Charley’s War

From time to time I have used artwork from the Charley’s War comic series in the header – usually around November 11 or ANZAC Day.  A few comic-loving Cats have emailed over the years to get details of the series.

I read the original in Battle in the late 1970s and 1980s. The story ends at the beginning of WWII but the best part of the story ends in the 1930s with the protagonist Charley walking past a newspaper headline announcing Hitler as the new German Chancellor.

Later I bought the 10-volume Titan series. It is a beautiful collection, but probably a tad too fancy and expensive for regular comic readers.

Rebellion – who now own most (if not all) of the classic UK comic titles – have brought out a new three volume collection of Charley’s War and made it (a) affordable and (b) true it is comic origins – the collection looks like a comic.

It is truly a classic written by Pat Mills (the original Tharg the Mighty) and drawn by the late Joe Colquhoun.


Posted in Gratuitous Advertising | Leave a comment

Zeev Vinokurov: Cities can grow without gridlock

Perhaps you’ve heard of the City of Melbourne’s misguided plan to ban non-resident cars from the CBD. It’s understandable: our economy and population are growing, and the resulting congestion is costing us thousands of dollars per year individually, and billions to the economy. It isolates us from family, friends and work. But cities can still grow without getting us stuck in traffic, missing increasingly overcrowded and delayed trains, or left unable to afford property. All this is happening because workplaces are too far from residents living in the suburbs, which effectively funnels residents into the inner city for work. It must change.

First, we must unwind planning laws that prevent offices, homes and apartments from being constructed alongside each other and throughout the city. These laws also raise housing prices by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Second, instead of banning cars, charge commuters for using congested roads and trains. Third, stop supporting taxpayer funded ‘road to nowhere’ infrastructure projects. These reforms will cut congestion, grow the economy, cut living costs and reconnect us to family, friends and local communities.

Planning laws cause congestion and social isolation by preventing people from building apartments and commercial offices throughout our city. As a result, rents and property prices become dearer because not enough housing is built to accommodate demand from population growth. Indeed, Reserve Bank economists estimate that planning laws increase average property prices by hundreds of thousands of dollars. This drives residents into the outer suburbs to look for cheaper housing, even as they commute into the inner city for work. If more people lived close-by to their workplaces, commutes would be shorter.

We need multiple CBDs, not just one. Unwinding planning laws that prevent commercial growth outside the CBD will cut housing costs and rents, cut congestion and promote tightly knit, thriving urban communities.

Congestion also occurs because we pay for using roads and public transport with thousands of dollars of time every year, rather than money. Congested public roads or trains cost us no more money to use in peak times, and busier routes cost no more to use than empty ones. As a result, the Grattan Institute think tank estimates that the average Melbournian’s commute to the city is twice as long in peak time. By contrast, Sydney’s trains are less congested, but are used more widely compared to Melbourne’s because its tickets are dearer in rush hour. Congestion charges that reflect market demand for infrastructure will also encourage businesses to open in commercial districts outside the CBD. Reconnecting local commuters with local workplaces will save us time and money overall.

Congestion charges are also a fairer and cheaper way of funding infrastructure projects compared to taxes like fuel tax or stamp duty. Scrapping these two taxes could save property purchasers tens of thousands of dollars or more, and reduce petrol bills by at least a third. If we pay for congested roads and trains with money rather than time and taxes, we may end up paying less.

Taxpayer funded infrastructure projects also cause congestion because they’re often ineffective. For instance, the Victorian Auditor-General reported that Victorian taxpayers spent $1.5 billion to remove train-road level crossing at 18 sleepy intersections after Labor committed to removing them even though it knew they weren’t congested. Of the 10 level crossings removed by December 2017, five saved commuters a minute or less, while the remainder saved two minutes or less. Regardless, Labor spent another $2 billion to rush completing the removals before the next election.

Similarly, the Liberals have committed to building the East-West Link even though it isn’t cost effective. Unsurprisingly, the Grattan Institute claims that roads to nowhere are commonplace, and that a quarter of all infrastructure projects  built between 2001 and 2016 blew their budgets and weren’t costed before being announced. Governments have a long history of spending billions to knowingly build ‘roads to nowhere’ when they could have built efficient infrastructure instead.

