Archive for February, 2009

Only a fool does the same thing twice and expects a different outcome

A couple hours ago, independent Senator Nick Xenophon joined the coalition in opposing the Rudd Government’s $42 billion economic stimulus package. Senator Xenophon’s move locked the vote at 35 votes for and 35 votes against the package, which means that it has been blocked.

But this isn’t good enough for Kevin Rudd who has decided that, if the Senate don’t vote the right way the first time, perhaps they will the second time around. He’s reintroducing the same legislation in the House of Representatives so that it can be debated in the Senate again tomorrow.

I don’t see how the stimulus package will be passed in its current form, so I can only assume that Mr. Rudd intends on pushing it through any way possible. If it fails to be passed this time, then he will be well on the way to a trigger for a double dissolution…and until that three month period is reached, he can just keep introducing the same bill over and over and over. It’s certainly the impression that he gave when he told the parliament that he will not be deterred from taking “whatever action is necessary” in the national economic interest.

If Mr. Rudd were to take this all the way to a double dissolution, it would certainly be a very bold election promise: “Vote for me and I’ll give you $950…err $900 due to the amendments.” It would probably be very popular, and it would certainly test Malcolm Turnbull’s ability to both effectively argue against the stimulus package and make the electorate like his own policies.

Whatever happens, we’re in for some interesting times in the near future.

Samuel

3 comments February 12th, 2009 at 06:53pm

Design Flaw

A hearty congratulations to the numb skull at Nokia who managed to design a phone that can only work out that it has no room left for new text messages when it is receiving one, which it is then unable to store.

Often the phone network will re-deliver the message later, however as I have no idea how many hours passed between the arrival of today’s missing message and my noticing that the phone was urging me to delete old messages, I am starting to doubt that this message will ever be seen by me.

If you sent me a text message today, you should re-send it, because I haven’t seen it.

Or better yet, call me. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again…I hate text messages, I only put up with them due to necessity.

Samuel

February 7th, 2009 at 07:52pm

Reminder: Canberra Raiders Sports Club acquisition of West Belconnen Leagues Club voting closes today

Update: Acquisition approved in a landslide vote. Click here for details. End Update

Title says it all really. The voting on the proposed acquisition closes today and I strongly urge Raiders Sports Club members to vote against the acquisition. For my reasoning, take a look at the linked article.

The results of the ballot will be published in The Canberra Times next Friday (February 13) and on the notice boards of the four Raiders clubs.

I will be republishing the results here, along with my commentary if I deem a commentary to be necessary.

Samuel

February 6th, 2009 at 09:34am

These people are in charge of the US economy?

US President Barack Obama writing an opinion piece for the Washington Post (registration required to read the linked article):

Because each day we wait to begin the work of turning our economy around, more people lose their jobs, their savings and their homes. And if nothing is done, this recession might linger for years. Our economy will lose 5 million more jobs. Unemployment will approach double digits. Our nation will sink deeper into a crisis that, at some point, we may not be able to reverse.

An irreversible recession? A recession that lasts forever? Is this really the same man who ushered in a new era of hope and not fear only a few short weeks ago? He’s been such a positive person, and now he’s trying to scare everyone with a recession which lasts forever…well I suppose it is a remote possibility, but he’d need lessons from Robert Mugabe first…and even then the recession will end eventually.

Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the house, on more than one occasion:

every month that we do not have an economic recovery package 500 million Americans lose their jobs

In fact, we have video of her saying it:

As far as I can tell she only used “500 million” as a monthly figure once, but it hardly matters because there is a fundamental flaw here, regardless of whether it’s a monthly or a static figure…have you spotted it yet?

The population of the US is just under 307 million people. That’s every man, woman and child…every retired person, every baby, every housewife, every invalid…everyone. There are not even 300 million people working in the US, but somehow they will shed half a billion jobs every month.

And then, well there are plenty of articles that I can’t be bothered digging up right now, but this sound bite from the Sean Hannity show neatly sums up the comical tax problems plaguing the Democrat officials:

At this rate, it would probably be more likely for the US to have a permanent recession if the Obama administration are allowed to touch the economy!

Samuel

February 6th, 2009 at 05:52am

Facebook

An email to KXNT’s Morning Source Alan Stock:

Hi Alan,

I went in to the whole facebook thing, and all of my friends are on there, but I’m like you, I don’t get it.

