Saturday salon 27/1

1. Joi in a joyless world

    Virtual love The sex robot industry is using AI to create the female spouse ‘of the future’, loving companions who never deny or constrain male desires.

In fact the aim is to “bring greater satisfaction than human interaction” without the interruptions that are apt to come from real people, and the virtual one can be turned on or off at the flick of a switch.

When the main character K of the dystopic movie Bladerunner 2049 came home to his lonely quarters, he was able to switch on his female companion Joi, a hologram who nevertheless has the substance of a human and was able to light a cigarette and engage in any kind of sex that met his fancy, he being a replicant who was so real that he had ‘human’ feelings.

There were plenty of spectral-looking holograms in the film, but this is a shot of the ‘real’ Joi:

That, of course, is not what we saw with the technology of the big screen in the movie theatre, which looked real, but not real. Go here for how they did it.

There is discussion here and here about the role of Joi in the film, but lonely men, especially in Japan, but may not have to wait 30 years to bring home their own “robot wife”:

    If they can stump up the $2,700 fee, they can install “Hikari” into their bedrooms. The “wife of the future” creator Minori Takechi claims 300 men have already put in their orders for the Hikari prototype.

Takechi believes the owner’s relationship with a robot wife could one day “develop into love.”

Seems there is a ready market for this kind of product in Japan where according to a 2011 government survey, 45 per cent of Japanese men aren’t interested in finding a girlfriend.

Virtual women are always submissive and the basic assumption is that men can meet their needs in this part of human experience by satisfying their wants, while capitalists make a heap of money.

Beyond sad, really.

2. NSW rail workers lose the right to strike

From the Guardian:

    Unions have warned that the right to strike is “very nearly dead” after the Fair Work Commission’s deputy commissioner, Jonathan Hamberger, ruled that Sydney’s rail workers were unable to take protected strike action in part because of the threat to the economy.

    Hamberger agreed with the government’s argument that the Rail, Tram and Bus Union’s protected action should not go ahead because it would pose too great a risk to Sydney’s economy and safety.

    He ordered the suspension of both the 24-hour action slated for Monday and the continuing overtime ban, saying it was “threatening to endanger the welfare of part of the population” and “threatening to cause significant damage to the Australian economy or an important part of it”.

The ACTU said:

    the right to withdraw labour is a fundamental human right, denied to most Australian workers most of the time.

Industrial and workplace law specialist Professor Shae McCrystal says:

    the interpretation of the section of legislation concerning ‘welfare’ being used as a justification constitutes a “huge lowering of the bar” in terms of workers having the right to go on strike.

She said that what was left was the right to beg.

At Buzzfeed:

At lifehacker:

Drivers are working overtime and extra days to the point of exhaustion.

On latest news, a new offer may be accepted, but the unions are not happy about how the rules are stacked.

3. When did humans leave Africa?

Apparently genetics tells us, about 60 to 80,000 years ago. However, a stunning new find of a jawbone in Israel dates from 180,000 years ago.

However, the genetic studies remain what they are, and we don’t know whether these early arrivers died out or went back to Africa.

In my humble non-specialist opinion, the genetic bottleneck theory associated with the Toba supervolcano explosion has not been definitively resolved.

Some say, definitely not Toba, but some say we nearly faded away three times and if the last wasn’t Toba, what was it?

4. Is free trade free?

One of the issues troubling those who actually ask questions about ‘free’ trade deals is that routinely, it seems, they change intellectual property laws and introduce something called ‘investor-state dispute settlement’ (ISDS) mechanisms, whereby an international firm can effectively sue a state if the state introduces environmental, health-safety or other laws that disadvantage their product. States can legislate to protect their people or environment, but not on the precautionary principle. Potential damage that might seem obvious must be scientifically proven to exist.

The state can still keep the product out, but only if they pay a penalty in lieu of the profits forgone.

Disputes are settled by a panel of trade lawyers in secret and are not subject to judicial or legislative review.

Trade deals are almost never evaluated by competent independent bodies, and when they are they don’t seem to scrub up as well as the rhetoric would have us believe. In 2010 the Productivity Commission took a look at regional and bilateral deals:

    The Commission has received little evidence from business to indicate that bilateral agreements to date have provided substantial commercial benefits.

AFTINET, run by a public interest law group, has monitored trade issues for decades. Here’s their general position on the Transpacific Partnership:

    The TPP is bad for:

    • Democracy. It allows global corporations to sue governments over health, environment and public interest laws. Read more.
    • Health. Medicines will be more expensive because of stronger monopoly rights for pharmaceutical companies to charge higher prices for longer. Read more.
    • Workers. Contains no real protection for labour rights or migrant workers, and removes labour market testing. Read more.
    • The environment. Lacks enforceable commitments to key international agreements, does not mention climate change and allows corporations to sue over new environmental laws. Read more.
    • Internet users. Locks in strong rights for copyright holders at the expense of consumers and internet users. Read more.
    • Despite all the downsides of the deal, economists and the World Bank predicted it would not deliver promised jobs and growth. (Emphasis added)

Here is their latest news and analysis on the TPP deal.

