January 26, 2015 | Ronda Jambe

Trans-Pacific Partnership shows democratic deficit

It is easy to be blase about corruption in other places. No one thinks much of what passes for government in countries like Saudi Arabia, Nigeria, or other places that don’t think much of human rights. (Lots of things upset me about our PM’s ideology, but I sleep better at night knowing he doesn’t keep his daughters captive.)

But when it comes to Australia, we often think ‘she’ll be right’, because we have elections. We don’t shoot journalists, do we? We assume we have all the information we need to make the wise choices at election time that keep this country safe and plump.

Except when it comes to dark and stalking monsters like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which will be negotiated shortly for perhaps the last time in New York and Brussels.

The text of the proposed agreement is not being released, and groups like SumofUs.org, a US based member-driven social justice group, have this to say about it:

‘Leaks from the negotiations paint a terrible picture of what the world could be like if these deals pass: sky-high costs for life-saving cancer treatment, further devastation of the world’s poor, and the right for big corporations to sue governments in secret courts for billions — just for passing laws that protect families, workers and the planet.

With only days to go until the next rounds of negotiations begin, we need to get access to these texts urgently.

Trade deals used to be about trade — but now they’re being used as a tool to sneak major changes to our democratic laws and regulatory systems that benefit corporations, while hurting us.’

This isn’t about the Yanks leading us a merry dance; it is a global assault led by the largest corporations. For Australians, one of the big issues will be the cost of medecines under our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, and the abovementioned potential for groups and even the government to be taken to court for passing laws that protect our citizens’ interests.

What I cannot understand is why any Australian government would agree to such conditions, as it can only lead to hardship down the track. It will foster disrespect for government, and great anger when the consequences arrive.

Revisiting the idea of a republic this Australia Day is just a distraction. We need to get serious about protecting the sovreignty we have now.


Posted by Ronda Jambe at 12:46 pm | Comments (15) |

January 23, 2015 | Ronda Jambe

things could get interesting

From the Carbon Brief:
Temperatures during the Iowa maize growing season are projected to increase by more
than five degrees Celsius, causing yields to drop by 18 per cent, according to new
research. In Southern Australia, 15 per cent less rainfall and temperatures 2.8 to
4.5 degrees warmer will see wheat yields decline by 70 per cent. This will pose
serious challenges to staple grain production, say the researchers. Journal of
How Climate Change Affects Extremes in Maize and Wheat Yield in Two Cropping


On the other hand, this week’s economist takes a very positive look at the emerging new energy economy. Their special report argues that changes to storage for renewables, smart and micro grid technologies and improvements to managing demand, along with vast improvements in building design, are setting the stage for the demise of the old centralised electricity provider model. A very interesting and well researched report.

There are legions out there (not just me) who are ready to leap off the grid as soon as storage options for our roof top solar become viable.

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 7:25 pm | Comments (7) |
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January 19, 2015 | Graham

LNP running only half a campaign

I’m puzzled by the Queensland LNP campaign. It is leaving the Bligh government completely out of the frame.

For example, yesterday’s campaign launch included an announcement of a pay down of $2 bn of debt on Seqwater leading to a $100 cut in water bills. Fair enough, if the utility has lower costs it should pass them on.

But what is completely inexplicable is that Newman didn’t mention that this was the cost of the now mothballed desalination plant at Tugun, and that the reason water costs are as high as they are were the Bligh, and Beattie, governments mishandling of water.

Normally when you are running for your second term of office voters will accept the last term of the government you beat last election as evidence of what they would do if they beat you this.

Labor has a tenuous debt repayment policy, and what better evidence of their propensity to mismanage than the desal plant debacle.

The asset leasing program has been partly necessitated by the ill-advised capital program of Labor governments, financed by debt.

Another example of a lost opportunity is the $3.4 bn earmarked from the asset leases to lower the price of electricity. The price of electricity is so high because the former government implemented a feed in tariff paid to people who put electricity into the grid from their solar panels of 44c a kwh.

Not only is this around twice what the retailers can charge users for their electricity, it is currently around 10 times higher than many wholesalers are charging retailers. This was bad policy on steroids – a pork barrel designed to boost the Green support for the government and spruikers in the alternative energy sector.

The $3.4 bn merely represents the capitalised cost of paying the 44c fee, an obligation imposed by Labor.

What better example to use of how the debt has arisen, why the cost of living is so high, and why there is a need to lease-off assets.

Without the former government in the frame, this election seems to be centring around whether Campbell Newman is trustworthy or not, and from polling I am analysing at the moment, they’re pretty sure he’s not.

You generally win elections not on the basis that your policy and performance is the best in the world, but that, while it might not be that good, your opponents are even worse.

Having broken the mould on so many other things, it appears the government is trying to break the mould on this as well.


Posted by Graham at 8:14 am | Comments (10) |
Filed under: Australian Politics

January 14, 2015 | Graham

Green climate deniers

A climate denier is apparently someone who says anything that disagrees with the IPCC Assessment Reports. That makes Christine Milne, Al Gore, and my fellow blogger Ronda, climate deniers.

They all assert that climate change is causing more extreme weather, including more tropical cyclones and hurricanes. This is contrary to the most recent IPCC Assessment Report AR5, although some earlier reports did give some comfort to that view.

That the IPCC is right, and the Green deniers wrong, is graphically illustrated below. The graphs are taken from WeatherBell.com, and can be seen in context on this page.

They demonstrate that there is no trend in the number and the total energy of hurricanes over the last 40 years.


Posted by Graham at 5:11 am | Comments (32) |

January 11, 2015 | Ronda Jambe

Naomi Klein nails it again

I have some sympathy for ABC commentator Dave Hughes, a card-carrying Liberal, in his article professing confusion about his party’s direction.

