The Seven Questions of Basic Income Implementation

From the first meeting of our Implementing a Basic Income in Australia group, I presented my outline of what I think are the fundamental questions which need to be answered before a Basic Income can actually be implemented.

In order to answer these questions we want to organise a range of experts on social and economic issues into working groups so that they can discuss the consequences of each decision and how it will be beneficial or detrimental to society, economics, welfare, well-being, employment, power imbalance, freedoms, etc.

The questions are:

  1. How Much / How Often?
    $1 – $10,000+ / Paid daily – Paid annually
  2. What scale is it implemented on? Where?
    Small town? Council? City? State? National.
  3. Who gets it?
    Everyone? Citizens? Residents? 18+? Based on tax return submission? etc
  4. How is it funded?
    Local government? Federal Govt? Increased taxes? New (resource?) taxes? Debt? Transaction tax? Charity? Crowd funding? New money straight to the people?
  5. How long will it run for?
    2 years? 10 years? Indefinitely? 5 years on, 5 years off, etc?
  6. What does it replace?
    Replace all welfare? Just unemployment benefit? Nothing? Minimum wage? Wait and see?
  7. Will there be a transitional period? What will it look like?
    Instant implementation, or gradual implementation over time?

(Have I missed any? Please leave a comment below if I have!)

The answers to each of these questions often influences the answers to others. For example, if you want a National (Q2) Basic Income, it will be virtually impossible to fund that through Charity of Crowd sourcing (Q4), but there is a chance that you could fund a Partial Basic Income (Q1) for 2 years (Q5) in a small remote town (Q2) via charity (Q4).

Of course, a partial income in a small remote town isn’t the ultimate goal, so then we’re talking about a first step implementation. A trial, or a demonstration of value, hoping that it will grow to other towns or else convince enough of the population to enact a nationwide Basic Income. In this case, we’d have to design the best “initial test case implementation” and then a second “Ultimate goal implementation” and perhaps even design the strategy which will take us from the initial test to the ultimate goal.

Whether we want a small test case first or not is still to be answered. I don’t believe the NHS, medicare, welfare etc had incremental steps to implementation, so perhaps it is an error to think that a Basic Income would need it. Perhaps we should instead be focusing on the best possible design for Australia, and then fight for grassroots support of that system while lobbying political parties and getting the support of influential think tanks.

This is all just a first step. We still need to reach out to existing Basic Income organisations (BIEN, QUT, Utrecht University (BIParty NL) etc) to see what information, research and conclusions they are able to share with us which will help inform our answers to these questions.

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Australia’s Welfare Needs to be Increased, not Cut Back

I was told over Facebook just today that these new changes to welfare and medicare that The Liberal Party are trying to bring in won’t make anyone starve. Of course this claim shows a complete ignorance of what life is like on Newstart and disability, and also highlights how strong ideological thinking is, where evidence and data are ignored because an ideology tells us that something should be better, so we assume it is better.

Why find out whether people are struggling to survive on Newstart currently, and then get the data on how the new changes will change their situation, when we can just outright assert that there won’t be any real negative change, and then assume we are right?

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Vaccinations and Vaccination Information in Australia

Vaccination is one of the most important and valuable medical treatments our civilisation has ever invented. Possibly only second to Antibiotics. Sadly there are a small group of very vocal people who work to cast doubt on the value, safety and efficacy of this incredibly important medical treatment.

But forget about them, because there is a lot of good information out there, you just need to know where to look. Here are a few websites I recommend starting at:

  1. http://www.vaccination.org.au/
  2. http://www.immunise.health.gov.au/
  3. http://www.health.wa.gov.au/flu/vaccination/index.cfm

And also take the time to check out the Stop the Australian Vaccination Network page, to highlight the lies, hypocrisy and dangers that the Australian Vaccination Network pose on Australian citizens.

Vaccination is important. It saves lives. And if you can get vaccinated, you should, for the people who can’t. The immuno-compromised  the frail, and the vulnerable.

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Australia vs England – Price Comparison

A common conversation I have had since I arrived in England a little over a month ago, is how surprised I am at the fact that nearly everything here is significantly cheaper than in Australia (except transport costs- public transport and fuel). When it comes to groceries though – necessities and treats, my experience of prices so far are so very strongly in the UK’s favour, that it is becoming very hard for me to justify living in Australia any more.

