Saving the Portland smelter: one problem solved, others created

With its rescue package of a low-cost electricity supply for Victoria’s Portland aluminium smelter, the Commonwealth and Victorian governments have reprieved the smelter from a hangman’s scaffold that they themselves built.

The Portland aluminium smelter, along with Tomago (NSW), Boyne Island (Queensland) and Bell Bay (Tas), is among the nation’s highest value-adding manufacturing facilities.  Aluminium smelting accounts for about 12 per cent of total electricity usage.

These facilities located to Australia during the 1980s in response to our dependable, coal-based electricity supply, which became highly competitive following a quadrupling of oil prices.

Unfortunately, over the past two decades, governments have pursued policies favouring wind and solar energy with some $7 billion a year in regulatory and taxpayer support.  This goes to a market that previously grossed only $10 billion a year.  Those subsidies both discriminate against coal and add to the costs of coal generators.  In addition, the Victorian government has tripled its levy on mined coal, a rare example anywhere in the world of a tax on an input into production.

The effect of the subsidies to renewables is well documented.  They have caused a rapid increase in the wind/solar share of production. Hence, the renewables’ highly irregular output has displaced that of dependable coal.  Once the subsidised supplies force a coal generator to close – as happened in 2016 with Victoria’s Hazelwood plant – prices hit a new higher plateau and the replacement of stable by unstable power creates additional costs and an enhanced supply precariousness.

Having doubled with the Hazelwood closure, wholesale electricity prices have halved as a result of a massive upsurge in subsidised renewable supplies alongside a COVID slump in total electricity demand.  New renewable capacity hit record levels in 2020.  According to Minister Angus Taylor, “In 2020, Australia invested $7.7 billion or $299 per person in renewable energy”.  Australia’s per capita spending on wind and solar is far and away the highest the world.

In spite of the Alan Finkel/Sanjeev Gupta rhetoric, green aluminium cannot cut the mustard to enable a low-cost, reliable electricity supply.  Aluminium plant freezes up after a few hours without electricity.  Recognising this (but not their complicity in creating it) , the Commonwealth and Victorian Governments brought together major suppliers in a deal which includes the smelter getting $40 million a year in government support.

The governments hope the deal will last five years.

But even this time frame is problematic. Both the major markets for Australian aluminium, the EU and US are threatening to introduce carbon taxes on nations (and Australia is named as one of these) which are said to be doing too little to decarbonise their economies.

Moreover, neither the EU nor the US are reticent when it comes to establishing punitive tariffs on imports that they deem to be in receipt of government subsidies. And, as a result of the pressures placed on coal-based electricity, the Portland smelter is floating on a sea of support.  Not only is this support direct but indirect support is also derived from the state government, concerned about the reliability of its favoured wind/solar supply, to enable the Yallourn Power Station to remain open until 2028.

The two governments are preening themselves at having saved a valuable national asset.  But the rescue was only required due to the governments’ policies that penalise a low-cost reliable source of electricity.  And, in spawning the need for ever-more counteractive subsidies, government activities destroy the efficiency of competitive markets and create vulnerabilities by inviting countervailing tariffs from major importers.

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171 Responses to Saving the Portland smelter: one problem solved, others created

  1. Roger says:

    Needless to say, the future of the Boyne Island smelter in Gladstone is precarious.

    Jobs and production have been reduced in response to high electricity costs and the present electricity contract with state owned CS energy concludes in 2029. With state owned coal generators being mothballed in the intervening period in reponse to a changing market and the Labor state government’s 50% RE by 2030 renewables policy, it seems doubtful there is a future for Boyne beyond that date.

  2. Ed Case says:

    While the environmental catastrophe predicted to be caused by the Boyne Smelter 40 years ago hasn’t quite happened, when you strip out all the subsidies Comalco [and it’s successors] have received from successive Queensland Governments these past 2 Generations, where’s the net benefit for the average Queenslander?

  3. Ed Case says:

    … hasn’t quite happened yet , …

  4. egg_ says:

    Gupta has been complying with demand management of industry electricity by depowering his steel recycling “mini mills” in NSW & Vic.
    These units run 24/7 recycling scrap steel in Sydney and Melbourne and God knows what it does to the reliability of the chain of electrical supply equipment when constantly depowering/repowering MW electric arc furnaces supplied with kA of current.

  5. Terry says:

    ‘from a hangman’s scaffold that they themselves built.’
    Fear not. Their concerted efforts need not be wasted.

    I am sure we can re-purpose their construction to a worthy function; one they perhaps had not intended but one that the nation will be forever grateful nonetheless.

  6. Roger says:

    …where’s the net benefit for the average Queenslander?

    1000 direct jobs
    4500 indirect jobs
    billions in export earnings
    a key driver of the development and reliability of the electricity grid in C & SE QLD, which underwrites the profitability of heavy industry in general, with heavy industry in the Gladstone region alone contributing c. $3bn p.a. in export earnings in recent years.

  7. Pyrmonter says:

    Subsidy for smelting good. Subsidy for (indirect) CO2 reduction bad? What say, just, ‘subsidy bad’?

    This sort of deal was the stock-in-trade of post War UK and Australian governments – they delayed economic change (in the UK, propping up the hopeless textile, steel and shipbuilding industries for decades; here seeing the creation of hothouse flower ‘industries’ like motor vehicles and, again, shipbuilding) and engendered a culture of government that could, at best, be termed ‘cronyism’.

    Poor Max Newton and Bert Kelly must be rotating like turbines.

  8. Arky says:

    in the UK, propping up the hopeless textile, steel and shipbuilding industries for decades;

    ..
    Every nation subsidises their industrial base.
    Because HAVING AN INDUSTRIAL ECONOMY IS SO VALUABLE THAT NATIONS WILL DO ALMOST ANYTHING TO GET ONE INCLUDING MURDERING MILLIONS YOU STUPID FUCKING CLOWN.

  9. Pyrmonter says:

    ‘industrial base’ is a meaningless concept conjured up by rent-seeking unionists and businesses, as much nonsense as the idea that ‘everyone subsidises agriculture’.

    And ‘nations’ don’t engage in genocide, political actors do: whether they’re evil imperialists (Leopold II); fascists (Franco, the Japanese militarists, the obvious candidates); or the various communist depredations. None advanced the causes of industrialisation better than did the organic market mechanism: to take the well-known Soviet case, ‘industrialisation’ meant things like the White Sea Canal – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_Sea–Baltic_Canal

  10. Arky says:

    Fuck off you economic vandal.

  11. Pyrmonter says:

    I’ll take the ad hominem as surrender.

    For a pithy exposition of the ideas behind the theory of ‘industrialisation as the path to prosperity’ and why it just doesn’t work (and, in passing, how it was an idea of the mainstream, anti-market Left): https://www.piie.com/system/files/documents/wp20-10.pdf

  12. egg_ says:

    Fuck off you economic vandal.

    This theorist tard must be an embarrassment to the real world Economists here.

    He was trying to justify spending a Trillion dollars on the Couf because he shat his pants on its imminent arrival – “subsidisation”, what?

    Rabz will probably be along soon to hit him with the clue bat.

  13. egg_ says:

    This theorist tard must be an embarrassment to the real world Economists here.

    He was trying to justify spending a Trillion dollars on the Couf because he shat his pants on its imminent arrival – “subsidisation”, what?

    Rabz will probably be along soon to hit him with the clue bat.

  14. egg_ says:

    creation of hothouse flower ‘industries’ like motor vehicles

    But, but… our financial wizzes were all predicting that imported Hyundais would go down in price, once “subsidised” Ford/Holden/Toyota were gone!

    What happened?

  15. Roger says:

    Subsidy for smelting good. Subsidy for (indirect) CO2 reduction bad? What say, just, ‘subsidy bad’?

    In an ideal world there’d be no subsidies.

    My points were in response to the questioner.

  16. Pyrmonter says:

    egg

    the price of a car comparable to the sort we drove in the 80s or 90s (even when available – technical advance tends to mean the newer products are better, and in particular safer both for those in the car and those who may be in anything the car hits) has fallen.

  17. egg_ says:

    Holden was founded in 1856 as a saddlery manufacturer in South Australia. In 1908, it moved into the automotive field before later becoming a subsidiary of the United States–based General Motors (GM) in 1931

    Local assembly “coach building” of GM vehicles for over two decades before it was bought by GM IIRC.

  18. egg_ says:

    the price of a car comparable to the sort we drove in the 80s or 90s (even when available – technical advance tends to mean the newer products are better, and in particular safer both for those in the car and those who may be in anything the car hits) has fallen.

    Now he’s obfuscating.
    Removal of “subsidised” local competition has NOT reduced the price of cheap and cheerful Korean imports.

  19. egg_ says:

    Even Toyota with its robots couldn’t survive without Ford and Holden.

  20. egg_ says:

    Looks like Vauxhall, along with Opel (source of the first and last model Commodore), are now part of the Stellantis group.

    Manufacturing plants
    United Kingdom:
    Ellesmere Port, Cheshire (Vauxhall Ellesmere Port)
    Luton, Bedfordshire (Vauxhall Luton)

  21. Ed Case says:

    ***the price of a car comparable to the sort we drove in the 80s or 90s (even when available – technical advance tends to mean the newer products are better, and in particular safer both for those in the car and those who may be in anything the car hits) has fallen.
    ***
    Yeah, Auto Electrician told me the other day he was about to install a new computer in some woman’s Toyota, to run the fucking headlights.
    Cost of part: $750 per headlight [mates rates, I kid you not].

  22. The unstated reason for keeping the aluminium smelters alive is they act as reverse batteries.

    Contractually they must go to minimum amperage when ordered to do so by AEMO, in order to free up that electricity to keep the grid from collapsing. So effectively they’re a way to keep enough excess capacity around that can be drawn upon with the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine.

    They are now slaves in other words.

    I hope they do shut, because they’ll pull the fig leaf off of AEMO and the fake market they now run.

  23. RobK says:

    Cost of part: $750 per headlight [mates rates, I kid you not].
    I believe that same ballpark figure will get you an electric hand brake servo for a bemmer.

  24. egg_ says:

    pull the fig leaf off of AEMO and the fake market they now run.

    There’s barely a so called “level playing field” on Earth.

  25. Pyrmonter says:

    egg – the form of ‘support’ the Australian MV industry had was, from c. 1960, largely in the form of a tariff, which raised the domestic price of cars, inducing local production. At times there were also additional quotas, as well as other non-tariff barriers like local safety rules, and at times, simply dollops of government cash (the SA government was a sucker for cases that GMH needed more money for ‘re-tooling’ that would somehow work miracles).

