Archive for May, 2007

DDT, tobacco and the parallel universe

May 30th, 2007 20 comments

The piles of documents released as a result of litigation against Phillip Morris and Exxon are gifts that keep on giving for those of us interested in the process by which the Republican parallel universe has been constructed. Previous research has shown that the core proponents of global warming delusionism including Stephen Milloy, Fred Singer and Fred Seitz got their start as shills for PM, denying the risks of passive smoking. A string of rightwing thinktanks including Cato, the Alexis de Tocqueville Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute helped to promote these hacks and the lies they were paid to peddle.

Now it’s turned out that one of the hardiest of parallel universe beliefs, the claim that Rachel Carson and the US ban on DDT were responsible for millions of deaths in the third world, arises from the same source.

One of the great puzzles of the DDT myth has been that it appeared to arise from pure ideological animus against Carson and the environmental movement – DDT is not patented so there were no profits to be obtained from pushing it. It turns out that the DDT campaign was pitched to the tobacco industry as a diversionary attack on the World Health Organization which was playing a leading role in campaigns against smoking. The leading figure in the exercise was Roger Bate of the American Enterprise Institute and its front organization, Africa Fighting Malaria.

So, far from helping to save lives, the bloggers and commentators who’ve pushed the myth of the DDT ban have been the (presumably unwitting) dupes of an industry even deadlier than malaria (CDC estimates that tobacco kills 5 million people a year compared to 1 to 3 million for malaria.

Update WHO hits back on passive smoking. Having neutralised the DDT issue with a greatly overstated change of policy not long ago, it looks as if they are back on the attack
Read more…

Categories: Environment Tags:

Gittins on the Water Plan

May 30th, 2007 6 comments

Ross Gittins says of the government’s $10 billion National Plan for Water Security “They don’t want to fix problems, just be seen trying“. As has become abundantly clear from Channel 7’s FOI exercise, the whole thing was cooked up in a week or so, with the aim of countering a co-operative initiative launched by Kevin Rudd. Once it was out, the problem was that the only policy that would have any real effect, buying back water rights, was vetoed by the Nationals. So, in the Budget, the whole Plan was kicked into touch until 2008-09, by which time the election would be safely out of the way.

I had an initial assessment here, when there still seemed to be some chance the Plan would work, and an evaluation more similar to Gittins not long ago.

I have been very disappointed in Turnbull’s performance on this issue. He obviously knows what needs to be done, and if anyone had the capacity to ride roughshod over the Nats, I would have thought he did. I can only conclude that, having been put into the job by Howard, he has had no backing and has been, in effect, set up to fail.

(Thanks to Tim Coelli for pointing me to this piece).

Categories: Environment, Oz Politics Tags:

Opportunity cost

May 29th, 2007 6 comments

With yet another publicly-funded round of Liberal Party advertising looming, this time on climate change, I’ve been thinking about how other parties ought to respond to this. One way is to point out what the money could have bought instead. With 150 electorates, each $1.5 million spent on advertising is $10 000 per electorate. So, the $60 million or so spent advertising WorkChoices (or whatever it’s going to be called now) amounts to about $400 000 per electorate, enough to employ 8-10 primary school teachers or police officers. I’m sure there are plenty of particular local projects that could be pointed out as foregone opportunities. For example, the money to be spent justifying the government’s inaction on climate change could have paid for thousands of tree plantings in every electorate.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Climate change roundup

May 28th, 2007 11 comments

There’s so much happening on climate change that it’s hard to keep up, but I’ll try and note some points down, as much for the record as anything else. I’ll update this roundup with more as I get time.

* There was talk in the Oz last week of a Sydney declaration of a regional emissions trading agreement, to emerge (very conveniently timed) from the APEC meeting in September. Now the idea is dead, reflecting the same Bush Administration intransigence on display in the leadup to the G8 meetings. Howard is discovering, like Tony Blair, that loyalty to Bush is its own reward.

* Also in the Oz, Alan Oxley doesn’t know the difference between levels and growth rates.

* And, yet again in the Oz, a classic example of the fallacy of composition (unless its a particularly egregious case of special pleading). To be fair, the author finally gets around to the point that we have to do something even if our role is a relatively small one. Although it’s not strictly relevant, Australia’s share of international emissions is about the same as that of the UK or France (even though they have larger populations).

