Saturday salon 29/4

1. Free speech has its limits

Yassmin Abdel-Magied found out that speech in Australia is not free if the political right do not agree with what you say, or when you choose to say it. She does some part-time work for the ABC, so it was front page on the Daily Tele and:

    Conservative commentators Andrew Bolt and Gerard Henderson have both questioned whether Abdel-Magied has the qualifications to hold her job at the ABC.

    Acting PM Barnaby Joyce said the ABC should take “further action” against Abdel-Magied. The immigration minister, Peter Dutton, has labelled her a “disgrace”, Senator Eriz Abetz called her comments “reprehensible” while Liberal MP George Christensen called for her to be sacked, adding that “self-deportation should also be considered”.

What did she do to deserve this?

Seven words on Facebook:

“Lest. We. Forget. (Manus, Nauru, Syria, Palestine)”

Facebook is not a public medium, so she can say what she likes within reason. She took the post down, in response to objections from her Facebook followers, it seems, but outside that I don’t think it should have been news.

Right wing free speech warriors seem to support free speech only if they agree with what you say.

Meanwhile in Adelaide, Kaurna elder Katrina Ngaitlyala Power got some flack after she gave a Welcome to Country referencing the “invasion”, “slavery” and the “stolen land” of her ancestors.

    Ms Power later defended her comments, saying she wanted to give “voice to all the Aboriginal people that have fought in war”.

    She said only “truth telling” of history could see black and white move forward together.

Nevertheless, perhaps not the best strategy. Free speech fine, but a welcome speech is hardly the time to poke people in the eye.

2. Trump watch

Trump has reached his 100 days in office, when people usually pause and contemplate what difference the new president has made.

ABC RN’s Drive program talked to Michael Medved, conservative American radio show host, author, political commentator, and a staunch member of the Never Trump movement.

I loved his quote from Otto von Bismarck, along the lines “God has a special providence for drunkards, imbeciles, children and the United States of America.” Turns out there are various versions, probably misattributed, and around before Bismarck.

Medved said Trump had appointed one Supreme Court judge, failed to destroy Obamacare, messed up a meeting with Angela Merkel, whose name he couldn’t remember, and the rest you know. He said the media – TV, newspapers, radio – had become vastly more popular and profitable, as a third of the population followed every move with adulation, for a third it was a living nightmare, and a third were confused and dicombobulated.

Trump has changed 180 degrees in some respects. He’s now patched up his relationship to China, fallen out with Putin, says he’ll renegotiate NAFTA rather than tear it up, and will pay for the stupid wall with Mexico. Getting Congress to pay for it may be harder.

Medved said Trump’s cabinet appointments were excellent, but the people in his office were awful and should be nowhere near the levers of government.

Trump thought being president would be easier than being a real estate mogul, but he was wrong. His staff, the ones Medved finds so awful, are making it easier by presenting only one option rather than several (full story here).

Tweets continue to flow (460), along with executive orders (25) and visits to golf courses (19).

3. Good debt, bad debt

ScoMo says this year’s budget will distinguish between “good” debt and “bad” debt.

The idea is to balance the budget for ongoing expenditure, like health, education and social security, but to allow debt where it is going to earn money and build the nation.

    In his farewell address, former RBA governor Glenn Stevens said the economy would only be pulled out if its malaise if “someone, somewhere, has both the balance sheet capacity and the willingness to take on more debt and spend”.

    “Let me be clear that I am not advocating an increase in deficit financing of day-to-day government spending,” Mr Stevens said.

    “The case for governments being prepared to borrow for the right investment assets – long-lived assets that yield an economic return – does not extend to borrowing to pay pensions, welfare and routine government expenses, other than under the most exceptional circumstances.”

Rob Burgess says the new rhetoric is a jarring shift from the imbecilic ranting of Abbott but not before time.

Anthony Albanese says it’s what Labor the Reserve bank and economists have been saying, but:

    warned the government’s “ill-advised” decision to create an infrastructure unit within the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, rather than relying on the independent Infrastructure Australia, risked pork barrelling.

It seems the NBN is the model. Phillip Coorey says the much-vaunted inland rail link between Melbourne and Brisbane will be on the agenda, and almost certainly the second Sydney aiport at Badgery Creek. Other projects could include a gas pipeline from central Australia to Moomba and Snowy Hydro 2.0.

