Jul 6, 2019

A regular collection of links to writings and broadcasts in other media

ABC’s Saturday Extra (from 0730 to 0900 or on their website  in case you miss it). Hamish Macdonald will again be in the chair this week.

Women’s sport is scoring some big wins at the moment – so why are female athletes still having to argue for equal pay, equal airtime and equal respect?

In a recent ruling a federal judge granted employers access to an employee’s medical records – is this one more step in the increasing control employers have over private lives?

The closure of several WIN newsrooms is bad news for journalists, but it’s also bad for regional communities increasingly shut out from national debates. So what’s the future for local news? Well, for some like entrepreneurial editor and Deakin Uni student, Jack Nyhof, it’s created opportunities. But the larger picture looks less buoyant says Margaret Simons.

The face of South Korean K-pop is clean cut and innocent – but with several of its biggest name artists now caught up in a scandal involving female trafficking and drugs, the industry is taking a battering.

HBO’s Chernobyl has captivated audiences across the world – including viewers in Russia. But its emphasis on how the state failed its people has rattled Russian authorities … they’re planning their own televised version of events which blames the CIA.

Other commentary

Another opinion poll

This week saw the Dutton-Morrison Government bully the Senate into passing the hideously-named “Tax relief so working Australians keep more of their money” bill.  (There’s a budding Orwell somewhere in the bowels of Treasury.)  It also saw the first post-election opinion poll  from Essential, revealing that people’s priorities don’t align with those of the Government.  When polled on the stage 3 tax cuts 78 percent of respondents agreed that “maintaining funding for education and health is more important than cutting taxes for people earning more than $200 000”, while only 12 per cent disagreed. Even 74 percent of Coalition voters agreed. A clear majority of respondents, Coalition and Labor, agreed that “a $95 billion tax cut for high income earners will make it impossible for government to deliver essential services”.  (Essential is still not reporting on voting intention.)

Paul Bongiorno on politics

On Schwartz Media’s 7amPaul Bongiorno gives a short political commentary on the first week of Parliament. He starts with a post-mortem on Labor’s loss: the figures show that the protest vote went to One Nation and Pauline Hanson before flowing back to the Coalition. He then goes into Morrison’s religious beliefs, suggesting, counter to many other commentators’ opinion, that Morrison is a political pragmatist.

More advice from the Reserve Bank

On economic matters the Government is not only ignoring public opinion: it is also ignoring expert opinion. Once again Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe is urging the Government  to invest in infrastructure, not only to stimulate an economy in recession, but also to take advantage of low interest rates to make productive investments:

“This spending adds to demand in the economy and – provided the right projects are selected – it also adds to the country’s productive capacity. It is appropriate to be thinking about further investments in this area, especially with interest rates at a record low, the economy having spare capacity and some of our existing infrastructure struggling to cope with ongoing population growth.”

(What would shareholders think of a listed company that refused to invest in productive assets because its board was controlled by simpletons possessed by an anti-debt fetish?)

The far-left Marxist economist John Hewson, writing in that organ of radicalism The Canberra Times  has a few other suggestions  for stimulating the economy:  “More direct and immediate stimulation could come from an increase in Newstart – this should stimulate the spending of the lowest income earners – and, say, a rapid expansion of spending on social housing”.

Does anyone really know how monetary policy works?

Writing in Project Syndicate, Harvard Economics Professor Robert Barrow questions the relationship between interest rates and inflation. Examination of evidence from previous interest rate movements suggests that the established economic model, which posits an inverse relationship between interest rates and inflation, does not necessarily hold.  He asks what, then, is the reason inflation is so stubbornly low?

Buckle up: there are tough times ahead

That’s the headline of Peter Martin’s article in The Conversation, reporting on the economic forecasts of 20 leading economists. Their average estimate for economic growth in 2019-20 is  2.10 per cent.  By contrast Frydenberg’s budget estimate, upon which the Government’s program of tax cuts is based, is for economic growth of 2.75 percent. It is notable that in comparison with a similar survey in January, economists’ economic forecasts have become more gloomy.

(Martin’s advice to “buckle up” is in sharp contrast to Frydenberg’s exhortation to go out and spend. Frydenberg’s advice would make sound economic sense if the Coalition hadn’t spent its six years in office encouraging households to take on heavy debt, in the name of “aspiration”.  The wisest thing households can do with their $1080 refunds is to pay down debt, or to build a saving buffer for tough times.)

We all think we’re average Aussies

Whatever our means, we are subject to a bias that leads us to believe that our income is somewhere near the average.  The ABC’s Matt Martino has set up a website  where you can enter your income, guess where your income lies on the spectrum, and check your guess against reality.  Those with high incomes are strongly biased towards thinking their incomes are about “average”.  The general finding from such experiments is that people fail to appreciate the level of inequality in our society, which may help explain why it was so hard for Labor to pursue policies that would have seen a modest income re-distribution.

