Personal Reflections

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Jack Ryan and Tom Clancy - interpreting Donald Trump

Holga the Dane is a sort of semi-mythological Arthurian style figure who will come to life to rescue the Danish people should they ever face annihilation. Explaining his failure to appear, our guide at Kronborg Castle suggested that it had not been necessary, that somehow the Danes had sort of muddled though.

I mention Holga now because some of the reporting and almost despairing commentary on Donald Trump carries a flavour that might not unfairly be described as where is Holga? We need him to rescue us from this man! There is very little analysis, rather sets of personal reactions driven by perceptions.

In What policies will be pursued by the author of "The Art of the Deal"?, Winton Bates sought to use Trump: The Art of the Deal, a 1987 book written by Trump and journalist Tony Schwartz, as an entry point. For my part, I have used that book (I read it a long time ago and liked it), the views I formed from watching The Apprentice plus reporting on Mr Trump.as a partial entry point. However, perhaps the most useful works of all have been Tom Clancy's books and especially the John Ryan series.

I am not equating Jack Ryan with Donald Trump. They are very different people. However, Clancy did capture accurately certain aspects of US right wing populist thinking (I am using that phrase in a descriptive not pejorative sense) including distrust of those within the Beltway and of career politicians, a belief in bureaucratic inefficiency, a belief in the people, a belief in US military power and a somewhat mercantilist view of trade.

Executive Orders is perhaps the clearest presentation because this sets out descriptions of Ryan's political actions and ethos having unexpectedly become President of the United States, including successful action (using Mr Trump's phrase) to clean out the swamp. In doing so, President Ryan has to deal with a media and political establishment that constantly tries to interpret his actions against existing models, paradigms, of thought and action.

I think that the last is important, for that's what people are trying to do, judge Mr Trump against existing models that don't quite fit. I think that we have to watch and wait to see what it really all means. I really don't know!

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Clare Belshaw 2016 reflections set against a backdrop of Copenhagen's beauty

Bumpy ride getting back into stride in the New Year. Youngest has been far more organised. While we were in Denmark she got out her new notebooks, she likes new stylish notebooks, and began her reviews and planning. Now she has produced the following YouTube video set against the backdrop of our trip to Copenhagen for Christmas with eldest.

Perhaps Clare should be employed by the Scandinavian tourist authorities. The video captures some of the beauty of both Copenhagen and Sweden's Gothenburg. Those ducks. Clare, a carnivore like her father, wondered about dinner!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Rediscovery of Legros' L'angelus painted 1859

From Art Daily:
Known only through dated black and white photographs, L’angelus, by Alphonse Legros was believed lost for decades. One of Legros’s – and indeed the mid-nineteenth century’s - most storied paintings, L’angelus was also the artist’s first major religious painting and a powerful example of his acclaimed Realist style. The lavish attention it received from the notoriously discriminating art critic Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867) at its debut at the Paris Salon of 1859 was made all the more remarkable due to the staggering number of rejections and instances of scathing criticism that plagued an unprecedented number of other works and artists at this particular venue in 1859. Singled out for praise by numerous subsequent commentators, first in France and later in England, America, and Europe, and housed in some of the art world’s best-known and most discerning early twentieth-century private collections, the reappearance of L’angelus in 2016 is indisputably a monumental episode in the annals of modern art history. It now resides in an important private American collection. The new owner plans to share it via museum exhibitions with the public. 


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Cracker night in Denmark

This photo makes me look like a somewhat overweight elf! It was, in fact, New Year's Eve in Copenhagen.

We had been talking about New Year's Eve and Christian commented about the fireworks that everybody let off. As a somewhat older Australian, I have very fond memories of cracker night.  Finding that crackers were still legal in Denmark at least on New Year's Eve, I became consumed with a desire to revisit my childhood.

Taking pity on me, Christian took me off to a fireworks shop, a tent erected for the purpose of selling pretties and bangs for the night.

This was a bit of a shock, These were not the small fireworks of my past, but seriously big stuff. Those are sky rockets in the bag.

I hesitated. Should I buy just the children's pack, or go for the big stuff? Under Danish law, firework shops must stop selling by close of business on New Year's Eve. Remaining stock must then be destroyed. With that time approaching, the cracker salesman came up with a deal that I could not resist, a super pack with other things thrown in. Deal done, a slightly befuddled Christian (he had not expected this level of enthusiasm on my part) and I wended our way back to the apartment.