It sounds as though the focus will be narrower than Glenn Stevens had in mind, concentrating on assets that produce tangible revenue.

Government ownership is suddenly visionary rather than intrinsically bad.

4. Medical muso

Eight years ago guitarist Andrew Schulman temporarily died while suffering anaphylactic shock after pancreatic cancer surgery. They got his heart going again, but things looked grim. The physician says no-one recovers from terminal acidosis. In a coma with lactic acid built up and leaking out of his tissues, you don’t survive that.

In desperation is wife suggested putting his iPod in his ears and playing him music. In 30 minutes he started stabilising, by evening he was out of danger, and three days later he came out of the coma.

The music was Bach’s St Matthew’s Passion, his favourite piece.

Now wih the hospital’s participation he plays music to the worst cases, with great success. It doesn’t work every time, but often the results are dramatic.

He instances many cases, including a woman who was in a hyper state of ICU delirium, who had been held down by three nurses for two hours. Ten seconds in, and the woman relaxed. Music is particularly good for balancing the brain. Bach is best, he finds, but he’s also had success with Gershwin and The Beatles.

It seems music was not some later addition in our evolution, rather it was a fundamental part of our evolutionary story, deeply involved in becoming who we are.

Follow the link and listen to Schulman’s playing, or read the transcript.

80 thoughts on “Saturday salon 29/4”

  1. Yassmin Abdel-Magied can say whatever she wants and folks can comment on that anyway they want.
    She was being deliberately provocative is got what she asked for.
    Call for her sacking were unfortunate, but more a reflex to the actions of the left ( Eg. sack Scientist that dare wear a shirt with girls on it that was made by a Woman, ete, etc,,, ). Hardly a week goes by without the left calling for a sackin or three.
    Conservatives will only degrade themselves if they lower themselves to use ” what’s good for the goose is good for the gander ” and ” turnabout is fair play ” type thinking.

  2. Jumpy, you can’t say that Abdel-Magied was being deliberately provocative. I’d suggest otherwise, because she used a medium available to her Facebook ‘friends’, not what Andrew Bolt, Gerard Henderson and George Christensen would be reading.

    I don’t put a mark on the wall, or make a note every time someone calls for someone to be sacked, nor do I align with all persons on the ‘left’, but a lot of calls from the left are about people who are incompetent, unethical or unprincipled. Abdel-Magied is none of those.

  3. Amongst all the negative responses to Bill Leak’s racist cartoons I don’t recall any saying he should sodomised.

  4. Jumpy, you can’t say that Abdel-Magied was being deliberately provocative

    Of course I can.
    I don’t do Facebook, but it’s a social media platform isn’t it ? If it were a private comment between ” friends ” how did it become public ? She must have known it would, on ANZAC Day.

    In any event, an objective person can clearly see that calling for sackings, boycotting and harassing mass protests are a feature of the left.

  5. In any event, an objective person can clearly see that calling for sackings, boycotting and harassing mass protests are a feature of the left.

    Evidence of that please.

    (Or are you saying all the people calling for Abdel-Magied to be sacked are of the left?)

  6. Jumpy, it’s arrogant and presumptive of you to think you know what Abdel-Magied’s motives were.

    Secondly, this isn’t about the left. It’s about the hypocrisy of right-wing free-speech warriors. To pretend anything else is humbug.

  7. On more important matters, the AFR runs a front-page story today alerting us to the fact that inland rail may not pass the ‘good debt’ test. It’s not on Infrastructure Australia’s list of high priority projrcts, and was assessed by them as having a cost-benefit ratio of only 1.1.

    However, Barnaby Joyce wants it and doesn’t want Badgery Creek, because flights to the provinces will be shuttled away from Mascot, meaning that his voters are in for a long public transport or taxi rides.

    So he did a deal with Turnbull, so they could both have photo opportunities for their voters come the next election.

    That’s why Labor set up Infrastructure Australia, but the Tories keep thinking they know better.

  8. Trump has broken the record for the lowest average approval rating with 43%. Previously it had been held by Clinton at 55, who ran into early flak about gays in the military and sacking White House staffers for misusing travel expenses.

    Next was George H W Bush on 56, then George W Bush on 62, Obama on 65 and Reagan on 68, all good numbers.

