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Wednesday, 10 February


In which then Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott gives the nod for then Assistant Defence Minister Stuart Robert to help smooth the way for a big Liberal Party donor and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull inherits a problem North Coast Voices

These are the antics of then Australian prime minister Tony Abbott and his not-so-faithful side kick LNP MP for Fadden & then Assistant Defence Minister Stuart Robert, as reported in the Herald Sun on 7 February 2016:

A FEDERAL minister is under pressure after admitting he made a secret trip to Beijing where a Liberal donor and mate finalised a mining deal.
Human Services Minister Stuart Robert told the Herald Sun he was acting in a “private capacity” when he attended a signing ceremony with Nimrod Resources’s Paul Marks and high-ranking Communist Party ­officials who run Chinese Government-owned company Minmetals.
Mr Robert has previously said Mr Marks was a “close personal friend” and he’d bought shares in two of the Melbourne millionaire’s companies.
Mr Marks has also donated $2 million to the Liberals in the past two ­financial years. Last year, then prime minister Tony Abbott flew on a taxpayer-funded jet to Mr...


SHORTER ANDREW WILKIE: Grubby, grubby Julie Bishop North Coast Voices

Excerpts from ABC News, 3 February 2016:

A history of treaties in the Timor Sea 

* In 1989 Australia and Indonesia signed the Timor Gap Treaty when East Timor was still under Indonesian occupation. 

* East Timor was left with no permanent maritime border and Indonesia and Australia got to share the wealth in what was known as the Timor Gap. 
* In 2002 East Timor gained independence and the Timor Sea Treaty was signed, but no permanent maritime border was negotiated. 
* East Timor has long argued the border should sit halfway between it and Australia, placing most of the Greater Sunrise oil and gas field in their territory. 


Dog Blog: Waiting on a Sunny Day DUCK POND

To clarify, most days were sunny at some stage, but they gave way to overcast conditions with rain, and on one day an intense, hour-long hail storm. The latter event, I have now been told. caused minor damage to a neighbours car.

This week was inclusive of the 30 January to 5 February. Dexter had his stitches removed and was freed from the plastic helmet – no more bumping into almost every log and tree along the way. With this encumbrance gone, Dexter resumed his precision of movement. The co-ordination for four legs and the visual system is quite amazing.

Hannah very much kept her own counsel. She and we alike  are prone to connect with leaches, and often bring them home.

The music, “Thingmajig” is performed by Audionautix:

The title is copied from Bruce Springsteen:


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Tuesday, 09 February


Roundup Feb 9 Catallaxy Files

Culture. A meditation on cricket as a mental exercise. The mention of exercise reminds me of the time the English poet laureate William Henly threw Oscar Wilde out of his house (don’t ask me why) Wilde remarked “Conversation with Henley is both a mental and a physical recreation”. Henly wrote of Wilde “Mr Wilde has brains, art, and style; but if he can write for none but outlawed noblemen and perverted telegraph boys, the sooner he takes to tailoring (or some other decent trade) the better for his own reputation and morals.”
The Ministry of British Comedy . Even more culture – can you bear it?

Alpha to omega. The beginning and the end of the welfare state.

Weather. 300 scientists want to know more about data quality in Government agencies.
You couldn’t make it up, Green insanity. Crops...


This story is a beat up Catallaxy Files

So during Question Time I saw Mark Dreyfus trying to pin a scandal on Stuart Robert.

As far as I can work out, this is what happened:
1. Stuart Robert was in China on a private trip.
2. He got invited to a function hosted by a friend and Liberal Party donor.
3. He attended the function.
4. Also at the function are some Chinese government officials, including vice-minister Wang Min.
5. Everybody got introduced. After all it would be rude not to introduce important guests.
6. Wang Min and Stuart Robert talk a bit of shop about the importance of bilateral trade and investment between Australia and China.
7. Plenty of bubbles and canapés etc. get consumed.

This is how the Chinese reported the events:

The two parties conducted talk and exchanges on building good external investment environment, enhancing co-operation between mining institutions and further strengthening Sino-Australia co-operation in the mining field.

This is how the Australian Labor Party describe the events:

This minister has betrayed his duty to this country.


