Getting the economics of retirement wrong.

Matt Wade writes in the SMH: “The retirement of the Baby Boomer generation is beginning to reshape Sydney’s economy as jobs growth dwindles in some of the city’s most affluent suburbs.


Does Rose Bay is Sydney really have an employment problem?

The number of workers living in the Eastern Suburbs, the North Shore and the Ryde region fell in the year to November, exclusive analysis of local area jobs figures shows. Those areas also had some of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates.

One of the graphs that purportedly supports this argument is shown below.


The article lumps a number of quite different groups in together. The most important distinction that is not made is between unemployed workers and retired workers. There is also confusion around the idea of employment. Simply because a worker lives in a given area, in the case of this article the affluent suburbs of Sydney, does not mean that the economic impact  (and benefit) of that particular worker is limited to that specific suburb.

The other mistaken notion is that when an affluent worker leaves the workforce and retires their economic impact somehow changes for the worse.  This may not be the case as retirees, particularly affluent debt-free ones, are likely to have far more disposable income than younger workers.

The other mistaken notion is that employment growth in these areas has stalled as result of people retiring.  In most cases, when someone retires someone else will take their job. They may not live in the same area but there will be a commensurate increase in the number of employed workers in some other geographic area.

Terry Rawnsley, a regional economics expert with SGS Economics and Planning said “In the past a large number of retirees would have left Sydney and headed for coastal retreats but it seems many Boomers are staying put,” Rawnsley said.

“If older residents ‘occupy the crease’ it makes it harder to house new younger residents in those areas.”

The other argument, which has been floated before, is that retirees should not continue to live in their family homes in inner-city areas but should move out to let younger families live closer to work. There is no doubt that the rich people will live in the suburbs where the houses are most expensive and these areas are likely to be close to the centre of the city. But to suggest that younger, and presumably less affluent families, should be given  privileged access to real estate they cannot otherwise afford is economic nonsense.

Allied: a sombre but self-conscious film

Allied is a curious mix.  On one hand it is sombre reflection on nature of war, love and loyalty. On the other hand, it keeps paying homage to cinematic things past.

The film, which stars  Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard, begins with Pitt’s character Max Vatan flying over the North African desert on his way to Casablanca.  The opening shots are strangely reminiscent of those from The English Patient, another film about a doomed wartime love affair with Ralph Fiennes as Count László Almásy and Kristin Scott Thomas as Katharine Clifton.



Max is being parachuted into North Africa  where he will meet a French Resistance fighter named Marianne Beausejour (Cotillard) in Casablanca. Their task is to assassinate a high-ranking Nazi official. It goes well and the opening action scenes are typical of the way  director Robert Zebecks handles the dramatic tension that runs through the film.


You can’t set a wartime romance in Casablanca without drawing inevitable parallels and comparisons.

Two heros.jpeg

Super-glamourous stars, sexual tensions, divided loyalties, Nazis, intrigue and a plot, which effectively ends at an airfield, are all present in both films. However Allied is no Casablanca.  Somehow, we don’t get as involved in the relationship between Max and Marianne as we do that between Rick and Ilsa.

And then there’s the inevitable comparison between Allied and Mr and Mrs Smith. Both films contain gun wielding spies and Brad Pitt. There is also a case of concealed identity in both films.


Smith and Allied.jpg

Photo credit Eonline

And all this raises the question: What’s the point? And the answer would appear to be: Not much. Is it simply a case of Brad having a shot at Angelina and saying, “Look, I can do without you.”?

All of this is merely a distraction from the film which is a good but not great film. On one level it is a World War II action movie with all the tension of spies and daring deeds. On another level is a sombre exploration of price that humans pay in wartime. Max and Marianne fall in love and get married against the advice and in spite of the  gloomy prognostications of all of their colleagues.


Inevitably, Marianne’s complex but very human past catches up with her with tragic consequences.

 The film is extremely well plotted and the twist of Marianne being a Nazi spy is deftly told and adds immense emotional complexity to the relationship between Max and Marianne.


Simon McBurney as the SOE spook who tells Max’s wife is a spy

The film ends with Max living on a ranch somewhere in Canada with his now grown-up daughter, Anna. It’s a pretty soppy ending to a film that has maintained its emotional tone throughout. It would more appropriately have ended with the final shots at the airfield.


 Viewers will be divided over the performances of Pitt and Cotillard. Many will find the two main characters wooden and unconvincing. Certainly, they lack the passion of the two main leads to Casablanca. Others will find a masterful understatement of the tensions that exist between two people know that the cards are stacked against their relationship.

