Monday, February 22, 2016
Bureaucracy and canned tomatoes
I initially thought this story was too trivial to be worth mentioning but it is such an hilarious example of bureaucracy in action that I thought I should mention it after all.
I first noticed the story because I do buy canned tomatoes. I tip a can of them into my crockpot as the first step towards making a curry. And I had noticed the odd price disparity between different brands. The "Home" brand I buy from Woolworths costs me only 59c whereas other brands cost as much as $1.40 per can. And the 59c cans come all the way from Italy -- something I have mentioned before.
And the first sentence from the Fairfax news report below is misleading (Fairfax misleading?). The bureaucracy has indeed laboured mightily but the assertion that "The days of cheap tinned tomatoes are over" is nonsense. The duties recently imposed range between 4% and 8% and they will be levied on the wholesale price. So say Woolworths buy my 59c can for 50c (it's probably less). So Woolworths will now have to pay how much extra to put that can on their shelves? 4c. So now I will have to pay about 65c for my tomatoes. Why bother? A 65c can of Italian tomatoes is still going to be hugely competitive with a $1.40 can of Australian-grown tomatoes. I can't see the price rise influencing any purchasing decisions at all.
So how come the bureaucracy has laboured and brought forth a nullity? Because it is a rule-following organism. The duty imposed was a dumping duty -- meaning the Italians sell their product for export at a lower prices than they charge local Italian shopkeepers. They do it because they still have some profit at the lower price and some profit is better than none. It keeps their volumes and market share up.
And dumping duty is calculated according to strict rules. You subtract the price to Australia from the price to Italy and express it as a percentage. You then add that percentage to the Australian price in the form of an import duty. So, as it happened, the Italian canners were selling us their tomatoes only a touch more cheaply than they charge Italian customers. The export discount was minor so the dumping duty was minor. A bureaucrat with a brain would have said "This is not worth bothering about". But a bureaucrat is not paid to think. He is paid to follow rules. And our lot did exactly that.
But that is not the only absurdity. The big market for tomatoes is for fresh tomatoes. As little as 2% of Australian-grown tomatoes end up in cans. So if Italian canned tomatoes took over completely, it would make no important difference to Australian tomato farming. The growers would continue growing as before. The main existing canners are owned by Coca Cola so sympathy for them is probably not large -- and they can lots of other fruit so their production lines would not be likely to lie idle.
So we see yet again why conservatives dislike bureaucracy and why Leftists love it. Leftists hate the society they live in so much that imposing anything inefficient, costly and wasteful on their society seems great to them.
And it is bureaucracy that created the problem in the first place -- the EU bureaucracy. EU farmers -- particularly French ones -- are prone to huge tantrums if they are not making enough money. They blockade things, burn things and generally create havoc. So to placate them, the EU bureaucracy pays them big subsidies. That 50c can of tomatoes probably cost $1 to produce -- with the EU taxpayer supplying the other 50c
Ain't government wonderful?
The days of cheap tinned tomatoes are over, with the federal government backing a decision to slap anti-dumping measures on two Italian giants that account for half of imported tinned tomatoes in Australia.
The Anti-Dumping Commission found exporters La Doria and Feger di Gerardo Ferraioli guilty of dumping - selling product for less than they sell for in their own country - and causing "material damage" to the local industry.
Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said the government would impose dumping duties on the two players: 8.4 per cent to Feger tomato products and 4.5 per cent to La Doria imports.
"This ruling will ensure that Australia's only canned tomato producer, SPC Ardmona, can now compete equally in Australian stores and supermarkets," he said.
The decision means all 105 canned tomato exporters from Italy will now be affected by dumping duties. An earlier ruling saw Feger and La Doria escape penalty for dumping.
With the price of a 400 gram tin of Italian tomatoes as low as 60 cents on shelves, consumers should expect overall prices to rise. A similar SPC tin is $1.40.
But Coca-Cola Amatil-owned SPC, which has suffered a loss of 40 per cent of volume and reduced profitability during its fight, urged consumers to consider "the quality, value, ethics and food miles" of Australian-grown products.
"This is a win for SPC and our growers, and for Australian industry, which faces daily pressure to compete with cheap imports and those cutting corners and putting slavery in a can," said SPC's managing director Reg Weine.
Mr Weine's "slavery in a can" remark refers to claims that Italian growers use poorly paid illegal immigrants from Muslim lands to do much of their harvesting. They probably do. Americans would understand
Cardinal George Pell strolls around the Vatican with a friend after denying child sex abuse claims - but is 'too ill' to fly to Australia to answer questions
So there's no difference between a stroll in the morning sunshine and an airline trip from Europe to Australia? That is what the writer below seems to believe. It's just yellow journalism.