Sounds like a terrible holiday

Yet it is not clear to me how building better relations between Australia and China – even while on holiday – constitutes a betrayal, or even a terrible holiday. Ministers of the Crown should be proud to represent Australia and Australian interests at all times. To suggest otherwise is a poor reflection on the Labor Party and not on Stuart Robert.

If anyone should be annoyed it should be the Chinese. Sky News is reporting that Stuart Robert was on a tourist visa – talking shop at a private function may well be a violation of his v...


Facebook: Why do you torment me so? Independent Australia

Facebook: Why do you torment me so?Facebook, which does so much to bring people together, can be a veritable nightmare when they break up, writes Samuel Elliott. read now...


Inquiry into illicit tobacco Catallaxy Files

I got invited to make a submission (PDF) to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Law Enforcement Inquiry into Illicit Tobacco.

Here is a taste:

In this submission I have adopted an economic perspective on tobacco consumption as opposed to a public health perspective. The public health lobby view tobacco from a disease perspective. The World Health Organization, for example, talks about the “Global Tobacco Epidemic”. From this perspective it may be entirely sensible to wish to totally eliminate or eradicate tobacco consumption. This is a normative assessment – tobacco consumption is a very different “ailment” to, say, contracting small pox or polio. Unlike tobacco consumers disease victims do not voluntarily contract their diseases.

Economics strives to be a positive science that investigates human action and choice. It is only through a careful analysis of incentives, constraints, costs, and benefits that choices and decisions can be fully understood. Economics provides a coherent and consistent framework to investigate the totality of any policy choice or decision. It provides, in principle, for a full accounting of the costs and benefits under differing institutional frameworks of different choices and decisions.

From an economic perspective tobacco consumption is much like consuming any other good or service. There may be an informational asymmetry that results in market failure associated with the consumption of tobacco, but once that information asymmetry is overcome there is no further basis, in economic theory, for government intervention. The results produced by the Henry Review for Australia suggest there is no informational market failure associated with tobacco consumptio...


Productivity – What is it Good For Catallaxy Files

Productivity, it seems, is the love that dare not speak its name.

Apologies in advance to those familiar with productivity and Australia’s productivity challenge, but it seems necessary to revisit some first principles.

In a normal economy, with transparent and credible accounting systems, there are basically only 3 sources of economic growth:

  • Using more inputs (land, labour or capital) to increase output (goods and services);
  • Using the same amount of inputs more efficiently to increase output or the value of output; and
  • Selling your outputs at a higher price (terms of trade).

It all comes down to price x quantity.  It’s as simple as that.

Productivity is a measure of the efficiency of the “economic machine”.  It is the ratio of outputs to inputs, the driver of the second source of economic growth in the above list.  Productivity is, essentially, how efficiently the “economic machine” works in taking inputs and converting them into outputs.

Assuming no change in the price of outputs or inputs, if outputs grow faster than inputs, then productivity has increased.  Conversely, if outputs grow slower than inputs, then productivity has decreased.

Fiscal and monetary stimulus does not produce economic growth.  At best, all these stimuli do is move outputs around from accounting period to accounting period.  There is no long term impact because debts and deficits have to be repaid eventually.

Developing countries tend to get most of their economic growth from increasing the number of inputs in their “economic machine” – using more land, building new factories, getting more labour into the workforce.  Of the 3 sources above, this is the easier source of economic growth.  Developing countries also get economic growth through “moving up the value chain”.  That is, producing goods and services of increasing values, eg from producing t-shirts to smart phones.

Developed countries, on...


Faine to Nauru Catallaxy Files

I’m not a fan of Australia’s offshore detention policies, but there are advantages to everything.

Faine: I can’t go to Nauru and see for myself, you won’t let me.
Dutton: Of course you can go to Nauru.
Faine: Well will you facilitate me visiting Nauru? Because I’ll go, I’ll pay my own fare, I’ll go if you allow it.
Dutton: More than happy do whatever we can from an Australian Government perspective to help you visit Nauru …
Faine: Sorry, can we confirm that, you’ll facilitate my visit to Nauru?
Dutton: I will do whatever the Australian Government can do to help facilitate a visit to wherever you want, Jon … ultimately though, as you well know … issuance of visas is an issue for the country of origin.
Faine: Will you, Peter Dutton, ask the Nauruans to issue a visa to allow me to visit the facility or not?
Dutton: I have no problem with that Jon.

