John Singleton, “Twisting the tail of paper tigers,” The Bulletin, October 30, 1976, pp. 82-83. Read to the end for the glorious outpouring of hate and rebellion from Ron Manners and others that this article brought forth.
The only reason the government gets away with all its nonsense rules and regulations is because neither individuals nor groups of individuals have got any guts.
You take the Prices Justification Tribunal. Every company I know complains about its stupidity. Malcolm Fraser even promised he would close it down when he got into office. He lied.
Yet the stupid thing is that if the top 100 companies in Australia refused to submit their price increases to the PJT, the penalty is a few lousy grand. Or if they submit and then tell the PJT to go stuff themselves the penalty is absolutely nothing. Zero. But naturally not one bloody company in Australia has had the guts to do anything except bow down to an inane body set up to control prices which have to increase because of the inflation of the currency caused by the same government that tries to keep prices down.
If Peter Sellers played in the script it would be a riot, but it is actually happening and we actually take it seriously and do nothing about it and this is not the least bit funny.
Ditto almost every invasion of every company or individual privacy.
In February this year I copped a letter from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The letter, from some bloke called Youngman, told me the bureau was conducting studies into foreign ownership and control of industries in Australia.
It told me the results had already been published in the mining industry, finance companies, general insurance business, life insurance business and manufacturing industry.
It told me that because advertising was looked upon as being impactful and important the bureau had decided to conduct a study on foreign ownership and control of accredited advertising agencies. It sought my co-operation and came up with a form that, it was explained, had been kept as simple as possible so that a dummy like me could complete it quickly and easily.
There was even a number I could ring if I had any queries; and I could even reverse the phone charges at the idiot taxpayers’ expense who is me anyway. And you. Which is pretty generous for all concerned.
Mr Youngman told me the return was required under the authority of some dumb Act instituted in 1905 and tried to con me that because of this Act, the replies would be confidential and “cannot be disclosed to anyone except authorised officers of the Australian Bureau of Statistics.”
I can’t think of anyone I would trust less.
It then went on with all the usual crap about how they trusted I would be co-operative etc. etc.
The questions were inane and of use to no one, eg media billings, production billings, other revenue, wages and salaries, employer contributions, payments to media, other expenditure, number of working partners, number of employees, total number employed. The questions were not only crap, but available to the insidious government anyway through their own taxation theft department etc. So naturally I wrote back to Mr Youngman and asked:
- What gives your bureau the right to intrude on our privacy to this degree?
- What legal rights does an individual or a company have who wishes to retain the rights to their own confidential material without the coercion of some government body?
- What possible use are these figures to you in any event?
Mr Youngman wrote back to me and told me that the Act gave him his authority and that naturally he “prefers to rely on the co-operation of the public for the success of his statistical collections, rather than on legal sanctions.”
But naturally leaving no doubt where the gun was held, i.e. I promise to stop if it hurts.
Screw or rape, take your pick.
He added more reassuring rubbish about the confidentiality of all these statistics and assured me the purpose was to help the Commonwealth and State Governments continue the very planning that has almost driven Australia to the wall in the first place.
He added that successive governments “in recent years have taken a close interest in the degree of foreign ownership and control of Australian industries and resources.” And he hoped therefore that I would fill in the form and return it to him promptly.
On the other hand he did a top job of answering none of my questions and will obviously make a great politician in the near future.
I then wrote back to Mr Youngman and said:
- Did all this nonsense mean that I did or did not have to waste my time answering all his funny questions?
- That I would have thought that even a public servant was aware that no one in their right mind trusts the confidence of government at any level.
- What this country needs more than anything else is capital. The best thing that the government can do is stop worrying about the incidence of foreign ownership and start worrying about the incidence of government ownership.
- And that, finally, I had no intention of co-operating with the survey and that I had lost the forms anyway.
Mr Youngman, however, was not about to give up. At last he had found something to do. He wrote again saying I had better fill in the forms or else and was kind enough to enclose another two forms to replace the ones I had lost (which between you and me I had not lost; but that is confidential).
Well, at this stage I had grown bored with the whole business and put the questions, the non answers and all the letters in a file marked, “never to be released.”