I know nothing of his health but His Eminence is two years older than I am and I no longer fly -- so I can well imagine that he has real health reasons for his wish to be interviewed by video only
And that he may have other reasons for that I do not dismiss. As a strong and prominent conservative -- he even mocks global warming -- he has been much hated by the Australian Left for some years, and he might well fear that evidence presented in an Australian courtroom might be fabricated to incriminate him. That would be harder in the Vatican.
False sexual abuse claims have produced huge uproar in Britain recently -- to the great detriment of many innocent men. London's top cop has recently apologized for one such case. I have no doubt that His Eminence would be aware of those cases
As police consider travelling to Rome to question Cardinal George Pell over child sex abuse allegations, Australia's top Catholic has been seen strolling along the streets in the early spring sunshine.
Cardinal Pell, 74, dropped into his local café with a friend on Saturday afternoon, the day after explosive revelations that he is the subject of a year-long investigation by Victoria Police for the alleged sexual abuse of up to ten minors from 1978 to 2001.
Just a stone’s throw from St Peter’s Basilica, the Pope's special Jubilee Saturday Mass could be heard from Cardinal Pell’s luxurious apartment block.
Set aside for the Pope’s inner circle, Cardinal Pell's apartment sits on a piazza lined with cafés, souvenir shops and heavy security – Italian police armed with pistols and soldiers with assault rifles patrol the block and intermingle with tourists, padres and nuns alike.
Cardinal Pell’s offices, where he works as a top aid to Pope Frances as Secretariat for the economy reforming The Vatican’s finances, are just a short walk around the corner – and are under 24-hour guard by the city state’s Swiss Armed Guards.
It was revealed last year that the Cardinal spent $5100-a-month on rent for an office and apartment, including $87,000 on new furniture, in a leak to Italy’s L’Espresso newspaper.
But while The Vatican expenses scandal is still the talk of the town in Rome, Cardinal Pell has more explosive allegations made against him back in Australia.
Police want to fly to Vatican City to interview Cardinal George Pell who allegedly sexually abused up to 10 minors between 1978 and 2001, it has been reported.
Ballarat Survivors Group and Care Leavers Australasis Network are also calling for police to take their allegations to Pell.
The Cardinal was seen briskly striding from his offices to his apartment with a small suitcase in tow just hours after the Herald Sun reported the leak on Friday.
However Cardinal Pell vehemently denies the allegations.
A two-page medical report was handed up to support the application that a flight to Australia from Rome, where Cardinal Pell oversees the Vatican's finances, could pose a serious risk to his health.
The details of his health condition have not been released.
Sexy conservative woman hated by feminists
Tamara has been involved in conservative politics in Australia for some time and has recently been active in U.S. politics too
A young woman who has been shamed online as a 'tax-payer funded call girl' has hit back at social media bullies by arguing not all women in politics need to fit into the 'pearl necklace and royal blue' stereotype.
PHD student, proud Liberal Party supporter and part-time model, Tamara 'Tammy' Candy, 27, from Sydney says her bullies will soon be able to call her 'Dr Candy' The Daily Telegraph reported.
'A lot of young women in politics think they need to emulate that stereotype to prove they are legitimate but I've always marched to the beat of my own drum'.
She says she isn't the typical 'pearl wearing' Liberal. 'I'm a true libertarian. We can't all be private school-educated Liberals,' she said.
The young woman who calls her self a 'righty' has shared 'selfies' on Instagram featuring ex-Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Liberal MP Campbell Newman and 'shock-jock' Alan Jones - alongside revealing bikini shots.
Ms Candy has many revealing photographs on social media, including pictures of herself in revealing outfits at political functions.
She says she was speaking with disgraced MP Craig Thompson at an event one night when she was allegedly accused of 'wearing hooker boots' and once again, being a 'call girl' by a female Labor staffer.
She has recently been on the campaign trail in America
'It's really sexist stuff. These are people who are supposed to be pro-women from the Left,' she said.
Ms Candy is currently studying for her PHD at the Australia and New Zealand School of Government.
She has recently been working on Paul Rand's campaign trail in the United States, posting photos of her travels on Facebook.
'I would like to thank Senator Rand Paul for fighting the good fight. It was an honour to campaign for him and to make some new friends from his incredible team,' she posted as her work with the Republican's party finished.
During the campaign the young woman was photographed posing with a sign which read 'Obama the worst ever'.
