Five minutes of sunshine

The Albanese government has quietly abandoned full employment. Looking back over the past four weeks, I’ve turned out ten opinion pieces criticising the Albanese government. This piece, from Inside Story, should be the last for a while. I haven’t covered everything they’ve done wrong, but I think I’ve written enough on the topic for now.

13 thoughts on “Five minutes of sunshine

  1. I agree John,
    I believe that the budget was about a little good news for most of us, rather than bad news for most of us.
    John Homan

  2. Ten pieces qualifies you JQ, as a slayer of falsehoods according to
    Brandolini’s Law: “The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than that needed to produce it.”.


    “Take the time and effort to correct misinformation”

    Phil Williamson

    “Most researchers who have tried to engage online with ill-informed journalists or pseudoscientists will be familiar with Brandolini’s law (also known as the Bullshit Asymmetry Principle): the amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than that needed to produce it. Is it really worth taking the time and effort to challenge, correct and clarify articles that claim to be about science but in most cases seem to represent a political ideology?

    “I think it is. Challenging falsehoods and misrepresentation may not seem to have any immediate effect, but someone, somewhere, will hear or read our response. … A lie may be able to travel around the world before the truth has its shoes on, but an unchallenged untruth will never stop.

    “..  The global scientific community could learn from websites such as travel-review site TripAdvisor, Rotten Tomatoes (which summarizes film and play reviews) and (which quantifies website popularity), and set up its own, moderated, rating system for websites that claim to report on science. We could call it the Scientific Honesty and Integrity Tracker, and give online nonsense the SHAIT rating it deserves.

    Wikipedia “Brandolini’s law, also known as the bullshit asymmetry principle, is an internet adage coined in 2013 that emphasizes the effort of debunking misinformation, in comparison to the relative ease of creating it in the first place. The law states the following:

    “The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than that needed to produce it.[1][2]

    “The adage was publicly formulated the first time in January 2013[3] by Alberto Brandolini, an Italian programmer. Brandolini stated that he was inspired by reading Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow right before watching an Italian political talk show with former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and journalist Marco Travaglio.[4][5]

    “In 1845, Frédéric Bastiat expressed an early notion of this law:[9]

    New bullsh!t ratings site categories ala Phil Williamson’s suggestion:
    – Tax SHAIT
    – Climate
    – Culture wars

    The site may become The Nailartsua (The Australian in reverse).

  3. The Albanese government has been hijacked by the Treasury Department and the Department of Defence. It used to be that ministers told their department what to do but now those departments expect ministers to toe the line laid down by their department. Don’t expect radical reform out of this government. Its ministers are still running scared from their political drubbing back in 2019. There are no tough ministers like Paul Keating, and our prime minister is a pale reflection at best of Bob Hawke. Very few members of the ALP government, who are on the front bench, seem capable of individual thought. They will disappoint all expectations that some people cherished at the last election.

  4. The RBA is raising interest rates to reduce inflation by reducing demand. Unemployment will rise fractionally. Yawn.

  5. I don’t imagine it will be a yawn for the 100 000 or more people who will become unemployed as a result.

  6. Harry said:
    “Unemployment will rise fractionally.

    Econ 101 practitioner blinded by numbers ignores…
    “a 1 percent increase in the unemployment rate will be associated with 37,000 deaths [including 20,000 heart attacks], 920 suicides, 650 homicides, 4,000 state mental hospital admissions and 3,300 state prison admissions.” … and “Unemployment can harm growth because it is a waste of resources; generates redistributive pressures and subsequent distortions; drives people to poverty; constrains liquidity limiting labor mobility; and erodes self-esteem promoting social dislocation, unrest, and conflict.[81] The 2013 winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics,Robert J. Shiller, said that rising inequality in the United States and elsewhere is the most important problem.[82]”


    “37,000 increase in deaths for each percentage-point rise in the unemployment rate. It comes from a book called “Corporate Flight: The Causes and Consequences of Economic Dislocation” by Barry Bluestone, Bennett Harrison and Lawrence Baker.

    From the article citation below:

    > Here’s the paragraph from Thomas’ book that applies: “According to one study [the one by Bluestone et al.] a 1 percent increase in the unemployment rate will be associated with 37,000 deaths [including 20,000 heart attacks], 920 suicides, 650 homicides, 4,000 state mental hospital admissions and 3,300 state prison admissions.”

    The data is stale, for sure, but the correlation (economic downturn->increase in deaths) is arguably proven.

  7. Peter,

    The Future Funds should be called the Never Spend Funds. A Future Fund is what governments set up to look like they are going to do something when in fact they intend to do nothing. I mean after all you can’t spend the Future Fund now. It’s for the future! The future never comes. Wherever you are in time, the future is always in the future!

    With reference to the graph you mentioned, it is truly bizarre that rising housing starts apparently never translate into housing completions. What is also truly bizarre is that Australia’s completions trend shows scarcely any trend rise from 1960 to 2020. Okay, it is a little better than that. The graph’s long run and compressed y axis do fool the eye a bit. Yet, it is passing strange that a nation can more than double in population and only manage a 50% rise, at best, in housing completions. I would say the disappearance of the Housing Commissions would have something to do with that. Once social projects are outsources to private enterprise they are turned into boondoggles. At the same time, we are probably building bigger houses and putting fewer people in them. Many McMansions are under-occupied. “Mum and Dad” rattling around alone in a five bedroom house. Nothing happens outside except the wind.

