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Of cabbages, kings and a meeting of Blog war protagonists

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Leon Bertrand and I have   a face to face meet up with Scott Bridges planned for today which should be quite interesting to say the least, because how often do you get a chance to meet up with your online “enemy ” after a decade long blog war?

Hold on comrades this could be an interesting ride

 

 

Waiting for the full wash cycle on “work for the dole”et al

I’ve been watching the minions of the left have conniptions about the proposed changes to the way that Job seekers are expected to show their willingness to  find work. On one hand you have the Government suggesting that the Unemployed should be willing to make 40 job applications a month and on the other side you have people insisting that its too much to ask.

I sort of think that both sides are right and wrong here.

Its very clear that in some parts of the country there simply are not enough jobs for the people who need them. and no amount of badgering  the unemployed to make more of an effort is going to make thee needed jobs magically appear. Frankly the mad drive to import every more people is not helping either because every new arrival is going to be competing for that scarce commodity,namely  a job. Further the march of the technology that is so beloved by our Latte sipping friends is only going to make things worse. Take the example of your local supermarket. Have you noticed they all now have the self serve checkouts? well do you realize that those self serve checkouts only have one person watching say six units in  use and to help customers make their purchases? That represents the loss of five jobs right there. Now while working in retail may not be that glamorous it is an honorable profession that has sustained many workers, (mainly women) in the quest to provide for their own and the sustenance of their families. This sort of automation is happening in every aspect of our society. Its in the your library, its in your bank its every where and the trend is accelerating. The trend simply means that no matter how many more people we have the machine of our economy needs fewer people to run it. Likewise I draw the attention to those cute little robot vacuum cleaners  that are endlessly advertised on TV and ask you to consider how long will it be the case business will be using them to replace cleaners in their offices?

On the other side of the ledger  the obligation to make 40 approaches for those ever decreasing job opportunities will probably not be that hard to meet if a Job seeker digitizes a generic application letter and their resume that they send out to any business or potential job source entity. It does not even need to be customized for each instance that it is sent. Now I’m guessing (because I’m not personally playing this game) this on top of checking any jobs  that are actually advertised  would meet the obligation. How long till someone develops an app to do precisely that? However having made the obligation more onerous and punitive it hardly going to make the lives of the unemployed any easier. Worse yet it will turn every job seeker into something of a Spam merchant and if my friends in small business don’t just mark all of the extra job applications as “spiced ham” I would be very surprised indeed.

The other aspect in play is the old “work for the dole” which I have some serious reservations about. Mainly those reservations concern the amount of time that individuals will be obliged to work each week and the effective hourly rate that they will be working for. Its just manifestly unfair that any work people are obliged to do should be anything less than the going rate for such work. On top of that just what work are these people going to be asked to do and who is going to manage organize and supervise such work? Further I have concerns about the possibility that participants may be subject to bullying by those who run any  “work for the dole” schemes.   Finally there is the issue of cost, these schemes will cost more to run than any potential savings in the welfare budget so will it really be  about the savings?

In conclusion though we can’t escape the fact that all of these proposals will require legislation to be made to happen and I just can’t see  the current Senate passing many  of these proposals which means that when the rubber hits the road what we will see will be somewhat diluted from what is currently being discussed. Sadly what neither it nor any alternative from Labor is going to address the clear structural issues that the march of technology is going to pose for humanity  without that in the mix neither side of politics and certainly not the ordinary people are going to be winners. The Politics of this are pretty obvious though The Government is playing to its most  hardline economic  neoCon  demographic who believe that  welfare is just a waste of taxpayer’s money and that the poor or unemployed are just an inconvenience and generally a cohort of bludgers. The simple truth that conservatives like me recognize is that  our welfare system is a necessary bulwark that ensures that we have  a truly civil society and not one where the underclass is driven to a life of intrusive criminality to sustain the necessities of life Maintaining that bulwark at a cost that our economy can afford is the trick of it and on this score both sides of our politics play the “cruel to be kind” game (remember Gillard’s treatment of single parents?)  Taking the longer view  I am going to reserve my judgement on this whole thing until I see just how it comes out in the wash.

Cheers Comrades

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By the numbers

Its a good thing that the use of signature  for electronic transaction is coming to an end, as far as I’m concerned

But advocates for the elderly and disabled still have concerns about the new system.

