Friday, 30 January 2015

Japanese style morning company singalong for Tony Abbott’s office

The Prime Minister’s chief of staff will open proceedings with an inspirational version of :
The Prime Minister will conclude the morale boosting with a few verses of:


A win for the LNP but not for the Queensland Premier?

A victory for the LNP but defeat for Campbell Newman are being pointed to by The Owl’s election indicators.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

The real Murdoch message – sack Abbott not Credlin

The Rupert Murdoch I have known (and sometimes worked for as both journalist and lobbyist) is politically astute enough to know that calling for the dismissal of Peta Credlin ensured that Tony Abbott would keep her in the job as his chief of staff. A Prime Minister would not survive being seen to cave in to the public advice of his tweets. No. The cunning old fellow actually has Tony in his sights not Peta.
As I wrote on Tuesday: Be afraid Tony Abbott, be very afraid. The News Corp empire has determined that a Coalition government led by you will put Labor back in office and that would never do.

The death penalty for drug smugglers – majority in favour

The political difficulty for politicians in campaigning to have Indonesia spare Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan from the death penalty was shown by a recent Morgan Poll.
A special snap SMS Morgan Poll today shows a small majority of Australians (52%, down 1% since August 2009) say that Australians convicted of drug trafficking in another country and sentenced to death should be executed while 48% (up 1%) don’t. Of Australians, a larger majority (62%) said the Australian Government should not do more to stop the execution of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan while 38% say the Australian Government should do more to stop the execution.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

His Master’s Voice – and the Murdoch underlings seem to be taking notice


Be afraid Tony Abbott, be very afraid. The worm has well and truly turned. See The Abbott nightmare came on waking up

So the talk about Queensland’s election turned to sociopaths

Well the stop writs have stopped nothing. Alan Jones was back on air this morning repeating his stories about Campbell Newman the liar and tossing in an intriguing new one about and mining on North Stradbroke Island for good measure.
I particularly enjoyed the chat about sociopaths in politics but I won’t go into detail because I have neither the money more the courage of an Alan Jones when it comes to such defamatory things.
What a pity that scandal takes such a long time to seep through into public consciousness. The Liberal National Party government remains favourite to win on Saturday.

The Abbott nightmare came on waking up

If the radio and television yesterday had not got the message across, the real extent of his bad judgment greeted Tony Abbott when he looked at his newspapers this morning. It was not just that Fairfax lot. The Murdoch team were putting the boot in just as vigorously.
I expect the opinion polls to show yet another decline in prime ministerial support and for Liberal backbenchers to get even more restless.
Surviving as leader until the next election will take a major effort by Tony Abbott.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Arsene Wenger is a great economist

