Category Archives: Australian issues

Where's that Greenie-Economist Alliance When you Need it?

The various business economists who have argued against lowering the petrol tax are probably right, assuming that we think the prices are going to stay this high (if prices are about to come down, you could construct a good argument … Continue reading

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Inequality and the ARC

While writing a rejoinder to my Australian Research Council referee reports, it occurred to me what an odd system we have for handing out money to academics. 40% of the funding decision is based on track record, relative to opportunity. … Continue reading

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That's Pretty Rich

I have a review of two "all-time rich list" books in the latest issue of the Economic Record. Parts of it are a bit wonkish, but people with an interest in inequality may find it worth skimming. Full text over … Continue reading

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Prostitution

The Canberra Times today carries a front page story with the heading "25pc of prostitutes students, says sex industry" (the CT’s website is generally a day out of date, so check here on Monday). As Andrew Norton has pointed out, … Continue reading

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You know you've been spouting political jargon for too long when…

Roger Price MP, speaking about John Anderson’s retirement in the House of Representatives on June 23: I know John is a devoted family man and I think that every member of parliament, no matter how humble their position, has a … Continue reading

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Why So Sad, Cobber?

David Blanchflower (Dartmouth) and Andrew Oswald (Warwick) have a new NBER working paper out on happiness. It’s entitled "Happiness and the Human Development Index: The Paradox of Australia", and the abstract reads: According to the well-being measure known as the … Continue reading

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Senator Peter Cook

Along with 14 other Senators,* West Australian Senator Peter Cook retires at the end of this month. I worked as Peter’s trade adviser from 1998-2000, when he was shadow trade minister, and learned a tremendous amount. It was only a … Continue reading

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Monarchy on the Molonglo?

We thought we were being radical arguing for some big Senate reforms in the Canberra Times recently. But it turns out we’re nowhere near as angry about the way that parliament functions today as the Clerk of the Senate, Harry … Continue reading

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Reforming Sydney

The SMH is ‘thinking big’ with its campaign for Sydney (summary here, more detail here), but the campaign has the feeling of Democrats’ press release. There are lots of waffly ideas (eg. "Pursue transport strategy to target soaring car use"), … Continue reading

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Arise Ye Workers From Your Slumbers

The ACTU today starts a major membership drive. I’m relatively optimistic that this is a good use of their money. Although the factors that have driven unionisation down over the past 25 years aren’t going to be reversed (see here … Continue reading

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Sincerely Flattered

Adele Horin had a piece in today’s SMH calling for more liberal arts degrees. I agreed with it, but felt like I’d heard the ideas somewhere before.

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The Levers and Cables View of Policy

On my bike ride home yesterday, a comment by Catallaxy‘s Andrew Norton got me thinking more about the way in which people approach policy solutions. Responding to my casting doubt on the methodology of a recent study that claimed to … Continue reading

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New Study Proves 9/10 Researchers Can't Distinguish Correlation from Causation (Or Why We Need a Better Press Corps)

A new study out of Flinders University looked at the number of friends that elderly people had in 1992. When they re-contacted the subjects in 2002, they found that those who had more friends were less likely to have died. … Continue reading

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BobFest

Yesterday featured a rather unusual event – a day-long celebration of the career of economics professor Bob Gregory, who headed the economics program at ANU RSSS from 1987-2005, served on the Reserve Bank Board from 1985-95, and since 1969 has … Continue reading

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Unfair Dismissals

Justin Wolfers and I have a piece in the SMH today on unfair dismissals (full text over the fold). We make three points: 1. The reforms are pretty modest, and probably won’t cause the OECD to amend their rating of … Continue reading

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What Goes Down May Go Up

Responding to the federal government’s proposal to create an Australian Fair Pay Commission (modelled on the beautifully named UK "Low Pay Commission"), the ALP’s current plan of attack is to oppose the legislation. As an lawyer-turned-economist, I must confess to … Continue reading

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Don't Mention the C Word

Louise Dodson today discusses Labor’s response to the tax cuts in the SMH. Here’s a few choice quotes: Kim Beazley has resorted to a touch of class warfare, not to mention good old-fashioned populism, in a seat-by-seat campaign designed to … Continue reading

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Honouring Teachers

In a must-read article for anyone who cares about teacher quality, Thomas Friedman highlights a program run by Williams College to recognise great teachers. It’d be superb if we could get similar programs running in a few Australian universities, supplementing … Continue reading

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Let the Data Go Free

I’ve been arguing for the last five years, in cahoots with my high school buddy Justin Wolfers, that the Australian Bureau of Statistics should provide all data free on its website, just like its sensible US counterpart does (Australian university … Continue reading

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Eddie Mabo Day

While I’m as happy as anyone to get a three-day break this weekend, the Queen’s Birthday holiday must surely be one of the most bizarre dates in our nation’s calendar.* In Imagining Australia, we propose that it be scrapped, and … Continue reading

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Teacher Merit Pay

I’ve been banging on about teacher merit pay lately, so was interested by the news that there’s a bipartisan movement in the US to put up some federal money to reward high-performing teachers in high-poverty schools. Downunder, Nelson and Macklin … Continue reading

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Laboring Away

I’ve tended to be pretty sanguine about Labor’s current standing in the polls, tending to argue to those who fret that the party is doomed that the ALP now isn’t that different to the Coalition in 1993. But a piece … Continue reading

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Mind, I mean, Case Closed

In 2003, I wrote a paper (followed by a minor erratum) on the employment effect of minimum wages, using a Western Australian natural experiment, and finding an employment elasticity with the respect to the minimum wage of -0.3 for all … Continue reading

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Attitudes to IR issues

Andrew Norton has an article in the CIS magazine Policy on popular opinion and a raft of employment issues, including job security, unions, and industrial relations reform. You don’t have to agree with all his policy recommendations to find the … Continue reading

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The Bloghiatus is Over

Flew back into Sydney this morning, so can guarantee I’ll be blogging more regularly from now on than I was when in the US (I have about a dozen posts I’ve been meaning to write). Three quick things for today. … Continue reading

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To IR is Human

As a library labour economist, it seems about time I wrote something about the proposed IR changes. Fair Pay Commission Relative to the AIRC, it seems likely that under a Fair Pay Commission will lead to lower real minimum wages.* … Continue reading

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Sex and the City

Over the years, I’ve noticed that a much higher fraction of my female friends complain about the lack of eligible men, than the fraction of my male friends who complain about the lack of eligible women.*  But I’ve always assumed … Continue reading

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Jess Beats Idiot Box

I’ve been watching Big Brother, and reading AusCulture Jess’s BB05 blog. And I can confidently say that the latter is a heck of a lot more interesting than the former. Over at Centrebet, shearer Glenn ($2.20) has now moved past … Continue reading

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HECS for Farmers

With the drought unabated, John Howard has again dusted off the Akubra and gone bush. There, he’s heard from Australian farmers, calling for making drought assistance more generous, or making the income and wealth tests less restrictive. I’m comfortable with … Continue reading

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Cut class sizes hoping it will boost literacy. Repeat.

Having just written a piece in Monday’s Sydney Morning Herald pointing out that lower class sizes over the past 25 years have not raised literacy and numeracy standards, I was mildly surprised to open today’s paper, and find Tony Vinson … Continue reading

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