Monthly Archives: December 2014

Australian Politics 2014-12-31 16:11:00


Pensioners, unemployed, sport, schools and solariums to be hit by laws on New Year's Day

Thousands of seniors could lose access to the valuable Commonwealth seniors health care card from New Year's Day, as the income test for the seniors card becomes a lot stricter.

Account-based pensions and superannuation income streams will no longer be exempt from the seniors card income test.

Retired couples with an income of more than $80,000 a year or singles who earn more than $50,000 a year could lose access to the concession card, which provides discounts on utility and medical bills, pharmaceuticals and transport, as well as an $886 yearly payment.

The unemployed will also be subject to stricter conditions on their Centrelink benefits, which have already been tightened during 2014.

Since July, employers have been able to report to Centrelink employees who have failed to attend work. The move resulted in a 54 per cent increase in welfare payment suspensions, the Department of Human Services said.

Under the new laws from January 1 the number of suspensions looks set to rise again. If a person misses an appointment with their employer, their Centrelink support payment will be suspended until they attend another one.

From July the laws will become even tougher. Income support will be suspended if a person fails to provide an adequate excuse for missing an appointment.

"This is the same standard of behaviour that is expected of a worker if they can't make it to work, and it is an important principle that the same standard applies to job seekers in receipt of taxpayer-funded income support," Assistant Minister for Employment Luke Hartsuyker said.

In NSW, solariums will be closed on December 31, following years of criticism by health care bodies.  "There is irrefutable scientific evidence that exposure to UV radiation in solaria is a high risk for melanoma and other skin cancers," the Cancer Council said.  Solarium owners believe the laws will only encourage a black market of tanning bed operators.

In the sporting world, Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority's efforts to curb the doping market will step up a gear with amendments to the ASADA act.  Sportspeople will be forbidden from associating with anyone in a professional capacity who has been banned, criminally convicted or disciplined by any doping body.

ASADA chief executive Ben McDevitt will also maintain a publicly available "violations list" of people who commit doping offences.

ASADA will also become responsible for the prosecution of offenders, because the previous system of having individual sports target doping cheats was found to be too cumbersome.

While ASADA will gain a broader spectrum, other sectors will have theirs slashed.

Schools, sporting clubs and other organisations that use microphones in the 700 MHz spectrum will have to re-equip themselves when the estimated 150,000 wireless microphones in that range become illegal on January 1.  The spectrum is privately owned now by Telstra and Optus, after the former labour government sold it for more than $1 billion in 2013.

The sale might have boosted the government's budget temporarily, but one that will increase the coffers for years to come is the 50 per cent increase in the cost of a permanent partner visa for immigrants.

From New Year's Day Australians who marry or fall in love with a foreigner will have to pay  up to $6865 for the right for them to live and work legally in the country. That fee is up from $4575 in 2014. The move is expected to bring in $373.6 million in revenue over the next four years.


First coal-seam gas loaded for export from Australia

The world's first coal-seam-gas to LNG facility starts up.  Greenies hate coal seam gas, of course, but both the Queensland and Federal government support it

BG Group began loading the first cargo of LNG from its Queensland Curtis LNG (QCLNG) facility to the vessel Methane Rita Andrea December 28. The second cargo of LNG from the facility will be loaded onto the Methane Mickie Harper, which is expected in Gladstone in the first week of January.

QCLNG is the world's first LNG project to be supplied by coal seam gas. The start of production from the plant's first LNG train is the result of more than four years of development and construction on Curtis Island.

The project will expand further with the startup of the second train in the third quarter of 2015. At plateau production, expected during 2016, QCLNG will have an output of around 8 million metric tons of LNG a year.

Andrew Gould, interim Executive Chairman, said, "This is an immense achievement which demonstrates the company's ability to deliver a highly complex LNG project. The start-up of QCLNG is testament to the hard work, skill and dedication of all our employees, partners and customers including the thousands of individuals who have been involved in physically building the plant.