Here’s Ged Kearney, ACTU President going up against Tony Maher Chief Executive of National Farmers Federation.

The ACTU has been locked out of the negotiations, while the NFF is clearly inside the tent. Good luck to the farmers, because trade is often grossly unfair to them. A pity about the rest of us.

Meanwhile, I’m not sure Trump has been smart in making Americans pay more for washing machines and solar panels.

75 thoughts on “Saturday salon 27/1”

  1. Have done a lot of negotiating with unions in the mining industry and saw both the pros and cons of the industrial relations situation at the time. On the plus side, the strength of the unions got the workers good conditions that the companies could afford and prevented or got fixed unfair treatment. I look at how some workers and “contractors” are being treated now and reminded of the benefits that come with good unions. Many of the benefits unions won flowed on to other workers.
    On the other hand, I also remember some of the mindless demarcation disputes and stopworks before negotiations, the abuse of power by some union officials and the way some union officials treated their members. I also remember how truck drivers got a better deal than trades people because it took a lot longer for a maintenance strike to stop production compared with a truck divers strike.
    It is also worth noting that the right to strike wasn’t much help to a raft of workers.
    Industrial relations improved a lot under Bob Hawke because the workers trusted him, he understood that everyone would be better off if unions and business cooperated and he knew how to talk to unions.
    I haven’t been following the rail dispute but would comment that, if so called Fair Work Australia decides to block a strike it should make a ruling that is seen to be fair to the union at the same time.

  2. If it’s true that about 70% on disposable household income in the US is controlled by women, is it fair to say that the US economy is matriarchal ?

  3. If it’s true that about 70% on disposable household income in the US is controlled by women, is it fair to say that the US economy is matriarchal ?

    I think it would depend on what proportion of the US economy consists of disposable household income.
    Your data (BTW what is your source?) only indicates that disposable household income, usually a very small portion of total household income, is controlled by women.
    Calling it matriarchal is a bit of a stretch.

  4. Jumpy, cherry picking doesn’t advance your argument or enhance your reputation.
    SInce you didn’t define your terms, I used my “common sense” definition of disposable income, which is what’s left over after all the essential bills (such as mortgage/rent, vehicle running expenses, food, power) are paid. I was not aware of the definition you were using, and I have my doubts about it, since I would think savings can only be made from disposable income, so they can’t be separate from it. But I am not an economist.
    Your linked source is no help because none of its links work for me and I can see no infographic.
    I wonder why you didn’t use the stronger argument for women’s empowerment in the article’s opening sentence?

    More women are taking the reins on their finances, holding 60 per cent of all personal wealth and 51 per cent of all stocks in the U.S., according to Virginia Tech.

    Was it because 70% is more than 51% and 60%?
    And you still haven’t told us what proportion of the US economy is made up of disposable household income. That is actually the nub of your original question.

  5. John D, the behaviour of certain unionists tends to bring the whole movement into disrepute. I believe there are around 103 unions but only about 3 that attract the bad press.

    I remember in the first Hawke government when they had a summit of unions, business and government, business was surprised at how union leaders were educated, knowledgeable, civil and intelligent rather than knuckle-draggers.

    One way or another the complete disempowerment of workers to bargain collectively can’t be good except perhaps where talent is scarce.

    I agree with your last sentence.

  6. zoot

    I too am not now, and have never been, an economist.

    Difficult to see why ‘savings’ would be separated from disposable income. Perhaps just to get a “finer grained” picture of what was happening?

    I agree with your view of non-disposable: payments for essentials like food, shelter, warmth, medical, schooling.

    Over here down under, some savings would be discretionary, e.g. saving for a holiday or a new car, or preparing for big outlays on Chrissie pressies. Other savings (say, paying off a loan) might be at a rate mandated by the lender, hence not discretionary.

    These days, from what I’ve seen, some Aussie economists say “discretionary” which has a slightly different tone from “disposable”.

    Just generally, as several people have commented, a society is a complex beast: “matriarchal”/”patriarchal” perhaps falls under that rubric of over-simplified, dualistic, binary thinking? Indeed in some minds, Manichean.

    That way leads to error, I submit, m’Lud.
    Nuance shall rule.

    Ambi of the Overflow

  7. Golly.

    Just looked up Manicheanism on the old Wiki.
    Didn’t mean to dip me toe into those deep theological waters.

    I only meant: the view of an opposition of extreme good, extreme evil, in a supposed binary world.

    Example: attribution of all evil in the world, to one’s opponents.

    Tendency: attribution of events and trends to vast conspiracies, the ability to view any facts as supporting the dualistic cosmology.

    It’s easy enough to fall into the Manichean Trap, I think. Makes cogitation a helluva lot simpler, for starters.

  8. Brian (Re: 1. Joi in a joyless world):

    In today’s SMH is this article about so many Japanese dying alone.

    So many people around, yet it seems more people are dying without being missed for weeks or months.

  9. Mr A
    Your suspicions are correct, I made an error, savings have nothing to do with Disposable Income.
    Disposable income is total personal income minus personal current taxes.
    And zoots error was thinking of Discretionary Income.
    Discretionary income is disposable income (after-tax income), minus all payments that are necessary to meet current bills.

    That said, THIS site has

    Women drive an estimated 70-80% of consumer spending with their purchasing power and influence

    Not exactly painting a patriarchal picture of a capitalist/mixed economy.

  10. I too was in error Mr J.
    Discretionary doesn’t just have “a different tone”, it has a different definition.

  11. And the best thing is at least 3 people can now discuss the world of economics and its relationship with society with a tiny bit more knowledge 🙂

    What next, evasion/avoidance, capacity/output, profits/ turnover……?
    They’re the most common mixups I see.

  12. So, what does that website mean by “consumer spending”. Is that restricted to weekly ‘consumables’ like food, beverages, electric power, fuel?

    And what about “home purchases”? Do they mean buying a home to live in, or do they mean equipment for the home such as curtains, carpets, furniture, linen, TVs?

    I’m curious.
    Some of these words have slightly different meanings overseas.

  13. Not exactly painting a patriarchal picture of a capitalist/mixed economy.

    Jumpy, with “capitalist/mixed economy” you’ve gone from a portion of ‘spending’ to the whole shebang in one giant leap.

  14. Geoff M, that’s a sad link from the SMH:

    This growing phenomenon is the result of Japan’s ageing society and changes in family structures. Three-generation households were commonplace not so long ago. Now more Japanese are remaining single, while couples are having fewer, if any, children.

    “The general concept of family in Japan has fallen apart,” said Masaki Ichinose, part of the Centre for Life and Death Studies at the University of Tokyo.

  15. Brian, have you even looked at the links ?

    Perhaps if you define the other important aspects other than household spending that is, in the US, over 68% of GDP (*) then we can discuss those more thoroughly.

    (* yes, yes, I think gdp is flawed but you trust it and in economic terms in this context consumption and spending are interchangeable )

  16. Jumpy, and I’m echoing Brian here, until we know the importance of disposable household income to the US economy there is no way of knowing what matriarchal influence it represents on that economy.
    Once you’ve worked that out I suggest we pursue the equally important question of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

  17. Jumpy, according to your World Bank link Afghanistan household consumption/spending is 112% of GDP.
    I don’t think the World Bank says what you think it says about the US (which it calls North America).

  18. No.
    They call it United States, you’ve scrolled down too far into collectives of areas.

    And 70-80% of 68.8 % of GDP gives us a pretty good start.

    Government spending would be a large chunk of GDP and split down the middle base on voting.

    So interesting a subject this is.

  19. Brian, have you even looked at the links?

    No Jumpy, I haven’t, but if you are making illogical leaps of that order, frankly I can’t see much point.


  20. you’ve scrolled down too far

    Indeed I have. Sorry!
    Now, how does Afghanistan manage to have household consumption/spending which is 112% of GDP?
    Or in your argument (if I’ve understood you properly) 112% of its economy?

  21. They welcome foreign troops, who bring in foreign currency to spend locally. It revs up the economy something marvellous. Was aid, then for many years it was roubles; then Saudi and Pakistani and US cash started rolling in….

    Then there’s the [cough] non-pharmaceutical poppy crop, which any jumpy economist worth his consulting fee will tell you is part of the informal economy of which the World Bank is silent.

  22. The thing that counts re spending is who makes (or contributes to) the purchase decisions rather than whether we are talking about discretionary or whatever spending. I took over the cooking and shopping when I retired and, as a result, now make more spending decisions than I used to. . Doesn’t mean that we switched from a matriarchy to a patriarchy when i retired.

  23. Ambigulous – are you hinting that GDP is not the same as “the economy” (formal or informal)?
    John D – excellent example.

  24. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Keynsian club.

    However, I have been an interested observer of John Maynard, bless him, a bright and promising young share investor, since meeting him when I used to swan around with the Bloomsbury Group. Oh, how we laughed. Virginia was such a hoot!

    On a more serious note, I pay tribute to John Maynard for purchasing a large collection of private papers of Isaac Newton, when they were up for auction and in danger of being bought by an American.

    Keynes was astounded at the unorthodox religious ideas Newton had written about. Isaac was a bit of an alchemist in his later years too. Mystical alchemist: forget that simplistic binary of rational // irrational.

    In Isaac, over time, these were blended.
    And this crazy chap was in charge of the Royal Mint!!

