Monthly Archives: December 2020

Australian Politics 2020-12-21 10:30:00


Australian Bureau of Statistics: Australian deaths, 1 January to 27 October 2020

The coronavirus has actually SAVED lives. It has wiped out some of the elderly but the rest of the population is doing fine

Deaths have been lower than average during the winter months in 2020.

Respiratory disease deaths have been lower than historical minimums since June.

Throughout this report, counts of deaths for 2020 are compared to an average number of deaths recorded over the previous 5 years (2015-2019). These average or baseline counts serve as a proxy for the expected number of deaths, so comparisons against baseline counts can provide an indication of excess mortality. The minimum and maximum counts from 2015-19 are also included to provide an indication of the range of previous counts. Minimums and maximums for any given week can be from any of the five years from 2015-19.

Deaths remained below historical averages since mid May, although the difference temporarily narrowed in late July and mid August. The number of deaths typically declines during spring with the end of the influenza season. Despite the lack of a severe 2020 influenza season, the number of deaths has followed traditional patterns, declining during the spring months.

Deaths were below the historical minimum range for most of June and July, late August and since mid September. Between 3 June and 27 October, there have been 57,939 deaths, 3,388 below the average of 61,327.

Electricity prices are set to plunge by up to $190 a year by 2023 - but only in those states where coal-fired power stations are not being closed

Natural gas and subsidies at work

Australian electricity bills are set to plunge by up to $190 within three years - but only in states where a major coal-fired power station isn't being closed.

The Australian Energy Market Commission predicted major power price plunges in Victoria and Queensland by the 2022-23 financial year.

The falls arise from reduced wholesale costs in most states and territories as gas becomes cheaper and renewable energy more plentiful

On a national level, power prices were expected to fall by 8.7 per cent or $117 within three years.

In Victoria, annual residential power bills were expected to plunge by 15.2 per cent, or $172, in a state where the Hazelwood power station in the Latrobe Valley was decommissioned in 2018.

Queensland was expected to see electricity bills dive by 14.2 per cent or $190 by 2023.

New South Wales, however, was only expected to see a 2.2 per cent or a $29 decrease in electricity bills due to the fall in coal-powered energy.

Australia's most populated state is also home to the Liddell power station in the Hunter Valley north of Sydney.

Owner AGL has begun shutting down the Muswellbrook plant, which is closing in 2023.

The AEMC report said the Liddell closure would tighten the supply of electricity and see power prices increase in 2022, after two years of price falls.

Its modelling did not take into account a federal government target for the electricity industry to deliver 1,000 megawatts of new energy to replace Liddell before it closed down in 2023.

Nonetheless, Energy Minister Angus Taylor hailed the government's decision to increase the supply of power to cope with the Hunter Valley power plant in less than three years.

'The government is on the side of consumers,' he said. 'We are taking strong action to ensure Australians are paying less to keep lights on.'

The report said cheaper gas prices and more capacity from solar and wind projects would contribute to lower wholesale prices.

South Australia, which in October became the first place in the world to be entirely solar powered for one hour, was expected to see a 10.8 per cent or a $203 fall in power bills.

The Australian Capital Territory, however, which is now 100 per cent renewable energy powered, was only expected to see a 2.3 per cent or a $45 decrease in power bills.

Tasmania which sources 90 per cent of its energy from renewable sources was tipped to see a 3.6 per cent or a $70 drop in electricity bills.

The report didn't offer forecasts for Western Australia or the Northern Territory.

The never-ending feminist push for one-eyed justice

Bettina Arndt

Good to see yet another high profile #MeToo case collapse this week when actor Craig McLachlan was found not guilty of the sexual assault and related charges which have hung over him for the last three years. Even though the magistrate Belinda Wallington reached the appropriate verdict, she was careful to give a nod to the sisterhood by praising the “brave and honest” complainants who had accused the actor of misbehaviour during a Rocky Horror show production. She also took a swipe at McLachlan, describing him as an “egotistical and self-entitled man”.

Note that this is the magistrate who first ordered George Pell to stand trial and then famously appeared in an ABC photograph with Louise Milligan, author of the notorious book, Cardinal, which very effectively poisoned public opinion before the Pell case went before a jury. The unanimous High Court decision dismissing the Pell allegations speaks volumes about the judgement of both women.

Magistrate Wallington at least made her decision in the McLachlan case based on the facts, not feminist ideology. Janice Fiamengo in Canada this week tweeted about a far more extreme example of a feminist judge who made no pretence of being impartial. A sexual assault conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal of Alberta because the trial judge, Stephanie Clearly, was found to have “entered the fray” and acted like a victim’s advocate, interrupting and deflecting questions to the female complainant to such an extent it created an unfair trial. Imagine finding yourself as a defendant in a rape case up before a judge with that history.

Meanwhile, more Milligan shenanigans.

Despite such rare setbacks, the feminist push to influence rape trials just rolls on, led most recently in Australia by activist journalist Louise Milligan. Funnily enough Milligan was the reporter for the pathetic 4 Corners’ programme, Inside the Canberra Bubble, which alleged sexual misconduct from government ministers but served only to reinforce the organization’s reputation for biased, shoddy reporting. Here was a classic feminist witch-hunt, short on facts but long on innuendo and anti-male smears.

Now Milligan is busily promoting her latest book, Witness, which she claims highlights the elusive justice on offer to sexual abuse victims in our “broken, sexist legal system”. According to Witness, the criminal justice system is maladapted to meet the needs of sexual assault complainants. “For sex crimes, rates of complaints, prosecutions, and convictions are persistently low,” the book claims.

That’s so much hogwash. Just last weekend one of Australia’s leading criminal barristers, former prosecutor Margaret Cunneen SC, was quoted in The Weekend Australian, pointing out Australian legal system is at the forefront of advances in prosecuting sexual assault. “The environment for a complainant has never been more receptive or encouraging,” said the lawyer who achieved national fame leading the prosecution of the Skaf gang rapes that occurred in Sydney in 2000. Cunneen is now concerned that prosecutors are under such pressure to take sexual crimes seriously that far too many cases are being pushed through to trial, even when the evidence is lacking to ensure a conviction.

The numbers of such cases are certainly way up. NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics (BOSCAR) data shows a huge increase in rape convictions, which almost doubled between 1995 and 2020, up from 579 to 1006 - a 14% increase in conviction rates.
Almost 66% of people convicted of sexual assault in NSW go to jail, compared to about 10 per cent of people convicted of other crimes. Just look at the leap in the last five years – in this graph based on 2015-2019 data from BOSCAR.

In the last five year there been a 72 % increase in people sentenced to prison for sexual assault. Here’s BOSAR’s neat little summary of this very significant change.

It’s very telling that these statistics, proudly on display in this leading crime statistics organization website, never attract any media attention. Our captured media far prefers to spin feminist mistruths about our failing justice system.

Tough justice but never enough for the feminists.

Last month the NSW Law Reform Commission released recommendations for reform of the state’s sexual consent laws, after a review lasting over two years. There was an immediate outcry from feminists complaining that the state had missed their chance to require ‘yes means yes’ consent when defending sexual assault allegations.

The activists have been pushing the case for “enthusiastic” or “affirmative consent” to be enshrined in these laws, mimicking Tasmanian legislation which requires the accused to actively check out whether they have consent, not just at the start of sexual activity but throughout the process.

Despite massive lobbying from women’s groups, the Commission decided not to go this far, although they recommend that it’s not enough to assume consent simply because your partner does not verbally or physically resist – in recognition of the fact that victims can “freeze” during an assault.

There’s a bunch of other recommendations which further strengthen the rights of complainants, including the notion that consent is impossible if the person is “so affected by alcohol as to be incapable of consent” – a very problematic definition particular as intoxication of the accused is not deemed a relevant defense.

But what the most alarming aspect of media coverage of the Commission’s announcements was the reported comment by the very woke NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman who, when he tabled the report in parliament, suggested the “low conviction rates’ for sexual assault compared to other offences may contribute to the reluctant of victims to come forward.

Compared to which offences, Mr Speakman? The conviction rates for sexual assault are high compared to many other serious crimes which attract long prison sentences. The latest BOSCAR statistics show a conviction rate of 57 % for proven sexual assault, compared to 33 % for murder or 36 % for attempted murder. Sure there are lesser crimes, like stealing a car, with higher rates (73%) but these are often easier to prove than the he-said, she-said evidence that comprise most sexual assault cases, particularly in date rape situations.

Sensible juries are not going to send men away for long prison sentences when they are faced with contradictory evidence and cannot work out whom to believe. Nor should they. This is nothing to do with prejudice against rape victims, as explained in a recent article from spiked-online, quoting research surveying jurists by Professor Cheryl Thomas, director of the Judicial Institute at University College London. Thomas dismisses misconceptions about “low” conviction rapes for rape cases pointing out that the current UK rate (68.5) is the highest on record.

Speakman’s posturing doesn’t surprise me – after all this is the man who so readily parroted the lies being circulated about me when he urged my honours award be rescinded.

But it is concerning that the state’s senior legal officer chooses to fudge crime statistics, particularly when this man could influence the feeble NSW coalition government to bend to the feminist push and take things even further. Some of my long-time readers might remember when law professor Augusto Zimmermann led the WA Law Reform Commission which mounted a strong argument against proposed domestic violence laws, only to have the government ignore their advice and push ahead with policies which set up men for endless false accusations.

So, good people, I need you to write to key conservative members of the NSW Cabinet, such as Barilaro, Perrottet and Elliot, urging them to rein in Speakman, and ensure minimal changes to the already tough sexual assault laws. We only have ourselves to blame if we sit back and allow Speakman and his feminist fan club to make the running.

Feminist con job in budget hand-out

Did you notice the nice little feminist rort introduced in the NSW budget last month? With workers losing jobs across the state as a result of Covid lockdowns, this supposedly conservative government decided to offer women in this situation back-to-work grants of up to $5000.

