We need to keep some perspective about the threat of North Korea

The New York Times reports: So far, all but one of the North’s nine Musudan tests since last year have been failures, with the projectiles exploding in flames during launching or shortly after liftoff.

Kim Jong-un watches for a successful launch

It seems that these guys are actually not very good at it yet.  So the threat may be much less than is being made out, particularly by the President of the United States.

 It’s also worth remembering that they are not a major military power.  A war between North Korea and the US would have tragic consequences. People would die. But the result would be a foregone conclusion.

 will The North Korean economy is in tatters and is highly unlikely that its army would be able to fight for very long. It is also highly unlikely that very many of its 600 aircraft would be airworthy and also seems highly unlikely, based on current performance at least, that any of its ICBMs would be able to take off. It also doesn’t have a navy.

 It is also highly likely that its major ally, China, would whisper quietly in Kim Jong-un’s ear that starting a war against the most powerful military nation on earth was not a very good idea and that they would probably not like to get involved if at all possible.

 This is not to say that two silly fat men won’t get involved in a pissing contest that may have some very bad outcomes.

So we should all hope that good sense prevails and that everybody keeps their fingers off the panic buttons.

Trump cements his support base

Two-thirds of Trump supporters felt the economy was already improving under the new President. The groups were surveyed prior to Friday’s quarterly economic figures showing growth had hit a three-year low.

untitled 2.jpeg

“And he’s bringing God back. I praise the Lord for that, I really do.”

Donald Trump told his cheering supporters at a rally to mark his hundred days in office that he would rather be spending time with them than being anywhere else.

 And they believed him.

 Despite the fact that he spends every weekend at his luxurious country club playing golf.

 His support and approval rating amongst the people who voted for him runs at 95% whereas his support overall runs at just 45%.

 He has secured his electoral base and that may be all that matters.

ScoMo, Good Debt, Bad Debt, and the Economic Road to Damascus

If letter writers to The Age are any indication, then the Australian voter is not very impressed by Treasurer Scott Morrison’s recent conversion.

Mind you, it’s Economics 101. And as any film goer would tell you is no such thing as a good cop or bad cop, they’re all just cops. It’s the same with debt.

The realisation that Morrison seems to have come to, albeit rather late in life for a Treasurer, is that there is a difference between debt that funds infrastructure spending and debt that covers shortfalls in recurrent expenditure, again Economics 101.

But unfortunately it all rather simplistic. Not all infrastructure spending is necessarily good. Some of it is simply pork barrelling. One suspects that most of what Barnaby Joyce proposes falls into that category. And spending on recurrent expenditure such as education and health is important as an investment in the future, in the case of education, and often as preventative measure, in the case of health.

So one wonders where Morrison is trying to take this debate. If he is suggesting that it is a good time to be borrowing to develop Australia’s infrastructure, then this is a particularly good idea. If he is suggesting that it is now a good time to be investing in the Adani coal mine, then that is not such a good idea.

One wishes that the Australian electorate could have more confidence in its Treasurer.

And its Deputy Prime Minister,

An Assessment of President Trump from Australia

This is an extract from an editorial from The Age, a left-of-centre national newspaper in Australia.

Donald Trump has failed to get his controversial signature policies – including repealing and replacing his predecessor’s healthcare system, and funding a multibillion-dollar wall on the Mexican border – through a Congress in which his party holds a rare majority in both houses.

The extent of the uncertainty about his capability is indicated by his historically low support in opinion polls.

Mr Trump’s debut has not diminished reservations – arising from his inconsistency, volatility, shallowness and disregard for truth and facts – The Age and so many observers expressed during his bombastic and jingoistic ‘‘America First’’ campaign.

There have been so many missteps that we remain of the view he lacks the necessary competence and judgment……Reading transcripts of unscripted utterings – for example, in interviews – reveals just how illinformed and self-focused the President is.

In his typically inconsistent manner, he said this week that ‘‘no administration has accomplished more in the first 90 days’’. That is evidently false. At this stage, the definition of success could be said to be avoiding catastrophic errors.

We remain of the view that he lacks competence and judgment.

The Age and the Art of the The Irrelevant

The Age does very nice line in printing articles that are pretty much irrelevant to most of its readers  and certainly to the vast proportion of the population of the of planet. They have a couple of superstars when it comes to writing them: Harold Mitchell and Amanda Vanstone. Mitchell’s effort in today’s paper Wall Street is up 16pc since he arrived; Trump is making America great again told us that Mitchell is on the board of the New York Philharmonic and has dinner with billionaires all of whom are happy with being richer than they were before as a result of the Trump effect.