Unlike governments, private companies are unlikely to deliberately waste billions of dollars on disused roads as there’s no profit in it. For an example, see Japan’s privately owned railways. They’re famously punctual, albeit overcrowded because of regulations that hamper industry growth such as limits on ticket prices and restrictions on companies buying cheaper European trains. Historically, America also enjoyed profitable, affordable private rail and tram services until around the middle of the last century, when red tape and taxpayer subsidised road expansions bankrupted them. Effective and affordable private infrastructure is possible.

Creating vibrant local communities that put people back within reach of family, friends, and their workplaces is possible. Cutting congestion is possible. But fixing our broken system demands radical reforms. Planning laws must be wound back, congestion charges should be imposed on infrastructure users, and infrastructure should be privately managed.

Vladimir “Zeev” Vinokurov is a solicitor. The views expressed here are his own. This op-ed first appeared in The Spectator. 

Posted in Cross Post, Guest Post | 1 Comment

The Liberals are not libertarians

Chris Kenny has a rather unusual op-ed in the Australian this morning.

The online headline seems to have changed from what I remember reading at about 8am but the gist the story remains the same.

Howard has talked about the “broad church” and how the party is best when it “balances” two strands: “the two traditions of classical liberalism and conservatism”. In fact the party has been most successful, at least federally, when it has been led by conservatives implementing a conservative agenda and the small-L liberals have been indulged or tolerated.

Apparently there is too much liberalism in the Liberal Party.  In fact, too much libertarianism in the Liberal Party.

“I would add that the attempt at a fusion of the two [Burke and JS Mill] has been disproportionately to the detriment of conservatives,” Dawes said. “This is because libertarianism and the classical liberal school of thought from which it comes are fundamentally ideological, whereas conservatism cannot be so.”

He argued the true ally of liberalism was not conservatism but the progressive left; and sure enough, we see them arrive at similar positions on same-sex marriage, climate change and euthanasia, to name a few.

Really? I suppose JS Mill did describe conservatives as being stupid (I might be paraphrasing there) and that is a particularly dumb comment maybe liberalism (defined here as a combo of classical liberalism and libertarianism) isn’t compatible with conservatism.

Libertarianism is a theory of the role of government. Less government is preferable to more government. In a traditional left-right continuum that implies that libertarians are on the right of economic issues and on the left on social issues. Many (but not all) libertarians support same-sex marriage and  euthanasia; libertarian opinion is more divided on issues relating the climate change. Libertarians, however, are not divided on issues relating to lower taxes and less government debt. Given that the progressive left tends to be authoritarian in its mode of operation and wedded to state violence it seems strange that it would be the “true ally of liberalism”.

Here then is the rather strange argument that Kenny makes:

Could this be the future of the Liberal Party? A reversion to pragmatic conservative instincts, a retreat from the fashions and ideology of liberalism and an appeal to traditions that make sense?

As if the Liberals are all suddenly libertarian and need to find their way back to common sense. And the evidence for this piece of silliness?

This is worth pondering because now we have a moderate or liberal as Prime Minister and the moderates exert factional power in state branches including NSW and federally.

This is far too simplistic – you are either a real man, like our poor Tony struck down in his prime, or some sort of commie.  Now I suspect the PM has libertarian tendencies, but he is still a Liberal – he has his power base in the left faction (sorry, I know, there are no factions in the Liberal Party) of the Liberal Party. The previous leader had his power base in the right faction of the very same party.  The so-called moderates in the Liberal Party are just that – they are not libertarians.

I’m sure that Chris Kenny wants to argue that Liberals should not be libertarians (why not, how is all that hairy chested conservativism working for you?) but to suggest that they are in fact libertarians is simply wrong.

I wish there were more people in the Liberal Party who did support smaller and less intrusive government.

Posted in Australian Story, Hypocrisy of progressives | 11 Comments

Open Forum: April 21, 2018

Posted in Open Forum | 421 Comments

Privatise the ABC: Hysterical reaction edition

Chris Berg and I have a forthcoming book on why and how to privatise the ABC. Per-order here.

Chris and I have been getting some great publicity from some unusual sources. The Guardian, for example:

When the communications minister, Mitch Fifield, acknowledged at Senate estimates he was a member of the Institute of Public Affairs, many reacted with disbelief. The IPA’s agenda, after all, is the privatisation or breaking up of the ABC.

“Conservatives have often floated the prospect of privatising the ABC and Australia Post,” Fifield said. “There is merit in such proposals.”

As the minister responsible for the ABC, does he still support privatisation? “That’s not the position of me or the government,” Fifield told the committee.