    That’s as reported by John Kehoe in the AFR.

  9. Brian you are referring to the Adani rail I presume? If so I don’t think that one passes any sniff test. Certainly not at Federal level and less at State.
    I’m still missing the understanding of how coal has such influence over policy. Their grip on the governments sensitive parts seems so strong and I just can’t see why. Especially in the context of poor voter support and the immense, maybe catastrophic climate and ecological outcomes.
    Last I knew there was considerable doubt that the venture was even financially viable for Adani given uncertainties of the coal burning future. Even if the mine commences it may fail at a later date, well short of its planned end. What then of rehab and the $900 million loan?

  10. Sorry, Geoff, “inland rail” is the long-standing idea of building a fast train inland connection from Melbourne to Brisbane, I think linking with Canberra and Sydney along the way. Originally it was proposed to go through to Darwin but that leg would have been entirely uneconomic.

    My hunch is that it would be a good idea if we could get a lot of trucks off the road. With electrification and renewable energy it could be good for the climate.

    There is a new angle or two on Adani. Australia has 100 existing coal mines, and someone (article in the AFR) has worked out that the government is proposing to subsidise a competitor which will depreciate the value of all existing mines.

    Also Aurizon, the privatisation that came out of Queensland Rail, say they could build the Abbot point connection for a billion dollars less than Adani is proposing.

    The support for coal with the likes of Canavan and Joyce comes straight out of their climate change denialism, I think. In this the Liberals are being led around by the nose and it’s not pretty.

  11. Ok and thanks for that Brian. ‘Brings to mind the disastrous tilt train we tried to run Brisbane-Cairns. It took days to complete the journey and cost more than an economy flight. I t quietly ceased soon after an awful collision with a truck in the Cardwell region.
    I agree with you on rail. Many years ago Ken Thomas of TNT (the original owner), was mulling the use of trains instead of trucks for the long haul. He figured the approx 800 km travel could be done in around ten hours at 80 kph, about the same as trucks were taking at the time. It required that trains had a fairly uninterrupted journey to maintain speeds. However, much freight is not so urgent that it has to be there next day, and trains could depart at any time during a day, taking pressure off average speeds. Truck technology advances, government apathy and Peter Abeles caused the idea to lapse. Thomas also considered airships.
    Diesels are under pressure again since the VW scandal. See
    https://theconversation.com/these-four-cities-are-cracking-down-on-diesel-vehicles-to-improve-air-quality-heres-how-69921

    Liberal denialism on climate – their massive Achilles heel I think. It will keep them out of government for decades if the citizens work out they have been shafted. I am surprised Labor has not moved more aggressively to open a policy gap that will propel them into government.

  12. Having travelled on Europe’s trains I am a fan of train trips at 180kph. To go faster brings the cost way up. A 5 hour run between main centres is an acceptable run time. From where I live it takes nearly that time to fly to Melbourne by the time I have travelled to the Air Hub done the security horror show and waited for the boarding with time to spare then collected baggage and travelled the distance from the Air Hub to the destination centre. So a train that can be boarded at several locations and delivers to the heart of the destination makes real economic sense. The same vehicle is perfectly suitable for parcel freight, ie the quick delivery demand stuff (including more of the dangerous goods items that cannot fly [last carriage is viable for trains – not so for plains]), and that is where the economics become seriously appealing.

  13. Agree BilB, time to revisit train options. I used fast trains in Italy and found them to be excellent and relaxing. Air travel is hurried, cramped and these days almost humiliating.

  14. Air travel is hurried, cramped and these days almost humiliating.

    I’d agree with that. In 2015 in Europe we shouted ourselves a first class train trip from Berlin to Erlangen. felt special and didn’t cost an arm and a leg.

    On the way there, when we travelled from Frankfurt to Berlin because of the Lufthansa strike, ordinary class felt quite civilised.

    Back in Oz, truck has the advantage of point to point transport from warehouse to warehouse for significant cargo, which makes rail hard to compete.