The ongoing support from both the State Government of Queensland and the local councils of our upstream region and in Gladstone has also been pivotal in this development. We thank them all."


Work and pay prospects for graduates deteriorated in 2014, a survey shows

More evidence that a university education is now not worth it for many.  Catching up for years of lost earnings is now increasingly unlikely

Recent university graduates are more likely to be out of full-time work than ever before and starting salaries for graduates have stagnated, new figures show.

The latest annual survey by Graduate Careers Australia shows that full-time employment rates and the earnings advantage of completing a degree both hit record lows in 2014 for recent graduates.

Thirty-two per cent of university graduates who wanted a full-time job had not found one four months after completing a degree in 2014 - up from 29 per cent last year and topping the previous record set in 1992.

"These figures are really concerning," said Grattan Institute higher education program director Andrew Norton. "They are worse than the 1990s recession but without the recession."

Mr Norton said the decline was most likely due to the growing number of students enrolling at university and a reluctance among employers to take on new workers since the global financial crisis.

Undergraduate university enrolments have soared by 23 per cent, or 110,000 students, since 2009 following the uncapping of student places.

In 2008, before the global economic downturn, 85 per cent of university graduates had found a full-time job four months after finishing their degree, compared with just 68 per cent this year.

More than 100,000 recent graduates completed the Australian Graduate Survey (AGS).

"These figures indicate that the labour market prospects of new bachelor degree graduates, which fell in the 2009 AGS as a result of the global financial crisis and did not change notably between 2010 and 2012 before falling again in 2013, have again fallen," the report says.

Recent pharmacy, medicine and mining engineering graduates were most likely to have full-time jobs, whereas social sciences, chemistry and psychology graduates were among the most likely to be unemployed or underemployed.

Employment opportunities have deteriorated significantly for recent law graduates. A quarter of law graduates were seeking permanent employment in 2014 four months after finishing their degree, up from nine per cent in 2008.

The GCA report stresses that the medium and long-term job prospects for graduates remain strong despite the tough employment market for new graduates. Only 3.2 per cent of university graduates are unemployed compared to 8.2 per cent for those with no post-secondary qualifications according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data.

The latest figures also show that starting salaries for graduates have declined when compared to wage of an average Australian male.

The median starting salary for a bachelor degree holder aged under 25 was $52,500 in 2014 or 74 per cent of male average weekly earnings. This is the lowest proportion relative to the average male wage since records began in 1977 and is significantly down from the recent peak of 83 per cent in 2009.

The median graduate starting salary rose by just $50, or 0.1 per cent, from 2013 while the wage of an average male rose by $411 or 0.6 per cent.

The higher earnings potential for university graduates, which remains significant over a lifetime, has been a key selling point for the Abbott government in its bid to deregulate university fees. Education Minister Christopher Pyne has repeatedly cited the figure that university graduates will earn 75 per cent more over a lifetime than school leavers.

New male graduates earned a median salary of $55,000 in 2014 while new female graduates started work on a median salary of $52,000. The difference is largely explained by the fact men are more likely to choose degrees which lead to high starting salaries - such as engineering - than women, according to the GCA report.


Customs staff to be armed at airports, new Immigration Minister announces

Customs officers will be armed at airports in the new year, the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton has announced as he cements his plan to crack down on crime gangs and drug traffickers in his new portfolio.

As of next year customs and border protection officers will be permitted to carry "personal defensive equipment", which includes firearms, while on duty at Australian airports, Mr Dutton announced on Tuesday in his first media release as Immigration Minister.

"This measure will not only increase the capability of our future Border Force officers, it will also add another layer of deterrence at our borders, and will ensure that the travelling public is as safe as possible," Mr Dutton said.

"This government is serious about border protection. People smugglers, transnational crime gangs and narcotic traffickers should be under no illusion. The government is committed to enhancing our nation's border protection arrangements.

