Category Archives: Social Science and Society

Drug syndicates turned CBA into a money pump, but the whole financial system is at risk

When Prof Jason Sharman told Phillip Adams that half a million dollars was stuffed into the new intelligent deposit machines installed in the Commonwealth Bank from 2012, and then did the same for the next three years, it sounded incredible, and if true, could only happen with complicit corruption. Seems it didn’t happen quite like that, but what authorities say did happen is staggering and quite bizarre. Continue reading Drug syndicates turned CBA into a money pump, but the whole financial system is at risk

Which bank under heavy fire

For now same sex marriage takes centre stage, but journalists and pollies have taken time out to unload on the Commonwealth Bank, forgetting that their own esteem in public eyes hovers around that of used-car salespersons. Also most have never organised anything bigger than a booze-up in a brewery, so the chances of them understanding how large businesses work is close to zero.

We’ll have to wait for the court case to find out what really happened, but there have been a couple of articles in the AFR, and an ABC TV interview with the chair of the board, Catherine Livingstone, so here is my best estimate as to what happened. Continue reading Which bank under heavy fire

AER, ACCC and the ABC join the fray on Qld electricity prices

In last Tuesday’s post It’s gas, not renewables, pushing up electricity prices the federal Minister Josh Frydenberg attacked the Queensland government through it’s state-owned generators for “gaming the system”, which, he said gave Queensland the nation’s most expensive electricity, costing jobs. In that post Queensland’s electricity was shown to be low compared to those of the other eastern mainland states, in recent years and in recent months the lowest.

The state has now been attacked by the AER (Australian Energy Regulator) and by the ACCC. At the end of it all, Steve Austin, the host of Mornings on Brisbane’s local ABC, sank the boot in. So what to make of it all? Continue reading AER, ACCC and the ABC join the fray on Qld electricity prices

The behemoth is coming

It’s official, Amazon is coming to Australia, promising cheaper prices, faster delivery times, and access to a greater range of products, including groceries.

Amazon books no profit, pays no dividends and puts everything it earns back into growth. Starting 20 years ago with a share price of $US16. In April the AFR reported the price as over $US900 with a market capitalisation around $US440 billion. Gerry Harvey warned:

    “They are the animal that went right across America devouring all before it, sending everyone broke.”

Continue reading The behemoth is coming

Gonski 2.0 – has Labor lost its soul?

We have been told over and over by respected journalists that Labor is only opposing the Coalition’s Gonski 2.0 schools funding scheme for base political reasons. Laura Tingle, Phillip Coorey, Bernard Keane and others said it. Andrew Probyn on the 7.30 Report last week, crossed the line from reporter to judgemental pontificator last week, basically saying that Labor was a disgrace. Back in May, when Gonski 2.0 was announced, Paula Mathewson declared that Labor had “lost it’s soul to Abbott-style negativity”. Tingle and Coorey accused Labor of voting against its own policies.

Excuse me, that was never the case. Labor had worked hard against rabid opposition to sign up the 27 entities involved in funding schools in Australia. The deal was to roll out the funds over six years, albeit backloaded in the last two, just beyond the budget estimates. Now Turnbull comes up with a cheaper deal, snatching away the final realisation of needs-based funding schools have been preparing for over the last four years, extending it out over another 10 years. Labor had signed agreements delivering the funding to the relevant school funding entities. Were they expected to rat on the deals they had entered in good faith? Continue reading Gonski 2.0 – has Labor lost its soul?

Learning from Lindt Cafe siege

Generally speaking coroner Michael Barnes’s report on the Lindt Café siege has been well-received, but not everyone is happy. The Police Association of New South Wales pre-empted the report, calling it a witch hunt. Bernard Keane at Crikey thinks we now need a full judicial inquiry. ABC’s Four Corners provided a platform for the relatives of the victims (see The Siege Part One and The Siege Part Two who want adverse findings to be made, people within the police force to be charged, and the psychiatrist consulted at the time never to work for government again.However, Martin McKenzie-Murray in an excellent piece at Saturday Paper Making sense of the Sydney siege thinks it has a “deft balancing of respect and criticism”. [Saturday Paper allows one free view per week.]

As Mark Kenny points out, there is no nonviolent way of storming a venue. Collateral deaths are always to be expected. If police had stormed the cafe early, others relatives may now be saying that their loved ones died because the police blundered in.

