Monthly Archives: February 2020

Australian Politics 2020-02-29 15:15:00


When a poet is a better prophet than the prophets

It would be difficult to be a worse prophet than the Greenies.  Starting from Paul Ehrlich, they repeatedly make these confident prophecies that in some number of years disasters will befall us unless we do something that they want. But it just doesn't happen.  When the prophesied year rolls around, life just goes on as usual.

During Australia's recent summer bushfire season, all sorts of Greenie-influenced people screeched that the fires were the result of global warming and unless we shut down our our entire electricity generation industry the fires would get worse. They were so shrill about their claims that PM Morrison came under great pressure to "do more" about global warming.

And then came something that no Greenie had prophesied -- showing how little they understood of the events concerned.  It rained. And DID it rain!  Concerns about fire were rapidly replaced with concerns about flooding. The Greenie prophecies that the fires would go on until we did something about global warming were thoroughly falsified.  The Greenies basically did not know anything about how Australia's climate worked.

But a poet did.  In 1908 Dorothea MacKellar described Australia's climate with limpid simplicity, as being "Droughts and flooding rains".  She knew how Australia's climate went even if the Greenies did not.  It happened this year exactly how she said it always does: Drought followed by flood.  She was a good observer.

The Greenies were no observers at all.  We were constantly regaled with assurances that the recent fires were the worst ever when in fact the 1974/75 fires consumed a much bigger area.  Lies on top of ideology were all the Greenies had to offer.

And there is no doubt that the drought contributed to the buildup of fuel in the forests and made the fires worse.  Dry vegetation burns well.  But what was the cause of the drought?  Was it simply a recurrent feature of the Australian climate?  No way! said the Greenies. It was caused  by global warming.

For instance we have the opening sentence from a recent rather emptyheaded article in a prestigious medical journal (JAMA) which says:  "There is increasing scientific consensus that climate change is the underlying cause of the prolonged dry and hot conditions that have increased the risk of extreme fire weather in Australia".

But that is magical thinking. Global warming would cause MORE rain, not less.  Warmer oceans would evaporate off more water vapour which would come down as more rain.  The temperature that causes drought is cooling, not warming.  So again the global warming faith flies in the face of the facts

Most global warming activism is purely political with agitators  such Thunberg and Occasio-Cortez knowing nothing of the detailed climate statistics. And it is mostly from them that the wild predictions come. Scientists  -- such as Ezekiel -- who do know the facts are much more cautious in their predictions.

Anthony Albanese’s clean-energy pitch to win rural votes

He's pushing the old "green jobs" promise -- but such jobs are mostly mythical -- and certainly don't replace the jobs in mining towns.  The people of the bush are unlikely to fall for it

Anthony Albanese will attack the Nationals over their “lazy cynicism” on climate change and launch a pitch to win back the trust of regional voters who abandoned Labor at last year’s election.

Delivering a speech in the NSW coalmining town of Singleton, in the heart of Labor’s Hunter Valley seats, the Opposition Leader will promote the benefits of a 21st-­century “clean energy economy”.

Addressing a Country Labor conference on Saturday, Mr Albanese will push a “clean energy jobs boom” in regional Australia and talk up opportunities in the carbon farming, forestry, hydrogen and rare earths sectors

“Just as coal and iron ore ­fuelled the industrial economies of the 20th century, they will fuel the clean energy economies of the 21st,” Mr Albanese will say. “If we leave it to the Nationals, we will drift back towards the 19th century. They would rather cling to yesterday and run scare campaigns­ than embrace the opportunities­ of tomorrow. This lazy cynicism is shameful. They sell out their own communities and our full potential as a nation.”

The Labor leader will say the Nationals have “let down regional Australia” and “drifted from the people they are meant to represent”, flagging an increased effort­ by Labor to focus on regional policies ahead of the next election.

“They’ve fallen a long way. Black Jack McEwen would never have let himself be pushed around by the Liberals like this,” he will say. “The Nationals talk the talk, but they don’t walk the walk.

“As a party proudly born in the bush, Labor has the plans that delive­r for regional Australia. And we can win back the trust of regional­ Australia.”

Talking up his target of zero net emissions by 2050, Mr Albanese accuses the Coalition of putting politics before science and “common­ sense”.

Speaking in front of regional Labor MPs, including Joel Fitzgibbon, Meryl Swanson and Justine Elliot, Mr Albanese will say there were “huge opportunities for ­regional areas to contribute via carbon farming” and expanded industri­es in aluminium, steel, silico­n and ammonia.

“Australia has the potential to capture one billion tonnes of carbon­ dioxide a year, generating a new source of income for our farmers in the process,” he will say.

“The forestry industry has a bright future as our economy changes. “We are also the second-largest producer of rare earth elements.”

Mr Albanese, a left-faction powerbroker, will say the demand for high-quality Australian coal will continue for “decades to come”. “Coal will remain an important­ part of the picture, but the Hunter doesn’t have all its eggs in the coal basket,” he will say.

“Contrary to Nationals’ rhetoric, regional Australia is more than resources alone.”

Promoting Labor as a centrist option, Mr Albanese will accuse the Nationals of saying “nothing needs to change ever” and the Greens of saying “everything has to change tomorrow”.

Mr Albanese will say his zero net emissions by 2050 target is not “radical” and that “newer and cleaner technologies” would “help keep the grid stable”.

“Big business including Qantas, Telstra, BP, the Commonwealth Bank and Santos, along with the influential Business Council of Australia, are aiming for it.

“Just this week, Rio Tinto ­announced it will invest $1.5bn in climate-related projects over the next five years as part of its 2050 pledge,” Mr Albanese will say.


Revealed: One in three Australians think immigration is too high while most blame expensive housing for ruining their dreams

The two things are related.  All those immigrants have to be housed -- putting great pressure on the existing housing stocks

A third of Australians think the nation is too overcrowded while a majority blame unaffordable housing for killing their dreams, a survey has found.

Australia's net annual immigration rate with departures factored in stood at close to 300,000 last year - which included permanent arrivals and international students.

While it was below the record-high of 353,480 reached in the year to April 2009, it was still more than triple the 20th century average of 70,000.

The national population growth pace of 1.5 per cent is also almost double the rich-world average of 0.8 per cent.

With Sydney and Melbourne each home to more than 5million people, it seems overcrowding is an issue.

Almost a third, or 32.4 per cent of respondents, called for population control when asked about their wishes for Australia in the survey commissioned by Real Insurance.

The online survey of 5,000 people, by CoreData, also showed a majority to be concerned about expensive real estate, with 53.5 per cent describing affordability as the 'greatest barrier to them achieving their dreams'.

Sydney's median house price stood at $994,300 in January, CoreLogic data showed.

The Real Wishes Report, compiled late last year, showed 61 per cent of people were concerned about the effect of global uncertainty on Australia.

A similar proportion, or 60.7 per cent, wanted better employment opportunities.

The survey was taken in September, four months before Chinese authorities declared the first outbreak of coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Almost a third, or 31 per cent of respondents, believed Australia had worsened since the May election, which saw Prime Minister Scott Morrison's Coalition win a third consecutive term.


