WE NEED TO REV UP AUSTRALIA'S STAGNANT ECONOMY
The Canberra Times, 24 February 2020
On many of the standard measures, the Australian economy is in a bad way. Since 2013, economic growth has slowed. Wage growth is the worst on record. Household spending is growing at its slowest pace since the Global Financial Crisis. Retail is amid its deepest downturn since 1990, with Harris Scarfe, Dimmeys, Bardot and Jeanswest among those to hit the wall. New car sales last year fell 8 percent, with fewer vehicles sold than at any time since 2011. Construction is now shrinking at its fastest rate since 1999. Business investment is at its lowest level since the 1990s recession.
But that’s just the surface metrics. It is a sad fact is that Australia’s economy is less productive, less nimble, and less dynamic than many other advanced countries. Indeed, on many indicators, the economy has become more stagnant over time.Read more
CANBERRA AND CLIMATE CHANGE
The Canberra Times, 30 January 2020
It’s become a common quip for Canberrans to ask when the frogs, lice and locusts are arriving.
We’ve had people evacuated from their workplaces and our airport shut down, seen years of research lost to wild weather and a record number of calls to emergency services. This week, the Orroral Valley fire turned our southern skies an apocalyptic red. Animals have died in their hundreds in Canberra. Across Australia, more than a billion animals, including koalas, kangaroos, kookaburras and snakes, have been killed.
Not all of these events can be directly linked to climate change, but there’s no denying that a warming climate makes dangerous weather more likely. As former meteorologist and researcher Dr Clem Davis said, “with increased warming in the atmosphere, you are more likely to get severe weather events”. In 2008, Ross Garnaut’s climate change review noted that unchecked climate change would likely lead to more hot days, droughts, extreme winds, hailstorms, thunderstorms and floods.Read more
THE BEST WAYS TO LEND A HAND TO BUSHFIRE RELIEF
The Herald-Sun and Courier Mail, 18 January 2020
Millions of hectares of bush have been burned. Dozens of lives have been lost. Up to a billion mammals, birds, reptiles, bats, frogs and invertebrates may have died. Smoke from Australia’s bushfires has reached as far as New Zealand and Chile. Australia’s bush capital has recorded the worst air quality in the world.
Amid the tragedy, many of us are looking at how we can help. On the front lines, our volunteer fire fighting services need donations, which will allow them not only to fight this year’s fires, but also to be better prepared next season. In affected communities, Red Cross, Vinnies, the Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal, the Salvos, Foodbank and the Rural Advisory Mental Health program are among those working with families who have lost their homes.
To help injured animals, and to provide sources of food and water to keep native animals alive, the World Wildlife Fund, WIRES, the RSPCA, the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital and Adelaide Koala Rescue are among the bodies that are seeking donations.Read more
OUR SCHOOL KIDS' TEST SCORES ARE IN FREE FALL. HERE'S HOW WE FIX IT.
Ten Daily, 11 December 2019
Australia has just recorded the worst labour productivity growth since records began and the worst school test results this century. As a cornucopia of commentators have noted, Australia now underperforms plenty of nations that are poorer than us, such as Korea, Singapore and Estonia.
In reality, the test score slump shouldn’t surprise anyone. A decade ago, Melbourne University’s Chris Ryan and I showed that Australia’s test scores had dropped over the period from 1964 to 2003. NAPLAN results suggest little change in student performance from 2008 to 2019.
But it’s the OECD’s PISA tests that paint the most troubling picture. Administered every three years since 2000, they show Australian students doing worse on maths, reading and science. Every time Australian 15 year-olds are tested, average scores have dropped.Read more
COALITION’S WAR ON CHARITIES
Today’s push to strip environmental charities of their tax-deductible gift recipient status proves yet again that this anti-environment government wants to shut down any criticism of its lousy record on climate change, biodiversity and protection of the oceans.
There are already laws in place that allow for organisations to have their tax deductible status revoked if they failure to comply with the strict requirements governing charities and not-for-profits.Read more
HUMANITY'S PATHS: A "STAR TREK" UTOPIA OR A "TERMINATOR" DYSTOPIA?
