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If he isn’t the least informed, least capable president in history, he must come close. Reading almost anything he says or does is a trial on the nerves. How do others take it? A sample from today:
It’s hard to work out whether his ignorance is more significant than his far left beliefs, or whether it is the other way round. But whichever it is, he cannot be gone soon enough. In ’08 I thought anyone but Hillary, so this was the answer and I learned my lesson. Although not much better, she would have been better. That he is still the apple in the eye of the media is all you need to know about the American media, who are Obama clones in every way that counts.
A long, long time ago, in 1890, the Federation Conference was held in Melbourne. Politicians from the 6 Australian Colonies and New Zealand got together to discuss creating a Federation, a Common Wealth.
It came to pass that the 6 colonies got together to form Australia, but New Zealand decided to sit it out.
He is a photo from the 1890 conference. The fellow, standing second from the left, the one with the stand out light suit, was New Zealand’s representative, Captain Russell MP, Colonial Secretary. The fourth fella standing from the left, with the white bushy beard was Sir Henry Parkes.
Now, thanks to Judith Sloan’s reference in one of her earlier posts, I now regularly read the blog of Dan Mitchell from the Cato Institute. In his latest post, Mitchell writes about the 40 year economic transformation of New Zealand.
Cats can read it for themselves, but I just wanted to highlight Mitchell quoting Maurice McTigue, a former New Zealand parliamentarian and Minister. If anyone happens to know the direct email’s of Australia’s Prime Minister and/or Treasurer, perhaps they might forward either this or the Mitchell post. Perhaps also the Ministers for Health, Education and Industrial Policy (ie Pyne). This is McTigue talking about New Zealand’s program of shrinking the size of government:
When we started this process with the Department of Transportation, it had 5,600 employees. When we finished, it had 53. When we started with the Forest Service, it had 17,000 employees. When we finished, it had 17. When we applied it to the Ministry of Works, it had 28,000 employees. I used to be Minister of Works, and ended up being the only employee.
This is McTigue talking about privatisations:
…we sold off telecommunications, airlines, irrigation schemes, computing services, government printing offices, insurance companies, banks, securities, mortgages, railways, bus services, hotels, shipping lines, agricultural advisory services, etc. In the main, when we sold those things off, their productivity went up and the cost of their services went down, translating into major gains for the economy.
Twice in the last couple of days, I’ve bumped into the seemingly unkillable zombie idea that the New Zealand economy is doing well and ought to be a model for Australia. Checking Wikipedia to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, I found that, as of 2015, NZ income per person was 30-35 per cent below that in Australia, as it has been ever since the miraculous reforms of the 1980s and 1990s. NZ is down with Italy and Spain on most rankings, while Australia is comparable to Germany (above on some rankings, below on others).
This wasn’t always the case. Before the reform era, New Zealand and Australia had almost identical income levels, among the richest in the world. NZ took a bigger hit from British entry into the EU in the early 1970s but after 50 years, that can scarcely serve as an excuse (and of course, no one is predicted that Brexit will be a gigantic benefit to NZ; rather the reverse)
Then there’s migration. I dealt with this here, but I’ll repost crucial points over the fold.
The current period of approximately zero net migration doesn’t mean New Zealand’s labour market is outperforming Australia’s in any absolute sense. As a result of migration flows over the past thirty years, there are around 650,000 New Zealand citizens living in Australia, equal to around 15 per cent of the citizen population of New Zealand. The number of Australian citizens living in New Zealand is far smaller, at around 65,000.
It may reasonably be assumed that a substantial proportion of expatriates, given comparable economic opportunities, would prefer to live in their home country. So, if the New Zealand labour market offered prospects comparable to those in Australia, we would expect to see a substantial net flow from Australia to New Zealand.
Importantly, New Zealand citizens are not eligible for Australian unemployment benefits. Thus, at any time when the Australian labour market is in a cyclical slowdown, as it is at the moment, the option of moving to Australia is unattractive except for those who have strong employment prospects. Conversely, the option of returning to New Zealand makes sense for unemployed New Zealanders, regardless of their prospects at home.
