rave: four of Viv Forbes' letters to the editor in The Australian in 1979
  87. Australia's First Official Political Party Poet Laureate: The Progress Party's Ken Hood in 1979
  88. Our homeless regulation refugees
  89. Progress Party and Workers Party lead The Australian
  90. Viv Forbes in 1978 on loss-making government, the Berlin Wall and misdirected blasts of hot-air
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Forbes has long been active in politics, economic education, business and the global warming debate, and was winner of the Australian Adam Smith Award “For outstanding services to the Free Society” in 1986.Powered by Hackadelic Sliding Notes 1.6.5