Monthly Archives: June 2018

30/6/18: U.S. incarceration statistics and American Exceptionalism

The U.S. figures prominently in the world of horrific stats, as do many other countries. Perhaps the most significant difference between these, however, is the fact that the U.S. claims high moral grounds when it comes to the rest of the world, despite having its own house out of order.

Here is one example: the U.S. often positions itself as the society based on two (amongst others) core ethical principles: law and order, and public support for ethical norms. Now, if the two values are taken together, the proposition would imply that the U.S. has law & norms-abiding citizenry (the average crime rate should be below that of the countries the U.S. lectures), plus a  functioning legal system (the punitive system of justice should be functioning alongside the preventative and rehabilitative functions). In conjunction, the three factors should combine to yield a relatively benign incarceration rates in the U.S. compared to other countries.

Pew Research data shows the exact opposite: While the U.S. incarceration rate has peaked and is declining, the U.S. remains a global outlier in terms of incarcerations per 100,000 people:

This presents an impossible dilemma:

  • Either (A) the U.S. justice system is highly effective in capturing and convicting criminals (large prison population being driven by law enforcement efficiency), or (B) the U.S. justice system is highly ineffective in preventing crime and rehabilitating criminals (large prison population being driven by failure of the justice system in its other key functions), or (C) the U.S. population has high rates of disdain for law and order, criminality and recidivism.
  • What is impossible is that 'Not (A)' can simultaneously coincide with 'Not (B)' and 'Not (C)'. 
In other words, what is impossible is the very claim of U.S. exceptionalism as a society with highly effective and functioning democratic law and order institutions while, simultaneously, being a law and norms-abiding society. 

Thus, any analyst rating the U.S. legal system as being highly functional must simultaneously allow for the U.S. society to be disrespectful of laws and norms. Alternatively, any analyst claiming that the U.S. society is norms and laws-based must simultaneously allow for the U.S. justice system to be of low quality. One or the other, logically, applies. 

Australian Politics 2018-06-30 15:46:00


Australian culture is backward (?)

Below is the first part of a familiar rant from an unhappy lady.  Her ethnography is correct.  Australians really are like that. 

I would be regarded s a deep-dyed villain in her book.  On family BBQs, my ex-wife sometimes gets me my meal, then usually gets me my dessert and then asks me later on if I would like a cup of tea.  I rarely get up.

So why does she do that?  It's to a small degree because we are a pretty traditional family but the real reason is simply that she is a very kind person.  She knows that I am rather clumsy and get involved in conversations with the men present so she simply looks after me. I noted the same in Scotland when I was there. I asked one of the Scotsmen at a BBQ why they did not fetch their own meal from the BBQ.  He said: "My wife knows what I take"

There are many kind women in Australia who willingly do most of the housework. They have various expectations of their men and if those expectations are fulfilled they are happy to do their bit.  The writer below seems not to know that.

The basic truth that she misses is that all relationships are different and the mix of expectations will differ too.  As she herself acknowledes, the pattern I am familiar with is the norm.  She wants to change the norm.  That is rigid and dogmatic on her part.  She should respect differences and stop trying to impose her preferred relationship pattern on others. 

In fact, she has the unshakeable conviction about the rightness of her values that one so often sees on the Left  -- a conviction that in Communist regimes regularly leads to mass murder.  How much better for all of us it would be if the values of the carpenter of Nazareth were our guide

AT A party a few weeks ago, I witnessed a blood-boiling example of inequality. Through the entire three courses of dinner — for which the women had put together salads and baked desserts, organised decorations and gifts for the birthday boy — the majority of men remained glued to their seats as we milled among them, collecting plates, serving food and effectively waited on them, hand and foot.

It was a clear example at the huge gulf between the sexes in Aussie culture.

While there’s plenty of talk about Australian men increasing their housework effort, and being ahead in their contribution of men in other countries, it’s clear women are still picking up far too much of the slack. While I am fortunate to be in the minority of women with a husband more anal than I am about germs, women continue to do up to two-thirds more housework than men, according to data from the 2016 Census. I should also point out that while neither of us cares that much about housework, both of us are aware of the fine line between pretending not to care and hoarding empty wine bottles and “Pods” packets under the bed.

In his article, “Dirty Secret: Why Is There Still A Housework Gender Gap”, Oliver Burkeman sums up the problem rather succinctly when he says: “The ‘housework gap’ largely stopped narrowing in the 1980s. Men, it seems, conceded that they should be doing more than before — but then, having half-heartedly vacuumed the living room and passed a dampened cloth over the dining table, concluded that it was time for a nice sit-down.”

I can believe it.


Shorten’s stumbles over strategy cause pain for Labor

This is the week Bill Shorten’s “big end of town” class warfare collided with the reality of his policies — medium-sized and family businesses and their employees being hurt — a reminder that when you build a house on populist crusading the foundations are rotten.

The Opposition Leader has been exposed by his own blunder, typical of a pattern of bold yet reckless stances in recent months.

Addicted to a form of confidence-building assertion, Shorten’s judgment is faulty as he purports to a leadership authority he does not possess. This week’s train wreck was long in the making. It reflects Shorten’s character defects and the flaws in his class-based populism.

Shorten’s backdown at Friday’s shadow cabinet meeting was humiliating but essential. After offering the Turnbull government seemingly limitless opportunities his doorstop this week pledging to impose tax increases on medium-sized companies was a gift that Malcolm Turnbull, finally, could not fail to bank.

Shorten has an excuse. Labor’s expenditure review committee had decided on the position he announced. That’s telling. It means this was a collective blunder, not just Shorten’s mistake as leader. The original decision had not gone to shadow cabinet but it was a serious mistake by senior Labor figures.

Shorten had offered the Prime Minister a devastating weapon at the July 28 by-elections and beyond. This blunder had the potential to bring both the leadership into conversation and seriously prejudice Labor’s entrenched polling lead over the government.

Shorten, like Turnbull late last year, will live to fight another day. His embarrassment this week was self-inflicted, not Turnbull’s achievement. Indeed, it highlights the strange nature of their contest: Turnbull and Shorten sustain each other because neither has the ability to establish command over or destroy his opponent.

