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Saturday, 27 January


Australian Gold Refinery Announces Plan to Develop Cryptocurrency "IndyWatch Feed"

Australian Gold Refinery Announces Plan to Develop Cryptocurrency

Perth Mint, Australias largest gold refiner, has announced plans for the development a cryptocurrency backed by physical gold. If successful in developing the altcoin, it will join a long list of virtual currencies seeking to entice cryptocurrency investors to experiment with commodity-backed virtual currencies, including Venezuelas soon to be launched petro.

Also Read: Venezuela Considers Selling Its Oil-Backed Cryptocurrency With a 60% Discount

Australian Gold Refinery to Develop Cryptocurrency

Australian Gold Refinery Announces Plan to Develop CryptocurrencyThe chief executive of Perth Mint, Richard Hayes, states that the company has identified a significant opportunity in bring[ing] investors back to precious metals after a boom in alternative investments such as cryptocurrencies, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports.

I think as the world moves through times of increasing uncertainty, youre seeing people look for alternate offerings, Mr. Hayes stated, adding And youre seeing this massive flow of funds into the lik...


A 30-minute podcast for this weekend "IndyWatch Feed"

Do you have rich habits?

Find out at the Yardney podcast here (or click the image below).

I enjoyed this podcast, and it made me think.

How about you?


The Weekend Quiz January 27-28, 2018 answers and discussion "IndyWatch Feed"

Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekends Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you havent already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.

Question 1:

A currency-issuing government can run a balanced fiscal position (spending equals tax receipts) over the economic cycle (peak to peak) as long as it accepts that after all the spending adjustments are exhausted that the private domestic balance will only be in surplus if the external balance is in surplus.

The answer is True.

Note that this question begs the question as to how the economy might get into this situation that I have described using the sectoral balances framework. But whatever behavioural forces were at play, the sectoral balances all have to sum to zero. Once you understand that, then deduction leads to the correct answer.

To refresh your memory the balances are derived as follows. The basic income-expenditure model in macroeconomics can be viewed in (at least) two ways: (a) from the perspective of the sources of spending; and (b) from the perspective of the uses of the income produced. Bringing these two perspectives (of the same thing) together generates the sectoral balances.

From the sources perspective we write:

(1) GDP = C + I + G + (X M)

which says that total national income (GDP) is the sum of total final consumption spending (C), total private investment (I), total government spending (G) and net exports (X M).

Expression (1) tells us that total income in the economy per period will be exactly equal to total spending from all sources of expenditure.

We also have to acknowledge that financial balances of the sectors are impacted by net government taxes (T) which includes all tax revenue minus total transfer and interest payments (the latter are not counted independently in the expenditure Expression (1)).

Further, as noted above the trade account is only one aspect of the financial flows between the domestic economy and the external sector. we have to include net external income flows (FNI).

Adding in the net external income flows (FNI) to Expression (2) for GDP we get the familiar gross national product or gross national income measure (GNP):

(2) GNP = C + I + G + (X M) + FNI

To ren...

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Friday, 26 January


Odds and ends "IndyWatch Feed"

1.  In a recent post, I asked people why I should be impressed when people tell me that conservative judges are being appointed.  After all, Id not impressed if someone tells me they know a conservative plumber.  Alex Tabarrok has a couple of recent posts that help to clarify my thoughts on this issue.  Before discussing the posts, let me emphasize that I am not a legal expert.  But that disclaimer cuts both ways.  If Im not even smart enough to understand the issues that Alex raises, how could I possible be expected to have an intelligent (and positive) opinion of conservative judges?

Alex points out that in many states the police are given legal protections that other Americans do not have.  Thus if they are arrested for a crime, they cannot be vigorously interrogated, in the way that an ordinary person is questioned.  On the face of it, that would seem to violate the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment.  Why should some Americans be denied legal rights available to others?

So heres where the conservative judges come in.  How come I never read about conservative judges upholding the Constitution by striking down these violations of the equal protection clause?  Im not saying that conservative judges never make liberal rulings.  In some obvious cases, such as flag-burning, conservatives did uphold the 1st amendment.  (Of course in this period of radical left-wing speech codes, the 1st amendment is being increasingly viewed as a right wing idea, similar to the 2nd amendment.)  But overall, when I read articles about how conservative justices rule, it usually tends to favor policy outcomes that are conservative.

