Thursday, October 29, 2009

Does anyone believe this crap?

I know that it's all a bit sad but I somehow picked up "The Advertiser" today and read the main page - which has a story about how the place is about to become the *Saudi* of the south and be the energy centre of the world - and other blah blah blah.

And on page 2 there is apparently further evidence from Jason Kuchel - the CEO of the SA Chamber of Mines and Energy - who is a "firm believer the mining boom will deliver significant jobs".

I wonder if anyone who has a fancy title in SA actually reads facts and understands evidence?

Just asking because according to Ian Harper there are not many jobs in mining. And according to the SA Centre for Economic Studies, there are few jobs in SA resulting from the *mining boom*.

Even Mike Rann has got the message and has recently stopped spruiking the *mining boom* - because he knows that he is on thin ice.

For goodness sake people - you can start by telling the truth. You might like to waffle and tell porkies and deceive people but as John Quiggin and Daniel Davies say - "Good ideas do not need lots of lies told about them in order to gain public acceptance".

Surely they are joking?

The Australian Industry Group - the lobby group that is funded by big business - has just released its National CEO Survey.

And apparently:

More than a quarter of companies surveyed have been severely affected by the economic downturn.

Large companies were hardest hit with 37.3% being very affected by the downturn. The impact has been most severe in the construction and manufacturing sectors.

All as would be expected - when times are tough.

But the really scary thing is that old furphy *skills shortages* is being bandied about again.

Apparently the survey has uncovered that there will be shortages of - labourers and process workers, engineers, managers, apprentices and trainees. Plus apparently there are skill shortages in literacy, numeracy and information technology.

And according to the report, amongst companies in the survey, the average decline in employment expected in 2009/10 is 3.8%.

This is a polite way of saying that these CEO's will sack somewhere around 200,000 people (my estimate) over the course of the next year.

Did I mention that these same CEO's will cut back expenditure on training - on average companies anticipate a 4.1% reduction in training expenditure in 2009/10.

Forgive me for asking but if they are sacking people and cutting back on training - how do they expect to deal with the *skills shortages* that they think will apparently cause chaos?

Let me guess.

It's the prerogative of these CEO's to hire and fire at will - without any regard to the national interest.

But it's the job of government to ensure that there is sufficient *fodder* for these companies when they want to start hiring again. And if there isn't a massive pool of skilled workers ready and able then they will be insisting on an expansion of the 457 Visa scam - sorry scheme.

It's all so predictable - Surely they are joking?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Nick and Tim are real Australians

Nick Xenophon and Tim Costello have the right stuff.

Both have demonstrated enormous commitment, quality, credibility and competence - I salute you both.

The sooner we can get Australian States weaned off the disaster that is pokies - the better.

And the sooner we can get the State Premiers and their Treasurers to *recognise* and *deal with* the damage that these things cause the better.

Of course they won't do it without some pushing and prompting and cajoling - because it wasn't only Gordon Gecko who thought that "Greed is Good".

Ian Harper is particularly erudite

Just spent the last 30 minutes listening to Ian Harper's talk about the economic history of Australia - here.

This is a *must listen* story for anyone who is even remotely interested in what has driven the Australian economy in the past and what will likely drive it in the future.

For the first time in a long time - we have someone with credibility who is prepared and able to tell the truth about where the jobs are and where they will come from - tomorrow and beyond.

He gets it - absolutely. A pity most politicians don't.

Now lets see if we can get the press to report it and talk about it - I wish.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pokies and other revenue scams

We know that something is up when "The Australian" writes an impressive story about *pokie dependency* as it did today.

A big story showing how the states are addicted to gambling revenue and will not let it go – despite the damage that it causes.

And as usual my home state – South Australia leads the pack with the highest percentage of gambling taxation revenue - 13.2%.

It’s a sad story down there in the city of churches. I suspect that they need to find a leader who is actually interested in looking after the people who live there instead of one who is only interested in looking after themselves and their mates.

Now I have limited experience with the place having lived there for part of my life – mostly the early years – until I escaped to the real world.

