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Thursday, 07 January


Failure to maintain staffing numbers and nursing care levels in Australian aged care facilities is a disgrace North Coast Voices

In June 1999, a little over a year into the first term of the Howard Coalition Government,  there were an estimated 132,420 older Australians in residential aged care facilities, with 61 per cent having “high care” dependency status.  

Between 1994 and 1999 there was a 13.9% decrease in the number of registered nurses and a 26.0% decrease in the number of enrolled nurses, so that by 1999 there were 19,517 registered nurses employed full-time in residential aged care facilities and 13,818 enrolled nurses.

A decade later and the percentage of registered nurses working in residential aged care facilities...


Twitter: no trolls, bullies, haters or racists allowed North Coast Voices

Abusive Behavior

We believe in freedom of expression and in speaking truth to power, but that means little as an underlying philosophy if voices are silenced because people are afraid to speak up. In order to ensure that people feel safe expressing diverse opinions and beliefs, we do not tolerate behavior that crosses the line into abuse, including behavior that harasses, intimidates, or uses fear to silence another user’s voice.

Any accounts and related accounts engaging in the activities specified below may be temporarily locked and/or subject to permanent suspension.

* Viol...

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Wednesday, 06 January


Always check the data yourself Catallaxy Files

This morning Rod Sims – head of the ACCC – had an op-ed in the AFR. This comment jumped out at me:

Second, Australian governments usually spend the inflated tax revenue as the money comes in. Prior to our current run of budget deficits Australia ran budget surpluses due to high commodity price inflated revenues. These surpluses, however, were usually structural budget deficits; that is, once you substitute more normal commodity prices for the then current abnormally high commodity prices, our budget was actually in deficit.

Hmmmmmm. The nice thing is that statement can be easily checked. The RBA has commodity price data. So I thought I’d plot the Index of commodity prices (All items; US$).

Checking Sims

Well that story might explain the last three years of the Howard era, but I’m not convinced that Sim’s story stands up to much scrutiny.


Dick Smith was a poor competitor Catallaxy Files

I have an op-ed over at The Conversation on Dick Smith going into receivership:

In a dynamic economy businesses should fail on a regular basis. In a growing economy those businesses will be replaced by other, more efficient businesses and consequently workers and consumers, and investors too, will be better off over time. This is what Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had in mind when he spoke of a disruptive economy.

So on the one hand, a business that expands too rapidly and experiences financial distress, as may have happened to Dick Smith, suggests an isolated failure. On the other hand, with economic growth being sluggish and world economic growth predicted to remain sluggish we might expect more business failures in the short term, with workers struggling to find new jobs and consumers reining in their spending.

Dick Smith has many competitors – including JB Hi-Fi and Harvey Norman, and even Office Works, Bunnings, and Aldi for some product lines. Despite deep discounting well before Christmas, Dick Smith was unable to generate the bumper Christmas sales it was expecting. But it seems Dick Smith was never expecting massive sales growth – looking at its prospectus in 2011 it had revenue of $1.28 billion and by 2014 it was forecasting revenue of $1.226 billion.

Yet investors seemed to believe a company then worth about $20 million was worth $520 million. Investors and regulators are going to look long and hard at private equity floats. But the lesson here is that equity investors need to do thei...


Renewable energy subsidies driving down green zealots’ demand Catallaxy Files

We are all required to include a portion of high cost renewable energy (mainly wind and a smattering of even higher cost large scale solar facilities).  This is to become over 23 per cent of the total electricity fostered by the renewable scheme brings a subsidy amounting to two thirds of the wind farms’ revenue and raising average generation costs to the consumer by 45 per cent.

In addition the true believers can put up their own money and voluntarily increase the percentage of their electricity that comes from these planetary saving, ugly, bird vivisectionists.

But the retailers need to have their customers pay the full cost of their selfless actions.