Naturally these grants are not available to men - regardless of need. In a press release, the Premier’s justification for focussing on gender was: "It is estimated that women make up 53 per cent of directly affected industries and 65 per cent of secondary industries impacted by the pandemic."

One of my correspondents kindly sent in an analysis showing that here too the government is pulling the wool over our eyes.
Read on:

The Minister for Women Bronnie Taylor, stated that women have been "inadvertedly more affected" by unemployment during the pandemic. The clear implication is that, as a result of the pandemic, unemployment is higher for women than men. However, the Government statements are highly misleading.

Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals that it is men, not women, who have been disproportionately affected. For every woman added to the NSW unemployed in the last 12 months, 2.7 men have become unemployed. The unemployment rate for men has risen by 2.4% but only by 0.9% for women. (Data Series A84423494R, A84423718R, A84423490F & A84423714F.)

You may like to add a note about this to your letters to the NSW Ministers, asking why they are alienating the majority of the population who believe in fair treatment for men and women.

Bettina Arndt newsletter:




Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 20, 2020


 Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 20, 2020

Strategic Political Economy

America’s Survival Depends on Bankrupting the Republican Party
Thom Hartmann: [via LA Progressive 12-18-2020]

Large parts of the Republican base now join conspiracists in the misguided belief that vaccine manufacturers are participating in mind-control experiments and that public health measures like masks are “un-American,” while we’re being sickened and dying from the highest rates of COVID-19 infection and death in the developed world.

Republicans on the Supreme Court even say the founders of our republic and the framers of the Constitution would never go along with preventing churches and synagogues from holding superspreader events during a pandemic, but, like so many things GOP, it’s a lie.

In 1798, President John Adams signed the first public health care legislation—it was to pay for medical care and hospitalization not just for the Navy but also for civilian sailors. And both he and President George Washington had participated in quarantine events during epidemics in the summers of 1793 and 1798, and both promoted inoculation against smallpox.

From 1790 to 1800, Philadelphia was the nation’s capital. When the yellow fever epidemic of 1793 recurred in 1798, that city’s board of health, with no objections raised by President John Adams or any member of Congress, ordered a block-by-block evacuation of parts of Philadelphia….

Since the election of Ronald Reagan, Republicans have damaged America more in 40 years than our worst enemies could have dreamed of by other means….

They have rigged elections by making it hard to vote, seditiously tried to overturn the 2020 election, promoted racial and religious bigotry and violence, destroyed our public school systems, gutted our unions, and rewritten our tax system to screw the middle class.

Click through to read Hartmann’s proposed six actions that can hasten the GOP’s exit from the stage of world history. 

These Six Steps Can Stop Republican Treason

[Thom Hartmann, December 16, 2020, YouTube]


LA Progressive

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-15-20]


Marianne Williamson
The more I learn about the current epidemic of white supremacist groups, the clearer it becomes: we’re losing these people as children. Despair among our youth breeds vulnerability to ideological capture by psychotic forces. If our love doesn’t claim them, hate will.
12:50 AM · Dec 15, 2020

“Chris Arnade: Dignity, Poverty, Faith, & Seeking Respect in Back Row America” (podcast)

[The Moral Imagination, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-16-20]

“In the second half of the conversation we discuss faith, redemption, and atonement, and how the front row’s empiricist, cold, secular rationalism scientific doesn’t do justice to the complexities of human life, suffering, and the desire for meaning, dignity, and respect. Arnade argues that ‘atheism is an intellectual luxury that is wrong’ and that ‘front row’ scientism lacks epistemic humility, and has a false view of science and certainty. Arnade shows that each person, no matter our state, is a subject, and not simply an object to be manipulated or problem to be solved. And that many of our deepest problems cannot be solved by technical means alone, but are philosophical and cultural problems—not of the poor—but of the elite.

“How race politics liberated the elites”

[Unherd, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-15-20]

“Dropping down a rung or two on the pyramid of power, consider the moral ecology inhabited by the broader gentility: the salaried decision-makers and ideas-managers who service the global arrangement from various departments of the ideological apparatus. They may work in NGOs, the governing bodies of the EU, corporate journalism, HR departments, the celebrity-industrial complex, the universities, Big Tech, etc. They, too, enjoy a kind of freedom, but it is decidedly not that of the high-spirited criminals depicted in Succession. So far from living ‘beyond good and evil’, this broader class of cosmopolitans asserts its freedom through its moralism, precisely. In particular, they have broken free of the claims of allegiance made upon them by the particular communities they emerge from. How does this work, psychologically? The idea of a common good has given way to a partition of citizens along the lines of a moral hierarchy – one that just happens to mirror their material fortunes (as in Calvinism). Instead of feeling bound up in a shared fate with one’s countrymen, one develops an alternate solidarity that is placeless. The relatability across national borders that the gentlefolk feel in one another’s company — the gracious ease and trust, the shared points of reference in high-prestige opinion — has something to do with their uniformly high standing in the moral hierarchy that divides citizen from citizen within their own nations. The decision-making class has discovered that it enjoys the mandate of heaven, and with this comes certain permissions; certain exemptions from democratic scruple. The permission structure is built around grievance politics. Very simply: if the nation is fundamentally racist, sexist and homophobic, I owe it nothing. More than that, conscience demands that I repudiate it.” 

The real history of race and the New Deal: Material benefits trumped FDR's terrible civil rights records
Matthew Yglesias, December 14, 2020

Black Americans started voting for the Democratic Party because FDR’s economic policies were good for them, even though his civil rights policies were rotten. Then once they were there inside the Democratic Party coalition they ended up pushing the party toward racial liberalism. But the switch was driven by economics, which of course would not make sense on the theory that the New Deal was a crypto-racist undertaking.

Economic Armageddon: The COVID Collapsed Economy

“Amazing” Hypocrisy: Democrats Make Wreck of Covid-19 Relief Negotiations 

Matt Taibbi, December 14, 2020

Democrats stonewalled all year on a new pandemic relief package. Now they're proposing a new plan that undercuts even Republican proposals, and screws everyone but - get this - defense contractors

The Tax Time Bomb That Congress Can Defuse

David Dayen, December 17, 2020 [The American Prospect]

The headline should be “Tax Bombs,” plural, because there are a number of stunning tax details about the CARES Act that are about to impact the unemployed and others who received emergency assistance in 2020. 

This is significant anti-stimulus at the worst possible time. In effect, the one-time stimulus check and unemployment boost will be offset, for millions of people, by the lack of an expected refund and even tax liability. That blunts the impact of those relief measures.

Mitch McConnell gives away the game: ‘Kelly and David are getting hammered’

[Washington Post, via The American Prospect 12-17-2020]

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has now suggested on a private conference call with GOP senators that a key reason for this movement is that the two Georgia Republican senators, both of whom face runoffs in January, are “getting hammered” over Congress’ failure to pass a new rescue bill.

But this news doesn’t just tell us that Republicans are feeling heat from this failure. The likelihood that this played a key role in moving Republicans also underscores how unlikely they are to help the economy and the country next year, if they do retain control of the Senate.

CNN’s Manu Raju reports that on the call with GOP Senators on Wednesday, the Senate Majority Leader said that the lack of stimulus payments has become a big issue in the runoffs

Crawling Toward a Deal on COVID Relief

David Dayen, December 18, 2020 [The American Prospect]

The issue in negotiations appears to be eligibility. Millions of mixed-status families did not get a CARES Act payment because of eligibility rules that required everyone in a household to be a U.S. citizen. Democratic leaders are trying to alter this so only one member of a household with a Social Security number makes the household eligible. Meanwhile, almost 9 million non-tax filers who were eligible for a check last time haven’t received one; mechanisms to ensure their participation need to be discussed. And I spoke yesterday with Scott Roberts of Color of Change, which has been highlighting another sub-group that has struggled to get checks: incarcerated people.

There was no language on this in the CARES Act, making incarcerated people eligible. But the IRS tried to block them from receiving payments anyway. State corrections departments were intercepting checks intended for people in prison. A federal judge ordered that these payments get made in September, but that set up an application process. Color of Change has been helping get people through it; of course there are fees associated with flowing money into prison bank accounts, which should be waived….

State and local aid: There is none, but Democrats seem to be trying to plus-up certain earmarked budgets in a way that would stand in for that aid. They’ve asked for $30 billion for governors to control for health care and vaccine distribution; Republicans have rejected that so far. There’s also money given to FEMA for state and local “emergencies,” (isn’t every budget shortfall an emergency?) which the last I saw was $90 billion. But Republicans are also resisting a separate pot of just $1 billion for FEMA, so they’re clearly targeting that.

And on what was reported as the new obstacle Republicans threw up to a deal:

The money cannon: This is frankly the dumbest point of contention. Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) wants to rescind the authority for the Federal Reserve’s corporate credit facilities, reducing the flexibility for the incoming Biden administration’s Fed to lend to medium-sized businesses or state and local governments. This is now being termed the main stumbling block to a deal.

The Fed has had nine months to use that lending authority, and they’ve done next to nothing with it. The “Main Street Lending Program” is mostly an oil and gas lending program. The state and local lending has yielded two loans, and the Fed leadership appears ideologically opposed (and conflicted with the muni bond industry) to doing more. Furthermore, the Fed has the tools to undertake this lending anyway, through Section 14(2) authority.

Yet Democrats are going to great lengths to paint Steven Mnuchin as a schemer (hey if the shoe fits) bent on sabotaging the next president. Republicans don’t exactly have good intentions here, but the Fed’s actions haven’t really done much for regular people, either. Thanks in part to propped-up asset prices, 45 of the 50 biggest companies made money during the pandemic, laid off workers and leaked cash out to shareholders. Corporate bond-buying has pushed investors to seek high returns, and is facilitating private equity dividend recapitalizations, another extraction tool to loot companies.

These facilities will not be missed. They have almost exclusively fattened the wallets of the investor class, and there’s no reason to think they would suddenly benefit the average worker. Especially when, rhetorically speaking, proceeds from the money cannon are being distributed to people who need it. I can’t think of anything less worth fighting for.