But I also have some recent experience. I am in the process of building my boat and have found a nice little place in rural South Australia where I can construct it. The people and the town are pleasant enough but the real surprise is that because it is so small and remote the State Government does not seem to interfere too much. Probably doesn’t even know it is there ;-)

As an example, in the regional city of Adelaide, the drivers are extremely fearful of *red light* and *speed* cameras which are everywhere – and which like pokies are there to raise revenue for the state.

But here in this little rural town they are no-where and the attitude of the drivers is completely different – and obviously better.

I would love to have the time and resources to do a proper survey and analysis of driver attitude and their relationship to road accidents – because I am fairly sure that the creation of a fearful environment on the road has a direct relationship to road accidents.

But we will never know because the state runs regular campaigns to create fear while milking motorists – and has been doing that for over 30 years – and justifies it on the basis of attending to *road safety*.

Like being serious about dealing with pokies in South Australia – this is just another myth.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The *blues* and boat people

Some of you will have noticed how Malcolm and some of the other members of the *blue* team have been bleating on about the "boat people" and how the supposed current influx of them is a direct result of our government's *slack, lax and inapropriate* immigration policy.

It's interesting because Possum has done some clever analysis here on whether it's the "pull" or "push" factors that are driving this - a must read for those who can.

The truth is that it's the environment that the "boat people" are trying to escape from rather than the environment that they are trying to escape to that is driving these movements.

In other words, things are so bad at home that they will risk their lives to find somewhere else to live.

But its the *numbnuts* in the *blue* team and sadly also Malcolm who are trying to suggest that all of this is due to some imagined *hopelessly dark* policy of our government.

The thing is that these *blues* have nothing worthwhile to contribute.

And they are doing it because they know that there is a smallish subset of our community - fuelled by an opportunistic media - who are so thick, so dumb, so uninformed, so racist and so bogan that they will lap it up and cheer the *blues* on.

They hope that the temporary support of these people will somehow improve the *blues* abysmal polling.

Well they won't - all it really does is diminish the respect that thinking Australian's have for the *blues* version of "Opposition".

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

PacBrands and clever management

How the worm turns.

Remember how a year or so ago Pacific Brands was in the news because they were sacking local staff, moving all of their production offshore and closing down their Australian manufacturing operations?

And their CEO - Sue Morphet was exposed as just another executive on an outrageous salary.

All of which was justified on the basis of having to tweak and fine tune the business to make it operate better - for the shareholders.

Well, yesterday at their annual general meeting all of this was exposed as the BS that it is.

As a result of their inability to manage their exposure to currency movements, it was revealed that the business is down around $40 million.

So they apparently needed to move their Australian manufacturing offshore to take account of a cheaper cost base in Asia. They also had to sack over 1000 staff and pay their CEO and other executives enormous sums to ensure that they had the best possible management.

But they stuffed up their currency hedging and are now in the red to the tune of $40 million as a result.

I wonder if anyone else has noticed the contradiction. If you send manufacturing offshore then you obviously need to pay much more attention to your currency risk - why didn't they?

I wonder what their next great idea will be? Sell their products locally in peso's and eliminate the currency problem.

PacBrands shareholders should be revolting.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Jetstar and Flight Centre Suck

This year I have done about 16 trips - a trip being defined as going somewhere away from home base and then returning to base sometime later. Today I am attempting to undertake trip number 17 - without much success.

I almost always book online and often will book directly with the airline but sometimes I use Flight Centre or Webjet to find the best deals and flight frequency.

That is a big mistake - because I have just discovered that the *aggregators* don't actually pass through my contact details when booking a flight on my behalf.

Today I discovered the unhappy reality of this. Last week I booked a trip to Hobart from Melbourne using Flight Centre and flying with Jetstar today and back next Tuesday.

Bad luck for me that the outbound Jetstar flight has been cancelled. And they didn't bother to contact me to make alternative arrangements.

