Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Is this really the Deputy Prime Minister?

I just want to share with you this brief extract from AM this morning.

Sabra Lane: Australia's population will reach 25 million tonight. Is it time the government came up with a formal population policy?

Michael McCormack: Well those discussions have taken place too, and I'm just pleased that in the infrastructure space we've got a ten year tax plan as far as rolling out the right taxation ends we have. As I said as infrastructure and transport minister an investment pipeline there for a decade long to help ease the congestion to make sure we build the infrastructure our nation needs both through tax and infrastructure we're making sure that we've got that long term vision over the next decade to make sure that we're well placed to cope with 25 million tonight and who knows how many it will be in ten years time.

Sabra Lane: What number would you be comfortable with.

Michael McCormack: Well that's a difficult question. Australia needs more population. Many of our regions are crying out for more people to fill the jobs to make sure we take advantage of those trade opportunities that the Liberals and Nationals have created.

Apart from the mangled first answer where clearly the DPM got confused once he started talking about ten year plans between tax (irrelevant to the question) and infrastructure.

But here's the real question - how can he be confidant he's got a good ten year infrastructure plan if he thinks that the population number is a matter of "who knows how many." Of course, Peter Costello figured out that we better care about demographics and instituted the Intergenerational Reports.

The first of those reports (2002) forecast total population by 2022 of only 23.2 million, the second (2007) forecast a faster growth rate but still only 23.2 by 2017. Total population is actually 6% higher than forecast though the share of working age people is as forecast at 66% (actually a tiny bit higher than forecast. Without doing a lot of analysis the biggest source of that difference is temporary migration visas.

And just in case the DPM and Infrastructure Minister is wondering the 2015 IGR forecasts population for 2025 of 28 million and 2035 of 32 million - that growth of 0.4 million a year would make the 2028 forecast 29.2 million. We just don't know if he is 'comfortable' with the number since he doesn't seem to know it.

Who in goodness name briefed this man before he went on radio?

Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans JWL

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Further prof that Anthony Abbott is not fit for leadership

Today's Oz carries a story  that a new coalition ginger group calling itself the Monash Forum has been formed to promote government support for a new coal fired power station.

This is simply absurd on so many levels.

Firstly Abbott was Prime Minister when Australia agreed to the Paris Accord to limit global temperature increase to two degrees. There is no escaping that the achievement of that goal requires zero emissions from electricity generation by 2050, especially in advanced economies. 

The emphasis on advanced economies reflects the fact that we are the ones responsible for most of the existing greenhouse emissions - we have a responsibility to get our emissions down faster.

A new coal fired power station would take over three years to build and be expected to have a life of t least fifty years. So a new coal fired power station is incompatible with the accord that Abbott agreed to.  And Barnaby I think was already his Deputy PM by then.

The second is that I don't know where these blokes (only males mentioned in the story) think this plant should be built. But wherever it is it makes interesting calls on transmission planning.

The third is the misuse of Monash's name. He was the first Chairman of the State Electricity Commission of Victoria who implemented the plan to use Victorian brown coal. But he wasn't an instigator.

He is most notable for his 1924 Presidential address to the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science in which he extolled the benefits of 'linking up the system.' At that stage it was the linking up of just Victoria but his speech referred to a continental ambition. That continental ambition in 1998 became the National Electricity Market.

A key motivator for the NEM development was to provide the opportunity for private sector investment in generation. That was further supported by the sale of most of the government owned generators.  Despite opinions to the contrary that system is working, though currently at much tighter margins between capacity and peak demand. 

The fourth is that this is all about base politics and not about policy. 

The Oz story reports One member of the new group said: “Some of us see ­energy as being the only ticket to ride in the next election and the NEG is clearly not going to cut it for us.”

But fear of electoral defeat is not the only politics being played here (and it is certainly unclear that backing coal is an electoral winner). This is about the Liberal Party leadership - nothing more nothing less.

The fact that it is the Oz and News Corpse (as Mike Carlton calls it) tabloids running with the story tells you all you need to know. 

Meanwhile the SMH had a great little piece about how politics is changing. Voters descriptions of themselves show the proportion on the right hasn't changed, while the proportion in the centre has contracted with a real growth in the left.

This, not Turnbull, is the existential threat the right needs to deal with. 

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Let's go down to the shore in boats

Twitter was ablaze with #yachtbanter today when for the second year in a row CEOs were stupid enough to (a) participate in KPMG's boat race and (b) to go on the record at said event about what troubles them in 2018.

To get us in the picture the AFR happily reported:

It was a postcard perfect day at the Sorrento Yacht Club for the 20th Annual Couta Boat Classic in Victoria. A morning shower briefly threatened festivities for Australia's captains of industry but swiftly disappeared like so many bottles of Bouchard Aine and Fils Rose at the race's conclusion.  

Not content with sharing with all of Australia this picture of largess hosted by one of the 'big four accounting firms' (yes one of those making all the money from the outsourcing of Government policy work) the CEO's titilated us with details of their concerns for 2018. The AFR told us:

Australia's top business leaders have nominated the destructive impact of rising costs on stretched household budgets as one of their key concerns for this year. 

