Thursday, March 31, 2005

disagreeing over division.

I have just begun reading Raimond Gaita's Quarterly Essay (from last year, I know) entitled, Breach of Trust: Truth, Morality and Politics.

On page 3 he makes the statement that;
“Australia is not a country where large numbers of people are politically and morally incomprehensible to one another.”
My impression is the opposite - I find the majority of Australia politically and morally incomprehenible. I do not get how a lot of Australia thinks. I have no idea how they can reach the political conclusions they have.*

The only way in which I can see Gaita's statement can be
true is that I am not a member of a large group of Australians. Which is both disturbing and reassuring at the same time.

Anyway, we will see what Gaita has to say on the matter...

* I often think about this question when in large groups of people, or on public transport. And it just makes me think, WTF?? It is quite likely that (notwithstanding selective bias) fifty per cent of the people in the room/train/tram/pub/workplace actively cast their vote last october in suppport of John Howard.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


I like sjusju's take on the Abbott love child not being the product of Abbott's loving thing:
“since Tony has used the hypothetical argument that if he and his girlfriend had chosen abortion, the lovely Daniel would never have existed, and therefore abortion is "bad", now he has to stand by the equally hypothetical argument that if his girlfriend hadn't been playing the field, Daniel would also never have existed, and therefore cheating on your dorky Young Liberal boyfriend is therefore "good".”

open your eyes, put it in drive …

“... get on the road and just go.
city lights,
turn to tree lines
and national park signs.
mountains approach,
with small winds in the road
and the air turns to falling snow.”

from ‘Dynamite Walls’ by Hayden.

I want to go bush.

Monday, March 21, 2005

wolfowitz (ii)

The appointment of Paul Wolfowitz as President of the World Bank renders a prime instrument for the economic progress of underdeveloped and developing countries entirey devoid of what little credibility it ever had.

The always insightful Paul Krugman reminds us that;
“The advice that the World Bank gives is as important as the money it lends - but only if governments take that advice. And given the ideological rigidity the Pentagon showed in Iraq, they probably won't. If Mr. Wolfowitz says that some free-market policy will help economic growth, he'll be greeted with as much skepticism as if he declared that some country has weapons of mass destruction ... the Wolfowitz nomination turns the World Bank into the American Bank. Make that ugly American bank: rightly or not, developing countries will see Mr. Wolfowitz's selection as a sign that we're still trying to impose policies they believe have failed.”

As Clare Short, former UK International Development Secretary, says;
“It's as though they [the Americans] are trying to wreck our international systems.”

The Wolfowitz nomination is still to be confirmed by the Europeans. We can hope.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

john quiggin

That just made my day better.

In the vein of anonymity, I may or may not have been working away, when someone may or may not have come and invited me to sit in on a presentation on the economics of water in the Murray–Darling catchment that may or may not have been given by the one and only JQ.
The presentation may or may not have been essentially based upon on this paper, which I am now going to go home and read.


Racist Ross Lightfoot is in trouble, supposedly for smuggling cash into Iraq on a study tour.

According to News Ltd papers, Senator Lightfoot “used a taxpayer-funded "study'' tour to secretly spirit the money ($US20,000 in cash) into Iraq in January on behalf of Woodside Petroleum.”

What makes this case interesting is that Lightfoot and Woodside both deny it, but News Ltd. are still “standing by their story”.

Of course, the 'honest and trusting' John Howard is happy with how Racist Ross is dealing with it all.

I hate both News Ltd and Lightfoot, so I can’t really lose, although I do hope that Lightfoot is shown to be a stupid fucker once again. Whatever the case, I just have to kick back and wait for Mediawatch.


Although neither of them really have any serious economic credentials, I would’ve been happy with Bono. But really – could you pick anyone worse than Paul Wolfowitz to be the President of the World Bank? Ok, maybe Cheney, but even that’s dubious. Read more here.

I can’t really say much about this - it just goes along with other absurdities of the Bush administration.

Just fits quite well with my day.

Thanks to the Northcote Knob for pointing this out to me via the blogosphere, and to Mikazooki by bringing it to my attention by other means.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

points of interest.

