Saturday salon 17/10: late edition

1. Turnbull’s ascension

Abbott’s fall and Turnbull’s ascension was the first news we got from home, via a text from our son.

I must admit I didn’t see it coming. I’d written Turnbull off as unacceptable to the Liberal Party. Now suddenly he’s there and Shorten looks like a dead man walking.

Mark has a piece in the Guardian.

Abbott, he says, governed for the “combative cultural conservatives”, a tiny slither of the population. The common advice to Turnbull is to move to the ‘stable centre’ and proceed with the neoliberal reform agenda.

However, Mark says, the centre is anything but stable and neoliberal ‘reform’ is anything but popular.

    What Australia really needs is a more rational party system that better reflects where we all are at, and much more responsiveness and bottom-up governance. That may not bring about stability, but hope and sanity are probably more what our politics needs now.

Meanwhile Abbott has tried to portray himself as a misunderstood hero, and has only succeeded in looking like a sore loser. Luckily for Turnbull, no-one will take much notice of him any more.

Peter Hartcher tells how it happened.

2. Free trade?!

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is really a preferential trade deal, not a free trade deal. As Ross Gittins says, these deals have the effect of diverting trade from more efficient to less efficient supplier countries, simply because the less efficient suppliers happen to be subject to lower import duties.

The TPP should be distinguished from the China trade deal, which I notice you’ve already discussed. The TPP excludes China, India and Indonesia, the fastest growing economies in our region.

Gittins thinks the TPP is no big deal. Modelling in other countries suggest it might increase GDP by 0.5% over 10 years.

Brian Toohey also finds the gains tiny, but laments US protectionism in intellectual property. Also he is rightly concerned about the investor-state relations deal, where international companies can sue us outside our legal system for damaging their interests.

This has potentially serious implications, not limited to health and the environment. There is a carve-out to protect our cigarette packaging laws – if it works.

BTW Terry Sweetman in the CM says that an official report predicts 5434 jobs created by the China free trade deal as against 178,000 promised by Andrew Robb. Pathetic!

Ian Verrender at the ABC tells us:

    The Trans-Pacific Partnership isn’t about trade and it’s certainly not about free trade. It’s about entrenching the interests of major corporations at the expense of ordinary citizens.

Verrender says the tobacco issue in a happening affair. Philip Morris sold its Australian subsidiary to its Hong Kong operation, which was then able to access an ISDS clause in a decades old free trade agreement we had signed. The issue is being decided as we speak somewhere in Singapore.

3. Corbyn wins

News of Jeremy Corbyn winning the UK Labour leadership did not penetrate to us in Germany. His win was comprehensive:

    He won with nearly 59.5% of first-preference votes, beating rivals Andy Burnham, who trailed on 19%, and Yvette Cooper who received 17%. The “Blairite” candidate Liz Kendall came last on 4.5%.

His campaign was”helped by a surge in new members and supporters who paid £3 to take part in the vote, leading to a near-tripling of those eligible to about 550,000 people.”

He seems to have started well in parliament. See

4. Garrett piles into Rudd

Peter Garrett is the latest Labor polly to spill all in a book. He thinks Kevin Rudd was a megalomaniac and put Australia’s safety in jeopardy. Predictably Rudd has hit back. I think Garrett goes too far in suggesting Rudd put us in danger. Rudd seems to have micromanaged some ministers and left others completely alone. Some complained about lack of access.

There is a theory that he micromanaged those who needed micromanaging. I don’t think that was the case with Nicola Roxon, who got a lot of grief from Rudd but has had the good sense to stay stumm.

4. Introduction to Saturday salon

Because of the way the blog currently presents posts on the home page I think it’s better to remove the introductory material to a different place. For new readers, here’s the rationale for this space.


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.

7 thoughts on “Saturday salon 17/10: late edition”

  1. Four things really do worry me all these wonderful trade deals:

    First is the ability of those said to be acting for us to get us the best possible deal. Do they have strong bladders? Are they prone to taking nanny-naps? Are they street-smart – and would there be some value in including members of outlaw bikie gangs as well as convicted fraudsters on the Australian team? How well do they understand our trading enemies (and bestest pals)
    and our trading rivals? How cunning and patient and ruthless are they? Do they have skills other than the ability to compromise? How gullible and susceptible to flattery and grooming are they? Remember, these are people whose decisions will mean the difference between prosperity and utter poverty for most of us.

    Second is loyalty. Given what is at stake, it is prudent indeed for
    any reasonable citizen to question the loyalty of those said to be acting on our behalf (so all you defamation lawyers can sit back down and behave yourselves; there is no business you can drum up here today; not even a class action). Is their main loyalty to the ordinary workers, taxpayers, citizens and residents of Australia – or is it to a particular political faction, to their own group of like-minded people, or to particular business interests (local, off-shore, foreign or transnational)?

    Third is the overuse of the word Protectionism. It is chucked around just like similar words used to scare little kiddies and the feeble-minded: racism!, Moslems!, Islamophobia!, job-losses!, budget-deficit! and all the other bogey-man terms. Nowadays, the word Protectionism has come to mean, simply, ” I am angry that you refuse to allow us to dump our shoddy and dangerous good onto your domestic market at prices way below our actual costs of production and so as to free up our warehouse space”. The stock-standard answer to accusations of “protectionism” should be, “My oath, mate, we ARE protecting the health of our retail customers – and we are protecting our industries which do act within our laws and our accounting standards”.

    Fourth is the suspension of the very basic business practice that, if a deal is bad, you walk away from it – and invite the other fellow to come back tomorrow with a better deal, if he can; if he can’t then goodbye. Suspending this very basic tenet is like believing in perpetual motion machines, philosophers’ stones and Aladdin’s Lamp.

  2. Verrender is an idiot. obfuscating ALP stooge.
    Tobacco taxes are higher than any other product in Australia. Add licences fees just to sell the stuff.
    The legal action is about the packaging, not the contents.
    And that stupid Roxon/Plibers law has had zero effect on tobacco consumption but rather lined the pockets of illegal imports.
    ( Through the MUA backyard, if you will )

  3. And lets not forget the local Chop Chop growers cashing in tax free.
    Nanny State protectionism only aids and creates criminals.
    And the citizens suffer the costs.

  4. Graham. thanks for your thoughts.

    One of the basic problems is that Australia and New Zealand are about the only countries that appear genuinely ideologically committed to free trade. Others do it to promote national interests, which predominantly means international companies, but any domestic constituency that gets a hearing.

    To be a successful trade negotiator, it seems you have be prepared to lie through your teeth, and adopt any strategy that gets the outcome you want.

    Jumpy, I thought Ian Verrender’s piece was perceptive and on the mark. You’ve simply indulged in right-wing name calling, which is not what this blog is for!

  5. Sorry Brian, you are correct.
    Name calling, be it from a left or right perspective isn’t productive at all.
    It also give people, that don’t like the factual substance of the rest of the comment, an excuse to dodge the uncomfortable realities of the issue being discussed. Which is also nonproductive.

  6. That said I think Verrender invoking Cleisthenes to justify massive overtaxation as a means to punitively coerce the public and removal of citizenry choice by the State isn’t very perceptive at all.

    As an aside Cleisthenes liked, as I do, sortition as a means of choosing local representatives. Smart man.

  7. Jumpy, I’ve no idea how you find that in Verrender’s article, which to me remains an intelligent piece.

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