    I’m reminded of Whitman’s lines – (approx.)::
    “Do I contradict myself?
    I contain multiplicities!”

  25. Is there anyone that lives in or around Cairns? Or Darwin?

    Tomorrow, at the Novatel Cairns Oasis Resort, the Australian Senate inquiry into the governance and operation of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) will be holding a public hearing. The programme can be found here.

    The Darwin hearing is scheduled for this Friday, at the Vibe Hotel Darwin Waterfront.

    Tomorrow, Professor John Quiggin is scheduled to ‘appear’ via phone at 8am. He may have a few interesting things to say.

  26. From Fairfax online today to you:

    Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s department has launched an “urgent investigation” into how two filing cabinets containing classified and sensitive government documents were mistakenly sold at a second hand furniture shop in Canberra.

    In an extraordinary lapse of security, the documents, which include federal cabinet papers that should not be made public for 20 years, were apparently bought by a member of the public and eventually passed on to the ABC.

    A spokesperson for the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet said: “The secretary of the department … has initiated an urgent investigation into the circumstances around the disposal of two Commonwealth government filing cabinets that alledged contained classified material. Given that the investigation is underway, it is not appropriate for the department to comment further at this time.”

    The ABC has reported the filing cabinets were locked when the unidentified person bought them. The buyer eventually drilled open the locks and discovered thousands of pages of documents.

    Nearly all the files were classified, some as “top secret” or for Australian eyes only, the ABC reported.

    They have formed the basis of several ABC stories over the past few days that were embarrassing to several previous governments.

    OK, now.
    Two options: laugh / cry.

    “Eeny meeny miney mo
    Catch an indigenous person by the lower digit.
    If he enunciates pain, loathing or fear, release him immediately…”

  27. Yes, these are the folk should be given more power and reach over and into our lives because……

  28. We have diminished the Workers’ ability to strike – and ensured they have no other course of industrial action. Aren’t we clever!

    Welcome to Soviet Australia.

  29. What about the Employers right to strike ?

    Yes. What about it? It’s sickening the way employers are forced to keep in business just to feed those ungrateful wretches the employees. Why, if I had my way every employer in Australia would shut up shop tomorrow. Teach those bloody unions a lesson. They couldn’t exist without poor oppressed employers to kick around!
    Bah Humbug!

  30. Zoot
    And on an intellectually serious level ?
    Or morally serious, or socially serious level ?

  31. Jumpy, when you come online again you might explain what a phrase like “Employers right to strike” means in concrete terms.

    Are you talking about a lockout? Or the right to sack the whole workforce and replace it with another?

    There was a company called North, miners who owned a forestry operation, and were having trouble with the workers. Managers came to work with “The right to manage” emblazoned on their brief cases. They let it be known that every worker should come to work thinking he/she, mostly he, might be sacked that day.

    They ended up selling the operation to Amcor, who you might notice still exist, whereas North doesn’t.

  32. Brian

    Perhaps Mr J means the right to bring on immediate, unscheduled holidays for the whole workforce, if sales have been down?

    I’ve heard it happens now and then.
    Tends to throw the holiday planning (bookings, school breaks) into the waste paper basket for employees.

    But, you know, ship happens!!

  33. Withholding labour is what defines a strike and Mr J is such a pedant when it comes to definitions (I’m sure you’ve noticed).
    He must be complaining that employers have no right to withdraw their labour. Although I must admit I’m somewhat baffled by the notion of employers downing tools and refusing to work.

  34. But zoot

    Hang on a sec, old chap.
    If the bosses downed their spreadsheets and left, the workers would remain.

    In charge, getting on with it.

    So he advocates worker control??? Mr J is a syndicalist??
    Some sort of Commo?

    Shurely shome mishtake….

  35. Brian: North was the company that controlled Robe River.
    In the Pilbara the unions became very powerful because the cost of a strike was so high. (A strike at Newman cost about one million per day when production controlled sales.) This high cost meant that companies were reluctant to make a stand.
    Robe had been particularly weak in its dealings with the unions and was dying of a thousand cuts. The Robe dispute that ended all of this started when the unions wanted the company to discipline a supervisor who had shut something down in an emergency.
    Robe responded by challenging all the agreements that they had with the unions to the real courts instead of the arbitration courts. The real court threw out all of the agreements, the power of the unions was broken, management regained the right to manage and productivity and profits increased enormously.
    The success at Robe may have gone to North’s head. However, I have no idea what prompted North’s action in the timber industry. (Quite likely that they saw reducing union influence as a way of increasing what they would get when they sold the business.)
    There have been times and places when/where the balance of power swung too far in favour of business or the workers. At the moment some companies are getting away with ripping off the people who work for them because the power has been with business for far too long.

  36. # step forward ALP person David Feeney #
    as the latest MHR to resign over dual citizenship.*

    At the 2017 general election, he faced a strong challenge from the Greens candidate, and some embarrassment over an investment property in the electorate.

