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Election 2013 Essays: It’s the economy, stupid

Election 2013 Essays: As the federal election campaign draws to a close, The Conversation asked eminent thinkers to reflect on the state of the nation and the challenges Australia – and whichever party…

Both Tony Abbott and Kevin Rudd have been busy visiting manufacturing facilities during the election campaign. However neither is promising inspiring economic policy. AAP/Julian Smith

Election 2013 Essays: As the federal election campaign draws to a close, The Conversation asked eminent thinkers to reflect on the state of the nation and the challenges Australia – and whichever party wins government – faces in the future. Today, Colm Harmon discusses the true deficit of this campaign: clear, rational economic thinking and policy.


As we enter the final stretch and look over the campaign that was election 2013, we see a period of political and social debate brimming with rich economic thinking as politicians plan their way forward for Australia, right?

Er, no actually.

The election has been remarkably light on any serious effort to debate economics at a time when the economy should have been the cornerstone of the whole campaign.

Economics figured solidly as the firing pistol sounded. Prime minister Kevin Rudd provided a rather downbeat assessment of the economy in transition, coupled with a series of political clichés about improving productivity and replacing the mining boom.

In response, the Coalition locked into the portrayal of Labor as a party of spendthrifts, frittering away the Howard era but perhaps forgetting the global financial crisis that came in between.

However, both parties were aware that the world had changed, and in some respects the macroeconomy was now in the hands of the gods. This suggested that the campaign would unfold in line with this starting point – a global macroeconomic context and a focus on smart microeconomic policy to promote better distributive outcomes for society.

Labor would flesh out their ideas to promote workforce flexibility while also promoting workplace protection. They would finally begin to join up the dots on their education policy to promote enhanced productivity. The Coalition would look to promote less waste, less regulation.

This has just not evolved.

What actually followed has been a whirlwind tour-de-force presentation of clientalist politics of the worst kind – a dollop here, a dollop there, the prime minister and prime minister-in-waiting hanging out in fluoro vests and hard hats at manufacturing facilities, talking up a sector which has shrunk as a contributor to the Australian economy over the past decade.

Neither side has delivered a serious policy option that is remotely close to being inspiring. To some extent, Labor doesn’t have to. They came into the campaign with a suite of policy options on the table and with no real reason to change them.

The Coalition, on the other hand (or rather their leader), unleashed a fanciful paid parental leave (PPL) policy. This, it must be said, is just plain old vanilla bad policy. It costs a fortune, and while paid parental leave is in general a policy that promotes many economic benefits, the PPL policy proposed by Tony Abbott will be riddled with what economists call “deadweight”.

Higher earning, higher educated women – the main beneficiaries - will have as many children and be as likely to return to work under either the Labor or Coalition policy - but for massive extra costs under the Coalition plan. Lower-income women will be no more likely to return to work because of PPL, as that is not the pinch point – childcare is. It is a total mess of an idea and regrettably ill-thought out.

Oddly, the attempt to use PPL to get the voting middle on side has backfired. The polling on the Coalition PPL policy suggests that it does not have the sort of backing that might have been expected from the middle class vote.

And that, perhaps, is the real message of the 2013 federal election when it comes to economics. The electorate is a good deal savvier to the reality of what is going on than the politicians give them credit for, but instead are treated to what is a quite superficial presentation of the arguments.

The other dominant jostling has been over costings of policies with both sides goading each other over the details – or lack thereof – behind their plans and the potential “budget blowouts”. Through fluke rather then design, largely as a means of offsetting the negative campaign portrayal of the LNP as “austerians” but partly to reflect the dawning reality of where the economy is sitting right now, the latter period of the campaign has taken the return to surplus off the agenda from both sides, and more importantly has killed off the faux austerity discussion.

The surplus promise is important – as noted in an insightful essay by UNSW’s Geoff Garrett. Australia does not have a public debt problem, and does not need to behave as if it has.

There is now a unique opportunity to reshape the economy. This “glass half full” perspective does treat the end of the mining era as a move to a new equilibrium, and the war chest is ample enough to avoid the need for a slash and burn budget on the expenditure side.

However, the economy is not strong enough, thankfully, to have the resources to provide stimulus. Perhaps it is an example of one of those laws of unintended consequences at work, but this fiscal straightjacket stops politicians from doing crazy things.

Kevin Rudd has constantly re-affirmed the government’s commitment to continuing Australia’s faltering manufacturing industry. AAP/Alan Porritt

Institutions in Australia are also relatively strong. The Reserve Bank has shown itself to be responsive to the global economic situation. It has sister agencies, such as the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, that have kept the banking sector from the sort of bonkers decision-making that so many other countries have suffered under (even if the Australian banking sector remains uncompetitive). The much-maligned Treasury has a very clear perspective on where things are going. Again, the macroeconomy is in the hands of folks who know what they are doing.

In short, the economy is, in my view, landing relatively softly. But to extend the analogy, it also has enough runway to gather pace and take off again.

In macroeconomic terms, the global economy has moved into a different space, with the tapering of quantitative easing in the United States poised to deliver, inadvertently, a stimulus to Australia through its impact on the Aussie dollar. That leaves the burden of the transition to that new equilibrium as coming from smart and clever microeconomic policy. Few of the potential options have come to light in the campaign with little serious presentation of credible, well-articulated policies.

For the Coalition, the paid parental leave idea and loopholes around health insurance are middle-class perks that are millstones that will need to be dumped fast. Far too much energy is going into finding the money for these plans. Both sides will need to examine swiftly the range of bizarre restrictive practices such as parallel importing in key markets.