He is reading Naomi Klein, and is worried about her critique that market forces won’t magically solve all the environmental issues, such as climate change.

Read it here (as the software is being naughty): www.abc.net.au/news/2015-01-07/hughes-climate-change-isnt-just-a-leftist-cause/6003620

He mistakenly says she does not acknowledge the environmental failures of Communist regimes, but I referred him to page 178, where she does exactly that.

Klein is not calling for more government action. She is calling for more democracy, a rather different item.

And she doesn’t call for the replacement of capitalism, rather that the very real externalities, on people and places, be properly accounted for in a context which would allow us all to survive. Too late for the French journalists, our own victims, or the unfortunate villagers in north-eastern Nigeria, who are dying in untold numbers, perhaps thousands. Not to mention Syria, Ukraine, Pakistan…

Klein, like Christian Parenti in his Tropic of Chaos, sees the links between destroying the environment and destroying people. I’m with them, and only want the killing to stop.

But if we return to our own Prime Minister and the Liberal dilemma that troubles Dave Hughes, we have to ask where Abbott is taking us with his own confused climate change approach.

These questions are asked with no punches pulled in a recent article by Gabrielle Kuiper, who goes through the policy twists, contradictions and outcomes. She asks what his options are now that any electoral benefit in denying or ignoring the urgency has evaporated.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our government actually set policy that was in our long term interest, rather than catering to the big mining influences that may already be seeing the end of their bull run.

Certainly the fracking thrill is fading, with falling prices and high debts set to cause havoc in global banking circles.

A few weeks ago I pointed to the G20 decision to allow banks to ‘bail in’ money for failed derivative trades. Now I understand better why that was so important. The US gov has also now given banks that indulgence. Just as the banks didn’t think the sub-prime mortgages could go belly up, so they failed to consider that the price of oil could tumble so dramatically. A huge amount of derivative money is just bets on fracking.

The taxpayers will be left to pick up the bill. What’s more, the media and banks have a convenient bad guy all lined up to take the fall:


Posted by Ronda Jambe at 2:31 pm | Comments (12) |
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January 03, 2015 | Graham

Could oil’s price plunge be a conspiracy for growth?

Everyone is into geo-political conspiracies around the plunge in the price of oil, including Graham Lloyd in today’s Australian. His is a good article, not least because it has two useful graphs at the head of it.

The first graph is of US oil production over the last 30 years.

Source: The Australian

The second graph is of the West Texas Crude price over the last 15 years.

Source: The Australian

There are just two things that I want to point out.

You can’t have all that extra oil coming onto the market without it having a price effect. Not unless someone else voluntarily restricts production.

There is no conspiracy. We are seeing market forces at work. (Where are all those idiots – that’s a technical term – who just a few years ago were forecasting $300 barrels of oil about now?)

My second point is to look at when the price of oil peaked last. It was around halfway through 2007, which was just before the GFC.

One of the unremarked causes of the GFC wasn’t derivatives or a housing boom, it was an oil price boom. The price of oil feeds into just about everything.

Since the GFC, after an initial dive, oil has stayed high, and economic activity has dived, and stayed fairly low.

We have a situation where 6 years of bastard Keynesian has delivered nothing.

And if you want to know how much it will deliver in the future, look at Japan, that adopted these “remedies” over 20 years ago – still nothing.

You can lower the price of money but that doesn’t necessarily feed into the real economy. Quantitative easing has just fed the shadow economy of asset markets.

But if you lower the price of oil you lower the costs for everyone, not just speculators and banks.

If there was a conspiracy, it would be to put the weight of economic stimulus onto input costs, and off money, allowing the QE to be less painfully reeled in and sustainable growth to start again.

But such a conspiracy would be beyond the stuffed shirts on Wall Street, or the current, or just about any previous, US President.

It is just markets at work. Which is why markets are such a wonderful thing. Dumb as they are they can achieve what the wise seldom can.

Posted by Graham at 6:47 pm | Comments (22) |
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January 01, 2015 | Ronda Jambe

My year’s top book: Naomi Klein

Having read Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine some years ago, I was keen to read her latest book on climate change and capitalism.
Now only about 1/3 through (holidays getting pleasantly in the path) I can say that my view of her as one of the world’s premium intellectuals has been confirmed. She is issuing a calm but passionate wake up call.

wake up for blog

This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate offers as clear an analysis of the global situation as could be presented. And no, she does not advocate a total dismantling of the capitalist system. Rather she invites us to understand the power structures that have distorted capitalism into the all-devouring system that has taken us to the brink of climate disaster.

For those who don’t think they can weight through the whole 500 odd pages, I offer this quite detailed review by Paul Heft, which appears on the excellent Resilience.org site:

Heft Notes: Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything”

My overall impression of the global situation is that we now must evolve as a species, move beyond our tribal past, and accept the wisdom of science in formulating our systems of management and control of resources. We must first and foremost acknowledge that endless growth is not possible on a finite planet (see, already this is old hat knowledge for many of you, we just don’t know how to change our structures to tame the growth monster.)

One commentator at a Canberra talk recently said that we could all be comfortable on this planet if we aimed for a standard of living of about 1970s Australia. That doesn’t mean giving up what has been invented since then; rather it means more efficient and flexible systems for our urban design, transport, and food production/distribution.

A dialogue we need to have, a transition we need to make, together. With global equity and non-violence at its core. For non-humans as well as our closest DNA relatives.

To me, her voice of reason and passion speak to my heart. Have a look at the review at least, the green fairy would like to know what you think.

green fairy blog

Posted by Ronda Jambe at 11:31 am | Comments (19) |
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