    A tariff is akin to a tax on imports and a subsidy to local producers. Before c 1960 there were quotas – an even more insidious form of trade protection – many of which reached back into the 19C, and had well and truly taken Australian manufacturing away from satisfying consumers needs and in the direction of satisfying government (and union) needs. Like Victoria, South Australia had high, damaging tariffs even before federation.

    ‘Like for like’, you get more for a dollar spent on a vehicle now than in the past.

  26. egg_ says:

    ‘Like for like’, you get more for a dollar

    On all consumer goods.

    Imported vehicles have NOT gone down in price as was predicted.

  27. Pyrmonter says:

    @ Ed

    And do you think ‘local’ (branches of offshore conglomerate) manufacturing matters in that at all?

    @ Bruce

    Finding ways to deal with different sources of supply is what markets do. Electricity was dominated for decades by local monopoly producers who supplied what and when they liked, subject only to occasional political pressure, at pretty much undifferentiated prices. Until the development of the national market various state instrumentalities used power subsidies, and in some cases, taxes, as means of controlling industrial development. I’ll add, for those with fading memories, this suited the quite militant unions in NSW, Vic and SA, who drove feather-bedding in the generating industry.

    Then we got the national market and the break-up of the state monopolies: vast improvements in productivity, but greater volatility in wholesale prices, but still basically using the same generation capacity and fuels – brown and black coal in most states, and gas and brown coal in SA.

    Then Rudd ramped up the RET, and we induced entry of new generators; some of them we’d probably have seen regardless of the RET, and we almost definitely would have with any policy targeted at CO2 – some of the brown coal set-ups were pretty marginal even before you attempted to control CO2. That’s broken down the cosy relationships states used to have with local footloose producers, which is a Good Thing. But it means customers and generators now have reasons to try to ‘play the market’ – to find uses for cheap but intermittent power; as well as find ways of producing power ‘on demand’, whether by some sort of energy storage (batteries, hydro) and to finding out ways to avoid using peak priced power (making consumers bear the cost of air-con in summer might be a good start)

  28. egg_ says:

    the form of ‘support’ the Australian MV industry had was, from c. 1960, largely in the form of a tariff, which raised the domestic price of cars, inducing local production. At times there were also additional quotas

    The fact that all cars now have standard “auto/air/steer” was Japanese imports against the US quota system – otherwise, you’d still be driving a HOT manuel ute with manuel steering* in the outback.

    *Presumably, even a manuel 90s Hilux** pussbox has power steering?

    **Doesn’t meet US safety standards.

  29. theleftfootkick says:

    The new exhaust system on a truck costs $15,000 when the sensor go bung and they are no longer covered by warranty,

  30. RobK says:

    Pyr,
    But it means customers and generators now have reasons to try to ‘play the market’ – to find uses for cheap but intermittent power; as well as find ways of producing power ‘on demand’,
    I get what you are saying and, to a large extent, agree. Except; “play the market” in practical terms is heavily bounded by regulatory concerns. It’s a political creature not a technical one.

  31. Arky says:

    We have had four decades of these arse clowns sabotage of our industry.
    It’s now a wasteland out there.
    We make virtually nothing of use for any price. The schools are mind numbing ideological training grounds for cultural marxists. The universities train the children of the CCP in practical professions and the locals in further economic vandalism. Our politicians are corrupt and our culture dead. Our working classes have gone from bolshie unionists to drug addicted welfare cases.
    Well done fuckwits.
    Your “free markets” ideology has fucked everything.
    Fuck you to hell Pyrmonter you uttter, utter clown.
    You and your ilk and their cowardice in fronting the worst excesses of the unions AND the worst excesses of the managerial classes is what has us in the situation where you will not be able to buy antibiotics if anything further disrupts the long, long supply chains. We make NOTHING here.
    NOTHING you fucker.

  32. Egg:

    But, but… our financial wizzes were all predicting that imported Hyundais would go down in price, once “subsidised” Ford/Holden/Toyota were gone!

    What happened?

    The same thing that would happen if we were to magically get free electricity to the household – the price wouldn’t drop because if we were to buy the product at the old price, the government would still want to fill up the coffers. They’d find a good reason to spend the money on something essential.

  33. Ed Case:

    Yeah, Auto Electrician told me the other day he was about to install a new computer in some woman’s Toyota, to run the fucking headlights.
    Cost of part: $750 per headlight [mates rates, I kid you not].

    Council mower put a rock through the R side rear window of the Patrol. A new windscreen costs $190. The local repairer quoted $840 to replace, got it done in Brisbane for $480.
    I reckon the 380 and the Patrol would see me out – a new car only puts money into the governments pocket.

  34. Pyrmonter says:

    @ RobK

    I’d like to see it deregulated: and some of the renewables defunded (abolishing the ‘Carbon Tax’ but leaving the LRET in place was, surely, the very worst decision of the lamentable Abbott government). But taking away the funding for new renewables isn’t going to make them disappear; and the reality is they have a role to play – they appear now to be fairly cheap, if not what a lot of customers want. But the whole idea – one adopted by the proponents of renewables as well as many of the opponents – that there can be some sort of central price-fixing misses the point that markets are about price discovery. It’s at the heart of Arky’s complaint: he (or she) thinks there is some way a suitably enlightened despot can rule over us and solve the social problems listed in the post above. Now, some of them – unemployment in particular – are problems that reflect, at least in part, the residue of the great Australian experiment with something like socialism from the 1890s to the 1970s: we retain one of the world’s highest minimum wages, and in consequence have higher unemployment than we should. We also have pretty awful state education systems. But note that neither of those is exactly the sort of thing championed by the proponents of free market reform.

  35. Arky says:

    he (or she) thinks there is some way a suitably enlightened despot can rule over us and solve the social problems listed in the post above.

    ..
    No you gimp.
    READ MY ACTUAL POST, don’t make up what you wish it was you lying turd.

  36. Arky says:

    You and your ilk with their COWARDICE over four decades of refusing to tackle the excesses of unionism, cronyism, green stupidity, the regulatory state and concentrating solely on the destruction of the protections of our industries at a time when the CCP was looking at by hook or by crook capturing as much of our industrial base, plant and equipment and IP is responsibly for the cultural and economic fucking absolute destruction wrought and subsequently opening the door to a full blown police state.
    It was all predictable, to anyone who wasn’t a bow tie wearing academic smarmy ideologically driven moron.

  37. Pyrmonter says:

    Arky – please do explain how trade protection promoted prosperity and human flourishing. Was it a purely defensive thing? Who exactly were these enlightened despots, able to fend off the fiendish yellow peril by pen-strokes banning trade and investment? (A tip – the best known of them was the one who ratted on the whole system: https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/rattigan-godfrey-alfred-alf-839)

  38. Arky says:

    Goobledegook.
    More strawmanning and incomprehension.
    Explain the history of tariffs in the USA.
    Go back over every administration for the last 150 years like I have and explain why Republicans slash taxes, raise tariffs and Democrats raise taxes and abolish tariffs.
    Until the late 20th century and the handing over wholesale of our plant, equipment and IP to the CCP.

    Who exactly were these enlightened despots, able to fend off the fiendish yellow peril

    ..
    WW2 never happened in your fetid brain, and the Australian government then were despots. As was every Republican administration until Reagan.
    You are insane.

  39. Rex Anger says:

    Pyrmonter, a question for you:

    If markets are meant to be ‘free,’ how come no state or private actor truly follows that, and the only advocates for ‘free’ markets and marketeering are those individuals and organisations who hold significant economic advantages and leverage (up to the point of manipulating third parties into and out of trades to force their target into an unfavourable position that cam be subsequebtly exploited) over everyone else?

  40. Pyrmonter says:

    Arky – https://www.amazon.com/Clashing-over-Commerce-Governments-Economic/dp/022639896X

    Rex – I disagree with the premise of the question – there are people who advocate for freer markets despite it being ‘against their interest’; not least (if you’ll excuse some personal remarks by someone using a nom-de-internet), I’m one of them: highly credentialed, potentially the beneficiary of occupational licensing, I’ve tended to argue against it. In that sense, simple (often Marxian) axioms about ‘ideology following interest’ aren’t always right.

    More generally: why don’t we see more free markets? Political economy, and especially the political economy of democracies. It rests heavily on buying votes by preferring particular interests – regional, industry, or factor. But where we do see the democratic embrace of freer markets – in the US in the 70s and 80s; in the UK in the 80s and 90s; in Germany in the post-War period; even … the PRC after the fall of the Gang of Four … you see greater prosperity, as the opportunities for mutually advantageous trade and the discovery of those opportunities grows.

  41. H B Bear says:

    I’m not sure I would be championing the Portland aluminium smelter. They do provide a big chunk of base load demand that can provide improved economics for other users across the grid.

  42. Arky says:

    why don’t we see more free markets? Political economy, and especially the political economy of democracies.

    You dishonest, dissembling little rat.
    ..

    The trade sanctions aimed at Australian exporters by China just keep on coming.

    Since the Chinese ambassador suggested Australia’s push for an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19 could lead to a Chinese consumers turning away from Australian beef and wine, there’s been a litany of official and unofficial trade sanctions introduced.

    Having trouble keeping up? Here’s a quick guide to where the trade war has landed the heaviest blows.

  43. Ed Case says:

    Free Markets are attractive, but the Price for Labour in a Free Market would eventually fall to close to 0, wouldn’t it?
    Either Regulation is then required to set some type of subsistence Price for Labour, or State Goon Squads to keep the Slaves working in the quarries.
    That’s the end result of the Free Market, isn’t it?

  44. JC says:

    Ed Case says:
    March 20, 2021 at 4:29 pm

    Free Markets are attractive, but the Price for Labour in a Free Market would eventually fall to close to 0, wouldn’t it?

    That’s the end result of the Free Market, isn’t it?

    No and no. Remain silent about these things.

  45. H B Bear says:

    Free Markets are attractive, but the Price for Labour in a Free Market would eventually fall to close to 0, wouldn’t it?

    For idiots like you whose other career option is a shopping centre speed bump, probably.

  46. Arky says:

    Prior to May 2020, Australia was China’s main barley source. But Chinese importers are now escaping the whopping 80.5% tariff on Australian barley by buying up unprecedented volumes from France, Argentina, Canada and Ukraine. Australian farmers, meanwhile, are finding new outlets.

