Zeitgeist

October 16th, 2006

I don’t imagine John Howard reads this blog, or even my columns in the Financial Review, but it was striking, after the discussion we had here to see him make an explicit link between climate change and the severity of the current drought. This is big progress even on his position of month ago, where he was still trying to have a bit each way.

It will be interesting to see how denialists in the commentariat and blogosphere, most of whom are also Howard partisans, respond to this.

Also, while I’m praising Howard, the training package he announced recently was a good thing, and seems to mark an abandonment of the silly idea that it’s OK to finish your education at year 10. Not everyone needs a university education, but failing to finish school (or achieve an equivalent outcome) and get some sort of post-school qualification is a recipe for low wages and regular unemployment.

Categories: Economics - General, Environment Tags:
  1. Uncle Milton
    October 16th, 2006 at 08:47 | #1

    “It will be interesting to see how denialists in the commentariat and blogosphere, most of whom are also Howard partisans, respond to this.”

    The same way as they respond to the fact that he hasn’t reduced the size of government, he has increased social security paymenta and he has not dismantled Medicare – more in sadness than in anger. But they will forgive him, because he is One of Them.

  2. October 16th, 2006 at 08:50 | #2

    Did you see Howard on 60 Minutes last night?
    PM backs ‘clean’ nuclear energy

    “I’m in favour of Australia developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes,” he told the Nine Network.

    “It’s clean and green and, in an age where we’re worried about global warming, we should be looking seriously at nuclear power as an option because it’s clean and it doesn’t emit greenhouse gases.

    “I can’t understand why the extreme greenies oppose it.”

    Much as I would prefer nuclear power to continuing with coal (and g*mbling on geosequestration) calling nukes “clean and green” its a bit of a stretch. It ain’t clean and it ain’t green, it is the less bad option.

  3. October 16th, 2006 at 10:21 | #3

    Ender – “It ain’t clean and it ain’t green, it is the less bad option.”

    Hear hear. In a country drenched in sun and wind and blessed with plenty of land, nuclear is a really stupid option. We have uranium however, we do not have nuclear fuel. That would have to be made overseas. We sell them low grade yellowcake and then have to buy back nuclear fuel at a trade disadvantage of thousands of times.

    I really do not think Howard connects climate change with anything. His top people pay lip service to global warming however Howard’s main use for climate change is to further the mining industries that drive the Liberal Party. Hence the strict adherence to the party line of clean coal and nuclear while handing out crumbs to the renewable industry.

  4. October 16th, 2006 at 11:19 | #4

    Ender, uranium enrichment is not a major cost centre for nuclear power.

    To enrich the fuel to run a 1 gigawatt plant for a year costs about 20 million Australian dollars on current spot prices. That is a piddle in the ocean in the energy sector, let alone the wider Australian economy. And it’s not hugely profitable – Urenco (the European enrichment company) is making a decent return on investment but it’s nothing like BHP is doing at the moment. And there are a number of players; as well as the existing players, Brazil has just established their own enrichment facility, and General Electric is exploring the possibility of entering the market with a plant in the US (based on the Australian Silex technology, on which Silex will earn a royalty of between 7 and 12 percent).

    So the uranium enrichment market is competitive, and will probably get more so. In a lot of ways, it’s a commodity itself – one competitor’s enrichment product is exactly the same as another’s, all that matters is the cost.

    If you want to play with the numbers you can do so here.

  5. October 16th, 2006 at 12:11 | #5

    Robert – “To enrich the fuel to run a 1 gigawatt plant for a year costs about 20 million Australian dollars on current spot prices.”

    I agree that fuel prices, large though they are, are but a fly speck on the total costs of a nuclear power plant however that does not mean they are insignificant. We should be moving away from primary production into secondary and tertiary industries not shipping off yellowcake and buying back processed nuclear fuel. If that is Howard’s vision for Australia, back to the 1950′s mining and sheep farming then this could be the greatest amount of harm that he could cause to Australian and his lasting legacy.

    The nuclear industry is extremely hard to get into. There is no way in the world that ANY of the components other than sand, water and steel would be sourced locally. ALL of it, including the scarce engineering and technical expertise, would come from overseas. Yes a local industry might grow up in time however that could be 50 years in the future.