Education policy rolls dice

“Both today and 20 years from now, I want Australians to be in control of their future.” At the very least,  Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s vision for the nation is ambitious.

Two decades from now, the children starting school this year will be 25, and their future is massively dependent on how well they are educated.  But the vision for education looks scarily like a roll of the dice.

The next 10 years will be guided by the Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration, the fourth in a series of road maps signed off by the Federal Education Minister and all states and territories.

Some people will be happy with the Declaration’s recycled, globalist language and experimental proposals for improving student performance.

But statements like: “As the importance of a high quality education grows, so does the complexity of being an educator” offer little evidence of building on solid foundations.

Have quality and complexity only recently become the main game?

As Australian curriculum, assessment, teaching and other standards go steadily downhill, school education is now a $60 billion a year bet that pays off only for some.

Australian policymakers are embracing a 21st century learning agenda that paints the future as volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA).

This VUCA world was part of the response by the US Army War College to the fall of the former Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. The futurists love it, and various interpretations have been adopted enthusiastically by educators as they try to anticipate the needs of the children of the new millennium.

But it’s a dark and pessimistic outlook — fixated on jobs lost to artificial intelligence and other technological trends — and it permeates the work of organisations such as the OECD, whose Future of Education and Skills 2030 Project is influential.

What’s emerging is intellectually and pedagogically shallow, a wholesale shift towards a curriculum focusing on skills that — as per the Alice Springs document —  “support imagination, discovery, innovation, empathy and developing creative solutions to complex problems”… these allegedly being “central to contributing to Australia’s knowledge based economy.”

The vision does at least include the occasional reference to “development of deep knowledge within a discipline … appropriate to students’ phases of development.”

The visionaries cannot have it both ways. A sovereign nation must have an effective, efficient educational agenda.

It is time for our leaders to ensure that all Australian students will benefit from a sophisticated, rigorous education delivered by highly-trained subject experts.  That is what being in control looks like.


 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

Maths on the Back of an Envelope

Cover of Maths on the Back of an Envelope by Rob Eastaway

How powerful was the first atomic blast? How many cats are there in the world? How much is China's coronavirus epidemic impacting its economy?

These are three very unrelated questions. If you were tasked with responding to them, how could you possibly come up with reasonable answers to any of the three?

Each of these questions are examples of what might be called "Fermi problems", which are named after Italian-American physicist Enrico Fermi. In addition to his pioneering work in nuclear physics, Fermi was also known for doing back-of-the-envelope calculations to come up with estimates that made real world sense even when nobody had any idea of what the right answers might be.

In Rob Eastaway's latest book, Maths on the Back of an Envelope (more affordably available in the UK), which discusses 'clever ways to (roughly) calculate anything', he tells the story of how Fermi estimated the force generated by the first-ever atomic bomb blast using confetti and a few quick calculations just after it happened:

The story goes that Fermi and others were sheltering from the explosion in a bunker about six miles from ground zero. When the bomb went off, Fermi waited until the wind from the explosion reached the bunker. He stood up and released some confetti from his hand, and when it had landed, he paced out how far the confetti had traveled. He then used that information to make an estimate of the strength of the explosion. We don't know for certain how Fermi did this, but it probably involved him estimating the wind speed and working out how much energy was required to push out a 'hemisphere' of air from the centre of the explosion.

Fermi's estimate of the bomb's strength was 10 kilotons. Later, more rigorous calculations revealed that the real strength had been nearer to 18 kilotons, in other words Fermi's answer was out by a factor of nearly two. Anyone submitting an answer that far out in a maths exam would probably get no marks, yet Fermi got huge credit for the accuracy of his back-of-envelope answer. The important thing was that his answer was in the right order of magnitude, and gave scientists a much better understanding of the potential impact of the weapon they were now dealing with.

At the time, the power of an atomic blast was such an unknown that other scientists working on the project had been concerned enough before the test to do some pretty sophisticated math just to provide the reassurance to themselves that the atomic bomb they built would be unlikely to set off a chain reaction that would ignite the Earth's atmosphere and destroy the planet. Getting the order of magnitude of the actual event correct under such uncertainty is what makes Fermi's quick math such a big deal.

So what does all that have to do with the other two questions?

It has everything to do with how you can take information you know and logically chain it together with reasonable guesswork so that you can use it to extrapolate an estimate for the answer you're trying to reach. In his book, Rob Eastaway describes how he once estimated the global population of cats while speaking to a school assembly (we've added the image as an illustration because, well, cats):

Jari Hytönen - Cats in a Basket, via Unsplash

Let's assume that most cats are domestic.

Some people have more than one cat, but usually, a household has only one cat, if any at all.

In the UK, and thinking of my own street as an example, it seems reasonable to suppose that there might be one cat in every five households.

And, if a household contains on average two people, that means there is one cat for every 10 people.

So, with 70 million people in the UK, let's say that there are, perhaps, seven million cats in the UK.

So far, so good. But what about the number of cats in the rest of the world? It seems unlikely that cats are as popular in countries like India or China as they are in the UK (although what would I know? Remember, this is purely guesswork on my part), therefore, I'd expect the ratio across the world to be smaller than it is in the UK - maybe one cat for every 20 people?

So, with eight billion people in the world, that suggests there are maybe:

8 billion ÷ 20 = 400 million cats

It doesn't seem an outrageous number.

A member of Eastaway's audience searched the question on Google and it returned 600 million as the answer, which Eastaway takes as a sign that the math he did was on the right track, or rather, that whoever came up with that larger estimate likely went about working up their estimate using similar methods.

And that brings us to China, which is where economist David Tufte recently did some back-of-the-envelope math to assess how hard China's economy has been hit by the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic that has killed thousands and sickened tens of thousands in the nation.

This may be the best real time estimate yet on what COVID-19 has done to the Chinese economy. China’s power plants run mostly on coal. China’s coal consumption appears to be down between 20 and 45%.

Daily coal consumption around the Chinese new-year period at six generating companies reporting daily data, in 10,000 tonnes per day. X-axis shows days before and after Chinese new year eve, which falls on various dates in the second half of January or in February. Source: Analysis of data from WIND Information.

This is measured in days since the Chinese New Year, which fell on January 25 this year. So, they’re usually down for about 10 days after that, and this slowdown has stretched on for almost a month now.

To get that to GDP we need to know China’s energy elasticity. A plausible value for any country is around one, estimates from 15 years ago suggest 1.5 is more suitable for China. Here’s the back of the envelope calculation:

  • Choose a round number for China’s GDP like $20,000B/yr
  • Coal consumption is down 20% to 45%
  • The elasticity suggests a hit of 30% to 70% for GDP
  • That’s $6,000B/yr to $14,000B/yr if it’s a discrete jump. It isn’t, so looking at that typical slope showing recovery by about day 25 in most years, that slope suggests effects so far that are perhaps half of that as China built up to a sustained shortfall.
  • This shortfall is new and gradual, let’s say it’s about 1/25th of a year so far (about 2 weeks). That converts to a GDP loss of between $120B and $280B so far, or –0.6% to –1.4% of annual GDP in total.
  • China’s economy in 2020 is roughly the size of the U.S. economy in 2008-9. During the worst parts of that recession, the U.S. economy was off $20B in 2008 III, $85B in 2008 IV, and $45B in 2009 I.