Both sides also need to avoid the idea that selling houses to each other to get rich again is a good idea. The key policy areas of health and education need a strong effort to get alignment of motive and desired outcome – robbing one education sector to pay for the experiences of another (as in the Gonski schools funding review) is a very short sighted plan.

To give them credit, the Coalition is the only party giving serious consideration to the revenue side of the budget. A commitment to a review of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) option with a view to going to the country in 2016 with a policy on increasing the GST would be a smart move. It sensitises the electorate to what is coming, but I suspect the options on GST and other elements of the tax base (including deeper examinations of the tax loopholes in property and other investment) will actually happen sooner and in the life of the next parliament.

All in all, this has been a pretty muted affair in the economics space in terms of tangible, coherent policy choices.


This is the third article in our Election 2013 Essays series. Stay tuned for the other instalments in the lead-up to Saturday’s election.

Part one: Australia and the world

Part two: The state of Australian democracy

Part four: What is government for?

Part five: The philosophy of voting

Part six: Australia for the long term

Join the conversation

123 Comments sorted by

Comments on this article are now closed.

  1. Mike Stasse

    retired energy consultant

    Well....... only an economics professor would tell you "it's the economy stupid"

    The 'economy' as we know it is as good as finished. There can be no other outcome of the current system than a total reboot. There are so many things wrong with 'the economy', it's hard to know where to start or what order to put them in, but I think the mere fact it's all based on exponential growth, FIAT money, fractional banking, the destruction of the environment, and the frenzied consumption of non renewable resources....... means there is NO WAY this economic system has a future.

    It's all over bar the shouting. The only thing in doubt is when the collapse starts, and how long it takes for it to be total.

    Have a nice day......

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    1. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Mike Stasse wrote; "... NO WAY this economic system has a future." Yes as current economic theory has failed. It is the void in economic theory that needs watching and any global hegemony that may emerge.
      Filling the void with austerity and economic rationalisation from a dead theory is the risk. As these are within the now dead globalisation theory of the last three decades. A theory carrying the level playing field that has failed to provide equitable wealth distribution it promised. Clearly evident over the last decade.

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    2. Urs Baumgartner

      Consultant for Environment and Sustainability

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Great comment Mike. You bring it to the point! Thanks.

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    3. Steven Waters

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      i agree but i think its in the death wobbles. we will attempt to do it all again but better this time as the desire to get those things and make those profits is to strong. then as we see that we are heading down the same track again it will all come tumbling down again. so long as people want to make profits at the expense of the environment and people it will fail.

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    4. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Paul Richards

      "Yes as current economic theory has failed."
      What does this even mean? How does a theory "fail"? And what is this "economic theory", and how do you reconcile its current existence, with an alleged past failure?

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    5. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      "There are so many things wrong with 'the economy'"
      Such as it constituting the greatest period of comfort, prosperity, and peace that humanity has ever known?

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    6. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Paul Richards

      "A theory carrying the level playing field that has failed to provide equitable wealth distribution it promised. Clearly evident over the last decade."
      Paul that theory is/was known as 'Marxism'. Its failure was clearly evident decades ago. Time to move into the 21st century with the rest of us.

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    7. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to David Thompson

      Errrr.... that's not the result of the economy. "the greatest period of comfort, prosperity" is 100% due to FOSSIL FUELS.

      And peace...??? Really....? Since when......?

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    8. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to David Thompson

      David Thompson wrote; '.... that theory [globalisation] is/was known as 'Marxism'. " That works on one level of thinking. As some forms of behaviour have been used implementing Friedman's theory. The dictator parallels are fairly transparent and a good point.
      Globalisation theory was used first by Thatcher and Reagan in the 80s. Cherry picking Friedman's austerity principles first. Using weasel words e.g. economic rationalisation, to hide their political biases / agenda. Used here in the late 80s…

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    9. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Paul Richards

      Paul, thanks for your Wikipedia authorities, but I do have an economics degree, and can sooth your concerns. Read my lips: There is no such thing as an "economic theory of globalisation".'Globalisation' was a term invented to describe an empirically identifiable trend in economic patterns. The only economic *theory* that 'promised to provide equitable wealth distribution' was Marxism. This theory was empirically falsified to such a degree, that it now has less scientific authority than astrology.

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    10. Paul Richards

      integral operating system

      In reply to David Thompson

      David Thompson wrote; " .... Paul, thanks for your Wikipedia authorities" They are not my authorities and carry little weight in this academic conduit. However they provide a simple starting point for critical thinking and its due diligence.
      The context of the comment made initially was about Milton Friedman's Theory of Globalisation adhered to by the World Bank, BIS and Central Banks administered by these corporations. The five central claims of market globalism create wide ranging political meaning…

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    11. Eddie Jensz

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Thompson

      David your grasp of history is somewhat limited because the equitable distribution wealth ideology predates Marx by nearly three quarters of a century.

      Adam Smith in the Wealth of Nations noted that idea of wealth redistribition and equity in 1776. 72 years before the Communist Manifesto of 1848 - Smith's "invisible hand" of distribution was the same idea in a different means. Neither system works, Smith's ideology is the base of capitalism.

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  2. David Maddern

    logged in via Facebook

    It is fair enough that a Professor of Economics uses that headline. The fact is it is too far into the public discourse already.
    The two major parties prattle on about the economy and how they are a party of the Economy.
    We don't live in an Economy. And the space we live in is far from stable.
    Our Economic activity has put us just over 1 degree of basal global mean temperature, and suffering the sequalae.

