Saturday salon 21/7

1. Slavery lives on

The 2018 Global Slavery Index was released on Thursday. Some 40.3 million people were found to live in slavery, 70 per cent women and girls. The main division is 15.4 million in forced marriages and 24.9 million in forced labour.

North Korea is worst, with one in 10. The Guardian highlights over 400,000 in the USA. However, the Index:

    estimates China is by far the largest source of at-risk goods, with the United States importing $122bn of electronics and clothing from the country. Vietnam was the second largest source with $11.2bn, and India third with $3.8bn.

Australia was found to have 15,000 living in slavery, up from 4300 in 2016. This mainly stems from changes in how and what is counted, which is an ongoing problem.

The bloke behind the slavery index is our capitalist philanthropist Andrew Forrest who funded it through the Forrest family’s Minderoo Foundation.

Forrest blames the G20 countries in the main, importing $US354 billion a year of products linked to forced labour. They have been slow to act, and then there is a question of when they act whether they are really serious.

Last year in December the Australian Parliament completed a whopping report on modern slavery Hidden in Plain Sight, which recommended a Modern Slavery Act and an Anti-Slavery Commissioner inter alia.

    Mr Forrest said the federal government’s Modern Slavery Bill introduced to Parliament last month was defective because it did not make provision for an independent commissioner.

    Under the proposed laws, businesses with an annual turnover of more than $100 million will have to identify any modern slavery in their supply chains and report it to authorities.

    Labor has said it will back the laws but criticised the lack of penalties for companies who fail to report slavery.

Forrest says the raw truth is that the proposed law would not be there at all if business had not pushed for it.

2. Homelessness among the elderly

Information from the 2016 census just made available indicates that homelessness among the 55+ demographic has increased by 55 per cent in the last 10 years, and is now close to 19,000.

Seems anyone on a statutory income like the pension who doesn’t own a home and has no support from family is at risk of homelessness. The pension is simply inadequate.

According to the Council to Homeless Persons homelessness has increased by 13.7 per cent in the last five years to now reach around 116,000.

In the ABC segment above, Minister for Social Services Dan Tehan says the Commonwealth is spending $6 billion and suggests the rest is up to the states. Apparently it’s not his concern if there are holes in the social safety net. Back in 2016 his government proposed stripping pensioners of the energy supplement worth an extra $366.60 per year for a single pensioner and $551.20 for a couple ($275.60 each).

A year later they were still at it. ACOSS said:

    “If this Bill goes through, 1.7 million people on the lowest incomes will be worse off, including those paying for accommodation, food, travel costs and day-to-day bills while living on just $38 a day,” Dr Goldie said in the ACOSS submission.

They haven’t given up. A few minutes ago shadow finance person Jim Chalmers said that the Longman byelection is really about stripping $17 billion from schools, hospitals and pensioners and giving it to the big banks. That’s an electorate which has a few oldies, and overall One Nation is polling 14%.

3. Why does VW do so well?

I have affectionate memories of the VW Beetle. I owned one just like this:

At the time my first wife and I were living in Belair in Adelaide, which is up in the hills. Every morning and evening we made the trip to Adelaide University with the couple over the back fence. He was a man mountain, 6’4″ in the old money and about 23 stone. She had been a champion rower, and came in at about 13 and a half stone.

I did need a new clutch with all that weight, luckily within the warranty period, but the reliability of the VWs was legendary.

Later I drove to Brisbane with all our possessions stuffed inside and a humongous stack on the roof rack.

Later again I traded the Beetle for a front wheel drive Passat. My current wife got in and said, “Great, I don’t have to slow down around corners!”

ABC RN Rear Vision did an excellent history of the car and the company, including the emissions scandal (transcript should follow).

The really interesting bit was near the end, from 25:10 on the audio.

Volkswagen is a very successful company as measured by ‘return on investment’. The key is put down to German law which provides for a supervising board made up of 10 company representatives and 10 worker and union representatives. Sounds very civilised.

