Saturday salon 5/3

1. Cardinal Pell gets a grilling in Rome

Everyone seems to have an opinion about Cardinal Pell’s evidence in Rome to the child sexual abuse royal commission. Most opinions are damning in various ways. I’d recommend ABC RN’s report on their PM program for a detached report, which is not unfairly selective in the pieces it quotes.

Radio National also covered the victims before and after they met with Pell.

Some of them, including David Ridsdale, were positive about the meeting, and Pell agreed to help them further their case for changes in the Catholic Church. Apparently they met the Commission for the Protection of Minors which Pope Francis set up in March 2014, and Risdale says he will continue to do so in order to make Ballarat known as the healing centre for child abuse rather than the paedophile centre of Australia.

A judgement about Pell’s role swings in large part on whether you buy his story that in the main he was kept in the dark by other colleagues in the church about what was going on. Kristina Keneally for one does not buy his story. Given his aggressive personality and propensity for robust reactions I can imagine that he may have been the last one they would want to involve.

These words will hang around his neck forever:

    “It was a sad story and it wasn’t of much interest to me … I had no reason to turn my mind to the evils Ridsdale had perpetrated.”

At the time I thought he had misspoken. The next day he said he was confused and the words had come out wrong. But the truth is that he didn’t care enough and didn’t take enough interest.

One way or another, Pell failed in his duty of care and some think he should retire or resign. Joanne McCarthy says so and thinks the Pope’s reputation is at stake. Only the Pope can:

change canon law so that all Catholic clergy around the world must report allegations of child sexual abuse to police and authorities, which is something he has so far refused to do.

The Australian commission has come to the doorstep of The Vatican and the world has noticed. Perhaps some good will follow.

2. Abbott-Turnbull conflict goes nuclear

That’s how Michelle Grattan described it a couple of days ago with Abbott openly criticizing a “delay”, which turned out to not be a delay, in delivering new submarines and gave Turnbull some free advice on tax (don’t do it, cut spending instead).

People are asking, who does destabilisation better, Abbott or Rudd?

Mark Kenny identifies the core problem:

    The conundrum is this: delivering the core policy direction needed to inspire his party requires the leadership authority that a prime minister installed in a mid-term crisis, by definition, lacks. And yet to secure that unquestioned legitimacy in his own right via a solid election win, requires firm discipline and a united team.

Laura Tingle says a lot of interesting things, but the Government’s bad behaviour is based the belief they can’t lose.

Nicky Savva’s book The Road to Ruin: How Tony Abbott and Peta Credlin destroyed their own Government is about to hit the streets. It looks as though its intention is to stop Abbott dead in his tracks, to explode his image as a serious political figure.

Waleed Aly sees Abbott trying to rehabilitate a conservative brand of politics, but what is happening here is also a part of the slow-motion disintegration of conservative politics elsewhere in the world.

Didn’t Turnbull say it was a great time to be alive?

3. The enigma of Iranian democracy

There are elections going off around the world all the time, like in Ireland , where the results left the nation in limbo. The more democratic systems seem to do this frequently.

One of importance to all was the elections in Iran, where the moderates were said to have made gains. The Atlantic reports the views of Karim Sadjadpour of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

    Trying to analogize Iranian politics to American politics is always thorny. Winston Churchill said about Russia that it is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. The Islamic Republic of Iran is a limited democracy, wrapped in a military autocracy, inside a theocracy. The supreme leader and Revolutionary Guards have consistently outmuscled the country’s semi-elected institutions, partly by strictly controlling who can get elected to these institutions.

    Imagine if America was ruled for life by a Supreme Christian leader, always male, who was firmly backed by the U.S. military, Supreme Court, and American media, and presidential and congressional elections were only open to carefully vetted candidates who vowed not to challenge this framework.


    We shouldn’t underestimate the Iranian people’s will for change, nor the Iranian regime’s will, and means, to crush those who seek change.

But at The Guardian we are told:

    Iranians want change. They want a betterment of their lives, they want peace with their neighbours, they want radical extremists such as the Islamic State to be defeated, they want to be part of the world community, they want to be respected, they want technology (especially a fast Internet), they want jobs and they want their kids to be more successful than they are. What they don’t want is to be told that their vote doesn’t count, or that it doesn’t matter.

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.

49 thoughts on “Saturday salon 5/3”

  1. There seems to be a race on, in Australia, between the agents of Wahhabist extremism of Islam and the old guard of the Catholic Church.

