Tuesday, 30 August 2011

In the court of public opinion, Thomson's on his own


The Australian public have a healthy cynicism about politics.

They reckon that politicians are all much the same and nothing much that they do comes as any surprise. Naturally if there is a bit of scandal in the air then, if they have time, they might follow the latest controversy.

But despite the usual cacophony, the electorate are not so stupid as to think that the latest evidence of the misdemeanours or otherwise of politicians is more important than what is happening about the economy. The economy is what really counts because it affects the hip-pocket nerve; jobs and living standards.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Time to consider whether elections really should be polls apart


The latest rally in Canberra was not the first to call for an early election to get rid of a government.

Only recently, the people of New South Wales were pretty keen to rid themselves of the Keneally government. In the early '90s, Jeff Kennett, then opposition leader in Victoria, employed novel tactics to force the hapless Kirner government from office. At one stage, he threatened Kirner's ministers that if they did not call an early election then, if he was elected, he would make sure they would not get their pensions. Jeff never cut politicians pensions but his tactic to call for an early election served his political purposes as it did for Mr O'Farrell in NSW.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Unions emboldened by WA's over-regulated IR system


Julia Gillard was in Esperance last week. It provided a good opportunity for the Western Australian Minister for Transport, Troy Buswell, to claim the Port of Esperance lost 260,000 tonnes of iron export from strikes under federal law and that Ms Gillard's industrial relations (IR) changes were hurting WA.

Recently the Business Council, the Productivity Commission, new MP John Alexander and the Reserve Bank have all made similar points on the need for labour market reform.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A mini budget; just in case things go sour


The huge drop in the share market is a wake-up call for complacent policy makers everywhere.

Whether the markets bounce up or down this week is irrelevant. The big problems facing the United States and Europe are not yet being confronted.

At best the latest Congressional deal is another bandaid. Under the deal, the US will only cut the growth of spending, so spending will grow and in 2013 there will be another fight about lifting the debt ceiling.

US jobs figures were fractionally better last Friday, but so what? Far more relevant are the facts that US workforce participation is close to its lowest for 30 years and underemployment is around 25 million.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Building a better Egypt


In early 2011, the Arab spring caught the interest of the western media with the claim that the uprisings could lead to more democratic societies.

Sadly, the naiveté of that assessment is likely to be further revealed in the next few months in Egypt.

Despite all the hype at the time, there was no revolution in Cairo. Yes, former President Mubarak was overturned and he may go on trial this week, if the military agree, but the military have been in control since 1952 without one day's interruption.