All of these numbers are sketchy, but the suggest that the effect of COVID-19 on China over a few weeks is already comparable to what a large recession did to the U.S. in a few quarters.

Given China's role in global supply chains, both as producers and as consumers, that magnitude of economic impact will affect other national economies, bringing a global recession into view, which is contributing to why the world's stock markets are plunging.

It will be a long time before all the actual damage has been tallied, but until then, the kind of estimations we can do using back-of-the-envelope maths will give us the best indication of how things are going. It's also why we can recommend Maths on the Back of an Envelope as entertaining reading material that you can actually put to use to answer questions that, on first glance, may appear to be unanswerable.

Previously on Political Calculations

Image credit: unsplash-logoJari Hytönen

Australian Politics 2020-02-27 14:13:00


Bob Katter launches into a rant slamming 'un-Australian' vegetarian pies while calling for people to eat more meat and boycott the new snack

Politician Bob Katter has slammed a new vegetarian pie as 'un-Australian' while calling on people to boycott the product.

The Queensland MP blasted Four'N Twenty's new offering - which the brand claims will be indistinguishable from the meaty original - saying eating a meat pie was 'the most Australian of all activities'.

The company will launch the pie in March, saying it is 'very excited' about the trendy vegetarian snack.

But Katter called for a boycott of the pie, saying people should 'eat our Aussie beef'.

'The most Australian of all activities is to be at the football and eat a meat pie and (have) a beer or a Coke,' he said in a Facebook video, clutching a pie in his hand. 'That is the essence of our Australian-ism.'

Katter wasn't the only Australian left unimpressed by Four'N Twenty's new pie, with some saying it 'must be an early April fool's joke'.

The beloved brand will begin selling the new vegetarian option in March in supermarkets, service stations and stadiums around the country.

The pie took eight months to perfect, with the filling made from soy protein.

General manager of marketing and innovation at Patties Food Group Anand Surujpal said customers won't be able to tell it was a vegetarian pie. 'If I hadn't told you it wasn't a meat pie, you wouldn't know,' he said.

The pie is meant to taste and smell just like their regular meat pies and contains no animal products as ingredients, but isn't vegan.

'It's got the same colours, textures, the taste profile, the mouth feel, you've got all those elements,' Mr Surujpal said.

It generated a polarising response on social media, with some commentators backing Four'N Twenty for opening up their menu to vegetarians.

'This is great news! I'd love to see them in party pie size too,' one comment reads.

 'Yay! No need to harm animals,' another post says.

'Fantastic news! Hope they are available at all AFL games this season and that a Sausage Roll is in development!' yet another reads.

Others weren't so supportive.

'Plants! Name one good thing a bloody plant has ever done for us!' one post reads.

'Why don't they invent pastry made out of meat instead so we can have meat wrapped in meat and avoid bloody plants altogether? Furious.'

'Four'N Twenty why don't you just call it for what it is.... a quiche. That's it. It's not a pie, it's a quiche,' another comment reads.

'Is this an April Fool's joke?,' another asked.


One third say ABC is out of touch with ‘ordinary’ Aussies

A new poll suggests the ABC is out of touch with the views of “ordinary Aussies” – and a surprising age group is turning against the broadcaster.

Sky News host Chris Kenny says the issues plaguing the BBC, such as it being ‘out of touch with mainstream concerns’, mirror similar issues facing Australia’s ABC.

Less than one third of the country believes the ABC “represents the views of ordinary Australians”, a survey by the Institute of Public Affairs suggests.

The Liberal-aligned think tank says the result shows “public broadcasting has passed its use-by date”. The IPA is renewing calls for the $1.1 billion-a-year national broadcaster to be privatised.

In the poll of 1016 people conducted by marketing research firm Dynata in early December – largely before the bushfire crisis – respondents were asked to agree or disagree with the statement: “The ABC does not represent the views of ordinary Australians.”

Overall, more people sided with the ABC than not, with 32 per cent either somewhat or strongly disagreeing with the statement, compared with 30 per cent who either somewhat or strongly agreed.

Thirty-eight per cent were neither here nor there.

“Over two thirds of Australians either don’t believe the ABC reflects their views or they are on the fence,” Liberal Senator James McGrath told

“The ABC is becoming the pianola of media — it does a job but is increasingly irrelevant. In a pluralistic media market, Aussies are tuning out. The ABC is running a 1980s media model for a 21st century media market.”

When broken down by age group, the results tell an interesting story — and suggest the “zoomer” generation may be getting more conservative.

Predictably, people aged over 65 — the first half of the Baby Boomer generation — had the most negative view on the ABC, with 47 per cent agreeing the broadcaster is out of touch.

But surprisingly, they were closely followed in that view by their grandkids.

Thirty-three per cent of those aged 18 to 24 were in the anti-ABC camp, the second largest cohort. Only 21 per cent of Gen Z took the other side, the smallest proportion of any age group.

The strongest age group in favour of the ABC were those aged 55 to 64 — the second Baby Boomer wave — followed by Gen Xers aged 45 to 54.

In general, people aged under 44 were the most “meh”.

Just under half of those aged 35 to 44 were on the fence. That was closely followed down the age brackets, with 48 per cent of those aged 25 to 34 and 46 per cent those aged 18 to 24.

Only 19 per cent of over-65s said they neither agreed nor disagreed.

“These polling results suggest that young people are optimistic, ambitious and patriotic,” said IPA policy director Gideon Rozner.

“They are not interested in programming awash with negativity, black armband history and climate hysteria. These results prove there is no future in public ownership of the ABC.”

It comes after ABC chair Ita Buttrose sat down with Scott Morrison earlier this month, reportedly to ask the PM for more cash using goodwill the broadcaster earned from its highly praised bushfire coverage.

The government froze the ABC’s base funding last year at $1 billion. The Australian reported Ms Buttrose intended to ask the PM for “adequate” funds, as the ABC had been forced to dig into its reserves to fulfil its role as the country’s emergency broadcaster.

“The Morrison Government must rule out giving more taxpayer dollars to a state-owned broadcaster that already receives $1.1 billion a year,” Mr Rozner said.

“If the ABC is unable to fulfil its existing duties as the emergency broadcaster within its existing $1.1 billion budget then the Morrison Government should reduce its funding even more and run a competitive tender between the commercial broadcasters for the emergency broadcaster function.”

In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently confirmed he was “looking at” scrapping the TV licence fee and turning the BBC into a subscription service.

The IPA is calling for something similar in Australia. “If only one third of Australians think the ABC speaks for them, maybe public broadcasting has passed its use-by date,” Mr Rozner said.

“The ABC seems to be playing to its loyal base in an era of audience fragmentation. It’s understandable, but let’s not maintain the fiction of a ‘national broadcaster’. Even if that were possible once, it’s not anymore.”

Mr Rozner said the ABC was “not the only media outlet that has some sort of bias, far from it, but it is the only media outlet that every taxpayer is forced to pay for”. “Rethinking state ownership is not an ‘attack’ on the ABC, any more than privatisation was an attack on Qantas or Telstra,” he said.