    It’s a race to see which of them triggers the outlawing of all religions. Both lots are well on the way to achieving what no athiests or communists could ever have dreamed of.

    The level of disgust, hatred and fear of religion is rising fast.

    A referendum on banning all religions would win by a huge margin.

  2. A referendum on banning all religions would win by a huge margin.

    I’d be in the NO camp in that Referendum too.

    When does the RC look into the State Education Depts around the Country ?

  3. When does the RC look into the State Education Depts around the Country ?

    I’m sure they will if they feel the need, but back in the 1980s when I was working in Qld Ed we introduced mandatory reporting of child abuse. I had a bit to do with entertainers who travelled around schools. We introduced mandatory police checks.

    Not long after that the Qld government introduced the Blue Card System, which has to be renewed every year.

  4. I’d say the community feels there is a need.
    Every child is forced into school, church not so much.

    There were 2 caught during my public education. Fortunately the Coppers allowed both keep their belts and shoelaces in the cell.

  5. It’s true that the compulsory nature of education makes a difference, and creates a moral hazard. The public needs to trust that everything possible is done.

  6. I see that, ironically, Shortens negative gearing policy may be causing house prices to rise even further due to the ” get in now ” signal to investors.

    Probably make the bubble bigger and the correction more savage.

    Nice work Bill.

  7. Oh, not the Big boy investors, they know the drill, but the Mum and Dad ones, ouch!

  8. Oh! Do you mean like the price bubble before the Howard introduced the GST?

    But now there is a choice of realities. Turnbull says house prices will go down. You’re saying house prices will go up.

    Which one of you is wrong, Jumpy? Malcolm Turnbull Prime Minister, of Jumpy from Mackay?

  9. BilB, the scare campaign around the GST caused the panic buying, Howard and Co were trying to hose that down, remember ?

    I am right now coz I’m talking about now, pre implementation.
    Turnbull is right coz he’s talking post-implementation, with no retrospectively as in Shortens plan.

    No contradiction between the 2 if you think about it for a minute.

  10. Jumpy, you can always do nothing so nothing changes, which seems where Morrison/Turnbull are heading. Oh, wait, you can run scare campaigns about house prices being smashed, that’ll get everyone panicking!

  11. Brian,
    And what happens when the market think prices will go down ?
    Let us please make the distinction between pre and post implementation.

    If you know a real estate person, ask them.

  12. Jumpy, I’m accepting that distinction, but saying that Turnbull’s scare campaign is making things worse.

    “Smashed” was the word.

  13. Lets look at the fact checker on Morrison’s claims

    and for a clear picture on what the issues are another earlier fact check

    So having created the monster that robs the public in every which way to the benefit or the 10% of property buyers who participate the LNP are now attempting to use it as an argument to tax the lower income (via GST, off the table? but for how long, and offering tax savings to higher incomed and business) sector of the public who struggle along with a median income of $50,000 pa.

    If house prices go down an amount , or more probably, stabalise for some years, that is a good thing…..for everyone. The “get rich quick” brigade will just have to resort to doing so with actual performance in farming, manufacturing , or services, paying some taxes as they do so. And the small army of leaching “tradies” will just have to live on realistic incomes.

  14. The “your house value will go down” scare is purely that,…a scare with no substance for the average family home owner.

    If my house value goes down in value that is only of concern if I want to relocate. However, if my house price goes down so does the one that I would like to relocated to, ie no loss at all. In fact there is a gain as the stamp duty payable will be less, ie nett gain in both the mortgage amount and the mortgage term.

    The reality will be that the real estate market will stabalise.

  15. BilB
    You are aware that Shortens policy covers only existing dwellings to ( try to ) encourage new house construction, right ?

    What is it that you do again ?

  16. Perhaps the same policy on negatively geared shares will stabilise the share market too. lol.

  17. I think that you have that the wrong way around, Jumpy,…

    “A Labor government would confine negative gearing to new housing from July 2017. But current investments and any made before that date would be fully grandfathered”

    …unless, as is now expected of Liberal policies, this has reversed in the last three weeks.

    What do I do? I am an industrial designer, entrepreneur, inventor and manufacturer of electronic products that are exported to 6 different countries to date. Am I rich, no. But I’m not exactly poor either.

  18. “A Labor government would confine negative gearing to new housing from July 2017. But current investments and any made before that date would be fully grandfathered”

    Yes, that’s what I said.
    New housing no change, rush in now on existing no change.
    The tax grab is on existing properties purchased after ( potential, big if ) implementation.