    Enrichment is another can of worms nobody wants opened. There is always the temptation, even in sunny democratic Australia, for a black program of weapons grade enrichment. That is the main problem with nuclear power. Iran cannot be trusted apparently, even though it has signed the NPT, to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes. Do not think that approval for Australia to enrich would be automatic.

    For renewable power, by contrast, the situation is quite different. In several areas Australia leads the world. We used to have the foremost solar cell scientist, Dr Martin Green, however he now works in Germany I believe. Australians pioneered new advanced absorbtion coatings for solar themal tubes that raised the effciency of solar thermal power plants – yet that technology is in use all over the world and not here. An Australian company pioneered vanandium redox batteries ideal for solar and wind co generation batteries – a Canadian company markets them.

    All the high return local industries are being ignored in favour of overseas jobs and technologies with the false promise of nuclear power. A visionary leader, which Howard is not, would recognise this. Australia could lead the world on renewables however that is being done by Germany and Japan.

  6. October 16th, 2006 at 12:14 | #6

    Ender,
    Perhaps we need a good “green” venture capital firm in Australia.

  7. October 16th, 2006 at 12:47 | #7

    Macfarlane is in on the nuclear act now: Resources Minister endorses nuclear option. It was just two months ago that Macfarlane denied the connection between GHG emissions and climate change:

    LAURIE OAKES: OK. Climate change, you are a climate change sceptic, aren’t you?
    IAN McFARLANE: Well I am a sceptic of the connection between emissions and climate change.

    Mr Macfarlane, why would you need nukes when coal is much cheaper and not contributing to climate change?

    I think the government is panicking. They’ve realised denying climate change is no longer credible and they don’t have a plan B.

    Mad Bill Heffernan was just on The World Today saying we need to uproot agriculture from the south and move it to the tropics! We need a new Snowy scheme he says.

    taust, where are you?

  8. October 16th, 2006 at 12:47 | #8

    Andrew – “Perhaps we need a good “greenâ€? venture capital firm in Australia.”

    I agree however when the stated government policy is clean coal and nuclear how many renewable projects are going to get funded. Already wind power is being stalled because the goverment refuses to increase the MRET. Additionally the highly successful and totally oversubscribed solar panel rebate is due to expire next year and as yet there is no indication that is it going to be renewed.

    What sort of signals would this send to a venture capitilist?

  9. October 16th, 2006 at 12:54 | #9

    A good signal that policy is in flux and can therefore be changed if sufficient pressure is brought to bear. The odd attendance at Liberal Party luncheons would not be out of place, either.

  10. Don Wigan
    October 16th, 2006 at 13:02 | #10

    “…he has increased social security paymenta”

    No argument there, Uncle Milton, but what are they spending it on? Certainly not on the poorer sections of the community and those down the lower end of the gravy chain.

    e.g. My own situation. Both of my daughters are at university 300 km away from the family. One has been there for 3 years while the other is near completing her first year. Aged 20 and 19. Their youth allowance is now subject to review, based on parental income.

    Our combined gross income at home (notice how they always do it as gross, not actual) is now $52,000, not exactly affluent I’d have thought, except compared with last year when it was $35,000. Now because our income has risen more than 25%, the govt wants to claw back about two thirds of the allowance starting from 1st October.

    My wife is so upset that she’s talked about quitting her job (bringing our gross back to about $35,000). I asked a Centrelink staffer if this would have any effect. She said it would, but not before January. From October till then our daughters would have to get by with the reduced youth allowance.

    I know this is a bit off-topic to Howard turning green, but I wonder if anyone has any more knowledge of the system, eg the legislative basis for it, especially offspring living 300 km away being arbitrarily classed as ‘dependents’.

    The weird part about it is that administration of this system is probably costing more than it would save. I assume downward envy is perhaps part of it.

    I know there are some workarounds such as living defacto and claiming independence that way, but neither my wife nor our daughters want to go that path. I’m thinking about an SSAT appeal and would be grateful for any advice.

  11. brian
    October 16th, 2006 at 13:12 | #11

    Prof. Cullen from Melb. Univ. has today been saying that governments have to show political will..ticker ?…and get farmers off marginal land,where they slide from problem to problem. He argued that too much assistance had encouraged farming in unsuitable places.
    The same is true of the growing of rice and cotton..but how can we expect Vaile or the National Party to make these moves? ,,,not much political will there for change I think !

