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Monday Message Board

November 29th, 2004

It’s time, once again, for the Monday message board, where you are invited to post your thoughts on any topic. Civilised discussion and no coarse language please.

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  1. Tony Healy
    November 29th, 2004 at 07:56 | #1

    Britney Spears has added a new tag-line to her business cards: “Better looking than an economics professor.”

  2. November 29th, 2004 at 08:27 | #2

    Not better looking than John “huggy bear” Quiggen.

    Now a question for the people of ’68. Who was the original “big huggy bear of a man”?

    Hint. Think of London, sex, spies and politics.

  3. John Quiggin
    November 29th, 2004 at 08:35 | #3

    Without Googling, and given my fondness for Mandy Rice-Davies, I’ll bet on Profumo.

  4. November 29th, 2004 at 09:00 | #4

    Without enquiring further into the peccadilloes and proclivities of piscine merchant naval officers, should we take it that Weekend Reflections were a failure? Or will that be encapsulated in a nutshell in Word for Wednesday?

  5. John Quiggin
    November 29th, 2004 at 09:06 | #5

    mea culpa! This was a technical failure on my part. I thought I had reposted the weekend reflections with a new date but obviously all I did was repost the old one. It will be back next week.

  6. James Farrell
    November 29th, 2004 at 09:47 | #6

    Now a question for the people of ’68. Who was the original “big huggy bear of a man”?

    Captain Haddock?

  7. Homer Paxton
    November 29th, 2004 at 10:24 | #7

    I wish to follow on from what PM Lawrence wrote two weeks ago on his unfortunate experience at his last full-time job.

    My last full-time job ended with me being sacked.
    I found out that although the reasons given for the sacking were false and could be shown to be false that as I earned over , somewhere over the mid $80K, that it didn’t matter. you could be sacked and no reason had to be given.

    This led to a recent contracting job I did. I was working at a NSW government department.
    My contract of three months was stopped before the three months was up.
    no matter that again I was doing al indeed more than was required. My advice about IPART was not appreciated, although totally correct.

    Thi NSw Government authority had more contractors on one office floor where I worked than full time employees. IT was quite amazing to hear the stories. however they all had a common theme.
    A contractor could be ‘sacked’ at very short notice for no apparent reason.

    I would not suggest this small anecdote reflects what happens with all contractors however I would suggest that if Unions ever start looking at the real world that some apparent threats are in fact opportunities to be grasped. They may not gain new members but I am sure there are revenue streams for ‘advice and assistance’ out there waiting for them.

    I would also add there plenty of people out there that would love more protection which only the ALP can deliver.

  8. November 29th, 2004 at 10:48 | #8

    Woodford Folk Festival Time Again

    Highly Recommended!

    Can’t wait to see the Waifs and The Cat Empire – but no John Butler this Year :(

  9. Mark Bahnisch
    November 29th, 2004 at 11:50 | #9

    Hope the weather’s better at Woodford this year. It was always nice when it was at Maleny up in the cool hills – but that site at Woodford is a mosquito-infested mess when it rains and seems to attract all SEQ’s humidity!

  10. November 29th, 2004 at 11:55 | #10

    John,

    I’d be interested to hear your economic perspective on a theme that has made its way to a few blogs of late, i.e. the subsidisation of 4WD vehicles. Given the gap between perceived/actual safety, the varied use of these vehicles as workhorses/shopping carts (depending on whether the owner wears stubbies or stilettos) and the resources they consume, should an emissions based rego structure be considered and would it do any good?

    I tend to think it’d be too difficult to administer and enforce (e.g. what about reliable, well maintained older cars?) but I also think it’s unfair that resource-conscious small vehicle owners pay similar rego fees to 4WD owners. Some of these vehicles, especially ones I’ve seen in North America, approach the point of being small trucks. They place unplanned stress on road infrastructure, are costly in terms of pollutants and more costly in terms of medical insurance due to accidents than what most would percieve.

    As I mentioned, I’d appreciate your thoughts, but far be it from my place to suggest an agenda.

  11. November 29th, 2004 at 12:09 | #11

    Some myths of progressive left liberalism

    This was planned for the weekend seminar that never happened.

    In the aftermath of the Australian and US elections many progressive left liberals are blaming the electorate for following dishonest and amoral conservative politicians in refusing to take up a number of moral issues. These include reconciliation, refugees, the war in Iraq, environmentalism, multiculturalism and honesty in politics. These are billed as the big issues that were swept under the mat by the major parties, in favour of vote-buying and scare campaigns, while the people in the street shied away from them for shallow and self-serving reasons.