Speaking to Sky News earlier this month, Senator McGrath accused Ms Buttrose of “having a laugh” in her request for more funding, saying while the ABC “does a good job in parts of Australia” it was becoming “a left-wing blob of boring, woke views” and needed to “get in tune with the quiet Australians”.

“I’ve got a three-point plan — sell off their inner-city headquarters, make sure we have a review of the ABC Charter and Act, and stop this self-selection process where like-minded ABC people keep recruiting like-minded ABC people,” he said.


Audiences have had a gutful of incessant pontificating and virtue signalling by Hollywood and actors generally

While normally not one to believe conspiracy theories, I sometimes muse there is a secret and sinister political movement that over many years has infiltrated our creative and performing arts industry and now controls it. Its members are actors, writers and singers, and they range from the highest paid celebrities to those struggling to make a name for themselves.

If there is such a movement, its methodology is to subject audiences and the wider community to incessant pontificating and displays of virtue, the aim being to elect and defend centre-right governments worldwide. You read that correctly. Conservatives are massively indebted to celebrities for sabotaging so-called progressive causes.

You probably thought Hollywood is a hive of leftist activism, that writers’ festivals are an imbibing of wokeism, and that concerts take the form of endless social justice homilies, interrupted only by the occasional song. If so, you failed to look beyond the superficial. While ostensibly supporting movements that the left holds dear, these artists use self-ridicule not only to discredit themselves, but everyone associated with the cause in question.

When Sir Elton John paused his concert in Verona, Italy, last year to rage against the evils of Brexit, he personified the petulance of Remainers. “I’m ashamed of my country for what it has done,” he wailed. “It’s torn people apart … I am a European. I am not a stupid, colonial, imperialist English idiot.”

Not so ashamed, apparently, that he would surrender his knighthood, together with its connotations of a colonialist and imperialist country of old. Only months later Britain’s conservative government, led by prime minister Boris Johnson, won a landslide victory under a Brexit banner.

As for US president Donald Trump, the celebrities who so loudly opposed his election in 2016 are doing their best to ensure he is given a second term. To acknowledge all of them would be too massive a task. Two warrant special mention: first: actor Robert De Niro, who announced in a choreographed scene just before the 2016 election that he wanted to “punch” Trump in the face.

It reeked of De Niro trying to trade on his onscreen tough guy persona, and merely highlighted the Democrats’ bluster and impotence.

The other is singer and actor Bette Midler. When she’s not tweeting foul-mouthed insults to Republican supporters, she composes what can only be described as erotic Vogon poetry as she speculates about Trump’s sex life.

There once was a girl from Slovenia
Who now lives right on Pennsylvinia
To the East Room she’ll flee
From her husband’s wee wee
While he plays with his own schizophrenia

— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) June 18, 2019

It is behaviour that is imbecilic, pathetic and counterproductive. Given Midler’s abysmal record in trying to unseat Trump, prime minister Scott Morrison is unlikely to be fazed to learn that last month she questioned his leadership, as well as labelling him an “idiot” and a “f**kwit”.

Pity the poor #Australians, their country ablaze, and their rotten @ScottMorrisonMP saying, “This is not the time to talk about Climate Change. We have to grow our economy.” What an idiot. What good is an economy in an uninhabitable country? Lead, you fuckwit!!

— Bette Midler (@BetteMidler) January 3, 2020

As for Australia, we too have a tradition of celebrities lending their support to causes, only to botch them completely. When the minority Gillard Government rolled out a publicity campaign for its carbon tax in 2011, remember who fronted the camera to serenely inform financially strapped Australians this was all in the name of addressing “carbon pollution”?

That’s right, it was actor and multimillionaire Cate Blanchett, accompanied by fellow actor Michael Caton, whose idea of establishing his common man cred was to wear a flannelette shirt. One of the few who thought the choice of Blanchett was a good idea was then Treasurer Wayne Swan, which only showed he knew as much about connecting with ordinary Australians as he did delivering budget surpluses.

In 2015 — just prior to the executions of Australian drug traffickers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran — actors Bryan Brown, Geoffrey Rush, Guy Pearce and Joel Edgerton and others featured in a video titled “Save our boys”. It was based on the false and slanderous insinuation the Abbott Government was doing nothing to ask the Indonesian Government to grant clemency.

While the celebrities were largely restricted to reciting “I stand for mercy”, the video also featured lesser known types indulging in rank opportunism. Some examples: “Show some ticker,” “Come on Abbott, be a leader,” “Imagine if it was your child”, and “The time for diplomacy has now passed”. The corollary being an invasion of Indonesia I take it?

If you thought that was abject stupidity, wait for this: “Tony Abbott you need to give diplomatic immunity and protection to Andrew and Myuran before it’s too late,” an anonymous blonde woman tartly states. But the daddy of them all was from actor Brendan Cowell.

“Tony, if you had any courage and compassion, you’d get over to Indonesia and bring these two boys home,” sneered Cowell as he was filmed reclining on a bed. “Show some balls,” he added contemptuously.

As to who was lacking a pair, that was made very clear when Cowell hurriedly deleted his Twitter account in response to a social media backlash. He also conceded to radio station 2UE that he had no idea how Abbott could prevent the executions.

Brown surfaced again in 2018, along with New Zealand actors Sam Neill and Rebecca Gibney and singer Jimmy Barnes, this time in a video decrying the policy of detaining asylum-seekers in Manus and Nauru. Urging politicians to “stop playing politics with people’s lives” (oh the irony), Neill described these measures as a “barbarity”. For good measure Gibney’s voice quavered as she urged Australians to lobby politicians. As expected, none of the celebrities concerned suggested a viable alternative to mandatory detention.

All these cases and countless others serve as an example to celebrities that the best thing they could do for their pet causes is not to be a part of them, at least not overtly. Or if they must appear publicly in these movements, they should not condescend or patronise.

Clearly this was lost on actor Simon Baker, star of the television series The Mentalist. This week Greenpeace launched a climate change and renewable energy campaign video titled “Dear Scotty” featuring the actor, which targeted the prime minister. “Mate, sorry to do this to you,” he says in the opening scene, dripping with faux melancholy as he and others lambast Morrison in sequence for his supposed failings. “How will history remember you?” he asks pensively.

Should not a renowned actor be expected to — how does one put this — act? Likewise, they should be able to recognise a lousy script. “The audience should be treated with a certain level of intelligence, and I get very upset when we talk down to them,” Baker told the Glasgow Times in 2015. “It annoys me,” he added. Yes, Mr Baker. It annoys us too.

In 2018, Baker campaigned against Adani’s Carmichael Mine, telling viewers it was “just inland” from the Great Barrier Reef. In fact, the distance between the two is around 350km. “It’ll unleash one of the biggest reservoirs of carbon pollution we’ve ever known,” he said. “It’s a death sentence for the reef.” This is fearmongering. It is also elitist, given the unemployment rate in regional Queensland is higher than 14 per cent in some areas. Then again, it is all too easy to forget the plight of the unemployed when your lifestyle reflects that of the highest-paid actor in US television.

