Why Trump’s trade war really matters

The commentary on Trump’s new tariffs on steel and aluminium in my view have missed a central point. Most have pointed out (rightly) that this will lead to tit for tat tarrifs from the US major trading partners, but the most immediate affect will be on some of the biggest and most competitive manufacturers in the country.

Take Boeing. Boeing is in global competition with the European Airbus who both manufacture large airliners costing anything up to $300 million at a time. Although competition is largely about technical innovation and quality, there is still a large part of it on price. Much of the raw materials used are steel and aluminium. By putting tarrifs on both those materials, there will be an unnecessary increase in costs for Boeing which may tip the balance in competitiveness in future with Airbus. Boeing will source steel and aluminium at prices 10-25% higher than Airbus. Both companies will continue to source materials from the most competitive global suppliers – not US steel manufacturers who currently are nowhere near competitive in specialised materials manufacturing necessary for airliners. It is a disaster for Boeing.

And they are not the only ones. The US has by far the biggest armaments industry in the world. Both these materials are used widely in arms manufacturing. It does put them at a relative disadvantage.

Similarly with auto manufacturing. Major US owned car brands (GM, Ford) are not major exporters of cars from US factories, but they do have significant internationally competitive manufacturing plants in places like China, Mexico and Thailand from which they source significant exports. This tarrif decision may well tempt them to source even more US sales from these foreign factories. Similarly, most major European, Japanese and Korean manufacturers have set up manufacturing plants in the US, they too will no doubt go the same way as US owned manufacturers. It will also affect the emergence of high tech stars like Tesla, who must now be reviewing where they will they locate their factories for a global roll out in view of the uncertainty created by this idiotic decision.

The US only has itself to blame.

 

Russia is not as big or as powerful as they think they are, but they are still very dangerous

For all of Russia’s bluster, and however much they might dominate our news cycles, they are nothing like as big and powerful as they make out to be. In fact, their economy is almost the same size as Australia’s, except Australia has a population of a bit over 24 million, and they almost 145 million, and Russia is the biggest country by landmass in the world. Outside their top half dozen towns, they look more like a third world country with very much run-down infrastructure, and a failing agriculture sector. They have a miniscule SME sector: this is surprising particularly when one considers their population, their sophisticated universities and their advanced technologies, especially in Defence and advanced manufacturing such as their advanced jet fighters which compare very favourably with the latest US models.

Their economy is dominated by defence industries, oil and gas, and mining. They spent an estimated 5.3% of their GDP on defence, by far the highest in the top 30 economies in size in the world. This compares with the US 3.3%, even though the US spends more than the next eight biggest  economies in their annual defence budgets combined. The next biggest is China which had defence budget in 2017 of about a third that of the US at $215B or 1.9% of GDP, although a number of analysts suspect the China figure is substantially understated.

Just because Russia has relatively small economy, it does not mean they are not dangerous. They of course have the biggest nuclear arsenal in the world, a legacy of the Soviet era, and so long as that exists, the plutocracy which is the Putin regime knows it will not be provoked by the West.

Another legacy of the cold war, is their highly developed skills in the “dark arts” of subversion, information manipulation, and what used to be called propaganda. Putin himself started his career as a field officer in the KGB, and in fact during when the Berlin Wall was being torn down in 1989, Putin headed up the KGB in east Berlin – not one of his finest moments! It is as if he has been seeking revenge on the West ever since, particularly the US and Western Europe. By demonstrating chaos in Western democracies, he also demonstrates to his own population that maybe democracies are not as attractive as they first thought, particularly following Russia’s own chaotic democratic experiment under Yeltsin. A worrying side effect of this, is the relatively low support for democratic norms amongst millennials in many western democracies – a concerning development, and one not unrelated to Putin’s shenanigans.