  47. Arky says:

    why don’t we see more free markets? Political economy, and especially the political economy of democracies.

    ..
    Chinese importers are now escaping the whopping 80.5% tariff on Australian barley by buying up unprecedented volumes from France, Argentina, Canada and Ukraine.

  48. Pyrmonter says:

    Arky

    The PRC is no more able to centrally plan and ‘exploit’ than any other state in history has: and it is driven by its own (undemocratic) political economy. Even if it were able to ‘exploit’ (by being a ‘large’ buyer, and thereby being able to exert ‘pricing power’), the likelihood that these tariffs were beneficial to it is vanishingly small: in reality, they’re diverting Chinese imports to other sources, just as Australian producers find other customers, and if necessary, switch land use to other crops. In the end, and once those markets adjust, the net result will (essentially) be the difference in transport costs. https://financialpost.com/pmn/business-pmn/barley-trade-routes-redrawn-as-china-tariff-hits-australian-farmers

  49. Ed Case says:

    ***For idiots like you whose other career option is a shopping centre speed bump, probably.***
    Millions of us in Australia, and we’re not all that durable as Speed Humps.
    So, wotcha plannin’ to do wif us, and where’s all the money ended up, Bear?

  50. Arky says:

    why don’t we see more free markets? Political economy, and especially the political economy of democracies.

    ..
    None of these tariffs approached FUCKING 85%.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Effective_rates_of_assistance_to_manufacturing_and_agriculture_in_Australia,_1970-71_and_2016-17.png

  51. Arky says:

    why don’t we see more free markets? Political economy, and especially the political economy of democracies.

    ..

    Chinese …whopping 80.5% tariff on Australian barley

  52. Ed Case says:

    ***The PRC is no more able to centrally plan and ‘exploit’ than any other state in history has: ***
    Not so sure about that.
    The ability to turn WrongThinkers into Organ Donors may be an incentive for Bad Actors to straighten up and Fly Right?

  53. Arky says:

    Republicans for 150 years introduced modest tariffs to protect local industries.
    Democrats for 150 years would reduce or eliminate those tariffs and introduce taxes and regulatons.
    Only a dishonest shill for someone else’s interests, or an ideologue would AVOID addressing these points and then attempt to deflect from the fact that the only type of government levying an 85% tariff today is the CCP.
    Our industries and our lifestyles survived various levels of tariffs for all of modern history.
    It will not survive the insane ideologically driven acquiescence to the CCP’s plan to destroy the West, dressed up as “free trade”.

  54. Professor Fred Lenin says:

    I remember many years ago visiting Aden ,now in Yemen ,it was a hot shitheap full of Arabs and Mercedes Benz Taxis ,they must have been cheaper than British cars as Aden was a British Protctorate then .
    A classic Merchant Navystory was where is Basra ,the Persia Gulf is tge asshole of the world and Basra Is two hundred miles up it .

  55. Arky says:

    None of the actual results on the ground faze these types.
    Not the destruction of a useful mass of the working classes.
    Not the indoctrination now rife in our schools.
    Not the degradation of our industrial capacities.
    Not the fact that those nations successfully industrialising don’t rid themselves of tariffs or play by the same rules.
    Not the perversion of our tertiary sector.
    Not the massive mal- investments into unproductive sectors like real estate and a smaller and smaller pool of over priced productive assets.
    Not the increasing uncertainty in the supply of vital goods or the lessons of what occurred with PPE in early 2020.
    At this point, such a lack of curiosity and pig headed commitment to a disproved theory can only indicate terminal stupidity or moral bankruptcy.

  56. Pyrmonter says:

    Arky

    One of the contributions Australian economics has made is the measurement of ‘effective tariffs’ – which differ from nominal tariffs; Max Corden discussed them here (undated https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.20851/j.ctt1t304mv.26?seq=3#metadata_info_tab_contents).

    A corollary of ‘effective’ tariffs is that you simply can’t protect everything: the burden of tariffs falls either on exporting sectors (as in the US. It is part of the case made by advocates for the “Lost Cause” that that tariff drove secession. I happen to think they’re wrong, but there is no doubt the tariff hurt exporters) or on the non-traded sector.

    And the net cost, taking into account the costs thrown on other sectors, is to reduce total output: by distorting the prices ‘protected’ sectors receive, more resources are drawn into them, and out of productive uses; as well as encouraging the system of rent-seeking required of trade protection: resources that should be applied to working out how better to meet customers’ wants are devoted to winning government favours.

  57. Pyrmonter says:

    Arky

    Which has prospered: Hong Kong or Ghana? Singapore or North Korea? Barbados or Jamaica? Australia or Argentina?

    In 1950, those countries had comparable levels of income and capital endowment (pretty much none in the first three). In each pair, one is prosperous. I wonder what they have in common.

  58. Rex Anger says:

    Rex – I disagree with the premise of the question – there are people who advocate for freer markets despite it being ‘against their interest’;

    With respect Pyrmonter, I asked about your support for ‘free’ markets, not ‘free-er’ ones.

    There is a difference between minimialist regulation and total laissez faire.

    There is also a difference between being able to support one’s own population and exploit one’s own resources to at least survive, then share the surplus (Which Arky and I follow, and the vast majority of human cultures on this Earth follow- From subsistence farmers to fully industrialised societies), and rendering oneself completely vulnerable to the ‘goodwill’ of others to supply you everything you need to live at a ‘reasonable’ price, in return for whatever limited resources you have, because it was decided you could not ‘economically’ do it yourself.

    Your examples are not of totally free markets, but individuals and corporations identifying niche areas within their economies where a) they could make money, and b) Not be too heavily bureaucratically ‘punished’ by doing so.

    UK had financial services and banking. Germany had volume, precision manufacturing. And the PRC was massively exploitable for cheap consumer goods because of its massive and tightly controlled workforce, and an Oligarchy who did not care for the outcomes, so long as their pockets were lined and the Party kept off their backs.

    Your dismissal of ‘political economy of democracies’ is a demonstration that your ideology (like that of the various species of Marxists out there) fails to account for human nature. There will always be rich, and poor, and corrupt.

    The only way any ‘free’ or ‘freer’ market ideology could ever work as intended (much like ‘proper’ Marxism-Leninism), would be to remove all traces of human involvement from the system.

  59. Rex Anger says:

    Which has prospered: Hong Kong or Ghana? Singapore or North Korea? Barbados or Jamaica? Australia or Argentina?

    In 1950, those countries had comparable levels of income and capital endowment (pretty much none in the first three). In each pair, one is prosperous. I wonder what they have in common.

    Ghana, North Korea and Argentina have all had serious flirtations with totalitarianism (in both directions) and controlled economies, at least for a time. And even Singapore (in the past) and Hong Kong (presently) have had a fling.

    Jamaica has a very large population in a small area, combined with limited resources. Its greatest exports have, for the longest.time, been sugar, Cricket teams and Rastafarianism.

    Rest assured, the relative successes and failures had nothing to do with tariffs…

  60. Arky says:

    Remember back five, ten years ago, these “free trade” phonies were so sure of themselves.
    They received no push back at all on here.
    People allowed themselves to be bullied and bullshitted into believing that any support for any level of tariffs was a left wing thing.
    No one bothered to look into the history of it. Or which side traditionally stood for which policies.
    Conservatives were suckers. Because these frauds said what they said with so much conviction and claimed to occupy the heights of the right side of politics, they received no push back. Not real pushback from socially conservative people.
    Some assumed they must have some technical economic expertise that the rest of us were missing.
    These frauds. These liars. These con artists.
    No more the days of arguments without push back for your shilling or whatever the hell it is that drives your insanity.

  61. Rex Anger says:

    Jamaica has a very large population in a small area, combined with limited resources. Its greatest exports have, for the longest.time, been sugar, Cricket teams and Rastafarianism.

    And Barbados is a convenient tax haven for the Americas. Again, very little to do with tariffs or completely free markets

  62. Rex Anger says:

    Remember back five, ten years ago, these “free trade” phonies were so sure of themselves.
    They received no push back at all on here.

    Then the Animals of Animal Farm realised they could not tell the difference between the Pigs (Leftist Rulers) and the Farmers (Foreigners and Capitalists) any longer…

  63. Rex Anger says:

    I will also add in that both Caribbeam islands are popular tourist traps, but only when said tourists are travelling.

    The planes stop, their worlds stop.

    Ditto Australistan, when the iron ore prices drop…

  64. H B Bear says:

    Millions of us in Australia, and we’re not all that durable as Speed Humps.
    So, wotcha plannin’ to do wif us, and where’s all the money ended up, Bear?

    You’re assuming that everyone is as stupid as you are Gargooglery. Just one of the mistakes you are making.

  65. Rex Anger says:

    And, given this latest brain-shart ambit from the littlest anklebiter is utterly unrelated to the matter raised by the Original Poster, what was its point again?

  66. Arky says:

    Which has prospered: Hong Kong or Ghana?

    ..
    Hong Kong exists BECAUSE of tariffs and restrictions on trade, you utter buffoon.
    That’s what a canton was.
    Ghana exists because it was a centre for the slave trade, and it’s modern economy collapsed in the 60s because of it’s dependence on exporting a single commodity: Cocoa.

  67. Ed Case says:

    Pkay.
    How smart do you have to be to benefit from Free Trade?
    Fulbright Scholar smart?
    Genius level?

  68. Rex Anger says:

    Smarter than you, Grigory…

  69. Arky says:

    By the logic exhibited here, the USA in the 1880s should have been a hellhole:
    ..

    Republicans believed that high tariffs ensured high wages in manufacturing and mining. They preferred the government spend more on internal improvements and reduce excise taxes.[149] Arthur agreed with his party, and in 1882 called for the abolition of excise taxes on everything except liquor, as well as a simplification of the complex tariff structure.[150] In May of that year, Representative William D. Kelley of Pennsylvania introduced a bill to establish a tariff commission;[150] the bill passed and Arthur signed it into law but appointed mostly protectionists to the committee. Republicans were pleased with the committee’s make-up but were surprised when, in December 1882, they submitted a report to Congress calling for tariff cuts averaging between 20 and 25%. The commission’s recommendations were ignored, however, as the House Ways and Means Committee, dominated by protectionists, provided a 10% reduction.[150] After conference with the Senate, the bill that emerged only reduced tariffs by an average of 1.47%.