“Senate Proposal Would Retroactively Shield Corporations From All COVID Lawsuits”

David Sirota, Andrew Perez, Julia Rock, December 15, 2020 [The Daily Poster]

“[The bill would] empower the United States Attorney General to deem coronavirus-related lawsuits from workers, customers and attorneys ‘meritless’ and then file civil actions against them as retribution. In order to ‘vindicate the public interest,’ courts would be allowed to fine respondents up to $50,000.” 

Oil & Gas Dominates In "Main Street" Lending Program

[BailoutWatch, December 16, 2020, via The American Prospect 12-17-2020]

Forty-six fossil fuel companies have received Fed-subsidized loans totaling $828 million since the program started in July. The average loan size, $18 million, is nearly double the program’s average loan size of $9.8 million, or $9.2 million excluding fossil fuels. Twelve of the fossil fuel loans were worth $35 million or more, accounting for more than 30% of the program’s loans of that magnitude. See the full list of companies here.

The results contrast starkly with the MSLP’s paltry aid to clean energy companies, which received just nine loans totaling $62 million, for an average size of $6.9 million. Excluding the two bigger loans of $25 million and $22.6 million, clean energy’s seven remaining loans averaged just $2.1 million.

As a portion of the loan portfolio, clean energy comprises 1% after drifting downward most months. Fossil fuels have captured more than 13% of the money, a figure that has increased in every month but one. That disparity raises questions about the Fed’s commitment to fighting the financial risks posed by climate change, which it only began to acknowledge publicly after this year’s election.

The Return of Checks Checks Checks

David Dayen, December 18, 2020 [The American Prospect]

The carnage of mainstream neoliberal economics

End The Austerity Loop

David Sirota, December 17, 2020 [The Daily Poster]

Democrats are failing to heed the cautionary tale about how their obsession with deficit reduction hurts the economy and harms their political prospects….

The familiar message from Obama to Democratic Party voters is the same one the party’s apologists offer up today: Budget capitulations are not a product of ideological fealty to an austerity agenda, they are only a reflection of political reality — so stop pushing, start falling in line and be pragmatic.

On its face, it is a compelling tale that makes sense if you read nothing else and forgot what actually happened. The problem is, it omits a key detail that collapses the entire story and exposes the austerity ideology at play: In roughly the same time period, Obama and his party congratulated themselves for passing legislation that — in the name of deficit reduction — rescinded the White House’s authority to spend hundreds of billions of dollars to help Americans who were being thrown out of their homes.

Called the “Pay It Back Act,” the Democratic bill reduced the size of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) just after it had bailed out the banks, but just before a new president might decide to use the money for what it was originally supposed to do: help homeowners.

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-16-20]


[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-16-20]




“How Should We Understand Capital Income Inequality?”

[Matt Bruenig, People’s Policy Project, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-17-20]

“I think public ownership of capital is one of the most overlooked topics in contemporary discussions of inequality. Unlike labor income, which can only be received by individuals, capital income can be received by anyone or anything. This is because it is completely detached from anything having to do with capital owners. Capital may be productive in some sense, but the people who own it are not, which is precisely why anyone can own it, including everyone collectively through an instrument like a democratically-elected government. For this reason, bringing private capital into public ownership should be considered one of the easiest ways to cut down inequality in society. Building a social wealth fund like the one that Alaska has could quickly trim down wealth inequality in society while also providing new streams of government revenue that could be distributed in a vastly more equal way than capital income is currently distributed. ”

Keeping tax low for the rich does not boost economy (pdf)

[London School of Economics and Political Science, via The Big Picture 12-17-20]

Our research shows that the economic case for keeping taxes on the rich low is weak. Based on data from 18 OECD countries over the last five decades, we estimate the causal effect of major tax cuts for the rich on income inequality, economic growth, and unemployment. We find that major reforms reducing taxes on the rich lead to higher income inequality as measured by the top 1% share of pre-tax national income.  In contrast, such reforms do not have any significant effect on economic growth and unemployment.

Tax Cuts For Rich People Produce ‘No Significant Economic Effects,’ Says 50 Years Of Data 

[Heisenberg Report, via Naked Capitalism 12-19-20]

Study of 50 Years of Tax Cuts For Rich Confirms ‘Trickle Down’ Theory Is an Absolute Sham — Kenny Stancil

[Common Dreams, via Mike Norman Economics 12-17-20]

The Economic Consequences of Major Tax Cuts for the Rich (pdf), a working paper published this month by the International Inequalities Institute at the London School of Economics and written by LSE’s David Hope and Julian Limberg of King’s College London, examines data from nearly 20 OECD countries, including the U.K. and the U.S., and finds that the past five decades have been characterized by “falling taxes on the rich in the advanced economies,” with “major tax cuts… particularly clustered in the late 1980s.”

But, according to Hope and Limberg, the vast majority of the populations in those countries have little to show for it, as the benefits of slashing taxes on the wealthy are concentrated among a handful of super-rich individuals—not widely shared across society in the form of improved job creation or prosperity, as “trickle down” theorists alleged would happen.

“Our research shows that the economic case for keeping taxes on the rich low is weak,” Hope said Wednesday. “Major tax cuts for the rich since the 1980s have increased income inequality, with all the problems that brings, without any offsetting gains in economic performance.”...

Predatory Finance

How London grew into a financial powerhouse 

[Financial Times, via The Big Picture 12-16-20]

London is a hub for trading currencies and interest rate derivatives. Its location allows traders to catch the end of the Asian day and the opening on Wall Street. The good fortune of geography is underpinned by high-quality tech infrastructure. As a result, London accounts for 43% of the turnover in the $6.6 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market and half of the daily $6.5 trillion traded in interest rate derivatives. Brexit has not dented the UK capital’s dominance in these markets

Restoring balance to the economy

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-16-20]


Information Age Dystopia

How Russian hackers infiltrated the US government for months without being spotted. And why it could take months more to discover how many other governments and companies have been breached. 

[MIT Technology Review, via The Big Picture 12-16-20]

Chrome is Bad 

[Chrome is Bad, via Naked Capitalism 12-13-20]

Short story: Google Chrome installs something called Keystone on your computer, which nefariously hides itself from Activity Monitor and makes your whole computer slow even when Chrome isn't running. Deleting Chrome and Keystone makes your computer way, way faster, all the time.

“Google Faces U.S. Antitrust Regulators Who Want More Than Just Fines” [Bloomberg, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-18-20]

“On Thursday, after a barrage of antitrust lawsuits, Google mounted a defense of its most valuable business. The response showed it’s not a Ma Bell breakup Google fears, but being forced to alter its crown jewel—the search engine…. ‘This lawsuit demands changes to the design of Google Search, requiring us to prominently feature online middlemen in place of direct connections to businesses,’ Adam Cohen, Google’s director of economic policy, wrote in a blog post.”

Lambert Strether expands: “For middlemen, read curators, bloggers, content creators, as opposed to algos (and whoever pays the Google for a top ranking). I think that Google should (a) index everything, which it no longer does, (b) roll the engine back to, say, 2008, when search wasn’t crapified, and (c) make the interface a list of blue links. Period. How hard could that be?”

“Facebook Is a Doomsday Machine”

[The Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-16-20]

“The giants of the social web—Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram; Google and its subsidiary YouTube; and, to a lesser extent, Twitter—have achieved success by being dogmatically value-neutral in their pursuit of what I’ll call megascale. Somewhere along the way, Facebook decided that it needed not just a very large user base, but a tremendous one, unprecedented in size. That decision set Facebook on a path to escape velocity, to a tipping point where it can harm society just by existing. …. The cycle of harm perpetuated by Facebook’s scale-at-any-cost business model is plain to see…. Every time you click a reaction button on Facebook, an algorithm records it, and sharpens its portrait of who you are. The hyper-targeting of users, made possible by reams of their personal data, creates the perfect environment for manipulation—by advertisers, by political campaigns, by emissaries of disinformation, and of course by Facebook itself, which ultimately controls what you see and what you don’t see on the site. Facebook has enlisted a corps of approximately 15,000 moderators, people paid to watch unspeakable things—murder, gang rape, and other depictions of graphic violence that wind up on the platform. Even as Facebook has insisted that it is a value-neutral vessel for the material its users choose to publish, moderation is a lever the company has tried to pull again and again. But there aren’t enough moderators speaking enough languages, working enough hours, to stop the biblical flood of shit that Facebook unleashes on the world, because 10 times out of 10, the algorithm is faster and more powerful than a person. At megascale, this algorithmically warped personalized informational environment is extraordinarily difficult to moderate in a meaningful way, and extraordinarily dangerous as a result. These dangers are not theoretical, and they’re exacerbated by megascale, which makes the platform a tantalizing place to experiment on people.”


Creating new economic potential - science and technology

Driving the Mustang Mach-E, Ford’s first real electric car 

(The Verge, via The Big Picture 12-16-20]

Ford looks like it has an unqualified hit on its hands. Its next EV, the electric Ford F-150, is sure to be popular. But Ford needed to show everyone that it could make a powerful electric vehicle that was a blast to drive — and it did.

“U.S. Defense Department looks to bolster domestic chip manufacture with new program”

[Reuters, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-18-20]

“The U.S. Defense Department will soon start soliciting proposals for a program to provide incentives to boost semiconductor manufacturing capabilities in the United States, according to a posting on a government contracting site. Major American semiconductor companies such as Apple Inc, Qualcomm Inc and Nvidia Corp rely on outside manufacturers such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC) or Samsung Electronics Co Ltd to fabricate their chips in what are called foundries. Most of those foundries are located in Taiwan or South Korea. While Intel Corp operates U.S. chip factories, they are mostly dedicated to manufacturing its own chips rather than doing work for outside clients. The Defense Department is looking to change that dynamic by providing incentives for the development of chip-related intellectual property and the creation of advanced foundries in the United States, according to a notice posted to the website of the National Security Technology Accelerator, a nonprofit group that works to connect private-sector companies to government contract opportunities.”

