23 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. It would be a great pity if the turmoil in the LNP couldn’t be turned to the advantage of the Australian people.
    My hope would be that this neoliberal scarcity view got put behind us. It has dominated our discourse since the days of Keating.
    Given that we are a currency issuing nation, we have no compelling need to balance the budget and return to surplus.
    Our compelling need is to look after and benefit our people.
    We can do that as long as we don’t cause pressure on scarce resources.
    It’s a great pity that the ALP shows no interest in adopting this path. In this they remain neolib-lite and ignore the possibility of social and societal improvement that are essentially there for the taking.

  2. I just read Annabel Crabb’s article on Julie Bishop – exploring Bishop’s reply to the question of if the Liberal Party would ever bring itself to elect a popular female leader. Bishop – “When we find one, I’m sure we will.” Crabb took that crypticism to mean “when we find the popular female leader’, with an unstated “I fit that description” subtext. I rather thought Bishop meant “when we find a Liberal Party”! It could be correct either way, which is what clever language can do.

    Now, being clever with language is fun, but I prefer politicians to make it clear what they mean – rather than the more usual use of language by them to obfuscate what they mean.

    I’ve struggled to figure out this Bishop, but tend towards thinking she keeps mouth closed and avoids being pinned down on crucial issues like the fractious climate and energy. But this is precisely the issue where I want to know what our representatives are thinking and what policies they actually support. Around the time she became Abbott’s deputy she publish an opinion piece likening harsh criticism of climate science deniers with restrictions on free speech and political correctness gone too far. She still got through without ever saying whether she actually agreed with them or not, but it was certainly implied that she did – and I came away thinking that such a timely public defense of climate science deniers was a consequence of Abbott finding her fence sitting unacceptable and if she wanted any serious positions in his ministry, she had to demonstrate clearly and publicly that she was on side.

    Likely I read too much into these things – but our commentariat routinely read too much into things, very often, like Crabb, not the same things that I read into them.

  3. “But this is precisely the issue where I want to know what our representatives are thinking and what policies they actually support.”

    Bishop was a member of cabinet and was obliged to publicly support the decisions made by the cabinet. That is the convention on both sides of politics in Australia. You may kick and scream and pull hair in a cabinet meeting, but once policy is set, your job is to sell it and say that you support it.

    Non-cabinet members have a freer hand, but unless they are a popular maverick, they risk losing pre-selection at the next election.

    I think it is naive to think that we will ever know what politicians are really thinking and what they really support. In any event, it is what people do, not what they think, that matters.

  4. Conclusive argument on neoliberalism as problem not cure, Rog.
    “But what we have seen instead is the transformation of post-war democratic capitalism from a system of wealth-creation to one of wealth extraction.”

    But what of capitalism itself as problem?
    “Given the urgency of climate change the debate we ought to be having is about how to develop a political economic strategy with ecology at its very core.”

  5. South Africa: common sense has, it seems, finally defeated the nuclear and coal lobbies. A new planning document from the Ministry of Energy opens the door to 15 GW of new renewables by 2030 against 1 GW new coal, and envisages heavy retirements of old coal plants by 2040. The overall mix will still be coal-heavy in 2030, but by then renewables will be so much cheaper that old coal will surely come under heavy cost pressure. (****cleantechnica.com/2018/08/28/south-africa-drops-nuclear-in-favour-of-renewables).

    In other good news, electric cars continue to boom in China, Europe and the USA, the three markets that really matter. . Europe has passed its first million EVs on the road, behind China but ahead of the US. (****https://cleantechnica.com/2018/08/27/european-electric-car-sales-increased-42-in-h1-2018-vs-h1-2017). Chinese EV sales spiked at 5% in May, and should end up over 3% for the year (****https://cleantechnica.com/2018/08/26/chinas-electric-car-sales-up-64-in-july/). As with wind and solar, relative growth at this pace shifts lobbying power away from incumbents towards innovators, creating a positive feedback loop for policy support.

    A large new study carried out in China confirms cognitive damage to children from air pollution. That’s on top of all the data on respiratory and heart disease and cancer. (****cleantechnica.com/2018/08/28/new-study-finds-air-pollution-lowers-intelligence).

  6. Solar prices: trade website PVInsights reports that the wholesale price for plain vanilla polysilicon modules (presumably fob Asian ports) has reached 25 US cents per watt. a milestone wort mentioning. Higher quality modules such as monosilicon naturally cost a little more, up to 32 cents per watt. But the domestic prices inside China are a few cents lower. (****pvinsights.com, regularly updated, no on-site archive).

