Governments picking winners. Millions of your dollars and mine have been spent over the last decade giving tax breaks to encourage the planting of grape vines. Government in its wisdom had decided back in the nineties that was the thing to do so that the Australian wine industry could continue its phenomenal export growth. Now the inevitable has happened and we have a glut with the Adelaide Advertiser this morning reporting Wine Grape Growers’ Australia executive director Mark McKenzie as saying ‘”We have at least 20,000ha of vineyards more than we need”. In Mr McKenzie’s view the wine industry needs to cut at least 10 per cent of Australia’s 177,000 hectares of vineyards from production.

Already the representations have begun to get the same Federal Government which paid for the glut to pay for the reduction. A Wine Industry Restructuring Action Agenda has been presented to the Federal Government by four major national wine organisations. As the lobbying builds in intensity in the run up to the next election. wine drinkers can at least take advantage of some excellent value as desperate wine makers seek to survive.

Should have done a Le Duc Tho. I guess it’s pretty hard to knock back a Nobel Peace prize even if you don’t need the dollars but it has been done once. The Vietnamese diplomat Le Duc Tho was cited in 1973 along with US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger but declined saying that peace had not het been established in Vietnam. I can’t help thinking that President Barack Obama should have followed that Le Duc Tho example rather than that of Henry who copped his award.

No mixed message about who’s winning. The opinion polls this morning might have had a mixed message about who is best to lead the Liberal Party but they are still as one about who would win an election. AC Nielsen in the Fairfax papers, Newspoll in The Australian and the Morgan poll on its website have Labor comfortably in front with a two party preferred vote of 57%, 58% and 59.5% respectively.

I notice that Gary Morgan believes Malcolm Turnbull should follow the line taken by Sir Robert Menzies in the Second Dunrossil Memorial Lecture when asked by his father Roy Morgan about public opinion being different than what he believed:

We live in a world of mass-movements, in which public-opinion polls are for so many a quick and easy way of finding out what other people think, and therefore, for the sake of conformity, how they should think. Public opinion polls disturb me greatly; not because I question their accuracy or their integrity, but because of their inherent limitations. The appeal is from Philip Sober to Philip Drunk; from individual judgment and responsibility essential to civilisation, to superficial mass judgment; to finding out “what people want”.

I have an old-fashioned lawyer’s prejudice in favour of ascertaining the facts before pronouncing the judgment, and therefore pay little attention to kerbstone opinions.

A political leader inevitably reads the published polls. He will learn much from them. But he is no leader if he is persuaded by them to follow a course which he would otherwise not approve. He will do better on appropriate occasions to say — “Here is a popular error; I must do my best to correct it!”

The danger to which I have referred, of the overwhelming of individual judgment by mass opinion, is one which tends to be increased in the new age of the computer. The quick and accurate mathematical machine threatens to become a sort of “witch-doctor”.

The human brain and the human spirit are still the creative elements without which true human progress will be arrested.

Bolting to the net. Listening to ABC television’s The Insiders yesterday and hearing Andrew Bolt say for the umpteenth time that there had been no increase in global temperatures since 1998 I finally went internet surfing to try and find out what he was talking about. I found the following graph helpful in understanding what he is talking about but also why it is that the overwhelming majority of the scientific experts ignore what he sees as evidence that global warming has stopped or is taking a break.

The authors of this study explain that the red line is the annual global-mean GISTEMP temperature record (though any other data set would do just as well), while the blue lines are eight year trend lines — one for each eight year period of data in the graph. What it shows is exactly what anyone should expect: the trends over such short periods are variable; sometimes small, sometimes large, sometimes negative — depending on which year you start with.

The mean of all the eight year trends is close to the long term trend (0.19ºC/decade), but the standard deviation is almost as large (0.17ºC/decade), implying that a trend would have to be either >0.5ºC/decade or much more negative (< -0.2ºC/decade) for it to obviously fall outside the distribution. Thus comparing short trends has very little power to distinguish between alternate expectations

That study was done in January 2008 but it is not only Andrew Bolt who remained unconvinced by it. The Real Climate website updated the argument last week because “the blogosphere (and not only that) has been full of the ‘global warming is taking a break’ meme lately”.

I wonder what the chances are of Andrew Bolt stopping his “cherry picking”? I can’t wait until his next Insider‘s appearance.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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