‘‘The purpose of this is better security but for some people it will have the reverse effect,’’ Council on the Ageing Australia’s chief executive, Ian Yates, said.

The council has had reports of bank staff advising elderly people with memory problems to carry a written record of their PIN.

‘‘I’m sure that’s not the official bank position … but that’s what some people will do,’’ Mr Yates said. ‘‘The security implications are worrying.’’

The president of Blind Citizens Australia, Greg Madson, said many older members had never navigated a terminal keypad. ‘‘We will be advocating for some sort of uniformity across the design of these [terminals] so that people who are vision impaired … [do] not have to struggle around the keyboard,’’ he said.

The executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, Russell Zimmerman, said retailers were prepared for the switch and the majority welcomed it.

‘‘It’s going to be far more secure,’’ said Mr Zimmerman, who knows of one man who regularly signed for credit card purchases as ‘Mickey Mouse’. ‘‘Retailers just do not look at these signatures.’’

Source

I have long thought that it was just too easy to copy a signature on the back of a credit card, so much so that I have long had “Pin only” written on the back of my credit card. To be honest I don’t think that there will be a substantive number of may fellow codgers who have problems with this change. Heck I think that many of them will have , like yours truly, already embraced the Paywave tech which makes the use of even a pin number largely obsolete.

Sometimes change is worthwhile but you won’t hear that said  often from me.

Cheers Comrades

I have added a donation button the the blog sadly It does not work if readers just wave their credit card over it .......

I have added a donation button the the blog, sadly It does not work if readers just wave their credit card over it …….

2014 Budget overview, or considering how much of the egg is any good

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Well I suppose it is incumbent upon me as the author here at a blog that is mostly about  Australian  politics to say something about  last night’s budget. Up front I have to say that I have not read the original document or even watched the speech on the TV. I had other priorities last night. So instead I am going to respond to the summary written by the Guardian with what I think about the specifics enunciated there.

As leaked, it hits around 400,000 high-income earners with a three-year $3.1bn deficit levy and reaps a further $2.2bn by increasing petrol taxes in line with inflation.

The former will undoubtedly upset my more “economically dry” friends but I doubt that they will notice it beyond its existence as a line item  from their accountants, most will not even notice unless they are obsessive about the amount of tax they pay. A rise in the tax on petrol  will undoubtedly be noticed initially but soon forgotten by most people simply because the price of fuel has become so volatile anyway. Up here it jumped by nearly 20 cents a litre at Easter so I think this will soon become part of the economic background noise in our lives.

But the budget-night surprise was that much of the cash raised from cuts to benefits and tax rises is spent on the Coalition’s own priorities rather than on improving the budget bottom line, including a new $20bn medical research fund – to become the biggest in the world within six years – the Direct Action greenhouse emissions reduction fund and about $5bn in new roads funding.

Why that should surprise anyone is beyond me, Even in tough times a government wants to be seen to be capable of economic multitasking. That said who could complain about more money for medical research? Readers will recall that I would personally ditch, in its entirety, the Direct Action climate policy but in the absence of heeding my advice lets hope that there is the sort of secondary benefits from the spending that I have previously postulated, although I do remain sceptical that the scheme will deliver much for the nation.As a confirmed petrol head I welcome improvements to the road network and I also welcome the economic stimulus that the expenditure will bring.

Although the treasurer, Joe Hockey, said the aim of the pain was “budget repair” – a national effort in which Australians “fix the budget together” – he is not promising a surplus in the four years of the forward estimates, with a deficit of $2.8bn forecast for 2017-18: unemployment remains at 6% or higher for the next three, growth is almost unchanged and business investment is weakening.

Lets be thankful for that! I don’t think that I am alone in hoping that we never again see the false hope of a quick return to  surplus trotted out in every one of Wayne Swan’s budgets .

Hockey conceded the government “could have gone harder” in paying down deficits, but said “it would have detracted from growth”.

Well we all know that its a balancing act between the need to pay down debt and not kill the economy in the process.

He denied his budget was the start of an “age of austerity”, saying he was in fact ushering in a new “age of opportunity”.

No surprise in trying to change the way that the budget will be perceived.

But for unemployed people under 30, this “age of opportunity” means waiting six months to get the dole, then receiving a payment only for six months and only if they work for it, and then losing the payment again for the next six months, during which a potential employers may get a wage subsidy.