This cyclical pattern of variation has been observed ever since the opening up of migration in the 1970s. Initially, it was quite common for the long-term net flow from New Zealand to Australia to reverse in response to cyclical conditions. But as the gap between the two economies has widened, the long-term trend has dominated. Even as New Zealand has recorded one of its best performances in years, and Australia one of its worst, the flow has merely paused, with no clear evidence of a reversal.
For much of the twentieth century, Australian political discussion was dominated by the “colonial cringe,” the belief that only ideas from Britain, and later the United States, were worth talking about. Apparently, all that has changed, and now New Zealand is on the list too. In reality, though, Australia has done a far better job of economic management than any of these countries. •
One of the first things National did on entering office in 2008
was to repeal Labour's ban on new thermal electricity generation.
They've got away with it so far because their stagnant economy and
worries about the potential shutdown of Tiwai Point has flattened
electricity demand, meaning that old fossil fuel stations like New
Plymouth and Huntly A & B haven't needed to be replaced as they
shut down. But now it is under threat, with plans by Nova Energy to
new 360MW gas-fired power plant in Otorohanga.
This will be a disaster for the environment. The new power plant will emit rougly half a million tons of carbon dioxide a year, reversing a decade of declining electricity sector emissions. Worse, that pollution will be locked in for the lifetime of the asset, twenty to thirty years. And given the current state of the climate, those are the exact twenty to thirty years we need to be reducing emissions, not increasing them.
We should not be building this plant, or any other fossil-fuelled power plants in future. We have excellent renewable energy resources, and it would be perfectly possible to meet that demand with geothermal or wind instead. National's repeal of the thermal ban and its support of more pollution is condemning us to a future of drought and floods. But they don't care, because the greedy old wankers will be dead by then.
The Greens are running a petition campaign on this issue; you can sign it here.
In 2003, British soldiers threw Iraqi teenager Said Shabram off
a jetty into a Basra canal. Now, they may finally
face justice for their crime:
Three British soldiers could be taken to court over the death of an Iraqi teenager who died in military custody 13 years ago despite having been cleared of any wrongdoing in a 2006 inquiry.
Said Shabram,19, drowned in the Shatt al-Arab river after allegedly being forced into the water by British troops in a practice known as “wetting”.
The soldiers, including a decorated major as well as two current serving personnel, were originally cleared by an internal military investigation in 2006 with the family of Said Shabram later receiving £100,000 in compensation from the Ministry of Defence in 2011 in an out-of-court settlement.
However, The Iraq Historic Allegations Team (Ihat) which was set up by the Labour Government in 2010 to investigate allegations of murder, torture and abuse by British servicemen against Iraqi civilians has since reviewed the case and recommended prosecution of the soldiers to the Director of Service Prosecutions.
Its another Member's Day, and it promises to be a fiery one -
though not because of the member's bills. Instead, its a local
New Plymouth District Council (Waitara Lands) Bill, which is
likely to be contentious. The bill allows leaseholders of stolen
Maori land in Waitara, the nexus of the land wars, to buy the land
their ancestors stole. While some local hapu have agreed to this,
others have not, and so it is likely to be highly
Following on from that we have the first reading of Catherine Delahunty's Public Works (Prohibition of Compulsory Acquisition of Māori Land) Amendment Bill, which aims to prevent a common source of Treaty of Waitangi breaches. The House should also make a start on Shane Reti's Consumer Guarantees (Removal of Unrelated Party Lender Responsibility) Amendment Bill, and if it moves quickly, might get to Chris Hipkins' Education (Charter Schools Abolition) Amendment Bill. There should be a ballot for at least one bill tomorrow.
Today's "big" political news is a spat between New Zealand First
and National over the House's extended sittings this week.
Originally the Business Committee had
agreed to hold a special sitting on Friday to finish off some
Treaty settlement bills. National had also apparently received
agreement for a voice vote on those bills. However, NZ First wanted
its opposition to Treaty settlements to be on the public record, so
have said they will not allow a voice vote - and in a supreme act
of petulance, Gerry Brownlee has now
cancelled the entire thing, with much
finger-pointing and public blaming.
