Saturday, 31 July 2010

Australia without iron ore

Much of the wealth of present day Australia is predicated on being able to dig big holes in the desert and sell the contents, mostly iron ore, to the Chinese.

While Australia is by no means a single product economy it is true that we are heavily dependent on mineral sales and much of the current strength of our dollar is based on this.

If the Chinese were to stop buying things might become very different, very quickly.

So to understand the results one need to look for analogies. The most common one is New Zealand, equally remote, smaller, poorer but not grindingly so.

There are problems with this – New Zealand is more compact for one thing and without a vast rural hinterland – and has in recent years seen a substantial part of its educated population move overseas to find work, to Australia in the main.

I think there’s a better analogy – Argentina.

  • Both are geographically remote from Europe and North America
  • Both have a population that lives mostly in a handful of cities
  • Both have a large and underpopulated, and largely underdeveloped, hinterland
  • Both achieved substantial prosperity in the latter half of the nineteenth  and the first half of the twentieth century on the back of agricultural exports
  • Both suffered as a result of the 1973 oil shock and from having their agricultural products increasingly excluded from European markets

There are of course differences. Menzies, despite a tendency to demagoguery was no Juan Peron and one could never in one’s wildest dreams cast Dame Pattie as Evita. The Whitlam Dismissal was certainly no coup and subsequent dirty war.

But these are details – both economies have been on a wild ride – bursts of prosperity, inflation, a collapsing exchange rate and the rest. While Argentina’s has been wilder than Australia’s, the Australian economy viewed over the last thirty years has not been a model of steady planned growth. It’s been up and down and all over the place and while the Australian dollar has never collapsed as badly as the peso it has almost halved in value on several occasions.

And yet, despite the problems both countries have managed to hang on to some sort of prosperity most of the time.

So when the iron ore runs out, and the desert becomes full of rusting railway lines running to abandoned mines we might well be better looking at Argentina as a model, rather than New Zealand.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Plumbing woes …

we have two bathrooms in our house, an en suite and a main bathroom. Both have nice new wash basins with taps that should look like this:

25072010unfortunately the tap in the ensuite now looks like this: 25072010(001)

ie it’s now missing the end. This is because yesterday, when I was cleaning my teeth, the end shot off with a massive clatter squirting water everywhere. At first, ok at second, I thought it’s just a bit of grit that clogged the diffuser – the little grid on then end – washed the end out and put it back – and it fitted on suspiciously easily. And then came off. Closer examination of the tap shows the locking ring on the end25072010(002)has a crack in it – which is annoying as we only fitted the new taps just over eighteen months ago. Whether it’s a new tap, replacement end or ring will have to wait till tomorrow, but it’s certainly a pisser – the taps were not cheap at a couple of hundred bucks each, and if one has gone, can the other be far behind?

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Cold in Argentina

News reports of unusual cold weather in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay [CSMonitor, Accuweather].

One can only sympathise, given the current unusually long cold period in Canberra this winter with regular subzero temperatures since late June leading to icefrozen cars and a sudden desire to huddle under doonas even while watching tv, as even though it might reach the dizzying heights of 10C during the day, as soon as the sun goes down the temperature drops quickly due to clear skies and the mass of polar air sitting over us.

On an aside, I tweeted a link about a guatero - the chilean hot water bottle, which the author of the post ascribed to the Mapuche word for stomach - believable, and certainly all the online dictionaries of Spanish concur - but I have an alternative suggestion:

I once worked for Chilean, and he tended to pronounce the English Wa sound more like gWa at the start of words, so I guess he'd have pronounced guatero kind of like gWaterro - which suggests perhaps a borrowing from English rather than Mapuche - which is kind of believable given the English influence in Chile as a source of manufactured goods at the start of the twentieth century.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

Bamboo swag

Bamboo swag, originally uploaded by projectbamboo.

Incredibly unflattering picture of yours truly picking up his free project bamboo t-shirt (note Aussie powerboard in foreground) ...

Monday, 19 July 2010

Election fever

We're having an election, which in Canberra, means a five week wonkfest as all the political wannabees appear out of the woodwork and start pulsating madly - not a happy sight.

And of course, they all want to impress you of the rightness of their views. Personally I'd much rather we can get it over with next weekend, but for the record I'm going to vote Green for the following reasons:

  • The only person of intellect in the Liberals is Malcolm Turnbull
  • I don't like the streak of right wing racism exposed by the boat people/asylum seeker thing
  • Labor have been incompetent in the execution of their policies, even if they did save us from the worst effects of the GFC
  • No one is talking about what happens if China stops buying our iron ore
  • The drought was a warning that we need to do something about climate change

@timqat ...

As well as splitting my blogs I've also created me a personal twitterfeed. Just because I'm feeing silly I decided to steal Timqat's persona. I'm sure he won't mind, and I'll take the risk of regretting this later ....

1er Thermidor

Today, 19 July would be 1er Thermidor in the French Revolutionary calendar, demonstrating that what ever they knew about the triumph of reason they missed out completely on not being northern hemisphere centric.

Especially this year when we've had a run of freezing cold weather in Canberra, ever since the end of June, with freezing nights well below zero and ice sitting on the cars until 10.30 in the morning.

In fact it's been so cold we've been lighting the wood stove in the living room every night - something we normally only do at the weekends or if we have people over. We've gone through so much wood I had to get another half tonne of firewood delivered, which itself was a minor drama excellently executed - instead of the usual scenario where they turn up with a half tonne of would in a beat up truck and dump it on the nature strip, this time they had a crane truck and the wood in one of these bags gravel is delivered in and they winched it over and next to the woodshed, which while it still meant stacking the wood, did mean the wheelbarrow part of the exercise could be comfortably skipped.

Still on the plus side we had a awful day of sleety rain in the middle of last week which fell as snow on the mountains - there's more rain forecast next week and if it falls as snow we might well get to go skiing, which is a dramatic change from the completely snowless Kiandra of a couple of weeks ago....

hello and welcome

Hello and welcome.

I've decided to split my blogs and create a second personal one. My original blog will continue as a sort of work type blog, while this one will have photographs and more personal tings of interest to friends and family ...