Australian power companies were holding a gun to the consumers’ heads. The Australian Energy Market Operator called their bluff

With temperatures dropping along the seaboard in Australia, demand for electricity surged. This placed pressure on electricity suppliers, most of whom run coal-fired power stations. In the normal course of events, the coal supply would be provided on long-term contracts.

With the increased demand for electricity, came increased demand for coal. Most of the available coal is sold overseas so immediate demand has to be purchased on the spot market where prices are subject to fluctuations in demand. The war in Ukraine has made the spot price for coal extremely volatile so meeting the supplier demands has become very expensive.

The electricity providers took the economically rational decision to stop supplying electricity to the grid thereby threatening to deny a significant proportion of the Australian population power supply during a very cold early winter period. No lights, no heating, no way of preparing food.

That is the ultimate meaning of privatising the electricity generating and delivery system in Australia.

Thank you, Jeff Kennett and Alan Stockdale.

However, the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) took the dramatic step: suspending the entire market from trading power generation until further notice.

This is how it worked

An S at the end of the arrowhead means the variables move in the same direction, an O means a move in the opposite direction. You can work your way around the causal diagram and see the impact of the intervention of the regulator. The dynamics change as you go around the second time.

The situation is complex because the impact of the war in Ukraine has meant worldwide shortages of energy, particularly coal.

Australian energy companies have not maintained sufficient stockpiles to avoid purchasing coal on the spot market. This has had a devastating effect on their profitability. Hence their decision to withdraw from the market and not supply electricity to the grid and the Australian population. They were, of course, quite happy to reap windfall profits available to them from the surge in electricity prices as a result of increased demand as result of the cold snap. But when it lasted longer than expected and they had to buy coal at prices that made their operations of viable, they decided to withhold supply.

From THE AGE According to the Grattan Institute’s energy program director, Tony Wood, uncertainty dated back to Tony Abbott’s decision to scrap the former Labor government’s carbon tax in 2013, and then Scott Morrison’s decision to axe Malcolm Turnbull’s National Energy Guarantee in 2018.

Remember when Tony Abbott said that electricity prices are going to come down?

Well, this is the reality.

Since the last determination by the Australian Energy Regulator,  a year ago, wholesale electricity costs for retailers, who supply us all with our power, had surged by 41.4 per cent in NSW, 49.5 per cent in Queensland, and 11.8 per cent in South Australia, due to power plant shutdowns, higher coal and gas prices and slowing of investment in new capacity, among other things.

An Australian Grandfather writes a Requiem for the Grandchildren killed in US schools

In my mind’s eye, I confront him

Holding photos of you.

You had beauty that would have moved Botticelli, Renoir.

He remains blank, uncomprehending.

When you ran across the park towards me

A crowd of unruly angels jostled at your shoulder.

There were no angels jostling the AK-47.

“Papa, I love you to the moon and back,” you would say.

I would hold you close and say,

“I love you from my heart to your heart, wherever you may be.”

It proved to be not enough.

Yet, in the black chaos of grief,

This will prevail.

Why do people in America need to own semi-automatic assault rifles?

These weapons are designed for soldiers who are at war. They are designed to kill people. There is no reason why civilians should own them. There are now more guns in America than there are people. Many of these guns will be semiautomatic capable of killing many people in a very short period of time. The is significant proportion of the American public seems unconcerned about this situation.

There have also already been 233 mass shootings in the US this year alone, that’s two every three days. Many of them have been conducted by gunmen younger than 21.

The latest atrocity was conducted by a man who was unhappy with the outcome of his back surgery. So he purchased a semi-automating weapon, went to the hospital and shot his surgeon and three other people who got in the way.

A semi-automatic assault rifle which can fire 60 rounds a minute

It requires legislation to pass through Congress to limit the ownership of firearms or to change the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right of Americans to bear arms.

The founding fathers thought Americans should bear arms to avoid tyrannical governments not so that they could shoot doctors they were unhappy with.

Part of the reason that legislation cannot be pushed through the Congress and Senate is that the NRA funds Republican congressmen and Senators to vote down legislation restricting gun ownership. The Congress is evenly balanced and Republicans hold a majority in the Senate. This means legislation restricting any gun ownership is bound to fail.

Unless, unless at the next midterm elections, gun ownership becomes the central issue and the American population votes against Republican Congressmen and Senators who have voted against restricting gun ownership.

That will bring about change.

The tragedy of Uvalde must surely lay to rest the myth of the “good/bad guy with a gun”.

The National Rifle Association has long peddled the myth that “”The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,”

It is a massive over-simplification on both counts. For too long it has been the drumbeat to rally those marching to the cause of the right to bear arms.

It’s a cliché which is a massive over-simplification because they are not simply “bad guys”. They are “mad, bad, unstable, suicidal, psychopaths, armed with a semi-automatic assault rifles and a plentiful supply of ammunition prepared to kill everybody in sight”. That is why they should not be allowed to buy guns. The solution is not “a good guy with a gun” but not letting the bad guy have a gun.

