How green was my paper

The first of the federal government’s two green papers on electoral reform was released on Wednesday, this one dealing with disclosure, funding and expenditure issues. The paper was originally promised in June, but has been delayed pending consultation with state and territory governments. It might be hoped that this results in the unhelpful anomalies from one jurisdiction to the next being ironed out, potentially allowing for the establishment of a single authority to administer the system. You have until February 23 to make submissions in response to this paper or in anticipation of the next, which will deal with “a broader range of issues, aimed at strengthening our national electoral laws”. This paper’s concerns in turn:

Disclosure. State and territory party branches, associated entities (which include fundraising entities, affiliated trade unions and businesses with corporate party membership) and third parties (individuals or organisations that incur “political expenditure”, such as Your Rights at Work and GetUp!) are currently required to lodge annual returns disclosing details of campaign-related receipts, expenditure and debts. The Political Donations Bill currently before the Senate proposes to change reporting from annual to six monthly, but even this seems a bit lax. Voters would presumably want some idea of funding arrangements before they vote rather than after, and the practice in other countries shows how this could be done. In Britain, reporting is required weekly during election campaigns and quarterly at other times; in the United States, expenditures are disclosed daily during campaigns and donations monthly. This is made possible by mandatory electronic record keeping which is not required at this stage in Australia. Queensland’s and New Zealand’s practice of requiring disclosure of large donations within 10 or 14 days also sounds promising. Another issue is that itemised disclosure only applies to donations, which amounts to only a quarter of private funding – the rest coming from fundraising, investments and debt. Australia also uniquely requires “double disclosure” by both donors and recipients, which might be thought more trouble than it’s worth.

Funding. Australia is unusual in that it has neither caps on donations or bans on donations from particular sources. Canada allows donations only from private individuals; the United States does not allow donations from corporations, banks, unions and federal government contractors. Public funding arrangements such as our own are common internationally, but New Zealand interestingly uses measures of public support other than votes, including party membership, number of MPs and poll results in the lead-up to elections. This allows broadcasting time to be allocated ostensibly on the basis of current support, so that the system is “less vulnerable to criticisms of favouring major parties in comparison with minor parties and independent candidates”.

Expenditure. Expenditure caps apply in Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, with compensations of free air time provided in the latter two cases. They also existed here until 1980, when they were abolished on the basis that they “constrained campaigns” and were too hard to enforce. The US allows parties and candidates to agree to limit expenditure in exchange for public funding, which it settled for when set caps were ruled unconstitutional. Given that election campaigning is increasingly unconstrained by the formal campaign period, expenditure caps work best where there are fixed terms.

In other news, we’re probably entering a Yuletide opinion poll drought, but there’s plenty else going down:

• Antony Green’s dissection of the Queensland state redistribution has been published by the Queensland Parliamentary Library.

• The campaign for South Australia’s Frome by-election (the state’s first since 1994) is slowly coming to the boil – read all about it here.

• More action than you can poke a stick at from the good people at Democratic Audit of Australia.

• I missed an opinion poll last Saturday: Westpoll in The West Australian has the state’s new Liberal government leading 55-45, from a sample of 400. This sounds maybe a bit generous to Labor from primary votes of Liberal 45 per cent, Labor 34 per cent, Nationals 5 per cent and Greens 9 per cent. Labor’s Eric Ripper, viewed by all as a post-defeat stop-gap leader, has plunged seven points as preferred premier to 12 per cent, and even trails Colin Barnett 30 per cent to 26 per cent among Labor voters.

• The unstoppable Ben Raue at the Tally Room plays the dangerous game of anticipating prospects for the looming federal New South Wales redistribution that will reduce the state from 49 seats to 48. So for that matter does Malcolm Mackerras in Crikey:

Early this year I was quoted in The Australian as saying that the name Throsby would disappear. The Illawarra media quickly picked up on this and I heard Jennie George say on ABC radio that I was engaging in “pure speculation”. She is quite right, of course. Although the loss of a NSW seat has always been assured, it is pure speculation to say which one it will be.

