March 23rd 2019

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Federally, the pro-family voter is starved for choice

SPECIAL EDITORIAL Has Cardinal George Pell been wrongly convicted?

EDITORIAL For politicians: lessons from Europe's emerging pro-family parties

ENERGY Hundreds of years of oil and gas reserves; if we want to use them

THE CARDINAL AND THE MEDIA Four Corners: the third trial of Cardinal Pell

SOCIETY AND RELIGION The future belongs to those who possess the past

SCIENCE Are summer heatwaves caused by climate change?

CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE The roots of the breaking of a fundamental taboo

CARDINAL PELL CONVICTION Triumphalism over Pell verdict shows civilisation is just a veneer

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS President Donald Trump: an unlikely promise keeper Part 1

THE AUSTRALIAN CLIMATE Same old same old in our beloved sunburnt country

THE AUSTRALASIAN A three years' drought

ASIAN AFFAIRS Taiwan reaches out to its regional neighbours

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Covington boys: left hoist on its bigots' petard

MUSIC Time's unfolding: One of music's raw materials

CINEMA Stan & Ollie: Past joys, past sorrows

BOOK REVIEW The three-part attack on the home

BOOK REVIEW What draining the DC swamp turns up



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For politicians: lessons from Europe's emerging pro-family parties

by Patrick J. Byrne

News Weekly, March 23, 2019

With the federal election due soon, Australian politicians could heed the example of political parties winning government in parts of Eastern and Western Europe on pro-family economic platforms.

The policies of these parties are designed to stem Europe’s demographic decline that, in turn, is drawing millions of migrants, legal and illegal, from Africa and the Middle East into Europe. They also reflect growing dissatisfaction with economic policies that have undermined family life since the 1980s.

In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s Law and Justice Party came to power on pro-family policies. His country is suffering from an exodus of young people seeking work and better pay elsewhere and has a birth rate of 1.45 children per woman, lower than Europe’s average of 1.58. A country needs a birth rate of 2.1 just to maintain population numbers.

Having already introduced tax concessions for every new child, Orban’s party is planning to exempt families with four or more children from income tax, to provide mortgage relief for parents with several children, to provide support for those buying seven-seat vehicles, and provide additional places at nursery schools.

Italy’s right-wing, anti-immigration Northern League party was floundering in the polls until it adopted a pro-family platform. Last year, the Northern League formed government with the left-wing Five Star Movement. Italy’s birth rate of 1.32 (2017) is the lowest in Europe.

To encourage families, the League plans to assist married couples who achieve a family size of three or more children between 2019 and 2022. They will be offered state-owned farmland for 20 years and $A320,000 to build a house on their farm holding. The policy is reminiscent of the soldier settlement schemes run by Australia’s state governments for soldiers returning from the two world wars.

While these policies may boost the birth rate and give a strong foundation to families in parts of Europe, other economic growth policies will be needed to solve the chronic unemployment and underemployment in many European nations.

The need for a raft of new pro-family economic policies in Australia is clear from labour force figures. In May 2017, The Australian’s economics editor Adam Creighton estimated that when the underemployed (those who cannot find enough paid work) and those only marginally attached to the labour force are added to the unemployed, it comes to over 3.37 million, or 23 per cent of working-age Australians. This 23 per cent corresponds to the 25 per cent of people who defiantly won’t vote for a major federal political party.

Any politician or party adopting serious policies to overcome the stress of these struggling Australians has the potential to outstrip traditional major parties with their outdated policies.

First, policies should aim to make families self-reliant, as independent as possible from the state. The priority should be to leave incomes with families rather than to tax parents as individuals and then deliver family payments back to families. Here is how.

  • Index income-tax brackets to the cost of living so that workers don’t have the benefits of wage increases eroded from shifting into a higher tax bracket.
  • Introduce family-based taxation, as adopted in at least 14 Western countries, which means taking income tax (PAYG) only after consideration of how many family members are living on that income.
  • Introduce concessions to assist larger families, applied to basic living items such as cars (people movers), fuel, electricity, mortgages, and rates or rent.
  • Simplify the very complicated child-care subsidy system by having a flat-rate, taxable-per-child payment that is given directly to parents to choose what care suits their family: parent care, stranger care, for example.
  • Remove the work test for Paid Parental Leave. This would eliminate the current unjust policy that supports one mother with $500 and another mother with $12,500 based on their recent employment history.

Second, policies are needed to ensure full employment, at wages that allow couples to buy a home and raise a family. Overcoming the 23 per cent real unemployment rate requires a rethink of the free-market policies of the past 30 years that have seen a host of jobs lost as many industries close or move offshore.

  • All levels of government should have a buy “Australian made first” procurement policy.
  • The banking system must cater for the needs of families and family businesses, not just corporations.
  • A national development bank is urgently needed to expand infrastructure, the foundation of private enterprise. If Australia can back China’s Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, why can’t Australia have its own national development bank?
  • New low-emission coal-fired power stations are needed to reverse rising energy prices that are making Australian companies uncompetitive on world markets.
  • Australia should adopt fair trade rather than radical free trade policies.

Decentralisation policies are needed to take the population and housing pressure off capital cities, including:

  • A reconstruction bank for farmers and to recapitalise key industries.
  • Giving priority to infrastructure dev­elopment in regional areas.
  • Tax concessions for businesses to set up in regional areas.
  • Purchase-and-release land packages for regional housing.

It’s time that these policies created a new political movement around Australia, as is happening in Europe.

Patrick J. Byrne is national president of the National Civic Council.

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