Monday, August 22, 2011

News Items and comments


Tim Blair – Monday, August 22, 11 (06:21 am)

This hopeless Labor government can’t even run a simple political sex scandal properly.

Classically, here’s how these things work: male politician is accused of non-marital affection involving someone usually several years younger and several degrees hotter than his wife, politician denies any wrongdoing, politician is seen as a lyin’, cheatin’ horn dog, politician either rebuilds reputation or slinks away to obscurity.

That’s the way it’s gone with everyone from former US President Bill Clinton and vice-presidential candidate John Edwards to British Conservative politician John Profumo and former Australian deputy Prime Minister Jim Cairns – although, in the case of Cairns, there was a gap of more than two decades between accusation and confirmation of his mid-1970s affair with Junie Morosi. Cairns denied the affair before a Supreme Court jury in 1982 but admitted it on ABC radio 20 years later.

Maybe his memory just needed jogging. Those Whitlam era chaps always did seem a little slow. And members for Lalor, as we’ve discovered, aren’t the brightest.



Tim Blair – Monday, August 22, 11 (05:41 am)

Worse may be yet to come:

BlueScope Steel will today announce the shutdown of one of the nation’s three remaining blast furnaces and the loss of at least 1000 jobs, spelling an end to Australian steel exports in what alarmed industry leaders are calling “a major crisis” in manufacturing …

Trade Minister Craig Emerson yesterday refused to comment when asked whether the government was working on any specific policies to support manufacturers.

Merrill Lynch says companies have announced more than 7000 job cuts since June, with many of them in the manufacturing sector.

You know what would fix this? A carbon tax.



Tim Blair – Monday, August 22, 11 (05:40 am)

Ocean views for folk who are perhaps weary of looking at water:

A $150 million floating detention centre to transport new asylum seekers is being considered by the government – despite claims the Malaysian solution will stop boats.

The move appears to confirm the federal government is preparing for yet another surge of boat people even after it signed the controversial offshore processing deal.

Documents reveal it is seeking tenders for a custom-designed border protection vessel that can “transport up to 120 persons in secure austere accommodation”.

The cost of that one vessel is apparently greater than the entire annual cost of asylum seeker management during the final year of the previous Liberal government.



Tim Blair – Monday, August 22, 11 (05:06 am)

Chatting with Piers Akerman, John Howard recalls the unionist-led storming of Parliament 15 years ago:

Howard had been scheduled to talk with the ACTU leadership after their rally but cancelled the discussions after the rioting and looting.

“I walked into the meeting and said to Jennie George and the others there that it was absolutely inappropriate for this meeting to go ahead, and then I walked out,” he told me.

“It was very frightening for the attendants, most of whom were absolutely decent people just trying to do their jobs,” he said. “Nice, pleasant, polite and helpful people. I commiserated with the shopkeepers who had their businesses destroyed and looted and I thanked the police who had to stand up to the thugs.

“The police later gave me a little placard thanking me for the support the government extended to them at that time, but the point I would make is that the rally and the riots were before our first Budget. They were protesting (against) something that had not happened. The riots were meant to intimidate us and they were completely orchestrated by Labor and the trade union movement.”

It could have been worse. Imagine if they’d carried sexist banners.



Tim Blair – Monday, August 22, 11 (05:00 am)

A Crikey senior staffer asks for an iPad 2 in exchange for film festival coverage (his bid also offers “free advertising in the ‘above the fold’ section of the Crikey homepage"). He’s received counselling instead. Tough break.

Still, only counselling? Previous Crikey stumblers were banished, in line with publisher Eric Beecher’s 2006 edict:

“I know it comes as a great shock that Crikey has any professional standards, but it does now.”

Or did then. Whatever. Interestingly, editor Sophie Black now reports that the site has a “code of conduct currently in development”. What a fascinating document that will be.

(Oh, and happy 60th to Beecher, who enjoyed a surprise birthday party last week. Hopefully someone gave him an iPad.)


Economic Ignorance

by RUSS ROBERTS on AUGUST 21, 2011


Nothing captures the state of economic education in America like the debate over Rick Perry’s job creation abilities. He brags about how many jobs he has created. Critics point out that many of them are government jobs (that he allegedly disdains) or minimum wage jobs. People point out (I will assume that the facts are correct) that Texas has the highest proportion of minimum wage jobs (though maybe tied with Mississippi).

Those who like Rick Perry argue that he is a job-creating wizard.

Those who dislike Rick Perry argue that he is a bad-job-creating wizard (or a hypocrite).

He, of course, is no kind of wizard at all. The governor has something to do with whether people want to live in the state and what kind of people. But he creates very few jobs directly. Certainly he and his policies is only one of many factors determining how many jobs are created in Texas. And certainly, he has little control over how many minimum wage jobs are created or the proportion of jobs that earn the minimum wage. That is determined by the skill levels of the people who live in Texas or who move there in response to economic opportunity. It is possible that particular policies of Governor Perry have encouraged opportunity or discouraged it. I’d like to know what those are. Merely touting the numbers of jobs created or the kinds of jobs doesn’t tell me a thing.


