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People who live in glass houses should not throw stones

Helmut Brandstätter is the editor and publisher of Kurier newspaper, who had an interesting point of view with regards to the current negotiations on forming a new government.

For our readers, the article is reproduced here in English:

"After an electoral defeat, it is usually the ÖVP that pours on the anguish. However this time it is the SPÖ that has forgotten its traditional discipline and has become a babble of voices about what to do next. In particular some labour groups seem to believe that an approach to the FPÖ might help win back workers votes.

"An article by Andreas Mölzer in last Friday’s Die Presse has been praised by the men in dark suits who want to churn out more ‘blue’ men. These FPÖ fellow travellers recommend that our country should take a special course within the EU, rather like the English.

"Britain has roughly three times the rate of youth unemployment, and the unemployed generally fare worse than in Austria. Some sectors of industry have died out on the Island, and the City of London has blocked a financial transaction tax. The value of the Euro is now roughly a third (sic) above the Pound compared with the rate when the Euro was launched. Is this an example?

"Before the election, the leader of the FPÖ, HC Strache, announced in the Kurier that he will demand a referendum on the Euro. Do labour leaders want this ? Alternatively, will they consider the dependence on exports of our industrial sector?

"It is strange that a few so called intellectuals find all of this exciting and that experienced politicians should be taken in. This shows that social democracy is in confusion."

But Mr Brandstätter appears to have reached various conclusions and then chosen economic data to agree with his prejudices.

As Ken Cameron pointed out in an open letter to the Kurier editor:

"Let us try to take a more intellectually honest view of the position in the EU, the UK, and Austria.

"Youth unemployment is currently EU 23%, UK 21%, Austria 8%.

"Both Germany and Austria have low unemployment however the UK is below the EU average and the rate is now falling. Car manufacturing is a good indicator of industrial performance.

"In 2013 the UK is expected to produce over 1.5 million cars and in the near future it will become the second biggest car maker in the EU. The City of London dominates all other financial centres in Europe.

"A tax on financial transactions would be a totally unacceptable handicap on UK business, sending taxes from the UK to Brussels.

"The Pound has declined against the Euro by 19% during the last 10 years mainly because the financial crash has had a disproportionate effect on UK financial services. The Bank of England has used Quantitive Easing to refinance the banking sector and encourage exports. Without QE the economy may have declined further but with a harder currency; perhaps €1.35 as against today’s €1.18.

"Finally, let us take a look at two other comparisons. All modern western democracies are mostly based on the London Westminster model including the United States.

"Democracy depends on the struggle between centre left and centre right parties because this produces accountability and helps prevent corruption. Austria has mainly Große Koalitions, Proporz, and rampant corruption especially in the upper echelons of society.

"For example, Bank Austria's link to  Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi Scheme was not reported by Kurier ( until 13 October, after the general election ). The UK has free media. Newspapers do not take subsidies from the government as this would corrupt their duty to hold politicians to account.

"The UK does not have defamation laws that restrict the media and prevent sound investigative journalism about corrupt politicians, judges, police, doctors, business and so on. The ORF fee ( Gebühr ) is 245% higher than the BBC – the BBC has no advertising. ORF is probably overmanned by 50% because of Partei Buch Proporz.

"Is there much doubt that if Proporz ( uneconomic non jobs ) were to be taken out of the Austrian economy, actual unemployment would be … higher ? We have a saying in English ‘people who live in glass houses should not throw stones’."

Ken Cameron is a retired financial expert currently living in Vienna.

** The Pound was worth about €1.50 when the Euro was launched. Now €1.18. The Pound is an independent floating currency. Austria benefits from its relationship with Germany, its main trading partner.

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