    Long story short, any Government intervention/ corruption in a market has both intended and unintended consequences. The positives are never as big as the proponents suggest and the negatives always bigger, plus the ones unforeseen.

    Either investment losses are legitimate deductibles on overall income, or they’re not. Across the board.

    What say you?

  19. I personally don’t think that Pell is at all believable in any of his assertions of ignorance.

    At the moment we are talking about the Catholic Church, but the history of abuse in Australia is a very broad subject which I heard very capably summarised by, I believe, Dr Joanna Penglase, Care Leavers Australia Network (CLAN) yesterday on the ABC. The whole truth will leave anyone quite depressed. Start off by listening to this talk….

    But one of the key challenges at the present is that the Catholic Church are attempting, I believe, to frame compensation for victims in their own terms rather than one based on any kind of fair principles. To that Joanna Penglase points out that for any victim, and many of these are victims of the state as well, has to repay the cost of any treatment they received for their suffering, including councelling and medical treatment (for such procedures as rectal reconstruction for instance) back to state funded facilities such as Medicare.

  20. I think you might have a little dyslexia, Jumpy, but as to

    “Either investment losses are legitimate deductibles on overall income, or they’re not. Across the board”

    …are you suggesting that losses one makes at the races should be tax deductible? ….losses made on share trading should be tax deductible? ….losses one perceives to make by being under employed should be tax deductible against future income?

    The issue with negative gearing, if I have read it properly is one of double tax exemption dipping.

    “In a March 2015 paper, the Australian Council of Social Service said the incentive for investors to run a rental property at a loss is partly due to this ability to reduce income tax from other sources, and partly due to the rule that when a property is sold, the capital gain is taxed at only half an individual taxpayer’s marginal rate.

    “It is the combination of taxation of capital gains at half the normal tax rate when the property is sold, and the ability to claim unlimited deductions for losses in the meantime that drives investors to negatively gear.”

    Explain the across the board uniformity there to me, Jumpy?

  21. Firstly Bilb I don’t think it’s cool to demonise dyslexia.


    …are you suggesting that losses one makes at the races should be tax deductible? ( no)….losses made on share trading should be tax deductible? ( they are now and Bill doesn’t care )….losses one perceives to make by being under employed should be tax deductible against future income?( perceived losses ? that’s just silly )

    ( My bold )

    I haven’t taken ACOSS seriously ever but they have a point.
    A centrally planned dictate into a market to distort returns favouring 1 over another has repercussions. 2 is worse.
    Simplify the tax code.

    If your a lover of Governments controlling our behaviour through taxation, suck it up, you asked for it.

  22. Just as aside, I emptied the rain gauge this morning and it’s almost full again. That’s 150mm.

  23. Jumpy, it’s not clear to me what Labor’s policy is on negative gearing for share investment, but I did hear a spokesman say something that indicated that the policy for housing would also apply to shares.

    There are three policy objectives for Labor’s proposals for shares.

    1. Increase government revenue.
    2. Improve housing affordability a little over time.
    3. Improve the availability of housing stock.

    The changes, by grandfathering, are designed to be gradual in their effect. The current arrangements are a government intervention in the market. All that’s happening is that the levers are being adjusted.

    As a disclosure, I have a leveraged loan for purchasing shares. My interests would best be served by nothing changing. Most economists think Labor is not moving far or fast enough, but what they are doing is in the public interest.

  24. Rain gauge. As a famous person once said, Climate Change is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.

    Share market losses? In 2011 this was the story

    “Accounting firm RSM Bird Cameron has provided some good news for investors incurring losses on the Share Market, saying that if a person can demonstrate they are a ‘share trader’ rather than a ‘share investor’, they will be allowed to claim a tax deduction for losses on the share market.

    RSM Bird Cameron director of tax services Rami Brass pointed to rules which do not allow an individual share investor to claim a tax deduction for losses on the sale of shares.

    However, share traders would find their losses are deductible and can be offset against ordinary income such as salary and wages, Brass said, adding there was no hard and fast rule set by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to describe a ‘share trader'”

    If you want to find out what the situation is today this is your answer,….

    “Welcome to the Australian Taxation Office

    The service that you have tried to access is part of the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) website

    The website is currently unavailable

    We are working to restore the service as soon as possible

    We apologise for any inconvenience

    Please try again later

    © Commonwealth of Australia 2006”

    Short answer, individual share market investors cannot claim their losses against income.