Suppose you own a car that has enormous amounts of muscle but whose suspension system is primitive and, worse, whose steering and braking systems are extremely limited. The driver of this car can turn it only very gradually – no sharp turns; no dodging unexpected objects in the road; no quick changes in direction. Similar issues plague the car’s braking: it brakes more like a long railroad train going downhill than like a passenger car. Indeed, the brakes often outright fail.

You want to get from point A to point B by driving this car. Alas, there is only one road connecting point A to point B. This road is very winding and hilly – much likeSan Francisco’s Lombard St. Children often play by the side of this road and, as children will, frequently run unexpectedly into it. This road also has lots of potholes and construction sites.

If you could harness all of the horsepower of your mighty muscle car and make it, somehow, navigate this road successfully, you’d get from point A to point B quite speedily.

So being a hopeless romantic, you tell yourself and others that “Yes I can! Yes I can use my mighty muscle car to drive from A to B! I’m an American and there’s nothing we Americans can’t do if we put our minds to it and our hearts in it!”

Your nephew pleads with you not to try to drive that car from A to B. “It’s dangerous, Uncle,” advises your nephew. “The car simply isn’t designed for such a journey. You’ll get yourself in a mess and likely hurt others as well.”

“Lemme ask you, m’boy – and I want a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer,” you respond, “Isn’t itpossible to make this journey in this car? If I anticipate perfectly all of the turns that are coming, all of the obstacles and children who might be in the road, as well as anticipate precisely when I must bring the car to a halt, isn’t is possible that the car will work as the vehicle to take me from A to B?”

“Uncle, almost anything is possible. But in practice it’s foolish and dangerous. Why don’t you use other means of getting from A to B?”

“Thanks for the advice, kid. I take that as a ‘yes.’ And let’s be honest, all other means are probably slower than using my muscle car. And, further, none of those other means are guaranteed to work, are they now? Are they now?!”

“Well, no, Uncle. Just as almost anything is possible, almost nothing is guaranteed. But other means are more likely, I believe, to transport you successfully from A to B than is that muscle car of yours.”

And off you drive in your mighty muscle car on the road from A to B.


Given this car’s construction and fundamental properties, is it scientific for a professional driver to advise you on how to navigate the car from A to B as if the car were more like a nimble Honda Accord than like a locomotive? Of course not. Everyone would see that any such advisor would be committing professional malfeasance. To assume X when in fact all that is available is very non-X-like Yis to be unscientific.

And yet economists do a virtually identical thing all the time. Economists advise governments on how to correct this problem and that problem – internalize that externality and stimulate that slumping economy – without bothering to ask if the vehicle is appropriate for the task.

Economists’ (and others’, including voters’) abilities to imagine the vehicle succeeding at its assigned task – the possibility that the vehicle might work at the task to which it is applied – is too often taken to be sufficient justification for using the government to do what deeper and more clear-eyed inspection might well reveal is best not attempted by government.

The economist who offers advice to drivers of public policy without pausing to ponder the nature of the vehicle – the state – to be driven often appear to be non-ideological and scientific. In fact they’re too often irresponsible fools.


The New York Times reports that green technology might not be the job creation engine some have claimed it to be:

In the Bay Area as in much of the country, the green economy is not proving to be the job-creation engine that many politicians envisioned. President Obama once pledged to create five million green jobs over 10 years. Gov. Jerry Brown promised 500,000 clean-technology jobs statewide by the end of the decade. But the results so far suggest such numbers are a pipe dream.

“I won’t say I’m not frustrated,” said Van Jones, an Oakland activist who served briefly as Mr. Obama’s green-jobs czar before resigning under fire after conservative critics said he had signed a petition accusing the Bush administration of deliberately allowing the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a claim Mr. Jones denies.

A study released in July by the non-partisan Brookings Institution found clean-technology jobs accounted for just 2 percent of employment nationwide and only slightly more — 2.2 percent — in Silicon Valley. Rather than adding jobs, the study found, the sector actually lost 492 positions from 2003 to 2010 in the South Bay, where the unemployment rate in June was 10.5 percent.

Federal and state efforts to stimulate creation of green jobs have largely failed, government records show. Two years after it was awarded $186 million in federal stimulus money to weatherize drafty homes, California has spent only a little over half that sum and has so far created the equivalent of just 538 full-time jobs in the last quarter, according to the State Department of Community Services and Development.

The weatherization program was initially delayed for seven months while the federal Department of Labor determined prevailing wage standards for the industry. Even after that issue was resolved, the program never really caught on as homeowners balked at the upfront costs.