Categories: Environment Tags:

Global warming statement

May 28th, 2007 38 comments

The statement by academic economists on global warming that’s been discussed here previously has been released, with 270 (or maybe 271) signatures including at least 70 professors. There’s a media release here. The statement is over the fold.
Read more…

Categories: Environment Tags:

Phantom aid and worse

May 28th, 2007 4 comments

The SMH has a story showing how the government has used tricky accounting devices to claim an increase in foreign aid, when genuine aid is nowhere near meeting the government’s announced targets. The biggest spurious claim was a write-off of $600 million debt owed by Iraq as a result of wheat deals made in 1990. I actually worked on an assessment of these deals shortly after this, and it was obvious that the whole thing was just a disguised subsidy to Australian wheatgrowers, who were effectively getting free insurance to cover the well-known risk that Saddam wouldn’t pay. The idea that this constituted development assistance is just silly. Equally bad are payments to Nauru for its part in the ‘Pacific Solution’. Effectively this affair should count as a reduction in foreign aid, since we have exploited the dependent position of Nauru and other neighbours to force them to provide prison camp services to us.

An even larger negative is the $300 million paid to Saddam Hussein by AWB, with (at least) the tacit encouragement of the Australian government. This wasn’t Australian money paid as a bribe. It was Iraqi money, stolen by Saddam and AWB acting in collaboration. It should count as negative aid.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Monday message board

May 28th, 2007 3 comments

It’s time, once again for the Monday Message Board. As usual, civilised discussion and absolutely no coarse language, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Weekend reflections

May 26th, 2007 21 comments

Weekend Reflections is on again. Please comment on any topic of interest (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please). Feel free to put in contributions more lengthy than for the Monday Message Board or standard comments.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Polls pundits and pollsters

May 26th, 2007 10 comments

My article on this topic, from Thursday’s Fin, is over the fold. It benefitted from earlier discussion here. Feel free to comment more
Read more…

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Christians a minority in the US

May 23rd, 2007 25 comments

Rightwing bloggers are making a big fuss about a poll in which 47 per cent of US Muslims stated that they thought of themselves first as Muslim, and only 28 per cent as Americans first. By contrast, for self-described US Christians, the results were 48 per cent for American first, and only 42 per cent for Christian first, with 7 per cent saying “Both” and 3 per cent Don’t Know. The only possible reading of this data is that less than half of all Americans are in fact Christians in the religious, as opposed to the cultural/tribal, sense of the term. Galations 3:28 is pretty clear on the subject, but more importantly, it’s obvious that you can’t seriously believe in, and worship, an Almighty God if your allegiance to an earthly power comes first, or equal, or if you don’t even know.

As should be apparent from previous discussion, I don’t have a problem with this, belonging mainly to the secularist tradition. But it might be useful in discussion of US exceptionalism to note the preponderance of nominal believers revealed by this question.
Read more…

Categories: Life in General Tags:


May 21st, 2007 15 comments

I’ve been at Parliament House in Canberra today, where I’ve just been awarded a second Federation Fellowship. That means another five years of funding for me and my Risk and Sustainable Management research group. We’ll still be working on the problems of the Murray-Darling, but now with a focus on adaptation to climate change. Now it’s back home for a quiet celebratory drink.

Congratulations to all the other Fellows, but especially to my colleague in the agricultural economics profession, Dave Pannell, who will be working on dryland salinity problems, a nice complement to my work focusing on irrigation. It’s a very well deserved award.

Categories: Life in General Tags:


May 21st, 2007 Comments off

Since we’ve been discussing beatups lately, here’s a classic example of the genre. MSNBC runs a story with the headline “Study links imprisoned veterans, sex crimes” and the lede (US pressparlance for opening sentence)

Military veterans in prison are more than twice as likely to have been convicted for sex offenses than nonveteran inmates, the government reports. Federal researchers cannot say why.

Reading on, it turns out that Federal researchers can and do say why. Military veterans are about half as likely to be in prison as non-veterans. So, the startling finding is that (drumroll) the imprisonment rate for sex crimes is about the same for veterans and non-veterans.

As one of the authors observes when she gets a word in halfway down the story

“I don’t want people to come away from this thinking veterans are crazed sex offenders. I want them to understand that veterans are less likely to be in prison in the first place.�

This is a mildly interesting finding, but presumably explained by demographics (veterans are, on average, older than the population at large, and active criminals younger) the fact that (except in desperate times like the present) the US military does not like to recruit people with criminal records.