Shorten presents as a champion of Labor values but this week merely reveals the cynicism and self-interested expediency that drives his strategy as leader. This week’s fiasco had nothing to do with values and sound policy. It was a panic to correct for the electoral damage Shorten had done. This time his colleagues had an unanswerable case to reverse Shorten’s captain’s pick.

Labor should be worried. Shorten presides over a party that flirts with overreach; witness his false comments for months that no Labor MP was in the dual citizenship trap, the pledge to repeal the bulk of the government’s personal income tax cuts and the electorally sensitive restriction on franking credits for retirees.

The upshot now is that companies in the $10 million to $50m turnover zone will not be penalised by an incoming Labor government. Their legislated tax cut to 27.5 per cent as implemented from July 1 will stay — but Labor still will repeal in office any further legislated tax cuts and respect only tax cuts already being paid. This means Shorten remains pledged to repeal stage two of the government’s plan taking the corporate tax rate to 25 per cent for all companies — if Turnbull, or rather Senate leader Mathias Cormann, can get it legislated.

Shorten and Labor have not surrendered the fight over company tax cuts; they have merely shifted tactics to achieve a stronger position. Don’t think Shorten will retreat from his class warfare populist rhetoric.

What is Labor’s logic for keeping a 30 per cent corporate rate for companies above the $50m cap and a 27.5 per cent rate for those companies below the cap? There is no logic; just self-interested politics. Why should a two-tied corporate tax system be imposed? No reason, except to suit Labor’s political needs.

This week’s legacy will stick on Shorten. It reminds that his strategy of class division to mobilise a voting majority is far different from that of the three previous leaders who in the postwar age brought Labor to office by winning elections: Gough Whitlam, Bob Hawke and Kevin Rudd.

Shorten is coming from a different place and gambling that Australia is a different country. This week destroyed Shorten’s claims that his opposition to company tax cuts was mainly about banks and greedy multinationals. He was exposed as a dogmatist refusing to accept the decisions of the parliament. He was prepared to impose tax increases on the almost 20,000 companies with turnovers in the $20m to $50m zone employing upwards of 1.5 million Australians.

For many people this seemed unreasonable, a bridge too far. The people Shorten was ready to punish are not the ‘big end of town’. Why were they being punished? What was the principle that Shorten sought to uphold?

In truth, the same issues and questions still apply. There are hundreds of companies above the $50m turnover cap that are not banks or greedy multinationals yet Shorten is bent on denying them.

Indeed, he mocks them saying a tax cut for such companies would be “unfair” and a “giveaway.” He is still ready to repeal corporate tax cuts passed by the parliament. He refuses to concede the 25 per cent tax rate for small and medium-sized companies.

This week opened the door to an even greater danger — by revealing the real-world implications of his assault on company tax cuts, Shorten risks undermining support for his entire policy.

It became apparent to everybody — media, public and Labor MPs — that a competitive tax rate was linked to investment, jobs and wages. Why wouldn’t an employee prefer to have his company paying a competitive rate?

It was no surprise Labor MPs began to revolt. Shorten’s stance was bad policy and bad politics. Labor members were rendered dumb; they literally couldn’t defend it.

Turnbull was being invited to identify the companies being punished, their streets, towns, suburbs and employees — the losers from Labor’s redistribution.

Any competent Coalition MP would seize on this tactic and apply it in their seats all the way to the next election.

Populism hinges on exaggeration, blame and creating division — in this case Shorten’s pretence is that a company tax cut is merely a windfall for the better-off. This is a brain-dead proposition.

The destructive, class-prejudiced, energy-sapping brawl in this country about company tax is an indulgence that diverts from the bigger tax reform debate that is needed.

It is timely to recall that the 2009 Henry tax review commissioned by Rudd said company tax was the most damaging tax for the economy. It recommended the company tax rate be reduced to 25 per cent “over the medium term” to increase business investment across all sectors including foreign investment to “promote more entrepreneurial activity”.

This is not a radical policy; it is modest and orthodox. Beyond the clamour, opposition Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen uses the budget situation to oppose the company tax cuts. Yet the company tax cuts are phased in over the next eight years and the Henry report was delivered eight years ago.

Shorten, on the other hand, feeds the public a diet of grievance along with the need to deliver fairness and justice. The Henry review also addressed this issue, saying “the personal tax structure should be the sole means of delivering progressivity in the tax system” along with the transfer payments.

It would be folly for the Turnbull government to assume the political wheel has turned. Manifestly, it has not. There was a revealing question from Shorten last Wednesday in parliament: “Is the Prime Minister telling victims of that company that AMP deserves a big business tax cut?”

It was a good, precise, probing question. Later Shorten repeated the same question. Yet the government was unable to provide a precise and telling answer.

There is such an answer: that the bad behaviour of any one company should not be allowed to penalise all companies and all workers in Australia.

Any party that lives by that ethic is betraying the community interest.

The lesson, however, is that Shorten’s campaign against the big end of town retains much momentum from the unions, low-income and public sector workers and a range of progressive lobbies in the welfare, education and environment sectors.

The corporate tax battle will be resumed after the by-elections and the winter recess. This flows from the Thursday announcement by Cormann that the government will not be retreating on its second stage bill to cut taxes for companies above the $50m threshold and achieve by 2026-27 a cut from 30 per cent to 25 per cent for all companies.

Cormann, sensibly, refused to put this bill to the Senate last week because he lacked the numbers. Why take a defeat for no purpose? The government believes after the July 28 by-elections it has another chance to win this legislation since Cormann cut an earlier deal, since revoked, with the Pauline Hanson Party. Will Hanson change her mind again later in the year?

Cormann said: “I respect the fact that Pauline Hanson, with whom I have had many very good conversations … is focused on making the right decisions as she sees it in Australia’s national interest. I absolutely respect that. I hope the fact that One Nation voters increasingly appear to be coming on board with our plan for lower business taxes will, over time, help to persuade Senator Hanson that this is the right thing to do.”

We shall see.

At some stage — perhaps closer to the election — the public will focus on the Shorten paradox and decide whether he fits the test of prime ministerial material. John Howard used to say this about Rudd in 2007, only to find that Kevin passed the test with flying colours. Each leader is different but the Rudd-Shorten contrast is illuminating.