“Companies and public policy officials really overestimated how much consumers care about energy efficiency,” said Sheeraz Haji, chief executive of the Cleantech Group, a market research firm. “People care about their wallet and the comfort of their home, but it’s not a sexy thing.”

Ah, seven (!) months to determine “prevailing wage standards” in the industry. No hurry. And even then they couldn’t spend the money because consumers, even at subsidized prices, didn’t like the program.


Milton Friedman wisely observed that we spend our own money on ourselves very carefully. We spend other people’s money on ourselves less carefully. But the least carefully spent money is other people’s money on other people. Aid to Colombia would seem to fall into the latter category. The Washington Post reports:

The Obama administration often cites Colombia’s thriving democracy as proof that U.S. assistance, know-how and commitment can turn around a potentially failed state under terrorist siege.

The country’s U.S.-funded counterinsurgency campaign against a Marxist rebel group — and the civilian and military coordination behind it — are viewed as so successful that it has become a model for strategy in Afghanistan.

But new revelations in long-running political scandals under former president Alvaro Uribe, a close U.S. ally throughout his eight-year tenure, have implicated American aid, and possibly U.S. officials, in egregious abuses of power and illegal actions by the Colombian government under the guise of fighting terrorism and drug smuggling.

American cash, equipment and training, supplied to elite units of the Colombian intelligence service over the past decade to help smash cocaine-trafficking rings, were used to carry out spying operations and smear campaigns against Supreme Court justices, Uribe’s political opponents and civil society groups, according to law enforcement documents obtained by The Washington Post and interviews with prosecutors and former Colombian intelligence officials.

The revelations are part of a widening investigation by the Colombian attorney general’s office against the Department of Administrative Security, or DAS. Six former high-ranking intelligence officials have confessed to crimes, and more than a dozen other agency operatives are on trial. Several of Uribe’s closest aides have come under scrutiny, and Uribe is under investigation by a special legislative commission.

U.S. officials have denied knowledge of or involvement in illegal acts committed by the DAS, and Colombian prosecutors have not alleged any American collaboration. But the story of what the DAS did with much of the U.S. aid it received is a cautionary tale of unintended consequences. Just as in Afghanistan and other countries where the United States is intensely focused on winning counterterrorism allies, some recipients of aid to Colombia clearly diverted it to their own political agendas.

Wow. Who would have ever guessed that Colombian politicians spending my money might spend it on stuff that benefits themselves? I guess the word “some” in that last sentence is the silver lining. I wonder what the proportion is.

“The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.” F.A. Hayek


Drinking the Austrian Kool-Aid

by RUSS ROBERTS on AUGUST 21, 2011


Greg Ip of the Economist writes in today’s Washington Post that the Republican presidential candidates have rejected earlier Republican orthodoxy and have embraced some crazy economic ideas (Mises and Hayek, for example). The piece opens with how much John McCain 12 years ago appreciated Alan Greenspan:

When John McCain was running for the Republican presidential nomination nearly 12 years ago, he declared that Alan Greenspan was so critical to the economy that, if the then-Federal Reserve chairman died, he’d put sunglasses on the body, prop him up and hope no one noticed.

Yes, the Republican Party used to think more of the chair of the Fed than it does now. That seems pretty reasonable. A lot of sensible people think Greenspan helped create the housing bubble and the crisis by his interest policies of the early 2000s. Ip continues:

It’s safe to say that GOP opinions of the Fed have slipped a bit since. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a newly declared candidate for president, said it would be “treasonous” for Greenspan’s successor, Ben Bernanke, to “print more money between now and the election” in an effort to boost the economy. Other candidates have been equally damning if slightly less extreme in their statements. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota has accused the Fed of “debasing the currency,” while Rep. Ron Paul of Texas has written a bestseller called “End the Fed.” The party’s economic standard-bearer in the House, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, repeatedly charges the Fed with “bailing out” what he considers President Obama’s reckless fiscal policy and wants the institution stripped of its mandate to promote employment.

I am not a Republican and don’t think Bachmann or Paul have any chance at the nomination. I think treasonous is an ugly word. But the Fed is out of control. Literally. It is not responsible for its actions in any direct way. When it bailed out the creditors of Bear Stearns it overstepped its bounds. It has decided to pay interest rates on reserves which looks to me like a backdoor bailout of the financial sector. It has purchased a great deal of bad paper from banks and financial institutions which is certainly a bailout. It is non-transparent. I don’t know what they paid for those assets–it is not easy to find out. I also agree with Ryan (as do many but not all economists) that giving the Fed a mandate beyond inflation control is a recipe for disaster.

Ip continues:

If Republicans dislike monetary stimulus, they loathe its fiscal cousin even more, routinely labeling Obama’s stimulus as ineffective, or worse, counterproductive. They want balanced budgets, the sooner the better. Bachmann, for instance, has advocated an immediate 40 percent cut to federal spending by barring any increase in the debt ceiling. This, too, is at odds with the party’s earlier views. The administration of George W. Bush sold its 2001 and 2003 tax cuts as Keynesian-style economic stimulus. Lawrence Lindsey, a top Bush adviser, even likened opponents of the tax cuts to President Herbert Hoover, whose obsession with balancing the budget in 1932 worsened the Great Depression.

