16 October 2004

Labor returns to power in Canberra

Ha! Gotcha! Sadly, it's only the ACT. Still, the 'landslide' received by the Man of Steel did not last all that long. More on that when the final figures are posted. The number of seats changing hands in the House of Representatives really does not indicate a landslide. The ACT result does not indicate an opposition headed for permanent oblivion.

Stanhope claims 'unprecedented' ACT victory
Chief Minister Jon Stanhope has claimed victory in the ACT election, with the Labor Party set to secure at least nine of the Assembly's 17 seats, the Territory's first ever majority.

"It is a fantastic result for the Labor Party. It's a tremendous victory and at least a 6 per cent swing across the board," he said.

"That is an unprecedented result for not just the Labor Party but any political party in Australia. In two elections we have increased our support by 22 per cent.

"This result is a vindication of how we have governed."

Liberal leader Brendan Smyth conceded defeat but says it is by no means a train wreck.

"Where are we? It's quite apparent that the Labor Party will be returned to government. They clearly have eight seats and there's a Green," Mr Smyth said.

"I'd like to say congratulations to John Stanhope and his colleagues for a return to government. I wish you well."

Labor could possibly take 10 seats, the Liberal Party is expected to retain its six seats, with the Greens occupying the cross bench.

It's hard to compile an ACT two party preferred at this stage of counting but the results are impressive.

Low-cost climate-change insurance could help ensure better future

The least cost, the researchers found, is to implement a carbon tax that starts out at $10 per ton of carbon (about five cents per gallon of gasoline) and then gradually climbs to $33 per ton in 30 years. Such hedging effectively “buys insurance” against future adjustment costs and is extremely robust, especially when compared with a wait-and-see strategy.

“It would be much less expensive to buy low-cost, climate-change insurance now, than it would be to wait and act later,” Schlesinger said. People voluntarily purchase insurance as protection from extreme events when the risks are private, he said, but societies can require insurance when potential losses are distributed across a population. In the past, risk has influenced policies where voluntary action could prove insufficient.

“In the United States, for example, we allow drivers to decide how much insurance to carry, but we require minimum levels of coverage,” Schlesinger said. “We also allow individuals to choose how much to contribute to their retirements, but we use Social Security taxes to guarantee minimum levels of income protection.”

The study incorporates the uncertainty in the sensitivity of the climate system estimated by Andronova and Schlesinger in 2001 by using a simple atmosphere/ocean model to reproduce the observed temperature change from 1856 to 1997 for 16 combinations of the radiative forcing by greenhouse gases, the sun and volcanoes.

“Recent work by five independent research teams has shown that climate sensitivity could be larger than the 4.5 degrees Celsius upper bound published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change,” Schlesinger said. “In fact, climate sensitivities as high as 9 degrees Celsius are not implausible.”

Paralysis in near-term action could make temperature targets as low as 3 degrees Celsius impossible to achieve if the climate sensitivity turns out to be higher than 6 degrees Celsius, Schlesinger said, and the cost of adjustment measured in terms of discounted gross global product could be many times higher for lower climate sensitivities if nothing were done for 30 years.

The Man of Steel has built a political career arguing the evils of moral hazard. Somehow the need to plan ahead and make prudent arrangements for the future does not exist when it comes to climate change.

Nuclear material taken by experts not looters, say diplomats

The removal of Iraq's mothballed nuclear facilities took about a year and was carried out by experts with heavy machinery and demolition equipment, diplomats close to the United Nations have said.

The UN nuclear watchdog, which monitored Saddam Hussein's nuclear sites before the US-led invasion last year, told the UN Security Council this week that equipment and materials that could be used to make atomic weapons had been vanishing from Iraq but neither Baghdad nor Washington had noticed.

'This process carried on at least through 2003 ... and probably into 2004, at least in early 2004,' a Western diplomat close to the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

US, British and Iraqi officials have downplayed the disappearance of the equipment, saying it was part of widespread looting after the March 2003 invasion, which the US, Britain and Australia said was to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.

However, several diplomats close to the nuclear agency said on Thursday that this was not the result of haphazard looting.

