The Australia Institute has a report out making the point that the growth in the administrative and marketing costs of electricity companies, following the reforms of the 1990s, has added more to electricity prices than has the carbon price.
Also, the Centre for Policy Development has a nice piece on solar PV coming out soon. Look for it.
Finally, here’s a piece I wrote for the The Economic and Labour Relations Review in 2001. Conclusion over the fold. I think it stacks up pretty well, certainly compared to the gushing praise for reform that was commonplace at the time.
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I appeared at a Senate inquiry into the Minerals Resource Rent Tax yesterday. Given the virtual certainty that the tax will be abolished after the election, I tried to focus on the future. Here’s my opening statement
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A new sandpit for long side discussions, idees fixes and so on.
Thinking about Anzac Day, with the inevitable mixed emotions, I was struck by the resemblance of the Anzac legend to that of the Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War – the same incredible bravery of ordinary men commanded by bungling leaders to undertake a doomed and futile mission.
There’s another, even more tragic, echo here. Both the Crimean War and the Gallipoli campaign arose from the same cause – the decline of the Ottoman Empire, and the struggle over its partition. But in the Crimean War, the British and French were on the side of the Turks against the Russians. In the Great War, the imperial alliances had shifted, and the Russians formed part of the Triple Entente, while the Turks were on the side of the Germans.
Whatever the justice of the Allied cause in the Great War as a whole, the war with Turkey was nothing more than a struggle between rival imperialisms. The British and French governments signed secret treaties with each other, and with the Russian Czar, promising to divide the spoils of victory. At the same time, they made incompatible promises of independence for the Arabs and of a homeland in Palestine for the Jews.
There are no consolations to be had here. The Great War did not protect our freedom, or that of the world. Rather, it gave rise to the horrors of Nazism and Bolshevism, and, within Turkey, to the Armenian genocide. The carve-up of the Ottoman empire created the modern Middle East, haunted even a century later by bloodshed and misery.
As we reflect on the sacrifices made by those who went to war nearly 100 years ago, we should also remember, and condemn, the crimes of those, on all sides, who made and carried on that war.
Lest we forget.
Back in the 1980s, there was a constant stream of international delegations to Wellington, seeking to learn from the “New Zealand miracle”, in which a group of radical free-market reformers turned around a sclerotic welfare state. While the results had yet to show themselves, everyone was confident that NZ would soon surpass Australia, where the political system threw up many more obstacles to reform. Everyone knows how that turned out. After 100 years of economic parity, NZ GDP per person has fallen to around 60 per cent of the Australian level. The gap closed a little when NZ abandoned radical reform (from the first MMP election to the end of the Clark Labor government) but is now widening again.
And, just in the last week, the intellectual foundations of austerity polices have been cut away with the discovery that the influential paper of Reinhart and Rogoff, predicting disaster when public debt levels exceed 90 per cent of GDP, was based on a coding error (not to mention some dubious statistical choices). That follows the demolition of the even more influential work of Alesina, Ardagna and other co-authors, some of which I criticised in Zombie Economics
Against this background, it’s truly bizarre to see the Australian right (IPA, CIS and Tony Abbott) presenting New Zealand as a model, on the basis that the budget has been returned to surplus. Apparently, it doesn’t matter that the economic outcomes have been consistently appalling, as long as the ideology is right.
I have a simple suggestion which I hope will appeal to everyone. Since the new NZ government came in, deluded Kiwis have been voting with their feet in large numbers. The resulting imbalance could be addressed if the CIS, IPA, Parliamentary Liberal Party and their keenest supporters moved across the Tasman to try out the marvels of free-market reform for themselves.
With the exception of an unnameable region bordering on the Eastern Mediterranean, posts on diet and exercise seem to promote more bitter disputes than any others. So, in the spirit of adventure, I’m going to step away from my usual program of soft and fluffy topics like the bubbliness of bitcoins, the uselessness of navies and the agnotology of climate denial, and tackle the thorny question of running vs walking.
Happily, and unlike, say climate science, this is a question on which you can find a reputable scientific study to support just about any position you care to name, and even some that appear to support both sides, so I’m just going to pick the ones I like, draw the conclusions I want, and invite you all to have it out in the comments thread. I’m also going to attempt the classic move of representing the opposing positions as extremes, relative to which I occupy the sensible centre.
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There’s an important new report out from the Grattan Institute, which has received a fair bit of press (some of it rather off-point) for its prediction that, under current policies, Australian governments will need to find an additional 4 per cent of GDP (about $60 billion a year) over the next decade if they are going to meet new expenditure needs for health and education services and maintain a prudent fiscal surplus.
The options aren’t explored in much detail, but it seems clear that expenditure cuts (particularly the usual suspects like duplication and waste, “middle class welfare” and so on) won’t be enough, so more tax effort will be needed. The top priorities ought to be tightening up the income tax system and increasing income tax rates at the top. If that’s not enough, the next option (tough, but maybe necessary) is an increase in the rate of GST.
I’ll try to post in more detail soon, but I think Grattan gets the story right on most points, and their analysis will certainly help anyone who wants to take a serious look at Australain fiscal policy