Reciprocating Hanson’s boycott (reposted from 2017)

I posted this in 2017. Not many people agreed with me, but I think my positiion has been justified by events. Hanson and One Nation have no legitimate place in public life.

Apparently, Pauline Hanson and One Nation are refusing to vote for any government legislation until the government intervenes on the side of canegrowers in a dispute with millers and marketers*

Coincidentally, I was considering the question of how to deal with Hanson’s presence in the Senate and came up with the opposite way of implementing the current situation. The major parties should refuse Hanson’s support, and should show this by having four Senators abstain on any bill where One Nation supports their side. Obviously, this isn’t going to happen with the LNP. However rude they may be about Hanson and other ONP members when they say something particularly appalling, ONP is effectively part of the coalition and is being treated as such.

But for Labor, I think the case for shunning One Nation is strong. The arguments for a complete rejection of One Nation’s racism are obvious. The costs would be

(i) In votes where Xenophon went with the LNP and Hanson with Labor and the Greens, this would turn a win into a loss (I think – can someone check)

(ii) Open hostility to One Nation would probably shift some ONP voters to change their second preferences

I don’t think either of these points have a lot of weight. But the self-styled Labor “hardheads” whose brilliant moves have included putting Family First into Parliament and abolishing optional preferential voting in Queensland, just when would help Labor most, will doubtless disagree.

* These disputes have been going on for decades, reflecting the fact that, because sugarcane is costly to transport, growers are very limited in their choice of mills, and millers similarly depend on a relatively small number of growers to keep them in business.. I haven’t looked into the merits of this one

The case for higher wages

I’m a signatory of a public letter on the benefits of stronger wage growth this morning, organized by the Centre for Future Work. In support of the letter, I said

For decades, government policy has been designed to weaken unions and push wages down. It’s time to put that process into reverse.

A list of all the signers is at this web site: https://www.futurework.org.au/wages_open_letter. That site also contains a media release that was distributed to reporters this morning, and additional quotations in support

Media coverage of the letter includes:

An article by Stephen Long at ABC: and

An article by Amy Remeikis in the Guardian:

The editors of the AFR mentioned the letter in the course of an editorial reaffirming the virtues of trickledown economics:

And AFR columnist Richard Denniss also mentioned the letter in his column.

You can also look at the Twitter feed for @CntrFutureWork (eg.https://twitter.com/CntrFutureWork/status/1107776026367520769),

Ultra low wage growth isn’t accidental. It is the intended outcome of government policies (updated)

That’s the headline for my latest piece in The Conversation, my contribution to a three-part series mini-symposium on Wages, Unemployment and Underemployment presented by The Conversation and the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia.

Key quote

For more than forty years, both the architecture of labour market regulation and the discretionary choices of governments have been designed with the precise objective of holding wages down. These policies have been highly successful.

Update: Paul Krugman has a recent piece in the New York Times, also making the point that technological progress isn’t responsible for the falling wage share.

Closed borders

Reversing its position for the second time in about a week, the Morrison government has refused entry to Milo Yiannopoulos, known, among other things, as a promoter of “ironic” Nazi trolling of the kind practised by the Christchurch murderer, whose actions he implicitly endorsed, describing the victims as practising a “barbaric and evil “religion.

This isn’t a free speech issue: Yiannopoulos’ repulsive statements are still freely published here, and there has been no attempt to suppress them. If he were in Britain (his home country), the thorny question of “no-platforming” would arise.

Since he wants to come to Australia, however, the issue is simply one of freedom of movement. Yiannopoulos is a supporter of closing borders to large groups of people of whom he and his political allies disapprove. It seems entirely fair that this policy should be applied to him and others like him, before being considered more generally.

We should extend the ban on Yiannopoulos and apply it to any foreigner belonging to an organization or social media group that wants to close borders on the grounds that particular religious and ethnic groups are undesirable, present risks of terrorism and so forth. It’s grimly obvious that Yiannopoulos and his fellow racists are just such an undesirable and potentially dangerous group.


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The student strike and the social compact

Large numbers of school students have gone on strike today to protest about global inaction on climate change. This action has been met with a lot of huffing and puffing to the effect that students should stay in school and leave politics to adults.

Ideally, this would be the correct view. Part of the social compact of democracy is that the adult voting population should take account not only of their own interests but those of children who currently can’t vote and of future generations.

For those who have dependent children of their own, this isn’t a very demanding requirement. There’s no sharp distinction between your children’s interests and your own.

For older voters, the social compact is a bit more demanding. They cannot benefit directly from policies that make the world better for today’s and tomorrow’s children (a group that may or may not include their grandchildren). But they are morally obliged not to vote selfishly, taking advantage of the fact that they are enfranchised, while the young are not.

Sadly, the last few years have seen numerous instances where a majority of the old have violated this social compact. They have voted against the interests of the young out of a mixture of self-interest and cantankerous dislike of change, on climate change, Brexit and support for reactionary demagogues like Trump.

Having been let down by their elders, young people are fully justified in protesting against them, and ignoring their hypocritical expressions of concern about missing out on education.


Why is carbon pricing so hard?

I’ve just published a piece in Aeon (an excellent and free online magazine) drawing on the analysis in my (about to be published) book Economics in Two Lessons. I make the case that carbon pricing, whether through a tax of an emissions trading scheme, is the most cost-effective way to stabilize the global climate. Moreover, it’s straightforward to offset any adverse effects on low-income earners, displaced workers and others.

That raises the obvious question: if carbon pricing is so good, why is it so hard to implement, compared to less efficient alternatives like mandatory renewable targets. One factor, which I discuss, is that the creation of property rights over previously open-access resources creates obvious, and often powerful losers.

I was limited by space, so I couldn’t discuss the more puzzling problem of why regulations are more politically salable than prices even in the absence of income effects.

Is Queensland different?

It seems to be taken for granted in political commentary, particularly on the political right, that the Liberal and National Parties face a geographical problem in which pro-coal policies are an electoral loser in wealthy city seats in Sydney and Melbourne, but a winner in Queensland, and particularly in regional Queensland. The key issues are the proposed Adani coal mine and the idea of a publicly-funded coal-fired power station.

No one seems to have mentioned an obvious problem with this analysis. Queensland held a state election in 2017, in which the Adani proposal was a key issue. Labor won easily, holding the regional seats where Adani was supposed to create thousands of jobs, and picking up seats in the south-east corner.

Following the election, the state government announced that it would set up a publicly-owned renewable generator (rather unimaginatively called CleanCo). It remains well ahead in the opinion polls (53-47 as of last November)

Obviously, not everyone is happy. The mining division of the CFMMEU has joined the Queensland Resources Council to campaign for Adani. But there’s no sign that this move has had any real impact on public opinion.

The great majority of Australians accept mainstream science and want action on climate change. Denialism is a loser everywhere, including in Queensland. It’s only a winner with the right wing “base” amounting to perhaps 20 per cent of the population, but dominant within the Liberal and National parties.