The damn thing drove me completely nuts with all of these people that I barely knew from school bothering me with all sorts of useless information and invitations. I hated the whole thing, and I deleted my facebook account as a new year’s resolution last year, and I’ve kept it…I ain’t going back.

I’m much happier with my small group of physical friends who I can keep in touch with by phone, email and in person.

And I’m a bit like you in so far as I am too busy with my life, my blog and following the news cycle and my personal interests to be bothered with facebook.

Regards,
Samuel Gordon-Stewart
Canberra, Australia

“Samuel is waiting desperately for the morning flip so he can make an international phone call”.

Update: I did manage to get through to the morning flip, twice in fact. The first time Telstra managed to provide me with a bizarre scratchy connection which Alan described as sounding like an old 78 record. He couldn’t hear me, but I could almost hear him.

When I got through the second time it was actually physically possible (thank you Telstra, pity I don’t get a refund on the unintelligible connection) I was able to quickly flip off Barack Obama for his salary limiting legislation, and flip up Kevin Rudd for ruling out similar legislation here despite pressure from Bob Brown.

Hopefully KXNT podcast today’s “flip” segment because it was quite amusing. It’s really a bit of fun with a few people throwing serious stuff in. They seem to have some serial pests who must rack up some hefty phone bills dialling the KXNT phone number constantly for ten minutes every morning just to make a fool of themselves. End Update

February 6th, 2009 at 02:52am

That would explain why they want to get the stimulus through so quickly

As much as I still think the Rudd government’s stimulus package is a good idea, albeit with a couple minor problems, after sitting in on a couple hours of senate proceedings today as they debated the bills which make up the stimulus package, I am left with a few points of contention.

It was clear from the moment that Kevin Rudd started going on about how any delay in passing the bills was an afront to the funding of schools, rather than an afront to our economic recovery, that Kevin was trying to produce better headlines than anything which could be unearthed by the parliament in a comprehensive review of the bills. Based on the sheer size of the stimulus package, which is the largest non-budget spend by the Australian Government in history, if there was nothing hiding in the pages of the bills then Kevin would have copped the delay on the chin, knowing that such complicated legislation deserves to be debated…a point his side of the parliament were keen to make when the Work Choices bill was passed in about two weeks.

Anyway, on with the points of contention.

It would appear that somewhere in these bills, the Rudd government plans on increasing the government’s maximum allowable debt from $75 billion to $200 billion. This isn’t to say that they will run out and spend up as soon as the bills go through, but the fact that they even want this extra allowable debt is a worry.

From my perspective, it either means that the Rudd government think things are going to get a whole lot worse despite their stimulus package, or they are planning a splurge in the next budget. Either way, a $200 billion dollar debt, regardless of how it is racked up, is just not acceptable. One of the reasons that we are in as good a position as we are when compared to the rest of the world, is that we have run federal budget surpluses for so long.

$200 billion is just not on. That bit of the bill needs to be removed before the stimulus is passed.

The coalition senators presented an interesting proposal to the senate. They believe that a better stimulus for small business than some of the incentives which have been put forward (the rebates for various expensive items, rebates which the businesses won’t see until July 1 or later, and which they can only get if they spend money now, at a time when their cash flow is poor and they probably can’t afford to spend the money) is having the federal government pay some of the superannuation contribution (I think they said two of the current nine percent compulsory super contribution which, to clarify, would mean 7% paid by employer and 2% paid by government) for businesses with 20 employees or less, for the next two years. Effectively this frees up money for the business to spend as it needs.

I agree with the idea, and it would certainly be more helpful than the nutty “rebates on computers which cost more than $2000” (if the public service were buying $2000+ desktop computers for desk jockeys I’d be furious at the waste of money…I don’t know why the government expects small business to waste money like that), although I still believe that the idea of reallocating the cash injections and small business incentives so that they become smaller cash injections for individuals as well as cash injections for small business would be a good idea. Perhaps we could reallocate the $3.9 billion “house insulation for all, so that we can cut greenhouse gas emissions” plan (which apparently won’t cut greenhouse emissions at all) in to the “superannuation contribution” fund.

The next things on my list are observations which aren’t about the proposal, but about the odd behaviour of Labor to date on this one.

Firstly, Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard did not vote on the bill when it passed through the house of representatives at 5am. Sure, they’re busy people, but parliament sits for long hours when incredibly important legislation is being discussed. For the leader and deputy leader of the party which are vigorously supporting the bill to not stay and take part in the vote is an insult to the parliament and to the constituents (I was going to use the word “voters” but that could have been confusing in that context). It does make me wonder what they will do if the legislation doesn’t pass through the senate…will they try to wriggle out of trouble by saying that they “didn’t vote for it, and by the way here’s a smaller package which we’ve already shown to Malcolm who seems to like it”?

