Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Rise in perception of corruption in public service


In 2016-17 the Australian Public Service Commission (APS) finalised investigation of 1,720 code of conduct complaints which resulted in 1,494 breach findings. 

Sanctions were applied in the majority of breach cases by way of either official reprimand, reduction in salary or fines. Only 18.3 per cent of sanctions took the form of termination of employment and just 11.3 percent resulted in reduction in classification or reassignment of duties.

The most serious of these breaches by classification appeared to be:
287 breaches involving failure to behave honestly and with integrity;
126 breaches involving failure to use Commonwealth resources in a proper manner and for a proper purpose;
64 breaches involving improper use of: inside information, duties, status, power or authority;
50 breaches involving providing false or misleading information;
44 breaches involving conflict of interest; and
16 breaches involving failure to comply with all applicable Australian laws.

According to the Commission:

  1. Sixty-four per cent of those respondents reported that they had witnessed cronyism.
  2. Twenty-six reported that they had witnessed nepotism in the workplace.
  3. Twenty-one per cent reported that they had witnessed ‘green-lighting’, that is making official decisions that improperly favour a person or company, or disadvantage another.
The Guardian on 10 January 2018 reported this as representing a significant increase from the 2.6% who witnessed corruption in 2013-14 and the 3.6% of respondents in 2014-15.

The Australia Institute, 10 January 2018:

Corruption’s $72.3 billion hit to GDP

New research released today by the Australia Institute estimates the effects of rising perception of corruption in Australia since 2012 could have reduced Australia’s GDP by $72.3 billion, or 4%.

[Full report - see PDF below]

“Since 2012 Australia has slid from 7th to 13th on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI), with index score declining from 85 to 79,” said Rod Campbell, Australia Institute Director of Research and co-author of the report.

“Economic analysis estimates each point decline in this score translates into a reduction in GDP per capita of $486. Extrapolating across Australia’s population, our GDP could have been $72.3 billion higher this year had we maintained our 2012 reputation for minimal corruption.

“This is in line with World Economic Forum estimates that corruption costs 5% of GDP worldwide.

“The economic impacts of corruption are well-known. Business costs increase, capital is not allocated efficiency and inequality worsens.

“Australia needs policies to address this threat to our economy.

“A federal ICAC with teeth is needed to increase public trust and tackle the perception of corruption in Australia.

“The perception of corruption is on the rise, the number of public servants who have witnessed corrupt behaviour is on the rise and public trust in federal parliament is at an all-time low.

As well as the obvious democratic cost, corruption and the perception of corruption also costs our economy.

“Not only does corruption cost business, businesses do not want to operate in countries where there is a perception of corruption.”

“This research shows that the business community also has a stake in perceptions of corruption and should be supporting calls for a federal ICAC,” Campbell said.

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The Australia Institute
Posted on:
10 January 2018

Things you should know if you are logging on to a website using your Facebook account


Facebook for developers

The Daily Telegraph, 5 January 2018:

Ian Cox of Supremo.tv said: “If you’ve ever pressed ‘Login with Facebook’ on a website, you’re giving Facebook permission to share sensitive data with the site you are visiting.

“This includes, for example, your personal email address, where you live, where you work, details about your relationship, places you have recently been and who you’re friends with.

“In today’s digital age, people are sharing just about everything on social media sites like Facebook. But most are unaware of just how much can be seen by brands, businesses and, in some cases, criminals.

“The best way to stay protected online is to only share what you would be happy with the whole world seeing.

“As tempting as it may be to rejoice about the fact that the whole family is going on a weekend away, keep in mind that you may be inadvertently letting criminals know that your house is empty during this time.”

WHAT INFORMATION CAN FACEBOOK SHARE ABOUT YOU?