 Not a great film, but certainly a good Christmas break film.

Tony “No sniping” Abbott is doing his weasel words thing again.

Writing in The Australian, Former prime minister Tony Abbott has hit out at one of his most loyal supporters, Liberal senator Cory Bernardi amid talk the South Australian is preparing to form a breakaway conservative party movement, predicting it would be wildly successful but harm the Coalition.


But Mr Abbott predicts that if Senator Bernardi does split he could win 10 per cent of the vote and have senators elected under the conservative banner in every state but almost all of it would be at the ­expense of the Liberal-National Coalition,” Mr Abbott writes.


If you cover your good eye, you’ll see how good my chances are

 Now all of this is ostensibly intended to warn Bernardi against splitting from the Liberal party. What more would you expect of a Turnbull loyalist and ardent supporter of the government such as Tony Abbott?

 But it’s typical Abbott weasel words. In appearing to warn Bernardi against splitting, he was also warning Malcolm Turnbull and as supporters of the dangers of ignoring the voice of the rabid right (his own included).

 He is absolutely right that Bernardi would take votes from the Coalition if he attracts 10% of the vote but it would all be in the Senate. It’s very difficult to get a lower house seat on 10%.

It is also likely that if a Bernardi-led party were to gain seats in the Senate it would support the Coalition. It’s difficult to imagine such a grouping supporting the Greens and Labor in the upper house.

 He is probably wrong when he says, “it would inevitably leach preferences away from the Coalition and deliver government to Labor.”

The preference of a Bernardi-led Conservative party would go either to One Nation or to the Coalition, most likely to the Coalition. So it is highly unlikely that anything that Bernardi does is going to bring about change in government.

 It is more likely that Tony Abbott’s continual sniping at the Prime Minister and the disloyalty of his dinosaur  right-wing mates will have greater sway with the electorate.


 While the split in the Coalition would not look good for Malcolm Turnbull, in practical terms it will not affect the balance of power either in the Senate or the lower house.

Letter to my grandson (xxxiv)

I know it is a cliché, but you were growing up before our very eyes. You are growing in your confidence and your mastery of the world around you.

This is probably one of my best photographs of you so far. It sums up all the joy and confidence that you have.


These are some photos of you in the Fitzroy Gardens a few weeks ago.  Your mum describes you as “fiercely independent” and you are undeterred by physical challenges.

You have an exuberant pleasure in open spaces which is a joy to watch.

You are also developing your relationship with dragons.

And a rather more ambivalent relationship with the cheese sandwich.


You and your Nana take the important things in life, such as building sandcastles, very seriously.

Your swimming is getting better and better. I come to your swimming lesson each Sunday morning and join in with you and your dad when it’s over. You can now swim under water for short distances between your dad and me. You surface looking so pleased with himself and it is wonderful to see your huge confidence in the water.

But then you have your dad, a great island from which you can launch your adventures.  I fulfil the role of backup island when required but my special task is getting you out of the pool and into the shower. We’re getting quite good at it, you and I, and you know that after a shower with Papa there is always something special, chocolate eggs and Freddo Frogs are top of the list at present.

I normally get a beautiful cuddle at the end of the swimming session when you sit on my knee and have your treats. You’re exhausted after your swim and snuggle into me and chomp your way happily through your chocolate.

And for all your high-energy activities you also have moments of reflection which are particularly beautiful.


Diplomacy Trump-style: Nothing more complicated than a tweet.

The Age reports: US President-elect Donald Trump and US chief diplomat John Kerry have taken explosively different tacks on Israel, further fuelling a war of words over the country’s future.


John Kerry will see his diplomatic legacy dismantled under Trump

Trump tweeted that he could no longer allow Israel to be treated with disdain and urged Israel to “stay strong” until he takes office on January 20.

Now after a remarkable confrontation with Israel, the Security Council has passed a resolution condemning Israeli settlements as a flagrant violation of international law.

Politics in the Middle East as a minefield for Western politicians. The situation requires nuanced responses to the eons of mistrust, double-dealing and rabid nationalism.  During the Obama administration, John Kerry endeavoured to bring such an approach. His one major accomplishment, the Iran nuclear deal, is roundly condemned by the Trump.


With Trump’s support, Netanyahu, not a man given to compromise, will further harden his line on Israeli settlements.

Ramat Shlomo

It would appear that the building of Israeli settlements is a permanent barrier to the “two state” solution to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. Trump appears to be adopting a position that will make the removal of the Israeli settlements in Palestine impossible and with it a solution to a problem that is festered now for over 60 years.

