IPA sparks national conversation on criminal justice reform

IPA Research Fellow Andrew Bushnell, was all over the media yesterday on TV, Online and on featured across 30 different radio stations highlighting our latest report from our criminal justice program, which finds that Australians are spending more on criminal justice and getting worse results than most comparable countries, underlining the need for criminal justice reform across the country.

As Andrew explains to ABC News, Australian prisons are the fourth most expensive among OECD nations, for that expense we should be getting bang for our buck, yet we are not.

Listen to the exclusive report on ABC RN below.

Andrew explains to 774 Drive yesterday why criminal justice is important to the IPA, and solutions to solve the high cost and poor results in our prison system.

The report was featured as an exclusive to ABC, see the story online here.

The data shows we are spending more than $100,000 a year per prisoner.

As you can see by the data below, prison rates have skyrocketed since the early 1990s.

Andrew Bushnell also wrote an opinion piece for ABC online: The expensive problem with our prisons: Why spending more doesn’t make us feel safer. Read it here.

Bureau of Inconsistencies: Need for Urgent Independent Inquiry

Minister Josh Frydenberg was told by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology on, or about, Wednesday 5th July 2017 that limits had been placed on how cold temperatures could be recorded across mainland Australia.This winter we have experienced record low temperatures.   But only the keenest weather observers have noticed, because the Bureau has been changing the actual values measured by the automatic weather stations.

In particular, the Minister was told that while the Goulburn weather station accurately measured the local temperature as minus 10.4 at 6.30 am on Sunday 2 July, a smart card reader prevented this value from being recorded as the daily minimum on the Daily Weather Observations page.

The smart card reader had been pre-programmed to round-up any value below minus 10 degrees Celsius.  So, instead of entering minus 10.4 into the CDO dataset, the value of minus 10.0 was entered for 2nd July instead.

On 2nd July the value of -10.0 was entered into the CDO dataset, which is meant to be a record of actual temperature measurements at Goulburn. This value, however, represented the rounding-up of -10.4. The value of -10.0 was never actually recorded as the minimum for that day.

On 2nd July the value of -10.0 was entered into the CDO dataset, which is meant to be a record of actual temperature measurements at Goulburn. This value, however, represented the rounding-up of -10.4. The value of -10.0 was never actually recorded as the minimum for that day.

This wrong limit of minus 10.0 was confirmed in an email from the Bureau sent to journalist Graham Lloyd, and also Griffith businessman Paul Salvestrin, on 4th July.

This was the advice from the Bureau on 4th July, then on 28th July the Bureau wrote to the Minister claiming the weather station was faulty, and that it never recorded -10.4 degree Celsius.

No such limits are placed on how hot temperatures can be recorded.

While the Minister has had this advice – about the smart card readers and the limits on cold temperature recordings –  for some weeks, he has claimed publicly that he has full confidence in the Bureau and resisted calls for an independent inquiry.  Further, the Minister has supported the Bureau’s faux solution of replacing the automatic weather station initially at Goulburn and Thredbo, and more recently at many more sites across Victoria and Tasmania.

All-the-while, the Minister has known that the problem is limited to the smart card readers.

To be clear, the problem is not with the equipment; all that needs to be done is for the smart card readers to be removed so that after the automatic weather stations measure the correct temperature, this temperature can be brought forward firstly into the Daily Weather Observation sheet and subsequently into the CDO dataset.

Jennifer Marohasy visiting the Goulburn weather station on 31st July

David Jones is the Manager of Climate Monitoring and Prediction services at the Bureau and would probably have overseen the installation of the smart cards.  Jones is also on-record stating that “Truth be known, climate change here is now running so rampant that we don’t need meteorological data to see it.”

This first appeared at Dr Jennifer Marohasy’s blog

Politically correct the new A+

I recently completed the final semester of my undergraduate degree at a relatively reputable North American university. To fulfil my philosophy minor, I was required to enrol in a certain number of courses offered by that department. And so, in January of this year, I found myself signed up for one in particular named ‘Critical Perspectives on Social Diversity’. An immediate red flag. After four years as a student at this institution, I had already experienced more than my fair share of political correctness. But now I saw myself faced with 12 weeks of sharing a classroom with its most aggressive campaigners.

And yet, I tried to remain optimistic. As a philosophy course (rather than a political science or gender studies course) I hoped that personal biases would be set aside. As a philosophy course, I assumed that discussions would focus on the validity and soundness of argument structure. I was naïve.