Perhaps a new book from his friends at the IPA, researchers Sinclair Davidson and Chris Berg, will give the minister food for thought. Against Public Broadcasting: Why and How We Should Privatise the ABC, provides a road map for politicians who wish to dismantle the $1.1bn organisation.

A bit of fake news there – I don’t know that the book contains a roadmap to dismantling the ABC. But do I know? I’m just a co-author. Better let a journalist who hasn’t read the book provide an overview of content.

Then there is this petition by

Australia’s PUBLIC BROADCASTER, the ABC is being targeted by the Operatives from the IPA (Institute of Public Affairs) who have been pushing for decades to have the ABC privatised.

Anyone familiar with the IPA 100 wish list or MANIFESTO knows No 50 reads: Break up the ABC and put out to TENDER each INDIVIDUAL FUNCTION

This Petition is to ENSURE that the ABC Management STOP  ALLOWING IPA people to appear as guests on any ABC format, TV or radio.

It’s like ‘having dinner with your abuser’.

We say enough!  | HOW DARE THEY ! 

On one hand they are WANTING TO SELL OFF AUNTY whilst on the other USING AUNTY TO SELL THEIR WARES.


The IPA’s Sinclair Davidson & Chris Berg have written a book to be RELEASED in May 2018 titled


In the meantime Senator Fifield the current Communications Minister was grilled in Senate Estimates about a perceived CONFLICT OF INTEREST as he is a member of the IPA and the IPAs VENDETTA against the ABC.

On Monday night Senator Fifield was a guest on Q&A, next Monday night the Director of the IPA, John Roskam, will be an invited guest. 

**We demand that his ROSKAMs appearance be canceled PLUS all further appearances by all the other IPA Operatives be CURTAILED.

Just awesome. I notice though that they aren’t collecting signatures that people not be forced to pay for the ABC.

If you want a good belly laugh – go read the comments. In the meantime the poor luvvies have only managed to just get over half of the mere 1000 signatures they were hoping for – please feel free to sign the petition and leave your own comments.

Posted in Libertarians don't live by argument alone, Media, Politics of the Left | 59 Comments

David Bidstrup: Money for nothing

Ex-Nationals senator Ron Boswell wrote in “The Australian” today, (19 April 2018), making the point that the RET is failing us and forcing electricity prices through the roof, putting ordinary folk in energy poverty and destroying businesses.

His solutions echo my thoughts and I suspect those of many others where he advocates long term contracts with organisations that are able to supply reliable power, also known as dispatchable power as it is available when needed rather than be subject to the vagaries of the wind and the sun.

I have trawled through the statistics provided by the Australian Government Department of Environment and Energy to look at the contribution of renewables to total consumption over the period 2000 to 2017. These statistics are released each year around about August and cover the preceding financial year as well as giving historical data on consumption and generation.

Total consumption for 2000 to 2017 was around 3,860,000 GWh. (A GWh is 1,000 Megawatt hours).In percentage terms generation figures become:

Coal: 72

Gas: 16

Oil and “other”: 2

Total “fossil fuel”: 90.

Bagasse, biogas and geothermal: 0.8

Wind: 1.9

Large PV: 0.02

Small PV: 0.68

Hydro: 6.4

Total Renewable: 10.

Excluding Hydro capacity, which existed long before “renewables” became fashionable, the “new” renewables of wind and solar contributed just over 2.5% of the total generation for the period and coal, gas and hydro total 94.4% of the total.

We pay a subsidy for the privilege of having intermittent sources like wind and solar. For the purposes of this exercise wind attracts $80.00/ MWh, hydro the same and solar $40.00.

Total renewable MWh for the period and the associated subsidies are:

Wind: 74,100,000 at $80/MWh = $5.93 billion.

Hydro: 245,800,000 at $80/MWh = $19.7 billion

Large PV: 614,000 at $40/MWh = $24.5 million.

Small PV: 25,300,000 at $40/MWh = $1 billion.

The total extra cost to consumers is about $27 billion for 9% of the total consumption. This is in addition to whatever those generators manage to get on the very flawed “market”. If they have some spare power when the real gouging is happening, it might be in the thousands of dollars per MWh.

If we consider the average load on the system in the first quarter of 2018, gleaned from AEMO data, it is about 22,200 MW which gives 533,000 MWh per day. This is an average so there are peaks and troughs but it should not be that hard to set a minimum rate of generation to cover the demand. It needs a bit more digging to find the limits to set and I do not have the expertise to do this however it can be done. There can be a “minimum” base load and the additional “peaking” plants to manage this in a way where the power is reliable and reasonably cheap compared to the prices people pay today.