I’m also amazed that not a single Labor senator has put themself on the list of speakers for this bill. It could be a tactic whereby they just listen to the ideas of everyone else and then the party room make amendments based on these suggestions for senators to tack on to the bills, or it could be a simple case of “how dare you block our bill, and how dare you waste our time by rambling for days on end in parliament when we could have moved on to other topics”.

I’d suggest that it’s more likely to be the latter, although if the numbers start looking particularly dicey, then it may become the former for emergency purposes. It’s such a pity that Kevin has decided today to only listen to the minor parties (and even then, not act on their suggestions) though…especially when the coalition make up a lot more numbers than the minor parties, meaning that more people voted for, and are represented by, the coalition than the minor parties.

Ultimately though, I do still support the plan, although I would be happier with it if there were a few amendments.

If I’m not at work when the senate next debate the stimulus bills, then I intend on watching the senate webstream and “live blogging” as the debate rages.

Samuel

February 5th, 2009 at 10:31pm

Stimulus Take Two

I have now had some time to give Kevin Rudd’s latest stimulus package some thought and debate its merits and some of my opinions with a few people, and come to some conclusions.

On the whole, I think the stimulus package is good idea and it should work, but there are a couple things which I would change. The main thing which makes the plan a good one is that it throws money at the free market to enable it to do what it does best…decide where money needs to be spent in order to keep itself operating. It would appear to me that the idea behind the package is to make the economy tick over in much the same way that it would if these were normal circumstances.

The focus of the package is both on short term cash injections, and medium term job promotion.

I was very surprised to hear Kevin Rudd reintroduce the “education revolution” phrase with this stimulus package, but if this is what he meant by “education revolution” then I think the idea has merit, even if I wouldn’t personally call it an “education revolution”. Throwing money at schools, to spend on infrastructure is really a plan for the medium term. It basically gives money to schools to then give to private enterprise, so that they can then build various things, and employ labourers to do the work, which in turn assists the industries which supply the construction and maintenance industries by creating more demand for their products.

The same can be said for other infrastructure programs.

The short term cash injections come in the form of payments to individuals with many individuals set to receive $950. The government are asking people to spend that money, but as they are giving out cash payments (or, more likely, deposits in to taxpayers’ bank accounts) it is clear that they understand that not everyone will spend the money straight away, and they are fine with this. If they weren’t fine with it, then they would be giving everyone Visa Debit cards loaded with $950 and a one month time limit, after which the government gets the unused money back and spends it on other stuff.

Personally I won’t be spending the money straight away, simply because my circumstances dictate that my best use of the money is to kill off my existing debt (which I could do with the $950) which would then allow me to save money to put towards domestic travel. I haven’t been able to shake this debt for a very long time, so rather than blowing $950 on stuff that I don’t actually need right now and contending with this debt for the foreseeable future, I would be better off killing my debt now, and spending stimulus package number three (aka the end of financial year tax return) without keeping myself in a debt that I would still have to pay off.

This fits my circumstances, and probably doesn’t fit the circumstances of the majority of people. The bottom line on this is that the stimulus package is designed to support the free market economy, and in a free market, it is up to each individual to spend money as they see fit. Kevin Rudd quite rightly expects that most people will spend their stimulus package…most people will probably see it is a bit of welcome relief…I know that I do, but I probably have a different way of spending it.

I still fit within the spirit in which the money is given, as I am bringing forward the spending of money. Without the stimulus package, I would probably be saving until a bit after my tax return in order to wipe that debt. Instead I will be able to free up that money straight away, clearing a debt from my bank’s ledger, and allowing them to either have less debt, or to reallocate the funds which were leant to me.

The one thing which I do see as a significant problem is the bizarre incentives being given to small business to spend money, in the form of rebates. This doesn’t help NOW, and is hardly likely to make business spend money which they don’t currently have.

I was debating this point with a friend last night and they had the idea of scrapping the personal cash injections in favour of cash injections to small business, on the basis that 80% (a figure which I haven’t had a chance to verify, but sounds about right) of money is spent on business-to-business transactions, and the other 20% is consumer-to-business.