Categories: Life in General, Science Tags:

Sea change

May 21st, 2007 12 comments

Just this weekend, I’ve noticed a sudden change in the tone of political commentary, suggesting that the insiders have undergone a collective change of view. Suddenly, all the stories I read are about how Howard really is losing this time (the commentary from the Costello camp is particularly acid, and a drastic change in the space of a week). It seems as if the proximate cause of all this was the failure of the mythical ‘Budget bounce’ to emerge in the opinion polls (the government got another bad one today). In addition, it seems as if a lot of commentators really were convinced that the government’s moves on IR and education would be seen as sensible political responses to public concern and not as an admission that Labor was in tune with the voters on these issues.

Interestingly, the betting markets don’t seem to have moved too much away from even money, while the polls have been giving a consistent message all year. The election will be a big test for the relative predictive powers of polls, pundits and punters.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Monday message board

May 21st, 2007 13 comments

It’s time, once again for the Monday Message Board. As usual, civilised discussion and absolutely no coarse language, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

How can you know where you stand if you’ve just shot yourself in the foot?

May 20th, 2007 8 comments

The Liberal Party’s new publicly-funded advertising campaign promoting the party’s revised industrial relations policies* has already done more damage to the party’s cause than any benefit they might possibly achieve. Labor has been given buckets of entirely favourable free publicity on both the substantive issue of IR and the misuse of public funds in political campaigning**. Even more striking, the label “Workchoices” has been abandoned in the ads, effectively conceding that Labor and the unions have won the policy debate. The alternative, something like “Workchoices: New and Improved!” might have been corny and unconvincing, but surely not as bad as this. Of course, without an ad campaign, there would have been no need for such a choice.

Now its time for the ads themselves. My guess is that they will be somewhere between ineffective and counterproductive. Those who have been following the issue closely can only have a negative reaction, and those who remember the previous campaign might wonder why, if all the relevant conditions were PROTECTED BY LAW last time, they now need to be protected again. But I imagine the majority of viewers will tune out in one way or another.

*As far as I know, these policies have not been enacted into law, or even placed before the Parliament, so their only real status is as Liberal policy

** If there is a change of government, watch to see if the promise to have the Auditor-General examine all such advertising is implemented in Labor’s first year. If it hasn’t come in by then it will never happen.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

A monarch without a monarchy

May 19th, 2007 29 comments

Irfun Yusuf points out some problems with the sample citizenship test released by the Federal government. Here’s a real doozy

15. Australia’s values are based on the …

a. Teachings of the Koran

b. The Judaeo-Christian tradition

c. Catholicism

d. Secularism

The correct answer, apparently, is B, despite the clear statement in the Constitution that Australia should have no established religion. This, combined with the implicit requirement to repudiate Catholicism and Islam, violates the spirit of the Constitution and probably the letter of anti-discrimination law.

That’s by far the worst, but there’s plenty more. For example, to get full marks you have to say that Australia is not a monarchy (Q5) but that our head of state is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II (regarded by most as a monarch) (9). Of course, the questions of who is our head of state, and whether or not our system is a monarchy have been the subject of sharp controversy in the recent past (for example, who should open the Olympics). I wasn’t even sure which answer was supposed to be right on the Head of State question.

All these questions should be scrapped. But if all that is left is a set of easily-memorized answers to Carmen Sandiego questions like “Australia’s national flower is …”, there seems to be little point in having a test at all.

(Via Catallaxy and Andrew Norton) Some corrections and clarifications made in response to comments

Update 21/5

As pointed at by Geoff Honnor at Troppo, Howard denies that the sample questions are genuine. Applying the careful parsing necessary with both the government and the Murdoch Press, I can come up with two possible interpretations:
(i) The Herald-Sun made the questions up, but ran a report with the natural reading that they were from a sample test made available by Kevin Andrews (‘given an exclusive insight’, ‘sample questions highly likely to be in the test’) and so on
(ii) The questions were from a sample test made available by Kevin Andrews, but since it wasn’t part of an official test, Howard feels free to disclaim them

As regards motives, (i) suggests a standard beatup, while (ii) suggests either a trial balloon or a dog-whistle exercise designed to stir up controversy (successfully, though maybe not with the reaction they hoped for). More at LP

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Weekend reflections

May 19th, 2007 8 comments

Weekend Reflections is on again. Please comment on any topic of interest (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please). Feel free to put in contributions more lengthy than for the Monday Message Board or standard comments.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Reply to Davidson and Robson

May 17th, 2007 89 comments

Phillip Adams and Peter Dixon have prepared a reply (over the fold) to the opinion piece by Robson and Davidson in the Australian which offered a range of incoherent criticisms of proposals to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. Disgracefully, but not at all surprisingly, the Oz has declined to print it, marking yet another step in its decline.

Admittedly, the debate is so one-sided that printing the reply would have made it obvious how ill-advised it was to publish the Davidson-Robson piece in the first place. Dixon is Australia’s pre-eminent economic modeller, and Adams is his successor as Director of the Centre of Policy Studies at Monash. They have published extensively in leading economic journals on modelling and climate change, and their expertise shows. Robson and Davidson have essentially zero professional expertise on these issues, and that shows too. Of course, they have exactly zero professional expertise in climate science, and that hasn’t stopped them claiming the entire profession is wrong, so we shouldn’t be surprised.

Tim Lambert cleans up what’s left
Read more…

Categories: Economics - General, Environment Tags:


May 17th, 2007 6 comments

The bleak outlook for the Murray-Darling Basin has just got substantially worse with reports that inflows may have been overestimated by as much as 40 per cent, as a result of double counting of groundwater. Of course, as Malcolm Turnbull says in the article, the general problem is well-known to those working in the area. The Risk and Sustainable Management Group*, which I lead at UQ, has been working on it for some time, and so have lots of others. But, as we know all too well from our modelling efforts, there’s a huge gap between a qualitative understanding of the issues, and an adequate quantitative representation of flows of water and salt, not to mention the nutrients that contribute to things like blue-green algae blooms. Everyone is doing the best they can, but it will take a long time to get coherent data sets together, and time is something we don’t have.

In the meantime, policy is at a standstill because the National Party refuses to countenance voluntarily repurchase of water rights, let alone a scaling back of allocations that are, in retrospect, obviously unsustainable. Unless Turnbull can really start banging some heads together on this one, his first ministerial stint is going to end up a disastrous failure.

* I’m reposting this at the RSMG blog, which has lots of useful discussion of water and other environmental issues.

Update 18/5 It turns out this estimate is from Bill Heffernan (I had somehow inferred that the National Water Commission had produced it) and it’s an upper bound, based on the total contribution of groundwater. Turnbull has a letter in today’s Fin suggesting that the real value is 3 per cent, though I don’t think this includes capture of surface flows through farm dams, laser levelling and so on. Even 3 per cent of flows is a big deal – much more than the amount that has so far been repurchased or regained through efficiency savings.

Categories: Environment Tags:


May 16th, 2007 30 comments

Andrew Bolt picks up the Davidson-Robson piece I mentioned here. I know Bolt mainly from his writing about global warming and (to a lesser extent the Iraq war) where he is about as wrong as it is possible to be, in every possible way. He gets basic facts wrong, recycles long-exploded propaganda exercises like the Oregon Petition and commits just about every kind of logical fallacy known, all in an attempt to push a position that has literally no credible scientific defenders left*. He compounds all this by explaining the virtually unanimous verdict of the scientific community, including such bodies as the US National Academy of Sciences, Royal Society of the UK, Australian Academy of Sciences and so on as the product either of a crude conspiracy to scare up grant money or a quasi-religious cult.

Fortunately, in the case of global warming, anyone with access to the Internet can easily check the facts, so the only people deluded by Bolt on this topic are those complicit in their own delusion, believing an implausible story because it suits their ideological or cultural/tribal prejudices. But Bolt’s opinions on general politics are routinely featured on such programs as the ABCs Insiders. As the name of the show indicates, we are supposed to accept on faith that Bolt has access to facts and insights not available to the rest of us, except through the intermediation of Bolt or his fellow-insiders.

Read more…

Categories: Environment, Oz Politics Tags:


May 16th, 2007 6 comments

This survey says I’m an Internet Omnivore, but reading the descriptions I’m more of a Lackluster Veteran. I don’t like mobiles/cellphones much, because they’re fiddly and unintuitive, and I only rarely send text messages – I keep forgetting where the space bar is. However, once the iPhone comes out, I expect to be properly omnivorous. (H/T Edumacation* – Also an Omnivore)

* While I’m at it, can anyone point me to the origin of constructions like Edumacation, Journamalism and so on. Wikipedia isn’t much help, and Uncyclopedia’s entry, while edumacational, gives no etymamology.

The party of initiative …

May 15th, 2007 16 comments

Since opinion polls are undertaken as a basis for news stories, it’s probably inevitable that the results are given more significance than they deserve. Before we get too carried away with Labor’s good result in the latest Galaxy poll and Newspoll it’s worth recalling a couple of basic points

* Opinion polls are samples with a margin of error, and fluctuations of 2 per cent or so can be expected as the result of chance variation (if you believe in classical hypothesis testing, you can say that such a change is statistically insignificant). So the fact that Labor gained 2 per cent in the latest Newspoll means almost nothing, except as a pointed lesson to people like Greg Sheridan who tried (while covering himself in qualifications) to make a trend out of the 2 per cent drop in the previous poll

* Swinging voters are not close followers of the political scene with finely balanced preferences tipping from one side to the other as a result of careful analysis of the latest news. There’s no reason to expect a budget to have a big impact on votes, especially when it contains few surprises. The government is probably right to say that the impact of the Budget, which is essentially to remind people that economic conditions are good, will be felt gradually over the next couple of months.

That’s the good news for the government. The bad news is that the government’s cleverness in stealing the most attractive components of Labor’s policy is likely to prove either ineffective or counterproductive. As far as public expenditure and taxation is concerned, the big news is that Labor is once again the party of initiative. Most people are unimpressed by tax cuts, and would prefer an improvement in services, delivered without the ideological riders that the government insists on attaching to almost everything (university grants conditional on AWAs, micromanagement of state functions to ensure Commonwealth credit and so on). The same is true, in the absence of a dramatic shift in government policy, on climate change. It’s only on Industrial Relations that the government is acting and Labor reacting, and even here Rudd’s link of IR and family issues has to some extent turned the debate around.

The party of initiative doesn’t always win, particularly if people are worried about dangerous radicals lurking in the shadows. But with Rudd offering a safe pair of hands, this fear is unlikely to be as effective as it was in the past. Howard has shown himself capable of pulling rabbits out of the hat in the past, and it looks as if he will have to do so again.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Origins of the lamppost joke

May 15th, 2007 Comments off

Thanks to this comments thread at Crooked Timber, I found an early version of the drunk/lamp-post/keys joke commonly directed at economists in which the role of the drunk/economist is played by a figure from Afghan (or maybe Iranian or Turkish) tradition, Mullah Nasruddin (scroll down or search for basement).

Categories: Life in General Tags:

Monday message board

May 14th, 2007 32 comments

It’s time, once again for the Monday Message Board. As usual, civilised discussion and absolutely no coarse language, please.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:


May 13th, 2007 12 comments

I can’t resist following Conservapedia, the Tlön version of Wikipedia, in which the liberal, anti-American bias of the Earth version is replaced with virtue and apple pie. But where did this bias come from, and how is it so deeply rooted in our culture? The answer, it turns out is the Bible, not of course the true version held in the vaults of Uqbar, but the liberal Earth Bible known by such as names as the King James and Revised Versions.

In the Uqbar version, as explained at Conservapedia, all sorts of politically correct liberalism is eliminated or glossed out of existence. Uqbar scholars have discovered that the soft-on-crime John 8:7 ‘”If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone” was inserted by time-travelling liberals some time around the 4th century. Naturally, Conservapedia says, Wikipedia sticks to the Earth version, though a check of the actual site suggests that the annoying liberal habit of looking at all the evidence is at work here as well.

Conservapedia has able assistance from other conservative sources. All that class warfare stuff about the rich not getting into heaven (Matthew 19:21-24) turns out to mean that if you want money, you should cut God (or his earthly representatives) a good share in advance. Other kinds of warfare are fine with the Prince of Peace, though. As for turning the other cheek ((Luke 6:27-31), it’s No More Christian Nice Guy.

Categories: Philosophy Tags:

Weekend reflections

May 11th, 2007 12 comments

Weekend Reflections is on again. Please comment on any topic of interest (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please). Feel free to put in contributions more lengthy than for the Monday Message Board or standard comments.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Miserable failure …

May 11th, 2007 22 comments

… is a term that will forever be associated with George W. Bush. So, it’s interesting in more than one way that two of our local supporters of the Bush policy line on most issues , Sinclair Davidson and Alex Robson, use the phrase to describe a petition signed by a large proportion of the Australian economics profession in 2002, calling on the government to ratify Kyoto. (I was one of the organisers, and am currently particpating in a similar exercise). Writing in the Oz (where else), Robson and Davidson write “A similar petition was circulated in 2002 but ended in miserable failure when the Government simply ignored it.”

It’s an impressive piece of chutzpah on the part of Robson and Davidson to ignore the fact that, in the intervening five years, the government’s rejectionist position has collapsed, having already been abandoned by the business community and the vast majority of the Australian people. I don’t suppose a petition signed by academic economists had much responsibility for this, but it may have helped to undercut the spurious claim that signing Kyoto would be ruinous to the economy.

But for real chutzpah you can’t go past the fact that when the 2002 petition was released, with nearly 300 signatures, a counter-petition was immediately announced, and a text circulated. But the petition was never released apparently because the number of signatories was embarrassingly small and the number with any real stature in the profession close to zero. The leading organiser of this effort – none other than Alex Robson.
Read more…

Categories: Environment, Oz Politics Tags:

CEDA lunch on emissions trading

May 10th, 2007 26 comments

Yesterday, I spoke at a CEDA (Committee for the Economic Development of Australia) lunch on the topic “What would life be like with an emissions trading system for Australia”. Shorter Quiggin: Much as it is now. Slightly longer version: For the average household, it will be a bit like the GST, with some initial disruption and relative price changes, becoming effectively invisible as carbon costs are factored into prices throughout the economy. Other speakers were Paul Simshauser from Babcock and Brown (owners of electricity generators and other infrastructure) and Stuart Dix from e3 International, a firm with a lot of experience in emissions trading markets.

The audience was similarly made up of likely buyers of emissions credits (Stanwell and other electricity generators), sellers (geothermal and other carbon-free sources) and intermediaries (accounting companies, consulting engineers and so on). They are looking at decisions on the billion-dollar scale over the next few years

A couple of points of interest:

* In addition to the usual free lunch and bottle of wine, speakers were rewarded with 17 trees worth of carbon credits, roughly a year’s worth of CO2 from driving for the average motorist.

* The delusionist idea that the whole thing is a hoax dreamed up by scientists looking for research grants/the UN seeking world domination/the Illuminati didn’t get a mention, even in refutation. Unlike the rightwing commentariat and some senior political figures, serious businesses have concluded that the main game now is how emissions trading should work, not whether we should have it.

Categories: Economic policy, Environment Tags:

Saving up the big stuff?

May 9th, 2007 17 comments

The Budget announced last night has widely been described (both favorably and otherwise) as “clever”. There are tax cuts across the board, with the biggest proportional benefits going to low-income earners. And there are lots of spending initiatives, particularly targeted at areas where the government is vulnerable because of past cuts. There’s a lot of money for universities (which, unsurprisingly, I welcome) partially reversing the cuts of the Vanstone-Kemp era. And the Commonwealth has resumed funding for dental services ten years afer this was abolished. Similarly, there’s a bit more money for alternative energy, an area that’s been cut in the past.

But (again as lots of people have pointed out) there’s no big idea here. Overall the tax cuts continue a pattern of returning real and nominal bracket creep, leaving the share of national income going to the Commonwealth effectively constant. And the new expenditure that’s been announced consists of lots of little things, some better than others, but none likely to make a fundamental difference to the way people perceive the government.

This Budget would make political sense if the government were cruising towards victory, and just needed to shore up its support. But it seems unlikely to do much to claw back the big lead Labor currently enjoys. Maybe the government is confident of winning on the IR front, and doesn’t think it needs any more than this. But that seems unlikely to me.

My guess is that the government is saving up something big for the election campaign. An obvious area would be climate change, where the Budget had only token measures. Alternatively, we might see a relaunch of the water plan. Finally, although the Budget had plenty of money for transport infrastructure, I was surprised that the Melbourne-Brisbane railway proposal, which was the subject of some pretty confident leaks, didn’t get a run. Maybe the government is planning to go the whole hog and announced support for the plan for an inland rail line from Melbourne to Darwin. This proposal has been kicking around for years, and Melbourne-Brisbane can be seen as the first leg.

Categories: Economic policy, Oz Politics Tags:

Red State

May 8th, 2007 12 comments

Now that I’ve got the upper hand (for the moment) in the endless struggle with spam, I’ve had time to experiment a bit with layout and so on. I’ve moved back from a blue to a red theme, but I’ve also added a widget in the sidebar that lets you pick your own theme if you prefer something more restful. As always, comments and suggestions will be gratefully accepted.

Categories: Metablogging Tags: