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Category Archives: economic crisis

Yes it is remarkable

… thanks to Nicholas Gruen for this.

gdp swan

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Quote of the week: “Sorry, Ma’am…”

This is how we let the credit crunch happen, Ma’am …

In summary, Your Majesty, the failure to foresee the timing, extent and severity of the crisis and to head it off, while it had many causes, was principally a failure of the collective imagination of many bright people, both in this country and internationally, to understand the risks to the system as a whole.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2009 in British, economic crisis

 

I read the news today, oh boy…

Well, it is the anniversary of that album…

But then, whoda believed it a few years ago?

And then, speaking of holes: Bellevue hole an active crater for weeks to come. See Sally’s Sydney Daily Photo.

(More coming. I’m switching to Live Writer…)*

And then, as I was saying before I was rudely interrupted…

020609_cartoon_moir_gallery

Moir in today’s Sydney Morning Herald

Meanwhile.

We have had much merited soul-searching about the targeting of Indian students in Melbourne of late. You will see Ramana took it up here recently. You need only to check this blog under racism to see where I am coming from on such things. However, I did find New Matilda more than a bit po-faced in Sol Was Right: We Are Racist by Ezequiel Trumper. I agree with commenter PaulRobert:

…You’re not seriously trying to argue that there is less entrenched racism in the US than in Australia, are you? There’s very little chance of hysterical protests against chk-chk-boom because no one takes the racist angle seriously – it was so obviously a joke.

Your article reminds me of Robert Hughes’ idea of "linguistic Lourdes": if only we could change the language people use, all the evils of the world will magically disappear – very PC circa early ’90s.

If you want to highlight the damage racism does in this country, get on the case about the appalling attacks against international students in Melbourne. But Trujillo? I’m happy to join with Rudd and give him the "one-fingered" farewell not because of his Mexican heritage but because he was a corporate vandal, a failure and a knob.

I even go along, for the most part, with Gerard Henderson:

…Stories which have a race edge tend to excite journalists in Australia. Not, however, on this occasion. Readers of The Age and, to a lesser extent, the Herald Sun would have been aware of a spate of attacks on Indians beginning about October, primarily in Melbourne’s western suburbs. This led to the establishment of the Police-Indian Western Reference Group in January. At the time about 30 per cent of all victims in this area were men of Indian appearance.

In fact, the number of Indian victims of assault in Melbourne over the past six months exceeds the total number of serious casualties in the Cronulla riots – and revenge attacks – of December 2005. Yet, until last week, there had been almost no coverage of this issue on the public broadcasters. The matter was all but ignored on such important ABC programs as AM, The World Today, PM, The 7.30 Report, Q&A, Lateline and Radio National’s Breakfast, as well as SBS’s World News Australia.

Even the Victorian Government has been surprisingly quiet on what sections of the Indian media have depicted as "curry bashing" incidents. The Premier, John Brumby, issued a media release last Friday following representations from India’s high commissioner in Australia, Sujatha Singh. Better late than never, but still late…

Interviewed on Lateline on July 28 last year, the influential Indian commentator – and one-time United Nations player – Shashi Tharoor criticised Australia’s policy on uranium exports. He made the important point that, unlike Australia, India does not enjoy the protection of the US nuclear umbrella. He also pointed out that, in living memory, India has fought wars with what are now two nuclear powers — China and Pakistan.

Elsewhere, Tharoor has depicted Australia’s policy in this area as a vestige of what he terms "apartheid".

It appears many influential Indians do not fully appreciate that the Rudd Government’s position on uranium exports is determined in part by the Prime Minister’s focus on observing United Nations treaties to the letter, and in part on upholding Labor policy and, in the process, keeping Labor’s left-wing quiet.

Even so, the policy has annoyed the highest level of the Indian Government. And now many Indians are rightly concerned about ethnic-motivated crime in Australia.

It’s time to focus on improving the relationship between Australia and India. A greater concentration by the Victorian authorities on crime, and more restrained policing, would help for starters.

Let’s hope they catch all the low-life responsible for the Melbourne attacks.