    I would like to suggest that the mass of people have more decency and good sense than is allowed by that argument.

    On reconciliation, I suggest that the ordinary citizen has plenty of good will but is not prepared to be called a racist, has little sympathy for rhetorical gestures like the official Sorry and is sceptical of programs that have cost billions of dollars without producing much impact on Aboriginal morbidity and mortality. I don’t claim to have the answers but if anyone comes up with better ideas I expect that they will get widespread support.

    On environmentalism, we are all environmentalists now but we need to avoid a Green over-reaction that produces perverse outcomes. Environmental policies need to be subjected to cost/benefit analysis and scientific appraisal to minimise mistakes like the groundless dioxane scare that killed off a billion dollar state of the art paper mill on Tasmania when the Hawke Government was courting the green vote.

    And so it goes. There are acceptable and unacceptable forms of multiculturalism and people want to be able to discriminate between them without being accused of racism and zenophobia. It is possible to sympathise with refugees without accepting that we should open the door to anyone and everyone who wants to come here, or who can afford to pay people smugglers to bring them in. Issues of war and peace are too large to debate in a small space but the critics of Australian and US involvement will have more credibility when they are as hard on the crimes of
    terrorists as they are on the actions of soldiers in uniform.

    Finally, a word of sympathy for voters in the United States. How could you vote for either of the major parties, given bipartisan support for the War on Drugs and the rollback of civil liberties under the Patriot Act?

  12. November 29th, 2004 at 13:51 | #12

    I have to say I though Rafe was running the “left loses cos they are a bunch of whiny nags making everyone feel guilty” line.

    But the last para makes it a lot darker and more complex. There are things we agree on, about the totalitarian agenda of control that both sides accept. And there Rafe is as marginalised as the Left. It’s not just frustrating – the direction is dangerous.

  13. November 29th, 2004 at 14:34 | #13

    I was waiting for the Weekend Reflexions… but here it goes!
    Please post relevant comments and suggestions for appropriate action:

    Blacktown artist silenced for anti-war message

    Here in Sydney’s West is hard enough to get some issues noted or debated, but I think we have found the perfect way to get noticed:

    - Get the MAYOR to personally intervene, call police and BAN your previously approved art project.

    This is what has just happened in BLACKTOWN!

    In a local example of peace issues and artistic freedom being repressed by the local authorities, Blacktown Council and local police have ordered the removal of a community art project from the Blacktown Art Gallery.

    Artist Zanny Begg was stopped by police when installing a work entitled “Checkpoint”. This work was comprised of 10 “checkpoints” for “weapons of mass distraction” in various locales throughout Blacktown. These checkpoints” were marked by a life-sized stencil of a soldier and were placed on hoardings, fences, walls and car parks.

    Zanny was told to take down all the artworks as, in a climate of terrorism, it was inappropriate to show such political messages. She was told that if she did not take the works down she would be taken to the police station and fined.

    Finally when we see some creativity and cultural expression opposing the war in Iraq the authorities pounce on it.(Obviously it is a case of, “not* in Blacktown, that sort of
    stuff belongs in Newtown”.)

    When Zanny rang the curator of the show he explained that Blacktown Council (read Mayor Leo Kelly) had asked that her work be pulled from the show and that all the works be taken down.

    If you want to help Zanny display this installation or find out more, phone her on 0421 420 420.

    The Western Sydney Peace Group, the Parramatta Peace Group and other interested people will be personally taking the MAYOR to task on this issue by helping organise a formal complaint:

    Blacktown Council phone: 02 9839 6000
    Mayor’s Fax: 02 9831 1961
    Blacktown Council address: 62 Flushcombe Road Blacktown NSW 2148

  14. Blair Fairman
    November 29th, 2004 at 14:58 | #14

    I am deeply concerned about the state of the cricket teams being sent to play Australia. We really should start playing the Australia A team in test matches if we keep been sent teams of such poor standard. (Note this is written on the 4th day of the 2nd test with NZ at 2/34. I think it will be over by the end of the day. Knowing how my recent predictions have gone, this match will end up a draw.)

  15. Naomi
    November 29th, 2004 at 15:32 | #15

    Homer, totally agree. In fact, if you look back to the origins of the Labor Party, in the Queensland Shearer’s Strike of 1891 (?), that was contract labour arguing for a fair go. We need to have those discussions now, because fairness doesn’t enter into these supposedly fair and equitable, negotiated with eyes open, contracts. After all, the two parties are not equal. All power to contract labour, uniting is the future.

