Climate change hypocrites make ETS backdown sensible politics

The 2010 Lowy Poll allows us to update some of our analysis of the politics of climate change (Pollytics blog has a helpful summary of the climate change questions).

Since the 2009 Lowy Poll conducted in July last year and the 2010 survey in March, climate change scepticism has stabilised, with those believing it is a serious problem requiring taking steps now consistently in the 45-50% range, and the hardcore sceptics at around 13%. Given the publicity given to the ‘Climategate’ story and the changed signals to Coalition partisans since July 2009 that is a good result for those who have been pressing on us the need for urgent action.

However the medium-term failure of the climate change campaign since 2008 is highlighted by this figure from the Lowy report on willingness to pay higher electricity bills: Continue reading “Climate change hypocrites make ETS backdown sensible politics”

Should Rudd be trusted to regulate his political opponents?

What is going on in Kevin Rudd’s mind? The decision to spend $38 million of borrowed money promoting the government’s mining ‘superprofits’ tax will surely create more problems than it solves.

For a start, it is not clear that it will have much impact over and above the arguments and assertions the government is already presenting in the normal way. Despite the millions spent by the mining lobby, and the Opposition’s stance presumably helping bring Coalition partisans on side, the Morgan Poll suggests that public opinion has moved the government’s way over the last couple of weeks.

The millions spent by the previous government on its WorkChoices campaign had no discernible effect on public opinion. While admittedly industrial relations is a bit different, in that there are long-established public beliefs on the subject, it is a warning that simply spending a lot of money does not guarantee that views will change.

Against the quite possibly small or non-existent mining tax political gains had to be weighed the risk that this decision would contribute to a far more dangerous political problem for the government than recalcitrant miners, the perception that Rudd is a promise breaker or worse. Continue reading “Should Rudd be trusted to regulate his political opponents?”

Is the IPA’s climate change poll plausible?

In a Club Troppo comment, online pollster Graham Young questions recent IPA polling on climate change:

From my research it is certainly true that there has been a decline in support in Australia for the proposition that manmade climate change will be catastrophic. And when you ask questions designed to find how high a priority it is, you find Australians aren’t prepared to pay or do much to avoid it. But the IPA poll has a much larger collapse than I would have thought possible.

I’ve tried to compare the IPA’s 2010 results with the Lowy Poll’s 2008 results on how much extra people are prepared to pay to combat climate change. I had to convert Lowy’s monthly question to match the IPA’s annual question, and so the categories are not an exact match. But as you can see in the table below, particularly by comparing the cumulative totals, the overall patterns are quite similar.

The main difference is that the IPA found significantly more people willing to pay nothing at all. But if we add together the people willing to pay nothing with those only willing to pay a trivial amount we have a consistent just under half of the population who oppose all but the most trivial climate change measures. Continue reading “Is the IPA’s climate change poll plausible?”

Malcolm Fraser’s Liberal Party membership, 1952-2009

The Liberal Party has a habit of disappointing its former leaders. BA Santamaria used to claim that Robert Menzies voted for the DLP in his later years. John Gorton hated Malcolm Fraser so much that he quit the Liberals and sat as an independent (though he rejoined the party in later life). While I don’t think John Hewson actually quit the party, his denunciations of John Howard were often fierce. And now comes the unsurprising news that Malcolm Fraser has resigned his party membership.

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde’s Lady Bracknell, to lose one leader may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose four looks like carelessness. Maybe my history is deficient, but I don’t think Labor has had a confirmed lost leader since Billy Hughes the best part of a century ago, though Mark Latham was certainly disillusioned with politics in general.

On conventional understandings of the Liberal Party, this is perhaps not too surprising. More than Labor, the Liberal Party has had an ideologically vague base that has allowed its leaders to shape the party in their own image. Continue reading “Malcolm Fraser’s Liberal Party membership, 1952-2009”

A left-familist misreading of the data?

The left-familists were given free run by the Fairfax papers over the weekend in responding to the ABS’s latest report on working time arrangements.

The SMH article opened with the statement that

THE claim that working hours are becoming more family-friendly is a myth, new figures suggest, with Australian workers having less opportunity to negotiate flexible work arrangements than they did the best part of a decade ago.