Amanda did her bit last week with Before you go hating the rich, get your facts straight where she likened criticism of millionaires who pay no tax to Pauline Hanson’s attacks on Muslims.

Pity Hanson isn’t a Muslim-hating, tax avoiding millionaire then Vanstone could have have hit her with a double whammy.

Now that would have been great journalism

Postscript: Time Magazine has a different view off the stock market in the US with gains under Trump at under 6%, less than Kennedy, Bush and Obama


A Post-ANZAC reflection on Australian values

Tonight on  the ABC program “You can’t ask that” there were stories of a series of ex-Afghanistan army officers, all of whom were deeply scarred, both emotionally and physically, by their experiences of serving their country for decades on the front line.

And then we are treated to a picture of our Prime Minister, dressed like a military hero, fresh from espousing Australian values and addressing the troops who are fighting the battles that the people who appeared on the ABC program were fighting a decade ago.

And he doesn’t appreciate the irony.

The  people on the ABC program are struggling to adjust to life in Australia after serving their country in Afghanistan where they risked their lives on daily basis.

This woman has a tax funded pension approaching $250,000 a year and, in the opinion of most people in Australia, her most significant achievement was an egregious rorting of the  Federal  Parliamentary entitlements scheme.


One wonders if she ever fired a shot in anger.

From The Washington Post: Will the Wall be Built?

It’s never going to happen.

It is simply impossible to overstate the symbolic importance both the wall and the idea that Mexico would pay for it had in 2016. Everything about Trump was embodied within it: the xenophobia, the vision of a world of threats and danger, the belief that complex problems have easy solutions, and most of all, the desire to stand tall and humiliate others, which was so critical to voters who felt beaten down and humiliated themselves. That’s why the preposterous notion that Mexico would pay for the wall was so critical: not because we need Mexico’s money, but because forcing them to pay would be an act of dominance, making them kneel before us, open up their wallets, and pay us for their own abasement.

Whenever a Mexican official would say that of course they weren’t going to pay for a wall, Trump would tell his crowds, “The wall just got ten feet higher!” And oh, would they cheer, thrilled beyond measure at the idea of punishing Mexico for its insolence and showing them who the boss is. Yes, the wall was about fear and hatred of immigrants, but more than anything it was a vision of empowerment.

But just look what Trump has been reduced to now:

Those are the words of a man who knows that he can’t keep his promise.

Conflict of Interest and property ownership: the case of Federal MPs

One of the time-honoured principles of democracy is that members of committees do not vote on matters in which they have a specific interest, normally a financial interest. It is usual for them to simply excuse themselves from the meeting and take no part in the discussions and certainly no part in the voting. This is so that it cannot be said they voted to protect their own interests and not the interests of their constituents.

This makes the question of negative gearing and housing affordability a difficult one for MPs and the Coalition in particular.

This group of  Federal Liberal MPs own total of 104 rental properties between them. The gentleman in the top left-hand corner of the picture, Nationals senator Barry O’Sullivan owns 33 properties, the man next to him Nationals MP David Gillespie owns 18.

The other MPs in the photo are Karen Andrews, Nola Marino, Ian Goodenough, Dan Tehan, the PM, Dutton and Tony Pasin.  Opposition MPs declared far more modest property ownership: Agriculture Spokesman, Joel Fitzgibbon, owns five.  Bill Shorten has none

Naturally, these MPs will be convinced of the benefits of negative gearing and property investment and will vote for its continuation. They are also voting to protect their own financial interests as they do.

Perhaps it is time that only MPs with no investments in residential property were able to vote on issues of housing affordability. It might produce some interesting results.

In fairness to this group of MPs, they have at least declared their financial interests.

Fairfax media reports:  That many MPs on both sides of Parliament disclose their property holdings in trusts and that almost half of Coalition MPs or their immediate family members have an interest in a trust, and another 13 government MPs have self-managed superannuation funds or other investment vehicles which are not transparent.

Confidence in our democratic system will continue to erode while there is a public perception that vested interests control voting on One of the most important social and economic issue facing many young Australians.  Within the Australian community 10% of Australians own rental properties properties, within the Australian Federal Parliament rate is 50%.

That’s right. Half our MPs have investment properties many of which are likely to be, or have been, negatively geared.

The PM is running hard on Australian values. The realities of property ownership within his government do not sit well with the Australian values of a fair go.