    So it is not all about the Economy.

    A better way to regard the system we live in is to look at the Social, Economic and Environmental aspects of our endeavour. Politically, we see that in The Greens.

    I hope people see the shallow 'more of the same' from the Liberals and marginally more from Labor. But when the media has Leaders Debates they put up Potential Prime Ministers instead of the Leaders of the Parties of either house.

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    1. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to David Maddern

      Hmmm, we may see that in the greens but they are not part of the 2 party preferred system and therefor, in accordance with establishment mentality, deserve no consideration or mention

      how dare you mention the greens, we have no time for that

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    2. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Actually, not even the Greens "get it". They're into "green growth".

      No growth is sustainable. Period.

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    3. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Did you just say that no growth is sustainable?

      That is insane, just on its face it is blatently not true, some growth is sustainable, that's obviosuly not what you meant, maybe have another go.

      Accumulation of organic matter in a forest is an example of economic growth that is perfectly sustainable

      Did you mean infinite growth or continual and never ending growth is not sustainable?

      Some growth is definitely sustainable

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    4. David Maddern

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Michael, The Greens are part of the 2 party preferred system, look at Melbourne.
      2 Party preferred models the count with all the minor parties votes distributed.

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    5. David Maddern

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Some growth is desirable to make up for senescence, open ended growth is another matter.

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    6. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      YOU are totally wrong and do not understand growth at all..... Albert Bartlett, Professor of Mathematics at the University of Boulder Colorado famously once said "Humanity's greatest shortcomings is its inability to understand the exponential function.."

      HERE's some homework for you, the most important video you will ever watch.....

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umFnrvcS6AQ

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    7. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      I wasn't so much disagreeing with you, your statement was just very vague, the term growth can refer to many different things

      ie. growing unemployment, growing depreciation of the dollar, growth in instability

      Just stating the term growth is not sustainable doesn't mean much

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    8. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      No no no Michael......

      Growing unemployment is unsustainable. Give me 3% growth in unemployment, and within ~100 years NOBODY is working....

      ditto with depreciation of the dollar..... eventually it's worth nothing. I happen to think it's already worth nothing, but that's another argument altogether...

      Growth is growth, and eventually it ALWAYS blows up in your face. After all, a nuclear explosion is the exponential growth in the numbers of particles splitting atoms, except that one's very obvious because the doubling periods are nanoseconds instead of years......

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    9. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      again it is not so much that we disagree with your point entirely but;

      By definition nothing can be sustained in a finite expanding universe so your quest for sustainability is fundamentally flawed

      We will all die when the sun expands so therefor nothing is sustainable or eventually when the heat gets strecthed out of the universe

      So not only is growth not sustainable....nothing is sustainable....

      you just need to clarify the context you are talking about - because by definition not even the solar power is sustainable

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    10. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Well of course I meant within human timing constraints... anybody worrying about the Sun expanding to the Earth's orbit has a problem....

      But, on the point of solar power.... it isn't sustainable either!

      ALL the renewable energy systems we hold so dear all require non renewable resources for their manufacture. Worse, in a post fossil fuel era, it will be impossible to repair or replace worn out solar panels and wind turbines.......

      http://damnthematrix.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/nothing-we-do-is-sustainable-been-saying-it-for-years-now/

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    11. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Okay so first of all, this argument that building renewables consumes fossil fuels.

      Everything currently consumes fossil fuels - so this cannot be an argument against renewables anymore than it is an argument against meat, coal, you name it, it all requires fossil fuels.

      If your argument can be applied to anything, then your argument isn't an argument.

      Also any claim about what is and what is not possible in the future should be taken with a grain of salt. You should not make claims to knowledge…

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    12. Steven Waters

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      very interesting video. it makes me want to go and get my little piece of land now with a little farm on it. if we are heading towards using up all our coal resources so fast then we will have to find alternative forms of energy anyway regardless of environmental concerns.

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    13. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      why can't we use tidal, geothermal, csp, wind energy to mine?

      Because Michael, those 255 tonne trucks they use to bring ore to the surface from the bottom of mine pits would NEVER work on electricity.......

      It's because oil based liquid fuels are portable and can be put in tanks of any shape or size that they are universally used in transport....

      I once worked out that if you wanted to drive a 40 tonne semi trailer from Brisbane to Sydney (1000 km) it would require........ 40 tonnes of lead acid batteries to store enough energy to drive the truck!

      Of course we could use trains in this instance, but not for mining.......

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    14. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to David Maddern

      David, are you trying to say that The Greens do not have economic policies?

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    15. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Mike, "EVENTUALLY" we are all dead. So who cares?

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    16. Brett Bailey

      Self Employed

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      I am a bit concerned that you quote things that are factually inaccurate - if I may - you say "those 255 tonne trucks they use to bring ore to the surface from the bottom of mine pits would NEVER work on electricity.." - fact you should know is that actually yes they do use electricity - each of the wheels has its own electric motor to drive the haulpack - the electricity is produced by the generator on the truck. It is the cheapest form of electrical motorisation. The use of batteries is totally usustainable - but certainly the haulpack trucks are electrically driven vehicles.

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    17. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Yeah dude, I got nothing but love for you but you are making claims to knowledge you either do not know (Obviously) or couldn't possibly know

      You read Brett's response yeah? that they actually do work on electricity?