"The border of the future will be far more complex than the environment we face today, however, and so the Australian Border Force must be well trained and well equipped if they are to deal with the range of new and emerging threats our nation faces."

The announcement comes as the immigration department prepares to merge with the Customs Service in July next year as the Australian Border Force, with increasing focus on deterrence at Australia's borders and continuing the Abbott government's resolve to "stop the boats".

One day after the former health minister was sworn in as the Immigration Minister this month he took to Facebook to list his priorities as the incoming minister.

"If you're an illegal bikie, if you're part of an outlaw motorcycle gang involved in organised criminal activity, you've just made it to the top of my list," wrote Mr Dutton on his fan page.

"Coming to Australia is a privilege and if you're coming here harming Australians, ripping off our welfare system, committing serious crimes, then you're at the top of my list for deporting."


What a silly old year 2014 has been for Left commentators

HAS there ever been a year so ­afflicted with massive exaggeration, wide-scale false prophecy, appalling judgment, wilful omission and narcissism? You be the judge, on a monthly basis.


In a faux encyclical, Fairfax Media religious reporter Barney Zwartz praises Pope Francis and calls for Cardinal George Pell to step down as archbishop of Sydney. Soon after, Francis promotes Pell to a senior role in the Vatican and Zwartz retires.

ABC presenter Jonathan Green declares he will never be able to convince himself that Tony Abbott is “a man of intelligence … while he keeps wearing those blue ties”. In The Canberra Times, Jenna Price discusses her “diseased uterus” and announces an intention to send immigration minister Scott Morrison one tampon a month. Price is an academic who teaches journalism.


Morry Schwartz’s The Saturday Paper is launched, stating its intention to be read by wealthy inner-city professional types who have Netflix accounts and are “lighthouse consumers”. In fact, it’s just another boring rant against the Coalition — an upmarket version of the Green Left Weekly. The Age’s Martin Flanagan asserts that Rupert Murdoch “has become Catholic”. He provides no evidence for his claim. In The Sydney Morning Herald, Mike Carlton describes Tony Abbott as “pure Vladimir Putin”, overlooking the fact Abbott does not lock up opponents.


On the ABC’s Q&A, Guardian Australia editor Katharine Viner depicts Australia as “a globally infamous human rights abuser”. Like North Korea or Syria, presumably. Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs objects to criticism of her organisation’s $60,000 Christmas party. The learned professor maintains she does not intend to “do things in some sort of shabby way” or “want to be in the village hall in Koo Wee Rup”. That’s a Victorian town where there are no “lighthouses” and few, if any, read The Saturday Paper. Hardly a place for human rights professionals.


Melbourne writer Helen Garner ventures to the Victorian town of Castlemaine to express solidarity with fellow leftists Arnold Zable, Robert Manne and Rai Gaita. All are opposed to the construction of a chicken factory in nearby Baringhup. You see, Gaita has said the “rhythm” of his “sentences” can be traced to his home town of Baringhup and he and his comrades do not want the land interfered with. Fair dinkum.

Film director Anna Broinowski talks about her recent visit to North Korea where she “had to educate” the communist regime “about coal-seam gas” as it educated her on “how to make a propaganda film”. She expresses no objection to human rights abuses in the totalitarian state.


Monash University academic and ABC TV presenter Waleed Aly appears on Channel 10’s The Project. Invited to describe the Nigerian terrorist group Boko Haram, he fails to refer to its identification with the Islamist cause.

Former prime minister Malcolm Fraser identifies with the conspiracy theory that Israel consciously bombed the USS Liberty in 1967. Artist Maria Fernanda Cardoso argues that “spiders are artists themselves” since “they know how to make visual display … while mating”. She received a taxpayer-funded grant from the Australia Council to study the artistic merit of insect sex organs.


Carlton bags the Abbott government as a “gang of punishers and straighteners (sic), of cutters and slashers, run by the sort of bossy former private school prefects who enjoy enforcing dress codes at golf clubs”. Carlton attended Barker College on Sydney’s north shore, where he wrote appalling poetry in the private school’s magazine.