Of course there is no such myth; we’ve been endlessly told the opposite by the advocates of more labour market regulation.

The SMH‘s claim that ‘the number of workers who negotiated an agreement for flexible hours with the boss – either formally or informally – fell from 40 per cent to about 30 per cent’ looks like it might be a misreading of the statistics or coming from a change in the question or both. Continue reading “A left-familist misreading of the data?”

Investing in students

I’m hoping to soon get started on a paper about reforming Australia’s shambolic student loans system, so I was interested in a Marginal Revolution link to Lumni human capital financing.

Lumni invests in students in exchange for a share of their future earnings. Joe Clark wrote a Policy article on this a few years ago. From a student’s perspective, it has these differences from our HELP scheme:

1. With Lumni, the graduate provides an agreed % of his or her income for a fixed period of time rather than a fixed % of his or her income until the debt is paid off or the graduate dies. Successful graduates could end up paying much more under Lumni, while unsuccessful students will have their debts written off more quickly.

2. Lumni will only invest when it believes a return is likely – so presumably it will not invest in risky students (eg older students, those with weak prior results) or low-return qualifications (eg Arts). HELP will lend to anyone regardless of risk. As Joe points out in his article, one advantage of seeking a return on investment is that there will be more research into the prospects of different degrees, institutions, and types of student. This could help guide students even if they don’t take out a loan. Continue reading “Investing in students”

A hopelessly flawed university ‘equity’ policy

Alas, the government’s equity funding policy announced today is no better than the draft version released late last year. Here’s a quick summary of what’s wrong with it:

1) It is based on an arbitrary definition of low SES – people living in the lowest 25% of postcodes – slightly alleviated by a formula that includes means-tested student payments. It’s arbitrary because people outside the definition are for all practical purposes no different from people inside the definition. The definition may change in future, but we are off to a bad start.

2) An arbitrary definition would not necessarily matter much if it was merely a driver of funding to universities. But the money is supposed to be targeted on official low SES students, and so unjustly discriminates against people outside the definition.

3) As we have been reminded this week, the core assumption of the policy, that low SES students are particularly in need of additional help, is weak at best. Even if future low SES students are less capable than the low SES students of today and the recent past, it’s not clear why the money should not be spent on general support services available to all students who need it, regardless of where they live or their Centrelink status. Continue reading “A hopelessly flawed university ‘equity’ policy”

Class effects on class performance?

The latest results of the Australasian Survey of Student Engagement were released today, and like previous research finds very little evidence that socioeconomic status matters much once students arrive at university.

On various learning outcomes, low SES students – defined in this case as being from a low SES area and being the first in their family to attend university – rate themselves slightly more favourably than middle or high SES students.

(click on image for clearer view)
Source: figure 40, ACER, Doing more for learning: Enhancing engagement and outcomes
Continue reading “Class effects on class performance?”

Private higher education providers growing rapidly

In line with the practice of producing higher education statistics very slowly, DEEWR has recently put first semester 2009 enrolment figures on its website.

These show that the private providers are continuing to grow quickly. After taking out new institutions for comparative purposes, their overall enrolments are up 19% on first semester 2008, with commencing students up 22%. This is fast growth off a modest base, with total domestic enrolments now just over 40,000 and total international enrolments of just under 19,000. These figures understate the actual total, as only those institutions making FEE-HELP loans available to their students report enrolments. (Based on an inquiry, just to clarify that these institutions report all their students, not just FEE-HELP students. The point I was making is that there are a number of higher education providers that receive no Commonwealth money and report nothing to the Commonwealth.)

Public universities are also growing, with their overall numbers up 5% to 919,000, and commencing students up 7%. The ‘pipeline’ effects of high commencements (ie most first years will be there for at least two more) help explain why the student subsidy bill is growing more quickly than forecast. It may also help explain why the government is reluctant to accept the Bradley report recommendation to include private provider students in the public subsidy system. Despite the current government’s anti-full-fee rhetoric, it is fiscally very convenient for them that tens of thousands of students are willing to forgo tuition subsidies.