  12. vee
    October 16th, 2006 at 13:35 | #12

    Howard’s got nothing left to say. He’s just trying to stay in focus with the election in 12 months because he’s brought up the nuke debate again which we’ve only just had.

    He’s got nothing.

  13. Uncle Milton
    October 16th, 2006 at 13:40 | #13

    Don, I sympathise, but only up to a point. Your children are adults. That they should be getting anything at all is testimony to the relative generosity of Australia’s social security system.

  14. Hermit
    October 16th, 2006 at 13:40 | #14

    Would opponents of nuclear please come up with a detailed plan for replacing current energy use while heavily reducing GHGs? Major constraint; don’t ask the middle classes for draconian sacrifices and don’t invoke technology that for some reason isn’t working yet.

    Also to be consistent I’d like to hear a call for for both coal and uranium mining to be phased out.

  15. Don Wigan
    October 16th, 2006 at 14:06 | #15

    Thanks for that Uncle Milton. We can differ, I guess, on what I’d have thought was an entitlement and on what you consider the relative generosity of Australia’s social security system. I’ll fight on alone if necessary.

    But it does raise a couple of questions. As you mention, they are adults. And they are living a long way from the parental home. Why should parental income, especially low parental income, be relevant?

    Secondly, you mentioned spending more than ever on social security. Where is that money going if they’re clawing back money from these reviews?

  16. October 16th, 2006 at 14:07 | #16

    Hermit, I suggest you read Al Gore’s speech at NYU last month for an alternative vision. Search for “electranet”, “nuclear” etc.
    Al Gore: Solving the Climate Crisis
    It might be a pipe dream, but I reckon its worth a try. IMO, a distributed “smart grid” of renewables should be plan A, and nukes should be plan B.

  17. wilful
    October 16th, 2006 at 14:38 | #17

    Don, as I’m sure you’re aware, it’s all about the family. My wife and I earn a fair bit more than you, and we’re apparently eligible for all sorts of unasked for benefits, simply because we chose to breed. And yet us ungrateful sods still wont vote for the rodent!

    In Uncle Milton’s world, only the children of the rich get to attend University.

  18. October 16th, 2006 at 15:15 | #18

    Hermit – “Would opponents of nuclear please come up with a detailed plan for replacing current energy use while heavily reducing GHGs?”

    Sure:

    1. Use less power – not draconian, just good sense
    2. Increase energy efficiency. Lots of low hanging fruit to reduce energy demand by 50% without any sacrifices.
    3. Implement battery electric cars and plug in hybrids on a massive scale.
    4. Replace most coal base load conventional power plants with wind/solar/tidal co-gen with vanandium storage plus electric car storage (V2G)
    4. Keep about 30% fossil fuel baseload however all the plants would be gas fired intermediate or peaking plants. Use coal only in IGCC plants with CCS.

    Should eliminate the 30% of transport emissions and 70% of the power generation emissions with almost no sacrifices.

  19. wilful
    October 16th, 2006 at 16:59 | #19

    Ender, aren’t points 1 and 2 the same? And is the 50% figure based on anything, or a stab in the dark? Overall I agree with you, I just think you’re a bit optimistic here.

  20. Hermit
    October 16th, 2006 at 17:42 | #20

    carbonsink, ender

    I think most proposals have merit but won’t add up ie you’re asking for 1 + 1 = 3. I don’t think voluntary 50% energy cuts are likely; they go way beyond the feelgood factor of longlife light bulbs. 30% fossil electrical generation sounds OK. Again with tidal power, vanadium batteries..why haven’t they become mainstream yet? With the electrical grid there must be optimum decentralisation with respect to robustness and economies of scale and I think a handful of fat nukes will help that.

    Unless it can be shown these alternatives are affordable, reliable and socially acceptable we’ll end up with more coal as well as nuclear . So I think there is a decade or so to prove these ideas will measure up. I’d bet against that happening.

  21. October 16th, 2006 at 18:06 | #21

    Don Wigan,

    Stop complaining and whilst you are at it stop working so hard. Your families attempt at being more self reliant by working more is in violation of several core Australian values. Don’t you think it is selfish to take all the work while others go without?

    Regards,
    Terje.
    ;-)

  22. October 16th, 2006 at 18:17 | #22

    Hermit, I reckon you could go into any house in Australia with electric hot water and electric (resistance) heating and cut emissions by 50% by replacing just those two items. Not cheap I know, but if we lived in a sane world coal-fired electricity would be a lot more expensive, and the capital outlay would be worthwhile.