Rudd projected as an agent of New Labor hostile to the party machine. “Kevin wasn’t an orthodox Labor man,” said then ALP national secretary Tim Gartrell. Rudd defied the Labor stereotype. He felt being an orthodox Labor man was the kiss of political death.

Kevin loathed the factions, distrusted the unions, shunned the union “heavies”, never went into their debt, kept reassuring business, took pride in his status as an outsider and a Queenslander, and thrived as a new generation modernist who won the 2007 election by matching most of Howard’s election campaign tax cuts and then stealing the middle ground from the battlers’ champion.

Shorten, by contrast, is a factional operative from a trade union power base and astute manipulator. His position is sustained by the Construction Forestry Maritime Mining and Energy Union, a union ­aggressive for its members and pursuing a quasi-criminal business model, an issue Turnbull has singularly failed to exploit to the full.

The public also seems indifferent to the compromises that plague Shorten. While suspicious of Shorten’s tactics and pledges, it seems more responsive to Shorten’s stirring of its resentment towards elites, banks and big business in the belief they rip off the system and exploit workers.

Shorten offers a powerful emotional agenda as he invokes compassion, a fair go, pitches to women, the plight of minorities and pledges a bigger spending agenda in health and education. He engages, campaigns endlessly and is utterly convinced that he has a better feel for the Australian psyche than Turnbull.

In typical fashion Shorten depicts this week’s retreat as proof of his ability to listen. He boasts he is always prepared to change his mind. Yes, that is an important quality for a politician. But there is an even more important quality: being convinced a leader means what he says.


Below is the media release that sank Shorten

Labor's Call On Company Tax Cuts A Blow To SME Builders   
Master Builders Australia is bitterly disappointed with Labor’s pledge to ramp up the tax burden for thousands of small and medium building businesses.

Denita Wawn, CEO of Master Builders Australia said, “Labor’s decision to abolish tax cuts for SME builders turning over $10-$50 million per year will deal a harsh blow to SME builders, many of them family businesses.”

“It’s a retrograde step at the expense of local builders and local jobs in local communities around the country,” she said.

“Building projects are highly capital intensive and the cost of labour, materials and equipment mean that there are many ‘mum and dad’ businesses with an annual turnover of more than $10 million,” Denita Wawn said.

“This means that the tax cuts which Labor has committed to repealing are particularly important for our members, the people they employ directly and the sub-contractors they engage,” she said.

“Turnover should not be confused with profit. SME builders typically operate on tight margins and do not take home anything like $10 million,” Denita Wawn said.

“Labor should understand that there are more SMEs in the building and construction industry than any other sector of the economy,” she said.

“Our industry employs in 1 in 10 Australians and in the last few years has been one of the most important sources of skilled jobs growth. SME builders are at the forefront of this and employ most of the 1.2 million jobs in the construction industry workforce,” Denita Wawn said.

Email from Ben Carter, 0447 775 507

Kathleen Clubb defends right to challenge abortion

Clubb, who last year became the first person to be convicted under abortion protest laws in Victoria, will play in what may become one of the most important free speech cases heard by the High Court.

She wants Australians to know that it’s not about abortion. It’s about the right to protest.

Clubb can anticipate all your questions: yes, she is opposed to abortion in cases of rape; yes, in the case of profound disability; yes, in the case of incest.

She also believes that Australians have been denied a national debate about abortion.

“In some states, it’s now legal all through nine months for any reason, and we have not had a debate about that,” she says — and plenty of readers will no doubt think: good.

Those people who stand outside abortion clinics with gory signs and, in some cases, with blood-splattered dolls in prams, they’re pests — and also, it’s none of their business.

Clubb says she has never done that. She prays and she offers pamphlets.

“But the point is, if parliament can ban this kind of protest, what other kind of protests can they ban?” she says. “I am fighting for all Australians.”

Legislation creating 150m “safe zones” around the Victorian clinics came into effect on May 2, 2016. This was always going to be a problem for Christian groups that hold their vigils outside the doors.

Court documents show that Inspector Gerard Cartwright of Victoria Police met a group he called “the Helpers” (the full name is Helpers of God’s Precious Infants, and Clubb is a member) several times in an effort to impress on them the importance of the law, telling the court: “These were law-abiding people and I did not want them coming before the courts.” He asked them to steer clear of the 150m zone. In July, “the Helpers” contacted him to let him know that “a man in his 70s and a woman in her 50s” would breach the zone on August 4, 2016, outside the Fertility Control Clinic in Wellington Parade, East Melbourne.

Twenty officers were briefed to attend, “to ensure calm”.

Clubb says she had a friend drop her off near the clinic. En route to the safe zone, she saw two detectives at a nearby cafe and stopped to say hello. As arrests go, it was all very civilised. She walked into the exclusion zone. Video of the event, shown to the court, shows her attempting to engage a couple as they approach the clinic, by speaking to them and handing over a pamphlet. The male of the couple declines the offer and the young woman moves away.

A police officer steps up and tells Clubb she is breaking the law. Was she prepared to leave? She was not.

From there on, events felt to Clubb like something from NYPD Blue. She was not cuffed but put in the back seat of a squad car. She had a mugshot taken at the station, which her delighted kids are now trying to get her to use as her Facebook profile picture.

There was a confusing moment in the cop shop bathroom: everything was stainless steel and she couldn’t find a tap, just a button to press to wash her hands. She had to hand over personal items but was allowed to keep her rosary beads, although one officer said: “Don’t harm yourself with them.”

“They weren’t jovial,” she says, thinking back. “More businesslike.”

It took some time for the case to make its way to the Magistrates Court but ultimately, on October 11 last year, with magistrate Luisa Bazzani presiding, Clubb was told she had been charged with breaching section 185D of Victoria’s Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008; that she had insisted on “communicating about abortions” within a safe access zone in a manner “reasonably likely to cause anxiety or distress”; and that she had done so despite two warnings, “defiantly and deliberately”.

Of course she had. That was always the point.