Nevertheless my proposition actually is that the south coast seats of Gilmore (Joanna Gash, Liberal) and Throsby (Jenny George, Labor) will be merged into a seat bearing the name of Gilmore. Such a seat would, in practice, be reasonably safe for Labor so really it would be Gash to lose her seat. As to why the name Gilmore would be preferred to the name Throsby the explanation is simple. Dame Mary Gilmore (1865-1962) was a woman whereas Charles Throsby (1777-1828) was a man.

We have the precedent of 2006 to know that the MP who is the actual victim of a redistribution is not necessarily the one whose seat disappears. In 2006 and 2007 Peter Andren was the true victim but the name of his seat, Calare, was retained. That he died shortly before the 2007 general election is not the point. His seat of Calare became so hopeless for him he announced that he would stand for the Senate. Consequently there is no reason why Joanna Gash may not be the real victim in 2009 even though the name of her seat is retained.

If this is the way the commissioners decide to do it then the flow-on effect would be interesting to watch. My belief is that Batemans Bay (presently in Gilmore) would be restored to Eden-Monaro, in which division it voted in 2001 and 2004. Then the Tumut and Tumbarumba shires (presently in Eden-Monaro) would be restored to Farrer, in which division they voted in 2001 and 2004. Consequently it would be possible to retain all the rural seats by moving them into more urban areas. Bearing in mind that in 2006 the NSW commissioners abolished a rural seat but made the remaining seats more rural it would seem to me logical that in 2009 they would retain all the rural seats but make some of them less rural.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

578 comments on “How green was my paper”

Comments Page 2 of 12
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  1. TPS, I agree that Rudd may have sensitivity on the economy. Afterall it was considered a weakness for Labor and a strength for the conservatives during those divisive Howard years.

  2. To my fellow climate change scientists who think policy should be based on evidence rather than on politics, I’d like to say I haven’t sold you out yet. The “pragmatic” vs “idealistic” argument will never be solved.

    I’m coming around to the idea that the problem is human nature and the structure of our society. One popular theory why complex societies might collapse is that it makes an insufficient response to a threat. Our sociopolitical system is so tightly wound up and complex that it lack flexibility and superfluous resources to respond to something really big like climate change.

    I have no doubt that the global political system will fail us. However, the greatest minds are not in politics, they are in science. And there are so many possibilities for addressing climate change scientifically that I’m sure somehow we’ll fumble through. But it won’t be thanks to politicians or our political systems. It will be due to mankind’s greatest achievement- beautiful, logical, rational, enlightened science. 😀

  3. It will be due to mankind’s greatest achievement- beautiful, logical, rational, enlightened science.

    Isn’t that what got us into this mess in the first place? 😉

  4. [Isn’t that what got us into this mess in the first place? 😉 ]

    Just because x is the cause of y, it doesn’t follow that x can’t cure y.

    In the final analysis, it’s human nature that got us here, not science. Eventually, human nature’s well developed self-preservation instinct will trump individual greed.

  5. The Piping Shrike
    Posted Friday, December 19, 2008 at 8:55 pm


    “Ron, to come back to the point near the end of the other thread, ..

    1/ it may be economically responsible for Rudd to do what he’s doing, I don’t know…

    2/ What I am looking at is the politics of the thing. The idea that Rudd has to go slowly because of public opinion is just not borne out by the polling data…
    3/..I think there are more basic political factors of this particular Labor government, that without a social base, it finds it hard to take tough decisions. ….
    4/ This is especially true in economics because the one thing this Labor government lacks is a relationship to the unions…
    5/ Rudd is going to have to find issues that make him look ‘tough’ and climate change…but still perceived as tough, would seem ideal.”

