Monday Message Board

Another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please. If you would like to receive my (hopefully) regular email news, please sign up using the following link You can also follow me on Twitter @JohnQuiggin, at my Facebook public page   and at my Economics in Two Lessons page

28 thoughts on “Monday Message Board

  1. The benefit-cost analysis of new dams seems to escape the attention of politicians lining up to permanently ruin waterways. It is laughable that the next dam to be built will be built near Tamworth. This is meant to improve water security for the whole New England area in the next drought. Meanwhile over near Inverell the already built Copeton Dam remains one of the largest inland dams in NSW. It can hold 1,345,000 megalitres of water when full to capacity. That is almost three times the water in Sydney Harbor. In the current drought Copeton Dam is down to less than nine percent capacity. Without significant rainfall the Copeton Dam will not hold enough megalitres at the end of this water year.
    Why then build yet another dam in the region? If the Copeton Dam cannot do the job then simply adding another dam will not improve water security. WaterNSW already manages 21 storage dams in NSW of which 11 are major dams. Combined these dams can hold 2.6 megalitres of water when at full capacity. Currently they hold 1.26 megalitres of water.
    Water security must concentrate on water theft not on idealistic schemes to catch more nonexistent rainfall.

  2. The storage solution to intermittency of water supply – build more dams – is being pushed hard by minister for water resources, David Littleproud. Like most simplistic solutions I suspect that it is overstated and overly simplistic, although, in this case, with added political opportunities for shifting blame for water woes onto environmentalists – always a plus for the current crop of conservatives. (The parallels in the politicking with climate and energy do come to mind, but may be at least in part, a consequence of my perspective.)

    I had thought the major dams we do have were supposed to be sufficient for most expected droughts. Are we looking at especially poor water management or (ordinary) exceptional drought – or “ordinary” drought exacerbated to exceptional by climate change and the real exceptional droughts will be even worse? Is there really much opportunity for more major dam building?

    I had thought our previous planners took full advantage of the best locations when major dam building was undertaken and any additional storage is likely to be second best, ie have less/less reliable catchment and cost much more to get similar amounts of storage. And are we seeing existing state owned storage effectively being used to maintain water levels in (government subsidised) private dams of major irrigators?

    More questions than answers but I am interested to hear (hopefully better informed) commentary.

    Far from being something in some distant future I think the viability of agriculture – and therefore of rural communities – is already being impacted by climate change. I wonder if some inland communities will not survive this current drought in their current form (we still aren’t seeing a strong el Nino subtract yet more from rainfall – I shudder to think how that might play out). It looks like more corporate agriculture buying out family farms, perhaps managing what they take over Kidman style (having multiple geographically diverse properties and shifting stock or cropping to follow rainfall) whilst taking full advantage of their lobbying power to remake the water rules in their favour.

    I have long thought the worst problems arising from climate change will come from a human mismanagement multiplier, even more harm than from climate impacts directly, and wonder if that is what we are seeing now.

  3. PM’s office “leaks” ministerial talking points: Guardian’s fact checking shows all issues have misleading responses—designed to mislead. The ol’ lies, damn lies, and statistics. Voters aren’t the problem here, it is well and truly the political class that are the problem. Furthermore, if a minister is asked something that is well and truly outside their brief, I’d rather they state that, than feed back a misleading talking point. Do ministers need talking points on areas outside their brief? And more importantly, do they need the PM’s office to be feeding them what to say *about issues in their own portfolios?* Are their own advisers incompetent, or are the ministers so incompetent that they don’t have a handle on their own portfolios?

    All rhetorical questions, no talking points required.

  4. Dams are like batteries, they are storage devices to even out irregularities between supply and demand. Unfortunately, the supply to these dams has stopped and building more dams just won’t make the wind blow, the sun shine or rain fall from the skies.

  5. Unsurprising given the long running low rent conduct of Australian water policy, politicians don’t even bother to distinguish between modest investment in small dams intended to secure water supply for country towns (often sensible) and expensive large dams intended for further misplaced adventures in irrigation. That they continue to get away with this is an expression of journalistic laziness of the worst possible sort.

  6. We need a brake on facial recognition. And surveillance laws.

    “Professor Chandran said the best system NIST found, from a dataset of about 12 million individuals, was incorrect for every one in 1,000 tests on average.” [see NIST “woops” below]

    And 20yrs of academics contacts. 

