Accountability theory at work

When the Cole Commission began inquiring into AWB, past experience of the operations of this government yielded the following conclusions

* Both Downer and Howard knew that the AWB was paying kickbacks to the Iraqi regime

* This information was transmitted in a way that preserves deniability, so no conclusive proof will emerge

* No government minister will resign

* Endless hair-splitting defences of the government’s actions in this matter will emerge from those who have previously made a loud noise about Oil for Food.

With only Howard, master of the straight bat defence, still left to appear, all of these conclusions have been borne out. The offices of senior ministers were flooded with dozens cables and other communicaitons warning them of AWB activities yet, as far as the official record is concerned, no one ever looked into these any further than to ask for, and receive, a flat denial from AWB. It’s obvious that they knew enough not to ask any official questions that might produce inconvenient answers, but as predicted, no conclusive proof of this has emerged. Resignations appear to be out of the question. The theory of accountability remains in force.

Triangular trade

The term “triangular trade” is commonly used in international economics in response to concerns about bilateral deficits*. The general idea is that, even though a bilateral relationship may involve large imbalances, global flows of goods and services must balance in the long run.

In some respects, the pattern of trade between Australia, China and the United States fits the triangular trade story neatly. Australia exports lots of raw materials to China, which in turn exports a wide range of manufactures to the US, which exports high-tech goods and services to Australia. Much the same story is true, with other Asian countries such as Japan in place of China.

In the ideal version of the story, Australia would run a surplus with China, China with the US, and the US with Australia, and these (along with other bilateral balances) would wash out to leave all three countries in balance. The point of the “triangular trade” idea is that it’s a mistake to worry about bilateral balances, when trade benefits everyone.

But the Australia-China_US triangle fails to match this story in two crucial respects. First, instead of trade balance, Australia and the US have large and growing deficits, while China has a large and growing aggregate surplus. Second, the trade triangle is entangled with a triangular strategic relationship, in which Australia has to deal with the great power rivalry between the US and China.

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Clean Start – Fair Deal for Cleaners Campaign

With lots of legal protections for workers gone, and an openly hostile government, new strategies and organising methods are needed. Cleaners face particular difficulties working in isolated conditions and prone to all kinds of exploitation, especially as so many organisations have sacked their cleaning staff and replaced them with contractors. The Liquor Hospitality and Miscellaneous Union international campaign to improve working conditions for cleaners. You can read more about the Clean Start campaign here.

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The Generation Game, again

Today’s AFR (subscription required) has a piece on Gen X and so on by Deirdre Macken. It’s a bit more sceptical than usual, partly because Macken is no fool, and partly because it links to the discussion at Catallaxy of Ryan Heath’s Please Just F* Off: It’s Our Turn Now. also discussed here. As I mentioned, I doubt that we’ll ever see a better title for a generation game book than this one.

Generational and other forms of categorization (whether or not it’s of any value) is essential to marketers trying to pitch their services to those with goods and services to sell. And the “Angry Young Man” genre stretches back to the dawn of writing (angry young women seem mostly cast their arguments in terms of feminism, or anti-feminism, rather than explicitly generational politics). So I don’t suppose it’s going to go away, no matter how many times the silliness of it all is pointed out.