The other myth that the tragedy of Uvalde must call into question is that of the “good guy with a gun”. This is the other over-simplification peddled by the NRA. It is becoming apparent that the good guys with guns are ordinary folk with families and friends and hamsters who expect them to come home alive at the end of the working day. This myth of the good guy with a gun is based somewhere deep in the psyche, history and folklore of America. It is not something that keeps the children of modern America safe.

US News “From white-hatted cowboys in movie Westerns to cigarette-smoking, trench-coated fictional private detectives, the gun-packing hero has been celebrated in American popular culture as the ultimate weapon in a central battle between good and evil.”

Clint Eastwood in one of his many roles as the “good guy with a gun”.

After the Uvalde shooting, Texas authorities this week were fielding accusations that people trained to respond to such incidents didn’t move quickly enough, possibly costing lives.

It didn’t work May 16 in Buffalo, where an armed, off-duty security guard and former police officer was unable to stop a shooter on an apparent racist rampage. The security guard, along with nine Black supermarket shoppers, was killed.

Americans do not seem to be able to make a choice about what they value most: the safety of their schoolchildren children or the right of 18-year-olds to carry semi-automatic assault rifles.

Ex-Wallaby captain David Pocock is a second rugby player to be elected to the Senate. He is a giant step up from the first one.

No disrespect to the Brick with Eyes but he was always going to be better player than a senator. Being a protégé of Clive Palmer wasn’t any help either.

Here is a quote from the to packages via their shoes thisto give you a measure of David Pocock

David Pocock is a courageous man. Twice during the final minutes of the Waratahs’ match against the Brumbies in Sydney on Sunday the flanker complained that the Waratahs forward Jacques Potgieter had called two Brumbies players “faggot” – and twice the referee claimed he had not heard the insult.

Indeed it’s not right, and late last night following a SANZAR investigation Potgieter admitted to his comments, apologised and expressed remorse. “I’m very sorry for any offence caused by what I said on the field during a heated encounter,” the South African said. “It was an offhand remark made without thought for the hurt it could cause to those around me.” Potgieter was fined $20,000 – with $10,000 suspended – by the Australian Rugby Union for using the homophobic slurs.

Pocock has been a vocal supporter of gay marriage

 He has been an activist on other fronts as well. In November last year he chained himself to a digger for 10 hours as part of a blockade against Whitehaven’s Maules Creek coal mine.

In 2000 Cathy Freeman held the flag for Indigenous people at the Sydney Olympics; could Pocock and others hold it just as high against bigotry and for environmental action? In this political climate the more people like Freeman and Pocock willing to step and put themselves on the line for their beliefs the better. That’s what cultural change looks like.

He was also regarded by many as the best open side flanker in the modern game. Significant praise as the other contender is Richie McCaw.

He will also bring considerable pin-up value to his media profile.

Pick on someone your own size. Prime Minister Scott Morrison shoulder charges seven-year old boy in soccer match.

Scott Morrison turned up to a trial soccer match of seven-year-olds Tasmania. He joined in the game. A rugby league fan, he then shoulder charged a 7 year old boy, Luca Fauvette.

Did none of his minders tell him that soccer is different from rugby league?

It was still wrong on every count, Luca didn’t have the ball, the rules of tackling are different in the two games.

Has Morrison never been to a soccer match?

Apart from that, Luca was much smaller than Morrison.

Seven-year-old Luca Fauvette, appearing on the Today show with his grandmother, Jo, thinks the prime minister should have been given a red card.CREDIT:NINE NEWS

Morrison could get some lessons from Sonny Bill Williams, who was a master of the art, on how to do a decent shoulder charge.

There are also some other simple things too: pick on someone your own size, take your glasses off, wear footy gear.

And the piece of general advice from everybody: Don’t be a bully.

A modelling evaluation of Scott Morrison’s proposed $50,000 Superannuation Funded Home Deposit Scheme

This post examines two scenarios. The first is relatively benign. The second is disastrous

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has proposed that first-time home buyers should be able to borrow up to $50,000 towards a deposit on their first home. The loan, plus the capital gain, would be repaid back into the superannuation fund when the house is sold.

There are a lot of variables involved in this transaction: the rate of capital gain on the house, the rate of capital gains superannuation fund, how long you own the first house, the difference between the capital gain on the house and superannuation fund. These are all questions with no answers because they deal with predicting the future and as the famous physicist Niels Bohr said  “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future!”

But here goes.

This simple model looks at the implications of this proposal using the System Dynamics modelling package Stella which is specifically designed to capture feedback effects between interacting systems, in this case the superannuation system and the housing sector.

In the interests of simplicity there are a number of assumptions built into this model.

The borrower, let’s call her Elizabeth, will earn $60,000 for her working life of 45 years. It goes but not much. Much as wages have done for quite a while. This means the numbers are understandable in todays prices.

Elizabeth will pay 9% of that into an industry super fund and will earn a compound interest rate of 8%.

Elizabeth will buy her first house after she has been working for 10 years and borrow $50,000 from super account.

Elizabeth will purchase a house for $750k and borrow $600k from the bank. The house will go up in value at 8% per annum.

