ARCHIVES 1997-2007  --- ARCHIVES 2007 +

AUGUST  2010.


I have problems with the opinions of journalist/entertainers at both ends of the political spectrum.  I have similar problems deciding on any politician to elect because they all seem to take extreme positions.  And extremes isn't the way I see things.

Lets start with the environment.  Pumping pollution into the atmosphere is something that nearly everyone agrees is bad.  Pollution includes particulate matter, fluorocarbons, and mostly anything in quantities greater than that which started there.

I agree that Carbon Dioxide and others carbon gases might be "greenhouse gasses" but see no great urgency to reducing gases that are not shown to be physically unhealthy.  Nobody has actually quantified in a systematic and believable way the damage that global warming might do, beyond a few melting glaciers, a few centimeters of sea level rise.  These events might lead to lowlands flooding, and some changed weather patterns.  On the other hand, carbon dioxide acts like a fertilizer and promotes plant growth, and while the rainfall in some regions might diminish, it is also likely that it will increase in other regions.  I predicted all of these effects in 2005. 

So I would approve a GST type carbon dioxide tax of about $5 per tonne in the interests of efficient resource use.  It is quite obvious that high values of carbon tax will lead to starvation of the world's poorest people, which is something I would prefer not to have on my conscience.

Not only that, but high carbon taxes will not noticeably shorten the time that it would take to introduce alternative technologies.  New technologies employing direct conversion are inevitable within a couple of decades and will be cheaper and cleaner and more convenient than carbon technologies.  They will also be cheaper than wind or wave power.  It is not even a good idea to attempt to subsidize the development of those technologies.  The scientists and engineers that will develop them are already employed to that task, and spending billions of dollars will make virtually no difference to their discoveries.

Then there is work choices.  I do not have much time for unions.  I belonged to one for 20 years, and was required to pay about $500 p.a. for the privilege.  Then on the one occasion when I called out for help, they abandoned me.  The fact that I won the dispute with my employer on my own accord made me even more bitter.

I argued last month that work choices did not sink the Howard government, that in fact it was actually of great benefit to both Australian workers and small business (and correspondingly very bad for union bosses and big business).  So I am unhappy that Tony Abbott has said that he will not make any (or only a few) changes to employment legislation.  I just hope that the Labour party advertising is accurate, and that we ".. can't trust Tony Abbott not to bring back Work Choices".

Then there is the mining tax.  I think that the mining tax as Rudd proposed was a really really good idea.  Maybe it needed a bit of fine tuning.  But Gillard gutted it, then Abbott killed it.  Both are going too far.  Bob Brown of the Greens has got that one right.

Taxing mining projects will not stop them, the idea is laughable.  Saudi Arabia put a huge tax on it's very cheap to extract oil.  Did anybody stop digging more oil wells there?  In some locations around the world, the iron ore is high quality and cheap to refine, and close to the surface, suitable for "open cut" mining.  The actual cost (in labour and energy and interest on capital employed) of mining and refining from those mines could be as low as $25/tonne.  In other locations on the planet, those costs could be as high as $150/tonne.  So who should get that $125/tonne profit?  The international mining companies believe that the holders of the mining lease should get the lot.  Bob Brown, Kevin Rudd and I believe that the people of Australia should get a significant share.

The threat that it won't get mined if we tax it is like the economists joke.  Somebody walking along a footpath with an economist said "hey look, there is a $100 note on the footpath".  The economist kept walking and ignored it.  The friend said "why didn't you pick it up?".  The economist said "It wasn't there, because if it was there somebody else would have already picked it up."  Same goes for unmined iron ore.  If the big mining companies won't mine it, somebody else will.

Then there is financial irresponsibility.  The jury is still out on whether Australia really needed a supply side financial stimulus to avert a local GFC.  However Rudd and Gillard should not have wasted money and lives on projects like the $43B NBN the $16B BER and the $4B batts programs.

For the BER it is fairly obvious that the rorting happened at the state level.  From the costs per square meter data there is a strong case that WA did not rort the system, but NSW and the other states did.  However that excess profit money went to building company mates of Labour mates in government.   There is then a suspicion that and if the builders were corruptly overpaid then they might have got a party quid donation for their pro, and that is hardly Julia's fault?  In my book it is.  The Federal Government should have retained oversight of the BER.  And if the reports in the papers are accurate, the Federal machine seems to be indirectly getting a few of those quids too.

In summary.  My own take is that we would have avoided the GFC because we had "work choices" in place.  This gave us a flexible economy. so hours worked would have shrunk, but no massive unemployment would have eventuated.  I also think that our accumulated pile of cash should have been used to make social security more generous.  People who went onto reduced hours as a result of the GFC would then have had support.

Our labour government spent down around $200 billion in the last 2 years.  That amount of money would give $40,000 to each of 5 million people, or $20,000 per annum for two years to each of 2,500,000 people.  I believe that we could have avoided the GFC by just making generous "make up" grants to people who were forced onto shorter hours.  That would have ended up a lot cheaper, and wouldn't have given windfall profits to all those builders.  And because it was cheaper, we would not now have a $100B debt.


My local member is Malcolm Turnbull.  I volunteered to assist his campaign, and was offered a job handing out leaflets.  The second and third times that I turned up, there was no team leader.  I complained the first time.