    As for robustness, why do you suppose a centralised grid would be more reliable than a distributed grid. Many have suggested the reverse would be the case. We have the perfect model in the internet.

    The wind is always blowing somewhere, the sun shines somewhere in Oz everyday, and Ender’s car batteries could provide the base-load. What happens if one of your fat nukes is out of action?

  23. econwit
    October 16th, 2006 at 18:43 | #23

    “silly idea that it’s OK to finish your education at year 10.”
    Once you leave the centres your brain will shut down.

    No body will leave the indoctrination centres early. If the brainwashing can not be completed within ten years, detain them with drills for another 12 months in the army.

  24. Pinguthepenguin
    October 16th, 2006 at 20:21 | #24

    Ender:

    “We used to have the foremost solar cell scientist, Dr Martin Green, however he now works in Germany I believe.”

    Actually he is still here in Sydney as far as I know.
    http://www.pv.unsw.edu.au/Staff/meetstaff.asp

  25. October 16th, 2006 at 22:04 | #25

    Pingu – “Actually he is still here in Sydney as far as I know.”

    Absolutely correct – I stand corrected.

  26. October 16th, 2006 at 22:21 | #26

    Hermit – “I don’t think voluntary 50% energy cuts are likely; they go way beyond the feelgood factor of longlife light bulbs.”

    No neither do I. That is why we should starting charging more for large electricity users. You get the first 20kWhr per day at normal or slightly discount tariff then the next 20kWhr is 1.5 times the tarif and the next 20 2 times the tariff and so on. The extra money earned from large users would be used to fund interest free loans for people wanting to reduce their bills. This would stop the McMansions with black roofs and no eaves or insulation running 20kW airconditioners all day to make up for their incredible deficiencies in design.

    We can’t have a totally nuclear future anyway. In Australia we have a surplus of base load and nuclear power in only baseload. We need more peaking power to cope with the McMansion’s airconditioning in summer. Nuclear power is no use here.

    Lets say we only implement the electric cars and trucks. At the moment there are huge generators spinning away generating nothing but consuming energy. They are called spinning reserve and are required by law to be in place to support the grid in the case of a large generator failing and dropping off the grid. V2G cars in combination with flywheels and redox batteries could take the place of this wasteful practice and supply the spinning reserve. The half life of Australia’s car fleet is about 10 years. For about the same cost and the same time frame as a nuclear reactor we could acheive the same greenhouse reductions without any of the problems of waste and proliferation that nuclear power brings. It also would go an enormous way to eliminating our dependance on oil something that nuclear power cannot do.

    Just replacing our tranport fleet with battery electric vehicles and plug in hybrids that are V2G capable and nothing else would be better for everyone than nuclear power – except of course the mining industry.

  27. proust
    October 17th, 2006 at 00:37 | #27

    Don Wigan: who do you think is responsible for your children’s upkeep?

  28. Redmond
    October 17th, 2006 at 01:46 | #28

    Well, Don Wigan, what is happening to your and your children sounds like it is exactly in accord with Social Security legisation.

    Even since Youth Allowance was introduced, the rate of payment for all allowees under 21, and for full-time students under 25, has been affected by the income of their parents.

    See section 1067A of the Social Security Act 1991.

    I particularly like:
    1067A(4) A person is independent if the person is at least 25 years old. This age will be progressively reduced over time. ha, ha, ha!

    Undersection 66L of the Family Law Act, a parent can be obliged to support their adult children to enable them to complete their education.

    If you don’t like the “de-facto” route another way to gain independence is for the young person to earn $17667, by their own exertion, in 18 months after leaving high school. You can employ your children in your own business, or get a friend to employ them. I’m sure you can see my drift. Just make sure that that the correct taxation returns lodged.

  29. Don Wigan
    October 17th, 2006 at 08:20 | #29

    To proust, we’re not talking about upkeep, we’re talking about rights to a higher education. We’re already providing backup support because the rate without clawback is not adequate for country students in the city even with allowances.

    I assume you like a support system that encourages less dependency. What is the point of my wife working (for roughly $15,000pa) and paying taxes, if by not working my children can claim something nearer to the full rate?

