Greg Sheridan – Deakin lecture, University of Melbourne 19 May

Somewhat ironically, given my views on the ‘Australian Settlement’, I am a member of the Alfred Deakin Lecture Trust.

This year the lecture is being given by The Australian‘s Greg Sheridan.

The title is ‘The Death of Multilateralism and the Crisis of Global Goverance’.

It’s free and open to the public.

Location: JH Mitchell Theatre,
Richard Berry Building,
University of Melbourne
(campus map here)
Date: Wednesday, 19 May 2010
Time: 6.30pm

Should councils second-guess household arrangements?

There doesn’t seem to be a caretaker period for the currently underway (by postal ballot) Melbourne City Council elections, because amidst the large quantity of campaign materials from the candidates for Lord Mayor came a letter advising me of a plan to restrict to one the number carspaces in new residental developments in Carlton.

I’m not sure what any of the candidates think about this proposal. Just as Krystian Seibert (getting his second mention in less than a week) argues convincingly against minimum car spaces, I don’t think there is adequate justification for a maximum number. While it is true, as the letter points out, that there is good public transport in inner Melbourne, that’s only useful if residents don’t have to travel anywhere else.

It also assumes that households are interdependent members of the same family likely to travel together. That may be true out in the suburbs, but in the inner city there are lot of group households where people share the rent and bills but live otherwise separate lives.
Continue reading “Should councils second-guess household arrangements?”

Compo culture

Note: I am satisfied, based on Chris Miller’s comment (at 8 below), that he and his family did have a bad experience with Emirates well beyond an erroneous phone call for which an apology would have been sufficient.

Last month, British backpacker Michael Edgeley suffered chest pains on an Emirates flight back from Australia. The plane diverted to Mumbai, but sadly Edgeley died in the ambulance at the airport.

Also on the flight was the partner of Chris Miller from Tyneside, along with their two children. Emirates told Miller that his kids had chicken pox. And in a terrible mix-up with Edgeley,

When the backpacker later died, Emirates contacted Mr Miller in error with undertaker details.

Mr Miller said he had received a call from someone saying: “I have a couple of numbers for you, the first number is the undertakers dealing with the body”.

Mr Miller said: “At that point I believed one of my family was dead. I said, ‘What happened, what’s going on?’ but they put the phone down on me.

Mr Miller told the BBC he was hung up on when he asked to know what was going on. Emirates called again after 10 seconds to inform Mr Miller of their mistake. (Italics added)

Emirates has apologised to Miller, as they should. But is Miller satisfied with that?

Mr Miller said Emirates had not offered any compensation despite putting him through “absolute hell”.

Compensation for 10 seconds of “absolute hell”? I think not. If Miller’s family only came to the attention of Emirates by irresponsibly boarding a plane while the kids had a highly contagious disease, the stronger claim for compensation may be in the other direction.

Job vacancy at CIS

My CIS colleague Kirsten Storry is moving on, leaving a vacancy at the CIS for someone wanting a job researching Indigenous issues:

The position will involve undertaking research into the challenges facing indigenous communities, developing policy recommendations for the social and economic development of those communities and promoting widespread discussion among indigenous communities and the general public. Areas of focus will include education, health, housing and governance. The successful applicant will be self motivated, have good writing and speaking skills, and will be able to prepare innovative materials for presentation and publication. Familiarity with the work of CIS and sympathy for its objectives are highly desirable. Candidates are advised to read recent articles (available on the website) produced by CIS authors working in this area. This position is for a term of 2 years in the first instance.
Salary is available on request.

Applicants should have a good degree from any relevant discipline and should be able to show evidence of research competence. Post graduate qualifications would be an advantage. Preference will be given to people with work experience in a research or policy background.

If you are interested, contact Jenny Lindsay, jlindsay AT

Mal Brough at Melbourne Uni

The 2007 Alfred Deakin Lecture is on at Melbourne University this Tuesday, 2 October. The lecture is to be given by Mal Brough, Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, on ‘The Emergency Response to Protect Aboriginal Children in the Northern Territory’.

It’s at 6.30pm in the Copland Theatre, in the Economics and Commerce Building. A campus map is available here.

Character and argument

Strictly speaking, an argument’s force ought to be independent of the person making it. If the evidence and reasoning is strong, what does it matter if the person making it is an expert or an amateur, a crook or a saint? Yet it seems natural and normal to use an assessement of the person making an argument as a proxy for an assessment of their actual arguments.

Over at Catallaxy, Jason Soon discusses an interesting example of this, what he calls ‘statist quoism’, the claim that because a person arguing against some form of government funding received it themselves in the past (family benefits, free education, etc) they should not argue against future generations receiving it.

As Jason points out, this could lead to bad policies never being corrected. But it’s hard to purge this way of thinking because it requires us to put aside norms that are usually worth enforcing, such as against hypocrisy and for reciprocity. Should I retrospectively pay more than I did for my university education, because I am saying that others should pay more than I did? Since my argument is primarily about the microeconomics of higher education and not distributional issues, the answer is no. We cannot undo the decisions or change the incentives of the past. But I suspect some people would find my position more convincing if had paid my own way through university, and not received years of the free education I dismiss as an intellectually disreputable policy.