Vale the 43rd Parliament… or not?

And so the 43rd parliament ends… or perhaps not.

Rudd said today in Question Time that the September 14 date is an issue because of Yom Kippur (Personally I think this is more of an excuse than an issue). Now there could not be an election before this date because the referendum on local government needs to be at least 2 months plus 18 days   after the legislation passed. So the only way there could be an election earlier than September 14 is if he is either planning on dumping the local government referendum (not a bad idea as I can’t see how it can pass, given most people don’t even know it is being held), or he is going to hold the referendum separately, which would be bloody expensive and not really an option.

[Just discovered this is wrong it only needs to be 2 months flat. For some dopey reason I relied on a news article rather than the constitution – my fault… UPDATE 1. Although after chatting with some mates who are onto this kind of stuff, it perhaps is not so straight forward. The issue might be time needed to get the voting booklet to be out to households 14 days prior and that MPs have 28 days after the passing of the legislation to submit their case to the Electoral Commissioner to go on in the booklet. So that’s 42 days, which you would think would not be an issue in terms of 2 months, but these things can take a while to get done… anyway … will amend if I need to when I discover]

UPDATE 2: OK, to solve this I was had a look at the submissions by the AEC on the referendum bill, one of the issues with the 2 month provision is that pre-polling which is required by the Electoral Act and the Referendum (Machinery Provisions Act) 1984 is included in the “voting” and the pre-polling cannot commence until 2 months after the legislation has been passed (which was June 25). So that takes us up to August 26. But pre-polling needs to be done a set time before the actual polling day to allow appropriate time to pre-poll, which is 3 weeks. Also mobile voting cannot occur more than 2 weeks prior to the referendum either. So apologies to AAP you were on the money.

This is from the AEC in answer to a question by Senator Bushby on when legislation can be passed (AEC Submission, Supplementary 1):


So it would appear that according to the AEC’s advice an election and the referendum cannot be held any earlier than September 14. Indeed as it was the parliament only just got to the September 14 date by the skin of its teeth.

So thus all I wrote about (and then crossed out), is now good again! Thus here it is:

Rudd said today in Question Time that the September 14 date is an issue because of Yom Kippur (Personally I think this is more of an excuse than an issue). Now there could not be an election before this date because the referendum on local government needs to be at least 2 months plus 18 days after the legislation passed. So the only way there could be an election earlier than September 14 is if he is either planning on dumping the local government referendum (not a bad idea as I can’t see how it can pass, given most people don’t even know it is being held), or he is going to hold the referendum separately, which would be bloody expensive and not really an option.

But if he is going to go after September 14 he can’t do September 21 or 28. because in NSW, QLD and Vic school holidays start on September 20. And at any rate it’s too close to the footy grand finals on the weekend of the 28th-29th. WA, SA and Tas have their last weekend of holiday s on October 13-14. S0 it would also have to be after that.

So if it is after September 14, I’m thinking October 19 the earliest.

If it is October 20, then given the usual 4 week election campaign that would mean issuing the writs on around the week of September 13.

And here’s the thing – parliament is due to sit on August 20-22, and 26-29, and then September 9-12.

So we could still have 11 sitting days to come yet.

Of course if Rudd decides to go early then there won’t be.

My view is he shouldn’t go early, firstly because he needs to get people comfortable with him being PM again, and secondly because Tony Abbott is clearly so damn eager for him to call the election. Never take advice from your enemy.

But that all aside, this week saw some rather wonderful valedictory speeches given. It’s not true that politicians never speak from the heart at other times, it just that valedictory speeches are viewed from the sense that there is now no ulterior motive for speaking from the heart.

Tony Windsor going is a big loss. The House will be shorter one adult, and there are not that many to spare. However Barry Haase is also going so it certainly isn’t all bad.

Stephen Smith going is a loss as well because of his work as Defence Minister to finally make it clear that the sexist and abusive culture needed to stop. That he annoyed some of those like Neil James only served to make it clear he was doing good work.

Rob Oakeshott’s valedictory speech was good because he did not shy away from his role in this parliament and took pride in the fact that all the things laid out in his 17 minute speech 3 years ago were achieved.

But the best part of it was when he praised Julia Gillard for the work they had done together, and he also revealed the text message he sent to her last night before the caucus meeting at which it was pretty clear she was going to lose. He revealed that he sent her a text saying that her father would be proud of her.

I tried to think of any other message that you could have sent Julia Gillard at that time that could better that. I couldn’t. It was quite possibly the perfect text.

The only problem was his mentioning it in his speech pretty much ruined any hope that Julia, who was sitting in the house for the first time after losing the Prime Ministership, was going to get through without crying. She didn’t quite lose it, but her upper lip certainly started quivering. Certainly while listening to it I had a few tears going. Maybe that is because like Oakeshott I have daughters, or maybe it’s because I’m a big softy for such things – I start crying about 5 minutes before the end of Field of Dreams because I know Ray is going to get to play catch with his dad.

Anyway, it was a wonderful moment, and it is all credit to Oakeshott that he knew the right thing to say at the worst possible time.

Posted in Australian politics, Election | 10 Comments

Federer releases his solo album, “Sunday Too Far Away”

Well bugger.

Last night after all the political back and forth, the waiting around for Rudd to make a speech, the listening to journalist after journalist after journalist talk to journalist after journalist after journalist about what they think might happen, I switched off the TV noting Hewitt had lost his match, and gave nary a thought to Federer’s match against the number 116 in the world, Sergiy Stakhovsky.