But this isn't just a case of MPs being petulant little brats, there's an underlying issue: having a party vote rather than a voice vote means that MPs actually have to turn up for work instead of skiving off and relying on a procedural trick to cover their absence. But instead of disrupting the weekend plans of a single government MP, Brownlee would rather throw a public tantrum and disrupt the travel plans of hundreds of Maori instead.
...and then politicians wonder why the public think they're lazy, self-interested wankers. In this case, as in so many others, they have no-one but themselves to blame.
A leaked letter from the Queensland State Government appears to show Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate and another councillor deliberately misleading the Council over a development proposal. read now...
Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) is a macroeconomic theory for the current age in which governments have abandoned the gold standard and also floated their currencies. It is ‘macroeconomic’ and ‘monetary’ because many of its conclusions relate to the money supply in an economy. Does it offer scope for a new economic approach recognising people? Can it better assist responses to robotics and computerisation than current economic approaches?
Historically, gold was important because coins were minted from it (and silver). Even when coins were no longer minted in gold, the currency issued by governments was convertible to gold and governments needed to hold sufficient gold reserves to satisfy a potential demand from all holders of their currency — that was the gold standard. In that situation governments could not spend without first taking money from the economy (taxation) because the money supply was limited to match the quantity of gold. Following WW2, fixed exchange rates also meant that governments, through their central banks, had to defend the rate they had fixed by buying or selling their own currency in international money markets: that also affected the money supply in their home economy and also placed limitations on government spending. Floating currencies now allow central banks and governments to target domestic economic policy goals knowing that the floating exchange rate will resolve the currency imbalances arising from trade deficits or surpluses.
MMT points out that much economic thinking since the 1980s operates as though the gold standard is still in place — namely, that governments can only fund their spending by taxation and therefore deficits are bad — but some MMT proponents and supporters argue that this has ideological (neoliberal) rather than genuine economic underpinnings.
Since the abandonment of the gold standard, most countries, including Australia, now have a fiat currency — that is, it is created by government fiat (decree) — and it has no intrinsic value. My $50 note is not matched by $50 worth of gold any longer, nor is my plastic note worth $50 itself (in 2012 Australia’s polymer notes cost 34c each on average to produce irrespective of their face value). My note has value only because the government decrees it has and the government is the monopoly provider of currency: therefore it is the currency I need to participate in the economy and to pay taxes.
MMT places this new reality at the centre of its approach. A sovereign government issuing its own currency can never run out of money, never go bankrupt or default on its ‘debt’. That in a sense was Greece’s problem: as part of the Eurozone it was no longer an issuer of its own currency. In that circumstance, as for the states within a sovereign nation, the oft-used analogy of a household budget still applies but it does not apply to the sovereign issuer of a currency.
The ‘sovereign issuer of currency’ argument leads to probably the most well-known and sometimes controversial aspect of MMT, that a government can always ‘create’ money. The critics argue such printing of money — although these days it actually requires only a few keystrokes on a computer to create deposits in the private banking system — will lead to hyperinflation as in Zimbabwe or the Weimar Republic in post-WW1 Germany. MMT accepts that inflation is one factor that imposes a limit on government spending but that limit is not reached until all the ‘real’ resources of the economy are fully utilised — all human resources (full employment) using all available physical resources. If a government continues to spend after that, then dangerous inflation may result but, prior to that point, MMT argues that government sp...
Now I am not a particular fan of ASX. Their supernormal profits (EBITDA margins of more than 75% for the last 10 years) are a drag on the Australian economy and on superannuation. But the reaction, particularly the bureaucratic (ASIC) and political (ScoMo) reaction, to their system outage of earlier this week is completely out of proportion.
Reported today in both Fairfax and Australian newspapers today, ASIC will be conducting an investigation. But the cherry on top is that the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, who has extensive business and technology experience (ie none) is:
demanding answers to Monday’s stockmarket outage.
