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Australia has annoyed the United Nations. Again.

LIFE sentences given to two teenage boys convicted of the rape and murder of a Sydney woman is in breach of Australia’s human rights obligations, the United Nations says.

The pair were respectively 14 and 16 when they were sentenced to life in prison, never to be released, for the murder of 20-year-old bank teller Janine Balding in 1988.

Ms Balding, 20, was abducted at knifepoint near Sydney’s Sutherland train station in 1988 by a group including Blessington and Elliott, as she was on her way home from work at a credit union.

She was forced into her own car and repeatedly raped. She was gagged and hogtied and was drowned in the mud at a shallow dam at Minchinbury.

Legislative changes after Blessington and Elliott were convicted meant they would only be released if they were dying or incapacitated to the point they could not commit a crime.

The committee found that because the sentence allowed no genuine chance of release, even with full rehabilitation, it was in breach of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

I’ve added the emphasis.

Posted in Tough on Crime, tough on criminals | 34 Comments

Rate the Victorian government

Tim Andrews is running a survey on the Victorian Liberal government and it’s shameful record. I didn’t keep count – but I did say “No” a lot.

Posted in State Politics | 9 Comments

Open Forum: November 22, 2014

Posted in Open Forum | 218 Comments

Wind, The Greens answer to the human plague

Elections bring out the most risible policy proposals that can be imagined.  And having The Greens brings a never ending supply of fairy dust.

Yesterday Senator Milne authorised the release of a paper “A New Victorian Economy, Cleaning Up Our Energy System”.

In the paper The Greens inadvertently recognise that the economically debilitating policies resulting from their alliance with the ALP mean that we now need less electricity generation capacity.

They point out that on average Victoria’s brown coal plants are “a staggering 40 years old”.  Their proposal is to close the brown coal stations, earmarking in the first stage2,200 MW Hazelwood (1964-71) and Anglesea (1969).

If excess capacity is evident the solution – whether you believe in the market doing it or leaving it to The Greens much beloved omniscient central planner – is to close down the highest cost outfits first.

But wait! That would mean starting with the 1,200 MW of wind that is in place or committed. Hazelwood is not the lowest cost Victorian power station but can profitably generate at under $40 per megawatt hour.  Windmills need $100 and they get most of it from taxes imposed on consumers and government subsidies.

And in condemning old power stations, one wonders what The Greens make of other ancient infrastructure – the Alfred Hospital was opened in 1871 but, like the power stations, it has gone through multiple iterations of the “grandfather’s axe” fable.  Indeed, although it was built in the horse and buggy era it even has a helipad!

The policies The Greens and their ALP allies implemented included not only the carbon tax but the on-going impositions of the Renewable Energy Target, which adds 12 per cent to the cost of electricity, (and will cost the economy $29-37 billion if it plays out).  They are also adding to the dilution of the nation’s capital productivity by on-going support, alongside Palmer United and the ALP, of the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation.

The results of cost imposts have been already seen the closure of the Point Henry smelter and other heavy users with more to come.  This has been augmented by depressed demand from households whose electricity costs have risen from among the world’s lowest to among its highest.

In keeping with their belief in magic, The Greens also think that, if we replace the high productivity coal fired power stations with wind, the higher number of jobs involved plus power station remediation leaves us better off.  They even proudly point out that solar panels (which produce less that one per cent of the state’s electricity) employ more people than the coal stations which produce 90 per cent.

Not for The Greens the benefits of high productivity!  They might have just as well called for substitution of wind power by  human bicycle driven generators – that would create hundreds of thousands of jobs would it not?  Well yes it would but only if we were all prepared to accept the simple life-style of living standards that pre-date the Roman Empire.

The Greens also have the hide to claim that the coal power stations got $1.8 billion in subsidies.  But that was compensation (which The Greens supported) for the punishment the power stations took in the carbon tax fiasco.

And there are priceless comments that aging power stations will mean more “forced outage rates”.  However the market manager puts the reliability of their chosen generator source, wind, at about 6.5 per cent.  Coal is 97 per cent reliable.  In other words to obtain the energy security the 40 year old brown coal dinosaurs offer requires 15 times as much capacity from the modern wind farms.

The Greens persistent levels of support remind us that democracy is a delicate flower.

Posted in Uncategorized | 47 Comments

Guest Post: Bruce of Newcastle – And you think you have it bad?

The last few months have seen headlines about the epidemic of ebola, which fortunately seems now to be less infectious than it could have been.  But at other times in history people have not been so lucky.

We all have heard of the Black Death in 1342 where whole towns were depopulated.  The Black Death was terrifying, even though after it faded it opened up the economies of Europe resulting in a great expansion of innovation, freedom and the middle class, as wages rose through the general shortage of labour.