  15. Time wise, rail is going to lose out to road in most cases because rail has to stuff around getting the load to and from the rail line and to and from the trucks that connect between the rail and starting point and final destination.
    Rail is only really competitive for things like wheat, coal and iron ore where bulk loading and unloading is practical and the tonnages are high. None of these would be significant users of inland rail.
    Rail lobbyists like Back on Track will probably support inland rail but this doesn’t necessarily mean that it makes sense. Their “Welcome to RAIL Back On Track hints at their bias:

    Railways have been neglected long enough. It is time to ensure that foundations are re-laid to continue the prosperity of the nation. Railways were critical to the early development of Australia, and in this time of energy and infrastructure crisis, we believe railways will again be the practical solution to the nation’s transport woes. Long haul freight, passenger and commuter transport will be best provided for by rail, light and heavy supported by bus, ferry and active transport options.
    This site is designed to provide a forum and conduit to promote and lobby Australian Governments to use railway transportation and public and active transport for the benefit of all Australians.
    Passengers, concerned citizens, anyone who is interested in Australian railway solutions, public and active transport is most welcome to register and join in the debate!

    One attraction of the inland route is that it should not need tunnels that are not high enough for normal use containers.
    It is worth noting that the proposed Brisbane Metro will be using rubber tires, not steel wheels and the same is now true for some overseas light rail systems.
    Maybe what is needed is a dedicated inland at least partially electrified freight route that can use road trains Makes a lot more more sense to me but the smartest response may be to simply forget about inland rail.

  16. JD I think the idea of using truck/train is that the semi trailer is loaded direct onto the train. The prime mover does not accompany the load. At the other end, the load goes to the end-user or a distribution centre just as it does now.

    I also think it is worth reassessing the importance of time. It drives a lot of agenda’s, and I suspect in some cases needlessly.

  17. With just a little bit of thought and not that much hardware the road advantage can be minimise for distribution within major centres for certain classes of goods.

    Consider the combination of fast rail for palletised goods using a combination of aviation pallet handling and Europe’s cargo trams.

    https://youtu.be/6jMAeWJ4ubc
    https://youtu.be/OWUWTI-eG9w

    So parcel pallets are auto loaded onto the last cars of an intercity 180kph train. At the receiving city the pallets are auto transferred to a side by side cargo tram in minutes. The tram does a run to factory unit parks where fork lifts off load the pallets for a variety of businesses. The parcel freight such as DHL, Fastways, TNT, AustPost, etc all benefit and trucks are not required. From the courier depots local parcel vehicles disburse the ever growing volume of goods due to the popularity of e-commerce.

    The fast rail operates in shift mode with people trains doing run starts from 5am to 11pm and freight operating overnight service run starts from 11pm to 5 am, along with several daytime windows.

    Well thought through rail travel is the best way to reduce intercity travel CO2 emissions.

  18. An inland route should be planned consecutively with a regional development drive to open up inland for cities rather than towns.

  19. Maybe John, but I’d like to see a bit more effort into optimising the existing options first. That would include reducing the growth of cities.
    Massive infrastructure programs are a serious loss to other regions because of the resource they draw away. And all they really do is push the inevitable down the road a little way. They perpetuate the existing paradigm.

  20. Geoff, I first came to Brisbane in 1954, when there were cows running around in what are now inner suburbs, and the roads to both coast were winding and narrow, with the trees meeting over the top in places. We’ve been on a merry-go-round ever since. I can’t imagine what the place would be like if they never built the Story Bridge in the 1940s or the riverside expressway in the 1960s, or the M1 to the Gold Coast in the 1990s, or the inner-city bypass, the Gateway Bridge and…

    Germany really hums – boats on the Rhine, autobahns and railways. But they have a term “Stau!” Google stau images for some spectacular traffic jams, such as this one in China – 260 kilometres long and lasting 12 days.

    I’m sure that we’ll get there eventually, if the planet remains habitable.

    Actually, $10 to $12 billion for inland rail doesn’t seem like much to me, when we spent $4 to $5 billion on the road between Brisbane and Ipswich, and that definitely needed doing. As BilB says, we could think about developing inland cities along the way.

  21. Actually, $10 to $12 billion for inland rail doesn’t seem like much to me,…

    It wouldn’t if your not going to pay anything toward it.
    But hey, Australias interest on our debt is more than that Annually, pfft, who cares, someone else pays that too.

  22. Good point, Jumpy, things have to be paid for, yes.
    To that end I have a suggestion, people can pay to use this rail line. There could be ticketing,… and freight charges, huh, huh, yeah…

    What d’ya think??

