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Friday, 13 July


In Trump territory for a change Catallaxy Files

Not New York but Las Vegas, and not in enemy territory but at Freedomfest. For a change everyone I speak to is a supporter of PDT. Everyone naturally has something or other to grizzle about, but I am completely onside in everything he has done so far and has attempted to do. I am in particular at one with Michael Anton, formerly known as Publius Decius Mus, America Is Not the Common Property of All Mankind nor, for that matter, is Australia on the single most important issue facing the West:

The populace is roused. For the first time in a generation, it actually has political leaders trying to act in their interest. That is intolerable to the open borders crowd, which is reacting with fury and hysteria.

And not just there. The economy is booming, unemployment is falling, the political culture is shifting, the Supreme Court may become benign for at least a generation, the left, along with a fair chunk of the Republican Party, is being exposed as politically insane, global warming climate change is losing its grip on policy, and Americas allies are slowly, very very slowly, coming round to seeing where their interests are. From todays news:

As popular as Obama in middle of first term

But particularly liked the story about the anti-Trump demo in Brussels that expected thousands and ended up with a handful.

Still the media, academia and the corporate world have not signed on, and with politics as perception who knows how things will go from here since there is always something about to go wrong. And that PDT is only equal to Zero at this stage is either fake news or a continuous worry.


Five to face Brisbane court over serious breaches of environmental law North Coast Voices

It is thought that up to 320 square kilometres of agricultural land around Chinchilla may be at risk from contamination by chemicals and gases, due to alleged mismanagement of underground burning by Linc Energy Limited.

In November  2016 former Linc Energy chief executive Peter Bond along with four former staff members Donald Schofield (managing director), Stephen Dumble (chief operations officer), Jacobus Terblanche(chief operations manager) and Darryl Rattai (former general manager) were summonsed for breaching environmental law.

However their matters were adjoined until after The Queen v. Linc Energy Ltd was concluded and are all five are now due to face a committal hearing in the Brisbane Magistrates Court this month.


ABC News, 11 May 2018:



How Trump's corporate tax cuts played out in the US economy North Coast Voices, 10 July 2018:

Evidence is now emerging of just how extraordinarily wasteful Donald Trump's trillion-dollar corporate tax cut has been as the results -- or lack thereof -- filter into the real US economy.

It's now well-established that the bulk of the tax cuts have gone into record-breaking share buybacks and increased dividends by US companies, with hundreds of billions of dollars flowing or set to flow back to investors. But not a lot of the rest is flowing into extra investment -- the raison d'etre of company tax cuts. New investment data shows US equipment investment fell in the first quarter of the year compared to the final quarter of 2017. How about wages, which are supposed to increase due to company tax cuts (at least according to Mathias Cormann)? In June, monthly wage growth in the US fell to 0.2% from 0.3% in March, lower than expected and leaving wage growth at 2.7% for the 2017-18 year. Inflation in the US was 2.8% for the year to May, suggesting US workers are actually going backwards after inflation.


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Thursday, 12 July


A lucky country run by second rate people? The ACCC and rooftop solar Catallaxy Files

Donald Horne wrote it many years ago.

Australia is a lucky country run mainly by second rate people who share its luck. It lives on other peoples ideas, and, although its ordinary people are adaptable, most of its leaders (in all fields) so lack curiosity about the events that surround them that they are often taken by surprise.

A bit of a journalistic exaggeration actually but never more true than now under the influence of warming hysteria and the war on CO2. The ACCC has discovered, late in the day, that the rooftop solar subsidy scheme transfers wealth from poor to rich. Can you bear it?

An important comment in the thread under Jo Novas post, a report on 56 days monitoring the contribution of different sources of power, the main point being the absurdly small amount of power from Wind and Other.

I have been doing this new Series for eight weeks now, so 56 days.

There have been 14 of those days (and thats one quarter of that time) when ALL the wind power, ALL the solar power from commercial plants and ALL the rooftop solar power have delivered LESS THAN 2% of the power required at the evening Peak, and five of those days have been lower than 1%, with the lowest at 0.3%

That evening peak is the highest power consumption we have, and it happens every day at 5.30/6PM, and over those eight weeks averages for those peaks have been between 28500MW and 32000MW.

Now, the point here is that even though the Country is consuming the most electricity it actually can consume, on those 14 days, ALL OF IT was actually being delivered from coal fired power, natural gas fired power, and hydro power.

From the low point of 0.3% (100MW of that Peak) to the high point of 2%, (600MW) is between one and three Units at a gas plant just waiting for the call already to fire up.

The fact that those three main sources have already proved they can handle it is an indictment on the total and utter uselessness of wind power, solar power, and rooftop solar power.

There could be none of it, and we would still get by.



Blood on all their hands oecomuse

In the 2010 federal election, the Liberal Democrat Party in New South Wales polled around 96,000 votes. In 2013 their first-placed candidate polled around 416,000 votes. This analysis shows that the party increased its vote by over 50 times, or 5000% between 2007 and 2013.

Wow! That party is on the up and up! It must be quite something, right?

Well, no. According to the winning candidate, some people voted for us because we were first on the ballot paper there is always a sizeable number of people who dont care Then there are some people who mistook us for the Liberals, probably the Liberals, but they could also have mistaken us for the Christian Democrats or even the ordinary Democrats.

In his own words, David Leyonhjelm was elected by the donkey vote, lazy Liberal Party supporters, a few illiterate Christians, and someone who forgot that the Democrats disappeared in a puff of GST smoke (watch that space).

Here is the same information in formal logic terms. There are correlations between the facts exponential increase in the vote, the number one spot on the ballot papers (which is drawn from a hat), the apathy of rusted-on Liberal Party voters from which we can draw conclusions. Correlation is not causation. Correlation can, if researchers have sufficient context and skill, be evidence of causation. What this means is that there are plausible reasons correlated facts that explain what probably, in all likelihood, ahead of other random non-correlative or non-fact based explanations, caused the outcome.