  70. Arky says:

    The fortunes of Ghana wax and wane dependant on the price of cocoa and the various coups over it’s history, mostly with regimes linked to the communist bloc.
    You know, like the way we have linked ourselves to China.

  71. H B Bear says:

    Smarter than you, Grigory…

    So everybody benefits? LOL

  72. H B Bear says:

    Just like the economic theory predicts.

  73. Rex Anger says:

    Smarter than you, Grigory…

    So everybody benefits? LOL

    Welp, trickle-down economics does work to some extent.

    But intelligence and wit likes the Bell-curve far too much…

  74. Ed Case says:

    Well, all I need is a roof over my head, drinkable water outta the tap, fridge, stove, and Porterhouse steaks under $26/kilo.
    Yet Free Trade says even that’s an excessive demand!
    Include me out, gents.

  75. Ed Case says:

    Plenty of Fat on that Porterhouse, thanks.
    Medium rare.

  76. Rex Anger says:

    Well, all I need is a roof over my head, drinkable water outta the tap, fridge, stove, and Porterhouse steaks under $26/kilo.
    Yet Free Trade says even that’s an excessive demand!
    Include me out, gents.

    Excellent!

    I see gypsum futures trending upward. And good prospective returns on carbohydrates, crystalline salt and policemen now that Grigory wants out…

  77. H B Bear says:

    Probably time to fill in the menstrual diary.

  78. Pyrmonter says:

    Arky – as you and others have pointed out, free trade has hardly been a norm. It was widespread (but not universal) before 1914; returned piecemeal in the 20s of last century; then was throttled back, either overtly by restrictions on trade (eg the quota system here), many of which followed the shock of the Great Depression (and the war that followed) or implicitly by the imposition of various forms of state tyranny outside pretty much everywhere aside from north western Europe, North America and Australasia – from Franco’s Spain to National Socialism to Maoism to the various nationalist ‘self-sufficiency’ policies of India, Argentina etc – each of which blocked the mutually advantageous trucking and bartering that individual firms and consumers engage in when given a chance. But what we have seen is that opening up to trade (a) allows for the well known ‘comparative static’ advantages of specialisation in production at which the region is good: in Australia, wool, wheat, mining; in Germany, machine tools and precision manufactures, etc – so much came from Torrens and Riccardo over two centuries ago – and (b) by increasing market size, promotes innovation, rivalry and the sort of competition that moves the technological frontier forward: it is implausible to think, for example, that smart phones would have been as useful as they are if they did not draw on producers in many countries: from US designers, to Swedish music app designers (Spotify has revolutionised the music market, even if it hasn’t turned a profit) to east Asian component makers and assembly. Crossing borders also allows producers to escape the cramping effect of local governments: while domestically focussed businesses can seek bail-outs (see, eg Qantas in the past few months) those which trade with foreigners rarely get the assistance of foreign governments in their dealings: that fact forces them to be honest, forces them to be disciplined, and basically to become good at what they do.

    But equally, prosperity hasn’t been a norm. For most of human existence, we didn’t trade anything but the most precious goods; few of us moved far from where we were born; and life was nasty, brutal and short. Those conditions persisted until remarkably recently: if you accept the thesis of Gregory Clark’s A Farewell to Alms, they persist in parts of sub-Saharan Africa today. One of the great changes that led to the great flowering of human flourishing we in the West now enjoy is trade. And it helps pretty much everywhere: https://www.nber.org/system/files/working_papers/w25927/w25927.pdf

    So, what’s the evidence on free trade? Well, the countries that trade the most have tended to become more prosperous: whether it’s the rapid rise of the EU member states upon its formation – they enjoyed a good 15 years of growth before the oil price shocks; or here, when abandoning the Potemkin ‘industrial base’ conjured up by the unholy trinity of the industrial unions, craven entrepreneurs who could obtain government largess, and governments (most famously, John McEwan’s ministry) which engaged in the favours game; or, for that matter, your bogey, the PRC. Within the memory of most Cats China was susceptible to famine and a by-word for poverty. It has risen from that stupor not out of the generosity of its customers, but because its people, freed from many of the constraints of state socialism, have been able to learn how to be more productive. Something we could well do here (albeit, starting from a much more comfortable starting point) if we abandoned a few of the more recent Grand Projets that have fettered Australian business: counter-productive labour laws; erosion of the value of commercial contracts; land use planning laws that create artificial scarcities of useful land to name but a few.

    Returning to the original post: the problem with using subsidy to remedy problems of subsidy is that there is no answer to the rhetorical question: where do you stop? As Ken has noted up-thread, the Portland smelter was always a hot-house plant; when will it have had enough heat (taxpayers’ money) to be able to grow free of support?

  79. Squirrel says:

    When we start outsourcing all of our economic (and, for that matter, legal) advising and analysis activities to low wage, low tax, low regulation countries, I will start listening to the people who think that unfettered international competition is a great idea.

    The logical conclusion of the “don’t subsidise anyone (except me)” school of thought is that we would have a national economy which could be run by the sort of population level we had in the first half of the last century – so the other 20 or so million and all the others who are in the queue to come here would need to buzz off elsewhere.

  80. Rex Anger says:

    Within the memory of most Cats China was susceptible to famine and a by-word for poverty. It has risen from that stupor not out of the generosity of its customers, but because its people, freed from many of the constraints of state socialism, have been able to learn how to be more productive.

    You sound just like my uncle, who was obsequiously treated by the PRC, right up to the point where they had learned all they could learn from him and his company, took all the equipment they had imported and set up, threw him and his colleagues out and started pumping out the same products at rock-bottom price and CCP-quality (i.e. poor) to undercut all other competitors and ‘freely trade’ themselves into advantageous and monopolistic positions. He too believed that China was more free tham Australia, despite being locked away in a walled compound with armed guards, and generally separated from Chinese people.

    The PRC is not productive and rich because it is ‘free-‘ Every major power in human history with long reach and economic power fought for it, claimed it and fought to keep it. Not because it traded more freely with others.

    The USA was officially isolationist for much of its early time (post-1776), but fought and held its own trade routes and sphere of influence. It only obtained global prominence with the bankruptcy and exhaustion of the European colonial powers.

    China is prosperous only because it has exploited the greed of American and European oligarchs, while hiding behind the protective shield of the US Navy, Army, Air Force and Marines. It has almost no capability to fight for, take and hold its own territories. And for all the pro-China hype, even in its strongest arena on land, it has been recently publicly embarrassed by India.

    You again disprove your ideology by solely considering buying and selling goods (which only ‘freely’ happens when a dominant player sets out to guarantee its own trade routes, vassals and allies, and ends up helping everyone else’s in the process), and by disparaging ‘political economies’ and Australian industry.

    I restate that the only way your ideology works, is if no humans are involved. Robots and computer programs might trade exclusively for maximal efficiency and profit. Humans need to be able to live. And fend for themselves amd their antecedents when the super-duper-intricate systems of trade, debt, obligation, favour, expectation and profit collapse.

  81. Rex Anger says:

    Something we could well do here (albeit, starting from a much more comfortable starting point) if we abandoned a few of the more recent Grand Projets that have fettered Australian business: counter-productive labour laws; erosion of the value of commercial contracts; land use planning laws that create artificial scarcities of useful land to name but a few.

    That entails a massive dismantling of the bureaucratic state and leftist political control. Something very few on the Cat would.disagree with you about.

  82. Ed Case says:

    That’s the most unreadable series of comments i’ve ever seen, young rexie, and i’ve seen a few.
    Congratulations on killing this thread.

  83. Rex Anger says:

    That’s the most unreadable series of comments i’ve ever seen, young rexie, and i’ve seen a few.
    Congratulations on killing this thread.

    Congratulations in turn, on demonstrating the truth of my assertions about your lack of intelligence, Grigory.

    Go and masturbate about Christian Porter on the Open Thread.

  84. Pyrmonter says:

    @ Rex

    That entails a massive dismantling of the bureaucratic state and leftist political control. Something very few on the Cat would.disagree with you about.

    Well, I’m still here. Trying to persuade you lot about your socialist errors.

    The PRC is not productive and rich because it is ‘free-‘ Every major power in human history with long reach and economic power fought for it, claimed it and fought to keep it. Not because it traded more freely with others.

    No. China had a large population and all the natural resources it has now in 1965. But it was not powerful, it was desperately, desperately poor (this was at the later stages of the Great Leap Forward – probably the greatest cause of human famine in history – and near the start of the Cultural Revolution, at a time when the far Left here were still lauding Mao, and fashionable opinion held that we should join with the Brits and recognise the PRC, as both Kissinger and Whitlam did in the early 70s). Whatever nationalist rhetoric is now applied, China emerged from that hellscape by reversing collectivization and unleashing the ability of entrepreneurs to go from small to large, to accumulate private capital and to mobilize the talent and resources communism had suppressed. The Chinese state is still despotic; but for several decades it reduced the intrusion on economic life imposed by Mao (and, in different ways, many of his predecessors) to facilitate one of the greatest transformations in human wellbeing in history. That liberalisation included the ability to trade, something at which China became fairly good. That government looks to be sliding into a form of authoritarian nationalism decorated with communist symbolism (crucially, with weak property rights); predictably enough, China’s growth rate has slowed markedly.

    For the record, I never said China was, or has been, freer than Australia. It isn’t.

  85. Ed Case says:

    Perhaps Free Trade can work in China, a country that doesn’t recognise the Rights of Labourers to anything but blind obedience versus becoming an Organ Donor.

  86. Pyrmonter says:

    @ Ed Case

    The best protection a worker has against ‘exploitation’ is a choice of employer. I’ll wager that choice is better now in China than it was under Mao. I hope that one day that choice will be as free as it is here, in the US or as it is in Europe.

    The presence of evil overseas has often been used by those who oppose free trade: it was an argument, for example, for sanctions against South Africa under apartheid. I’ve not been persuaded: whatever one’s own thoughts about the rotten-ness of foreign governments, how often will a boycott harm those governments, as opposed to the weakest within those foreign countries.

    I can understand why people seek out information on what is being termed ‘modern slavery’ with a view to, for example, not buying the product of Uyghur concentration camps; at the same time, I am apprehensive that the ‘modern slavery movement’ is just another version of ‘the activist middle classes in the west finding reason not to trade with johnny foreigner, in an unholy alliance with organised labour and entrepreneurs in sectors that compete with johnny foreigner’ – a phenomenon that reaches back at least a century.

  87. Rex Anger says:

    Well, I’m still here. Trying to persuade you lot about your socialist errors.

