The housing market:

Ben Loiterton writes: I am hoping you are alert to a gigantic sleeper issue building up steam in the community, although I haven’t seen any commentary from you at all.

The issue is the alienation of the entire younger half of the population from the housing market as the bubble keeps inflating due to deliberate Government policies and the relaxation of laws allowing foreign home-buyers to bid up prices.

Even though we have the most expensive (and over-geared) houses in the world, it seems all the baby boomers really don’t want a house price correction — which is not surprising give they own 95% of the equity in Australian residential assets.  Also seems the banks are not too keen either now that they have given up on being commercial banks (lending to businesses) and have, in effect, become giant mortgage funds … (that in itself could be a big problem for the country if the bubble deflates!).

Most folk under the age of about 40 in this country are simmering with anger  — either they cannot get into the market and are paying record rents, or they are in the market in tiny units and semis but can’t afford to upgrade to family homes when they have kids.

The resentment is starting to really boil — just see the reaction/comments to articles like this yesterday.

The Ruddites relaxation of restrictions on foreigners buying residential property to put a floor under property prices at the exclusion of Australian homebuyers is simply outrageous.  More and more young people are becoming outraged by the bubble and the government’s direct support for it – all in the name of protecting boomer’s housing equity and bank balance sheets – but having the effect of financially ruining the next generation or excluding them from the Australian Dream.

This could be a big vote swinger in Gen Y, most of whom voted for Kev07.  Climate change and health might seem to be the electoral issues of the day, but this generational wealth injustice is fast emerging as the main issue facing young Australians trying to establish themselves in the world.

Budget surplus:

David Lodge writes: Rod Metcalfe (yesterday, comments) makes so many assumptions on his comment on budget surplus I don’t know where to start.

Firstly Rod, yes, surplus good, deficit bad. It matters not whether you’re talking about your household budget or the federal government’s budget. Deficit and debt is a bad thing. You say that in regards to spending cuts “we pay eventually”. What does that mean, Rod? Are you referring to the loss in government services or that private individuals have to pick up the shortfall? Either way, this is a false dichotomy. Case in point? The Family tax benefit system. I’m pretty sure any family earning upwards of 200k a year doesn’t need government handouts. So the idea that all budget cuts are bad is just plain silly.

Secondly, the infrastructure cuts you complain about are state problems, and you’ll find that it is the federal government that has been running strong surpluses whilst the states have been a mix of surpluses and deficits owing to their infrastructure spending, not of the last year, but of the last decade with mixed results.

The idea that it’s ok for outlays to exceed revenue is the kind of thinking that has permeated not only Western Europe, but also the U.S where they have budget surpluses every 50 years or so. I need not point out their fiscal situations and their lack of discipline which has brought them their current fiscal environment. Sure, give Hawke & Keating credit for reform, but we owe Howard & Costello a great deal for cultivating the “surplus” culture.

The fundamental problem with your idea that “not all deficits are bad” is the idea that the government is good at directing capital. Who decides which deficits are good, Rod? I really don’t have to explain the classic liberal perspective here do I Re: churn etc etc?


Damien Anderson writes: Re. Yesterday’s editorial. Thank you for your view on the type of Government needed in NSW from south of the border. While I have no love for the NSW Government, the situation in NSW in 2010 is decidedly different to that Joan Kirner took to the polls in 1993. Also, there is evidence that some of the key problems confronting NSW now are the result of the types of policies so vigorously pursued by Nick Greiner and the previous Liberal Government and which were maintained by Carr and Egan at the expense of investment for the future.

These were similar to the policies pursued by Kennett and Stockdale in Victoria. They included wholesale privatisation of public infrastructure, public – private partnerships and under-resourced devolution of responsibility to local administrators.

Kennett’s  remedy of spending cuts to restore Victoria’s credit rating doesn’t apply in NSW —  it already has a AAA rating. It is the tyranny of maintaining this rating that is at the heart of the problem because, no matter who governs this state, about 98 percent of the budget is accounted for in the delivery of services and significant borrowings and consequent budget deficits are thought to indicate fiscal ill-discipline.

Even radical cost cutting won’t reduce the proportion already allocated by more than an additional two or three percent which isn’t enough to fix health and transport issues and would be political suicide for whom ever tries it.

Reform is needed but please, bloody Jeff is definitely not the answer.