* Your public profile (name, age, gender, location, profile picture, timezone)
* All your likes
* Your friends
* Where you are now
* Your email address
* Your photos
* Your “about me” section
* All your posts
* Your birthday
* Your relationship details
* Your education history
* Your religion/politics
* Events you’ve been to
* Your work history
* Where you are from
* Your phone number

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Forecasting a dangerous present and devastating future for Australia



“Background warming associated with anthropogenic climate change has seen Australian annual mean temperature increase by approximately 1.1 °C since 1910. Most of this warming has occurred since 1950.” [Australian Bureau of Meteorology, Annual Climate Statement 2017]

Bloomberg, 10 January 2018:

The road-melting heatwave that made Sydney the hottest place on Earth at the weekend may just be a taste of things to come. 

Temperatures in Australia are set to rise until around 2050 due to greenhouse gas emissions already in the atmosphere, according to the country’s weather bureau

“Australia is one country where you really can see the signal of global warming,” Karl Braganza, the Bureau of Meteorology’s head of climate monitoring, told reporters on a call. “We’ve locked the degree of warming in until mid-century and that means it’s likely that one of the next strong El Nino events in the coming decade or two will set a new record.”

Western Sydney touched 47.3 degrees Celsius (117 degrees Fahrenheit) on Sunday and 2017 was Australia’s third-hottest year on record. Heat and drought risk devastating crops in Australia, the world’s third-largest exporter of cotton where farm production is forecast to be worth A$59 billion ($46 billion) this financial year.

The Heat is On
Australia has had just one cooler-than-average year since 2005
Since 2005, Australia has notched up seven of its 10 warmest years, the weather bureau said in its annual climate statement.

More heatwaves could stress a power grid that’s struggled to cope with demand as people crank up air-conditioning during the scorching summer months.

Australian Bureau of Meteorology Annual Climate Statement 2017, issued January 2018.

Visible impacts in 2018.................

The Guardian, 9 January 2018:

More than 400 animals have died in one colony alone as temperatures soar above 47C, causing exhaustion and dehydration

Mounds of dead flying foxes in Campbelltown suburb of Sydney, Australia. Photograph: Facebook/Help Save the Wildlife and Bushlands in Campbelltown

The American Resistance has many faces and these are just some of them (19)


Successful resistance at state level.....

Chicago Tribune, 4 December 2018:
President Donald Trump has signed an executive order disbanding his voter fraud commission.
A White House statement is blaming the decision on numerous states that have refused to provide voter information to the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.
White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders says that, "Rather than engage in endless legal battles at taxpayer expense," Trump has signed an order to dissolve the commission and asked the Department of Homeland Security to determine the administration's next steps.
Critics saw the commission as part of a conservative campaign to strip minority voters and poor people from the voter rolls, and to justify unfounded claims made by Trump that voter fraud cost him the popular vote in 2016.
Past studies have found voter fraud to be exceptionally rare. [my yellow highlighting]
 BACKGROUND

The Hill, 3 January 2018:

It was established months after Trump claimed without citing evidence that millions of people voted illegally in 2016, depriving him of a popular-vote victory against Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

Vice President Mike Pence and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a vocal supporter of voter ID laws, led the commission. It was made up of Republicans and Democrats.

The panel met twice, but was quickly bogged down amid states’ unwillingness to comply with its requests and lawsuits alleging it did not follow federal record-keeping laws.

The Government Accountability Office announced last October it was opening an investigation into the commission at the request of three Democratic senators who said the panel did not properly disclose its work.

Democrats and civil-rights groups described the commission as part of a broader conservative effort to deprive minorities of voting rights and a cover to back up the president’s claims.

"The claim of widespread voter fraud in the United States is in fact, fraud. The demise of this commission should put this issue to rest," Michael Waldman, president of the liberal Brennan Center for Justice, said in a statement.

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) celebrated the panel's end, calling it a "front to suppress the vote, perpetrate dangerous and baseless claims" that "was ridiculed from one end of the country to the other."

Some leading Republicans, including Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), also urged Trump last year to drop his claims of widespread fraud.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Remember the man who spent millions unsuccessfully seeding clouds and more money chasing the myth that NSW coastal rivers could be turned inland?