Elizabeth will sell her first house after eight years for $1.2m and purchase a second house.

The total repayments to her super account are $100k, twice what she borrowed borrowed. However, this offsets the impact of the withdrawal of the $50,000 from her super account.

While Elizabeth’s superannuation has lagged as result of the withdraw for a home deposit, the repayment very quickly catches up her superannuation.

Elizabeth’s sale of her first house leaves her with $1.1m. She borrows another $1.1 from the bank to purchase her second house which she lives in for the rest of her life.

The impact of the $50k borrowing on the value of the house over the next 20 years is that Elizabeth’s equity will be approximately $680k less than someone who had not borrowed from their super account . But that will only represent 4% of the market value of the house ($17.4m against $16.8m) when she retires.

This case study indicates how PM Scott Morrison’s proposed $50,000 borrowing from superannuation would work on a best case scenario.

There are many scenarios and they will vary according to the value of the property purchased and the rate of return in the stock market where most superannuation funds are invested and the increase in house prices. These two case studies outline the principles and systemic structures that underlie Morrison’s proposal.

Contrary to what most commentators say there will be no major impact on super as long as the borrowing and capital gain is paid back. The long-term impact, and it will be slight, will be on the capital value of the second home.

But this is a best case scenario.

The worst case scenario is Reg who is like the visitors in respect except one.

His $50,000 is not paid back and Reg stays living in the first home he purchases until his retirement.

The impact on his superannuation is disastrous.

His final superannuation retirement balance will be $1.7m million compared with someone who has not borrowed whose final balance will be $2.4m.

In addition, his initial $50k debt will now have grown to $740k which will presumably have paid out of the $1.7m million in his retirement account leaving the super balance at $1m.

There are a number of variations on this worst-case scenario.

They are all related to how long the borrower delays selling their first home and pays off the initial borrowing.

But any long-term avoidance of repaying the $50k, effectively incurs a compounding penalty interest rate of 8%.

It’s not very good idea when you can borrow money from the bank at 4%.

For many people who are on relatively low incomes, this type of borrowing will have an Increasingly devastating effect on their superannuation balances longer they delay the sale of their first home.

Is this a good policy? The model would suggest is that, at best there is a slight negative effect. At worst it is disastrous.

However, it provides a big proportion of the deposit first home owners need to provide. This will help more first home buyers into the market. However, the effects of this are beyond the scope of this model.

Packing Room Prize is an exercise in photo realism: ie the paintings need to be a bit like photos.

It is also designed to be something other than the more intellectual and rarefied mainstream Archibald Prize. It’s something of a “People’s choice.”

The Packing Room Prize has never won the Archibald. But it must surely have contributed to the popularity of the main competition.

This painting of actor Bill Hunter is immediately recognisable, particularly to people who live in Richmond in Victoria and for his role as Stan Combs in Crackerjack and for his role as Bart Cummings in The Cup a film about Melbourne’s iconic horserace in 2011.

There is sadness etched into Bill Hunter eyes. He is both saddened and puzzled by what he sees in the past which is somewhere outside and beyond the frame of the painting. The look of puzzlement borders appears to contain some sense of effrontery. Jason Benjamin has captured that sense very well. It’s a poignant and unsentimental painting.

The next portrait is of the immediately recognisable David Wenham.

Wenham has listed film credits stretching back to 1992 including Moulin Rouge, Van Helsing, Blinky Bill, Peter Rabbit and Australia. His TV credits include A Country Practice, Sons and Daughters, Come in Spinner, Police Rescue, Blue Healers, SeaChange, Les Norton.

His public persona is that of the intelligent and handsome pinup.

Tessa MacKay’s portrait captures Wenham sitting in a café looking out across the streetscape building. whereas the portrait of Bill Hunter is almost devoid of background, Mackay places Wenham in an urban environment merging the blues and greys of his clothes with the background of the buildings and the sky.

He is also placed in the nondescript jumble of the café: the sugar, the salt container, a pot plant. There are s treet signs outside. Is Wenham considering the meaning of Lewis Carroll’s Alice through the looking glass?

Probably not. Nothing to suggest he is considering whether to buy another coffee.

Some things are so bad, sometimes I struggle to find words for them: Victorian Liberal MP Bernie Finn is one of them.

The AGE reports: Victorian Liberal MP Bernie Finn has repeated his view that survivors of rape should not be allowed to have abortions, saying “everybody should be given a chance” to live.

Finn has denied that his controversial views on abortion could affect the Liberal Party at November’s state election. CREDIT:JASON SOUTH

This man is a Liberal party member of the Victorian Parliament. He has been there for 23 years.

It’s only a step away from the countries which demand that women who have been raped have to marry their rapist.

Yet Bernie Finn has continued as a member of the Victorian Liberal Party for 23 years. There must be women who are voting for him.

Do they not understand what he represents? Perhaps they don’t care. Perhaps they agree.

Must we assume that the other members of the Liberal party do understand and do agree.

It is almost impossible to imagine the trauma of rape but to combine that with the conflict of carrying and bearing the rapist child is unspeakable.

But Bernie clearly has neither the imagination to consider that.