John Singleton, The Australian, March 9, 1977, p. 8, in the “Forum” box.
Most of the time I can just about tolerate how intolerable and almost impossible our governments try to make business in this country.
Most of the time, like a punch-drunk Singleton, I get up and continue with the struggle, not realising that I — and the entire country — am out on my feet and fighting only from memory and instinct.
But then, occasionally, something happens that clears the head, reawakens the logic and puts cold purpose back into the necessity for each of us to fight for our lives.
I didn’t really mind, for example, when Big Malcolm appointed McPhee as Minister for Productivity. Really, I had quite a few good laughs about it.
Evidently Fraser and McPhee are good mates. Why not give a good mate a job which is about as necessary as being a fishing inspector in Arnhem Land?
Here we are in a country where the Government tells us whom we can hire, how much we have to pay them, what hours they’ll work, and under what conditions.
It has a whole set of rules it enforces on the employers and none it enforces on the employees.
And if you still manage to make a profit they take about half that; and they take two-thirds of any dividends you may want to pay the people who put the money up in the first place. Any salary you pay yourself, they’ll take two-thirds of as well.
And just to show there are no hard feelings they also take at least half the wages of all the people who work for you.
Then the Fraser Government robs what’s left (if anything) by at least 20 per cent a year by spending more than they even dare steal from us in taxation to pay for all the promises they made to win the election in the first place — an election being an advance auction sale of stolen goods.
So, all in all, it is pointless starting a business in Australia today, almost impossible to keep one going, and not much point working for one in any event.
There are more incentives not to work than to actually work.
Now when Big Malcolm took over, there were those of us who thought he might actually have known what he was doing.
He didn’t say much. But at least he looked like a Prime Minister.
We forgot he’d been there 25 years ago while most of the worst had happened. We hoped anyway.
We hoped when he got in he’d realise he’d have to balance the budget to remove inflation.
We hoped he knew he’d have to go on hands and knees to all the countries we’d insulted under Whitlam and Connor to get our rural, mining and food industries back on their feet.
I mean that’s the only chance Australia has. Everyone knows that.
But not Big Malcolm.
Instead of folding down all the do-nothing-but-spend-money departments and schemes, like Tourism, Medibank, Primary Industry, Natural Resources, Environment, Housing and Community Development, he creates a brand-new Department of Productivity to try to explain that the reason we’re going down the drain is because we already have too many departments.
And instead of new mines our new “free enterprise” Government even stops mining by breaking legal contracts on sand mining at Fraser Island (no relation).
Then this newspaper even makes the man behind the whole lunacy “Australian of the Year.”
And none of that makes me anything more than furious until I hear that our new Minister for Productivity is invited to speak at a seminar organised by a body known as the “Productivity Promotion Council” and the “Victorian Employers’ Federation.”
McPhee actually stands up and tells the world how to increase productivity. From the man representing the Government that gives us the productivity of Australia Post, the railways, the roads and your local telephone box, come absolute pearls.
“We should look after our employees. We should get involved in their private lives” (McPhee should thank the good Lord he never had to run a business).
Every word of his speech was definitely irrelevant, certainly incorrect and, I believe, at best insane.
And it is reported that the audience of employers stood as one and applauded.
No one told McPhee the greatest barriers to productivity are his own Government’s taxation (including inflation)! It’s arbitrary actions such as devaluations, tariff and quota charges, trade regulations, retroactive legislation, tax structure changes, and trade practices doubletalk.
No. Instead, everyone stood and applauded.
Maybe Fraser isn’t as far off the track as I thought. Maybe the business people who put him there are all masochists.
If they are, it’s no wonder they’re clapping.
It’s probably the Titanic’s last floor show!
(Mr Singleton is managing director of a national advertising agency.)
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