Clubb’s legal team appealed her conviction to the Supreme Court of Victoria, with grounds one and two concerning the constitutional validity of the law in question. A short time later, Victoria’s Attorney-General Martin Pakula also applied to have the case transferred to the High Court, which is due to hear the matter later this year.

Clubb is opposed by the Solicitor-General for Victoria, Kristen Walker; commonwealth Solicitor-General Stephen Donaghue; the Solicitor-General for NSW, Michael Sexton SC; the Solicitor-General for Queensland, Peter Dunning QC; the Solicitor-General for Western Australia, Peter Quinlan SC; the Solicitor-General for South Australia, Chris Bleby SC; and barristers acting for the private abortion providers, who seek to be heard as amicus curiae (friend of the court.)

Clubb’s supporters include the Helpers — they are largely Catholic and wholly anonymous, without so much as a website — the Human Rights Law Alliance, which hopes to raise an estimated $120,000 to cover the cost of being heard in the High Court; and the Australian Christian Lobby.

The case — officially, it’s No M46/2018 — concerns something that should concern us all: freedom of political communication. Australia doesn’t have a bill of rights but in 1992 the High Court did recognise what it has called an “implied freedom of political communication”. To be clear: that’s not a personal right to speak your mind. It’s a burden on legislative power, meaning our parliaments are restricted in the laws they can pass.

Walker, the Victorian Solicitor-General, has rejected the free-speech argument in her submission to the High Court, saying Clubb is “trying ignore or downplay the demonstrable harm” the protests cause “to people seeking abortions”. She describes the protests as “harassing and intimidatory conduct”, with the most extreme case in Victoria involving “the fatal shooting in 2001 of a security guard at the East Melbourne clinic”.

The commonwealth argues that such protests are not political because protesters are not trying to change the law, they are interfering with the personal choice of an individual woman. Furthermore, Clubb’s freedom to communicate has not been taken from her: she can protest abortion outside parliament; she can write to her local member; she can take out newspaper ads; she can campaign in certain seats, even run for office. What she can’t do is approach a vulnerable, pregnant woman trying to access a lawful medical procedure at an abortion clinic.

And this, in the view of Clubb’s legal team, is the point.

In their submission, they say: “Australian history is replete with examples of political communications being effective precisely because they are conducted at the place where the issue is viscerally felt.” There’s the Franklin Dam blockade, for example, and the Pine Gap protests, the Freedom Rides and the Eureka Stockade.

Clubb’s team acknowledges that her protest isn’t popular, and that too is important because the “very purpose of freedom” is to permit the expression of unpopular, minority view points.

“In order to rouse, political speech must first excite,” the submission says. “Sir Robert Menzies’ ‘forgotten people’ speech, Paul Keating’s Redfern speech, Kevin Rudd’s apology … each was apt to cause discomfort not incidentally but deliberately.”

It will not be an easy case for Clubb to win. Australia has no proud free speech tradition. Four states and the commonwealth have already made submissions aimed at silencing her protest.

But in her pocket Clubb has what she believes is a reason to keep going. It’s a short video, stored on her phone, of a child she describes as “the last baby we saved”.

“His parents are Nepalese, they hadn’t been in Australia very long,” she says. “They approached the clinic and I could see they didn’t want to do it.”

She helped them away from the door, into a nearby carpark, where the mum-to-be, buckled by morning sickness, vomited. They explained their circumstances: he was working in a convenience store, earning not much money. She was newly arrived and now pregnant. They didn’t have stable accommodation. The GP had given them a pamphlet for the abortion clinic.

“I told them we could help,” says Clubb, and the groups with which she works stepped up with money for rent, doctor’s fees, a cot and a car seat.

The child being carried in the womb that day is now a two-year-old. In the video, he’s bopping along to an Ed Sheeran song.

“I believe we did God’s work that day,” says Clubb. “You don’t have to agree but I should be allowed to say it.”


CIS poll shows ignorance of history

By John-Paul Baladi, an intern in the Culture, Prosperity and Civil Society Program at the CIS

The Centre for Independent Studies/YouGov poll released last week rightly gained national attention for highlighting the negative effect left-leaning universities are having on historically ignorant millennials.

The poll found 58% of Australian millennials hold a favourable view of socialism. This finding might astonish those who were old enough to see the Berlin wall come down.

However, to a politically conscious student at the University of Sydney, it is unsurprising. I am all too familiar with the far-left activism embedded within the education system.

From junior high school through to the HSC and on to university, social science and humanities teachers and academics bombard students with criticisms of western culture, from colonialism to orientalism, to the White Australia policy.

This kind of identity politics is thinly disguised as ‘compassion’ for the excluded and oppressed.

Yet while students are taught about the flaws and failures of western culture under the rubric of intellectual freedom and ‘balance’, uttering fair criticisms of Islamic teachings and history, or highlighting systemic issues in Indigenous communities, is considered bigotry.

And it’s not only high school and university syllabuses that are skewed to the left side of politics. In my experience, the teachers, tutors, and lecturers — whose role is to enlighten our generation — are sometimes further left-leaning than the syllabus.

I’ve heard a tutor explain that conservative political parties only exist to defend the “aristocracy” and another claim the Australian Greens weren’t “radical enough”.

The recent open letter signed by more than 100 Sydney University academics — which was redolent of Marxist analysis and identity politics clichés — rejected the Ramsey Centre’s proposed degree in Western Civilization on the grounds that this would violate “the standing norms of academic independence.”

But when most of the humanities faculties lean left, and some academics are openly hostile to Western Civilisation, talk of academic independence rings hollow.


Melbourne has its coldest day in 25 YEARS as wintry conditions show no signs of warming up with a bleak weekend in store across Australia

Global cooling!

Melbourne has experienced its coldest day in more than two decades - with the chilly conditions set to continue over the weekend.

A high of just 9.8C recorded on Thursday was the coldest maximum temperature during a day in the city since June 12, 1993 according to the Bureau of Meteorology.

There will be no respite from the bitter cold across most of the country this weekend as frosty mornings are predicted for both Saturday and Sunday.

Weatherzone meteorologist Graeme Brittain said Sydney will be 'pleasant but cold'. 'It will be dry and sunny during the day but there will be a couple of cold morning, with Sunday being the coldest'.

