Friday, December 24, 2010
For Christians, it is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ; a time to remember the messages of hope, redemption, peace, love and generosity of spirit.
For a secular society, it is a time of hope, for wishes of peace, love, family, and generosity.
The messages are remarkably similar.
Merry Christmas to everyone.
For a modern, digital, take on the story of the nativity, see:
Thursday, December 23, 2010
The last few months have seen the NSW Government, led by Treasurer Eric Roozendaal, move to sell NSW taxpayer electricity assets.
Following are some of the facts that are known:
- Treasurer Eric Roozendaal, and some Treasury officials, are known to ”treasure” the state’s AAA credit rating, and have been reluctant to invest in electricity infrastructure for many years.
- NSW Treasury expects to gain more than $5 Billion form the sale of taxpayer-owned assets.
- The transactions are expected to take over 2 years.
- 11 board members of Eraring and Delta Electricity resigned, believing the sales of their trading rights were not in the interests of the NSW state-owned companies.
- NSW Treasurer Roozendaal replaced the 11 board members at night with political yes-men.
- Tony Maher, who resigned from the Board of Eraring on 14-December has described the sale as “a mad dash for cash”.
- The NSW Government is creating privately-owned companies that will form an oligopoly of electricity suppliers.
- Origin energy gains Country Energy and Integral Energy (retail suppliers) and the output from Eraring (power generation)
- TRUenergy, a Hong Kong company, gets EnergyAustralia, and the output from Delta West and some smaller generators
- Elizabeth Knight, writing for the Sydney Morning Herald on 16-Dec, wrote that “the purchase of the long-term supply contracts with gentraders Eraring (acquired by Origin) and Delta Electricity (bought by TRUenergy) went for bargain-basement prices”
- The Sydney Morning Herald reported, 16-Dec-2010, “A UBS analyst, David Leitch, said: "NSW households are in for higher electricity tariffs and more people at their front door, trying to get them to change electricity supplier." Note: he said more people, not more suppliers.
ASIC sets out the duties of directors thus:
- be honest and careful in your dealings at all times
- know what your company is doing
- take extra care if your company is operating a business because you may be handling other people’s money
- make sure that your company can pay its debts on time
- see that your company keeps proper financial records
- act in the company’s best interests, even if this may not be in your own interests, and even though you may have set up the company just for personal or taxation reasons, and
- use any information you get through your position properly and in the best interests of the company.
The Legislative Council inquiry, so swiftly sidestepped by Premier Keneally, might well be the public inquiry we need to have.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Contrasting this, was the most terrible crash of a boat-load of asylum-seekers on Christmas Island, on Wednesday. Boat arrivals, and the treatment of asylum-seekers have been the subject of UNHCR criticism. Under former (Liberal) PM, John Howard, the UN was critical of the harsh regimes in detention centres, especially Baxter Detention Centre in central Australia, and of the ‘off-shore’ processing centre at Nauru. (Labor) PM Kevin Rudd, and now Julia Gillard, have been criticised for the length of time it takes to repatriate people whose asylum claims have been denied.
Australia should not have an open-border policy. But there are people in Australia, and elsewhere, who want to take the ‘Christ’ out of Christmas. Our politicians, of all sides, have led the race to the lowest point, in the quest for a vote, as they try to buy the votes of xenophobic and racist voters. That is our shame, and theirs.
Merry Christmas. I just hope you’re not seeking asylum.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
Treasurer Wayne Swan has announced measures to increase competition in the banking sector. In Australia, the big banks - Commonwealth, National Australia Bank, Westpac/St George and ANZ – hold most of the market. They also effectively own a number of second-tier banks and mortgage providers. For example the Commonwealth Bank own Bank West, Wizard Home Loans and has a 33% stake in Aussie (Home Loans)
The banks act a a classic economic oligopoly. The mortgage market is effectively controlled by only a few large corporations. They have increased interest rates on loans above the increases announced by the Reserve Bank, are largely unaffected by political “pressure” statements of the current (Labor) government, and the previous (Liberal-National Coalition) government. They have not increased rates on their savings accounts, and have reduced the rates on some term deposits in the second half of 2010.
The measures announced by Mr Swan include:
- banks to issue a one-page fact sheet detailing repayments, total amount repaid, and URL’s of websites where rates can be compared
- exit fees to be abolished
- ACCC to be given power to investigate price collusion. In an oligopoly such as run by the banks, public comments about ‘we need to raise interest rates’ also acts as a signal to other banks, and softens-up the public before the almost simultaneous rise by the banks. The practice is called ‘price-signalling’, and stifles competition.
- credit unions and building societies will be allowed to issue ‘covered bonds’.
- former Reserve Bank Governor, Bernie Fraser, will be asked to investigate how technology can be used to make it easier for consumers to switch mortgages, and savings accounts.
- credit card reform will limit or ban over-limit fees, unless the consumer deliberately allowed it.
The announcement was orchestrated as a full press conference, with the Treasurer, Assistant Treasurer & Minister for Financial Services & Superannuation, Bill Shorten, and the Treasurer’s Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer, David Bradbury. It was, by any measure, a media “event”, designed to maximise publicity about taking on the banks, and improve the government’s approval rating. Former (Liberal) Treasurer, Peter Costello used to put on such shows, at which he also revelled in his displays of sharp wit.
It remains to be seen whether the Liberal-National Opposition will support the legislation, designed to increase competition, and give more power to consumers, or support the big banks in their opposition to competition. The history of the Liberal-National opposition since losing government in 2007, and the 2010 election, has been to support big business and oppose, or obstruct, most legislation introduced to Parliament by the government. I suspect it will try its best to obstruct and delay as much as it can.
Tuesday, December 07, 2010
I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!
It is the best-known verse of this poem, a poem that spends 5 of its 6 verses professing the author's love for different aspects of Australia. Following are some images that I hope reflect some aspects of that amazing verse.
In December 2010, many parts of the plains of NSW are experiencing flooding, with every west-flowing river between the Namoi R. in the north to the Murrumbidgee R. in the south having flood warnings. Some people will be lucky to be allowed home in time for Christmas, let alone have a habitable house.
If you're in Australia, please consider a gift to a charity that will help people at Christmas. Try The Smith Family, St Vincent de Paul, The Salvation Army as a start.
I love a sunburnt country ... but geez, she can be hard on us.
|... and flooding rain|
|rugged mountain ranges|
|the wide brown land|