Quotulatiousness

January 10, 2018

Re-partitioning Australia

Filed under: Australia, Humour — Tags: — Nicholas @ 03:00

Jessica Brisbane posted this to Facebook:

[Click to embiggen]

January 9, 2018

The ongoing financial catastrophe that is the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy

Filed under: Australia, Bureaucracy, Business, Cancon, Military — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Ted Campbell rounds up recent discussions of the Canadian government’s farcical National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS):

There is a somewhat biased but still very useful look at the successes of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy (NSPS) in the Ottawa Citizen by Howie Smith who is the Past President of the Naval Association of Canada. Mr Smith is a retired Canadian naval officer who has provided consultancy services to several firms pursuing opportunities within the projects of the National Shipbuilding Strategy, which is why his article is somewhat biased. Mr Smith is responding to a recent report by Professor Michael Byers of the University of British Columbia, who is also a biased commentator on defence issues, which said that the NSPS “was flawed from the outset” and “According to Byers, the Liberal government should open-up the non-contractually-binding umbrella agreements with Irving and Seaspan, then cancel and restart the Canadian Surface Combatant and the Joint Support Ship procurement programs with fixed-price competitions involving completely ‘off the shelf’ designs.”

It is important, I believe, to understand why Canada needed something like the NSPS in the first place. The notion came in about the middle of the Harper government’s term in office – in around 2010. I think that two problems confronted the government:

  • The Canadian shipbuilding industry was, once again, “on the ropes;” Davie, Canada’s largest shipyard was in bankruptcy and the other yards were too reliant on government contracts; and
  • Both of the major federal fleets (the Royal Canadian Navy and the Canadian Coast Guard) were approaching “rust out,” again.

The solution to the first problem was to modernize the yards and make them internationally competitive … but that would cost money and private investment money is scarce ~ especially for shipbuilding, plus under the international trade rules to which Canada has agreed direct government subsidies to commercial shipyards are prohibited. The solution to shipyards that are too reliant on government contracts was ~ wait for it ~ another big government contract that would allow them to modernize themselves.

That indirect government subsidy is perfectly legal if the contracts are for navy and coast guard ships because “national security” is a big loophole in international trade law.

Both Professor Byers and Mr Smith have some good points … but neither is 100% correct. The NSPS was and remains a sound idea … the costs, which is the real crux of Professor Byers’ complaint, are not relevant because the defence and coast guard budgets are being (mis)used for industrial development ~ those are not the real costs of warships: they are the real costs of warships PLUS the cost of yard modernization.

The new surface combatant project is, as Mr Smith says, the biggest and costliest peacetime military procurement ever … and the NSPS is working just about a well as any “system” would at bringing it to fruition. At some point in the future a government will have to decide if Canada gets fewer ships than it needs or spends more more money than it wants … or, most likely, both.

That last sentence has always been the most likely outcome: the RCN will get fewer ships than it needs, and those ships will be significantly more expensive per hull than they need to be. The need for modern naval vessels isn’t the top priority … it’s probably not even in the top three priorities as far as the government is concerned (directing money to the “right” recipients, pandering to provincial sensibilities, lots of photo ops, and then maybe the actual needs of the RCN and CCG).

Update: Of course, it’s not like Canada is unique in the problems we have in military procurement … Australia is also struggling in a similar way:

The [Royal Australian] Navy’s program to replace the Collins Class submarines is known as SEA 1000. It involves modification of a French Barracuda Class submarine from nuclear to diesel-electric propulsion, plus other changes specific to Australia.

The 12 new submarines, to be known as Shortfin Barracudas, are intended to begin entering service in the early 2030s with construction extending to 2050. The program is estimated to cost $50 billion and will be the largest and most complex defence acquisition project in Australian history.

[…]

Then there’s the decision to build them in Australia. The Abbott government’s 2016 Defence White Paper only committed to building them in Australia if it could be done without compromising capability, cost or project schedule. That changed because of South Australian politics, and the new submarines could now be more appropriately described as the Xenophon class.