A low of 9C is expected on Saturday before reaching a high of 19C, with light winds predicted for the evening.

Sunday will be mostly sunny with fog in the outer west part of the city and some frost, with a low of 7C and a high of 16C predicted.

Melbourne will likely have rainfall on Saturday morning with possible hail in the southeast.

Sunday will be even colder, with a low of 5C and a high of 15C. There is a slight chance of rain for Melbourne on Sunday afternoon.

Brisbane will have fog and possibly showers on Saturday morning, with a low of 14 and a high of 24.


Goyder to be new Qantas chairman

I am delighted to hear this. I have had a small amount to do with Mr Goyder and found him to have a really human approach to his businesses. I have a hand-written note from him which I treasure.  It is in a frame above my desk.  His balanced approach will be invaluable to Qantas

Former Wesfarmers boss Richard Goyder will be the new chairman of Qantas, succeeding the outgoing Leigh Clifford in October.

Mr Clifford will retire from the chairmanship of Australia's national carrier after 11 years in the role.

"It's been an absolute privilege to lead the Qantas board for these past 11 years," Mr Clifford said in a statement on Thursday.

He has overseen a sometimes tumultuous period for the airline alongside chief executive officer Alan Joyce, with the carrier having endured a painful turnaround period before enjoying its current record high profits and soaring share price.

Qantas in May flagged a record full-year underlying pre-tax profit of between $1.55 billion and $1.60 billion, a far cry from the plummeting stock prices of the late 2000s and the 2011 grounding of the entire fleet in 2011 over industrial action.

"Leigh has been a stellar chairman for Qantas and I'm looking forward to working with Richard in the years ahead," Mr Joyce said.

Mr Goyder joined the Qantas board in November after ending his long tenure as managing director of Wesfarmers, the conglomerate that owns supermarket giant Coles and hardware chain Bunnings.

Mr Clifford said Mr Goyder is "one of the most experienced business leaders in Australia and an excellent choice to lead the Qantas board into the future".

Mr Goyder will take over as chairman at Qantas' annual general meeting on October 28.

Mr Goyder is also chairman of Woodside Petroleum and the AFL.

Mr Clifford will also leave the Qantas board at the October AGM.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

29/6/18: Multilateralism and the Impossible Policy Trilemmas

"Global governance requires rules, because flexibility and goodwill alone cannot tackle the hardest shared problems. With multilateralism under attack, the narrow path ahead is to determine, on a case-by-case basis, the minimum requirements of effective collective action, and to forge agreement on reforms that fulfill these conditions."

Can Multilateralism Adapt?, Jean Pisani-Ferry.

International Political Trilemma applies to both monetary and fiscal policy dimension by making it impossible for modern societies to combine:

  1. Monetary sovereignty in the form of free capital mobility, with international political stability and political autonomy of democratic systems. In simple terms, free capital mobility means that capital flows will reflect economic and demographic conditions prevailing in the specific society. If these conditions deteriorate, triggering capital outflows (perhaps due to monetary accommodation response to ageing population), the society can respond either through imposing capital controls (preserving its standing in international political institutions, and allowing its democratic institutions to remain robust) or it can pursue non0-democratic suppression of its own population (allowing capital to flow out of the economy and not imposing cost of resulting economic decline onto international partners). Alternatively, the country can continue allowing outflow of capital and retain democracy by blaming the external shocks and restricting its engagement with international political institutions.
  2. Fiscal sovereignty in the form of free capital mobility, international political stability and autonomous fiscal policy. In simple terms, the above monetary sovereignty simply transfers democratic autonomy failure to fiscal policy failure.

To my students at TCD and MIIS, these are familiar from the following summary charts:

For more academically inclined readers, here is my paper summarising these Trilemmas and putting them into the context of the euro area harmonisation: Gurdgiev, Constantin, Euro After the Crisis: Key Challenges and Resolution Options (May 30, 2016). Prepared for: GUE/NGL Group, European Parliament, October 2015:

It is, generally, not hard to find examples of the two trilemmas presence in a range of historical shocks in the past. More recent examples, however, are harder to come by due to time lags required to see these trilemmas in action. Pisani-Ferry's quote above hints at such.

During the 1990s, "After an eight-decade-long hiatus, the global economy was being reunified. Economic openness was the order of the day. ...The message was clear: globalization was not just about liberalizing flows of goods, services and capital but about establishing the rules and institutions required to steer markets, foster cooperation, and deliver global public goods."

As Pisano-Ferry argues, today, "Despite a decade of talks, the global trade negotiations launched in 2001 have gotten nowhere. The Internet has become fragmented and could break up further. Financial regionalism is on the rise. The global effort to combat climate change rests on a collection of non-binding agreements, from which the United States has withdrawn...  The very principles of multilateralism, a key pillar of global governance, seem to have become a relic from a distant past."

"...let’s face it: today’s problems did not start with Trump." In fact, the problems started with the above trilemmas. Or put differently, the problems are not an outrun of bad policies or choices, but the natural result of the impossibility of combining the conflicting policies objectives and institutions. "There is no shortage of explanations. An important one is that many participants in the international system are having second thoughts about globalization. A widespread perception in advanced countries is that the rents from technological innovation are being eroded precipitously... A second explanation is that the US strategy toward Russia and China has failed... neither Russia nor China has converged politically... Third, the US is unsure that a rules-based system offers the best framework to manage its rivalry with China. [and]... Finally, global rules look increasingly outdated. Whereas some of their underlying principles – starting with the simple idea that issues are addressed multilaterally rather than bilaterally – are as strong as ever, others were conceived for a world that no longer exists. Established trade negotiation practices make little sense in a world of global value chains and sophisticated services. And categorizing countries by their development level is losing its usefulness, given that some of them combine first-class global companies and pockets of economic backwardness."

In simple terms, the world became more complex and more fragile because we tried to make it less complex and more centralized (hegemonic positioning of the U.S. in Bretton Woods setting), while making it also more multilateral (through financial, economic, trade and human capital integration).

