Archive for September, 2011

Australian economy and society 2011 – a few observations.
September 29, 2011

I’ve been in Australia for a short while, and there are quite a few differences between here and the conditions I’ve left behind in Ireland. Cass kindly asked me to write something about the Aussie situation, and these are a few of the thoughts I’ve had.

1. Firstly, work is abundant, driven for the most part by a large-scale resources boom. The northern part of Western Australia is undergoing hyper development thanks to huge iron ore deposits and the Chinese thirst for it’s mineral wealth. The state is developing liquefied gas reserves in conjunction with Chevron in Onslow in the north too, and has been exporting this gas to Japan for many years- a recent contract for $29.5 billion gives an indication of the amounts of money being invested. The gold mines in Kalgoorlie pump out a steady stream of ore and contribute greatly to the wealth of the state (the State government recently posted a surplus of $1.6 billion thanks to the mines), and as a result of this boom, there is a large amount of expansion going on in and around the state capital Perth, which is growing rapidly, and currently has about 1.7 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area. Public transport is exceptionally good, healthcare is free and extensive, and there are job opportunities out there for people willing to roll up their sleeves and give it a go. Most of this wealth comes from the north, as there are no cities up there (yet), so Perth acts as a hub by default as it is the only place in-state with a good international airport. For example, many people base themselves in Perth and work in the mines, flying in and out every month or so as their leave comes around. They are very well paid, and have recently enjoyed a 10% pay increase in the last 3 months, money which recycles into the Perth economy via the property sector (more of which anon). However, it must be said that employment outside mining and resources is heavily concentrated in services and construction, which is also undergoing a large expansion thanks to the cash from the resource industry. Industry is declining noticeably, in terms of manufacturing goods, and dry weather for the last couple of years means agriculture has been under the cosh too (although we’ve had good rains, and this is likely to change), and I’ve drawn the conclusion pretty quickly that Australia is in some ways a bubble and not as sustainable for the long term future as many people back home seem to think. All the same, Australia has plentiful work available for the short to medium term, and is better placed to weather the financial storm than the rest of the world thanks to its four pillared banking strategy, which is underpinned by an extensive state guarantee and which is not subject to large scale borrowing on the scale of the Tiger. However, as recent tumbles in resource prices show, we are subject to the collapse in other parts of the world, and can’t guarantee good prices or a continuing boom to fund the rest of a resources reliant economy. It can be concluded, therefore, that Australia has no real cushion of industry to sustain it for the future, although it is likely to be a while before this cushion is needed given the thirst for our resources overseas, especially in Asia.

2. One very noticeable feature of the Australian economy is a large property boom which is going on and which is quite unsettling in some ways for someone who doesn’t work in construction and remembers the madness of the Celtic Tiger. House prices and rent are ridiculously expensive, and increasing faster than wages. Also, many people with plots of land are bulldozing their houses and building two units on the vacant lot, and flogging the other unit or renting it. Property is for sale on every street, and plenty of young families are buying two or three units as investment vehicles for the future- again, not a very positive sign for the future, when the cash from resources runs out, but likely to be a manageable headache, not a NAMA style catastrophe.

3. There are an awful lot of Irish immigrants here, so much so that it’s possible to socialise solely with other Paddies and not assimilate at all with the locals. This has stirred up some resentment among younger unqualified people (a not insignificant portion of youth here) as many of the jobs they do have been taken by Irish on holiday visas, something that makes them resentful. I have heard conversations to this effect on public transport, for instance. I’m not well placed to say how widespread this is (probably not very), but it’s important to note that is does exist in certain quarters. Also, Irish labourers in the north have undercut trade union conditions by working on tourist visas, lowering wages and displacing locals from jobs they would have seen as rightfully theirs. Again, not something that endears us to the Aussies. That said, most people do get on very well out here, and in some professional industries, Irish qualifications and accent are seen as an asset because we have a reputation for being highly skilled and hardworking (What was that you were saying about ‘Celtic Cubs’??), and we are, by and large, well accepted and welcomed.

All in all, people who decide to leave Ireland for Australia are making the right decision, in my opinion. So long as you come here aware that prices are high and wages might not match expectations, if you’re prepared to work hard and contribute you will get on very well. It is worth being aware that construction here will not continue as it is for much longer, and that industry is displacing overseas, but there are plenty of service jobs available for people who are here short term, and the lifestyle, weather, and society is a lot better, and more open-minded, tolerant and easy going. For the next few years at least, Australia has more to offer than most other places.