      Right after you wrote a long diatribe about how it could never work on electricity?

      This is what making claims to knowledge you either do not know or could not possibly know does - it makes you look silly

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    18. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Dude....... I think I know a whole lot more about energy than you Michael...... maybe it's my fault for not stating the bleeding obvious, but your suggestion of using tidal, geothermal, csp, wind energy to mine will NOT WORK because all those things only produce ELECTRICITY which cannot be stored to run huge mining equipment. Which YOU agree is unsustainable because of batteries etc....

      The fact those trucks run on electricity is totally irrelevant to this argument if said electricity is generated by a 3650-horsepower (2723-kilowatt) diesel engine........

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    19. Graeme Smith

      Citizen

      In reply to Michael Shand

      The old diesel-electric aint even hybrid. The electric "torque converter" works only if the diesel is started and running first. Running on fossil fuel. They don't work on electricity any more than a conventional car works on the innards of a gearbox.

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    20. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      "think I know a whole lot more about energy than you Michael." - lol, I wouldn't bank on it mate, what do you wanna do? whip em out? grab a ruler?

      "which cannot be stored to run huge mining equipment" - ohhh again, you don't know what tech will be developed in the next 50 years

      You don't know what Graphene developments or Fusion of thorium will be able to do

      you don't know what nano technology will be invented

      Maybe we don't have to use massive fkn trucks?

      Maybe small drones can run on solar and go collect rocks for processing, thousands of small drones

      maybe they each have their own sub critical nuclear reactor running on liquad thorium flouride

      you don't know, you don't know, you don't know, you are making claims to knowledge you either do not know or could not possibly know

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    21. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Graeme Smith

      I have no qualms with that, it is kind of beside the point but thanks for the clarification

      maybe you meant to reply to someone else?

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    22. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      OK then, say you want to store 2723-kilowatt for a 12 hour shift (do they run for 24 hours even...?), that's 32.6 MEGA WATT HOURS of storage......

      The BEST energy density that I could find with a quick google is 11.6 kWh per kg

      So to store your precious electricity would require 281 tonnes of batteries........

      What a bummer...... that's more than the truck is rated at which is 255 tonnes.

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    23. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      You don't know what Graphene developments or Fusion of thorium will be able to do

      NONE of those are storage. you really out of your depth Michael....... you don't know you don't know.

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    24. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Maybe we don't have to use massive fkn trucks?

      Having thought about that, let me tell you, they are mining ores that have less and less mineral in them as ALL the good high grade stuff is already gone. Which is almost certainly WHY the new trucks are 255 tonnes instead of the previous benchmark of 200 tonnes.... you know Michael, the trucks are going to get EVEN BIGGER..... until all the cheap oil runs out.

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    25. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Well first of all Graphene could very well be used in storage technologies in the future, it is an exciting product.

      Secondly, I never said these are for storage, maybe Kirk Sorensen is successful with his portable LFTR?

      That would certainly be a game changer - if you are not familiar with Kirk Sorensen then you should check him out, former NASA Scientist doing some uber cool work

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    26. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      If you are asking me to justify how current technology can be renewable I think you are missing

      Humanity faced the same problem with flying - the materials were to heavy and not strong enough at the same time - we got around this with new tech advancement

      You are missing the point

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    27. Graeme Smith

      Citizen

      In reply to Michael Shand

      "beside the point... maybe you meant to reply to someone else?" You argued they ran on electricity relying it seems on word play. They don't run on electricity, nor words. I pointed that out to you.

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    28. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      ".... you know Michael, the trucks are going to get EVEN BIGGER..... until all the cheap oil runs out."

      - or they come up with a better way to mine minerals, say from the ocean? or astroid? or using smart drones that can analyse and sift?

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    29. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Graeme Smith

      Graeme I'm not sure you understand what the current thread conversation is.

      To your point I acknowledge you are totally right about whatever you are saying just as I ackowledge the other guy who said the opposite of you because, I don't have this knowledge about how mining trucks work so I trust commenters that seem more informed than me

      So yes graeme, I accept what ever you say about the inner workings of trucks, whatever trucks, I don't care, you are entirely missing the point of this thread

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    30. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Energy Returned on Energy Invested Michael...... that's all you need to remember. ERoEI. Falling like a rock.

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    31. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Yes, that is as simple as incoming versus outgoing expenditure

      yes, it is basic economics

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    32. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      we got around this with new tech advancement

      No we didn't. We got around this with FOSSIL FUELS.

      With fossil fuels..... you can do ANYTHING!

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    33. Alex Stasse

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Shand

      The reason mining is done the way it is currently is because it is the cheapest way to do it, and the major cost of mining currently is likely to be energy (although I'm not certain on this).

      Mining from the ocean isn't done because it is harder than mining on land, Asteroid mining isn't done because the cost of rockets is astronomical (pun intended). Using drones to sift doesn't make any sense since all the surface minerals have already been mined, they were the easiest to get to.

      Graphene…

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    34. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Sorry but between the first person to think of a flying machine and us actually achieving it - I am pretty sure we had some tech advancement

      maybe that tech was fossil fuel based....fine it was still an advancement in tech, just because it was a fossil fuel tech that doesn't negate the point I was making

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    35. Graeme Smith

      Citizen

      In reply to Michael Shand

      "Graeme I'm not sure you understand what the current thread conversation is."

      Michael:

      Michael Shand in reply to Mike Stasse, "You read Brett's response yeah? that they actually do work on electricity?"

      Quid pro quo.