Salon, 2 December 2019
The United States today is more unequal than it has been in generations and more technologically advanced than ever. As the top 1 percent increases its share of the world’s wealth, advances in artificial intelligence are driving new breakthroughs in facial recognition, language translation, and abstract strategy games. While the earnings gap between highly educated workers and the unskilled widens, CRISPR technology lets scientists edit genomes. For robot designers, data analysts, and medical researchers, it can be the best of times. To paraphrase technology entrepreneur Jerry Kaplan, theirs is a future represented by "Star Trek"— a world where technology’s benefits are widely shared. For someone with few skills, few assets, and no job, it can feel like the worst of times. Theirs is a future that can seem like the dystopian one of "Terminator," after a self-aware artificial intelligence realizes that it no longer needs humanity.
Some people argue that inequality is the price we must pay for innovation. They say that we can’t all be billionaires. They assert that if we try to make society more equal by raising the top tax rate, it could deter risk taking and innovation. If we have to choose between having more stuff and distributing it fairly, they conclude that we should go for growth over equity.Read more
STEPHEN JONES MP
SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FINANCIAL SERVICES
MEMBER FOR WHITLAM
ANDREW LEIGH MP
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR CHARITIES
MEMBER FOR FENNER
LIBERALS PROTECT BANKS FROM SCRUTINY – AGAIN
It appears that the Morrison Government is once again standing between banks and public scrutiny.
Reports this morning indicate that the Liberals will block Labor’s push to recall Westpac before the House of Representatives House Economics Committee after the bank reported 23 million breaches of money laundering laws - almost one breach for every Australian.
The Committee heard from Westpac just a fortnight ago, before this scandal broke. It's vital that the committee gets to the bottom of what Westpac did wrong and how the money moved. If issues around money laundering are not sufficiently addressed, it could have adverse implications for financing of organised crime and terrorism.Read more
MORE STAR TREK THAN TERMINATOR?
Inside Story, 25 November 2019
The most significant consumer innovation of the last decade was announced on 9 January 2007. Despite uneven health, Apple chief executive Steve Jobs took to the stage at the Macworld Conference in San Francisco and unveiled the iPhone. Ten years later, a billion of them had been sold. Today, many think touchscreen smartphones are as necessary as underwear and more important than socks. Yet when Jobs launched his revolutionary phone, many believed it would fail. His counterpart at Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, laughed at the device, calling it “a not very good email machine.”
The critics were wrong, and wrong in a major way. As industry insiders, they all paid the price for their poor predictions. Their products would all exit the industry, replaced by the new Apple, of course, but also by Samsung and Huawei. What turns out to be a successful innovation might not seem that way at first. There is a reason for that: innovation is new to the world. If it was obvious, someone would have done it.Read more
Review of Alain de Botton, The School of Life: An Emotional Education
Sydney Morning Herald, 23 November 2019
In 1901, 98 percent of Australians told Census-takers that they adhered to a religion. For the vast majority, religion was where we got our notions of what it was to live a ‘good life’. Today, nearly one-third of Australians reports having no religion: seeking wisdom not from the pulpit, but from secular sages.
If there was a high priest of the unbelievers, it would be Swiss-born philosopher Alain de Botton.
Since writing Essays in Love at the age of 23, he has published a dozen books including How Proust Can Change Your Life, The Art of Travel, The Architecture of Happiness, Religion for Atheists, How to Think More About Sex and The News: A User's Manual.Read more
CANADA SHOULD TAKE AN INSURANCE APPROACH TO FUTURE DISRUPTION
Policy Options, 15 November 2019
To help Canadians face the technological disruptions of the future, policy-makers should strengthen our education and economic safety nets.
Poker star Jimmy Chou, who has won more than $1 million playing the game, has a new teacher. Pluribus, a new artificial intelligence program, recently defeated Chou, along with a handful of the world’s best poker players, in six-player no-limit Texas hold’em. The strategy was computed in eight days, at a cost of $144 in cloud server power. As Chou graciously noted, “Whenever playing the bot, I feel like I pick up something new to incorporate into my game.” Playing against humans, Pluribus can win around $1,000 an hour, suggesting that online poker tournaments may soon become a thing of the past.
Six-player Texas hold’em now joins a long list of activities at which computers are superior to humans, including checkers (1995), chess (1997), Jeopardy! (2011), facial recognition (2014) and transcribing a telephone call (2016). It’s been two years since Google’s AlphaGo beat the world champion, Ke Jie, in the game of Go. The performance gap between AlphaGo and Ke is now about as large as the gap between Ke and a keen amateur. If Pluribus and AlphaGo were self-aware, they might look at our prowess in their games the way that we regard the intellectual powers of our pets.Read more