Even if all goes well, the cost of building warships in Australia will be 30 to 40 per cent more than if they were built overseas. However, the plan to build them in Adelaide at the Australian Submarine Corporation, the same group currently building the Air Warfare Destroyer, years late and a billion dollars over budget, adds to a sense of foreboding.

This follows the prize fiasco of the Collins Class submarine project. Their construction by the Australian Submarine Corporation ran years behind schedule, many millions over budget, and finally delivered a platform that the Navy has struggled to even keep operational.

And then there is the question of whether the new submarines will arrive before the Collins Class subs are retired, scheduled for 2026 to 2033. Even if delivery occurs on schedule, the first will not enter service until 2033. At best there will be one new submarine in service and a nine year gap between the retirement of the Collins Class and the introduction into service of the first six of the twelve new submarines.

Given this, the government has apparently committed an additional $15 billion to keep the 30 year old Collins submarines bobbing in the water. It’s like refurbishing a World War 2 German U-Boat for the mid-1990s.

The elements are all there for the submarine replacement program to become the procurement scandal of the century. Our Shortfin Barracudas will probably be the most expensive submarines ever built anywhere in the world.

For a lot less money, we could achieve a far more potent submarine capability. For example, off-the-shelf Japanese Soryu submarines cost only US$540 million. Modified to meet additional Navy requirements, they were quoted as costing A$750 million. If we simply bought twelve of those, the total cost to the taxpayer would be less than A$10 billion.

Equally, the existing nuclear Barracudas only cost $2 billion each, so we could get twelve of those for $24 billion.

For such an important defence capability, the government’s failure to guarantee Australia is protected by submarines is nothing less than gross negligence.

November 28, 2017

Invasions, Naval Battles and German Raiders – WW1 in the Pacific I THE GREAT WAR Special

Filed under: Australia, Germany, History, Military, Pacific, WW1 — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

The Great War
Published on 27 Nov 2017

New Zealand: A Society At War: http://amzn.to/2A7Ojz0

One of the theatres of war that’s often overlooked, the Pacific saw some of the earliest military actions of the Great War. On top of this, there were many naval engagements in this particular ocean, including some famous German merchant raiders. We cover all this and more in today’s special episode.

November 25, 2017

There are all kinds of sensible recycling … this isn’t one of them

Filed under: Australia, Business, Wine — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the Guardian, Calla Wahlquist reports on a recycling initiative that we almost certainly don’t need:

At the close of the Rootstock sustainable wine festival in Sydney last year, Tasmanian distiller Peter Bignell looked around the tasting room at the carefully-spaced spittoons and thought: what a waste.

Together the spit buckets contained about 500 litres of discarded wine, which had been swilled then dumped during the two-day event.

Some wine had been dutifully spat out by responsible tasters keen to get to the end of their extensive list with tasting notes intact, but the majority was the largely untouched leavings of an overly generous pour.

It’s nothing new in the idea of using spit to make food
Peter Bignell
For Bignell, whose Belgrove distillery in Kempton, Tasmania, is the only one in Australia that runs entirely on biodiesel, all this wasted wine was hardly in keeping with a sustainable event.

The obvious solution was to drink it again.

After 12 months at Poor Tom’s gin distillery in Marrickville, the spit bucket wine has been transformed into an 80-proof clear spirit that tastes something like an unaged brandy.

It is, reportedly, quite nice.

H/T to Tim Worstall, who rightly comments “Distillation will obviously have thoroughly cleaned it. But still. It’s not as if the world is short of crap wine to turn into cooking brandy now, is it?”

October 6, 2017

Regulation and the unregulated sharing economy

Filed under: Australia, Bureaucracy, Business, Government — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

This particular article talks about the situation in Australia, although it’s quite similar here in Canada:

Living in Australia sometimes feels like living in a bureaucrats’ version of a spaghetti western. The heroes are the brave and all-knowing public servants, while the villains are the naughty people who are too foolish to realise that government knows best.

Politicians and bureaucrats alike want to regulate first, ask questions later. It seems barely a week passes without someone trumpeting the expansion of the nanny state. And with each new crackdown, ban or tax, our freedom gets that little bit smaller.

