Stimulating the economy:

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “Turnbull’s stimulus suicide” (yesterday, item 1). If Kevin Rudd was trying to instil confidence in the public with his address on the stimulus package I think he has failed. He seems to have reinforced fear instead by his manner. The lump sums of money will like the December one, and like the US one before them, will largely be saved or wasted. Increases in regular payments or tax reductions each pay will change behaviour as people know it is coming each payday.

Insulation etc are fine, but much of the infrastructure spending is keeping to a political script (the vacuous ‘education revolution’ and the laptops) rather than need. In fact it seems to be more about bailing out the states than really doing anything, they have messed up public housing, why do you think they will manage it better in the future?

Regular payments/tax reductions are the way to change behaviour not the grandstanding.

Chris Johnson writes: A brilliant serve to a gob-smackingly stupid opposition totally spooked on their inner misgivings. The Liberals haven’t got policies just philosophies that were temporarily rendered useless by the Howard virus about which they did nothing. Costello buried himself in his memoirs, Vaile took off with Virgin via Arabia and Downer went casual on Cyprus all oblivious to revivalist issues but keen for a Nelson crucifixion.

Last week when the PM socked it to the conservatives for being part of the free-market debacle he notionally stripped them of their core values. They believe him! With echoes of Billy McMahon Turnbull has become a grandstander. They have nothing to stand for other than an argument.

Henk van Leeuwen writes: I don’t know how long Bernard Keane has been around, but apart from his quite apt analysis of the Opposition’s wrong tackle on the Rudd Governments 42 million economic package – Malcolm Turnbull should have opted on being included in the discussion and elected to call on a bipartisan approach dealing with the crisis — I completely disagree on Bernard’s assessment of the Whitlam Government.

The Whitlam Government was the most enlightened Government Australia has ever seen, and made me change my mind about going back to Holland. Surely, Bernard cannot deny that it was the leadership of Gough Whitlam that lifted Australia out of the international political backwater and sent this country on the road to international social relevancy.

Hadn’t it been for the human resource wasting “them and us” stupidity of the outdated two party preferred system of election and government, Whitlam would have rightfully lasted a lot longer and this country would have had some social-economic and cultural runs on the board.

Paul Gilchrist writes: Malcolm Turnbull opposes Kevin Rudd’s stimulus mainly on the basis that it is too big. What about debating where the money is to be spent? For example, why not spend the money on health rather than schools – what is more important, a new school hall or a new hospital ward? Maybe I’m getting to an age where hospitals seem more relevant than schools, but provided that the school buildings are clean and safe, I think facilities don’t necessarily lead to a good education. On the other hand, long queues in emergency wards are a matter of life and death.

John Goldbaum writes: The $10 billion stimulus in December worked so well to prop up spending and save us from recession that we should have a $10 billion stimulus every month. Don’t worry about the $120 billion annual debt. We deserve to live well now.

Charles Shavitz writes: Wayne Swan’s got a bigger deficit than Peter Costello.

Niall Clugston writes: Re. “The pitfalls of Rudd’s stimulus” (yesterday, item 26). Crikey‘s correspondents chatter about Communism but don’t seem to know anything about it. Adam Schwab accuses the American Government of “a spending program of which Karl Marx would be proud”. In fact, Marx did not advocate Keynesian economic stimulus, large government spending, or even the welfare state. And surely Schwab can’t believe he would support a bailout of bankers!

But this is topped by Sean Hosking’s accusation (yesterday, comments) that Rudd is “either a hypocrite or blithely unaware that Howard’s WorkChoices legislation was in actual fact inspired by Mao Tse Tung”. Is that the Mao who made union membership mandatory, fixed wages and prices, abolished the labour market, and expropriated businesses? I am sure that Howard himself is blithely unaware of this inspiration!

