Tag: Australia

Australia Considers Legalizing Marijuana

Spencer Kellogg | United States

The Green Party of Australia has proposed a new bill that would fully legalize cannabis within the country. The legislation would allow Australian citizens to legally grow up to six plants in their home & create standards for selling cannabis in licensed shops.

Green Party Leader Richard Di Natale has been a vocal advocate for immediate change. Mr. Natale and fellow Greens have lashed out against harsh criminal sentences & the failed approach of prohibition in Australia.

The legislation represents the first time that a major political party in Australia has called for cannabis legalization. In 2016, the Coalition & Labor Party proposed legislation that would decriminalize cannabis for medicinal users only.

Aussie media were quick to attack the legislation with some calling the proposal a stunt. Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt dismissed the initiative and labeled marijuana a “gateway drug.”

This isn’t Mr. Natale’s first foray into the media spotlight. Last month, the Green Party leader called for a nationalized “People’s Bank” to address growing housing affordability & savings concerns.

In 2017, Australian authorities arrested nearly 80,000 citizens for pot-related crimes. Although marijuana can cause health and psychological issues, the pattern of abuse and the physical toll on a user is much less severe than alcohol or cigarettes. According to statistics from The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, over 35% of Australians have consumed cannabis.

In a conversation with The Guardian, Mr. Natale discussed reforming Australia’s archaic cannabis laws.

It drives people away from getting help when they need it and exposes them to a dangerous black market. Our plan to create a legal market for cannabis production and sale will reduce the risks, but the business model of criminal dealers and syndicates and protect young people from unfair criminal prosecutions.

Australia would join a growing list of nations and American States that have legalized the manufacturing, selling and consuming of the drug. In a recent poll, over 30% of Australians were in favor of full legalization.

Proponents of the bill suggest the legislation would expand civil liberties in the country and help create a new tax revenue base. Although the opposition has suggested the move could trigger poor societal outcomes, a recent Cato report proposed otherwise.

Though the measure is likely to fail, cannabis activists continue to see gainful traction in their collective goal to legalize the plant.

Image Source Pexels

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Australia’s Gun Buyback Program Has Nothing to Offer the United States

By Mason Mohon | United States

In the wake of the Parkland massacre, we once again see calls for change in the world of guns. Why that never happens is a different story, but we once again hear a ruckus in favor of adopting the ‘Australian Model.’ It seems to be a tried and true example of mass gun reform that has concrete results, right?

Well, not exactly. The facts tend to be skewed around this method of gun reform, and whenever that happens it poses a threat to constructive discussion. To find out what to do about the Australian model of gun reform, we should first see what it actually was, see what the results are, and lastly figure out if it would work in the United States.

So what actually happened in Australia? After a deadly mass shooting where 36 people were killed, the Australian Prime Minister took action and worked to mandate that all fully and semi-automatic rifles, along with shotguns, would be confiscated and destroyed by the government, and the government would compensate the people who turned in guns. 650,000 firearms were turned in due to the mandate, and approximately 60,000 firearms were turned in voluntarily. This accounts for about 20% of Australia’s guns.

Now, did it work? After the 1996 buyback programs, murder and suicide rates have decreased, and there has not been a mass shooting since. The world is not that simple, though, and causal links between government programs and concrete results can rarely be proven in a single sentence so we will need to look at the actual statistics and find whether or not there was an actual effect.

On the suicide results, real effects coming from the buyback are in question. Vox’s colorful gun chart flip-book has a few statistics on the subject of guns worldwide, one of which outlines the rates in Australian suicide after 1996.

VoxAustralia-4

The National Review’s Mark Antonio Wright points out the flaw in this graph as an argument:

While the chart does show a steady decline in gun-related suicides, the reduction occurred at the same time as an overall reduction in the Australian suicide rate. What’s more, firearm-related suicides had been declining in Australia for nearly ten years before the 1996 restrictions on gun ownership.

Vox’s own chart does not appear to show a causal link between gun control and a reduction in suicide rates in Australia.

Clearly, the results do not show a causal relationship between the mass confiscation program and a decline in the suicide rate, but what of murders?