Is private health insurance worth it?

That’s the question addressed in the ABC’s 730 Report Health Divide Part 2.  (The hyperlink takes you to the 730 Report: scroll down to find the “Health Divide” series.) Policy advisor Jennifer Doggett confirms what most economists know: PHI is poor value-for-money. Terry Barnes, former political adviser to Tony Abbott when he was health minister, explains how PHI gives people a “chance to have things done quickly”. (He doesn’t point out, however, that when people use PHI others are pushed down the queue, thus lengthening public hospital waiting lists for elective procedures.) Professor Fiona Wood reminds us that “If you’re critically ill, Australia’s public hospitals will look after you”. Doggett also points out that there are inequities: “people who are well-resourced, educated, better-off, receive more health care and a higher standard of health care than those who are poorer and more disadvantaged”.

Dutton for Prime Minister

“We can pretend the PM has the ability to suppress corrosive ambition in his team. But that would be fantasy” is how The Guardian’s political editor Katharine Murphy describes Morrison’s hold on the top office.  Morrison’s response to Dutton’s successful putsch last August is to assert that we’ve all moved on, but Dutton is keeping the memory alive, insisting that he could have won the May election.

Murphy has another article  summarising highlights from Niki Savva’s book Plots and Prayers– those eight days of madness that have left a bitter legacy in the Parliamentary Liberal Party.

There are 12.2 million Christians in Australia, 12.0 million of whom don’t belong to the ACL

The Australian Christian Lobby have put themselves forward as spokespeople for all Christians, but their membership is only 135 000. The 2016 Census  reveals that of those 12.2 million identifying themselves as “Christian”, there are 5.3 million Catholics, 3.1 million Anglicans, and 1.9 million identifying with mainstream Protestant religions. Of the remaining 1.9 million, only 0.2 million identify themselves as “Pentecostal” (one of whom is the Prime Minister). Writing in theCanberra Times, John Warhurst reminds readers of those less strident Christians who are committed to social justice. For example, more than 150 religious leaders, mainly Christian but also Hindus, Jews and Muslims, have come together as the Australian Religious Response to Climate Change to urge the Prime Minister to show moral leadership and take action on climate change.

Writing in Eureka Street, law lecturer Chelsea Candy questions the moral priority  of raising $2 million for Israel Folau’s legal fees.  “As a former community lawyer, I can think of many ways $2 million might be spent to help those facing a battle with the law”.

Are the Democrats up to the task of throwing out Trump?

In a statement published in The Guardian that will surely resonate with Australians, former US Secretary of Labor (now professor of public policy at Berkeley) Robert Reich asks Americans to “imagine an opposition political party in a land being taken over by an oligarchy, headed by a would-be tyrant”. Next year’s election could be America’s last chance to halt the advance of the oligarchy’s takeover of politics, the courts and the media. Reich is dismayed to find the Democrats quibbling over policy details, rather than putting forward an assertive and principles-based policy platform, and taking up the fight against Trump with plans to get voters in swing states to become engaged.

Reich’s message  to the Democrats is echoed in Guy Rundle’s message to Labor in Crikey (paywalled), where he urges Labor to undertake a basic re-think, without which “the party will take on the character and psychology of a permanent opposition, living off the occasional point scored against a ‘natural party of government’, losing the ability to formulate a full alternative”.

Why Donald Trump will push Iran into a war

That’s the title of an article in the National Interest  by Paul Pillar of Georgetown University and the Brookings Institution. He has trouble making sense of the idea that Iran was the perpetrator of the attack on a Japanese oil tanker on the same day that Shinzo Abe was meeting with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. And why, he asks, is the Trump Administration provoking Iran by “destroying one of the more effective nuclear nonproliferation achievements in recent years and is now provoking reactions that, in places like the Gulf of Oman, make a new war more likely than before”?

But has Wall Street weakened America’s military capacity?

Maybe not many readers of Pearls and Irritationsare also readers ofThe American Conservative. Writing for that publication, Matt Stoller and Lucas Klunge point out how America’s military capacity is being weakened by the culture of Wall Street – a culture that prioritises short-term financial gain over investment in high-technology manufacturing, where America once excelled. The country’s telecommunications capacity has been killed by executives pressured “to make decisions designed to impress financial markets, rather than for the long-term health of their companies”. In an unusually enlightened statement for such a source they write “Policymakers must recognize that industrial capacity is a public good and short-term actors on Wall Street have become a serious national security vulnerability.”

They still have enough kit for Trump’s “Salute to America”

Here is some footage from Trump’s Salute to America. Trump could take a lesson or two from the experts in military parades.


Watch out tomorrow, Sunday, for Peter Sainsbury’s Sunday environment round up .

And remember the final episode of the ABC’s series Who runs this place on Sunday at 0800.


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