The state of Lower Saxony with a 20% stake has two representatives, who are counted on the company side. This arrangement saw the company ride out recessions without mass retrenchments, while rewarding workers well, increasing productivity and avoiding mass retrenchments.

Worth investigating to see what we can learn.

4. Teflon Trump

US President Donald Trump (L) and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin shake hands before attending a joint press conference after a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, on July 16, 2018. – The US and Russian leaders opened an historic summit in Helsinki, with Donald Trump promising an “extraordinary relationship” and Vladimir Putin saying it was high time to thrash out disputes around the world. (Photo by Yuri KADOBNOV / AFP) (Photo credit should read YURI KADOBNOV/AFP/Getty Images)

Take your pick of 24 headlines he made last week.

Linda Mottran in ABC RN’s PM interviewed Steven Hall, former CIA chief of Russia Operations, and analyst for CNN (transcript available) as well as recounting the surprised director of US national intelligence, Dan Coats on TV learning of the Putin White House visit.

From 3:50 in the audio Hall tells that Trump and his business outfit has been bailed out multiple times by the Russians. Hall’s worry is that Trump is compromised and the Russians could use this to destroy him. However, Hall says it is all in plain sight if you go looking on the internet.

There are two problems with the notion that Trump is compromised. One is that Trump is only useful to the Russians if they don’t destroy him.

The other is that it wouldn’t work. NY Times reports a survey SurveyMonkey did for Axios:

    It revealed that 79 percent of Republicans approved of Trump’s sycophantic performance at the news conference with Vladimir Putin, while 85 percent deem the investigation of Russian intrusion into our elections a distraction. They bear less and less resemblance to the followers of a coherent ideology and more and more to the members of a cult. That word is gaining currency in our political discourse for excellent reason.

Laura Tingle says most leaders want to pretend nothing is happening, because they don’t want to be noticed by the Donald. Our bloke knows that more than 330 asylum seekers have now left Manus Island and Nauru for a new life in the United States, and it keeps happening under the radar.

Meanwhile Trump’s body language tends to show him in the Alpha male position, but this one from SkyNews gets it about right:

It’s from back in March.

Meanwhile Putin is coming to the White House to work on the implementation of ‘agreements’ they made in Helsinki on Israel, Middle East peace, North Korea, nuclear proliferation, trade, cyber attacks etc. Problem is no-one other than the interpreters seems to know what was agreed, and they won’t tell.

52 thoughts on “Saturday salon 21/7”

  1. “ Question 3. Why does VW do so well? “

    Answer- It lies to customers about its cars meeting emission regulations.

  2. Joanna Lumley’s Siberia journey is fascinating.

    Homelessness in Australia, especially among the elderly, should be next to zero – but it is not. No doubt “Howard’s young fogies” will be mouthing off again about improvident people getting what they deserve – without bothering to find out if such people were actually improvident or were simply the victims of injustice or of rapidly changing circumstances. The solutions to the homelessness scandals are both easy to find and relatively inexpensive – but there is not a hope in the world they will ever be implemented .

  3. GB: I think a key cause of homelessness is that we no longer build really low coast housing, in part because councils want their shires to become more up-market and developers want to develop the land they own to maximize profit – which means build expensive houses.
    Based on my life as a donga dweller I believe that, with a little bit of smarts, you could house a couple in a dwelling with less than a 20m2 footprint. Not sumptuous but not homeless either.

  4. The market system, however, has also left many people hopelessly behind, particularly as it has become ever more specialized. These devastating side effects can be ameliorated: a rich family takes care of all its children, not just those with talents valued by the marketplace.

    Warren Buffet

  5. Jump, I was interested in the management system:

    German companies have two boards: a management board, composed of top executives, and a non-executive supervisory board.

    As I understand it the supervisory board appoints the executives. I have a part finished post on company management in my copious ‘drafts’ file. It has been lying fallow for some time, awaiting time to investigate further.