Both the SMH and The Australian have articles pointing out how it is becoming more difficult to be green:  the costs the retailers pass on have increased by 40 per cent reflecting the increase price of the renewable electricity certificates.   The SMH includes this chart which illustrates how the price of the certificates for this intrinsically uncompetitive supply source has increased of late.

RET prices

A few years ago the certificates cost was under $30 and the moon-worshipers were predicting a negligible subsidy as renewables inevitably became fully competitive with conventional power sources.  This has failed to eventuate and those people who voluntarily increase their renewable energy component have been falling off the scheme in droves.  Once there were almost a million of the...


Clamp Chris Gayle's balls, Jamie Briggs hasn't got any — don't blush, baby Independent Australia

Clamp Chris Gayle's balls, Jamie Briggs hasn't got any — don't blush, babyThe uproar over sleazy sportsman Chris Gayle's harassment of TV reporter Mel McLaughlin highlights the double-standards of the Turnbull Government, says contributing editor-at-large Tess Lawrence. read now...


Some advice to a weakling president Catallaxy Files

President Barack Obama wipes away tears from his eyes as he speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, about steps his administration is taking to reduce gun violence. Also on stage are stakeholders, and individuals whose lives have been impacted by the gun violence. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

President Barack Obama wipes away tears from his eyes as he speaks in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, about steps his administration is taking to reduce gun violence.(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

This is a disturbing picture where we find the President of the United States has teared up over some policy issue. I cannot recall a single instance of a major politician ever being brought to tears except when attending a funeral. I think he is coming apart at the seams. Meanwhile, compare and contrast. Make sure you watch it all.

As was once rightly said, what matters is not the colour of one’s skin but the content of one’s character.


The Laura Flanders TV show on Disaster Capitalism Antony Loewenstein

During my recent New York book tour for Disaster Capitalism, I recorded an interview on The Laura Flanders TV show. It’s airing this week on TV channels around the world:


North Korea has exploded its first hydrogen bomb Catallaxy Files

An atomic bomb is a tactical nuclear device for use in a wartime environment. A hydrogen bomb, which uses an atomic bomb as a trigger, is near enough a doomsday device which offers no battlefield or tactical advantage to its possessor. It’s only use is to comprehensively destroy. This is just in, except you will hardly see it mentioned anywhere: North Korea Says It Conducted Successful Hydrogen Bomb Test. And to give their statement evidential support, there is this:

North Korea said it successfully tested a hydrogen bomb, the fourth time it has detonated a nuclear device and a move that dramatically escalates tensions on the peninsula with neighbors South Korea and Japan.

The regime in Pyongyang detonated a hydrogen device for the first time at 10 a.m. local time, its official Korean Central News Agency said. The explosion was initially detected as a magnitude 5.1 earthquake by the U.S. Geological Survey.

But in case you are worried that this will merely pass by without some sort of response from the West, the story does conclude with this:

The Korean won declined as much as 0.8 percent to 1,197.85 per dollar, the weakest level since September. The Kospi index of shares dropped 0.6 percent as makers of defense products such as Speco Co. surged. Ten-year bonds advanced, pushing their yield down one basis point to 2.05 percent.

We are in Act I of what has all the makings of being the most destructive era in human history.


Thomas Jefferson Catallaxy Files

The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield, and government to gain ground.

This is why there is a very large monument to Thomas Jefferson in Washington DC and not to Barak Obama or George W. Bush.



Dear Uncle Malcolm, if you really respect women — SACK DUTTON NOW Independent Australia

Dear Uncle Malcolm, if you really respect women — SACK DUTTON NOWPeter Dutton is, to use his own words, more or less, a mad fucking wanker, writes John Passant. read now...


Book Review: Phishing for Phools: The Economics of Manipulation and Deception Catallaxy Files

I have a book review in the latest issue of Quadrant Phishing for Phools:
The Economics of Manipulation and Deception
by George Akerlof and Robert Shiller.

Quadrant is available in all good newsagents and online. Subscribe here.