    And NONE of you can tell us if you are subject to or know of a warrant…

    “”Snowden – from a cryptograher’s pov. 
    “Looking back at the Snowden revelations [1]

    [1]…” At very least, it’s clear that something is very, very wrong”… Yet in Australia  … [2] “HOW MUCH OF THIS WILL BE PUBLIC in Australia? Almost none of it.”.

    [1] “…Snowden’s leaks, I think the question we should be asking ourselves is very different. Namely: “What did the Snowden leaks tell us about modern surveillance capabilities? And what did we learn about our ability to defend against them?”

    “…the world has continued to get more complicated — the technical concerns that Snowden alerted us to are only getting more salient….”the things he showed us were remarkable”

    Then – woops.
    …”Not only does it appear that the NSA deliberately backdoored Dual EC, it seems that they did so (and used NIST) in order to deploy the backdoor into U.S. security products. …  (Just to make everything a bit more horrifying, Juniper’s Dual EC backdoor would later be hijacked and turned against the United States by unknown hackers — illustrating exactly how reckless this all was.)

    “… this raises huge questions about what the hell is actually going on here. There are theories. These may or may not be correct, but at least now people are thinking about them. At very least, it’s clear that something is very, very wrong.”

    And Australia now has…

    [2] “The controversial Assistance and Access Bill was 176 pages long, then 67 pages of amendments were rushed through in the final hours of debate.


    …” Technical Assistance Requests (TAR), which are “voluntary” requests, but which have been described by experts as the most dangerous of the three because there was less oversight, at least in the original version of the law.

    “ASIS can also ask for assistance in relation to “the interests of Australia’s foreign relations or the interests of Australia’s national economic well-being”…. 

    JQ, as I read your op – “will be rolling back extreme surveillance powers” ; 

    JQ, I have to ask (bravely or foolishly?!) 
    – does this OP need updating in relation to Australia?

     [3] JQ said…”We forgot to tell you we were tapping your metadata

    “Unfortunately, the environment has changed since the revelations made by Edward Snowden and others on the extensive (and, in aspiration, total) surveillance of communications by the US NSA. It seems likely that the end result of this will be a rolling back of the extreme surveillance powers grabbed by the authorities over the last decade.”



    [3] I agree with commenter in JQ’s thread Jim Birch:
    Jim Birch said:
    “Exactly what use this data could be put to is the debate we are not having. Really, if you were writing the constitution today, that’s just the sort of stuff that should go in. A blanket no monitoring” approach is naive and historically quaint.”

    Update August 2019 in relation to academics… is this ‘chilling’ academics and sources???

    [4] “Australian metadata laws put confidential interviews at risk, with no protections for research

    …”For academic researchers, no such warrants are required. So, metadata requests about confidential interviewees would sit among the 300,000-plus requests made annuallyby agencies.

    “The issue is at least on the radar of some university research ethics committees.”

    And where would you get 20yrs – twenty years – worth of data on academics?

    [5] The ANU hack came down to a single email — here’s what we know – A massive cyber attack allowed hackers to access 19 years’ worth of personal information of staff and students

    Combine above with deep fake vision and sound and … your data, truth, opinions and actions may vary from ‘normal’.

  7. And today…

    Eighty-two counterterrorism laws, and counting

    Books | Veteran journalist Brian Toohey probes the network of laws and agencies that’s expanded rapidly in the name of national security

    “Secret is a well-timed counterpunch for openness, accountability and public interest journalism. The stories that unfold in its sixty short chapters are anything but innocuous, lifting the lid on professional misconduct, personal vices, intelligence bungles, and more.

    “Drawing on almost fifty years of interviews, leaks and archival research, Toohey delivers a grippingly detailed account of the uses and abuses of secrecy by government agencies. He demonstrates the importance of not assuming that everything is hunky-dory behind the veil of secrecy, and highlights the very real risks associated with failing to question covert intelligence and its practitioners. One result is a disturbing picture of Australia’s imbalanced relationship with the United States, which — far from protecting our national interests — has undermined our independence, drawn us into unnecessary conflicts and cost countless lives.”

    Secret: The Making of Australia’s Security State
    By Brian Toohey

  8. Some reading this may be tempted to reply that ‘grandma said this’. Provide some data please and a sigh-tation. As the plos one paper points out further and larger studies will see grandmas homily turned from social externality into a biting set of data and remedies.

    “The revolving door between government and the alcohol, food and gambling industries in Australia
    “This study suggests that the revolving door that sees people move between roles in the Australian Government and alcohol, food and gambling industries is commonplace, creating a range of ethical and moral problems, and posing a risk to public health.”

