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Plain packaging & the lack of evidence that it works

Sinclair Davidson and Ashton de Silva argue in the current issue of Agenda (here) that there is no evidence that the plain packaging legislation works. They base this finding on an inspection and analysis of data from 2001 to quarter 1 2014. The legislation was introduced in December 2012 so there are 4 (or 5) [...]

Australian Asylum Seeker Policy: An Economist View

I am speaking on “Australian Asylum Seeker Policy: An Economist View” at an Amnesty International meeting 8th October, 2014 at John Scott Meeting House, La Trobe University 6-00pm. This is an earlier paper I drafted on this issue. Comments welcome.

“Rational argument can be conducted with some prospect of success only so [...]

An economist views asylum seeker policies

Deriving sound asylum seeker policies is partly a moral issue. It is also a concern that analytical disciplines like economics can throw light on. I have been asked to provide views on asylum seeker policies as an economist. The views below are preliminary and I welcome polite comment. What I want to [...]

Retirement finances

I have been reading my favourite work on investment – the most recent edition (2011) of Burton Malkiel’s “A Random Walk Down Wall Street” – for some advice on managing wealth in retirement. I first read Malkiel in the mid-1970s and find him to be a perceptive and balanced advisor on investment strategies. These issues [...]

Good monetary policy

There are competing claims about the current stance of Australian monetary policy and attempts by the Reserve Bank to balance the desire for a lower Australian dollar by lowering interest rates against the problems that would be created by creating an asset price bubble. Ross Garnaut suggests lowering interest rates still further and dealing with [...]

Where is the economics?

I attended some economics honours student presentations on Friday and what was noticeable in most of the studies was a lack of any economic theory. Yes there was usually a data base and, yes, statistical techniques were applied to that data base (along with (occasionally) some quasi-theoretical reasoning about what might or might not be [...]

Proposed Australia-China Free Trade Agreement

I have been working on this FTA over the past week or so and trying to get up to speed on ideas in this area. Some provisional notes – comments very welcome.

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Retain carbon pricing

I was one of the 50 economists who signed a letter urging the retention of carbon pricing. Keeping limits on carbon emissions is the most severe environmental problem the world has ever faced. Not controlling greenhouse gas emissions possibly threatens the survival of human and non-human life on our planet but, at the minimum, will [...]

La Trobe economics staff cuts

The heading “holds out” is strong but economics staff do think the proposed staffing cuts are not in the interests of the university. This is not only an issue of self-interest. The School of Economics needs to be restored to the strong, growing school that it was up to 2012. This would not be difficult [...]

Taxpayer assistance to a tax evader

Uneconomic inter-firm loans and rampant transfer pricing but massive subsidies from the Australian Government to a foreign-based multi-national. What a farce.

http://www.theage.com.au/business/glencore-tax-bill-on-15b-income-zip-zilch-zero-20140626-3awg0.html (681)

Photos on WordPress.

Its tough posting photos on WordPress. Works then doesn’t.

These are photos I took on my last day in Cairns posted in my Facebook “Photo Page”. Can they be accessed via WordPress?

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Ultra-zooms bleg

A friend I met in Cairns (who is a expert photographer with premium Nikon equipment and lenses) showed me his “travel camera” a relatively cheap “ultra zoom” made by Fujifilm. Ultra zooms are point-and-shoot cameras with a fixed lens that offer 50X and even 60X magnifications. These are equivalent to telephoto lengths in excess of [...]

Reforming economics teaching

I have a fair bit of sympathy with some of the complaints in this The Guardian article about economics teaching. We do need to teach more about institutions and we do need to be more pluralist. Economics is much more than a quantitative methods “hurdle-jumping” contest though, to be clear, quantitative methods are very important.

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Negative gearing

The old chestnut of negative gearing is being raised yet again. There is nothing at all wrong with allowing asset owners to claim interest payments as a tax deduction if capital gains are fully taxed. Similarly there is nothing wrong with exempting the family home from capital gains taxes if, as is the case, interest [...]

Spam from University of Sydney

I get large amounts of email spam. Apart from asking people concerned to stop (the University of Sydney ignores such requests) and adding unsought email addresses to my junk mail box (useless as the address list is apparently circulated inside the organisation) what else can I do? Isn’t an unsubscribe option a requirement for this [...]

Equity prices in Australia

Australian equity prices surged earlier this year, took a breather, then have recently surged again.

Greg Mankiw links to a (very comprehensive) survey suggesting US equity prices are cheap.

If that is so these RBA graphs suggest Australian equities remain cheap:

since 1995 Aussie share prices have increased slower than the S&P but generally followed [...]

Plain packaging – take a look

One of the ludicrous complaints about the so called “plain packaging” rules on cigarettes it that they make it harder to select a sought-after brand in a shop. That can only be true if the shop-assistant is illiterate. The brand and brand variety is indicated clearly on the front as well as top and base [...]

Is a species extinction a bad thing?

This New Scientist article suggests not necessarily. The thinking reflects the theme of a recent exhibition in London. Some snippets (with my responses):

“Extinction, like death, is a natural part of life,” declares an epigraph at the start of this exhibition. “Extinction isn’t necessarily the end of the world, it could be just the beginning…” [...]

Thinking clearly about immigration

We have been selective in sections of our immigration program – for example the business program discriminates on the basis of wealth. But if one raises the case for not favouring the admission to Australia of those who come from violent societies where our democratic values and belief in religious tolerance would get zero respect [...]

Scientology & Catholicism

I am definitely no fan of Scientology but the ruckus this week over the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes separation on the alleged role of Scientology in the upbringing of their daughter strikes me as pure hypocrisy. BTW I am unsure this is in fact the basis for the separation but it is the issue being focused [...]