On Sunday morning I joined Weekend Sunrise to talk about how economics can help make sense of run times in the Sydney City to Surf and much else besides - find out how by watching the clip:
In the latest edition of The Spectator, I've reviewed Gordon Peake's Beloved Land: Stories, Struggles and Secrets from Timor-Leste. The book which paints a very different picture of the country than the one most Australians are familiar with; read on to find out how:
Guilt trip, The Spectator, 9 August 2014
If you had to pick one emotion to characterise Australia’s attitude towards East Timor, it would be guilt.
We are right to feel guilty about 1942, when Australian troops retreated from Timor, leaving many of the East Timorese who fought alongside us to be killed by the Japanese. We should feel guilty about 1975, when we failed to speak up about the invasion of East Timor. We ought to feel guilty about 1978, when we extended de jure recognition of Indonesian sovereignty over East Timor. And we should feel guilty too about 1999, because we could have done better in the process that led to the referendum and the many thousands who lost their lives.
And yet, most of the time, Australians don’t think about East Timor at all. Between cricket and celebrity cooking, Barack Obama’s latest speech and Lady Gaga’s latest outfit, there isn’t much space in the Australian news cycle for a nation of 1.2 million people sitting 700 kilometres off the coast of Darwin.
This morning I joined Marius Benson on ABC NewsRadio to talk about the worrying spike in unemployment in the latest ABS jobs figures. Here's the transcript:
FRIDAY, 8 AUGUST 2014
SUBJECT/S: Unemployment figures; Abbott Government’s unfair budget.
MARIUS BENSON: Andrew Leigh, on the unemployment figures: the Employment Minister Eric Abetz expressed disappointment but said you can't blame the government for this rise in unemployment because the Budget is still substantially blocked in the Senate. He blames, obviously, Labor for that.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: These figures are extraordinarily bad for Australia. A 12-year high for unemployment and a nine-year low for the share of Australians in work. That's something that ought to deeply concern the government. The fact is Australia now has worse employment outcomes than in the Global Financial Crisis. The reason that we did well in the Global Financial Crisis was the swift actions of the Labor Government: taking on modest levels of debt in order to save hundreds of thousands of jobs. Part of the reason we're doing badly now is that we have a government which is trash-talking the economy, driving down business and consumer confidence, and firing people. I mean, in my own electorate in the ACT, we're seeing the firing of public servants which is adding to these unemployment numbers.
BENSON: When you look at the numbers closely, the principal reason for the increase in the total is that the participation rate is up. So it's simply more people looking for work.
LEIGH: The economy isn't adding jobs as people are moving in to seek work. That ought to be a deep concern for the government. And governments ought to be concerned about their short-run and long-run policies. In the short run, in an environment where you've got the transition out of the mining boom, then you ought to have a government which is looking to create demand. This federal Budget has been doing anything but. It's taking away from those who have the highest propensity to spend - those who are at the bottom on the income spectrum - and it's cutting back on a range of government programs. And then in the long run, governments have to be investing in the productive capacity of the economy - in skills and infrastructure. And this again is a Budget that takes away from education, takes away from the National Broadband Network, takes away from urban rail. So it will hit the short- and the long-run jobs growth in the economy.
Today the Herald Sun features an extract from my book 'The Economics of Just About Everything', exploring the link between money and team performance in the AFL. Read on...
Who's the Moneyball star of the AFL? Herald Sun, 7 August 2014
Moneyball tells the true story of how Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) put together a great baseball team on a shoestring budget. The movie has two messages: first, money helps win games. Second, some sports teams spend their money more wisely than others.
But how does Moneyball apply to the AFL? Money allows teams to buy better players (up to the salary cap), to hire better coaches and to buy experts like physiotherapists, masseurs and even statisticians. But do some AFL teams spend their cash more wisely than others?
Last night Peter van Onselen and I hashed out some ways the Abbott Government could make its rotten budget fairer. Here's the video and transcript:
Last night I joined the panel on ABC's The Drum to talk about how economics can help us make better sense of the world around us (and my new book 'The Economics of Just About Everything). Here's the interview:
Inside Story is currently featuring an extract from my new book 'The Economics of Just About Everything', which looks at the unexpected benefits of Australia's gun buyback scheme. Read on...