    “Friends, relatives, sanity, and health: The costs of politics…
    …”for many people election campaigns and the contentious discussion of issues and candidates that surrounds them bring undeniable costs.
    …” but if our findings are even remotely externally valid then tens of millions of American adults perceive politics as exacting significant social, psychological and even physical health costs. Rough estimates based on Table 2 would be that approximately 94 million people believe they have been stressed by politics, 44 million believe they have lost sleep, 28.5 million that their physical health has been adversely affected, and 11 million that politics led them to consider suicide, though particular caution surrounds behaviors that are less common. For example, the 4.1 percent who report suicidal thoughts as a result of politics are less than 40 respondents in our sample, so even small amounts of sampling error could significantly change proportional estimates. Still, even the most conservative interpretation of these numbers suggests that large numbers of Americans are convinced that politics is exacting significant social, psychological and even physical costs on their well-being.”
    Smith KB, Hibbing MV, Hibbing JR (2019) Friends, relatives, sanity, and health: The costs of politics. PLoS ONE 14(9): e0221870. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0221870

  9. “Unsurprising given the long running low rent conduct of Australian water policy, politicians don’t even bother to distinguish between modest investment in small dams intended to secure water supply for country towns (often sensible) and expensive large dams intended for further misplaced adventures in irrigation.”

    Yeah I like the idea of many thousands of small dams. Holding back huge amounts of water is a scary prospect. Water wants to do what water wants to do. Water is a huge force of nature and one wants to be humble in opposing it. The dangers can get exponentially higher with the increasing volume. If not during peace and normal conditions, then how about during war and near extinction natural events? These things happen sooner or later. If you rely on very large dams rather than many smaller ones one big natural disaster or a handful of missiles …. All your luck can run out.

    I think we ought to have a thousands of moderately sized dam policy. Also turning them out one at a time and we have more chance at getting good at making them more and more cost-effectively.

  10. Sure rog. But you think you have to get a great solution, in an existential panic, by the end of the 2030’s. I am potentially looking at hundreds of years when I say these things. I want canals coming in from South Australia and Western Australia and winding around all over the deserts. I want our zone two to be filled with heliostats. I want perfectly level rail all over the place. If you think you have to do these things fast then you cannot get these things cost-effectively.

    If you realise this is a 5000 year terraforming project and we have to do it cost-effectively …. then every so often we’ll get lucky. We’ll find the skills and the team are in place. The sole trader subcontractors are tooled up to the gills. The workforce is highly skilled …. we are a low debt country ….. And suddenly we find we can speed up ten times and only get MORE productive. So you start off with a 5000 year time horizon then hope for the best. And if you just do it right suddenly the 5000 year plans can be sped up, when there is no weak link in your chain.

    The only thing we really need in a great big hurry is off-the-shelf submarines. Everything else we can start now, start slowly, start cost-effectively …. and just hang in there until we see a sweet spot. Once you see that you are in that sweet spot you can scale up quickly even as costs fall further. Or the private sector may do it for you. Thats why I say communist undertakings need to start small but start yesterday.

    Remember what Stevie Wonder says: Maybe not in time, for you or for me, but one day at Christmastime. These things ought not be attempted just to satisfy the current decision-makers. They ought to seek to do things right, and to do the right thing.

  11. Solar prices update
    I noted not so long ago that the lowest wholesale price for a plain vanilla polysilicon solar module had dropped below 20 US cents per watt f.o.b some Asian port, according to trade site PVinsights. The same now reports that the average price has just dropped below this benchmark to 19.9 cents/watt. This means that a basic 250-watt standard panel can now be had for $50 plus shipping and taxes. A classier “mono High Eff / PERC module” will cost you under 24 cents/watt; no doubt more if you limit your shopping to Tier 1 producers whose warranties can be relied on. But the price-reliability equation no doubt works differently for solar householders and big utility developers.

  12. There is now a race to the top with solar panel product warranties. All the good quality manufacturers may have moved to 25 years — at least in the Australian Residential and Commercial solar markets. They are already kind of there as with 25 year performance warranties, but a lot of manufacturers never actually intended to honor those warranties. (Australian law says they must honor them, so don’t let them tell you that a panel that doesn’t perform isn’t covered by its performance warranty.) Now the market is more mature and the technology has improved they are more serious.

  13. How many companies stay in business for 25 years? Maybe I should google that. A black swan event which ends many companies or even civilisation itself seems quite likely in 25 years. Notwithstanding these concerns, I have solar panels on my roof and vacuum tube solar hot water. I don’t expect civilisation to survive beyond this century but I agree we should try help it and the remaining ecosystems to survive if possible. – Ikonoclast.