    G’day the Piping Shrike

    I’ve tried Piping to extract your main points (as above) from your post , and hope fairly and will reply to each because some I agree with & some difer but with a ‘trick’

    Re your Point 1/ Econamicaly …given we can only work on th reality of th current World stats on targets an niot guestimate what other Countrys will or will not do as opposed to there “promises” …then th 5% unconditional decision pre assumes we ar on our own with most of rest of th World with others potentially having zero targets Two of our biggest trading partners ar China & USA (and India will be) , none havn unconditional target & they may all be zero

    Therefore it would hav been econamicaly irresponsible to risk trading with those 3 in future with 10% or devastavingly worse a 25% efective price uincompetitive trading relationship Even th 5% is an uncompetitive risk , but Rudd policy brave has put that 5% up as our Countryies sacrifice to demonstrate our commitment I might add , all of us and all our Industires take that $ hit , and China & USA & India zero $ hit

    So th econamics ar balanced & responsible , and that determined th 5% , balancing an economic 5% hit in exchange for a 5 % public CC commitment to act now

    Re your Point 2/ “The idea that Rudd has to go slowly because of public opinion is just not borne out by the polling data” I agree with your assessment completely Rudd could hav decided on a 10% unconditional target , and th voters wuld hav suported (although still not th Greens)…perhaps even announsed 15% unconditional and still got majority voter suport

    a/ So I believe & agree with you Rudd deliberately went aganst public sentament , theoretically defying politcal nous But Rudd reely couldn’t go higher than 5% and satisfy th voters expectations of doing so on th above macro econamic grounds anyway , it wuld hav harmed our National interests Rudd is a new politic breed , a ‘beauocrat politcan “ , there’s more truth to that nerdy than meets th eye . and he was always going to take that national economac based stanse

    b/ But politcaly Rudd also knew short term that th 10% plus target cost consequences wuld immediately hit voters pockets from July 2010 , then 2011 and after in a direct sense right out of people’s pockets well bore th macro trading Partners China &USA uncompetitive effects would also hit Econamicaly that wuld hav been an unfair sacrifice by all Australians to feel good and politcaly th Libs in a 2010 electon would (rightly) point that out plus exaggerate it into a mother of mothrs scare campaign , and that current voter postive sentiment to do more would go disapate Hip pocket nerves alter votes

    As for Greens 25% well that would hav been a Labour route agreeing to that and an economic dissater for this county as well

    c/ Alos a by political & outcomes product of this 5% is he’ll probably wedgie turnbull to hav Lib Senators pass th necessary ETS Bill , without which no CC mitigation happens anyway , irrespective of th Target….neither Libd or Greens reely want to pass it for different reasons , and a 10% target wuld hav gort neither Libs or Greens support I don’t tink that wuld hav been too right of rudd…vioters cheering him on his 10% target…but its just an ireelevant figure without an ETS

    So on th politcs bit , there’a a lot of bit interwoven I reckon ….because there ar reel micro econamic reasons post July 2010 to object to our inequitable sacrifice , at a political level they’’d be magnified in anelecton campaign into actual politcs & political scares with politcal polls support negatives to current support so my economic point is that a deemed low target is in fact econamicly responsible both macro and micro and ilinks to a political sense of take people with you because th truth of higher targets alone wuld scare them even before th Libs added terror spin was added to it

    Voters ar rsponsible and ar not mugs , and they woulkd hav seen th enormity of 10% let alone th 25% implications both on there potential pockets and would hav also unsettled htem generraly about this “change”….and would hav been inclined to go for status quo instead as an instinct

    Re point 3/ “without a social base, it finds it hard to take tough decisions” This is where we disagee , as mentioned it took th tough decision actual to go against overwhelming public opinion ….and public opinion Rudd judged wuld change to him once th economic relities of th xorbitant economic sacrifice at 25% th Greens ar demanding became realized by voters …that will take time

    But one retort which aussies do understand is jobs…..folks if oz has 25% CC costs imposts as Mr Bob Brown demands , and China has zero CC costs imposts …your jobs ar gonna be exported to China , courtesy Mr Bob Brown