And then I woke to news that Federer had lost.

Well that just sucks.

And yet I’m not as sad as I thought I would be. And I thought I would be plenty sad. I am a Federer fan in the same way that I am a fan of the Adelaide Crows. As in, I don’t just admire his tennis, for me he is as important as my footy team. And that is pretty damn important. I mean determining whether or not it’s a good week or not important. It’s a support where the pain of his losing almost cancels out the joy of his winning.

And for the last couple years – since he lost in the quarter final at Wimbledon in 2011, I have been edgy as all heck during the first week of Grand Slam tournaments.

Edgy because I wanted his streak of consecutive Quarter Finals at Grand Slams to continue.

And last night it ended at 36.

Thirty six consecutive times he has reached the final 8.

How long is that time? Put it this way, the only person with any chance at all of breaking it is Novak Djokovic. All he has to do is keep his current streak going until Wimbledon 2018.

And remember as well, Federer’s streak was 36 in a row without missing one tournament either due to injury or because he wanted to skip the French Open because it’s not his best surface or he couldn’t be bothered flying to Australia.

He turned up each time, and each time he was there after the middle Sunday. Always in the second week.

In the great Australian film Sunday Too Far Away, Jack Thompson’s character, the gun shearer, Foley, is asked if he rung a shed a few years back (ie was the fastest shearer in the shed). Foley replies, “If I was there, I rung it”.

And so it was with Federer, if he was there (which he always was) he was there in the final 8.

But no longer.

Of course this marks the end of an era, but it is an era that really ended a while ago.

I have long liked to compare tennis players in this era to rock bands, and for me Federer is The Beatles. There is the before and after. And you can’t deny it, regardless of whether you like him or not.

When he lost in the QF at Wimbledon in 2011 I suggested he had released “Let it Be”, and thought, “Tennis fans, and especially Federer loyalists, will hope that there is time for an “Abbey Road” – that one last Grand Slam where the stars align and for 7 matches he comes back. It is more likely to happen than not.”

And it did last year when he won Wimbledon, and indeed it was “Abbey Road”. A glorious final flourish.

But after that tournament, after the Olympics and after he broke Sampras’s record for number of weeks at Number 1, I think it was pretty clear he was packing up the band.

When he announced that he was cutting back his schedule and focussing on the Grand Slam that was really the end. The reason he won Wimbledon last year, and the reason he regained the number 1 spot is he was prepared to play the circuit week in week out, to commit all the way.

Tennis is a sport where you’re either all in, or you’re essentially retired.

As soon as Sampras went from caring about being number one to just focussing on grand slam, it was over. He won a last tournament, but it was never going to be more than that. The same with Federer. Once the focus goes from the week in week out, the mind drifts just enough that the ability to win at the top level is no longer there.

And so last night we saw what happens after the band splits up. Out comes the disappointing solo album. In this case it is more “McCartney” than “John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band”, but in either case it was a long way from the magic that once was.

Will Federer release an “Imagine”? Who knows. He still seems to love playing, and he can still at times sing on a tennis court in a way that reminds you that this guy was once better than anyone else ever has been.

But while there might be flashes of brilliance and the odd good single, the great album is tough to produce. And to win a grand slam you need an album of good songs, not one or two singles that might be enough to make the charts.

So today I am sad that it is over, but in some ways it is a relief. This Federer fan has for too long been worried about a record of Federer getting to the last 8 – so long that the record had become in my mind to be the goal.  And that’s not how it should be. Federer’s greatness was not in just getting to the final 8 of a tournament, it was in winning the whole damn thing.

And his 17 grand slam titles will take a heck of a lot of beating:


Again, Djokovic is the only current player who has a hope of getting even close (Nadal’s knees will prevent him). But he is currently on 6. So he only needs to win another 11. It’s possible, but let’s wait till he gets over 10 before really contemplating it.

It would require him to pretty much keep up the pace of titles won over the past two year for another 4 years or so. Doable but tough.


And so the era ends. There will still be a few reunion tours, but we all know it’s not the same thing.

Thankfully I still have last year’s Wimbledon final recorded on our DVDR, and so like getting out an old album and listening to great music I can still get to watch and remember the times when if Federer was there, he rung it.

Posted in Culture, Sport, Tennis | 3 Comments

Rudd Redux: Julia Gillard gone after 3 years

Three years ago on the night when Julia Gillard challenged Kevin Rudd I wrote:

On the QT: The ALP: How to completely screw it up

… But its all irrelevant, because this evening it was reported that moves were underway to oust Kevin Rudd as PM and replace him with Julia Gillard. The word is that the Victoria and SA rightwing factions are behind the move…

But that doesn’t matter, the story has taken hold, and Julia might as well take over now – what the hell, due to this, the election is pretty much gone now anyway, she might as well have 5 months as PM.

And those people behind it in the ALP should be taken out back and gently slapped around the head with a 4×2 plank of wood. And I volunteer to be the one wielding the first slap.

What idiots. What utter brainless, dullards. The latest Newspoll shows the ALP up 52-48. As Possum pointed out, of the 24 polls since the start of May only 3 have had the ALP behind. No Government has lost an election when holding such a position this close to an election. There is no desire in the electorate to make Abbott the PM, and even with the decline in the ALP vote, very little of that has resulted in an increase in Liberal Party vote – in fact Rudd still leads as preferred PM! (so Rudd is doing better now than Howard did against Latham in 2004!!)