Of particular note: the candidate posits that he was not elected on his policies or abilities or appeal, but due to the party name and its lucky ballot paper placement. He is an elected representative who is not representative of the electorate. In the parlance of liberalism, his achievements are not on merit.

This pro-gun, anti-feminist, aging white male libertarian nevertheless took a seat in the Australian parliament on the recently increased backbencher salary of $203,020 a year (plus expenses). Not bad for a lazy liberal constituency and some donkeys. At the same time, penalty rates have been cut for some of Australias most insecure and lowest paid workers. The government has legislated future income tax cuts of over $7000 a year for people who are paid wait for it over $200Kpa. Lo...


Inflated temperature record in Melbourne Catallaxy Files

Tom Quirk probably could have been a rocket scientist because he trained as a nuclear physicist, attended Harvard Business School and has been a fellow of three Oxford Colleges (is that like being an Oxford Scholar?). More to the point of Climate Change: The Facts he has been involved in electricity generation including a founding directorship of the Victorian Power Exchange.

His chapter Taking Melbournes Temperature charts the history of the temperature record in Melbourne from 1856. The bottom line of the story there has apparently been a rise in temperature of 0.3C per century since that time. This challenges the official records which show a much larger increase, especially after 1998.

Melbourne was founded in 1835 as an outer suburb of Launceston by two Tasmanian explorers, Batman and Faulkner. Their names are perpetuated by the Batman Faulkner hotel/hostel in Launceston, close to the heart of the small city near the Transit Centre and a stones throw from The Grumpy Piper that houses a bagpipe museum and a whisky tasting bar.

The point of the paper is to explain why there was a jump of 0.6C recorded after 1998. This is attributed to a combination of the urban heat island effect (indicated by the difference of 0.6 compared with the country town of Laverton) and specific factors affecting the microclimate in La Trobe Street.

The key point to note is that the maximum temperature break is coincident with the screening of the La Trobe weather station from southern southerly winds by the construction of the very tall City Gate building This is a fifteen storey apartment tower completed in 1997 and to its east is a further apartment building completed in 1998.


We need to protect dolphins from mining No Right Turn

Correction: The Conservation Minister had no role in granting this permit. I had assumed that, as on land, exploration would require an access arrangement, which would have required her approval. But thanks to the Marine and Coastal Area (Takutai Moana) Act 2011's "no-one owns the seabed" position, the Crown Minerals Act was amended so that you don't need an access arrangement to explore or mine in the common marine and coastal area. And thanks to Taranaki District Council's "drill, baby, drill" policy, exploration is a permitted activity despite the entire area being a marine mammal sanctuary, so there's no RMA process either. There will be an RMA process for actual mining at least, but that won't stop the disruption from exploration.

As for how to fix this, the Marine Mammals Protection Act allows activites within Marine Mammal Sanctuaries to be regulated, and this is already used to prohibit mining (but not oil drilling) in part of the West Coast North Island Sanctuary. That area could be expanded, and further oil drilling banned. But in the long term, there seems to be no reason to distinguish between onshore and offshore wildlife sanctuaries, so they need to be added to Schedule 4.

Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage MBIE appears to have quietly granted a permit to explore for ironsands in a Marine Mammal Sanctuary:

A mining exploration permit has been quietly granted inside a marine sanctuary set up to protect the endangered Mui dolphins.

The decision has shocked conservation groups who were unaware of the move and the Department of Conservation has significant concerns about the safety of the dolphins if mining were to go ahead.


In May, permission to explore a 220-square-kilometre section off the coast of New Plymouth that falls within the sanctuary was granted to a company that wants to dredge the ocean floor for minerals.

Ironsands Offshore Mining Ltd will now be able to carry out tests, including drilling, to assess the viability of the project.

Its an appalling decision, and a pointless one: while the impact of exploration may be low, it is difficult to imagine a full mining operation being approved. But like the Otakiri Springs water decision, it may be a case of the Minister's hands being tied: marine mammal sanctuaries enjoy no special protection from mining, while the...


New Zealand outlet positively reviews Disaster Capitalism film Antony Loewenstein

My film Disaster Capitalism with director Thor Neureiter continues to spread around the world. Thor was recently in Melbourne for the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival and the film is screening soon in Australia, the UK and elsewhere.

New Zealand outlet Foreign Control Watchdog has published a review of the film written by Jeremy Agar:


The years roll by but the news from Afghanistan scarcely changes. From the dry hills in landlocked Asia we glimpse mad mullahs shooting their rifles into the air. We see Humvees straining up a mountain pass and wait for the ambush. Underneath the banner news rolls through: a suicide truck has blown up a dozen pedestrians in Kabul.  

Few of the many disasters that our information screens send our way are as wearying as the scenes from this war, the one that 30 years ago was dubbed the forgotten war because sometimes, back then, it wasnt getting much air time. These days were all too likely to hear the inevitable soothing words that follow from the President, but whoever he is this time, no-one is listening.

On comes an American general. Just a few more troops, he assures us, and all will be well. Just a few more years and well deliver you a shiny new democracy. Be patient. Rome wasnt built in a day.But despite the assurances of the nation builders, peace in Afghanistan hasnt been built in centuries. The waste, the futility of it all has a cartoonish quality: the US Army as Homer Simpson; the jihadi as Jihadi. Boring. We flick the channel to the newest cooking show.

Its the lack of any of this tedium that makes Antony Loewensteins analysis so welcome. By steering clear from clich were allowed to see Afghanistan as the sort of place an open plain, not some dizzying crag that is not all that different from some parts of Loewensteins native Australia, perhaps, or America. He gets driven just an hour from the capital and talks to some quite normal locals. They were promised decent jobs and social development from a mine. It becomes clear that the foreign corporation never intended to make good on the deal, and that the Governments undertaking to hold the company to account was similarly fraudulent.