    Personally I think a fast rail between Sydney Canberra and Melbourne makes equal or greater sense, but an inland rail that is the focus of new population centre development is trumps, if that is in fact what happens. And yes again, it must be commercial. They could lay in optic fibre cable at the same time to service the inland regions to increase its viability.

  23. Jumpy, the point of the post is that these things would be off balance sheet so users pay rather than the the taxpayer.

    But if you want to bang on about the same old stuff…

  24. Good debt, bad debt! This is the latest LNP con to attempt to hide their failings.

    The aim here is to make social expenditure appear to be a bad thing to do in a fixed budget against inflated advantages of proposed new beyond budget expenditure for infrastructure. The game plan is to say that money must be borrowed to maintain social expenditure so that tax receipts can be put to “good use” building things like rail lines to coal mines for tax cheats like the Adani family, or pay for the Turnbull NBN fiasco blowouts .

  25. Several economists and journalists have been saying that a time of low interest rates is just right, for borrowing money for long-term purposes (e.g. infrastructure).

    But return on that investment (borrowing) will still depend on the cost/benefit, ‘business case’, and reliability of forecasts…. all of which will vary from one propsed project to another.

    So there’s good debt, better debt, fabulously productive debt, goodish debt, wait-and-see debt, low chance of success debt, kiss the cash goodbye debt, etc.

  26. and what I wrote was more succinctly put be Brian in the post:

    shift from the imbecilic ranting of Abbott but not before time

  27. Jumpy, Abdel-Magied isn’t running for public office. I think it’s bad manners to be commenting on what she says on Facebook, which is supposed to be a closed social media environment. And, no, we can’t know what her motivations in that context really were, because we are not in that context.

    ScoMo and Mal are fair game, and while we probably can’t know we are entitled to make inferences.

    That said, BilB, ScoMo did specifically say that his new formulation did not mean that social security spending was bad. However, I don’t think he minds a bit of confusion on that point.

  28. Hair splitting aside, Yassmin is a public figure, on the payroll of the taxpayer. Her views I’ve seen enough of ( thanks ABC ) to form an option of her position. She doesn’t keep it a secret.

    We warn children that everything they put on social media is public and could come back to bite them, she’s not ” young and naive “.

  29. Wait and see how it plays out, Brian.

    A politician’s perspective on what is “good” and what is “bad” is automatically suspect evident simply in the fact that they choose to frame an argument in that way. If a politician is from the legal field I should not need to point out that these people are trained to make the blackest of black seem to be brilliant white, their perspective has no reference to reality, it is only referenced to their momentary need, as Mann said of Abbott and he subsequently proved with his demolition of the carbon price (refer to Peta Credlin’s later admission).

    We are conditioned to accept the notion that things these days cost billions of dollars, with stopping to thing what billions in multiples means in others hands.

    1 billion is 10,000 time 100,000. Keep that in mind.

    In my world $100,000 will buy a high precision computer numerically controlled machine that is 2 metres by 2 metres and weighs around 3 tonnes. Such a machine will have an annual earning rate of perhaps 200,000 and directly fully occupy the time of 1 person, and indirectly one other. As an example.

    The next time a politician says that it is “good” to spend 1 billion dollars on some project compare that to an engineering application of the same money…..

    20 kilometers (and 30,000 tonnes) of edge to edge CNC machines, $2 billion annual turnover generated, and 10,000 new jobs, the billion dollars reimbursed to the investment fund over 5 years for redeployment, $200 million in GST revenue each year and another $500 million in income and company tax collected per year.

    There is a metric to compare a politician’s “good” and “bad” against when it comes to the use of money in the billions.

  30. Yes Bilb, only Katter ( as far as I’ve heard ) speaks in ” A thousand millions ” to others 1bill.

  31. Yes, definitely, possibly many. The Queensland mine tailings dam that burst and badly contaminated two rivers.

  32. No, I’m talking of large dams, built by the State. Should have clarified that at the outset, my error.

  33. I’m talking of large dams, built by the State

    Judging from his comment to Brian regarding inland rail, Jumpy means dams we haven’t paid anything towards.