Two things that I have come across today which are worth posting. So, returning to the time honoured tradition of bullet points:

  • An extensive discussion on how a teacher on prac was hassled out of a government school because she was gay is found here. This includes comments from ‘Jane’ herself, describing her story of events. Be aware of any confusion with discrimination on the grounds of sexuality with concerns (justified or not) about paedophilia. The latter does not justify the former. Thanks to Nic White for pointing this thread out to me.

  • Somehow “Special” Minister of State, Eric Abetz (yes, the same fellow that deliberately misled John Howard whilst also misusing Senate resources) now wants to make bloggers put names to their sites and comments. Good luck.*

  • * Read more about Abetz at Robert Corr.

    we really just needed some time together.

    Oh my goodness, John Anderson lying? Allegations that the “honourable” Deputy PM offered the independent Member for Tamworth, Tony Windsor, a diplomatic posting as an inducement not to run in the 2004 election just keep on simmering. Tony Windsor and two of his staffers testified last month to a Senate inquiry that this inducement was offered through a bussinessman named Greg Maguire.

    “Even-more-honest-than-the-other John” revealed in the House of Reps yesterday that he didn’t ask his staffer, Wendy Anderson, to leave the room just because he wanted to see Mr Maguire’s “extensive collection of motorcycles”, as he had previously claimed.

    Rather, as Mr. Maguire had earlier admitted before a Senate Inquiry, they did talk about the Member for Tamworth, Tony Windsor. Although there was no talking about inducements. Of course not, John.

    As the fat man asked;
    “Why didn't the Deputy Prime Minister tell the House then what he has told the House now, that he and Mr Maguire in fact discussed the political future of the Member for New England?”

    Why? What else are you hiding? Were the motorbikes that good?

    time for a career change.

    Yesterday an employer group filed for a pay increase in the Queensland Industrial Relations Commission. Not just any pay increase, a 30 per cent pay increase. Yes. By an employer.

    The Consulting Surveyors Queensland Industrial Organisation of Employers filed for this increase, arguing that there are insufficient boundary surveyors in QLD because they don’t get paid enough. The supply of surveyors is diminishing – there are currently 800 registered surveyors, with 3 people entering and 12 people leaving the industry and each year. Assuming that demand is at least constant, this has to put upward pressure on wages.

    And this comes after pay increases of up to 31 percent to electricity tradesmen were approved in QLD last month.

    This is all good for my brother. He is the only one of my siblings who didn’t go to uni, is already earning the most out of all of us, and is a surveyor. Maybe he should move to QLD, and then he could come and visit me more often.

    This is both concrete evidence of a labour market shortages, and complete vindication of the RBA’s recent decision to increase interest rates, so as to head off inflation in the medium term. Indeed, if this keeps going (and it is unlikely to suddenly stop – they don’t call it a wage-price spiral for nothing), the RBA will find it pretty damn hard to keep inflation in the target range of 2-3 per cent.* Quite probably, the RBA should have been highlighting the deficiencies in the labour market and moving on interest rates last year.

    Whatever the case, Costello should be sweating, and my brother should be smiling.

    * If this does happen, I am likely to face real wage decline, as my pay is not set to increase at more than two percent this year, and there is no shortage of public servants so I have limited bargaining power. Maybe I should become a sparky …

    Thursday, March 10, 2005

    shafting the poor.

    As I said in a post ages ago, there are significant problems with the effective marginal tax rates faced by lower income groups in Australia. That is, the high level of effective marginal tax rates can be significant disincentive to finding or increasing employment, thus creating a poverty trap.

    In the OECD report on tax levels imposed on wages in member countries, released yesterday;
    “By contrast, the disincentive from marginal effective net tax rates was particularly high for single-earner families with two children on average wages in the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and the United States.”

    With the Howard government pandering to the mortgage set (we won't raise interest rates, no we really won't), they passed the bill on to the lower income set. The increase of effective marginal tax rates faced by Australian single parents with two children on two thirds of average production wages was the highest in the world - 6.2 percentage points over the course of a year.

    The table released by the OECD can be found here.

    effective porkbarelling.