I don’t agree with scrapping the personal cash injections entirely, but what I would suggest is taking the large chunk of money which has been allocated to personal cash injections, combine it with the chunk of money which has been allocated to small business rebates, and split it between cash injections for personal citizens and small businesses. The only condition I would place on this is that the injections for small business would need to be under a time-limited scheme, where the money must be spent, probably within a two month period.

In this way, you would be attacking the slowdown on two fronts, the retail end, and the wholesale/B2B (business to business) end, which I think would be a more effective way of kicking the economy in to gear than only throwing money at the retail end in the short term.

I do have one other minor concern with the package, and that is that, due to the sheer size of it, it’s a one-off stimulus. This can not be repeated. It is therefore a gamble on taking the national budget in to debt, on the basis that whilst we tide ourselves over with a stimulus package, the rest of the world economy will start to recover. It’s a risk, but I think it is worth it. Even if the gamble fails, at least it will help to ensure that our economy doesn’t suffer anywhere near as badly as some overseas will and are.

On the very bright side, the main reason that I believe this will work, is that it flies in the face of Kevin Rudd’s summer holiday essay about ending capitalism. By its very nature, this stimulus package is supporting capitalism and the free market…it says “here’s some money, you know how best to spend it, go forth and do as you see fit”. It doesn’t have any of the bizarre “limit incomes because money shouldn’t go to the people who are in charge” directives that the Obama administration are supporting and is, on the whole, one of the best policies that I have seen from the Rudd government. It’s a tad rough around the edges, but so is every bit of legislation at first. A bit of massaging by the senate and it should be good, as long as the Greens don’t hijack it with their own “but Obama is doing this in the US, we should follow him” agenda.

And on that note, I’m off to Parliament House. There’s senate massaging to watch!

Samuel

February 5th, 2009 at 05:06pm

One does have to wonder what’s happened this time

I’ll admit that I was surprised when I noted that there was no rain falling in Sydney last night, because the signal 2CC were receiving via satellite certainly sounded like it was being interfered with by heavy rain. All of that wonderful half-intelligible audio and erroneous pulses…actually one of the erroneous pulses was quite interesting, I haven’t heard a weather update, the top of hour IDP and an ad break simultaneously before.

This was all between 7:30pm and 8:30pm, and by the time I checked in again after midnight, there was dead air. I had better things to do than leave a radio on to see when the next bit of sound might seep out of it, but I did check back every forty minutes or so, and as far as I can tell they returned to normal around 4am.

This does make me wonder what’s going on today. I didn’t hear any of the Steve Price show, but at the moment Tim Webster’s show appears to be being sourced from the 2UE webstream, and according to a media spy contributor, 2HD Newcastle were sourcing the Steve Price show from the 2UE webstream as well.

I suppose I should check 2AY this afternoon to see how the Derryn Hinch show sounds, because I’d be interested to find out if this is a localised issue or not. If the satellite feed is “wonky” on a national basis, then I wonder how Hamish and Andy will be distributed to the FM stations this afternoon?

Still, it’s all speculation at this stage, so I’ll go and have lunch, and then jot down my thoughts on Kevin Rudd’s stimulus package.

Update: Word has it that 2UE are having issues with the link from their studios to the Channel Nine tower which has the dish linking them to the network. In other words, I’d be wasting my time checking if the the 3AW or various FM Drive shows are having similar issues as they shouldn’t be affected…as long as they don’t use the same link from the heap of equipment at the UE building anyway. I might check for the fun of it! End Update

Samuel

2 comments February 5th, 2009 at 12:44pm

Quick questions about Rudd’s latest stimulus package

I’ve just checked through a bunch of news sources, and I can only assume that either no journalist has bothered to check the details, or the government’s papers, which Kevin Rudd claimed the answers could be seen in during his speech, don’t have the answer.

ABC News appear to have gone in to the most detail (albeit in a less-than-clear way, see “edit 1” below for details) on this segment of the stimulus package:

Millions of Australians are also set to benefit from $12.7 billion worth of tax bonuses and one off payments to low and middle-income households, farmers, single-income families and students.

Those earning up to $80,000 are eligible for a tax bonus of $950, while those earning between $80,000 and $90,000 will receive $600 and those earning between $90,000 and $100,000 will receive $300.

The Government estimate almost 10 million Australians will be eligible for the bonuses.

A cash payment of $950 will also be given to single-income families, farmers facing hardship, parents with children heading back to school and students and unemployed people returning to study.

