Leadership failure

Leadership failure

Cheating at sport is, well, unacceptable. Yet it happens every day with no sport immune. There will always be one individual in the tournament or player in the team or coach on the sideline who will succumb to the pressure to win, the stress to perform, or simply base instincts.

This is why each sport has rules that sets the frame for what is acceptable, what’s on or close to the nose, and what is simply cheating. Equally, most sports have a fair bit of trouble either defining or enforcing the rules even with umpires and referees present to observe and, where required, intervene.

So if the soccer forward dives in the box at the slightest hint of a nudge from a defender then the referee has to decide. Is this a penalty or not? Some forwards dive. Some don’t. Sometimes it is actually a foul. Altogether a gray area of the rules.

Messing with a cricket ball is similar.

It is against the rules at all levels of the sport but it happens every now and then. Most of the time unnoticed and most of the time to no material effect on the outcome of the game. But it is against the rules. Players who do it are cheating.

So what is different in Australia right now?

A player in the national cricket team roughs up the ball with sandpaper. National outrage. Incredulity and anger. A failure of leadership because the captain of the the Australian cricket team sanctioned premeditated messing with the ball.

In short, cheating surely.

But, on the face of it, nothing.

All it took was a player, the vice-captain, with a history of volatility who was under a lot of pressure from the opposition and the crowd, his captain also under strain, and a compliant junior team member making a really bad choice when the team was losing.

Nothing more than a dive in the box.

Well the face is not the story at all. The response of a nation is always more. It reflects real needs. In this case leadership in the way that the society wants and needs.

The public frenzy over a misdemeanor that the international sporting body punished with a one match ban and a match fee fine, is the release of feelings that are simmering under the surface, a deep anxiety that has been there for a very long time. And it has something to do with a lack of direction. An uncertainty in the collective moral compass of not knowing what to stand for or against. And until a cricketer did something really stupid we did not realise how bad this feeling was or where it comes from.

Here is one possible source.

People mostly have no idea what the rules are in politics and business so they can’t really tell if societal leaders fail or not. Most of us have an inkling that they do but we cannot be sure. When they transgress with their secretaries it is one of the few times we see the line we want them to keep behind. The rest of the time we just have a hunch. So when they fail asylum seekers or spend way too much on submarines or let the energy grid fall over whilst carbon emission go up we don’t really know if they are cheating. They are not strictly breaking the rules, just dancing on the line through omission.

On the sporting field, however, we do know.

We can see the cheat. And when that is a premeditated act not only sanctioned but organised by the leadership, we are appalled. It triggers our real need for leaders to be better than us. They are not supposed to cheat, not even to dive in the box. But we know that they do. Seeing it starkly in our leisure time is shocking. It tweaks our subconscious to the truth that this is also happening in other leaders, the ones that really matter to our lives. It freaks us out.

The difficulty is that the leaders that matter stand up and lament the errors of the sportsmen, neatly deflecting from their own vast inadequacies. Until we call them out on their equivalent of ball tampering that they indulge in almost every day, and we do it with the same fervor we have for a national sport, then we will have to live with leadership failure everywhere.

Little gems: Secret taboo

Little gems: Secret taboo

These days it is very hard to pick gems from the torrents of items in the news and social feeds. There is so much craziness that we become somewhat numb to it all. We glance at everything just enough to see each piece scroll by into oblivion. So when a real gem appears we can easily miss it or let it pass without due attention.

So to help promote healthy thinking, Alloporus will try and pick out a few of the little gems that deserve more than a scroll, the sparkles that deserve at least a moment along the more discerning pathways of our gray matter.

Picking out these more positive offerings might also help balance the mostly depressing themes that tend to populate each Alloporus post.

Here is a true gem that is so blindingly obvious that it is astonishing that we don’t do it universally already. It says much about our psyche, our ignorance, and our closed minds that it should even be the first gem on the list.

It’s 12 minutes of the best logic you’ll hear

Where to invest

Where to invest

$50 billion is the current projected cost to replace the Australian submarine fleet.

$60 billion is roughly 5% of Australia’s GDP

$96 billion is what 9.3 million Australian households spend on the modern equivalent of bread and water, somewhere near 15% of their weekly budget. This is a pretty standard proportional spend in mature economies. Somewhere between 7 and 15% of household budgets go to food. The French at the higher end, the British the lower.

Big numbers then.

$226 billion is an order of magnitude larger. It represents the size of the labelled green bond market in 2016.

$895 billion is the size of the climate-aligned blond universe. This amount includes investments that are designed to support climate adaptation or have an impact on emissions but are not quite up for a green label.

$1,000 billion is the projected size of the climate aligned bond market in 2020, just three years hence, investments that are needed to help all countries meet their Paris climate commitments for emission reduction.

$90,000 billion is the current size of the global bond market.

The interesting question is where to put all this money.