    ‘Industrial democracy’ and ‘stakeholder capitalism’ are interesting ideas if we want to civilise capitalism.

    Dieselgate is worth a whole post, but this article does the job pretty well.

    The short answer is that overseas VW has moved quickly to pay penalties and restitution which has cost them $25 billion in the US – nearly two years worth of company profits. Poor old Otto Schmidt has been the sacrificial lamb and has been sent to the clink for seven years. It was really stupid to go on holidays to Florida.

    I was in Germany in September 2015 when the story broke. It offended German people to the core that one of their leading companies had been systematically dishonest. Every night 20 of 30 minutes of TV news would be about the affair.

    It is harder to sue in Germany. They don’t have class actions. But the story is not over.


    In December 2016 the European Commission began investigating whether regulatory authorities in Germany and six other EU nations have been lax in their oversight of diesel emissions. Though VW’s cheating was, in most instances, more brazen in methodology, its diesels’ NOx emissions outside the U.S. appear to have been no worse than their competitors’. Moreover, BMW, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Daimler (maker of Mercedes), PSA (maker of Peugeots and Citroëns), and Renault-Nissan have all come under scrutiny over the past year by either German or French authorities for possible diesel emissions irregularities. (The manufacturers deny wrongdoing.)

    Also VW Just Ordered $48 Billion in Electric Car Batteries. That’s About What Tesla Is Worth Right Now:

    By 2025, VW plans to sell as many as 3 million all-electric cars per year,…

  6. John, and others, my elder brother has a donga in his front yard. If you visit it’s the premium accommodation.

    My sister is in retirement accommodation set up by the shire and rentable by oldies at reasonable rates that would be about 20m2. A kitchen, lounge, bedroom and bathroom/laundry.

    In cared for grounds next to the actual retirement accommodation and hospital, able to grow your own vegies if able.

  7. Brian: One person per 20m2 = 50,000 people per km2 single story or 20 km2 per million people. 20km2 is a square with 4.5 km sides. You would have to add area for roads, parks etc but keep in mind that many couples could get by with 20m2 and that families would need less than 20m2 per person.
    To put this in context:

    Population density is high in both places: on paper, Singapore is the more crowded, with an average of 7,792 people living on every square kilometre, compared with Hong Kong’s 6,780 people, but the leafy and spacious cityscape in Singapore makes it feel less congested than Hong Kong.

    Would be interesting to see a rough plan of your sisters accommodation.

  8. “ Question 3. Why does VW do so well? “
    Answer- It lies to customers about its cars meeting emission regulations.

    It seems there is at least one down side to Capitalism – its practitioners lie to their customers. Who woulda thought?

  9. Yeah, and practitioners of socialism don’t lie, sure.
    In truth, VW was more of a Governmental protectorate that benefits from large subsidies and legislation tailored for it because of its influence within government.
    A so called “ crony Capitalists “ that doesn’t practice free market Capitalism at all.

    Not surprising for company founded by the German Labour Front.

  10. This is an excellent piece of journalism, and a troubling (to me) insight into why Trump is Teflon coated.

  11. Interesting one Zoot. It was the evangelicals that convinced me to give up Christianity when I was a young teenager. The picture they painted was of a god that didn’t pass the fairness test.

  12. Jump, Volks Wagen means literally ‘People’s car’. The best thing to come out of Nazi Germany.

    You should read George Monbiot’s book The Age of Consent.

    You can still have private property ownership, the cornerstone of liberalism, along with personal freedom, toleration of others.

    All you need is world government, democratically elected, and fair trade.

    It’s hard to fault his logic.

