The Pencil Guy: Hourann's illogical blog

State got no money again?

Tuesday 30 June 2009 at 2:56 pm
  • Sometime tonight, the government of California will either reach a budget agreement, or (far more likely) continue in stalemate and stop paying creditors just like they did in February. The funny thing is that literally everyone who’s involved or watching agrees it’s a terrible train-wreck of a situation, and yet there are scant few people interested in addressing root causes like unsustainable spending growth ten years ago, or the state’s ridiculous limits on tax increases. (Oh, and this is a fun exercise …)
  • Meanwhile: late last week, slipping under the media radar courtesy of Michael Jackson (and Iran’s mild case of unrest before that), the US House passed a bill to establish cap-and-trade emissions controls not too far removed from Kevin Rudd’s plan for Australia. I’ve seen a few different places make this out as a big thing (heck, even the Fox News anchor last night was freaked by it). Yet this decision is nothing, because the law still needs to pass a hostile Senate — so, months at the very least. Given current conditions, I’ll be surprised if the US government actually implements any action on global warming before Obama’s term expires in 2012.

Bali, the Territory, and the Solomons

Friday 14 December 2007 at 12:13 am
  • On the Bali summit, may I just say that while impassioned pleas are lovely and all, this is UN-style diplomacy, which means that getting any agreement is a huge deal. Expecting anything from said agreement, meanwhile, is probably a bit much. (Compare today’s victory in Europe, getting their watered-down constitution signed …)
  • Domestically, the Ruddster’s approach to the NT indigenous community intervention launched by Team Howard a few months ago seems to be very softly-softly, wait-and-see. I guess this means the new government won’t be producing any useful policy for Aboriginal Australians after all (and particularly since the intervention never seemed that big a deal in the pre-election public consciousness).
  • And one other thing: the Solomon Islands just lost their prime minister. It’ll be interesting to see how the Labor foreign policy team responds, since there are still Australian peacekeepers there. That said, I do so hope that the country remains stable, given the turmoil they’ve had in recent years.
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Briefly: ministers, global warming, and the EAS

Thursday 6 December 2007 at 11:24 pm
  • As nice as it is that the Ruddster has gotten all tough for his new ministerial code of conduct, I do believe John Howard was really quite strict on his ministers too, for a while in 1996. But then he fired so many that he had to scale the rules back, and something tells me that Labor types aren’t any more wholesome and pure than Liberals …
  • Also, the poor PM already seems to be having a hard time handling the global warming talks in Bali. And this is before any signs of progress emerge at all!
  • Brendan Nelson’s new shadow ministry certainly seems to keep with his promise to be fresh and new, with Tony Abbot getting the demotion he probably deserved. It’ll be interesting to see if any of the new faces are competent in opposition, because I have no idea how they’d perform as real ministers.
  • I never got a chance to write about the East Asia Summit, which was held in Singapore a fortnight ago. Pending a more thoughtful post, the news reports I’ve seen suggest that the biggest topic of discussion was climate change. It’s lovely to see more awareness of this issue, particularly from the Chinese (now Mr. Wen, can you fix the haze in Guangdong?), but it’s disappointing to see the EAS so distracted by it. With global warming being global and all, this isn’t the kind of issue that the institution was built to handle.
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Notch up at least one change so far

Monday 3 December 2007 at 7:04 pm

How symbolic of the Ruddster to ratify the Kyoto Protocol on his first day of officially being PM.

And just as the what-do-we-do-next Bali summit opens up, too. (Given how long and painful it was to get agreement at Kyoto, I am neither holding my breath nor hoping for anything, though we might hear about some wacky ideas.)

The Ruddster’s ministry changes are also intriguing, what with Julia Gillard being handed a new super-ministry (might she turn into a federal Alannah MacTiernan-type figure?). And it’s cute that he renamed “Communications” to “Broadband, Communications and Digital Economy”.

Meanwhile, the party on the other side of the fence is still all messy and backflipping on policy. But despite his promises of change I really can’t (yet?) see Brendan Nelson ever making it as Prime Minister …


Comparing some recent global warming policies

Wednesday 6 June 2007 at 11:48 am

Smokestack near Werribee, Victoria

There’s been quite the flurry of stories about global warming in the news of late.

It reached a peak with last week’s report from the PM’s emissions trading task force, a document that doesn’t embrace science so much as hold it at bay except when absolutely needed. The report does at least acknowledge that the uncertainty of not planning for global warming delays investment in some areas, and therefore argues that Australia shouldn’t wait for a global system to be decided. But while it suggests committing immediately to an emissions cap, it doesn’t say what that should be, and Howard’s not made any suggestions (though he is already misquoting it).

Aside from the fact that the proposed cap-and-trade model starts very slowly (with free licences to pollute for “existing businesses identified as likely to suffer a disproportionate loss”), the report also suggests it should be one policy to rule them all — that “less efficient government policies need to be phased out”.

In this light, consider two State policies announced on Sunday against the climate change tokenism of the WA government: NSW shall be buying clean-fuel buses (done here years ago), while Queensland will spend $300 million on research and set a measly 10% target for renewable energy (although they will commit to cleaning up government buildings). Neither is all that great, but they don’t deserve to be sacrificed; Queensland’s policy at least puts some effort into much-needed research.

And at least it’s better than the Chinese government’s plan for climate change, an English version of which is here (hat-tip to David Reevely, who has an excellent overview). It basically repeats the subtext that can be seen in the Australian report (“waaah! it’ll hurt the economy!”) and focusses on things like improving efficiency and imposing regulations on manufacturers (not that I believe them; consider how easy it is to get local officials to look away). But of course, these are all things that need to be done anyway.

Australia hasn’t ratified Kyoto but has kept to target of 108% of 1990 emissions, while the Chinese failed on the self-imposed goal of 4% reduction in energy use divided by GDP (though that has decreased in the longer term). But even if they get to Western levels of efficiency, they’ll still be ramping up the number of polluting industrial facilities, which is why they should be embracing low-emissions technology now in areas like steelmaking and electricity generation. Indeed, theirs is a situation where nuclear power seems a decent solution: they need lots of energy, and can’t wait for solar panels to become cheap, but nobody wants them building hundreds more coal-fired generators that’ll pollute for decades.

And as an aside, given the concern in some quarters about WA’s boom coming to an end: I do believe that if the State government were to lift its silly ban, selling uranium to China would keep us prosperous for quite some time …

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