  • Frederic Bastiat and football punditry – “In the day job I call Arsene Wenger a great economist. I’m making a serious point. … there is a close affinity between economics and sport; each can illuminate the other. I suspect you could learn more about economics from football than you could from the empty suits at Davos this week. “
  • U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit – Animal Welfare at Risk in Experiments for Meat Industry – “Pigs are having many more piglets — up to 14, instead of the usual eight — but hundreds of those newborns, too frail or crowded to move, are being crushed each year when their mothers roll over. Cows, which normally bear one calf at a time, have been retooled to have twins and triplets, which often emerge weakened or deformed, dying in such numbers that even meat producers have been repulsed. Then there are the lambs. In an effort to develop “easy care” sheep that can survive without costly shelters or shepherds, ewes are giving birth, unaided, in open fields where newborns are killed by predators, harsh weather and starvation.”
  • Still Waiting for Davos Woman – “The Alpine retreat is both absurd and worthy — but can’t achieve its goals as long as it is primarily a guy thing.”
  • A fault in our design – “We tend to think that technological progress is making us more resilient, but it might be making us more vulnerable.”
  • In Rain and Snow, It’s Clear That Patriots Are a Good Bet – “Over the past 12 seasons, the New England Patriots have played so well in wet conditions that their margin of victory in those games has exceeded the betting spread — set by a global market that tries to take all known advantages into account — 80 percent of the time, according to an analysis by Covers, a sports betting information website. The analysis suggests that the Patriots have an edge in wet weather that neither the general public nor professional bettors have taken into account. But the analysis sheds no light on what that advantage, or those advantages, might be. The Patriots exceeded the spread 56 percent of the time in their other games during that period, the analysis shows.” Note: You will find links to some other interesting pieces about betting at Punting – the Owl’s notes.
  • Let statisticians cry foul when politicians bend the truth – “… those who are responsible for government statistics should not be working for ministers. Create within each department an independent statistical and analytical unit. … the independent number crunchers would be expected to comment publicly on the interpretation placed on their material by politicians and the media; especially when that crossed the line between half truth and outright lie. The rough and tumble political debate about numbers and data would continue, vigorously and uncensored. But the playing field would be levelled. And for the first time there would be a referee empowered to blow the whistle when there is a foul.”
  • Not Seeing Luck – “I claimed the other day that those of us who are in the global 1% are apt to under-estimate our good fortune. There is, in fact, quite robust evidence from other contexts that we tend to under-rate luck and over-rate skill and causality. … This is probably because of a self-serving bias… However, other research shows that people also see skill where none in fact exists even in other people. … This sort of behaviour has been confirmed in laboratory experiments. … I suspect that this is part of an older-attested phenomenon – that people under-rate randomness and over-rate causality, which is one reason why we draw overconfident inferences from noisy data. … You might see this as an echo of David Hume’s claim, that our ideas about causality result merely from custom and habit and so are fallible. It also, I suspect, helps explain a claim made by Hume’s good friend. If we over-rate causality and under-rate luck, we will exaggerate the extent to which the wealthy deserve their fortune. As a result:
    We frequently see the respectful attentions of the world more strongly directed towards the rich and the great, than towards the wise and the virtuous. We see frequently the vices and follies of the powerful much less despised than the poverty and weakness of the innocent…The great mob of mankind are the admirers and worshippers, and, what may seem more extraordinary, most frequently the disinterested admirers and worshippers, of wealth and greatness. (Adam Smith – Theory of Moral Sentiments, I.III.29)”

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Labor edges a little closer in Queensland

A slight movement in favour of Labor on the Ow’s Queensland election indicator but the Liberal National Party government is still the firm favourite.
qld indicator (3)But perhaps the approach of the Murdoch press suggests there are fears that things really are getting closer.
sunday mail shows the family mancourier mail
When politicians try and switch attention to their spouses you know their own popularity leaves something to be desired.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

the most striking ad of the Queensland election campaign

It's back on page 17 of the Courier Mail so it will escape the attention of most voters but it wins my award as the most striking ad of the Queensland election campaign.

Something that might have an impact is the tag on Labor Party radio messages – mark ever square and put the LNP last.
If I was running the Labor Party campaign I would be saying nothing else but that in advertisements.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

The difficulty in calculating a two party vote in Queensland

When pollsters calculate their prediction of the two party preferred vote they take the experience of the previous election in distributing the preferences of third party candidates. That’s a sensible enough procedure in normal election circumstances but I suspect that is not what we will see in Queensland on Saturday week. The Clive Palmer and Bob Katter candidates plus some of the prominent independents are promising to do something different this time and direct preferences away from the Liberal National Party. Hence I am uncertain about how much credence to put on the latest predictions of Newspoll and Reachtel. They both have it at 52% LNP to 48% ALP but perhaps it is closer than that.
Tonight’s Reachtel findings as shown on the 7 Network:

Two party preferred
Two party preferred

Warmest year on record but no El Niño

The immediate threat of El Niño onset appears passed for the 2014–15 cycle. The Australian Bureau of Meteorologyreported this week that since late 2014, most ENSO indicators have eased back from borderline El Niño levels.
As the natural seasonal cycle of ENSO is now entering the decay phase, and models indicate a low chance of an immediate return to El Niño levels, neutral conditions are considered the most likely scenario through into autumn.
Central tropical Pacific Ocean surface temperatures have fallen by around half a degree from their peak of 1.1 °C above average in late November. Likewise, the Southern Oscillation Index has weakened to values more consistent with neutral conditions, while recent cloud patterns show little El Niño signature. As all models surveyed by the Bureau favour a continuation of these neutral conditions in the coming months, the immediate threat of El Niño onset appears passed for the 2014–15 cycle. Hence the ENSO Tracker has been reset to NEUTRAL.
The Tracker will remain at NEUTRAL unless observations and model outlooks indicate a heightened risk of either La Niña or El Niño developing later this year.
The absence of an El Niño makes the record high world temperatures for 2014 quite surprising. Previous record years have coincided with them