But I also wrote:

I think Julia Gillard will be an excellent PM, I have long wanted her to be PM. But I am not convinced that this move is a good one for the ALP in terms of wining the election.031044-25page1[4].jpg (image)

Within a couple days I changed my view on the stuffing up aspect. I placed rather far too much store in dodgy “internal polling” which was likely something pulled out of someone’s bum and printed up as though it was real. Perhaps it was the South Australian parochialism (as shown by the front page of The Advertiser) that changed my view.

But it was mostly that I was a fan of Julia Gillard as Deputy PM.

I remained confident of Gillard doing well in the election until Day 7 when she gave her speech on climate change, in which she put forward the idea of a “citizen’s assembly”.

On that day I wrote:

Do you know how bad this policy is Julia? It is so bad that Nick Minchin is criticising you for delaying action. Nick fucking Minchin. Nick Minchin: a person whose imbecility on this subject is almost without compare. A guy who seriously thinks climate change is a left wing conspiracy! Just think how bat-shit dumb you have to be to think that! And yet he is attacking you for delaying! He is saying the Liberal Party are the ones who will be doing direct action now!

But for mine Julia, this was your worst day, and you’ll get my vote because the Libs are putrid and Abbott as PM would be a national embarrassment.

But geez. Lift your game. Stop worrying about wining the election and go out and win the people.

And in the end that is something she was never able to do. She never won the people.

I remained a fan, but one who died a little with each shite policy position. Sometimes the policy framework was OK, but the delivery was awful. Take asylum seekers. I truly believe a regional framework is the best way to go, but the Malaysia setup was poorly done, failing to tick off the basics – like how would they be treated – until after the issues had been raised.

I wrote today in The Drum that “whenever a government dies the policy failures that they do live after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” And the same goes for a PM. For a while at least.

Many of those on the progressive side while focus on asylums seekers and the single parents onto Newstart policy, and maybe the recent attempt to cut higher education.

They’ll downplay that she put a price on carbon (anyone apparently can do that if you’re forced to); they’ll ignore the NDIS (that’s a bipartisan thing ain’t it); they’ll dismiss the school funding (oh it’s really a right-wing type policy). They’ll remember that she played the gender card and like the worthless hypocrites they are they will say she demeaned the office of Prime Minister by posing for the Women’s Weekly.

I despaired at some of her policies, and many things she didn’t do I hated that she didn’t do them. But I’ll pause now while you go off and find that government which you liked everything that it did.

Heck, I’m old enough to remember ALP types who hated Hawke and Keating for destroying the ALP. I also remember many left-wing friends telling how much they couldn’t stand Rudd (and this was about 5 months into 2008).

I admired the amazing resilience she has. The crap she had to put up with for the past 2-3 years would have rendered me a small crumpled shivering figure. No one will ever say she was weak. Christ she stared down so many pathetic little pissants in a number of amazing press conferences. Question after question she would take; never shirking, never running off.

Watch her final speech.

It’s not a one off, she had many press conferences like this, so don’t say “if only…” she did and after each one the media would write “if only…”. And then they carried on.

Geez, if she did press conferences like Abbott did, the press would crucify her… oh right they did anyway.

And she was great at getting deals done. The problem perhaps is that in getting the deal done she often came up with a policy that was not worth the deal – such as the mining tax.

But all of that doesn’t matter now, the reality is Gillard never won the people. You can say it was because of the media, and I sure as heck think there were those in the media who really hated her – you only have to look at the front page of the Daily Telegraph on Monday to see it. But good leaders can speak to the people and render the media less potent (if not entirely). 

But the voters hated her. Sure some men hated her because she was a women – if you want to pretend that was not an issue, enjoy your fantasy world – some people hated her because they think she lied to them, others hated her because they thought she was mean to Rudd. But when it gets down to winning an election it really doesn’t matter why they did, they just did.

You can’t go to an election with a leader who has a 62% of the voters disapproving of the way she is doing the job. That’s just asking to be slaughtered. The way it was looking, there was not going to be an ALP MP other than Rudd north of Sydney Harbour. Think on that

Now there is one party with a leader with a net dissatisfaction rating – and that is the Liberal Party. No other opposition leader in history has lasted so long with such poor personal polling. Abbott was able to because people hated Gillard more.

The was no way for the ALP to focus the electorates’ minds on Abbott; now they can.

You can say that Rudd’s forces helped that happen, and you’d be right. I am on the record as not being a fan of Rudd, but I also never understood Howard’s ongoing popularity with the voters. Both Howard and Rudd were not politicians for political tragics but for those who largely hate politics.

Will this result in a win for the ALP? I’ve been wrong so often in the past that I won’t bother with any predictionBNsDZf5CEAMNkgPs their that it was obvious the ALP would have been routed under Gillard; now at the very least there is a chance that won’t happen.

Tony Abbott’s press conference tonight looked pretty tired and old. Boats, carbon tax… blah blah.

I also don’t think most voters will give a stuff about Swan, Conroy, Emerson, Ludwig etc resigning. Most people might know who the treasurer is but beyond that have little idea and less care.

I also think the Liberal Party adverts showing ALP ministers criticising Rudd won’t be as effective as they hope, mostly because the voters don’t agree with them – much like ALP adverts targeting Howard never really worked. 