2.  I recently did a post showing how pessimism is intellectually fashionable.  Another good example of this problem is Greeces supposedly unpayable public debt.  Ive always been skeptical of the claim that Greeces debt was unpayable.  To me, it seemed more a question of the Greeks not wanting to repay the debt.  Like a number of other European countries, Greeces government spends over 50% of GDP.  But you can have a perfectly fine Western social welfare state spending far less (say 30% to 40%), as we observe in both rich countries like Australia and Switzerland and poorer countries such as Estonia and Slovakia.  If Greece reduced the non-interest part of its spending down that range, it would be able to divert enough funds to service its debt.

I have not followed events in Greece, but I do notice that yields on Greek debt are now plummeting, to levels suggesting that Gr...


Brisbane Airport to Launch In-Terminal Cryptocurrency Payments "IndyWatch Feed"

Australia's Brisbane Airport is to roll out digital currency payments within the terminal shopping area.


Trump signals may reconsider TPP for better deal "IndyWatch Feed"

But that ship has sailed, remaining TPP members may tell Trump in Davos

The TPP has not been popular among many Republicans and some sectors of the US workforce, giving Trump the ammunition to proceed with withdrawal. People attend a rally protesting the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in Maui, Hawaii, the United States, July 29, 2015 [Xinhua]

US President Donald Trump has told US news network CNBC that he could rethink his withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership if the member nations could offer the US a better deal.

During his interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, and ahead of his speech to the participants on Friday, Trump revealed that he believed the TPP was structured to Americas disadvantage.

In one of his first executive orders after being sworn in as President, Trump ordered the withdrawal from the TPP, which has been a cornerstone of Barack Obamas policy to counter Chinas growing global influence.

Calling the TPP unfair and damaging to US economic prospects, Trump signaled in November 2016 immediately after his election win that he would negotiate bilateral trade treaties with different countries in order to bring jobs back to the US.

Since then, countries which had signed on to the TPP in 2016, such as Australia, Brunei, Vietnam, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Chile and Japan signaled that they will try and keep it functional and/or modify it into something similar.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had previously told journalists that there is also an opportunity for China to join the TPP.

Currently, the remaining members are expected to sign a new deal over the next few weeks.

The BRICS Post with inputs from Agencies


There are more important issues than "IndyWatch Feed"

whatever issue on which I want to avoid justifying my firmly held, but indefensible, position.

One of the rhetorical tricks Ive noticed becoming increasingly common (though I may just have been sensitized to it) is opposition to some proposal, based on the claim that there are more important issues to discuss. Heres a typical example from right wing culture warrior, Kevin Donnelly, campaigning against equal marriage in the leadup to the recent postal survey. Before commencing a lengthy diatribe against gay activism, Safe Schools, alcoholic and abusive parents, surrogacy and so on that barely mentions the topic of marriage, Donnelly says

about 98 per cent of Australians identify as heterosexual and according to the 2011 census figures only 1 per cent of Australian couples are same-sex, with surveys suggesting only a minority want same-sex marriage. There are more important issues to worry about.

If Donnelly believes the issue is unimportant, why is he writing about it? Why not just leave it up to the good sense of the majority of Australians, as the rhetoric of the plebiscite suggested? Why not focus his attention on problems like protecting children from the effects of alcoholism and domestic violence.

The answer is, of course, that Donnelly has no case, or none he is able to make publicly, but nonetheless is very concerned to stop equal marriage. In the absence of a case, he must resort to diversions. So, rather than explain why gay people should be denied the right to marry, he starts off by saying the issue is too unimportant to bother with.

Of course, there are plenty of questions that are too trivial to bother with, and the sensible response is not to bother with them. If pressed, one could reasonably respond this issue isnt worth my time, Ill just go with whatever the majority decides, but this is hardly ever done.

The only case where this trope is at least possibly justified is as an admonition to political allies not to be diverted into big efforts on trivial issues, when there are more important problems to deal with. Again, though, this only makes sense for someone who is themselves indifferent regarding whether and how these issues are resolved.