  25. Just as aside, I emptied the rain gauge this morning and it’s almost full again. That’s 150mm.

    The significance of your comment escapes me. Would you please elaborate.

  26. Jumpy performs climate science, zoot, with his rain gauge on the back fence and his thermometer in the lounge room near the air conditioner, I think is what that means.

  27. 1. Increase government revenue.
    2. Improve housing affordability a little over time.
    3. Improve the availability of housing stock.

    1. is a given, they both want that.They can’t porkbarrel vote without our own money.
    2 will reduce investment capitol in the market and negate 3.

    Ultimately the States are responsible.
    Release more land and reduce the cost to developers through less prohibitive regulation. And adjust the GST lever in direct proportion to reducing the Stamp Duty lever to zero.

  28. BilB
    Your snideness is lacking creativity of late, you didn’t even mention my haemorrhoids or lacklustre punctuation .
    Pick your act up Mate!

  29. Sorry to disappoint you, Jumpy. It is the heat and humidity, this tropical climate here in Sydney, draining my enthusiasm. I promise when the Winter week finally arrives I will be back up to strength.

  30. Yeah Brian, every time someone organises a sporting event ( other than Rugby League ) is buckets down.
    Every. Bloody. Time.
    Not a fan of AFL but the tickets are of the fridge looking sad.

  31. As a share investor, consult your tax accountant, but I think you have to hold for 6 months, then there is a 50% concession on any capital gains. The 50% has to be added to your marginal income for that year.

    I think if you bought before 1986 there is no capital gains tax.

    Losses can be offset against capital gains, but not against income. Losses can be carried forward and offset against gains in subsequent years.

    Negative gearing works by borrowing against the value of shares you own to buy more shares. It’s done with organisations that specialise in that sort of lending. You can’t borrow the full market value, it’s usually 50 to 80% depending on the share. If you don’t have enough cover when the market dips you get a “margin call”, which means tip in extra dosh or shares quickly or they’ll start selling your shares.

    The interest paid on the loan is deductible from other income for tax purposes, and you can pay the next year’s interest, or most of it, in advance.

    Sorry if that’s boring, but it’s a specialised area and not everyone’s cup of tea.

    I think it’s safe enough for investing in solid companies, like the banks themselves and Telstra, but very hazardous for speculation.

  32. Goodness, it’s as if lawyers and accountants designed a brilliant perpetual employment machine, for themselves.

  33. The significance, zoot, is that it’s pissing rain in Mackay …

    Please excuse the ignorance of a sandgroper, but doesn’t it usually get wet in Mackay around this time of the year?
    Or is this rain significant because Mackay is usually dry in March and the climate appears to be changing?

  34. Goodness, it’s as if lawyers and accountants designed a brilliant perpetual employment machine, for themselves.

    Adam Smith has a thing or two to say about this tendency towards self-enrichment by business people at the expense of the consumer. It’s the bit of “Wealth of Nations” that nobody quotes (because it implies a need for regulation, you know, government and all that).

  35. zoot, I believe the average for Mackay in March is 279.7mm, so jumpy’s 150mm in a day would be not unknown but remark-worthy.

    If it is the tail-end of Winston, then there is a climate change angle, because Winston was the strongest by land speed ever to make landfall in the Southern Hemisphere when it hit Fiji, and we (the world) do appear to be getting more strong cyclones.

    Anyway the local paper is talking about it, and some unusual kit has been brought into play.

  36. I just heard Tony Haymet, who talks from a position of comprehensive knowledge, describing the status of ocean acidification and the impact on the Barrier Reef. Particularly interesting were experiments underway to determine the impact that acidification has already had since pre industrial times. To do this they have marked out an area of reef and have restored the carbonate balance with the addition of Lye to the water. I imagine that this work is being done in the Mackay area of the reef though a quick look did not verify that. The experiments have shown a marked difference in the coral growth rate. Apparently Oyster beds in various traditional Oyster growing areas in the US have also been severely affected by the ocean acidification that has already occurred.

  37. BilB why pick on the so-called professionals for constructing perpetual revenue streams?
    Many businesses practice planned redundancy as standard policy. Perhaps white goods are a ready example – appliances last an all too brief time and are “un-fixable” because the circuit board is priced at an uneconomic level, forcing the decision to buy another machine. As an aside, I thought that given we don’t make machines in Oz anymore, we could have a very nice little industry giving a second life to prematurely retired appliances. There are thousands of these things each year so set up an industry to breathe more years of life into these machines. Employs people across a range of skills, improves our balance of trade and so on.