But we’ll see. At least now things seem up for grabs rather than being a pretty predictable path towards an iceberg.

And just to show how parochial is politics here’s the font page of the Courier Mail:

Posted in Australian politics | 10 Comments

Unemployment State by State Picture

And so to the state situation on the labour force data.

There’s a fair myriad of stuff you can look at – full-time v part-time, men v women. In the past I have examined some of these with respect to one state – eg WA or QLD, but today I was more in a mood just too look at the total employment picture.

So here’s the May employment growth in seasonally adjusted terms:


Yes, Tasmania the big winner, which tells you all you need to know about the worth of seasonally adjusted monthly growth data on a state by state basis. This will be the last time I bother with it. It is next to useless.

So what it is the trend scenario?


Not good for WA – it reinforces the negative view of the state’s economy in recent months. QLD is back in the negative after a couple months of uptick.

So how has everyone been doing for the whole year? 


NSW is the boomer state, and would you know it, but SA has had bigger employment growth than WA.

Now lets have a look at state annual employment growth going back to 2000. And for comparison I’ll include the national growth rate, and I’ll also keep all the state on the same scale, to give a good picture of which states really boomed this century.

First the big mining state, WA:


It experience massive growth from 2005-06 and in the past two year, compared to the rest of the country has been growing very fast. Now however it is experiencing employment growth right on the national average.

QLD is the other main mining state, how has it gone this century?


As you can see – it was struggling in 2001 – September 11 and Ansett’s collapse didn’t do wonders for tourism. I recall living in Cairns at the time and things were pretty grim. The mining boom helped it no end. But since the GFC it has struggled to grow above the national average, and currently it is well off the pace.

So if NSW is the big growth state at the moment what is it’s picture like?


And here we see the two-speed economy. During the mining boom, NSW was consistently below the national average. You can however see the impact of NSW on the national average due to its size, as rarely does it grow out of sync with the national rate. Interestingly though, this has actually occurred in the past year.

And the other non0mining state, Victoria?


It is a pretty close representation of the entire country. It has however of late drifted below the national average. And with a stack of bad news re jobs losses in Geelong coming out recently, this doesn’t look like changing soon.

And South Australia? Old rusty, how are you doing?


It didn’t have a good time of it during the mining boom year. What is worth noting is that the employment situation in 2012 was worse in SA than it was during the GFC. That’s not good.

But if you want not good, you need to head across the Bass Strait:


Tasmania actually had a fairly decent time of it from 2003-06. And it bounced out of a yucky 2007 with aplomb. But it was slaughtered during the GFC, and it hasn’t recovered. Just a sad sight. 

Now I don’t normally do the territories mostly because they’re so small, but ACT now only has about 20,000 fewer workers than Tasmania, so I might as well include them.

First ACT – the very definition of boom and bust:


It’s good, it’s bad, it’s good, it’s bad. And the growth is around the same relative to the national rate since November 2007 as it was during the Howard years.

And finally NT:


Northern Territory is the only state/territory during this period that has had over 7% annual employment growth. It actually got through the GFC quite well, but suffered some bad aftershocks.

Which brings us to the unemployment rates of each state.

Tasmania has the worst at 7.3%, then SA with 5.9%, QLD with 5.7%, Victoria on 5.5%, NSW on 5.5% and WA breaks through the 5% barrier to 5.1%:


And now to look at what the national unemployment rate would be if we didn’t have to count each state:


WA remains still the biggest boost to the unemployment rate, but it;s boost of 0.06 percentage points needs to be viewed in the context that a year ago it’s boost was 0.18 percentage points. 

Less and less are the national figures being able to rely on the WA to help make the picture look good.


Posted in Economy, Employment | 1 Comment

Australia’s Unemployment Rate ‘steady’ at 5.5%

Today the ABS released the May unemployment numbers. They showed that in seasonally adjusted terms Australia’s unemployment rate was steady at 5.5%, in trend terms it rose to 5.6%.

It’s is steady in the fact that last month the ABS said the April unemployment rate was 5.5%, but actually this month they have revised it up to 5.6%, so you would be right in also saying the unemployment rate fell to 5.5%.

It was just a bit of rounding, last month the ABS estimated the unemployment rates was 5.5496729%, which was rounded to 5.5%, this month they estimate the April unemployment rates was 5.559% or 5.6%.

When we look at the 10 picture we see that slow shift upwards that has been on since the middle of 2011 continues its slow pace:


The 12 month picture is a bit less slow. In 12 months the trend rate has rise 0.4 percentage points, and there isn’t much of a sign of any peak:


The big interest this month were the revision to the figures from the previous months. Back when the February figures were announced, there was a bit of hoohah about the monthly growth being 0.6%. In the next 2 months the figures didn’t get changed much, then this month we see that the growth in February has been revised down from 0.6% to an ok, but not spectacular, 0.25%.

So was all this growth non-existent?

Well no, the ABS has just shifted it. Previously he employment growth in January was estimated to be around 0.1%, now the ABS estimates it at 0.5%. In annual terms the growth doesn’t change any, but it does show things can bounce around a bit a few months after the fact:


But let’s look at the monthly figures anyway.

In seasonally adjusted terms there was a 0.009% increase in employment in May or 1,100 jobs. So effectively flat. In trend terms the increase was a bit closer to 0.1%, but heading down:


In annual terms you get a pretty clear picture of where things are at – pretty much halfway between horrible and good:


And it adds up to a 5 yearly growth that continues to fall:


Not surprisingly with a flat picture in total employment, the number of hours worked fell in seasonally adjusted terms


When we look at the annual growth in the number of hours worked, once again the current situation becomes clear. Yes the employment rate is good at 5.5% – it’s still around 1% below the average from 1992-2012 – but there’s bugger all growth in jobs or work being done: 


As there was not much change in the unemployment rate, and little change in actual employment, it’s no surprise that the participation rate remains pretty flat. It fell 0.1 percentage point in seasonally adjusted terms, but no change at 65.3% in trend terms:


Similarly very little change in the employment to population ratio in either total or 15-64 years only:


Full-time employment for the month declined slightly in seasonally adjusted term, and in annual terms growth remains (as with all the other annual growth pictures) pretty soft


And while there was no change in the unemployment rate of those looking for full-time work, the gap between it and the overall rate has increased in the past 3 months


And that gap is a pretty good sign of how the labour market is going. And when the gap is going up, things ain’t improving:


Finally for the national picture (I’ll do the states separately), the employment of women and men both increased, with men slightly more in May, but if we look in annual terms, we see that women have had a better time of it for a while now:


So what is the upshot of it all? 5.5% is good. People like to complain about the unemployment rate, but it is what it is. But you don’t want to only look at that number. When you look at employment growth a much softer picture appears. And overall the market looks quite weak to me. Now “quite weak” might quite good in the current circumstances, but nothing here suggest that RBA was wrong to start reducing interest rates in an attempt to stimulate the economy.

And as yet, it ain’t all that stimulated.

Posted in Australian politics, Economy, Employment

Friday Night Relaxer: Triple J’s Hottest 100 1993-2012

This is my first Friday Night Relaxer for a while… since June 2011 to be exact. They used to be among my favourite blog posts to write and to be honest since stopping writing them I have never really felt like a “blogger”. A blog has to have that personal element to lift it from just a collection of columns (or in my case, graphs).

So I’m going to try and get back into the swing. I’m also going to try and restart my “Flick of the Week” Posts, because the last one I did of those was .. ahem… 108 weeks ago.

This weekend Triple J is doing its hottest 100 of the past 20 years.

It’s kind of an odd music period for me. For the first 10 of those years I was fairly well invested in music, but the past 10 years old-cootdom fairly well mugged me and had me switching over from Triple J to your more easy listening stations. To be honest I was probably in that potion well before then, but that was the time I stopped even trying to resist.

Oddly, because my daughters like music and my wife still refuses to settle into the rut which I have so nicely made, I probably know more music now than I did 5-10 years ago. Most weekends we have V on listening to the Top 40. The good things is V is guaranteed to have a top 500 of the 80s and 90s running most weekends, so I’m fairly safe from the dangers of knowing too many of the lyrics of the top 10.

When I did my first draft of this list I realised I am terribly middle of the road, even when I am trying to be edgy. I re-did the list to try and pretend to be more edgy. I ended up with the same list, but with one more U2 song. So, yeah that was a fail.

And with that here’s my list. Mostly I came up with by looking at the Hottest 100’s of the past 20 years, and a few others that I just like. I left out a few that I nearly put in to look coolish – like Amy Winehouse, “Rehab”, and I left out Powderfinger’s “My Happiness” because I guess I felt it was a bit too middle of the road and I already had enough of that in there.

There’s nothing from Oasis, which back in 1995 would have seemed impossible. No Smashing Pumpkins or Nine Inch Nails. No Jeff Buckley either, because I couldn’t chose a cover version to be one of the best songs. Nick Cave’s “Into my Arms” was in the list, then out. I’d probably change the list next week, but oh well here it is (no particular order… I think)

1. Pulp – Common People

Look, just don’t even argue with me. This is the song of the 1990s. It just is.

Sure Smells Like Teen Spirit might be the song of the early 1990s, or perhaps Losing My Religion, or perhaps Creep, or maybe… look. Forget it, none of them are as atypical 1990s as this. The only one that comes close is Pulp’s Disco 2000. This song is the most listened song on my itunes playlist. Mostly I think that is because when I go grocery shopping I put my iphone on and this song invariably is in the genius mix of any song I choose (the same applies to The Smiths “This Charming Man”).

There is absolutely nothing wrong with this song.

2. Hole – Doll Parts

I don’t particularly like Courtney Love, I never bought a Hole album. In fact if I was forced at gun point to even hum another of their songs I’d be in strife; maybe “Miss World”. Probably I’d start out humming it and end up humming this song.

I don’t care that this song was written and recorded before Kurt Cobain died, the lyrics are brilliant and to me they capture the grunge era as good as any song.

I love a song that seems to wear its heart, spleen and lungs on its sleeve and yet also contains the line “I fake it so real, I am beyond fake”,

And when she absolutely howls, “And someday, you will ache like I ache/Someday, you will ache like I ache”, then Love is either finding as much deep pain to reach that sound as any singer before her, or is she one of the best signers at faking it. Either way I don’t care. 

3. Radiohead – Paranoid Android

Part of me really wanted to hate this song. When it came out I read so many over the top orgiastic mentions of it in Q and other music mags that really. Vomit. Please.

I am not really a Radiohead fan. I didn’t even try too hard to like Kid A. And well after that I tried even less.