Antiestablishmentarian 29.9.2011

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Gay Rights – Are We Still Stonewalled in Ireland ?
September 28, 2011

‘Gay rights’ often conjures up visions of men in tight fitting clothes and glitter and women top to toe in dungarees en masse, shaking their bodies to Kylie or some other camp artiste, on top of a float. It has its roots from a little known riot that happened in 1966 in Christopher Street in New York in what became later known as the Stonewall riots. 51/53 Christopher Street – Police consistently raided the gay bars in the area and on the 28th of June decided to carry out their usual raids, but with an unexpected turn of events, they were faced with the vast array of the gay spectrum ready to fight for their rights to congregate, to drink in an establishment, to wear what they want, but most importantly, be themselves – which things the average person takes for granted. A riot ensued but this in itself was the kick start of the gay rights movement.

Fast forward to 2011 and to our own little island on the western seaboard: have we achieved much in terms of gay rights? Up until 1993 homosexuality was illegal until Senator David Norris brought the country to the European Court of Human Rights to strike the laws from the statute books, a move which allowed young gay men like myself to now live our lives on equal footing with other fellow humans, the barriers of inequality have been broken down however this does not go far enough. Civil partnerships are currently offered but how far do these go? Well in terms of tax, inheritance etc we are indeed considered human but what about childrens rights? Ah now that is where we hit a snag!.Im not going to go into the details as there is a lot of scenarios which would take time to explain but putting it simply a child in a CP has less rights than that of a child in normal run of the mill marriage, this is one outstanding point that needs to be addressed.

Gay rights itself is not completely above rapproach itself , a lot of people fear they themselves are not moving with the time. Parading down O Connell St while its a hoot and by jesus an excellent party (should see the hangovers people do be suffering!) this was what worked nearly fifty years ago for when there was anti gay legislation on the books. Peoples opinions of gays is altered when they see the hoardes coming down O Connell St , indeed your average Joe Soap homosexual will oft roll his eyes and let out a deep sigh. Gay rights campaigners should be working on getting people into the Dail, into the councils, positions where they can change things.

The Gay Rights movement needs to work with society and society with it to ensure a balanced world and no injustices, which we saw so evidently in the way the Norris presidential campaign has been coming under attack. For if we dont continue to work with one and other, we wont have a Stonewall riot, we will just have a stone wall between us.

fluffybiscuits 28.9.11

Yanis Varoufakis – New Bottle, Old Keynesian Wine
September 26, 2011

I have been enjoying Yanis Varoufakis’s blogs (introduced to the Politicalworld.org forum by Andrew Purlfield) and including his latest, which is a transcript of his recent talk (with Pearse Doherty and Fintan O’Toole) at the new SF headquarters (the Shelbourne).

But essentially, for all his stance as critic of mainstream economists and of the ECB and EFSF, his own viewpoint is still that capitalism can be made to work, by adopting the right technical solutions.

He advocates an ECB 20 year bond to clear all debt above the level of the Maastricht agreement, along with ECB-backed investment bank that raises the quantity of finance put in to European firms.

I recommend his talk, which gives a marxist-influenced historical account of the development of finance capital that is well worth reading, as it shows the various means by which capitalism has borrowed from the future and produced fictious capital in an attempt to sustain a severely ailing, terminally sick system which imo has reached the end of its historical tether.

http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/2011/09/23…-hotel-dublin/

I’m forcibly struck by what Varoufakis leaves out of his analysis. He describes well the way that a massive credit bubble has been created, in an attempt to sustain the system, and is now collapsing, leaving every bank in Europe bankrupt. He also describes well the panic and bewilderment of EU financial “leaders.”

But there is no reference to the shift of manufacturing to the east and to the enormous increase in global productive capacity and increased costs of production that have come with technology. Fundamentally, the world economic crisis is one of overproduction and depressed average rate of profit, not of underinvestment.

A couple of Chinese factories, the size of large towns, can produce enough mugs for the entire needs of the world, in short order. But there is so much highly competitive production, so many companies driven out of business, that on average, very little if any profit is made.