    What socialist errors? You don’t solve the problems of a leftwit political establishment by embracing the same ‘free’ marketeering they have exploited because it allows them to indulge their fantasies of total human control, by impoverishing some, enriching others at their expense, and importing other populations en masse in order to dilute and suppress dissent to their carry-on. Donald Trump became Orange Man Bad not because he was a protectionist dinosaur, but because he saw that the very rich Democrat and Republican donors and politicians alike were identical. They suppressed wages in the US through mass skilled and unskilled immigration, exported US industries to cheaper offshore locations, got even richer off the transfers and riding the local economy into the ground, and called everyone who disagreed with them racists, bigots, deplorables, etc.

    Whatever nationalist rhetoric is now applied, China emerged from that hellscape by reversing collectivization and unleashing the ability of entrepreneurs to go from small to large, to accumulate private capital and to mobilize the talent and resources communism had suppressed. The Chinese state is still despotic; but for several decades it reduced the intrusion on economic life imposed by Mao (and, in different ways, many of his predecessors) to facilitate one of the greatest transformations in human wellbeing in history. That liberalisation included the ability to trade, something at which China became fairly good.

    In effect, China went from ‘proper’ Communism to Fascism. They permitted sufficient liberalisation to attract foreign investment, but keeping the people very firmly under the totalitarian Party’s thumb. And there they have stayed. Much like the Soviets tried to do, but had the benefit of an even bigger land space and resource availability to maintain the facade of total State control for longer.

    All the companies there re still Party-controlled, but have more freedom to act than under Mao. So long as said acts are in the Party’s interests, and the right people get their cut.

    For the record, I never said China was, or has been, freer than Australia. It isn’t.

    I agree that you didn’t. I stated my uncle’s attitude because it was typical of people who went over, in their arrogance and naïvete, and got burned. The same people who thought they could make all the money, and China would gratefully let them.

  88. Rex Anger says:

    Fascinating- I type Donald Trump became Orange Man Bad not because he was a protectionist dinosaur, but because he saw that the very rich Democrat and Republican donors and politicians alike were identical. They suppressed wages in the US through mass skilled and unskilled immigration, exported US industries to cheaper offshore locations, got even richer off the transfers and riding the local economy into the ground, and called everyone who disagreed with them racists, bigots, deplorables, etc.

    Only to see that Pyrmonter has replied to Grigory with I am apprehensive that the ‘modern slavery movement’ is just another version of ‘the activist middle classes in the west finding reason not to trade with johnny foreigner, in an unholy alliance with organised labour and entrepreneurs in sectors that compete with johnny foreigner’- a phenomenon that reaches back at least a century.

    Has that spinning bowtie achieved Lift yet, Swampy?

  89. Arky says:

    allows for the well known ‘comparative static’ advantages of specialisation in production at which the region is good: in Australia, wool, wheat, mining; in Germany,

    ..
    Oh God.
    Out it comes for the numpteenth time.
    “Comparative advantage”.
    Listen, and get it through your fucking head this time.
    There are no competitive advantages in FUCKING ANYTHING when you have a society of non- productive losers warehoused in education well into their twenties, completely unskilled in anything practical and with a monumental sense of entitlement.
    That is what the last 40 years of tariff reductions and “clever country” comparative advantage bullshitting ourselves about our own value has achieved.
    None of the shit we need to survive is going to be any the cheaper.
    The CCP has taken all the plant and equipment and IP, said “thank you very much idiots”, and is now the only game in town for purchasing everything from tools to bicycles. The factories no longer exist elsewhere, and the knowhow to recreate an industrial society with the countless processes and trades required is disappearing here.
    Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good.
    It never occurred to you that you might be wrong or what the consequences for everyone would be if you were wrong.
    If I’m wrong, shit costs a bit more.
    If you are wrong, and I’m right, you just fucked us for good.
    AT A TIME WHEN AUTOMATION BEGAN TO REDUCE THE RELIANCE ON POPULATION FOR MASS PRODUCTION, AND THAT PART OF THEIR ADVANTAGE WAS BECOMING LESS IMPORTANT, YOU GIFTED EVERYTHING WE WORKED HUNDREDS OF YEARS FOR TO THE CCP.

  90. Rex Anger says:

    Luckily for Australia, people still need to eat…

  91. Pyrmonter says:

    @ Rex

    There has been alarming naivete – mostly on the part of Australian politicians who tagged along on ‘trade and investment’ missions: they should all have known better than to get involved; rather too many of them (and not just on the Left) are too sympathetic to parties close to the CCP.

    But the ‘China stole its way to wealth’ story is over-sold: China was absolutely backward, and gained a lot from applying what was, basically, ‘open source’ information – above all, that not engaging in centralised control was the path to prosperity. That was a lesson that seemed to be recognised under Deng and his immediate successors; Xi has slid backward. We see that in the GDP growth rates, which are now averaging (pre Covid) around 6%; they were in double figures for much of the 90s and 00s.

  92. Arky says:

    But the ‘China stole its way to wealth’ story is over-sold:

    ..
    You’ve got a slick self deluding narrative for everything, haven’t you, c*nt.

  93. Pyrmonter says:

    @ Arky

    Production has been becoming less labour intensive since the start of the Agricultural Revolution. Is it your case that we need to return to the three-field crop rotation system to ensure all available labour is absorbed? If not, then at what particular point in history do you think productivity was higher? And if you dismiss comparative advantage – can I ask whether you yourself make the textiles you wear; raise and slaughter the meat; grow the grains; quarried the materials from which your accommodation is built; and did all the other things necessary to be ‘self sufficient’? If you didn’t, as surely is the case, then you have recognized the advantages of specialisation upon which comparative advantage depends. And there is no real difference between your specialisation in whatever earns you the money that pays for the computer with its sticky CAPS LOCK key and the specialisation that suggests Australia produces cheaper wheat, wool and iron ore than Japan, and that Japan produces cheaper televisions than we do.

  94. Dot says:

    Arky makes a good point.

    Endowment sets are not a guarantee of comparative advantage.

    On the other hand, China or Vietnam inheriting our old manufacturing industries has little to do with IP or automation.

    Per capita real wages rose significantly from the 1980s to the GFC.

    We don’t want to make K Mart bikes. Do you want Chinese wages of $5k per year?

    Probably not.

    Unemployment even got to 4% or below briefly.

    If we had higher capital intensity like in the US and Germany, and more automation, manufacturing would come back here.

    That’s what the industrial revolution did. The British didn’t build mills the likes of Manchester in their poorest colonies. The cheapest labour is often ill suited to the state of the art processes and technologies at the time.

    As for the education system, school, trades and university could be much more condensed.

    You should be able to put up a shingle with an unrestricted licence by the time you hit 21 for most trades or university trained careers, or 23 for the most demanding white collar professions (MDs).

  95. Arky says:

    It’s the same sick, arrogant pathology as the climate change arseholes.
    They never stop to ask themselves what the worst it is that can happen if they are wrong. So convinced of their own story, never a tiny, tiny bit of doubt that they know best.
    It’s sickening.

  96. Dot says:

    Hundreds of years of empirical data and evidence is on the side of free trade. From most countries that existed over that time, data exists and adds to the weight of evidence.

    You are having a lend of yourself here Arky.

    Vibe check please.

  97. Rex Anger says:

    Pyrmonter, you assume again that economics was solely the reason behind China’s actions, and Xi is a backwards move.

    You are thinking like a Westerner- Maximise advantage, etc.

    The Chinese Communist Party is a despotic tyranny that makes a show of appointing a ‘King’ every few years. It is not governed like we are, nor are its economic and geopolitical priorities the same.

    ‘Socialism With Chinese Characteristics’ borrows a lot of Marx, Lenin and Mao alike. They consider themselves and their system superior (‘Heaven’ does mean the centre of everything in Mandarin, after all, and China is the Kingdom of Heaven), and will manipulate everything in their power to prove their case.

    As such, effectively paying over their entire industrial system over to foreigners for a time, and being as obsequious and apparently harmless as needed to pull in the fool gweilo until they were at least equal to, if not ahead of their main strategic competitors in the US and Europe was a perfectly legitimate course of action for the Party. Just as the sudden change to aggressive belligerence under Xi.

    You can never trust their words, only their actions.

    And there have been a great many people with dollar signs in their eyes, who have charged straight into the Dragon’s embrace (and still do), only to come to terible grief.

  98. Pyrmonter says:

    @ Dot

    I’m not making some Panglossian argument that everything is perfect. Rather, one that says many of the problems you list, and with which most on this thread would agree – there are problems in our (largely state directed) education and training systems; we have an over-large, and over-powerful state sector, that makes education and healthcare unnecessarily expensive; and tie much of economic activity up in ever-increasing (and ever less certain) regulation.

    None of that has anything to do with free trade, which, if anything, overcomes some of the regulatory barriers; and none of it can credibly be cured by additional ‘second best’ subsidies.

  99. Rex Anger says:

    Vibe check please.

    Only if it’s Hitachi…

  100. Dot says:

    China isn’t smart. They have empty cities built for millions, they did not listen to western advisers on the weaknesses and lifespan of the three gorges dam, they subsidised Australia’s recovery from the GFC, their economic data is very questionable and they have to execute hundreds of people per month to prevent a popular, peaceful revolution – plus the blatant slave labour.

  101. Pyrmonter says:

    @ Rex

    The CCP is doing something Dr Johnson recognised 2 1/2 centuries ago when he wrote that ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of the soundrel’, and which has been a recurrent theme of western literature and art ever since: in the face of illegitimacy, a government wraps its ideas in a flag, exhorting its subjects to unite behind a ‘common cause’ – which is to say, the very opposite of a liberal regime.

    I’m skeptical about how long it will work: in that sense, in the long run, I’m a moderate optimist. The Chinese people are increasingly better educated, and we saw, in the wake of the fall of the Warsaw Pact, that neither silence nor acquiescence by the population meant that they agreed with the policies imposed upon them.

  102. Arky says:

    There are roughly 400 million native born English speaking people in the world.
    Approximately 5% of the world population.
    Just because sometime in between inventing the modern world and the end of the 20th century we decided that the world was going to be one big happy, interdependent global village (a concept now taught in our schools as a hard FACT) doesn’t mean the other 95% of the world’s population has agreed. 1.4 billion of whom speak chinese.
    The idea that they will continue to deign to produce manufactured goods to our specifications in a timely manner because of YOUR idealised notion of what world trade should be, is UTTERLY FUCKING DEMENTED.

