We Could Learn a lot from the Scandinavians

The Conversation has run this interesting article suggesting that we could learn a lot from the Scandinavian Countries re Public policy.  It is all about comparing countries with a long history of governing to improve the welfare of the people and accepting high taxes with our far less people friendly policies that help minimize the taxes of the rich.

Funny thing is that people like the Yanks have been saying for years that what the Scandinavians are doing will wreck the economy despite the durable success of the Scandinavian countries.  The Yanks and clowns like Hockey don’t seem to understand that good health, excellent education, a fairer distribution of income etc. actually help economies stay healthy.

Worth a read and worth discussion.

The OECD has identified Australia as one of a small number of countries in which long working hours are common. In comparison, parents in Sweden and the other main Nordic countries have working weeks shorter than the OECD average. This is in addition to their substantial paid parental leave and publicly provided child care.

Shorter working hours allow parents from Sweden to pick up their children after work without the time pressures Australian parents face.

Australia will probably move to make child-care centre hours more flexible to suit our long working hours. However, the government should encourage shorter working hours, which are more compatible with family life.


Divesting Investments on Social, Environmental and Ethical Grounds

The Australia Institute is a progressive think tank that produces credible, fact based economic reports on the issues facing Australia.  What I have copied here is a short article from their periodic email on recent decisions by the ANU and others to divest the shares they held of companies whose business and/or behaviour is unacceptable on social, environmental etc. grounds.

It is just part of the pressure being encouraged by organizations such as 350.org to encourage banks, super funds etc. to stop investing in and financing unethical activities such as extracting fossil fuels:

Divestment movement hits a nerve

The fossil fuel divestment movement seemed to hit a particularly sensitive nerve this week. The Australian Financial Review has published a litany of critical front page stories, editorial and opinion pieces. In particular, special outrage flowed over divestment decisions taken by the Australian National University (ANU).

ANU announced last week it would divest from seven resources companies on environmental, social and governance (ESG) grounds. ANU is home to a long running student campaign calling on them to divest from fossil fuels. Under pressure, ANU sought professional ESG research and declared it would knock out the companies that ranked worst. The companies impacted include gas giant Santos, Oil Search and other miners extracting copper, nickel and a range of other minerals.

ANU’s decision has drawn ire, not only from the companies themselves, but also from SA Premier Jay Weatherall, previous Resources and Energy Minister Gary Gray and some Indigenous groups. There have been all manner of complaints: the companies say they weren’t consulted; they have won ESG awards; Santos is a proud Australian “pioneer”; fossil fuels cure poverty “whatever the effects of carbon dioxide ­emissions on climate”; mining is essential to modern life, and so on. One company is talking about legal action.

Others have baulked at the unusual enthusiasm in the reactions and coverage. A Canberra Times editorial said it “verged on hysterical”. Clean energy commentator Giles Parkinson, himself an ex-AFR deputy editor, said the reaction was “as though someone had committed treason against Team Australia. Or at the very least against Team Coal.”

At first glance, coal has nothing to do with it. ANU is not divesting from coal companies – unlike Stanford, which is divesting from all big coal companies, and Glasgow University which this week said it would divest from fossil fuels. Indeed, without a sector wide screen, ANU is likely to reinvest in fossil fuels. But when ABC’s Lateline covered ANU’s decision this week, theMinerals Council sent the head of their Coal Division into bat for the miners. Maybe that’s because coal is most at risk from the reputational effects of divestment campaigns. Coal is the heaviest emitter, cheapest to substitute with renewables and at most risk of being displaced by new clean energy.

ANU Vice Chancellor Prof. Ian Young defended the ANU’s move:

as “a major researcher in environment and alternative energy, we need to be able to put our hand on our heart when we talk to our students and to our alumni and to our researchers and be able to say that we’re confident that the sort of companies that we’re investing in are consistent with the broad themes that drive this university.