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump speaks during the Fox Business Network Republican presidential debate at the North Charleston Coliseum, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)

Trump appears to be determined to demolish everything that previous administrations have established. The problem is going to be whether he can re-establish the diplomatic, economic and social structures he is destroying if his policy responses are always going to be limited to 140  characters in a Twitter post.


Letter to my grandson (xxxiii)

You have been away with your mum and dad in Perth for Christmas.  We have missed you  but it is good to see you with your WA grandparents who will be getting ready to say goodbye as I am writing this.

Because you spend so much time with adults when you’re in Melbourne, you interact very well with grown-ups, particularly when they respond well to you. But having a grandson on the other side of Australia is very difficult because he grows up without you.

You have, as as usual been a great hit with the family especially with the older girls.


And the local fauna.


My favourite photo of all the ones that your mum took while you were away reminded me of an illustration from A A Milne’s Now we are six.  I like to think it’s a picture of Christopher Robin with his grandpa.



2017 will start badly for Malcolm Turnbull

The latest Newspoll show a slight, but further, deterioration of the political fortunes of Malcolm Turnbull and Coalition.

The analysis reveals Labor has jumped ahead of the coalition in Queensland to hold a lead of 51 per cent to 49 per cent in two-party terms, a five per cent swing from the coalition’s 54-46 per cent share of the vote in the election.

In WA the analysis shows a 3.7 per cent swing against the coalition in two-party terms, narrowing the government’s lead to 51 per cent to Labor’s 49 per cent.

Labor’s strongest vote is in Victoria where it is ahead by 53 to 47 per cent in two-party terms and it’s also ahead in NSW 52 to 48 per cent and in South Australia by 51 to 49 per cent.   Skynews


 Expect to see more of Malcolm’s “not happy” face in 2017

The Guardian reports: Older voters are turning against the Turnbull government while Labor is enjoying a lift in its standing with men, a Newspoll analysis shows.

The analysis of 8,508 voters in Newspoll surveys taken for the Australian from October to December reveals a seven-percentage-point plunge in the primary vote for the Coalition among voters over 50 since the 2 July election.

Two-thirds of these voters are returning to the Labour Party. The other third is going to the GIMPs.

I have argued that the battle for government will be waged over voters who are located in the middle of the political spectrum, not the extremes, as Pauline Hanson and Corey Bernardi would argue. This poll appears to confirm that trend.

Like the man he replaced, Turnbull has not been ahead in the polls since he was elected. His argument was that Abbott could not lead the Coalition to victory in the 2016 election. Most of the Parliamentary Liberal Party bought that argument and Turnbull took over as Prime Minister.

The irony is that the same argument can now be mounted again, all you need to do is change the names.

However, the Liberals would be ill-advised to change leaders for a number of reasons.

The first is that the next election will being won by changes of voting intention at the centre of the political spectrum (voters over 50 etc) and Turnbull is an excellent leader to appeal to this demographic.

The second is that dissatisfaction with the leader does not appear to have a significant impact on the chances of a party as a whole. This is demonstrated by Labor’s resurgence in the polls while still being led by the deeply unpopular Bill Shorten.


 Bill Shorten: not much of an option but the strategy of sticking with him appears to be working

 The third is that there is no standout candidate to replace Turnbull.

Tony Abbott is itching for another chance at the top job, emboldened by what is interpreted as a swing to the right in politics, not only in the US and Great Britain, but also in Australia. This is a mistaken notion and would it be disastrous for the Liberal party to base its electoral prospects on it.


 Tony Abbott is now spent force in Australian politics

But his return to the leadership would be disastrous, not only because he is deeply unpopular with the electorate, but also because his policies are now out of step with the those of the Australian electorate. This is particularly true for issues such as same-sex marriage, reconciliation, coal mining, carbon abatement, clean energy and the Republic.

When you look for potential replacements for Turnbull, you reach the bottom of the barrel pretty quickly.


The rest of his Cabinet is pretty much unknown. Who has heard of Zed Seselja?

On the question of leadership change, it is very much a case of damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.

Unless Turnbull can haul the Coalition out of the policy inertia that appears to have gripped it in 2016, then the inexorable drift towards the Labor Party and Bill Shorten will continue.


An unpredictable and petulant fourteen year-old will soon be in charge

The SMH asks: Could Donald Trump help unleash nuclear catastrophe with a single tweet?