 Eldest had organised a New Year's Eve party. Before the guests arrived, I wandered down to the waterfront to find a suitable location. I was a bit nervous for while I have had experience with crackers, these were seriously big fireworks. Even though it was just dusk, fireworks were already going off. A little later, I ran into Dave, a Kiwi from the next door flat. He had been down to look at the exploding fireworks. "Have you been out?" he said, "they are very pretty."

About 10.30 we went .out to let the first round off. I say first round, for Christian was insistent that we keep some for midnight, the real peak of the pyrotechnic explosion. It was cold, a little terrifying, but very exciting.

The post midnight excursion was not quite as exciting, but still fun.

Coming back to Australia where fireworks are illegal in most states, I found that  two people had died from illegal fireworks with some other injuries.
Chief Inspector Lott said the death was a timely reminder that people should not take unnecessary risks. 
"During the holiday period, whether it be driving or enjoying themselves on the beach, that safety must come first," he said. 
"They have to keep in mind their own safety and the people around them and not to take… unnecessary risks during this period.".  
Australian police were struggling to prevent the sale of black market fireworks.

During that same time, four people died in Denmark, mainly from stupidity. Talking on the way home from the airport in Sydney, a friend commented that Australians no longer knew how to let crackers off safely. .I suspect that's right.

The Australian police emphasis on safety, on the avoidance of risk especially in activities now made illegal,  does take the fun out of life.

I really enjoyed my Danish cracker night. Next time, I hope that there will be one, I will know better what I am doing. For example, lighting fireworks with cigarette lighters is not sensible. It's difficult in a breeze and doesn't give you time to get away. But it was so much fun.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Monday Forum - to what degree is social happiness maximised by security and certainty?

I came back from Europe on the edge of a major cold spell to a Sydney just coming out of one heatwave with another on the way.

On our last day in Denmark, Clare and I went by train to visit Kronborg Castle,  immortalized as Elsinore in William Shakespeare's Hamlet. It was bitterly cold despite the weak sunshine. Coming out of the railway station, we walked along the waterfront towards the castle. There was a stiff breeze, the windchill reducing the temperature to perhaps -15C. Every part of me hurt. We diverted into the nearby village of Helsingør for a reviving hot drink before pressing on.

Sydney was a complete contrast, perhaps 40C degrees hotter than the Copenhagen we had left. After 37 hours travelling including transit times, I was very tired. Sitting in the car home with its struggling air conditioning, I wondered how anybody could live in these temperatures!

At Copenhagen Airport, I bought Helen Russell's The Year of Living Danishly: uncovering the secret's of the world's happiest country. Helen's husband called appropriately enough in the book Lego Man had taken a job with the iconic Danish Lego company. The book records their first year living in country Denmark.

This ABC review will give you a feel for the book. At this point and thinking of Winton Bates, I want to pose a simple question for this first Monday Forum of 2017. To what degree is society happiness maximised by security and certainty?

As always, feel free to go in whatever direction you want.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Greetings

Christmas decorations on the Hotel d'Angleterre, Copenhagen's poshest hotel. When Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie stayed there for a week during the 1950s, all calls to the hotel were answered with "The Imperial Ethiopian Palace".

Where Christmas is celebrated, traditions vary from country to country, from group to group. A common theme is peace on earth, goodwill to all. 

Sometimes, that hope seems hard to realise. I hope that to you and yours regardless of faith. 

I went for a long walk today exploring parts of Copenhagen that I had yet to see. Christmas Eve is important to Danes. I was told that the streets would be empty. That was not true where I walked through a beautiful parkland area. There were runners, couples just walking. family groups. 

It was sunny. Well, what passes for sunny at this time of year! It was fun.

To you and your's, season's greetings. To my regular readers, I am looking forward to our conversations in the new year.      

Monday, December 12, 2016

Monday Forum - time to stop immigration to Australia?

This will be the last Monday Forum post for 2016. The next Monday Forum will be on Monday 9 January. So this post provides an opportunity to revisit things that we have talked about, to get new things off your chest.

To start with a photo from Gordon Smith (lookANDSee) of the country that our colleagues from the APVMA (Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority) are trying to avoid relocation too. I hope to complete my analysis this week before I leave the country.

Staying with Canberra, the ACT and NSW Governments have negotiated a new MOU that, among other things, progresses discussions on a border shift to accommodate Canberra's growth.

It is hard to believe that when I started work in Canberra the Australian Capital Territory's population was less than 80,000 people. Now it is over 350,000. It's not just the ACT of course, but the population spreads into surrounding areas in NSW. When I moved across the border to live in Queanbeyan, that town's population was about 12,000. It's now around 38,000.