Berlin shows the advantage of a libertarian approach to alcohol consumption
The NSW government has attempted to reduce late-night violence and disorder in parts of Sydney by enforcing early closing of bars and nightclubs. The measure is very unpopular with the denizens concerned. We see another way below
IT’S fair to say that Berlin is a city that likes a drink. People wander the streets with a beer in hand day and night, clubs don’t shut from Friday night to Monday morning and fast food shops have a range of brews that would put some Australian bottle shops to shame.
So if there is a link between heavy alcohol consumption and violence, as the NSW Government seems to argue, you’d be entitled to think that this place should be in big trouble.
But it’s really not. And that can mainly be attributed to the difference in how people drink here.
I moved to Berlin from Sydney just under a year ago and noticed it after just a couple of nights. Here, you don’t tend to see the obnoxious binge drinking behaviour that you do from time to time in areas of Sydney — there’s no trays of shots, no loud, public sculling of beers and no vomiting in the street.
Because this is the prevailing culture in Berlin venues, it has become largely self-policing.
There’s no need for bouncers in bars or uniformed police on the streets in most areas of the city because people are trusted to behave. And they generally respond positively to that trust.
Everything starts a little later here too. Most bars don’t really come to life until about 10pm and most won’t close until the last punter has finished their drink. Even then you can buy whatever you fancy from the hundreds of Spätkauf (convenience stores) that line the streets, 24 hours a day.
This all combines to give the sense that people are not rushing to drink as much as they can before last orders, so there’s rarely any hassles getting to the bar and no cramming in drinks, while 24 hour weekend trains make it easy to get home.
It all makes for a much more relaxed atmosphere and, as a result, it’s not at all unusual to strike up a long conversation with a stranger. I’ve yet to see any of these conversations turn sour.
And it’s not just me. Almost everyone you talk to here says they’ve seen little or no evidence of violence on a night out — they feel safe.
Maggie Tang, who moved to the city from Sydney three years ago, is one such example. She believes Sydney could pick up a few tips from her adopted home.
“The major difference is the attitude of trust and freedom towards drinking in Berlin compared to Sydney,” she said.
“Although Berlin is more carefree, it never feels out of control. I think it might have something to do with the legal drinking age (16 in Germany), the openness towards licensing and trading hours and access to transport. Also the binge drinking culture — there is definitely far, far less of that in Berlin.”
Sydney’s lockout laws have become big international news of late and most of the Berliners I’ve spoken to find the restrictions utterly baffling. Franziska Dittrich, who was born in the German capital, described Sydney’s approach as “absolutely ridiculous” and said education was vital.
“Drinking is part of everyday life, but people usually don’t drink as much to get drunk,” she said. “It is much more important to teach people how to drink, like in schools. Show them the danger of it, rather than demonising it.”
She added that Berliners tend to be a little stubborn and that any attempt to change their drinking culture to a more controlled one would be rejected.
“If they tried to introduce something like those laws here, people would ignore it or find a way around it” she said. “For example the smoking ban didn’t work at all in Berlin.”
It seems that the authorities are happy with the situation as it is too. Berlin’s police force don’t even record whether alcohol is a factor in violent crimes
So could the Berlin approach work in Sydney or do Sydney drinkers need tighter legislation because it’s intrinsically a more violent and less safe city?
Numbeo, a website which provides extensive data on cities based on a peer review system doesn’t think Sydney is much more dangerous than Berlin at all. It puts Berlin’s overall ‘Safety Scale’ score (the closer to 100 the better) at 58.86 and Sydney’s at 58.26.
Really, the thing that seems to be stopping Sydney from following Berlin’s lead (aside from the laws) is the attitude of those few who are violent, or who become so when drunk. It’s an element of Australia’s drinking culture that’s proven tricky to change.
When it comes down to it, the main difference between the two is trust. Berlin trusts its citizens to look after themselves and others — and people respond well to it. The question is whether Sydney can do the same — and how its citizens will respond.
Global satellite map highlights sensitivity of Australia's plants to changes in rainfall and temperature
The report below is about warm dry conditions in Australia and the effect of that on plant life in Australia. Warm dry conditions are normal for most of Australia so any attribution of such effects to global warming is just empty assertion
A point not drawn out below is that the adaptation to warm dry conditions shown by Australian plant life might make them particularly resilient to effects of global warming, if we ever have any
The plant life of Australia's outback may have "given up", according to satellite-based maps tracking the impact of changing climatic conditions, such as rainfall and temperature, on the world's ecosystems.
The study suggests the vegetation of our interior does not respond to sudden increases in rainfall because it has "learned" that drought will soon follow.
