Sunday, February 19, 2017


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG likes President Trump

Australia's new political divide: 'globalists' versus 'patriots'

There is often talk that the old Left/Right divide is inadequate.  Eysenck made a big deal of that in his 1954 book. And libertarians too think a two dimensional description is needed.  A fairly typical example is below:

So the claims below are not very new.

I paid considerable attention to the matter in my research career, as you will see here but my conclusion was that a second dimension of attitudes did not emerge from the survey results.  Only the old Left/Right division could be found.

An important qualification to that is that OBLIQUE factors could be found.  In other words, the Left/Right domain was not totally homogeneous.  For example, there is a dimension of economic conservatism plus a dimension of moral conservatism.  Statements within those two domains correlate highly with one another but the correlation between moral conservatism overall and economic conservatism overall was weak:  Weak but not non-existent. 

In other words, economic conservatives also tended -- somewhat -- to be conservative on moral issues.  And those two dimensions are the chief sub-dimensions of the Left/Right continuum.  They emerge repeatedly in survey research.  Despite some wrangling, economic and moral conservatives do find common cause in everyday politics.  They have enough in common to co-operate with one-another.

So what are we to make of the findings below?  Clearly, they have identified two distinct factors.  But how oblique are those factors?  We are not told.  I am almost certain that the two factors will in fact be very oblique, very highly correlated.  Patriotism is normally a strong component of conservatism and internationalism is normally a Leftist ideal. Leftists continue to salute the United Nations despite the gross corruption in that body.

So all that I think the authors below have done is rediscover the old Left/Right divide. They have identified a group of statements that conservatives strongly agree with -- patriotic statements -- and a group of statements that get strong support from Leftists -- globalism.  Two particular subsets of Left/Right attitudes have come under sharper focus and gained greater importance recently

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose

Openness. That is the word Reserve Bank governor Philip Lowe chose to emphasise at his first public outing this year.

In Australia there is an "openness and transparency" not always found elsewhere, he told a high-powered business gathering at the Opera House on Thursday night.

And openness to trade and investment has been fundamental to the nation's prosperity.  Australia is "committed to an open international order," Lowe said.

Those sentiments might have seemed routine a few years back. But in the wake of Brexit and the election of Donald Trump "openness" to the world economy – often referred to  as globalisation – is now a hotly contested political issue.

A little over a year ago Marine Le Pen, the leader of France's far-right Front National party and a presidential contender, cast political battlelines as being no longer "between the left and the right but the globalists and the patriots". The globalists, she sneered, are for the dissolution of France into a "global magma".

Greg Ip, a Wall Street Journal economics commentator, wrote last month that Le Pen's remarks foreshadowed "the tectonic forces that would shake up the world in 2016".

Opposition to globalisation – the increasing movement of goods, money and people across international borders – was a key theme of Trump campaign to become president of the US. From now on it is going to be "America First", he says repeatedly.

In Australia, Pauline Hanson has globalisation in her sights. In her maiden speech to the Senate in September she accused national leaders of giving away our sovereignty, our rights, our jobs and even our democracy.  "Their push for globalisation, economic rationalism, free trade and ethnic diversity has seen our country's decline," she said.

In pitting globalists  against patriots Le Pen neatly summed up a new and unpredictable political fissure that cuts across old divisions between left and right.

Ip predicts the tussle between globalism and nationalism "will shape the coming era much as the struggle between conservatives and liberals has shaped the last".

This political split has emerged during a period of rapid global economic integration. In the two decades before the onset of the global financial crisis in 2007 international trade in goods and services grew by 7 per cent a year on average – a much faster rate than global GDP.

This has been a period of great prosperity for Australia, which has not experienced a recession for a quarter of a century. But there has also been a marked shift in the structure of the economy. Since the mid-1990s manufacturing's share of Australia's economic output has fallen from 14 per cent to about 7 per cent. 

Meanwhile, the importance of knowledge-intensive service industries such as finance and professional services has grown significantly. Similar trends have been at work in other advanced economies.

The flow of migrants to Australia – another factor many associate with globalisation – has also been strong. The proportion of Australians born overseas reached 28 per cent in 2014-15, the highest proportion in more than 120 years.

There are now signs the tussle Ip describes between globalist and nationalist sentiment has become an important political fault line in Australia.

Polling for the Political Personas Project commissioned by Fairfax Media and conducted by the Australian National University and Netherlands-based political research enterprise Kieskompas, shows public opinion is divided over the merits of trade liberalisation, one of globalisation's fundamentals.