Health Care Crisis

“Here’s What Medicare For All Supporters In Congress Can Actually Do”

David Sirota, December 13, 2020 [The Daily Poster].

“Over the weekend, there has been a raging debate on social media, in which some progressive critics began demanding that lawmakers like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez use their votes in the upcoming House Speaker election as leverage to get a commitment for a floor vote on Medicare for All legislation…. However, only asking for that performative vote — rather than also asking for things that might change the structural power dynamic — would be a waste, and yet another instance of progressives reverting to a feckless tradition of prioritizing spectacles rather than the wielding of actual power. They could additionally condition their vote for Pelosi on a commitment that she: 

– Remove the Medicare for All opponent who chairs the key committee [Richard Neal]

– Schedule a vote on existing legislation to let states create single-payer health care systems

– Schedule a vote on a resolution demanding Biden use executive authority to expand Medicare

– Include provisions in year-end spending bills that create a presidential commission charged with crafting a Medicare for All program

– Author a discharge petition to force a vote on Medicare for All

Climate and environmental crises

“The costs of tackling climate change keep on falling”

[Financial Times, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-14-20]

“In 2006, the Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change foresaw a cost of 1 per cent of global GDP to reduce global fossil fuel-related emissions from 25 gigatonnes to 18 Gt by 2050, with zero emissions only achieved after 2075. A recent report from the Energy Transitions Commission suggests a cost below 1 per cent to achieve net-zero emissions globally by mid-century. This is a trivial sum to save the world from catastrophic climate change.”

Lambert Strether: The cost is trivial today, and was trivial in 2006. Cost, then, is not the issue.

The Biden Transition and the Fight for Real Hope and Change This Time

[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-14-20]



Joe Biden Is Unhappy About the Day One Agenda

David Dayen, December 16, 2020 [The American Prospect]

Since we put out the Day One Agenda last September, and added to it during the transition period, other news outlets and commentators have followed with their own suggestions for how the Biden administration can make meaningful changes that will help people without having to wait for a permission slip from Mitch McConnell. At the Prospect, we have written over three dozen articles on the subject, and identified as many as 277 distinct actions that Biden can take by invoking his executive power, independent of what Congress may or may not do, all referenced in the Biden-Sanders unity task force document from this past summer.

Apparently, Biden isn’t thrilled about the trajectory of this discussion. On a call with civil rights leaders leaked to the press last week, Biden flashed some anger at the idea that he has the ability to make great strides for the American people even if Congress balks. “There’s some things that I’m going to be able to do by executive order,” Biden acknowledged, stating that he would “use it to undo every single damn thing this guy [Donald Trump] has done by executive authority.” But, he quickly added, “executive authority that my progressive friends talk about is way beyond the bounds … Not within the constitutional authority. I am not going to violate the Constitution.”

….Absolutely nothing in the Day One Agenda would violate constitutional authority. In fact, the agenda adheres directly to the Constitution’s Article II powers. A president’s job function is, by and large, to take care that the laws are faithfully executed. Everything in our coverage refers to actual laws the president has the authority to implement….

Student debt cancellation, for example, is derived from the Higher Education Act of 1963. Lowering prescription drug prices comes from using provisions of the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980, or Section 1498 of the U.S. Code. Effectively legalizing marijuana is achieved through the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. Biden can alter the measurement of poverty because it’s an administrative function, and several laws tie federal benefits to that poverty calculation. Biden can shape federal procurement policy thanks to the 1974 establishment of a dedicated White House office for that purpose, and requiring contractors to pay living wages or proper benefits can meaningfully improve the lives of millions of workers.

“Inside the Left’s New, ‘Mature’ Political Strategy”

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-18-20]

Interview with Justice Democrats co-founder Saikat Chakrabarti.

“‘The Justice Democrats have 10 members in Congress, and the House Democrats have — I think it’s a six-seat majority,’ says Chakrabarti. ‘Now they can negotiate as mature partners at a table. They have real power.'” 

“Senate Democrat: Party’s message to rural voters is ‘really flawed'”

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-17-20]

“Tester argued the party could strengthen its performance in rural areas by emphasizing its infrastructure policies, particularly in relation to broadband expansion. ‘And then I would say one other policy issue is how some Republicans want to basically privatize public education,’ he said. ‘That is very dangerous, and I think it’s a point that people don’t want to see their public schools close down in Montana.’… [The New York Times] noted that former President Obama won some rural areas by more than 20 points in comparison to President-elect Joe Biden this year. Tester responded by pointing to Obama spending the Fourth of July in 2008 in Butte, Mont. ‘He showed up. Now, he didn’t win much in it, but he did a hell of a lot better than people thought he was going to do because he showed up,’ Tester said.”

“Why Did Obama Forget Who Brought Him to the Dance?”

[Politico, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-18-20]

“But there’s a strange lacuna in A Promised Land, a missing thread that I kept looking for but never found. That thread is his popular base…. But as is by now well known, once Obama entered office, he abandoned this army and staked his presidency on the inside-the-Beltway strategies of his first chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel…. So as I read A Promised Land, I kept looking for hindsight about cardinal political error. Obama offers none. The words ‘Organizing for America’ don’t appear anywhere in the book.”

The Establishment Strikes Back

Alexander Sammon, December 18, 2020 [The American Prospect]

But in a surprise, last-second Steering Committee meeting on exclusive committee assignments Thursday, which was scheduled at 10 p.m. the night before, centrist Democrats put on a show of support for Rice and against AOC, in what looks to have been a process-defying attempt to keep AOC out of the seat. Fellow New York Rep. Hakeem Jeffries came out in support of Rice, contra Nadler, as did Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Diana DeGette (D-CO), and Stephanie Murphy (D-FL).

Most vocal in his opposition to Ocasio-Cortez’s candidacy was Texas’s Henry Cuellar, the caucus’s most conservative member. After Ocasio-Cortez was nominated and seconded, Cuellar opposed, commenting: “I’m taking into account who pays their dues and who doesn’t work against other members whether in primaries or in other contexts,” according to a source with knowledge of the meeting. After Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) called for a vote on the two candidates came an unusual outcome: Rice crushed AOC 46-13.

Lawrence Wilkerson on Biden’s pro-war cabinet” (podcast)

[Pushback with Aaron Maté, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-18-20]

Wilkerson: “I don’t see a different kind of administration being formed. And it disturbs me because it just means more of the same — a little more calmness, a little more serenity, which lulls everyone into thinking that things are better, when in fact they’re not.”

The Dark Side

2020 was the year that American science denial became lethal 

[Los Angeles Times, via The Big Picture 12-14-20]

It’s hard to pinpoint when the Republican Party’s long-cherished hostility to scientific facts went, shall we say, viral. Was it when President Trump started promoting antimalarial pills as a treatment for COVID-19? Or when he mused openly about using bleach or bright light to kill the virus inside the body? Or when he became the standard-bearer for the notion that wearing masks was a sign of unmanly weakness and shunning them a test of conservative political faithfulness?  

The Sabotage of the U.S. Postal Service Is a National Security Matter
Pam Martens and Russ Martens, December 16, 2020 [Wall Street On Parade]

Among the growing list of priorities for the incoming Biden administration is a comprehensive investigation of the efforts to sabotage the U.S. Postal Service.

In August, Aaron Gordon, reporting for Vice’s Motherboard, published a leaked internal document from the U.S. Postal Service showing that management was planning to eliminate hundreds of high-speed sorting machines in the midst of a pandemic. Sources inside the Postal Service that spoke with Gordon told him that they had “personally witnessed the machines, which cost millions of dollars, being destroyed or thrown in the dumpster.”

Documents reviewed by Gordon also “laid out detailed plans to reroute mail to sorting facilities further away in order to centralize mail processing even if it moves the mail across further distances.” Gordon reported that a union official wrote on the document: “This will slow mail processing.”

When this news swept across mainstream media, it was characterized as an effort to interfere with mail-in ballots and boost the chances of a Trump election win. But the slowdown at the U.S. Postal Service continues, making it look more like an all-out effort to sabotage a government mail program in order to destroy its reputation for timely delivery and boost the fortunes of private mail shippers...

How do we hold the traitors to democracy accountable? 

[Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 12-15-20]

Not too surprisingly, the Bezos Post concludes there really is no way to hold them accountable; we can only scold them, subjecting the miserable poltroons to a good tongue lashing by Madame Speaker Pelosi. But I argue that if we don’t rock the boat now, it will definitely capsize later, when an administratively competent authoritarian replaces a Biden administration sunk by clinging to the disastrous nostrums of bipartisan neoliberalism. 

“Former Houston police captain charged with attacking man falsely accused of voter fraud”

[NBC News, via Naked Capitalism Water Cooler 12-16-20]

“According to the district attorney’s office, [former Houston police captain Mark Anthony] Aguirre said he conducted ‘surveillance’ on a [local repairman] for four days in the belief that he had 750,000 fraudulent ballots in his truck. Authorities alleged that he ran his SUV into the back of the man’s truck and forced the man to the ground at gunpoint, which was captured on an officer’s body camera.” 

Lambert Strether comments: “It has occurred to me that conservative Republican embubblement culminates in assaults on material objects or persons — the repairman, here, or a pizza parlor — whereas liberal Democrat embubblement consists in symbol manipulation. Now ask yourself which is more important and effective for warmongering….”

Australian Politics 2020-12-20 07:54:00


HSC a brutal and irrelevant way to define ‘intelligence’ in a world opening its eyes to other values

A rather silly article below tries to downplay the importance of your final High School results (the ATAR).

But it does a very bad job of that. It rather boringly says the ATAR does not measure intelligence. He is right. It measures APPLIED intelligence -- what happens when you combine IQ with hard work. Business-people have long hired on the basis of that. The ATAR gives them an indication of how likely you are to make a success of a difficult task in the workplace.