Capitalism also constantly moves money from the many to the few, with greater and greater inequality, and this also chokes up the economy as the majority of people have less and less to spend. But redistribution by taxation, on its own, can’t overcome the problems of overproduction and reduced profit rate. And while capitalists are in power, they will resist any such redistribution.

Because profit comes from peoples’ labour (physical and mental), the only way that capitalism has of raising the rate of profit is to cut wages and make people work harder (reduced retirement age, longer hours, intensified work rates). We are seeing this being applied across Europe and the US.

We have immense global productive capacity, and an anarchic and crisis-ridden means of financing and organising it. So at the very historic point at which feeding, educating and housing everyone appears to be attainable, huge numbers of previously well-off people are being thrown into poverty. The answer’s imo are not in the issuance of more debt and in the financing of more and more competitive investment.

Before minding banks, we need to safeguard production, and peoples’ skills.
Production needs to be organised and distributed so that enough is produced to meet everyone’s needs – if that can be done in a two or three day working week, people should be able to head off and play with their children, play sports and music, go back to education or whatever they need.

For this to happen, the main means of production – factories and land, and mineral and oil resources – need to be in the control and ownership of the majority, and developed in the interests of the majority.

This is something I’ve never seen Varoufakis say and I’m pretty sure I never will.

C. Flower 26.9.11 (First posted on Politicalworld.org)

Note: Yanis Varoufakis has replied on his blog –

C. Flower paid me the complement of penning a critique, entitled New Bottle, Old Keynesian Wine, of my “Understanding the euro crisis-a talk at the Shellbourne Hotel Dublin” (14th September 2011) as well as of the essence of our “Modest Proposal”. I reproduce this critique here in its entirety, followed by my reply. Before anything else is said, let me thank C. Flower for taking the time to script what is a hugely important critique.

http://yanisvaroufakis.eu/2011/09/25/arresting-the-freefall-rather-than-a-blueprint-for-the-good-europe-the-modest-proposal-defended-against-c-flowers-powerful-critique/

My Back to School Rant 2011
September 21, 2011

Little people play a large part in many of our lives, and will be providing essential services when many of us are drooling into our Zimmerframes etc. Hence, one would imagine that provision for children should, perhaps, be considered a priority, since they are the only future a nation has.

However, it appears our shortsighted politicians, with one eye on the IMF/EU/ECB troika, and the other, no doubt, on the business vote and the next election, are neglecting to ensure reasonable provision for children and parents alike. Our education system is currently, I have discovered, far from free.

Notably, also, provisions to account for the fact that the odd woman in our supposedly 21st century society actually still works full time are sadly lacking. School bills and organization…. I’m beginning to find this unbelievable. Note: my kids are at a state school. Warning; rant alert!

We are nowhere near the end of September, yet, and in fairness to us, we tried to spread the bills by buying required uniform in June, and the school books were also ordered and paid for at the end of the summer. In fairness, the school had them delivered for us to pick up there, which was good.

BUT; the uniforms; two crested tops plus shirt, plus skirts for the girls, all 20-30 euros each. Great fun if you have one of each sex. Trousers can be had from Dunnes. Bill; well over €100.

Then the books; about €150 for both.

Then the September bills; €24-6something for school milk for 2, E2 per child for headphones for the computers (it appears no item is too small to individually charge parents for). €110 odd for a school book sharing/equipment scheme (two kids), and €140 for the “highly recommended” Playball activity (this is per term, so two more such bills during the year), €20 for compulsory parents association contribution, plus extra for any activities….

Oh, and next month they’ll be looking for the “voluntary contribution”; €500 for two children.

I estimate that the compulsory (not including extra curricular activities) elements of this have cost me €960 so far. How the hell do the unemployed/low waged cope?

I’m in a major deficit for this month and both myself and the other half are lucky enough to actually work full time

Which leads me to another gripe; the school has organized two SEPARATE parents info sessions for the two separate classes my kids are in; AT 12.45 and 1.45 in the MIDDLE OF THE DAY on two DIFFERENT days in ONE WEEK.

Didn’t show up to the one that one child has been through already (figured we knew the score, the teacher hasn’t changed), only to be met with wails from child concerned as she felt she’d been singled out because she was one of the few without a parent present.

And I guess I shouldn’t moan, because our school is one of the few to open at 8.30…many/most are 8.45-9.15, or so I gather. However, whichever of us does the school run doesn’t get to work until 9.30, even so.