  103. Arky says:

    Not you Dot.
    You’re utterly demented for different reasons.

  104. Turtle says:

    My local Lib candidate in the recent WA election told me they were going to run an aluminium smelter on renewables up in Geraldton. I explained what nearly happened in Victoria, and the total ignorant stupidity of that idea. She had no idea.

    We need to get more engineers in parliament. These morons are making decisions they will never understand, influenced by rip off merchants who promise utopia.

  105. Arky says:

    This is the type of wilful stupidity we are up against, read the reply to someonre pointing out how quickly China has surpassed the USA:
    ..

    Mark J. Perry
    @Mark_J_Perry
    New global GDP breakdown data from the UN for 2018 show that China produced almost 2X the manufacturing output as the USA. As recently as 2006, the US produced 2X the manufacturing output as China.
    5:23 am · 12 Jan 2020·Twitter Web App
    ..
    Replying to
    @Mark_J_Perry
    OK do Output per Capita.

  106. Arky says:

    The reply, of course, was from an economics professor.

  107. jupes says:

    ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of the soundrel’

    Patriotism is also the last hope against tyranny in a globalised world.

  108. Dot says:

    You cannot trust Chinese GDP data.

  109. Ed Case says:

    Pyrmonter,

    … and the specialisation that suggests Australia produces cheaper wheat, wool and iron ore than Japan, and that Japan produces cheaper televisions than we do.

    um, Japan doesn’t produce Wheat, Wool, or Iron Ore for Export.
    The reasons have nothing to do with Free Trade.
    Are Japanese/South Korean/Chinese/ Kazakstani/wherever Televisions as good as we used to produce in Australia?
    No, it’s garbage, littering the footpath on Council Kerbside Collection Week [postponed in Brisbane until 2022].
    We lose on both sides of the deal, plus it creates a race to the bottom on Wages in Australia.
    We can’t all “learn to code”, you know?

  110. Rex Anger says:

    The CCP is doing something Dr Johnson recognised 2 1/2 centuries ago when he wrote that ‘Patriotism is the last refuge of the soundrel’, and which has been a recurrent theme of western literature and art ever since: in the face of illegitimacy, a government wraps its ideas in a flag, exhorting its subjects to unite behind a ‘common cause’ – which is to say, the very opposite of a liberal regime.

    China does have some 2500 or so years of nationalistic legalism. Warlordism->Empire->Warlordism. And the Mandarin class continued unabated. Just with a few changes of master along the way.

  111. Arky says:

    Yes. I’m swearing a lot. Yes I have lost patience with these arguments.
    Because we aren’t getting out of this. We ARE STUFFED.
    And yet, in the face of the ongoing green stupidity, in the face of a massive assault from cultural Marxists, with the mask well and truly off the CCP and the full knowlege of what it is that we have been fostering obvious to everyone, it’s still the same lame, wrong arguments exercising the minds on the right.
    IT IS URGENT that we do something different.
    And if you don’t focus your minds on an industrial relations system that works, an education system that produces productive young people and an energy sector able to power an industrial society, it’s all over. ALL OF IT.
    At this point, I think it is all over, so to me, the only thing left to do is to sheet the blame home to those who advocated for this insanity and ignored the real issues for decades.
    And that, Sir, includes you.

  112. Pyrmonter says:

    @ Dot

    Paul Krugman was making those arguments in the 1990s. I don’t ‘trust’ it in the sense that I think it is manipulated; and more so than, say, the data on Germany, or even Greece (you will recall though that the Greeks wanted to prosecute their honest statisticians for telling the truth). GDP is a rough measure of capacity to meet people’s material wishes – and there are problems with measuring ‘purchasing power’ in any aggregate (for an off topic example, have a look at the different PPP adjusted historical income figures, which often differ from each other significantly). While we could be wildly off, we do know the PRC is much more productive than it was a decade ago, and much more than it was two decades ago.

    @ Ed ‘Japan … doesn’t produce X for export’ is rather my point. These are not matters of government policy (much – as Smith pointed out, you could grow oranges in Scotland. With enough subsidy, you could probably export them. But you’d be mad to do so) or marketing strategy or ‘competitive advantage’ (a very slippery term), but comparative advantage, as revealed by the interplay of the voluntary participants in market transactions.

  113. Arky says:

    Fuck me.
    It’s like listening to the priest of a voodoo religion in the throws of a hallucinatory incantation while the fucking church burns down.

  114. Pyrmonter says:

    Arky:

    (a) do you think the CCP is actually Marxist, as opposed to posing next to Marxist symbols and filtering its acts through Marxist rhetoric?

    (b) do you think Marxist rhetoric is internally consistent?

  115. Dot says:

    I doubt that China has per capita real output growth that is exceptional.

    What’s their export growth plus foreign subsidiary sales growth factoring in real effective exchange rates?

    From 1981 to now by decade?

  116. Dot says:

    A. Yes.

    B. No, which is why A. is correct.

  117. Arky says:

    (a) do you think the CCP is actually Marxist, as opposed to posing next to Marxist symbols and filtering its acts through Marxist rhetoric?

    ..
    Seriously man, who gives a fuck what you call them.
    Here.
    Here.
    Here.
    Get it?

  118. Ed Case says:

    Pyrmonter,
    Iceland doesn’t export Wool, Wheat, and Iron Ore.
    There are reasons for that that have nothing to do with Free Trade.
    Why can’t Australia produce Televisions etc.?
    Labor cost is the only thing that jumps out.
    In other words, we’re competing against the Asian SweatShops [a polite term for slave labour].

  119. Ed Case says:

    Now, I know what you’re about to say.
    The only way to have a [for example] Television Manufacturing Industry in Australia is Protectionism, and the TV will be twice the price, plus cronyism, unfairness, and Unions.
    But, so what?
    The imported Tv today lasts 3 years, the motherboard, or something else dies, you throw it in the dump and buy another piece of cheap junk, versus, say, a National TV that was built here in the first year of Colour that was still going 25 years later.
    Yeah, it cost a lot more, but you weren’t buying a new one every 3 years, either.

  120. Arky says:

    A German company has abruptly announced that it is abandoning its half-interest in a kidney dialysis center in Guangzhou, China, admitting that Chinese military officials had probably made it an unintentional accomplice in the selling of organs from executed prisoners to wealthy foreigners.
    …The announcement was made less than two weeks after F.B.I. agents arrested two Chinese Government officials in New York and charged them with trying to market human organs in the United States that came from executed political prisoners.
    -NYT
    March 1998.

    ..
    WASHINGTON (CNN) – President Clinton closed years of political and economic debate Tuesday, and sealed a major achievement of his administration by signing a bill extending permanent, normal trade status to China.
    Oct 10 2000.
    ..

    “Even the government admits that prisoner organs are the largest source of transplant organs in China,” says Roseanne Rise from Amnesty International. “In 2009, the vice-minister of health said it was not an acceptable or proper source but they recognized nonetheless that a vast majority of their organs for transplant still come from executed prisoners.”
    ..
    Gaurdian, 2012.
    ..

    China could eventually join the trade pact currently under negotiation with 12 Pacific Rim nations, President Barack Obama said Wednesday.
    -Politico, 2015.
    ..

    Tell us about what you know regarding the forced organ harvesting that is happening in China right now.
    On the current situation in China, I can only refer you back to the final judgement of the China Tribunal, which can claim that as far as their investigation found – and it was the most thorough investigation done on this issue recently – forced organ harvesting is still going on in China.

    I am the senior author on a paper called ‘Analysis of official Chinese transplant data casts doubts on the claims of transplant reform’. The first author is my co-author, Matthew Robertson, a doctoral student in Australia; and we submitted the paper to the tribunal. We analysed the official transplant data published by the Chinese over the years since 2015, the year they claim to have completely stopped using organs from executed prisoners; and we show in this very detailed statistical analysis that most of their data is absolutely fraud.
    – Health Europa, 2020.

    ..
    Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Wednesday night that China was “not competition” for the U.S.
    -NBC, 2020.

  121. Arky says:

    These are the dirty scum to whom you have exported our industries.
    These are the dirty scum to whom you handed 7.5 million Hong Kongers.
    These are the gangsters to whom you have offered 160 000 Australian university places a year.
    These are the lying arseholes from whom you purchase the solar panels and wind turbines with which you sabotage our power grids.
    These are the power hungry homicidal lunatics to whom you have handed the future.
    Well done.

  122. Arky says:

    You know something Pyrmonter.
    You could at least have the goddamn fucking decency to reply to the litany of horrors I have listed here.
    Coward.

  123. Pyrmonter says:

    Arky – I was walking home from the office and then dining.

    Have I defended the CCP anywhere upthread? They’re awful. They were still worse in the past: I mentioned the Great Leap Forward – something the western left swallowed whole, until Simon Leys/Pierre Ryckmans exposed it. Is every Chinese person responsible for the depredations of his or her government? As someone who believes in individual justice, I have to say, no.

    How is despotism undermined? We have a few examples. One, a fairly recent one, is the use made within the Soviet Union and elsewhere in the ‘Eastern bloc’ of the Helsinki human rights measures: they were used by dissidents to point to the dishonesty and hypocrisy of the various communist regimes. Those measures came about because of engagement, not boycott.

  124. Arky says:

    How is despotism undermined?

    ..
    How about not trading with them?
    Like the international left arranged for apartheid South Africa.
    Stop fucking about with these bastards. How about that?

  125. Pyrmonter says:

    Arky

    Im not persuaded the Left in the west had all that much influence on the fall of apartheid. If leaky internal sanctions worked, we would have expected changes in places like North Korea or Iran long ago – they’re both much poorer (in an aggregate sense) than China.

  126. Pyrmonter says:

    (external, not internal)

  127. Arky says:

    Pathetic.

  128. Rex Anger says:

    How is despotism undermined? We have a few examples. One, a fairly recent one, is the use made within the Soviet Union and elsewhere in the ‘Eastern bloc’ of the Helsinki human rights measures: they were used by dissidents to point to the dishonesty and hypocrisy of the various communist regimes. Those measures came about because of engagement, not boycott.

    Not at the general economic and mass trade level. And not on a massive scale.

    The Soviets were the beneficiaries of subversive actors and front agencies purchasing critical and specific technologies (like co.puters) for reverse-engineering. And of certain Western firms eager to sell to anyone.