The claim that your ATAR ceases to matter soon after you got it is nonsense. He actually admits that it is nonsense, saying it matters in forming relationships and will matter when you have chidren

And he seems to think he is original in saying that IQ is not the only personal quality that is important. I know no-one who would disagree. To me a kind heart trumps most other qualities

On Thursday night, the ATAR was the be-all and end-all; by Friday lunch, it was on its way to being forgotten.

One of the great joys of leaving school is the discovery that the all-important marker of so-called intelligence, which school leavers feared was going to define them, was a mirage. It wasn’t quite a con job: the HSC, as a rite of passage and an educational journey, has a lot going for it and is often unjustly criticised. But the ATAR is only a functional gateway for entry into certain university courses. Like a ticket of entry for a long-awaited show, you might have kept it under your pillow and kissed it every night for months, but once you’ve used it, you screw it up and the next day you can’t remember where you lost it.

For those who shocked themselves by how well they did, their ATAR might provide a secret treasure of self-esteem – “I am a 90 person, even if everyone took me for a 70 person” – but they will have to keep it to themselves, because from today forward, there will be not a single thing more uncool than telling someone what you got in your HSC.

For those who were disappointed, or – horrible word – who “underachieved”, the end of the HSC will come as a blessed relief. They will no longer wear that mark on their forehead.

Whether your result was good, bad or indifferent, forgetting your ATAR starts the moment you receive it. Ranking intelligence is one of the many components of our colonial inheritance that is coming under an attack that is more concerted each year. There is a broad illusion in the brutality of a number to rank a person’s intelligence. Those two years of the HSC apportion intelligence as if it were money, handed out unevenly yet treated as a symbol of virtue. For many students, knowing where they stood in this hierarchy has offered the comforts of certainty and security. Some will proceed through their lives into workplaces that replicate this hierarchy – the professions, academia, the military, some of the rank-conscious remnants of the business world. Perpetual strivers will find a sequence of substitutes for the ATAR, so they may go to their grave knowing, or thinking they know, exactly where they stand. But that way of viewing the world is shrinking with each year.

Any agreed consensus on what constitutes “intelligence” is under assault on various fronts. Science is bringing us to the humbling understanding that “intelligence” is not an objective but a social measure, conditioned by circumstance, gender, race and dis/ability, just for starters. A quantifiable scale for “braininess” is as anachronistic as an IQ test, as mustily irrelevant as Mensa membership. The drive for diversity in workplaces is not based just on the notion that anyone can be just as “smart” as the white men who invented the rules; it is based on the suspicion that “intelligence”, and the hierarchies that flow from it, was a rigged game in the first place. The diversity movement has its excesses and missteps, which are generously well reported, but at its heart is the encouragement to think about brains differently, and to figure out that the greatest contributors to our social good are those whose qualities slipped the noose of the HSC markers.

My favourite Gary Larson cartoon is the one showing the student at the “Midvale School for the Gifted”, leaning with all his weight, trying to open a door that has a big sign on it saying “PULL”. For today’s school leavers, their parents’ and grandparents’ generation saw “intelligence” as a narrowly fixed quantity, a door for the gifted. But for the class of 2020, the paths of opportunity promise to branch out in a world that is finding many different things to value: emotional intelligence, kindness, empathy, understanding, intuition, commonsense, initiative, as well as countless exercises of brainpower for which there was no measurement at school.

For all that, the HSC will still leave a heavy after-trauma. Those students might think they have been liberated from the HSC, but they can look forward to a lifetime of waking in a cold sweat from nightmares in which they still have to do their HSC exams and are even less prepared than the first time, and probably have forgotten to wear certain articles of clothing.

And then, years after putting it all behind them, they will meet their life partner and, over a bottle of wine, the old zombie will stir from its grave. “What did you get in the HSC?” And neither will want to confess to their number, because the last thing they want is for love to be polluted by memories they have succeeded for so long in burying. Their ATAR need not be tattooed onto their arm.

In time, they in turn will have children, and will love them to bits through their infancy and primary years. But then those children will enter secondary school and the nightmare of classification will become real again. As parents, today’s school leavers will make enormous sacrifices so that their children will have an opportunity to get that golden ticket. Is the ticket worth such sacrifices? You will have forgotten. Your children will ask, “What did you get in the HSC, Mum? Dad?” And back you plummet into the embarrassment of either having done better or worse than your family had you pegged for, and now you’ll get scared all over again, this time that your children will see you differently if they know your secret number.

And then those children will enter year 11, and before you know it, the HSC is the be-all and end-all again, and you’ll have forgotten the most vital lesson out of all those 13 years of schooling you did, which is that the day after your children have received their results, it will have ceased to matter. Until you become a grandparent. Onwards … and upward

China’s aggressive fishing fleet heading for Australia amid trade war

Beijing’s monster fishing fleet has long since stripped its own waters bare. Now it is aggressively prowling the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans for a catch. And it is coming to Australia.

It grabs as much as it can. As fast as it can. Wherever it can. Not that there is anything entirely unusual about this.

What makes China’s fishing fleet different, however, is that the Communist Party officially sanctions its behaviour. It is organised and overseen by the Communist Party. And it’s used to assert the territorial ambitions of the Communist Party.

It’s also huge. It’s now the world’s largest fleet. Its operations span the globe. One count places the number of deepwater vessels at its disposal at 12,500.

Beijing claims only 3000 boats operate in international waters.

But the full extent of its operations came to light earlier this year when Global Fishing Watch released a study based on satellite data and tracking analysis.

Australia’s rock lobster industry is just one of many targets of Beijing’s punitive economic acts. Now Australia’s fishers are worried Beijing’s fishing fleet may come for them: The site of a proposed new $204 million Chinese port is right in the middle of the Torres Strait rock lobster fishery.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne was quick to reassure that Border Force vessels would monitor the region to enforce territorial boundaries and joint-fishing treaties.

But if China claims the Papua New Guinea port gives it access to Australia’s fisheries, that could cause problems.

Former government foreign policy advisor Philip Citowicki says the proposed port is a demonstration of great-power wedge politics.

“The reality is that it continues to seat PNG at the centre of a tug of war, where the presence of China’s authoritarianism is increasingly imprinting itself on the fledgling democracies of the Pacific,” he writes.

“Rarely driven by altruism or regional responsibility, it places both the resources and security of the region at risk.”

It’s not a new threat. In 2018, the Lowy Institute foresaw Beijing’s fleet “may soon create new security headaches for Australia”. “The impact of Chinese fishing has important strategic consequences for Australia’s region in several ways,” David Brewster wrote at the time.

“There is a good chance that fishing will become a key locus of disputes and incidents involving China.”

Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) Indo-Pacific analyst Blake Herzinger says international governments are starting to wake up to the damage done.

“Globally, economic losses from illegal fishing are difficult to quantify, but there is little disagreement that the overall economic loss totals tens of billions of dollars yearly, encompassing lost tax revenue, onshore fishing industry jobs, and depletion of food supplies,” he writes.

The small South American nations of Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are worried their fisheries are in the process of being looted.

In November they issued a joint statement asserting they would combine their limited resources “to prevent, discourage and jointly confront” any illegal fishing operations.

They did not name China. But the presence of so many of China’s large, modern fishing vessels off their shores is hard to miss.

And this particular fleet has been the focus of world attention since July when it was caught within the international marine reserve surrounding Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands.

Ecuador doesn’t have the strength to enforce international law. And its government is heavily indebted to Beijing and struggling to pay back infrastructure loans.


Beijing’s fishing fleet is not just a commercial operation. It is a party-political one.

It is organised as a militia. Key factory ships have Communist Party commissars watching over the captains and their operations. Selected crews are trained to work in concert with the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

In return, Beijing pays its fuel bill – the fishing fleet’s single greatest expense. It’s a massive subsidy that allows it to undercut its international competitors significantly.

Some vessels do no fishing at all. Instead, their job is to monitor the active fleet, intimidate fishers of other nations, or simply sit provocatively inside another nation’s territory.

This makes them a diplomatic weapon, part of Beijing’s determination to wage “hybrid war” – the use of every means available short of kinetic weaponry – to assert its will.

They’ve recently been highly visible off the Philippines and Indonesia.

Beijing’s fishing militia also receives unprecedented military support. Wherever the fleet goes, armed coast guard ships usually follow – no matter how far from China’s coast the fleet may be. And China’s coast guard is not a civilian police force. The People’s Liberation Army operates it. And that dramatically escalates the implications of any confrontation.

Herzinger says international fishing regulations are being enforced – but only against weaker nations such as Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam.

China escapes criticism because of the power of its potential economic and at-sea backlash.

China’s 1.4 billion people love seafood – each reportedly consuming an average of 37.8 kilos a year. That’s some 38 per cent of the total annual worldwide catch.

But Beijing’s fishing fleet also sells huge quantities to markets such as the US, Europe and Australia.

Exactly how much it takes from the oceans is unknown. The militia does not report its catch to international authorities. Only the Communist Party gets that data.

Greenies do something positive

Ecological “arks” will be created in the Great Barrier Reef under a new Federal Government funded program that for the first time links island health as critical to saving the coral.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley will today announce $5.5 million for a new island restoration program, starting with Morris Island off Cape York.

She said Lady Elliot Island on the reef’s southern border was the first regeneration project ever attempted at scale and its success could be replicated elsewhere.

“There are 1050 islands along the reef ranging from the pristine to former mine sites, disused tourism destinations and those that have been damaged by introduced pest species,” she said.

“As part of the Reef Islands initiative, Dr Kathy Townsend of Sunshine Coast University is leading new ‘leaf to reef’ research that follows the nutrient trail between islands and its importance to corals and marine life, as well as researching the importance of Lady Elliot’s reefs as a biodiversity ark in the region.”

Reef manager for the marine park authority Mark Read said overseas views particularly under-appreciated the complexity of the issue.

