Emails I receive: Tobacco edition

This morning I received an email from Alan Austin – he claims to be a journalist:

Dear Professor Davidson,

I read with surprise your comment on Wednesday in The Australian regarding the chain volume measures on tobacco consumption in ABS document 5206008 in Australia’s National Accounts:

“Then we need to understand expenditure is a measure of price times quantity. Now, with some sophisticated mathematics, I’m going to change the subject of the formula and we also know that quantity is expenditure divided by price. So now if expenditure is down and price is a constant, then quantity is down too.”

And again:

“Price, in effect, is falling. Suddenly for a given level of expenditure we cannot be certain what the impact on quantity is — it all depends on the magnitude of the fall in price. But it is possible to imagine that over 2013 when expenditure was rising and price falling that quantity would rise.”

My understanding is that the ABS chain volume measures actually do reflect quantity only. The effect of price has been removed.

Just to be sure, I wrote to the ABS and received this reply from Ms Paulina Acuna:

“Chain volume measures provide a time series of expenditure that are free of the direct effects of price change. They do not represent quantities, such as kilograms or tonnes. They are calculated by deflating current price (nominal) expenditure data with an appropriate price index (or a composite of price indexes). This forms a volume index. From this a chain volume measure in dollar terms is estimated by applying the current price values in a chosen reference year (this is currently 2011-12).”

Do you agree with this?

Hence do you accept your observations in Wednesday’s article were erroneous?

Will you acknowledge this with an appropriate correction and apology in a forthcoming article?

With thanks and regards,

Journalists when they email me do so from a work email address (not a private address) and then tell me who their employer is and what story they are working on and then invite me to participate. Given the tenor of the email, I suspect Austin isn’t actually working on any story.

Then, of course, there is the conversation Austin had over at the ALS Facebook page during the week where he made his intentions quite clear.

AA1

AA3

Fine journalistic ethics there – but, at least, he is honest.

More importantly, however, I love the quote from the ABS (wonder he he told them he was a journalist too?)

They do not represent quantities, such as kilograms or tonnes.

As The Kouk keeps claiming.

From this a chain volume measure in dollar terms is estimated by applying the current price values in a chosen reference year (this is currently 2011-12).

That answers precisely the question I asked in The Australian article.

So how old are the prices being used in the calculation? At the least, not especially up to date.

So we’re now in 2013-14 and the ABS is using price data from 2011-12.

Hence do you accept your observations in Wednesday’s article were erroneous?

No.

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46 Responses to Emails I receive: Tobacco edition

  1. Bruce of Newcastle

    Mr Austin has looked at the word “price” in the ABS email and appears to have leapt to a conclusion.

    CPI inflation is not the same as the individual price variations for a good. The ABS usually corrects on the basis of a basket, which does not reflect the observation that Roxon’s policy is individually causing cigarette prices to fall without causing a significant fall in the CPI. Tobacco is only 2% of the basket – and that is only the official prices, not including the black market prices.

    It looks like a gotcha attempt to me. Be careful Prof Davidson.

  2. Talleyrand

    You mean this Alan Austin?
    Check his list of recent publications by scrolling down

    Or here for more gems of quality work.

    Or go to that famously balanced journal New Matilda website .

    More evil Abbott , more evil Liberals, more lack of understanding about the serious debt we have in the Federal Government. More of the time.

    Not journalist, but polemicist

  3. tom

    Mighty fine of you to take him at face value, Your Doomlordship. But Alan Austin is just another leftard fruitcake hater. Sample:

    Despite their assurances of transparency, the secrecy and hypocrisy of the Abbott Government is fertile ground for an Australian Edward Snowden, writes Alan Austin

    More than any other current or recent Western government, Australia today is showing why the world needs Julian Assange, William Binney, Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning.

    No other administration has generated in so short a time so many illegal actions, unjustified secrets, unbelievable statements and sheer hypocrisies.

    Not a journalist’s bottom. And living off government grants in the lunar left orbit.

  4. History

    “Will you acknowledge this with an appropriate correction and apology in a forthcoming article?”

    I wonder if Austin (or anyone) asked for a correction and apology concerning the following.

    An article in the news from just a few weeks ago –

    Third-hand smoke – residue on walls, furniture and car interiors – more harmful than previously thought
    http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/thirdhand-smoke-residue-on-walls-furniture-and-car-interiors-more-harmful-than-previously-thought/story-fnihsrf2-1226937916055

    “The Cancer Council Queensland will today release research showing third-hand smoke poses a serious health threat to children and could cause cancer.”