I suppose that I am the image antithesis of Malcolm.  I have quite long unkempt hair, only ever wear sandals and jeans and designer shirts - (see front page).  So perhaps this was just a nice way of terminating an embarrassing image problem.


Since about age 10 I am not a gambling man.  I remember the Sunday school event that cause that aversion.  There was a toy that had horses, when the operator wound a crank, the horses (supposedly randomly) came to the finishing line.  After observing that on about four sequential occasions number eight won, I ventured my sixpenny piece and was rewarded with a four shilling prize.  I again ventured a sixpenny piece, and again won four shillings.  Then the owner of the toy turned up, and "fixed" the toy, and I lost about two shillings of my gains.  My second event was to walk into my new club with about five shilling coins, and to place them in five poker machines so that the first had not stopped spinning before I played the last.  Much to my astonishment, they all paid off.  I have played pokies on about five occasions since, but never won.

However I attended a betfair training scheme and was given $50 to open my account.  Followers of this blog will know that I predicted a coalition win last February.  So I cautiously bet $25 on a coalition win and $12.50 on a labour loss, at odds of 2/1 (or as they say nowadays, 3.)  I haven't won yet, but the odds are a lot shorter.

Malcolm got elected without further help from me.  He is expected to obtain a cabinet position.  After his call (after the GFC struck, before Rudd offered $100,000,000 or whatever) for a $100,000 guarantee on deposit accounts, he has my vote as the best treasurer available in Australia.  He would also be very good as telecom minister, but better as treasurer.

The rank and file in the ALP seem to be realizing that they were dudded when they dropped Rudd.  Comes of their attitude "Whatever it Takes".  Some opinions are that Rudd will be back as leader if (When:) the Coalition is declared government.  I think they are right.   And hey, Julia, Simon managed after being dumped.  However I have more sympathy for Latham, who was a clever boy, not in the same class as Hawke, just behind Rudd, but ahead of everyone else.

Abbott's great strength is that it is so easy to underestimate him.  I hear that in the US he is compared to Reagan, (who has assumed the mantle of a near God, despite the earnest efforts of Australian journalists to portray him as retarded.)   I suspect that they might be spot on.  Reagan's greatness was his ability to find the right advisers and delegate his powers to the best man.  I think Tony might have that same ability.


The ATO (Australian Tax Office) has alleged for some time (more than five years?) that "Crocodile Dundee" star Paul Hogan owes the Tax office several tens of millions of dollars.  The ATO has placed a "stop overseas travel" order on Australian star Paul Hogan preventing him from traveling back to his family in LA.

I think that is a misuse of the powers that have been granted to ATO.  Stopping travel does not actually stop transfer of assets, and there has been no move (despite warnings) by ATO over the last few years to begin proceedings.  A lawyer's preferred legal position is to have the opposition begin litigation.  This appears to be an attempt by the ATO to provoke litigation by Hogan to remove the travel ban.

I do not know whether restriction exists in the taxation legislation, but would suggest to our legislators that the power to stop travel should only be for emergency use, when there is a real fear that an alleged miscreant is about to permanently depart our shores.  I believe that they should be required to supply within one week at least some documentation of the claim.  I would also like to suggest that any such order should only be for a fixed period (say six months) after which the order against travel should lapse unless the ATO has begun court proceedings to recover their money.


I might deal with movies at another time.  I note that the "Star Wars" movies introduced a Taoist view of the universe, which (like the economic society behind "Starship Enterprise") was well hidden.

Some people do not read fiction.  In defense, I believe that reading fiction is exercise for the imagination.  It is a "Hot" medium, as explained by Marshal McLuhan.

Good fiction is informative.  It will widen the readers vocabulary and teach.  It might teach something simple, like advising that Salt Lake City was settled by Mormons, or something quite complex, like explaining how a Bussard Ramjet functions.

Good fiction can provide models for behaviour.  The reader might identify worthwhile elements in one of the characters portrayed, and can learn new and hopefully positive character traits.  As instances, some novels teach the code of honour whereby a person's word was held to be more important than his life.  Some show us life from another's point of view, like Tom Sawyer & Huckleberry Finn.  Others provide an action hero like author Lee Child's "Jack Reacher" whom we might admire or wish to emulate.

In my opinion the ultimate fiction read is speculative.  It postulates possible social and technological structures that might arise and speculates how humans might behave in those circumstances.  One well known example is "Brave New World" by A. Huxley, which explored the likely impact on society of the introduction of a scientific advance that permitted a factory production line of human babies.

Isaac Asimov explored a society that coexisted with intelligent robots.  Iain Banks "Culture" books extend that speculation to coexistence with superintelligent robots.   

In my opinion the elite ultimate of humanity are those who are responsible for the technology that produces our cultural advances.  The elite ultimate is not the elite politicians or artists or communicators who shape our lives with words and images and concepts.  Not the elite leaders of education or industry who shape our lives with material welfare.  Not the elite captains who shape our lives with force and service.  Without the elite ultimate we would still be communicating with grunts, eating our meat raw and hunting with stones.

Our elite ultimate are invisible.   Their working substance in this era is bits and memes.

Some theorists speculate that there will be a discontinuity in the rate of human advances around 2021.

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