Whereas once the government would at least go through the motions of citing things like market failure, all it takes now is for a politician to want to look tough or be seen ‘doing something’. So it is with the proposed regulation of short-term accommodation platforms like Airbnb and Stayz.

Sharing our home with someone is as old as time. Who has not stayed with a family member or friend, or the friend of a friend? The difference these days is that it is much easier. Technology allows us to stay in someone’s home nearly anywhere in the world.

The immense popularity of these platforms is simply staggering. Globally, Airbnb has just passed four million listings, more than the rooms of the top five hotel brands worldwide. Australia is particularly fertile ground for the company, with almost one in five adults having an account. The company claims Airbnb is the “most penetrated market in the world”.

For government, the platforms are confronting. With no red tape or government involvement, travellers are protected, bad apples ejected and quality maintained via hosts and guests providing reviews of each other using sophisticated technology and a trusted online marketplace. Airbnb says that, on average, a host could have a new reservation every day for over 27 years before experiencing a single bad incident. A track record like that would be the envy of any pub, hotel, motel or caravan park in the country.

The so-called sharing economy challenges the idea that people need red tape, regulations or government to keep them safe from harm. But that does not stop some from trying. Currently, the NSW Government is toying with a grab bag of Big Brother and nanny-state policies ranging from new taxes and caps, to licences, planning approval and complete bans.

No modern government has ever seen a healthy, flourishing market without feeling the need to insert itself into the process, usually justified by the need to “protect” consumers.

August 19, 2017

Pricing electricity generated by wind versus more traditional sources

Filed under: Australia, Cancon, Economics, Technology — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Australia’s Catellaxy Files responds to a series of misleading pro-wind statements by pointing to the appropriate method of calculating electricity costs:

The first thing to understand – which The Conversation does not – is that electricity is not like pairs of shoes that can be sold at the same price tomorrow as today. The product consumers demand is not a quantity of megawatt hours but the continuous supply of electricity – its permanent availability to them in whatever quantity they require. This necessity for continuous supply places a premium on “despatchable” power from fossil-fuel, nuclear or hydro plants. This type of power is more valuable than power that cannot be controlled (wind, solar), and much more valuable than power that cannot even be predicted (especially wind). Moreover, power that is rapidly despatchable (hydro, some gas turbines) in response to sudden surges in demand or unexpected failures at other plants is more valuable still for its ability to plug gaps at short notice.

These differences in the value of different types of electricity already render The Conversation’s comparison of coal and wind power per megawatt hour useless. And rectifying its analysis is not, as pretended, just a matter of adding in “balancing costs” such as additional rapidly despatchable sources, extra storage capacity, or upgraded transmission equipment. For the insertion of a low-quality, unreliable source into the grid also reduces the efficiency and increases the cost of baseload power from coal or other sources which need to operate continuously to be efficient.

This leads to a second major unappreciated fact, which is that suppliers do not make economic decisions based on costs. Instead they make decisions based on the estimated difference between costs and revenue. If wind power can underbid baseload coal whenever the wind is blowing, existing coal stations won’t start up, and new ones won’t be built, because they cannot operate efficiently being turned on and off all the time, and therefore cannot generate enough revenue to justify operation or construction as the case may be. This in turn leads to a higher and higher percentage of unreliable power in the mix, with eventual blackouts.

The only way of assessing the true cost of wind and solar is to look at the overall electricity price before and after renewables are added to the mix. Once you do that you find overwhelming evidence from all over the world that markets with even modest shares of power from intermittent renewables have considerably higher prices than those without. That this is not a coincidence is confirmed by both the tightness of the correlation, and the equally impressive correlations over time within the same market – as the share of renewables increases, the price of electricity goes up, and it goes up very sharply with even 20-30% of nameplate capacity, or 5-10% of energy output, sourced from wind.

Although the discussion is about Australia’s wind power experiment, the details are also relevant to Ontario, as a recent study pointed out:

Electricity prices in Ontario have increased dramatically since 2008 based on a variety of comparative measures. Ontario’s electricity prices have risen by 71 percent from 2008 to 2016, far outpacing electricity price growth in other provinces, income, and inflation. During this period, the average growth in electricity prices across Canada was 34 percent.

