21 thoughts on “Monday message board

  1. I just read the following on the ABC News web site:

    The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is preparing to release details on the economic cost of climate change at a conference in Thailand.
    Leaked copies of a draft report to be presented to the conference show that stabilising emissions of greenhouse gases may cost less than 3 per cent of annual global economic growth.

    I am curious as to what Richard Tol might say about this report when it comes out..

  2. John Howard revisited the seventies when he warned that as a result of the Labor Party’s Industrial Relations policy that employers wouldn’t hire women with children.

    This attack on Labor is astonishing for a number of reasons. We have the baby bonus but not a Liberal maternity leave policy to help women give birth, bond to the baby, establish breastfeeding and recuperate physically. In the meantime others such as the treasurer are urging women to have three children.

    Families are increasingly unable to purchase a home without two incomes making it difficult for a woman to give up work to have a child. Workchoices makes it even harder as women are increasingly less likely to receive equal pay for equal work under the secret AWA pay scales and increase their insecurity just announcing a pregnancy.

    Mr Howard wants women to make sacrifices for the nation and believes that it is alright for women to be discriminated against. As PM he should be either supporting women to have children through better family payment structures or by expecting employers to show commitment to women who are ensure the nation’s future by having children. The increase in women’s employment since maternity leave provisions were introduced shows how wrong Mr Howard’s fake concern for their jobs really is.

    How counter productive of Mr Howard to threaten women that they won’t get jobs if they are supported through the important childbirth and early toddler years. It is insulting to women that they should be consigned to lower paid jobs and that they should lose those same jobs when they have children. Any woman who gets pregnant can now be fired unfairly or for operational reasons. Labor’s policy to allow men to play a role is forward looking.

    Mr Howard is a relic from another age when women sacrificed themselves and their economic future for their husband’s career. Nowadays financial futures are more precarious and marriage is too. Women need equal pay as they may have to survive on the single parent pension if their relationship with their partner breaks down – and of course this is only until their youngest child turns 6 anyway when they are expected to get back to work as a result of the changes introduced by the Howard government last year.

    Women in the seventies fought for the right to work after marriage and children. Now if you are unfortunate enough to lose your husband there is no choice.

    It would be a good thing if Mr Howard was interested in the welfare of women however he shows more concern for the corporate profit of child care operators than the choices women make as a result of his government’s policies. No wonder he is worried about Labor Party policies which look to put the family back into the work/family equation.

  3. Any woman who gets pregnant can now be fired unfairly or for operational reasons.

    Jill – I think you have your facts wrong. Even Julia Gillard recognises that the current law protects women from being fired because they get pregnant. See the transcript of the following interview:-

    TONY JONES: So you could sack someone on a whim if they’ve been there for under a year. There’d be no particular set of procedures put in place for sacking someone in under a year, is that right? Woman who fell pregnant in 11 months of employment could be sacked, for example?

    JULIA GILLARD: No, Tony. I don’t want to get too want to get too complicated here but even under Mr Howard’s laws there are two concepts.

    There are unfair dismissals and unlawful dismissals. Unlawful dismissals are dismissals for reasons such as gender or race or pregnancy. And unlawful dismissals apply to all employment irrespective of how long you’ve been there, that is true of today’s law.

    The unfair dismissal regime is a regime for people who have been dismissed for other reasons, that don’t amount to unlawful dismissals, but about which there might be some unfairness.

    So it’s in relation to those unfair dismissals that we say you would have needed to have been with your employer for more than 12 months in a small business before you could take an unfair dismissal case.

    If someone had been dismissed unlawfully then obviously there’s no qualifying period. You can never sack someone for being pregnant, being a woman, being an Indigenous Australian, any of those sort of printed reasons.

    You can never sack someone for that without feeling the full force of the law.



  4. I notice that Andrew Leigh has closed discussion at his blog with regards to his paper regarding the 1996 firearms laws. I also notice that the advocates of the gun reforms at the corresponding Quiggin article have all gone deadly quite. But I suppose the paper has served it’s purpose and allowed the mainstream media (eg the SMH) to repeat it’s prefered propaganda and claim that it is an academic fact that thousands of lives have been saved. They could only do this because the paper was riddled with claytons-conclusions.

