Abbott out

Tony Abbott’s resignation must surely mark the end for Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership and therefore, in all probability, for the deal with Labor over the ETS.

Ultra-optimistic scenario: Turnbull quits and Abbott is installed, the deal is cancelled and Rudd calls a double dissolution based on the original bill, winning easily. Since the original bill clearly needs amendment he doesn’t use the joint sitting mechanism but instead makes an agreement with the Greens who now have the balance of power.

Rudd’s preferred scenario: Turnbull holds on long enough to deliver seven senate votes tomorrow and pass the watered-down ETS. He is promptly rolled and the Liberal party splits. Abbott as new leader, starts with a commitment to repeal the scheme, but abandons it because this is the last thing big business wants. Labor reduces the divided opposition to rump status at the next election, and ends up dealing with three or four different parties in the Senate, needing only one to get its legislation through. This is probably more plausible than mine, but the timing will be very tight tomorrow. The decision is to be made at 3:45pm, apparently.

Three universes collide!

I’ve been very busy with asset sales, the problems of the Murray-Darling Basin, my still-in-progress book and other commitments too numerous to list, with the result that I’ve had no time to comment on the spectacular events in the climate change debate. But it’s finally too much to ignore.

I’ve long pointed out the “parallel universe” nature of the discussion that goes on under the name of “scepticism”. Over the last couple of days, that parallel universe has collided with the universe of Australian practical politics, with catastrophic results for Malcolm Turnbull in particular.

The timing is particularly galling for the delusionists who are uniformly convinced that the University of East Anglia emails they have stolen and promulgated prove beyond doubt … well, something sinister. Surely, they think, this will persuade the weak-kneed Liberals to stop while we hold a full inquiry. Following the analogy of Newtongate it’s as if, just as the vorticists had found the crucial ‘smoking gun’, a letter exposing Newton’s use of hired thugs to beat up Cartesian critics, they looked out from their shiny new antigravity machine and realised that some very hard ground was approaching them at a speed of hundreds of metres per second.
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National go home from work on time day

It’s striking that we have to declare a special National go Home on Time Day, and also striking (to me anyway) that I have only just found time to blog about it. My own chronic state of overcommitment is more of a personal choice than an imposition from above, but I have to take constant care not to expect a similar overcommitment from the members of my research team. On the whole, Australian bosses and managers are failing in that obligation, or don’t even recognise it. Anyway, knock-off time is coming up soon, so everyone, head for home, beach or pub as the fancy takes you.

Economists statement on Queensland asset sales

I’m one of a group of more than 20 academic and business economists who have put together a statement criticising the Queensland government’s case for asset sales and arguing that we need a proper public debate. The group includes some of Australia’s leading economists, including Joshua Gans, Stephen King, Warwick McKibbin and Adrian Pagan, as well as ten professors of economics from UQ, and more from other Queensland universities. But maybe the most surprising, and heartening, signature is that of Henry Ergas who has been one of my sparring partners on many occasions, most recently a debate on whether government should be the ultimate risk manager, held by the UQ Alumni Association (Henry won, by popular vote). Although Henry has been a strong supporter of privatisation in many instances where I have opposed it, we agree that these issues should be decided on the basis of costs and benefits, and not by spurious claims that privatisation provides governments with money they can invest in schools and hospitals.

Update I just did an interview on Madonna King’s ABC Radio program, and have promised to debate the issue with Andrew Fraser. I will also probably do a TV interview.

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Consequentialism and confidence

I’m finally collecting my thoughts in response to Chris Bertram’s CT post on Consequentialism and Communism, particularly this remark imputing to consequentialists in general

the very same disregard for, or scepticism about, the rights of individuals, the same willingness to sacrifice individual lives for valuable goals

that characterized the Bolsheviks and their successors.

As regards willingness to sacrifice individual lives for valuable goals, I think this is an unfair criticism of consequentialists. Look at any of the standard anti-consequentialist philosophical examples – trolley car, organ bank, survival lottery, violinist and so on. It’s always the hard-nosed consequentialist who is supposed to want to save as many lives as possible, and the noble anti-consequentialist who proposes to sacrifice individual lives for “valuable goals” such as clean hands, natural rights and bodily integrity.
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