ANU economist Warrick McKibbIn did not agree, saying “you need proper, clear, transparent policies such as carbon pricing… You don’t get the sort of adjustment we need by these token gestures by institutions like a university.”

But Swiss investment bank UBS endorsed the strategy in a recent investor note. UBS said this was a “potentially effective campaign”, noting that:

“many of those engaged in the debate are the consumers, voters and leaders of the next several decades. In our view, this single fact carries more weight than any other data point on the planet for this issue: time, youthful energy and stamina are on the side of the fossil fuel divestment campaign.”

Saturday salon 11/10


An open thread where, at your leisure, you can discuss anything you like, well, within reason and the Comments Policy. Include here news and views, plus any notable personal experiences from the week and the weekend.

For climate topics please use the most recent Climate clippings.

The gentleman in the image is Voltaire, who for a time graced the court of Frederick II of Prussia, known as Frederick the Great. King Fred loved to talk about the universe and everything at the end of a day’s work. He also used the salons of Berlin to get feedback in the development of public policy.

Fred would only talk in French; he regarded German as barbaric. Here we’ll use English.

The thread will be a stoush-free zone. The Comments Policy says:

The aim [of this site] is to provide a venue for people to contribute and to engage in a civil and respectful manner.

Here are a few bits and pieces that came to my attention last week.

1. Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi win the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize

At 17, Pakistani education rights activist Malala Yousafzai is the youngest-ever winner of the prize. She first came to global attention in 2012, when a Taliban gunman attempted to assassinate her on her school bus. After surgery and rehabilitation in the UK, she has become an international advocate for access to education, in particular for girls who are denied opportunities to learn.

Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi, who shares the prize with Yousafzai, is the founder of the Bachpan Bachao Andolan movement. The organisation, which Satyarthi formed in 1980, campaigns against child labour and human trafficking in South Asia.

2. Dr Catherine Hamlin nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

The Ethiopian Government nominated 90 year-old Australian doctor Dr Catherine Hamlin for the prize in recognition for her work with women suffering obstetric fistula during childbirth. The hospitals she helped establish treat over 2500 women each year. She travelled with her late husband Dr Reg Hamlin to Ethiopia 55 years ago to train midwives and stayed on.

Would you believe, other nominations included Russian president Vladimir Putin, who was nominated earlier this year for his role in dismantling Syrian chemical weapons stockpiles.

3. Saudis crack down on political dissidents

The new laws have largely been brought in to combat the growing number of Saudis travelling to take part in the civil war in Syria, who have previously returned with newfound training and ideas about overthrowing the monarchy.

To that end, King Abdullah issued Royal Decree 44, which criminalises “participating in hostilities outside the kingdom” with prison sentences of between three and 20 years, Human Rights Watch said.

But the laws go beyond those concerns to anything which could “harm public order”. This includes defining atheists as terrorists.

4. Dozens of anti-Muslim attacks as Islamic leaders warn of community fear

There have been at least 30 attacks on Muslims – mainly against women wearing the hijab – in the three weeks since the police anti-terror raids and threats by Islamic State put relations between the Islamic community and mainstream Australia on edge.

Muslim community leaders are compiling a register of religiously motivated incidents, which includes reports of physical and verbal assaults, threats of violence against senior clerics and damage to mosques.

Escorts are being arranged for women to go shopping.

Queensland has the highest rate of personal assaults and threats to mosques, according to the list.

5. Feral cats rewrite the Australian story

There are between 15 and 23 million feral cats in Australia. Each night they chomp their way through about 75 million native animals.

Campaigns to eradicate foxes have backfired where they have been tried. Initial success has been followed by an explosion of the feral cat population leaving native wildlife worse off.

Other predators include the dingo and the Tasmanian devil.

6. Phillip Adams’ favourite interviews

To coincide with Phillip Adams’ induction into the Melbourne Press Club hall of fame, the host of RN’s Late Night Live has assembled a list of some of his favourite recent interviews from his ‘little wireless program’, featuring everyone from Magda Szubanski to Oliver Stone.