Ontario’s electricity price change between 2015 and 2016 alone is also substantial: the province experienced a 15 percent increase in one year. This was two-and-a-half times greater than the national average of 6 percent during the same period.

From 2008 to 2015, electricity prices also increased two-and-a-half times faster than household disposable income in Ontario. In particular, the growth in electricity prices was almost four times greater than inflation and over four-and-a-half times the growth of Ontario’s economy (real GDP).

The large electricity price increases in Ontario have also translated to significant increases in monthly residential electricity bills. Between 2010 and 2016, monthly electricity bills (including tax) in major Canadian cities increased by an average of $37.68. During the same period, electricity bills in Toronto and Ottawa increased by $77.09 and $66.96, respectively. This means that residents in Toronto experienced electricity price increases of double the national average between 2010 and 2016.

In Toronto and Ottawa, the average monthly bills for residential consumers including taxes in 2016 were $201 and $183, respectively.

Much of the reason for Ontario’s much-higher-than-average electricity costs are the provincial government’s dodgy crony capitalist methods for increasing alternative energy sources in the power mix:

The problem of skyrocketing electricity prices and high bills is a made-in-Ontario problem directly tied to the provincial government’s policy choices. Ontario’s policies around renewable energy (wind, solar, and biomass) have resulted in large additional costs for consumers. More specifically, Ontario’s high electricity prices can be attributed to poorly structured long term contracts, the phase-out of coal energy, and a growing electricity supply and demand imbalance in the province that is resulting in Ontario exporting electricity at a loss.

July 23, 2017

QotD: Australian aboriginal languages

Filed under: Australia, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Little moments like that kept adding up, incrementally nudging me away from leftism but not yet to full conversion. In 1988, watching a John Pilger documentary with lefty friends, another such moment occurred.

Pilger, as usual, was complaining about colonialism and racism and Aboriginal injustice, so naturally we — uniformly white, urban and privileged — were lapping it up. The documentary then shifted to the former nuclear testing site at Maralinga in South Australia, where seven British bombs were detonated in the 1950s and 1960s. Pointing to a sign warning of radiation danger, Pilger observed mournfully that it was written in several languages — “but not in the Aboriginal language”.

Startled by this claim, I looked around the room. Everyone was silent, including a few who had studied Aboriginal history in considerable depth, and so must have known that Pilger’s line was completely wrong. So I just said it: “There is no single Aboriginal language. And no Aboriginal language has a written form.”

I didn’t last long with that bunch of friends, either. Small note to self: my comrades will deny even their own knowledge if it runs counter to a preferred leftist version of events.

Tim Blair, “The Setting of Their Leftist Suns”, Quadrant, 2017-06-17.

July 19, 2017

Devising a constitutional role for aboriginal groups in Australia

Filed under: Australia, History, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Peter O’Brien outlines the proposal to incorporate a permanent formal role for Australian aborigines in the federal government:

It started out as a limited initiative to ‘recognise’ indigenous Australians as the first occupiers of this land in the Constitution. At least that’s what Tony Abbott, an enthusiastic supporter even before he became Prime Minister, thought. And initially, it was thought that a majority of Australians could support such an initiative.

But since that time it has morphed into something much more sinister as revealed by the final report of the Referendum Council.

[…]

Since all government policy specifically relating to indigenes is intended to eliminate discrimination and disadvantage so that they may take their place, as equal in material and aspirational aspects, as they already are in citizenship, then, presumably, one of the aims of the advisory body should be to work towards its own demise. If it is embedded in the Constitution, that will never happen. It will linger on, a cancerous sinecure rather like the HRC, manufacturing reasons to justify its own existence.

Liebler gives the game away before the starting gun has even gone off:

    “The option of inserting a new provision into the Constitution prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race was determined by delegates to be a “shield”, vulnerable to interpretation by the High Court, whereas a voice to parliament was viewed as a “sword”.”

Since when has a Constitution been envisaged as a mechanism to provide to some of its citizens a “sword” to use against others of its citizens. Yet Leibler disparages the idea of a ‘shield’ in the Constitution since it is vulnerable to interpretation by the High Court. By using the term ‘vulnerable’ he tacitly acknowledges that activist judges can distort the original good intent of legislation.