The statement "free trade with other countries has made Australia better off" could not muster support from the majority of the 2600 voters surveyed – 44.7 per cent agreed (but only 7.1 per cent strongly), 27.5 per cent disagreed and 27.8 per cent were neutral.

There is a similar split when voters are asked to assess the impact of globalisation.

A separate Ipsos survey released in December found 48 per cent of Australians considered globalisation a "force for good" while 22 per cent said it was a "force for bad", with 29 per cent undecided.

Carol Johnson, professor of politics and international studies at the University of Adelaide, said many voters have, over time, become more aware of globalisation's drawbacks.

"Twenty years ago, the electorate seemed prepared to believe that while there were some risks to opening up the economy, there would also be benefits," she said.  "Part of what happened is that people are now more aware that many of our competitor countries, including Asian countries, are more than capable of developing these [high-tech and service] industries themselves.

"The assumption that Western countries will always be superior has started to come undone and voters are becoming worried that government hasn't got right the mix of balancing the benefits and downsides of globalisation."

Polling for the Political Personas Project found more than eight in 10 voters believe "we rely too heavily on foreign imports and should manufacture more in Australia". This statement received more support than any other proposition in the survey, which covered dozens of hot-button political issues.

Jill Sheppard, a researcher from the ANU's Centre for Social Research and Method who was involved in the project, said public concern about the decline of manufacturing was linked to perceptions of globalisation.

"Globalisation seems to manifest in people's minds as manufacturing and jobs going offshore. They think about cheap labour in Asian countries, which seem like a direct threat to us."


Lawyers pissing into the wind

They admit that discrimination is hard-wired so how do they think they can change that?

The Law Council of Australia is launching a major new program to help lawyers understand and address unconscious bias.

The Law Council has been working with diversity and inclusion specialists, Symmetra, to construct an unconscious bias program customised for the legal profession. It will be offered to all lawyers and legal practices via face-to-face workshops, train-the-trainer modules, and online courses from March 1 2017.

Law Council of Australia President, Fiona McLeod SC, said a series of national diversity and equality projects had been embraced by the legal profession and this program was an essential element of the whole strategy.

"Human beings are hardwired to notice personal characteristics and to prefer those with attributes or experiences similar to our own without conscious awareness,” Ms McLeod said.

“Research demonstrates that this can lead to skewed decision-making concerning recruitment, promotion and allocation of work and entrench inequity.”

Ms McLeod said that addressing unconscious bias could be the key to unlocking future diversity that would advantage the Australian legal profession – in terms of gender, and also in other fields of diversity.

"Addressing unconscious, or implicit bias encourages better decision making and new approaches to problem solving. A deliberate focus on diversity enables organisations to better attract and retain top talent, allows for the use of a greater talent pool and can boost productivity," Ms McLeod said.

The Law Council's new unconscious bias initiative follows a series of major national diversity and equality projects that have been led by the Law Council and embraced by the legal profession, including: the Diversity and Equality Charter and an Equitable Briefing Policy for barristers.

Last month, the International Bar Association announced it would be using the Law Council of Australia's landmark National Attrition and Retention Survey of lawyers as a template for its global investigation into the reasons why so many women lawyers are leaving law firms.

Via email from

The big South Australian blackout revisited

Reliance on "renewables" was the problem

Let’s recap on exactly what happened based upon the actual reports written after people knew what had happened, rather than before. First a little background on South Australia’s electricity system.

We had about 6,000 mega watts (MW) of capacity in 2015-16; which means when all of these sources of electricity were running flat out, we could light up about 60 million 100 watt globes. But because about 2200 MW of this capacity is wind and solar PV, then that would be impossible except perhaps on a hot and very widely windy day. On a windless night, that 2200 MW will produce bugger all. Since then, we have lost about 1,000 MW of baseload capacity. The word baseload is a little misleading, the right word is despatchable… meaning you can choose when you want it rather than with wind and solar, which operate according to the whims of the wind and weather.

Our maximum demand is only about 3,400 MW, but because of our high renewable mix, we not only need interconnectors to handle windless nights, we needed to upgrade the biggest of these in 2016. The flow of electricity into South Australia over the past decade has been steadily growing as our despatchable power stations close.

If all of our 4,800 mega watts was despatchable power, then we’d never need either of our interconnectors; Murraylink (220 MW) and Heywood (recently upgraded to 650 MW).

On the 28th of September, the Heywood interconnector was supplying 500 MW with Murraylink running at 110 MW. When the storm knocked over the transmission towers and some wind farms shut down, the system lost 445 MW of capacity.