    Thanks for that, Redmond. I’ve already found one loophole for my elder daughter. Apparently if she’s been working part-time for 15 hours a week for more than two years, she can claim the independent rate. She has been, even though the week by week hours fluctuate. If successful, it will only leave me with one still penalised – so I guess there’s hope.

  30. wilful
    October 17th, 2006 at 09:13 | #30

    My father was financially quite able to provide for me as a Uni student, he just didn’t see why he should. I had to declare myself ‘divorced’ from him in order to claim Austudy.

    And for those who think I should have worked my way through uni, well firstly I did, and secondly I challenge anyone to put in 30+ contact hours, then study on top of that, then earn enough for rent food and beer on a $12/hr job.

  31. proust
    October 17th, 2006 at 10:12 | #31

    What is the point of my wife working (for roughly $15,000pa) and paying taxes, if by not working my children can claim something nearer to the full rate?

    No point whatsoever. But the great Australian entitlement culture has bred our perverse system that churns ever increasing amounts from the slightly-better-off to everyone below them.

    You liked it well enough when you were on the receiving end. If you don’t like it now that you’re having to pay, I suggest you reconsider your whole attitude towards the bloated Australian welfare state.

  32. wilful
    October 17th, 2006 at 10:36 | #32

    Except that’s rubbish. The ‘entitlement culture’ is one of downward envy, whereby the freebies from government are increasingly working their way up the economic scales. Things like first home buyers grants going to million dollar homes, baby bonuses etc going to household with $100k incomes.

    Oh, as for Australia being ‘bloated’, well that’s rubbish too. Australia has managed a highly targeted welfare system that Howard is only slowly destroying.

  33. Don Wigan
    October 17th, 2006 at 10:38 | #33

    Receiving end? What receiving end?

    As to the bloated Australian welfare state, a lot of that’s a matter of politics.

    I guess one problem with welfarism today is that it’s not often related to need or hardship. And those that miss out are pretty annoyed at those, who can afford to, getting more. The $4000 baby bonus hardly represents the new age of enlightenment. And the first home buyers grant is really an abuse. And that’s before we even get to the massive handouts to the GPSs, which seem to have been done at the expense of state schooling.

    Though if you’d read my original post you’d see that one of my concerns was that in all probability the cost of compliance and review is likely to exceed that saved by skimming a bit off lower income earners.

    To put it in a practical way, when my brother’s child applied for Austudy in 1991, the cutoff point for parental income from memory was $56,000. Now it seems to be about half that. Nothing you say will convince me that the costs have come down in 15 years.

  34. wilful
  35. proust
    October 17th, 2006 at 11:09 | #35

    wilful, the freebies are largely going to people with children and disproportionally to poorer people with children (I believe you can now make more than $40,000 per year from welfare if you have a few kids).

    There is some justification for giving tax breaks to those who breed in the lower-middle-to-upper echelons of the income scale, since they are paying for the upbringing of children whose economic activity, on average, is likely to benefit society as a whole. But encouraging second-generation welfare bludgers to produce third-generation welfare bludgers is simply perverse.

  36. Will Alexander
    October 17th, 2006 at 11:15 | #36

    I have been surprised by the evident growing belief that the current drought in Australia is due more to global warming than to the regular El Nino cycle which plays such a major role in my own country.

    A few years ago I attended a conference on natural disasters at the UN centre at Gigiri outside Nairobi. During the conference a UNEP representative addressed us. He complained about the continued environmental degradation in Africa and how control legislation was being ignored.

    When he finished I stood up and challenged him to walk along the road back to Nairobi. When he reached the squatter camps alongside the road he should call the people together and instruct them to stop destroying the trees for firewood and stop polluting the streams with sewage and household effluent.

    I continued and told him that the only way to save the environment was to reduce poverty. The imposition of punitive measures was more likely to have the opposite effect. I was applauded.

    When I returned to South Africa I wrote an article African Renaissance or descent into anarchy? It was published in the SA Journal of Science.

    The situation in South Africa has gradually worsened. Robbers are murdering people in their homes. Our streets, highways and shopping centres are no longer safe. Our children are migrating to other countries. The poor and disadvantaged communities have nowhere to go. Their suffering is even greater – unemployment, hunger, malnutrition, disease and crime are their daily lot.

    Against this background, a small group of uncaring and unpatriotic scientists and environmental lobbyists have succeeded in persuading the government of alarming and speculative consequences of alleged clkimate change.