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    36. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      The biggest improvement was the use of lightweight Aluminium, the smeltering of which wasn't possible until staggering amounts of energy were available to do it.

      All (well nearly all) advancements are improvements in the exploitation of fossil fuels. EVERYTHING around you was made with oil or coal or gas.......

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    37. Alex Stasse

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Your point being that technological innovation will always find a way?

      We have been lucky in a sense in that so far this has been the case, though I'd remind you that making an argument using inductive reasoning which has held true over the last few hundred years, but hasn't held together so well over the span of human history is a little risky. Mike may be guilty of having little faith in future tech, but by the same token you should be careful that you don't have TOO much faith in it.

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    38. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Graeme Smith

      Yes Graeme, I acknoewledge that brett was right

      then you came and said that brett was wrong

      So I acknowledge that

      I have no dog in this fight graeme, it really doesn't matter to me what the inner workers of a truck are, im not arguing that point, what I am arguing is that in the future we do not know what ech will be available to us and so any comment about what is and is not possible should be taken with a grain fo salt

      This is in response to Mike Stasse

      it is a basic point, it shouldn't be this controversial

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    39. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      "EVERYTHING around you was made with oil or coal or gas......." - no doubt, aint tech advancement great, I can't wait to see what they come up with in the next 50 years

      I am sure it will surpise us all and open doors we couldn't even imagine possible

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    40. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Alex Stasse

      Not quite, I try not to make claims with that level of certainty

      What I am saying is that any claim of certainty either way - either tech will save us or that we are all doomed should both be taken with a grain of salt

      We should try not to make claims to knowledge we either do not or could not possibly know is my point

      I think we agree

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    41. Graeme Smith

      Citizen

      In reply to Michael Shand

      "Yes Graeme, I acknoewledge that brett was right

      then you came and said that brett was wrong

      So I acknowledge that"

      Brett right, Brett wrong... What's acknowledged? Anyway, no more acknowledgment required.

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    42. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Graeme Smith

      Whatever your point is about the inner workings of trucks, I have no reason to doubt you, I trust and acknowledge that you are correct about this

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    43. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      your quest for sustainability is fundamentally flawed

      I no longer have a 'quest for sustainability', merely survival for me and mine......

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    44. David Maddern

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      How come trains and those big trucks use electric motors on their wheels, and only cos diesel is used to drive generation of electricity

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    45. David Maddern

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Thompson

      No, but they also look at Social and Environmental aspects. Senator Wish-Wilson is economically trained and experienced.

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    46. David Maddern

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Without your quoting what you are querying, I take it that you want me to explain the three areas.

      The Greens look at Economic, Social and Environmental aspects of any policy and failure in any field would mean looking for modifications to satisfy that failure.

      For instance, a iron ore mine in The Tarkine would be seen as having economic plusses otherwise the proponent would not have popped up, having little social aspect but environmentally roads and development would allow Devil Facial Tumour spread, and the stored carbon in the trees to be released. Also a tract of undeveloped land is increasingly rare in the world, and the proponent could be pointed at the NW of WA where there are mountain ranges of the stuff, and coastal infrastructure.

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  3. Michael Rogers

    Retired

    The Communist Party of China might have some credence in claiming that they were 'managing the economy' but is it not somewhat absurd that the most enthusiastic and 2nd most enthusiastic free market capitalist parties led by Abbott and Rudd are each vying to convince voters that they will 'manage' Australia's part in the current globalised free market unlimited growth economy?

    The defining character of right-wing authoritarian politicians such as Abbott and Rudd is a lack of imagination which besides leading to a lack of empathy (the asylum seeker policies) should mean to voters that neither they nor the political groupings that they lead have the credentials to deal with future challenges that face Australia and human society in general.

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    1. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Michael Rogers

      "The defining character of right-wing authoritarian politicians such as Abbott and Rudd is a lack of imagination which besides leading to a lack of empathy."
      Sloppy plagiarized bollocks from 1930s Freudian Communists. How tragic.

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  4. Stephen Ralph

    carer at n/a

    I thought an election was about people and policies.

    This election has been a popularity contest between TA & KR, with a few policy titbits thrown in.

    Rather than the economy, I would have thought it was the Environment, stupid.

    But neither major party seems to agree that there is a real problem, except to score points off each other.

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  5. Brandon Young

    Retired

    Its the media, stupid. There has been very little accountability to truth, to common sense and to what is really important.

    The Australian people are now collectively miserable enough to elect a government led from the far right. If they are also stupid enough to give it absolute power in the Senate, we might be in serious trouble.

    Without an independent media to hold the new government to account, increasing protest and civil disorder will invoke a severe response from irrational political power, as it always does under parties of the far right. Our version of Stalinism, or of what is happening in Egypt and Syria, may be just around the corner.

    Would a last minute social media campaign to encourage voters not to support Liberals in the Senate make a difference?

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    1. Brett Bailey

      Self Employed

      In reply to Brandon Young

      No it wouldn't - because your absurd proposition that our version of Stalinism or of what is happening in Egypt or Syria has no credence whatsoever?
      As for being miserable enough - how did we get that way then? and Please don't tell me its the media's fault. After all the media in 2007 was behind Rudd then - why is it now an issue? if it is an issue now it should have bene an issue back in 2007 but it wasn;t - there was none of this wailling by the left about the media - voters, contrary to the "intellectually superior" left, are not stupid which is why there is a chnage of Government coming as there has in the past and will be in the future - so stop wringing the hands and get over whatever you hang ups are and just vote as you wish and vote again in 3 years time and who knows you may get what you wish for. But fo now I am going to get what I wish for.