    Having addressed and disagreed with your tough decisions query Piping , on your “without a social base” there is merit in that point This Govt is driven by equity principals and econamics combined ….there’s no Fred Daleys (actually wuld recommend his autobio book) but that’s because they ar usually Uni trained middle class reps and ar watching econamics closer than many before & may appear to lack that social passion Its there , just communicated often in bland monotones with economic flavours so there is some element in what you say on th surface but not feel underneath

    Re point 4/ “This is especially true in economics because the one thing this Labor government lacks is a relationship to the unions” Half agree , th Union influense on policy has diminished (& I tink for th better) , th Unionists going to Canberra ar actualy many numerically but a sdescribed in point 3/ ar a generally different ‘type’ to some of th passionate socialist left firebrands of past Th Party I think has become in reality more focussd on outcomes than class wars My ½ agree with you bit was not only that whilst th Union numbers ar in Canberra they’re different different Unionists …but also implicit is th Govt wanta make sure it does not lose touch which those previous Unionist firebrand MP’s sure made sure of

    Re point 5/ “Rudd is going to have to find issues that make him look ‘tough’ and climate change…but still perceived as tough, would seem ideal.” Well I reely don’t agree with that premise ‘of having to’ I tink rudd simply has tomake right policy decisions whether they ar tough or not , using sensable responsible criteria an some political nous rather than being a radical , and voters will support him Todat he has

    Firstly going against overwhelming public CC decision to me was a tough decision politcaly but coreect for reasons listed Secondley impleemtning a 5% target before most of rest of worls and guaranteeing you ar going to hit all your voters in th nervcous hip pocket was a tough decision , when you could hav sat pat awaiting Coppenhaggen decision which was th soft decision Thirdley knowingly introducing th ETS th most fundamental change in our whole economic (and therefore social system) is a far biger change than GST that was sort of revenue neutral & had no Trding Partner implications This is a Keating type 1980’s type reform

    Finaly , I still don’t tink people ralize what they hav in Kevin Rudd , he is of course a pollie & like aqny pollie will look at political impacts …why shouldn’t he He wants to get re elected “to do more” This guy is th most oclinicaly focussed detailed outcomes politcan we’ve had , its his Q’ld service pedigree … perhaps too harsh to say a nerdy technocrat who has passionate beliefs within that Th “promising things bit of pollies with th flair and glitz and a later oversite only is not his go …its why his govt made th decision on th criteria I listed

    “The Howard years took a toll on hard-hitting current affairs journalism, as fearful program producers retreated to the bland and inoffensive. Former Dateline EP, Mike Carey, surveys the sector one year into rehab …………..The sector is still reeling from the Howard years — when, through both overt and underhanded pressure, dangerous “lefty” journalists were brought to heel……………..Costello and Ministers like Richard Alston were true to their word. Boards were systematically stacked with right wing ideologues and networks were relentlessly attacked for bias. The ABC eventually succumbed and accommodated its persecutors. ABC and SBS current affairs programs retreated to the bland, became risk averse and fearful of challenging neo-conservative group-think. That superstructure remains intact and continues to inform program making today, even though Howard has gone. It’s hard to know just how long the rehab is going to take.”

  7. Fredex

    great article

    wonder if the rehab will get a jolt when the ABC/SBS restructure is finished post budget 2009

    for mine, I can wait as the dead wood reveals its lack of integrity

  8. Ron, I agree with much of what (I think) you said, but I think the essential point we disagree is on the need for Rudd to have an issue to look ‘tough’ on. I think Rudd has succeeded better than any other in dealing with this issue by continually being pragmatic and not beholden to any political side. But I suspect it will not be enough at some point. We will have to see.