Well, yes, George Bush justified his tax cuts in Keynesian terms, particularly the 2008 cuts that Ip forgot to mention. The 2008 cuts accomplished nothing. They were simply rebates, something Keynesians think are effective. The 2001 and 2003 cuts were at least cuts in rates that could have incentive effects that would be characterized as “supply-side.”

Ip continues:

Certainly, some of this rhetoric is just political opportunism. The Fed and the stimulus package are handy proxies for Republicans’ real target, which is Obama in the 2012 election. But something more fundamental is going on: The economic ideology of the Republican Party has changed in recent years in an important and little-appreciated direction. Liberals and conservatives in the United States have long differed on how much the government should meddle in individual markets, whether for energy or health care. But they have largely agreed that the government should have at least some role in smoothing out the ups and downs of the business cycle — what economists call “macroeconomic stabilization,” that is, containing inflation in good times and boosting employment in bad.

But this is the consensus that many Republicans in effect now reject.

Yes, fair enough. But why have the Republican candidates rejected this view? The answer IS political opportunism, but not the kind Ip has in mind. The American people see unemployment over 9%. They see that there has been virtually no net job growth over the last two years. At the same time, the deficit has swollen, the US credit rating has been downgraded and we’re on the verge of a double dip. Certainly it is plausible to entertain the possibility that we don’t have the knowledge to steer the economy.

Ip goes on to give a stylized history of macroeconomic policy which I don’t agree with but you can read it yourself if you’re interested. He ignores the importance of Friedman’s (and Schwartz’s) assault on Keynesianism and blames the Republican candidate’s current views on a love affair with Mises and Hayek.

The real flaw in Ip’s argument is the dog that doesn’t bark. Why aren’t the President and the Senate pushing an activist agenda with the economy still struggling? Why isn’t anyone listening to Krugman and others who want even more government spending with borrowed money? Is it those crazy Tea Party-influenced Republicans who like The Road to Serfdom who are the barrier to old-fashioned mainstream economic policy? Well there are about 85 of those, maybe. That leaves 350 members of Congress and a Democratic Senate to craft some “sensible” stimulus. Why isn’t it happening? The answer is that Democrats aren’t so eager to swell the deficit further or bless additional quantitative easing. They want to keep their jobs. And they are as skeptical of Keynesian magic as the out-of-the mainstream Republican candidates.


Quotation of the Day…



… is from page 58 of historian Frank Trentmann’s impressive 2008 book Free Trade Nation: Commerce, Consumption, and Civil Society in Modern Britain; the time and place referenced is very early 20th-century Great Britain:

For A.V. Dicey, the leading constitutional expert of the period, ‘the worst danger of Protection’ was precisely that it would lead to ‘the confusion between public interest and private interest.’ Free Trade held out a mutually convenient if idealized concordat: politics kept out of business, and business kept out of politics.


Here’s a letter to the Wall Street Journal:

I greatly enjoyed Steve Moore’s conversation with James Freeman on Keynesian economics (“Why Americans Hate Economics,” August 19).

If economists of a ‘classical’ bent too-seldom acknowledge the petite kernel of truth in Keynesianism (namely, that “aggregate demand” can be inadequate), it’s because giving credence to that kernel stokes two dangerous embers that readily ignite into a conflagration of calamitous policies.

The first is politicians’ burning desire to spend money borrowed from future generations – a desire whose existence has nothing to do with Keynesianism but is fueled by the intellectual cover conveniently supplied by that theory.

The second is the propensity of many people to heedlessly draw inferences about the economy as a whole from their individual experiences. Such heedlessness often yields inferences that are invalid.

It’s true that Jones suffers if demand for his services falls, and that his suffering ceases when demand for his services is restored. From this correct observation, however, Jones mistakenly concludes that every economy-wide downturn is the result of deficient aggregate demand – and, hence, that recessions are easily ended if only government would spend more money to increase aggregate demand. Such a simplistic, pedestrian focus on demand diverts attention away from the many complex structural problems – the “microeconomic problems” – that in reality always are the ultimate causes of sustained economic downturns, and about which Keynesianism says next to nothing.

Donald J. Boudreaux

Still among the finest essays on this matter is Hayek’s 1974 Nobel lecture, “The Pretence of Knowledge.” And EconLog‘s Arnold Kling, with his focus on “patterns of sustainable specialization and trade,” is also worthwhile to check out.