THE UPSIDES OF THE BUYBACK
On the chilly Melbourne evening of Sunday 9 August 1987, nineteen-year-old former army cadet Julian Knight drank several beers at the Royal Hotel in Clifton Hill then packed a bag with an M14 semi-automatic, a Ruger 10/22 semi-automatic, and a Mossberg pump action 12-gauge shotgun. As he later told the police, “I wanted to see what it was like to kill someone.”
Most bullets are less than a centimetre wide, but when they enter a person’s body they make a far larger hole. One reason for this is that, once inside your body, a bullet begins to “yaw,” or tumble. Because bullets are a few centimetres long, the tumbling effect is far more destructive than if the bullet had continued to travel in a straight line.
In addition, a cushion of air known as a “pressure wave” precedes the bullet, temporarily creating a cavity inside the body that can be much wider than the trajectory of the tumbling bullet. The combined impact of a tumbling projectile and a pressure wave means that the entry wound can be as small as a fingernail, while the exit wound can be as large as a tennis ball.
The Australian Financial Review was good enough to publish an extract from my new book 'The Economics of Just About Everything', which you can read here.
If you like what you see, why not support your local independent bookstore by buying a copy?
AN ECONOMIST'S GUIDE TO ONLINE DATING
What’s a desperate and dateless economist to do? The economics of dating comes down to three simple rules:
1. There is no perfect match, but some matches are definitely better than others.
2. You won’t know how well suited you are to someone until you get to know them.
3. Time is scarce, so a decision based on limited information is probably better than no decision at all.
The challenge of dating is that you don’t have enough information and you don’t have enough time to get it. To give you an idea of just how severe the problem is, let’s imagine that you’re aged 18 to 25, and you’re trying to find the person you’re best suited to in that age range.
To begin, there are about 1.5 million men and 1.5 million women to choose from in Australia. If you picked a sex, and spent only three minutes with each of those people, then it would take 25 years of speed dating to find the person you liked the most. Things are harder still if you want more than three minutes to assess each person, if you’re bisexual, if you want someone older or if you think true love resides overseas.
Fortunately, economic theories are rarely deterred by problems involving large numbers. Better yet, economists are familiar with precisely this kind of problem. It’s called an “optimal-stopping problem”.
Despite the Abbott Government's promise before the election that there would be no forced redundancies in the Australian Public Service, there are reports today that The Treasury has launched a 'spill and fill' process that will lead to up to 40 forced sackings. Here's my comments in response:
DON'T SACK TREASURY MUMS
The Abbott Government has broken yet another of its pre-election promises, with news that staff at The Treasury are being forced to take part in a ‘spill and fill’ process that will result in up to 40 forced redundancies.
Before the last election, Tony Abbott promised that any jobs lost in the Australian Public Service would go through ‘natural attrition’, and stated:
“I really want to stress that we are not talking about forced redundancies, we are talking about not replacing everyone who leaves, that’s all.”
This morning I spoke with Mark Parton on 2CC's Breakfast program about the government's moves to force up to 40 Treasury workers to accept involuntary redundancies. Here's the transcript:
THURSDAY, 31 JULY 2014
SUBJECT/S: Forced redundancies at The Treasury
MARK PARTON: The Canberra Times is reporting this morning that The Treasury is forcing nearly all of its staff – including newly-recruited graduates and women on maternity leave – to reapply for their jobs. They've gone with this so-called 'spill and fill' to dismiss about 40 staff, with the central agency conceding that its voluntary redundancy process has run out of steam. We always thought that would be the case!
Andrew Leigh is the Federal Member for Fraser and he's on the line right now, morning Andrew.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Good morning Mark.
PARTON: There was always talk about this being done naturally, but the plans of this government – and indeed, it must be said, the plans of you blokes when you were in power – there was always going to be a point where the voluntary stuff just didn't cut it.
LEIGH: Mark, we were always clear before the election that there wouldn't be forced redundancies, as were the Liberal Party. It was their pledge beforehand, and when we said there was going to be more than 12,000 jobs cut and that we'd see forced redundancies, they called us liars. But frankly this is another broken promise from Mr Abbott, who is now making all the Treasury staff re-apply for their jobs. Including women on maternity leave, new graduates who have just been hired - it's a pretty shocking way to treat some of Australia's best economic minds.