Contracts for power would be set up as long term “take or pay” arrangements with the appropriate prices for the different types whether they are base load or peaking power.

Lots of people get their knickers in a knot about ideological/economic purity and froth at the mouth about “socialism” but the facts are that the “market” as it is fails to provide the best outcome for citizens, which should be the focus for government. We need to remember that electricity production and distribution was once in public ownership and the systems were designed and managed to produce the lowest cost/best reliability outcome. These assets were “sold” to fund government budgetary shortfalls, (remember the State Bank collapse in SA?), not because they were inefficient. I hear the economists now asking “what would he know?”

In order to maintain ideological purity for the “free market” people I am not suggesting nationalisation, although it is my personal preference. I would like to see generators operating in a regulated market where the opportunities for “unconsciable” conduct are limited. This is not the case now and it needs to be fixed. The current Banking Royal Commission is an object lesson in regulatory failure and corporate bastardry and the electricity “industry” is not far behind.

I find it infuriating to watch as politicians attempt to have us believe they can get the square peg into the round hole with a big enough hammer and the expenditure of lots of our money.

Finally, my research on average wholesale power prices in $/MWh for Q1 2018 shows the following:

Cheapest: QLD $72.16

Next: NSW $73.65

Middle range: TAS $91.18

Second most expensive: VIC $120.71

Most expensive: SA $147.21.

Can someone explain to me how this happens in a market that is supposed to deliver electricity at affordable prices?

Posted in Guest Post | 34 Comments

We love a big Australia — but not so fast

Today in The Australian

It is true that Melbourne, with just half London’s population, covers six times London’s area, as Shaping a Nation, the research paper on migration released earlier this week by the Treasury and the Department of Home Affairs, claims. But it hardly follows that Melbourne should, or sensibly could, aim to achieve London’s population density.

Posted in Uncategorized | 38 Comments

Emissions and the meeting of energy ministers

Ben Potter, who as a useful idiot, was leaked a copy of the National Energy Guarantee (NEG) report by the Victorian Government, reports today that the states are likely to sign off on the NEG at their meeting tomorrow. Potter is excoriated by Terry McCrann in today’s Herald Sun for his pandering to green energy myths.

NEG has twin features of reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector together with a measure that ensures wind supply has a firming contract to compensate for its inherent unreliability.

Former Senator Ron Boswell entered the fray with a piece in today’s Australian calling for Liddell to be replaced saying,

“Some have likened the option to socialism. Rubbish. The energy market was socialised by intervention a long time ago. A $45bn subsidy and guaranteed market share for renewables is not socialism? Would the car market be a real market if the government said 23 per cent of cars sold had to be a Tesla and that Tesla would receive a subsidy of $30,000 for every car sold?”

Boswell also argues that under the amended section 44 of the trade practices act AGL could be forced to sell since its closure would be “substantially lessening competition in a substantial market”.  And the Acting NSW Premier, John Barilaro, today came out in favour of a forcible acquisition of the Liddell plant.

Hardly any MPs – Craig Kelly being a notable exception – have undertaken the laborious research necessary to understand the energy market and its many faceted regulations; most accept the bromides that demonise coal and promote the need to reduce emissions to save the world.  But politicians do recognise the fact that prices have risen and voters are not pleased.  Moreover, voters have no allegiance to private property rights that are not their own as this recent Yougov survey illustrates.

The NEG, and the disastrous government intervention into electricity generally, is ostensibly actuated by a need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  But the focus on renewables galvanises a vast network of vested interests whose product is utterly uncompetitive without subsidies.

In fact, only 34 per cent of Australian greenhouse gas emissions are from electricity.  And there are (thankfully) no plans to do anything much in the sectors responsible for the other 66 per cent of emissions.  Here are the emissions and the projections to 2030.

The Kyoto target was met only because of regulations developed, while the Nats were sleeping, under the Howard Government.  These regulations were devised by then Environment Minister, David Kemp, and put in place by the Beattie and Carr ALP governments in Queensland and NSW prevented land clearing for agricultural expansion, without compensating the farmers concerned for the loss of value in their land.  That infamous trick, as the table above illustrates, cannot be repeated.

To reduce the 2030 emissions from electricity by 26 per cent from 2005 levels, the government’s stated goal, would require those emissions to be 152 million tonnes.