Donald Trump’s alarming tweet about his desire to “greatly strengthen and expand” the “nuclear capability” of the US unleashed a frenzy of media efforts to try to divine his actual policy intentions. It forced some of his advisers into tortured claims that Trump didn’t say what he actually said, even as others simultaneously insisted that Trump did meaningfully put other countries on notice that if he deems them to be challenging our supremacy, they will face an arms race.

The problem is that he sees no need for restraint, like a 14 year old rushing to Twitter on the slightest impulse.

The problem is that the adults don’t actually know how to explain is bizarre and irrational behaviours because there is no explanation.

This administration will devolve into chaos within weeks and the problem is there is no mechanism for fixing this particular mess.

The Hollow Crown: 1 Henry IV – Hal and Hotspur

Henry IV, Pt 1 is a play in two parts. The first is concerned with the world of civil rebellion that will ultimately lead to the Wars of the Roses. This is the world of King Henry VI and Harry Percy. The second part is centred around the Boar’s Head Tavern where Falstaff, the Lord of Misrule reigns with Hal and their companies, Poins, Peto, Gadshill, Bardolph.

The play moves back and forth between these two worlds with scenes from one intercut with scenes of the other. It’s a simple technique and helps define the fundamental tension between the views of the two young protagonists, Prince Hal and Harry Percy. It is this tension which holds the two parts of the play together.

For King Henry comparisons between the valiant and victorious Hotspur and his own son are inevitable. He wishes that he had son like Hotspur

Henry: Yea, there thou makest me sad and makest me sin
In envy that my Lord Northumberland
Should be the father to so blest a son,
A son who is Theme of honour’s tongue;
Amongst a grove, the very straightest plant;
Who is sweet Fortune’s minion and her pride:
Whilst I, by looking on the praise of him,
See riot and dishonour stain the brow
Of my young Harry. O that it could be proved
That some night-tripping fairy had exchanged
In cradle-clothes our children where they lay,
And call’d mine Percy, his Plantagenet!

Act I Sc i

At the beginning of the play, the comparisons are obvious and odious. While Hotspur is eating Scots for breakfast, Prince Hal is involved in quite different activities, most noticeably with Falstaff, Mistress Quickly and  Doll Tearsheet at the Boar’s Head.


Maxine Peake as Doll Tearsheet, Simon Russell Beale as Falstaff, Julie Walters as Mistress Quickly 

Hal’s world is the anarchic underworld of riot drunkenness and debauchery where Falstaff is the King and Hal his Crown Prince. While Hotspur is in the north leading his armies against the rebellious Scots to ensure the stability of the realm, Falstaff, Hal and their companions are out robbing wealthy pilgrims on their way to Canterbury and whoring their way through Cheapside.

Shakespeare does not draw these two charismatic characters purely in black and white terms. While the brave Hotspur is shouldering the responsibility of keeping the kingdom safe, there is also an element of foolhardy pride in the man that ultimately makes fatal his lack of judgment.

His decision not to surrender his hostages to King Henry brings matters to a head when he is summonsed to court to account for his behaviour. Neither the King nor Hotspur are in the mood to compromise.

Henry: My Lord Northumberland,
We licence your departure with your son.
Send us your prisoners, or you will hear of it.

Exeunt King Henry, Blunt, and train

Hotspur: An if the devil come and roar for them,
I will not send them: I will after straight
And tell him so; for I will ease my heart,
Albeit I make a hazard of my head.

Northumberland: What, drunk with choler? stay and pause awhile:
Here comes your uncle

Jo and Alun.jpg

In a stroke of genius, the BBC has the Percys played by a father and son Alun and Joe Armstrong.

With this brief outburst, Hotspur shows the intemperate rage governs most his relations with friends and enemies alike. He’s a brave man and a good soldier but completely incapable of governing himself.

At the heart of this conflict is Henry’s refusal to ransom Edmund Mortimer, the Earl of March, Hotspur’s brother-in-law but more importantly the man Richard II, whom Henry deposed, named as his successor.

Worcester: I cannot blame him: was not he proclaim’d
By Richard that dead is the next of blood?

Northumberland: He was; I heard the proclamation:

It is a world where the politics are complex, a mixture of dynastic ambition and long-held grievance.  You need to keep your wits about you to survive. Throughout the play, Shakespeare demonstrates that for all his qualities, this is something that Hotspur cannot do. In his dealings with Owen Glendower, the powerful Welsh warlord and important ally to the rebel cause, Hotspur demonstrates a lack of tact and diplomacy that is necessary to hold rebellions together.