Back in Kabul Loewenstein seeks answers from the bureaucrats who oversee the mining industry, No, Mr X is unavailable; Mr Y is busy. Mr Z? No, it is not possible. Leave the building. In other words, standard obstruction, standard corruption. Afghanistans misery is not primarily religious or tribalist. Its the lack of trust that spawns those reactions. Fanaticism and tribalism are the poiso...


Speaking of onion-munching freeloaders, as the reptiles often do ... loon pond

The reptiles were wildly excited early in the day about the chance of implementing the agrarian socialist   dinkum clean Oz coal oi oi oi five year plan (or as we know it here at the pond I , ), and naturally trotted out zealot Dame Groan in enthusiastic support

But call the pond what you will - many do - the pond is loyal, and this sighting of onion muncher turned full Trumpian distracted the pond from such coalian weighty matters.

There's a reason that the pond keeps the onion muncher at the top of the page, and it's not just loyalty. Of recent times, the move to full Trumpist is as piquant as the arm-breaker's shift to full Hansonism, with bonus racism

The reptiles love the onion muncher, oh they adore him, and they faithfully transcribe every thought, as if they'd discovered old Joe Smith dictating the contents of his gold plates

Indeed, indeed, and the pond looks forward to the day when dinkum Oz lads - led by the onion muncher from his lounge chair - will crush the Chinese like the gnats they are, and without any help from anyone (damn you useless kiwis, person up).

Or is it the Chinese? Could it be someone else?



How do you spell conflict of interest? Catallaxy Files

AustralianSuper head of property Jack McGougan is seeking damages of $491,000, plus end of term bonus.There is a very interesting story in the Fin this morning about the former head of property at AustralianSuper, the largest industry super fund, being forced out of his job.

And dont you just love the excuse: not a team player?

Here it is:

A former executive at AustralianSuper has accused top officials at the countrys largest superannuation fund of pressuring him to funnel investment into a union-linked property trust despite conflicts of interest.

The funds former head of property Jack McGougan made the accusations in a multi-million-dollar Federal Court action launched this week against AustralianSuper.

Mr McGougan claims he was forced out of his $500,000 a year job for opposing moves by chief investment officer Mark Delaney and director Brian Daley to invest in industry-fund controlled developer ISPT.

He alleges that when he raised concerns over the funds poor management of conflicts of interest in relation to ISPT AustralianSuper chief executive Ian Silk told him you have to drop this.

ISPT is an unlisted property fund and developer set up in 1994 by former ACTU assistant secretary Garry Weaven and co-founded by AustralianSuper.

The allegations thrust the $140 billion industry super fund into the spotlight just as the Hayne royal commission called on more than 30 superannuation funds to appear in hearings next month to examine governance issues.

Mr McGougan was made head of property in 2011 and drove a strategy to invest members funds in property offshore. He was given authority to buy and sell assets up to $200 million.

However, he says that from 2012, Mr Delaney, the funds CIO and deputy chief executive, and Mr Daley, AustralianSuper director and the capital stewardship officer for the Australian Council of Trade Unions, pressured him to invest in ISPT.

ISPT is an unlisted pr...


Look who is sponsoring the ACTU Congress? Catallaxy Files

What ever happened to the sole purpose test that legally governs the behaviour of trustees of superannuation funds?  You know, the one that means that the retirement incomes of the members are the only focus of the activities of superannuation funds.

When did sponsoring the ACTU Congress, to be held in Brisbane next week, fall into the category of maximizing the retirement incomes of the members?

The Royal Commission might care to take a look at this issue.  And in the meantime, what the hell is APRA doing that it just turns a blind eye to this misuse of members funds?

ACTU thanks all our Sponsors and Partners for supporting the 2018 ACTU Congress in Brisbane 17 and 18 July 2018.


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Grattan goes denialist John Quiggin

Reading the reactions to the incoherent report on electricity pricing from the ACCC, I was struck by this quote from Tony Wood of the Grattan Institute, writing in the Oz 

Australians need energy policy that is driven by neither green evangelism for renewables nor a deep-seated fear to protect the role of coal for baseload power.

Green evangelism is rhetoric straight out of the denialist camp, associated with the bogus claim that climate change is not science but a religion   The content of the piece bears this out. Wood opposes any form of subsidy for renewables and (by omission) any price on carbon emissions. He advocates a policy that is the policy is indifferent to the technology mix, whether new-build or the extension of the operating life of an existing, newer coal-fired plant.

This is centrism at its worst. Faced with a choice between an evidence-based response to climate change and culture-war proposals to actively subsidise the destruction of the global environment, Grattan has gone for the middle course of doing nothing whatsoever about climate change.



Surfer Privilege "IndyWatch Feed"

How high of a standard of living did young baby boomers enjoy, especially those of us fortunate to grow up on the then lightly populated West Coast? That question kept coming to mind while reading the acclaimed 2015 memoir of a youth spent at the beach in California and Hawaii, Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life, by William Finnegan, now a veteran war correspondent for The New Yorker.

Comedian Garry Shandlings most reliable joke was about taking a drive in the country and doing what everybody does when he first sees a cow: rolling down the window and shouting, Moo. But, Shandling asked, Whats the cow thinking?

Oh, look, theres a cow driving a car. How can he afford that?

Similarly, while reading Finnegans account of his quintessential boomer life of freedom, security, and opportunity enjoying himself in some of the most desirable real estate in the world, I kept asking from my 2018 perspective: How could he afford that?

Surfing may be even more addictive than its counterparts, such as skiing, mountain climbing, and golf. While the waves are free (which, I learned from Barbarian Days, causes surfers no end of grief), the real estate values of adjoining coastal property have only gone up and up over Finnegans lifetime. The roll call of places where Finnegan surfed as a boy and young manMalibu, Newport Beach, Topanga Canyon, Santa Barbara, Honolulu, Santa Cruz, Maui, Australias Gold Coast, Cape Town, and San Franciscoreads like a real estate speculators fever dream.