    In truth, massive American corporate support and trade won the Bolsheviks the Revolution, and kept them afloat just long enough to become the Police State they were. It was also massive American economic support that effectively won them the Second World War. It was Soviet pride and Western leftist stupidity that allowed them to survive as long as they did.

    If the West engaged with Soviet Russia the way they have rushed to China, we’d still be worrying about Soviet submarines and bomber overflights, ditto exercising against an Armoured assault by the Red Army through Central Europe.

    And the average citizens here would be just as economically imperilled and politically oppressed as they are now. Maybe even worse…

  129. Rex Anger says:

    If leaky internal sanctions worked, we would have expected changes in places like North Korea or Iran long ago – they’re both much poorer (in an aggregate sense) than China.

    These nations survive because they have a relatively rich sponsor and trading partner in China. Once, they would have looked to the Soviet Union. When the Russians gave up on the worldwode hegemony thing, a newly prosperous China was most happy to take up the torch.

    North Korea and Iran and Pakistan, etc. will continue to sputter along, so long as China continues to guarantee their debts, buy their resources and supply them with guns.

    Internal contradictions can be held at bay, so long as the peoples’ bellies are reasonably full, they can support their families, and/or resistance is demonstrated to be both fatal and futile…

  130. Pyrmonter says:

    @ Rex

    A key reason there wasn’t more interaction between the Soviet bloc and the West was the system of central planning in the former meant there wasn’t much it made that could be sold in the west – basically caviar, gold and oil (the mid 70s rises in commodity prices papered over some of the cracks in the sclerotic economic infrastructure, as did loans to places like Poland and Rumania). That isn’t the problem with China, which is part of my point: China’s failings differ from those of the Warsaw Pact.

  131. Arky says:

    This is why I lose my patience with having this conversation with the “free markets’ absolutists. The same lying shit ad nauseam:
    – “comparative advantage” lie. No dickhead, you end up with no advantages in anything when you de-industrialise because your workers become useless nose ringed, snow flake, entitled fucks.
    – “China isn’t a threat”. Good one, Joe Biden. And then they run the “Too late to do anything about China now”, Pretty close to it today with the “Well, what do you want to do to reign in China” line above.
    – Conflating historic tariff regimes with other events that occur to countries attempting to industrialise. I bet this one has no idea what Ghana’s tariff regime was in 1960. Yes, it’s incredibly difficult to build a diversified industrial society. Many countries fail. All the more reason to think twice before chucking away your industries for a few years of cheaper imports. Those cheap import prices don’t last. You can only spend the value you create. Whether you are an individual, a household or a country, your consumption is ultimately linked to the value you produce. Well done in limiting the value we create to a third world nation’s reliance on what can be found in the landscape or farmed.
    Well done ignoring the factors limiting our capacity to add value and coming back time and time again to the failed notion that tariffs are the problem.
    -Conflating a reasonable tariff regime with socialism, centralised governments, etc etc. The smear. When actually it was Republicans who used tariffs and the central planning enthusiasts Democrats who swap tariffs for taxes. YOU HAVE IT COMPLETELY BACKWARDS, We see time and time again that increased TAXES are linked to more government control and regulation. NOT TARIFFS. Tariff regimes in the USA are historically linked to low regulation Republican administrations.
    Your inability to honestly research the history of taxes and tariffs in the USA during the time it was on the cusp of becoming a super power, or to even address the point speaks volumes about a lack of curiosity and the extent to which you are simply repeating arguments learned by rote and not really thinking about the problem.
    You won’t really read this, you’ll skim it looking for a hobby horse to latch onto and then spew that out regardless of what’s said here. This reply isn’t for you, but in the hope that someone else reads it and sees what your ilk is up to.

  132. Boambee John says:

    Pyrmonter says:
    March 20, 2021 at 9:53 pm
    Arky:

    (a) do you think the CCP is actually Marxist, as opposed to posing next to Marxist symbols and filtering its acts through Marxist rhetoric?

    The CCP is openly fascist.

    Two sides of the same coin.

  133. Arky says:

    “Comparative advantage”.
    Rolled out by the thick as the excuse of the century.
    Like a dumb horse who comes up to a single stranded fence and says “I can’t get past this wire”.
    You never ask the question: “What it that we are doing that disadvantages us here”?
    So you never get onto industrial relations, dams, nuclear power, red tape, actually reducing government, or anything real or useful.
    Quite convenient isn’t it? Comparative advantage explains away why we should give in to China and never, ever, ever tackle difficult people like unions, corruption or existing large businesses, who might fight back.

  134. Kneel says:

    “We make NOTHING here.”

    Close, but not quite.
    The company I work for exports product to the USA, EU, ME, even China – locally made (not “assembled”, made!) We are the preferred supplier for pretty much all AU emergency services, as well as preferred supplier to one of the “big name” US manufacturers of the associated equipment – they want more, and more variants, in volume.
    This is because our products are superior in quality, performance and reliability – quite literally second to none and best in the world. Competitive margins too.
    I believe the answer is not to focus so much on price, but on quality – there will always be someone who can do it cheaper, but it’s damn hard to find things that are actually better too. Cost over total life of the product matters, as anyone who has gotten some cheap crappy brand can attest – what point buying for half the price if you need to replace it three times as often?
    “Tyranny of distance” is not a curse, it’s an opportunity – an opportunity to find new and better ways to do things by “making do with what you have”. We need to exploit this, not complain about it.

  135. Pyrmonter says:

    @ Arky

    Tariffs are taxes.

  136. Pyrmonter says:

    @ Boambee

    I’d have agreed a few years ago. I’m coming round to the idea we need a new term – something that can encompass the authoritarians of China and, say, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, that doesn’t group them in with Salazar/Franco/Mussolini and (debatably) Horthy/Carol II/Mannerheim etc.

    Crucially, they have low regard for the security of property, the cornerstone of most other liberal rights (‘without access to paper, what is the point of freedom of expression’, etc), but that’s hardly uncommon: Arky, for example, who is clearly no communist, wants to impose a barrier to trade somewhere in the Torres Strait, because he is apprehensive of the corrosive effect New Guinea’s low wages will have on Australian prosperity.

  137. Dot says:

    So you never get onto industrial relations, dams, nuclear power, red tape, actually reducing government, or anything real or useful.

    Pyrmonter is on the side of the angels here.

    Government expenditure could be cut in half with the same desired social outcomes.

    A libertarian government would run on 5 – 10% of GDP and conservative one can barely justify anything over 15% of GDP.

  138. Arky says:

    Pyrmonter says:
    March 21, 2021 at 12:40 pm
    @ Arky

    Tariffs are taxes.

    ..
    Don’t be a fucking smart arse.

  139. Arky says:

    Pyrmonter is on the side of the angels here.

    ..
    No, he is an apologist for a process that over fort years has brought our society to the brink of destruction.
    And unable honestly do the work to address any point I have made.
    An expected result.
    See the “tariffs are taxes” smart arsery evasion above.

  140. Arky says:

    This is the thing. People read these comments. How does it reflect on you when given a argument based on the real history of tariffs in the USA, you reply with “tariffs are taxes” as if those reading can’t differentiate what is meant by tariffs and taxes.
    If I wrote “other taxes” will you NOW address the actual argument, you dishonest prick?

  141. Boambee John says:

    Pyrmonter says:
    March 21, 2021 at 12:46 pm
    @ Boambee

    I’d have agreed a few years ago. I’m coming round to the idea we need a new term – something that can encompass the authoritarians of China and, say, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, that doesn’t group them in with Salazar/Franco/Mussolini and (debatably) Horthy/Carol II/Mannerheim etc.

    A commendable objective, but one that has no hope of acceptance, as the current terms are valued too much by those who use them.

    Look at the immediate reaction of someone on the left to anyone who objects to even the smallest part of their “narrative”. It is to scream “fascist”, much as the term “communist” was used by conservatives in the 1950s and 1960s (not that it was necessarily inaccurate).

    The best thing is to kill “fascist” with overuse, much as “communist” eventually was as a term of abuse, being now a term of praise by many who use it.

  142. Arky says:

    Here.
    I’ll give you a clue, you lazy useless smart arsed sod.
    Get off your fucking arse, research the tariff policies of democrat and republican administrations in the 19th century and you might have some ammunition for a debate. It might not be all one way. The readership might learn something in the resultant discussion.
    Rather than yet more yards of the superficial “comparative advantage” and “oh china bad but what can we do? Shrug” Fucking horseshit you have polluted this thread with.
    Moron.
    Absolute fucking moron.

  143. Arky says:

    Jesus.
    If you argued honestly you might even be able to change my mind about some things.
    But that’s never an option for some, is it?
    Not when you can use evasion or stupid word play to score points and avoid the ground you don’t want to debate on.
    This is not my first rodeo with your ilk. It always go exactly this way.

  144. Rex Anger says:

    Rex: is the anger due to brain damage? The Portland subsidy is directly relevant. Not to mention central to the post proposition. Your string of posts here give the impression of a spinning top of mania. Get help.

    Pissweak, EllenG. The article is about subsidies that would not need to exist if Governments were not desperate to institute insane energy policies that would destroy their own industries.

    That the thread then developed into an argument over economic theory and history is clearly beyond your smooth-brained attempts to fling bombs.

    You fail again. Go gum somebody else’s leg with your bloodied stumps, you howling incompetent.

  145. Rex Anger says:

    A key reason there wasn’t more interaction between the Soviet bloc and the West was the system of central planning in the former meant there wasn’t much it made that could be sold in the west – basically caviar, gold and oil

    And totally not because they refused all interaction unless it was solely on their terms, or they were desperate for hard currency?

    Economics is not the sole driver of trade and diplomatic interaction, Pyrmonter. You ignore politics at your peril…

  146. Rockdoctor says:

    BJ agreed about the fascism part. I spent a few years of my life in Asia, closest to China I have been is Taiwan but I have met plenty of mainland Chinese to know there is a growing problem that is getting worse as they gain confidence. I am not so optimistic that the PRC will morph into a honest world player. They are brainwashed by nationalistic propaganda from cradle to grave and a massive chip on their shoulder from historical wrongs during ineffectual dynasties that one of their neighbours and that the Europeans took advantage of. Most of the other south east Asian nations I have been in have generally gotten over the colonial wrongs and made peace with former masters. I have seen some really detestable behaviour by Chinese overseas, they seem pretty subdued for some reason in Australia though.