    And Mark, re Woodford – weather this year can’t be good because last year’s was DIVINE. Not one day of rain, and not too hot. Just perfect for the entire festival. My first Woodford (and last for a while) but unforgettable and JB Trio were fab …. la la la!

  16. Andrew
    November 29th, 2004 at 16:00 | #16

    Swade,

    As the happy owner and driver of a Mitsubishi Pajero that’s never been off-road I’d be more than happy to pay a bit extra for rego if it is proven that it causes more damage than regular cars. It’s such a nice car to drive that the extra cost would be worth it, and I’m all for user pays. Perhaps we should also jack up the price for public transport so that the user bears more of the burden? While we are at it, let’s scrap bulk billing and makes users pay for their GP visits..

  17. Tony Healy
    November 29th, 2004 at 16:26 | #17

    Andrew, if we’re going to charge public transport users more for the service, we should think about who the users actually are since, when we talk about users, we really mean beneficiaries. The beneficiaries of public transport systems include car drivers, employers and property investors.

    Car drivers face less crowded roads and faster trips. Employers gain a workforce from distant suburbs. And property investors gain tenants and property appreciation from the availability of train and bus services nearby.

  18. Tony Healy
    November 29th, 2004 at 16:35 | #18

    Re Homer Paxton’s comments on the prevalence of contracting arrangements in a NSW government department, another issue with this is that some of those departments now force contractors to work through designated labour hire firms. They thus force contractors to subject themselves to the one-sided practices of the labour hire industry including asymmetric termination, surrender of negotiating rights, surrender of intellectual property and many other duplicitous measures.

    If we want to assess this using liberal approaches, it is a significant restraint of trade, and also involves third line forcing and profiteering. (The third line forcing arises from the forced enrolling in superannuation funds that provide kick-backs to the labour hire firms or their associated “contract-management” companies.)

  19. Andrew
    November 29th, 2004 at 17:15 | #19

    Tony,

    Of course you’re right, why didn’t I think of that? I reverse my position, let’s make public transport free of charge altogther so that those of us who drive environmentally unsound, unsafe, gas guzzling 4WDs have more room on the road….

  20. Tony Healy
    November 29th, 2004 at 17:25 | #20

    Sounds cool to me. (I also drive a 4WD.)

    Another way of looking at this issue is to capture the value of public transport systems from the owners of the land that benefits from those systems. This is the concept of replacing income tax by a tax on land.

  21. November 29th, 2004 at 19:25 | #21

    Tony, by and large “land owners’ benefit” was already charged, back when the public transport systems were introduced. The systems went in hand in hand with land appreciation going to the developers, who subsequently diversified their asset base. Result: the gains have been taken, and are reflected and embedded in the capital values. Later appreciation doesn’t link to public transport, but to other improvements. If anything, what should be charged is the asset base that got stripped from the productive enterprise. The catch is, it’s hard to track down.

  22. November 29th, 2004 at 20:55 | #22

    Call me simple minded..

    but all I know is that people who buy expensive houses near public transport and parks and good schools are buying preferential access to the public good.

    While exiling the people who really need it.

  23. Jill Rush
    November 29th, 2004 at 22:00 | #23

    The arguments for contracting out are that an organisation is able to buy in expertise that it doesn’t otherwise possess.

    There is a recent example I am aware of where a contractor was not appointed to a job because the pride of the hirer was wounded by a correct but negative analysis of the situation.

    Contracting appeared to be an answer to raise income when full time jobs became scarce. It has been one method of creating a quiescent workforce. Keep workers on their toes and worried for the future and they will not act together and just in case they do consider it make it very difficult to do so under legislation. At least in the 1890s strikes by themselves were still legal.

    Nowadays the strategies which were effective all have huge price tags for the officials and activists – many are not prepared to go out on a limb for others who aren’t prepared to reciprocate.

    It weakens collective bargaining enormously and has resulted in safety being compromised. It is a good idea to introduce the concept of industrial manslaughter as contractors will engage in unsafe practices in order to keep and repeat work,

  24. November 29th, 2004 at 23:59 | #24

    “Finally, a word of sympathy for voters in the United States. How could you vote for either of the major parties, given bipartisan support for the War on Drugs and the rollback of civil liberties under the Patriot Act?”

    Thanks. It is a symptom of a dying democracy when your choice is between:

    Option A: psychotic, methodist, rich, white, christian male from the skull and bones club at Yale
    and
    Option B: sane, catholic, rich, white, christian male from the skull and bones club at Yale

  25. November 30th, 2004 at 10:17 | #25

    Yes. It kind of makes you want to go back to about 1900 and start again. Still the revival of classical liberalism and Austrian economics at least offers an intellectually robust alternative to the line of march of the major players.