From a supply-and-demand perspective, the answer to Shandlings cow question is obvious: Finnegan could afford to spend thousands of hours surfing in various slices of paradise because he was born in 1952.

Granted, the best year of all to be born was 1946. Following the long baby bust of 193045, the country was desperately short of young men. So those born in 1946 went through life with little competition ahead of them. (See the fabulous careers of Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Donald Trump, all born in 1946.)

But 1952 wasnt a bad birth year for boomer entitlement either: Supply and demand were still in your favor. Moreover, Finnegans working-class Irish-American parents had the good sense to white-flight from New York City to spacious Woodland Hills, California.

Before overpopulation, womens lib, and immigration, America, especially California, had needed its young men, and would therefore put up with a lot from them....


Brexit as a natural disaster No Right Turn

Something bad is about to happen. The government has plans to stockpile food and medicine to ensure continued supplies, and to float thousands of generators on barges in the irish Sea to provide electricity to Northern Ireland. A hurricane, earthquake, or asteroid strike? No - all this is preparation for Brexit:

MINISTERS have drawn up secret plans to stockpile processed food in the event of EU divorce talks collapsing - to show Brussels that no deal is not a bluff.

Theresa May has ordered no deal planning to step up with the government poised to start unveiling some of the 300 contingency measures in the coming weeks.


The Sun can reveal that includes emergency measures to keep Britains massive food and drinks industry afloat - including stockpiling ahead of exit day on 29 March next year.

More than 22 billion worth of processed food and drinks are imported in to the UK - 97 per cent from the EU - in an industry that keeps 400,000 workers employed in the UK.

Similar stockpiles are also being prepared for medical supplies amid fears of chaos at British ports next year.

Its as if the UK is preparing for a state of siege. Except it will be one entirely of their own making. And it really makes you think that the Brexiteers' insistence on leaving the common market is a really, really bad idea.


Keeping the bromancer dream alive ... loon pond

It will be recalled by faithful devotees of the reptiles that the bromancer was a keen Brexiteer and just as the British soccer team left ashes in the mouth this day, so the bromancer is now filled with despair

Naturally the bromancer is a Boris man, never no mind that Boris shamelessly lied in the Brexit campaign, though this isn't that surprising because he was a shameless liar before it, and a famously shameless liar after it

Naturally shameless populist lying and distortion of reality has an enormous appeal for the reptiles ...

Actually May was a reluctant remainer at the very beginning, but reaped the wind of the David Cameron goose, and then became an inspiration to all

More Rowson and Bell here

It says more than the pond needs to know that the bromancer likes to analyse things in terms of Big Beasts and not very Big Beasts  


Adoration and demonisation: Plastic bags, hysterics and a long romance Independent Australia

Adoration and demonisation: Plastic bags, hysterics and a long romancePlastic shopping bags are so deeply integrated into our every day lives that saying goodbye may not be easy, writes Binoy Kampmark read now...


Time to fix renting No Right Turn

Renters United this morning launched The Plan to Fix Renting, a set of policy proposals building on last year's People's Review of Renting. Things like giving renters security of tenure by banning no-cause evictions and requiring landleeches to give reasons which can then be legally challenged. Reducing the degree to which landleeches or their property managers can intrude on their tenant's lives with inspections. Limiting rent increases to the CPI once a year, unless significant improvements are made. Requiring minimum standards for rental properties, and licences for property managers. And fixing the Tenancy Tribunal so tenants can actually use it without fear of being evicted and blacklisted.

These are all sensible proposals, and the government has already committed to implementing some of them (though that seems to be taking a while). Of course, the landleeches' union is outraged, and making their usual threat that they'll get out of the landlord business. Which is great - because one of the problems with our housing market is that there are too many greedy boomers hoarding houses so they can harvest tax-free capital gains, and playing landlord in between to pay the bills. If tighter regulation drives these parasites out of the market, we get a double benefit: the demise of bad landleeches, and more houses on the market, leading to a drop in prices. I fail to see any downside in this.

If you'd like to show your support for these proposals, ActionStation has a petition here.


Plot thickens in East Timor espionage scandal Independent Australia

Plot thickens in East Timor espionage scandalAn AFP investigation has begun over information disclosed regarding the East Timor bugging, but John Menadue believes it's a waste of time. read now...


In which the pond goes on a war footing with the savvy Savva ... loon pond


The pond has noted an increase in reptile hyperbole over the years, with relentless talk of "wars" the worst form of paranoid hysteria

Why do they do it? Over the years most of them have studiously avoided action in a real war so is it some kind of fervid substitute? As that immortal philosopher Jack Nicklaus is reported to have once said, "This is a game. That's all it is. It's not a war."

But sadly the pond has to report direct from Malware's office, that the siege bunker mentality has infested everyone, even the savvy Savva

It's wartime? The pond is living in a war zone? Who knew, but please, do go on because it seems the savvy Savva has been blessed with the cult status of a Lobbecke

Ah the pond fancies itself adept at decoding messages direct from the Malware bunker, and there, in all the fluff, and the cluck-clucking and tut-tutting about the treatment of Frank Brennan, a flip-flopping emerges in that line "courtesy of a thoughtful speech from Dan Tehan to the Stir Thomas More forum" and "it does appear that, yes, sadly, some new laws are needed to protect people of faith, particularl...


Blacklisting seasonal workers "IndyWatch Feed"

This post examines the practice of blacklisting in seasonal worker programs such as Australias Seasonal Worker Program (SWP) and New Zealands Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme (RSE). Blacklisting occurs when workers are permanently or temporarily excluded from programs. It can vary from two to five years, or be indefinite, depending on the offence. The practice of blacklisting is rarely highlighted, and should be discussed as there are implications for all stakeholders. This blog raises these issues in the context of ni-Vanuatu in the RSE scheme.

The main impetus for this post is to highlight what happens when workers are blacklisted, some of the reasons behind this, and how growers are affected when perceived problematic workers are not reported to government labour sending units in future seasons.