Typical ABC, of course, alleging he couldn’t get to go to Nauru without actually having first tried to go to Nauru.


"Responsible economic management" No Right Turn

National likes to pitch itself as the party of responsible economic management. Yeah, right:

Prime Minister John Key has revealed a $17 billion hole in the economy from falling dairy prices but says the Government remains committed to tax cuts.

Outlining the Government's priorities for the year ahead in his opening statement to Parliament on Tuesday, Key said weaker dairy prices, along with other factors, were contributing to slower growth in the nominal economy, which was expected to be around $17 billion lower over the next five years than was expected in last year's budget. This flowed through to "slightly less tax revenue, slightly lower operating balances and slightly higher debt, compared to budget forecasts".

But the Government's overall fiscal strategy remained unchanged - that was "to keep a tight rein on spending, focus on results from public services, start to pay down debt and look to return any excess revenue on top of this to tax payers".

So, there's no money for anything, except for tax cuts for National's corporate donors and rich mates. And meanwhile, our schools will rot, our hospitals will be overcrowded, and kids will be living in cars because they can't get a state house despite their obvious need.

This isn't even ethical, let alone responsible. Instead National is just the party of crony capitalism, looting the state for the benefit of their rich mates.


If there's merit in Mark Latham, then there must be merit in punching walls ... loon pond

Uh huh.

Of course the pond couldn't resist, but first a little exculpatory preamble ...

The pond has a number of friends in the TG community, the pond might be even so bold as to say that some of them are intimate friends, but the issue, when it comes to spade and shovel, is that someone saying fuckwitted things may be labelled a fuckwit without fear of perceived prejudice or of 18C being waved about, and the Terrorists thereby having a fainting fit ...

And so to the latest scribbling of Catherine McGregor, who unfortunately hitched her wagon to that of Tony Abbott's, and keeps on with the hitching.

This latest offering can be seen as a sidebar to the reptiles' current campaign, which each day turns up a fresh offering ...

Tell that to Arfur,

But back to McGregor - let us bypass her own adept effort at labelling her rival as a weak and conventional choice - now flourishing a...


BREAKTHROUGHS: Giant wind turbines and carbon filtering make power Independent Australia

BREAKTHROUGHS: Giant wind turbines and carbon filtering make powerScience can now make energy by building immense wind turbine blades and filtering carbon from the air, but the challenge is commercial viability. read now...


The user-pays Prime Minister No Right Turn

Radio New Zealand has a piece this morning on Auckland ratepayers having to pay to send council staff to hear John Key's big announcement on the City Rail Link - because the speech was a pricey private event. But its not the only one. In fact, according to Philip Lyth, Key has given only seven speeches in the last year, and only two of those (the Pukehau dedications) were open to the public:

The rest were all walled off from the public by expensive admission fees, despite policy being announced and public business being conducted. In other words, we have a user-pays Prime Minister who is afraid of the public and will only talk to rich people like himself.


The ATO offshoring jobs is the same as business offshoring profits Independent Australia

The ATO offshoring jobs is the same as business offshoring profitsThe Turnbull Government firing 20% of ATO staff and outsourcing much of its work overseas is likely to cut revenue collections and aid tax avoidance, says former ATO assistant commissioner John Passant. read now...


Anything's possible in these amazing times, including the Caterists returning their grant because money never fixed anything ... loon pond

Well indeed, and there's nothing more to say about that, which is why a visit to Rowe here can keep conversations and arguments to a modest necessity and no more.

It's possible that conversations are also terse in the poodle's home this day as the wrestling man, the gorgeous George of SA politics attracts the eye, even if he passes as gorgeous Nick ...

But it was tempting to rant at length at the way Media Watch revealed the full enormity of Beating up the banquet...

How does Simon Benson sleep at night? Easily, twisted and piked like a crooked man, while taking down the thoughts of Tony Abbott ...

And so we passed from this ...