When Boris Yeltsin chose Putin as his immediate successor in 1999, he did so thinking he would continue Yeltsin’s democratic reforms, albeit in an already highly corrupt State. Instead, over the next decade and a half, he cemented power, rigged elections, and enriched himself and his friends to such an extent that many now regard him as the wealthiest person on earth[1]. He did so by applying the dark arts learnt in the KGM to the running of a sovereign state, and to no-less than subvert and disrupt the democratic institutions of the west, democratic elections, economic institutions such as the EU. To have a pro-Russian President of the US in the White House in Trump (seemingly beholden to Putin for some unexplained reason), and EU states arguing amongst themselves of which Brexit has just been the most spectacular, is just about a dream come true for Putin. He does not need a huge defence budget if he can get these outcomes via manipulation, corruption and deceit. So how does he do this?

Given his limited economic power, he has been using his KGB skills, but updated ones now adopted to digital environments, AI and social media. He uses this to directedly interfere in the democratic and economic processes of the West. Donald Trump is simply his most public success, but there is strong evidence he has also interfered with elections across the EU, with the Brexit vote in Britain, and particularly his near neighbours like the Baltic States and the Ukraine.

The only way to stop this is to strengthen existing laws in the west, closely regulate elections, and use the rule of law as personified by the West’s Intelligence agencies (like the CIA, MI6, and the “five eyes” intelligence alliance), and to encourage and support institutions like the FBI and the Justice department in the US so that when mischief has been uncovered, that the law takes its course.

It remains to be seen whether this will occur in the US, but if it does not, the West and the US may well begin descending into the criminality and corruption of modern day Russia. The stakes are now very high indeed.

References

[1] Fortune Magazine, July 2017.

[2]World BanK Yearly  survey 2017 and the Stockholm international Peace Institute Data

Isn’t it time Australia closed its offshore detention centres

Here’s how it might work!

Since the late 1990’s, Australia has been tackling the increasing problem of large numbers of refugees arriving unannounced in boats to its shores, often promoted by people smugglers. Although it initially took a tolerant attitude to these people, the more of them who were let in, the more arrived. Egged on by the popular press and shock jocks, this intake increasingly was viewed by the Australian population as a flood (although more like a trickle by world standards). The public reaction was aided and abetted by the conservative side of politics “dog-whistling” on race which in the early 2000’s enabled them to win a couple of Federal elections. For both sides of politics, something had to be done.

The result was offshore detention centres where boats were intercepted by the Australian Navy and Customs Service (now called Border Force) and either taken back from whence they came, or transferred to detention centres set up by the Australian Government on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, or Nauru (a poverty stricken island off the Australian north coast), or on the Australian territory of Christmas Island. These centres rapidly descended into cruel and inhuman environments to the extent that they are even today regularly cited by the Australian Human Rights Commission and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as in breach of the UN Declaration on Human Rights. Over the last ten years, this situation has done great harm to Australia’s reputation for having an almost spotless record on Human Rights (with the shameful exception of its own indigenous population).

There are currently over 300 asylum seekers housed in Nauru (Manus Island has now closed), and over 300 on Christmas Island, at a total cost of over $1billion per annum. Apart from this being an outrageous waste of money, and in spite of governments of both persuasions wishing to do something about it, they have been unable to get around the fact that it is these same inhuman conditions which have stopped additional boats from coming because people realised they will end up in them if they came. A number of solutions have been tried including swapping refugees with the US (so far 242 people exchanged) and having some of them settle in New Zealand. NZ was not acceptable because it was perceived this gives the boat people a path to a first world environment which does not provide the “right” level of disincentive, and from which it is too easy to transfer to Australia.

It is time that the centres in Nauru and Christmas Island were closed. The question is how?

Australia has perhaps had the most successful immigration program in the world growing its population from about 7 million largely British stock in 1945 to today having a population of almost 25 million people coming from over 130 counties from around the world. This has led to a highly diversified, rich and tolerant society where over 30% of the population is non-white, and which has one of highest standards of living in the world.