Pisano-Ferry offers a 50,000 feet level view on the solution to the problems: "the solution is neither to cultivate the nostalgia of yesterday’s order nor to place hope in loose, ineffective forms of international cooperation. International collective action requires rules... The narrow path ahead is to determine, on a case-by-case basis, the minimum requirements of effective collective action, and to forge agreement on reforms that fulfill these conditions." In other words, one cannot tackle trijemmas directly (correct view), but one can defuse them by limiting each node of the desired policies. E.g. less democracy here - to offset pressure from demographic of ageing, less capital mobility there - to reduce the speed of capital flows across the borders and lower volatility of financialized investment, less fiscal sovereignty - to provide better buffers for shocks arising in financial and economic systems, and less international institutions - to allow for more flexible rebalancing of monetary, trade and fiscal policies.

The problem with this is it requires for the hegemony (the U.S.) to put a hard stop to imposing its preferred solutions onto the rest of the world and international institutions. Or, put differently, the hegemony must stop being a hegemony. Good luck squaring that with American vision of the world a-la Rome 4.0.

29/6/18: Can, Foot, Road: EU ‘Agreement’ on Migration Crisis

The EU27 have a new 'deal'. This time, on revamping the block's migration strategies in the face of continued relentless wave of refugees fleeing to Europe from Syria and North Africa, propelled or aided to take desperate actions by the regime change doctrine of Washington. Migration numbers are down roughly 90 percent from their peak in 2015, and fell 45 percent y/y in the first half of 2018. But, voter revolt against the system that is perceived as "open borders" is still fuelling rise in political opportunism and extremism across Europe. The latest catalysts for the negotiations have been: (1) the rise of anti-immigrant parties in Germany that now threatens the uneasy governing coalition in Berlin, and (2) the arrival to power of the new, anti-immigration coalition in Italy. To be more precise, Italian Government has been asking for the EU to take "concrete steps" to share burden of accepting refugees with Italy for some time now. Other  catalysts have been governments of Hungary and the Czech Republic, where current political leadership has been opposing the EU policy of imposing automatic quotas for accepting migrants.

Earlier today, following almost nine hours of negotiations, the EU27 finally hammered out a compromise deal, immediately labeled in the media as 'political fudge' - something the EU has been very skilled at achieving for a good part of the last 20 years.

To prevent Italy from exercising a veto on the deal, the EU agreed to redistribute arriving migrants away from the country of their original landing to "control centres" spread across the EU. Centres locations are to be specified later. "Control centres", funded out of unspecified funds, but presumably payable by the joint resources of the EU, will de facto trade 'local jobs and euros' for communities accepting large scale migrants detention centres. This model works well with military bases and jails, and can be attractive to some poorer Eastern European countries, as well as countries like Greece and Italy. The key to this is that the detention centres will only be located in countries that volunteer to accept them. In simple terms, immigration policy is now a part of fiscal redistribution scheme, just what Italy wanted.

"Control centres" will function as a triage point, with “rapid and secure processing” separating economic migrants from those with a potentially legitimate claim to the asylum. Thereafter, successfully pre-screened asylum seekers will be distributed under the principle of solidarity (quotas), although, in a bow to Czech and Hungarian governments, solidarity principle will apparently be voluntary too. In other words, "rapid" processing will likely end up being a 'lengthy detention' in "control centres", as many Governments will simply refuse to take in asylum seekers, while other Governments will end up being swamped with applicants.

To restrict the numbers of those reaching the EU borders in the first place, the EU meeting agreed to provide more funds for Turkey and Morocco to act as buffers for refugees. Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Niger and Tunisia are to get funding for setting up 'processing centres'. Or, put differently, the EU will be paying more to warehouse migrants offshore, something that is likely to lead to lengthy detention in questionable conditions.

As a support for embattled Angela Merkel, the agreement also states that the nation states can “take all necessary internal legislative and administrative measures” to stop refugees and migrants crossing Europe’s internal borders. Whatever this means for the Schengen agreement and borderless travel, time will tell.

My view: The migration agreement is nothing more than another kick to the proverbial can that was stuck in the cracks on the proverbial road toward addressing the migration crisis. It fails to address actual modalities of asylum process, the key being the length of the process, lack of alternatives to highly costly and questionable (in ethical and even international law terms) deportations of failed seekers, and the lack of clarity of rules and resources for allocating successful asylum seekers. It also failed in effectively dealing with migrants inflows: a 'buffer zone' on the southern shores of the Mediterranean simply increases costs of making the crossing, and thus increases the risk of crossing to migrants. It does not remove the incentives for making the journey. In the case of Libya and Egypt, there are questions about these states' capacity actually control their borders, primarily arising from the nature of the Government regimes in both countries. In case of Syria, ability to seal off inflows of refugees from the country hinges on stabilisation of the Assad regime, as no other participant in the Syrian civil war has any interest in controlling Syria's Mediterranean coast. In effect, the EU agreement does not tackle the main issue at hand: how to reduce the inflows of both economic migrants and refugees into Europe. Likewise, the EU agreement does not even touch upon the need to structure effective measures (legal and institutional) to improve integration of the successful migrants into the European societies.

In short, we will be back to this issue soon. Mark my words.

Volkswagen at Pikes Peak

The only time I ever drove the road to the top of Pikes Peak was back in the 1980s when the final miles were still gravel. Because the air is so thin and the road had so many treacherous drop-offs, I approached the whole project carefully—even though I was driving a rental car. By the time I got to the top (14,115', 4302 m) the car was hardly producing any power and I was worried I could even restart it if I turned it off.

I came away impressed by the courage necessary to race such a road and the technical problems facing anyone who wanted to do it fast. It required almost a half hour to drive a stretch of road the serious racers could cover in ten minutes.

So now we see that a new record has been set by an electric car. The final nails are being driven into the coffin for the internal combustion engine. This was the first time that an EV won an all-comers competition against ICE cars. It will not be the last.

It's a good thing that EVs are proving their objective superiority. It wasn't so long ago that owning an EV was an exercise in how many hardships one could endure. That has changed.

Other links:

Why electric vehicles will continue to dominate Pikes Peak after record-shattering run

How the VW I.D. R Went from Daydream to Pikes Peak Record Holder in 249 Days

7:57:148—Volkswagen makes racing history with record-breaking electric race car

Electric power beats the internal combustion engine fair and square in major motorsport.