    Will he be pre-selected for the byelection?

    [He assisted in the first removal of nice Mr Rudd. Relatively unknown until then…..]

    * mislaid his paperwork

  37. Brian, a strike is one party on the supply side of a transaction colluding with others to blackmail the customer into paying more for the product.

    Collective bargaining is totally illegal for employers.

    I happen to have a ringside seat at the Oakey Creek situation and it’s ugly. Some good friends, normally calm reasonable folk, have turned literally militant.

  38. To bring Geoff Ms point into this, imagine if the MUA ( hugely remunerated employees) decided to block fuel into the Country unless their pay was quadrupled.

    The MUA is currently mergeing with the CMFEU !!

  39. Look Mr J

    I don’t want to get all parochial, but Bass Strait oil is piped ashore (not handled by your MUA bogeypersons).

    I love “literally militant” – does that mean “literally feral” in your mind?

    Dunno about employers being banned from collective action??

    Agreed that secret collusion (e.g. cartel behaviour) is illegal, but Employer Associations, Manufacturer Associations and their ilk, periodically become “literally militant” when they put a united case at an open, public hearing (e.g. minimum wage case). Don’t get me wrong: I think they should be allowed to continue to do so.

  40. Correction to mine of 4.14pm today.

    It seems Mr Feeney will not contest the by-election in his former seat (named after John Batman, who signed the original lease on lands adjoining the Yarra River).

  41. Jumpy, Adam Smith from the Wealth of Nations in 1776:

    We rarely hear, it has been said, of the combination of masters, though frequently of those of workmen. But whoever imagines, upon this account, that masters rarely combine, is as ignorant of the world as of the subject. Masters are always and everywhere in a sort of tacit, but constant and uniform combination, not to raise the wages of labor above their actual rate.

    John, it is good to hear a summary account of the Robe River dispute, which I only followed in passing. I think North were out of their patch in trying to manage a forestry outfit in Tasmania. Amcor had little trouble when they took over.

    I think the key sentence in your comment was:

    There have been times and places when/where the balance of power swung too far in favour of business or the workers.

    I have always been interested in why the relationship between workers and bosses has been so adversarial. Part of it was that unions which had a power base outside the company could exercise control on aspects of the company’s operations. I understand the move by the Labor government to enterprise bargaining was to provide unity of interest and purpose.

    At one time I started collecting information on the German system, where company boards are appointed by superboards which appear to emanate from work councils made up of workers, whether union members or not. At the time the interest was in the problems workers were having with American multinationals like Amazon, which are union unfriendly. My impression was that the multinational bosses held the whip hand, because the threat was to relocate to Eastern Europe countries to service the German market, but no doubt it was more complicated than that.

    Union membership appears to be highest in Scandinavian countries, but that could have something to do with the Ghent system, where welfare payments came through unions.

  42. Jumpy,

    You are choosing to ignore the excesses of the CCEOU (Corporate Chief Executive Officers Union) which has achieved an average income of $4.75 million for its members, some ten times the income of the Prime Minister.

    Imagine the national disruption if this Union goes out on strike at some pivotal time! This might actually cause a positive bump in the ASX.

  43. CCEOU eh?
    Looking forward to further reports of their nefarious activities, BilB.

    Prima facie they sound greedy!

    BTW, are you back from your test drive of electric vehicles in Europe?

  44. Yes. I’m back, Ambi. What was it I was going to look out for with EV’s, I’ve forgotten. I did do a few trip in the Tesla’s (my distributor now has 8 he tells me). He gave me a demo of the hands off feature which was pretty impressive right up to the round a bout. They can’t always cope with those it seems.

    I spent a couple of days in London, and I have to say that I absolutely love the Tube. I first experienced it in the 80’s and it was awesome then. Thirty five years later it is equally awesome, all 400 kilometres of it, despite the huge increase in traffic. I love that system.

    And why was it possible for them to get such an extensive system? Its all to do with the diameter,..6 metres instead of our 12.5 metre tunnel diameter. That is a factor of 4 times the amount of material to remove, hence the billion of dollars required for even short sections of line.

    Carriage design has improved dramatically as well. The newest of the Dusseldorf (Alston construction) have inter carriage flexible joints that are barely there in terms of space restriction and so you can see from one end of the train to the other on a straight run. Really cool. I took a picture of that.

    At the Swiss building exhibition there was brilliant lift for retrofitting to buildings, very affordable, and solar panels galore.

  45. Ambigulous (Re: FEBRUARY 1, 2018 AT 8:59 PM):

    I don’t want to get all parochial, but Bass Strait oil is piped ashore (not handled by your MUA bogeypersons).

    I suggest you look at this post and scroll down to Figure 7: Australia’s oil production, consumption and net imports, where it shows Australia’s net imports increasing and crude production decreasing.