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    2. Brandon Young

      Retired

      In reply to Brett Bailey

      "As for being miserable enough - how did we get that way then?"

      Soulless consumerism.

      "But for now I am going to get what I wish for."

      Enjoy the Abbott years Brett. His election is just one consequence of the great U-turn humanity has taken. It may take some time for people across the political spectrum to recognise that the high point of Western civilisation was just before the Copenhagen conference on climate change, and that collapse is already well underway.

      I accept that many people find it hard to see the big picture or long term, especially when that picture is not pretty, so I really should have used the word "ignorant" instead of "stupid." My apologies.

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  6. Michael Shand

    Software Tester

    Pathetic article buying into the 2 party preferred mentality

    We deserve better than this

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    1. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Actually Michael.... don't you think we may have reached the THREE PARTY preferred mentality...??

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    2. Michael Shand

      Software Tester

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Well the 2 party preferred mentality describes what happens in a 2 party preferred system where the focus from the media is only ever directed at the 2 party's.

      Are we in a 3 party preffered system? no and having a 3 party preferred over a 2 party preferred really misses the point.

      you are either suggesting that the greens get equal coverage as the major party's which is demonstrably not true and I know you wouldn't talk nonsense so you must be reffering to the Nationals as a 3rd party

      as long as the nationals are in a long standing and directive coalition with the liberals - I am not sure under what circumstance you could state that they are a seperate party operating independently

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    3. David Arthur

      resistance gnome

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      "Three Party preferred"?

      Who's the Third Party? It can't possibly be the Extreme Greens - the Murdoch Liberal Party having done such a good job castigating anything and everything they've mentioned to the extent of Denying that there are any non-economy issues with which we could be concerned.

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    4. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Michael Shand

      Michael, academic economics is a magnet for autistic types. Get them yakking outside the topic of the 'internal validity' of their models, and they sound very immature. How does the saying go, 'they should stick to their knitting', and leave politics to the people.

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  7. Peter Wigley

    logged in via Facebook

    "Its the Population stupid" should be the catchcry of everyone.

    I am still amazed that even an economics professor hasn't been able to see that the most obvious problem that Australia faces, along with the rest of the world, is the growth of the human population. We keep expanding the population far faster than we can build our infrastructure and capital base so we are inevitably going to loose.

    It is way past time for the voters to look seriously at the policies of the candidates and give their first preference to the candidate who will get rid of baby bonuses, will lobby for zero net migration, will advocate that Australia's foreign aid go towards family planning education and assisting education of women to free them from the baby-slavery so many are stuck with. Once we solve the population explosion problem many of the other problems will fade into insignificance.

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    1. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Peter Wigley

      Actually, we will not "solve the population explosion problem", it will solve itself through triple digit oil prices and food shortages.

      population is bang on target to start collapsing ~2025, no matter who wins the election!

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    2. Peter Wigley

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Thanks Mike. The article is all very depressing, and unfortunately I couldn't agree more. But with a captive media and ignorance all round I think the BAU will continue even while the crash is happening all around us.

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    3. Robert McDougall

      Small Business Owner

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      funny, i thought it was educating women that led to slower birth rates, and coupled with the right to have an abortion, also reduces crime rates in the long term.

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    4. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Peter Wigley

      "I am still amazed that even an economics professor hasn't been able to see that the most obvious problem that Australia faces, along with the rest of the world, is the growth of the human population."
      Peter, this was certainly true for all of human history right up to the very period when Thomas Malthus was fire-breathing so heatedly about the subject in the early 19th century. Turned out, he was living right at the beginning for the first time humanity managed to overcome the 'Malthusian Trap.' However, less than 170 years later, some Californian kooks poured kerosene over 'Malthusian Catastrophism', led by Paul Ehrlich's "population bomb", which they reckoned would see humanity starving to death by the late 1970s. A slew of filmic sludge was inspired by these neo-Malthusian kooks, like "Soylent Green", "Zero Population Growth", and so on.
      We're a bit smarter and rational about these issues nowadays.

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    5. Graeme Smith

      Citizen

      In reply to David Thompson

      "We're a bit smarter and rational about these issues nowadays."

      Green revolution neoliberal big oil smoke that. Since the 70's the number of people that go to bed hungry not knowing where the next feed will come from has continuously increased. "Humanity starving to death" is not so far off.

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    6. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Graeme Smith

      Graeme, it was the stunning success of the Green Revolution, which exposed the kookiness of the "population bomb" bimboes. From 1970 to 2013, humanity has experienced the greatest lift out of poverty ever. Not coincidentally, the reduction in poverty and disease since 1970 has followed the increasing leadership of capitalist entrepreneurs in addressing third world problems, such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, taking over the dullard failures of the UN crowd.

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    7. Brett Bailey

      Self Employed

      In reply to David Thompson

      And the population has grown. In 1975 it was 4 billion - now it is 7 billion - the 3 billion additional are still eating like the rest of us and I agree peoples generally are better of now than they once were.

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    8. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to David Thompson

      The 'Malthusan Trap' has NOT been overcome...... merely postponed by a once only endowment of FOSSIL FUELS.

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    9. Graeme Smith

      Citizen

      In reply to David Thompson

      What do you read? Farmer suicide. More hunger. African land grab on now. Land degradation. Purely fossil fuelled... Gates and Buffet net help themselve$.