  14. The trick is to buy panels that are highly likely to last 25+ years. If they never fail then it doesn’t matter if the company is still around or not. And yes, it is possible to have a reasonable idea of their quality.


    Can it be imagined how many solar panels or even wind turbines that could be made from the metal of just one of these massive modern cruise ships? According to wikipedia there are 314 cruise ships currently in operation around the world. That is more than 20 MILLION T O N S of steel tied up using fossil fuels (for hedonistic purposes) rather than producing renewable energy.

    Somebody’s head should be hit with something much harder than a pillow to hold them accountable for this sad state of affairs. YES the cruise line industry has to DIE before we do. No it does not have to die overnight. But its death should take place over a 4 to 8 year period.

    What will the huge number of people employed in this industry do once it is shut down?? Well if it was only this industry that needs to be shut down it would be easy to answer that question. But if I pretended that this was the only industry that needed to be shut down I would be cheating when I gave my answer.

    Because humanity has overshot its carbon budget many industries need to be shut down. But the cruise industry should clearly be the first to go. Really the number of people that have to stop what they are doing and do something else, which might be nothing at all, is so large that I do not think that even a legendary MMT job program could find work for everyone. Well if humanity did more things manually maybe. But I strongly suspect that a UBI will have to be part of the solution.

    Then there is crickets and rabbits too. Not to mention Beetles, dung beetles I think that they are, that will crawl up a board once they have matured and fall in to a chicken or turkey pen and get eaten.

    That was De Anander’s idea.

    (Say I got nothing against hedonism if it is done on a modest budget and in moderation.)

  16. As a criminal Australian I could never go on a cruise ship as I am still not over the tragedy of the Second Fleet. But with a carbon price equal to the cost of removing CO2 from the atmosphere there’s no reason why cruise ships couldn’t continue to operate if people are sick enough to pay for that experience. There is no technical reason why a cruise ship couldn’t operate in a carbon neutral manner and pay to have its sewage treated. Still, it might be cheaper just to lock people in a crowded hotel with a load of food, toilet paper, and pathogens.

  17. Consul: It is an ancient concept that the world needs to learn.

    Re: Repostioning of US military in the ME. There is no point in even addressing statements made by the US Press Secretary or the American Press Secretary as nothing that they say can be taken as credible in the first place.

  18. Trumps foreign policy ie non engagement by US forces seems to be subject to whim.

    While he campaigned against the cost of these stupid wars his Presidential foreign policy rhetoric includes hitting Iran ‘like they’ve never been hit before”, North Korea would be “be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen” and he promised to “totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey”.

    Not to mention his internal wars, against California, the press, muslims, the fed, Mexico, Canada and so on.

    His policy, if you could call it that, is to bring war to every level of society.

  19. I don’t think there’s anyone left of the the planet who took Trump seriously when he vowed to “totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey” if they did such & such in Syria. I think we all knew (especially after the promise of “severe punishment” for the perpetrators Khashoggi assassination) that Trump is nothing more than a narcissistic deal maker with no morals whatsoever.

  20. Of all Republican voters, two subgroups stand out for their unwavering support of Trump: those who primarily get their news from Fox, and white evangelical Christians.


    According to Pew, Christianity is at last starting to decline in the US, including a small but significant decline in evangelicals. ***

  21. “The Health and Climate Impacts of Carbon Capture and Direct Air Capture

    “Moreover, the CCU and SDACCU plants both increase air pollution and total social costs relative to no capture.”!divAbstract

    TOC link -“CCS in Australia –

    “More recently, in 2015, the Commonwealth Government announced a new $25 million CCS Research Development and Demonstration Fund.[32] In August 2016, the Australian Government announced grants of $23.7 million to seven applicants under this fund.[33]

    “According to the Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg, more than $590 million in government financial support has been provided to CCS projects since 2009.[34]”

    And so we get a laugh out of watching $600m? go down a hole, here is the catoonist’s views – who seem to know better than politicians. Glad the nma is still funded to do this;

  22. Out of all the foolish ideas to come out of this movement, CO2 capture and storage has to be the worst of them. What is wrong with soil development? We are not really tapped out with the benefits of soil development until we have black soil 12 feet deep everywhere. The energy inefficiency and hazardous nature of trying to store CO2 in the ground??? Its like these people are fully insane. That even one dollar was ever spent on this farce is an embarrassment.

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