Thursday, March 19, 2020

Panic buying?

It is my impression that for a long time the panic buying of toilet rolls etc was the work of a small minority. The continuing shortages have probably however now sucked most people into  precaution buying.

I still have only the single pack of toilet paper I had when the frenzy began.  In India they don't use toilet paper.  They wash.   They think we are disgusting. After my three trips to India, I see no problem with following the Indian custom if the need rises

We built this city

Bettina Arndt reports:

With all the dreadful news, I thought it might be nice to focus on something positive.

A man wrote to me the other day and reminded me of this wonderful 1932 poster, Lunch atop a Skyscraper.

My correspondent wanted to know if anything was planned to promote International Men’s Day, this year to be held on November 19, 2020. He suggested pairing this extraordinary poster with the slogan “We Built This City” – as a means of celebrating the men who “work in dangerous jobs to feed their families and build our civilisation.” 

I thought that was a great idea and was really happy when a little team of my supporters contacted me, volunteering to help bring people on board to make this happen. They are calling themselves the MensDay team. 

The idea is to make the day really positive. They suggest it should be a day to recognise the men around you at home and at work.  A day to celebrate the diversity of backgrounds, personalities, talents and experience they bring to tasks large and small, and to acknowledge men more widely as builders, providers, mentors and protectors.

Sound good? Well, to start with they want people everywhere to get to work, looking around them to see what local organisations, councils, workplaces were involved in International Women’s Day. And then start making careful, polite enquiries about whether these organisations would consider doing something to support IMD on November 19. They suggest you try to get a couple of people you know to work with you to start making these approaches, preferably including some women. Often having women make the case for doing something for men means organisations are more likely to take notice.

If you are willing to start working on this, contact the MensDay team so they can help coordinate activities. Eventually they will produce posters and flyers that could be used to advertise the event and also will circulate advice regarding possible activities. Write to

They would love more people to join the coordinating team so if you have time and skills to contribute please get in touch with them.

Mr Morrison, and cut the red tape to set business free

The Germans have a long and clever word for what the Coalition government has lacked these past seven years: Vorsorgeprinzip. It means the foresight principle. Had the government shown more foresight, the economy might not need taxpayers to shell out billions to deal with the economic consequences of a spreading public health crisis.

With the serious effects from the coronavirus sinking in daily, the message is blunt and urgent: the Morrison government needs to apply better foresight so that regulation is aimed not just at the good times, but for the bad times too, to protect the economy from the next economic shock, whatever its derivations. What is clear right now is that good-time laws — the chief example of which are the poorly named “responsible lending” laws, but there are many others — do not serve us well when the economy heads south.

Serious leaders govern for the day when the health of the Australian economy is in decline. That day is here. More businesses will go bust in coming months. Thousands of Australians will likely lose their jobs. Consumers will suffer from both, and others too, as production lines come under pressure. It is time for the Morrison government to level with Australians, not just about the unfolding health crisis, but about the state of our economy.

The Treasurer cannot keep telling us the fundamentals are fine. The economy is facing a recession in GDP terms. If you count population growth, we have already hit a recessionary bottom.

Frankly, Australian governments have had it too damn good. After 29 consecutive years of economic growth, federal and state, Labor and Coalition governments this past decade have regulated for the good times, choosing Keynesian spending over structural reforms. Only now is it becoming evident just how badly they failed us, choosing more and more regulation of business, always claiming that each new layer will be good for consumers and the economy.

When the stuff hits the fan, as it has with COVID-19, it is dawning that all those years of cumulative regulation, adding layer upon layer of burdens on business, are very bad for consumers, not to mention employees and other stakeholders in a business.

The likely consequences of this downturn might be less severe had governments, both Labor and Coalition, regulated businesses and the economy to help the country avoid, or at least better survive, a recession, rather than over-regulating business in the good times just for the sake of “doing something”.

If the coronavirus is to have a silver lining, it will be the acceptance of this reality. And it has been made even more bleedingly obvious following the statement released on Monday by the Council of Financial Regulators. In a two-page statement in response to the COVID-19 emergency, the co-­ordinating body for Australia’s main financial regulators said, in effect, that regulators will offer regulatory relief and apply laws with a lighter touch to ensure that businesses can better serve their customers.

