Klein, Stiglitz & De Soto: Power, economics and the financial crisis

30 11 2008

Take a look at this wonderful forum featuring well respected commentators as featured on ABC fora.

Click HERE.


Carbon and salt

22 07 2008

Peter Martin (Canberra Times) uses an analogy today to compare compensating heavy industry CO2 with the (thankfully imaginary) government compensating tobacco companies for restricting smoking.

Like me, he finds the idea laughable:

In her green paper, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong justifies the idea this way: ”If the change in regulatory arrangements was unanticipated and implemented without compensation, and investors viewed this as evidence that the Government was likely to change the regulatory regime in future in an unpredictable way, then investors might regard Australia’s electricity market as a riskier investment proposition.”

Try submitting that sentence to the laugh test. That is, try to read it out loud without laughing.

The truth is that when it finally makes a decision on the type of emissions trading system that Australia will have from 2010, Parliament will have ended, not added to, the uncertainty that has been making Australia’s electricity market a risky investment proposition.

More news on carbon in the Age today, revealing the government’s stance on desalination plants.  Surely we’ve a way to go with industry cutting back water use before we resort to these big, energy hungry, centralised monsters.  I tend to think they eliminate positive feedback loops with regard to our water use and further the notion of living beyond our ecological means.

Rudd proves image matters more than deeds

21 07 2008

How disappointing to learn of the Rudd government undermining its carbon trading scheme by exempting big polluters.  Hopefully most of the electorate realises that the more sectors are exempt, the greater the burden on the rest of us.

There’s something quite absurd, dare I say laughable about the idea.  The scheme’s purpose is to reduce dangerous emissions but we let the cement, aluminium and coal industries off the hook.  We’re scared of increased prices on petrol so we subsidise it.

It confirms my suspicion that Rudd doesn’t truly believe in this cause (or any cause).  The carbon mafia are victorious – for now.  Such a compromise is unacceptable given the high stakes of this policy area.

The new punitiveness in NSW

30 04 2008

Attacks on the right to be judged by one’s peers are steadily mounting in NSW, as the government introduces changes to the Jury Act.  This follows recent amendments changing the need for unanimous decisions – 11/12 is apparently near enough according to the NSW government.  I’m reminded once again of the aphorism- “better to let ten guilty men walk free than to imprison one innocent man”.


From the ABC news online:

Judges “should be able to dismiss individual jurors”


New South Wales Cabinet has approved changes to the Jury Act to give judges the discretion to dismiss an individual juror without aborting a whole trial.

NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos says he wants to stop entire trials being aborted to the detriment of all, because of the actions of an individual juror.

Mr Hatzistergos says he does not believe the changes will disadvantage defendants.

“If for example the act of misconduct or the act of wrong empanelment has in some way contaminated the entire jury than the judge will have the discretion to be able to act accordingly,” he said.

“But we want to ensure that the jury system is able to be preserved and in particular that unnecessary abortions of jury trials can be avoided.”

But New South Wales shadow attorney-general Greg Smith says the Government has only acted on four out of 70 recommendations made by the Law Reform Commission.

He says lifting jurors’ fees should be a top priority.

“The fees paid to jurors are inadequate,” he said.

“They’re falling behind the average weekly earnings and I think that’s leading to many people that should be serving on jurors seeking exemption because they can’t afford it.

“Trials are getting longer.”

Helen Hughes & the CIS vs. Indigenous Culture & Identity

7 04 2008

This year has been declared by the United Nations as the International Year of Languages.  There is an increasing recognition, across the globe, of the importance of language and culture, particularly to Indigenous peoples. These issues have become even more pressing given the hastening extinction of languages and cultures under what we call “globalisation”.

Sadly, not all of us in Australia appreciate the benefits of language and cultural distinctiveness to one’s sense of identity and worldview.

A case in point is Helen Hughes’ recent work with the CIS on Indigenous education in the Northern Territory. Helen’s opinion piece on the ABC web site upset me greatly.  Here are some extracts with my responses in blue text.

Critical of “separate Aboriginal curriculums”.

So a child in the Torres Strait must learn the same as a child in Hobart.   No room for local culture, geography, customs, history etc.  Appalling.  (Not to be pedantic, but Helen should know the plural form is “curricula”.)

“Many of the men and women who actually stand in front of the class in Aboriginal schools have so little training that they are not…even articulate in English.”

There are some schools who have non-Indigenous teachers present English as a foreign langauge or in a bilingual context.  In this setting, the Indigenous teacher’s English ability is pretty much irrelevant.