You probably don’t realise exactly how stupid you are. But as a base animal who simply responds to stimuli you are just not particularly smart. Now don’t take my word for it – after all I have my own stupidity to content with – this is the message from two economics Nobel laureates. George Akerlof (2001 joint Nobel winner) and Robert Shiller (2013 joint Nobel winner) have collaborated to write Phishing for phools: The economics of manipulation and deception that purports to tell us, mere mortals, exactly how we get things so horribly wrong.

The first phool of note is my good self. I bought and read a book by two famous academic economists that came highly recommended by other famous economists. I should have known better than to trust the opinions of people like Joe Stiglitz and Alan Blinder. I don’t trust them on macroeconomic policy, so why should I have trusted them on microeconomics?

In my defence let me say that the topic is important. Traditionally policy makers have justified government intervention on the basis of so-called externality. That the actions of individuals impose costs (or benefits) on others and these costs need to be minimised (or expanded as the case might be). But there is a limit to...


Terminal decline Catallaxy Files

fallof rome

The picture of The Fall of Rome comes with this story, Our spoiled, emasculated, de‑spiritualised societies in the West are in terminal decline. We live in a complete bubble of vacuousness, and when the barbarians finally break through it will be brutal. You can see our future in the far off Middle East even as we let these invaders enter within our walls. Do the inhabitants of our former Christian civilisation really believe they have anything to offer other than a bit of technology which will be scooped up with the rest of the booty? The story is by Christopher Booker and this is how he concludes:

The reason why we do not see just how far our spoiled, emasculated, de‑spiritualised societies in the West have lost the plot is that they are the bubble we live in. But these days there is a great big world out there, much less sentimental and much tougher than what we have become used to. Over the coming years, our world is going to change more than we can imagine.

The world always changes more than we can imagine but this time it will be a change for the far worse. The picture, you see, is of us. We are being sold down the Tiber and it is almost certainly too late to do a thing about it. If you still have doubts, then contemplate this: Germany stunned by rash of New Year’s sex assaults...


Another British surveillance horror-story No Right Turn

The British government tells its people that their surveillance state - cameras everywhere, internet traffic logged, phone call data available without judicial oversight - is there to stop terrorists and keep them safe. What it means in practice is police using anti-terror surveillance powers in employment disputes:

Britain’s most scandal-hit police force faces a slew of legal claims after being accused of using controversial anti-terrorism powers to snoop on officers blowing the whistle on racism.

Cleveland constabulary faces claims that it secretly obtained details from confidential emails between Asian officers and their representatives and solicitors to defend against employment cases brought against the force.


The Independent can reveal emails from [a police officer who complained about racism] were part of a cache of documents that Cleveland Police secretly sought to recover from his senior ethnic minority colleague using the Ripa laws during a criminal investigation into unauthorised leaks from the force. The senior officer has since left the force and is preparing his own legal claim.

The force also used Ripa, which was passed in 2000 to help investigate terrorism and serious crimes, to check phone data of police officers, a solicitor and journalists over a five-month period, according to documents secured by one of the targets of the inquiry.

This is simply an outright abuse of power. There is no other way to describe it. These powers are not there to allow police to punish their critics, spy on those complaining about them, or win employment disputes over intolerable police conduct. But they exist, and so that is how they are used. And it raises an obvious question: what other police forces are d...


Corporate America increases pressure on U.S. Congress to speedily ratify TPP Independent Australia

Corporate America increases pressure on U.S. Congress to speedily ratify TPPA flurry of big business endorsements appears aimed at building congressional momentum for the Trans-Pacific mega-deal. Sarah Lazare from Common Dreams reports. read now...


Don't blush baby, of course there are walri south of Finland ... loon pond

There's an obvious choice to day for the pond ... as the reptiles join their master in howling at the moon ...

Oops, an unfortunate juxtaposition ... but isn't there something creepy about both those images?