If that is true for the ‘shield’ of a Constitutional anti-discrimination provision, why would it not be equally true of the ‘sword’ of an advisory body. Here is one example of logic that might be employed thus:

    “If the intent of the framers of this provision was that the Indigenous Council should have no powers other than advisory, why was it put into the Constitution rather than just left to legislation?”

If this sounds simplistic, it is, but it wouldn’t take a legal mind much more sophisticated than mine to turn it into the kind specious nonsense with which we are constantly bombarded by members of the Legal Left.

There is no doubt that the ultimate aim of the activists is sovereignty, because they have repeatedly told us so. This advisory body, this sword’, is the mechanism by which they hope to progress their aim. Some, on the Left, will argue that the activists only represent a hard core and that, if the indigenous population get their way on this, the majority will be happy, that will be an end to the matter and the remaining activists will become irrelevant. Yeah, sure! Pretty much the same way that jihadis have become irrelevant.

July 17, 2017

Some candidates to be added to the Catallaxy Files style guide

Filed under: Australia, Humour, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

A selection of terms used at Australia’s Catallaxy Files to be considered for addition to their in-house style guide:

Allaholic Frenzy. (1) – “Display of highly agitated behaviour, often in a crowd setting. Can be triggered by almost anything that can be interpreted as disrespectful to Islam, esp. cartoon. Frequently seen in Islamic areas such as Pakistan, Afghanistan and England. Patients suffering from Allaholic Frenzy are advised to be cautious when operating machinery or motor vehicles. References. (1). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 6th Edition: DSM-6.”

Alutheran – “A forward-thinking progressive who thinks a man should be judged by the colour of his skin, not the content of their character, and who is thus supercilious and condescending towards an Alt-Racist.”

Billabonk – “Having a root next to a waterhole.”

Bolshie Ballet – “The carefully choreographed routine employed by all leftards when the hideous crimes and failures of socialism are brought up. Responses such as “but that wasn’t real communism”, “but Scandinavia” and “but outside forces” are very common.”

Dingoat.

Dodgeridoo – ‘A fake Aboriginal artefact.”

Faulty-cultural – “A multi-cultural society gone wrong which tends to occur after importing a backward 7th Century culture incompatible with your societal norms.”

Faulti-culti – “(See above). A particular culture that, once introduced, will eventually corrupt and destroy a host culture.”

Fauxboriginal – “White people who claim aboriginality based on a fraction of their DNA or ‘how they feel.”

Fauxb/Fauxbia/Fauxbic – “The dishonest and slanderous labelling of an individual who publicly questions the narrative imposed by a self-selected moral elite regarding specific favoured groups which share characteristics such as race, gender, sexual preference, religious or cultural belief. e.g. Homofauxbia, Islamofauxbia. The labelled individual is portrayed as suffering from an irrational fear, akin to a dangerous mental illness, of one or more of the favoured groups, thus consciously separating themselves from the societal ‘norm’ and voluntarily surrendering any rights, protections or privileges. This pathologising of dissent is analogous to the historical concept of outlawry, wherein an individual was legally stripped of the rights enjoyed by fellow citizens as the result of an alleged crime committed by the accused. Said outlaw could be ‘hunted’ using means not otherwise permitted by the contemporary legal system. The Post-Rational branding of an individual as a ‘fauxb’ presently submits them for hunting (by any and all persons who express an interest) in a reputational and social sense only, though Self-Elected Retributive Justice Magistrates (SERJMs, or simply RJMs) aim to progress legislation to the point where the hunting of fellow humans is again sanctioned by society as a whole, or its unelected representatives.”

June 3, 2017

Ned Kelly – Lies – Extra History

Filed under: Australia, History, Law — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on Apr 29, 2017

We know so much about Ned Kelly’s life through documents recorded at the time, and yet disputes over those details remind us how much different people’s perspectives shapes our understanding of events. James Portnow interviews series writer Soraya Een Hajji about Ned Kelly!