The assessment for this course included two equally-weighted ‘comment sheets’ that together comprised about 40% of the total grade. In each ‘comment sheet’ we were asked to critique a paper. The first time around, I wrote honestly. My critique concluded that certain aspects of the author’s proposal to give special rights to those suffering from “enduring injustices” were ambiguous and contradictory. Some sections even made enormous logical leaps, leaving large gaps in the overall flow of the argument. Guessing that I would be one of the only students to say anything negative about the paper, I dedicated an inordinate amount of time towards this task, prioritizing it above other pieces of assessment. I received a B+.

For experimental purposes, the second time around I aligned my opinion with that of my classmates. Despite the second paper’s stance again suffering from similar failings as the first, I instead concluded that it was faultless. Through gritted teeth, I endorsed the author’s stance that testimonies of systematic sexism within minority cultures were “misleading and unrepresentative extrapolations”. I agreed that “cultural freedom” was more important than establishing a system of uniform rights for all. Compared to my first attempt, I dedicated only a fraction of the time and effort towards the task. Unquestionably my writing was of a lesser quality. I received an A+.

Now, I know that my experience in no way parallels the extremity of the atrocities recently carried out at Evergreen State College. Unlike Professor Bret Weinstein, I was neither mobbed nor sworn at for defending my opinion. However, I still experienced first-hand that, as a student, regardless of the quality of your writing, unless you choose to adopt the approved viewpoint you will never be ‘given an A’. And I believe that this is still representative of the increasingly-Orwellian nature of modern academia. Unfortunately, we are no longer being taught to think for ourselves but to regurgitate the rhetoric of our peers. And consequently, in a perverse way, all these attempts to ‘give the minority a voice’ are starting to silence the majority… simply because they are the majority.

Despite what was written on my syllabus, ‘Critical Perspectives on Social Diversity’ was not a course about arguments but was one about conclusions.

And so, fellow students, we are left with a decision – are we willing to sell our souls for the extra GPA points?

Bronwyn Allan is an intern at the Institute of Public Affairs

Johannesburg’s libertarian mayor a cause for optimism

With the spectre of anti-market populism a threat all over the world, Johannesburg’s libertarian mayor, Herman Mashaba, is a refreshing cause for optimism.

In May, South Africa fell into recession and experienced a 14 year high in unemployment. Johannesburg has long been wracked by poverty and crime.

Taking office late last year, Mashaba’s first budget came into effect at the start of this month. As a free market libertarian, Mashaba believes it is free individuals, communities and entrepreneurs who will solve these problems. This is a message other developing world leaders, indeed political leaders everywhere, would do well to heed.

Take housing, for example. The chronic shortfall of government housing has been the cause of public disorder in various poor communities in the city in recent months.

But as Mashaba points out, 300,000 housing units are required to meet the backlog, with the government only able to deliver 3,500 units per year. It will take the government 85 years to get this done.

Clearly, the only way all citizens of Johannesburg will access adequate housing is not through government at all, but via a vibrant market economy and dynamic construction sector.

Mashaba recognises this, which is why he aims to turn Johannesburg “into a construction site” by easing the regulatory burden on business.

Indeed, Mashaba’s most startling achievement so far has been to clamp down on corruption. His council has uncovered R10 Billion in fraud and corruption with 314 people (including city employees) arrested, 100 employees suspended and 12 officials resigning as a result of investigation. Talk about draining the swamp.

Clearly, having faith in the government to solve every problem in Johannesburg is naïve, when simply not stealing from the citizens is rightly considered a giant step forward.

Most importantly, at the core of most of the problems besetting Johannesburg (and many other parts of the world) is poverty and unemployment. There are 862,000 unemployed people in Johannesburg, at an unemployment rate of over 30%. That jumps to over 50% for young people. Unemployment doesn’t just have economic consequences for individuals but denies people what Mashaba rightly calls “the dignity of work”.

If governments could just draw forth jobs and economic well-being from the ether, all South Africans would be very wealthy by now.

But despite claims around the world to the contrary, economics hasn’t changed. It is individuals, entrepreneurs and businesses that can get Johannesburg’s enormous economic engine humming. Mashaba realises this and that’s why he’s reducing government interference by removing regulation and fighting corruption.

It’s also why his administration is ramping up the processing of title deeds for the multitude of citizens living in dwellings without a title – a hangover from the Apartheid era when black South Africans were often prevented from owning property. In the 2013/14 financial year the previous ANC administration failed to hand out a single title deed. The new council has processed 4000 since their election ten months ago.

Property rights give people economic security, the ability to pass wealth down the generations and the possibility of using their asset as collateral to acquire credit to start enterprises. Not to mention the intangible impact of many families experiencing the dignity of owning property for the first time.