Predictably he also voices his opposition to “fossil fuels”, yet when Baker resided in Los Angeles he and his family frequently travelled between the US and Australia. “Mate, sorry to do this to you,” you might ask him, “but can we assume none of these multiple international trips involved a zero-carbon yacht?” Or “When you were filming in Western Australia in 2018 and someone stepped on your glasses, is it true you flew to New York just to get a replacement pair from your favourite store?”

Again, sorry for the impertinent questions. We are just compiling a record about you and all other activist celebrities. Its title is “How will history remember you?”


Zero net emissions: Look no further than New Zealand for economic impacts

In some respects, the Labor Party is as Australian as the Magic Pudding, both revel in fantasy. According to past Labor leaders, high public spending won’t raise taxes and, in any case, high taxes won’t damage economic growth. Now we have Labor’s greatest magic pudding yet, we can cut our carbon emissions to zero and no coal miner will lose their job.

The Labor Party refuses to produce numbers to explain this remarkable outcome, but fortunately others have. Last year, New Zealand passed into law a net zero emissions target and in doing so they commissioned actual economic modelling on its impact.

The analysis, by the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research, evaluates a number of different assumed scenarios. All of these incorporate optimistic assumptions on future technologies, including for example a methane vaccine (which stops sheep from “emitting”). And, in another leap of faith, 50 per cent of trucks go electric by 2050.

Even with these assumptions, the negative impact of net zero emissions on the New Zealand economy is massive. The policy would reduce the size of the New Zealand economy by 10 to 20 per cent. In Australian terms that would amount to a $200 billion to $400 billion annual impact. Employment would fall by 2 to 4 per cent. If that happened in Australia 200,000 to 400,000 people would lose their jobs.

New Zealand’s main industry of agriculture would be smashed. Its dairy industry would reduce by more than half and that leads to a much poorer nation. Depending on technological assumptions, wages reduce by 8 to 28 per cent. In Australian terms, that would mean a $7000 to $24,000 annual hit to an average worker.

Of course, the economic impact on Australia would be bigger given that we have large coal and gas industries, as well as agriculture.

As it turned out, the New Zealand Government ended up exempting agriculture from its net zero emissions target. Agriculture makes up half of the country’s carbon dioxide emissions. New Zealand’s “brave” target that was welcomed by environmental activist groups is literally an example of doing things by half.

Here in Australia, however, the Labor party has not ruled out imposing a net zero target on our farmers. A net zero target is a double hit to the agricultural industry. They pay the direct cost of having to pay more for fuel, for feed and for vehicles. They also pay the cost of having productive farmland turned to trees (so we can sequester more carbon) and the loss of future growth opportunities because more land can not be developed.

This is where the “net” part of net zero kicks in. Under “net zero”, rich people can still fly to Davos to lecture others about carbon dioxide emissions. To do so, some pay an “indulgence” to have farming land locked up. Productive farm areas, in effect, would be turned into National Parks to house more weeds and fuel for bushfires.

Net zero emissions means net zero development, net zero jobs but far from net zero hypocrisy.

Labor has been keen to quote the CSIRO’s latest National Outlook report to conclude that net zero emissions is achievable but the CSIRO report does not do what Labor is saying it does. The CSIRO concludes that agricultural production levels “experience a substantial decline once the rising carbon price improves the relative profitability of other land uses such as forestry”. Up to 24 per cent of our agricultural land would be converted plantings on the CSIRO’s analysis.

Nor does the CSIRO measure the net impact of net zero emissions. It measures the economic outcomes of two scenarios, one dominated by a protectionist world with high barriers to trade and the other a world of free trade, global cooperation on climate and magically high productivity. Surprise, surprise, free trade and high productivity lead to higher economic growth. The unique and separate impact of net zero emissions remains unmeasured by the CSIRO’s analysis.

Also, to get to net zero, the CSIRO estimates that a global carbon price of $273 a tonne is required. Once again Labor shows their addiction to a carbon tax.

In The Magic Pudding, the possum and the wombat create a fire to distract Bunyip Bluegum while they steal the pudding. A similar distraction seems to have afflicted the modern Labor Party, where this summer’s fires have distracted them away from their founding mission of defending and protecting workers. Labor once again has not seemed to learn the lesson that you can’t have your cake and eat it too.


Some Australian Private schools may see government funding boost

Billions in extra funding could flow to private schools favoured by less well-off parents under changes by the federal government.

Private schools chosen by less well-off parents could receive a multi-billion dollar funding boost under changes proposed by the federal government.

New legislation introduced to parliament on Wednesday would change the way the government calculates the income of parents to measure of how much taxpayer money a school is entitled to.

"(This) will ensure more funding flows to the schools that need it most," Education Minister Dan Tehan told parliament.

The government estimates the change will open up an extra $3.4 billion for non-government school funding over the next decade.

"The new methodology will use the best available data to estimate the capacity of parents and guardians to contribute to the cost of schooling," Mr Tehan said.

It follows recommendations by the National School Resourcing Board to change the way the government calculated the incomes of student's parents and guardians.


 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

U.S. New Home Sales Market Cap Best Since 2007

Nearly two months ago, it looked like the new home market in the U.S. was set to follow the trends for existing home sales in ending 2019 on a high note.

And then, that scenario went on to happen! The release of January 2020's preliminary estimates for new home sales suggests that momentum carried into 2020.

Sales of new U.S. single-family homes raced to a 12-1/2-year high in January, pointing to housing market strength that could help to blunt any hit on the economy from the coronavirus and keep the longest economic expansion in history on track.

The report from the Commerce Department on Wednesday added to a raft of other upbeat data on the housing market, which is emerging as one of the few bright spots on the economy as business investment continues to slump and consumer spending slows. Unseasonably mild weather and the lower mortgage rates that followed the Federal Reserve’s three interest rate cuts last year are boosting housing market activity.

“The strength of new home sales should generate a little extra consumer expenditures on household items like appliances and furniture, and the spending is sorely needed because the coronavirus is likely to weigh on GDP growth in the first quarter,” said Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in New York. The Commerce Department said new home sales jumped 7.9% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 764,000 units last month, the highest level since July 2007. December’s sales pace was revised up to 708,000 units from the previously reported 694,000 units....

New home sales jumped 30.3% in the Midwest to their highest level since October 2007. They soared 23.5% in the West to levels last seen in July 2006 and rose 4.8% in the Northeast to more than a 1-1/2-year high. Activity was likely exaggerated by warmer temperatures. Sales fell 4.4% in the South, which accounts for the bulk of transactions.

For the market capitalization of new home sales, 2019 proved to be the strongest year since 2007. That result can be seen in the following chart showing the trailing twelve month average of the market capitalization for non-seasonally adjusted new home sales in the United States.

Trailing Twelve Month Average New Home Sales Market Capitalization, January 1976 - January 2020

That's also true after adjusting for the effects of inflation over time. The change occurs as the median new home sold in the U.S. has become more affordable for the typical American household, both because of rising incomes and because of falling mortgage rates in 2019.


U.S. Census Bureau. New Residential Sales Historical Data. Houses Sold. [Excel Spreadsheet]. Accessed 26 February 2020. 