May 22, 2017

Ned Kelly – V: The Iron Outlaw – Extra History

Filed under: Australia, History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on Apr 15, 2017

Ned Kelly sought revenge against the police. He built plate armor and planned to derail their train so he could kill them, but his plan was betrayed and police surrounded him and his hostages. It all came to one final showdown in Glenrowan, Australia.

May 9, 2017

Ned Kelly – IV: Kelly Country – Extra History

Filed under: Australia, History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 8 Apr 2017

Hunted by the police, the Kelly Gang decided to strike back instead of hiding. Since he blamed the rich for all his troubles, Ned took aim at the banks and pulled off a pair of brazen robberies that helped win him renown across the countryside.

May 5, 2017

HRH The Duke of Edinburgh calls it a career

Filed under: Australia, Britain, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 05:00

HRH Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Canadian Regiment, presenting the 3rd Battalion with their Regimental Colours, 17 April 2013. (via Wikipedia)

Mark Steyn on the announcement yesterday that His Royal Highness will be retiring from public appearances this fall:

Buckingham Palace announced today that the Duke of Edinburgh will retire from Royal engagements this autumn. He’ll be 96 next month, which is a quarter-century past the average retirement age – or four decades past it, if you’re a French or Greek civil servant.

His Royal Highness is the Queen’s consort. That’s an ill-defined role prone to an accumulation of frustrations: for Americans, think First Lady or Vice President for life. A lot of consorts are unpopular with their spouse’s subjects (for example, Queen Rania, Jordan’s current Hashemite hottie). Prince Philip has been doing it longer than anyone in the history of the Royal Family, since the day in 1952 when he and Princess Elizabeth were at Treetops in Kenya and received the news that George VI (the King’s Speech guy) had died. Harry Truman was in the White House; Stalin was in the Kremlin; some guy called Mao had just taken over in China. That’s a long time.

I last saw him five years ago in Glasgow with my daughter, who was impressed by how cool he was, and how spry for a nonagenarian. Elsewhere, opinions differ. He’s worshiped as a god in outlying parts of Vanuatu, but in Canberra the ruling Liberal Party went bananas and ended Tony Abbott’s premiership for giving the guy an Australian knighthood. Still and all, he’s kept the show on the road in an age hostile to the monarchical principle, and one which has seen the crowns of almost all his cousins come tumbling throughout Europe.

Steyn also recounts discussing the respective Australian and Canadian constitutions with Prince Philip during the Australian referendum on becoming a republic:

As a Canadian, I was somewhat distracted by the referendum Down Under, which I kept trying to slip into the conversation. But the Duke was inscrutable on that front – or perhaps, as I now think of it, quietly confident about victory. Toward the end, as he walked us to the door before my carriage turned back into a pumpkin, I made an offhand remark contrasting the 1901 Aussie constitution with the 1867 Canadian one, and the subject evidently engaged him, because he launched into a very well informed disquisition on the differences between the two. There were a half-dozen or so of us at dinner that night – an earl, a viscount, a baron, a knight, etc, plus a plain old mister (me). I’d assumed upon acceptance of my invitation that we guests would be there as unpaid jesters to amuse our Royal hosts. But, in fact, HRH was a quickwitted chap, and we were hard put to keep up with him.

One of my fellow diners, bemoaning the lack of agricultural workers in Britain, explained that his farm now brought in young Australians and South Africans, who were able to make ninety-to-a-hundred quid a day (about £60,000 a year) picking onions.

“Crying all the way to the bank?” said the Duke.

I thought that was a rather good line. Happy retirement.

April 25, 2017

Ned Kelly 3 – Extra History

Filed under: Australia, History, Law — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 1 Apr 2017

Ned Kelly has never shot a man. Until now.
Support Extra History on Patreon! https://www.patreon.com/ExtraCredits/

April 18, 2017

Ned Kelly – II: Under Suspicion – Extra History

Filed under: Australia, History, Law — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Published on 25 Mar 2017

Ned’s second venture as a bushranger brought him to the attention of the local police. He did time in prison, then tried to clean up his act, but became frustrated by the suspicion that continued to dog him.

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