Guardian Australia journalist David Marr prophesises that “there is a very real possibility that the Arab world is going to respond to Australia’s unique stand on East Jerusalem by saying: ‘Well we won’t buy your wheat.’ ” It didn’t.


It’s time for false historical comparisons again. Palmer United Party supremo Clive Palmer labels Queensland Premier Campbell Newman a Nazi. Just like Heinrich Himmler, apparently. Fraser says that returning asylum-seekers to Sri Lanka is “redolent of handing Jews to Nazis in the 1930s”.

Australian National University professor Hugh White has another look at his crystal ball and sees a “most worrying parallel between 1914 and 2014”. There wasn’t, consequently a third world war did not begin.


Carlton steps down as a Sydney Morning Herald columnist after refusing to accept a suspension for abusing his readers, one whom he labelled a “Jewish bigot”.

He dir­ected another reader to “kiss my arse”, an offer that was declined. Human Rights Commissioner Tim Soutphommasane says he is “agnostic” as to whether Carlton’s abuse is offensive.

But what if a conservative, say, had called someone a Muslim bigot?

Writer Frank Moorhouse attends outgoing ASIO director-general David Irvine’s address at the National Press Club where Irvine warns about the danger of lone-wolf terrorists. Moorhouse senses the “dangerous ‘for-us-or-against-us’ paradigm resting in the PM’s term Team Australia”.


Man Booker Prize winner Richard Flanagan says he is “ashamed to be Australian”. He indicates his concern that the Prime Minister has supported the coal industry. Flanagan seems unaware that coalmines pay company tax and royalties that help to fund the artistic community. Jane Caro reckons that “traditional marriage … was a form of prostitution”. Anne Summers mourns the (greatly exaggerated) death of Mungo MacCallum, who hears of his passing while enjoying lunch.

The Age’s columnist Jonathan Holmes says there is no evidence to support the view that his employer runs lots of anti-Catholic diatribes.

The Age’s editor subsequently spikes a letter from reader Chris Curtis documenting 15 articles containing what he terms “anti-Catholic bigotry”.


The Saturday Paper’s Mike Seccombe debunks the Abbott government’s national security legislation, which is supported by Labor, with a smirk, saying: “This is very much taking a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.” Activist journalist Margo Kingston announces she has received a scholarship from Macquarie University to write about, wait for it, herself. It’s not clear whether Kingston’s analysis of herself will be assessed by herself. But, why not? After all, Kingston is the world expert on Kingston.


Not to be outdone in the narcissism stakes, former failed Labor leader Mark Latham uses his Australian Financial Review column to write about himself. He employs the words “I”, “I’ve”, “me” and “my” on no fewer than 20 occasions while whingeing about something that allegedly happened to him in 2007. Cate Blanchett puts in an Oscar-worthy performance at Gough Whitlam’s memorial service. She claims to have received “free” tertiary education under the Whitlam government, seemingly unaware that her campus days were paid for by taxpayers. In reviews of Whitlam’s time as PM, there is virtually no mention of his opposition to Vietnamese refugees, support for the Soviet incorporation of the Baltic States or decision to accept cash for Labor’s 1975 election campaign from Saddam Hussein’s regime.


The Left intelligentsia responds to Man Haron Monis’s Sydney siege with denial. Monis calls himself an Islamist terrorist but many commentators, especially on the ABC, choose not to believe him. Writing in The Conversation on December 16, academic Clarke Jones decries the “hype about terrorism”, declaring that if you took out the words “terrorism”, “Islamic” and “Islamic State”, the siege would have received scant attention. He seems to accept that the words “siege” and “hostage” could still have been used. Fancy that. The year ends with ABC chairman Jim Spigelman declaringthat critics want ABC personnel with whom they disagree “taken out at dawn and hung (sic)”. Enough said.