U.S. Census Bureau. New Residential Sales Historical Data. Median and Average Sale Price of Houses Sold. [Excel Spreadsheet]. Accessed 26 February 2020. 

U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. Consumer Price Index, All Urban Consumers - (CPI-U), U.S. City Average, All Items, 1982-84=100[PDF Document]. Accessed 13 February 2020. 

Australian Politics 2020-02-26 14:32:00


Neo-Nazis among Australia's most challenging security threats, ASIO boss Mike Burgess warns

If so, where are they?  We've seen nothing of them.  I think this is just a red herring to deflect attention from the real threat: Muslim Jihadis

Neo-Nazis are emerging as one of Australia's most challenging security threats, according to the country's top intelligence chief.

In a rare public address from inside ASIO's heavily fortified Canberra headquarters, Mr Burgess said foreign espionage and interference activities against Australia were higher now than at any time during the Cold War.

While delivering ASIO's annual threat assessment, the director-general warned a terrorist attack on Australia was still "probable" and it was "truly disturbing" to see extremists trying to recruit children as young as 13 or 14.

And he said "violent Islamic extremism", embodied by Islamic State and al'Qaida, remained ASIO's top concern.

"The number of terrorism leads we are investigating right now has doubled since this time last year," Mr Burgess told an audience of diplomats and intelligence officers.

"The character of terrorism will continue to evolve and we believe that it will take on a more dispersed and diversified face."

Mr Burgess said right-wing extremism had been in "ASIO's sights for some time", but had obviously come into "sharp, terrible focus" following last year's Christchurch mass shooting.

"In Australia, the extreme right-wing threat is real and it is growing," he said.

"In suburbs around Australia, small cells regularly meet to salute Nazi flags, inspect weapons, train in combat and share their hateful ideology," he said.

Far right-wing groups are now more organised and security conscious than they were in previous years according to the ASIO boss, who has revealed Australian extremists are seeking to connect with like-minded individuals in other parts of the world.

In a previously undisclosed case from earlier this year, ASIO advice led to an Australian being blocked from leaving the country to "fight with an extreme right-wing group on a foreign battlefield".

"While these are small in number at this time in comparison to what we saw with foreign fighters heading to the Middle East, any development like this is very concerning," Mr Burgess observed.

"Meanwhile, extreme right-wing online forums such as The Base proliferate on the internet, and attract international memberships, including from Australians."

The ASIO boss said his organisation expected such groups would "remain an enduring threat, making more use of online propaganda to spread their messages of hate".

"While we would expect any right-wing-extremist-inspired attack in Australia to be low capability — i.e. a knife, gun or vehicle attack — more sophisticated attacks are possible."


Exploration under the gas pump in Victoria

Green/Left ban on gas exploration is costing Victorians

As gas emerges as the politically palatable alternative to coal, pressure is building from within the Andrews government to end the five-year moratorium on onshore conventional gas exploration in Victoria. The shift by Labor figures follows mounting pressure from unions, industry and consumers.

It comes after Scott Morrison issued a passionate plea for gas supplies in NSW and Victoria to be unlocked, declaring there is “no credible energy transition plan for an economy like Australia which does not involve greater use of gas as an important transition fuel”.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chair Rod Sims has repeatedly called on NSW and Victoria to lift their bans, declaring in August: “If we really want permanently lower prices in the south we need more gas in the south.” Santos’s Narrabri project, with potential to fill half of NSW’s domestic supply, has been a particular bone of contention, with approvals continually delayed by the state.

The federal government is pushing for a national gas reservation policy to improve supplies for manufacturers and heavy industry, along with a price measure to the gas export trigger to ensure the national market is operating efficiently. The Australian Energy Market Operator predicts that offshore gas supplies in Bass Strait are unlikely to meet Victoria’s needs ­beyond the next five years. AEMO estimated late last year that coal would contribute less than a third of power supply in the grid by 2040 as demand for gas and other ­renewables surges.

The Morrison government has struck a $2bn deal with the NSW government to pay for carbon abatement and energy projects in return for increased production of natural gas. It says it will not fund a similar deal with Victoria unless the ban on onshore gas exploration is lifted.

With the results of a geological survey of the state’s onshore ­conventional gas resources expected next month, ahead of the expiration of the moratorium on June 30, energy experts say the Victorian government faces a stark choice: it can either cease being the only state with a ban on conventional gas exploration or import more expensive, less environmentally friendly gas from ­interstate.

Far from banning conventional gas exploration, Queensland allows all forms of unconventional gas exploration, including fracking, and is home to almost 90 per cent of Australia’s 2P (proven and probable) gas reserves, and about 63 per cent of Australia’s 2C (best estimate of contingent) reserves. NSW permits conventional and unconventional exploration but the Berejiklian government frequently declares it has the “toughest” regulations in Australia, particularly in relation to fracking of coal-seam gas.

In 2014, the then O’Farrell government froze new CSG exploration licences and introduced exclusion zones, making residential areas in 152 local government areas of the state, including Sydney, “off limits”. While the freeze has since been lifted, no new licences have been granted.

The West Australian, South Australian and Northern Territory governments have all recently lifted their moratoriums on fracking, except in the southeast of South Australia where it is still prohibited. Tasmania maintains a fracking moratorium but allows conventional and unconventional gas exploration.

While Victorian state Labor MPs remain publicly tight-lipped about which way they are leaning on the conventional gas moratorium, internal sources say there is significant support within the right of the party for its overturning, including from Treasurer Tim Pallas, Resources Minister Jaclyn Symes and key factional powerbroker Adem Somyurek.

Energy and Environment Minister Lily D’Ambrosio — of the Socialist Left faction — has previously supported the moratorium but declined a request from The Australian to clarify her present position.

One source said they would “bet London to a brick” D’Ambrosio would continue to support the moratorium but others said they believed she could be persuaded to support its overturning should more senior members of her faction, including Premier Daniel Andrews, do so. The decision sits within Symes’s resources portfolio.

Australian Workers Union Victorian secretary Ben Davis is one ALP member who has been publicly critical of the moratorium since its inception, saying it is ­costing jobs. “It sends a terrible ­investment signal to gas companies and manufacturers alike,” Davis says. “I look forward to the review of the moratorium, and we’ll be campaigning and agitating to get it lifted.”

NSW-based federal opposition resources spokesman Joel Fitz­gibbon is another within the Labor camp who does not mince words in calling for the Andrews government to not only lift the moratorium on onshore conventional gas but also overturn its ban on ­unconventional gas exploration. “Every project, whether it involves fracking or not, should stand on its merits,” Fitzgibbon says. “Blanket bans make no sense.”

While all forms of gas mining involve the extraction of methane from kilometres below the earth’s surface, conventional gas extraction involves releasing gas trapped in sandstone, under solid rock, with minimal impact on the surrounding geology.

Unconventional gas is trapped in a coal seam or shale and is more difficult to extract, often but not ­always requiring fracking, or fracture stimulation, which involves pumping fluid down the gas well at high pressure to produce small cracks in the target rock reservoir.