    Well, where’s the research? Why haven’t they referred to it in the article? They’re going to provide it later today? Sure. Don’t hold your breath: There is no such research. It’s all agenda-driven inflammatory blather.

    And then there’s this “gem”:
    “Research shows many of the more than 4000 chemicals in second-hand smoke linger long after cigarettes are put out, sticking to surfaces and damaging human DNA in a way that can potentially cause cancer,’’ Cancer Council Queensland spokeswoman Katie Clift said.

    That’s a straight out highly-inflammatory lie. “Many of the 4000 chemicals”? There have been just a handful of studies on so-called “thirdhand smoke” that have been conducted by antismokers. Since we’re dealing with barely detectable trace levels, only one chemical (nicotine) has been detected in the home that can also come from sources other than tobacco smoke. And the studies in question make no claims concerning “health issues”. So there is no demonstrated “harm”, let alone “more harmful” as is claimed in this article. Thirdhand smoke “danger” is a conjured nonsense and Clift is adding to the derangement. The antismoking zealots are used to getting away with lying and their lies just get bigger and bigger. This is an expanding madness.

    And if we check out the Cancer Council Queensland website, it hasn’t since
    released any “new research”. There’s just a load of inflammatory propaganda:
    http://www.cancerqld.org.au/page/news/third-hand_smoke_a_threat_to_queensland_kids/

  5. What’s especially amusing is that Alan Austin thinks you’re so dumb that you wouldn’t google him and get the cut of his jib very quickly.

    And that you – cowed by his journalistic prowess – would obediently issue an apology, for him to wave it triumphantlybefore his chums.

    Just like his hero Edward Snowden.

    Probably about time for Alan Austin to get a job in the real world.

  6. History

    This level of absurdity has attracted even the selective ire of the rabid antismoking nut case, Simon Chapman; the incoherent idea of “thirdhand smoke danger” is even too much for him; that it “…risks harming the credibility of tobacco control”.
    http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/20/1/e1/reply

  7. 1234

    Still waiting for the industry or The Australian to release the industry report. Until that happens I am not going to believe anything they or Sinclair says. I want to review the report myself thank you very much.

  8. Aristogeiton

    History
    #1353714, posted on June 20, 2014 at 1:02 pm
    This level of absurdity has attracted even the selective ire of the rabid antismoking nut case, Simon Chapman; the incoherent idea of “thirdhand smoke danger” is even too much for him; that it “…risks harming the credibility of tobacco control”.
    http://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/20/1/e1/reply

    The guy lies about e-cigs. I pretend he doesn’t exist.

  9. Toiling Mass

    I’ve noticed Roxon’s defenders insisting that the point of the policy was “to prevent people taking up the habit in the first place”.

    Quite apart from the fact that there seems to be no method to measure this, the only reference I have been able to see for this where she has gone on and on about reducing smoking, and toward the end (when even she begins to notice she is saying the same thing over and over again) she brings in thouse unwitting stalwarts again – children.

    Just think – there are walls out there that have to put with her noxious breath and noxious ideas wafting across them.

  10. Aristogeiton

    Toiling Mass
    #1353731, posted on June 20, 2014 at 1:48 pm
    [...]
    Just think – there are walls out there that have to put with her noxious breath and noxious ideas wafting across them.

    I think third-hand leftism is a very real and serious problem.

  11. Grey ghost who walks

    It looks like a gotcha attempt to me. Be careful Prof Davidson.

    I think Sinclair can look after himself, especially with the the pesky Austin fellow.
    Alan A jumped into the fray that would have left a Monty Python circus leaper looking pretty ordinary. He was on to Sinclair big-time and wanted a correction and apology and was not going to take ‘no’ for an answer.
    Perhaps he thinks he is the icing on the cake and people should take more notice of him.

  12. Wow, I never realized third-hand smoke was so dangerous!! And to think, some toxic chemical I may have touched from some wall somewhere, sometime, could, right now, be causing my genes to mutate into the hideous creature you see before you in my avatar!!

    Oh, it was the beer? Carry on, then.

  13. Alan Austin is a regular author of articles on On Line Opinion.He not only writes but comments back if readers criticise him.Sinclair you can expect to be pestered by emails from him no matter how you respond.

  14. H B Bear

    A “Hi Alan” from Alan.

    Woah I think I just blew my mind.

  15. rebel with cause

    So Alan lives in France and writes articles for various Protestant church rags? There used to be a time when wowsers of his ilk were told to ‘go and stick it where the sun don’t shine’, but today they are given ample column space and, if they are prepared to drop Christianity, plum public service jobs.