But before the Black Death the same bacterium yersinia pestis did its thing in a lesser known but similarly disastrous episode – the great plague during the reign of the Emperor Justinian.

The bubonic and pneumonic plague is recorded in Gibbon as appearing in the Egyptian coastal city of Pelusium in 541AD.  It then spread in the classic way – along the trade routes.  The symptoms were the same as in the plague of 1343 and following years.  Buboes under the armpits.  High fever and hallucinations.  About a third of the population died in 541-2 in the Eastern Roman Empire and Persia.  The wiki records an upper limit of 25 million deaths, but Gibbon having read the sources says “one hundred millions [is] a number not wholly inadmissible”.

What is notable in the time of Justinian is that like our time they had a plague of barbarians to go with the bacteria.  Justinian and his remarkable generals Belisarius and Narses were able to reconquer Tunisia, Libya, Sicily and Italy from the conquerors, who were the Vandals and the Goths.  Almost never did these guys face enemy armies with even odds – Belisarius and later the eunuch Narses were usually outnumbered 2, 3 and sometimes 10 to one.  And they won.

But that is an aside, you can look up the amazing lives of those guys when you have the time.  I’m going back to the twin plagues, of yersinia pestis and homo sapiens.

Belisarius reconquered Italy in the 530’s during the Gothic War.  The Goths were one group of tribes who invaded and broke the Western Roman Empire.  Others included the Vandals, Allemanni, Burgundians and Franks.  The Goths eventually conquered Italy and Rome, and their Kingdom of Italy lasted 60 years.

What happened next is the interesting bit.  Belisarius more or less had destroyed the Gothic kingdom by 540AD, then was sent off to fight the Persians.  In 541AD the plague arrives.  The other plague then arrives.  Successively Italy and Greece are invaded by:

The Goths, again, under Totila in 541AD.  They are finally beaten in 553 by Narses.

Then the Franks and Alamanni invade in 553 with 75,000 men against an exhausted and poorly paid Byzantine army.  Narses manages to beat them in 554 after the plague has done its work on the invaders too.

Then the Bulgarians and Sclavonians invade in 559 only 6 years later with another enormous army.  Belisarius is pulled out of retirement and holds Constantinople with a tiny force by sheer balls and Rommel-like misdirection.

And in 567, eight years later, another horde this time the Lombards from Germany finally break them, and Italy is never more owned by what’s left  of the Roman Empire.

Why is this happening – well the Roman Warm Period has ended and its getting cold.  The barbarians are being forced south and west.  At the same time the plague breaks out, which hits the Eastern Roman Empire because of the trade routes, but does not hit the barbarians in Hungary and Germany…because rats and fleas do not do well in cold.

Today we have ebola and ISIS.  We are like Belisarius and Narses – they had veteran armoured cataphracts, we have F/A18-F Super-Hornets.  And we have scientific medicine.  Already the ebola outbreak appears to be under reasonable control.  Whether the barbarians are likewise controlled remains to be seen.  We could do with a few Belisarii and Narseses as the new cold period commences.

Oh and in the last few days the NE of the US just had record snowfalls for this time of year.

Posted in Guest Post | 34 Comments

Open borders USA

The wrap up from The Daily Mail, ‘We’re not going to deport you’: Obama announces amnesty for millions of ‘anchor baby’ parents and illegal immigrant children – as long as they’ve been in US for five years. The headline points:

Obama addressed the nation to outline a new executive order that will allow millions of illegal immigrants to remain in the country

New plan has enraged Republicans who say he lacks the constitutional authority to pick and choose which to deport

Illegal immigrants can’t apply for months and no one who arrived after January 1, 2010 is eligible

President acknowledges that it’s a temporary fix and demands help from Congress to make it permanent

Anyone who takes advantage of the program will have to pass criminal and national security background checks, pay their taxes, pay a fee and prove their eligibility

Two Republican aides complained about an ‘amnesty’ for people who came to the US illegally and then had children here – calling their children ‘anchor babies’

And from Obama’s speech:

Now let’s be clear about what it isn’t,’ the president cautioned.

‘This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship, or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive – only Congress can do that.’

‘All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you.

To which Senator Jeff Sessions has replied:

President Obama’s executive amnesty will provide an estimated 5 million illegal immigrants with the exact benefits Congress rejected, in violation of federal law. His order will grant them social security numbers, government-issued ID’s, legal status and work permits. Illegal immigrants will now be able to take jobs and benefits directly from struggling Americans in a time of high unemployment and low wages. They will be able to take jobs from Americans in all occupations, ranging from truck drivers to power company workers to jobs with city government. Many illegal immigrants will also be able to obtain green cards and become permanent residents, allowing them access to almost all federal programs, to receive citizenship and sponsor foreign relatives to join them in the U.S.

