I travel to Perth about once a month. I always enjoy the trip, particularly at this time of the year when the weather is a lot nicer in Perth than in Melbourne. Of course, coming from Victoria, where retail trading hours have been deregulated for years, the trading hour restrictions in Perth, with the associated long queues at supermarkets, can be frustrating. However, it appears that the government is partially freeing up retail trading hours in Perth. See here. That will be a good thing for the residents of Perth, and for my blood pressure (OK – I hate queuing).
However, a recent newspaper article in the Australian gave me a “back to the 60s” moment. Apparently Western Australia still has the potato marketing board. You need a license to grow and sell potatoes in Western Australia and the board tells you how many you can grow. All potatoes must be sold ‘through’ the marketing board and prices for consumers are fixed by the board.
These sort of restrictions have been eliminated almost everywhere else in Australia. They are designed to prevent competition and keep potato prices high. They are wonderful if you are an existing potato farmer but make no sense for anyone else. The cost of these restrictions to consumers and to other farmers who might like to grow potatoes well and truly outweigh any benefits.
But my real “back to the 60s” moment comes from Washington. Almost every country in the world has got rid of low currency paper notes. They have been replaced by coins. Think of the Euro, the Pound and our own Australian Dollar as examples. Using notes for low value currency is expensive. The notes circulate rapidly and do not last long. Printing new notes while collecting and destroying old notes is costly. Coins last a lot longer which reduces the government’s expenses.
In the US, dollar coins were introduced but the notes remained in circulation. The end result has been that the notes are pushing the coins out of the market. See here. Production of the dollar coins will stop in December.
This is a simple failure of government. Customers do not see the cost associated with using notes rather than coins for small denominations. But the government sees these costs and the costs are borne by consumers in their role as taxpayers. So hopefully the cross-party Bills before Congress will resolve the issue – in favour of the coins.
Of course, this leaves an interesting race? Will WA eliminate its 1960s potato marketing board before Washington eliminates the dollar notes? Or will both the US and WA be left with their ‘sixties moments’?