39 thoughts on “Weekend reflections

  1. What did everyone think of the 7:30 report’s series on population growth last week?
    I thought Kerry O’Brien was using kid gloves on Rudd.

  2. @Sam
    I didn’t see all of it (certainly not the interview with Rudd) but I think that what Tim Flannery had to say on Friday echoed my feelings quite well. The fact that the federal government is having to stoke the population boom through mass immigration would suggest that those living here already know that the continent is close to its carrying capacity. Also the idea that the cost of water and electricity will limit the population in SE Queensland seems quite plausible to me.

    Voters don’t seem to have a choice given that both major parties support high immigration rates. I was pleased to hear the ACF making noises about the environmental impacts of increasing population a few months back, but I’m not sure if this view is also held by the Greens.

  3. Sam, yes I thought kid gloves too but still gave him a bit of a biffin around the ears, in a respectful sort of way you would have to with a PM you want back some time. You and I would have asked a few harder questions.

    What struck me was how incredibly tense the PM looked, like he had heartburn. I prefer to think it was because he was telling a lot of lies to support his big Australia, after just watching a whole heap of experts outlining all the problems it would cause.

  4. @Rationalist

    But he is always fantastic and incredible too, so what is new? You’re incredible and fantastic as are the many other denialists who post here.

  5. Living at the end of that great national drain the MDB, we Adelaideans have a certain obsession with water and the way Australians allocate it. With that in mind I’d like to propose a more rational way of allocating MDB water and I’d draw your attention to this fellow Crowie (Matthew of Eden Hills he goes by) with some interesting insider posts on water, in particular this post here-

    In that post you get a quick microcosm of the way we behave nationally right across the Basin, but in particular I’d like you to note the glaring discrepancy in what certain types of agriculture can pay. Around zero to 40c/kl for Murray River irrigators to that $2.62 figure for Mains water irrigators. Hold that thought for around 90% of MDB water use (namely agriculture)while we flick to a couple of examples of what the other 10% of users are up to. As you may know Adelaide is building a staged 50GL desal plant rising to 100GL to ensure its water supply. As Matthew points out elsewhere, the budget for that has skyrocketed from an initial $300mill to $1.2bill and basically watch that space approx 1 mill Adelaideans as our water bills are rising rapidly. I have heard reasonable estimates of $2.50-$3.00kl cost for such water(as well as 1L of CO2/L of desal water from black coal by my quick Googling and maths) and bear in mind we power SA largely with Leigh Creek lignite. Meanwhile at the Tammany hall level the custodians of taxes are indulging us all in storm-water harvesting and sewage recycling, in particular piping water from the Glenelg treatment plant to the Adelaide parklands. Here’s Matthew’s take on that-
    “Recycled water projects can be viable when the source is located close to the use. The total cost of this project is $76m. Typically, the SA Water environmental analysis fails to account for the embedded water and greenhouse gas emissions that go into digging up road, laying 32km of pipes, emissions from vehicles caught in traffic jams during road works and ongoing energy used in energy intensive recycling of the water. The cost of purchasing this amount of water on the Murray is $452,000 using an average 2008/09 price of $348 per ML from Waterfind (2008-09 Annual Murray-Darling Basin Water Market Report). This represents a 0.6% return on the $76m. Even if they sign up for 3 times the 1.25GL for Adelaide City Council, it is only 1.8% – not even covering inflation. How is this value for money? The money could have been better used to purchase the water required on the river and the substantial savings invested instead in environmental flows”
    Now we have some figures to work with. Note that 0-40c/kl and $2.62/kl and $348/ML some users are paying or are willing to pay. Now I’m with Matthew here that you don’t spend a $1 to get a $1.50 worth of return if you can spend it elsewhere and get $2 worth and that’s my beef with water where everyone suddenly takes leave of their senses. Let me be more blunt. There is no shortage of water in the MDB, just shortages at the current and historical prices charged for it and if we want to fly ice from the Antarctic and grow orchids on the top of Ayers Rock we can. It’s just a matter of paying the opportunity cost. So what’s our problem and how do we fix it sensibly I ask myself and you.
    The science says the MDB is around 40% overallocated on long term average flows- tragedy of the common – market failure- legitimate role for Govt to oversee- problem for taxpayers to compensate existing rights owners- what does that leave? My take is the Feds have the taxing power and can set the quantity for auction, collect the revenue and pay it out on a pro-rata basis to existing rights owners, just like any share dividends. That way the water goes to its highest economic use and individual farmers can decide whether to hang in and consume their dividends and capital, or cut and run by selling their dividend paying shares to other investors (ie Super and Future Fund, etc) So that’s my question. With some of these aforementioned figures in mind, along with total rights holdings/allocations, would it be self funding?