That’s right. The Treasurer is demanding answers from a private business engaging in private business amongst other private businesses and citizens about what happened.
I don’t seem to recall such hairy chest thumping demands to know what happened with the ABS Census – you know, the agency that is within his Ministerial portfolio?
And that ASIC will be investigating. Yeah right. These people struggle to investigate matters they are supposed to be familiar with (Corporations Act matters). Now they want to investigate matters they are completely unfamiliar with (technology matters).
Hmm. What will they do? ASIC will engage consultants to advise them and said consultants will come from the same gene pool of consultants that ASX probably be consulting. Probably crowding out the ASX meaning that both ASX and ASIC will pay more than necessary for the investigation. Which in turn means that Joe Public will be paying even more.
For heaven’s sake. Get over yourselves ASIC and ScoMo.
What’s next. ASIC will want to set up a technology compliance function, at a cost of millions, to check the technology of every Australian business? And they will be verily supported by the Treasurer.
Hey ScoMo. Clean up your own back yard before you start meddling in others. Perhaps you start investigation what is going on in Government departments you have oversight over. Why don’t you get ASIC to investigate the ABS. What about the technology at the ATO?
UK prime minister Theresa May will address the UN General Assembly on Tuesday. She seeks UN Action to Control Mass Migration Flows.
In contrast, I propose a 10-point “common sense” solution, not UN action.
Let’s start with May’s proposal.
Theresa May will use her first appearance as British prime minister at a United Nations General Assembly meeting starting Monday to urge fellow leaders to do more to control mass migration, which she’ll argue hurts both refugees and the countries they enter.
May will say the migrants should be encouraged to claim asylum in the first safe country they reach.
Meanwhile the EU’s open internal borders have allowed large population flows, with many Eastern Europeans traveling to richer countries in search of a better life. It was partly resentment at this that led Britain to vote to leave the EU in June. May will call for a better distinction between these two groups.
“This is an urgent matter — more people are displaced than at any point in modern history and it is vital that we provide ongoing support for those people most in need of protection,” May said in a statement released by her office. “While we must continue our efforts to end conflict, stop persecution and the abuse of human rights, I believe we also need a new, more effective global approach to manage migration.”
What the hell can the UN do?
The answer, of course, is nothing. And asking a political body that cannot possibly do anything useful to solve a problem is like hoping a wish-granting magic genie will pop out of the bottle.
Some readers may be thinking “stop criticizing and offer a solution”. Fair enough.
Mish Ten Point Refugee Plan
If point 6 had been followed, Brexit would never have happened.
Instead of seeking UN action, how about a little common sense?
Reprinted with permission from Mish’s Global Economic Trend Analysis.
Late last week Satyajit Das wrote an interesting piece in Naked Capitalism titled The Business of Politics. I generally like Das’ writings. He is usually quite insightful and pithy, notwithstanding his penchant for frequent quotes and his leftist policy leanings.
In this piece, Das writes about the generally false proposition that successful business leadership seldom translates into successful political leadership. This is a timely point to discuss this because part of the alleged appeal of Malcolm Turnbull is his alleged success in business.
Das deconstructs his argument into 6 points explaining why (in his opinion), business leadership does not really translate into political leadership.
I think Das is generally right and his article generally good (despite his bias for an interventionist state) but he over complicates things too much. It seems that that success in politics is essentially about achieving things through influence whereas in business (as an executive) is achieving things through authority.
The closest thing to political leadership in a business context is being a Chairman of a complex organisation. As a Chair, you too are first among equals and you have a very close relationship with the executive officers (bureaucrats). It is also quite common that successful business CEOs make very bad directors and Chairman.
Looking back through my memory vault, I can’t seem to recall a successful political leader who spent most of their career in business – Menzies, Hawke, Howard, Reagan, Thatcher.
It is possible that Turnbull will be successful, but …..