They said the removal of this dual-use equipment - which until the war was tagged and closely monitored by the agency to ensure that it was not being used in a weapons program - was planned and executed by people who knew what they were doing.

It really is extraordinary that the Coalition of the Willing is so good at churning out lies to explain away its failures. It's almost as if explaining away how the war to contain nuclear weapons became the single greatest proliferation event of the decade was more important than stopping the actual proliferation.

15 October 2004

ACT goes Family Last

ACT election mirrors federal campaign:
MATT BROWN: Canberra is having its election now because the ACT has fixed three-year terms and Jon Stanhope says the national election has largely drowned out the local campaign.

JON STANHOPE: It's been very hard to get the message out, to communicate, to grab the space in both newspapers and the electronic media.

MATT BROWN: That may have made it difficult for the Opposition to make the case for change and in response the Liberal Party has bought itself an advertising blitz in the last week.

BRENDAN SMITH: And let's face it, there's voter fatigue out there. We've had six weeks of the federal and now we've got one week of the ACT free and clear, so yes we concentrated it in the last week and we've concentrated on a couple of key issues.

MATT BROWN: In the dying stages of the campaign, Liberal leader Brendan Smith has been denying Government claims that his election promises have a $400 million hole in them.

BRENDAN SMITH: The figures stand, I can deliver them.

MATT BROWN: The ACT voting system uses proportional representation to elect seventeen members of the legislative assembly from three separate electorates, and Jon Stanhope says that can throw up some anomalies.

JON STANHOPE: Because of the vagaries of the Hare-Clarke system you can actually win an election by more than 10 per cent of the primary vote and still not get an extra seat and that's a real possibility for us. It's one that I think would be something of a travesty.

MATT BROWN: But a poll commissioned by The Canberra Times and published this morning predicts a convincing Labor victory, and in a possible breakthrough, a government that will not rely on support from independents or minor parties.

Brendan Smith is still hoping the voters of Canberra will turn his way but, if not then he is prepared to work with all comers.

The big difference between the ACT legislative assembly and the senate is that the ACT does not allow ticket voting. I had hoped to see how Family First did without the advantage of preferencing deals with the ALP. Sadly, they're not running so the Wallace thesis cannot be tested.

And just for the record...
Canberra's own election: "
First election for the Legislative Assembly held in 1989. Others in 1992, 1995, 1998, 2001. No party has ever had an outright majority.

ELECTORS About 225,000.

CURRENT ASSEMBLY Seventeen members: eight Labor, six Liberal, one Greens, one Democrats, one independent.

VOTING METHOD Proportional representation under Hare-Clark system. Electronic voting - an Australian first - in some booths.

SEATS Three, each returning multiple members: seven from the central one, Molonglo, and five each from Ginnindera in the north and Brindabella in the south.

CANDIDATES Brindabella 21, Ginnindera 23, Molonglo 33.

Ticket voting should be abolished. At minimum the NSW practice of letting above-the-line voters determine their own preferences should be adopted. And the Victorian ALP head office should hang their heads in shame.

13 October 2004

Will Terror Alert Level Show Its True Colors?

A Cornell sociologist says he has found scientific evidence that, whenever the government issues a terrorism alert, President Bush's approval ratings go up, even on domestic issues, such as his handling of the economy.

Robb Willer, assistant director of the Sociology and Small Groups Laboratory at Cornell -- someone else runs Large Groups? -- tracked about 26 occasions since 2001, including the major Code Orange alerts by the Department of Homeland Security, when some agency -- the FBI, the State Department or someone else -- announced a potential threat to Americans.

He tracked those with 131 Gallup polls taken during that time up until May. Willer, a doctoral candidate in sociology, found that, on average, each warning prompted a 2.75 point increase in the president's approval rating the following week.

Willer said yesterday that his research 'controlled' for various things such as the Afghan war, the beginning of the Iraq war and the capture of Saddam Hussein, though not for economic good news or other positive developments. His study says he conducted 'several time-series analyses' and used 'regression models' and stuff like that.

Government terrorist warnings boost President Bush's approval ratings, a Cornell sociologist finds
Willer's study is published in the Sept. 30 issue of Current Research in Social Psychology , a peer-reviewed online journal, at http://www.uiowa.edu/%7Egrpproc/crisp/crisp10_1.pdf .