    They go on to claim that the only way to prevent this happening is to impose costly restrictions on our industries that can only have one result. The costs of their products will increase, and they will lose international competitiveness. Some industries may be forced to close down. There will be more job losses, more poverty and more crime.

    On closer examination an even more alarming picture starts emerging.

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established 18 years ago. Despite a massive research effort it has still not been able to produce any proof that global warming is the consequence of human activities. The nearest that it can get is to maintain that an international consensus exists. This claim is also false. There are many conscientious scientists who maintain that the postulated consequences of global warming are no more than untested hypotheses.

    When these scientists speak up they are labelled as fringe scientists, or more recently, as ‘climate denialists’ who should be hauled before international tribunals and tried for crimes against humanity.

    Scratch a little deeper and the reason for this hysteria becomes exposed. The continued prosperity of the European nations is under increasing threat from the growing economies of the developing nations. What better way to reduce their competitiveness than to insist that the developing nations, including South Africa, impose economically restrictive measures to control greenhouse gas emissions based on unproven science?

    Regrettably, some South African scientists have chosen to accept these alarmist theories without question. Environmental lobby groups see this as an opportunity to advance their case. All of this regardless of the effect that punitive measures will have on increasing poverty, malnutrition, disease and crime.

    The situation is very serious indeed.

  37. proust
    October 17th, 2006 at 11:18 | #37

    Don Wigan: you were on the receiving end of welfare largesse when your income was $35,000 last year and your children were receiving study allowances. Now as your family income has increased you’ve discovered the almost 100% effective marginal tax rates that are a consequence of our spectacularly generous welfare system.

  38. proust
    October 17th, 2006 at 11:30 | #38

    Notwithstanding the above remarks, I personally don’t have much of a problem with the structure of the tax system in Oz, although I think it is still a little high across-the-board. My biggest issue is with the prevailing attitude that it is somehow the responsibility of the government to fix everything.

  39. wilful
    October 17th, 2006 at 11:36 | #39

    Well if the government isn’t going to fix the tax system, I’m not sure who will!

    Overall I also think that the system generally works, better than in most countries, and there is an awful lot of tripe spread about without any empirical evidence to back it up regarding the failures of the current system. Which is not to say there aren’t plenty of areas for healthy reform – which Howard wont undertake, he’s far too interested in bullshit that lowers productivity and increases regulation like IR ‘reform’.

    I jsut did my personal income taxes for last year, and the moronic complexities, all based on my family situation, were driving me nuts and crashed the eTax program. All the fault of Howard, quite directly.

  40. derrida derider
    October 17th, 2006 at 11:41 | #40

    Actually, proust, the most generous freebies are for retirees – a retired couple with no kids to support can earn well over $70k a year and still get a special tax break plus a pensioner concession card that gives them cheap medicine, transport, rates and car rego.

    A couple fully dependent on welfare would have to have 5 dependent kids to get $40k – not really that much to support 7 people on while paying the mortgage.

  41. proust
    October 17th, 2006 at 15:16 | #41

    A couple fully dependent on welfare would have to have 5 dependent kids to get $40k – not really that much to support 7 people on while paying the mortgage.

    No, but a couple fully dependent on welfare should not be encouraged to have 5 kids in the first place. At current rates, they get 6 months welfare payments just for popping the buggers out. That’s a lot of beer and cigs.

  42. proust
    October 17th, 2006 at 15:39 | #42

    Add onto that $40K per year any rent relief (another $10K (?)), cradle-to-grave medical costs ($100K-$250K (?) each, assuming they don’t contract some really expensive exotic disease), 12 years of schooling per child (ok, let’s say 11 years, given the demographic) at an average cost to the state of $5,000 (?) per student per year.

    That’s just the big items. Total cost to the state, assuming a 60 year lifespan, is over $4,000,000. That’s probably conservative. (I finessed the issue of declining welfare payments for the parents when the kids leave home by assuming enough of the kids would also go on welfare to make up the difference).

  43. wilful
    October 17th, 2006 at 15:42 | #43

    So these cradle to grave medical costs, if they wern’t insured by the state, they’re basically f*cked, right? And if they didn’t have free education, they’d not be able to contribute at all to society.