* I was composing direct to WordPress but the WordPress media uploader, and/or Google Gears, crashed Firefox three times!

 

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Counting the unemployed

I have raised this issue before: Unemployment rate: fact or fiction? Then (2006) I noted: “I still am amazed that people like Howard can keep a straight face when they talk about the subject.” The Australia Institute has drawn attention to this again.

unemploymentThe criteria for “employment” include having worked for pay for ONE hour in the past week. See the Australian Bureau of Statistics for this and other criteria. These have not changed under the present government.

3.9 The definition of employment used in the Labour Force Survey aligns closely with the concepts and international definitions outlined above. Employed persons are defined as all persons 15 years of age and over who, during the reference week:

  • worked for one hour or more for pay, profit, commission or payment in kind, in a job or business or on a farm (comprising employees, employers and own account workers); or
  • worked for one hour or more without pay in a family business or on a farm (i.e. contributing family workers); or
  • were employees who had a job but were not at work and were:
      • away from work for less than four weeks up to the end of the reference week; or
      • away from work for more than four weeks up to the end of the reference week and received pay for some or all of the four week period to the end of the reference week; or
      • away from work as a standard work or shift arrangement; or
      • on strike or locked out; or
      • on workers’ compensation and expected to be returning to their job; or
  • were employers or own-account workers, who had a job, business or farm, but were not at work.

However, it must be said that this highly unrealistic definition is in fact a basic standard set by the International Labour Organization. That I had not taken into account in my earlier entries.

Compare the US Bureau of Labor Statistics How the Government Measures Unemployment. The US figures are based on similar criteria to ours, except they start the count at age 16 and have a different attitude to family businesses.

…employed persons are:

  • All persons who did any work for pay or profit during the survey week.
  • All persons who did at least 15 hours of unpaid work in a family-owned enterprise operated by someone in their household.
  • All persons who were temporarily absent from their regular jobs because of illness, vacation, bad weather, industrial dispute, or various personal reasons, whether or not they were paid for the time off.

From that site you can also get a useful and up-to-date international summary.

Nonetheless, The Australia Institute is quite right. Unemployment figures are a partial truth at best. Real experience is somewhat different.

 

Fibre optic network way overdue

The Rudd government can still surprise us, it seems. See Government unveils plans for bigger, faster broadband network, National Broadband Network an ambitious plan and Kevin Rudd joins The 7.30 Report.

Previous schemes, including the one for fibre optic to local nodes and copper wire thereafter, always seemed a bit curate’s egg to me. For a small example: Sydney Boys High internally went fibre optic some years back – five or six, if I remember rightly. Internally this made a huge difference, but of course the internet came into the school down copper wire, being strangled further by the Department of Education net nanny. So internet speeds improved a bit, especially with ISPs offering better speeds, but there was always the fact that what was inside the building was severely limited by the old technology delivering it to the building. That’s true of homes and businesses everywhere.

The only thing that could provide real improvement is for the whole system to embrace fibre optic technology. That is what the government now proposes.

It strikes me that Opposition reservations are analogous to favouring investment in Cobb & Co stage coaches rather than railways in the 19th century. Perhaps the Howard government should have led on this five years ago? If they had we would now be well on track…

See also Australia To Lead The World At Something Good.

Update 9 April

Piers Akerman gets stuck into this today: $47 billion to be flushed down a broadband pipe dream. Citing one economist, Piers opines “Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has rolled out a fantasy of jobs, dividends and consumer benefits that would make Australia the envy of the world, if the goals were achievable. Not only is the cost greater and the proposal far more complex but there is a total lack of any supporting data to justify Rudd’s grandiose claims for the new project.”  He concludes: “Finally, Rudd is attempting to flatter the electorate with the promise of a NBN that no other nation in the world has attempted. There is good reason for this. Most nations are not stupid enough to take on untried technologies, assume massive debt and commit to vast schemes unless they can see and demonstrate a proven benefit.”

On the other hand, last year Telstra laid Fibre Optic, that “untried technology”, from Australia to Hawaii. And then in another part of the world:

From having no undersea cable links to the rest of the world, East Africa is now poised to have three.

As a result, many businesses are investing in finger-sized underwater fibre-optic cables that will open doors to the rest of the world.

It could not come too soon. Currently, many African countries rely heavily on satellite connections for internet and telephone calls.

Developed countries in Europe, North America and Asia embraced fibre-optic technology several years ago, and now boast over 500 cables. But the developing world is far behind; Bangladesh – with a population of over 150 million people – has three fibre-optic cables, while the whole of Africa has just ten.

And the advantages are:

Advantages of Fiber Optics

Why are fiber-optic systems revolutionizing telecommunications? Compared to conventional metal wire (copper wire), optical fibers are:

  • Less expensive – Several miles of optical cable can be made cheaper than equivalent lengths of copper wire. This saves your provider (cable TV, Internet) and you money.
  • Thinner – Optical fibers can be drawn to smaller diameters than copper wire.
  • Higher carrying capacity – Because optical fibers are thinner than copper wires, more fibers can be bundled into a given-diameter cable than copper wires. This allows more phone lines to go over the same cable or more channels to come through the cable into your cable TV box.
  • Less signal degradation – The loss of signal in optical fiber is less than in copper wire.
  • Light signals – Unlike electrical signals in copper wires, light signals from one fiber do not interfere with those of other fibers in the same cable. This means clearer phone conversations or TV reception.
  • Low power – Because signals in optical fibers degrade less, lower-power transmitters can be used instead of the high-voltage electrical transmitters needed for copper wires. Again, this saves your provider and you money.
  • Digital signals – Optical fibers are ideally suited for carrying digital information, which is especially useful in computer networks.
  • Non-flammable – Because no electricity is passed through optical fibers, there is no fire hazard.
  • Lightweight – An optical cable weighs less than a comparable copper wire cable. Fiber-optic cables take up less space in the ground.
  • Flexible – Because fiber optics are so flexible and can transmit and receive light, they are used in many flexible digital cameras for the following purposes:
    • Medical imaging – in bronchoscopes, endoscopes, laparoscopes
    • Mechanical imaging – inspecting mechanical welds in pipes and engines (in airplanes, rockets, space shuttles, cars)
    • Plumbing – to inspect sewer lines

Because of these advantages, you see fiber optics in many industries, most notably telecommunications and computer networks.

 

Good commentary on Australian economy

Over in the sidebar you will see various perspectives, Oz and other, on the current economic crisis – an area I am far from expert in. Not listed there are Jim Belshaw’s posts in his Management Perspectives blog.

I commend them to you.

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2009 in Australia, current affairs, economic crisis, globalisation/corporations, Jim Belshaw, other blogs, Political, politics

 

Quote of the week: Iris Erlingsdottir

I put this in a comment yesterday, but after watching The 7.30 Report tonight on the UK, and hearing what Warren Buffet has had to say lately, it seemed very apt and very resonant and worth making more prominent:  Libertarian Experiment in Iceland Fails by Iris Erlingsdottir. She is writing neither about Rudd nor Australia of course, but I think it is relevant.

… [Milton] Friedman saw Iceland as his utopia. "I would like to be a zero-government libertarian [but] I don’t think it’s a feasible social structure. I look over history, and outside of perhaps Iceland, where else can you find any historical examples of that kind of a system developing?"

At first, the policies appeared to be very successful. The economy grew at a strong pace, rising until Iceland achieved one of the highest per capita GDPs in the world. In 2007 it also topped the score for the United Nation’s Human Development Index.

Iceland rocketed to the top 10 in the indexes of economic freedom. The Cato Institute praised the "Nordic Tiger" for its flat taxes, privatization and economic freedoms, and rated it as the least regulated country in the world.

Unfortunately, it has become evident that these libertarian policies were not the panacea that Friedman claimed they were. In fact, economists are already using Iceland as a textbook case of how to ruin a nation’s economy. As Paul Krugman recently noted, there is an "almost eerie correlation between conservative praise two or three years ago and economic disaster today."…

Aside from which, I just love her name. 🙂

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2009 in current affairs, economic crisis, globalisation/corporations