Then a few weeks ago two, yes two, Commonwealth Police — paid by you and me — arrive at the door to deliver a summons upon me personally signed by none other than the Treasurer of Australia and the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party, Mr Phillip Reginald Lynch. The Deputy Leader of a party that is supposed to uphold the principles of liberalism.
I was commanded to Her Majesty’s name to fly down to Canberra on the 18th day of October to be dealt with according to law. Now I don’t know about Phillip Reginald Lynch, but I had better things to do with my time, so I did not even bother to lob in this terrific court.
Just imagine a whole court, Commonwealth Police and the Treasurer of Australia all having a gigantic hassle over a bloody stupid form full of information of no value to anyone and a total penalty to me for not filing in the forms of $20 and another penalty for me if I still refused to comply with the Gestapo who would then be sent, another maximum penalty of another whacking $20.
The whole thing just seems too ridiculous to be true, but it gets even more ridiculous.
Because when the court convenes to hear the first prosecution ever under the 1905 Census Act it had to be halted.
The prosecutor from the Deputy Crown Solicitor’s Office told the magistrate that the Commonwealth Police had done their bit, but unfortunately the affidavit of service “had been lost between Sydney and Canberra or in Canberra.” In fact, if the truth be known, it is probably still in the mail exchange at bloody Redfern.
So unfortunately for the government of Australia, the Treasurer of Australia, the Commonwealth Police of Australia, and the Mickey Mouse Bureau of Statistics of Australia the whole proceedings had to be halted.
And now, while Australia reels from roaring inflation, record unemployment, soaring taxation and a whole lot of incomprehensible government horse-shit in almost every area, it should make us all feel warm to know that the Australian government still has time for the little things in life.
But surely it is time for more of us in business to learn some lessons about direct action from the socialists and communists and put our view across to the government in the same way that they do.
Surely it is time to stop meekly complying with the stupidities and inanities of of a government run by hayseeds, conveyancy solicitors and school teachers — who have never had to make a quid in business in their lives — and tell them to get out of the way and let us get on with the job.
Because right now the only thing stopping Australian business from getting going is the government itself.
And instead of telling the government this, almost every dumb business in the country is asking the government to do more when it can only help by doing less.
And if it will help I will happily send a cheque for $20 to Phillip Reginald Lynch if he will kindly start by folding down the Bureau of Statistics and the PJT as promised.
But then it is not as though the whole subject is important. We are only talking about the future of Australia. If any. And the only problem we have is our ignorant apathy. Who gives a stuff anyway?
Peter Samuel, “Silence from the reluctant Lynch-mob,”
The Bulletin, October 30, 1976, p. 83.
Treasurer Lynch was being rushed into a car to go to the airport for a flight to Europe, so he was not available to comment on the Singleton tome. His staff flatly refused to co-operate by speaking to him about the matter on the flight. They said news of the impending bucketing from John Singleton would distract him from his briefing papers and his much-needed sleep.
No one else was speaking for the record last week on the prosecution of John Singleton. The treasurer’s trip to Germany and Switzerland is designed ironically to garner more foreign money t0 support the Australian balance of payments. Meanwhile the statistician’s inquiry into how much dirty foreign money Singleton had mobilised for his advertising agency was being pressed by a small force in the Canberra courts.
Treasurer Lynch had been asked to authorise the prosecution by the head of the Bureau of Statistics, former Treasury man, Bill Cole. Cole had emphasised that the bureau almost always succeeded in getting co-operation voluntarily, or else by simply pointing out the legal powers of the bureau.
The bureau did not want to prosecute Singleton, but the law is the law, and it could not allow the principle to be established that if you are big enough, noisy enough and rude enough you can get away with defying the legal requirement to fill in those forms.
Lynch said he did not want to prosecute Singleton or anyone else for such a small matter, but, if the Bureau of Statistics regarded it as an important matter of principle, then he would reluctantly authorise the prosecution.
Letters in The Bulletin, November 20, 1976, p. 6.
Too many forms
I read John Singleton’s article about his problems with the Bureau of Census and Statistics with great interest.
Unfortunately, the continued bureaucratic operations of governments past and present have forced the business community to adopt certain protective measures, at which it has become very adept.