The Weekend Quiz January 27-28, 2018 "IndyWatch Feed"

Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blogs I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.

1. A currency-issuing government can run a balanced fiscal position (spending equals tax receipts) over the economic cycle (peak to peak) as long as it accepts that after all the spending adjustments are exhausted that the private domestic balance will only be in surplus if the external balance is in surplus.

2. A basic understanding of Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) would leave you to conclude that excessive real wage demands by workers can cause unemployment.

3. The achievement of a fiscal surplus indicates that the national government is:


Australian Dollar and Bitcoin "IndyWatch Feed"

1.00 AUD = 0.00007 BTC
0.00010 BTC = 1.35 AUD

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Thursday, 25 January


Australia in 2018 (Crocodile Dundee grows up) "IndyWatch Feed"

Walkabout Creek

With a bit of scuttlebutt this week about a forthcoming new Crocodile Dundee movie (fake news, no doubt) let's take a quick look at how Mick Dundee would assess the changes in Australia since 1986, assuming he'd been walkabout Stateside for a few decades...

5 million people in one place

On arrival in Manhattan, Dundee famously exclaimed: "That's incredible. Imagine 7 million people all wanting to live together. Yeah, New York must be the friendliest place on earth!". 

Since 1986, Australia's population has increased very strongly from around 16 million to nearly 25 million. Mick would be surprised to discover Sydney itself taking on more of a Manhattan feel, with well over 5 million residents, from fewer than 3 million back then. 

The population of the Territory remains fairly sparse, however, at under  million in total, with population growth in the Top End now having almost totally stagnated after the recent resources boom.

'A sheila like you?

Mick might also be surprised to find that working women like Sue Charlton are increasingly a force to be reckoned with Down Under.

The female participation rate was under 62 per cent in 1986 but had soared to its highest level towards the end of 2017 at 65.7 per cent - this year will likely see Australia's highest labour force participation rate as a result. 



Business Development Director "IndyWatch Feed"

South Pole (SP) is looking to consolidate its position as a global leader in sustainability and climate change in Australia and as a Business Development Director, you will have the incredible opportunity to grow our business in the region. SP works with a large number of prestigious corporate sector clients and as part of the Key Account Management team, you will focus on the successful acquisition and management of additional customers within the corporate sector. You will have full responsibility to identify and to assess new business opportunities to strengthen SP's leading market position in the area. In addition, you will develop tailor-made solutions to help new and existing clients to manage their climate risks with our existing range of products and services and exceeding their expectations. If you are an enthusiastic and dynamic sustainability professional with relevant experience in business development, leadership, sales and client relationship management, then this is the new challenge that you are looking for.


The Pentagon built with mineralized microbes predating dinosaurs "IndyWatch Feed"

A new study has found that some of the building blocks of the Pentagon and Empire State Building were made by microbes that lived up to 340 million years ago, predating the dinosaurs.

A new study led by The Australian National University (ANU) has found that some of the building blocks of the Pentagon and Empire State Building were made by microbes that lived up to 340 million years ago, predating the dinosaurs.

The material, known as oolitic limestone, is a popular building material around the world and is almost completely made of millimetre-sized spheres of carbonate called ooids.

Co-researcher Dr Bob Burne from ANU said the new study found that ooids were made of concentric layers of mineralised microbes, debunking the popular snowball theory that ooids were formed by grains rolling on the seafloor and accumulating layers of sediment.

This is a cross section of the ooids inside Rogenstein oolite.
Credit: ANU

We have proposed a radically different explanation for the origin of ooids that explains their definitive features, said

Dr Burne from the ANU Research School of Earth Sciences. Our research has highlighted yet another vital role that microbes play on Earth and in our lives.

Different types of oolitic limestones have formed in all geological periods and have been found around the world, including in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Bahamas, China and at Shark Bay in Western Australia.

Dr Burne said humans had known about and used oolitic limestone since ancient times.

Many oolitic limestones form excellent building stones, because they are strong...