I have always supported an open migration policy. I now wonder.

On the latest population projections, Canberra's population is projected to reach 750,000 people by 2061. That's the ACT. You also have to add the people in the surrounding areas.

Canberra is only 296 k, a bit over 3 hours by road, from Sydney. Sydney is project to reach 8 million people by 2061.With the fast rail that will come, you are going to have an urban block of ten million people that extends from Newcastle to Wollongong, from Sydney to Canberra.

I don't think that's a good thing. The apartment sprawl that's now spreading to Canberra, the multiple new developments bringing metro living to the city,has its advantages but it's creating a totally different lifestyle different from elsewhere in the country. Our metro cities are becoming city states.

I used to think that if we could add extra population more broadly all Australians would benefit. Is that dream possible anymore or have we got to the point that the numbers dwarf anything we might hope to achieve?

You could double the population of the New England Tablelands within the existing infrastructure. But that's only 55,000 people, a blink in current population growth. Even then, the opposition of the move of APVMA to Armidale shows how hard it is.

So I am driven back to this point. If, as seems to be the case, we cannot achieve decentralisation and balanced growth,. let's stop immigration.

I have come to this view reluctantly. However, I just don't want what is happening now to go on. .

Sunday, December 11, 2016

A few Sunday snippets

Just a few snippets today.

Forbes magazine provided a list of Asia's wealthiest families. I was surprised, I shouldn't have been, at how few I knew.

On 7 December, The Monthly carried a list of Australia's most Onion like headlines for 2016.  A few of my favourites:

  • Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce injured by sheep
  • Tony Abbott appointed director of new thinktank to promote western civilization
  • Johnny Depp says Barnaby Joyce ‘inbred with tomato’; Deputy PM hits back with Hannibal Lecter comparison
  • Jacqui Lambie compares SA Senator Cory Bernardi to an ‘angry prostitute’
  • Jacqui Lambie apologises to prostitutes after Cory Bernardi comment
The Daily Mail carried a map showing what countries were number one in what. For example, Pakistan is No1 for gay porn consumption, Australia for data breaches, Lithuania for fast Wi-Fi,  Norway is the best for pizza eaters and Togo is the unhappiness hotspot of the world. Very little meaning, perhaps, but quite entertaining.

Via Ramana, I was fascinated by the story of India's only privately owned railway, the Shakuntala Railways.

The term the great Australian salute is applied to that characteristic hand gesture required to keep blow flies away from the face in many parts of the country. The flies grew in number because they bred in the dung left by the expansion of livestock numbers introduced by the European settlers.

Growing up in sheep country, the flies used to gather in large numbers around the backpacks carried on hikes, attracted by the salt in sweat. Australian introduced dung beetles as a control device. Now there is hope that  the introduction of new French dung beetles will complete the task.

Finally, India has apparently still not worked through the complications created by the sudden decision to withdraw the country's two largest banknotes from circulation as an effort to reduce the size of the black economy. It is still too early to know what the final effects of the move will be,

 



Saturday, December 10, 2016

Saturday Morning Musings - the dark side of the Belle Époque

I have always liked Aubrey Beardsley's art work. This is a 1893 piece, The Climax, based on the story of Salome and John the Baptist. My liking dates from a particular period in my life that has become enshrouded in a certain nostalgia, if with an equal recognition of  just how young we all were!

I mention this now because of a very interesting BBC article by Fisun Güner, The dark side of the Belle Époque. The Belle Époque period of Western European history is usually dated from the end of the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 to the start of World War. The period was named in retrospect, a golden age highlighted by and ended by the slaughter in the trenches.

While it was a golden age, Güner draws out its darker side characterised by some of the art of Fin de siècle, a French term that means the end of the century. There was a feeling of decadence, of despair, of things not right.  For some, things had to be torn down to be rebuilt,.for others, social order had to be preserved. For most, there was the excitement of the new, of progress. All this took place against a background of social Darwinism whose deep poison was working its way through intellectual and political life.

I leave you to read Güner's piece. I hope that you find it interesting.  

Friday, December 09, 2016

Australian education: the leaning tower of PISA

“Today’s PISA report goes further than last week’s Trends in Maths and Science report, this year’s NAPLAN results and the OECD Education at a Glance report in terms of not just showing a plateauing of results in Australia but that it shows a clear decline from year to year in Australia’s education performance,”  Australian Federal Education Simon Birmingham.
The Minister was commenting on the release of the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report. You will find details of the Australian country report here. The Minister's remarks were illustrated with this graphic.