    Fredex, I thought the New Matilda article interesting. I don’t think the media’s problem is just Howard beating up the left, though. I think there is something more than that. The media seem to really have trouble with the major parties not having an agenda, and that was why they swallowed it up hook line and sinker when Howard fed them one. That means 1) they have the same problem with Rudd 2) I don’t think they will recover, in fact it is likely to get worse, this year’s reporting has been abysmal 3) (this will not make me popular) I’m not convinced on the alternatives to the MSM. I thought, for example, the response to the NT intervention last year by those who pose as alternatives was not encouraging.

  9. Ross Garnaut is critical of the government’s ETS but the one thing he agrees with is the lower end of the target range ie 5%. Go figure eh.

  10. The Piping Shrike
    Posted Saturday, December 20, 2008 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    Ron, I agree with much of what (I think) you said, but I think the essential point we disagree is on the NEED for Rudd to have an issue to look ‘tough’ on.”

    yes Pipping Shrike we seem to agree to disageee there on that paricular point However I do agree he does not “look” tough ! Being a self admitted nerd mkes it abit hard to see him reeving a footy team at 1/2 time In that respect yes he doe not look tough compared to a
    Keating or a Hawke fortunaely he does not look cudly like Kim which was worse

    You actualy may get a chanse and th voters also , to see him with an issue to act look and act tough …If Libs were foolish enough to knock back th ETS (and th Greens) I feel he’ll go to a DD , and be speech wise very agressive

  11. TPS
    I thought the response to the invasion, a far more accurate descriptor than intervention IMO, was abyssmal just about everywhere.
    Your recent article is an exception and I have recommended your site to others just on that basis alone [not saying the rest is not worthy just reinforcing the value of your contribution].

  12. The Piping Shrike

    hav replied to your last post , but its in moderation for some reason ….and not a swear word to be seen , will try again

    th Piping Shrike


    “Ron, I agree with much of what (I think) you said, but I think the essential point we disagree is on the need for Rudd to have an issue to look ‘tough’ on”

    fair enough Piping Shrike , and also I do agree Rudd being nerdy looking is never going to ‘look’ tough

    However believe he’ll get a chanse of an issue to act tough on if th ETS gets knocked back by th foolish Libs or Greens , as reckon Rudd will demonstrate toughness by going for a DD , and talk and act very tough in a DD campaign , but not Keating style tough talk

  13. th Piping Shrike

    ” 3(this will not make me popular) I’m not convinced on the alternatives to the MSM. I thought, for example, the response to the NT intervention last year by those who POSE as alternatives was not encouraging.”

    “who POSE as alternatives” …well they actualy become ‘mainstram’ by efectively worrying about th clicks putting there ‘readers’ off and so go cautious or go what they tink majority may wish to here….and part of crikey falls into that , will say that now in case i get banned if you say what you think and poeople don’t like it then let them go , in time one may build an audiense of objectives you can wear sometimes hearing th unpalatable

  14. arnauts problam is having made a Report , th govt did not follow it 100%

    Had Rudd followed Garnaut 100% , rudds announcement on monday would hav been 10% at Coppenhaggen as Gaurnaut pretty well recommended , and not th higher 15% Rudd mentioned….so rudds announsement makes Gaunaut look in hindsite a little soft on targets , and so he’s trying to bulk his credentials up elsewhre in th White Paper…pretty normal protect credibilty reaction I’d think

  15. TPS @ 66. I’m somewhat curious about this supposed need for Rudd to look tough about something or other. Why? He comes across to me as a much more complex creature. Someone who can get Keating, Hawke and Gough in the same room for presumably a convivial time, has obviously got some smarts about them.

  16. It’s not at all a personal thing. I think Rudd’s as tough as nails. Every time he has been under pressure he has risen to the task. He also doesn’t have a comfort buffer in the party. The right don’t trust him and in fact he works best with those that are supposed to be his factional enemies in the left.

    It is a broader political problem that with this government not really having a base to give it direction, it may in the future have trouble looking as though it has purpose when things get rough. One tiny sign was the funk over the carers’ bonuses earlier this year. Howard had the same problem and despite using anything at hand still ended up looking like a ‘clever’ unprincipled politician (despite Fran Kelly’s re-writing attempt). It’s basically whether the Libs can make the ‘spin’/celeb charge stick.