Imagine sucking a drink through three straws and one of them blocks, then the suck on the other two rises. This is what happened when the wind farms shut down; the combined demand, the suck, was transferred to the interconnectors. Remember, Heywood was upgraded to handle a 650 MW suck and was running at 500 MW. When the wind farms died, the suck on Heywood surged to 850 MW and it turned itself off to prevent catastrophic damage. The rest is history; a cascade of failures.

Had we had 4,800 mega watts of despatchable power, then we wouldn’t have had such a load on the interconnectors and they would easily have had the capacity to absorb the additional load when the wind farms shutdown.

Was the SA generation mix a factor in the blackout? Of course. Are there generation mixes which would have prevented it? Of course; I just gave one.

The great thing about the interconnectors is precisely that they can function to satisfy demand during the loss of capacity. But if that function isn’t available because your interconnectors are already saturated making up for renewables which aren’t currently doing much, then you have a problem.

What enrages me so much about the debate on this issue is that everybody has an opinion about why the blackout occurred without understanding what actually happened. If you don’t know the simple facts of what happened, they how can you imagine you understand why?

I’ve deliberately ignored important things like frequency control and spinning reserves in an effort to keep things simple. But our renewable mix has various other complicated effects on our grid to make it less robust in the face of disturbances.

The short-term answer to our problems is to change the NEM rules which discriminate against despatchable systems. This will allow gas operators to make money and stay running. This will also allow investment in clean despatchable systems, meaning nuclear, that can solve both our reliability and climate problems simultaneously. Remember, the main reason that the Nuclear Fuel Cycle Royal Commission found that nuclear would be uneconomic in SA is that under the current NEM rules, all despatchable power is uneconomic. When reliability isn’t considered worthy of a price premium then it will vanish, exactly as we have seen.


Debunking Inheritance Tax

An inheritance tax idea was floated by Tim Ayres this week in a speech to the Fabian Society. Tim Ayres is the NSW Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union and a member of the ALP National Executive, which is somewhat of a cause for alarm as he is someone with genuine power to influence the ALP, and yet here he is discussing a marxist dream.

Debunking socialist ideas is a thankless and never-ending job, but every now and then I think it’s worth drilling into one to show how little economic knowledge and common sense these ideas demonstrate. The segment of the speech I’d like to focus on is below:

“I support Thomas Piketty’s proposal to use an inheritance tax to fund a one-off capital grant for every citizen at the age of 25. According to the Community Council of Australia, a 35% estate duty on all estates over $10m would raise at least $3.5bn in government revenue, while affecting only a fraction of the top 1% of Australians. A universal inheritance would give millions of young people a future: they can put it to a house, they can start their own business, they can pay off their university fees.”

Tim has relied on a quote from a Community Council for Australia Federal Budget submission, which is as follows: “ATO figures suggest around 25,000 families have assets above $10 million. If 4% of these families paid 35% in estate duties, it would equate to a minimum of $3.5 billion.”

At first glance, this looks like it makes sense, 4% of 25,000 families x $10,000,000 x 35% rate = $3.5 billion. The problem is it’s nonsensical.

The first difficulty, is the concept of a family or household paying an estate duty or inheritance tax, as this implies a household or family is capable of dying. To clarify, families and households do not die; the people who constitute them do. It’s actually hard to design how a government might tax a household on death, but if I give the statistic the benefit of the doubt I think one way it could work is if the government maintained a register of assets and their values and when a spouse died, they transferred all the wealth to the surviving spouse, so that when that second spouse died that would be the time when any duty could be applied.

Now I can already hear readers who are paying attention noting, that if the first spouse to die simply bequeathed assets to anyone other than their surviving spouse, then these removed assets may never be subject to a household estate tax as they aren’t there when the surviving spouses dies. To which I reply, you’re right! Therefore not only would this government register need to keep track of what assets people own, it would also need to keep track of any gifts given outside the household, so it could apply an imputed estate tax on these external gifts when the surviving spouse dies. (Now you can see just one of the ways socialism tends to create larger and larger government, but I digress).

I have assumed (so that I can press on with the analysis) that the 4% is what makes the revenue figure they specify annual and hence being able to fund the capital grant Tim Ayres is advocating. By that I mean, they expect 4% of rich households to die each year. For the record the ABS notes that the death rate per 1,000 people in 2015 was 9.8, which implies a death percentage of 0.98%. This is obviously lower than 4% but I think it stands to reason that rich households are likely to be older due to the time it takes to accumulate sufficient wealth to be in that demographic, and therefore rich households would have a higher death percentage. The ABS rate does not debunk the use of 4% in the quote, but they have essentially just picked 4% out of the air, as there is no demographic data on rich households from which to obtain a death rate.