When I fronted up to check in I discovered that I had been shifted to a Qantas flight - TWO FRIGGIN HOURS later. How is that going to play out with my Hobart arrangements this evening?

Fortunately I now have an extra couple of hours to post airline and travel stories on my blog.

Excuse me, but I am well known to both Jetstar and Qantas. As I mentioned earlier, I am about to embark on my 17th trip of the year - probably more than 30+ flight legs. What is their excuse for not contacting me?

Over 35 years of flying domestically and internationally with these and other airlines - and all I get today from the Jetstar checkin person is a lecture about how it's my fault that they didn't contact me.

Jetstar and their customer service sucks and Flight Centre needs to work hard to capture any of my future business.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tax and Equity in OZ

Anyone who is even remotely concerned about tax and equity in Australia MUST read this.

Ken Henry is clearly a person who understands the problem and wants to deal with it.

I have been waiting for someone with power to talk about this and set in train a process for change for 30 years - and here he is.

Thank goodness - he is a breath of fresh air.

Lets now just get on with it and build an equitable and fair system.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Advertiser - ho hum

This is what happens when you are running a 20th century monopoly business in a 21st century reality world - and have not prepared yourself, your staff or your customers for change.

Rupert is grappling with this problem on a global scale and "The Advertiser" is feeling the hard edge in downtown Adelaide.

As an aside, the thing that infuriates me about this petty little paper is it's inability to tell the truth - about anything. It's obviously reporting about a parallel universe that is far far away near la la land. But I digress.

Here's the explanation of why they are in this mess and what they should do to fix it.

But they won't because Adelaide is a provincial town - populated by insular people with quaint habits and hyper sensitivities - and some of them work at "The Advertiser".

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Battle of the big ideas

The contest between Labor and Liberal - indeed all political parties should really be a battle of the *big ideas*.

Each party should have a robust "idea generator culture" where elected members and others can contribute and debate the big ideas and then offer the best of them to the electorate at the next election.

These big ideas should reflect the policy positions of the parties with respect to the major issues that influence our lives - indeed all government touchpoints.

But do they?

The last time the Liberals had a *big idea*, they didn't even bother to mention it prior to imposing it on the electorate after the 2004 election - that was WorkChoices. Not so much a big idea as a big cock up.

In contrast, the *reds* seem to generate a lot of big ideas - the most recent is the work that Frank Brennan and others have done with The National Human Rights Consultation Committee.

This is important work and will add enormously to the debate around human rights and how we as a nation should move forward.

But already the usual suspects have started to criticse the report - without offering any constructive alternatives - except the status quo - which seems also to be the *blues* position.

In particular, the Murdoch press apparently think that any ideas that come from the *red* team are bad - while non-ideas from the *blue* team are good. It's all very tiresome.

I would actually like to see (and hear) the *blues* generate some *big ideas* so that we can get to learn what they stand for and what they intend to offer at the next election.

I know the *reds* will be doing it - and hope we can encourage the other teams to generate and publish their *big ideas* too.

Are the *blues* up to it? Do they actually have any *big ideas*? Can they mention them?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Malcolm and the blues

I must confess - as someone who doesn't often vote for the *blues* that I like Malcolm - he is not your typical *blue* MP because he is youngish, smart, capable, successful, intelligent and most of all - he understands (and wants to deal with) the carbon problem.

Now this might mean that he is attractive to a wide range of potential *blue* voters - but apparently he is not at all attractive to existing *blue* voters - duh.

According to "The Australian" today, he is his own worst enemy and his problems with the *blues* are largely of his own making and by the way he should pull his socks up and become well more *blue*.

Excuse me - he is doing the job that I would expect him to do if I were a *blue* supporter. Just because the existing supporters and their cheer squad in the Murdoch press don't think he is dumb enough or compliant enough or subserviant enough doesn't mean that he should actually be any different.

In fact, Malcolm is now in a unique position. If he can push through the current crisis and assert his leadership then it may well be that the *numbnuts* will leave (or at least pull their heads in) and the *blue* team will come back to the centre where they can re-acquire the support of mainstream Australia.