David Hand writes: Re. “Kohler: the PM’s $42 billion false dawn” (yesterday, item 25). One of the great things about Crikey is that it occasionally finds room for widely divergent views about various issues. Yesterday’s edition was memorable. There was a good piece from Adam Schwab and I found Alan Kohler’s piece insightful, particularly his comment on the way the government’s obvious fear and panic is spooking businesses and financiers away from doing the only thing that will get our economy moving again- investing, lending and taking business risks.

It’s a pity these offerings were buried in the last three items of the publication, as opposed to Bernard Keane’s “Suicidal” offering in pride of place as item one. Bernard has clearly had the “bejesus scared out of him” as Mr Kohler put it or maybe he has enthusiastically joined the ALP political campaign underpinning the package.

If any move was going to “de-legitimise the Liberal Party”, supporting this package would be it, playing straight into Saint Kevin’s hands. There is a real risk that the package will fail and I note that Kevin has been careful not to say, “Trust me everyone, this will work” but instead is saying “We are acting decisively” much like the Captain of the Titanic would have.

One other thing — Bernard’s puerile attempt to shut Peter Costello up de-legitimises his own writing and could make one wonder if he believes it can stand up to contrary opinion. I think much of his writing is leftie propaganda but I would not try to stop him publishing it.

Don’t forget Australia’s elderly:

John Ballard, Chief Executive, Mercy Health, writes: This week’s Nation Building and Jobs Plan is a good beginning. School buildings, public housing, road and rail infrastructure, and 90,000 new jobs expected to be created… a welcome investment in Australia’s young. But what about the old? Australia faces a tidal wave of aging.

 According to the Productivity Commission, our aged care sector must nearly double in size over the next 20 years, requiring a net increase of 4,000 new aged care beds per year for the next decade alone. This sector needs infrastructure, and skilled people to work in it as a genuine and rewarding career. This is irrespective of any economic slowdown. Aged and Community Care Australia estimates that an investment of just $1.4 billion in aged care would create 15,000 jobs in the long term, exclusive of the short term construction jobs needed to build infrastructure.

A new aged care funding model is also essential to avoid a massive shortfall of high care residential aged care places within this decade; nobody can afford to do aged care well for the long term while only able to extract a return of investment of just more than one percent (The Grant Thornton Aged Care Survey 2008). But we must continue to provide and develop aged care, because it is essential; and if we wish to attract, recruit, and train staff, for this sector, we need to increase public awareness as to the opportunities, security, satisfaction and flexibility of caring for the frail aged.

And, just for interest, Mercy Health needs 250 people to work in new aged facilities in inner Melbourne this year – 100 to start almost immediately. That’s just for starters.

It’s the principal:

Roger Mika writes: A friend of mine, who happens to be a School Principal, told me that any grants are managed by the State Government and they charge quite a hefty fee to be consultants for the project. When questioned about this the reply was that School Principals don’t have the expertise or the time to manage projects on top of managing a school (I accept that). I hope Deputy Prime Minister Gillard looks very closely at this type of syphoning since the necessary State infrastructure is already in place.

Premier Rees promised that there will be no reduction of State money. Does this mean there could be a slight increase with a slight of hand? We know how sneaky this government is.

Is Rudd Whitlamesque?:

Peter Rosier writes: Re. “Mayne: Rudd the reckless Whitlamite” (yesterday, item 3). I always like Stephen Mayne’s contribution, but today he went all queer on me. “Whitlamite”? What exactly is “Whitlamite”? Is it a reference to profligacy? If so, Fraserite or Howardite or even Turnbullite would be better — certainly more accurate — terms.

Neither Fraser nor Howard had any objection to running deficits — in fact until Keating taught him how, Howard nor any earlier Liberal Prime Minister didn’t seem to know how to run a surplus and then he learnt (a) only when the money was given to him at such a rate that he couldn’t spend it all and (b) despite, God love him, trying very very hard and despite his Treasurer’s feeble opposition to the middle class welfare (sometimes known as electoral bribes).