  46. Bilb: Interested in what you said about London rail tunnel dia. Smaller tunnels not only need less material dug out but also reduce the amount of lining required and the need to reinforce the tunnel walls.
    From time to time I rabbit on about narrow track light rail. A light rail that would offer seating only one seat wide with a separate door for each row of seats. Part of the argument was about requiring very little extra road width to fit but another part was about smaller tunnels – very attractive when considering material moved varies with dia. squared. Tunnel dia. would have to be sufficient to allow people to walk out if the tram breaks down.

  47. Jumpy (Re: FEBRUARY 1, 2018 AT 8:02 PM):

    To bring Geoff Ms point into this, imagine if the MUA ( hugely remunerated employees) decided to block fuel into the Country unless their pay was quadrupled.

    I think that’s a highly improbable scenario, Jumpy. I doubt whether the strike would be legal, based on the claim to “quadruple” their pay. And if fuel supplies were successfully cut off, or substantially diminished, due to industrial action (even on perhaps more reasonable claims), and the fuel restrictions started to bite, and there were images of empty supermarket shelves and perhaps kilometre long fuel queues, and many people not being able to get to work, then I doubt whether the unions, or their members, would come out of the process in a good light. The union members (and their families) may find they wouldn’t have any sympathy among the communities they live in. Would you think so?

  48. Geoff M

    I was merely pointing out that the MUA does not have a stranglehold on oil supplies.


  49. Geoff M.
    Even a threat of possible action by a MEGA Union like CFMEU+MUA would make our ” Law Makers ” piddle themselves.
    The Scandinavian Countries don’t have MEGA Consolidated Unions, not even a minimum wage.

    Can you find a Company that any Union owns and operates in Australia?
    And what does that Company add to GDP ?
    Are their Employees happy ?
    What are they payed in relation to the average?
    What is the differential between the CEO and the cleaner ?
    What increased productivity measures are in place ?
    Given that that Company would be hugely successful, what dividends to the share holders ?

    ( These questions may be redundant because Unions have zero interest or expertise in running a Company. )

  50. Brian, no, that’s why the bracket bit is there.

    Yet some argue, ridiculously, that Employees em mass ( unions) can run a Company better than a person that has experience.

    As an Employer, purchasing something from employees ( labour ), I think I should have the same rights as any customer that pays money for the purchase.
    Wouldn’t you agree the same standards should apply?

  51. Can you find a Company that any Union owns and operates in Australia?

    Uhh, no.

    And what does that Company add to GDP ?

    At least 50%

    Are their Employees happy ?

    Ecstatically so.

    What are they payed in relation to the average?

    No less than twice the average.

    What is the differential between the CEO and the cleaner ?

    Zero. The CEO is the cleaner.

    What increased productivity measures are in place ?

    Just the usual, such as bonuses for exceeding KPIs, singing of the company song every morning, that sort of thing.

    Given that that Company would be IS hugely successful, what dividends to the share holders ?

    A constant dividend stream of no less than 10% of total shareholding.

    ( These answers are redundant and make as much sense as the questions.)

  52. zoot

    I want facts.

    Please immediately supply the lyrics of the company song.
    Music not required, but you may hum along with it as you type the lyrics.

    Not so sure about huge unions in Scandinavia, Mr J.
    I recall (imperfectly) a newspaper article about 20 years back, saying that Swedish Union super funds were slowly but steadily increasing their total percentage of company ownership in Sweden, and they would soon control more than 50%.

    The unions had major representation on their super fund boards. These unions were no doubt very interested in having the companies prosper!!

    Last I heard, Sweden was, you know, “Scandinavian”.

  53. BilB (Re: FEBRUARY 2, 2018 AT 10:42 AM):

    I spent a couple of days in London, and I have to say that I absolutely love the Tube.

    It’s a fantastic way to get around London. I think all transport Ministers here in Australia need to visit the London Underground (without their minders) to experience some of the world’s best practice in mass transit systems. And with train spacings down to 2 minutes apart at peak times, there’s no thinking about consulting timetables – there’ll be another train coming in a few minutes if the current one at the station is too full.

    Thirty five years later it is equally awesome, all 400 kilometres of it, despite the huge increase in traffic.

    Surely, it’s much more ‘betterer’? Did you experience the new Crossrail (now known as the Elizabeth) line? Crossrail used 7.1m diameter TBMs to construct the approximately 22 km long tunnels. Crossrail-2 is also being considered as another future addition.

    And why was it possible for them to get such an extensive system? Its all to do with the diameter,..6 metres instead of our 12.5 metre tunnel diameter. That is a factor of 4 times the amount of material to remove, hence the billion of dollars required for even short sections of line.