Australia’s Oceanic neighbor, New Zealand, is very similar socioeconomically and did not implement firearm regulations like those of Australia, which makes it a good control variable to compare to Australia when it comes to actual results in shootings. A Justice Policy Journal study showed that there was no substantial statistical difference in shootings between Australia and New Zealand since the program.

Prior to the ban, murders in both countries was declining at a similar rate. After the ban, murders in both countries continued to decline at a similar rate. There has not been a mass shooting in New Zealand since the prohibitive action was taken in Australia. These similarities show that declining rates of gun homicides cannot be attributed to the confiscation program.

The declining gun murder rate prior to the ban is important too. Multiple studies, including the Justice Policy Journal study, show that before and after 1996, Australia’s gun homicide rate is declining at a constant rate.gunchart

A 2007 study shows a similar trend.

Firearm20homicide20per2010000020population201980-2004

The American Medical Association found that there was no direct decrease resulting from the 1996 buyback program. A decrease in homicides in Australia cannot be attributed to the Australian program, so we should not weigh it as a viable solution in Australia. How, then, could this be applied to the United States?

It cannot be, really at all. America and Australia are very different countries. National Review went on to look into how exactly a program even remotely similar to this would occur in the United States.

…an American mandatory gun-confiscation program — in addition to being unconstitutional — would be extraordinarily coercive, and perhaps even violent.
There is no other way around it: The mandatory confiscation of the American citizenry’s guns would involve tens of thousands of heavily armed federal agents going door-to-door to demand of millions of Americans that they surrender their guns.

City Lab interviewed Australian ambassador to the U.S. Joe Hockey, a former Australian politician who was involved in the 1996 program, and he does not think that the program would be viable at all in the United States:

Australia and the United States are completely different situations, and it goes back to each of our foundings. America was born from a culture of self-defense. Australia was born from a culture of “the government will protect me.” Australia wasn’t born as a result of a brutal war. We weren’t invaded. We weren’t attacked. We weren’t occupied. That makes an incredible difference, even today.

But the gun culture is so ingrained in America. I can’t wrap my brain around impulsive buys, no cooling off period, no mental-health checks. I’m stunned there’s not more road rage here given the number of guns.

Australia implemented a mandatory confiscation program in 1996, and clearly, it made no change in the murder and suicide rates in Australia. Thus, it also would not work in the United States. This program is not a viable solution to the mass murder problem that we face, so people need to quit saying “Australia did…” in response to every single American tragedy. 


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Image from The Trace.

Trump’s Withdrawal from the TPP Hurts our Economy

In the fast-paced news cycle, there is a tendency to forget about news stories as they age. However, this does not mean they forget about us, and sometimes, they come back to haunt us. Just over a year ago, President Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Essentially, this move ceded leadership on trade to other participating nations, which will produce real consequences for the American economy.

Where We Stand

Currently, the 11 participating TPP nations are working to open the marketplace, eliminating many tariffs in a $14 trillion market. However, as President Trump removed the U.S. from this agreement, they will not directly benefit from it. On the contrary, after much deliberation, Canada has decided that inclusion in the partnership will bolster their economy. Naturally, the ten other member countries agree as well. It is true that the United States, through trade with Canada via the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), will still benefit to some degree, but these slim figures will pale in comparison to the growth that they could have seen through continued membership in the agreement.

Can Anything be Done?

Despite a poor outlook, it appears that leaders will not finalize the agreement until the end of the summer. Due to this, it is both possible and ideal that the more market-oriented members of Trump’s cabinet may persuade him to rejoin the agreement. Unfortunately, however, the president’s tough view on trade makes this re-entry appear unlikely.

Though Trump vehemently opposes the deal, he often forgets the massive benefits of free trade agreements, such as NAFTA. In the two decades following this deal, cross-border investment surged from $290 billion in 1993 to $1.1 Trillion in 2016. Member states of the TPP will likely see a similar surge due to the deal. Despite the existence of obvious benefits, our anti-trade president makes it highly unlikely that the U.S. will see them.