The council, chaired by the ­Reserve Bank of Australia, goes on to say: “For their part, APRA and ASIC will take account of the circumstances in which lenders, acting reasonably, are currently operating during the prevailing circumstances when administering their respective laws and regulations. Both agencies also stand ready to deal with problems firms may encounter in complying with the law due to the impact of COVID-19 through a facilitative and constructive approach. In particular, each agency will, where warranted, provide relief or waivers from regulatory requirements.”

This amounts to a series of damning admissions that regulatory requirements hinder business and hurt consumers. It is an admission that responsible lending laws (among other boom-time laws and regulations) are a disaster — drying up credit long before COVID-19 hit, and especially when credit is most needed. It is also an admission that we are far better relying on banks’ innate desire to avoid bad loans, and their hundreds of years of experience lending money.

There are multiple other examples. Laws facilitating green lawfare and a rapacious class action industry are killing projects we will need. The financial advisory industry is suffocating under the weight of Hayne-induced regulation, meaning financial advice is now unaffordable and not available to average Australians at the time they may most need it.

Some of Kenneth Hayne’s suggestions were long overdue, but others were overkill. The council’s call for more pragmatism from regulators is an admission there has not been enough pragmatism before. Without saying so explicitly, it is also an admission that governments have over-regulated businesses in the good times on the premise of protecting consumers, only to discover that, when economic fundamentals turn sour, those same regulatory burdens hurt consumers. In other words, the council’s statement amounts to a confession that nimble businesses, not hamstrung by heavy-handed and misguided regulation, are better placed to survive recessions, keeping people in jobs and serving customers.

This extraordinary statement from the Council of Financial Regulators raises some obvious questions. First, shouldn’t the Morrison government and Australia’s main financial regulators apply laws and regulations in a pragmatic way at all times, not just when a virus threatens the community? Put another way, the statement shows how far governments and regulators have drifted from regulating business through the full economic cycle, good and bad, not just for the peaks of economic good times. On that score, if this series of admissions does not put serious reform of over-regulation smack bang in the middle of the Treasurer’s desk, what will?

The statement should force some serious thinking within Treasury about its raison d’etre. Why, for example, has the government wasted time on secondary reforms such as banning cash transactions of more than $10,000 to catch a few crooks rather than reforming the regulatory system so business survives a recession? As straight-talking businessman Tony Shepherd put it last week: “A holiday from new business regulation at all levels of government would inspire confidence. A windback would be nirvana.”

Josh Frydenberg has the weight of expectation on him. He is as keen to emulate former Liberal treasurer Peter Costello as he is to avoid being another Wayne Swan by making promises he can’t keep. Frydenberg should remember Paul Keating too. He is the country’s finest role model of a treasurer, who levelled with the country when we faced the last recession. It’s worth repeating what he said in 1986: “If in the final analysis Australia is so undisciplined, so disinterested in its salvation and economic wellbeing that it doesn’t deal with … fundamental problems … then you are gone. You are a banana republic.”

This honesty about what Keating called Australia’s cargo cult mentality encouraged Australians to trust the Hawke-Keating government with structural reforms that altered the trajectory of this country for the better, helping to set up these 29 years of growth.

The next recession might be another one we have to have, if it shakes off the last vestiges of complacency stemming from Australia’s newest cargo cult mentality, brings an end to false narratives about the state of the economy, and inspires the government to ­finally front up to serious reform.


Victoria lifts moratorium on onshore gas, but permanently bans fracking

The Andrews Labor government in Victoria has announced it will lift a moratorium on the exploration of onshore conventional gas reserves, but will enshrine a permanent ban on fracking and coal seam gas exploration in the state’s constitution.

The Victorian government will introduce two bills to parliament, with one effectively lifting a moratorium and allowing for a restart of onshore conventional gas exploration from 1 July 2021.

The second bill will seek to amend the Victorian state constitution, enshrining a permanent ban on fracking and coal seam gas exploration. Such amendments can be passed by the Victorian parliament, and it may not be necessary to be put to a vote by Victorian electors.

In lifting the moratorium, Victorian premier Daniel Andrews said his government is responding to scientific findings, as well as delivering on an election promise to include fracking ban into the state’s constitution.

“We’re backing the science to create jobs, boost energy supply and support regional communities across the state,” Andrews said in a statement.

“We promised to enshrine our historic ban on fracking in the constitution and we’re delivering – to protect farming communities, and our huge food and fibre sector.”

Adding to this, Victorian minister for resources Jaclyn Symes said that the decision had followed an evaluation of scientific research on the environmental impacts of gas exploration which confirmed the need to lock in a ban on fracking but supported a restart to conventional gas exploration.