It also indicates the Murray-Darling Basin is one of the world's most ecologically sensitive zones, and highlights the fact that Australian flora is most sensitive to changes in water availability.
The maps are part of a study, published today in the journal Nature, that analyses 14 years of satellite data measuring the key climate variables of air temperature, water availability and cloud cover.
The researchers, from Norway and the UK, have developed a new measure, known as the vegetation sensitivity index, which compares on a global scale the productivity of vegetation under changing climate.
How ecosystems will adapt to climate change into the future is based on their responses to many of these climate variables.
Through this modelling the team was able to pinpoint regions across the globe that are showing an "amplified" response to climate variation and may be at risk of collapse.
The eastern region of Australia is included in this category along with the Arctic Tundra, the wet tropical forests of South America, western Africa, south-east Asia and New Guinea, the world's alpine regions, Brazil's Caatinga biome and the steppe and prairie regions of central Asia and the Americas.
Professor Angela Moles, of the Evolution and Ecology Research Centre at the University of New South Wales, said the study was unique because it gave a deeper insight into the impact of extreme events on ecosystems.
"Most research on the effect of climate change has focused on changes in mean temperature or mean rainfall," said Professor Moles, who was not involved in the study. "However, climate models predict that climate extremes are going to change far more dramatically than are climate means.
For some reason the vegetation is not responding to the variability in the climate that we are experiencing. Large portions of plants in the interior don't seem to do anything."
Professor Alfredo Huete, from the Plant Functional Biology and Climate Change Cluster at the University of Technology, Sydney, agreed. "[With this study] we are getting a lot closer to what the plant actually experiences," he said. "You can have all of your rainfall in one week and the statistics will show it was a good year. But it can just take one month of no rain and that might be what drives a plant to the edge."
Professor Moles said the paper also gave insights into which aspects of climate were the most important in shaping different vegetation types around the world. "For instance, the study confirms that most of Australia is most sensitive to variability in water, rather than to temperature, which highlights the importance of thinking of the problem we face as climate change, rather than global warming," she said.
Professor Moles said it was also interesting that while there were areas of very high climate sensitivity in the east of Australia, the study showed our inland ecosystems were among the world's least sensitive to climate variability, particularly in terms of rainfall.
Professor Huete said the researchers suggested this constant level of low productivity was the result of "memory". "Sometimes when you subject an ecosystem to some kind of disturbance, such as a drought or fire, they behave differently depending on their past," he explained.
The study indicated significant areas of the Australian interior seemed to be having strong memory effects, said Professor Huete, who wrote an opinion piece for Nature to accompany the new study. "For some reason the vegetation is not responding to the variability in the climate that we are experiencing. Large portions of plants in the interior don't seem to do anything," he said.
Professor Huete said it was possible plants in the Australian outback had "given up". "They don't care if it is good favourable conditions now, because they know it is temporary and it is not worth investing in growing more at this time because they become bigger and it is a lot more to care of when the drought returns," he said.
He said the maps were a useful tool in better understanding how ecosystems were reacting to climate change, but there was still a long way to go before scientists would be able to predict "when a forest is going to experience mortality".
"The satellite is taking pictures of what has happened on the ground. They can tell you there is something going on, but rarely can the satellite pictures tell you what is happening or why," he said.
Professor Moles said while large-scale remote-sensing studies could provide high-quality quantitative information on large-scale processes, it could never replace on-ground research.
"For instance, remote sensing will never be a good way to survey rare and threatened species, such as little orchids," he said.
A good comment
I doubt that any reader of this site has any idea that I have a younger brother who is at least as conservative as I am. He doesn't blog but he does occasionally post on Facebook. I think his comment below deserves a wider audience
There is a fierce debate going on over marriage equality in response to an article by Fr Frank Brennnan on the Guardian web site. There are over 500 comments, over 90% supportive of marriage equality, but highly critical of the plebiscite. This is to be expected of a very Leftist publication and its supporters.
I don't really care one way or the other, but support the plebiscite. However I enjoy pointing out Leftist inconsistencies and posted up the following comment.
"I am very concerned about the feelings of our Muslim brothers. After all they believe homosexuality is a mortal sin, and certainly don't believe in same sex marriage. I'm sure they will be very offended, so doesn't that make marriage equality illegal under section 18C of the Anti- discrimination act!?"
It lasted an hour or so and elicited a couple of responses before the moderators took it down as being inconsistent with community values! LOL. So the Guardian really has no time for debate and free speech, only the pursuit of leftist agendas