Deported seasonal workers are well-documented within labour sending units. Currently in Vanuatu there are 106 workers on the Employment Services Unit (ESU) ban list and a further 1300 on the stand-down list [1]. Although this number may seem alarming, it covers both the RSE scheme and the SWP since 2007. By contrast, inappropriate behaviour by workers is not always documented, and workers are often not penalised.

Impacts on workers

Blacklisting is a grey area. Although workers have been blacklisted for justifiable reasons, I have also documented cases of when they have not. Tanya Basok wrote extensively on how blacklisting was used as a threat to maintain compliant workers in the Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program (SAWP). Many of these types of cases have been witnessed within the RSE scheme and SWP, especially the threat of being blacklisted, which is used to ensure workers are compliant while participating in the programs. If workers do not follow the rules of the program, or individual employers, then they are penalised through blacklisting: The controlled nature of their recruitment, their fear of losing an opportunity to participate in the employment program, makes workers acquiescent.

I have noted examples of these threats throughout my research conducted with workers in Australia and New Zealand. Examples include comments such as, If they dont like it, there are plenty more in the Pacific lined up to take their place (anon.); we just sent these guys to [another] farm because they were working too slowly, so keep the pace or you can be replaced too; and if you complain you can go home. Tipples and Rawlinson highlighted an RSE mediation case where the mediator stated, i...


Don't expect your residential electricity costs to come down anytime soon North Coast Voices

In three years time the amount of revenue electricity network companies can charge customers will be reduced, which according to the Australian Energy Regulator in its Draft Rate of Return Guideline "could [not would] result in household customers bills decreasing by around $30 to $40 per year".

Remembering all the other failed assurances that the cost of residentail electricity would come down, it is a brave individual who takes this latest prediction at face value.

The Australian Energy Regulator has moved to significantly cut the amount of revenue electricity network companies can charge customers in a bid to take the pressure off households and businesses enduring high power prices.
AER chair Paula Conboy said it would reduce average household electricity bills by about $30 to $40 a year.



One for the history buffs out there North Coast Voices

Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies (AIATSIS), The NSW Aborigines Protection/Welfare Board 1883-1969 Map

Wednesday, 11 July


ABC chairman thinking of the children Catallaxy Files

The ABCs chairman, Justin Milne, gave a speech today justifying the expense that is the ABC. That, and Michelle Guthries speech last month, is a gift that will give for some time. Today I want to focus on his dear-god-will-nobody-think-of-the-children ploy. In the speech he says:

Those who would cripple or even abolish the ABC would clearly exacerbate that consolidation, leading to further homogeneity of voices. That may mean that pretty soon our kids only see American stories and perspectives to mould their morals, culture and behavior as adults. And those same kids would need to give up any aspiration to work in a healthy domestic production sector.

Then later:

Perhaps we should leave the commercial media to entertain our toddlers, educate our students, define Australian culture, unite a nation, and serve regional audiences. Some would argue an enlightened private sector dominated by owners in the United States will find a way of marrying commercial and Australian national interest, and produce local content about the arts, sciences, religion or music. What could possibly go wrong?

Indeed what could go wrong? But, lets not digress.

Notice the snide anti-Americanism? Thats an attitude lefties take on thinking that it reveals their sophistication. But no.

Anyway what does the ABC serve up as childrens entertainment? I went to the ABC Kids website and checked out the schedule for today. (Im not going to carry on about the term kid being an Americanism itself). I dont know if Wednesdays are unusual viewing days or not. I then made a list of all of the shows and the country of origin for each show. Today, the ABC had 65 shows on its kids channel. Of those some were different episodes of the same show (for example Bananas in Pajamas aired more than once, as did Sesame Street). Those 65 shows were associated with 83 countries of origin some shows had more than one country of origin. Arthur, for example, is a joint Canadian/US show.

Four countries make up 73 of the different countries of origin; Australia (17), Canada (10), UK (34), and US (12).  Ignoring that many Australian shows are jointly produced, the Australian contribution to kids TV is just over 20%. Well behind the UK at 41%. So this whole Australian voices telling Australian stories and moulding Australian kids is just nonsense. But for local content rules there would nothing stopping commercial televisio...


Local businessman, Dean Harris to launch Labor campaign for Warringah The AIM Network

Media Release Dean Harris has announced that he is running as the Labor candidate at the next Federal election and will be holding a campaign launch at 7 pm on Wednesday the 25th of July at the Balgowlah RSL Club. Former Premier and now Senator for NSW Kristina Keneally will attend the official launch of

The post Local businessman, Dean Harris to launch Labor campaign for Warringah appeared first on The AIM Network.


Capitalising on disaster in the Trump era Antony Loewenstein

My latest book, Disaster Capitalism: Making A Killing Out Of Catastrophe, remains continually relevant especially in the Trump era (just a few examples in the news recently include Blackwater founder Erik Prince still obsessed with privatising the Afghan war and a CIA-linked military contractor making money from housing refugees in the US).

UK publisher Taylor and Francis, working with Routledge, recently launched a collection of essays around the issue of disaster capitalism across the world. My essay is adapted from the introduction to my book and updated to include the ongoing threats to making money from misery in the age of Trump.


Book endorsement for new work by Palestinian writer Dr Olfat Mahmoud Antony Loewenstein

I was recently asked to endorse the new book by Palestinian writer Dr Olfat Mahmoud whose work is called Tears for Tarshiha. Published by Wild Dingo Press, heres the books blurb:

Olfat Mahmoud, a stateless refugee, is a descendant of the forgotten Palestinians, forced from their homes by the Israeli military in 1948. A former nurse, NGO director and academic, Mahmouds confronting autobiography asks when the world will deliver on its promise and allow her people to return home.