Whitlam, it should not be forgotten (if you’re old enough to remember) inherited the economic effects (huge inflation) brought on by the reckless vote buying in 1970 — 1972 of Billy McMahon and his treasurer, Bill Mackie Snedden (who had other things in common besides Ministerial office, we later learned) and the oil price shock of the early to mid 70s. Whitlam’s government had aspects of ineptness no doubt, some moments of unbelievable stupidity and was peopled by some very naïve participants.

This aside, it is remembered for the trailblazing it did on some very substantial matters which have helped this country mature greatly, as well as promoting changes that had less to do with substance than with developing a sense of nation. Examples of the former are Medibank (now Medicare) — our first universal health care system that did not rely on volunteers — the Trade Practices Act — which has tidied up corporate behaviour, fee-free university education and the Family Law Act. Examples of the latter are changes that made the Queen “Queen of Australia”, to the Australian system of honours and a change from God Save the Queen as our national anthem to the present ditty.

Whitlam’s legacy, as others have said more eloquently than I, is a very substantial one in spite of the bullying difficulties placed in his way by an arrogant opposition with a “born to rule” attitude (remind you of someone?).

I’m sorry Stephen, but the politics, it seems to me, are being played by Mr Turnbull. He wants to wedge the government by tying their hands but remaining free to criticise them when they do not act because they cannot. He should allow the government to govern, note his opposition, and complain at the results (if they turn out to be bad which is not at all a foregone conclusion).

Sovereign states may default on their debt. If that happens, the world economy is in a greater mess than ever. But that is not the problem of the Australian government and its actions should not be constrained because the immediate past president of the United States had no idea how to run a modern capitalist economy and ran deficits for the sake of giving tax cuts and making war.

GetUp:

GetUp!’s Simon Sheikh and Meredith Turnbull write: Re. “GetUp and its strange but well-heeled bedfellows” (yesterday, item 4). In response to Andrew Crook’s piece we’d like to clarify a few things. GetUp’s about campaigning publicly for social outcomes all Australians can be proud of.

Mr Crook overlooks the fact that Getup has given hundreds of thousands of Australians a chance to directly participate in the political process, many for the first time, whether it be by emailing a member of parliament, contributing to put an ad on the air or organising a local event on an issue they care about. GetUp’s about campaigning publicly for social outcomes Australians can be proud of.

We’re proud of the huge number of Australians who have donated to GetUp. We’re proud of the role members play in shaping our campaigns, and we are immensely proud of the independent stances we’ve taken on climate change, water, RU486 and internet censorship.

It’s unfortunate that Mr Crook did not contact us before penning his piece to clarify any of the assertions he has made. We’d warmly welcome any phone call from Mr Crook should he like to write about GetUp in the future.

Climate change:

Stephen Magee writes: Re. “Hamilton: climate emergency or a crisis of democracy?” (Yesterday, item 5). Clive Hamilton appears to suffer from febrile delusions rather than high ambient temperatures: “Anyone who is not very scared about global warming is not listening to what the scientists are telling us.”

I’ll started getting scared when: Quentin Bryce decides to stay at home, rather than wasting earth’s natural resources by flying to climate change conferences in the Middle East; climate change “conferences” are held by teleconference, rather than in exotic holiday destinations; and all Greens MPs commute between home and Parliament without using oil products.

Tim Marsh writes: Tamas Calderwood (yesterday, comments) made me smile admiration at his continued efforts. There is much to admire about your continued ability to shift goalposts, change your argument/points constantly and redirect. Why aren’t you in politics sir?