If he manages to do that successfully then Kevin and co will really have a contest on their hands at the 2010 election.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Cap and Trade - is market purity

The really scary thing is that the *blue* team should be falling all over themselves to support a Cap and Trade carbon trading system.

Why? Because of all the alternatives, this is the ultimate free market system - the one that is driven by their private enterprise based ideology and so-called market purity.

The principle is simple:

The cap is set in advance and the government will issue "permits to pollute" to a certain level of emmissions on behalf of the nation. This cap is designed to reduce over time - improving the emission performance of the nation.

As we have already seen there is an enormous amount of lobbying around the detail but eventually Penny and Kevin will get the mix and balance right - and issue the permits. Note to Penny - "Sooner is better".

Those who can't (or won't) change their carbon polluting habits will need to acquire new permits to pollute over time from those who have them - and pay the market price.

The market price is determined by the natural laws of "supply and demand" - so greater demand will naturally mean a higher price. This should be music to the *blues* ears - at least the rational ones.

And this "permit price" will need to be factored in to the cost of the "goods and services" on offer. So over time, the intent is that "carbon polluting products and services" will be more expensive than those that don't produce excessive carbon and therefore don't need to acquire permits.

According to the *blues* ideology - this is precisely how you would design and implement such a system.

But Kevin and Penny can't take all the credit - this is how the existing systems work and how an international system would work.

Carbon - Lets just delay and deny

So with the single exception of Malcolm, the *blue* team started off by denying that there is a carbon problem and that sustained their opposition for a while.

But then it became painfully obvious even to the most one-eyed that there is a major carbon problem and that those in denial are increasingly seen as neanderthals - so they had to change tack.

And so their new approach is to deny that an "Emissions Trading Scheme" based on *Cap and Trade* is the best way to deal with the problem.

This ignores the fact that all existing schemes operate under Cap and Trade and there are compelling reasons why it has been selected.

There are a few schemes in place - the European Union has been operating since 2005 and New Zealand since 2008 while a number of individual States of the United States have schemes going back as far as 2003.

Lots of detail can be found here.

My sense of it is that the *blues* are really about delay - and when they get rolled on Cap and Trade then they will find something else to nit pick about - all designed to delay the introduction of any scheme or take any action.

Because that is really what this is all about - delay and deny as long as possible while their mates in the big polluting businesses continue to get a free ride.

Malcolm is the only one who wants do do something about it and now they want to get rid of him - numbnuts or smart-arses?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Liberal Emissions

What is it with the *blue* team - and carbon emissions?

Just about every one of them speaks against an emission trading scheme and a large number of them actually don't believe that increasing carbon in the atmosphere is a problem - duh.

If you believe George Megalogenis (and i do) then you will understand what went on during the *glorious* Howard years - and this is what they are desperately trying to replicate - unaware that the game has changed.

One of the fantastic revelations George points to today is in Annabel Crabb’s Quarterly Essay on Malcolm Turnbull - is a previously unreported argument in the Liberal partyroom after the 2004 election.

Senator George Brandis, a moderate Queensland Liberal, asked Howard if the government seriously believed its public rhetoric that a hairdressing certificate was as a good as a PhD. As Crabb writes:

Brandis was heckled by some of his colleagues, who jeered that people with degrees weren’t as smart as they thought they were. "He was howled down, of course. It was frightening," recalls one (university-educated) MP who was present. "They were a mob by that stage. You couldn’t get up and say things like that. It was like the French Revolution." Howard himself, recalls another Liberal, made it clear where his sympathies lay. "He just gave out this big laugh, and said: Oh, George. At least you have more chance of making some money with a hairdressing degree."

It's just stunning that an Australian government, including Ministers and a Prime Minister can believe this crap.

It's why the tertiary sector was defunded and why science was treated with suspician by the ruling elite - it was simply a tragedy that will take decades to fix.

And this explains why such a high percentage of the *blues* are in some form of denial around climate change, increasing carbon in the atmosphere and an emissions trading scheme.

