I had the pleasure of interviewing Stuart Ballantyne yesterday. Stuart has a typically Australian, colourful sense of humour and accompanying willingness to say it like it is. His warm Scottish brogue only adds to the character and ease of listening to him say controversial things. As Australia’s largest ship builder it was only natural to accept his invitation to meet him and chat on his own boat.
Something that impresses me is anyone on the right of politics speaking up and taking a stand for traditional values. It’s not nearly so impressive from someone on the left because of the trendiness for leftist philosophies in mainstream and social media, academia and the public sector. It’s considerably braver to speak out when you can expect savage outrage reflexes in response to even a civil and balanced conversation, such as were received by the Bible Society’s recent video about marriage.
Courage isn’t needed when you’re going with the flow in a crowd.
But to swim against the tide and take a counter-cultural stand is decidedly courageous. And that’s why more people should – because it lends courage to those who wish someone else would before they will. It’s our silence as Christians and conservatives which has led to mistaken assumptions that opposite views are dominant.
We need to be better involved in public conversations, because they’ve been happening without us and critical public issues have been forfeited. The road back is much harder then alternatives of simply resisting social erosion. Our involvement should be public on social media, private in letters to all political candidates seeking our vote, and public in signing and sharing petitions, as well as writing letters to editors and calling talk back radio shows when public opinion is sought. This is quite an obvious outworking of the command to shine our light and not become useless like salt which adds no flavour.
Jobs & Payroll Tax
Among other reasons, Stuart Ballantyne has moved much of his international operation and consequently employment opportunities overseas because it’s cost effective to do so. Australia is increasingly becoming an uncompetitive corporate environment in a global market – whether we like it or not.
In Hong Kong, for example, the corporate tax rate is just 15% – half of Australia’s – and there’s no tax on money earned outside of Hong Kong. Tax and wages are the two biggest overheads for most businesses.
There are only a limited number of ways, broadly speaking, to make more money – and that is the primary purpose of owning a business. You can sell more, you can sell the same volume for a higher price, or you can reduce the costs and inefficiencies of selling the same volume for the same price. If your tax bill was hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars, you’d be looking for ways to reduce it as well.
You can argue the evil or necessity of self-interests being a primary motivation until the cows come home, but it won’t change the reality. Businesses aren’t charities, they exist to make profits. Being outraged by that won’t change it.
It’s far more productive to be grateful for the good they do, and encourage more of that, knowing what we have to work with.
One of the realities Stuart testified to is that when he approached the payroll tax threshold, his next hire was going to cost him twice as much as the one before. That poor bloke would have to generate far more than he was worth to justify the enormous extra cost he presented through no fault of his own. Many employers therefore defer or completely avoid growing their business that far until the benefits outweigh the costs – which is basic business.
Taxes are frequently imposed or proposed to curb and limit behaviours we don’t want in society. Tobacco, alcohol and even sugar taxes are allegedly intended to reduce their use. It’s wildly fanciful to think a payroll tax won’t have precisely the same effect and reduce employers’ willingness to employ “too many” people. This limits jobs, increases unemployment and related social welfare costs, and defeats the governments’ effort in trying to grow the economy.
Excellence in Transport Policy Stupidity
Stuart Ballantyne has a regular presentation by this same title. In it he describes how 160 years ago Australians could transport 2,000 bales of wool with just a 20 horsepower, log-fired paddle steamer. Fast forward to today and we’ve “progressed” to need 20 semi-trailers with a combined 8,000 horsepower to move the same amount of wool.
It’s commercially, technically and environmentally backwards.
Furthermore, there are billions of tons of natural resources (e.g. phosphate) “locked” where they lay, by the simple fact they’re nonviable to recover due to excessive transport costs. This is a problem Stuart argues convincingly with some impressive numbers which could be solved by water transport. We could get this wealth for a tiny fraction of the cost of other transport alternatives by building canals instead of roads or railways.
European innovations 20 years ago in “motorways of the sea” deliberately reduced truck movements on public roads by a whopping 60% and only needed government subsidies in the first year. That’s a great success worth imitating. Imagine the reduction in pollution, road maintenance costs, accidents and death tolls when we more than halve the number of trucks on the road. Who else wants to stop paying endless motorway tolls?
So what’s stopping us? Politics. The majority of political obstruction comes from environmental extremists who don’t like humans managing the environment in any way – ironically at great cost to the environment. Another factor comes from the wariness governments and industry have based on passed experience from being held hostage by the Maritime Union of Australia. Stuart himself has challenged them to invest union money into waterway development ventures to share a stake in their success and assuage investors’ reasonable fears.
For a nation whose “land abounds in nature’s gifts” which are “girt by sea”, why aren’t we following the rest of the world’s innovations and making use of the fact that most of our population lives well within reach of rivers and oceans?
Stick To Planes, Stay Out Of Politics
Hands up if you want a political opinion with your coffee. Does anybody want to know what Holden thinks about who we should be voting for when they buy a car? And if you’re a business owner, how many times have you forced your political opinion down someone’s throat while doing transaction with them?
It’s pretty much common sense that business and politics don’t mix.
So when Stuart Ballantyne got fed up with being constantly lectured by Qantas about homosexual marriage, it was completely understandable. From overt messages on boarding passes and in-flight magazines to broken rings worn by staff and entire planes draped in partisan opinions, Qantas now wants you to understand how bigoted and backward you are if you disagree with their political opinion. Qantas executives and board members have apparently decided somehow to take it upon themselves to decide what’s in the best interest of every Australian and anybody who disagrees is inconsequential to their cultural crusade.
Stuart voted with his feet, and took his entire company’s spend away from Qantas. This decision alone costing them between $500,000 and $700,000 per year. And this is how we tell companies they have no vote, and their opinion is not superior by reason of their turnover, so they should butt out of politics and stick to planes or whatever service we’re actually paying for. Boycotting brands owned by or associated with conservatives is how leftists further shut down public debate, and we shouldn’t let that go without responding if we indeed are the silent majority.
But apart from simply wanting Qantas to stick to safety, service and scheduling, Stuart doesn’t care what their corporate opinion is. In his words, he’s truly concerned about the red rag it is to easily offended Islamists who routinely throw homosexuals off rooves. He explains that with Emirates Airlines as a major partner, Qantas has no shortage of exposure to Islamic markets, and the needless interjection into a social conversation could conceivably attract some very negative attention for the airline. It’s a risk he’s not willing to take personally or professionally.
If you’d like to add your voice to courageous conservative leaders like Stuart, sign and share the petition below telling Qantas CEO Alan Joyce to stay out of politics and stick to planes.
Why would an Australian airline with major partners from Muslim majority nations heavily promote homosexual marriage?
Qantas - Stay out of politics and stick to planes!Read or edit the petition
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