Bumping along the bottom

Andrew Bolt – Monday, August 22, 11 (05:29 pm)

Essential Media’s latest poll: Labor 44, Coalition 56


Gillard must go, or the party will go broke

Andrew Bolt – Monday, August 22, 11 (04:23 pm)

Former Liberal MP Ross Cameron:

The Prime Minister is facing firming resolve among Labor Party elders that she be given a Christmas deadline for turning the party’s fortunes around, or voluntarily make way for a successor…

The argument is not that any new candidate can lead Labor back into office but that a fresh face might help limit the carnage. The view is based on research suggesting the electorate can’t get over the ‘’legitimacy’’ question of a Julia Gillard administration and that Labor underestimated the effect of the Kevin Rudd putsch and the about-face on carbon pricing.

According to sources in the private sector, the ALP’s NSW secretary, Sam Dastyari, says privately that federal Labor is headed for a rout of NSW proportions…

When Labor’s two-party preferred position fell below 30 per cent, the flow of corporate donations evaporated, leaving their next election campaign entirely reliant on trade union donations and the public funding that parties earn per vote received. If the party’s bankers project its likely future cash resources, based on present voting intentions, the amount of credit they will be prepared to extend would have Labor starting the race $5 million behind the Coalition. So Labor may be forced to act to stave off insolvency.

The question then arises, who should the replacement be? Simon Crean, Stephen Smith, Greg Combet and Bill Shorten - in roughly that order - are regarded as offering the best chance to exorcise the spectres haunting Gillard, with Wayne Swan too deeply implicated in the present regime and a Kevin Rudd return considered ‘’just too weird’’.

One way to cut the knot is for the new leader to announce a delay in the implementation of the carbon tax, until at least a few key trade partners have made a similar commitment.

The goal is to come up with a formulation that gets the new leader as close as possible to Labor’s pre-election ‘’no carbon tax’’ pledge while preserving an outcome with the Greens that won’t plunge the executive government into total anarchy…

Shorten is making the strongest case for a policy compact that might work. He has been telling people in the private sector that the carbon tax has effectively crippled Labor since 2007 and should never have been Labor’s signature fight because it’s hard to understand, punishes Labor’s core constituents and it is a ‘’10th order’’ economic reform. He argues for a ‘’superannuation-led policy recovery’’ - the kind of mainstream Labor reform that benefits mums and dads, will mobilise the support (and donations) of the big end of town, and is solving an unarguably important national challenge - the inadequacy of retirement income. But he has so far been unable to build a national support base among his own Right faction…

But Simon Crean has firmed in the betting from $110 to $10 since mid-July and shapes as the most likely consensus candidate. Like a nightwatchmen being sent in to bat in fading light, he can be sacrificed, leaving the future stars in the locker room and limiting the risk of a complete rout.


For the English window shopper

Andrew Bolt – Monday, August 22, 11 (04:08 pm)


(Thanks to reader Johnnie.)


Is it sexist to say women tend to be less rational?

Andrew Bolt – Monday, August 22, 11 (01:56 pm)

Is this sexist? Or is it just true?

Governor-General Quentin Bryce has told police conference delegates that women have communication skills and emotional intelligence that males cannot match.

And if it’s OK to credit men with less emotional intelligence, is it also OK to speculate that women tend to be less rational?

(Thanks to reader Nick.)


No one gets excused for putting children in danger

Andrew Bolt – Monday, August 22, 11 (01:08 pm)

Some people should wake up to the effect of the signals they send, and stop claiming an artist’s licence to be barbaric:

A PHOTOGRAPH of a semi-naked prepubescent girl by internationally renowned photographer Jan Saudek was removed from the Ballarat International Foto Biennale on the eve of its opening on Saturday.

Biennale director Jeff Moorfoot said he understood a woman went to the Office of the Child Safety Commissioner, Tourism Victoria and the local council to complain that the 1995 Saudek work, Black Sheep & White Crow, which she had seen in an ad promoting the exhibition in Art Almanac, depicted a mother prostituting her child.

Good work that unnamed woman. But why did those responsible for the exhibition not exercise such judgment themselves?


Gaddafi going, going .. And to replace him?

Andrew Bolt – Monday, August 22, 11 (12:55 pm)

The mad dictator is about to fall after a bloody six-month war, with NATO helping the rebels. Now hope that what replaces him is better:

MUAMMAR Gaddafi’s regime is on the verge of collapse, as the military unit in charge of protecting him surrenders and rebels enter the capital.
Mahmoud Shammam, the rebel minister of information, has told the Associated Press that the unit commander “has joined the revolution and ordered his soldiers to drop their weapons”.

When the unit dropped its arms, it essentially opened the way for the rebels to enter the city with little resistance.

The rebels’ surprising and speedy leap forward, after six months of largely deadlocked civil war, was packed into just a few dramatic hours.


No better time to drop these taxes

Andrew Bolt – Monday, August 22, 11 (11:03 am)

August 12:

THE Australian economy is expected to grow despite global economic turmoil and there is no better time to introduce a carbon tax, Prime Minister Julia Gillard says.