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    10. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Mike, by DEFINITION, there is no such thing as a pause or 'postponement' of the 'Malthusian Trap.'

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    11. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Mike, I'm pretty persuaded that folks have been eating green stuff, not petroleum.

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    12. Peter Wigley

      logged in via Facebook

      In reply to David Thompson

      It is amazing how people sitting in the comfort of their first world utopia cannot see the poverty and degradation inflicted on the vast bulk of humanity, and the fact that the third world is creeping closer to us every day. Take a trip to any crowded county and open your eyes, this is the future that we are facing. We may still have big flat screen TV's and fancy cars but we will also be living the nightmare where you can't drive faster than 20kph because of the congestion, you won't be able to walk in the bush because there either won't be any or it will be "off limits", and we'll have all the other stresses that go with extreme overcrowding. We are turning ourselves into "battery humans" at a time when many people are sanctimoniously buying free range eggs because it salves their conscience over battery hens, forgetting that free range usually means that the poor chooks are living in a barn with 30 square centimetres of space per bird. This is our future.

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    13. Stephen Ralph

      carer at n/a

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      I did read the article in FTW.....

      if true it certainly is a chilling account of the way it is.

      It seems as though we are on a star ride to nowhere.

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  8. Philip Impey

    Architect+Urban Designer

    Don't put a lot of faith in theoretical economists myself. The "economists" I listen to mainly are the small business operators, especially in the development and construction industry and no matter what the "economics professors" say, they know the economy is in strife. Forward orders are or have shrunk, margins are tighter, profits don't exist and most are "working for wages" without any return on their business investment. Of course, one has to doubt the practical knowledge of the "experts" the…

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    1. Doug Fraser

      policy analyst at UNSW

      In reply to Philip Impey

      Philip, what would your customers think of you if you were to say with regard to your own work "I don't put a lot of faith in the laws of physics, I don't hold with Strength of Materials, I really can't be bothered with aesthetics, they're all just theoretical waffle. I'll just ask the local newsagent instead"?

      The problem was listening to small businessmen is that most of them are extremely poor economists. They can't or won't see past the end of their own noses, and have very little feeling…

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    2. Philip Impey

      Architect+Urban Designer

      In reply to Doug Fraser

      Can't compare structural mechanics and materials technology with economics for the simple fact that economics is, a social science. Social science refers to the academic disciplines concerned with the society and the relationships of individuals within a society, which primarily rely on empirical approaches. There are, by its nature, millions of combinations and permutations which influence human behaviour and thus, economic theory.Which is why we have the varying spectrum of economic theory eg Keynsian…

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    3. Doug Fraser

      policy analyst at UNSW

      In reply to Philip Impey

      And conversely, I'd rather ask an economist (or better still, a lot of economists) about how to design an economic policy than a structural engineer. It's a matter of the right tools for the right job.

      Economics qualifies as a "science" in the sense that it has articulated theories, reproducible methods, and standards of proof and disproof. The fact that many economists disregard the last in particular is simply testament to the fact that economics is all about how we as a society address problems…

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    4. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Doug Fraser

      Economics is absolutely not a science.

      Kenneth Boulding, well known economist, educator, peace activist, poet, religious mystic, devoted Quaker, systems scientist, and interdisciplinary philosopher famously said said, "Mathematics brought rigor to Economics. Unfortunately, it also brought mortis."

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    5. Graeme Smith

      Citizen

      In reply to Mike Stasse

      Fields such as mathematics and religion have proofs/truths. Science is sceptical.

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    6. Philip Impey

      Architect+Urban Designer

      In reply to Doug Fraser

      I guess,in the end , its all about semantics and by your bagging of Murdoch et al. is obvious where your sympathies lie. (Although I see the CEO of Fairfax is now in general accord accord with Murdoch)
      All I can add to the discussion is- I agree totally that it is all about the economy, and we know that Rudd is all about jobs, jobs, jobs which he cries ad nauseum- while the unemployment rate (official) keeps going up and is tipped to be 6.5%+ within a year or so.
      Who nows what the real rate is or the rate of underemployment is. I know of graduate architects who still don't have jobs in their trained fields 2 years after graduation. Sure, they are employed, but not in their trained profession- there just ain't no work mate- and thats the reality, irrespective of what talking heads say.

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    7. Mike Stasse

      retired energy consultant

      In reply to Philip Impey

      And you're surprised...? What more could you POSSIBLY expect from a fundamentally flawed economic system.......?

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    8. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Doug Fraser

      "Philip, what would your customers think of you if you were to say with regard to your own work "I don't put a lot of faith in the laws of physics, I don't hold with Strength of Materials, I really can't be bothered with aesthetics, they're all just theoretical waffle. I'll just ask the local newsagent instead"?'
      Doug, I would say, "son, as a realist, empiricist, even, I couldn't agree more with you on "aesthetics", but if you including aesthetics as a body of knowledge in the same class as the laws of physics and the Strength of Materials" then your brain really is pickled old son".

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    9. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Doug Fraser

      And conversely, David, I would not listen to any academic economist who has no real world economic experience, such as building their own business or corporate management.

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    10. Philip Impey

      Architect+Urban Designer

      In reply to David Thompson

      Amen says I to that David. I could argue till the cows come home about the theory of aesthetics but I didn't want to confuse the issue.
      However there are one or two QUT Master's thesis on visual perception and its use in creating synthetic virtual environments as a tool in the assessment of architectural and urban design development approvals.