Australian Politics 2014-12-30 15:47:00


ISIS extremists living in Queensland are being 'closely monitored' after returning from conflict in Syria and Iraq

Islamic State fighters who have returned from the conflict in Iraq and Syria are living in Queensland, but are being 'closely monitored' by officials.

Australia is currently facing a 'high' threat of terrorism according to the government, with a number of Islamic State extremists currently on the ASIO anti-terrorism radar.

A senior Police Commissioner has warned that the experience these fighters have gained from the conflict in makes them a major concern for Australian authorities, reports Courier Mail.

When asked about the number of extremists living in Australia, Queensland Police Commissioner Ian Stewart said 'I can't confirm the number because it can change in a heartbeat – and the risk can change in a heartbeat. Today it (the number) might be five. Tomorrow it might be 10,'.

'Obviously you don't go off fighting in foreign lands – not as a member of the Australian Defence Force – and come back and think you are not going to be on our radar,' Mr Stewart said.

'And that's because of the experiences that they have, and the skill set that they pick up by being involved in fighting elsewhere.'

Mr Stewart said while the Police strive for the utmost safety of Australians, there is always a risk of acts of terror.

It is believed that 12 Queenslanders are among the 70 identified Australians fighting in Iraq and Syria.

Some of them are hiding in Syria, fearing if they come back to Australia they will be prosecuted by severe new anti-terror laws that could see them jailed for up to 25 years.

Among the Australians who have flown to Syria are brothers Taha, Hamza, Bilal and Omar from Yagoona in Western Sydney.

The four men, aged between 17 and 28, told their parents they were taking a holiday in Thailand after winning their tickets in a competition, before revealing via text message that they had arrived in Syria.

Before they were due to come home last month, the parents received a text stating: 'We made it to Bilad al-Sham, we will see you in paradise'. Bilad al-Sham is a region in Syria. Despite the text, the parents went to the airport to pick up their sons but they never arrived.

Authorities tracked the sons down in Turkey after the family alerted them but it is believed they have since crossed the border into Syria.

Unlike some before them, the siblings were 'clean-skins' and had not been on any watch-lists that would have alerted immigration controls.


What Victoria's new Labor government has in store

Daniel Andrews’ Labor Party defeated the Liberal-National coalition at the Victorian election on November 29 and will hold a majority of about six seats, although the ALP had a swing of only about 1.3 per cent on primary votes.

So what policies can be expected from the new Labor government?

It has promised to enact a radical social agenda, including an extensive gay and lesbian wish-list, for Victoria.

Under the guise of tackling bullying, the government will require every government secondary school to have programs to support and celebrate “gender and sexual diversity” through a state-wide rollout of the Safe Schools Coalition initiative.

It has promised to repeal the criminal offence of intentional infecting of another person with HIV; to establish a GLBT Ministerial Advisory Committee within the Cabinet; and to create a dedicated Gender and Sexuality Discrimination Commissioner in the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

The ALP has also pledged to recognise foreign same-sex marriages as registered relationships under the Victorian Relationships Register Act. The proposal is to allow same-sex couples to describe themselves as “married” on the application form.

Labor is also committed to granting adoption rights to same-sex couples.

Its proposed changes to Victoria’s Equal Opportunity Act constitute an attack on freedom of religion. Under the promised changes, faith-based schools, youth clubs, charities, welfare agencies, hospitals and counselling agencies could be forced to employ people hostile to their beliefs.

Hypocritically, Labor’s proposal will not force Labor MPs to employ Liberal supporters.

In the closing stages of the Victorian election campaign, leaders of the major churches called for no changes to be made to the Equal Opportunity Act, in the interest of maintaining a fair balance between the right to equality, freedom of association and religious liberty.

Also, it can be expected that the abortion lobby will be pushing for “bubble zones” around abortion facilities to prevent pro-lifers praying for and approaching women entering an abortion facility.

The upper house losses suffered by both Labor and the Coalition to the Greens and the micro-parties highlight a major issue that has been developing over the past few decades.

