1. Whyalla in danger of disappearing from the map
You might recall Craig Emerson singing ‘no Whyalla wipe-out’ when the carbon tax was said to take it off the map. Seems it was always a lot more fragile than Emerson thought in the big bad world of open trade barriers.
Arrium’s share price has tanked in five years from over two dollars to two cents, and the company has gone into receivership. Bill Shorten has called for a national steel plan and the use of Australian steel in government funded infrastructure projects.
The Financial Review’s editorial puts the received economic view, accusing South Australian Labor Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis of piling bank-bashing populism onto old-fashioned protectionism. They wrote to me warning me of Bill Shorten’s “economic nationalism”, inter alia. Why should we care about a sub-optimal out-of-date blast furnace in a remote country town.
Mark has written a passionate and intelligent article for The Guardian as to why we should all care.
It’s a mess. There is very bad blood between Arrium and its lenders.
There are many parts of the Arrium business, most of which are profitable, including steelmaking, but not at Whyalla.
The World Today spoke to Professor Geoffrey Brooks, pro-vice chancellor for Future Manufacturing at Swinburne University of Technology. It’s not clear, but I gather Whyalla may have a low value operation, supplying basic structural steel. It’s hard to compete with the excess capacity flowing out of China.
However, there is a serious problem over quality. Essentially no-one checks the quality of imported steel, so sooner or later expect a bridge or building to fall down.
Helen Clark, PM of New Zealand for nine years and now Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme has thrown her hat into the ring for the UN Secretary-General’s now that Ban Ki-moon is retiring after two five-year terms.
It’s an open secret that Kevin Rudd wants the job, but as yet hasn’t nominated.
Normally the candidate is selected in a backroom deal by the permanent five of the Security Council and then sent to the UN General Assembly for a rubber stamp. This time the General Assembly president, Danish politician Mogens Lykketoft, has decided to take ownership of the process. A site has been set up for the Procedure of Selecting and Appointing the next UN Secretary-General, where you’ll find the eight candidates, seven with the requested vision statement.
It is said that the next will be from Eastern Europe and a woman. Six of the eight are eastern Europeans and four of the eight are women. There would be some money on Irina Bokova, Bulgarian politician and the Director-General of UNESCO.
Rudd would be wasting his time and he may well be coming to that conclusion.
3. Banks behaving badly
Many people have been hurt by banks behaving badly. Shorten has now promised a royal commission into the financial industry if elected. The editor of the Financial Review has advised me that Shorten is just a populist who should be ignored.
At the same time Malcolm Turnbull:
- excoriated the banks for their culture of greed and warned they would lose their social contract if they did not clean up their act, has fast tracked events, a source said.
But it looks as though talk is all he’ll do.
4. The battle for New York
I think it’s not until 19 April, but New York looks pivotal for both the Republican and Democrat preselection campaigns.
Bernie Sanders took Wisconsin 56 to 43, making it six out of the last seven states. Hillary Clinton may have to rely on the superdelegates sticking with her if the Sanders momentum continues. Sanders now has 1030 to Clinton’s 1280, plus 469 superdelegates.
Meanwhile they are getting snippy with each other as the tension builds.
In the other contest Cruz thumped Trump in Wisconsin, I think 45 to 38, but under their system Cruz took all the delegates. In New York it’s complicated:
- But to win all of New York’s 95 Republican delegates, Trump will need to win a majority of votes both statewide and in each of New York’s congressional districts.
Trump’s opponents could peel off victories in spite of an overwhelming Trump win if they net at least 20% of support either statewide or in individual congressional districts.
One way or another it looks certain that the convention will be contested. The Republican bosses fear losing the presidency, the Senate and perhaps even the House of Representative if Trump were to head up the campaign.
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.