“For context the world heritage area is 348,000 square kilometres; it’s bigger than Italy, bigger than Japan and can sit Victoria and Tasmania within its boundaries. It stretches over 2000km and at its widest point is 250km, it’s 1050 islands, 3000 reefs – so trying to categorise that whole system within a single category, ultimately it fails and doesn’t do the system justice,” he said.

Lady Elliot Island is a genesis of what the Federal Government yesterday branded an “ecological ark” carrying the essential ingredients to rehabilitate the in-crisis reef, critically affected by natural and man-made climate change.

Gash and a dedicated team of scientists, backed by a string of Federal Government funded initiatives, are in part driven by a sketch discovered in archives drawn from a sailor aboard HMS Fly in 1843 of what the island sanctuary looked like then and could again.

“So many people say ‘oh but it’s hopeless, there is nothing we can do and it’s all going to die’ and I hate hearing that, it’s never hopeless,” Island custodian Gash said as he looks out over the turquoise waters on the southern point of the reef, 80km from the Queensland mainland.

In 1973 Lady Elliot Island was a dead 42-hectare coral atoll that after almost a century of mining for guano fertiliser was left barren, with no bird or sea life.

Now it boasts more than 1200 species of marine life including turtles and manta rays, whole forests of native Pisonia trees and grasses and the second highest diversity of breeding birds of any feature in the Great Barrier Reef after Raine Island on the reef’s northernmost tip.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley visited Lady Elliot this week to see first-hand the spectacular restoration result which she now hoped will be replicated elsewhere along the reef island chain starting with Morris Island, under a new $5.5 million investment.

Great Barrier Reef Foundation managing director Anna Marsden said without a doubt there were “dark days” ahead for the climate but Lady Elliot was a shining light in what could be achieved within our life times.

“The idea is these arks, these climate refuges, will carry the reef forward,” she said. “The habitat will be able to be the ones to go, before the dark days, then when the world gets its act together and the balance restores these are the places that will reopen the doors and repopulate.”

World renowned marine biologist Dr Kathy Townsend said the correlation between land life and reef marine life was now only being understood.

“The connection between coral cays and the island has been undervalued,” she said.

“The current dogma is where these coral cays are getting their nutrients but new research is showing these coral cays are creating nutrients for the reef in a balanced way. It’s not a dump but a pumping action … it’s like growing an island. Without healthy islands you wouldn’t have the same level of growth and biodiversity you see around the reef.”

She said there had been a 125 per cent increase in turtle habitat and they again were the primary herbivore about Lady Elliot which was keeping coral killing grasses down.

The cultural truth about Australia

Darryl Kerrigan was right. There is something special about suburbia. Not just any suburbia but Australian suburbia. It is much parodied even ridiculed and especially by those who live in the “sophisticated” but congested inner city. So what does life in the ‘burbs actually look like? And does it vary from city to city?

Come with me in search of Australia’s great suburban heartland.

Australia’s largest cities invariably trail off into long tendrils, corridors, of McMansions extending 50km and more from the city centre. Here is a world of big houses, of big mortgages and of long commutes.

But this is not the suburban heartland; this is a new suburban frontier being formed and styled and built every day.

I believe the heart and soul of middle Australia sits squarely amid the expanse of a vast suburban savanna, where separate houses on separate blocks of land dominate the landscape to the horizon in every direction. Finding the middle suburban heartland is an issue of geography and demography and of trial and error.

And it’s not as simple an exercise at it sounds. At what point across each of our five largest cities is there unfettered access to the greatest number of Australians within a 10km radius?

This kind of information is vital to big-box retailers, but I think it also nurtures and celebrates Australia’s suburban culture.

The epicentre or centroid of the largest 10km-radius salami-like slice of the Australian people is necessarily positioned between 13km and 20km from the central business district. Any closer to the city centre and pure suburbia gives way to density’s apartmentia. Any farther afield results in part of the slice-of-suburbia taking in non-urban bushland or farmland. No, the epicentre of Australia’s middle suburbia sits more or less midway between the cool inner city and the Nappy Valley edge.

After some trial and error I have identified what is possibly the largest expanses of the suburban life form in each of the five biggest cities in Australia. The resultant population thus scooped up in this 20km diameter circle ranges from around one million in Sydney and Melbourne to less than 500,000 in Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

The epicentre suburbs are Burwood for Melbourne, Parramatta for Sydney, Runcorn for Brisbane, Leeming for Perth and Green Fields for Adelaide. These places offer access to what is possibly the greatest number of suburban Australians in every direction for a radius of 10km. If there is a ground zero, a genesis point, a suburban Garden of Eden, it is these places for they lie at the demographic centre of Australia’s deeply suburban way of life.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics breaks down the metropolitan area into a series of suburbs.

There are for example 61 suburbs comprising Melbourne’s suburban expanse centred on Burwood and which converts to around 16,000 people per suburb. Melbourne’s middle suburban heartland is a bit like 61 country towns the size of Horsham all jammed together.

Sydney’s heartland is much the same: 59 suburbs the size of Grafton all jammed and connected together.

Middle Australia may be the largest single cultural group on the Australian continent but, at its core, it comprises smaller communities (of, say, county-town size) all raising families, paying off mortgages, commuting to the city, holding traditional values (see evidence later), and very much interested in beautifying and embellishing the family home with the help of Bunnings and Harvey Norman.

Parody it if you will but it is also a cultural truth about Australia and the way we live. And when I consider how people live in other developed-world cities, I think our suburbia is a pretty good way of life. There are questions of sustainability, but with some effort and especially with more workers working from home this way of life can be made more efficient (that is, less carbon emissions).

What strikes me about the suburban slices is the consistency in how we live. At the last census there was roughly one local job per two local residents in each slice. About one-third of the sampled middle suburbia population was born overseas. About a third hold a mortgage.

More than half believe in a god; they hold traditional values. Interestingly, the Parramatta slice is the most devout and contains the highest proportion of the population born overseas (49 per cent). These figures are skewed by the Indian community that dominates Harris Park near Parramatta.

Melbourne’s biggest migrant enclaves are located outside the Burwood slice.

Australia is an extraordinarily multicultural community even at the everyday suburban level. At the last census 17,000 overseas visitors spent the night in Burwood’s middle suburbia. These aren’t high-end tourists staying in five-star city hotels; these are, in all probability, friends and family visiting new migrants and probably marvelling at the suburban abundance of the Australian way of life.

Again in the Burwood slice — containing 4 per cent of the Australian population — 23,000 visitors from within Australia spent census night in this most suburban part of Melbourne. Then there are 37,000 foreign students, perhaps attached to any of the three local universities namely Deakin, Swinburne and Monash.

I am not getting the feeling that this example of middle suburbia is some disconnected cultural backwater. Indeed, the metrics suggest otherwise. middle Australia may hold traditional values, it’s people may commute, raise families and take an inordinate sense of pride in their home — indeed, their castle — but this community is also deeply connected into their extended families.

Local residents are immersed in the cultural influences of visitors flooding in from intrastate, from interstate and from overseas. The multicultural youth presence (students) — no doubt somewhat subdued by the pandemic — delivers a pulsating energy to otherwise quite quiet places within striking distance of university campuses.

Of course the Parramatta slice sits at the centre of the Greater Sydney Commission’s grand vision for Sydney whereby Parramatta emerges as the Harbour City’s second CBD. And that plan very much makes sense, although in due course this may push Sydney’s pure suburban culture even further to the west. (A bit like the way the Celts were pushed to the edges of the British Isles.) We will know that this cultural transformation is under way when black-clad Surry Hills hipsters begin to surface in Parramatta’s cool laneways.

Brisbane offers two versions of unbroken suburban expanse: northside and southside. The southside’s Runcorn choice offers more population within a 10km radius and it includes the demographic influences of Griffith University positioned at Mount Gravatt. Like some grand demographic recipe, the addition of the vital university ingredient delivers zest and the vibrancy of youth to Brisbane’s middle suburbia.

I must admit to never having heard of Perth’s Leeming until undertaking this exercise. But its 10km slice takes in the youth influences of Murdoch and Curtin Universities, both based on the city’s southside. Perth’s urban form tends to elongate rather than bunching up, thus creating the kind of incubator necessary to bake a big suburban pie.

Adelaide’s Green Fields scoops up much of the city’s northern suburbs. But the 10km radius includes the thinly populated port as well as nearby industrial and air base precincts. This explains why Adelaide’s slice contains the fewest people of the five slices examined.

All things considered, the single slice that offers what I think is the best example of middle suburban culture — in a single salami-like slice — is Melbourne’s Burwood. Indeed I would argue that Australia’s cultural history agrees with my assessment. And that is because within this circle of suburbia centred on Burwood there is evidence of a suburban lifestyle that is much loved, greatly celebrated and vigorously projected to the rest of the nation.

Barry Humphries conceptualised his parody of middle suburbia Edna Everage (and whom he would place in distant Moonee Ponds) from his Camberwell home, 5km from Burwood.

The middle suburban cul-de-sac in which the soap opera Neighbours is filmed is located in Vermont, 8km from Burwood. The 1974 pop song Balwyn Calling by Australia’s Skyhooks chose to recognise the genteel suburb of Balwyn, 7km from Burwood. I don’t think that song would have worked citing Narre Warren or Parramatta or Caboolture.

The conclusion that comes from all of this is that the way of life in middle suburbia, or at least in the slices sampled, is pretty much the same. Harvey Norman and Bunnings and others have got the model right. Suburban Australians appear to have much the same values and behaviours. Most want a backyard gazebo and a flatscreen television. There are differences but only substantially in densities.

The similarities, I think, are far greater, such as the cosmopolitan population base, the coming and going of friends and family from within and beyond Australia, the radiating influence of universities and their youthful energetic zesty cohorts.

I don’t see a staid and provincial middle suburbia in these suburban slices. I see an energetic, connected, aspirational people wanting to build a better life for themselves and for their families.