Heres my endorsement:

For too long, Palestinians have remained largely invisible in our media and demonised as terrorists. Its therefore wonderfully refreshing to read the history, reflections and passions of Olfat Mahmoud and understand what exile still means for millions of Palestinians around the world, refused access to their former homeland. I commend this book for its humanity and quest for justice. The Middle East will not see peace until these issues are resolved.
Antony Loewenstein, independent journalist, film-maker, author of Disaster Capitalism: Making A Killing Out Of Catastrophe and My Israel Question


Link loon pond

The pond weakened, broke, shattered on the ground after all, its mission in life is to keep up with the crusading reptiles in relation to the crisis in Western Civilisation, and naturally anything little Johnny had to say on the matter was distilled essence of precious Western Civilisation bodily fluids

The pond's only excuse was that it tossed the muck into the late arvo slot so that innocent minds might be spared ...

Strangely, however the reptile coverage was a tad terse

This wasn't compelling and was all the more bizarre for being headed how the west was won

But the pond finally worked out the covert message, celebrating little Johnny as the deputy sheriff

Kill all the Indians, or the Iraqis, or whatever and how pleasing, if  inevitable, that little Johnny would have some affection for Ulster unionists. Kill all the Catholics too ...

Still, it was a little short, and the pond thought it might be a whiz to compare and contrast the Fairfaxian coverage which can, it has to be said, be found here ...



Years too late, the ACCC recognises the failure of the NEM John Quiggin

The latest ACCC report on the National Electricity Market is an incoherent mess, reflecting the breakdown of the neoliberal/market liberal assumptions on which both the ACCC and the NEM are founded. But I can at least endorse this statement

There are many causes of the current problems in the electricity market. At all stages of the supply
chain decisions have been made over many years by many governments that set the NEM on the
wrong course.

As I said in a report to the Electrical Trades Union in 2014

The National Electricity Market was implemented in the context of National Competition Policy and at a time when faith in competitive markets was at its peak. The [resulting design flaws  have led, over 20 years, to the failure of the NEM These failures are not accidental. Rather they can be explained by fundamental and incurable flaws in the NEM model of pricing, regulation and incentives for investment. Marginal adjustments such as those being proposed at present will inevitably prove inadequate.

Back then, as I recall, the idea of that the NEM was a failure was not so popular. Rather, the only obstacle to complete success was said to be the remnants of public ownership in NSW and Queensland.


BETWEEN YOU AND ME: Mike Smith on politics and the media Independent Australia

BETWEEN YOU AND ME: Mike Smith on politics and the mediaIn this 'Between You And Me' podcast, director of Inside PR and former Age editor, Mike Smith, shares his insights on politics and the media. read now...


We need to talk about Mitchell The AIM Network

On Monday night, I had the pleasure of being one of the first people to sit on the Q&A Peoples Panel. I had a great time telling Matt Canavan that he has to break up with coal. The one thing I did not enjoy, however, was Mitchell. Mitchell Walton, one of the other people on

The post We need to talk about Mitchell appeared first on The AIM Network.


What they said: You can trust the ABC edition Catallaxy Files

ABC Chairman Justin Milne:

Trust is what we do at the ABC.

ABC employee:

 Were talking about ease of storytelling

 I accept you might have written the book on the RMIT payroll but thats immaterial to viewers

 thats not how journalism works



Nuclear power advocates are running out of fuel John Quiggin

Thats the headline for my latest piece in Crikey, reproduced over the fold. Not really news for those whove been paying attention, but I was pleased with this observation

the latest nuclear power plants have the unfortunate distinction of being simultaneously untried and obsolescent.

Nuclear power advocates are running out of fuel

The diminishing band of nuclear power fans had some rare good news recently. Two of the leading designs for new nuclear power plants the AP1000, designed by US company Westinghouse, and the EPR, developed by Areva in France achieved criticality (that is, the state where nuclear fuel sustains a fission chain reaction) in June. Both the plants are in China, at Sanmen and Taishan respectively.

But good news for nuclear power is never unmixed, and thats certainly the case here. The construction process was as overtime and over-budget as usual, though not as badly as in the West, where construction of similar plants is running as much as a decade behind schedule. In the course of this protracted process, both Westinghouse and Areva have gone bankrupt.

These plants will require a fair bit of operating experience before it can be said whether they actually function as designed. Since the design took place in the 1980s and 1990s, the latest nuclear power plants have the unfortunate distinction of being simultaneously untried and obsolescent.

In the decades since the design process of Generation III and Generation III+ nuclear plants began, the technology of renewable energy generation has changed radically. The cost of solar photovoltaic cells has fallen from $30 per watt in the early 1980s to 30 cents a watt today, a factor of 100. The cost of wind power has declined by only a factor of 10 over the same period, but the outcome is costs far lower than that of new nuclear.

Outside China there are now only two AP1000 reactors under construction, both at Vogtle in the US state of Georgia. Another two-reactor plant in South Carolina was abandoned after the expenditure of billions of dollars. There are also two EPR reactors under construction, at Flamanville in France and Olkiluoto in Finland, both far behind schedule. Finally, theres a new plant proposed for Hinkley Point in the UK, which seems unlikely ever to happen, despite an absurdly favorable deal from the UK government.

India has held out the prospect of a rescue with statements of intent for a six-unit AP1000 plant to be built in Gujarat and a similar-sized EPR plant in Mahrashtra. These massive projects, similar to proposals for a dozen or more Ultra Mega coal fired power plants of 4000 GW, seem unlikely ever to proceed. The primary object seems to be the announcement of the project rather than its construction and completion.



Taking on dirty dairying No Right Turn

Taranaki is one of the country's biggest dairying districts. And somewhat surprisingly, the Taranaki Regional Council appears to be taking on dirty dairying, with prosecutions and fines:

A dairy farmer collapsed in the dock and cried into her husband's arms after a judge slapped them with a $45,000 fine for illegally discharging untreated dairy effluent into a Taranaki creek.

John and Alison Vernon, who live and manage a 144-hectare Denbigh Rd dairy farm in Midhurst, admitted one charge each of discharging contaminants into water, a breach of the Resource Management Act.