Since the early 1990s, planning by successive governments has focused on a concentrated high-rise residential building spree in central Melbourne.

Hundreds of thousands of people are now living in one- and two-bedroom units. They are single-income or dual-income-no-kids households.

Coalition and ALP governments have poured billions into infrastructure support for metropolitan Melbourne. What they have created is a concentrated constituency of people inclined to vote Green.

Meanwhile, regional economies have been suffering from a lack of infrastructure development.

This has been made worse in central and northern Victoria from the huge loss to farmers of irrigation water that has been diverted to the environment under the Commonwealth government’s Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

This failure to pursue sensible decentralisation policies has left Labor bleeding to the Greens in Melbourne and the Coalition bleeding to micro-parties in the regional areas of Victoria.

The result is likely to leave Victoria with similar problems to the Abbott government, which is struggling to get its legislation though a divided Senate. The one difference in Victoria is that the upper house cannot block supply; so the Andrews government, with its control of the lower house, can easily pass its budgets.


Queensland teaching graduates heading to UK after failing to land job locally

QUEENSLAND teaching graduates are heading to the UK in droves, with nine out of 10 failing to get a job with the state’s education department.  About 230 teaching graduates this year have been offered and accepted a permanent position with the Department of Education — despite more than 2080 applying for a job.

Almost 590 of the graduates from 2014 were offered and accepted temporary positions.

But recent reports out of England have suggested there could be a deficit of almost 30,000 teachers in 2017 with Queensland teachers rushing to fill the positions.

Mitch Jones, who recruits Australian teachers to work in the UK, said there was a rush to attract not only experienced teachers but also new graduates.  “The demand for relief teachers are also so high we can guarantee every teacher regular relief work each week,” he said.  “Some teachers also choose to work casually so they can spend more time travelling through Europe.”

The agency, Protocol Education, works with about 4000 public, religious and private schools across England, and currently sends over about 500 Australian teachers each year.

The Queensland Education Department has an active applicant pool of 13,917 seeking employment for next year, the number a combination of graduates from Queensland, interstate, overseas and general experienced teacher applicants.  More than 2080 of the applicants are straight out of university.

Teaching graduate Kristen Doherty is heading to Milton Keynes in the UK next year after studying a Bachelor of Primary Education, specialising in middle years.  “I am so excited, it’s going to be so good,” she said.  “I wanted to do a bit of exploration for me.”’

She said she was extremely nervous about the move but had studied up on the curriculum for her future Year 6 class.

Queensland Teachers Union president Kevin Bates said graduates were often lured overseas for a taste of adventure.  “Some people are finding it’s difficult to get work and not willing to move outside the southeast corner,” he said.  “The other reason is that people, particularly Gen Y, are very much into this idea you go and work overseas for a few years — it’s a rite of passage.”

Education Minister John-Paul Langbroek said Queensland schools were under a strong plan.  “We are working hard to make Queensland the best place to live, work and raise a family,” Mr Langbroek said.

“There is always demand for high-achieving professionals to teach in our state schools.  “We appoint a large number of teachers each year and have a range of initiatives to attract the best teachers to our schools, including those in remote locations.”


Teachers suffering under bureauracy and an old-fashioned industrial relations regime

Teachers in Australia's schools are suffering under an old-fashioned industrial relations regime and an out-dated salary structure according to new research published today by the free market think tank, the Institute of Public Affairs.

“Teachers are paid according to a ‘one size fits all’ model that pays the best and the worst teachers the same,” says John Roskam, Executive Director of the IPA.

“Promotion is based on time-served and the completion of box-ticking exercises rather than on the quality of teaching in the classroom.  For example, under existing regulations a Nobel Prize-winning scientist who wants to be a teacher must be paid the same as a 22 year-old inexperienced graduate.”

“The industrial relations regime that teachers work under means they sacrifice salary in exchange for more time off work.  For example, a teacher earning $75,000 a year has 11 weeks away from work and 17.5% holiday leave loading.  On a ‘standard year’ of 48 weeks work this equates to a salary of over $95,000 a year,” says Mr Roskam.