  26. stephen
    November 30th, 2004 at 15:25 | #26

    a few thoughts on 4WD economics for Swade (not rolled gold JQ economic comments of course, but may be of some interest).

    the whole issue of pricing and transport is one that Australia needs to examine – and 4WD vehicles are just one of the elements. Charging road users full costs should take in to account direct costs such as emissions (either particulate – which involves cleanup costs immediately, or go the whole way and also charge for CO2 emissions), congestion and road damage. Such charges would ensure proper price signals, and potentially change behaviours. At present the system encourages free riding (not a pun in this context) given the taxpayers as a whole pick up a large proportion of these sorts of costs.

    On emissions charging, this could be built in to registration fees reasonably easily given that the data on emissions are available for each type of vehicle; true, there are variations in practice depending on how well the vehicle is maintained, but outrageously offensive emitters could be picked up by fines for maintaining an unsafe vehicle (in this case, unsafe to others if not the driver).

    Congestion charging is a well accepted concept internationally, and has been the saviour of central London since being introduced by economically rational Mayor Ken Livingstone (I never thought I’d write that!). Again, it recognises that vehicle use has externalities in terms of the costs that congestion and delay impose, and should be charged. In our region, Singapore has a particularly sophisticated electronic charging system for both congestion and use of certain routes.

    Introducting charges to reflect road damage has long been a concern to transport economists – and it’s particularly relevant to 4WD vehicles which tend to be heavier. I’m not an engineer, but I’m told damage is in proportion to the square of the weight on the axle of a road vehicle – so a heavier vehicle does a whole lot more damage than a lighter one. Of course the taxpayers as a whole pick up the tab for potholes and repairs.

    This discussion is just on the obvious costs; there is less justification for charging users for eg accident and medical costs given they presumably don’t actually intend to be in an accident. Insurance premiums should in theory reflect the different tendencies of different vehicles to be involved in accidents (maybe some of the 4WD drivers out there know whether they pay a higher premium?).

    Disclosure: my family has a Subaru Forester. we actually take it off the main road to reach bushwalking spots, too! we love it because it is small, light, and fuel efficient, therefore relatively environmentally friendly (if one has to have a car at all that is).

  27. Alex
    December 2nd, 2004 at 15:41 | #27

    On the issue of contracting, it’s worth reading Ross Gittins’ article in the SMH on the aging of Australia’s population (http://www.smh.com.au/news/Ross-Gittins/Old-age-is-good-for-your-wealth/2004/11/30/1101577483809.html?from=storylhs). He points out, among other things, that companies (and government departments) are likely to become increasingly keen on retaining their staff as labour shortages become evident due to more of the population being aged. Labour will once again have the whip hand.

  28. Tom D
    December 2nd, 2004 at 19:45 | #28

    One solution to growing labour shortages is to encourage more sole parents and DSPs to enter the labour market. As I understand it, there are as many (if not more) people in each of these categories than people on Newstart Allowance. Hence the new govt now has a Minister for Workforce Participation.

    There’s also the option to increase the minimum age for the old age pension. Would Howard do that? Heck, if people are healthier and live longer, why not make them work longer?

  29. July 8th, 2005 at 19:59 | #29

    November 2, 2005 the first anniversary of Bush’s “re-election”, we will take the first major step in this by organizing a truly massive day of resistance all over this country. People everywhere will walk out of school, they will take off work, they will come to the downtowns and town squares and set out from there, going through the streets and calling on many more to join us. They will repudiate this criminal regime, making a powerful statement: No! This regime does not represent us! and we will drive it out!

  30. Ian Gould
    July 10th, 2005 at 08:25 | #30

    >>As the happy owner and driver of a Mitsubishi Pajero that’s never been off-road I’d be more than happy to pay a bit extra for rego if it is proven that it causes more damage than regular cars. It’s such a nice car to drive that the extra cost would be worth it, and I’m all for user pays.

    Andrew, go check the rates of sales tax and import duties on 4WDs and passenger vehicles. You’re getting a taxpayer-funded hand-out.

    As for public transport, it generates significant positive externalities – reduced pollution; fewer traffic accidents; reduced congestion; allowing older people to remain in their homes and other of expesnive care facilities when they can no longer drive; increased labor market efficiency by allowing low-incoem workers to commute further.

    Any public transport system that recovers it’s full costs from its users in the presence of such externalities is operating in an economically inefficient way.

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