    London opened the world’s first underground railway in 1863 (Metropolitan Line) – so the Brits have had a much longer time to keep adding to their system than everyone else. The first lines were sub-surface cut-and-cover and used coal-fired steam locomotives, before electric traction technology was available. The original deep-level circular tube systems (Northern Line, began in 1890; Waterloo, 1898; Central, 1900; Bakerloo, 1906; Piccadilly, 1906) were probably hand dug with pick and shovel, and lined with bolt-on cast iron segments – Russell Square Station on the Piccadilly Line is a deep-level one I’ve used a few times when visiting. More recent London Underground lines, like the Jubilee, and Docklands lines, have larger tunnel cross-sections. Look at the difference in sizes between the very early constructed sub-surface Metropolitan Line’s carriage and the later constructed deep-level tube‘s carriage side-by-side here – both are part of the London Underground system. Here’ a picture of a deep-tube train leaving a tunnel mouth.

    The UK heavy mainline loading gauge is bigger than the original tube London Underground loading gauges.

    Sydney’s CBD underground railway sits in sandstone, and was constructed predominantly using sub-surface cut-and-cover, to the mainline Sydney loading gauge. The Central to Museum and St James Stations commenced operations on 20 December 1926, and was the first underground railway in Australia, and the second in the Southern Hemisphere.

    Did you know Sydney had one of the most extensive tram (aka light rail) systems in the world (291 km in 1923), after London and Paris, before the powers at the time thought it was a clever idea to rip it all up in the early 1960s? It was thought that busses would do the job better – what were they thinking? Melbourne kept their tram system, and have extended their system further.

    And mainline passenger and freight trains in Europe (and Asia) are decades ahead of what is available here in NSW. 25 kV AC electrification is expanding extensively, while NSW sticks with early 20th-century technology, less efficient 1.5 kV DC supply.

    The NSW XPT’s top speed is 160 km/h (about 100 mph) but spends most of the time running slower because of a plethora of tight curved track, better suited for tilt trains. The diesel powered, electric traction XPT is a modified version of the UK’s InterCity-125 trains which run regularly at 125 mph (201 km/h) with a top speed of 148 mph (238 km/h), on lines built for higher speeds. The UK’s InterCity-125 trains will soon be replaced with the Class 800 Hitachi (Intercity Express Programme) electro-diesel dual-energy, 9-car trains, currently under testing. The XPT replacements, that the NSW Government is currently considering replacing, I think should be dual-energy, significantly faster tilt trains.

    Per Beyond Zero Emissions’ 2014 High Speed Rail report (a fully-costed proposal for a system linking Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, and regional areas along the route) Australia is one of only two continents without HSR or plans for its construction – the other is Antarctica.

    At least Queensland has tilt trains, serving Brisbane, Bundaberg and Rockhampton. I suspect that Queensland now has a more extensive electrified rail network than the other states combined.

  54. Yes, GeoffM, there are a few new lines, some above ground, but the original tube system is the high performer.

    If the urban transport for Sydney portfolio was mine I would establish a 500 million dollars per year budget for the next 30 years, I would invest in the best state of the art tunnelling machines (two off), then tender their operation to the most kilometres for the lowest price operator with a 4 year review.

    One of the first lines I would create would be a beaches line from La Perouse through the main beaches to Bondi Junction Rose Bay then under the harbour to Mosman then the Spit Manly then all the way up to Avalon Beach. The next Line would be a great circle line from Maroubra Botany Mascot Marrickville Gladesville to Lane Cove.

    When you comparethe tube tunnel design

    To the NSW tunnel design, you clearly see how wasteful out system is. It is not just about the tunnel design, it is the rolling stock too. A system such as ours attempts to move a thousand people in more spaced out sets, whereas the tube is successful for having lower delivery sets more frequently. Lower mass for better energy efficiency and better service. Coupled with the automatic operation now available, and able to be installed into a new system it would be extremely efficient in all ways.

    The subway is more expensive than the light rail, possibly, but the disruption to the street scape is negligible and would be largely paid for by the reduction in street maintenance and upgrading.

    By making it a steady manageable budget item it becomes uncontroversial at budget time, and more stable from a changing governments point of view.

  55. By the way, British Country Rail is a real shocker. It cost me 163 pound for a London to Leicester return trip. OMG, what a surprise that was. I learned that one has to us an app and book at least 2 hours in advance to get better fares.

    Then my daughter on her train trip from Berlin to Basel, a 7 hour run, got caught in the hurricane that brought all of Germany’s train system to a halt. Her trip took over 30 hours to complete.

  56. Yet some argue, ridiculously, that Employees em mass ( unions) can run a Company better than a person that has experience.

    As an Employer, purchasing something from employees ( labour ), I think I should have the same rights as any customer that pays money for the purchase.
    Wouldn’t you agree the same standards should apply?

    On the first point, instead of bellyaching about Venezuela you could take a look at what happened in Argentina after the country defaulted on debts and the peso became worthless.

    In many cases the bosses sent their money overseas and scarpered leaving the workers to carry on running the company, which I heard in many cases they did very well. You should be interested also in what people did to fill the gap when the government collapsed.