A real health cost crisis to think about – Médecins Sans Frontières on immunisation

The right shot
  • Rocketing vaccine cost warning – “The price of life-saving vaccines has skyrocketed leaving some countries struggling to fully immunise children, Medecins Sans Frontieres warns. A report by the charitysays there has been a 68-fold increase in prices between 2001 and 2014. It accused the pharmaceutical industry of overcharging and highlighted cases where rich western countries were getting a better rate than poor ones. Industry said its pricing reflected the cost of manufacture.”
price to immunise
  • Hating Good Government – “… most self-proclaimed conservatives are actually reactionaries. That is, they’re defenders of traditional hierarchy — the kind of hierarchy that is threatened by any expansion of government, even (or perhaps especially) when that expansion makes the lives of ordinary citizens better and more secure.”
oecd employment rate
Click to enlarge

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Alan Jones and the Springborg farm made for titillating listening

Scandalous behaviour by politicians. and more so an accusation of it, takes a long time to seep through into public consciousness so I expect Alan Jones’ words this morning about coal mining and Lawrence Springborg will have no impact on Queensland election day. Nevertheless the story of the coal miners avoiding the Springborg family farm made for titillating listening and there is sure to be more to come – especially if Palmer United Party Senator Glenn Lazarus passes on a few of the tit-bits mentioned in The Australian yesterday:
20-01-2015 lazarus

China’s falling growth rate enough to drive iron ore producers to drink?

20-01-2015 chinagrowth
The significance of the wine barrels illustrating this Chinese government newsagency tweet on China’s falling growth rates escapes me but the story it points to might drive some iron ore producers to drink.
BEIJING, Jan. 20 (Xinhua) — China’s economy grew 7.4 percent in 2014, in line with market expectations and registering the weakest expansion in 24 years, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said Tuesday.
The reading was slightly below the government target of around 7.5 percent for the year, as authorities are at pains to transform the economy onto a more sustainable track while tackling a housing slowdown, softening domestic demand and weak global recovery.
Last year, the country’s gross domestic product reached 63.65 trillion yuan (10.4 trillion U.S. dollars). Growth in the fourth quarter came in at 7.3 percent, flat with the rate seen in the third.
“The economy is maintaining steady operation under the new normal, with positive trends of stable growth, optimized structure, enhanced quality and improved social welfare,” noted Ma Jiantang, head of the NBS at a press conference.
In 2014, China’s industrial output grew 8.3 percent, down from the 9.7-percent growth seen in 2013, while growth of China’s fixed-asset investment slowed to 15.7 percent. Retail sales went up 12 percent to 26.24 trillion yuan, the NBS data showed.

Why the obsession with younger parliamentary candidates?

A gentle aging is apparently quite alright if you want to continue as a political party power broker. Melbourne financial wheeler and dealer Michael Kroger is seeking to become president of the Victorian branch of the Liberal Party at the age of 57. Yet, as The Australian reported this morning, one of his aims if he gets his hands on the title will be a “drive for a series of new, younger candidates to contest safe state and federal seats.
2015-01-20_krogerWhy is it, I regularly wonder, that as the median age of the population gets older, these mature aged “power brokers” continue to be fascinated with attracting youthful parliamentary candidates? Why not a 30 year old party president instead or as well as?