So I logged in to two supermarket giants here in the UK, and compared prices with Coles and Woolworths, and this is what I got:

 

Item Tesco Asda Woolworths Coles
Fresh Food
Gala Apples, Loose (kg) $4.35 $2.63 $4.97 $5.48
Closed Cup Mushrooms, Loose (kg) $4.50 $4.18 $11.96 $10.48
Brown Onions Class 2, Loose (kg) $1.49 $1.46 $1.88 $2.48
Meat
Bacon (best / kg) $8.73 $8.73 $9.90 $8.01
Chicken Breast $11.12 $11.12 $15.50 $10.90
Lamb Leg (roast) $12.04 $15.03 $13.48 $14.00
Pantry
750-775g CornFlakes $3.73 $3.01 $5.36 $5.34
Coke 2L $2.68 $2.68 $3.92 $3.91
Cheapest pasta (kg) $0.96 $0.96 $1.20 $1.20

From this small sample, it is immediately clear how badly australia is competing, and it would be easy to continue comparing prices like this and continue the trend. I was even trying to pick products which Australia should fare better with – meats and grain based products should be abundant in our giant agricultural country! And yet the UK was cheaper on every front.

Here is the averaged results:

Actual Exchange Rate
1.5046
Item UK Average Aus Average
Fresh Food
Gala Apples, Loose (kg) $3.49 $5.23
Closed Cup Mushrooms, Loose (kg) $4.34 $11.22
Brown Onions Class 2, Loose (kg) $1.47 $2.18
Meat
Bacon (best / kg) $8.73 $8.96
Chicken Breast $11.12 $13.20
Lamb Leg (roast) $13.53 $13.74
Pantry
750-775g CornFlakes $3.37 $5.35
Coke 2L $2.68 $3.92
Cheapest pasta (kg) $0.96 $1.20
$49.70 $64.99

You can also see the current exchange rate used to calculate the AUD value of the GBP purchase price (from XE.com). The UK is cheaper, often times significantly, in every single product compared.

To be fair, the AUD is at the strongest it has ever been. It has doubled in value compared to the UK over the past 10 years and if we were to use an exchange rate of 3.0 dollars to the pound, then we would have all but one of the above products cheaper in Australia (mushrooms are way over priced in Aus!). So to give the benfit of the doubt, and assume that our grocery prices are simply on a delay with respect to our dollars value, lets compare the prices with an assume dexchange rate of 2.5 and 2.0:

Rate 2.5 Rate 2
Item UK AUS UK AUS
Fresh Food
Gala Apples, Loose (kg) $5.80 $5.23 $4.64 $5.23
Closed Cup Mushrooms, Loose (kg) $7.21 $11.22 $5.77 $11.22
Brown Onions Class 2, Loose (kg) $2.45 $2.18 $1.96 $2.18
Meat
Bacon (best / kg) $14.50 $8.96 $11.60 $8.96
Chicken Breast $18.48 $13.20 $14.78 $13.20
Lamb Leg (roast) $22.49 $13.74 $17.99 $13.74
Pantry
750-775g CornFlakes $5.60 $5.35 $4.48 $5.35
Coke 2L $4.45 $3.92 $3.56 $3.92
Cheapest pasta (kg) $1.60 $1.20 $1.28 $1.20
$82.58 $64.99 $66.06 $64.99

2.5 is probably an acceptable average value for the AUD to GBP, and hovered around that value for quite a long time – but hasn’t really been there for the past four years or so. While 2 was seen about 2 years ago as the value surged straight past it to our current 1.5 position. When you accept the value of 2, then we get costs more in line with what you would expect – Meat and grain products are still cheaper in Aus, but other things are cheaper in the UK.

OK, I have managed to do, what I so often do when trying to research ideas – managed to investigate far enough to disprove my own position. Yay.

Let me explain. My thoughts were that Australia was ripping us all off, charging way too much for every day products etc, when they should be much cheaper – and simply comparing the prices in the UK vs the AUS prices ‘clearly shows that’ – BUT, when you take the time to consider that the AUD has only been at 1.50 very recently, and only for the last couple of years, you cannot expect all of our grocery prices to be set so as to reflect this strength! It takes time for the benefits of a strong currency to somehow filter through to the farmers, the transporters and the other involved businesses so that they can lower their prices (or perhaps more accurately, so that the rest of the worlds prices can catch up with our new value).

Basically, what I am really noticing is that “The AUD is strong at the moment – now is a good time to take advantage of that”. No shit huh? If the dollar was to retrace back to an exchange of 2.0, then suddenly my whole perspective of “Australia is expensive” would be completely unsupportable – yet the prices would probably be the same.

Let this be an important lesson to me to remember that the rapid fluctuations of international currency markets can not be used to immediately label the regular prices of daily living “Expensive” and “Cheap”.

I wonder if the recent study which found Sydney to be the 6th most expensive city in the world made the same mistake I did?

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Wombat Attacks Man!

Wow. We’ve always known that Wombats were tough little balls of muscle and something you don’t want to mess with (particularly when driving), but I had no idea a Wombat could attack a full grown man and take him down!

http://www.smh.com.au/national/black-saturday-survivor-on-the-run-from-a-wild-wombat-20100406-rpfq.html?autostart=1

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