In addition to providing formal amnesty benefits for 5 million illegal immigrants, President Obama has also eliminated virtually all enforcement with respect to the other nearly 7 million illegal immigrantsin the United States. As the president’s own former ICE Director, John Sandweg said: “if you are a run-of-the-mill immigrant here illegally, your odds of getting deported are close to zero.”

All you have to do is get into the country from anywhere on globe — whether through the border or by overstaying a visa — and you are free to remain, take jobs and receive benefits. This year alone, the White House has released into the United States more than 100,000 illegal immigrants who simply showed up at the border and demanded entry.

Seems like the way to run a bus station but not a nation state.

UPDATE: Iowahawk began with:

If he’s gonna pretend to make the law, we should pretend to obey it.

This is the subsequent twitter feed.

Posted in International | 17 Comments

Rafe’s Roundup 21 Nov

World news. Peter Klein on how to do economic development.

Michael Hobbs takes on not only Bono and Jeff Sachs and USAID and the usual suspects, but even the randomized-controlled-trials crowd, or “randomistas,” like Duflo and Banerjee. Instead of searching for the big idea, thinking that “once we identify the correct one, we can simply unfurl it on the entire developing world like a picnic blanket,” we should support local, incremental, experimental, attempts to improve social and economic well being — a Hayekian bottom-up approach.

Local. The parochialism of our ABC.

Overseas. Feral regulators.

Virtually every EPA announcement of new regulations asserts that they will improve human health. Draconian carbon dioxide standards, for example, won’t just prevent climate change, even if rapidly developing countries continue emitting vast volumes of this plant-fertilizing gas. The rules will somehow reduce the spread of ticks and Lyme disease, and protect “our most vulnerable citizens.”

The Arts Supplement. Literary selfies. Not just a phone thing!!

Around the town. New on the block, The Australian Institute for Progress, (AIP) “because the future does not look after itself”.

We will place ourselves at the centre of sensible, visionary public debate and policy discussion in Australia. We will play a leading role in helping to shape the nation we can become.

Some of us can still remember the AIPP (from John Hyde’s Wik entry).

Upon his defeat in 1983, with the Clough family, John Hyde developed the Australian Institute for Public Policy in Perth and was its Executive Director until it merged with the Institute of Public Affairs, a rather similar “dry” and pro-free-enterprise think tank, in 1991.

IPA HEY. The Sydney Institute. Australian Taxpayers Alliance, Quadrant on line, Mannkal Foundation, Centre for Independent Studies.

Gerard Henderson’s Media Watch Dog [new addition will appear on Friday mid-afternoon]. Don Aitkin. Jim Rose, feral and utopian!

Sites of interest. Richard Hammer, Free Nation Foundation. Aust NZ libertarian students. Powerline.

For nerds. Melvyn Bragg’s radio program. Stephen Hicks, always interesting for nerds. Econotalk.

Ben Powell, multi-talented GMU graduate.

Posted in Rafe, Rafe's Roundups, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Cross Post: Jason Potts – Less pork at the ABC

Malcolm Turnbull’s well-telegraphed announcement  yesterday that the ABC’s funding will be cut by A$254 million over five years is no surprise. But, broken election promise aside, this is actually something Australians as a whole will benefit from.

There are two broad reasons for this – one involving use of the phrase “Slutsky equation”, so let’s get to that first: it sounds fun.

The noisiest concern with the consequences of the ABC cuts seems to be focusing on the ABC itself, such as all the pigs or bananas they’re threatening to fire.

Turnbull says he’s found lots of efficiencies stacked away in their back office. It’s basically un-Australian not to show love and support for the ABC – even News Corp editorials lead with that line.

About 71% of Australians are ABC customers, a similar amount to the number who are also taxpayers. The fact all these Australians are on both sides of this market is what makes changes to its compulsory funding an interesting economic question.

The important thing to understand about the funding cuts is they’re like the opposite of a tax increase. You have to pay less – but in return, you get less. Or, looked at the other way, it’s like your own income has gone up (now that you pay less tax), but so has the price of some of the things you’re buying (all those government pigs and bananas).

To unpack whether you’re actually better off, economists like to use the Slutsky equation, which decomposes a price change into two components:

1) an income effect
2) a substitution effect

When the price of pigs or bananas goes up, with your income unchanged, you’re worse off, because you can now consume less pigs or bananas. That’s the income effect (i.e. you would need a higher income to maintain the same happiness level of pig/banana consumption).