Well this is a great deal tougher than I expected and I can see some individuals could very well suffer severe hardship under such a regime. On the other hand it will clearly incentivise those in this demographic to both accept any work that they can get and to try harder to please their employers to avoid losing their jobs in the first place. I can’t see how it could work in remote indigenous communities that have bugger all jobs though.

For sick people it means paying $7 for every visit to the doctor and every medical test – $5 of which will be invested in a new “medical research future fund” and $2 will be kept by the doctor or test provider, in part to help them waive the payment in cases of “genuine need”. The co-payment will stop after 10 medical payments for concession holders and children. The co-payment for medicines will also increase by $5.

Which means that those sick with concession cards will mostly still be able to see a doctor for free as they do now but I am less than impressed by the increase in co-payment for prescriptions which will almost double with the $5 increase. No more coffee shop stop for me when I get my drugs then 😦

Hockey said the aim of the health changes was to “get the nation to invest in its own healthcare … and for people to accept personal responsibility for their own physical health.”

Most of us do this anyway

For students the new era means paying back a greater proportion of the cost of a degree, and this cost potentially rising as the higher education sector is deregulated – although government loans will be available for a wider range of courses.

I have repeatedly argued that tertiary education  is rather over rated and if it is going to cost those who benefit from it more than they will certainly chose their courses with greater care and a consideration of its benefit to their future career. The important thing to keep in mind though is the generous and universal loans scheme means that greater costs will not restrict anyone from doing the course of their dreams no matter what their background may be.

For single-income families it means losing up to $73 per week a child in family tax benefit B payments once the bread winner earns more than $100,000 (rather than the current $150,000) and losing the payment when the youngest child turns six, rather than 18.

Who could object to cutting this? Anyone on 100K a year does not need this kind of benefit at all.

And government payments including family tax benefit, Medicare rebates and private health insurance rebates will be frozen, as will eligibility thresholds for receiving them – instead of rising in line with inflation – an idea Tony Abbott derided as “class warfare” when it was tentatively tried by the former Labor government.

Likewise a reasonable move.

Many disability pensioners under 35 will be “reassessed” and those with “some work capacity” forced to seek employment.

As I have suggested elsewhere this is a largely symbolic matter and that the vast majority of those DSP recipients who will be re-accessed will in fact found to still be compliant with the eligibility criteria which are pretty hard to meet anyway. As for work well it has to be there and suitable for the disabled and I have my doubts that many in this cohort will be able to find work.

But clearly hesitant to break an election promise that no changes would be made to the pension, the government has delayed paring back aged pensions until after the next federal poll.

What the government takes to the next poll will be judged by the people.

It is then proposing major changes – linking pension increases to inflation rather than average earnings, which will see their buying power decline over time compared with current arrangements, freezing the threshold for assets and income a pensioner can hold even though their value will rise over time, reducing the amount a pensioner can earn from their assets.

It seems to me that this is a reasonable change that brings the aged pension into line with the indexation of other government benefits. As for changes to the assets valuation well I’m undecided on that one.

The pension age will rise to 70 by 2035, but addressing criticism that older people often find it hard to get a job the government is offering a new wage subsidy to employers taking on a worker over 50 who has been unemployed for more than six months.

The subsidy will undoubtedly be welcomed  by both small business and older job seekers and is to may mind far more significant than a raising of the pension age in twenty years time.

As I predicted in my last post this budget is not the horror that the pundits were suggesting it would be. Its certainly not perfect in every aspect and only time will tell if the assumptions and expectations that are at its heart will be correct. However one thing we can be sure of is that it has to be better than any of the flights of fantasy delivered by Wayne Swan that were inevitably entirely made of tat hope and bullshit. All big picture instruments like the federal budget are going to be like the curates egg “good in parts” and at this one will be no exception there certainly are some parts that are a bit off smelling but on the whole its seems to be quite reasonable given the mess that we inherited from Labor.

Cheers Comrades

Boiled Egg

We all want faster Broadband but sadly the ALP stuffed up the delivery of the NBN, especially in the bush.

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Click for source

Isn’t it amusing that dyed in the wool Abbott government haters are so willfully blind to the ineptitude of the previous government when it comes to the management of their big ticket schemes like the NBN? Now that the grown ups are in charge its very clear that in every possible way the Labor party were up top their necks in Africa’s longest river. As long as they rely only upon the broad brushstrokes of policy design and a futile hope that the details will resolve themselves they will not deserve to hold the treasury benches at a federal level. Design matters, and a good design takes real thought and real understanding of the need that you are trying to meet. Now if only the ALP could truly assimilate that idea then they might be electable again.