  34. Jumpy, there is no doubt Abdel-Magied has sought publicity at times, and you can have an opinion about her, if you feel the need. I’d prefer to suspend judgement about her person and certainly have no opinion about her suitability for employment by the ABC. I’ve no idea what she does, or what the job specification is.

    All that is more than a little irrelevant as to whether certain right wing free speech warriors are being hypocritical.

  35. zoot, here’s an idea: why not ask people to pay For the water they use in their homes, that gets piped from the Dam by the State.

    Hang on, you could get them to pay for the pipes too.
    Businesses? Well, the Theory of State Repression suggests they should be squeezed too. Charge them for water too!!! But perhaps at a lower price, seeing they’re Real Nett Actual Tax Payers And Job Creators (c).

    Don’t forget the cow cockies…… some of those bludgers will want to suck off the (State water) teat. Make ’em pay!!

    That just leaves the freedom loving individuals, who will all naturally install their own roof-collecting infrastructure with ample tanks, and recycle their grey water, and disconnect themselves from the State-run sewerage grid.

    On grid bad.
    Off grid good.

    Nothing like a flawless ideology to lead one to paths of salvation.

  36. On the inland passenger rail idea.

    As soon as the State/taxpayer funds a massive project of that type, it not only draws $ away from other sites; it suddenly raises the value of all land along the route, especially at the nodes (rail hubs, stations, freight hubs). Big multiplier effects at those hubs.

    So pre-existing landholders, or friends of NSW politicians who get tipped off beforehand, enjoy large capital gains, on paper.

    Mr Turnbull has spoken about “value capture”, where the State harvests a lot of that increase in capital value. That harvest offsets the State expenditure in designing and building.

    Not sure of the mechanisms, but there are some precedents overseas, doubtless.

    Sounds good to me, if it can be done fairly.

    Social (taxpayer) creation of wealth, followed over several years by social (taxpayer) reaping of a fair return on investment.

    Good debt is good.

  37. Ambigulous your point of “investors” chasing secret or discreet land holding is interesting. It made me think of Badgerys Creek, first considered circa 1969 I think. Since then it has been on and off consideration so there is perhaps a colourful trail of investments on record.

    Jumpy about dams and regrets. There have been unexpected or unintended consequences flowing from dams. e.g. loss of environmental flows, massive land loss due to salination associated with poor understanding of farming practice or worse. There is a big list.
    I don’t know how you would tally all that up – pretty good research topic actually. That would include our history of water use and management since we took this country from its owners.
    But I digress…what was your question directed towards?

  38. There were, of course a lot of regrets about the Mary River dam, where half a billion dollars was spent on resuming land, only to have the project knocked on the head for environmental reasons.

    One of the regrets is that the land flooded is sometimes the most fertile land around. I’ve heard this said of the Paradise Dam on the Burnett River (inland from Bundaberg). That’s leaving aside forest ecologies, eg. in Tasmania. Many would regret Lake Pedder.

  39. Ah yes, the Garrett/Bligh debacle.
    Is there even the most extremist green candidate proposing to empty a dam and restore it to previous condition, perhaps in Tasmania even ?
    Getting even their 8% of the vote on that would seem far fetched I’d think.

  40. Oops, correction, just found the interest payment annually now are $16,600 million.
    The PBS is a piddly $10,800 million.

  41. Jumpy, on deconstructing dams, I don’t think it’s unknown in the world, but I’m not interested enough to look it up.

    Ambigulous, on paying for water, our last water bill was a bit of a shocker. During the period we had had an extra person in the house, representing a 50% increase.

    On inspection, we found our usage charges had gone up by 50%, but that only represented 10% of the bill. The main increase was in the State bulk water charge, which went up by 48% to now represent a third of our bill.

    I’m not sure what it covers, but I’m betting that most of the increase was simply a sneaky tax to help the treasurer to balance the books.

  42. In the AFR today, they said a study in 2015 had shown the inland rail would be economically beneficial. Unfortunately the cash returns from users would not cover the interest payments for the next 50 years.

    Seems, though, it will still happen.

  43. On water charges, yes the prices are making self storage more attractive. I suspect then, when most homes have tanks, a Government will impose meterage and charges on them.
    My local Government once banned water tank ( mosquitos ) then later made them mandatory for new homes ( climate drought ), then canned that and fluoridated the Town supply, then canned that.