BLUESCOPE Steel will today announce the shutdown of one of the nation’s three remaining blast furnaces and the loss of at least 1000 jobs, spelling an end to Australian steel exports in what alarmed industry leaders are calling “a major crisis” in manufacturing…

BlueScope will close its No 6 blast furnace at Port Kembla near Wollongong south of Sydney and the Western Port hot strip mill at Hastings east of Melbourne, affecting about 10 per cent of the company’s 9000-strong workforce. An unknown number of contractors will lose work…

Pressure from a rising dollar, high iron ore and coking coal costs, low steel prices and more efficient giant Asian steel mills have meant BlueScope has accepted exports are no longer profitable.

Unions now demand a government plan to save manufacturing. I’d suggest such a plan would include neither an extra tax on iron ore and coal miners, nor a tax on on electricity. It would also unwind the Government’s reregulation of the workplace.


Business cries for reform grow louder:

BIG business is stepping up its campaign against Labor’s industrial relations laws, with business leaders warning ahead of a meeting with Wayne Swan this week that the Fair Work Act is a growing threat to productivity.

National Australia Bank and Woodside chairman Michael Chaney said fundamental changes in the law were needed to prevent unions hijacking industrial negotiations and to stop unnecessary strike action.

“I believe the Fair Work Act is a sleeper that represents a serious threat to productivity,” Mr Chaney told The Australian…

Future Fund chairman David Murray called on the government to consider a fresh accord with the unions to deal with a labour market “trapped in history”.


More to come:

BLUESCOPE Steel’s confirmation today of job losses could mean that up to 100,000 job cuts are “in the pipeline” as companies including Qantas and OneSteel slash staff numbers in weak conditions, increasing the likelihood the Reserve Bank will cut rates in coming months, say strategists.


The Gillard Government says the BlueScope layoffs have nothing to do with her carbon dioxide tax. Then why in response to the layoffs is she giving BlueScope quicker compensation for that tax?

JULIA Gillard has announced a $100 million cash injection for BlueScope steel from the industry’s carbon-tax adjustment fund - which Tony Abbott opposes - to prevent further job losses at the struggling manufacturer.

As the company today confirmed it would abandon its export business with the loss of 1000 jobs, the Prime Minister said the company would be allowed to bring forward funding under the government’s $300 million, five-year Steel Transformation Plan.

The STP was a component of the government’s carbon tax package, although Ms Gillard said BlueScope had acknowledged the latest job losses were “no way attributable to the introduction of a carbon price”.


Gai Brodtmann, the Labor member for Canberra, in her doorstop today:

Well, the thing is what we’re seeing with BlueScope, Labor is very, very strongly committed to job losses, to job… I beg your pardon, can I take that back. Labor is very, very strongly committed to jobs


Bagging the greens again

Andrew Bolt – Monday, August 22, 11 (07:17 am)

Another terrific green initiative - costly, inconvenient, full of unintended consequences and utterly useless:

Bin liner sales in SA have doubled since free plastic shopping bags were banned more than two years ago.
And most bin bags are made of thicker plastic than traditional bags, which means they take longer to break down in the environment.

Woolworths says SA sales of plastic kitchen-tidy bags of a similar size, capacity and shape to single-use plastic shopping bags, are now double the national average.At Coles, sales of kitchen tidy bags increased 40 per cent in the year following the ban in May 2009. Bin bag manufacturer Glad reported a 52.5 per cent jump in kitchen-tidy bag sales in the first year of the ban, compared with a 5.5 per cent increase nationally…

In 2009, South Australia led the nation with a ban on lightweight, checkout-style plastic bags.

(Thanks to reader Grandma.)


Buying Rudd a high chair doesn’t come cheap

Andrew Bolt – Monday, August 22, 11 (07:13 am)

Kevin Rudd’s astonishing vanity project not only corrupts our foreign affairs priorities but stretches our diplomatic resources:

In a report released today, the respected Lowy Institute think tank says Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd’s eager pursuit of a seat on the UN Security Council is sapping resources from the already overstretched Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The report finds that as DFAT struggles to meet basic demands, Mr Rudd has taken the personal public profile of the portfolio to new highs, making well over twice the number of official visits, speeches and media releases in his first year in the job as former Coalition foreign minister Alexander Downer did in his early years....

The report singles out Mr Rudd’s bid to get a Security Council seat for Australia, saying the real opportunity costs to DFAT of the campaign for the temporary seat “far exceed the budgeted allocation of over $23 million over the past three years”.

If the bid is successful, the authors write: “DFAT will have to allocate resources both in Canberra and at posts covering a vast range of unfamiliar policy issues, many of which are only tangentially related to Australia’s interests.”

The opposition spokeswoman on foreign affairs, Julie Bishop, claimed the Lowy Institute report proved the Security Council campaign was no more than a personal bid by Mr Rudd for a platform to expound on the UN stage.


