From the Principal’s Desk – Fabbro Talks (March 2023)
February has now come and gone and we are all now seemingly back in the swing of it.
I’m mindful how quickly recent years have flashed by and am wondering how I might slow 2023 down a bit! I’m not sure I know the formula, at least not when I’m running a busy legal practice that is quite demanding in many ways, not the least being from a time commitment perspective.
Perhaps the fact that I am writing this sitting at my little local café in Mylor in the picturesque Adelaide Hills on the most uplifting Autumn day is a start; perhaps the fact that I am writing this in that setting on a Saturday morning shows the opposite … who knows!
The last month has yet again had me marveling at the politicians we elect and how the standard seems to be as poor as I feel I’ve seen in my lifetime. It feels harsh saying that, but I can’t help but feel it’s true. It worries me that our Federal Treasurer, Dr Jim Chalmers, achieved his PhD by, of all things, completing a thesis on Paul Keating. Now I haven’t read his thesis, and it may be fantastic, however I always thought a PhD thesis was supposed to contribute original thought or ‘fresh knowledge’ in a particular area. Perhaps our Treasurer’s thesis did that, however his 99,478-word tome on the former Prime Minister entitled “Brawler Statesman: Paul Keating and Prime Ministerial Leadership in Australia” appears to be very much focused on ‘power’.
Given his more recent publication on wanting to “re-invent capitalism” in his publication on January 27 this year, combined with his PhD on power and leadership, we should be watching closely to ensure that visions of personal grandeur and seeking to be revered in the history books of the Australian landscape of politics and economics of the 2020’s doesn’t lead to significant unintended consequences for our wonderful Nation.
Greater government intervention doesn’t appear to end particularly well and the Treasurer’s desire to ‘remake’ capitalism should be a cause for pause and close scrutiny. As the late Kerry Packer observed in 1991, Governments aren’t very good at spending our taxes so we shouldn’t necessarily be readily donating extra!
The first chair of the Productivity Commission between 1998 and 2013, Gary Banks, recently observed that as a nation we were ‘writing off our comparative advantage in energy’ by failing to pursue low-cost emissions cuts and noted that electricity was fast becoming an unreliable luxury!
He noted in the Australian newspaper that, “Any attempt [to openly discuss the best way forward or] use evidence, or logic immediately brands you as a ‘denier’.” We are closing power stations in circumstances where we have no way to replace them with reliable 24/7 electricity supply.
He noted, “Historically, this country’s low energy costs partly offset the high self-imposed burdens of our rigid labour market. That’s no longer the case. In fact, we’ve brought about the opposite situation. On the one hand, we have been busily eliminating our comparative advantage in energy, while on the other we are reviving our traditional disadvantage with respect to labour.”
Critical of the recent industrial relations changes he said, “Now we have a flurry of IR legislation designed to further boost union power, under the pretext of ‘getting wages moving’ and ‘job security’. Most of these so-called reforms will only succeed in further undermining market ‘dynamism’ that Treasury sees as paramount to raising productivity growth. In the fashion of the times, the legislation that got rushed through parliament was called ‘secure jobs, higher wages’. I thought at the time that a more accurate title would have been ‘secure unions, fewer jobs’.”
According to Professor Banks it was noteworthy that the 1990’s Industry Commission determined that Australia, as a tiny contributor to carbon emissions, should only act in concert with other countries such as China and America, the big emitters. Without their action nothing could be gained.
The lack of debate about the consequences to our society of rushing to change so much about our economy, including reliance on renewable energy, greater government intervention to ‘re-invent’ capitalism is a concern. Opponents to the trajectory that we are taking are shut out of the debate or marginalised as ‘deniers’ or similar. No-one is prepared to debate the pros and cons of nuclear energy as a replacement for fossil fuel powered energy generation.
Strategic errors in decision making can have an impact that lasts generations, despite the beauty of the day in which I find myself, I worry about the future for our Country. Alas, there’s not much attractive about participating in the political process; until there is I fear we will continue to get the politicians we deserve so to speak.
At least these ramblings have slowed down this morning and hopefully I can take time out more regularly to reflect in a way that similarly slows the days.
It would be nice to slow the rate of change in our society to assist in that process.
I trust all our valued clients past and present, enjoy a healthy and successful month of March and as always if you are in need of any assistance in matters legal … we’re here to help!
For information on the range of legal advice and services that we provide, head to: