Don’t Minchin it

The Australian’s Margin Call column has an amusing comment on the privatisation of Telstra. The policy is rather like Voluntary Student Unionism in that it’s been pushed for so long that no-one in the government can abandon it, even though it no longer has any obvious rationale.

The fact that selling Telstra will make the public worse off in fiscal terms has finally sunk in and I suspect that Nick Minchin and the Finance Department (once the leading agency pushing a sale) would be happy enough to drop the entire idea.


Judging by his response to this post, Andrew Bolt hasn’t read Swift lately. [1]

Actually, Bolt’s article reads as if he didn’t look at the post at all, but reprinted something he found at Tim Blair’s or some similarly irony-challenged site, without going to the original source to check his quotes. Since that would be a violation of journalistic ethics, let’s charitably assume that the phrase “a modest proposal” didn’t ring any bells with him.
Read More »

Global liquidity

My column in yesterday’s Fin (over the fold) was about the idea, being argued by The Economist that the low interest rates currently prevailing are the product of monetary expansion rather than a real ‘savings glut’. Today’s Economist puts the point even more bluntly, arguing that capital markets are acting as a barrier to adjustment. It’s certainly striking when a voice of orthodoxy like The Economist reaches the conclusion that financial markets aren’t doing their supposed job.
Read More »


Like about a hundred thousand other Brisvegans, my son and I spent the day at the Ekka[1]. A good time was had by all. The great thing about going to the show is that it never changes: laughing clowns, dodgems, fairy floss, show bags and woodchopping are just as they were in the shows I went to as a child. The Ekka has one extra event we’ve added to our list – the Silver Spike tracklaying contest held by QR. And this year they had a human cannonball. It’s a wonderful way to spend a public holiday.

fn1. Short for Exhibition, our annual show.

Climate change modellers vindicated

Via Jennifer Marohasy, I found a report on three articles in Science Express that put the closing seal on the most significant issue in the debate about the reality of human-caused climate change: the disagreement between climate models and data from satellites and radiosonde balloons. Now as Real Climate observes “the discrepancy has been mostly resolved – in favour of the models.”

There aren’t many scientifically literate sceptics (that is, people open to being persuaded by evidence, but not yet convinced) left on the global warming issue, and this evidence, along with the continued warming being observed at all levels, should convince most of those who remain. There’s a bit more history over the fold.
Read More »

A modest proposal

Britain, France and Germany are busy trying to persuade Iran to abandon efforts to develop nuclear weapons, so far with little success. Cajolery and bribery having tried and failed, how about a bit of leadership by example? Two of the three parties in this effort have nuclear weapons of their own, even though they don’t face any conceivable threat of invasion[1]. Perhaps if they agreed to disarm themselves, the Iranians would be impressed enough to follow suit.

OK, I’m joking about Chirac and France. There’s no way that France is ready to admit that it is no longer a Great Power, and certainly Chirac is not the man to start the process. But, why shouldn’t Blair do something like this? It’s a perfect example of the non-ideological willingness to embrace radical alternatives to established dogma that New Labour is supposed to symbolise.

Of course, nuclear disarmament was the subject of bitter dispute within Labour in the 1980s, and disarmaming now would seem to hand a retrospective win to the left. But, if you buy the standard rightwing line on this subject, the nuclear deterrent did its work the day the Soviet Union collapsed, unable to sustain the arms race. Why hang on to it now? The answer, as far as I can see, is the same as for France. With the bomb, Britain is still one of the Big Five. Without it, Britain stands in much the same position as Italy or (a more populous version of) Australia.

As long as France and Britain sustain, by example, the view that having nuclear weapons is critical to being a Great Power, governments everywhere will seek them, whether or not they actually provide any security.

fn1. Like everyone else, the British and French face the threat that some lunatic in Russia will start firing missiles, or that al Qaeda will get its hands on nuclear weapons. But the logic of deterrence doesn’t apply in these cases, so having nuclear weapons of your own is no safeguard against them.