But geebus this song has it all. Given in my view the greatest song of all time is The Beatles, “A Day in the Life”, it’s little wonder I love this song. It feels about 3 songs slammed together with no sense of care that they fit, and yet fit they do in a glorious amalgam of pain and joy.

And geez, “When I am king you will be first up against the wall” is a line that wins me over with every listen. 

4. Greenday – Good Riddance (Time of your life)

For crying out loud, really Greg? This 2:30 min piece of treacly pap?

Yes. Maybe because it reminds me of the last episode of Seinfeld. Maybe because it also reminds me of the last episode of the first season of The Panel. It’s a song that make you want to go through your photos and make a movie with this as the backing track. Who gives a stuff that it’s about a break up.

This isn’t a song I search for on my playlist. But when it comes on I never give it a skip. And at 2:30 min it doesn’t wear out its welcome either.

5. Arcade Fire – Wake Up.

I won’t lie. I had no idea about this song until I heard it on the trailer for “Where the Wild Things Are”. Maybe I’m including it just to prove I have listened to at least one new song in the past 10 years. There’s not much rock music anymore that deserves to be put along side anything written before 2000, but this one has a great rhythm to it.

6. The Shins – New Slang

Yep, I came to this through “Garden State” – a not very good film with a very good soundtrack.

Do the lyrics mean anything? Probably not. I’m pretty sure I’ve been singing them wrong these past 5 years. I’m not a big one for getting the lyrics right. I still sing the wrong lyrics to Kids in the Kitchen “Current Stand” and I got that on a tape for Christmas 1985.

But this song just is a wonderful, lazy, languid, easy sound. It reminds me of when I was at university, and that’s pretty impressive given I left university 8 years before this song was released.

7. U2  – Beautiful Day

Yes it’s U2 and you all hate U2.  Stuff you. I don’t. I threw in my lot with them back in 1986 and I’m not about to change now. When this song comes on the radio I turn it up and I start smiling.

Look I could keep going, but there’s no way I’m convincing anyone. This is my list so get your own.

8. The White Stripes – The Hardest Button to Button

Was a toss up between this and 7 Nation Army, but I like the beat on this better. And the video. Maybe I also like that The Simpsons parodied it. Maybe it’s here because I don’t want to appear as old as I really am.  This or the Arcade Fire would probably be the first one to drop.

9. James – Laid

This came out in my final year at uni, and it’s about the most fun song ever written. Is it a “great” song? Nah. But it was a great one to dance to and sing loudly with your friends when you’re up late, young and have had just enough to drink to make you think life will always be this fun.

10. Augie March – One Crowded Hour

Like Bolero it just keeps building that same rhythm over and over. The intensity of the song continues to build and by the end all the emotion of the song is laid bare. Love it.

And so there you go. That’s my 10… I think…

Posted in Culture, Friday Night Relaxer, Music | 5 Comments

Australia’s GDP grows by 0.6% in March, 2.6% for the past year

First the obligatory, “less than analysists” expected sentence.

OK. Now onto the data.

Yep, the ABS in the midst of the quarterly economic nerd week, released the national accounts today. Growth was below trend. Even trend growth was below trend.

Where do we find ourselves? Well first let’s look at the quarterly growth picture:


In March I noted that “4 of the past 5 quarters have had growth below the 10 year average”. That stays the same by virtue of the September 2012 growth figure being revised up from 0.65% to 0.76%. Incidentally the March 2012 growth figure, which came out at 1.3% and which received a fair bit of derision, seems to have settled at growth of 1.24%.

So the past 18 months have been more below average than good. And this month’s figures were a decline in annual terms due to that nice March 2012 growth  no longer getting counted in the annual figures:


This quarter at least we saw a slight return to normal in terms of the GDP deflator. Unlike the past 3 quarters which has the implicit prices used to calculate the GDP declining in annual terms, this quarter shows the GDP deflator increasing by as still next to nothing 0.5%


If we go in for a closer look on a quarterly basis we see this:


Clearly inflation is not a problem at the moment.

So how does that flow through to the latest buzzword in economic reporting, Nominal GDP?

Well the is an improvement, but geez it is still a long long way below average:


As Wayne Swan lies in bed at night wondering of the surplus that might have been he must surely look at that period from March 2003 to Dec 2008 when nominal GDP growth averaged 7.9%.

Annual real GDP growth from March 2009 is around 25% less than it was from 2002-2000, but average nominal GDP growth has fallen by around 40%:


OK. Terms of trade, how’s the boom going?

First the long term picture:


There was a little, little increase in the March quarter. Let’s go in for a close up, which shows the boom as less of a bust than a slight falling off:


Is that a truer picture? Not sure to be honest.

OK. Onto productivity.

This quarter showed a slight slowing of growth in annual growth in both trend and seasonally adjusted terms. This wasn’t surprising because the March 2012 quarter had shown very strong growth of 1.9% in seasonally adjusted terms. In the March 2013 quarter productivity grew by only 0.4% in trend terms and not at all in seasonally adjusted terms.

Annual productivity growth in trend terms remains nicely above the 1997-2007 average, but no time to get complacent (or to suggest the unions and the Fair Work Act are killing the economy).


Indeed the 5 year rolling growth chart shows since 2009 there’s been a good turn around in the declining growth of productivity:


Further to the “unions are in charge and destroying everything” narrative, there are the labour costs figures.

Real unit non-farm labour costs fell in the March quarter by 1.5% in seasonally adjusted terms.