Letter to my Grandson (xxxviiii)

Dear Winton

Last Saturday, you and your mum came back from Perth where you had been spending a week with your other nana and papa. You’ve been away for a week. I know how much they enjoy seeing you but selfishly we were glad you were back. Who wouldn’t be?

Winton Easter

Your dad and I came out to pick you both up from the airport. We caught up with you at the baggage terminal. You put your arms around your dad’s leg waiting to be picked up. When he did, you wrapped your arms around his neck. I was standing next to him and you looked over and saw me and you reached out and said, ”Papa,” and pulled me into the cuddle.

As we walked to the car, you buried your face in your dad’s neck and wrapped your arms around him. They don’t quite reach yet but you were holding on as tight you could. I was walking behind. Every now and then you would look up. I like to think it was to make sure I was following along. And then you would snuggle back into your dad.

I’ll never forget the look on your face. You’re not smiling, you are just very very happy. I’ve seen that look on your face once before that I can remember. You had just woken up in Nana and Papa’s big bed with the covers pulled up and the pillows all around you, snug and secure and very happy. Everything was right in the world in the way that can only be right for a small child.

When we got in the car, I sat in the back seat with you. I had brought Baby Rabbit, Baby Dragon and Leopard specially to greet you. You are so pleased to see them and you wrapped your arms round them in a huge hug while you devoured slices of apple, blueberries and grapes from your special lunchbox.

Next day, you came round for Easter Sunday. As soon as you arrived, you headed upstairs. I thought it was to greet your animal friends. But no, it was to survey the new poster of the solar system.

“Which one is Venus? Which one is Earth?” They were duly pointed out you. You’re three at your next birthday. Clearly soft toys are off the birthday list. You seem pleased that visit to the Planetarium at Science Works was scheduled for the week after next.

Then it was downstairs with some Lego that Nana had bought. You, your dad and Uncle Nick spent the next hour putting it together. I took photos. It was amazing to watch. Just three blokes spending a Sunday afternoon no great rush, not a lot to say, just putting stuff together.


And you, expecting, I think, to be treated completely as an equal, particularly when it came to an assessment of Nick’s artwork that he did when he was in kindergarten about the same age as you are now. Nick explained to you what he was trying to achieve as an artist and you, an artist of considerable standing in your own right already, were prepared to give him a very fair hearing.


It’s wonderful watching you building the relationships with the members of the family. You are particularly good at constructing those relationships with adults and I think you have a real talent for understanding how to relate to other children particularly girls who are older than you.

What is particularly interesting is watching you with Matilda. Naturally, Matilda doesn’t respond at all so you have to take a lot of your cues from adults. But on Sunday, you began improvising and while you were having lunch, you began making cheese sandwiches for Matilda. You like cheese sandwiches. They are one of the staples of your diet and it so typical of you to share the things that are important for you with other people.

On Sunday, we had an Easter egg hunt. You shared all your eggs with the family. You shared the biggest one with Nick. He’s going to be the perfect uncle. He’s a sort of a replica dad. Not quite like dad but close enough which is just pretty good from where I stand.

Sand w

Some silly ideas for balancing the budget.

Australian Treasurer Scott Morrison, affectionately known by his trendy title ScoMo, is preparing to present the May budget.  He is famous for explaining to Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce what coal looks like.


Barnaby is also Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources so he was surprised to find out about coal.  But I digress.

One good idea for helping the budget is clearly abolishing negative gearing. Pretty much everybody agrees about this except all people who own negatively geared properties.

Unfortunately, this includes most of the sitting Liberal party MPs. ScoMo thinks abolishing it would be “cruel” which has introduced a new technical term into the lexicon of economics.

I’ve explained this in some detail. So it has Saul Eslake.


And Glenn Stevens


So here is my silly idea.

If we were to abolish negative gearing, we could substitute another tax deduction in its place. We could say to the people who sell their negatively geared properties, “If you invest the money from your negatively geared properties and invest in companies that are developing renewable energy technologies, we will allow you a 100% tax-deduction.”

Sound attractive? Of course it does.

So why is it such a good idea?

  1.  Because it shifts investment into businesses that will be employing people.
  2.  Because it shifts investment towards technologies that will lead to energy sustainability.
  3.  Because it shifts investment away from mere speculation and towards productive industries
  4.  Because it develops skills and technologies in the Australian economy that will be appropriate for the 21st century.
  5. Because it will stop making it attractive for people to own more houses than they can live in,

But don’t hold your breath.