Sydney unemployment rate lowest since 2008 "IndyWatch Feed"

Sydney on fire

The ABS released its Detailed Labour Force figures for the month of December 2017.

Greater Sydney created a massive +101,000 extra jobs in 2017.

That took total employment in Sydney to a record high 2,714,700. 

And with job vacancies across the state soaring to their highest ever level, that's set to continue in 2018.

The annual average unemployment rate for Sydney fell to just 4.6 per cent.

That's the lowest level since December 2008. 

In fact, things generally improved around the traps in 2017.

The improvement in the southern states has also been marked, with Adelaide's unemployment rate falling quite sharply now, and Hobart recording an annual average unemployment rate of just 5.6 per cent in 2017. 

What else was news last year?

Elsewhere, it was a big year for employment growth in Queensland, with the mining sector turning around after a prolonged slump. 


Government boosts Victoria market "IndyWatch Feed"

A new government scheme that will add to demand in markets such as Frankston, and Geelong, and Mildura.

From the Housing Industry Association (HIA): 


Australia Bound? Brisbane Airport Accepts Cryptocurrencies in a World-First "IndyWatch Feed"

The post Australia Bound? Brisbane Airport Accepts Cryptocurrencies in a World-First appeared first on CCN

Brisbane airport will soon be accepting Bitcoin, Ethereum and other cryptocurrencies at various retail establishments for travelers arriving or departing the airports terminals. In an unprecedented move, Brisbane Airport (BNE), Australias third-busiest airport, will introduce cryptocurrency payments at a number of terminal retailers where travelers can make retail purchases with digital currencies. In its official Continued

The post Australia Bound? Brisbane Airport Accepts Cryptocurrencies in a World-First appeared first on CCN


Older workers in the US dominate employment growth troubles ahead "IndyWatch Feed"

The Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis published a very interesting article earlier this month (January 15, 2018) Older Workers Account for All Net Job Growth Since 2000 which was written by William Emmons, the Lead Economist with the Banks Center for Household Financial Stability. The Center focuses on the balance sheets of struggling American families and was launched in May 2013 in response to the GFC. It seeks to investigate factors that impact on the fragility of household finances. The research paper finds that since 2000, workers older than 55 have captured almost all the net employment growth leaving the prime-age workers (more than a million) languishing. This abnormal pattern is not predicted to continue for much longer but that is disputable. Further, even if the domination of older workers ends within the decade, the lack of opportunities that are apparent for those who are moving through the prime-age years now spells a looming disaster in a decade or more in the form of increased poverty rates and disadvantage. Then you will hear the screams that the US government cannot afford the income support that will be needed. But at the same time, without that income support the situation will get worse. Something needs to be done now to interrupt this trend.

The FRBSL article analysed the shift in employment in the US since 2000 by two age groups: 55 and older and Under 55.

It was in the context of related research published by the Bank in its quarterly journal, the Regional Economist Boomers Have Played a Role in Changes in Productivity which appeared in the Fourth Quarter 2017 edition and was written by Guillaume Vandenbroucke.

I will summarise that article first:

1. In the 1970s, the U.S. economy experienced a prolonged period of low productivity growth. Nowadays, growth in productivity is once again slower than expected.

2. The conjecture is that the two slowdowns are related to a single, common factor: the baby boom, that period from 1946 to 1957 when the birth rate increased by 20 percent.

3. the productivity slowdowns (especially in the 1970s) are statistical artifacts, that is, it may be that the productivity of individual workers did not change at all during the 1970s, but that the change in the composition of the labor force caused the slowdown in labor productivity.

4. Why? How? Younger workers are less productive than older workers due to having less experience, education, and training. An inc...


The latest news and analysis on the TPP deal "IndyWatch Feed"

25 January, 2018: Yesterday it was reported that the rebranded TPP11 deal has been finalised, and the 11 remaining TPP countries are hoping to sign the text on March 8 in Chile. You can read our media release here. Below is a summary of some of the news reports and analysis since the news broke. 

AFTINET Convener Dr Patricia Ranald spoke to ABC The World Today about why this is a bad agreement. In brief, there will be some market access gains, but we dont believe that they compensate for the restrictions on the ability of government to regulate.