Since the early 1970’s, Australia’s immigration policy has largely been non-discriminatory on the grounds of race, religion and ethnicity. It is has been based on a points system whereby potential migrants need to score a certain number of points to be given Visas. These points are based on the needs of the country at any one time, so profession and education play major roles. Each year, about 25000 refugees are issued visas selected from refugees camps from around the world, and are carefully screened on security grounds and their ability to assimilate. Where the program has got into trouble in the past, is where its rules have not been properly enforced (eg in Lebanon and Somalia after their civil wars). In both cases, this led to civil unrest and criminality on the Australian homeland which historically has been very, very unusual in Australia’s migrant populations.

In early 2018, the UNHCR identified that there are over 30 million refugees housed in 125 refugee camps around the world. All these refugee camps are desperate to find permanent homes for their “temporary” populations. Australia is desperate to find homes for the inmates on Nauru and Christmas Island. Why doesn’t Australia offer to take refugees from selected camps at the rate of say 5 people in exchange for every one of the asylum seekers from the Australian detention centres (provided they meet Australia’s selection criteria for new migrants). In that way the Government will be able to close the detention centres, and play a responsible role in helping, albeit in a small way, empty the refugee camps of their populations while maintaining an orderly processing regime for international processing of refugees: in other words, no “queue jumping”. It is estimated that over 20% of the population of these refugee camps have either tertiary degrees or trade qualifications, both of which are in high demand in Australia. By selecting these people from these camps, it also does something about the issue of “queue jumping” issue i.e. where boat people are perceived to have been given higher priority for consideration of entry to first world countries merely because they are present on the ground in those countries, rather than waiting their turn to have their cases considered while they wait their time out in Refugee camps.

 

It is time to act, and get rid of this scourge on Australia’s very successful track record in immigration.

 

How Renewables are changing the landscape

In spite of the federal government’s bias towards traditional fossil fuels, and their continuing refusal to dismantle the subsidies to the fossil fuel industries (if you don’t believe me look at the $8 billion subsidies the federal government gives to the mining Industry per annum for diesel fuel, and the cost of non-indexation of excise on petrol –abolished in 2001 by John Howard in a desperate attempt to stay in office and estimated to have cost the treasury since then  an estimated $45billion), technologies are rapidly overtaking them.

Just this week it was revealed that the ACT government is on target to have 90% of its energy need fulfilled by wind and solar by 2020. This is in spite of Joe Hockey saying he is determined to withdraw all federal assistance to such a scheme, but lo and behold the ACT government says it doesn’t need any because these technologies are by themselves competitive with fossil fuels in the ACT. Whilst this is partly due to the special ACT environment, it is nevertheless a breakthrough.

I have always maintained that technology will in the end address successfully the climate change issue as long as sufficient money is poured into R&D and governments internationally insist on a level playing field i.e all subsidies for both fossil fuels and alternatives are withdrawn or at least be equivalent, which of course means also R&D money.

As an illustration of what can be done, it was announced last month there has been a breakthrough in solar energy technologies. The thing that has long held back the solar industry has been that it has in most cases only been possible to generate energy when the sun shines. But not at night and not when there is heavy cloud cover. Up until now there has also been a limited ability to store energy which could then be switched on at night. There have been various schemes to overcome this including new battery technologies and the use of hydro. For instance a scheme which is under serious consideration is to put 1000 square kilometres of solar panels in northern Australia and have some of the daylight power be directed to pump water up a hill to a mountain top lake and have it flow down again overnight to provide 24 hours of power. The intention of this scheme was then to distribute this power throughout south east asia via an underground cable and into the Asian power grids, thereby becoming a major source of foreign exchange.

Whilst this is a very interesting idea, it seems the latest technology announcement from researchers at MIT and Harvard may have made THE breakthrough which appears to make all this redundant.

Last month (April 2014), scientists at Harvard and MIT announced something extraordinary: they had found a way to create solar cells that can store accumulated energy from sunlight, and then, with no more than a burst of a few photons, release that energy in a steady and continuous form. These new types of solar cells, called photoswitches,  are made from a form of carbon nanotube called azobenzene, which can exist in two different configurations. One collects energy from the photons that hit it and stores it, another releases it. Because they can be switched from one form to another, the cell is essentially a battery, and this solves many of the problems of storage that arise with a weather-dependent system such as solar.