“…most children graduating from Aboriginal primary schools were unable to manage the work in mainstream high schools.”

And most children from mainstream primary schools would be unable to handle the work in Indigenous language high schools (not that there are many).  

“Three generations of welfare dependence, poor education, and public housing have led to family and community dysfunction, so that teenage pregnancies, alcoholism, drug addiction, and crowded housing often undermine school attendance.”

Many of the communities with stronger language and culture e.g. Yolngu of Arnhem Land and Badulgal of Torres Strait are far more functional and have stronger family ties than those where cultural dispossession is well advanced e.g. Redfern, Alice Springs.  Plenty of the more traditional communities have complete alcohol bans that are self-imposed.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children deserve and must have the same school facilities, curriculums, and teaching as other Australian children so that they may choose how and where to live.”

If they do not inherit the gift of language and culture from their parents, then they will not have the choice of living in their own distinctive societies.  Place and belonging are central to Indigenous questions of identity and coercing them away to boarding schools (as Helen suggests) is not exactly offering choice of where to live.

“If mainstream schooling is not deemed to be viable in very small communities, arrangements will have to be made to board children or assist their parents to move so that they can attend school.”

See previous comment. Geez, I think history has seen enough of “moving them on” policies.

“All remote schools should be twinned with mainstream schools so that exchanges of students, teachers, and parents can expose substandard conditions and enable Australians to learn at first hand how their taxes are being spent.”

Mainstreaming is another word for assimilation.  It is deeply immoral and will lead to cultural annihilation. Helen Hughes and the CIS are to be condemned for this brutal vision of a possible future.  Let us hope she does not have the ear of our prime minister.


Further comment at linguistic blog Transient Languages & Cultures.

60% less CO2 by 2050? How ’bout err….zero carbon emissions

9 12 2007

The task ahead is much greater than we presently comprehend argues George Monbiot.  Our decisions must be based on the latest science – not the science of pre-1995.  A prolonged state of emergency seems a reasonable response.  Here’s the closing paragraphs:

Underlying the immediate problem is a much greater one. In a lecture to the Royal Academy of Engineering in May, Professor Rod Smith of Imperial College explained that a growth rate of 3% means economic activity doubles in 23 years(24). At 10% it takes just 7 years. This we knew. But Smith takes it further. With a series of equations he shows that “each successive doubling period consumes as much resource as all the previous doubling periods combined.” In other words, if our economy grows at 3% between now and 2030, we will consume in that period economic resources equivalent to all those we have consumed since humans first stood on two legs. Then, between 2030 and 2053, we must double our total consumption again. Reading that paper I realised for the first time what we are up against.

But I am not advocating despair. We must confront a challenge which is as great and as pressing as the rise of the Axis powers. Had we thrown up our hands then, as many people are tempted to do today, you would be reading this paper in German. Though the war often seemed impossible to win, when the political will was mobilised strange and implausible things began to happen. The US economy was spun round on a dime in 1942 as civilian manufacturing was switched to military production(25). The state took on greater powers than it had exercised before. Impossible policies suddenly became achievable.

The real issues in Bali are not technical or economic. The crisis we face demands a profound philosophical discussion, a reappraisal of who we are and what progress means. Debating these matters makes us neither saints nor communists; it shows only that we have understood the science.

Taking your name to the Bali Climate Conference delegates

6 12 2007

From an email I received this week:

Dear Friend,

In Bali, Indonesia thousands of delegates from nearly 190 countries have gathered at the UN Conference on Climate Change. In ten days, I will address the conference to urge the adoption of a visionary new treaty to address global warming and I want to bring your voices with me.

Click here to sign my petition today and I will bring your signatures on stage with me as a clear demonstration of our resolve :http://climateprotect.org/standwithal

Together, we will call on the US government to assume a new leadership role in solving the climate crisis.

World leaders including British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and newly elected Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd have all agreed to aggressively battle the climate crisis – yet our country still lags behind.

Over the next ten days, I would like you to help me get people from across the country to sign our message to the global community. We can demonstrate that the American people understand the immediacy of the climate crisis and want to work with the nations of the world to solve it.

Time is short – we need to mobilize everyone to bring this message to Bali: http://climateprotect.org/standwithal

The American people want a visionary treaty to address climate change and for the US government to play a positive leadership role in its development.

Thank you,

Al Gore.

P.S. After signing the petition, please urge your friends and family to sign the petition and join the movement. http://climateprotect.org/standwithal

UPDATE: Australians may wish to follow this link to the getup site to sign the petition.