Monday, 19 January 2015

A nice test of the power of Alan Jones

Radio talk show hosts like Alan Jones have an influence on our political life because politicians think they have an influence on public opinion. I have never seen objective evidence of such impact but politicians are not mugs when it comes to deciding what influences their voters so I don’t completely dismiss the idea. Which is why I am intrigued by the entry of the Sydney based Alan Jones in to the Queensland election campaign.
Now this intervention is no ordinary pre-election rant by a conservative commentator. Alan Jones has moved to Brisbane to broadcast for the duration of the campaign to turn his form of vitriol on to Liberal National Party Premier Campbell Newman. Consider this morning’s offering as summarised  by the ABC:
Jones told radio 4BC the Newman government had an appalling track record.
“Make no bones about it – this is as bad as anything we’ve ever seen in government in Australia anywhere,” he said.
He described Mr Newman as a bully and that he “couldn’t back the Premier to win a chook raffle”.
Jones said Mr Newman lied to him in 2012 when he promised there would be no stage three of the Acland coal mine near Toowoomba, where Jones grew up.
“What’s happened on the Darling Downs under this government is a disgrace,” Jones said.
He’s first best friends with the mining giants who are plundering this state and not improving our bottom line.
“Our debt is worse than it was when Newman came into government – and our agricultural land is being squandered and he’s done nothing about the debt he said he would address.
“This is the bloke who won’t investigate why a dozen people died in the Grantham floods.
“You can’t believe a word this bloke says.”
Jones said no-one in the LNP Government was prepared to listen.
“[Health Minister Lawrence] Springborg has had a million letters about the health concerns by the people at Tara living in a coal seam gas field and those letters are unanswered.”
Not that Alan Jones is going as far as urging a vote for Labor. He points out to his audience that there are plenty of good independents worthy of support and has gone as far as endorsing some of them with campaign material.

It is an intriguing intervention although the latest opinion polls still have the LNP government ahead as does the Owl’s political indicator.

qld indicator (2)

Another sign of an Australian economy trudging sideways

Trend estimates: The December 2014 trend estimate (92 618) has decreased by 0.1% when compared with November 2014. The trend estimate has now decreased by 0.1% for five consecutive months.
Seasonally adjusted estimates: The December 2014 seasonally adjusted estimate (94 903) has increased by 3.0% when compared with November 2014.
  • Cover of darkness – The cypherpunks are winning the second crypto-war against government spies. What will happen when everyone is anonymous?
  • Oasis or Mirage? Jordan’s Unlikely Stability in a Changing Middle East – “Jordan’s stability and security are not figments of the imagination, especially considering the revolutions, civil wars and endemic terrorism that seem to have afflicted most of the country’s neighbors. Yet the calm may not be sustainable, as Jordan confronts its own continuing struggles over reform and change; faces seemingly countless threats in terms of its internal and external security; and attempts to deal with its own economic crises and challenging energy needs.” (Sign in required)
  • Death rate drops when top heart surgeons are away – “Among the most severe cases of cardiac arrest, 70 per cent of those admitted when no cardiology conference was taking place died within 30 days. But among those admitted when expert cardiologists were away at meetings, the corresponding death rate was 60 per cent (JAMA Internal Medicine). The results suggest that for the most seriously ill heart patients, the risks of emergency interventions such as artery widening may outweigh the benefits …”
  • The Hemingway Law of Motion: Gradually, then Suddenly – ‘Ernest Hemingway’s 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises, which is available various places around the web like here, includes the following snippet of dialogue:
    “How did you go bankrupt?” Bill asked.
    “Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”
    Many economists will recognize this as a version of an apercu offered a number of times over the years by the prominent macroeconomist Rudiger Dornbusch, who liked to say (for example, in this interview about Mexico’s economic crisis in the 1990s):
    “The crisis takes a much longer time coming than you think, and then it happens much faster than you would have thought.”
    What I am dubbing the Hemingway Law of Motion clearly has wide applicability.’

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Something for Catholic PM Tony Abbott to think about – Pope Francis convinced global warming mostly man-made

  • Pope on Climate Change: Man Has ‘Slapped Nature in the Face’ - ‘Pope Francis said Thursday he is convinced that global warming is “mostly” man-made and that he hopes his upcoming encyclical on the environment will encourage negotiators at a climate change meeting in Paris to make “courageous” decisions to protect God’s creation. Francis has spoken out frequently about the “culture of waste” that has imperiled the environment and he elaborated en route to the Philippines. While there, Francis will meet with survivors of the 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, which the government has said was an example of the extreme weather conditions that global warming has wrought. “I don’t know if it (human activity) is the only cause, but mostly, in great part, it is man who has slapped nature in the face,” he said. “We have in a sense taken over nature.” “I think we have exploited nature too much,” Francis said, citing deforestation and monoculture. “Thanks be to God that today there are voices, so many people who are speaking out about it.” ‘
  • Catholic groups rally against climate change amid intense church debate - ‘Catholic environmental groups from around the world on Wednesday (Jan. 14) announced a new global network to battle climate change just as many Catholic conservatives are sharply criticizing Pope Francis’ campaign to put environmental protection high on the church’s agenda. “We are certain that anthropogenic (human-made) climate change endangers God’s creation and us all, particularly the poor, whose voices have already spoken of the impacts of an altered climate,” the new Global Catholic Climate Movement says in its mission statement. “Climate change is about our responsibility as God’s children and people of faith to care for human life, especially future generations, by caring for all of God’s wondrous creation,” the statement continues.’

