The TPP and its consequences

Steven Sackett writes: Re. “Yanks could draft legislation for Australian parliament under TPP” (Friday). Thank you for your articles. Always informative. Your report aligns very much with the comments of Glyn Moody who writes extensively about the equivalent EU-USA proposed agreements. He frequently references the TPP by way of example.  The things he digs out about what is dumb about the proposed agreement(s) and the references to studies of the impact are eye-opening. There should be enough ammunition around to sink both stupidities if enough people were interested. I hope you prompt greater scrutiny and public awareness of what we are about to give up.

A new word for “terrorism”

James Burke writes: Re. “The inconvenient link behind mental health and ‘lone wolf’ terrorism” (yesterday).  “Terrorist” means whatever the speaker chooses it to mean. It has all sort of uses — obfuscation, dog-whistling, mission creep, you name it. In current practice, it’s usually code for “homicidal Wahhabi”. Maybe the whole “terrorism” problem could be solved by abandoning the code. Imagine if the news reported that “the gunman had recently converted to Wahhabism”. Or that “politicians called on Wahhabi leaders to condemn the violence.”

Admittedly “Wahhabi State” would be problematic. It might cause confusion regarding our dearly beloved BFFs in Riyadh. And sure, not all Wahhabis are terrorists. But all the “terrorists” are Wahhabis. I don’t mean the official list of “proscribed terrorist groups” — I’ve never received televised death threats from the LTTE, PKK or Hezbollah. I mean those groups that have murdered or threatened to murder Australians, for being Australian. Yes, there is academic hair-splitting about Wahhabism, neo-Wahhabism, Salafism, neo-Salafism, etc, but I reckon we can leave that debate to the theologians. (Tellingly, my spell-checker recognises none of those terms.)

We need to choose a word that is a lot more specific than “terrorist”, “extremist” or “militant”. Wahhabi, Salafi, whatever. Then “Islam” and “Muslims” can finally be granted some peace.

The ABC debate

Mark Jones writes: Re. “The ABC debate: Mark Scott on why the ABC is fine just as it is” (yesterday).  Mark Scott quite correctly resets the terms of the argument. James Paterson, and to some degree Geoff Heriot, in criticising the ABC attempt to confine the argument to the services and products are available elsewhere. Eric Beecher original asks a lot of questions about the ABC’s role but like James and Geoff ignores the big issue, the public good aspect.

Clearly even Australians that don’t regularly use the service rate it as high quality, the most trusted. Much like that fact that I don’t use the Great Barrier Reef but rate it as an important Australian icon to be protected. I’d argue quantifying this benefit would outweigh any costs. While ABC services may be available elsewhere, at what price? The opportunity cost to me as a consumer for obtaining these services free of advertising in a one stop shop reducing the time it takes to find quality information outweighs the cost via my taxes.

So what about the direct costs, do we get value for money? Well, Mark Scott points out the number of reviews and that many remain unpublished. Why? Could it substantiate Marion Powell and Glenn Withers’ review in 2000, commissioned by the ABC, that shows that it’s cheaper, more efficient, more innovative and provides a better quality service?

Then there’s the Institute of Public Affairs’ traditional framing of the argument that we’re all forced to pay for it even if we don’t use it and more to the point some Australians are forced to pay when they object to its existence. Do we really want to get into the argument of everything being user pays?

That the problem with the Institute of Public Affairs and their mantra that all things government are a waste. They’re faux economists that constrain the benefits of a product or service to the direct costs and benefits, ignoring the true benefit and cost, whether it’s the impact of smoking, the impact of climate change or the positive benefits of our environmental sites. Social costs and benefits are ignored in favour of private costs and benefits.

Peter Fray

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