The great advantage of such a technology is that it would make possible solar cells that were an utterly stable continuous power supply. When you combine it with work being done elsewhere on solar cells that can perform in cloudy conditions, you have the plan for an entirely stable solar delivery system,  indeed, one that is more stable than the large-scale privatised power systems that we currently rely on, subject to mass technical failure, Enron-style credit events, and routine under-maintenance.

Such technology is small miracle, yet it’s only one example of dozens of advances occurring as renewable energy technology comes into contact with new materials and starts to be transformed by them. Thus, in the weeks and months before this announcement, news in renewables included: a new nanomaterial that can increase solar fuel cell efficiency by up to 80%, a solar-powered hybrid car that can charge up without needing to dock at a recharge station; and a plane the size of a 747 that will be able to fly around the world without refuelling. On every front, the renewables revolution is not merely gaining pace, but accelerating exponentially and the overwhelming reason for this is new materials.

The revolution is here. It is about time Joe Hockey and the Australian Federal Government got on board rather than making disparaging remarks about the ACT Government intentions, with Hockey in particular saying if he had his way he would shut down all wind turbines in the ACT because “he doesn’t like the look of them”. Got news for you Joe – they are here to stay. You’d better tell your fossil fuel mates the train is leaving the station and their horse and buggies won’t be able to catch up!

(Partially sourced from Crikey.com)

The contradictions of the Abbott Government

In a new federal government which has mostly been a huge disappointment, Joe Hockey stands out as being closest in it to a rational politician. Too often, the government has tended to prioritize a “tea partiest” social reform agenda (driven mostly by Abbott himself), while often eschewing the urgently needed economic reform agenda, which has always been the hardest, and most important area to tackle in Federal politics.

Abbott seems ready to implement a baffling array of side issues, long being championed by the looney right in Australia, like the Institute of Public Affairs, who are well outside the main stream, but who nevertheless are listened to by the ideological, ultra conservative, mostly conservative Catholic, cabinet of Abbott. To list them all would take up more space than desired, but just consider these:

  1. apparently it is now “ok to be a bigot” (according to the chief Law Officer in the land George Brandis), no matter how this might offend others or diminish their space under the Australian sky;
  2. nobbling the ABC, with apparently the eventual intention of selling off, at least parts of it, to News Limited;
  3. bringing back the British honors system (what a joke!);
  4. insisting on implementing the most expensive paid parental leave scheme in the world (and most eschewed to the rich);
  5. refusing to consider a free vote on gay marriage; and
  6. dismantling a website developed by the Federal Department of Health to inform consumers of the the most fattening and least fattening foods and have that reflected in food labeling – a very effective way of tackling the obesity epidemic  and one fought tooth and nail by the fast and packaged food industries. The fact that this was traced back to the assistant Minister for Health’s senior staffer, who happened to be a former lobbyist for these said industries, did not concern Abbott one iota. It is difficult not to contrast the behavior of Barry O’Farrell and Abbott and his ministers. The Abbott Fedral Government seems to be more captive of vested interests than any in living memory – and it has not even been in office 12 months yet.

Joe Hockey, on the other hand,  has exhibited mature leadership in not pandering to the nay sayers in the face of closure of smoke-stack and un-economic industries like cars, alumina and uncompetitive manufacturing. He has tabled a visionary process to funnel Superannuation monies into new infrastructure builds by effectively bribing the states to sell off their mature infrastructure assets and then put the proceeds into new start-up programs in return for the Federal government providing 15% of their cost. Now 50% of Super Funds go offshore, because they do not want to invest in start up infrastructure projects, but are more than prepared to invest in mature assets with proven revenues.

This will revolutionize the way infrastructure is financed and built in this country, at a time when construction in the mining industry is winding down. A sensible, common sense, and economically rational way of tackling this problem.

 

What could Malcolm Turnbull’s Third Party look like?