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Waiting for Andrew Bolt’s explanation of a record hot year

Whatever we might think we read him. Andrew Bolt sucks readers in. That makes him influential in the peripheral game of political debate. And on no subject more so than in his claim that global warming has not increased for a decade or more.
So I’m disappointed he’s holidaying in Holland now that 2014 is announced as the warmest since records have been kept. I want to read his explanation why the figures don’t mean anything.
In the mean time I’ll just have to look at the graphs released this week by the US NOAA and do the best I can tp understand them.
annual global temperature
Click to enlarge
global temp with hottest 10 highlighted
Click to enlarge
world temp trend lines
Click to enlarge

Moslem is the barbecue stopping dirty word

A week and a bit away from Canberra with no newspapers and limited social media and it’s amazing the different perspective you get of political life. From inner Melbourne to the outer suburbs and then Eden on the south coast of New South Wales and barely a mention of government or opposition, Abbott or Shorten.
Normally the people I mix with, knowing my obsession with matters political, ask a few polite questions and make a comment or two about the way the country is being governed. But not this summer.
With one exception. Moslems. I found that’s the barbecue stopping dirty word for people from a variety of social spheres.
Some intolerance I expected. The vehement extent of it in conversations surprised me.

The opportunities for unscrupulous politicians from this sentiment are frightening.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

An economy sliding sideways

No evidence in today’s Australian Bureau of Statistics employment figures of a healthily growing economy. I’ll settle on the aggregate monthly hours worked figures to tell the story.
monthly hours worked
It has been a real sideways slide.
This May’s budget will be a difficult event for Joe Hockey to negotiate.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Premier Newman’s two leadership negatives

Tony Abbott and his federal government is top of the list of negatives as Campbell Newman sets out on his short-as-possible election campaign. Hoping the Prime Minister goes back to his holiday by the beach and stays there for as long as possible would be one reason for choosing 31 January polling day. For the Queensland Liberal National Party the less said about those federal colleagues the better. So let’s try and pretend we are different so we can quickly move on to other things
2015-01-08_canberra bitter The Courier Mail attempted product differentiation this morning before moving on to the separate aspect of leadership negatives: who actually will LNP voters be supporting as Premier? The fact that Premier Newman’s own seat is far more vulnerable than his government overall creates a diversion that Labor will delight in exploiting.
2015-01-08_ssshgroveOf more concern to the Brisbane daily on its editorial pages was the danger of minor parties having an unhealthy influence. The Courier’s editorial pretended that a hung parliament controlled by a riff-raff was the problem when the real LNP concern is that the Palmers and the Katters will leach away support in a state where preferential voting is optional.
But the Townsville Bulletin most accurately summed up the campaigning day:
Many a true word ...
Many a true word …
And down on the Gold Coast it was a subject the government would be happy about with just a little bit of a backhander about the need to do more rather than less.
 Full Queensland election coverage HERE 

Power walks the favoured photo opportunity?

A bit of photo shopping on day one to get things started
A bit of photo shopping on day one to get things started – Courier Mail 7 January
As candidate Kate goes walking too - Courier Mail 7 January
As candidate Kate goes walking too – Courier Mail 7 January
But none of that walking nonsense for Clive - The Australian 7 January
But none of that walking nonsense for Clive – The Australian 7 January
Townsville Bulletin 8 January
Townsville Bulletin 8 January
Premier walking with the kids - The Australian 8 January
Premier walking with the kids – The Australian 8 January
Doing a little jogging for the cameras - The Australian 8 January
Doing a little jogging for the cameras – The Australian 8 January
And now a little canoeing for the action man - The Australian 8 January
And now a little canoeing for the action man – The Australian 8 January
Full Queensland election coverage HERE