The Energy Security Board’s consultants, Frontier Economics, under business-as-usual, taking into account the amount of wind and solar now committed and the planned  Liddell closure, estimate 2030 emissions from the sector at 140 million tonnes.  With NEG providing additional incentives to wind (aka an additional carbon tax on coal) this would fall  further to 130 million tonnes. (Frontier, being Frontier, also has a fantasy of electricity prices – even including RET certificate costs – halving and returning to 2015 levels in 2021!)

Other developments would have an additional effect.  Replacement of existing power stations by newer ones would entail savings – even those built 15 years ago produce 5-13 per cent fewer emissions than the older ones and the Minerals Council argues that modern HELE plant produces 38 per cent fewer emissions per unit of energy than the Yallourn brown coal plant and 23 per cent less than Liddell and Vales Point.

What the energy ministers are likely to agree tomorrow is a compromise that leaves options open.  For sensible people, who recognise the damage being done to the economy, there is the prospect that not much, if anything need be done if the NEG is put in place.  For the states, activist governments have an option of going further but only Victoria has meaningful plans for this and that Government may not last long.  For the Prime Minister, the ALP and The Greens the NEG as proposed offers the prospect of bringing in additional interventions over the course of the next decade.  Anyone who thinks this is going to give the particular ‘certainty’ they crave think again!

Posted in Uncategorized | 51 Comments

Ken Henry

I can almost forgive Dr Henry for his recent tantrums about the lack of progress on tax reform which he had neglected when Treasury Secretary for 10 years.

But his latest comments are absolutely outrageous. He blames investors for the poor behaviour of banks and investors also for driving up banker bonuses.

Here he is the chairman of NAB which has enjoyed far flung board/executive retreats on his $790,000 salary and responsible for the setting of executive remuneration for NAB and its culture.

Investors have no control over remuneration or culture and limited control over the Board – after all under the three strikes rule it is just about impossible for a diverse range of small holdings to sack a board.

The largest shareholder in NAB is HSBC custody nominees. That is a proxy for other investors and while listed with 23.9 per cent of the shares, HSBC does not have 23.9 per cent of the vote. But in any case, is Ken Henry complaining that banks own banks? So even if his arguement was correct, it is the banks themselves with the control.

And if the Board of NAB does not in fact control the decisions of the bank’s strategy, risk appetite, policy, governance and remuneration, why don’t they resign?

Because his argument is crap. The Board is responsible for all of that and he is the chairman. Stop blaming others Ken for your own errors.

If there is a complex remuneration policy with over 30 pages in its annual report it is because the Board agreed to it. The Corporations Act makes quite clear that the Board has responsibility for the actions of the bank. If Henry wants to abdicate that responsibility he should resign or ASIC should act against him for neglecting his directors duties.

The biggest problem in the banking sector is certainly not investors. It is the principal-agent problem where the Board and Executives are extracting rent from the owners. The terrible behaviour observed at the Royal Commission is due to poor behaviour by Boards and Executives, not investors.

Ken Henry it’s time you accepted responsibility rather than shirking it. If the remuneration practices at NAB need to change, that is something you can act upon. Otherwise step aside and let someone else take over who is willing to act.



Posted in Uncategorized | 29 Comments

If this is true, why aren’t they in jail?

Not bad men! They are evil beyond belief. From Instapundit.

MICHAEL MUKASEY: Trump, Cohen, and Attorney-Client Privilege: The protection has limits, but is it worth testing them over a possible campaign-finance offense?

After anthrax spores killed five people, infected 17 others, and showed up in envelopes mailed to U.S. senators and media organizations in 2001, the current special counsel, then director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, spent years chasing and destroying the reputation of a microbiologist named Steven Hatfill, zealous in the belief that Mr. Hatfill was the guilty party. Another zealot, James Comey, then deputy attorney general, said he was “absolutely certain” no mistake had been made.

After Mr. Hatfill was exonerated—he received more than $5.5 million in damages from the government—Mr. Mueller then decided that another microbiologist, Bruce Ivins, was the culprit. When Ivins committed suicide, Mr. Mueller pronounced the case closed. A subsequent investigation by the National Academy of Sciences suggests Ivins too was innocent.

Mr. Mueller is not a bad man, nor is Mr. Comey. It’s just that both show particular confidence when making mistakes, which makes one grateful for safeguards like the attorney-client privilege.

Well, I wouldn’t say that Mueller and Comey are good men. And neither has faced any significant accountability for his mistakes and misbehavior.

Posted in American politics | 32 Comments