Australian performance is also recorded by school system., broken up into independent schools, Catholic schools and the Government sector. Here the independent schools released a very helpful summary of the differences between the sectors. In summary:
  • In reading literacy where Australia ranked equal sixteenth, Australian independent schools ranked first, Australian Catholic schools ranked equal seventh, while the Australian public school system was below the OECD average
  •  In scientific literacy where Australia ranked fourteenth, Australian independent schools ranked second, the Australian Catholic system tenth, while the Australian public school system had fallen below the OECD average
  • In mathematical literacy where Australia seems to have ranked  21st, Australian independent schools ranked equal fifth, Australian Catholic schools equal 17th, while public schools were well below the OECD average. . 
Note the use of the word seemed in the last point. There was a conflict in the data presented that I didn't have time to resolve. In any event, the overall point - relative performance - is not affected. 
The release of the TIMSS 2015 report attracted much media and political attention .... because of the way it suggested that Australia is falling behind in maths and science performance at school. ... Looking at the results, I had real difficulty in understanding just what TIMSS told us and what we might do about it. 
I wrote this on 1 December. A key reason for my difficulty lay in the existence of correlation among the variables measured. The results suggested that there was a positive correlation between academic performance and the social economic status of the families measured by books at home, the educational attainment of parents and access to learning supports. No surprise there.

The results suggested, too, that kids in metropolitan areas were likely to do better than kids in regional areas who in turn do better than kids in remote and very remote areas. Indigenous kids performed less well than non-indigenous kids. No surprises in either case,

Now consider this pattern. Regional areas have fewer higher income families and a smaller proportion of higher educated people. That feeds into lower academic performance. Indigenous people have lower incomes and academic attainments too and are also more likely to live in regional areas. So the measures are interrelated.

The graphic on the right shows the PISA 2015 performance gap for Australia by various measures. The thing that is quite startling is the performance by economic status. The gap between the highest and lowest performance measure in this area is three years, noticeably larger than the performance gap for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, recognising that these students have a weighting towards lower socioeconomic status. The gap is so large that it suggests that socioeconomic status has become the dominant determinant in determining relative performance.   

On average, students going to private schools come from significantly higher socioeconomic backgrounds, those going to Catholic schools somewhat higher. Increasingly, those going to public schools come from the lowest socioeconomic groups outside those going to selective schools

The partially implemented Gonski reforms were intended in part to address the socioeconmic gap by equalising the resources available to schools, increasing the resources available to poorer schools. However, that was never going to be a complete answer. The problem in the debate actually is answer to what?  
“While our school systems remain above average among developed economies we must acknowledge the reality that our performance is slipping. Given the wealth of our nation and scale of our investment, we should expect to be a clear education leader, not risk becoming a laggard. We must leave the politicking at the door and have a genuine conversation that is based on evidence about what we do from here.  
“Commonwealth funding for schools has increased by 50 per cent since 2003 while our results are going backwards. I’m not suggesting that adequate funding is not important, of course it is vital, but as the OECD notes Australia ranks as spending the fifth highest amount on education in the OECD and once you get to that level there is little value in just increasing spending, the harder task is to invest in the areas that the evidence says makes a difference." Minister Birmingham
This is actually slightly slippery stuff. To begin with, how do we know that our performance is slipping? What do we mean when we say that Australia should expect to be a clear education leader? What, indeed, is the purpose of education?  If we are going to use evidence based approaches, what evidence and for what purposes? There is a real risk that our approaches to education have now become so mechanistic, so based on a narrow range of indicators, 
"While the overall decline in the achievement of Australian students is of concern, there is evidence of a drop in performance across the OECD." Independent Schools PISA summary
"Success in PISA rankings and other global league tables are an important part of the Singapore “brand”. Singaporean academic Christopher Gee calls this the “educational arms race”. Highly competitive schooling is the norm." Professor Amanda Wise, The Conversation 
Australia is not alone in struggling to maintain, let alone improve, PISA rankings. The global competition based around the PISA scores is quite close to a zero sum game in the sense that competition requires more and more effort with limited result. Every dollar spent to achieve better test results is a dollar that could have been spent on something else. There is in fact no evidence that I know of  that shows a clear connection between PISA rankings and economic performance, a central Government concern. 
"Public discussion in Australia around why we are not doing as well as the Singaporeans is largely focused on what goes on in that country’s schools. 
Yet there is one thing missing from the reporting on Singapore’s success: the role of private tuition (private tutors and coaching colleges) and the part it plays in the overall success of students in the tiny city-state." Professor Wise
We have to be very careful in comparing school systems. Professor Wise quotes these school numbers from Singapore::
  • 60% of high school, and 80% of primary school age students receive private tuition.
  • 40% of pre-schoolers receive private tuition.
  • Pre-schoolers, on average, attend two hours private tuition per week, while primary school aged children are attending, on average, at least three hours per week.
As Professor Wise notes, these are remarkable numbers. You will find the same type of pattern in Australia for families competing for entry into selective schools. Do we want to adopt it generally in order to compete in the PISA arms race?  
The Strauss piece is the simplest description of the Finnish system that I have found. If I had to draw a single lesson from it, it's the relative simplicity of the Finnish system, the absence of controls, the grant of autonomy to schools and teachers, the apparent absence of prescriptive measurement, that goes to the heart of performance. 
Finland is another country often used for comparison purposes, something that I explored in Monday Forum - what lessons does the Finnish education system offer? The piece contains a link to the Strauss piece referred to above. Again, Finland is very different from Australia. I should note that Finland has dropped behind a little in the latest PISA scores if still scoring better than Australia.  
Three themes in Australian education: national efficiency, citizenship and social advancement
Looking at the history of education in Australia, three themes have dominated although the weighting has shifted over time. .