(Image courtesy of tpp.guide)

The USA is not the Best Country in the World

By James Sweet III | USA

US News & World Report has released its rankings of the best countries in the world, and the results may or may not shock you. Economic influence, citizenship, and quality of life were found among the 65 factors that were taken into consideration for this list. 21,000 men and women were asked to rank 80 countries based off of these factors. Surely, from what the American populace has been told, the United States would be number one. To the surprise of some, this is simply not true. In fact, the USA is not even in the top five. So, who placed where?

10. The Netherlands

Men and women selected the Netherlands as the tenth best country overall. Also, it was a top ten finisher in the following categories: most business-friendly, most modern, entrepreneurship, quality of life, best countries to headquarter a corporation, raising kids, travel alone, most transparent countries, green living, and women. Clearly, the Dutch nation, though small, seems to be very mighty.

9. France

France, though recently ravaged by terrorist attacks and political conflicts, ranked ninth overall. The culturally rich nation ranked in the top ten for the following factors: cultural influence, power, heritage & richest traditions, most influential, education, and starting a career. However, this shouldn’t come as a shock to many. The Eiffel Tower and many other pieces of French art and culture are renowned around the world.

8. The United States of America

Come on, America. Can’t you do better? After all, we are the land of the free and the home of the brave! Well, at least we ranked in the top ten for cultural influence, entrepreneurship, power, most forward-looking, most influential, and education. Some may disagree with this, but it seems that is how civilization sees the USA.

7. Australia

Our friends down under seemed to edge above us this time. Although they lost the Emu War, they won when it came to this list. Ranking top ten in cultural influence, most modern, quality of life, most-forward looking, best countries to headquarter a corporation, raising kids, traveling alone, green living, investing in, education, retiring comfortably, and women, it seems the Australians are having a fun time outback.

6. Sweden

Sweden, despite conflicts due to mass migration, once again finished with a spot in the top ten. The Scandinavian nation ranked highly in: most business-friendly, cultural influence, most modern, entrepreneurship, quality of life, best countries to headquarter a corporation, raising kids, transparency, green living, education, retiring comfortably, and women.

5. Japan

This shouldn’t come as a shock, considering that Japan is a peaceful, extravagant, culturally influential nation. This can be contrasted to the high levels of tension in much of Eastern Asia. Placing in the top ten for cultural influence, entrepreneurship, power, up & coming economies, most-forward looking, most influential, green living, and education, the island nation of Japan seems to have a bright future ahead of them.

4. The United Kingdom

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Island once used to rule the waves. Now, they rule the rankings. The former British Empire placed in the top ten for cultural influence, entrepreneurship, power, starting a business, most forward-looking, most influential, transparency, education, and starting a career. Despite a lack of unification within the nation, the UK finished with an impressive showing.

3. Germany

From Holy Roman Empire to Federal Republic, the nation of Germany has risen and fallen. Today, Germany is once again a leader of European and world politics. They placed in the top ten for: being the most modern, entrepreneurship, quality of life, power, most forward-looking, headquartering a corporation, most influential, transparency, green living, education, and women. Where’s the ranking for best bratwurst?

2. Canada

The culturally diverse nation of Canada finished as number two on this list. It’s always nice to see another North American nation on this list. #Represent. They were in the top ten for most business-friendly, most modern, entrepreneurship, quality of life, starting a business, most forward-looking countries, headquartering a corporation, raising kids, transparency, green living, education, retiring comfortably, and women.

1. Switzerland

Finally, the glorious Swiss Republic, known for its armed neutrality and semi-direct democracy, finished in first for the second year in a row. Unsurprisingly, they were ranked in the top ten for a number of categories. These include the most business-friendly, cultural influence, most modern, entrepreneurship, quality of life, starting a business, most forward-looking countries, headquartering a corporation, raising kids, transparency, green living, education, retiring comfortably and women.

If Switzerland’s name wasn’t there, many Americans would likely believe the USA was actually number one in the world.  Yet, we have seen that the USA only ranked as the eighth best country. Perhaps, the government should take some notes from the Swiss.

(Image courtesy of www.wonderfulengineering.com)