And when you think about it, that’s not such a bad aspiration.




Australian Politics 2020-12-19 08:43:00


The triumph of the selective schools

Selective schools are ones that admit smart kids only. Leftists oppose selective schools as a violation of their idiotic "all men are equal" doctrine but their success speaks for itself. That success is the main thing that shields them from envious attacks.

A small complication is that the kids doing best in exams are not only from selective schools but of Asian background. James Ruse Agricultural High School is almost entirely populated by students of East Asian and South Asian ancestry. Asians are on average smarter. But even discounting the Asian element, selective schools still score best

James Ruse Agricultural High School has claimed the title of NSW’s top school for the 25th year in a row, an unparalleled achievement in the history of the Higher School Certificate.

Baulkham Hills High School was second, with North Sydney Boys’ and Girls’ high schools third and fourth. Sydney Grammar, at fifth, was the only independent school in the state’s top 10.

The top non-selective school was Ascham, at 11th. Mackellar Girls High, part of the Northern Beaches Secondary College (NBSC) network, was the highest-placed public comprehensive school at 43rd. Parramatta Marist High was the top Catholic systemic school at 46th.

Tangara School for Girls, which was forced to close for two weeks in August due to a COVID-19 cluster affecting senior students, climbed 78 places to 25th, its best performance in several years.

James Ruse principal Rachel Powell stepped into the role two years ago. “We got it! That’s such a relief,” she told the Herald. “It’s vindication of of all the hard work this year.”

The principal of Mackellar Girls’, Christine del Gallo, said she was “absolutely delighted that we were able to support our girls through the COVID-19 dilemma to enable them to achieve such amazingly wonderful results for them.”

Concerns private school students would have an advantage over high-performing public students due to better remote learning resources and a shorter shutdown due to COVID-19 appear to have been unfounded, with more public schools in the top 10 than any year since 2014 and more comprehensive state schools in the top 100 than last year.

It also did not appear to affect overall results among top students, with 17,507 distinguished achievers this year compared with 17,122 in 2019.

Of the top 50 schools, 18 were government selective schools, one was a comprehensive state school, two were Catholic systemic schools, and the rest were independent.

Of 14 independent schools in the top 25, nine were single-sex girls’ schools. Single-sex public comprehensive schools also fared well, with Willoughby Girls’ at 59, NBSC Balgowlah Boys’ campus at 60, and Epping Boys’ High at 76. Chatswood High, a co-ed comprehensive school, was 69th.

The highest-placed Catholic systemic schools were Parramatta Marist High, Brigidine College Randwick at 49th, and St Ursula’s College at 79th.

James Ruse has finished first in the HSC rankings since 1996, when it took the crown off Sydney Grammar. It was originally established as a farming school, and agriculture is still a compulsory subject.

It has become the most sought after of the state’s 50-odd selective schools, and has the highest year 7 entry scores. Alumni include Atlassian founder Scott Farquhar and concert pianist David Fung.

Qld exports in demand despite COVID, China threat

There has been a surge in export demand for Queensland products, including avocados, beans, and even rowing boats, despite the pandemic.

Trade data shows a soaring demand for Queensland produce and other products since February, with some goods reporting as much as 130 per cent growth.

It comes as Queensland’s economy faces potentially devastating shock from China’s increasingly hostile trade war which threatens 8 per cent of the state’s annual production.

Crippling tariffs placed on some of Australia’s biggest industries including barley, coal, and timber have resulted in Australia referring the communist giant to the World Trade Organisation.

The value of Queensland exports to China plunged nearly 25 per cent between February and October.

But despite this, the state has seen a 137 per cent growth to $79m in bean exports, while avocadoes, guavas, mangoes, saw an 8 per cent increase to $14.16m.

Rowing boats, canoes, and vessels saw a 13 per cent growth, with strong demand from New Zealand and the US, while baby carriages, games, toys and sporting goods increased to $59m.

Lead also saw a 32 per cent increase to $390m.

Acting Premier Steven Miles said since the pandemic had begun, the state had still recorded growing demand for beans, nuts, and vegetables along with a range of other resources and products.

Social distancing requirements along with consumers having more time for leisure and sport also led to a strong spike in sales for specialised rowing sculls and canoes.

Mr Miles said strengthening partnerships with markets like the US, India, Pakistan and Singapore would boost exports.

“In particular, we’re seeing growing demand for high-protein plant-based produce like beans in a range of markets including Vietnam, India and Indonesia,” he said.

“This is great news for Queensland farmers in regions like the Southern Downs, Goondiwindi and Toowoomba. Coronavirus has had a huge impact on our economy. But this data shows that our strategy to support local companies to sell more Queensland products in new markets is taking off.”

Mr Miles said global trade would not return to normal for many years.

“But by ensuring that Queensland continues to build on its strong presence in growth markets, we can position ourselves to capitalise as market conditions improve,” he said.

Exporters have been urged to diversify and negotiate new trade agreements to avoid further economic damage.

Owning a car to be cheaper as local mechanics boosted

Car ownership will get cheaper when manufacturers are forced to share tools and data with third-party mechanics under proposed changes set to go before parliament next year.

Previously off-limits to independent workshops, the mandatory availability of special tools and software currently withheld from independent workshops will give motorists a chance to shop around when maintaining their car.

Supporters say the move will benefit drivers, but some car makers object to sharing data with third parties on the grounds of safety and security.

Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar said the planned reforms “establish a level playing field for all participants in the automotive service and repair sector, increasing competition and consumer choice.”

“The new scheme is designed to ensure appropriate commercial dealings and improved competition in the service and repair market for the benefit of both businesses and consumers.”

“The scheme will mandate that all service and repair information car manufacturers share with their dealership networks in Australia must also be made available for independent repairers and registered trading organisations to purchase at a fair market price.”

The Morrison Government will consult stakeholders and accept submissions on the issue until January 31 before introducing legislation in the first half of 2021. The plan is to put it into effect on July 1, 2022.

Tony Weber, chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, said manufacturers broadly support information being made available “for the benefit of consumers, on fair and reasonable commercial terms”.

“The important thing is that consumers are protected through the process,” he said.

Mr Weber said small businesses were unlikely to be able to match dealerships’ investment in training, parts and tools, particularly if they want to work on a diverse range of cars.

“The days of the backyard mechanic fixing every car in the neighbourhood are well and truly gone, but some still cling to that hope,” he said.

“The capacity of the independent repair sector to cover a wide range of makes and models is very limited.”

Volkswagen Australia managing director Michael Bartsch said VW already cooperates with workshops to offering basic servicing, but that data held back by the brand “should be proprietary”.

Mr Bartsch said safety and security systems – such as the programming of digital keys, should remain exclusive to manufacturers. “I would say right now that key coding is something that we would do everything we can to retain the integrity of that information within Volkswagen,” he said.

The changes will allow independent workshops to plug computers into cars, helping them diagnose potential problems and clear error codes within a vehicle’s systems.

Richard Dudley, chief executive of the Motor Trades Association of Australia, welcomed the long-awaited development. “This is a good day for consumers, and a good day for business,” he said.

“This heralds a new era for consumers in terms of surety around consistency of those working on their cars, and ultimately being able to choose where they have their cars repaired and serviced.”

Mr Dudley said it means workshops can offer the same standard of service as official dealerships. “We will be one of the first countries in the world to have mandated this across a whole country,” he said. “I don’t think this should be underestimated.”

The news comes as manufacturers are pushing to lock customers into extensive prepaid multi-year servicing contracts and exclusive arrangements attached to extended warranties.

Many manufacturers offer multi-year service plans discouraging customers from visiting third-party providers. Mitsubishi has courted controversy by doubling its standard warranty from five to 10 years if customers have all maintenance carried out in its official dealerships.

Labor’s Shadow Minister for Employment and Industry, Brendan O’Connor, welcomed the changes while pointing out delays in implanting a scheme originally promised for 2019.

“We know independent mechanics are doing it tough,” he said.

“If the Morrison Government would just get on with the job, rather than announce and forget, these reforms could help this struggling sector.”

The un-dead Campbell Newman

The writer below says Newman came undone by firing a lot of bureaucrats. That is a matter opinion. I think Newman failed by not communicating his thinking well

Newman is a living, breathing manifestation of what the conservative side of politics would like to think it represents – a self-reliant self-starter, resourceful, distrustful of big government and bureaucracy, untainted by corruption, tough minded and hugely successful in both his financial and personal life.

This is the former soldier boy who became Mayor of Brisbane in 2004, then went tunnelling under it with all the fervour of a Viet Cong guerrilla before parlaying his extraordinary municipal success into an historic, 2012 landslide Queensland state election win, taking the LNP back into power 14 years after Rob Borbidge lost to Peter Beattie.

Yes, we all now know Newman made some poor political decisions. In hindsight he appears to have been engineering his own demise from the early days of office when he commissioned an audit from former Liberal federal treasurer Peter Costello on Queensland’s financial situation. That report, found, among other things, that: “Given the state’s weakened financial position, the current cost of service provision is unaffordable. Queensland cannot continue to be a high cost provider.’’

“Can do’’ rolled up his sleeves and, like the Army engineer he once was, set about solving the problem in a logical, methodical and highly transparent manner.

He sacked 14,000 public servants.

Given the six degrees of separation laws, Newman simultaneously ensured that almost everyone in Queensland knew someone who had lost their job, or knew someone who knew someone who had lost their job.

With his political capital burned down to the wick in just three years, Newman was turfed out of office in 2015 and ever since has been portrayed as a political pariah.

Perception will always hit reality for a six when it comes to politics, but Newman’s reputation as a political loser of epic proportions is deeply unfair, given we insist on looking at the devastating 2015 loss only through the prism of his epic 2012 win.

When you look at the numbers (which he’ll happily refer you to) the LNP suffered a not-so-crushing defeat in 2015, with 41.3 per cent of the primary vote.