  6. @Sam
    Agreed. I found it particular annoying that the rkuddster said that the 36 million figure was accepted as going to happen, when the most important contribution factor, immigration rate is wholly within the federal governments control. This was just let go without being puller up.

  7. About the 7:30 report and the population debate in general, I don’t like it when people say that problems with transport, land prices, water supply etc are “challenges”, while I would call them “disadvantages of rapid population growth”.

    The only supposed advantage of rapid population growth is that it would counterract aging of the population. However migrants eventually grow old, so the problem is simply delayed, not solved. At some time we will have to adapt to a population that contains a high percentage of old people, and we may as well start now.

    Another thing that we should start doing now is reducing our carbon dioxide emissions. Admittedly Australia said the right things in Copenhagen, but we forgot to tell other countries that we expected to greatly increase our numbers and that therefore we had no real intention of reducing our carbon dioxide emissions.

    Like Gnoll110, I have noticed that Mr Rudd treats the expected high rate of immigration as fixed, like a force of nature, rather than something that is actually controlled by the Federal Government. I suppose that this is a slight improvement over his previous attitude, which was that a high rate of immigration was a good idea that he was actively promoting.

  8. Nothing wrong with a big Australia, as long as you plan for it and develop productivity improving infrastructure.

  9. Verdict in on the Plimer/Monckton v Brook/Readfearn

    “Aided by Adelaide’s Professor Ian Plimer, Lord Monckton cruised to victory before a partisan crowd of suits and ties, movers and shakers.”

    What is worse is that this debacle was televised nationally on multiple occasions by sky news active.

    Barry Brook did a disservice to the community by engaging in this debacle. My observation is that this is generally consistent with his approach to climate change.

    Giving air time to Plimer and Monckton, and being roundly “outperformed” in the process is neither necessary nor productive.

  10. @iain
    My thoughts exactly iain. Those two are a case for “no air at all” and Barry Brook should not have engaged with them. No responsible person should. Let them debate each other. It turns it into a media circus that serves no purpose but to give a platform to Plimers and Monktons very profitable bogus opinions…made for boguns.
    The university of Adelaide needs to have a serious think about the damage being done to its reputation as well – so it must be getting a kickback from Plimer – thats all I can assume.

  11. @Alice

    I get moderated on Brook’s site, but he quotes on his blog:

    “With climate-change sceptics waiting to pounce on any scientific uncertainties, researchers need a sophisticated strategy for communication.”

    And then proceeeds with : “This provides sound advice for all scientists wishing to engage on the topic of climate change in the public arena. Which definitely includes me, now that I’ve agreed to ‘debate’ Christopher Monckton and Ian Plimer”

    There appears to be a disconnect between Brook’s understanding of “sophisticated strategy for communication” and any reasonable interpretation.

    He understands it isn’t a debate (hence the quotation marks), yet proceeds nonetheless. It’s bizarre to me, but consistent with his general approach to climate change.

  12. In round figures I think we can assume every new immigrant to Australia will need 150,000 litres or so of home water supply and several times that for food production and other support industries. They will need about a kilowatt of average electrical power (mainly from coal burning) or 9 megawatt-hours per year. Then there’s gas, petrol, social services, housing, infrastructure and so on. Yet somehow we must reduce both emissions and water use. This is either the new Magic Pudding or perhaps the PM was never really serious in the first place. Perhaps we shouldn’t believe him next time.