Meanwhile, in a separate case, a husband and wife pair of company directors were fined $54,000 after admitting two charges of discharging contaminants into water.

Kevin and Diane Goble did not live at Block 8 Farm, on Block 8 Rd in Waverley, but had employed a contract milker on the site since 2016.

In both cases, farmers had let cowshit flow into streams, poisoning them. In most areas of the country, this simply isn't prosecuted: regional councils work for farmers, or view enforcement as too much work, and so take a passive role. Taranaki seems to be taking it seriously, and hopefully it will lead to an improvement in farmer behaviour.


No incentive No Right Turn

The UK Information Commissioner looks likely to fine Facebook 500,000 over its enabling of Cambridge Analytica:

Facebook is set to be fined 500,000 by the UKs privacy watchdog after it concluded the social media giant broke data laws.

The California-headquartered company failed to protect users' information and then failed to be clear about how that information had been harvested by others. That was the conclusion of a major report into whether personal data had been misused by both sides during the EU referendum.


In a progress update to a parliamentary select committee, the ICO said it had served Facebook with a notice of intent to issue its maximum fine after it found the company had twice breached the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA). A final decision will be made after the social media giant has had a chance to respond.

While a fine of 500,000 is the biggest possible punishment available to the ICO, it is the same amount of money that Facebook makes in just a few minutes.

And that's the core problem: that the fines UK law enables are completely inadequate to provide any incentive whatsoever on a global company like Facebook. Still, they're better than New Zealand, which currently has a fine of a mere $2,000. The government's Privacy Bill (currently before select committee) will increase this to a whopping $10,000, which is still nothing like what is needed. The Privacy Commissioner wants to see that raised to $1 million, but that's less than the UK maximum, which is clearly inadequate. An EU-style cap set as a percentage of global turnover (not profit) would be far more effective at providing an incentive against multinational privacy abuse.


In which Dame Slap produces her usual quota of righteous humbuggery ... loon pond

Dame Slap's back in her Wednesday slot, and all's well with the world

Speaking of quackery and humbug and boards, that reminded the pond of an epic piece of humbuggery, recorded here 

That report went on:

The Friends of the ABC is less confident in the appointment than Minister Coonan, with spokesperson Glenys Stradijot telling radio info: 
The Government has demonstrated its disdain for the national broadcaster by appointing one of the ABCs most strident critics It appears the Governments criteria for appointment to the ABC Board is opposition to the broadcasters healthy operation The Government is abusing its responsibility to the community by stacking the board of the national broadcaster with political sympathisers. 
Shadow Communications Minister Stephen Conroy says the appointment continues the Government's policy of stacking the ABC with its political mates. John Howard seems to regard the ABC Board as a private club, with memberships to be handed out to his supporters as a reward. The Government's practice of appointing strident coalition supporters to the ABC Board undermines public confidence in the independence of the national broadcaster, says Conroy. 
 Labor believes that there should be an open and transparent process for making appointments to the ABC board.

How the pond misses the great big internet filter for everything, but leaving that aside, ...


JOHN PILGER: Embracing our 'bad stock' convict past Independent Australia

JOHN PILGER: Embracing our 'bad stock' convict pastWe must recognise and celebrate our Indigenous past and our proud convict past in order to achieve true independence. read now...


Jeff Stier: When environmentalists oppose science Catallaxy Files

In the era of self-driving cars, big data and increasingly sophisticated bio-medical advances, the age-old question of how regulation can keep up with technology is more relevant than ever.

Scientific advances touch every aspect our lives, often in ways we rarely think about. Today, we live longer, healthier, more productive and more enjoyable lives because of our access to products that were unimaginable for most of human history. So its important to get the right balance when regulating our modern world, to both keep us and our planet safe, while fostering innovation that benefit society.

The debate over regulation often devolves into a debate about too little versus too much regulation, split along the ideological divide. Too little regulation, goes the argument, and we are exposed to too much risk. Too much, and we dont advance.

This binary approach, however, represents the dark-ages of regulatory policy. It was more frequently relevant when our tools to measure risk were primitive, but todays technology allows much more precise ways to evaluate real-world risks. With less uncertainty, theres less of a need to cast a broad regulatory net.

Regulation not warranted by countervailing risk just doesnt make sense. Thats why a pseudoscientific approach, dubbed the precautionary principle, behind much of todays regulation is so pernicious. This dogma dictates that its always better to be safe than to ever be sorry. The approach is politically effective not only because its something your mother says, but because its easier to envision potential dangers, remote as they may be, than potential benefits. Uncertainty, it turns out, is a powerful tool for those who seek to live in a world without risk.

But what happens when regulators can get a reasonably good handle on benefits and risks? Some potential risks have been eliminated simply because the basis for the concern has proven to be unwarranted. For more than two decades, the artificial sweetener, saccharin, came with a cancer warning label in the U.S.But it turned out that the animal experiment which led to the warning was later found to be irrelevant to humans, and the warning was eventually removed.

Warning about a product when risks are not well-understood is prudent. But it would be absurd to continue to warn after the science tells us theres nothing to worry about.

Today, an analogous situation is playing out in the EU, where activists are using outmoded tests not just to place warning labels on silicones, a building block of our technological world, but to ban them outright.

The playbook is predictable: as the scientific basis for a products safety grows, opponents go to increasingly great lengths to manufacture uncertainty, move the goalposts and capitalize on scientific illiteracy to gain the political upper-hand.

Weve seen these tactics employed in opposition to everything from growing human tissue...


Make our Parliament accessible to parents No Right Turn

In addition to the Prime Minister, several other MPs have already become parents this term. And one of them is highlighting that Parliament's new travel rules pose a big barrier for new parents:

One of Parliament's new parents, Kiri Allen, has argued for a cap on taxpayer-funded travel for MPs' partners to be lifted for those with young babies.

While MPs' partners used to be allowed unlimited travel to be with the MP, the so-called "perk" was cut back in 2014 after excessive use by some.