Well, Mr. Turnbull as Australian Prime Minister returned to his favourite pastime last year - spending other people’s money on dubious water projects - and is holding fast to yet another hare-brained proposal, Snowy 2.0.

Financial Review, 4 January 2018:

Nine months ago Snowy Hydro, the electricity generator and retailer owned by the Commonwealth, Victoria and NSW governments, announced that it would be carrying out a feasibility study into a massive expansion of the Snowy hydro generation system to add 2000 megawatts of pumped hydro generation capacity. Snowy Hydro's announcement of the feasibility study followed an earlier announcement from the Prime Minister that Snowy 2.0 was expected to cost $2 billion.

The feasibility study was published shortly before Christmas and the final investment decision is expected by the end of 2018. All economic analysis has been excluded from the public version of the feasibility study. But the publicly available version does report the "base cost" of Snowy 2.0 (to Snowy Hydro) is likely to be in the range from $3.8 billion to $4.5 billion. This "base cost" excludes land and developments costs, funding and financing costs, GST, project management or hedging costs. And the feasibility study warns that there are risks, opportunities and contingency amounts that significantly affect this range.
In addition to the costs that Snowy Hydro incurs, Snowy 2.0 will be the largest point connection in the National Electricity Market's history and will require massive transmission expansion along the Great Dividing Range. TransGrid in NSW provided early estimates of transmission costs in NSW related to Snowy 2.0 of $0.6 billion to $1.4 billion. Estimates of the requirement in Victoria are not yet known but are likely to be even higher because the necessary upgrade to Victoria will be even larger.
So, in round numbers, a conservative estimate of the total capital outlay attributable to Snowy Hydro 2.0 will be at least $8 billion, four times more than the prime minister suggested when announcing this project. It would be surprising if the estimate at the time of the final investment decision is any lower than this, and the actual build cost will surely be yet higher, quite possibly significantly so.

Will it nonetheless be money well spent? This is very unlikely. Pumped hydro is an inefficient storage technology. Australia already has significant pumped hydro capacity – 900 megawatts (MW) at Tumut 3 in Snowy and 500 MW at Wivenhoe in Queensland. Both are rarely used because they are inefficient.
The feasibility study says that at capacity, Snowy 2.0 will only produce about 1 kilowatt hour for each 1.5 kilowatt hours needed to pump water to the top reservoir. Add to that 10 per cent for losses in transmitting electricity from generators in the Hunter and Latrobe valleys to pump the water uphill. And then add another 10 per cent for losses in transmitting the stored electricity back to the main load centres in Sydney and Melbourne where most of it will be consumed. In other words, Snowy 2.0 will use about 1.8 kilowatt hours for each kilowatt hour that it actually delivers to consumers. By comparison, a battery installed on a customer's premises or on the local grid can be expected to use about 1.1 kilowatt hour for each kilowatt hour delivered.
It is inconceivable that Snowy 2.0 will produce revenues that are vaguely close to that needed to compensate its capital outlays. This is because the volume of electricity it can produce, valued at the difference between the price paid to pump water uphill and the price received when running the water back down the hill again, will be much too small.
Experience in other countries is also instructive. The feasibility study likens Snowy 2.0 to the Dinorwig pumped hydro plant in Wales. Dinorwig, along with the smaller Ffestiniog, has comparable capacity to Snowy 2.0. In its most recent market transaction six months ago, the market value of Dinorwig and Ffestiniog was established at $236 million, a small fraction of its initial build and subsequent refurbishment costs.
It is almost certainly the case in Australia that the market value of Snowy 2.0 will be a small fraction of its likely construction cost. If they decide to proceed with Snowy 2.0, the Commonwealth, NSW and Victorian governments will be forced to substantially write down their investment, at tax payers' expense. Or, if they can not stomach that, electricity consumers will be forced to fund the deadweight.
There is time to dodge this bullet. At the very least, independent investment advisors should now be asked to opine, in publicly available reports, on likely market valuations of Snowy 2.0, before any further contemplation of this project.
The Snowy 2.0 feasibility study can be found here.
A word of warning to readers. SMEC (formerly the Snowy Mountains Engineering Company and now a member of the Subarna Jurong Group) has been involved in the Snowy 2.0 feasibility study since May 2017.