    The wonder to me is that human society has ever worked at all. It is always so badly organized. What has kept it going are natural increase and free gifts from nature. Both of these are running out, both rendered unsustainable by our absurdly wasteful and destructive economy. Plain fact is it is all downside from here. But people are still living in the fantasy that the fairground runs for ever.

  8. Is “John Q” at May 17, 2023 at 3:56 pm, John Quiggin? I certainly hope so.

    I am sick at heart at what our society has become. Callous privilege rules the roost. Social Darwinism and social murder [1] are the order of the day. A society which trends so far in this direction way is headed for self-destruction. We are on the brink. Our society is largely under the dictatorship of capital. Effective democracy is almost non-existent. We get nothing but neoliberal policies favoring the affluent no matter who we elect: certainly if we stick to the major parties. We need to fix this or we will suffer (even more) terrible consequences.

    Note 1: Social Murder – Unnatural, premature or preventable death which occurs due to social, political, or economic oppression.

  9. Peter says “What does that say about the prospects for productivity growth in Australia?” And linked article says “All that funding more than a small number of extra builds per year would do is push construction costs higher and push out completion times.”

    Ikon says “What is also truly bizarre is that Australia’s completions trend shows scarcely any trend rise from 1960 to 2020”.

    Truely bizarre.

    Where are the builders? 
    Completions rate.
    No new builders. 
    No increase in productivity. I suspect a lowering.
    A pig on a bike.

    Any experts, please say why the hog cycle and my view are incorrect. I’d not heard of the hog / pork cycle until reading the RBA note below 

    Be convinced housing completions rate will NOT budge.
    “Average dwelling completion times

    Completions rate NEVER moves appreciably.
    “Housing in Australia in the 2000s: On the Agenda Too Late?”
    Judith Yates

    “The significant lags between approval and completion of such dwellings were seen as having the potential to contribute to the emergence of a ‘hog cycle’ and, therefore, to increased volatility in dwelling prices and in investment demand.”

    Hog Cycle.

    “In economics, the term pork cycle, hog cycle, or cattle cycle[1] describes the phenomenon of cyclical fluctuations of supply and prices inlivestock markets. It was first observed in 1925 in pig markets in the US by Mordecai Ezekiel and in Europe in 1927 by the German scholar Arthur Hanau [de].[2] ”
    wikipedia /wiki/Pork_cycle

    I believe to gain 100 employees, at least 120 need start to reach required 100 employee equilibrium. And to do the required 30,000 builds to not rob workers for other building. “Facts & Stats on how building supports the economy – 
    “Master Builders
    10 Sept 2020 ·
    “The construction industry supports about 992,000 full-time jobs across the Australian economy, more than any other sector”
    masterbuilders › Blog › Fac…

    As of 12 April 2023 ABS says: “Building Activity, Australia
    “In seasonally adjusted terms:
    – “Total dwelling commencements fell 6.7% to 41,374 dwellings.”.

    So if 30,000 extra in 5yrs = and extra 6,000 per year on top of 41,374, approx 15% more builders needed.

    992,000 building workers now, therefore 150,000 new builders. Times 1.2 due to hire / attrition rate. Maybe 180,000 to have stable workforce of 150,000 new building workforce.

    6,000 extra dwellings. +150,000 workers. Per year. So as to not effect or cannibalize or slow completions rate. Tell ’em they’re dreaming. 

    Tell me I’m wrong yet the hog cycle or pork cycle will evidence itself in;

    1) Completions time. Or more acurately more starts and slower completions. Short to medium term cycle. To break this cycle all building trades need to be boosted by more training of skilled workers (150,000) to match completion rates as necessary. As can be seen above in RBA’s  “Average dwelling completion times” this has NEVER happened and townhouse completion times blown out.

    2) Wages & building pricing subject to hog cycle. House prices long term swings and building contractor labour costs stubborn to falls causing builders to choose projects and completion times to suit themselves. I personally have chosen as such in my working life. Try telling tradies to speed up for same pay.

    3) Housing prices will exhibit hog cycle ameliorated by perverse incentives. Further reducing home ownership rates concentrating into the hands of investors and finance.

    Not 1c to actually build a dwelling. No employment plan. Predicated on market returns. 

    A band aid Housing Policy likley to induce market fluctuations making renters and buyers no better off and potentially wirse off. 

    And this is a Labour aware Labor government? !

  10. John and KT2, What is the painless way of limiting inflation and getting interest rates back to normal levels? How do you contract aggregate demand without generating unemployment below the lowest level it has been for 40 years?

    Let me guess. Tell profit-takers that their margins are too high and that they must be cut in the “social interest”. I know, I know but that will also have negative impacts on jobs.

    Another option. Live with higher inflation by increasing the RBA targeted rate. Deal with the inflation nightmare by burying your head in the sand.

    All that being said I take full responsibility for the claimed 100,000 that Labor will keep out of work. Another problem, you see, is my heartlessness. You could call it that or you could call it my incredulity that anyone could see a bump in unemployment as evidence of Labor ratting on the workers.

  11. HC: “You could call it that or you could call it my incredulity that anyone could see a bump in unemployment as evidence of Labor ratting on the workers.”

    Much better than “Yawn” Harry. Thanks for the nuance.

    Yawn, in the context you used it, was taken as heartless.

  12. After watching Angus Taylor at the Press Club the other day, I am confident that LNP will remain in opposition for quite some time.

    He displayed no depth, his grasp of economics is tenuous to say the least and his standard response, not my/our fault Labor did it, was laughable.

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