The cap does not apply to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's partner Clarke Gayford, who will be primary caregiver for baby Neve, because the Prime Minister's partner gets unlimited travel.

However, the partners of ordinary MPs get 20 trips a year maximum while ministers' partners get 30 trips a year. The caps are set by the Remuneration Authority and can only be used to accompany MPs on work-related travel.

As Allen highlights, 20 trips a year isn't enough for new parents, and apparently works out to a visit every six weeks. Raising it would allow far better work-life balance, and allow these MP's to better participate in our democracy without unduly burdening their families. And she's absolutely right: it is an unreasonable burden - but one that is so easily fixed. And if we want our Parliament to look like New Zealand, and to include MP's at all stages of life, we need to raise that cap for them.


Priorities No Right Turn

Nurses are going on strike tomorrow for higher pay, after years of being underfunded. The government has condemned that underfunding, and says it wants to help, but also says that they have no more money to give. And meanwhile, their Defence Minister is wasting $2.3 billion on high-tech anti-submarine warfare aircraft their own defence policy says we don't need.

I guess that's where the nurses' pay-rise went: on pointless militaristic wank-toys, whose sole purpose is to make NZDF feel like they're a "real" defence force, and allow them to involve us in yet more American wars.


Using 3PP data to understand three-cornered races The Tally Room

I was recently alerted to a new source of data on the AEC website. The AEC has always published the distribution of preferences at the seat level, as well as a more detailed dataset showing the flow of preferences from each candidates primary votes to the two-candidate-preferred count. They have now published this data at the booth level. This means you can see how many votes in each booth flowed to other candidates as the count progressed. Until now, the only booth-level data we had was the primary votes and the top two count.

You could probably use this data to make some interesting maps (how the flow of Greens or One Nation preferences shifts across a diverse electorate) but thats for another day. Im finding it most useful now because it allows us to recalculate a three-party-preferred count for electorates that have been redistributed, and there were two in particular I wanted to look at.

The Greens were not far off getting into the top two in Melbourne Ports in 2016. While the Greens candidate trailed Labor MP Michael Danby on primary votes by 3.21%, this gap shrunk to 1.12% after preferences from minor candidates were distributed. We already knew that this primary vote gap had narrowed in the renamed seat of Macnamara following the redistribution, but until now I havent done a 3PP count.

The new seat of Canberra has a big question mark floating over it. The best Greens areas in the ACT were previously split between Canberra and Fenner, but the new inner-city seat (confusingly taking the name of Canberra, while the old Canberra was renamed Bean) now concentrates these areas in one seat. My primary vote calculations put the Greens 14.1% behind the Liberal Party, but with over 4% of the vote going to the Bullet Train party. I was curious to know whether that gap would narrow once those Bullet Train preferences were distributed.

The answer is below the fold:

Firstly, here are the numbers. I havent bothered to calculate the figures for all of Victoria, since I had to download the data one seat at a time, but it was just as easy to calculate for all three ACT seats, so thats what I did. Ive shown the relevant stats for the pre-redistribution and post-redistribution seats:

Melb Ports pre 28.70 43.72 27.58...


Gender diversity Catallaxy Files

In todays Australian, Janet Albrechtsen reminds us that efforts to enforce gender quotas and the like are examples of good old rent seeking by a small number of rich elite white women. Do you notice the lack of diversity in organisations such as Chief Executive Women? I doubt any live in the western suburbs of Sydney. As Albrechtsen notes, no one would think of insisting that 50% of all surgeons be female. Yet the Australian Government is now insisting on a quota (sorry, targets) for barristers

The Turnbull governments new equitable briefing policy, released last month by Attorney-General Christian Porter and Minister for Women Kelly ODwyer, requires all commonwealth agencies to meet targets 25 per cent for female silks and 30 per cent for female junior barristers when awarding legal work. No more asking for the best person.

Targets are the preliminary for of quota whats the use of a target if it isnt monitored, and actions taken to move towards that target?

As for those precious men male champions of change how many are resigning their positions to allow a female to take over? Why is it that they take on such a role only after benefiting from their male privilege? What do they think their junior male colleagues should do? Not apply for promotions perhaps?

Recently the Thai cave rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach has enthralled the world. All of the scuba divers who rescued the boys were men, selected purely on merit not on quota. Would we have seen such a happy outcome had the gender police been in operation and selected female divers purely by gender rather than merit?

And, finally, how are we to view all of the above in the context of the current review of the UKs Gender Recognition Act 2004? For it seems that this is to be liberalised by making it easier for people to declare their gender. If a person can be any gender, or no gender, it makes a mockery of the concept of gender. I can be Lucius today, Lucia tomorrow and back to Lucius the day after. Perhaps I wish to be referred to as he/him on Mondays, she/her on Tuesdays and ze/hir on Wednesdays.

Perhaps all of this is evidence of the decline of western civilisation we have moved beyond Maslows hierarchy of needs to some state where any fantasy can be entertained.


MUNGO MACCALLUM: Morrison's big press, small bang tax cuts Independent Australia

MUNGO MACCALLUM: Morrison's big press, small bang tax cutsScott Morrison has inched forward to another interminable episode of tweaking the tax but, as always, do not hold your breath. read now...


In which the pond avoids distractions to attend to nattering "Ned" and the bromancer ... loon pond

The greatest rat? Surely not why the same day Troy was out and about celebrating perhaps the greatest rat of them all

The rat is celebrated at ADB here, and what about good old Joe Lyons, ADB here? So many rats, so little time, but surely the current rat is actually just your average dropkick loser rat, without much distinction or class at least Billy and Joe got to be PM, instead of being known for a handshake ...

Well this day the reptiles seemed like they were taking a view on the rat, blessing the lad with the cult status of a Lobbecke

The reptiles are always trying to distract the pond, but Lobbecke or no, the attention-seeking narcissist of the west is one temptation the pond can easily resist just as it quickly moved past other offerings


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