The cash payments will be released next month and the bonuses from April.

The Government says the cash payments are immediate measures to support jobs and strengthen growth during the global recession.

Question 1: At what point in time are these annualised income figured being derived? I assume that it would have to be June 30 last year, which would be the latest reliable figures which the government have to work with.

Question 2: Assuming June 30 to be the date for calculations, are the calculations based on the entire 2007/2008 financial year, or the pay week/fortnight/month leading up to the end of the financial year?

Question 3: The unemployment rate is rising, but not everyone who is unemployed can be bothered wasting time going through Centrelink’s tediously slow application and ongoing “we need to check up on you” processes when it is often simpler to just go and find a job. With this as the case, the Centrelink figures are not necessarily a true indication of the people who are actually unemployed at this very moment. People who are unemployed are almost certainly making less money right now than they did on June 30…how do you take this in to consideration when deciding how much to pay them?

Question 4: A more specific example: I was employed on June 30, I was not employed for parts of July and August, I was then employed from August through until December, I am again unemployed, however I am awaiting official confirmation of the starting date for a new job which will probably be next week. At the times where I was employed, I probably pushed the household income slightly over 80K, obviously the household income was a long way under 80K when I wasn’t employed, and when I start work again the household income will probably be just under 80K. How much does my household get from the stimulus?
Edit 1: It looks like this package is being paid to individuals rather than to households, although it’s difficult to see that from the ABC article which refers to “one off payments to low and middle-income households”. As such, my example doesn’t make much sense any more as I never personally was being paid 80K, although there was one pay week where, if my pay was extrapolated out to an annualised amount, I would have been earning about 120K, which would have invalidated me for the payment. As such, my question still stands under the changed wording of “how much do I get from the stimulus?” End Edit

Question 5: When I bothered Centrelink briefly to discuss my options, they wanted to call me “independent” because of the amount of income I have derived. Does this effectively make me a household unto myself for the purposes of the stimulus?
Edit 2: Question retracted, see not above for reason. End Edit

Question 6: Working on the assumption that “household” is defined by the property boundary, how do you distribute the stimulus when there are three adults living in the household?
Edit 3: Question retracted, see not above for reason. End Edit

Question 7: Do you have an actual date for the payments?

I could probably think of more, but that will do for now.

I’ll need some time to digest the rest of the stimulus package before thinking aloud about it on this blog.

Samuel

February 3rd, 2009 at 03:51pm

Awww, I missed two protests in as many days

Yesterday there was a protest about the Northern Territory intervention which was held outside the High Court (the protest that is, not the intervention), but I got the date wrong and as such missed my opportunity to antagonise the protesters with “Support the intervention” signs.

Today there was some “let’s form a human ring around parliament house to stop global warming” protest. I remember hearing about the protest a week or two ago but didn’t take note of the date. Pity, I could have annoyed them with “climate change is natural” signs and, if I’d really been on the ball, one-page fact sheets outlining why the changes in our climate are perfectly natural…I would have had fun producing those fact sheets, and my use of paper and ink would have been of more use to the economy than the protest.

Oh well, the good thing about protests like these is that they will keep happening, and I will get my chance again. Oh, and listening to Sean Hannity talking about the tax cheats and the lobbyists in the Obama administration (Obama promised to not have any lobbyists) this morning on KXNT Las Vegas was much more interesting than any session of “antagonise the global warmers” could have been, although probably not quite as satisfying.

Samuel

February 3rd, 2009 at 03:17pm

I’d love to see the witness statements

It’s good to see the Africans getting back in on the bizarre news act…the Chinese have had a virtual monopoly on strange news stories for a bit too long:

Newspaper claims car thief transformed into a goat
Fri Jan 23, 8:37 pm ET

LAGOS, Nigeria – One of Nigeria’s biggest daily newspapers reported that police implicated a goat in an attempted automobile theft. In a front-page article on Friday, the Vanguard newspaper said that two men tried to steal a Mazda car two days earlier in Kwara State, with one suspect transforming himself into a goat as vigilantes cornered him.

The paper quoted police spokesman Tunde Mohammed as saying that while one suspect escaped, the other transformed into a goat as he was about to be apprehended.

The newspaper reported that police paraded the goat before journalists, and published a picture of the animal.

Police in the state couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Belief in black magic is widespread in Nigeria, particularly in far-flung rural areas.

It gives a whole new meaning to kids stealing cars.

Samuel

February 1st, 2009 at 04:54pm

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