    Andrew Leigh shows a statistically significant positive relationship between government expenditure on the Roads to Recovery program and electoral swings towards the coalition in the 2004 election*. All he has done is regressed electoral swings with regards to road expenditure, and found a significant positive relationship, leading him to estimate the cost of a swinging voter at around $28,000.

    This was obviously inspired by Monday's piece in the same paper, where Mark Davis pointed out that;
    “The analysis of $1.2 billion in federal funds allocated to local councils during the first four years of the program shows that the electorates that gained the most include Transport Minister John Anderson's constituency of Gwydir in northern NSW, which received $41 million under the scheme.”

    John “I didn't really offer him a diplomatic posting, because I am just an honest farmer and wouldn't do that sort of thing” Anderson, concerned about how there are so many stories flying around about his dubious character that it is impossible to keep up with all of them, came back hard on Tuesday, saying that;
    “The Australian Financial Review's myopic approach to infrastructure spending plagues its pages.”

    “[E]very dollar spent by the government on the Roads to Recovery program generates $1.80 in benefits.”

    And what are these benefits, John? Where did you pull that figure from?

    It will be interesting to see how John Anderson reacts to Andrew Leigh's argument. Leigh acknowledges that the correlation between the two doesn't mean causality, and this may just be coincidental. There certainly some circumstantial factors involved here - the coalition generally has a stronger showing in regional seats that have greater distances involved and therefore need more roads. Nevertheless, as Leigh says;
    “[T]he correlation suggests that the program was largely targeted towards coalition-held seats, and voters in these favoured seats responded by voting for John Howard in larger numbers than in 2001.”

    Whatever the case, it is quite apparent that the process of allocating road funds has some questions hanging over it, and, as pointed out in the AFR's own response to Anderson's rant;
    “[The Minister for Transport] protested too much in his cri de coeur ... yesterday, but he unwittingly demonstrated that the government's road spending programs - the $12 billion AusLink and the $2.7 billion Roads to Recovery - are still not transparent enough for taxpayers to have any confidence that their hard-earned money is being well spent.”

    Mr Anderson, I think that you need a better reason for why coalition seats got consistently more money than simply saying that they are in the bush, and I would like to hear the justification for why your electorate got the most in the country. And while you are at it, I would like to see some justification for the returns on road investment that you are quoting.

    *A longer article is published in today's Fin Review, but if you are not a subscriber, you can see Andrew Leigh's op-ed pieces (which are always worth reading) here.

    Wednesday, March 09, 2005

    murdoch and his lying bastards.

    Ok, I know this is sort of old news. And I know that Murdoch press deliberately misleading the general public is not really notable these days — you just expect it, don’t you.

    Nevertheless, it is good to see that the Press Council upheld Bob Brown’s complaint that the mob at the Herald Sun are a lying bunch of fucks “a disgrace to the profession of journalism” and “manifestly wrong”.

    I know that this still means nothing — the Press Council are a toothless self-regulatory body — but it is still good to have some semi-formal recognition that Murdoch and co are blatantly deceptive large scale mouthpieces for the Howard government.

    Of course that is why JWH appointed Janet Albrechtsen to the board of the ABC. But that is another story.

    The complaint is with regards to the representation of the Green policy in the Herald Sun, by Gerald McManus.

    These claims are ludicrous, as evidenced in the Press Council adjudication on Bob Brown's claim. The adjudication is quite short and worth reading, but if you can’t be bothered, here are some of the claims:
    “Sen. Brown said a number of claims made by the paper in the article or graphic were wrong, including:
    - an alleged policy of a 33 per cent hike in company tax to at least 49 cents in the dollar (which did not reflect current Greens policy);
    - suggestions that people would be forced to ride bicycles more often and eat less meat and business people to use alternatives such as rail, boat and teleconferencing (no coercion is advocated in the policies);
    - existence of policies to keep out business immigrants, introduce taxes on family homes, drive farmers from their land and reduce infrastructure to 1995 levels (no such policies exists, Sen. Brown says); and
    - a desire to cut the population by 2 million (Sen. Brown says there is no such policy and the claim is based on a Liberal Party paper)”.

    This is pre-election “coverage” of a The Green’s party platform — outright misinformation, with no attempt to redress it. You are going to have to ride bikes and eat less meat if the Greens are elected? I love it.