Of course, there are definitely some things that government ought to be doing, such as upholding the rule of law. Here, Mashaba aims to make further progress tackling drug gangs and slumlords. Johannesburg is one of the most dangerous places on earth and addressing these issues will be good for the economy and the daily lives of citizens.

An important area where Mashaba must distinguish between law and order and economic freedom is with regards to Johannesburg’s enormous informal sector. The previous ANC council launched Operation Clean Sweep in 2013 which saw the often brutal removal of 8,000 street traders from their places of work.

These small entrepreneurs have the right to pursue a better life for themselves and their family and the City must make it as easy as possible for them to do business and enter the formal economy.

Apartheid was an inherently evil regime that deprived people of their basic rights. A core part of this was its system of economic repression. Whilst the ANC deserves credit for removing many of Apartheid’s restrictions it is, at its core, a socialist party with an unyielding faith in government to create a better world. That is an idea that has had its day.

Of course, expectations must be kept in check. Johannesburg’s problems are entrenched and won’t be fixed overnight. Furthermore, Mashaba is only major of Johannesburg – not the President of the country. All governments and political leaders have the potential to turn bad and the needle is yet to move on any of the key indicators pointing to significant economic improvement in the city.

But an overtly libertarian, free market political leader, particularly in the developing world, is sadly a rarity. Ultimately the most important ramifications of Mashaba’s success may be the example it provides to others around the world.

It is individuals, communities, entrepreneurs and businesses that will lead Johannesburg and South Africa into a brighter tomorrow. Mashaba’s faith in the people of Johannesburg to take control of their own destiny is a very good thing.

Peter Gregory is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs.

The new Royal Adelaide Hospital: a case study in blow-outs, red tape and union influence

Did you know that the seventh most expensive building in the world is being built right here in Australia? No, it’s not a giant apartment block on the Gold Coast. It’s not a flashy new casino. It’s not even the recently announced hotel and apartment complex that will be attached to MoNA in Hobart.

It’s the new Royal Adelaide Hospital (nRAH)—a project that is 18 months behind schedule and $640 million over budget. This makes the 800-bed hospital—a public-private partnership—the most expensive building in Australia and the largest capital investment project in South Australian history.

But why has this project blown-out? Aside from the optimistic assumptions, project scope changes, ignorance of the technical demand and safety concerns, the nRAH has gone through legal action between the SA government and the builders and unlawful industrial action and anti-competitive behaviour by the CFMEU. In this way the nRAH is a contemporary example of why desperate reform is needed in the delivery of state-based major projects.

Coming soon – the seventh most expensive building in the world!

Construction of the new hospital began on February 2011 and it was anticipated that completion would be completed in April 2016. But the SA government failed to finalise the hospital project on time and missed an additional two set completion dates in May 2016 and June 2017. And recently SA Health announced dates for public tours of the nRAH in July.

Globally the nRAH is the seventh costliest building—ballooning to a cost of $2.3bn. Compared to the final cost, the original estimate of $1.7bn places the cost overrun of the nRAH at 35 per cent of the initial projected cost in real terms.

The world’s most expensive buildings

Source: Emporis

Where did it go wrong? Since the beginning of the nRAH’s construction, every design flaw, delay and mistake has pushed back deadlines. Construction costs alone doubled from $244.7m to more than $417m. These included the unforeseen remediation costs from contamination claims ($69m), site modifications and defects with building specifications ($34.3m), the setup of a transition team (February 2017) to deliver a long-delayed move from the current RAH ($180k per day), the poorly thought out plan for the emergency section with sick patients faced with dozens less overnight beds available, and outpatient facilities not fit for purpose to meet expected demand with almost 40,000 appointments not being accommodated per year.

There were concerns over the $422m rollout of the electronic patient record system not being ready when the paperless hospital opens. As the ward floors were not sufficient for storage, there were temporarily storing those records in the hospital’s basement car park. In the end, most were being housed off-site which could become a serious patient safety issue with long waits anticipated for records to arrive directly to medical personnel.

Missing the completion deadline of April 2016 triggered the state government to issue a default notice against the construction consortium and withheld service payments of approximately $1m per day to the hospital’s builders. A legal conflict between the South Australian government and its builders ensued over the construction defects that transpired with the builder seeking more than $500m in compensation for the delays. On February 2017, both the state government and builders reached a settlement to conclude legal action.

Union threats and non-compliance by the CFMEU

According to the Office of the Chief Economist, 8.1 per cent of Australia’s GDP stems from the construction industry which employs hundreds of thousands of people.