  17. Actually, something else that has occurred to me (and probably everyone else) about the context this government has needed to confront, is the almost relentless bad news of financial mismanagement from big players in the market. Again tonight, there was reports of child care centres linked to ABC Learning, going under and the relationship not being declared. Perhaps we are in deeper trouble than has been previously thought?

  18. TPS, though if you look at Possum’s latest charts, you’d have to think either they’ve got the smartest groupthink analysts going, or having a base is no longer the name of the game, with all the attendent problems.

  19. th Piping Shrike

    “It is a broader political problem that with this government not really having a base to give it direction, it may in the future have trouble looking as though it has purpose when things get rough.”

    Understand where you ar coming from and it links to your comments on your view of not strong relationship to th Unions…believing there is no reel base for direction I feel Rudd has positioned himself (reflecting himself) in new teritory as moderate Centre left with a middle voters ground base and there asperations….education revol , hospitals , internet , non radical , care econamic manager , W/C altered and so th passions ar diferent passions from culture wars from past Labor incl lathams schools hit list etc….so agree a change has occured And agree from part of former base some disenchantment on passion grounds may arise but not results….anyways th alternatives ar not appealing to them….th Libs at one end and Greens out on other , and Rudd always has W/C to hit Libs over and ultimately Piping despite th polls anytime its th elephant in room in peoples sub concious , and Labor will bring it out loud in 2010 electon

  20. TPS, don’t think there would be any argument from me that the Libs are in a whole world of pain. I don’t think the exchange of Xmas cards is going to be a happy experience between the Nats and Libs for sure.

  21. Gawd, this is just paathetic. Not even someone to quote a Wobblies song to as a lullaby, let alone argue or agree with, if only partially.
    I’ll stop talking to myself now I think.

  22. I think what happens on the ETS is almost totally dependant on the international situation and that depends on whether the US can use the climate change agenda to regain the authority it lost during the Iraq War. Obama seems intent to do it but I think it will be difficult, he may be happier to emphasise Afghanistan than CC, it plays to America’s strengths. It also depends what happens with the relationship to China which is debating how long to keep bailing the US out. In this Rudd will no doubt be very important (although never as much as the press here will say).

    But in short I think it is all over the place. Either Rudd will push harder on the ETS or Afghanistan in 2009 is my guess.

  23. Apropos nothing in particular, it is my view that John Winston Howard should be recognised in some tangible manner for his contribution to the Nation.

    Other, lesser lights have been honoured by having institutions and facilities named after them. The Harold E Holt Communications Base comes readily to mind in that regard.

    I therefore propose that the facility at Christmas Island, as yet unnamed, be called the “John W Howard Refugee Concentration and Interrogation Facility and Prison camp”, in fitting recognition of the wonderful contribution he has made to this Country.

  24. Hmm, a bit ironic, Nero fiddled while only Rome burned, and look what posterity had to say about him! Admittedly, he was abit of an all-rounder bounder.

    The globally averaged land and sea surface temperature for October 2008 Global Land and Sea Surface was the second warmest on record. Very impractical of it, really.

    Still, as the statisticians will rightly tell you, it is not isolated monthly records that count, but the trends. In stockmarkets, the trend is your friend. Unfortunately, with climate change, the current trends are not our friends.

    The maps are well worth a squiz – if you don’t mind mixing your temperature stats with your politics. The Arctic is really cooking, while the Australian section is, relatively speaking, not heating up quite as quickly. Quite unbalanced, really.

    You also get a sense of why Pine Bark Beetles, and not some as-yet-unknown Australian species of coleopteran eucalypt tree killers, were so quick off the mark.