When Willer linked the warnings to presidential ratings from 2001 to 2004, he found that each terror warning prompted, on average, a 2.75 point increase in the president's approval rating the following week.

Willer points to the aftermath of the Sep. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States as an example of the tendency. After Sept. 11, 2001, approval of Bush's job performance jumped from 51 percent on Sept. 10, 2001, to 86 percent on Sept. 15, 2001, in a Gallup Poll. Similarly, approval for Bush's handling of the economy jumped from 54 percent on July 11, 2001, to 72 percent on Oct. 5, 2001, says Willer.The findings are consistent with social identity theory, says Willer. The theory postulates that individuals tend to identify with a specific group to the extent that they see themselves as more similar to the members of the group than to its most significant out-group.

"Once individuals identify with a group, they develop significant biases toward their group, which help them maintain high self-esteem as members of their group. From the perspective of social identity theory, threats of attacks from foreigners increase solidarity and in-group identification among Americans, including feelings of stronger solidarity with their leadership," explains Willer.

When the out-group threat includes terror, Willer says that the social-identity effects are further heightened. He notes that his findings also are consistent with terror management theory, which indicates that threats involving mortality not only increase in-group biases but also nationalism. "This research suggests that individuals may respond to reminders of their mortality, like terror warnings, by supporting their current leaders," Willer says.

I always wondered why we hear so much abut threats at the same time as we hear so much about Coalition success in the War on Terror.

If you've got them by their advertising budgets, their hearts and minds will follow

The Australian media did not perform well in the federal election. The level of bad performance varies from the Fairfax management banning the editorials staff from an endorsement, to the convenient invention of terror incidents, to the general inability to even question the government's record or intentions.

Australian media have a patrimonial approach. Most of it is part of the Murdoch or Packer patrimonies, so that's hardly surprising. Various people (Murdoch and Packer) 'own' the media so they can print or broadcast what they like. In fact, they're entirely dependent on advertising. Ultimately we pay these people by paying the advertising costs they pass onto us through the price mechanism.

In the US, a broadcaster has decided to put out a slam piece on John Kerry just before the presidential election. Talking Points Memo has excellent coverage on how to respond. Our media are going to be excitable for the term of this government. The prospect of Howard controlling the Senate is their first chance in years to get the cross media laws repealed and may allow them to lock up cable as a monopoly forever. They really want stuff from the Man of Steel. But they still need advertisers...

Pandering to Howard's Whingers

Do you see what's happening? Just as Medicare Gold would have favoured people on the basis of their age rather than their need, so Howard has already changed the tax system to differentiate on the basis of age rather than ability to pay.

If you're old, you shouldn't be asked to pay tax. If you're on the same income but are a young couple saving for a home or a family, however, you should pay full freight. This sounds like a fair thing?

Today's young people are compelled to save for their superannuation while also paying taxes to cover their parents' and grandparents' pensions and prescriptions. They've been lumbered with HECS debts. And the Howard Government's economic miracle has priced them out of the housing market while delivering a huge, tax-free windfall gain to their home-owning oldies.

If the pollies can't control their urge to buy the oldies' votes at every successive election, they're pouring petrol on a generational powder keg that may one day blow up in all our faces.

Perhaps at the next election Labor might start contesting an economic miracle that has, for many, ended the Australian dream of owning a home. Or promoting generational equity rather than geriatric handouts. Or even addressing those Australians who do not fit into the ever-narrowing definition of family.

11 October 2004

How to achieve your own Cannae

The Senate runs on group voting tickets. It doesn't have to. People who voted Labor in Victoria did not have to tick the Labor ticket, they could have filled out their own order of preferences. My guess is that most Victorian Labor voters did not want and did not know that Labor above-the-line votes in Victoria run:

CARR Kim John
Australian Labor Party

CONROY Stephen M
Australian Labor Party

Australian Labor Party

Australian Labor Party

Ex-Service Service and Veterans Party

Ex-Service Service and Veterans Party

liberals for forests

Family First

We are facing Coalition control of the Senate for many reasons. One of them is the idiocy of the Labor group voting ticket in Victoria. Whoever was responsible should be falling on their sword right now.