Jomo Kwame Sundaram, a Malaysian economic and the former assistant secretary general in the UNs Department of Economic Affairs, told ABC PM that the TPP will deliver negligible economic gains. He explains that the extension of intellectual property rights will undermine public health, and ISDS will undermine the public interest....

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Wednesday, 24 January


11 Stories The World Would Have Missed If It Wasnt For Julian Assange & Wikileaks "IndyWatch Feed"

By Kalee Brown

Since 2006, Wikileaks has been exposing government and elite corruption, high-level crime, and other wrongdoings by leaking secret and classified information. Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange, has been targeted multiple times by mainstream media, which often refers to Wikileaks as fake news.

The irony is that the documents published by Wikileaks and the claims theyve made have yet to be disproven, which is something many mainstream news outlets cannot say about their own broadcasts. Unlike mainstream media, Wikileaks has helped keep the public conscious of whats actually going on in the world.

11 Stories You Would Have Missed Without Wikileaks

The following video exposes some of the craziest stories Wikileaks has uncovered. Its interesting to think that without Wikileaks, we may never have discovered the truth about some of these subjects!

Some of the topics include: journalists death as a result of the U.S, military, secret military prisons, scientology, tampered data in support of climate change, the Australian governments internet blacklist, a major cover-up by an oil company, and more.

You can watch the video here:

Why Disclosure Is So Important

If you just watched that video and had no idea about some of the corruption that goes on within the government, the elite, and large corporations, I understand that it can be difficult to learn the truth. Government was created to serve the needs of the people and corporations cant bend laws, right? Although this was probably true at some point, weve come a long way from that ideal.

Its not so difficult for corporations and the elite to avoid laws when theyre the ones writing them, which is why theyre known as the shadow government.

At the moment, we live in a world whe...


Telltale rocks suggest that part of Australia was once part of North America "IndyWatch Feed"

Also known as Columbia, Nuna was a supercontinent that geologists believe existed from approximately 2.5 to 1.5 billion years ago. Now, theres new evidence as to how its various pieces once fit together Australian scientists have found rocks in northern Queensland, that match up with rocks from Canada.

The rocks, which have geological signatures that are unknown anywhere else in Australia, were found near the small town of Georgetown, which is located about 412 km (256 miles) west of Cairns. They are said to be very similar to rocks that are currently found in Canadas precambrian shield.

Our research shows that about 1.7 billion years ago, Georgetown rocks were deposited into a shallow sea when the region was part of North America, says lead scientist Adam Nordsvan, a PhD student from Australias Curtin University. Georgetown then broke away from North America and collided with the Mount Isa region of northern Austral...


Mortgage stress dissipates "IndyWatch Feed"

Economy picking up

2017 was Australia's greatest ever calendar year for employment growth in absolute terms, with the economy adding +403,700 jobs. 

Sydney in particular has been adding jobs for fun. 

And with skilled vacancies rising for 14 consecutive months for the first time since March 2011, there's even a chance that 2018 could be even stronger again. 

Skilled vacancies were +8.1 per cent higher over the year according to the Department of Employment, and +27.8 per cent higher (+38,700 vacancies) than at the October 2013 nadir. 

There were some nice improvements in Western Australia and South Australia, while Sydney is just outright flying.

In this context, it's not a surprise to hear that mortgage arrears have been in freefall throughout 2017. 

Prime RMBS 31-60 day arrears fell to just 0.26 per cent in November 2017 according to S&P, which is the lowest level in more than 21 years of figures. 



TPP resurrected as nations get set to sign trade deal "IndyWatch Feed"

Australia and 10 other nations have signalled they will sign a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal later this year.

Trade Minister Steve Ciobo called it a great deal for Australia that would really help to boost exports and drive economic growth.

Mr Ciobo said the Asia-Pacific countries were finally at the finish line following talks between officials in Tokyo.

Canada walked away from the 11-nation deal in November, but has since had several issues resolved.

But Mr Ciobo said the Turnbull Government had worked hard to revive the trade pact.

It hasnt been easy, but were finally at the finish line and Aussie businesses will be the big winners, he said.