  13. We shifted down to Brisbane 5 years after the Second World War; the housing shortage was still terrible so we applied to live in a Housing Commission Camp, recycled military barracks, ones that were thrown up in a hurry. Some huts had 3 families; others had up to 7. Three-ply walls gave visual privacy to each family. We had a power-point and a light each; the rent was affordable. There were communal showers, toilets and laundries as well as very poor rocky soil unsuitable for any vegetable garden – these were the only minor inconveniences – but we lived comfortably and reasonably well. Living in such a Housing Camp put a family onto the Housing Commission’s waiting list for a house, usually within 2 or 3 years; there were even some families who were reluctant to move out of the Camp into a low-rental, solid house with the prospect of eventual ownership. (By the way, I suspect that those who protested the loudest about accommodation for detainees in recent years had never been within a bull’s roar of a Housing Camp).

    Housing Camps were a post-war emergency measure.
    Just think of what could be done now for affordable, decent, safe, convenient housing in our cities with modern technology and without all the pressures that compelled all post-war governments to do anything they could with whatever was at hand.

    It will never, ever be allowed to happen in Australia though, as John Davidson said here, ““we no longer build really low cost housing, in part because councils want their shires to become more up-market and developers want to develop the land they own to maximize profit – which means build expensive houses.”

    Jump: Housing is one of the crashing failures of Capitalism – Big-transnational, Small-scale, or Free-muckit – and it differs only in its labels from those two other wonderful economic and social systems: Communism and 18th Century European Monarchy. It is absolutely impossible for the dilemma of affordable housing to be solved by market forces – anyone who tries to do so is only deluding themselves and anyone foolish enough to follow them. Singapore’s approach is a step in the right direction but we could do a heck of a lot better than that, if there was the will to do so, (which there definitely is not and never will be!).

  14. As people will have heard, Malcolm Turnbull has been in the NT on a ‘listening tour’ photo opportunity.

    We have government ministers saying “money is not the answer”, and those on the ground in Tennant Creek saying that there is a 3-5 year wait for a 3-bedroom hose.

    Turnbull can listen all he likes, but he needs some fresh ideas (as above) as well as adopting some of Chris Bowen’s strategies to find more government revenue.

  15. When comparing the percentage of capitalist net profit in the construction of a house to the amount of socialist taxation + compliance cost+ regulatory cost ( from three levels of government) it is impossible to lay blame of overpriced housing on the capitalist element.

    You show me any rise in profit margins in house construction in the last 30 year to even begin to state your case.
    And I’ll drown you with evidence of increased costs due to government.

    This should be fun.

  16. Brian

    All you need is world government, democratically elected, and fair trade.

    Given the World has a plethora of different models to elect, that no one can agree is best, and assuming everyone’s vote has equal weight, how would this be possible?

    And I shudder when I here the term “ fair trade “ particularly from the left. That said, what do you, as an individual, define “ fair trade “ as ?

  17. Ops, when I said

    ( from three levels of government)

    I was only talking of ours.
    I neglected to mention the cost of foreign governments which is not unsubstantial.

  18. Brian:
    Can you imagine the outbreak of prosperity in Australia if even one-tenth of major Australian companies and entities followed the management model used by VW?

  19. Jump, you see all taxation as socialistic and profit as capitalistic. That’s not a binary frame I’m going to put myself in.

    Back in 2003 I did a piece for Webdiary Reaching for the Moon: how the poor lost and won at Cancun. Blow me down if it is’t still there.

    According to Devinder Sharma half of India’s 1 billion people live on less than US$2 per day (WTO and Agriculture: The great trade robbery). Sharma, a trade policy analyst, compares this with the US$2.7 per day subsidy paid by the EU for each cow and the $8 per day subsidy for each cow in Japan.

    ‘Free’ trade is when subsidised agricultural products are exported to developing countries cheaper than their own.

    Anyway have a read. I’d say that Immanuel Wallerstein (see at the end) was wrong. The WTO lives. The world has changed, but it’s still unfair.

  20. Graham, I remember back in the early 1970s there was talk about industrial democracy in intellectual circles in Australia, but nothing changed.

  21. Brian:
    Indeed. However, I do disagree that nothing has changed.
    Many other countries changed – and prospered – whilst Australia just fiddled and fumbled around, it remained stuck in its beloved “them-and-us” brawling, as a result, went backwards.