  16. Tim Neilson

    rebel with cause
    #1353749, posted on June 20, 2014 at 2:36 pm
    The Uniting Church still harbours substantial vestiges of Christianity at parish level, but the upper echelons have long since been purged of anything which might offend the middle class left such as placing the Scriptures ahead of fashionable “progressive” ideology. It’s just another case of the usual suspects commandeering wealth and resources created by others by hijacking an established institution.

  17. James of the Glen

    Seems the chappy received more of a reply than he deserved. But this medium of replying well suited any response.
    Sort of a clip across the ears for impertinence.

  18. rebel with cause

    Tim – it’s been years since I’ve been in a Uniting Church so I can’t comment on what I’d going on in parishes, but you are dead on in regards to Church commentary on matters of public policy. Statements by the National Council of Churches read like your stock standard leftist statements but with a smattering of references to ‘God’ that could easily be replaced by ‘Gaia’. No wonder the number of congregants is in decline when Church leaders have such contempt for the everyman.

  19. .

    Toiling Mass
    #1353731, posted on June 20, 2014 at 1:48 pm
    I’ve noticed Roxon’s defenders insisting that the point of the policy was “to prevent people taking up the habit in the first place”.

    What about obesity?

    Should Nicola Roxon be chained up with an electrified collar that zaps her within 500 m of a Kebab Shop?

    RUN FATTY!

  20. Toiling Mass

    Should Nicola Roxon be chained up with an electrified collar that zaps her within 500 m of a Kebab Shop?

    As long as the chain is atached to a Kebab Shop and is only 400m long.

  21. Craig Mc

    Sweet Jesus. This slimy turd is too much of a left-wing hack even for The ABC. His commenters are even more deranged than he is. Check their fevered defence of Craig Thompson!

  22. johanna

    Heh. Sinclair Davidson is more and more becoming like Steve McIntyre as he marches down the years. Dogged, precise, and always seeking more data.

    McIntyre’s opponents generally end up wishing that he (or they) had never been born. I get the feeling that something similar is happening here.

  23. JC

    Check their fevered defence of Craig Thompson!

    That’s it, stick a strait jacket, load him into the van and it’s directly to the closest mental asylum. He’s a danger to himself.

  24. 1234

    Davidson always seeking more data? Wtf! Still waiting for the industry data – until then I won’t believe a word of it.

  25. Infidel Tiger

    until then I won’t believe a word of it.

    Oh no, 1234 is still waiting!

    You’re as significant as the tittle on the letter i in the word shit. Sod off.

  26. Alan Austin

    Hello again Professor Davidson,
    Will you be replying to my email personally? Or is this it?
    Presuming the latter, thank you.
    Just to clarify a couple of items:
    Re: “Journalists when they email me do so from a work email address (not a private address) and then tell me who their employer is and what story they are working on and then invite me to participate.”
    That is my professional email address. The only one. I identified myself as a freelance journo in France. I contribute to various outlets, as your diligent correspondents here have discovered.
    No decision had been taken yesterday, our time, on whether to write about this at all, so no publisher had been approached.
    In the event that a quote from you is sought, you will certainly be asked for one on the record.
    Re, “I love the quote from the ABS (wonder he he told them he was a journalist too?)”
    Yes. Email subject line was: Media inquiry from Alan in France. Then ‘freelance journalist’ at the end.
    On the matter at hand, the question seems to be this:
    Does the ABS data show the volume of tobacco products consumed in calendar 2013 to be greater or less than in 2012?
    At this stage in the discussion, Professor Davidson, what do you reckon?
    Thanks.
    Regards,
    AA

  27. 1234

    Infdel tiger you can sod off too. No data, no argument. Its as simple as that. And he calls himself a professor?

  28. Davidson always seeking more data? Wtf! Still waiting for the industry data – until then I won’t believe a word of it.

    The whole issue is an anit-Labor beatup generated by the Fart of the nation.
    The compete data set is not yet available.

    News limited resembles the Onion, more than it does a credible news source.

  29. candy

    Still think the policy, as a very rare one and bit of an experiment without any surety of results is reasonable, to see if it deterred kids from taking up smoking. You don’t want to see them sitting around with an oxygen cylinder in 30 years time. I think it’s something Labor can be pleased about for trying.

    I tend to think it’s not unreasonable to see it as worth a try – else how would we know actual consequences.

  30. I tend to think it’s not unreasonable to see it as worth a try – else how would we know actual consequences.

    Candy
    A rare display of common sense on this site.
    But it is not politically correct to cite common sense here.
    Ideology trumps it every time…

  31. .