As Australian Treasurer goes all gung-ho on planned company tax cuts it is wise to consider just what the country's international tax ranking is right now


While Federal Treasurer and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison is waxing lyrical about Trump’s tax cuts in the US and those Turnbull Government planned company tax cuts, it might be a good idea to see where Australia is positioned with regard to its international tax ranking.

According to the US Tax Foundation's Center for Federal Tax Policy Australia has an overall ranking as the 7th best among OECD countries and 25th out of a field of 35 when it comes to company tax rates.

Even with current changes to the US tax system it is hard to see the US suddenly coming from 30th place to 6th place or better and so become more competitive than Australia already when it comes to taxation generally.


Country
Overall Rank
Overall Score
Corporate Tax Rank
Consumption Taxes Rank
Property Taxes Rank
Individual Taxes Rank
International Tax Rules Rank
Estonia
1
100.0
1
10
1
7
7
New Zealand
2
88.7
18
7
3
1
15
Switzerland
3
85.2
7
1
33
4
9
Latvia
4
85.0
2
27
7
6
5
Luxembourg
5
82.7
26
5
18
13
2
Sweden    
6
81.8
6
11
6
22
8
Australia
7
78.9
25
6
5
11
17
Netherlands
8
77.5
19
14
24
14
1
Czech Republic
9
74.3
8
32
10
3
10
Slovak Republic
10
74.1
10
31
2
5
27
Turkey
11
73.7
15
25
17
2
11
Korea
12
71.8
20
3
27
8
31
Austria
13
71.3
16
12
9
33
6
United Kingdom
14
70.8
17
17
31
18
3
Norway
15
70.7
14
23
16
10
14
Ireland
16
70.4
4
24
12
23
20
Canada
17
69.1
21
8
23
17
22
Slovenia
18
68.2
9
26
15
16
16
Finland
19
68.2
5
16
19
28
21
Hungary
20
67.0
3
35
26
24
4
Denmark
21
67.0
13
21
8
30
23
Japan
22
66.8
34
2
28
26
25
Germany
23
66.6
23
13
13
32
12
Iceland 
24
63.5
12
22
22
31
19
Mexico
25
62.2
31
19
4
9
35
Israel
26
61.5
29
9
11
27
32
Belgium
27
60.3
30
33
25
12
13
Spain
28
59.8
27
15
32
21
18
Greece
29
57.2
24
28
21
15
30
United States
30
55.1
35
4
29
25
33
Poland
31
54.4
11
34
30
20
29
Chile
32
53.1
22
29
14
19
34
Portugal
33
51.9
32
30
20
29
28
Italy
34
47.7
28
20
34
34
26
France
35
43.4
33
18
35
35
24
Table 1. 2017 International Tax Competitiveness Index Rankings

The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index 2017–2018 Rankings places Australia in 21st overall position in a field of 137 countries, with the US ranking 1st.

Interestingly the WEF Executive Opinion Survey 2017 (12,400 company executives across 136 countries) cites the top global risks of concern to business by order of importance as:

High unemployment
Fiscal crises
National governance failure
Energy price shock
Social instability
Financial institution failure
Critical infrastructure shortfall
Large cyber attacks
Interstate/regional conflict Terrorist attacks

In relation to Australia by order of importance the top risks of concern to business were:

Energy price shock
Asset bubble
Large cyber attacks
High unemployment
Critical infrastructure shortfall
Climate change adaptation

The absence of any mention of tax rates is rather telling given the respondent pool.