  On a different planet, Prince Hal inhabits a world dominated by Shakespeare’s greatest comic character, Falstaff.  It is also a world completely untouched by the politics and internecine feuds of the Plantagenet’s.  Because he is the heir apparent, Hal (and companions) are able to live and play with complete disregard of the law and of the consequences of their actions.  For all that, they are immensely good fun and much better company than Harry Percy would ever be.

And while Hal is the epitome of irresponsibility, Hiddleston’s portrayal in the BBC series  The Hollow Crown is not one-dimensional and throughout the early scenes of Henry IV part 1, there are moments of detachment from the riot of the Boar’s Head that foreshadow the later Hal.

Hal: I know you all, and will awhile uphold
The unyoked humour of your idleness:
Yet herein will I imitate the sun,
Who doth permit the base contagious clouds
To smother up his beauty from the world,
That, when he please again to be himself,
Being wanted, he may be more wonder’d at,
By breaking through the foul and ugly mists
Of vapours that did seem to strangle him.

In Act II Sc iv, Hal and Falstaff act out a scene where Hal’s father interrogates the Prince about the companions he keeps. It is a brilliantly comic scene, with Hal and Falstaff swapping roles. Finally, Falstaff pleads his case to the king, played by Hal. In four lines, Shakespeare captures central core of the play.


 Falstaff: but for sweet Jack Falstaff, kind Jack Falstaff, true Jack Falstaff, valiant Jack Falstaff, and therefore more valiant being, as he is old Jack Falstaff, banish not him thy Harry’s company, banish not him thy Harry’s company. Banish plump Jack, and banish all the world.

Hal I do, I will.

Whatever the impact is on Falstaff, it is not seen by the audience as the scene is interrupted by the Sheriff who comes looking for the man who robbed the pilgrims.

However, this scene looks forward to the famous Act IV Sc v, where the newly-crowned Henry V rejects his old companions.

Henry V: I know thee not, old man. Fall to thy prayers. 
How ill white hairs become a fool and jester! 
I have long dreamt of such a kind of man, 
So surfeit-swell’d, so old, and so profane; 
But being awak’d, I do despise my dream.

Throughout the play, there is an element of Hal that is dispassionate, calculating and constantly detached in his relationship with Falstaff. At no point, does the audience get the impression that Hal does not see Falstaff in his true light, good company but ultimately a drunken petty criminal, a fraudster and a liar.


And certainly not fit for the company for a King.

Programme Name: The Hollow Crown - TX: n/a - Episode: Henry IV Part 2 (No. Henry IV Part 2) - Embargoed for publication until: n/a - Picture Shows: Henry V (Tom Hiddleston) - (C) Neal Street Productions - Photographer: Joss Barratt

The real problem with One Nation

The problem is they are just a bunch of untalented, unintelligent amateurs who lack the discipline and work ethic to manage and coordinate a political party that exercises considerable influence on the Australian political scene.

This is demonstrated in the current fiasco over Rod Culleton.


Shadow Attorney-General, Mark Dreyfus, explaining how to find the Senate chamber to Rod Culleton who had lost his way.

SMH reports: Besieged senator Rod Culleton has been declared bankrupt in a Federal Court hearing in Perth, jeopardising his position in the Senate.

The decision is the result of legal action brought against Senator Culleton by a creditor, former Wesfarmers director Peter Lester, seeking $280,000.

As Party leader, Pauline Hanson, should have known about Culleton’s problems before she put him on the ticket.


Clueless and really not capable if running a political party

But she didn’t.

Too busy rushing around the country bashing Muslims and duck-diving on the Great Barrier Reef to pay attention to details such as “Is this candidate legally qualified to stand for the Senate?”


Media reports indicate she is not happy with the fact that Culleton’s brother-in-law,  Peter Georgiou, is like to replace him if Culleton is forced to stand down.


But, to be fair to Pauline, she probably hasn’t met him yet. He was only number two on the One Nation Senate ticket in WA.

It’s like a soap opera.



Way back when: One Nation Members of the 1998 Queensland Parliament Ken Turner (State MP for Thuringowa) with Jeff Knuth (State MP for Burdekin) 

It is good for our democracy that parties like Pauline Hanson’s One Nation are able to represent and articulate  (I useful word advisedly) the views of minority sections of the community, no matter how repugnant many of us may find them.

The problem is that the people who try to represent these views are not good at the hard work of politics and that is bad for our democracy.

And another lot is on its way.


Pauline Hanson poses with the 36 One Nation candidates to stand at the next Queensland election