    1234
    #1354286, posted on June 20, 2014 at 10:07 pm
    Infdel tiger you can sod off too. No data, no argument. Its as simple as that. And he calls himself a professor?

    No Princess, there is data, you just don’t like the results.

  32. 1234

    Yes, there is data, but neither the industry or The Australian is prepared to release it!

  33. Alan Austin

    Greetings again,
    An article on this matter has just been published here:
    http://www.independentaustralia.net/business/business-display/academics-and-the-australian-go-up-in-smoke,6599
    Very happy to discuss.
    Cheers, AA

  34. JC

    Hey Alan, why didn’t you warn us that you wrote it when posting the link, you cue ball. Did you get that pose from Clive Hamilton when he’s pretending he’s smart or were you two separated at birth and hence the same physical characteristics and mannerisms?. See here

  35. Alan Austin

    Hi JC,
    Actually I did tell you I was writing a piece.
    But it seems it was not posted here.
    Let me find it for you and repost.
    And yes, you are right, JC – I am Clive Hamilton’s evil twin.
    But please don’t tell anybody!
    Cheers, AA

  36. Gab

    Hi Alan

    Discuss what? Your baseless and childishly vitriolic missive masquerading as an article? Please.

    Cheers
    Gab

  37. Alan Austin

    Greetings again,
    This is the email sent to Sinclair at Juin 21 à 2h20 PM.
    The subject line was: Follow-up from Alan in France.

    Dear Professor Davidson,
    Have decided to write a piece on the current campaign in The Australian. Will pitch it to Independent Australia.
    Have also sent you a response for the discussion on Catallaxy Files.
    Are you able to post that so we can continue the conversation?
    Will copy it below.
    With thanks and regards,
    Alan Austin
    Freelance journalist
    Nîmes, France

    The attachment was the email now visible, above.
    Cheers,
    Alan A

  38. Infidel Tiger

    So Alan agrees that plain packaging’s stated goals have not been achieved. Even if we rely on his flawed data se, the reduction in smoking that was meant to have occurred hasn’t. A complete failure.

    If a failed journo like Alan can admit this why not Plibersek, Roxon & co?

    Once we add chop chop and illegal imports to the numbers it is shocking news for wowsers.

  39. JC

    Reader comments following Sloan’s article in The Australian were suddenly closed and she has not been heard from on the matter since.

    Did you read the comments, Cue Ball? They were running around 95% supportive or neutral to the piece. You really are a slimy bald rat.

  40. JC

    Fucking amazing. I just read Cue Ball’s missive. There’s nothing in there other than a leftwing version of the history of the discussion. No analysis. Nothing. Just empty swill.

    It doesn’t appear cue ball understands statistics because he doesn’t discuss anything on that topic. When it gets complicated he sends people of the Koukster.

    Cue Ball also thinks the UK Levison Inquiry is relevant.

    Fme dead, no wonder he’s “freelance”. I couldn’t imagine anyone would pay this idiot a cent.

  41. .

    Have decided to write a piece on the current campaign in The Australian

    Who gives a shit?

  42. Gab

    I just read Cue Ball’s missive. There’s nothing in there other than a leftwing version of the history of the discussion. No analysis. Nothing. Just empty swill.

    It doesn’t appear cue ball understands statistics because he doesn’t discuss anything on that topic. When it gets complicated he sends people of the Koukster.

    I’m shocked, I tells ya. Shocked.

  43. JC

    I’m shocked, I tells ya. Shocked.

    Yea… it’s like…

    1. The koukster says she’s wrong. (but doesn’t say why)

    2. They closed the comments section after 50 comments (but they 95% in favor or neutral)

    3. the Levinson ‘quiry ( so relevant)

    4. Paul Barry says she’s wrong. ( good one)

    5. The Oz can’t be trusted because….Just because. (just because)

    That’s it. That’s the extent of Mr. Freelance’s ridiculous piece.

    lol I’m getting the vice out… second time this evening too.

  44. Gab

    It’s all a Murdoch conspiracy!!!!1!

  45. Alan Austin

    Hello again,
    Interesting chat. Thanks.
    @Infidel Tiger, the article doesn’t deal with government policy or the behaviour of the tobacco industry.
    It looks at the conduct of The Australian and its use of dodgy information provided by academics.
    @JC, the relevance of the observation regarding the closure of comments following Professor Sloan’s piece is that it happened immediately after publication of facts showing her analysis was flawed.
    Correct?
    So now, we can only speculate about the direction of the comments were which were not published.
    But why, if the comments were mostly favourable, would discussion suddenly be closed?
    Hmmm …

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