Mark Heydon writes: Re. “Whatever the question, Labor’s answer is ASIO” (yesterday, item 1). I couldn’t have put it better than Bernard Keane: “our numbness is towards the steady erosion of personal liberties, the remorseless rise of surveillance and the cumulative loss of privacy to unaccountable agencies such as ASIO.”

The focus on terrorism seems to be more about instilling fear in the population for political ends than about facing up to a real threat to Australians. I read an excellent article on this the other week “Hold onto your underwear, this is not a national emergency“. This is US focused, but no less relevant to us.

Live music:

Peter Angelico  writes: Re.”Rock rally strikes a chord with the Victorian Liberals” (yesterday, item 14). Having grown up on 80’s Pub Rock, mostly at the Pier Hotel in Frankston, I was disappointed that the organisers of the protest earlier this week didn’t engage the services of “Doc” Neeson form The Angels with the obvious question to Mr Brumby, “Am I ever gonna see you face again?”

No way, … The quintessential pub chant!

Tony Abbott:

John Arthur Daley writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). Crikey published: “Budgie-smuggler Abbott has entered the 2010 Australian Ironman Triathlon in Port Macquarie on March 28.”

How jealous can you get Crikey. Tony Abbott should be applauded for turning out for a race which typifies his middle age fitness. Instead he is ridiculed by you.

He should be compared to the pale faced, hair  dyed Kevin Rudd who would find it difficult to break into a trot going to the bathroom.

Godwin Grech:

Matthew Brennan writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7). So Godwin Grech keeps a tidy house, likes antiques and out of approximately 300 books on his bookshelf, two are about Hitler.

So what?

Is this an indication that Crikey has been taken over by News Ltd?

Climate change:

Matt Andrews writes: Those who want to get the big picture of global temperature statistics behave, and how to interpret them, would do well to read How Long? by “Tamino”, a professional mathematician.  He shows that you need a minimum of 16 years of global temperature data to achieve statistical significance, given the size of the current warming trend and the amount of natural variability that we get with El Nino, La Nina and other cycles.

Climate scientists are fully aware of this, and in fact most prefer to look at trends over longer periods of 20 or 30 years to be sure that the underlying trend is not being masked by short term fluctuations.

In other words, saying that there has not been statistically significant warming since 1995 is entirely uncontroversial.  This is exactly what we expect with the current warming trend – you need more than 15 years of data to exceed the 95% confidence level that we call “statistical significance”.

A more useful statement is that there has been no statistically significant change in the underlying warming trend since the 1970s – we’re continuing to see warming of around 0.18 degrees per decade.  And the elephant in the room is that the vast majority of the warming taking place on this planet is at depth in the oceans, most of which does not feature in the atmospheric measurements that we are debating here.  Ocean heat has continued to rise throughout this decade.

The extent to which climate contrarians have misrepresented all this is truly disgraceful.  If they lived up to anything remotely resembling the standards of honesty, fairness and integrity that climate scientists generally have, the world would be a better place.

Nigel Brunel writes: To be blunt Tamas Calderwood (yesterday, comments) — I am sick of both sides of this argument trying to ego the other side out. Its ad-effing-nausea. Both sides seem to take delight in how intelligent they are and how wrong everyone else is.

Let’s get off our dependence on fossil fuels — let’s stop sending money to regimes that hate everything we stand for and let’s re-engineer the way the world sources and uses energy because the population of the planet will most likely be close to 9 billion in 40 years. The world economy is held to ransom with the volatile oil price.

The earth receives free energy everyday — however — there is a cost in creating the infrastructure to harness this free energy — that’s what an ETS does — it injects the price of carbon into the economy and provides an incentive to change.

Wake up and smell the carbon Tamas — stop injecting your ego into the debate and stop thinking just about yourself — think about the people that are coming after us.

Greg Williams writes: An interesting video clip of a head-to-head debate between Lord Monckton and Dr Tim Lambert (that runs for the best part of two hours) that may be of interest to some readers wishing to look further than the usual Crikey‘s correspondents’ “Monckton is a googly-eyed, climate-change-sceptic nutter” line. (And if it is of any consolation to said correspondents, Monckton takes several hits from Lambert in the course of the debate.)

Nevertheless, an interesting view for those interested in checking out, in some measured detail, a number of the points and counter-points of the climate change debate.