  13. A few issues some readers might be interested in (Pls Read on)

    Talking about Haiti: Human Tragedy as “Divine Will”? Wes Bishop refutes right-wing Evangelist, Pat Robertson

    see: http://leftfocus.blogspot.com/2010/01/human-tragedy-as-divine-will-wes-bishop.html

    And if any of you haven’t read John Quiggin’s article on the ‘democratic mixed economy’ – feel welcome to visit the URL below – and to comment there also. :))


    Finally – if you share our outlook – you’re also very welcome to join the Facebook group of the ‘Movement for a Democratic Mixed Economy.’

    see: http://www.facebook.com/#/group.php?gid=152326549326



  14. Alan Dixon :

    Like Gnoll110, I have noticed that Mr Rudd treats the expected high rate of immigration as fixed, like a force of nature, rather than something that is actually controlled by the Federal Government.

    Agreed see Bill Heslop, President, Porpoise Spit Council, Muriels Wedding 1994:

    ” You can’t stop progress!”

    Lets hope Rudd’s less than ringing endorsement of 35m suggests he might get over this policy inertia and LEAD and “do a Noosa” on population.

    Sunshine Coast Mayor “Mr Abbott said there were similar attitudes across Queensland, asking when rampant development was going to stop and locals be given a voice to protect their lifestyles” AAP Jan 2009

  15. @gerard

    Monckton was fantastic when I saw him last week.

    Monckton is indeed a purveyor of fantasy, of the incredible.

    The more interesting question is why someone using the nym “rationalist” thinks calling Monckton fantastic is praise.

  16. Following a link from Gerard #17 to the Eternity Puzzle Reveals Monckton’s carelessness with the truth.

    “The puzzle’s inventor said at the time that the earlier-than-expected discovery had forced him to sell his 67-room house to pay the prize. In 2006 he revealed that the benefits from the sales had more than covered the prize, that he was going to sell the house anyway, and that he had made up the story to boost up sales.”

  17. I was surprised Kerry O’Brien didn’t quiz Rudd on the future of the baby bonus. All we got was how inevitable population growth will be to 35 million.

  18. Yeah wasn’t it interesting Pablo? When Rudd’s spin doctors judge a position to be popular he “makes no apology” for it. When something is unpopular, all of a sudden it’s “inevitable.”

    Immigration levels are directly set by the federal government, and it is entirely within the PM’s power to reduce it below current historically unprecedented levels. The national fertility rate is of course not under direct government control, but deliberately pro-natalist policies (such as the baby bonus) now in effect are. There is nothing inevitable about it. If we really wanted to, we could impose a $5000 tax on every child born, rather than a subsidy.

    I think it’s high time someone mentioned the upsides to an ageing population. Less unemployment for one thing, less pressure on education services for another and no shortage of grandparents willing to baby-sit for a third. When people talk about the economic burden of an ageing population, they typically use the dependency ratio as a starting point. Under this model, a 66 year old recent retiree is as helpless as a toddler. Plainly this is nonsense.

  19. “no shortage of grandparents willing to baby-sit’

    Make that *grandmother*.

    The exploitation of older women dragooned into full-time childcare of their children’s children is one of the sadder most objectionable effects of contemporary capitalism.

  20. When people talk about the economic burden of an ageing population, they typically use the dependency ratio as a starting point. Under this model, a 66 year old recent retiree is as helpless as a toddler. Plainly this is nonsense.

    Domestic labour (raising children) is not included in GDP – unless a professional nanny is being paid to do it. Hence the helpless toddler is not generally considered a burden to society, while the retiree is. Much of the panic over the aging population comes from this skewed way of measuring economic activity.

  21. @Alicia

    Well, most grandparents actually enjoy a moderate amount of babysitting, as long as the demands are not Too onerous. If the nation had less children and more seniors, the burden could be shared around and no one need feel exploited. In arguing for a reduced fertility rate, I am arguing for less pressure on grandmothers.
    The very fact that most day-care for children is unpaid (while healthcare for seniors is not), skews policy-makers beliefs about their relative burden on society. If GDP figures took this aspect of the informal economy into consideration, I doubt that so naive a measure of intergenerational burden as the “dependency ratio” would survive.

  22. Sorry Gerard I posted that before refreshing my screen so I didn’t see what you wrote. You said it better and more succintly than I did.