The 25,000 families looks like a reasonable number based on the ABS wealth data, so we have one okay aspect! Then we get to the notion of a 35% rate, I note that they have applied it on a flat basis above $10,000,000, which perversely means, if your household dies with $9,999,999.99 wealth, you’re not wealthy enough to pay, but if it dies with one cent more, the tax would be $3.5 million, meaning your intended beneficiaries get $6.5 million. This is why in practice, estate taxes are often charged on the portion of the estate over a specific threshold, rather than “if above a certain value the tax is applied to the whole estate”. Yet another example of why the quote is unrealistic and isn’t of use in determining the revenue amount an estate tax may generate, as in practice the government would not implement it as the quote describes.

Tim has not specified how much the capital grant might be, but if we take the below figures from the ABS and approximate that 350,000 people are 25 in Australia each year, and accept the $3.5 billion each year is the minimum revenue, and we assume that cost of the asset register above and the cost of administering the payment is nil, then the grant can be $10,000 each.

Jun-2013: 340,097
Jun-2014: 345,661
Jun-2015: 356,056
Jun-2016: 355,120

Is $10,000 enough to “give millions of young people a future: they can put it to a house, they can start their own business, they can pay off their university fees”? Arguably the Australian youth receive amounts not unlike $10,000 via the first home owners grant, youth allowance and HECS.

To be fair, as the $3.5 billion figure is based on the assumption all the households being taxed have $10 million exactly, obviously the policy could generate more any given year if the dying households is higher. The government would be in for quite a pay day when the Rinehart household dies.

The cost to ensure compliance would be insane, as people would remove assets from the government’s remit as they approached the $10 million point. The situation is likely to spiral further, as the government attempts to gain data on people at lower and lower points of wealth in order to prevent anyone not being in the system. The government can barely run a Medicare database of willing participants now; it would be hard to fathom them maintaining an up to date database of unwilling participants and ensure all the valuations are appropriate. As all inappropriate valuations would be subject to legal challenges, that of course would require another government legal department to be created.

The worst part of this socialist thought bubble is the idea that this policy could be implemented and that no one affected would change behaviour. Arguably, this is the fundamental issue with Socialism: the theory assumes that you can compel people to not act in their best interests into perpetuity. Trusts, corporate structuring, off-shoring and other methods of avoiding hungry governments are already a major issue; the level of brain-drain and capital flight that would occur with an estate tax set to 35% is impossible to comprehend.

This is a very long-winded post, but it takes a lot longer to debunk an idea then it does to say it, which is why people are still advocating socialist policies and even saying that “socialism has never been tried”.


Are multi-vitamins a WASTE of money? Medical Association president says they just create 'very expensive urine'

Sales figures and research shows that seven in 10 Australians take some form of vitamin supplement each year, but many could be getting ripped off.

Dr Michael Gannon, president of the Australian Medical Association (AMA) slammed the promotion of multi-vitamins, saying they were unnecessary for most people.

The medical expert told ABC's Four Corners program that people who regularly take multi-vitamins just have 'very expensive urine'.

Monash University Adjunct Associate Professor Ken Harvey also weighed in on the show, saying that there was 'no benefit' for the average person taking multi-vitamins.

According to the AMA president and Professor Harvey, specific vitamins do have benefits when prescribed by doctors to treat specific deficiencies.

For example, many doctors will recommend folate supplements for pregnant women, Vitamin D for people with low sun exposure, or iron for people who are vegetarian or deficient in the vitamin.

Doctors generally agree that taking specific vitamins for this reason is helpful, but that multi-vitamins are not.

According to consumer website Choice, there are certain groups of people for whom vitamins  are helpful:

Pregnant women: Folate

People with limited sun exposure: Vitamin D

Vegans: Vitamin B12

But for ordinary public, who are spending billions each year on the vitamins, they could be useless.  'What you need is a good diet, you’re pissing the money down the toilet for no benefit,' Professor Harvey told the ABC.

Doctors believe that many people are being led to believe that they need complementary medicines as their diet isn't sufficient, when this isn't actually the case.

This, combined with celebrity endorsements by Olympians and foodies means that Australians are spending more on vitamins and supplements than prescription medicines each year.

But both representatives for the supplementary medicines industry and retail pharmacists have claimed that the products can have a positive impact.

'We're a nation living on tea, toast and takeaways. 90 per cent of us are deficient in our essential diets or vegetables and fruit, so of course a multivitamin plays a role,' an industry spokesperson said.

A retail pharmacist told the program that he was happy to provide complementary medicines, as it was his job to help consumers get what they want. 


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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