    There were a lot of discussions among ordinary workers (no, no, not the glorious “Workers”, just ordinary workers), back in the ‘fifties, (a time of strikes, inflation and Menzies’ full-on protectionism) on how management, industrial relations, real wages & conditions and enterprise efficiency could be improved in Australia. Such discussions simply let off steam because there was no hope whatsoever that either the unions or the bosses would bother listening to whatever wisdom came out of them.

    I remember well how migrants, even with limited English, were enthusiastic participants in such conversations, sharing their experiences of working elsewhere.
    It may well be that the attitudes of Dutch migrants here, not the improvement in the standard of living back in the Netherlands, was the main reason migration of the Dutch was dropped like a hot potato. Dutch migrants, in general, seemed unafraid of speaking their mind at work if they saw management do something really stupid. Even in 2018, It still amuses me to watch Australian management persisting in its forlorn search for its mythical Perfectly Docile Worker.

  22. Graham, what I meant is that there has been no progress towards industrial democracy. I’m no expert on industrial relations, which is a specialist area, which is partly why I haven’t finished that post. I have a book in my ute cabin on my reading list, but I don’t seem to get to it.

    There was an article recently by Richard Dennis, I think, who says the object of the gig economy is to get workers to constantly compete against each other to keep their jobs. I’ll try to find it.

  23. Brian (Re: JULY 25, 2018 AT 9:24 AM):

    There was an article recently by Richard Dennis, I think, who says the object of the gig economy is to get workers to constantly compete against each other to keep their jobs.

    Is this the article you had in mind?

  24. Re: World Government

    Given the World has a plethora of different models to elect, that no one can agree is best, and assuming everyone’s vote has equal weight, how would this be possible?

    According to Janet Albrechtson (quoting Christopher Monckton) along with quite a few of the usual suspects, it was all going to happen as the result of an agreement on limiting carbon emissions (Copenhagen).
    Maybe you should take it up with them.

  25. Maybe I will, maybe not.
    But on this occasion I asked Brian and he chose not to reply to it.
    That’s fine, there’s no correct answer anyway,it’s an impossibility.

  26. Jump,
    If you want to see markets distorted until they are markets in name only, then look at the Australian housing market; Khrushchev and Brezhnev would be green with envy. If you want to see private corporate bureaucracy gone mad, then look no further than the Australian housing market; Stalin and Mao would, if they could, leap out of their coffins to see how the real professionals in pointless confusion and wasted resources do it.

    I’ve just discovered the true origin of the Gig Economy – does that put me in the running for a Nobel Prize for Economics?
    It came straight out of the pages of that fine Soviet-era satirical journal, “Krokodil”(“Crocodile”). Where else could it have come from? No sane and sober economist could possibly have invented a system that is so hell-bent on destroying productivity , annoying suppliers, chasing customers away, increasing accidents and spoilage, delighting business competitors as is the Gig Economy. The good news is that all the horrible little inefficiencies that are an integral part of the Gig Economy will bring it down, and the sooner the better. It is crying out to be replaced with a rational, efficient and satisfying system of mobilizing the whole workforce.

  27. Well, looks like Fairfax has been put out of its financial misery.
    Inevitably really.
    Why would folk pay again for left wing journalism when they already pay the ABC for it.

  28. Jump:
    The A.B.C. leftist? Hardly. It is still the Menzies’ Mouthpiece it always has been. Oh yes, they do put a few noisy Lefties out in the shop window, just to fool the public, but it is still its old conservative self. When was the last time the A.B.C. actually did challenge the status quo? At least Amanda Vanstone is honest enough to broadcast without hiding behind a fake-lefty mask. Two good things about the A.B.C. though: excellent music and some informative documentaries without breaks for ads.

  29. Grim reading, zoot, but close to the bone.

    Jump, hope you saw what PJK said talking to Ellen Fanning.

