50 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. @Tim Macknay

    That is a hopeful sign. There are many hopeful signs now. However, in my opinion, these hopeful signs are happening at least 25 years later than they should have happened. Can we still prevent dangerous climate change? Twenty-five years of market failure and political failure have made it a very close call now, again IMO.

    We should have started getting serious from about 1990. To me, 1990 does not seem all that long ago. It’s a shock to realise it’s 25 years ago and it represents 25 wasted years so far as climate action goes.* Let us hope we can make of the ground of 1/4 of a century of lamentable inaction.

    * Note: At least the years were not wasted in terms of technical advances in solar power and wind power. This might help save us yet.

  2. I think one of the of the most important things to note about marriage equality is that it only needs to be done once. You legislate marriage equality (I have been told off for calling it same sex marriage, as that excludes transgender and intersex people) and then it’s legal. Decisions to help refugees, indigenous Australians and others need to be made over and over again, with uncertain results. Apart from the (very minor) risk of bringing forward the end of days, the consequences of marriage equality are crystal clear. And if we do it today, it need never be a distraction again.

  3. If the ALP had done something about negative gearing, and/or the current mob in the last budget, the bubble could have been contained to mere above-CPI growth. Instead, it is borrowed money chasing borrowed money in a game of musical chairs. No-one wants to admit it, bar one treasury guy who has most likely been quietly reprimanded.

    Apart from reining in negative gearing (and getting rid of FHOG, a Howard and Costello loan-inflator measure), the issue of high immigration into established cities needs some careful thinking done, for it is one of the drivers of rapid price growth (outside of bubble and the bubble-logic of chasing short term capital growth instead of being content to consider long term). I don’t know how we convince people to settle into other smaller towns and cities—apart from providing a supply of jobs and services—but something of substance and of a permanent nature needs doing. Piling on infrastructure development in the densely populated CBDs and inner suburbs is not good investment, as it provides a short term improvement in conditions, followed by a longer term exacerbation of the problems the investment was meant to address. Putting in bigger arterial pathways to a city CBD is a standard example of such mis-placed investment. No doubt that’s what the LNP will do, of course.

  4. @Robertito
    Exactly. Marriage between two people at or above the age of consent. What could be simpler, and yet we have taken all this time and argument over something that is trivially solved. I feel I have no business dictating to any other couple how they live, so long as it is lawful; if it makes a couple happier to be married, then again, I really have no business butting in and saying, “Hang on a minute, you aren’t a man and a woman, so nick off.” As far as I’m concerned, if two people find love and want to express it through the public act of marriage, I say go for it. In fact, I couldn’t care less if marriage is simply defined as being among people at or above the age of consent”; I’m perfectly comfortable with that as well (not with me personally, to be clear 🙂 )

    We seem keener to go to war than to let people be happy together, in marriage. Odd value system, that.

  5. @Donald Oats
    Don, they won’t do anything about negative gearing even despite the myriad of evidence to suggest it doesn’t serve its purpose. Too much of the electorate engage in it so there’s some serious political capital at stake. What’s more, too many members of parliament engage in it. IIRC the current treasurer has 3 properties negative geared?
    I really don’t know what can be done about property prices. There are many contributing factors at play. It’s substantially increasing the wealth of many Australians, but it’s also probably adding more to societal inequality than any other factor right now. The wealthier areas generally appear to be rising at a faster rate and first home buyers are being pushed further and further out from CBDs with travel times increasing and public transport becoming more loaded.
    It would be nice if someone had the political capital and will to seriously look at land taxes perhaps?

  6. @Troy Prideaux

    When the housing bubble collapses it will seriously destroy wealth or perhaps I should call it “wealth”. Once the bubble collapses, the cycle can be seen for what it is; a wealth transfer cycle not a wealth creation cycle.

  7. @Troy Prideaux
    “The Chinese are everywhere willing to pay whatever it takes…”

    How about the Americans and the English? Just because they are a white banker doesn’t mean that the money is not being laundered. I would suggest we look past the exterior here. I would much rather have an artistic, creative, hard working, Chinese neighbour, than a boring banker next door, no matter where they hail from.

  8. A snippet from an article seen on “charteredaccountants.com.au” about real estate:

    What is certain is that house prices have recently been falling. At the start of this year, house prices weakened. According to the Australian Property Monitors, house prices fell 0.6 per cent in the March quarter, with falls in most capital cities. Melbourne was flat and Canberra rose just 0.2 per cent. But even those who argue our houses are signifi cantly overvalued and in bubble territory are reluctant to say the falls signal an imminent crash.

    Christopher says he is looking at the current falls as a correction rather than a crash. But he says the question is not whether we are in a bubble, but what would trigger a signifi cant housing price crash in this country. Christopher says it could be triggered by a number of factors including a signifi cant increase in the cost of debt, banks rationing access to debt, a slump in employment triggered by weakness in China and commodities and building oversupply (he says we don’t have that except for pockets of south-east Queensland).

    “If all those variables turned negative it would create a significant and sizeable crash in this country,” Christopher says. “At the moment we don’t have all factors working against us. A number are working for us. At the moment it’s a correction, we don’t see it as a big housing price crash.”

    That was written in 2011.

    I’ve been completely wrong for 11 years in a row calling the Australian housing bubble unsustainable and ‘about to suffer a serious correction’.

    Now I tend to the idea that rather than a “crash” there will be a looooong flat period where people are spending more to buy than they would to rent and are getting nothing in return apart from a feeling of smug superiority.

  9. @Megan

    There is such a thing as fundamentals. When the market is higher than fundamentals then it can’t stay up there indefinitely. However, our housing bubble shows it can stay up there a long time, even for decades.