Victoria’s moratorium on conventional onshore gas exploration dates back to May 2014, when Napthine government energy minister Russell Northe opted to suspend decisions on all onshore gas exploration in the state until after the November state election, which was won by Labor.

At the time the Coalition feared punishment at the ballot box if it approved a controversial application from Lakes Oil to drill for gas 1500m below Seaspray, in then Nationals leader Peter Ryan’s South Gippsland electorate. Far from lifting the suspension post-election, the new Andrews government maintained it, intro­ducing legislation in 2017 that placed a moratorium on all conventional onshore gas exploration and production until June 30 this year, and permanently banning all unconventional gas mining and exploration, including fracking.

Ahead of the 2018 state election, Andrews went a step further, making a yet-to-be-delivered promise to enshrine a ban on fracking in the state’s constitution. The state Coalition continues to oppose all unconventional gas ­exploration but this week renewed its calls to lift the moratorium on conventional onshore gas.

Federal Energy Minister Angus Taylor says the “great irony” of Victoria importing ­increasing amounts of gas from Queensland is that 20 per cent to 40 per cent of Queensland gas is from coal seams.

“That’s exactly what they’re objecting to with their ban on unconventional gas — which they’re not even considering lifting — and yet they’re OK with importing coal-seam gas,” Taylor says.

Anti-fossil fuels groups are ramping up their campaigns ahead of the moratorium expiring. Friends of the Earth campaigns co-ordinator Cam Walker says he is “very concerned” about the possibility of the ban being lifted. “The greatest concern is the climate change implications of the methane that comes from fugitive emissions,” he says. “Looking to mainstream science, it’s clear that we need to stop producing new ­reserves of fossil fuels if we want to have the hope of keeping temperature rises under 1.5C globally.”

Grattan Institute energy program director Tony Wood says that unless one takes the Friends of The Earth approach of opposing all fossil fuel extraction, there is “no scientific justification” for banning conventional or even all unconventional gas exploration. He concedes lifting the ban on fracking is “too politically sensitive”.

As the June 30 sunset clause on the moratorium approaches, Victorian Lead Scientist Amanda ­Caples, a stakeholder advisory panel and a team of scientists have been commissioned by the Andrews government to complete a three-year, $40m inquiry into ­onshore conventional gas as part of the Victorian Gas Program.

One of the key questions they are addressing — which gas companies say they would have ­answered at no cost to the taxpayer had the moratorium not been imposed — is how much ­unconventional gas there actually is under Victoria, and therefore what impact it might be able to have in terms of keeping a lid on prices, creating regional jobs and saving manufacturing jobs.

As part of the gas program, scientists from the Victorian Geological Survey are developing comprehensive 3D geological models of the Otway and Gippsland basins, where most of Victoria’s onshore gas is believed to be located. The results of that investigation are expected to be made known next month.

Recent discoveries in the South Australian section of the Otway Basin, near Penola, have encouraged companies with acreages in western Victoria, including Beach Energy, Cooper Energy and Vintage Energy, to hold out hope of finding more gas on the eastern side of the state border.

While the decision on whether to lift the moratorium will be made by the politicians, and not the scientists, The Australian understands the Geological Survey team is working to compile “pre-competitive data” on prospective locations for gas wells.

Should the moratorium be lifted, this would allow the industry some minimal compensation for five years of lost work, in the form of being able to restart ahead of where it was when the moratorium was imposed.

‘Plenty of gas’

The gas program stakeholder advisory panel includes representatives from a wide range of interest groups, including the manufacturing industry, AWU, Victorian Farmers Federation, gas company Beach Energy, the Australian ­Industry Group, the Great South Coast Group (which represents councils in the Otway Basin, some of which have publicly voiced their support for lifting the moratorium), as well as green groups ­including Frack Free Moriac and Environment Victoria.

State Resources Minister Jac­lyn Symes says the gas program work will “inform decisions about potential onshore gas exploration”. Symes maintains that Australia “has plenty of gas”, blaming escalating prices on an ­increase in gas exports over the past five years and calling on the federal government to activate its domestic gas security mech­anism to put Australian consumers first.

But as AEMO forecasts a 34 per cent decrease in Victorian winter gas production by 2023 because of dwindling supplies in Bass Strait, it is clear the Andrews government is under pressure to increase supply, with new offshore exploration and production licences recently approved at state and commonwealth levels.

The state government, which has jurisdiction to three nautical miles (5.56km) from the coast, ­recently gave the go-ahead to two onshore-to-offshore wells being drilled by Beach Energy in the Otway Basin.

The wells are permitted under the moratorium, despite beginning on clifftops before extending 1.5km out to sea, kilometres under the earth’s surface.

While Victoria does import some gas via pipelines that connect it to the rest of the east coast gas market, it is a net exporter, with about two-thirds of the gas processed locally being used in the state, and the rest sent to neighbouring states.

If the state cannot produce enough of its own gas in coming years — or refuses to do so by maintaining the moratorium — it will need to import gas, predominantly via a pipeline from southwest Queensland, which AEMO has found would need to be seriously upgraded to carry larger volumes to Victoria.

As the ACCC has highlighted, Queensland gas already costs $2-$4 a gigajoule more than Victorian gas — or up to 50 per cent more.

Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association chief executive Andrew McConville says the industry remains hopeful that the Andrews government will “see sense” and lift the moratorium, given Victoria’s longstanding requirement for more natural gas, with 80 per cent of the state’s homes connected to more than 31,000km of gas mains distribution pipelines.

“The Victorian government’s renewable energy target (of 50 per cent by 2030) will also see the ­demand for natural gas increase,” McConville says.

“Modelling undertaken for the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning in 2017 assumes that as other sources of baseload power (coal) no longer become viable they are replaced by natural gas generation capacity.

“Under every scenario modelled for the department, natural gas has a bigger role to play in ­delivering energy stability to Victoria out to 2050.

“Unless new gas resources in Victoria are developed, families and businesses in the state will pay more than those in states continuing to develop new supply.”


Activist chief executives are ‘stealing’ from shareholders

It's not their money to spend on "good" causes

Every other day a corporate chief somewhere will declare, in sombre tones and often for applause, that business must take a stand on an issue for the sake of the community. These big-noting corporate chaps justify their grand plans for humanity in many ways.

They claim businesses have a legitimate interest in matters affecting the wider community in which they operate. Political leaders are not doing enough, they say. Workers and consumers want us to do this, they assure themselves.

While it is not evident how they canvassed the views of workers or consumers, it is patently clear these new activist chief executives are endearing themselves to other activists with the same ­visions for the planet.

These reasons for corporate activism were, more or less, laid out last week by John Denton, the first Australian to head the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce. He waved away as “completely ridiculous” the notion that corporate leaders should stick to their knitting. “This is our knitting,” Denton declared.

This is also the same tedious click-clacking sound emanating from many self-important business people who make up the Business Roundtable in the US, and swan around at Davos. They imagine their own beliefs are so brilliant they form a modern-day list of corporate commandments.

Like the harm that’s done to the human body from ingesting too much sugar, Denton’s attempt to encourage corporate bosses to be more activist is loaded with so much corporate saccharin it threatens to kill off the company as a vehicle to pool people’s money.

