NEGative on NEG

I’ve just joined 22 other Australian energy researchers in calling for the release of the modelling used to justify the Abbott-Turnbull government’s National Energy Guarantee. Until this is out in the open, state and federal Labor should have nothing to do with the NEG. I am confident that, once the modelling is released, it will quickly be shown to be so weak as to provide no support for this camel of a policy, designed to placate both the Abbott denialists and the business lobby who want a soft policy but can see that they can’t win with denialism. The letter is at

A bit more of the iceberg

Just a day after this post on wrongdoing in the pursuit of the government’s anti-union agenda comes the news that the AFP is liaising with the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions about whether charges should be laid over leaks from Federal Jobs Minister Michaelia Cash’s office about raids on the Australian Workers Union. It remains to be seen whether charges will be laid – if so, it will be a breach of the normal protocol under which unionists are charged in the most trivial cases, while business owners and politicians are almost invariably let off.

A striking, and closely related, example was Human Services Minister Alan Tudge’s release, to a friendly journalist, of the social security files of a blogger who had complained about the department. This contrasts notably with the routine invocation of “client privacy” when the Department is accused of wrongdoing and wants to avoid responding.

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A small win in the class war

The comprehensive drubbing received by the LNP in yesterday’s by-elections has a number of implications. It’s another effective repudiation of the absurd literalism of the High Court: candidates claimed by the Court to be ineligible to represent us due to supposed dual loyalties have yet again been re-elected after jumping through the required hoops.  Meanwhile, a number of Parliamentarians whose paperwork met the Court’s absurd standards, but who were shown to be actual agents of foreign influence, have been forced out by public pressure rather than court rulings.

More importantly, though, it’s a defeat for the Turnbull government’s class war agenda, including huge tax cuts for companies and upper income earners, attacks on Shorten’s union background, and the nomination of hereditary member Georgina Downer in the family property of Mayo.  Labor campaigned successfully on the theme of “money for hospitals, not banks”. As a result, the government is now facing internal pressure to drop the tax cuts for big business that have not yet been legislated.

A side effect is that speculation about the Labor leadership has been killed off. Before Saturday, poll results were suggesting that Labor would win narrowly with Shorten, but easily with Albanese. However, to the extent that Albanese was positioning himself for a run, it was on the basis of unconditional surrender in the class war. Clearly, that would have implied a very different campaign to the one that actually worked for Labor.

The tip of the iceberg

The pursuit of wrongdoing by unions and union officials by the Abbott-Turnbull government has been highly successful in producing evidence of wrongdoing. The problem is that the wrongdoing has been that of the pursuers, not the pursued. Some examples

* The forced resignation of Australian Building and Construction Commission chairman Nigel Hadkiss, after he was found to have breached the Act he was supposed to be enforcing

* Two separate cases in which the Australian Federal Police were forced to compensate the CFMEU and its officials for unlawful seizure of documents, wrongful arrest and other offences

* A string of failed prosecutions of union officials, many of them obviously involving an abuse of process. The classic was one dismissed by the judge in which an official was charged for “having a cup of tea with a mate

* The forced resignation of Michaela Cash’s senior media ­adviser David De Garis over an improper tipoff to the media regarding an equally improper AFP raid on the AWU

* The finding that Trade Union Royal Commission star witness Kathy Jackson misappropriated union funds, the very offence for which she had previously appeared as a whistleblower

But this is just, as Commissioner Dyson Heydon might say, the tip of the iceberg. It’s pretty clear that a more comprehensive inquiry would reveal extensive wrongdoing by senior ministers, and just about everyone involved in the Commission.

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Alphabet soup of denialism

In the last week we’ve had reports on the future of the electricity system from the ACCC, AEMO and ESB.  These acronymic bodies all share in the responsibility for the mess we find ourselves in today. Their reports are not only inconsistent with each other in critical respects, but internally incoherent.

The one thing they have in common is that they all assume that Australia should do nothing more about climate change. In this, they are reflecting the Trumpist views of our  government, restated more elegantly by its vapid frontman, Malcolm Turnbull.

The idea that these denialist policies could somehow represent a solution to the dispute over energy policy in Australia is bizarre. When and if the Trumpists are defeated, we will need a radical increase in ambition. A carbon price should be part of this, but the policy disasters of the last five years mean that much more drastic action will be needed.

The only benefit of the last week’s output is to remind us that the entire alphabet soup of bodies running our failing energy season needs to be tipped down the drain and replaced with a publicly owned grid, and a radical transformation of electricity generation, phasing out coal as rapidly as possible.

Some big news …

… least for me. Princeton University Press has agreed to publish my book, Economics in Two Lessons: Why Markets Work and Why they can Fail so Badly. I’ve been working on it for seven years, but it’s finally done. It should be published in the first half of 2019.

Stay tuned for news on a possible Australian edition.

What I’ve been writing in the last seven years or so (Part 1)

Now that I’ve finished a draft manuscript of my book, Economics in Two Lessons, I’m getting around to jobs I’ve been putting off for a long time (I started the book in 2011), such as updating my CV. At the moment, I’m working on publications in Internet outlets such as Aeon, The Conversation and the ABC’s (sadly departed now), The Drum.  I’ve listed  a bunch over the fold. The titles are mostly self-explanatory, so please take a look at any that seem likely to be interesting. If you’re so inclined, please comment.

There are plenty more to come, as and when I get free time and the inclination.

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