He said new deal would eliminate more than 98 per cent of tariffs in a free-trade zone, with a combined GDP of $13.7 trillion.

Trade ministers will attend a signing...


Review: Tomers Advanced Introduction to Behavioral Economics "IndyWatch Feed"

In the next couple of months I shall post, in preparation for an invited longer review essay on recent books on BE, reviews of individual books such as Tomers, Angners A course in behavioral economics, Cartwrights An Introduction to Behavioral Economics, and Dhamis The Foundations of Behavioral Economic Analysis. Comments are welcome.

Here is the first review, for your entertainment:

Tomer, John F. Advanced Introduction to Behavioral Economics. Elgar (2017). ISBN: 978 1 78471 991 3 (cased), ISBN: 978 1 78471 993 7 (paperback)

Tomer , an Emeritus Professor of Economics at Manhattan College, covers much ground in a fairly superficial manner. We are being lectured about the scientific practices of mainstream economics (narrow, rigid, intolerant, mechanical, separate, individualistic; see p. 10) and the emergence of behavioral economics (BE). In passing, we hear about different strands of BE (chapter 3: The bounded rationality strand, chapters  4 and 5: the psychological economics strand, chapter 6: behavioral finance), BE, public policy, and nudging (chapter 7), law and BE (chapter 8), behavioral macroeconomics (chapter 9), the empirical methods of BE (chapter 10), and neuroeconomics (chapter 12).  We are also treated to an answer (I am sure you can guess it) to the question: Are mainstream economists open-minded toward behavioral economics or do they resist it? (chapter 11) In chapter 13 the author enlightens us about paths Toward a more humanistic BE and in chapter 14 we can read about Behavioral economic trends.

Each of these chapters are about 10 12 pages long. Along the way we hear about ENEs  (Early Neoclassical Economics) and NEs (Neoclassical Economics) lack of behavioral realism. NEs lack of connection to other social sciences in particularly regrettable for those who place a high value on a unified social science or at least on having many viable linkages among the different social sciences. (p. 9) Referring to a decade-old study of his that was published in an inconsequential journal, we learn that The results for NE (also referred to as mainstream economics) are quite clear. NE is rated high on all six dimensions (narrowness, rigidity, intolerance, mechanicalness, separateness, and individualism, (p. 12)  After this paper tiger has been successfully constructed, we are being told how it is being torn to smi...


Ant Financial and the Greening of Fintech "IndyWatch Feed"

Ant Forest is the worlds first, largescale, bottom-up pilot in greening citizens consumption behavior.


Australias Biggest Gold Refiner Plans Gold-Backed Cryptocurency "IndyWatch Feed"

The post Australias Biggest Gold Refiner Plans Gold-Backed Cryptocurency appeared first on CCN

Major Australian precious metals refinery, the Perth Mint, is developing its own gold-backed cryptocurrency in a bid to lure consumers back to investing in gold. With a capacity of processing over 700 tons of gold per year, the Perth Mint is Australias biggest gold refiner. A heightened exodus of investors turning to new alternative investments Continued

The post Australias Biggest Gold Refiner Plans Gold-Backed Cryptocurency appeared first on CCN


Coming to Australia: Tiny holiday homes big on sustainability "IndyWatch Feed"

Appliances running on solar energy, composting toilets and rainwater harvesting systemsa Singapore start-up wants to prove that tiny vacation homes can be sustainable without sacrificing comfort.

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Tuesday, 23 January


Power to People: A Decentralized Platform Connects Consumers With Retail "IndyWatch Feed"

An Australian-based tech company could become the basis for a new Blockchain based retail system. Over 30 mln products have been added to Shpings global database. #SPONSORED


Australian Dollar and Bitcoin "IndyWatch Feed"

1.00 AUD = 0.00008 BTC
0.00010 BTC = 1.30 AUD

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Saturday, 28 January


Hello world! "IndyWatch Feed"

Welcome to WordPress. This is your first post. Edit or delete it, then start writing!

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Monday, 26 September


295 What is a threatened species worth? "IndyWatch Feed"

There are around 1800 species included on Australias national list of threatened species of fauna and flora. The most severely threatened category, critically endangered, includes 6 mammals, 16 birds, 8 fish, 9 reptiles, 5 frogs, 25 other animals and 148 plants.