    As the judgement goes on to say:
    “The claims made in the original article were seriously inaccurate and breached the Council's guiding principles of checking the accuracy of what is reported, taking prompt measures to counter the effects of harmfully inaccurate reporting, ensuring that the facts are not distorted, and being fair and balanced in reports on matters of public concern”.

    As both Anon Lefty and the SMH argue, the scale of this deception and systematic misrepresentation is orders of magnitude greater than anything what the right argues about with regards to the ABC.

    Anyway, this is still not over, as the Press Council's judgement is being appealed. And it won't matter what the outcome is anyway — we know that Murdoch readers won't hear about it.

    (Note: if anyone has the actual graphic in which these claims were presented, I would like to see it/post it)

    Friday, March 04, 2005


    This is my favourite bit of Canberra. This huge American eagle imperiously perched over our country's capital city, overseeing the running of our nation. It makes me laugh every time.

    Australian-American Memorial, Dept of Defence, Canberra.

    “A passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favourite nation facilitates the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, infuses into one the enmities of the other, and betrays the former into participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification.... It also gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens, who devote themselves to the favourite nation, facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country.”
    (George Washington, Farewell Address, 1796 — I found the quote here)

    Tuesday, March 01, 2005

    democracy and revenue from the GST.

    Last night on Lateline you had the Beattie and Bracks tag team vehemently (and rightfully) objecting to the proposed imposition of restrictions on state expenditure of GST revenue being talked about by Costello. A couple of things about last night's interview:
    (i) It wasn't really fair — there was no chance for Costello to defend himself against the prepared rantings of the terrible two, and Tony Jones just kept handing them free kick after free kick.
    (ii) This is not say that it wasn’t enjoyable. I have no problem with them kicking Costello when he is defenceless. There is absolutely no question that he would do the same, and no one watches the show anyway except for boring political junkies like me, insomniacs, and shift-workers. And anyway, he is arrogant and power hungry.

    Now this farce is all about Costello’s remarks on the Sunday program, where he says;
    “The public is paying this GST revenue to state governments. They want to know that it's being properly applied in infrastructure and in health and in other areas of responsibility”
    “we are going to make significant efforts to heighten accountability of state governments”.

    The thing is that is not your place to decide whether it has been spent “properly”. That is what state governments do, under our system of Federation. We elect them, scrutinise their policies and assess their performance. Not you.

    Now. I am having problems actually finding what these accountability measures that Costello mentions are. The Oz, which usually has a good idea of what’s going on (read: Treasury briefings), speculates here. They talk about;
    “An annual report on the state government budgets, compiled by the federal Treasury, that will detail how much the states are spending on key government services. This would be separate to the review of federal-state financial relations, which is included in the commonwealth's budget documents, and the Productivity Commission's annual benchmarking of the delivery of government services.”
    These publications both include figures as to state expenditure, and the Productivity Commission’s Report on Government Services allows a comparison of expenditure and efficiency across a range of services at the state government level. Annual state budgets publicly detail estimates of how the states are to spend their money for that financial year and are easily available.

    So ... let's make it clear — this is not about accountability. This new review is only for one purpose — it is a grab for power to try and direct state government expenditure.

    As Jon Faine, who normally annoys the shit out of me, says;
    “it is about whether you are trying now to control how they (the states) spend it (the GST money).”
    Costello is trying to dictate priorities for state budgets, something that is well beyond his prerogative. State governments are elected on a policy platform that they present in the state elections. They are separate to the Federal government. And if the Federal government is trying to impose its’ will over the choices made by the state electorate then that is a blatant attempt to circumvent the democratic process.

    (This is all totally ignoring the fact that if restrictions are imposed on the state expenditure of GST revenue, this is dishonouring the agreement in distribution of GST fundings made in 2000 — I don't have the time to get started on that. Read the Beattie and Bracks show for more on this argument, which is not unimportant, it is just that everyone is fairly used to the Howard government's deception and it is consequently fairly blase.)

    good cricket.

    SBS are going to broadcast the Ashes.

    I am not going to have to spend July and August down at the Rose, or some seedy, pokey-filled twenty four hour joint.