It makes sense to put a hefty chunk of it into actions that improve environmental performance or, alternatively, new submarines.

Energy prices

Energy prices

In the mid-1990’s energy prices in Australia were some of the lowest in the OECD.

I distinctly remember the politicians of the day boasting about how good this was for industry and business and I have to say I bought the argument. Utilities that people have to have should be affordable. The marketing men can persuade me that a Mercedes is so much better than a Hyundai and well worth the price tag because it is a discretionary spend on my part, but water, power and waste removal I must have or we are back in the dark ages.

Twenty years later, the current government has announced a new energy policy that they claim will save the average family $100 a year on their energy bill. This new policy is supposedly a response to the problem that domestic energy prices have risen by 67% in the last decade, and with supply shortages forecast regularly, the medium term economics suggest this annual rate of increase will persist. Energy costs in Australia are now at the top end of the OECD ranks.

Oops.

Australia is also going to struggle to meet emission reduction targets it promised in Paris in part because this cost pressure from energy has become an excuse not to focus on renewables and to continue with power generation with a heavy emission profile.

Oops again.

Lots of rant and rave opportunities here, classic Muppetville. The one I want to unpack is that cost saving, $100 a year for the average family.

Median annual income in Australia is around $81,000 and has been increasing steadily at around 3.5% more than doubling since 1990’s when energy was cheap.

An income of roughly $220 per day is right up there with the highest in the world. Savings on the energy bill proposed by the government is 27c per day, not even the price of a coffee and cookie in a month.

The average household energy bill, on the other hand, is around $4.20 per day and currently increasing at close to 7% or roughly 29c per day.

Phew, that’s a relief. The government policy is going to save the average household most of the money they would have to spend to on the price rises. Superb.

Should average annual income continue to rise at 3.5% the 29c cost saving on energy is further compensated by an additional $7.70 per day in extra income.

This explains why economic growth is so important to governments. Despite inevitable difficulty around the margins, on average it puts money in voters pockets.

It also makes that first ‘oops’ identified earlier a huge blunder.

Energy is literally the engine of economies so to let its costs spiral and allow the security of supply to lapse is stupid however you spin it.

Post revisited – Journeys

Post revisited – Journeys

Netflix has an excellent period drama called Victoria on the life of the iconic queen of England who ruled for 63 years and married off her progeny into most of the royal families of Europe. She died in 1901 aged 81. Throughout her life, she moved around in luxury carriages drawn by horses. Steam trains and iron-hulled ships occasionally took her and her entourage further afield but it was the stables that did most of the heavy lifting.

She was in her late sixties when the first motor car appeared in Germany but did not live to see the mass production of cars or the first powered flight (1903) but she did have a few photographs taken.

Skip just 100 years and there are websites that track air traffic so you can follow the travel of your own flight or that of a loved one across the vast reaches of land and sea to every far-flung destination on the planet. Browse one of these sites and the globe lights up with traces. There are a million people in the air at any one time.

Amused or not, Queen Victoria would not have believed it was possible.

Here is an Alloporus thought on air traffic from June 2011

In 2009 2.5 billion journeys were taken in aircraft.

Evened out across the global population, every third person on earth took a flight. In reality it is the wealthiest proportion of the 1 billion people in western economies who took most of the journeys.

The projection is that by 2014 there will be 3.3 billion journeys taken.

This represents a 32% increase in 5 years.

Mobility is an inevitable consequence of affluence. As more and more people have disposable income, many will want to use some of those funds to travel. As economies grow, more business is done and so travel to buy, sell and negotiate also increases.

In the mid 1960’s the first Boeing 737s carried 100 passengers up to 2775 km. This was quite a revolution at the time.

The latest Boeing 737-800s carry twice the number of people over 5,500 km and use 23% less fuel.

Suppose it were possible to replace all the aircraft flying in 2009 with the latest fuel efficient models. It would be possible to absorb almost all of the 5 year increase in passenger volume to 2014 through fuel efficiencies that these more efficient vehicles bring.

Future aircraft construction materials that are lighter and still strong enough will see even greater fuel efficiencies. Aircraft built in the next decade or two might only use a third of the fuel guzzled by the earliest models.

Replace all the 737-800s with aircraft of composite material designs and 13 years of growth in passenger numbers could be accommodated without increasing fuel use above that used in 2009.

But even if all these replacements were possible by the mid-2020s, less than a generation from now, fuel use in air travel would begin to increase over 2009 levels.

In half the time since those first Boeing 737 aircraft began flying all the fuel efficiencies would have been used up by the increased volume of traffic.

Clearly instant replacement with the best technology is impossible.

Some of those fuel hungry early models are still in the air on the more remote routes operated by obscure airlines. And it is these cheaper fare options that will be responsible for much of the growth in passenger numbers. The fuel efficiencies will arrive incrementally.