My feeling is that the general public is more concerned about threatened species than about many other environmental issues. There is something horrifying about the thought of extinction that resonates with most people to some extent.

Nevertheless, our performance at improving the status of threatened species is generally poor, in part because of a lack of funding available to address the problems.

tassie_tigerResearchers have attempted to measure the level of public concern about threatened species in a variety of ways. Economists have most often measured it using surveys to elicit peoples willingness to pay to protect a species, or their willingness to trade-off species protection against other benefits that they care about.

The Department of the Environment (as it was then) asked us to review the existing evidence from this body of research. The results are available online here. Here is the abstract from the report:

Literature on non-market valuation (NMV) of threated species and threatened ecological communities was collated and reviewed. We reviewed 76 papers, of which seven were from Australia. There is strong evidence that the broader community does support and is willing to pay for protection and recovery of threatened species. In many cases, the estimated non-market values far exceed the expenditure that would be required to protect or recover the species. However, there are significant gaps in the literature, particularly for threatened reptiles, plants, insects and non-charismatic species. There are no NMV studies of threatened ecological communities. We identify cases where evidence about non-market values has had a notable impact on the management or funding of threatened species. There are many such cases. However, overall utilisation of NMVs in decision making about threatened species is low and there is great potential for benefits if its utilisation is increased. Barriers inhibiting s...

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Monday, 20 June


293 Beatles tourism "IndyWatch Feed"

During our current holiday, Pauline gave me the opportunity to indulge in some serious Beatles tourism. I could have done this years ago, but felt reticent about giving in to the urge. This time I gave in to it, and Im so glad I did.

I have a passionate interest in music, and a tendency for my interests to become obsessions. These two things come together in my love of The Beatles. They are ideal fodder for an obsessive interest. As well as enjoying their amazing music, there is great scope for obsessively collecting their records and CDs, reading Beatles-related books and buying tacky memorabilia.

It also helps that the story of their rise from obscurity and poverty to unprecedented fame and fortune is about as compelling and interesting as a story can be. Sure they had incredible talent and natural charisma, but to make it in the circumstances they faced required a whole series of million-to-one chances to come off, and every one of them did come off. Its like a fairy story, but it really happened. Add to this their drive to innovate and their enormous influence on music and culture, and its no surprise that they still have so many people totally hooked.

I spent several days in Liverpool seeing the sights and doing Beatles tours, Beatles shopping and Beatles museums. At one point, I had the most fantastic luck, as youll see. In addition, our travels prior to me reaching Liverpool took us to a number of important Beatles-related places, one planned and several by lucky coincidence. Heres an overview of the highlights. There is an appendix below with lots more.

The greatest piece of luck was happening to bump into Colin Hanton, who was the drummer in The Quarrymen. This was the band formed by John Lennon in high school that eventually evolved into The Beatles. Colin appears in all the early photos of the Quarrymen, including this wonderful shot taken on 6 July 1957, from before Paul and George joined the band. Colin is sitting at the back, with his head near Johns elbow.


He also played drums on the very first recordings by the band, in July 1958, when John, Paul, George, Colin and Duff (on piano) captured Thatll Be The Day and In Spite of All The Danger (the only original by McCartney and Harrison) on a record. You can hear these tracks on The Beatles album Anthology 1. Here, obviously, was a man who knew the young Beatles intimately (apart from Ringo)....

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Wednesday, 08 June


291 The Swinford Toll Bridge "IndyWatch Feed"

In some countries, tolls are collected on particular roads or bridges. I recently saw a remarkable example, with a fascinating history, near Oxford.

Last week I completed a 180 km walk along the bank of the River Thames in England. It was absolutely gorgeous, with numerous points of beauty, lots of great historical stuff to look at, and some surprises.

One of the surprises was the Swinford Toll Bridge, near the town of Eynsham, just upriver from Oxford.


A small toll booth collects 5p (about 10 cents) from each car that crosses the bridge. Tolls have been collected here since the bridge was opened in 1769. It hardly seems like it would be worth the bother of collecting 5p, but there is plenty of traffic crossing the bridge, so it collects around 200,000 per year.