Chairmen and chief executives have singled out spiralling energy costs for consumers and business and the impact it threatens to create for the economy as a "must-watch" issue.

One captain of industry decided he should do some serious sucking up to the Prime Minister by blaming it all on State Governments (at least I assume that is the reason for his statement, because as the ACCC price inquiry has shown it has nothing to do with state policies).

Of course, concern for stretched households can only go so far. We were also told:

Rising costs in the form of looming wages growth and the numbers of full-time employees were also front of mind for the banking, hospitality and entertainment sectors.

And there you have it - the sheer idiocy of CEOs informed by a leading accounting firm who can't figure out that the households with 'stretched budgets' are the same things as the workers for whom there might at last be 'wages growth.'

Yes it has been fair enough to pizzle these execs for pontificating from their pontoons. But we miss the real detail - they are all fundamentally idiots who shouldn't be trusted with a couple of bucks to buy an ice cream let alone running major corporations.

Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans JWL

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Never accuse Tony Abbott of being quick on the uptake

So The Oz reports this morning that Tony Abbott has 'slammed the government’s in-­principle support for including international carbon credits in Australia’s energy policy.'

We are told that Minister Frydenberg announced the new stance when 'releasing the final report of his 2017 review of climate change policies on ­December 19.'

The same story tells us 'In recent days, the Prime ­Minister has hailed his government’s national energy guarantee as a “real breakthrough” and key achievement in 2017' and that the government won support for the guarantee in the Coalition partyroom.

It all gets very confusing because he advice from the Energy Security Board that constituted what was agreed by the partyroom clearly said 'Australian carbon credit units (ACCUs) and international units could be permitted to meet a proportion of the retailer’s guarantee.'  The conditional 'could' here refers to the hypothetical state of the guarantee being implemented, not something subject to another decision.

The biggest issue of course is that the prospect of trading in carbon credits flows two ways. The way we are heading it is more likely that Australian businesses would be sellers of carbon credits, not buyers.

But never allow logic or economics to get in the road of Our Tone's ability to try to turn something into a slogan. The Oz quotes him saying 'I don’t support carbon trading, which is a carbon tax under a different name.' 

Redfern - how bad can the NSW government get?

The single word 'Redfern' has recently been most evocative of the song in Keating the Musical (here at 14:44) which itself derives from PJK's great speech in which he observed:
 It might help us if we non-Aboriginal Australians imagined ourselves dispossessed of land we had lived on for fifty thousand years - and then imagined ourselves told that it had never been ours.

But today just over 25 years later 'Redfern' is now evocative of the absolute mess that the Liberal Government (in the thrall of every developer led proposal and desire to sell its own assets) is making of Sydney.

Redfern is known to most Sydney-siders as 'that stop before Central' as most train lines pass through it. Otherwise it was renowned as a working class suburb that housed the home ground of South Sydney.

At its Southern end on both sides of the tracks lies the Everleigh Railway yards the Eastern portion of which was re-purposed as the Australian Technology Park in 1995.

In 2015 the NSW Government's own property development arm UrbanGrowth NSW sold the site to the Commonwealth Bank for $263 million.  After years of decentralising its workforce to Parramatta, Sydney Olympic Park and Lidcombe the bank had had enough of waiting for the promised transport infrastructure.

Over more recent decades as the University of Sydney has expanded into Darlington, Redfern station has become the favoured transport hub for many students. During term an almost continuous swarm of students four abreast stretches from the station in to the campus.

But the NSW Government like all its predecessors has meanwhile done nothing to increase the capacity of the train network. Current transport plans dominated by light rail and the metro whittle away at the network but still it is the trains that carry the heavy load.

The original plan for a Chatswood-Parramatta train line was to alleviate some of the train volume on the main Western line. But that plan was long ago abandoned as NSW Treasury viewed the new line as nothing more than an opportunity to rip apart the engineering culture and industrial relations nightmare of our trains.

As part of the latest attempt to squeeze more capacity out of the infrastructure, the latest timetable has some interurban trains bypassing Redfern.

Sydney University Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence said the decision for trains on the line to bypass Redfern in favour of Central Station had "added greatly to the university's already significant public transport pressures."

But the latest people to discover the problems of Redfern Station are Mirvac who is developing the ATP site for the Commonwealth Bank. With 10,000 bank employees expected to use Redfern or transport more focus is turning on Redfern.

A spokeswoman for the bank, meanwhile, said it had been "working with Mirvac and relevant government agencies to explore how accessibility to the site, and known issues with Redfern Station, can be improved for our people and the community prior to our move". 

 A Mirvac spokeswoman said: "Mirvac is aware of accessibility issues at Redfern Station and is in constant dialogue with a number of parties, including the state government and its agencies, on how to improve the access at the station."

It is a fascinating tale. UrbanGrowth NSW has enticed the bank out of Western Sydney. The bank is moving because the promised transport in Western Sydney wasn't delivered. Even before the development at ATP is complete, the pressure of bringing more and more people to the CBD and surrounds means service to Redfern has been reduced! Now the bank and its developer realise Redfern station can't cope with the extra passengers they hope will be delivered on non-existant trains.

You couldn't make this stuff up!