JONATHAN M. GITLIN - 6/29/2018, 6:30 AM

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.—All it took was two visits to the annual Pikes Peak International Hill Climb for it to steal our hearts. The second-oldest motor race in the United States—only the Indy 500 predates it—is unlike virtually every other professional motorsports event we cover. And this year's edition proved to be novel in its own right.

Last weekend, we were on hand to witness French racing driver Romain Dumas and car maker Volkswagen stamp their authority on all 12.4-miles (19.99km) of the course, destroying the course's existing record and setting the first sub-eight minute time in race history. What makes the feat even more interesting around Ars is that the car in the record books is all-electric, marking perhaps the first time in major motorsport that a battery electric vehicle has beaten the internal combustion engine fair and square.

In retrospect, if any car has an advantage at Pikes Peak it's the EV. The start line is already at 9,390 feet (2,862m) above sea level; the finish line is an even higher 14,110 feet (4,300m) and much of the course is above the tree line where there's 40 percent less oxygen to breathe. Consequently, internal combustion engines will lose power—significantly—as they climb the route, even with the aid of forced induction or crafty fuel mixtures.

But electric motors don't care about partial pressures of oxygen, and these will output the same power and torque whether they're at the top of the mountain or the bottom. And with only one run per car allowed on race day, there's little reason to be anxious about range. Carry just enough battery to get you to the top, keep it in its optimum temperature window, et voila. It could result in history.

For decades, completing the course in less than 10 minutes seemed like a fantasy. It took until 2011, the last year before the entire route to the top was paved, for Nobuhiro "Monster" Tajima to break that barrier with a time of 9:51.58. The following year, Tajima switched to electric propulsion and by 2015, the EVs were getting really serious.

Rhys Millen beat Tajima for the fastest run of the day with a time of 9:07.22 that year. Then in 2016, we embedded with Tajima's team, which once again faced off against Rhys Millen and his Drive eO electric racer. Back then, Millen had the fewest problems and even beat the nine-minute mark. Though none of the EVs were able to match Romain Dumas' gasoline-powered performance in his Norma M20 on that day. The Frenchman—still jet-lagged from having won Le Mans the previous weekend no less—completed his run in 8:51.445.

In the lead up to the 2018 race, VW's stated goal was clear—beat Rhys Millen's 2016 EV record. Everyone I spoke to from the team was singing from the same hymn sheet, though almost always with a wry smile or twinkle in their eye. The EV accolade would be nice, but there's only one Pikes Peak record that has meant anything since the transition to all-tarmac: it's the one formerly set by Peugeot and Sebastien Loeb.
The record we thought would stand for ages

In 2012, Peugeot had a bit of an image problem. It was set to continue its racing battles with Audi, fielding a clever new hybrid in the then-new World Endurance Championship and at Le Mans. But beating Audi wasn't cheap, and the optics of spending tens of millions of euros a year to do that while firing thousands of workers were pretty bad. Just weeks before the season started, Peugeot even killed its racing program. Several months on and with a new CEO running things, the hostility towards a motorsport program had faded. A bit of motorsports glory would offset a good deal of recent bad news, the thinking went. Whatever the plans, it had to be quick and cheap and really really fast. Usually, you only get to pick two of those.

Peugeot had success at Pikes Peak in the late 1980s, and the company did much to popularize the event with the short film, Climb Dance. The film is just five minutes long, less than half the time driver Ari Vatanen actually needed to cover the distance on his way to 1988's fastest time. But the footage of Vatanen at work showed us the racing driver as artist as well as athlete. Man and car put on a balletic performance of drifting and car control. Back then cameras were still heavy and fragile (or very expensive), and there was no Internet, so good in-car footage was hard to make and harder to find. Climb Dance quickly became one of a handful of works like C'était un rendez-vous, Faszination on the Nürburgring, and Steve McQueen's Le Mans that inflamed the passions of many a driving enthusiast.

By 2013, the Internet meant there was a way to reach many more eyeballs, particularly if Red Bull could be persuaded to take on that task. The company could, it turned out, which left a few months for Peugeot Sport to build a car and for nine-time World Rally Champion Sebastian Loeb to learn the course and prepare. The car was called the 208 T16; the only thing it shared with the road-going 208 was a vague similarity in size and shape (minus the wings, of course). The one at the rear was borrowed from the Le Mans car, which also donated suspension and brakes. The engine was a turbocharged 3.2L V6 that it had supplied to the Pescarolo Le Mans team, and Peugeot's rallying program provided a transmission and suitable all-wheel drive system. Body panels were ultra lightweight carbon fiber, and the chassis was a tubular frame design that kept weight as low as possible.

With 875hp (kW) in and a car that weighed just 1,929lbs (875kg)—plus one of the world's very best drivers behind the wheel—a new record seemed certain as long as the weather cooperated. It did. Loeb reached the top in 8:13.878, a time that many openly thought might never be bettered.

If only all corporate apologies were like this

Like Peugeot 2013, it's fair to say the VW of 2018 also has an image problem. The company remains squarely in the aftermath of the diesel emissions cheating scandal. With no future for diesel, VW is all about electric cars now. Some of this is court-ordered, like the $2 billion investment in a new network of high-speed charging infrastructure. But the courts didn't order it to develop a new architecture for EVs (called MEB), which we'll start seeing in a range of new cars bearing the I.D. name. According to Hinrich Woebcken—CEO of VW's North American region—success will require good charging infrastructure and good cars, but car makers also need to inspire passion about EVs. That's precisely where the I.D. R Pikes Peak comes in.

Like Peugeot five years ago, VW turned to the mountain to debut its creation. VW Motorsport director Sven Smeets similarly had a tight timeline: just nine months for the car and 10 additional weeks to test it. And like the Peugeot 208 T16, the I.D. R Pikes Peak has almost nothing in common with any road-going car that might share its name.

The I.D. R might just be the most beautiful purpose-built racing car to turn a wheel in anger since the turn of the century. At first glance it looks like one of the prototypes that race at Le Mans or Daytona. Then you notice the proportions; it's a short car in length and height but makes up for it in width. It's actually small enough that you get in it through a roof hatch, but despite its relative lack of size it has a lot of stage presence. It would be hard not to when sporting such massive wings.