    ( as an aside, now Coke and Pepsi make more money from bottled water than soft drinks! )

  44. Brian

    I suppose many of the benefits will flow to those indirectly affected, e.g. a cafe operator who scores extra income from rail passengers. But the cafe owner herself is never a passenger, never pays a fare directly; helps pay initial capital cost through taxation; possibly gains in real estate value of the building if she owns it.

    If she rents it, the owner benefits by charging a higher rent to the cafe manager.

  45. Home tanks for drinking water used to be banned in Melbourne.

    In rural Victoria decades ago, our house tank was the only water source we had; no piped water. Eucalyptus flavoured rainwater. Gutters needed regular cleaning to lower the sediment intake into tank.

    Worked well, apart from the years when the (pre) Ash Wednesday drought [broken by Bob Hawke’s election as PM] coincided with nappy-washing.

    Onya Bob !!!

  46. Where to dam?
    Block the river, they cried!
    Where’s the best soil built up by alluvial processes?
    Beside the river, they cried!

  47. John D maybe best to ask this.
    Why are open cut mines not use as storage for future wash plants or agricultural ? Even after any longwall activity is finished.
    A Plan to link then up in the initial stages could be beneficial rather than ” rehabilitating ”
    Creative placement of overburden and such.

  48. When we installed our tanks (circa 2005, when the dam was down to 16%) we were only permitted to connect them to our laundry and our toilet, not the wash basin.

    Still in Upper Brookfield, a Brisbane suburb, there is no town water. People have tanks and do as they please.

    When I grew up on the farm, we had tank water. Baths once a week on Sunday am before church, in sequence from the smallest up in the same water, just adding hot water every time, and Dad last.

    Then we got a pump and a pipeline from the dam, to water the garden, plus it was high enough to have a shower underneath. Heaven!

  49. Jumpy, John D may know more, but I understand mine pits are very polluted places, with stuff in them you wouldn’t want to know about.

  50. But i’d like to know about it, that the reason for asking.
    Your bath story is the same as my Dads, 11 of them and over 11 year old boys cut burnt sugar cane. The 2 girls and Grandma didn’t mind sexism that put them 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the bath.

  51. Jumpy: Using old mines for water storage can be tricky depending what was in the ore and overburden. If there is some form of pyrites present, the water will become acid if it is in contact with air. It may need treating to make it acceptable for use in concentrators and coal washeries. If we are talking about ores containing copper pyrites, the copper would make the water toxic.
    We used old quarries to store water and tailings in some of the mines I have worked at.
    Old mines as water stores are not a magic answer.

  52. On a different topic:

    My daughter, facing higher uni fees and a ridiculously lower repayment thresh hold, this morning put forward the very realistic notion that if the funds for universities are so desperately needed then in the spirit of the Australian fair go Uni fees should be back calculated and applied to all previous University participants and a HECS debt established for all of those people still working.
    Let’s have a truly level playing field.
    This is a perfectly fair proposition as past students who did no face the very high fee levels of today have had the advantage of an extended period of employment through very good economic times with high levels of employment. These advantages have been accrued in property ownership and superannuation accruals and it is not at all unrealistic that these people should pay in the way that future students are being told that they should pay.
    The first people to accept this reality must be the politicians and ideologues who are driving the argument that the young should face higher costs than their forebears faced so that the privileged can pay lower taxes.
    After listening to Simon Birminham laying out his cleptimonious arguments to Fran Kelly this morning, I completely agree with my daughter on this.
    We have a government long on self congratulation for achieving nothing, and completely bereft of ideas on how to make our economy “great again”, so they decide to steal from the students while having the gall to argue that deficits are immorally disadvantaging future generations.
    Hows about putting the top tax bracket back a notch and making the present rich pay their way now, and dropping the capital gains tax concession on investment properties.

  53. Bilb: I benefited from free university education back in the good old days. Some time after graduation I also found myself on a marginal tax rate of about 60%. This was in the days when thankless bastards like Peter Costello were getting the free education they were unwilling to support once they got into parliament.
    What I really think is necessary is for the better off to pay more tax like they used to in the good old days.
    I am not philosophically opposed to HECs or the idea of welfare as a loan as long as the repayment scheme is not too onerous.
    What are the new HECS proposals?