  5. A heads up on the recently released “Arndt’s Story” by the troika of Peter Coleman, Selwyn Cornish and Peter Drake. Not easy to find in the shops at present, but clearly a major event for people interested in the history of ideas and the life of the mind. Fascinating to see how he moved along from communism to Keynes to economic rationalism. Great stuff (and not just for that reason). One of our first public intellectuals and a pioneer in engaging with the Asia Pacific zone. And a great tribute to his wife Ruth as well, what a beautiful couple they must have been to know!

  6. Terje, if you read my exchange with Christine on that Andrew Leigh thread she basically agrees that their conclusion is not supported by the data. But Leigh seems not to be aware of this – he spouted their dodgy figures on ABC radio and has not retracted them. Astonishing how mediocre academia is in Australia.

  7. Terje, I’ve replied briefly to your comment on my post. As a general point, if you come in several days late you shouldn’t complain about a lack of response. Mugwump, I read the discussion you cite, and I don’t think your summary is accurate (unless “basically” is doing a lot more work than it should).

  8. John – I was not complaining about a lack of response. I made an observation about a lack of response. If I was to articulate any form of complaint in this discussion it would relate to the willingness of the SMH to report conclusions out of context and without any account of the problems of basic logic that the out of context conclusions entail.

    Suicide only requires one bullet. Firearm ownership increased following 1996. Suicide declined. We can’t conclude that firearms ownership prevents suicide but if we must draw a conclusion from the data then we would have to say that the increase in firearm ownership has saved thousands of lives.

  9. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black – the Leigh paper was a specific response to a truly dreadful paper. What that response said was “You haven’t chosen the best approach (univariate time series) to measuring this anyway, but if you must use this approach then at least use it properly. Doing it properly, you’ll find that… etc”. If the response was crap then the original paper, which the gun lobby ensured got much bigger publicity than the response (being quoted by Rush Limbaugh, f’rexample), must have been extra-deep and extra-smelly crap.

  10. Christine explicitly agreed with all my points regarding the fallibility of the models. In which case, their claim that:

    “In other words, 1000-2500 Australians who are alive today would not be here if it hadn’t been for the buyback.�

    is baseless.

    In response, Christine said:

    Well, we had to put in some numbers, just to give some idea of the scale of the differences between various model estimates.”


    “If it’s of any interest, we did try to avoid headlining of the numbers, but it’s not terribly easy to manage.”

    Pretty clear from those remarks that they know their numbers are dodgy. And the claim that they we’re trying to “avoid headlining of the numbers” is not credible given that Andrew Leigh was apparently happy to discuss them on radio national.

    FWIW, the data unequivocally shows the gun buyback got rid of gun massacres in Australia. But there is little evidence for any other effect.

  11. dd, the methodology of the original paper was not great, but their conclusion was much closer to the truth than Leigh’s. Right answer by the wrong method is better than the wrong answer by the wrong method.

  12. Shorter Mugwump: the methodology is unimportant as long as it supports my views.

  13. Ken – John Quiggin refered to the earlier study as “dubious” whilst giving credance to the current study without offering much in the way of explaination. Perhaps he prefers the conclusions of the second report so that is sufficient grounds to call the first report dubious. Perhaps Mugwump is not alone.

    As I outlined in the main article on this blog and again above it is foolhardy to associate any decline in suicide with a ban on semi-automatic longarms given that the overall prevalence of firearms increased and the simplitiy of discharging a second bullet with a semi-automatic weapon adds nothing to the process of killing yourself. If somebody can deal with this simple mechanical deficit in the pro-control argument then we might make some head way and find our way to a discussion about causation rather than correlation. As it stands I can’t see how the rapid discharge of a second bullet assists in the suicide process. Can you?

  14. Ken and Terje, neither paper uses defensible methodology, and I defend neither. But if you have to pick a winner, the one that gets closer to the truth is it.

    BTW, I had no view on the subject until I read Leigh’s paper. If you want to see a justification for my current view please read the thread on Leigh’s blog and take a look at Chapman’s paper (google Chapman and gun buyback), and download the data from the ABS.

    Personally, I think preventing gun massacres is ample justification for the gun buyback (it was certainly the motivation), but then I am not a shooter. It is not clear to me why social scientists seem to have this urge to prove the the buyback had a greater effect than that.