    Actually, that was excellent journalism. Fanning listens to what the guest is saying and engages in a vigorous questioning which is truth-seeking, rather than to bully and shame, which is what Leigh Sales often does.

  30. Just need to say, I’ve had a bout 25% more work this year, and am working on a family oriented thing with a lot of photos. It will appear here in due course. Burns a lot of hours getting there.

  31. Scary stuff Zoot.
    We shouldn’t just sit back and smirk in the hope that this is not occurring here.
    Think the power that developers have acquired to make housing affordable.
    Think the merger of channel 9 and Fairfax that could only happen because Turnbull changed the Keating law that would have blocked it.
    Think……….Bloody hell, what is the point?

  32. Interesting that Mr Umair Haque never mentions the Governments roll. Like the “School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act”, that saw the company share price double, of which was passed when the CEO of Mylan’s own farther was a Senator ( D) and corruption that was proven within the FDA.
    Na, the zoots of the world won’t link to that on blogs.

    Also interesting that Keatings laws didn’t want to prevent the left leaning ABC treated equally. They can have multiple radio, multiple television and web penetration in every spot in the Country and that’s not have any influence apparently. Also revealing Keating preferred his political judge, jury and executioner punishment for 9 rather than put it in front of a real Law Court.

  33. Back on the predatory crony capitalists, the lobbyists champagne flows every time their product is listed on our PBS and their competitors aren’t.
    Even a tiny understanding of markets would reveal that as obvious.

  34. Na, the zoots of the world won’t link to that on blogs.

    Neither, it appears, will the Jumps of the world.

  35. … the lobbyists champagne flows every time their product is listed on our PBS and their competitors aren’t.

    The Jumps of this world won’t link to examples of this either.

  36. Here’s a 2016 story on the School Access to Emergency Epinephrine Act which seems fairly balanced.
    Unfortunately it doesn’t explain why the Government forced Mylan to increase the price of Epipens by almost 1000%.

  37. You would need the capacity to think critically rather than parrot.
    On current evidence zoot, I’m doubtful you have that capacity.

    ( hint: why is there no competition, the ingredient is easily produced )

  38. I have no choice but to bow before your superior intellect, your impeccable logic and your unfailing courtesy. By cherry picking the Epipen you have completely rebutted the propositions of the article I linked to.

  39. I am impressed Jumpy that a business person such as yourself has not come up against at least some fellow capitalists that don’t always do the right thing.

  40. Thanks for that worrying link, zoot.

    So exactly do you distinguish Predatory Capitalism from Nazism or from Stalinist Communism or from Kleptocracy?

  41. Thanks zoot. No, I shall not invite Elon Musk around for dinner.

    Predatory Capitalism certainly does show its wisdom and strength, doesn’t it?
    (1) Two thousand million dollars knocked off share values just because of one stupid, insulting personal comment on social media.
    (2) Failure usually arises because you are trying to do something; it is just a normal part of life and of business. But, given Musk’s consistent track record of duds, why do the all-knowing masters of the entire universe still put money into him? (Yeah, I know, making Losses generates Wealth, surely corporate tax-dodging can’t be the only answer, can it?)

  42. Graham,
    I think stock market gamblers may still see Elon as the Champion State subsidy hoovering parasite he has always been and may continue to be regardless of the odd Ambien brain fart.

    I did get 1 giggle from that article though when the author, and professional wordsmith, said of the Tesla accident “ decimating half the car “.

  43. We were out to dinner last night, listening to a choir, and today out for lunch. Now I need to get some exercise. All that means that new Salon won’t be up much before midnight. Best I can do.

    I did meet someone today who is (remotely) related to Trevor Ruthenberg. I won’t repeat what was said, but I get the impression he is past his use-by date if we want someone who can craft future-oriented policies.

  44. If I may be so bold Brian, might I suggest renaming “ Saturday Salon “ to something like “ Salon “.
    Just to relieve the calendar pressure.
    Either way, whatever.

  45. Weekly Salon sounds fine – and even finer if it gets rid of time pressures.

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