“Three years of research shows securing local gas supply for Victorians will not come at the cost of the state’s groundwater supplies, agricultural industries or our farming’s clean and green reputation,” Smyes said.

The Victorian government placed a moratorium on fracking within the state in 2017, which has attracted criticism from Coalition governments at both State and Federal levels, which have advocated for a ramping-up of Australian gas exploration.

The announcement follows the release of findings from a three-year study into Victoria’s gas resources, which concluded that the recommencement of onshore conventional gas exploration would not have “any material impact on ground and surface water quality or quantity.”

Additionally, the report found that ” the minimum, low and medium scenarios” for gas development would “have no material impact on existing farm industries, food and biosecurity” but may have a slightly negative impact under a “high” gas development scenario.

The assessment completed by the Geological Survey of Victoria estimated 128 to 830 petajoules of onshore gas reserves have been identified across Victoria. The extraction of this gas would be expected to contribute an additional 0.1 to 0.3 per cent to Victoria’s greenhouse gas emissions, not accounting for emissions released through the use of the gas itself.

Federal energy minister Angus Taylor has said that a boost to Victoria’s gas production would be a core demand of any bilateral deal struck between the federal and Victorian governments on energy investment.

The NSW government has already struck such a deal, securing $1 billion in federal funding towards energy developments, and in return agreed to boost gas production by up to 90 petajoules a year.

“We would like to replicate [the NSW bilateral deal] in other states and Victoria is one we would like to do it with. I mean we’ve been very clear about the prerequisites for that but it is a deal we want to do. I’ve spoken with the Victorian Minister about it,” Taylor said.

“There’s been no secret that we want to see more gas in the system in Victoria.”

The lifting of Victoria’s moratorium on onshore conventional gas opens the door to Victoria striking a similar compromise with the federal government, which may see an increase in gas production facilitating federal government co-investment in clean energy projects.

The Energy Users Association of Australia welcomed the announcement and called on both the State and Federal governments to now boost the support of natural gas.

“While just supplying more gas isn’t a silver bullet that will solve all the issues in our gas markets, the increased competition and availability of supply is a critical step in the right direction,” EUAA CEO Andrew Richards said.

“State and Federal Governments must now move quickly to accelerate development of Victorian conventional gas reserves.  We encourage them to  work proactively together to ensure we not only get more gas flowing but enhance competition by supporting diversity if suppliers.”

The Victorian Greens labelled the decision to recommence onshore gas exploration as “disaster capitalism”, claiming that the Andrews government was using the coronavirus outbreak as an excuse to backtrack on the gas bans.

“It is truly appalling that the Victorian Labor Government is trying to pull the wool over our eyes by making this disastrous announcement in the middle of a pandemic. Opening up more drilling for gas is terrible for our farmers, environment and climate,” Victorian Greens environment spokesperson Ellen Sandell said.

“What kind of future is Dan Andrews planning for us?”

This was a criticism echoed by the Doctors for the Environment, who said that now was not the time to be rolling back environmental protections.

“As a health professional the timing of this announcement is entirely inappropriate. Gas is a polluting fossil fuel that puts Victorians’ health and safety at risk,” Doctors for the Environment spokesperson and GP Katherine Barraclough said.

“We’re facing an unprecedented health crisis at the moment with COVID-19, and the medical profession is stretched to the limit. Backpedalling on the onshore gas drilling ban at this time is an highly irresponsible move by the Andrews Government.”

Environmental groups likewise slammed the decision, saying that the lifting of the moratorium would work to undermine Victoria’s efforts to date to address climate change.

“Climate science makes it abundantly clear we need to keep most fossil fuels in the ground if we are to have a chance of avoiding dangerous climate change,” Friends of the Earth’s campaigns coordinator Cam Walker said.

“Today’s decision is a profound lapse of judgement by the Andrews government. One that undermines their other achievements on climate and energy policy”.

The moratorium was set to expire on 30 June of this year, and the Victorian government has said it will now commence work on the development of consultation guidelines and processes for the gas industry to engage with communities.

The Andrews government expects that the lifting of the moratorium could help generate more than $300 million in economic activity and support the creation of up to 6,400 jobs.


 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


Paul said...

Oh Bettina. Dontcha know that proud persons of colour built civilisation but the White man came and took all the credit because he always be keepin' a brutha down, nomesane?

Paul said...

You know they'll probably need pallets of toilet paper in the garage for when the power goes and the food starts spoiling.