So HOW THE HELL are we supposed to pay all the blinking bills, deal with the escalating mortgage, pay the afterschool childcare, keep our jobs, and show up to all the BLOODY midday school info sessions, all at the same time??

Oh, and on the childcare front; that is €1240 per month, but fortunately also covers all the “planning days” the schools like to spring on us with little warning, plus half terms, Christmas, Easter, 9 weeks of summer breaks, so possibly this is a bargain. However, most kids decide they are bored with that sort of afterschool/summer camp provision at ages 7-9 and there is nothing, NOTHING that is well organised that can replace it for children between 9 and 14. One should note that the law prohibits people from allowing their kids to stay home alone at these ages; but in any case, many live too far from their schools to ensure that their kids can walk home safely anyway.

Our teachers, while I would be the first to say that they do an excellent job under pressure, are also working (at least at primary level) with some of the shortest days and longest school holidays in Western Europe, and by comparison with much of the EU, are well remunerated. Would it not be possible to ask them to run the odd evening session? If not, could they not run the school info sessions at drop off time, meaning 1 hour of missed work, not a whole half day?

In the UK and the Netherlands at least, school days go to 3.30, and the summer holidays are 6 weeks and not 9. Sweden provides morning to evening childcare for those that wish to work. And just in case this article spurs a stay at home mum backlash, I should point out that one’s entitlement to all sorts of welfare related help on your own merit (in the event of the earning spouse becoming ill/having an accident/running off with the au pair/being made redundant) seems to diminish rapidly with every year out of work. May the Lord help those whose earning spouse is self-employed; if the business doesn’t afford one a family income and one spouse hasn’t worked for ages, the amounts to which one is entitled are very minimal.

A Note to our Glorious Leaders…. if you want qualified women to keep working and support your gradually expiring economy and pay their exorbitant debts, could you PLEASE ENSURE THE &*)&^($%$^ EDUCATION SYSTEM PROVIDES SOME SUPPORT…. at a reasonable cost

Oh, and the class sizes; 30 for one child, now 31 for the other….

AAARGGGHHH

Morticia 12 Sept 2011

Back once again our political masters
September 14, 2011

I feel funny. Sudden dizziness, slight nausea, feeling a bit shaky and unsteady – sound like vertigo, maybe? Anyone know?

So went a question in my timeline during the week.

Round here you could put it down to anything; the weather, Noel Whelan, UPC customer service, Bertie popping up on Reeling in the years…

This time of year though the bell rings for next stop on the gravy train and the mercs, mandarins and muppets return for the first real business of the 31st Dáil. Silly season makes way for shouty season. RTE’s new free intern is dispatched to dig out the Leinster house background and Miriam Lord receives her annual biennial pencil.

For me the technical group have been the story so far. Running from far left to SINDO columnist who, for now at least, agree they will work together so they may contribute. An interesting slice of Irish politics and healthy dose of outsider, providing great encouragement to anyone who wants better but will settle for different.

Contrast this with the three that stayed out and hopefully we see the future of independent politics.

With a hostile and patronising establishment to deal with, the fact they can speak and vote their mind should win support as time goes on and will shortly begin to draw envious looks from opposite backbenches. At least two new parties should emerge.

The seeds of both are well capable of capitalising at the government’s expense in the mean time.

I am probably alone in being slightly saddened by the sidelining of Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. He is one of few old style orators left in the house (ie. taking the usual twenty minutes to get to the question but does so eloquently). For all the underhanded criticism levelled at SF in the chamber, he mostly managed to stay above the tedious schoolboy shitehawking and is a far cry from some of the talking to the floor, script droids we sit through. Nevertheless the sheer contempt that Gerry brings out in people makes up for it. The tone of Enda’s replies is something.

He genuinely resents talking to him.

It‘s an insult.

That little nugget of discomfort with keep me going as long as it needs to.

On the business side of things, Sinn Fein have been working hard. A few dodgy media performances aside in the chamber they seem to know their stuff and will uncover plenty of sally rods to beat the government with. Like the technical group the big hurdle is just when they have minister on then ropes, RTETRON leans over and asks

“But where are you going to get the money Pearse, eh? Where’s the money for the bloody ATMs and the babies?”

Until they can answer or at least prepare for that they don’t stand a chance of shedding all that baggage.