    The EU is aparentlt about to abandon its doomed attempt to rescue the tiny European pv module manufacturing industry with protective tariffs. Europe already has successful exporters of pv manufacturing equipment, and successful international solar project developers. These seem to have out-lobbied the losers. (****cleantechnica.com/2018/08/28/eu-could-move-to-scrap-import-controls-on-chinese-solar-by-september)

  7. “The 200 square metre array was installed in just one day by a team of five people. No other energy solution is as lightweight, as quick to manufacture, or as easy to install on this scale.” …
    “As a result, these modules cost less than A$10 per square metre when manufactured at scale. This means it would take only 2-3 years to become cost-competitive with other technologies, even at efficiencies of only 2-3%.””
    And soon we will have a printed roll to take home and drape iver my shed roof. I suggest Bunnings will print from picture taken with a measuring scale. “Yes Mr Teeth, here is your 4kw roll. Would you like install and inverter with that?” “No, as i am running only low voltage in the gran ( ma or pa) flat. I’ll be in next week for the powered tent fly”. Good. Bye. Coal.

  8. The PC report on inequality in Australia is revealing. Over 3 decades inequality has increased very slightly but this is good news because the prosperity of almost all Australians has been lifted by sustained economic growth. As the AFR editorializes today, the rhetoric of Labor in Australia, mostly borrowed from the US experience, is utterly bogus when applied to Australia. Our transfer system and progressive income tax has prevented inequality from becoming an issue here.

    Tough for Australia’s saviours of the downtrodden majority to give up on the myths but it is about time.

  9. But that same PC report laments the fact that those in social housing tend to remain there, that jobs are avoided because the extra income will eventually find them ineligible for social housing.

  10. “Our transfer system and progressive income tax has prevented inequality from becoming an issue here”

    That depends on what you mean by “issue.” If enough people care and it changes their vote then it is an issue. Bill Shorten, who seems to have a finely-tuned political antenna, says it’s an issue.

  11. @Harry Clarke – What was the starting premise of this report? I would imagine that the levels of inequality that exist in Australia already radically differ from popular perceptions about income and wealth distributions.

  12. Harry,

    the fact that you issue your verdict on the day the PC report is released, without it being subject to any public critique and presumably without you having done your own rigorous analysis, suggests you’re a culture warrior.

    Plenty of people fall through the cracks of our skimpy and increasingly harsh welfare system and we now know that we have a vast army of the working poor who don’t get paid their minimum legal entitlements.

    A crude quantitative exercise, such as that conducted by the PC, doesn’t tell the whole story.

    In any event, if inequality hasn’t increased, I want to know why it hasn’t fallen. Why do thousands of poor families struggle to pay the bills and put food on the table while our crooked plutocrats and uber capitalists have more money than they could spend in a dozen lifetimes.

  13. Hugo, In fact the day after – it has been widely discussed including in the AFR this morning. It is not a new study = not a “crude quantitative exercise” – but reviews the evidence. It is worthy of comment that rather than attempting to refute the report – presumably you cannot – you cite somewhat who quotes the report as a “culture warrior”. Also interesting that you prefer your own prejudices and priors to a serious review of the evidence.

  14. This seems a strong argument for continued wage protections and unions. Compared with the US, which affords fewer protections for the lower income earners, Australians are doing OK. Not as good as Germany, but OK.

  15. Australian workers do OK compared to the US but as the Fair Wok Ombudsman has found, if you work in certain industries or for a franchisee, you will most probably be screwed by the boss.

    I can also say from secondhand experience (my partner), even if you are underpaid ~ $50K, our dysfunctional legal system means you are probably better off copping it on the chin.

    I’m also told by social worker friends at Centrelink that plenty of people are falling through the cracks of our increasingly draconian welfare system.

  16. Genuine question (or a request for opinion) wrt to the PC report and Harry Clarke’s comment. Would paying substantially more for a house or somewhat more for good fruit and vegetables (*) count as increasing prosperity because we measure everything in dollar value? Both in that report and economics in general.
    (* Not sure fruit and veg have actually gone up, but seems like they have. And overall costs for basic necessities do seem to have gone up in real terms.)

  17. I was reading the CV of the newest LNP wunderkind, Angus Taylor, struck me that there must have been some cloning process going on and some very definite selection parameters operating for Rhodes Scholarships. No wonder they are thrashing about bereft of ideas or any rapport with the average Australian.

  18. “some very definite selection parameters operating for Rhodes Scholarships”

    It’s quite simple. At the interview, demonstrate a genuine nostalgia for Rhodesia.

  19. This seems a strong argument for continued wage protections and unions.

    All profit is rent: either we distribute access-to-rent equitably, or people die in gutters.

    [under perfect-competition models, the cost of a good/service is the market-clearing price is the marginal cost of production… which is less than the actual cost of production, inevitably. For a participant’s incomings to exceed their outgoings necc-but-not-suff for competition to be limited.]

    We chose between socialism, dirigisme, or starvation. Which means we pick where the deadweight costs lie: in state inefficiency, private corruption, or vast losses of human capital. I can make cases for the first or second.

  20. PS on electric vehicles: Bloomberg, counting buses with cars, say that 4 million electric vehicles are now on the world’s roads. The last million were added in six months. That makes almost 5,500 sold a day, or one every 15 seconds. It probably took you 10 seconds to read this (50 words at 300 wpm). (*****greentechmedia.com/articles/read/total-global-passenger-ev-sales-to-hit-4-million-this-week)

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