Monday 28th of May 2018

a sunny country of digging holes, decorated caffe latte, basket weaving and tax evasion...


clever country...


Australia has changed. We think of ourselves as an innovative nation. Necessity is the mother of invention, and in the past, being on the opposite side of the world from the major industrial centres, we had to work things out for ourselves. Integration with Asian economies means we no longer have to. In fact, we are told we cannot afford to.

So will we be ‘rooned’? It is possible. There was a long term plan for the car industry, and it failed. There is no plan for the rest. Far from a turnaround in a 40 year trend, we are seeing an acceleration. Manufacturing will continue to decline, and will play a much smaller role in the economy. As a nation we will be less technically capable.

Manufacturing has few friends in high places, but to survive it needs significant government intervention to make it attractive for investment. We have done the experiment, and demonstrated that market forces will push manufacturing offshore. Plucking a number from the air, a flat tariff of 15 per cent might be enough to keep many industries which would otherwise go under afloat. That’s less than some of our ‘free trade’ partners impose on our exports.

Manufacturing provides work across the spectrum of society, and allows us to remain a technologically competent nation. And if difficult times should come, it gives us some independence from other nations’ economies.

Ockham’s Razor is a soap box for all things scientific, with short talks about research, industry and policy from people with something thoughtful to say about science.


Abbott in his complete madness decided to destroy this place


Toyota has followed Holden's lead and will cease its Australian operations. Can Bill Shorten make political mileage out of Tony Abbott's refusal to intervene, asks Ben Eltham

Is this the end of manufacturing in Australia? For car making, it certainly is. The announcement yesterday by Toyota that it would shut down its Australian plant at Altona marks the end of auto manufacturing in Australia, after more than 60 years.

For those prepared to apportion it, there’s plenty of blame to go round. Australian car making suffers from economies of scale. Our market is not big enough to justify the very large production runs of more efficient overseas facilities. Australian costs are high; we are a high-wage and high-cost country, especially when counted in cheaper overseas currencies. Toyota says their plant here wasn’t making money.

There’s no doubt that the high Australian dollar is a key culprit. For that we can blame Australia’s massive mining boom of the last decade. Mining wealth creates jobs and export income for Australia. But it also pushes the dollar up, making local industries less competitive. Imports become cheaper, while things made in Australia become more expensive.

Economists and commentators have been warning of the consequences of a high dollar for a long time now. When I wrote about the problem back in 2010, I quoted economist Saul Eslake, who explained that “one of the corollaries of the present mining boom is a very high value of the Australian dollar that is hurting the competitiveness of sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and education.”

“Although the mining industry is generating a lot of prosperity for Australians at the moment, and will do in the foreseeable future, nonetheless the mining industry can't possibly guarantee prosperity for the vast majority of Australians given that it accounts for less than 3 per cent of total employment.”

And there’s the rub. While employment in mining has grown quickly in recent years, it only accounts for around 277,000 jobs, according to the most recent Bureau of Statistics data. Even after a long decline, manufacturing still employs around 943,000. Mining employment could triple and still employ fewer Australians than manufacturing. Industries like tourism and higher education, which have also been dramatically affected by the high dollar, employ hundreds of thousands more.


May be Australia should have a Manufacturing Bank like a seed bank, where technology  and sciences are being invented and developed — even if manufacturing is going to the dogs in this country... Ah I see we already have one, The CSIRO. But has not Abbott in his complete madness decided to destroy this place as well as the rest of Australia?...


the pre-corpernican idiot abbott...

The Climate Commission has gone. The carbon tax is to be rescinded. The Australian Renewable Energy Agency is to be abolished. The promise of a "Million Solar Roofs" is broken. And in what can only be described as an ideological move, the Abbott government introduced bills to abolish the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, despite it making a profit last year. The Prime Minister has declared war on the Australian renewable energy industry, the environment and science itself.

The overwhelming scientific consensus on global warming is based on evidence, whether Tony Abbott chooses to act on it or not. A sceptic is someone who doubts accepted opinion; a denier is someone who refuses to accept fact. Scepticism is healthy, denial is dangerous, and intentionally dismantling the entire renewable energy industry of a country that is not only wealthy, sun blessed and windswept but also has the highest per capita CO2 emissions in the OECD is criminally reckless. Furthermore, it will cripple our future economic growth.

The global economy has embraced the renewable energy industry. Last year wind power grew by 25 per cent worldwide and solar power by 30 per cent. On May 11, Germany met 74 per cent of its electricity demand with renewable energy.

Germany, the strongest and largest economy in Europe, has only half the average solar resource of Australia yet has 10 times the capacity of solar PV panels. The Chinese economy is four times the size of ours yet they have 30 times as much wind power installed.


While we quibble about the intermittency of renewables, industries in Spain and the US have invested billions in solar thermal plants, many of which store heat and produce electricity long after sunset. Given our abundant renewable resources, we should be leading the world in research and investment, instead Abbott would have us squander our competitive advantage and destroy massive economic potential.

This budget has been decried as heartless; unfortunately, it is also brainless. The sun provides the Earth with enough energy in one hour to power civilisation for a year. There are already 19 markets worldwide where solar PV panels match or undercut fossil fuel electricity prices, without subsidy. The sun’s rays will soon dominate and underpin the entire global economy. This government’s denial of both sun and science can only be described as pre-Copernican.

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tony abbott is an iddiott...

Australia has an enviable reputation for scientific research, extending long before the heyday of the CSIRO in the 1950s under the visionary leadership of Sir Robert Menzies and Sir Ian Clunies-Ross. On the hottest and driest continent on Earth, our prosperity would be non-existent had it not been for the enlightened application of science. So it has been of mounting concern over recent years to see governments of all persuasions adopt increasingly anti-science agendas.

The federal government is taking anti-science to new heights. Its scorched earth approach discards virtually everything not in line with narrow, free-market ideology, centred on sustaining Australia’s 20th century dig-it-up and ship-it-out economic growth model.  

Prime Minister Tony Abbott's supposedly visionary address to the World Economic Forum in Davos last January, outlined this agenda. Free-markets create prosperity, but their full costs have only become apparent in recent years. Over the past two decades, those costs have negated the benefits – we are actually getting poorer not wealthier. The PM’s "vision" ignored such costs, along with the disastrous outcomes that the short-termism, inequity and corruption of free-markets delivers, witness the 2008 global financial crisis, and the Independent Commission Against Corruption closer to home. Markets are important but they must operate within sensible rules and continual vested-interest lobbying has got rid of those rules.

Official orthodoxy decrees that conventional economic growth take precedence over all else, without understanding that such growth is no longer possible. In 1945, we had a relatively empty world of 2 billion people; we now have 7 billion. Exponential increases in both population and consumption, have delivered a "full" world, such that humanity today needs the biophysical capacity of 1.5 planets to survive, which is clearly not sustainable.

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