Long time readers would note that I have been of the view that the reason behind the increase in unit labour costs during 2010-2012 was off the back of the GFC, which saw labour costs plummet faster than they had been. My view has been that we’ll get back to the pre-GFC trend of declining real unit labour costs once both the GFC and the reaction washes out, and this does seem to be the case. In essence, let’s cut the bull about the Fair Work Act raising labour costs.


Heck let’s look at nominal unit labour costs, because they are what the RBA looks at to see if labour costs are putting a spur to inflation:


Yep, nominal unit labour costs fell by 0.6% in the past year.

The household savings ratio shows that we’re quite happy it seems to save around 10% of our income.


Finally, on a national level, let’s look at the break down of national income among employees and companies.

After a bit of a jump last quarter, the employee share of total factor income stayed flat this quarter:


The corporations profit share of total factor income rose 3.7% in seasonally adjusted terms, but in trend terms it was pretty flat:


The increase in seasonally adjusted term might be good for tax revenue as we head towards the Pre-election Fiscal Outlook – as to might the slight increase in nominal GDP growth.

Now to the states.

Oh Western Australia, we hardly knew you:


Look, despite the usual caveats about state final demand not being state domestic product, it’s clear the peak of the mining capex has had an impact on WA. That doesn’t mean it’s in recession, but it is certainly off the boil (especially when you look at its employment growth situation).

Let’s look at it in annual terms, to clear out a bit of the quarterly variations:


WA’s annual SFD growth is now only just above that of QLD and NSW. (And yes, Tasmania is in a recession, let’s not beat around the bush). But while NSW has been kind of at a plateau, QLD continues its downward path.

How does the WA picture look in historical terms?


As you can see the last time WA’s annual SFD growth was this low (outside of the GFC) was prior to the mining boom.

Of course the non-mining states are meant to pick up the slack. Over to you Victoria:


As you can see, in the past 25 years there’s only been 2 other periods where Victoria’s SFD growth is negative – the 1990s recession and the GFC.

That is not a pretty picture.

Tomorrow the labour force figures. I predict not much joy there either.

Posted in Economy, GDP, Industrial Relations, Productivity | 4 Comments

Drum Post– The Aussie Dollar goes down and up and… ?

My Drum piece this week looked at the exchange rate and how it really is a bugger of a thing to predict – especially when you try and apply economic principles to it.

Given it has only got 64 comments, I’m guessing the exchange rate is not the most fiery of issues to debate. Ahh well. When I was studying economics at uni back during the 1990s recession one of my favourite subjects was “International Trade and Finance”, mostly I think because the textbook we used had a chapter titled “Offshore Banking and International Money Laundering”. Who says you don’t learn anything practical at uni? Perhaps I should have written about that…

Anyhoo the dollar does bizarre things. Since the float of the dollar the average value has been US$0.7554, but during this century other than the 12 months of 2005 it has either been well below it (great for exporters) or since 2007 for the most part well above it (great for people who like buying imported things) and significantly above it since the end of 2010.


And going back to the start of the float the picture is this:


But of course we don’t only trade with the US, so we can look at the Trade Weighted Index. Since the float it had average 60.9, and currently it sits at 74.9.But if we go back before the float and look at the TWI since 1970 a different picture emerges:


The average back to 1970 is 71.8.

During 1973-74 the Aussie dollar was actually worth US$1.4875. Such a rate now would pretty much kill the economy (and certainly didn’t help it back then).

But while the TWI is one version of an effective exchange rate, the Bank of International Settlements does it’s own version, and it goes back to 1964. On its measure, the Australian dollar is almost as high as it has ever been:


Anyway, at this level it starts getting a bit academic. The general consensus is the dollar is too high, but it’ll probably take the rest of the world to get back in shape before it starts going down – and even then, it depends how the rest of the world goes about doing it. If opther coutnires follow the “Abenomics” line of Japan we’ll stay high for a while:


And the updated graph of 2012 versus 2013 shows the spooky similarity still occurs. We wait for Ben Bernanke to give us his tea leaves tonight…


Posted in Economy, Exchange Rate, The Drum | 1 Comment

Unemployment Rate: State v State (Or don’t be a woman in QLD)

As we move into State of Origin season let’s check out the employment situation on a state by state basis.

First let’s check out the employment growth in April in seasonally adjusted terms. It’s always a bit iffy to look at state unemployment this way but it’s fun nonetheless.


So class what did we learn?

If not much is your answer, you got straight to the honour board. Sure South Australia might be the boom state in Australia, but I think it unlikely.

So let;s go to the trend rate:


So how much do we know now?

If you said, just enough to be dangerous, then you get an A.

Yes WA is declining. There is a softening in the mining industry, but let’s not start suggesting it’s almost on a par with Tasmania, instead let’s have a look at the annual employment growth:


NSW has certainly be doing the best out of the eastern seaboard states, and WA has dropped a bit of late, but the past year has still been ok, but that 12 months rather hides what has happened this year.

Let’s just look at WA’s annual employment growth over the past 10 years:


Now sure the labour force in WA is growing, but as we can see, there clearly has been a decline in the growth in the past 4 months. Indeed annual employment growth is now lower than it has been since before the mining boom (not including the GFC).

To also show just how much WA has come back to the pack, here’s a break down of annual employment growth in each state on a quarterly basis:


It doesn’t bode very well for the March quarter GDP figures.