If activist chief executives, and their Paris-based spokesman, are impatient with politics, they could, of course, stand for parliament and spend other people’s money as a politician. In choosing much ­higher-paid gigs running companies and managing shareholders’ money, credibility comes from ­explaining how, at law, an activist chief executive fits in the company model. But this is where modern-day ­corporate preachers fall silent.

When was the last time any chief executive, let alone the bloke running the International Chamber of Commerce, discussed the agency costs of activist chief executives?

When did any of them last mention the importance of rules that govern how managers spend other people’s money?

Talking about such matters is painfully dull compared with setting out your vision for ­humanity. But the bigger reason they don’t ­address this dry issue of agency costs is that it might cramp their activist style. If chief executives admit to the agency costs they have created for shareholders by spending shareholders’ money on issues that have nothing to do with running a company, they might have to stop doing what earns them applause from their friends. It could even jeopardise them receiving an AO or an AC on Australia Day.

There is a deadly serious issue. Soon after the earliest companies were formed, separating the ownership of business ventures from management, agency costs were recognised as a critical issue.

How do the owners of a ­company stop management using shareholders’ money to feather their own nest? Or to put it more simply, how do owners stop ­employees stealing from them?

While some agency costs might be inevitable, others are ­entirely avoidable.

Doctrines of fiduciary duty evolved to regulate how managers use shareholders’ money. While managers learned they shouldn’t use shareholders’ money for their own benefit, they grew more creative about how they used shareholders’ money.

It was clearly wrong to take money from the petty cash tin and use it to buy yourself a new TV. And it was equally wrong for a manager to use the petty cash tin to pay for a romantic dinner with a lover. But what if the manager used shareholders’ money to pay for a big party for employees? This was probably legitimate because keeping employees happy makes for a more successful business. Similarly, using shareholders’ money to sponsor a local football or netball team might be good advertising, buying local goodwill that helps a business thrive.

But, of course, that way danger lay. As shareholders’ money began to be used in a wider range of ways, it became even clearer that some red-line rules were needed to separate legitimate uses of shareholders’ money from ­illegitimate ones.

To deal with these agency costs, company law established some sensible rules for managers, imposing duties on them to act in the best interests of shareholders, and the company, and basically preventing them from using other people’s money to line their own pockets.

Importantly, English and Australian common law dating back to the 19th century recognised that managers needed some flexibility to use shareholders money in a way that doesn’t directly benefit shareholders but does benefit the business, and thus shareholders, indirectly.

Courts apply the notion of shareholder primacy to separate legitimate from illegitimate uses of shareholders’ money by management. It means that the financial benefit to shareholders of expenditure for social purposes does not need to be immediate or direct or even terribly obvious — but it does need to exist, and be able to be demonstrated.

It is a deliberate furphy when activist chief executives and their spruikers claim that shareholder primacy must be dismantled because it ­requires managers to seek short-term profits. That is a straw man concocted by those who want no rules restraining chief executives from their glorious plans for the world.

The other straw man put up by activist chief executives is the claim that capitalism needs a clean-out. In fact, the clean-out is needed among the vainglorious chief executives, and their chamber of commerce boosters, who are creating a new, and egregious, set of agency costs for shareholders.

They want free rein to use other people’s money, not to line their pockets but to warm their hearts, and to earn kudos from other people like them.

Frankly, it is theft — idealistic theft, perhaps — but still theft. The fact Robin Hood stole money for noble purposes did not change the nature of his act: taking money from others without their consent.

Managers could ask shareholders to donate the profits they receive as dividends to a climate change fund. But to simply use company money on management’s pet causes without so much as a “by your leave” from shareholders is theft.

If activist chief executives think society should be putting more money into climate change or other noble causes, they should use their own money rather than shoving their sticky fingers into the retirement nest eggs of superannuants and ­investors.

And let’s be honest here. Much of the confiscation of shareholders’ money is done not for noble causes. There is a sizeable bullshit factor where chief executives seek self-aggrandisement rather than tangible outcomes.

It is not at all sexy to talk about rules that manage, and minimise, agency costs inherent in a public company where ownership is divorced from control. But this is a critical issue. And not just to protect today’s shareholders from a new form of theft.

If we allow chief executives and other activists to chip away at these foundations, they will end up destroying the company as a proven way to pool money from many people in order to do business.


Not learning to teach

As students returned to school recently, a new crop of graduate teachers was well-equipped to talk to them about the politics of diversity and the deconstruction of traditional education.

Sociology, diversity in education and debates over education funding have taken precedence over the teaching of literacy, numeracy and basic classroom management skills for new teachers.

At UTS, cultural competence is the chief goal of Beyond Culture: Diversity in Context. The subject analyses different features of culture like multiculturalism, indigeneity and disability which it claims are vital to the practice of teaching.

Critical Studies in Education and Practice at Charles Sturt University critiques traditional education methods through the prism of sexuality, ethics, citizenship and social sustainability. These are all put forward as necessary ways to modernise education.

Similarly, Teachers as Educational Innovators and Agents of Change at the University of Queensland tells students they need to bring a technological edge to their role as innovators of change. The outline states that this is a vital part of being “a future educational innovator and agent of change in classrooms and schools”.

These are just some of the baseline requirements universities have deemed essential for teacher education degrees across the country.

Before the 1990s, teachers were educated in specialist institutions before they were absorbed by the university sector.

Salisbury Teachers College – now part of the University of South Australia – outlined the necessities of teaching in the student handbook of 1968. The only time social institutions are mentioned is in the context of class management and child interaction.

In the course outline of 1960, Newcastle Teachers College summarised the importance of good social development of kids, child pedagogy and perception. It also looks at how to avoid straining the attention of young children for too long.

The modern belief that technology, cultural diversity, learning needs or even globalisation has changed the nature of teaching is fundamentally misguided.

The only thing that has changed is Australian universities and the decision to minimise the importance of teaching methods that work. This has reduced the quality of teaching degrees and with it the quality of teachers themselves.


Viewers unload on Eddie McGuire for DEFENDING Sam Newman over his blackface stunt

Viewers of a documentary featuring AFL great Adam Goodes have slammed Eddie McGuire for defending Sam Newman's infamous Footy Show blackface stunt. 

The Australian Dream, which had its television premiere on the ABC on Sunday night, focused on Goodes, who turned his back on the game after he retired in 2015 in the wake of an ugly racism row and years of booing from opposition fans.

The film includes a clip from a 1999 episode of the AFL Footy Show showing Newman with his face painted black as he imitated St Kilda champion Nicky Winmar, who had failed to turn up for a guest slot.

In the documentary, McGuire defended his long-time friend and colleague, who was born in 1945. 'He [Newman] didn't understand the nuance. He was a product of those times,' he said. 'He was a 60s 70s vaudevillian who was sending up Nicky Winmar because he didn't turn up on the show that night.'

McGuire's defense of Newman was criticised by some viewers on Sunday night. 'Sam Newman is disgusting, but Eddie McGuire is equally vile. Making excuses for his behaviour creates space for it to exist. Gutless to the end,' Seb Conway said on Twitter.


 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