Cruising along nicely. If it was not for those rotten foreigners and their bloody banks you would have to think the Australian economy was cruising along nicely. The employment figures out this morning were all that a government would normally hope for — virtually no change by any of the statistician’s measures of actual, seasonally adjusted and trend unemployment rates.

So good are the figures, in fact, that under normal circumstances the Reserve Bank would be getting worried that past interest rate rises were not working as effectively as they had hoped. But any concern about future inflation on the home front has for the time being been made irrelevant by those financial developments elsewhere. Dealing with rampant inflation caused by a massive explosion in the money supply internationally will be a problem for further down the track. Some time like an Australian election date in two years time!

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In the meantime the employment and unemployment figures back up the findings of the International Monetary Fund that Australia is growing much more than most of the world even if the rate of growth has slowed. Western Australia in particular along with the Northern Territory and Queensland are seeing to that. Not only do those three have the lowest unemployment rates (along with that home of the public service the ACT) but the proportion of people participating in the work force is substantially higher as well.

Unemployment and participation rates:


Rating political performance. I have a new way of putting interest into those essentially dull and boring presidential television debates since reading the work of two American academics called Conversational Blindness: Answering the Wrong Question the Right Way. What Todd Rogers and Michael I. Norton from Harvard set out to discover is how politicians get away with not answering questions when appearing on television. What happens, they wondered, when people try to “dodge” a question they would rather not answer by answering a different question? They conducted two experiments demonstrated this conversational blindness – listeners’ surprising failure to notice such dodges – and explored the interpersonal consequences of this phenomenon.

They found that listeners viewed successful question-dodgers as positively as speakers who actually answered the question they are asked, but were not blind to all efforts to dodge: They both noticed – and punished – particularly egregious attempts. More troublingly, listeners preferred speakers who answered the wrong question well over those who answered the right question poorly.

I think it is one of those research papers that everyone interested in politics should read for it helps those of us who hate politicians dodging the hard questions from getting angry. Instead you can marvel, like I did yesterday, at the skill with which Barack Obama employs to take advantage of conversational blindness. That man has to be one of the best ever at sounding great while saying absolutely nothing.

The Costello Memoirs. “Hey Richard, You should try Google’s new Book Search facility … try “The Costello Memoirs” one of my readers emailed me yesterday. And being an obedient fellow I promptly did so and found ” Your search — “The Costello Memoirs” — did not match any documents.” As my correspondent asked, it is really that irrelevant?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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