With Julia Gillard’s collapse in the polls, without something extraordinary happening, it looks as though Tony Abbott will have a clear run to the Prime Ministership. Much of his own party, and the majority of the Australian people do not want this to happen, but in the absence of an acceptable alternative this is what will…

The only way to stop this, is for a third party to emerge, with a charismatic, smart and popular leader, a strong experienced team of technocratic politicians and party men and women behind him, and with it strong backing from the business and general community. Such a leader is Malcolm Turnbull.

With Abbott’s current strength, and the weakness in the Labor Party under Gillard, Turnbull’s ambition to seize the LCP leadership before the election has now evaporated. Many of us thought, that Turnbull was being a loyal party man in anticipation of Gillard gaining in the polls as we move towards the election (which is the historic trend for incumbent governments), and once parity was gained, then the LCP would panic, and turn to him. What other explanation could be proffered for such an intelligent man as Turnbull supporting the incoherent and illthought- out set of  utterances which pass for Abbott’s policies.

Since the ill-conceived Rudd Challenge, after which Gillard’s electoral support has evaporated, Turnbull has been subtly shifting his stance. He negotiated with the party a compromise on the NBN (although in policy terms it is quite ridiculous), and he now in the last week or so, is supporting a revival of the Republican debate. Both policy issues are directly against Abbott’s mantra, and particularly the Republican issue designed to directly challenge his authority (remembering Abbott was the leader of the Royalists in 1999), and he is extraordinarily reverential to both the British Crown and all things British. Turnbull is the opposite.

Could it be that Turnbull is testing the water on a third party, with him as leader.  If so, considering the unprecedented level of disillusionment with federal politics on both sides, and the unprecedented low level of popularity for both leaders of the major parties, isn’t it exactly the right time when a well positioned and led third part might succeed? Certainly, Turnbull has very considerable support with on both sides of politics, and the so called swinging voters.

Let’s for a moment consider what this party might look like. To be successful, it would require competent middle of the road politicians and ex politicians from both sides; it would require for highly skilled party machine men to commit to such a cause; and it would require considerable levels of support from business and community organisations to fund (although i suspect a copy of the Obama popular “man in the street” internet based funding model would be a real winner with lots of people).

So who might these politicians be who would commit to such a cause. Let me reel off some of the more obvious ones:

Lindsay Tanner

Geoff Gallop

Amanda Vanstone

Jeff Kennett

Kristine Keneally

Ted Baillieau

Nick Greiner

Anna Bligh

Penny Wong

Tanya Plibersek

Bob Carr

Jason Clare

Mark Dryfus

Kate Ellis

Tony Windsor

Andrew Wilkie

 

I’m sure there are many more which other bloggers could identify.

If this list is anything like accurate, then there is a party to be built in record time if it is to prevent Abbott from being PM, and surely that would be a service to all Australians, on all side of politics.

The NBN is too important to play politics with…..

You may have noticed in the Press the spat between Malcolm Turnbull and the ABC’s Technology correspondent Nick Ross. The source of this friction is that Ross has exposed the coalition’s broadband policy as the sham it is.
http://www.abc.net.au/technology/articles/2013/02/21/3695094.htm

In this article, he goes in to a huge amount of detail comparing what is currently planned and what the coalition says it wants. Frankly, Ross has nailed Turnbull well and truly and Turnbull does not like it one little bit.  I suggest this is because Turnbull knows he (Ross) is right (Turnbull is after all one of the country’s foremost technology executives, and would understand the technology arguments very well), and he has been exposed as being a hypocrite on these issues. We all know Turnbull has gone along with Abbott’s recidivist policies presumably waiting for him to self-implode in the hope that LCP party room will turn to him, but this policy stance he is advocating is frankly irresponsible.

For any of you in doubt about this, look at my previous blog on this where CSIRO sets outs in dispassionate, objective fashion how important an advanced broadband capability will be for the future economic well-being of Australia, particularly in the light of our appalling non farming/mining productivity performance.