Others might get distracted by Obama trying to do something about guns in America, but it's hard to see why. Americans love killing each other, with Republicans implementing the Daesh strategic mission on the domestic front, and where's the harm in that? Another day, another gun, another shooting, one less (or many more less) Yankee imperialists in the world, and it's all thanks to the IRA, the best Islamic fundamentalist agent at work in the world today ... with a kill rate that makes Daesh look like rank amateurs ...

Never mind, because the pond doesn't like to run with the pack. The pond much prefers to be an outlier, and besides, as the business plan of the reptiles is to regurgitate federal government press releases, and the thoughts of the recently past premier, the pond was strangely attracted to the deep thinking of the walri man, Mr Wiki himself ...



Heydon unions royal commission reveals IR wreck Catallaxy Files

In The Australian today

Australia’s industrial relations system, Justice Henry Bournes Higgins famously declared in 1915, had conquered “a new province for law and order”.


By a man for men: repeat after me, blokes No Place For Sheep

  Guest post by Dr Stewart Hase There is a belief in the minds of too many men that it is somehow appropriate for males to force themselves sexually on women. It is borne from a sense of entitlement that men feel they have of women: that somehow she does not have the right to […]


Where are we going? DUCK POND

Ben Eltham, in his review of last year, argues that politicians in Australia have been to the larger, often underlying drivers of events. ( I am taking liberties with my arguments.)

He refers to the French historian,Fernand Braudel, who according to Wikipedia was a developer of World System Theory. Weather and climate would be the best examples of such a theory of human and ecological interconnected. I am reminded of the Indian historians who observe that “Mohandas Gandhi had a civilizational rather that nation state historical understanding. Printing, for example, stimulated and made possible the Reformation, and that was not an overnight transformation. Scientific paradigm changes leaves social change in its wake.

The fallacies of the national state zero-sum game and the fallacy of what, at least I describe, of parochial  nationalism, that for example mistakes weather for climate was expressed by the former Prime Minister Abbott. He is either a fool, or irrelevant, and the kindest observation is to suggest the latter. Abbott, as Ben Eltham explains, was what a Prime Minister should not be. He was divisive and destructive, which included the formal political process, by his personal selections. For example, Bronwyn Bishop, among others, proved to be a disastrous. Turnbull, in his steed, inherited the legacy of wreckage. More so than most Turnbull is captive of his social class, successful upward mobility and investment in the Cayman Islands.


Tony Abbott's propaganda machine running at full throttle North Coast Voices

Federal Member for Warringah Tony Abbott’s personal website is up and running again – with its entire history before 15 September 2015 conveniently wiped from memory and, at the timing of writing, there is only limited pre-prime ministership access to this site via the Wayback Machine.

Here is a transcript of that page with my annotations in red for your enjoyment:

Tony Abbott was elected Prime Minister by the Australian people on 7 September 2013 and served for two years. Prime ministers and parliamentary party leaders are not elected by the people but by government MPs & senators. His time as prime minister commenced on 18 September 2013 and he was sacked as party leader and prime minister by Liberal Party MPs & senators on 15 September 2015 so he was not prime m...


NSW Rental Tenancy Law Review community consultation closes 26 January 2016 North Coast Voices

The NSW Government is reviewing the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 (the Act). The Act establishes a comprehensive set of rights and obligations for:   
 * tenants
 * social housing providers
 * real estate agents who act for landlords.    
As part of this review, you are now invited to view a Discussion Paper to help you consider improvements to the current laws. This consultation closes on 29 January 2016. Read more about how you can have your say below.  


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Tuesday, 05 January


After Duckgate: The Liberal Party goes back to the future in Dunkley Independent Australia

After Duckgate: The Liberal Party goes back to the future in DunkleyAs a crisis and scandal ridden Liberal Party struggles to put our fires in so many different areas, speculation swirls over the future of Dunkley 'Duckgate' duckie deceiver, Donna Bauer. read now...

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Tuesday, 22 December


NSW council amalgamations – proposals released The Tally Room

Screen Shot 2015-12-21 at 5.09.31 pmThe NSW government has released its plans for council amalgamations following a lengthy of period of reviews and submissions by local councils.