    Generally though, I find it offensive if labour is considered just another commodity.

    Think about horses. You need to have a relationship to get the best performance.

    In the work place the worker is a fully articulated human being and should be treated as such. It is the bosses who set the tone in workplace relations, although I’d concede that some union officials make things difficult. However, if the boss starts with an exploitative value system or an assumption of privilege then bad karma is created right there.

  57. BilB (Re: FEBRUARY 3, 2018 AT 2:44 PM):

    Thanks for the link. A comment from “Nearholmer” says:

    The tunnel diameter differs between lines/locations, according to exactly when each was built, and, on some lines, is greater on curves below a given radius, to allow for end and centre throw on the cars, but the “typical” diameter quoted, inside the flanges of cast iron segments, is 12ft. If you want chapter and verse on all the different figures, and which sections have concrete, as opposed to iron, linings, refer to “Rails Through The Clay” by Croome and Jackson, which is the standard history. The index gives 41 references to tunnel diameters, so you can see that there is no, one, simple answer to your question!

    You say:

    By making it a steady manageable budget item it becomes uncontroversial at budget time, and more stable from a changing governments point of view.

    But how do you overcome the “road is best” attitudes apparent in the various governments here in Australia? No one seems to question the vast sums of capital invested, or looks to the cost-benefit analysis in roads each year, and the huge swathes of land resumed. When ever rail is mentioned there seems to be all sorts of arguments to say we can’t afford them. The road lobby groups and trucking industry seem all powerful.

  58. … and have been powerful for at least the last 40 years, I reckon….


    How then, to rethink and re-engineer cities and towns, after oil vehicles fade away? Those roads gotta be useful for something!

  59. Ambi, I seem to recall the reason for wide streets in western Qld towns was so that you could do a U-turn with a team of bullocks!

    I think the streets will at least occasionally be used for quite large vehicles and/or machines.

  60. Yes, and I heard that the wide avenues leading into Melbourne were there for very large horse-drawn carts and days. Practical, and no problem with using up land in those days (it wasn’t “inner suburban gold” in the old days).

    Having grabbed so much land to build highways and streets, then paved them and built bridges and curbs, it would be a shame to waste all that effort!!

  61. Ambigulous (Re: FEBRUARY 5, 2018 AT 4:29 PM):

    How then, to rethink and re-engineer cities and towns, after oil vehicles fade away? Those roads gotta be useful for something!

    I’m not saying roads become redundant in a post-‘peak oil’ world. I am saying that I think rail should become the dominant mode of long-distance land transport.

    Vehicle tyres are made from petroleum – alternative materials will need to be found. Many roads are mainly made from bitumen/asphalt, derived from petroleum.

  62. I think that you find that they have been on to that challenge for many years, Geoff. The most fossil fuel wasteful part of the tyre making is in the burning of bunker oil to make the carbon black filler. That is one component that can be derived from recycling the old tyres, it just takes the will or regulatory demand to do so.

    There is one cement plant in Los Angeles that is fuelled with old tyres, a reasonable improvement given the natural rubber content of the tyres.

  63. BilB (Re: FEBRUARY 8, 2018 AT 2:45 PM):

    Thanks for the link. This caught my eye:

    But now tire-makers have turned increasingly to finding renewably sourced raw materials to replace current oil-based ingredients of tires. Depending on the model, anywhere from 15 to 38 liters of petroleum are required to produce a standard tire. Low-oil content tires use various natural, sustainable ingredients as substitutes including chemically toughened natural rubbers, vegetable-based processing oils and fibers made of plant cellulose. They also found nonpetroleum versions of what the tire industry calls fillers—special functional additives that boost, for example, manufacturing processability or durability.

    And this (per James Rancourt, a consulting polymer scientist who heads Polymer Solutions in Blacksburg, Va.):

    By weight, he explains, the tread compounds of a conventional tire contain about 28 percent natural rubber, which comes from latex sap, 28 percent synthetic rubber, which is made from oil, and 28 percent carbon black filler—a sootlike reinforcing agent that is produced by partially burning fossil fuels. The remaining 16 percent comprises different functional agents of various kinds.

    So by weight, it appears roughly 56% of the ingredients of a tyre are derived from petroleum. I note that the Scientific American article is dated 11 Aug 2010, so there may have been a few changes since.

  64. Is progress, GeofM, but slow progress. And it will remain slow while we have idiots like Trump in the White House and TurnBull in our Parliament. Arguably TurnBull is the worst of the two as he appears credible. You know what you get with Trump, idiocy incorporated, but Turnbull has gone to some effort to appear like a rational science understanding thinker, when he is in effect just another full on denialist with a trojan virus approach.

    Our leading statesman thinker in Australia at present is Jay Weatherill. He gets my standing applause.

  65. BilB, agree about Weatherill, but worried about the influence Xenephon will probably have after the next election in SA.

Comments are closed.