The report Freedom to Teach by IPA Research Fellows Vicki Stanley and Darcy Allen documents the 600 pages of regulations that stifle schools, teachers and principals.

“Teaching in Australia is managed as an industry according to systems established in the nineteenth-century.  If we are to provide young people with the best possible education we must think of teaching as a profession in which teachers are rewarded on the basis of their ability,” says John Roskam.

Key recommendations from the report include:

·       removing restrictions limiting the maximum amount classroom teachers can be paid

·       removing restrictions limiting the number of hours teachers can teach

·       allowing schools to make incentive payments to attract teachers to hard-to-staff schools


Do We Love Our MPs?

Apparently not, is the conclusion from a recent British Election Study survey which Philip Cowley uses for a fascinating piece of analysis.  I'd recommend any politics student to make a regular point of visiting the Nottingham University Politics department blog (Ballots and Bullets) on which Cowley and his colleagues post for just this sort of interesting, slightly off the beaten path form of analysis.

I won't repeat all of Cowley's points here - you can after all go and read it yourself - but suffice it to note that MPs individually don't seem to score that much more highly in the public's esteem than MPs as a whole, who as we know are generally (and yes, unfairly) despised.  There is also a small crumb of comfort for the Lib Dems in the survey, suggesting that Lib Dem MPs are both more familiar in terms of name recognition n their seats, and that they score slightly higher positive ratings individually than MPs from other parties.  Those of us who believe the Lib Dems will do badly but not go into meltdown at the next election are basing much of that expectation on this very factor - that a decent number of Lib Dem MPs are well enough bedded in to their constituencies to buck the national trend.  This may not, however, apply to prominent government office holders such as Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander, who may find themselves more favourable to an unreformed House of Lords than ever after May 2015.

Also on the subject of the next election blogger and radio presenter Iain Dale is currently going through every Westminster seat with a prediction as to how they will go in May - an immense but very thorough task.

Obama has no intention of letting Republicans write his political legacy

President Obama shouldn't by rights be entering 2015 with much political joy in his heart. He may still have two full years as chief executive to run, but the set-back of the mid-term Republican gains, which saw that party gain control of the Senate and keep control of the House of Representatives, meant that his chances of any satisfactory legislation in the remainder of his presidency are precisely zilch.

If anything, though, the Republican win seems to have fired the president up to make sure he finishes his final term on a high.  He clearly has no intention of letting the Republicans dictate his political legacy and, as this New Republic article suggests, he may also be seeking to ensure that any Democratic successor - most people think Hillary Clinton at the moment -  has something to fight for and preserve in 2016.

Obama made an impact when, not long after his party's mid-term defeat, he went on the offensive over deferring deportation of illegal immigrants, using the executive order to do so.  He's been at it again in his bid to normalise relations with Cuba.  Clearly, the executive office is going to be the source of much pro-active agenda-setting, and the essentially negative Republicans in the elgislature may find themselves on the wrong end of the Obama executive presidency.

As Brian Beutler suggests in New Republic, Obama will have to be wary of over-using executive orders, but there are ways in which he can stake out his legacy and give Hillary something to fight for by appealing to his still very large political base.  After all, he has the largest electoral mandate of any politician in the country.

Obama has already done much to re-shape America, and rescue international affairs from the disasters of his predecessor's foreign policy.  It looks as if he is far from finished and that the next two years might even see a liberated president, with no more elections to fight, pursue some of his most distinctive policies yet.  The Obama story is far from over.

And a Happy New Year

Posting will be lighter than normal until Jan 5, 2015.  This blog is a lot of work and I need a break.  My SO thinks I am looking weary.  I'll bet I am.

This blog turned five years old December 5.  I have created over 2100 posts in those five years.  Some of them are still very relevant so if you need a real-economics fix, I encourage you to wander through the archives.