Cheers Comrades

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News in real time

For once rather than to write laughing at the silliness of the left I come to praise a piece in the Guardian,  as they argue that 24 hour news channels are well past their use by date and actually increasingly irrelevant to the viewing public. I now have access to sky news on our T box but I never bother watching it and to be frank the actual news coverage on the ABC News 24 is rather dull, a tedium that is only broken by the fact that they do have a few programs that are talking heads discussing the issues de jour.

I think that this prediction has legs :

A news service for the next two decades

The legacy of 24-hour news channels is holding back broadcasters in adapting to the potential of the digital age. If you gave a digital news operation even a fraction of the tens of millions of pounds currently spent annually on a news channel, just think of what you could achieve.

A truly news-on-demand service, with no heritage – not reusing TV material, nor reusing print – could be genuinely ground-breaking, reconstructing a news operation and creating a new relationship with audiences and consumers.

This is starting to be recognised in the US:

CNN’s Jeff Zucker has planned major changes recognising there is “not enough news” to fill a news channel

CBS is reported to be developing an online streamed news channel, separate from broadcast channels

• Al-Jazeera in the US has developed AJ+ as an online-only source of video news

• Yahoo has recruited one of America’s biggest news names in Katie Couric to “anchor” their news home page

• Digital companies such as Vice and Buzzfeed are recruiting significant numbers of foreign correspondents and opening global bureaux – built around the web, not satellites

Elsewhere there are fewer signs of experimenting with continuous TV news. ITV, unhindered by a news channel, reconfigured their website into a live stream that is both innovative and regularly beats the competition. The BBC’s director of news, James Harding, has acknowledged the need for more R&D by creating a “Newslabs” team looking at data and visual journalism. But perhaps the industry needs a bolder vision.

source

Its news Comrades, but not as we have known it

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Warning: escaped inner lefty at large

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The begging bowl never enhances the look of any business and the SPC bid for government money certainly strikes me as a bit of underhanded blackmail. and what is especially galling is that the parent c0mpany Coca Cola Amatil  are far from short of a quid themselves. To be honest the driving force here is the foolishness of allowing unfettered imports of cheap  product because it enhances the profits of the supermarkets. As the family shopper I make a special effort to avoid foreign produce and imported canned and preserved fruit but when you see the price differential its hardly surprising that many shoppers are less discerning that I am.

I know that this may horrify some of my conservative friends but it seems to me that this whole saga is a very good argument for grower’s cooperatives running canning companies to preserve and market their produce.  Its also a damn good argument for  tariffs imposed upon all agricultural produce that we ourselves grow.

In another example of shopping sadness the butcher shop that I have been patronising for nearly thirty years is to be either sold or closed within the next 12 weeks and I am less than pleased about the prospect. Angus and Tom have been great examples of the perfect store keepers with well priced quality product and exemplary service to their customers. Its the very old story of a shopping mall management greedily charging outrageous rents and greedy adjacent  supermarkets (Aldi and Coles) selling packaged meat at below cost prices. If they can find a buyer they will sell the goodwill but if they can’t then they will walk away. I know that that is the reality of free enterprise but I can’t help but think that its a far from attractive reality.

Strewth, looking back on this post  I think my inner lefty has escaped! Now that is a real worry!

Cheers Comrades

As things go from bad to worse in Libya...

Putting prisoners into big steel boxes

Regular readers may recall that this blog is quite a fan of creative uses for shipping containers. I have written previously about their potential for housing that is both strong and relatively quick to build. Well now it seems that they are looking to use converted shipping containers to ease the capacity problems in Victoria’s prison system.

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click for source

While there is part of me that thinks that these new cells are rather more luxurious than many miscreants deserve (air conditioning? 🙄 )if they do the job for a reasonable cost per prisoner bed then it will be a good way to quickly fix the lack of capacity. Frankly there is no reason why more purpose built Spartan fit outs of the containers could not be designed, more in keeping with prisoner accommodation instead of the off the shelf miners set-up in the current units. That said its another very good use for those ubiquitous steel boxes.

Now if only I could figure out a way of getting one behind my studio to give me some much needed extra workshop space all would be extra jolly here at Chez Hall…

Cheers Comrades

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