OK, now let’s look at the national unemployment rate minus each state:


The big winner over the past 5 months on this scale looks to have been Queensland which has lifted itself off the basement. But there’s an interesting thing about Queensland’s employment growth – it’s been all Part Time.

A look at the monthly growth in employment over the past 2 years shows a pretty stark divergence from total employment growth and full-time growth in the sunshine state:


This is actually rather odd – a look at the past 15 years shows a pretty close relationship between full-time and total employment growth


Having full-time employment growth heading in the opposite direction to total employment growth does not look likely to persist in the long term, and given the direction total employment growth appears to be going, I’d suggest it is more likely to fall, than full-time employment is going to rise.

To get a real sense of what this means, let’s look at female employment in the past 18 months in QLD. We know that total women employment fell as the Newman austerity plan kicked into gear. In the past 8 months total employment for women has increased in QLD, but full-time employment has decreased. In effect those women who lost their full-time work 12 months ago have been able to get back into the work force, but only in part-time work:


Indeed for women, the past 12 months have actually been WORSE for seeking full-time employment than during the GFC.

It takes some doing to come up with policies that do that.

Newman’s austerity program has in effect sent women back into part-time work.


And so taking all of that into consideration, let us look at our monthly graph on which state is the biggest drag on the national unemployment rate.


Congratulations Victoria.

Western Australia remains the biggest boost to the unemployment rate (if a lower rate is actually a boost!), but will next month see NSW take over the top spot?

Posted in Australian politics, Economy, Employment | 2 Comments

Australia’s Unemployment Rate down to 5.5%

Last month when the unemployment rate rose to 5.6% I summarized it saying:

And that’ll do use for another month. Not great – 5,6% is certainly above where you’d like to be, but the trend of 5.5% at least gives us some hope that the March figures were just a bit of a blip to go along with the opposite sided blip in February.

And so it seems to be the case. Today the ABS released the monthly labour force data, showing that the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate had fallen to 5.5% and the trend rate stayed flat at 5.5%.

Here’s the big 10 year picture:


It certainly does suggest a steady increase since early 2011. But let;s go in for a closer look at the past 12 months:


Again, while the trend rate has been steady at 5.5% for the past three months, it has within that amount been slightly increasing.

Let’s have a squiz at why the rate went down by looking at employment growth:

We saw a rather big spike in employment in April – a growth of 0.43%


Now there is often a bit of scepticism when there is a big jump in monthly figures. When the February figures came out there was a great deal of head shaking when it showed that employment had grown by 0.618% – the biggest for a decade. Last month they revised that figure up to 0.64%. This month the ABS revised it down… to 0.619%.

Indeed the past 6 months haven;t actually shown much change in the figures – certainly nothing that would suggest they got it worng in any one month and needed to massively adjust it later on.


But let’s look at the annual growth in employment to get a clearer picture:

First the past 10 years for the big picture:


Clearly we’re not in boom time, but neither should we be as gloomy as all get out. I would note however it is now 22 months straight of annual trend employment growth below 2%. Thus getting a bit beyond the 20 months straight of such low growth from January 2001-August 2002. The average annual unemployment growth for the past 20 years has been 2.1% so the labour market certainly is below par. And you have to wonder about those who would suggest we’re about to see a big inflation breakout because of a tight labour market and low interest rates.

If we get growth back to 2.5% then I’ll get on board, but at 1.28%, let’s calm down a bit.

Indeed for some real perspective have a look at the rolling 5 yearly employment growth picture:


This below average level is also born out somewhat by the growth in hours worked – it’s solidly below the 0.2% mark:


OK. Now we all know the unemployment rate is affected by the number of people looking for work, so how did the participation rate go?


A nice little uptick to 65.3%. Certainly not near record highs, but the direction is certainly encouraging.

On that aspect let’s look at the employment to population ratio:


It saw a slight rise in trend terms from 61.6 to 61.7.

But of interest is to compare the total employment to population ratio with that of the employment to population ratio of 15-54 year olds


What we can see is that the rate of increase and decline among both the working age segment of the population and the total which includes people over the age of 64 was pretty similar from 2008 till the end of 2010. But since the star of 2011 the percentage of people over the age of 15 employed has fallen much more dramatically than has the percentage of those between 15-64 year of age.

Now it might just be a massive coincidence but the baby boomers born in 1946 (ie the first year of the post WWII boom) turned 65 in 2011. And thus we see the impact of the ageing of the population. The percentage of those between 15-64 working is below pre-GFC levels – suggesting that we’re a fair ways from that tight labour market, but we’re perhaps not as bad at the total figure would suggest.

OK Let’s look at the job growth itself. How did Full-time employment go?

There was a nice jump – just touch over 0.4%


But Part Time employment is also growing and in trend terms there is now a greater percentage of the work force in part-time work than ever before. 30.1% of those employed are doing part-time work.


It looks like a big jump during the GFC – and it is mostly due to full-time work being converted to part time, rather than suddenly a whole of lot part-time work coming into the market, but it is part of a very long trend:


What has also happened is the unemployment rate of those looking for full-time work has remained flat while the national rate went down that 0.1 percentage point


In trend terms you can see the difference between the two rates suggests again there is little “tight” about this labour market:


OK, now to men and women. Who is doing better in the labour market?

Well in trend terms, definitely women:


Anyhoo. That will do for the national rate.

It’s an improvement, but let’s not get carried away.

I’ll have a squiz at the states later.

Posted in Economy, Employment | 1 Comment