Thursday, July 14, 2011

real debates reveal details

Is there anything more painful than having your variable trapped inside an exponential function?

If only I'd known.
Ted Bailleu, Premier of Victoria, has finally made a decision to support the MYKI public transport system. As part of that decision he has decided to abolish occasional tickets, which means that even tourists and other visitors will have to pay $10 [until the price increases] to buy a MYKI smartcard then add $3.80 credit to it if they only want a 2 hour ticket.
For a little while visitors might say "if only I'd known", or even express stronger sentiments. This problem should only be temporary though, because soon everyone will avoid Melbourne and Victoria like the plague.

Way to go, Ted.

The whole carbon tax has my tummy in such a kerfuffle that the voice of John O'Brien is whispering inside my head:

"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
In accents most forlorn,
Outside the church, ere Mass began,
One frosty Sunday morn.

The congregation stood about,
Coat-collars to the ears,
And talked of stock, and crops, and drought,
As it had done for years.

"It's looking crook," said Daniel Croke;
"Bedad, it's cruke, me lad,
For never since the banks went broke
Has seasons been so bad."

"It's dry, all right," said young O'Neil,
With which astute remark
He squatted down upon his heel
And chewed a piece of bark.

And so around the chorus ran
"It's keepin' dry, no doubt."
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"Before the year is out."

"The crops are done; ye'll have your work
To save one bag of grain;
From here way out to Back-o'-Bourke
They're singin' out for rain.

"They're singin' out for rain," he said,
"And all the tanks are dry."
The congregation scratched its head,
And gazed around the sky.

"There won't be grass, in any case,
Enough to feed an ass;
There's not a blade on Casey's place
As I came down to Mass."

"If rain don't come this month," said Dan,
And cleared his throat to speak -
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"If rain don't come this week."

A heavy silence seemed to steal
On all at this remark;
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed a piece of bark.

"We want an inch of rain, we do,"
O'Neil observed at last;
But Croke "maintained" we wanted two
To put the danger past.

"If we don't get three inches, man,
Or four to break this drought,
We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"Before the year is out."

In God's good time down came the rain;
And all the afternoon
On iron roof and window-pane
It drummed a homely tune.

And through the night it pattered still,
And lightsome, gladsome elves
On dripping spout and window-sill
Kept talking to themselves.

It pelted, pelted all day long,
A-singing at its work,
Till every heart took up the song
Way out to Back-o'-Bourke.

And every creek a banker ran,
And dams filled overtop;
"We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"If this rain doesn't stop."

And stop it did, in God's good time;
And spring came in to fold
A mantle o'er the hills sublime
Of green and pink and gold.

And days went by on dancing feet,
With harvest-hopes immense,
And laughing eyes beheld the wheat
Nid-nodding o'er the fence.

And, oh, the smiles on every face,
As happy lad and lass
Through grass knee-deep on Casey's place
Went riding down to Mass.

While round the church in clothes genteel
Discoursed the men of mark,
And each man squatted on his heel,
And chewed his piece of bark.

"There'll be bush-fires for sure, me man,
There will, without a doubt;
We'll all be rooned," said Hanrahan,
"Before the year is out."

The carbon tax debate was not a debate it was an announcement with no detail. 
Members of the media promptly decided which point of view their readers/viewers would most like to hear supported, and the country is now divided quite heatedly on the issue. [For a look at the media’s performance and the tax details take a look at John’s blog.]
Only with the Greens about to take the balance of power in the senate were the details finally made available.
The performance of the Labor Party on this issue has been as patronising and simplistic as anything the media can dream up.

I'm not suggesting tax or other financial decisions are simple. To the contrary, selecting one option and then shoving it down people's throats is precisely what I am unhappy about. A debate is supposed to consist not just of the single question "shall we" but also several questions of "how shall we".

We don't need the mathematical skills to generate [much less examine] economic models ourselves, but most of us are capable of asking exactly what assumptions have been factored into the modelling on which these decisions are based.

Here are some of my own assumptions about the consequences of tackling carbon emissions this way:
This is an incredibly silly time to be sucking money out of circulation.
Many European Union countries are in dire straits financially. US debt has reached such a level that there is currently a standoff over supply funds. The GFC is by no means over.

In Australia, our dollar is overpriced because there is a booming mining sector. The rest of Australia – the Australia where most of us live, is sliding into recession.
There have been multiple announcements of job losses - 2nd and 3rd tier motor parts suppliers, Heinz, Australian Envelopes etc. The rate of job creation has slowed. Building approvals are down. The cost of basic services has risen sharply over the last few years. None of these are seasonal events, but they are all important indicators of economic health.

Despite a promise [there's that word again] that we will have an independent body to oversee investments in new technologies, this will become another government spending debacle, only this time a debacle of monumental proportions.

Whether we are training dogs, people or consumers, positive reinforcement will always achieve more than negative reinforcement. 
A far more effective way – and a more timely way – of generating successful investment in new energy technologies is through generous tax write-offs against profits generated. The only way to see if a new technology is viable and profitable is to reward the businesses that actually make it happen - after they make it happen. 
When these corporations are up and running and succeeding consumers will follow.
How many alternative approaches to carbon reduction were modelled by Treasury?

To put a price on carbon at home, while we are still digging great hunks of coal and uranium out of the ground and exporting them – and relying on that income – is ludicrous.

If I had believed we must have a carbon tax immediately, and have one no matter what the cost, I could have voted for the Greens. With the Greens we could have had an equally unappealing result, offset by a more reasonable approach to gay marriage, and an infinitely more moral attitude to asylum seekers.

If only I had known, Julia, if only I had known.

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