    Ah I don’t know why I’m posting. Anyone who thinks free education is a bad thing is clearly a damn fool. Content edited – JQ

  44. tam o’shanter
    October 17th, 2006 at 17:48 | #44

    I think Will Alexander’s comments should be taken seriously, not least by social democrats. The idea that a 60% reduction in emissions can be achieved by 2050 merely by marginal adjustments here and there (eg smaller cars) with only a one-off 3% reduction in welfare (per JQ) seems way off the mark. What is the standard of living in countries with 60% less energy use + emissions than in Australia (per capita)? Zimbabwe last week achieved a further 50% cut in energy use from an already c50% cut since 2000, and the results are not pretty. Will may be over the top with his conspiracy theory, but John Howard shows a realistic appreciation that it will be easier to get China and India to move to green energy by persuasion than by the big stick approach of Kyoto, especially when he shows the way to replacing coal by nuclear.

  45. chrisl
    October 17th, 2006 at 20:03 | #45

    Will Alexander
    Spot on with the comments about drought and global warming in Australia.
    This is the original home of drought and flooding rains.
    The trick is to save the water in the good times and release it in the bad.
    I would consider Global warming to be a low order problem in Australia, let alone in Africa with the problems that you describe.
    The good news is that somebody will soon post the answer to the problems your country is facing……

  46. October 18th, 2006 at 00:10 | #46

    Proust, Don Wigan wasn’t on the receiving end of the benefits when his children were getting them – nor would he be paying much towards them now, if it weren’t for other people’s children getting such things now.

    It comes down to a fallacy in JQ’s idea – or presentation of the idea – that “failing to finish school (or achieve an equivalent outcome) and get some sort of post-school qualification is a recipe for low wages and regular unemployment”.

    The thing is, the only reason for that is the increased competition from others who do have those credentials. It’s not as though there is much actual skill imparted that is of any benefit, at least at the bottom end. If less constraint and funding were applied for this sort of education, lo! less would be needed.

  47. stoptherubbish
    October 18th, 2006 at 16:07 | #47

    Hmm,
    Welfare bludging has now reached the rnks of the loyal and trusty lmc, in an endeavour to encourage them to breed and keep voting for the government eh. Whatever happened to the ‘incentivated employee’, scion of the ‘rugged, self insuring against risk’ individual ,so beloved of the think tanks. Must be making some of them squirm! Hence the angst about ‘welfare churn’. Oh well, Howard’s aim, quite properly for a politicain, is to keep winning, and he knows even if the silly economic libertarianas don’t, that their prescriptions might feel great in the ‘tanks’, but out there in voter land, they stink.

  48. proust
    October 18th, 2006 at 21:09 | #48

    Ah I don’t know why I’m posting. Anyone who thinks free education is a bad thing is clearly a damn fool. Content edited.

    wilful, I neither advocated nor opposed free education or healthcare. I merely put a price on it, in the context of questioning the sanity of a social system that provides the greatest breeding incentive to those least able to afford it.

    stoptherubbish – people’s expectations of their government is very cultural. As a broad generalization, Europeans and to a lesser extent Australians blame their governments rather than accept personal resposnsibility for their own circumstances In contrast, US residents tend to accept personal responsibility before passing the buck to the government. FWIW, all of them have “free” public education.

    As someone with strong libertarian tendencies, I vastly prefer the US attitude.

  49. Don Wigan
    October 19th, 2006 at 10:53 | #49

    “Now as your family income has increased you’ve discovered the almost 100% effective marginal tax rates that are a consequence of our spectacularly generous welfare system.”

    I think you misunderstood my original complaint, proust. My complaint was not about the taxation system, but about “our spectacularly generous welfare system”, which on my experience could be more accurately labelled ‘spectacularly miserly’.

    And I used the more personal lament to highlight uncle milton’s concern that despite all the rhetoric about cutting welfare costs they keep going up. It is little wonder that they do when the cost of investigation, review and compliance is likely to exceed the cost of allowing the benefit.

    As to the marginal tax rates increase (which has about doubled my tax liability on last year) I have no complaint whatever. As a taxi driver, laughingly classified as ‘self-employed’ under the system, I seem to have a lower tax rate than PAYG wage and salary earners. Certainly I can claim more expenses. And I get mature-age offsets.

    Whatever the faults with the taxation system ( and currently ours seems closer to the Piggy Muldoon dog’s breakfast than to the ‘Unchain My Heart’ model promised) it has not damaged me personally very much. I just hope that isn’t the reason they’re now going after my daughters allowances.

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