    On the matter of abuse in schools or institutions the focus seems to be on sexual abuse and that is serious enough. But physical abuse was rife, at least when I was at high school, executed by senior pupils but totally endorsed by the school. Hopefully that has changed.

    About rain in FNQ. We had a good dump late December and nothing else until last week thanks to a cyclone. Storage is way down and Cairns is on water restrictions.

    Negative gearing is an old concept and can be seen as part of any business. Costs to a business are deductible so long as they are genuinely part of the costs of that business. If you mess with the high profile side of that (housing) you will see a strike on capital and investment in that area will dry up. I think Labor tried that already. A policy should encourage local investment and be mindful that overseas investment options are very real.
    All the talk of policy changes casts a blight over the building/investment sectors in any event. Same as when degree costs were touted as rising to $100K, enrollments dropped. Uncertainty breeds like a virus and our current politics use it as a tool without shame. Fuckers. (Sorry if I offend, ‘never use French but in this case it is the most apt word).

    Power to the Daintree is getting some attention these days. Several companies are trying to get a toe-hold offering micro grid options. There is also a secret proposal being considered that is apparently ” cutting edge” technology. But it is so shrouded in secrecy (via non disclosure agreements) that nobody knows what it is about. The promoters claim they are protected by numerous patents so why the need for secrecy?
    It does have the positive attention of Warren Entsch and is currently/apparently being examined by Ergon (our power utility). The descriptions that I have heard make it sound a little bit too good but hopefully I am wrong.
    Also seeing lots about new battery types but most seem a long way from being commercial. There are many suppliers offering home storage now and perhaps the price will drop significantly in the next few years. Countering that drop is the battery development that might render some existing technology redundant and threaten recovery of capital investment. Interesting times for energy and many dilemmas for power suppliers.

  38. Geoff, picking up on your comment about physical abuse in schools, there is a new trend that girls are getting into physical fights, which are filmed and go on social media. It bridges into the whole area of bullying in schools (and elsewhere) which does not seem to get any better. Many of the teachers, principals, and managers in government, business and industry are bullies. Politicians too.

    Social education in the formal and informal curriculum seems to be suffering as more focus is put on the formal curriculum and accountability through testing and reporting.

  39. On rain in the north, it appears that there has been a failure of the wet season, not a surprise in an El Nino year.

    I heard yesterday that some places around Mackay had received over 700 mm, but it was very coastal and after below average summer rain.

    There are problems too in Tasmania, where they are using diesel because the power connection to the mainland is broken.

  40. Geoff, power in the Daintree is an interesting case. I found this

    Which is a good and partly humorous read due to the history. The “secret” power thing I believe is a guy who has a modular solar system that uses tracking panels, has an integral battery arrangement and bizarrely a hydrogen generator which he claims will run suitable cars. It seems to be a well engineered set up but the numbers do not stack up to his claims. Certainly the technologies are sound in their own right but there is a large amount of double counting in the delivered energy claims.

    Having had a look at images of the area I think I agree that to install a grid of overhead cables would be a mistake. But it is not good enough for a government to provide limitations without providing solutions. LPG gas is available in the area and that has to be a big part of the solution coupled with solar PVT panels and a battery module such as

    which is an 8Kwhr system with a 2 kw delivery rate (very Powerwall like), and the missing link is a backup generator that is efficient, silent and low vibration. I think that the generator is close but may be another 5 years away.

    I am a great fan of micro grids and back fence grids for sharing power around a block of houses. In Chicago recently I stayed in a house in a well to do area, and the above ground power was along the back fence, so the idea is not new from the practicality point of view.

  41. Geoff Henderson: Mates of mine who went to Catholic schools often spoke about the brutality of Christian Brothers but none ever spoke about sexual abuse – and since we shared all sorts of deep dark secrets among ourselves, it is highly unlikely indeed that something like that would not have been mentioned too. Just too ugly – or just plain lucky?

  42. Brian: Thanks for that item on the Iranian elections.

    Surely nobody in their right mind would try to ram an Iranian election into an American election template?

    Several years ago, SBS-TV broadcast an excellent Iranian film about a female electoral officer flown into one of the Persian Gulf islands to get a whole range of people to vote; forgotten the film’s name; “The Vote” or “the Election” or something like that, I think. Well worth seeing.

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