Australian Federal Election 2016: campaign humour North Coast Voices

Excerpt from email sent by, 6 February 2016:

Victory was declared this week. Punctuation was defeated and the Government’s semi-annual skirmishes against hyphens and semi-colons came to an end. After two years the Government decided to stop their so-called "red tape repeal days". We can all congratulate the Government on successfully removing from legislation 40 hyphens, one comma and one inverted comma; changing two full stops to semi-colons, one semi-colon to a full stop; and inserting two commas, one full stop, one colon and one hyphen. They also abolished state navies, which hadn't existed since 1913, and decided you no longer need to register your mule or bullock for military purposes. #Victory


Will the Turnbull Government finally eliminate those overgenerous superannuation tax concessions for the wealthy? North Coast Voices

Is talk of make superannuation policy fairer just part of the political spin in the lead-up to this year's federal election spin or will the Turnbull Government genuinely commitment to removing overgenerous superannuation tax concessions for the wealthy?

In 2015 Australian Treasurer Scott Morrision put superannuation tax concessions for the high-income earners on the table - signalling the possibility of cuts to tax concessions for this group.

By January 2016 Morrison was holding to this position with qualifications.

Public expectation began to build that the Turnbull Government would at last address those tax loopholes in the national superannuation scheme which allows high-income earners to use super as a form of tax av...

Monday, 08 February


Taxing debates Press gallery reform

There is one matter on which Labor and the Coalition, Turnbull and Abbott, and every media organisation represented in the press gallery are absolutely agreed: you can have a public debate about a matter of national importance, but only if you know the result in advance. If you don't, it's all a bit shambolic. Only if the result is managed in advance can the 'debate' be managed in an orderly way. The broadcast media can praise the sheer orderliness of it all, so that when the conclusion comes everyone can say how inevitable it all was and thank everyone for having a go. The only losers are those who thought they might influence the outcome when it was all stitched up well ahead of time.

This is what happened with the latest manifestation of the tax debate.

Press gallery journalists record issues being talked up/down, but even though they have seen several rounds of these debates they cannot evaluate the options, and cannot describe what might happen if those options got up. Mouthing notions of 'respect the audience', their only comment on tax is to churn out another "here we go again!" piece on tax reform that could easily be done by an algorithm. The role of broadcast media in complex public debates is not that valuable when they lack the knowledge and wit to participate. Do they think it's cute, bringing plastic splayds to knife-fights? Are they cleaving to some ancient journo tradition, from days when the population was less educated and expected less from government (e.g. when BEER, CIGS UP sufficed as tax/budget commentary)? You have to fossick for glints on economists' blogs to piece together some idea about taxing and debt repayments, spending and investing. The traditional broadcast media simply are not helpful and have no idea, they have no idea why anyone would want to do that, and have neither the desire nor the wit to get one.

I wish Laura Tingle was not the only journalist capable of examining tax reform from an econom...


Can it really be against the law to say something that someone else says they have been offended by? Catallaxy Files

According to 18C, as I understand it, it is contrary to the law to say something that someone else says they have been offended by. But how do we know they have been offended? Because they have said so. But how do we know they are telling the truth that they have been offended? Again, because they have said so. As circular as this may seem, the nature of the law as it is now constructed is that it merely takes the word of someone to say they have been offended by something someone else has said and off to kangaroo court we go.

If being offended was all it took to start this process going, you would think these courts would be filled to the brim and their calendars would stretch into the future for years ahead. There are plenty of offensive statements being made all the time everywhere. There is, however, a catch. Only some groups are officially designated as potential offendees. Only they can get these kangaroo courts to act. So hidden away under lock and key is the list of people and groups who will set this process in motion by saying they have been offended, while with others they can offend to their heart’s content and no one will say boo to a goose.

Andrew Bolt discusses one such case, under the heading, Even Christ would be banned under our laws against speech that offends. Of course, the superfluous word there is the word “even”. The real point is that it is especially Christians who are banned from stating their beliefs, you know, the beliefs that have been the basis of our civilisation for the past 1500-2000 years. And if someone should find themselves offended by some anti-Christian rant, of which there are many from which to choose, is there a tribunal to which they could take their complaint? You have only to ask to know the answer.

Then there is this st...

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