But when the price of pigs or bananas goes up, consumers will also tend to make substitutions toward whatever are now the relatively cheaper alternatives: maybe kittens and pineapples. This is the substitution effect, and it offsets the income effect.

The thing about the funding cut is that, from the perspective of the taxpayer and consumer, this looks like two things. The income effect is that taxpayers are now off the hook to the tune of A$254 million, which increases their income by that amount. (Let’s assume the money is not snaffled as it scurries back to the warm pockets it was originally in.)

But what’s really at issue is the substitution effect – the extent to which ABC consumers experience, and respond to a rise in the “price” of, the ABC product.

Turnbull says the funding cut needn’t affect programming, just back office matters: he thinks the consumer won’t experience any change. ABC boss Mark Scott has threatened to slaughter every last pig and mash every banana on site. He wantsconsumers to experience a change.

Now if operational efficiency really is what this is all about then Turnbull and Scott need to sort that out between them. But let’s say all cuts find their way on screen: maybe fewer pigs, maybe less back-office support makes for a lower quality pigging experience.

From the consumer’s perspective it’s all much the same: it’s as if pigs and bananas are now more expensive. What an economist will expect to observe, once all the squealing quiets down, is some substitution occurring.

Consumers will find pig-like and banana-like media in other places. It’s absurd to think this is not the case. Almost every media market the ABC is in is highly competitive. What that means is that while substitution might not be 100%, it isn’t 0% either.

A healthy competitive media environment is good for Australia too, and having a large, subsidised producer in the centre of that does not contribute to that outcome. This is of course a different story if the ABC was serving only the parts of the media market that are unprofitable (remote and some regional news and sports, for instance, or Labor Party hagiographies) or other areas of genuine market failure. But that is manifestly not what is going on.

Now of course there is public value in media diversity, and there is a certain public good argument to be made in the ABC front-running experimental media programming, formats and technologies.

Emergency warnings and civil defense announcements are obvious social goods. And the ABC does provide some cross-subsidy in journalistic training. But these funding cuts do not make a mark on any of these considerations.

Overall, for the average tax-paying ABC-watching Australian, the income effect will likely dominate the substitution effect.

In short: we will be left better off by the cuts.

Jason Potts is a Professor of Economics at RMIT University and an Adjunct Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs. This article was originally published on The Conversation.

Read the original article.

Posted in Cross Post | 45 Comments

Let’s talk about fairness

Graham Richardson puts the boot into the Abbott government this morning – mostly pointing to their now well-known and well-understood failures.


But then he does the “fairness” thing.

Families in the suburbs on low wages or even average wages of $60,000 will lose $6000 in government benefits. When your loss is 10 per cent of what you receive it is a bitter pill to swallow.

It is even more bitter when someone on $500,000 loses 2c in the dollar on their tax. That is $10,000, or not even enough to buy a good lunch in the expensive restaurants they frequent. It goes without saying that the family on $60,000 with a stay-at-home mum has to cop getting nothing from the government if it has another baby while a woman on $100,000 could get $50,000 in paid parental leave if Abbott’s pet proposal gets the Senate’s nod.

So that prompted me to go have a look at the distribution of taxation and welfare according to the ABS. The data are broken up by gross household income and then into quintiles.


Looks to me that those people on $60,000 have little to complain about on the fairness front.

Posted in Taxation | 16 Comments

ABC reports Julie Bishop’s criticism of Obama

julie bishop president

From Radio Australia of all places. The article is titled, “Foreign Minister Julie Bishop chides Barack Obama over Great Barrier Reef climate change remarks”. They must have thought criticising Obama is a bad thing:

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop criticises US president Barack Obama for a speech in Brisbane last weekend in which he claimed climate change threatened the Great Barrier Reef. It is highly unusual for an Australian foreign minister to openly criticise a US president.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has criticised US president Barack Obama for a speech in Brisbane last weekend in which he claimed climate change threatened the Great Barrier Reef.

Speaking to 7.30 from New York, where she is attending a meeting of the United Nations Security Council, Ms Bishop said “there was an issue regarding [Mr Obama's] statement” and she could “understand the Queensland Government’s concern”.

In a speech at University of Queensland, Mr Obama had said that: “Here, a climate that increases in temperature will mean more extreme and frequent storms, more flooding, rising seas that submerge Pacific islands … The incredible natural glory of the Great Barrier Reef is threatened.”

Ms Bishop told 7.30: “We are demonstrating world’s best practice in working with the World Heritage Committee to ensure that the Great Barrier Reef is preserved for generations to come.

“I think that President Obama might have overlooked that aspect of our commitment to conserving the Great Barrier Reef.”

Posted in Federal Politics | 29 Comments