Between 2012 and 2014, Brian Balzer raped and sexually exploited
a female prisoner at the prison he worked as a guard at. Unlike
many victims of sexual violence in US prisons, she complained about
it on her release. And as a result, she's back in prison,
detained indefinitely as a "material witness":
A former guard at Oregon's only women's prison is awaiting trial on accusations that he had sex with an inmate – but it's the alleged victim in the case who's in jail.
Washington County Circuit Judge Charles Bailey this week ordered that the 41-year-old woman remain in custody on a material witness hold because of the state's fear that she won't show up to testify at the Oct. 4 trial.
Jail records show she's been held since Aug. 16.
Last week the government released a
damning review of MPI's decision not to prosecute fishers for
illegal fish dumping, high-grading and under-reporting of
catches. Today, unbelievably, Minister for Primary Industries
Nathan Guy is
defending their failure:
"In this one particular case I am disappointed. The director general is now making a raft of changes within MPI in terms of different processes and procedures to ensure this doesn't happen again."
Despite the changes - including fast-tracking more electronic monitoring equipment on boats - Guy said MPI did a very good job and the public could have full confidence in their fisheries enforcement.
"I have trust in MPI because, by and large, they do a good job as the regulator. But you need to understand...dumping and discards has been an issue [they] have been grappling with for a long period of time."
A third organisation has decided that it
no longer wants to help Australia to run concentration camps for
A company contracted to provide support for refugees and asylum seekers on Nauru is pulling out, after deciding it would not re-tender for the contract.
The Guardian reports sources on Nauru saying Connect Settlement Services told workers and refugees at a meeting on Monday it would be gone by Christmas.
The agency, which took over after Save the Children pulled out last year, is believed to have consistently raised concerns about poor mental healthcare and child protection services on Nauru.
CSS is the third major contractor to announce a pull out in recent weeks after the security contractor, Wilson Security, and the main contractor, Ferrovial, which took over Broadspectrum, announced they would not seek to renew contracts.
My local body voting papers arrived yesterday, meaning that I
need to decide who I'm voting for. So, here's my take on Palmerston
North local body politics.
The mayoral race is a waste of time. On the one hand, we have a rugby meathead who thinks stadiums are more important than social housing. And on the other, a convicted child-beater who "claimed to be God, to be emperor and land lord, and said he could print money", who sounds like a character from "The Repairer of Reputations". Neither of those is a good choice; fortunately the ballot paper includes an "informal" option you can circle.
City Council is interesting, with 28 candidates competing for 15 spots in an STV election. That's a big field, and there's some easy ways of winnowing it down: first, exclude anyone who voted for at-large election rather than wards, which gets rid of Baty, Broad, Dennison, Findlay and Jefferies. Second, exclude anyone who voted for the (now dumped) plan to hire thugs to intimidate beggars, which eliminates Baty, Findlay, Hapeta and Meehan. Scrubbing anyone who promises low rates (i.e. to underfund council services) gets rid of Bowen, Egan, McLaughlin and Naylor as well. I recommended Duncan McCann last election, but him being in bed with the meathead doesn't make him appeal. Which has almost reduced us to a manageable number.
Of the rest, we have a Green candidate, Brent Barrett, and four Labour candidates - Zulfiqar Butt, David Chisholm, Sheryll Hoera and Lorna Johnson. Sue Pugmire and Aleisha Rutherford are also left-wing candidates. Abi Symes might be worth it if you want a youth voice, but scores poorly on the Generation Zero scorecard. Tangi Utikere and Elizabeth Paine are people I'd rank lowly (but at least rank). Joseph Poff supports wind fams, but sadly the wrong one (PNCC's corrupt little deal with Mighty River to put one in the Turitea Reserve) - he might be OK in another year, but not while the Turitea windfarm is on the table (looking back I also see he was a farmer candidate for Horizons last time. Which suggests he's an anti-green candidate and a definite "no"). I haven't worked out my exact ordering yet - do I do the obvious and go Barrett 1 because he's the candidate I want to see elected, or do I try and be tactical and give Symes my top vote in the hope that it saves her from early elimination? - but ranking women before men seems to be a good way to help address the monoculture of dead white men in local government.