The government is proposing cutting the number of councils in the Sydney region from 43 to 25, as well as merging other councils in rural NSW.

In this post I’m going to focus on the changes to the region stretching from Port Stephens to Shoalhaven, covering the vast bulk of New South Wales, including about 6 million residents.

This region includes 53 councils, and the NSW government proposes reducing this to 32 councils, with only 14 councils unaffected.

I’ve done some analysis of the political make-up of each new local government area, examining allegations of gerrymandering, and posting some maps showing the stats for each proposed new council.

You can download the Google Earth map of the proposed boundaries here.

You can also download the dataset I used here.

My map does not cover rural areas – it only stretches from Port Stephens to Shoalhaven.

Firstly, I’m not going to deal with the question of whether councils should be amalgamated, whether they should be forcibly amalgamated, or specifically whether the NSW government’s approach is correct. I’ve previously analysed the flawed IPART report, and will instead focus on describing the councils as proposed.

For this analysi...

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Sunday, 13 December


WA state redistribution – map finalised The Tally Room

It’s a couple of weeks late, but I’ve now completed my Google Earth boundary map of the new WA state electoral boundaries.

Download the map here.

You can also download the 2017 map for the Legislative Council.

If you want to understand more about the redistribution, you can see Antony Green’s estimates of the new seat margins at the ABC website.

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Tuesday, 08 December


North Sydney by-election – results wrap The Tally Room

The Liberal Party has retained the seat of North Sydney at Saturday’s by-election despite a substantial swing on primary votes.

At the time of writing, Liberal candidate Trent Zimmerman is on 47.8% (down 13.3%) with independent Stephen Ruff second on 18.8% and the Greens’ Arthur Chesterfield-Evans on 16% (up 0.7%).

While there was a substantial swing against the Liberal Party, it doesn’t appear to have aided the centre-left in defeating Zimmerman. When you add together the vote for Labor and the Greens in 2013, it was almost 1% higher than the combined vote for Ruff and the Greens on Saturday.

Instead, the vote leached to a number of other parties including the Sustainable Population Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Christian Democratic Party and the Arts Party. Having said that, some of those parties can be counted as ‘progressive’ so we’ll probably see a slight uptick in Ruff’s TCP compared to Labor’s TPP in 2013.

I’ve split the booths into the same four areas as in the pre-election guide, based on the four local government areas. We only have two-candidate-preferred vote-counts for about half the booths, so I’ve just focused on the primary votes.

The Liberal primary vote ranged from just under 46% in North Sydney and Lane Cove to 48% in Willoughby and 54% in Hunters Hill.

Independent Ruff got a very similar vote across most of the seat, polling around 19% in Willoughby, North Sydney and Lane Cove, but his vote dropped to 15.5% in Hunters Hill.

The Greens vote ranged from 14% in Hunters Hill to 18% in North Sydney and Lane Cove.

Voter group LIB % IND %...

Sunday, 06 December


So, you want to reduce inequality … (some modest, and some practical, proposals) Skepticlawyer

Concern over rising inequality has certainly been a significant feature of recent intellectual and political discourse, particularly in the US (for example here). Let us suppose we were serious about reducing inequality, what would we do?

One thing you would not do is significantly raise top income tax rates, that would not have much effect at all. Besides, at a certain point, one runs into significant Laffer Curve effects, which is why income tax rates have remained much lower across the Western world than they were in the immediate postwar decades–governments don’t want to reduce their revenue by having tax rates too high.

Since folk who worry about inequality tend to be nostalgic for the low-inequality postwar era up to around 1970, we an easily identify a range of policies which will reduce income inequality.

(1) Massively cut back on higher education. Since higher education generates low income students in their 20s who tend to become high income professionals in their 40s, the higher the use of higher education, the greater is life cycle inequality. Also, since higher education is more expensive than primary or secondary education, and with very few positive social spillover effects (though we can identify some negative spillover effects), government support for higher education tends to be subsidising...

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