In the absence of some remarkable technology that can replace jet engines running on aviation fuel, greenhouse gas emissions from or air travel will grow along with the airline industry.

PS

There is talk of a jet-rocket vehicle that would travel in the stratosphere, have no emissions because it flies above the atmosphere on hydrogen fuel and could reduce the travel time from Sydney to London to a few hours. Commercial flights might happen by 2040.

By then there will be close to 10 billion journeys per year.

Turns out there were 3.1 billion journeys in 2014, a little down on projections, but not by much. Dreamliners notwithstanding, the fuel consumption numbers are still up there as is the prospect of Tesla rockets.

There is no obvious solution to the emissions issue. Aircraft are going to continue flying passengers and freight, we are now over 100,000 flights per day, and the fleet still runs on aviation fuel.

In China alone, the expectation is that over 800 million people will join the ‘middle class’ meaning that there are going to be plenty of bums to put on all the seats. A GFC 2.0 or nuclear confrontation might slow things down but in the short term, there will be journeys taken and plenty of them.

The scale of all this is very difficult to comprehend. Numbers like this only come up when we are buying a house. Volume is an issue but the kicker is the rate of change. Horse-drawn carriages to 100,000 flights a day in 100 years is staggeringly rapid, even for a planet that is no stranger to the odd dramatic shift in fortunes.

‘Journeys’ was a post about emissions to highlight how significant they were going to be in the near future. The real message is to think about the rate of inevitable change. Those aircraft are here for their productive lifetime. They will fly as long as they can be operated at a profit. The fleet is added to rather than replaced and more flights are taken. More this year than last and more than the year before that. This is change that is fast and locked in. There is no reason, bar catastrophe, to suggest otherwise.

I don’t think we really understand what this means.

Queen Victoria would not have believed a word of it and I am not sure that we do either.

Wages

Wages

Would you prefer a wage or an unconditional income?

Finland has decided to give 2,000 citizens the equivalent of A$844 per month for two years, no strings attached.

Crucially participants still get the money even if they find work. They can supplement the unconditional income with paid work as much as they like.

The debate on whether this policy is affordable, not socialist enough, morally wrong or simply the best idea since sliced bread, will expand as more jurisdictions try the experiment.

It will be a challenging discussion because the idea either pitches hard or soft at so many long-held beliefs.

Here are a few of them…

  • Money for nothing is always a bad idea
  • Laziness is inevitable if you give people all they want
  • Give people a safety net and they will soar way above it
  • Entrepreneurs just need a start
  • Robin Hood wasn’t such a great guy so why do all that over again
  • You can’t give money to everyone so all the rich buggers get it too
  • Labour has to be remunerated
  • Unemployment is just an inevitable consequence of the economic system
  • Mess with balance between capital and labour and the sky will fall in

Basic income raises fundamental questions about work. What it is, does and even if we need it in a modern society. And this is a debate we have to have. Not just for the moral and economic questions about work but because work will have to change [link to buying car post] as economies automate.

So, what do you think?

What would you feel about $844 a month just for being a citizen? More importantly, what would you do with the money?

Grubby

Grubby

I am not a Unionist, never have been. Perhaps, back in the day when labour was ruthlessly exploited by capital, I would have joined, but today it feels unnecessary. This, of course, is a delusion on my part.

My political nirvana, where left and right are conspicuously absent, would deliver progressive economics and social benefit through positive leadership without the need for exploitation. This centrism is also delusional.

So even as union membership declines along with their influence, I will concede that they are still needed. The balance between worker and employer will always be precarious.

Nevertheless, I have little time for the modern union movement, mostly because, to me, they epitomise a blinkered, dogmatic worldview that raises their issues ways above any other. My prejudice may not be a good thing, but it is what it is. Recently though, I found myself siding firmly with the unions as they rebutted claims of grubby slander on how they use their money.

Federal police raided the offices of the Australian Workers Union, the uniformed arrival to dig for dirt preceded by a media scrum who had obviously been tipped off. The union claims it has cooperated fully with the authorities on all outstanding matters. It is no coincidence that the leader of the opposition was once the leader of the AWU. On a hunch or a sniff of a lead, unleash the hounds on your suspect who just happens to have past connections to your main rival.

This is truly grubby politics designed to slander your opponent. The Americans call it a fake news, but fake or not, some of the mud will stick. The seed of doubt is watered in its cosy garden pot of compost. Keep the compost moist and the voters will do the rest.

But governments should not be able to manipulate police to achieve this end. When they do, it’s called fascism. And that has a very unpleasant history.

The AWU has my sympathy.

I will always be wary of unionist philosophy and especially of their tactics but when the government behaves in this way it makes unions look like saints. That should tell you enough.

The logic behind this kind of behaviour assumes we can be led by the nose.

It is imperative that everyone is vigilant enough to prove this assumption is always false.