The Pikes Peak rulebook factors in here. The I.D. R was built to compete in the Unlimited class, which is pretty much what it sounds like. As long as the car meets the safety requirements, go bananas. The front and rear wings are much bigger than you'd get away with in any other series; ditto the floor extensions along the sides. The bigger the wings, the greater the downforce they can generate. But the aero bits have to be huge because the I.D. R has to chase cornering speeds at altitudes where there's 35 percent less air to work with than at sea level.

It's also a function of the I.D. R's electric powertrain. The main cooling requirement is the battery pack, and as long as it stays in the right temperature window everything is fine. (Exactly what this temperature was, nobody would say.) There's no engine to feed with air and few radiators to cool, so the body isn't scarred with intake ducts, scoops, or vents.

With such little time to design, build, and test the car before the 2018 race—scheduled for Sunday, June 24—VW used a proven hillclimb prototype as its starting point. Specifically, the carbon fiber tub and suspension come from a Norma M20 race car. And the two electric motors—one for each axle rated at 250kW (335hp)—are very similar to the motors being introduced into Formula E when season five starts later this year.

I was unable to find anyone who could tell me which Formula E team's motors provided the starting point, but the most obvious candidate would be the Audi team (after all, family's family). Porsche also chipped in a little on the aerodynamics side of things, but forget any rumor you heard that the I.D. R is related to the 919 Hybrid or R18.
A purpose-built racer

Also, forget any ideas about VW using the I.D. R to stress test some aspect of the new MEB electric vehicle platform. The lithium-ion battery pack—approximately 43kWh in capacity—is bespoke to the car, and the cell chemistry has been optimized for power density and performance rather than energy density and range. The car has not been designed with tech transfer as the aim; the point was to set a new Pikes Peak record.

But which record? From the moment the car broke cover in April until the moment it crossed the finish line on Sunday morning, VW remained on-message. The goal was to set a new EV record, which just meant going faster that Rhys Millen's 2016 time of 8:57.118. The time set by Loeb in 2013 was considered almost untouchable, of course, particularly in a car that was both less powerful and heavier than the Peugeot racer. (VW repeatedly told us it weighs "under 1,100kg" [2,425lbs], but if you guessed that no one was prepared to give us the car's exact weight, well done.)

The size of the wings alone should have made it plain that the true goal was a new overall record. Together with the decorated choice of Dumas in the driving seat, the ambition was practically screaming in our faces.
If you're going to build the fastest car, you might as well hire the fastest driver

You might think a day job as a racing driver on a factory team would be enough, but everyone needs a hobby and Dumas' is hillclimbing. For the past few years he's travelled to Colorado immediately after Le Mans to tackle Pikes Peak. What's more, it's an entirely private effort, racing on his own dime and not an OEM budget. He's proven good at it, with overall wins in 2014 as well 2016 and 2017. Every driver I've spoken to about the challenge of racing Pikes Peak tells me there's no substitute for experience, and it's hard to imagine that Loeb knew the road as well in 2013 as Dumas did in 2018.

Any doubts in my mind were dispelled shortly after sunrise on Friday. Barring weather or technical difficulties, Dumas and the I.D. R were going to smash the record, probably setting a time that started with a seven. I had made the predawn trip up to Devil's Playground, a cool 13,000 feet up, to watch the I.D. R's final practice session. Between 5:30am and 8:30am, competitors in certain classes were free to run the final two-and-a-bit mile stretch as often as they wanted.

From my vantage point, I could see the cars make a standing start, negotiate a fast right kink, then disappear behind behind a blind left. It was quite the sensory experience. Exhausts popped and banged as ECUs juggled fuel-air ratios to compensate for the lack of oxygen. Some cars left exotic aromas in their wake, betraying some fuel additive or other. After all, rockets bring along their own oxidizers, so why not race cars? Mostly these just further inflamed mucous membranes already unhappy with the rarefied air, although someone was running something that evidently came in Tropical Punch flavor.

When Dumas went out on his first run, what noise there was came from the whine of the electric motors and the annoying siren that EVs are required to run during the race. In the blink of an eye, the car was at racing speed, then it was gone from view. According to the stats, the I.D. R will reach 60mph from a standstill in 2.2 seconds. Only a rallycross car is faster off the line, but the EV does it with so much less fuss.

My own yardstick was to put this in the context of the various LMP1 hybrids exiting the final corner at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. One year the Toyota TS040 had the best punch out of the corner and down the main straight. The next, Porsche had found a way to get the 919 Hybrid to Vmax in even less time. Well, none of those cars compare to the way the electric VW picks up speed from a slow corner. It can't match the top speeds of those Le Mans cars, but that track has some very long straights and many fewer corners per mile than Pikes Peak.

With no rulebook to hold them back, VW's engineers have given the I.D. R a full suite of traction control, antilock brakes, and so on, all meant to give the driver as stable and forgiving a platform as possible. Dumas was more than happy with the car. "I just want the race to start," he told after these practice sessions. "The Car is set up to be as easy as possible to drive. I cannot say it’s relaxed but it’s OK, I like the car a lot to drive. We tested on a race track yesterday [Pikes Peak International Raceway], and this car is really really fast even compared to a lot of LMPs I’ve driven."

In a hill climb, the competitors race one at a time against the clock. Here at Pikes Peak, that run order is determined during qualifying, with the bikes running from slowest to fastest, then the cars running from fastest to slowest. Dumas, therefore, would be the first four-wheel run on race day—his qualifying time was seven seconds faster over the same stretch of road as Loeb had been in 2013.

Thankfully for all involved, the bike classes encountered few problems (in 2016, the cars didn't run until almost noon as a result of several red flag periods caused by accidents and icy conditions up top). It was time for the I.D. R. to leave its climate-controlled tent for the start line—just as soon as the horde of journalists assembled in front of it could be persuaded to make room.

Just under eight minutes later, the job was done. Dumas hadn't just beaten the EV record, he obliterated. His new record bested the old electric-one by almost exactly a minute. Loeb's overall record had fallen, too, by almost 16 seconds. Job done, history made. more