White Flag

The long-awaited White Paper version of the government’s emissions trading scheme is out. I’ve been too disheartened to read anything more than the summary so far. The target of a 5 per cent reduction on 2000 emissions by 2020 seems designed to secure the support of the Opposition, which will probably not be forthcoming anyway. That’s about the only defence that could be made for it.

The government’s main argument in favour of such a weak target is based on Australia’s relatively high rate of population growth. I have no objection to per capita, rather than national, emissions targets in the context of a contract-and-converge agreement leading ultimately to a uniform global allowance per person. But if you wanted to argue that way, the fact that Australia has one of the highest emission levels per person in the world means that our (interim and final) reduction targets must be more stringent than those of other countries.

At this point, the only real hope is that the Obama Administration will take a strong line on the issue. If it does, then the US-EU combination will dragoon recalcitrants like Australia into a sustainable agreement whatever Rudd and Turnbull might say or do about it.


I was unimpressed by this story on the ABC website, headlined Bill of rights not likely to be supported: Law Society The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad psp . The story quotes Hugh Macken from the Law Society (I think he is in fact the president) as saying

A bill of rights in terms of constitutional change is probably too far down the track to consider at this stage,” he said.

“It is likely to be quite divisive and as history has shown any divisive referendum which goes up invariably fails, so it tends to be costly failure.”

While literally correct, this remark totally obscures the point that no-one is currently talking about a constitutional change. For some years discussion has focused on the idea of a legislated bill of rights which governments could amend if they chose to wear the consequences of openly acting against human rights. This has already been introduced in Victoria and the ACT, not to mention the UK.

The legislative proposal overcomes the main objectives to a constitutional bill of rights that it would remove parliamentary sovereignty. The objections now coming from, for example, Janet Albrechtsen and other rightwingers have nothing to do, in most cases, with such issues. The problem is rather that they are opposed to the human rights that would inevitably be included in a legislated bill, such as freedom from arbitrary arrest, indefinite detention without trial and torture. We can thank the Bush and Howard Administrations for clarifying these issues.

The world turned upside down

Among news items of interest:

* The US Treasury briefly paid negative rates of interest on three-month bills (it’s now paying a more sensible zero).
* The outgoing Republican Administration in the US is about to nationalize General Motors perhaps proving the old adage, “what’s good for GM is good for the US”
* The Canadian Parliament has been prorogued until late January, precluding any legislative action against the economic crisis, but giving the Harper minority government another couple of months in office.

Any of these stories would have seemed unbelievable a year ago.

Some labour links

I’ve been meaning for a while to post some links to sites promoting campaigns to protect the rights of workers including the right to organise unions. Here are a few
Justice4Luke a site about the case of a union organiser sacked by the charity for which he worked.
LabourStart, an international site supporting union rights in many countries
Evatt FoundationAn Australian site with lots of useful analysis. One of the early Oz political bloggers, Chris Sheil, writes a fair bit there.

The economic lessons of World War II

As it has become evident that the financial crisis is comparable, in important ways, to the early stages of the Great Depression, there has been a lot of debate about the lessons to be learned from the responses to the Depression in the US, most notably the various policies that made up the New Deal. There’s a lot to be learned there, but it’s also important to remember that the Depression, in the US and elsewhere, continued throughout the 1930s before being brought to an abrupt end by the outbreak of World War II.[1]

Not only did the slump end when the war began, it did not return when the war ended – a huge difference from previous major wars.[2] Instead the three decades beginning in 1940 were a period of unparalleled prosperity for developed countries, with economic growth higher and unemployment lower than at any time before or since.

What lessons can we learn from this experience?

Read More »

Unfairly excluded!

My Crooked Timber co-blogger, Michael Bérubé made it to David Horowitz’ list of America’s 100 most dangerous professors. But when the Australian Liberal Students Federation outdid Horowitz by managing a Senate Inquiry into academic bias, I didn’t make the list of 30 or so. Here’s my post at CT – I’ve kept the explanations for non-Oz readers

The great David Horowitz campaign against evul academics has reached Australia, and has even occasioned a Senate inquiry. It was a load of fun. The report is good reading, as is the minority report by the Liberal (= conservative down under) Party Senators who called the inquiry in the first place, but lost control following their election defeat last year. A snippet suggests that those involved knew how to handle Horowitzism

From the committee’s perspective it appeared as
though it was to be called on to play its part in a university revue. The submissions,
the performance and the style – to say nothing of the rhetoric – presented by some
Liberal Students suggested a strong undergraduate tone. The ‘outing’ of Left and
purportedly Left academics and commentators (masquerading as academics as we
were told at one hearing) was in keeping with this tone. None of those outed objected.
Some appeared flattered to be named in the company of others more famous

The list of leftist academics is, I must admit, a sore point. I never located the full list (the links on the inquiry website were skew-whiff) but clearly I wasn’t on it. What does a leftist have to do to get noticed in this country?