Those of you who read this blog regularly, will realise I am generally a fan of Malcolm Turnbull. In fact I think he is the best person to lead this country into the future. But he is dead, dead wrong on this. One of the things I admire about him is his willingness to analyse things on their merits and not get too tied up in Abbott’s high ideological approach to policy. Does this prove me wrong? I very much hope not. We can only hope that when they come to power, they will quietly shelve this stupid policy.

Further to the North Korea discussion…..

An interesting additional dimension to my entry earlier in the week on North Korea  appeared in “The Age” this morning (Saturday 9/3/2013) It states:

Missile Shield Spurs China’s Korea Stance

BY JOHN GARNAUT CHINA CORRESPONDENT BEIJING

CHINA’S support for tougher sanctions against North Korea has been prompted in part by concerns of an evolving USanchored missile defence system on its borders, say Chinese and Western analysts. The missile defence systems involve new land and sea-based radar systems, missile interceptors and intelligence sharing between the US and its regional allies aimed at shooting downa North Korean missile during the relatively lowvelocity launch phase. Analysts note that these systems could also be used to shoot down missiles launched from China’s eastern regions.

 Australia is building three air warfare destroyers with Aegis radar and missile control systems that can be potentially integrated into the US system. ‘‘ North Korea’s test of a nuclear warhead and missile may not bring much of a [direct] threat to China,’’ said Cai Jian, a North Korea expert at Shanghai’s Fudan University. ‘‘ But the response from Japan or South Korea, or America’s strategic advances into the region, are more disadvantageous to China. These are the reasons China opposes North Korea’s tests.’’

 The sanctions against last month’s nuclear test by North Korea were jointly drafted by China and the US and endorsed by the UN Security Council on Thursday night. They will make it more difficult for Pyongyang to shift money and technology in aid of its nuclear program.‘‘ These sanctions will bite and bite hard,’’ said Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN. The UN resolution follows Pyongyang’s successful ballistic missile test in December, as well as a stream of bellicose invective. Prior to the agreement, Pyongyang threatened to turn South Korea into ‘‘ a sea of flames’’ .

 Responding to the resolution, Kim Jong-un’s regime said on Friday it was nullifying all agreements of non-aggression and denuclearisation with South Korea and was cutting off the North-South hotline. Officials in Seoul said they were on the alert for any possible attack as Pyongyang seeks to vent its anger. ‘ The higher decibel of invective isa bit worrisome,’’ said Bill Richardson, the former governor of New Mexico, who has travelled to North Korea eight times, most recently in January. ‘‘ It’s the highest negative level I’ve ever seen, and it probably means that the hardline elements, particularly the military and not the Foreign Ministry, are in control.’’ On the other hand, Mr Richardson said, ‘‘ China is part of asignificant sanctions effort, and this may cool the North Koreans down, may temper their response.’’

 Several analysts said the effectiveness of the sanctions would depend on China adopting a far greater level of enforcement than it had previously. Regional missile defence systems are evolving in response to North Korea’s weapons program and also to increasing concerns about China’s military intentions. ‘ It allows Japan to say, ‘We’re buildinga missile defence system against North Korea but we can also use it to defend ourselves against China,’’’ said Scott Harold, a security expert with the Rand Corporation in Hong Kong. Dr Harold said the US had been strongly encouraging South Korea and Japan to engage in defence cooperation . ‘‘ Beijing is worried that this is a prelude toa trilateral alliance or a Pacific version of NATO.’’

 Those defence systems may, in turn, prompt China to build more missiles  ‘ The overall direction in which missile defence is going means the US, Japan, probably South Korea and Australia, get used to and work on the basis of integrating their systems ,’’ said Stephan Fruehling, an expert on missile defence systems at the Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre.

 ‘ This has political implications and symbolism, and that is what is causing China grief,’’ he said.