  23. Well my mother loves to baby-sit my nephew. My girlfriend’s mother is so desperate for a grandchild to play with that she has told us all we have to do is “make” the baby, she will look after it. There, that’s two examples and as Paul Krugman says, the plural to anecdote is data! If you disagree with him, you come up against Brad Delong’s first and second laws of economics.

  24. @nanks
    Seeing we all have such scientific evidence here….Ill add mine. My mum didnt mind a visit or a day here and there with the grandkids (or an evening on occasions) but would never have taken on a two day or three day babysitting job for her grandkids and nor would I and nor should it be expected. Kids can be exhausting.

    Sam – thats just what your girlfriend’s mother says now. They all say that – give her a couple of days with a two year old and then see what she says and how much energy she has left.

  25. @gerard
    Thanks Gerard

    “Domestic labour (raising children) is not included in GDP ”

    One of the greatest thefts from women of all time…IMHO. Yes its been an quantitatively acceptable way to keep women and children out of the concerns of policy makers, such that retirees are more dependent than children. No accident… these things. There were also no females working in the goldfields according to historical statistics. Ah but it keeps happening. The wheels just keep rolling over the same tracks.

  26. @Alice
    Alicia made a strong claim and if there is evidence why not produce it. We had no childcare for either of our children as my partner’s mother has little to no interest in children. I know other people who had a lot of childcare from the grandparents who were only too happy to see their grandchildren. So what – that’s all just anecdotal. Furthermore and unbelievable to some, some grandparents don’t see it as ‘unpaid childcare’ but being with their grandchildren whom they love. Just as some parents love being with their children and don’t see it as a chore. Or foster children because they care deeply about others etc etc. Not even as a paid job and not ‘resenting capitalism for forcing them to do it.’ Shocking, eh, that some people are kind and loving rather than bitter and cynical. How stupid of them.

  27. Sam has made some very good points on the upsides of an aging population which is a way of looking at it I haven’t come accross before. Sure the grandparents babysitting doesn’t work in every case but it is still a good point.

    One of the silliest aspects of the argument for population growth as being needed to provide for the aged is that those very provisions are needed to provide services and infrastrucure for a growing population.

    I have made this argument to politicians, that you can’t keep up with the needs of a population growth AND an aging population, with transport, schools and hospitals to name a few screaming out for funds. You can’t stop looking after the aged so drop off the population growth and see what sort of money it frees up for the aging population.

  28. Yes, and of course child-care isn’t the only unpaid service provided by our seniors. In my neighbourhood they volunteer just about everywhere; they teach migrants how to read in libraries, offer practical home maintenance advice, contribute to community gardens, run reading groups etc, well into their 80’s. The one common theme uniting all of this useful work is that is all unpaid, and too often ignored.

  29. @Alice
    My girlfriend is Vietnamese, so perhaps her mother represents an outlier data point as far as commitment to family goes.

  30. There is no problem with providing services for an aging population. A large number are now funded by superannuation.

    The aged-population issue is a scare tactic.

    All we need is a few less jet fighters, plus even a minuscule Tobin tax, and less involvement in politically motivated foreign wars.

  31. “All we need is a few less jet fighters, plus even a minuscule Tobin tax, and less involvement in politically motivated foreign wars.”

    Yes. Glad we can agree on something, Chris 😉

    Also less bailouts of companies and fewer ‘stimulatory’ boondoggles.

  32. @Chris Warren
    Well sam – all we can prove with this er ….scientific evidence we have collected here is that some people love being with kids and some only love it sometimes and some want to retire and just have kids come to visit for a day and some just like to take them on outings…and some couldnt give a damn about their kids or grandkids….yes there is outliers but probably not your girlfriends mother Sam.

  33. Re: the grandparents thing.

    The school my children attend has vacation care available for $20/day/child, and before and after school care available for $15/day/child. This is a NSW public school, and the care isn’t subsidised by either the NSW or Federal governments. The Federal government does provide subsidies to some parents, which reduce the final cost to those parents to perhaps half those amounts.

    There’s no reason whatsoever why similar care couldn’t be provided by all schools, which might reduce the expected workload of unwilling grandparents considerably.

    (For the record, my kids went to vacation care for 1 day, and to their grandma for 4 days out of the 30 or so working days during the last school holidays).

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