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  9. James Redman

    Solution Architect

    I'm afraid most politicians these days do not stand for what they believe in but mostly what they think the voters want them to believe in. That is why they are so close to each other. Rather than stand for something and then see if people follow you, the parties invest huge amounts discovering what the people want and then present that back to them.

    The lack of decent debate is therefore down to the voters appetite for it. We only have ourselves to blame.

    There is no point blaming newspapers…

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    1. John West

      logged in via email @outlook.com

      In reply to James Redman

      Well said.

      "Both newspapers and politicians have a product to sell". True.

      Unfortunately the process of public "disillusionment" takes time. We are seeing signs of it already. How long this gradual awareness takes is anyone’s guess. Let us hope it comes sooner than later or the “downhill slide” becomes irreversible!
      In my opinion electing the largely befuddled opposition will at best delay any progress and might possibly accelerate social and economical devastation.

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    2. Christopher Seymour

      Business owner at Location

      In reply to James Redman

      James,
      I think you are right. This is why Rudd's stand on gay marriage has been so popular. People want leadership on difficult issues, and will respond when appeals are made with conviction and sincerity.
      Abbott's PPL is another policy made from the heart ( even if many disparage his "women of quality" remark"). I think Colin Harmon is wrong when he says the policy doesn't resonate with voters. Parental leave is a traditional labour policy, for the coalition to be only trailing on this one issue is good.

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    3. Graeme Smith

      Citizen

      In reply to Christopher Seymour

      ( even if many disparage his "women of quality" remark").

      Pedant warning -"women of that calibre". And tactical rather than a strategy "from the heart".

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    4. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Christopher Seymour

      "This is why Rudd's stand on gay marriage has been so popular"
      Yes, indeed. Why, every shop I enter, cab I catch, mobile call I take, web page I open, it is ALL about the love for Kevin and his stand on gay marriage. I've heard that whole suburbs have been staying up all night, meeting in local parks, cul-de-sacs, and traffic lights, unable to stop talking about wonderful Kevin and his wonderful stand on gay marriage!

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    5. David Thompson

      Marketing Research

      In reply to Christopher Seymour

      Parental leave is a traditional labour policy, for the coalition to be only trailing on this one issue is good."
      Well, if your idea of "tradition" is a whole 18 months.

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  10. Greg North

    Retired Engineer

    " The election has been remarkably light on any serious effort to debate economics at a time when the economy should have been the cornerstone of the whole campaign. "
    Could this be because neither party knows how to really address what we may face in the future and they certainly do not want to scare people.
    Other posts have referred to things like Oil Peak and greater problems with availability of other resources to maintain growth.
    If we add to that what the developed industrial nations have…

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    1. Greg North

      Retired Engineer

      In reply to Greg North

      Oops, hit reply button too soon by mistake and obviously all that I had copied and was making reference to can be discarded.

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    2. John West

      logged in via email @outlook.com

      In reply to Greg North

      Every time you copy and paste from someone and are making reference to - delete it! Better still, stop plagiarising and spamming in the first place. That’ll be very much appreciated; I am sure, by many serious posters here!
      Try!

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  11. David Arthur

    resistance gnome

    Thanks for this, Professor.

    While it's undoubtedly true that economic issues should be at the forefront, it could be that the economicists don't understand enough about dynamic systems to be able to guide us?

    We've had a review in these pages of "Big Coal", which helps frame environmental issues for this election. How about a review of theoretical physicist Mark Buchanan (http://www.bloomberg.com/view/bios/mark-buchanan/)'s book "Forecast: What Physics, Meteorology and the Natural Sciences Can Teach Us About Economics".

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  12. David Thompson

    Marketing Research

    Academic MACROeconomists should not even be permitted to enter Parliament House, or hold a government job, including universities. They are as useless as tits on a bull. OTOH, MICROeconomists are very, very valuable. But the government already knows that, coz the government recruits hundreds of economics graduates - including PhDs - every year.
    Still, if the Economics graduate did not also have a major in History, I would ban them also from all government work.

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  13. Fred Moore

    Builder

    Aussie Investor here.

    Its imperative that everyone votes for Tony Abbott.
    I have invested in Abbott's Butt Privatisation scheme.
    Here's the deal.:

    Everytime an Aussie sits down after Abbott is elected, they will have to pay 50cents.

    To make it all look fair, Abbott has agreed to sponsor 10 International Butt-Provider companies to do the tax collection.

    Further,along the lines of NSW electricity privatisation the more valuable each companies Butts are the less they will have to pay…

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  14. Lee Emmett

    Guest House Manager

    Labor's achievements: low public debt/GDP, modest GDP growth, despite much of the world still in recession after the GFC, low unemployment, low interest rates, DisabilityCare, Better Schools, NBN rollout, fairer superannuation outcomes, ...

    LNP's proposals: save $31.5 billion by discontinuing the School Kids Bonus, reducing public service by 12,000, two year delay in phasing of superannuation increase from 9 to 12 per cent, discontinue low income super contribution, rescind increase in humanitarian…

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    1. Graeme Smith

      Citizen

      In reply to Lee Emmett

      "LNP's proposals:"

      ...to those you need include what the LNP state governments previously have indicated they would like to do, and how they will feel free additionally to ramp it all up. CantDo Newman, for example, has been champing at the bit whilst on hold so far this year until the fed election is over - just watch him go come whatever next week.

      "Labor's achievements:"

      • NBN (the real one) – total cost $37.4b (Government contribution: $30.4b)
      • BER 7,920 schools: 10,475 projects…

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