    The fundamentals for housing must be income to service the debt or income to service the rent. I found a graph at wealthfoundations which show Aust and the US shared a dwelling price to (annual) income ratio of 2 to 1 in 1986. USA peaked at about 2.5 to 1 before the GFC and then went down below 2 to 1 by 2011 where this graph ends. Australia however went up to 4.5 to 1 until the GFC brought it back down to a little under 4 to 1.

    The latest data shows Sydney house prices running at about 6.5 to 1 (price to annual income ratio). Melbourne is at about 5.6 to 1 (reading off a slighly fuzzy graph.)

    The historical data before 1980 shows a ratio of about 2 to 1 is the “historical norm”. What’s changed since 1980? Well, the monetarist-neoliberal method of managing the economy has taken hold. Also households went from having maybe about 1 income earner per household to about 1.65 income earners per household today.

    Overall, I think we have a house price bubble but I too have given up predicting the crash. Personally, I hope it crashes badly, crashes soon and crushes all the negative gearers. Negative gearers are rentiers and morally deserve to suffer for their greed and the way they make the poor and the young suffer high prices and high rents.

  10. @Tim Macknay
    That almost takes away the point of voting the current mob out, if Shorten isn’t going to differentiate himself in some meaningful way.

  11. @Tim Macknay

    What David said, except without the word “almost”.

    Margaret Kimberley has a good piece on ‘Black Agenda Report’ – in the US context – equally applicable to our ALP/LNP:

    …Why then do millions of people who think of themselves as progressives or left wing end up giving money, time and votes to people and organizations who continually flunk the litmus test? Some fear the status of “spoiler” even as the Democrats do less and less for their constituents. Some are opportunists who want to get a piece of the action. Others engage in fantasy and live in hope that the scoundrels will suddenly become ethical.

    There is another very dangerous dynamic at work. Many people don’t want to find themselves outside of the popular narratives about America. They want to be included in the myth of a good and great country. They pin their hopes on someone they find acceptable standing atop a heap that is inherently corrupt.

    How many people who start out opposing the system really want to get rid of it and how many just want to be a part of it? There is always someone advising the resister to be “reasonable,” “pragmatic” or “realistic” and cling to the Democrats no matter what they do.

    If people loudly refuse to stop unconditionally backing the faux opposition it will not just force them to fix their broken policies, it will also drag the LNP back toward something more closely resembling the “centre”. But only if there is a real political incentive to do so.

    Blind support for the ALP and parroting the “least bad” meme is worse for this country than having the LNP in its current incarnation running the place.

  12. @Megan

    I agree. We have to vote Green or Socialist. After all, if 51% vote Green on a two party preferred basis we pretty soon will have a Green government. If we keep electing LNP and ALP governments in flip-flop fashion NOTHING substantial will EVER change. They are both totally wedded to neoliberal ideology and complete sellouts to their capitalist masters.

  13. @J-D

    For sure, but I would argue they can’t remain irrational forever compared to fundamentals except perhaps with perverse incentives and subsidies.

  14. The cuts to science, education, and health which the Abbott government said it wouldn’t do if it were elected were clear broken promises, a metaphorical two-finger salute to Australians.

    The argument about revocation of citizenship is another level altogether. It reveals the PM Tony Abbott as someone who wants more power and wants it now: he wants the freedom to determine who he deems a non-citizen, with scarce restraint, on the hearsay of intelligence agencies. The notion of proof, presumption of innocence, and a judicial process to determine guilt or innocence, has been cast aside.

    It is tyrannical.

  15. Just read a good piece about the subtle (?) erosion of academic freedom on “CounterPunch“.

    Short extract:

    In 2008, Frank Donoghue, an English professor at Ohio State University, published The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities. Donoghue says, and I agree, that being a professor is still a great job—it affords status, decent pay, autonomy, control over one’s work, and a measure of democratic control over one’s workplace—but today the job is being degraded by the drive for greater managerial control of the university. Professors, especially at the middle and lower tiers of academia, are thus ceasing to be the self-directed, curiosity-driven intellectual workers they once were, or could have been. Despite the undeniable corporatization of the university, when I first read Donoghue’s book I thought he was being alarmist. Now I think he was too cautious.

  16. Good old reliable ALP!

    Australians will miss out on a modest tax cut next month after Labor agreed to support the Abbott government in scrapping it, saving the budget $3 billion.

    The Coalition has been trying to dump the legislated tax cut – a remnant of Labor’s carbon tax compensation package – since the 2014 budget, arguing it was unaffordable.

    “This wasn’t an easy decision for the Labor Party,” Mr Bowen told reporters in Sydney on Saturday.

    The cuts would have increased the tax-free threshold from $18,200 to $19,400, saving low-income earners about $91 a year and high-income earners about $13 a year.

    Screwing the poor. Classy.

  17. @Megan
    Yeah, this is insane. My comment in The Guardian on it is here. Colour me cynical, but I am afraid that since Abbott won on an irredeemably negative campaign and resolutely dissembling throughout, we now have a democrazy, where being honest and fair-minded is a recipe for being permanently the opposition party.

    So far, the ALP have been tools of the LNP, passing morally repugnant bills with barely a whisper, while debating or blocking the odd budget measure that the LNP could not care less about. The ALP need to hire in some campaign specialists if they want a shot at the next election—or the one after that.

  18. Good to see Gillian Triggs has decided to go down fighting. Both major parties have participated in seriously eroding the rule of law, and the rights of humans to freely do lawful things. I’ve already expressed my objections to these Draconian “laws” which are not laws in the judicial sense: they cede that to the capricious whims of little Ceasars with idle minds.

  19. Is anyone else waiting with bated breath to see who else Tony can convince to accept knighthoods?

    Chief justices are a traditional choice and there’s one in queensland who’ll be retiring soon.

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