In fact the police thought that Man Haron Monis had a bomb. They thought everyone in the cafe might die; they themselves expected to die. Some of them called loved ones to say goodbye before they went in. Continue reading Learning from Lindt Cafe siege

How the 2017 budget was made

There was a story around that Mark Textor had a hand in the creation of the 2017 budget. Joe Aston in the AFR says Forget Mark Textor, JWS’ John Scales was the Treasurer’s budget pollster. Aston says that Scales, who was a protégé of Textor’s did the real work, or at least his company JWS Research.

However, Textor did play an important role. The Daily Telegraph reported back in early April that Textor’s research (for the Liberal Party) “highlighted the critical issue of housing affordability”, following which, ScoMo proposed changes to negative gearing that were shot down immediately by Mathias Cormann and Peter Dutton. Continue reading How the 2017 budget was made

Budget 2017: we live in a Labor world

As I said in the post on infrastructure and debt, Peter Martin heaved a sigh of relief that the Coalition Government finally understood that the services, infrastructure and welfare that we depend on to function have to be paid for, by raising revenue if necessary. Laura Tingle goes further. She says the Coalition has reset the debate on the role of government by moving to:

    a more central position which embraces, and even advocates, a bigger role for government, both in terms of its fiscal position and its interventions in the economy, whether that be by building, owning and running airports or regulating product and labour markets.

She says that the government is actually seeking to own Labor’s modern signature policies – Gonski, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and Medicare. Continue reading Budget 2017: we live in a Labor world

Budget 2017: good debt, bad debt infrastructure con?

Peter Martin states it directly:

    Those sighs of relief are prayers of thanks for a budget that embraced reality: the reality that schools, healthcare, roads, railways, pensions, the National Disability Insurance Scheme and the other things that we want need to be paid for.

Except that almost nothing happens immediately except slugging the big banks. Spending, including infrastructure is weighted to the out-years, even beyond the normal four-year projections. Revenue improvement depends on heroic assumptions – $44 billion from income tax bracket creep from higher wages, when wages have actually been falling, more than 40% increase in company tax even though company tax cuts are assumed, an increase of 60% in capital gains tax receipts by 2021. Continue reading Budget 2017: good debt, bad debt infrastructure con?

University funding: drifting to mediocrity?

Andrew Norton from the Grattan Institute says the modest university ‘reforms’ signalled for the budget will entrench the status quo, and will affect universities more than students.

George Morgan says the universities are drifting to mediocrity, and these cuts will not help.

The headline figure is a saving of $2.8 billion over the forward estimates, and a 7.5% increase in student fees over the period. Total Commonwealth Government payments to universities over the next four years amount to of $74bn, so the impact of this $2.8bn reform package is less than 4% of the revenues to universities from taxpayers and students, according to Simon Birmingham. Continue reading University funding: drifting to mediocrity?

Gonski 2.0: will it help the Turnbull government?

Phillip Adams recently talked to Laura Tingle about her Monthly Essay Wicked Problems: What are the real reasons behind the rise and stall of Malcolm Turnbull? (locked content). Turnbull has aged 10 years in the last 20 months. He feels the weight of the whole government’s fortunes on his shoulders and does not get enough sleep.

He has lost his sharp tongue and tendency to anger, but has become a transactional politician, chair of the committee. He became prime minister and maintains continued support simply because he is not Tony Abbott.

Recently he has resolved a number of issues which have dogged the government since the horror budget of 2014, but will it add up to a narrative that changes his party’s electoral fortunes? In the latest education changes Simon Birmingham may have become the “fixer” Christopher Pyne claimed to be and may have neutralised one of Labor’s strengths, by stealing Gonski. Continue reading Gonski 2.0: will it help the Turnbull government?

Blessed be the poor

Blessed be the poor sounds like a quote from the Bible, but it’s not. I just liked it as a title.

Many say that the old divisions between left and right, and of social class, are no longer valid. These divisions are not as clear-cut as they once were. However, it is undoubtedly true that while some are wealthy enough to go anywhere and do what they please, at the other end of the wealth scale some are stuck in a place and struggle daily with finding the basic needs of shelter and sustenance.

During the first quarter of a century after World War II Western society generally achieved for the first time in history a situation where most households could own a car and take an annual holiday of several weeks on pay. Tony Judt in his Postwar: a History of Europe Since 1945 tells how German per capita GDP from 1950 to 1973 more than tripled in real terms. In France it improved by 150%, while Italy, from a low base, did even better. In Britain in 1957, PM Harold Macmillan told the people:

    “Let us be frank about it: most of our people have never had it so good.”

Continue reading Blessed be the poor