  147. Pyrmonter says:

    @ BJ

    The problem with ‘fascism’ is longstanding. But even within the limits one might have used in, say, 1990, when various forms of liberalism looked to be taking root, it was always messy. Orwell wrote up the problems pithily, and I think they’re as great now as they were 75 years ago: https://www.orwell.ru/library/articles/As_I_Please/english/efasc

  148. Boambee John says:

    Rockdoctor says:
    March 21, 2021 at 1:46 pm
    BJ agreed about the fascism part. I spent a few years of my life in Asia, closest to China I have been is Taiwan but I have met plenty of mainland Chinese to know there is a growing problem that is getting worse as they gain confidence. I am not so optimistic that the PRC will morph into a honest world player. They are brainwashed by nationalistic propaganda from cradle to grave and a massive chip on their shoulder from historical wrongs during ineffectual dynasties that one of their neighbours and that the Europeans took advantage of.

    Rockdoctor

    Yes, ethno-nationalist state in which nominally independent companies follow the commands of the government.

    On second thought, fascism might not be the correct word. Given the ethno element, perhaps full on Nazism might be more accurate?

  149. Rex Anger says:

    Rex: the subsidy for Portland was in the original 1979 contract and gas only be one worse over the intervening years. As your brain appears to have eroded to powder I’ll explain again: the original power price was a discount on historic prices and did not account fir the new capital cost of loy yang. Even you might be alert to the fact that loy yang was built well before renewables appeared on the scene.

    And?

    What of it, anklebiter?

    Is it my fault or anyone elses’ that the contractual terms were not reviewed and corrected?

    Is it anyone’s fault (other than the parties responsible) that mutual ignorance at many political and administrative levels resulted in panicky bandaids being slapped onto the smelter, because Loy Yang was dynamited to satisfy Environmental Marxists.

    Of course it isn’t, EllenG,.but you had a compulsive urge to come in here to scream and bite us. And you got kicked.

    Consider this another one.

  150. Kneel says:

    “No, he is an apologist for a process that over fort[y] years has brought our society to the brink of destruction.”

    The process, yes – the policy, no.

    “Free trade” implies “fair trade” – that is, I have at least a chance to compete and each side can exploit their own comparative advantage. The result is lower prices for both sides for all goods and services. This is a desirable goal. Alas, the “fair” part is ignored.

    Current policies do not address things such as:
    * being required to provide sick leave, annual leave and so on
    * being required to provide a safe work environment, workers comp insurance etc
    * other social safety nets
    * environmental rules and regs
    * removing all our barriers to trade (tariffs, taxes, quotas), when the other side merely reduces theirs
    * “indirect” subsidies from GovCo – EU and US farm subsidies, Chinese freight subsidies etc.

    While hardly a comprehensive list, the above at least needs to be involved in such negotiations. – they have not even been discussed by anyone close to the levers of power for the quoted forty years. We (the vast majority of Australians) have been screwed over because of that lack.

    As an example, consider coal – we have an abundant supply and export 400 million plus tonnes a year, and neither side of politics actually wants to stop such exports. Yet we are closing our own coal fired power stations to “save the planet”, while just China added more coal power stations than our full sum total in just one year. As I have noted before, replacing our fleet of coal power stations with HELE ones would reduce our emissions in that sector by 30% without the expense and risks associated with renew-a-bubbles, not to mention the environmental vandalism executed to built these “environmentally friendly” alternatives. Yet we continue to push renew-a-bubbles, which provide an order of magnitude less ROEI than coal plants and consume inordinate amounts of our foreign exchange. This is seemingly in order to be seen as “global leaders”. Yet we are pilloried by the hypocrites in the EU for “not doing enough”, while they are busy actually undoing some of what they have done in this area due to the damage it has already done to their economies and societies.

  151. Arky says:

    “Free trade” implies “fair trade” – that is, I have at least a chance to compete and each side can exploit their own comparative advantage. The result is lower prices for both sides for all goods and services. This is a desirable goal. Alas, the “fair” part is ignored.

    ..
    True.

  152. Arky says:

    Yet we continue to push renew-a-bubbles

    ..
    Made by burning Australian coal in China.
    it is literally insane.
    And yet these bozos think the solution is yet more of the same in the name of “free trade”.
    Arseholes.

  153. Kneel says:

    “Made by burning Australian coal in China.”

    The situation with aluminium (and steel, for that matter) is even worse.
    Even should we assume that smelting bauxite (or iron ore) here will produce the same amount of CO2 and pollution as doing so in China, the emissions for freighting both the ore (which is, naturally, heavier and bulkier than the refined product) and the required coal/coking coal from here to China, in terms of total global emissions, they would be lower if we did it here. Yet if we do, we are told that those emissions are our fault, despite the fact that probably 90+% of the finished product ends up in countries other than our own. Not mention the significant job “exports” as well. Yet we continue…

  154. Rex Anger says:

    Rex: I fear the brain damage is beyond help. Again: the subsidies preceded the existence of renewables. Portland was a dud from birth.

    That’s a nice opinion you got there, EllenG. Care to share it with the aluminuim workers whose tax bills pay for your dotage?

  155. Rex Anger says:

    I hope you are in care or supervised.

    The littlest anklebiter really gets into the projection when it doesn’t get its way…

    #BrainSoSmooth,YouCanSeeYourReflectionInIt

  156. mh says:

    Bend over libertarians, open your theory books and get ready to scream “this wasn’t meant to happen” or “you’re doing it wrong” or “if you look at page 59, you can’t actually be doing this” as the communist fist is shoved up hard.

    — Struth

  157. Kneel says:

    Communism can never win in the long run – capitalism is our “natural” state, and communism is always forced upon the populace, if not at the start, then certainly after a generation.
    Even the USSR knew this – the less than 10% of “private” farm plots produced in excess of 20% of their fresh fruit and vegetables. And there was always enough grain and potatoes to make vodka. China took note, and hopes to have the “best of both worlds”. This too will fail – eventually.

  158. Ed Case says:

    In the case of the Aluminum Industry, perhaps Free Trade could work to our advantage?
    Since Bauxite deposits are plentiful in other continents, and the industry itself is particularly polluting to the Ecology of the Local Area, why not buy the smelted product from elsewhere?
    Comparative Advantage?

  159. Rex Anger says:

    Here’s the thing you dribbling idiot. My posts are not opinion. The facts are readily available and gave been published by the Victorian government in various public documents going back to 1982. The most obvious source is the commission of audit produced for Jeff Kennett.

    And my question to you, Rikki Retardate remains:

    And?

    So What?

    Checked how many major smelting or other resource refining operations, etc. are subsidised or ‘assisted’ to a certain extent by other governments worldwide?

    Is it only bad in Australia?

    Or are you just screaming and biting ankles here because you saw the name ‘Rex Anger’ and felt a crutch-moistening urge to pick a fight?

    Spack off and go sand smooth what’s left of your cerebrum.

  160. Rex Anger says:

    Rex: bonus fact. I am well beyond any pension rights and have not ever had a taxpayer dollar.

    Wonderful, EllenG.

    You’re still stupid. And prone to foam-flecked projection when you see a name you don’t like because it has previously and repeatedly made you look as dumb as you are.

  161. Rex Anger says:

    Rex: bonus fact. I am well beyond any pension rights and have not ever had a taxpayer dollar.

    I can understand then, that you might be slightly bitter at anyone (I.E. Everyone) who ever got money back on a tax return. Or had some degree of return or tax reduction in response to their accounting of their profits and losses over a Financial Year.

    How incompetent a merchant do you have to be, when your first recourse is to think that everyone other than you (and who follows the Government’s own rules, regulations and provisions about minimising their tax burden) is a parasite?

  162. Rex Anger says:

    Rex: so it turns out you’re a socialist. Explains much. Apologies. I thought you were brain damaged. In fact you are an ideologue.

    Thank you for your declaration of surrender.

    But I am confused- I thought you said I was a Stalinist? Are you warming up to me, or have you polished your brain so smooth that your long-term memory is now failing?

    Waste of space.

    Indeed, you are…

  163. Rex Anger says:

    Stalin used the socialist moniker too Rex. You’re all the same garbage mongers

    That’s all right EllenG.

    You still lose. You had nothing to contribute, and resorted to screaming at me and calling me names when your slurs got turned back on you.

    #IfNoLikeHeatNoUseKitchen

    #Smoothbrain

    #Anklebiter

  164. Rex Anger says:

    Just look above at his your idiot approach unravelled.

    Errr…what?

    That brain of yours is now so smooth, you are unintelligible…

  165. Rex Anger says:

    Kids do that stuff Rex.

    Which is clearly why you haven’t stopped…

  166. Pyrmonter says:

    “Free trade” implies “fair trade” – that is, I have at least a chance to compete and each side can exploit their own comparative advantage. The result is lower prices for both sides for all goods and services. This is a desirable goal. Alas, the “fair” part is ignored.

    No – ‘fair trade’ is an idea of activists (of left and right, but both anti-trade) who take the abstracted economic models used to teach undergrad economics, which show elegantly the gains from trade, and mistake them for descriptions of the ‘real world’. ‘Fair trade’ is an nonsensical as thinking that all product markets are ‘prefectly competitive’, with all the requirements of ‘perfect competition’ – atomistic firms and consumers, perfect information etc. That reality is more complex does not undermine the insights that increasing market size leads to gains from specialization.

  167. Rex Anger says:

    ‘Fair trade’ is an nonsensical as thinking that all product markets are ‘prefectly competitive’, with all the requirements of ‘perfect competition’ – atomistic firms and consumers, perfect information etc.

    But it’s perfectly OK to deindustrialise a nation because some bureaucrat or oligarch somewhere believes it’s only good for growing food and digging out ore?

  168. Arky says:

    But it’s perfectly OK to deindustrialise a nation because some bureaucrat or oligarch somewhere believes it’s only good for growing food and digging out ore?

    ..
    You are talking to a fundamentalist.
    It’s pointless Rex.

  169. Rex Anger says:

    You are talking to a fundamentalist.
    It’s pointless Rex.

    So it would seem.

  170. Arky says:

    You can give examples. Present information counter to it’s views. Bring arguments. Use logic.
    It will just keep on repeating the mantra.
    As you become infuriated, it will get smugger.
    Luckily, there is an audience at Catallaxy they aren’t stupid, and they can work out who is just making empty assertions and who is genuinely questioning or arguing.
    Nothing can get in the way of what it wants: open borders and zero tariffs.
    They used to hide behind abuse and “comparative advantage maaaaaate”. Doesn’t work so well when you bring real arguments to it and a willingness to match the level of abuse they used to pump out.

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