  25. I hav never seen any hart by Obama to commit directly into negotiating an international CC agreement but instead a 13 member GEF….and that was before th GFC and its financial consequences on US debt and growth ..and then there is those 2 wars to deal with …and then as Piping said how long will Chinese keep buying US notes … and without USA at table there is no chance of China or India comitting either to a Kyoto mark 11 …nor Russia

    Now they will all attend Coppenhaggen and ‘talk’ , but all 4 hav very compeling reasons not to comitt or comit much , making Garnauts 10% forcast of next Kyoto target sound , maybe even optimistic there may not be an agreement seeing doag free trade deal has dragged on for years out of self interest

    How anyone can sugest Rudd , given th above International uncertainty , should hav gambled they’d all agree on at least 10% at th risk we’d be only one of these 5 to do so is a reckless punter with our National econamy , jobs , costs and so on and also flowing to oz social consequenses ae well

  26. “it is my view that John Winston Howard should be recognised in some tangible manner for his contribution to the Nation”

    Agree , but your recomendation of Christmas Island ‘prison’ may hav some competitors …..perhaps a statue of howard …inscription …he stood down on th working family with conviction

  27. “Hmm, a bit ironic, Nero fiddled while only Rome burned,”

    And Australia’s actual target itself will make absolutely no diference to CC mitigation on this planet , and th implication by Bob Brown to th contrary is false Who agrees with Bob Brown

  28. Ron @ 39

    Thank you for the response, for your acknowledgement that CC is looking bad, and also for the link to the stuff on the Greenland Icesheet.

    The melting of the latter is starting to show signs of what I what I would call non-linear, unexpected, threshold events that may have a much larger and more sudden impact than the models allowed for. There are two, perhaps three, processes, the impact of which were apparently not properly considered. A problem is that they are synergistic.

    The first is that the melting of sea ice has released back pressure on many of Greenland’s glaciers. They are flowing faster because there is no longer masses of sea ice holding them back.

    The second is that, with increased temperatures, there has been a huge increase in summer meltwater sitting on top of the Greenland Ice Cap. Some of this simply runs off into the sea, so it is not much a worry, yet. (It will be if there is enough of it to stuff up thermohaline circulation). Much of it melts its way into the ice cap, or through glaciers, were it ends up flowing under the glaciers. Basically it then acts as a lubricant, speeding up the movement of glaciers in to the sea. On its way through it creates areas of structural weakness in the ice as well.

    The third process may become increasingly irrelevant in the Arctic, but is likely to be significant in Antarctica. As the sea warms, it melts ice that is sitting on the sea bed, thereby causing ice masses (ice shelves) to lose their anchors, break away, drift off and melt. Of course, each time some sea or land is freed from ice or snow cover it absorbs lots more heat, so there is a bit more synergy.

    I have seen somewhere (I don’t have it to hand) that Greenland’s glaciers retreated last year three times as fast as they did the year before. I have seen, (but don’t have to hand), figures showing the same order of shift in terms of loss of ice mass from the Greenland Ice Cap. Before we rush off to ready our kayaks, in terms of the total volume of the Ice Cap, the ice mass loss figures are still tiny. The only thing I would say about them is that, like the Arctic Ice Cap minimum sea ice extent, the models were far too conservative, and that the trends appear to have an unhappy knack of moving at something like geometric rather than arithmetic rates.

    As I imagine it, there are two broad scenarios possible here. The first is that the current changes merely reflect a temporary disequilibrium and that a new equilibrium will establish itself once the glaciers have done their surging. Warmer air and sea temperatures are having the impact of adding more snow to the glaciers’ catchments and eventually the increased snow balances the factors causing the glaciers to retreat and a new equilibrium is formed. This is, in some senses, quite typical for glacier behaviour – their fronts are prone to moving back and forth depending on temperature, aggregate snow fall in their catchments, cloud cover and so forth. The problem with this scenario is that the equilibrium will keep being disturbed by increasing temperatures.