The first is education for national efficiency. This became popular in the lead up to the First World War especially in technical education because of the competition between the British and German empires. 

The second is education for citizenship, the idea that a functioning society required an educated population. 

The third is education for social advancement. Education provided a path for an individuals to improve their social position, to advance. 

For much of Australia's history, practical considerations have greatly influence weighting. The challenge was providing primary education for all, then secondary education, then tertiary education. While quality was always important, the real issues lay in ensuring mass delivery. 

Today, national efficiency dominates. The other two themes are there, but are subsumed in the focus on education for  the purposes of economic development, for maximising the country's global competitive position. It is, if you don't mind me saying so, just so 1914!  
I didn't send my daughters to school to achieve a standard
Today we live in a standards based world dominated by education's role as an economic contributor. I didn't send my daughters to school to achieve a standard or help the country achieve a standard. I didn't give a damn about PISA rankings. NAPLAN results were interesting as a rough measure of their comparative academic performance, but were largely irrelevant in a practical sense.

I sent my daughters to school to get an education that I hoped would be as good as the opportunities offered to me, recognising that I was unusually privileged. I wanted an education that would make them rounded, that would allow them to compete in an increasingly competitive environment but, most of all, I wanted an education that would help them to think, to be interested in new things, to enjoy life. 

Did I get that? I think that I did. So don't expect me to be sympathetic to much of the current "education" debate. I am modern enough to be aware of all the current issues, to know how my daughters fared, to know the opportunities offered. I am old fashioned enough to believe in the value of education in its own right. I am both modern and old fashioned enough to believe that equality in educational opportunities, however unachievable, should be central.

Postscript

This Sydney Morning Herald piece (Falling school standards are taking a toll on Australia's wellbeing) rather captured everything I was complaining about with the misuse of PISA. I quote from the introduction:
The deterioration in the performance of school students has slashed billions from Australia's economic wellbeing. 
The release of data this week showing Australian teenagers are falling behind many of their international peers has cut the value of the Fairfax-Lateral Economics wellbeing index, which puts a dollar figure on our collective welfare. The index uses reading scores from the international Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) to measure Australia's human capital, or collective knowhow. 
The latest PISA result, released on Tuesday, showed Australia's reading score dropped from 512 to 503 between 2012 and 2015. 
"This worsening of the PISA reading scores has negatively impacted the level of economic wellbeing," the index report said. 
That deterioration has sliced $15.2 billion from Australia's wellbeing since 2012.
This is quite simply absurd. Australia's collective wellbeing has not declined by $15.2 million as a consequence.