The contemptible costs of building in Australia has been beset by the influence the CFMEU. The CFMEU has played a pivotal role in driving up the labour costs of building the nRAH and decreasing the overall productivity of its construction.

The CFMEU through their anti-competitive practices of complicity, pattern bargaining and price fixing has instrumented EBAs which are characteristically above award rates. Moreover, the CFMEU has instituted pay premiums for semi-skilled workers and submitted atypically a high number of additional payments in their payroll costs.

Notwithstanding the building costs and delays of the nRAH was the “Armageddon” threats from the CFMEU to disrupt its construction. The CFMEU were fined $57,500 by the Federal Court for making threats to sway the head contractor from enforcing a Fair Work Commission order requiring employees on the nRAH project not to take industrial action.

The two senior CFMEU officials involved were alleged to have stated: “If you try anything there will be Armageddon” and “all hell will break loose and we will take this national.”

Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) Commissioner Nigel Hadgkiss conveyed disappointment in the CFMEU’s conduct and imposed $1.1bn in penalties against the CFMEU and its representatives. He expressed: “unfortunately, the conduct we’ve seen in this case is not isolated, but instead reflects a widespread contempt for the rule of law that pervades the industry.”

The implementation of EBAs by the CFMEU have undoubtedly initiated higher labour costs into the development of the nRAH. The aforementioned workplace disputes and illegal practices by a minority have placed the nRAH project to not only encounter a substantial benefits shortfall but also it is the public, particularly the Australian taxpayer, that loses out.


The mismanagement of the nRAH project represents a clear failure by the state government to control financial costs, risks and uncertainty in project delivery. The major issues presented emphasise the SA government’s ineptitude to design a fit for purpose hospital to cater for patient needs sufficiently, to effectively manage workplace relations, and uncooperative union influence. The result is an expense bill with limited accountability for a poorly executed project.

We must reform how the state government undertakes a large-scale project. They need to:

  1. Provide greater transparency and oversight throughout the project life-cycle by offering regular status reporting and ongoing performance monitoring available to the public, including key performance indicators and project figures.
  2. Ensure that internal management of projects utilises continuous improvement for better risk management and contingency practices.
  3. Enhance collaboration between departments for best practices and lessons learnt to encourage more informed decision making and communications amongst stakeholders.
  4. Curtail inefficient and any unlawful influence of unions and uncompetitive union-inflated EBAs by increasing the maximum penalties under the ABCC legislation.
  5. Introduce guiding principles through a Code of Practice in tender decisions to ensure the tender process is open, transparent and accountable.
  6. Institute penalties for bureaucrats involved in contact administration that act in an unethical manner in awarding tenders and fail to conduct a high standard of due diligence in the competitive bid process.

Only by adopting these recommendations will we lower building costs, keep projects within scope, and prevent significant delays to project delivery.

John Varano is a contributor to the IPA’s Freedomwatch

John Varano is an experienced management consultant and researcher. His area of expertise is in strategy, organisation design, change management, and transformation programme and project management. He has acted as a consultant to international organisations, ASX listed companies, and federal and state departments. As a researcher, his research focuses on the challenges of managing projects, specifically in change management, capital projects and project management. John’s professional experience extends across multiple geographies, including Australia, the US, UK, and Europe.

He is a Graduate Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors and an Associate Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management.

John is currently an MSc candidate at the University of Oxford in Major Programme Management. He holds an MBA in Finance from The Johns Hopkins University and an MA (Research) in International Political Economy with first class honours from The University of Melbourne. He completed his undergraduate studies with honours at Monash University.

John has been published in The Conversation, Yahoo! News and The Spectator.

Uranium: The fuel that must not be named

The lengths to which some policy makers go in a democratic society to ensure that other points of view aren’t even allowed a look-in, is as unbelievable as it is offensive.

This practice is common in mainstream debates such as climate change (the science is settled), and freedom of speech (if you disagree with me you’re a racist), but the debate on uranium mining, nuclear power and waste processing is another great example.

Proposed new legislation to discourage parliamentarians in South Australia from advocating a nuclear waste facility is a case in point.

While South Australia’s Weatherill Government has deservedly copped criticism for its renewables policies and back-of-the-envelope bank tax, it deserves credit for its recent attempts to get some sort of nuclear energy industry off the ground in South Australia.

In particular, It established a Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission to look at “the potential for increasing South Australia’s participation in the nuclear fuel cycle” and actively considered (while not formally supporting) the establishment of a nuclear waste storage facility.