Over the past few years we have seen a considerable expansion in the number of forms issued by the bureau seeking more and more data about less and less relevant matters. From inquiries made in all States, I have concluded that the business community has perfected the method by which it deals with the bureau’s forms. On the first occasion businessmen fill out the forms in good faith, but when they realise the bureau wants more forms filled out, they adopt the first form as a master form. As subsequent forms are presented they are filled out applying an arbitrary percentage variation. In other words, a percentage of the forms being returned is inaccurate, but no doubt the bureau’s officers are happy to process all the bumpf.
How politicians or any other people can place any reliance on the accuracy of the bureau’s statistics is difficult to understand. Quite frankly, it would achieve far more co-operation if it reduced the forms to bare essentials and minimised the number.
Peppermint Grove WA
A good bucketing
Re John Singleton’s “bucket”. My sympathies are with you, Mr Singleton. I know just how you feel.
I would go one step further and say most politicians are genuine dickheads. Maybe the Bureau of Statistics can find out what that means!!
A public service
Why on earth did you hide John Singleton’s article back on page 82?
Mr Singleton was proving positively what a growing number of citizens are coming to realise, but probably do not have the guts to express in public, about the stupidity of politicians are upper-echelon public servants.
The article ought to be published over and over again as a featured article until these exponents of human detachment and political self-aggrandisement learn that they also are flesh and blood and that the voters of this country have the same feelings as they do.
It is my belief that the voters of this country are hoodwinked every three years into believing that we live under a parliamentary democracy. It is nothing of the sort. Ministers are the prisoners of their own departments and the nation is effectively — or ineffectively, depending on one’s point of view — ruled by the public service brass who refuse to believe that anything outside of their sphere of interest actually exists.
Bravo, Mr Singleton! For what it is worth you deserve the highest award of the Order of Australia.
Letter in The Bulletin, December 11, 1976, p. 11.
It is stimulating to see the response from your readers to the John Singleton article on the Bureau of Census and Statistics.
In September I received an eight page questionnaire from the chief bureaucrat of the same department, titled “Survey of Motor Vehicle Usage.”
The sub-heading proclaimed “MUST by completed, signed and returned within 14 days” implying threats for non-compliance with their totalitarian directive.
They further suggested that I call at their office (in Perth, some 580 km away) or phone for assistance in completing this form. While I appreciated their kind offer of assistance, they did not clarify just at whose expense would be these air-fares, phone calls and time involvement in form-filling.
Presumably they would be at either: (a) my expense; (b) the collective taxpayers’ expense.
In either case such expenditure will not have been authorised by either of the victims proposed by the bureau, therefore in all justice to both of them we decided to take no further action in this matter other than submit to the bureau two reprints of Foundation for Economic Education material explaining why their bureau is another example of the government stepping outside its correct and proper function.
Letter in The Bulletin, January 8, 1977, p. 6
Showing the flag
Since John Singleton’s article on the Bureau of Census and Statistics and now Ron Manners’ letter it seems that we can bring another inconsistency of government departments to light.
The organisation of which we are directors is a private rehabilitation project for a handicapped husband and father — medically handicapped, that is. We had envisaged being able to, eventually, set up our own silk screen print shop and produce and market our own souvenirs.
To be on the safe side we wrote to the Prime Minister’s office, which has also changed its name, and asked could we include the Australian national flag in tasteful souvenirs.
A reply told us that we could do this with regard to the royal visit they year, but that it was forbidden for us to do it at any other time or to use the name of our organisation or “Souvenir of Gympie” on the items.
This would seem reasonable enough if it were not for the fact that one of the large variety stores sell carrier bags with the Australian and British flags printed thereon and, only today, a firm in Brisbane ran a full-page advertisement in the metropolitan Press with the Australian flag on a key ring.
One wonders what happens when others use the flag for advertising purposes apparently without asking the department concerned? Are they charged with any indictable offence? Can they be so charged?
Or is it simply a case of “not what you are but who you are” that matters with Public Servants and the nabobs of politics?
ALEX and CONNIE REHARDT
International Flag Gallery Gympie Qld
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