Newman’s replacement, Tim Nicholls, received just under 34 per cent in the subsequent 2017 election and the affable Nicholls, in rude health and living happily in his seat of Clayfield, is hardly a He-Who-Cannot-Be-Named.

Former LNP leader Lawrence Springborg who lost in 2009 with 41.6 per cent of the primary is an LNP legend.

Yet the Newman name lingers in the air, not so much as a bad smell as like that radioactive fallout that stays in the atmosphere after a nuclear bomb detonates. Its presence six years after he left office is so potent that it would have been almost certainly one of the first issues that newly minted leader David Crisafulli and his advisers workshopped when Crisafulli was made LNP leader earlier this month.

Crisafulli, who arrived in state politics with Newman in 2012 and briefly exited it with him in 2015 when he lost the Townsville seat of Mundingburra, is the third LNP leader in six years who may not wish to see the Newman name up in lights. But the Queensland Labor Government and media will go on putting it up there over the next four years, and it won’t be of the little string of fairy lights variety – more in pulsating neon.

Newman had 41 mentions in state parliament by the end of Friday Question Time in the first week of sittings after the November election, while former Labor Premier Anna Bligh scored a more modest 25.

Newman’s legacy was also one of the first questions put to Crisafulli in his first press conference after being anointed leader earlier this month. Crisafulli batted it away, insisting he would not be referring to Bligh who led her party to defeat in 2012 after saying Labor would not sell off state assets, then did.

Bligh, in her 2012 defeat, presided over the over the largest swing in Australian political history (15 per cent against the ALP) received less than 30 per cent of the primary vote, then relocated to Sydney in a piece of political theatre you might think the LNP would be happy to remind the Queensland electorate of, possibly daily.

But all Crisafulli could muster was a refusal to look backward: “If they (Labor) want to look in the rear vision mirror, good luck to them.”

Newman, ever generous with advice via his regular spot on Sky News, has thoughtfully mapped out a plan for the LNP that doesn’t involve burying Voldemort deeper, but resurrecting him from his still relatively shallow grave.

Newman insists the attacks upon him and his legacy don’t really bother him. He appears to regard them much as an actor might view a rival actor’s performance, with a critical yet occasionally approving eye.

He can trace the hatchet job performed on his political persona well beyond 2015, all the way back to former deputy premier Jackie Trad and public relations whiz Dee Madigan who moulded the evil incarnate image in 2011 in the lead-up to the 2012 state election.

Then he was supposed to be the sinister mayor from city hall who was involved in property deals with his in-laws.

That didn’t stick. He won the election and during his three-year term he was easily cast as the villain because of public service redundancies.

Then, when Labor won back power in 2015, the Voldemort legend gained tremendous traction as he morphed into an historic figure of fear and loathing whose power to conjure up nightmares in ordinary Queensland voters seemed to escalate as each year passed.

“But it’s the Labor Party doing it!” declares Newman with an enthusiasm bordering on admiration.

“They are my political rivals; I expect them to do that. “Politics is often reduced to simple narratives – the government is secretive, the government is arrogant, the government is out of touch sort of thing, so I expect Labor to do that.

“The thing that annoys me is the LNP’s position on the matter.”

Newman believed the LNP never had the courage to own its own story, and is happy to remind many serving LNP members they were very much part of it.

If fully told, he insists, it’s a magnificent tale, ranging from the initiatives to establish the Queens Wharf precinct in the City to commissioning former Governor-general Quentin Bryce’s comprehensive review of domestic and family violence in Queensland which sparked the reforms the Palaszczuk Government continues implementing.

There was the overhaul of the public health system which resulted in the best emergency performance and surgery waiting times in the nation, the cuts to government expenditure that allowed (for the first time since World War 11) a government to spend less in one financial year than it did in the previous, a crackdown on outlaw motorcycle gangs that led to a 15 to 20 per cent reduction in crime, and workers’ compensation law reforms that saw an average 15 per cent reduction to business workcover premiums.

Dr Paul Williams, a long-time observer of Queensland politics and political lecturer at Griffith University, outlined in a 2018 paper examining the 2015 election published in the Australian Journal of Politics and History, a long list of negatives to accompany those positives.

They include (beyond the public service redundancies) a harsh fiscal austerity, perceptions of ministerial incompetence and “conflicts with insider groups” – a polite reference to the appointment of Tim Carmody as Chief Justice, which sparked a rebellion against the government by some of the state’s most influential legal figures. But Williams says Newman’s loss in 2015 was nowhere near as epic as the mythology around it now suggests.

He’s convinced that, had Newman held fire on the public service redundancies, the LNP Government would have survived comfortably into a second term in 2015.

“Queenslanders do like a politician who gets things done,” he says.

Williams counters that observation with another. Queenslanders have a deeply entrenched, intergenerational belief in the idea governments provide secure, reasonably well paid jobs – a belief which has at least some of its deep roots in the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Yet Newman remains an unapologetic and deeply committed believer in the supremacy of free markets operating within a framework of small governments which maintain a light regulatory touch.

It’s a political philosophy outlined over the centuries, never so elegantly as by 18th century philosopher Thomas Paine, never so nimbly as by 20th century US President Ronald Reagan: “Government is not the solution to our problem – government is the problem!”

In Newman’s view, the LNP has to start promoting that political outlook that hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders are more than ready to get behind.

He believes there are three things needed to get the state moving again, and the first is to cut energy prices: “I mean cut the price of energy, don’t shave it, cut it,” he says.

Asked if that means coal fired power stations, he throws out a withering glance and powers on, undaunted.

“That means whatever it takes – strip away the rules and regulations and subsidies, stop the bullshit and give people certainty you won’t reverse the rules, that they will get cheaper electricity and it will stay cheap.

“The second is to reform industrial relations and bring in labour market flexibility and that means making it easier to both employ people, and to un-employ them.

“The third is get rid of red tape and improve the approvals process for business.”

Newman says energy is being sapped out of the private sector every day by an overly officious government and bureaucracy not merely in Queensland but across the nation, even with a conservative coalition in charge in Canberra.

“It is really hard to start a business in this country,” he says.

“Queensland should be the lead state economically, we should be the powerhouse state, we should be the place where people want to go to get a job and start a business, we should be the state the rest of Australia looks on at in envy.”

To Newman, the ruling Coalition in Canberra committed a major betrayal of the Conservative cause when it rejected a 2014 Newman government ruling which allowed a Cape York landholder to clear 2100ha of woodland to plant grain crops. In late November, the federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley backed conservationists who opposed the plan, saying the land clearing posed a risk to threatened species.

That infuriated Newman, who exploded in frustration: “After being in office for seven and a half years this Coalition government has not done a thing for northern agriculture or built a dam,” he told News Ltd journalist Peter Gleeson.

“They never will. They are a government of spin. No substance and they do nothing. They are a disgrace,” Newman said.

“You can quote me on that,” he added generously, before delivering a final uppercut to Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “He really is Scotty from marketing.”

Newman is full of admiration for the private sector and its power to shape a successful society, and unabashed about his hatred of big government and its associated bureaucracy.

“I hate bureaucracy with a passion!” he declares with real venom in his voice.

“When I left office and I wondered what I was going to do with the rest of my life the thought of working for a large organisation just left me cold.

“I just couldn’t have done it.

“The only role that I could have considered would have been CEO or chairman of the board but even then, I just couldn’t have dealt with the politics, the slowness of it all.”

It’s a view held, perhaps from a slightly different perspective, by hundreds of thousands of Queensland voters.

They might not all be in a position to contemplate a position as CEO of an ASX top 100 company, but they include everyone from small primary producers to the T-shirted 20-somethings creating a new app to the wage slave suburbanites who save enough capital to buy a van and kick off a mum and dad mobile plumbing business, all the way to the Wagner family of Toowoomba who built an international airport in a cow paddock.

Newman identifies strongly with them, and has an almost evangelical faith in the resourcefulness, energy and enterprise of the ordinary Queenslander.

“When you just get out of their way and let people get on with it, things sort themselves out.”

As for himself, he’s not merely talking the private enterprise talk, but walking the walk.

Since leaving office in 2015, he has immersed himself in private enterprise including the fledgling world of robotics, centred on a farm operation near the Central Highlands town of Emerald, which is at the cutting edge of autonomous agricultural robots.

He left that outfit three years ago but still maintains a keen interest in its progress while also devoting his time to another project, Art Market Space, which sells art online and boomed during the COVID shutdowns.

His chief preoccupation (apart from more than 20 directorships of various companies) is his position as chair of commercial property syndicator and funds manager Arcana Capital, which has around $125m worth of properties under its whip ranging from petrol stations, shopping complexes, and industrial sites from Tasmania to the Queensland southeast and dotting the state’s coast line through Mackay and up to Townsville.

Newman, who completed his MBA in his middle age with a focus on property, says Arcana will provide you with a return of more than eight per cent per annum, but don’t bother applying to put your money in unless you are a high-end investor.




2020’s Xmas Bill

We got up early this morning to wrap up our Christmas shopping for 2020. We weren't very imaginative this year, in that we decided to go out and get as many things as we could from the dreaded "12 Days of Christmas" song from a local PNC branch, the only place we know that carries all the items listed in the carol.

Or would, if it weren't for the coronavirus pandemic. Some things on the list just aren't available this year, so our gift recipient will get no dancing ladies, no lords-a-leaping, no pipers piping, and no drummers drumming.

Here's the receipt for all the rest....

2020 Receipt for 12 Days of Xmas Items

The good news is that at $16,163.14 before sales tax, the bill this year for the available line items is $22,825.45 cheaper than in 2019. With the state government's lockdown orders, all the ladies, lords, pipers, and drummers are subject to a stay-at-home order and are thus not available in 2020.

Of course, we're really taking the cheap route in only getting one set of each of the items listed in the "12 Days of Christmas" song. If we were to take the cumulative math resulting from all the repetition in the song seriously, the pre-tax bill for 2020 for the items we can buy would be $105,561.80.