(If you're looking for material on the candidates, NZ Election Ads has a good collection of stuff from the PN election this time, including every newspaper ad and flyer I could scan in).
Which brings us to Horizons. The state of the river is still the key issue (and is overflowing into city council politics because of PNCC's poor sewage arrangements). Unfortunately they still use the block vote, so its tick up to four boxes from a choice of six candidates. At this stage I should make an embarrassing admission: last election I recommended Rachel Keedwell as a clean water candidate. Turns ou...
Yesterday the AFR published a magnificent open letter to (new RBA governor) Philip Lowe. This in particular caught my attention:
There seems to be a view that fostering asset inflation creates sustainable, long term wealth in an economy. In our view, this is certainly not the case. The extremely loose monetary policy of recent years, both here and overseas, has had the effect of redistributing wealth amongst the community to asset owners. Hence home owners or share owners, both domestically and abroad, have benefited at the expense of renters and younger people.
Asset inflation does not foster sustainable growth. What is required is saving which can fund long term investment in productive capital, both physical and human.
It seems the current orthodoxy is all about stimulating even greater borrowing and consumption rather than saving and investment. It should be clear by now, given the experiences overseas such as in Japan and the European Union, that the extremely low and negative interest rates have not stimulated borrowing to fund investment in productive capital. Instead, what it has done is keep alive inefficient businesses, as well as allowing companies to financially engineer their capital structures through share buybacks – particularly in the United States.
Disincentive to save
In addition, low and negative rates have removed almost any incentive to save. In fact, the current environment of excessively low interest rates around the world, including Australia, is punishing anyone who has painstakingly saved money for their retirement, while on the other hand it is perversely rewarding those who want to borrow heavily to buy what in many cases seem like inflated assets. As the bastion of our financial system, is this the message that the RBA wants to transmit to the Australian people? That heavy borrowing is to be encouraged while saving should be discouraged? This doesn’t seem to be a very prudent message that any responsible central bank would want to be associated with.
Classical economists could never have justified the interference in the financial system that removes the reward for deferring consumption, and removes a key metric for the efficient allocation of scarce resources.
Scholars from PNG and the Pacific are invited to submit expressions of interest in the Greg Taylor scholarship program for the 2016-17 round. Applicants would be expected to undertake research for a period of up to three months at the Development Policy Centre at ANU, most likely in the summer, and in close collaboration with a researcher from our centre (or possibly from the broader ANU).
The fellowship covers travel, living costs and a modest honorarium. Applications are accepted from students already studying at ANU or elsewhere in Australia, and from new and emerging scholars in the area of economics in the Pacific and PNG.
Applicants are asked to submit expressions of interest to Matthew Dornan, Deputy Director of the Development Policy Centre (email@example.com). Expressions of interest should be accompanied by a resume and short research agenda (1-2 pages) outlining the research topic proposed by the applicant. Applicants are also asked to suggest researchers within Devpolicy (or the ANU) with whom they may be able to collaborate on the project.
The call for expressions of interest for this round closes on 17 October 2016.
The scholarships are made possible by a generous donation from an anonymous donor, and are named in the honour of Greg Taylor AO, whose former positions include: Executive Director of the IMF for both Australia and PNG, Secretary of various Australian Government Departments, advisor to the PNG Treasury Secretary, Chairman of the PNG Superannuation Task Force, and Director of PNG’s largest superannuation fund.
More details on the scholarship, and on past recipients, are available on our website.
If you didn’t attend the Effective Altruism Australia conference (EAGxAustralia) in Melbourne earlier this year, the videos of panels and keynotes are now online. The event attracted one of the biggest names in effective altruism – Peter Singer – as well as a range of other presenters on topics such as indigenous health, animal rights and more.
Our Director Stephen Howes also spoke on foreign aid policy – you can see his presentation below.
The full playlist of videos is available here.
The post Effective Altruism Australia conference – videos online appeared first on Devpolicy Blog from the Development Policy Centre.
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