When its so-called Citizen’s Jury came out against the idea, the government persisted, even after the State Opposition decided to oppose it before it was apparently abandoned in June 2017.

However, many people don’t realise that the South Australian Government had to change the law just to ask the public if it wanted a nuclear waste storage facility.

Section 13 of South Australia’s Nuclear Waste Storage Facility (Prohibition) Act 2000, brought in by the former Liberal Government, stated that:

“Despite any other Act or law to the contrary, no public money may be appropriated, expended or advanced to any person for the purpose of encouraging or financing any activity associated with the construction or operation of a nuclear waste storage facility in this State.”

In March 2016, prior to the Royal Commission’s Final Report being handed down, the Weatherill Government attempted to have this section removed but the South Australian Greens objected, and the legislation was instead amended to add that the previous clause:

“…does not prohibit the appropriation, expenditure or advancement to a person of public money for the purpose of encouraging or financing community consultation or debate on the desirability or otherwise of constructing or operating a nuclear waste storage facility in this State.”

Now, even though they ‘won’ the debate under the amended law, the South Australian Greens have introduced new legislation into the Parliament to repeal this extra clause so that there is once more a legal question hanging over government advocacy for a change in policy.

In fact, this Act of Parliament should be removed in its entirety.

While it is of course appropriate that procedures are in place to safely manage radioactive material, it is incomprehensible that in the 21st century, state and federal laws make it a crime to talk about, look for or develop what over 30 countries consider to be a commercial energy product and 55 countries use for research.

Two separate pieces of Commonwealth legislation (the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBCA) and the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Act) specifically prohibit nuclear fuel fabrication, power, enrichment and reprocessing facilities.

The EPBCA also includes a special section for approvals of uranium mines and nuclear facilities, ominously titled “Protection of the environment from nuclear actions.”

State legislation has banned uranium mining in New South Wales since 1986 and a ban on mining was re-introduced via regulation in Queensland in 2015, though nonsensically both states claim to allow companies to explore for uranium.

The newly elected government in Western Australia last month implemented its election promise to also ban new uranium mines and in Victoria a 34-year old Act of Parliament prohibits even exploration.

And for any company lucky enough to find a commercial uranium resource, establish a mine and secure an overseas market, it must still obtain the Federal Resources Minister’s permission to export, and deal with the fact that only South Australia and the Northern Territory allow the use of local ports.

In the wake of the Finkel Review, if policy makers insist on weighing up how best to guarantee a reliable source of electricity that also helps Australia to achieve self-imposed emissions reduction targets, it makes no sense that the law of the land does everything it can to lock out the only energy fuel source that could do both.

If uranium mining and processing or nuclear power turn out to be uncommercial in Australia or unable to compete with gas, coal and other fuels, then the resources won’t be developed and the infrastructure not built.

But the legal system should not be used as a tool to suppress debate, delay the development of new sources of energy, and prevent the creation of new markets.

Brett Hogan is the Director of Research at the Institute of Public Affairs. Twitter: @brettahogan

Melbourne, Adelaide, Brockway, Ogdenville and North Haverbrook

Last week it was Elon Musk in South Australia and this week it is former US Vice President Al Gore visiting Victoria for the 2017 EcoCity World Summit, predictably to talk about climate change, the so-called evils of coal and need for more renewables.

Two different weeks, and two different states – but the same embarrassing spectacle of star struck governments using taxpayer money to curry favour with celebrities.

Today the Victorian Energy Minister hopped on a tram with Mr Gore to announce a $146 million Renewable Energy Plan to fund the purchase of Renewable Energy Certificates (basically the State Government guaranteeing to buy the output of solar and wind farms), batteries and computer software to try to improve the integration of renewables into the electricity grid.

It is interesting how technologies already supposedly cheaper than fossil fuels are always needing some kind of support!

Hopefully nobody on the tram tried to take pictures as the Herald Sun is reporting that a number of people attending the conference were “physically stopped by security staff from taking mobile phone pictures of Mr Gore” or recording his speech, though this rule obviously didn’t apply to Premier Andrews who posted this happy snap on Twitter.

Given the 100% electricity price rises between 2006 and 2016 (and 20% rises on 1 July with more to come) the last thing Australians need is a lecture by comfortable celebrities like Mr Gore, especially when the end result is higher power prices and workers losing their jobs.

After the forced closure of Hazelwood in March, the only things Victoria’s Andrews Government should be focusing on are reducing electricity prices and preventing summer blackouts.

Perhaps the Energy Minister should take Mr Gore out to the Latrobe Valley and make him explain to the former Hazelwood workers why they lost their jobs because of the climate policies he advocates.