Clearly, the charging of tolls is not a new thing. In fact, there were a lot of toll roads and toll bridges in England in the 18th and 19th centuries. According to the World Bank, most countries currently have no tolls, but tolls do continue to be created and/or maintained in some countries, including Australia. There are various possible rationales for imposing tolls, including the following.

  • To generate revenue for the government, allowing reductions in other taxes.
  • To charge actual users of the road or bridge (consistent with a user pays philosophy), reducing the burden on taxpayers who happen not to use it.
  • To discourage use of the road or bridge by creating a price for its use. This may help to reduce a problem, such as congestion or noise, by encouraging use of public transport or use of different routes.
  • To encourage private-sector funding of infrastructure by allowing the funder to recover their costs through charging a toll.

In the case of the Swinford Toll Bridge, it was that last rationale that led to the toll. In the mid 1700s there was a desperate need for a good bridge in the area, particularly to allow farmers to deliver their produce to Oxford for sale. The government was not forthcoming with funds, and taxing the local community to collect funds to pay for construction of a new bridge was specifically ruled out by a clause in the Magna Carta!

To the rescue came the Earl of Abingdon, who agreed to pay for construction of the bridge. He had more than one motivation for putting up the funds. One was that he owned...

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Thursday, 12 May


290 Advice for successful agri-environmental policy "IndyWatch Feed"

Research and practical experience with agri-environment programs around the world provides many lessons on what leads to success or failure. New programs are often designed without sufficient awareness of these lessons, resulting in lost opportunities to achieve more valuable outcomes. A workshop to identify these lessons was held a couple of years ago, and the results have just been published by ANU Press as a book.

The book is available for sale or free download here. Ive got a couple of chapters in the book, including one where I try to identify best-practice in design and implementation of agri-environmental policies. It is based on my experience over the past 15 years or so, working with federal and state agencies and regional bodies in Australia, and some similar organisations in several other countries. Heres a longish extract. This is a longer-than-usual PD as I wanted to keep this material together in one post.

Design of programs/institutions

Additionality: Agri-environmental programs should aim to avoid paying farmers for undertaking actions that they would have done in any case. In other words, managers need to evaluate whether the benefits generated by a program investment are additional.

Continuation after investment ends: Where a program is intended to provide only temporary support to farmers (eg, in all Australian programs, but not in European programs), it is important to ensure that the actions being supported are attractive enough that farmers will continue to undertake them once funding ends. Otherwise the investment has no enduring benefit. These first two principles combine to mean that, where support will be temporary, perhaps the only defensible role for agri-environmental payments is to encourage farmers to get experience in a new practice that they are likely to be keen to continue once funding ends. The practice might be something new of which farmers are currently unaware, or one that becomes more attractive to farmers with experience.

aesAppropriate institutional delivery: In some agri-environmental programs, responsibility for overseeing some or all on-ground delivery of projects is devolved to regional organisations. This has been the case in all of Australias major programs since the late 1990s. In these cases, the program needs to be designed in a way that provides incentives for these regional organisations to respond appropriately. In particular, t...

Monday, 15 April


LETS promo & Swap party in Randwick "IndyWatch Feed"

LETS talk and promo table at National Permaculture Day at Randwick Sustainability Hub
Sunday 5 May 2013, 3pm

Join us on International Permaculture Day

Workshops, kids activities, music and tours of the Permaculture Interpretive garden and the energy and water retrofits
WHEN: Sunday 5 May 2013
TIME: 3:00pm-5:00pm
WHERE: Randwick Community Centre, 27 Munda Street, Randwick.
    SWAP party drop off begins (bring up to 3 good quality items to swap DVDs, CDs, books, homeware, toys and clothes)
    How to build a wicking bed with landscape architect Steve Batley
    LETS thinktank with Annette Louden
    Kids activities with Julie Gaul and Emma Daniel
SWAP Party begins and finishes at 4:15pm
    Tour of the rain garden with Steve Batley
    What plant is that? with horticulturalist Emma Daniel

Full details at:

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