    The other scenario, and this is what is exercising quite a few scientists, is that we are beginning to see the structural collapse of the ice cap. I suspect the climate models tended to treat the Greenland Ice Cap as a huge single lump of ice (like a big ice block from the fridge), added some fire and water into the mix and said something like: at x temperature the ice cap will melt by 2200 and at y temperature it will melt by 2300. It turns out that it is not a single huge lump of ice, but a complex, dynamic mix of ice bits and pieces, which have shown worrying signs of having systemic elements which make it far more responsive to increased temperatures than originally invisaged.

    In terms of what this means to me: 5% is a bad joke. If it is a choice between 5% and nothing, I am beginning to think that it would be better to use the 5% to start working on CC amelioration, because 5% will change nothing in terms of the onwards march of CC. I’ll say it again. 5% is a joke.

    In terms of whether ‘Australia should sacrifice itself for the world’ of course not. (Why do people keep rushing to the bible for inspiration in this debate? We should not do an Abraham, no!) A ridiculous straw man invented by the usual fleet of amoral spinmeisters who would make up any set of smart words for money.

    I have seen no-one in this blog reverse the question. Why should the rest of the world be expected to sacrifice itself for Australia? Per capita we are mucking around with other’s people’s share of the atmosphere. I don’t see anything ethical at all about us chucking all our rubbish into the neighbour’s back yard. Compared with most of the rest of the world, we are incredibly wealthy. The latest UN figures on people going to bed nightly with hunger is now in the order of 800 million. That was before the Crisis. (At least oil prices per barrel are now so low that it has become uneconomic for us to pump wheat juice into our motorcars anymore.) We are in the top five countries or so in terms of fat per person. We also use lots and lots of resources to reduce this fat..!

    In these circumstances, 5% is not only a joke, it is a joke in bad taste.

  29. Fulvio

    There is a Harold Holt Swim Centre in Melbourne. No BS. I thought the name was in bad taste but he was evidently a keen swimmer. Perhaps a John Howard Industrial Relations Institute created by the Unions as a thinktank.


    Tim Flannery talks about that in his Quarterly Essay. It’s well worth reading. He tells us the bad stuff but also discusses three possible solutions; geothermal and carbon geosequestration in the Cooper Basin, reforestation of the tropics and farming solutions (esp pyrolysis which is making charcoal from waste).

  30. Bush uses the bank bailout money for auto, which seems more deserving of the money than the banks. Ford says “no thanks” so they must be doing OK. And Al Franken is ahead (by 2 votes) and predicted to win. 😀

    The White House announced a $17.4 billion rescue package for the troubled Detroit auto makers that allows them to avoid bankruptcy and leaves many of the big decisions for the incoming Obama administration.

  31. [It is a broader political problem that with this government not really having a base to give it direction, it may in the future have trouble looking as though it has purpose when things get rough. One tiny sign was the funk over the carers’ bonuses earlier this year.]
    This type of airy fairy analysis, using such wafer thin arguments involving words such as “may” and “tiny sign”, makes Shanahan’s articles on Newspoll results seem like detailed, well argued analysis.

  32. [It’s become pretty apparent that absolutely no-one on any side of the debate could care less about what Ross Garnaut thinks.]
    I agree Dio but let’s see how many on here use Garnaut’s criticisms to skewer the government with.

  33. Gary

    The reporting on Garnaut’s criticisms has been all over the place. Some say he’s criticising the 5% target as too low and not offerering enough incentive for other governments to make major changes, some say he’s happy with 5% (which is what he says in his article). Everyone agrees that he has criticised the compensation package as too generous.

    He seems to be criticising the 15% upper limit of the target. He wants it to be revised to 25%. He is adamant that Rudd has said Oz will not go higher that 15% no matter what. Yet Ron is adamant that Rudd will go as high as Copenhagen agrees. I still don’t know who’s wrong on that one. Ron is pretty pro-Garnaut so I’ll be interested in his response to Garnaut, who is clearly a very unhappy man at the moment.

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