In an ABC piece cross posted from The Conversation, Stewart Liddle and Bob Lingard argue in part::
 It is unhelpful to use the single country ranking to determine how we are going as there are significant variances between states/territories and school sectors (government, independent, Catholic).
Instead, we need to carefully disaggregate the data and consider the social and economic factors that influence performance across states, between schools, as well as the correlations between gender, Indigeneity, class, race, geographical location, and so on. 
Australia has one of the widest ranges of student achievement, with what can be described as a long tail of underachievement...... 
There are competing tensions in the agenda of social efficiency and social equity, which is evident in how PISA results inform global and local education policy-making. This includes the emphasis on competing within a global knowledge economy. 
It is worth noting how the economic rationalisation for greater educational equity plays out in the global policy field, particularly through testing regimes such as NAPLAN and PISA. 
The challenge for policymakers, schools and teachers is how to respond to increasing pressure to lift test results on PISA, TIMSS and NAPLAN, while also addressing systemic inequality in order to ensure that every Australian student is given access to a meaningful education.
While there are parts of their analysis I would agree with, there is still the same focus on the importance of certain shifts in PISA and other test results, the thing that I am challenging. 

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Australia and the spreading threat of the red fire ant

The red fire ant is a particularly nasty invasive species. The photo shows a worker ant.

The ants appears to have first reached Brisbane via a container ship from New York in 2001. Once discovered, a well publicised emergency eradication campaign was launched. The matter then seems to have vanished from main stream media coverage and I assumed that eradication had been successful despite the difficulties involved.

An ABC news report by science reporter Jake Sturmer and the National Reporting Team's Alison Branley shows just how wrong I was.
Just 40 kilometres south of Brisbane, the city of Ipswich is being held to ransom by the South American pest. 
Mayor Paul Pisasale said just two suburbs in the city were now unaffected. "These things are just marching all over the place," he said. 
Council staff have had to be trained in identifying the ants and there are strict measures around soil movement. 
"The worst one was Leslie Park at Goodna. We had to close the park," Cr Pisasale said.
Despite eradication successes, there are now questions as to whether Australia has lost the chance to eradicate the pest, with infestation now just 50 k from the Northern NSW border.

I didn't know much about the ants, but the Wikipedia story on the species shows how well organised they are, how quickly they can breed and spread. You can see why eradication or even control can be difficult.

Speaking personally, if there is the slightest chance of eradicating the ant, then we should go with it. Looking at the distribution of the ants in the US, large slabs of South East Australia would appear to be a suitable habitat, including the major coastal cities. I definitely don't want a fire ant in my backyard!    

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Initial reflections on the EY APVMA cost benefit analysis

I apologise for the delay in posting. I have been slowly working my way through the Ernst and Young report on the proposed move to Armidale of the APVMA. I have now brought the first of two posts on the move up on the New England blog, Evaluating the evaluation - EY, APVMA and the move to Armidale part one.

The report is quite long, 85 pages. I needed to understand the direction they were coming from, the assumptions used. I also needed to look at the commentary and the policy background.

Much of the debate has been framed in narrow terms with people using headline numbers from the EY report for their own purposes . I don't think that it's possible to overcome this. The EY report is not especially good, but it's not a bad report either for its type. It's just limited.

Given the stated regional development policy objective behind the move, I think three questions needed to be addressed:
  • What are the costs and risks associated with the move?
  • What are the gains from a regional development perspective?
  • Do those gains outweigh the identified costs and risks?
The EY analysis concentrates on the first question. The cost-benefit analysis is narrowly defined so that it deals with the NPV of the financial costs of the shift including certain costs to industry. Here the costs of a new building plus redundancy and recruitment costs dominate, costs focused in the first few years that more than offset later property savings. The sensitivity testing suggests a range of NPV costs over twenty years ranging from $9 to $23 million depending on the combination applied.    .

The risk analysis is okay in broad terms, but really goes off the rails when it comes to calculating potential cost of lost production, a much quoted headline number. The assumption chain involved means that the final number really has no validity. The most that can be said is that it provides a worst case number of what might happen if all assumptions were met and no remedial action taken.

The way the REMPLAN input-output model is used to calculate relative impacts on the ACT as compared to the previous Armidale- Dumaresq LGA is misleading. Among other things, it's not comparing like with like.

But accepting the $23 million twenty year NPV cost for the moment, two questions remain:  
  • What are the gains from a regional development perspective?
  • Do those gains outweigh the identified costs and risks?
I will look at these questions in my next post on the New England blog. .

Postscript

I have still to finish my second post on the move, focusing on the dynamic elements. In the meantime, here is recent press coverage:

The visit to Armidale locked the PM in on the move. I can't say the reduced immediate numbers to Armidale comes as a surprise. That was built in on practical grounds. looking at the regulatory science position, I have formed the strong view that the real recruitment problem is not the shift to Armidale, that may actually help in the longer term, but the inability to get staff to go to Canberra. Neither of the two Canberra universities appear to offer any training in this area, and we already know that university graduates from the metros are reluctant to move to Canberra.