 Sam Roggeveen, editor of the Lowy Institute’s The Interpreter website, said there was a risk of a regional ballistic missile defence race: ‘‘ The easiest way to defeat ballistic missile defences is to overwhelm them with numbers.’’ Chinese analysts say Beijing’s backing of the new round of UN sanctions reflects frustration with North Korea but not a shift in its underlying strategic calculus. ‘‘ People are fed up with North Korea, but I’m not sure this signifies a new age,’’ said Jia Qingguo, professor of international relations at Peking University. ‘ China’s policies are in atransitional period, China is in a transitional period, andI think this period might be quite long.’’

With NEW YORK TIMES

Copyright © 2013 Fairfax Media

In other words, there is nothing like self interest to spur action. It seems China thinks that the possession of ballistic missiles by North Korea is spurring on the western allies in the Pacific: South Korea, Japan, US. Australia, to do something about protecting their population by building additional alliances and technologies which will negate the affects of the North Korean missile capabilities. This in turn would also negate the effectiveness of China own arsenal.

This is the last thing China wants. Up until now there has been a willingness on both sides – particularly the US and China  to try and work through their differences in order to come to a peaceful accomodation in the Pacific. The growth of a new military  alliance, facilitated by North Korean intransigence, just might make the Chinese come to the same accord I described in my article earlier in the week i.e. a historical agreement to dismantle the North Korean regime in return for with drawal of US troops from South Korea, declare the Korean peninsula politically neutral enforced by UN troops (not including the US), and hold free and fair elections.

The alternative to this will not only be the development of a military alliance of democracies in the Asia Pacific, but the other action mooted in my earlier articel i.e. the withdrawal of the nuclear guarantee to Japan and South Korea meaning they will acquire nuclear weapons aimed straight at China.

These moves might be just what the new Chinese Premier will need to build a case with the PLA, and the remaining hardliners in his cabinet, to move on North Korea.

It would be both historical and highly statesman-like, and may be the dawn of a new Chinese democracy and peace in what is now becoming an unstable part of the world.

It also happens to be the world engine room for growth in the forseeable future. The stakes are high to get it right…

The NBN is all about productivity improvement – ask CSIRO

For those of you who are not aware, the CSIRO has an incredibly interesting podcast called CSIROPOD. It shows off the range and depth of Australia’s leading scientific research institution. For those of you excited by the possibilities of science, like me, to solve the world’s problems, it is just a treasure-trove. Most people do not realise, though, CSIRO is not only “hard science”. It has soft science areas like economics and social research.

One area which it has tackled recently is the area of Australia’s productivity. Apparently, if you take mining and agriculture out of the mix, Australia ranks about 33 out of 36 in the OECD productivity table. This is in stark contrast to almost every other social and economic indicator where Australia usually rates in the top 3 or 4. This is a disgrace.

This interview outlines the challenge, but also the solution:

http://www.csiro.au/en/Portals/Multimedia/CSIROpod/Uploading-the-economy.aspx

What it clearly explains is that there is a solution to this predicament, but it involves Australia as a nation committing to completing the roll out of the NBN fibre to the home, which the coalition are still holding the line about dismantling. This is crazy. Malcolm Turnbull has more than enough ammunition to fire at the ALP on this area of economic policy. He should not also prevent the solution from being arrived at. It is politics in its worst form.

I still think Turnbull is the best leader for Australia at the moment, but he is dead wrong on this one.

The Rapidly Changing Education Model

Further to my piece yesterday, where I suggested the debate around the implementation of the Asia in the 21st Century Report, there is a discussion this morning in the Fairfax Press in “the zone” where Ernst & Young outline the finding of their research into the education sector.

http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/full-transcript-peter-rohan-20121014-27kwz.html

Clearly the revolution is coming, but so are amazing opportunities. Implementing across the country Asia language skills is surely doable over the next 20 years off the back of thesE changes.

A very interesting comment buried in the narrative is “that both political parties have beenengaged and thoroughly understand what is coming in Education” what does this mean? It means that this criticism of the Asia White Paper by the Opposition is yet another one of Abbott’s scare campaigns. You would have though there would be a rethink by now in the Coalitionthat they need to switch the debate to one based on policy difference rather than their knee jerk negative reaction.