Thomson runs out of credit

Andrew Bolt – Monday, August 22, 11 (06:43 am)

Craig Thomson has new questions to answer:

BELEAGUERED Labor MP Craig Thomson is facing explosive allegations he breached electoral laws after spending nearly $40,000 on his 2007 election campaign using his union credit card.

As pressure intensifies for Mr Thomson to give a detailed explanation to Parliament, the Herald Sun can also reveal he had a $30,000 personal spending spree using his union credit card on Qantas flights for his ex-wife, swank hotels and expensive restaurant meals....

Mr Thomson, whose resignation would trigger the likely demise of the Gillard Government, enjoyed the good life as a union boss, dining at upmarket restaurants including Beppis in Sydney, and Melbourne’s Sarti, where he spent $1300.

For the first time, documents show Mr Thomson exploited his union position to spend $18,733 on radio advertising and $7253 on postal mail-outs in the lead-up to the 2007 election.

Mr Thomson was elected as the Member for Dobell in NSW, defeating the Liberals’ Ken Ticehurst in the general election won by Kevin Rudd.

According to legal documents - filed in the NSW Supreme Court after Mr Thomson sued Fairfax Media for defamation - the Labor MP “failed to disclose election campaign spending to the Australian Electoral Commission”.

Why didn’t his union president, Michael Williamson, know about this? Or did he? These questions should be asked of Williamson who was last year the national president of the Labor Party, and is still the party’s Junior Vice President.

Thomson is losing friends in Labor:

There is growing anger in the ALP towards Mr Thomson for telling his colleagues before the last election that the allegations about credit card misuse, published by the Herald in 2009, were untrue and that he was suing Fairfax Media. Mr Thomson withdrew that action in April and there is fresh anger from colleagues because he had told people he won the case. ‘’He looked me in the eye and told me he won,’’ a senior MP said yesterday.

But Labor powerbrokers risk losing the friendship of an honest man by canvassing the latest desperate strategy to keep power:

LABOR strategists are canvassing the prospect of the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Harry Jenkins, being asked to step down and join the backbench should Craig Thomson lose his seat over the credit card fraud allegations.

Although Mr Thomson has not been charged with anything, Labor strategists are thinking of ways to prolong the government should it lose a precious seat… If Mr Jenkins moved to the backbench, the Deputy Speaker and Liberal MP, Peter Slipper, would become Speaker. This would give the Labor-minority government 75 seats on the floor, the Coalition 72, plus Mr Katter and Mr Crook.

Fact is, Thomson - and Labor - are poison in his electorate:

Polling of the seat by the veteran political pollster John Scales, of JWS research, shows the Coalition leading Labor by 60 per cent to 40 per cent on a two-party-preferred basis. Labor’s primary vote in Dobell is mired at 26 per cent.


A big thank you to all those who made this possible:

Craig Thomson’s maiden speech to parliament, February 19, 2008:

I NEED to acknowledge the fantastic advice and assistance I received from Mark Arbib, Karl Bitar and Sam Dastyari from the NSW ALP head office.

Andrew Clennell in The Daily Telegraph last Friday:

THE ALP bailout of Craig Thomson could be more than $150,000 - and federal minister Mark Arbib is understood to have brokered the deal between Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s office and NSW Labor.

Thomson’s maiden speech:

THE support I received from the entire union movement but in particular from Unions NSW, the TWU, the CFMEU mining division, the PSA, and of course my own union, the Health Services Union, was phenomenal.

Lauren Wilson in The Weekend Australian on Saturday:

FORMER union colleagues of Labor backbencher Craig Thomson reject his claims the Health Services Union reached a settlement with a man over the use of credit cards at escort agencies. Mr Thomson . . . told radio station 2UE’s Michael Smith earlier this month: “The union reached a settlement with another gentleman who paid back $15,000 in relation to the use of credit cards at an escort agency."Former Victorian HSU branch secretary Jeff Jackson told The Weekend Australian he was the person who repaid $15,000 to the union - but said the payment had nothing to do with credit cards used at escort agencies.

Thomson’s maiden speech:

I STARTED by saying that the language we use as politicians should be simple, straightforward and honest, easy to understand, childlike, one might say.

Misha Schubert in The Sunday Age yesterday:

AFTER a week of attack on his character in parliament, Mr Thomson has been confronted by another chapter in his past calling his honesty into question. Court documents reveal that an industrial court blasted a campaign he ran to woo members from another union as “deceitful” and “reprehensible”.

(No comments for legal reasons. Thanks to reader CA.)

Global warming: the new great “moral epidemic”

Andrew Bolt – Monday, August 22, 11 (06:29 am)

William Happer, the Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor of Physics at Princeton University, says global warming alarmism is the latest “moral epidemic”.