Micky Martin. Who is he? How long will he last? Who will replace him? Who can save this great national movement? – Who cares…

A vote for FF was a vote for the new government. Enda now has the luxury of facing the most impotent and incompetent opposition since the last one.

But still

18 Tds. 18 sneery gobshites with nothing to offer but more importantly now, nothing to offer their supporters, no power, patronage or promises though maybe a few pints if they’re going. Where does this leave Fianna Fáil?

Who cares…

Government stooge #62 should be reminded that the mandate they received was a Fianna Fáil kicking. A kicking for all manner of scurrilous shite that more and more people are having less and less time for.

Who has the power then?

Uncle Ajai is back in October to check on his investment. The white glove will run meticulously over the dust of public spending. The Cabinet will watch him closely – noting every hum and grunt till he gently turns, pauses a moment (for dramatic effect) before nodding approvingly and disappearing back underground before the sun comes up. Noonan will saunter down to the plinth, tell us we’ve achieved something and onward for austerity republic.

So how will they be keeping busy ?

In the 374 appearances Fianna Fáil have made since February, not once have they failed remind us of the government numbers.

They can do what the feckin like now in the Dáil. The have total control over what goes on in there. Sure this isn’t they way a parliament is supposed to work atallatall…said one brass necked oblivious deputy..

Paul Kehoe tells us “When TDs return to the Dáil on the 14th September, after a reduced summer recess, they will return to a different Dáil, with new rules and improved procedures. They will return to a Dáil where TDs can play a more active and meaningful role in the legislative process and where the members of this House will have more opportunity to raise issues with Ministers in a more effective manner. They will return to a Dáil better equipped to hold the executive to account.”

Sounds promising. Tell us more…

“Dáil Reform is the shared responsibility of every member of this House. In the just over four months since the change of Government the Deputy Government Whip, Emmet Stagg TD, and I have worked closely with the three Opposition Whips to progress the Dáil Reform agenda.”

Emment Stagg, really? Are you proposing he heckle the bejayus out of any noncompliant.

He’ll being doing it regardless.

Perfect, What else?

Topical Issue Debates

Eh?

Jedward, Today’s Liveline, Will Bob Charles ever get those Bishops etc

We also sit on the first Friday of every month. TDs can introduce their own legislation

You won’t be paying much heed to the other side of the House on that one?

Don’t be daft.

We start at two, a half hour earlier and will have a longer Leader’s questions

Good

But there will be none on Wednesday

How come?

Longer one on Thursday but that’s usually the IBEC pro-am so Gilmore will fill in.

Gilmore, is he still around?

—–

A crack team has been dispatched from Iveagh house to locate the thunder Enda swiped from him last January. No luck so far. The dithering and discontent in last weeks papers had been alluded to for weeks elsewhere so on this occasion we could just believe maybe Indo. Enough people have said Red is the new Green at this stage but the fall for Labour may be even harder given they have allegedly stood for a lot more for a lot longer. Unless there is a complete reversal of Government policy they will be going against most of it.

But they have inherited their own mess.

The white flag was raised with January’s Finance Bill. All the roaring and shouting, ‘beyond the pale’ jibes and opposing the bank guarantee every hour of the day for three years was for nothing. Such was the urge to take over as Olli’s bagmen they were tripping over themselves to get it over the line. In a reverse Pinocchio twist the Punch and Judy show have now become real puppets. The notion of being a labour party was never even entertained. Though that was never the point was it.

No, they’re in the business of government. The business of tough decisions.

What monkey behind the scenes is letting them trot out that rotten chestnut again so soon? Rabbitte licks his lips seventy times a day and Joan to start swearing at IDA meetings by end of year.

We are where we were.

€*€*€*€*€*€*€*€*€*€*€*€*€*€*€

Dáil XXXI High Roller’s Bonanza

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First Labour deputy caught sitting beside Mick Wallace during Oireachtas Report…

Sean Barret to strangle Richard Boyd Barret by xmas – 2/7

Pope dragged through the chamber to face Oireachtas committee – 10/1

Nation to face Liveline re-runs as the last phone connection is cut of in June 4/5

Gaiety of the nation only slightly improved by Paul Kehoe’s pyjama day – 5/2

Fresh faced deputy caught watching proceedings on his monitor. Promptly beaten – 3/2

Passive aggressive factor 15 sometime around February – evens…