  1. We are arguing the facts (statistics).
  2. You have consistently claimed (and limited your data set to 10 years, which is now 100 years — more goalpost shifting. Which is it? 1983? 1979? 1901? I’m getting confused). that there’s been no warming. Wrong and wrong.
  3. So you think another 1 degree will have the same net effect that the previous 0.7 has? Hmmm, I wonder what the acidic oceans, glaciers, moving tree lines and Siberian tundra with its friendly Gigatonnes of Methane have to say about that. That’s a wonderful theory. Those pesky climate scientists don’t agree with you though. It also kind of ignores compounding effects though (sure glad ING isn’t paying my interest on this basis!) and I don’t think the Earth resets every year X years.
  4. “…but temperatures have plateaued and dipped such that the Earth’s current temperature is no warmer than it was in 1983” — Nope.com.
  5. Plenty of qualified people much smarter than you or I think it does stack up actually. What world shattering data, what compelling piece of information, do you hold that can conclusively prove them wrong? Why are they wrong, and you’re not. Scepticism is healthy as it maintains rigour but this is just ridiculous.
  6. Non-evident acceleration (at this point) conveniently ignores tipping point theory and observations.
  7. You confuse amplitude warming with causal effect warming.

Your ability to Gish Gallop is breathtaking in its audacity as it is in your skill in deploying it. Unfortunately as the denialosphere gains more and more press, we are possibly (see? “possibly”) losing time.

Perhaps we should start putting some plans in place. Might be prescient, from a risk management point of view.

Geoff Russell writes: When the weather is cold, the climate change deniers rush to the parapets to claim victory over the crusaders. When it is hot, the crusaders raise their flags of victory and shoulder their battering rams with vigour. How are the peasants caught in the crossfire supposed to know what to think?

Climate Change Professor Barry Brook has a nice blog post that examines the issues and data in a pretty easily understood manner.  But for Crikey readers who like things even briefer, here’s the double buttocks of the bottom line.

On the one cheek we can look at historical data and plot the time between runs of three days above 40 degrees, four days over 40, five days over 40. Do this on special log paper and you will find (for deep mathematical reasons) a nice straight line which predicts pretty well the time between runs of any length you care to specify.

Dr Warwick Grace has done this for a couple of temperatures: and it shows that last year’s run of 15 days above 35 degrees should happen once in every 3,000 years — UNLESS THE CLIMATE IS CHANGING.

This year’s heatwave is a work in progress but looks like it should happen once every 400 years — UNLESS THE CLIMATE IS CHANGING. What are the chances of two such rare events in consecutive years? Positively anorexic. But the second cheek looks even more menacing.

If the sun is getting hotter, we’d expect hotter days but not as much change at night. If the heating is due to greenhouse gases, then we would see increases in both night and day temperatures. Have we had warm nights? Absolutely, with Adelaide recording its hottest night ever last week. Food crops can often bounce back from a hot day during a cool night. But subject them to both and increasingly they wither.

Mark Byrne writes: Tamas Calderwood effectively demonstrates some of the processes required to maintain a particular brand of quazi-skeptisim in the face of evidence that refute his claims. He simply ignores the evidence presented and continues to spruik the same discredited errors. Calderwood’s behaviour is quite valuable in demonstrating this particular problem. You can get the pattern by reading his latest comment in context of the many rebuttals he ignores: here, here, here, and here.

Ken Lambert (yesterday, comments), let me paraphrase your observation: We have high certainty about the strongest factors that contribute to warming (CO2 + CH4 + N2O + Halocarbons = 2.6 W/m2). And we have low to medium confidence about the warming and cooling contribution of other smaller contributors to radiative forcing (Ozone + CH4 water – albedo –aerosols + solar irradiance = -0.9 W/m2).

In short we have high confidence about GHG forcing temperature change by 2.6 W/m2 and low to medium confidence about smaller contribution forcing a net temperature forcing of –0.8 W/m2. If this is your argument then it sounds accurate. There is even a chance that our contribution to warming is below best estimate and contribution to cooling above best estimate.

However the chance of every component going to the 95% confidence limit (in the direction consistently needed +2.64 and –3.25 W/m2) is of a probability of 0.05^10, roughly equal to 1 in 10,000,000,000,000. And this is not supported by our continuing warming trend.

Peter Fray

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