They simply don't understand the problem because they don't understand science - and this is a problem that requires a basic understanding of science.

Monday, October 5, 2009

OK - all is revealed

So this new analysis by Possum reveals why the numbnuts are acting like the smart-arsed rabble they really are.

Unimagined and radical polling swings in Mayo, Grey, Boothby and Sturt would leave the Liberals with but one Federal seat in South Australia if an election were held anytime soon.

This would mean the demise of Jamie Briggs (Downer's replacement), Rowan Ramsay (never heard of him - but someone else's replacement), Andrew Southcott and Christoper Pyne (whose wife does most of his campaigning).

No wonder the Libs are alarmed and dangerous. They would be decimated.

I suppose this is why they are all over the shop and trying to play silly buggers with the ETS.

Under this scenario most of them won't be around long enough to have another emission.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Numbnut biscuits

There was a time - aeons ago now - when the Liberals had a smidgeon of credibility and were sometimes seen as a potentialy capable government.

That was when little Johnny was masquerading as leader ;-)

There were some players on the *blue* side of the house who even managed to regularly say a few smart words and demonstrate some level of credibility on a range of important topics.

Not any more - the numbnuts are now in charge at the funny farm.

Poor Malcolm must be cacking himself and wondering if he joined the right party.

Roswell and Wilsdom and Corbardi and the rest of the biscuits in the packet must give him and the smart Liberals nightmares.

If the party is incapable of controlling the dipsticks, the stupids and the opportunists then it has no chance of ever regaining the Treasury benches.

Thank goodness.

Greed is still good then

According to the Productivity Commission there should be no direct interference with the setting of Executive pay - and lots of waffle around some new rules associated with the behaviour of corporations and directors and their boards - and blah blah blah.

You can read the draft report here. But really I wouldn't bother - it's just bureaucratic doublespeak.

The thing that I don't get is why.

Why is it that the administrative and clerical and technical and professional workers - those people who actually make the enterprise work - are constrained by awards and salary caps and limits and restrictions on what they can earn - but executive workers have no such constraints?

Why do employees below a certain class have *rules* associated with how much they can earn - but those above a certain class have no such rules?

Why is it that the *so called* executive class have the ability to take what they want - in terms of remuneration but the rest of us have to accept what is awarded by the industrial relations regime that determines what we can earn?

Why was there such a fuss about WorkChoices?

Why do Australian workers tolerate this inequality?

Why is there no revolution?


Thursday, October 1, 2009

Will Incomes Double?

I suppose that It’s *almost* understandable that our government has continued to prime the real estate market with the "first home sellers grant" - driving prices up while the rest of the world went the other way.

They have had a few crises to deal with over the past two years which have distracted them from relatively *minor* issues like housing bubbles.

But now it appears that real recovery is underway so they will need to do something to stop the bubble inflating further.

As most knowledgeable analysts explain, It is simply not sustainable for house prices to remain where they are today - relative to the income and earning potential of Australians.

There are two options - either incomes will need to double or house prices will need to halve. I doubt that either scenario is possible.

A soft landing will mean that house prices will need to stagnate for a decade or more while incomes increase - to ensure that a more sustainable ratio between the two develops over time. This is the Japanese model as opposed to the US or UK model.

So how will they do it? Well there is only one way and that is to ensure that supply exceeds demand over an extended period - while making sure that the price of money remains at a more *normal* level.

So if the federal government and the RBA and the Treasury are serious about fixing this bubble then they will have to do a lot of work to get some greater level of control over the vested interests - including the state governments, the banks, the real estate industry, the media and the various hangers on who make short term gain at the expense of the rest of us.

Can they do it? I personally don’t think they can - because the electoral cycle isn’t long enough to allow the tough choices that need to be made.

So it does look like the vested interests are safe for the moment - they can keep feeding at the trough and inflating the bubble. When it bursts there will be a lot of sh*t hitting the fan - but hey who cares about tomorrow when we can milch the cow today.