(It’s) the notion that increasing atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, notably carbon dioxide, will have disastrous consequences for mankind and for the planet. This contemporary “climate crusade” has much in common with the medieval crusades Mackay describes, with true believers, opportunists, cynics, money-hungry governments, manipulators of various types, and even children’s crusades…

Let me summarize how the key issues appear to me, a working scientist with a better background than most in the physics of climate. CO2 really is a greenhouse gas and, other things being equal, adding CO2 to the atmosphere by burning coal, oil, and natural gas will modestly increase the surface temperature of the earth. Other things being equal, doubling the CO2 concentration, from our current 390 ppm to 780 ppm will directly cause about one degree Celsius warming. At the current rate of CO2 increase in the atmosphere —about 2 ppm per year— it would take about 195 years to achieve this doubling. The combination of a slightly warmer earth and more CO2 will greatly increase the production of food, wood, fiber, and other products by green plants, so the increased CO2 will be good for the planet, and will easily outweigh any negative effects. Supposed calamities like the accelerated rise of sea level, ocean acidification, more extreme climate, tropical diseases near the poles, etc. are greatly exaggerated....

A major problem has been the co-option of climate science by politics, ambition, greed, and what seems to be a hereditary human need for a righteous cause. What better cause than saving the planet, especially if one can get ample, secure funding at the same time? Huge amounts of money are available from governments and wealthy foundations for climate institutes and for climate-related research. Funding for climate studies is second only to funding for biological sciences. Large academic empires, prizes, elections to honorary societies, fellowships, consulting fees and other perquisites go to those researchers whose results may help “save the planet.” Every day we read about some real or contrived environmental or ecological effect “proved” to arise from global warming. The total of such claimed effects now runs in the hundreds, all the alleged result of an unexceptional century-long warming of less than one degree Celsius. Government subsidies, loan guarantees, and captive customers go to green companies. Carbon-tax revenues flow to governments. As the great Russian poet Pushkin said in his novella Dubrovsky, “If there happens to be a trough, there will be pigs.” Any doubt about apocalyptic climate scenarios could remove many troughs.

(Thanks to reader fulchrum.)


Bolt Report yesterday

Andrew Bolt – Monday, August 22, 11 (12:08 am)

Yesterday’s show here.


Or think the multi-function polis

Andrew Bolt – Monday, August 22, 11 (12:04 am)

Steven Hayward:

The whole “green jobs” enthusiasm is likely to go down in policy history as the energy/environment equivalent of the Great Society/War on Poverty/"Model Cities” social engineering of the 1960s.


Convoy rolls to Canberra

Andrew Bolt – Monday, August 22, 11 (12:02 am)

The Convoy of No Confidence is already being demonised by Labor and some in the media as a bunch of extremists, but most of the rest of Australia will recognise themselves in these people:

CANBERRA is set to be brought to its knees tomorrow when 11 separate truck and van convoys from every mainland state and territory protest the legitimacy of the Gillard government.

The Convoy of No Confidence comes as parliament sits for four days and Prime Minister Julia Gillard, whose stocks are sagging in opinion polls, faces community anger over her broken promise on the carbon tax and changes to the diesel fuel rebate.

One of the convoy organisers, truck driver and former Queensland Liberal National Party state candidate Mick Pattel, said the convoy was a wake-up call for the government.

“Every decision that they make seems to be an absolute blunder,” Mr Pattel told ABC radio.

“I think the government has been compromised by the fact that it’s not governing in its own right,” he added, referring to the Greens and independents who helped deliver minority government 12 months ago.

A petition will be presented calling for a double-dissolution election.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, who is expected to join the protest which will get to Canberra about 6am (AEST) tomorrow, said the Gillard government had the “Midas touch in reverse”.

The cost of driving huge rigs to Canberra will no doubt limit the numbers, but enough people seem to think the sacrifice worth the chance of registering a protest to a Government so wilfully deaf.


Bendigo’s trucks gather. (Thanks to reader Bob.)


Convoy No. 5 comes down the Hume yesterday.

Ruth and friends are coming down from Brisbane.


Ugly, ugly, ugly. Infrastructure Minister Anthony Albanese in Question Time abused the copnvoy participants as fringe protesters of a “Convoy of No Consequence”. That kind of mockery of protesters is already the kind of high-handed arrogance that makes this government already look out of control of contemptuous of voters. Not surprisingly (although perhaps regrettably), protesters in the gallery watching on reacted angrilly at being ridiculed,

Labor has totally lost its bearings.

To paraphrase Laurie Oakes, the numbers supporting the illegitimate ALP government have been overhyped. Actually, Oakes was talking about the no confidence rally, but I like to think he wants to be known for saying something correct
Andrew writes for Melbourne's Herald Sun, Sydney's Daily Telegraph and Adelaide's Advertiser. He runs Australia's most-read political blog, is on MTR 1377 mornings. He’ll host Channel 10’s The Bolt Report each Sunday at 10am
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