  54. JohnD, repositioning the higher tax rate upwards is what should happen, I agree.

    I found myself listening to Amanda Vanstone on radio yesterday afternoon, and she slipped in the line that “she was open selling the HECS debt (asset) to pay for ……..”

    Imagine what Macquarie Bank would do with HECS debts to milk for evermore. Look up the VET debt conditions. My daughter was talking about these this morning, and they are worse again.

  55. Hazelwood mine site (open cut) is unsuitable to be filled with water, as a lake for example, a chemist who has worked with brown coal told me.

    The coal is already 60% water in any case. Pump new water in and you’ll get a huge slurry dam. Thereby destroying any chance of using the remaining coal, centuries in the future say, as a chemical feedstock for industries we can’t anticipate.

    So, cover it with rock and soil, make it fire proof, and restrain any methane or CO2 emissions.

    In Melbourne, old quarries were sometimes used as municipal tips, e.g. Alphington/Fairfield.

  56. BilB & JD My supervisor told me yesterday that his undergrad degree cost him US$200,000. I had to sit down, gasping at the prospect that we might be headed down that road.
    He is doing a PhD now, funded by a scholarship and the uni generally waives fees for PhD candidates. But if they start inhibiting undergrads too much the pool of post grads will soon dry up, or be confined to overseas students more than that is already the case.

  57. I take it Geoff that his degree was from a US university (“might be headed down that road” with profit extraction)?

    Our politicians are losing perspective completely.

    Government is not a means to play out ideologies, it is a medium to provide a safe, harmonious and healthy community.

  58. BilB: Yes, a US university, and not Ivy Leauge

    Our pollies are so short-sighted – out to the next election – that any medium/long term matter can be manipulated as long as the next election outcome is not prejudiced. Students are fair game because they are shielded by the HECS equivalent and repayments are deferred to an undefined point in the future. Presumably then their votes might not be against the LNP…but they are largely wrong about that as far as I can see.

    All that aside I think Australian uni degrees are relatively cheap and still quite available given the fee support on offer.

    One complication is the increasing proportion of overseas students who pay a very much higher scale. If they decline the universities will be in great trouble.

    Another issue is that on uncertainty. Not limited to uni’s of course but if governments keep shifting the budgets how are universities going to manage their spending?

    Actually uncertainty is a huge pox on us all at he moment, you could write a book on it.

  59. uncertainty is a huge pox on us all at the moment

    and every aspiring politician poses as a pox doctor !!

  60. BilB, I think it’s a 7.5% increase in fees paid by students, which they now start to pay back once they earn $42,000 (down from $55,000).

    University funding is hit by $2.8 billion over the forward estimates.

    I’m with John D on tax. I too used to pay 60% marginal tax, and during the 1980s we had the ‘Accord’, where we would often only get the same dollar increase as the basic wage, give 60% of it to the tax man, and inflation averaged 8% pa.

  61. Neat little one Jumpy but what it is telling me is that income tax has been going down for some time in conjunction with declining services. That is why i think that the taxes for the better up need to be increased.
    It would have been more interesting if the graph showed total taxes, not just income tax.

  62. John,

    It would have been more interesting if the graph showed total taxes, not just income tax.

    Totally agreed but I can’t find one.
    That one shows only Fed income brackets.
    Our tax system is so convolutedly difficult yet vague.
    I can’t remember a political campaign policy by anyone to make it more complex, quite the opposite, yet here we are.

  63. Jumpy: The tax system is designed to help the rich avoid tax and create jobs for tax collectors and tax accountants. It certainly wasn’t designed to allow mere mortals to understand what is going on.

  64. I’m a bit late again with this Saturday’s edition. Problem is that I watched the rugby league test last night. As they say, “As long as we beat New Zealand!” Last night we did. New Zealand were competitive in the stats, except line breaks and tries scored, which were 5-2 in favour of Australia, for a 30-12 win.

    NZ had the territorial advantage 59-41, but for the most part couldn’t crack the Australian line.

    I would have loved to have watched the Jillaroos beat the Kiwi Ferns 16-4, but the match didn’t start until about 10pm.

  65. It was on before the Men.
    If you have Telstra, download the free NRL app to your phone and get every game in real time.
    If you want it on your big TV just connect via HDMI cable or AppleTV if you use an iPhone.

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