  15. I was making my way to work this morning, when I came across a lady (just outside central station in Brisbane), who was holding up a small newspaper. The headline was: “The Global Warming Fraud”, or something similar. I gave her a wry smile and walked away. When a colleague turned up at work with the newspaper, I spend a few moments skimming the story.

    The basis of the article was that Al Gore had misrepresented the facts and that the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were much lower than is generally accepted in the scientific community. The article suggested that Global Warming was a conspiracy aimed at reducing the world’s population, by reducing farm production.

    As it turns out the article was based on the work of Lyndon LaRouche (there is similar work currently on the LaRouche website). While it is claimed that LaRouche is aligned with the political left in Wikipedia (where does this leave Al Gore), in popular culture he is seen as a conspiracy theorist. In fact Homer Simpson announces: “Oh, no. Aliens, bio-duplication, nude conspiracies. Oh, my God. Lyndon LaRouche was right!” in a episode that aired around the time of the 1996 US election.

    Isn’t it strange then that people like LaRouche have similar mindset to people like Andrew Bolt.

  16. mugwump, you’re studiously missing the point. You are claiming to know the truth a priori, and picking which study you like based on that alone. That’s religion, not science.

    The actual difference between the papers is that one corrected some glaring problems with the other, while freely advising its readers that correcting these problems was still not sufficient to yield a robust conclusion. IOW one paper was by competent people interested in truth and the other wasn’t.

    If you have to pick a winner, the one that actually tries to get close to the truth is it.

  17. Terje – Whilst it may be unlawful for an employer to fire someone for being pregnant it doesn’t take a genius to work out that when an employer is not obliged to state the reason for firing a worker then a pregnant woman can be fired ostensibly for operational or other reasons – that it is unlawful will not be much of a deterrent as only the stupidest boss would state that that was the reason. Although even in this case the woman would have to have the ability to pursue this case at a time when most women try to avoid any kind of additional stress, especially as most would not believe that they would win as the system is stacked against them.

    I stated that a pregnant woman can be fired unfairly – Firing a pregnant woman is unfair. Women are not prospering under Mr Howard’s government and understand the reality of the difficulties staying employed once pregnant.

  18. Jill – I reject the notion that firing a pregnant women is unfair or should be prohibited, however that is a secondary matter. You are right that employers can sack pregnant women for operational reasons under the Howard legal regime. However this was also true under the previous regime. Structural changes in businesses have always allowed for the dismissal of employees. Unfair dismissal laws applied when a person was sacked for non-operational, non-performance reasons or when performance issues were not addressed according to legislated procedures.

    Free from any legal restraints in most organisations sacking a women merely because she is pregnant is simply not going to happen because of the impact on staff morale and the organisational culture. Whilst in some industries continuing to employ a women who is pregnant would be entirely inappropriate and possibly negligent.

    Having being in business for nearly 10 years now I have lost track of the number of times I have been sacked by customers or sacked by employees. People end relationships all the time for rational and irrational, selfish and bizzar reasons and ending a relationship almost always impacts other people emotionally, financially or in terms of their time. However people should be free to contract with others and associate or disassociate with others as they see fit. Infidelity and sleeping around are unsavory behaviours that some people might find unfair but we don’t regulate the far more serious activity of sex. In fact we don’t even apply contractual norms to marriage vows. You can make a commitment to be with a person for life and leave after a week without any legal repercussion, yet you can commit to employ somebody only until you give two weeks notice and be in trouble with the law for being entirely honourable to that commitment.

  19. Isn’t it strange then that people like LaRouche have similar mindset to people like Andrew Bolt.

    I once asked a author on a IPA report into the Great Barrier Reef about sources (the report was very poorly referenced) and he went straight for a LaRouche journal.

  20. dd:
    “mugwump, you’re studiously missing the point. You are claiming to know the truth a priori, and picking which study you like based on that alone.”

    Rubbish. I read the Leigh paper. I read the Chapman paper. I read the BM paper. I downloaded and played with as much of the original source data as I could find. That’s about as a posteriori as you’ll find.

    From this analysis I concluded that outside gun massacres, the buyback has had no robustly measurable effect. I also concluded that ARIMA analysis is utterly misguided for this problem, regardless of whether you use the Leigh or BM methodology; hence if you have to pick a winner between Leigh and BM (the lesser of two evils, if you like), BM is it because their conclusion is at least consistent with other (superior) approaches.

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