Fast Forward News #6.1

Casey JenkinsCommentary1 Comment

David Pecotic

Read not the Times. Read the Eternities.

Or at least the not completely Untimely …

Prof. Hudson’s tour pushed the team – we endeavour to return you to our regularly scheduled program minus technical glitches soon.

Web 2.0: – beta
[The Gov 2.0 Taskforce has launched a website that brings together around 59 datasets from Australian Federal, State and Territory governments released under licenses that permit reuse.

Alongside the launch the Taskforce announced on their blog the launch of a Mash-up competition challenging Australian developers to use one of more of the datasets to create a useful online application.]

Find Where Stimulus Money Got Spent In Your Area
[Land value uplift in action: the Economic Stimulus Plan site lets you search for projects in your area by postcode or address, neatly dropped onto a Google map. You can also filter the list by project type, finding out what’s been spent on rail in your area or how many applications for various subsidies have been lodged.]

Inflation Calculator
[Over at their Betaworks, the ABS has developed some mockups of a personal inflation calculator for you to try out and comment on – seems pertinent …]

Web 2.0: The New Tools for Democratic Conversations – A snapshot of Initiatives in Government
[And in case your wondering what all this Web 2.0 stuff is all about, the Victorian Government has put together this handy summary of national and international developments.]

House prices: Safe as houses | The Economist
[Compare countries’ house-price data over time.]

Climate Interactive
[A climate simulator that started life in a doctoral dissertation is being adopted by negotiators to assess their national greenhouse-gas commitments ahead of December’s climate summit in Copenhagen. Dubbed C-ROADS — for Climate Rapid Overview and Decision-support Simulator — the tool translates complex climate modelling into readily digestible predictions. It allows policy-makers — and we, the public, through this simplified version, to see the likely consequences of their decisions immediately. See Instant climate model gears up : Nature News ]


If climate change destroys your property, who should pay?
[A round-up – where climate change and Geonomics converge …]

Ross Garnaut warns PM on stimulus as surprise jobs rebound points to faster rate hikes
[On the promotional trail for his new book, The Great Crash of 2008, Garnaut warns that by further fuelling excess spending the Rudd government’s budget stimulus will have to be followed by “hard times” and lower living standards that the government has “barely begun to contemplate”. Among other things, he points to problems with the “Australian bailout”, from the guarantee for wholesale bank borrowing to foreign bank subsidiaries, state governments, mortgage securities, commercial property and the bigger first-home buyers subsidy.]
RBA accused of spoiling Christmas
[The Reserve Bank’s decision to lift interest rates by 25 basis points has come as a surprise to many in the community – and not just those with a mortgage: the retail and manufacturing sectors say the rate hike is too early and will put the brakes on the economy, just as it’s about to enter a critical period. According to ABC News and Business Spectator, we are truly going for gold! For more general media commentary see: Money Morning, The Economist, The Age. For a deeper perspective, see RBA Policy Matrix over at sister-site Prosper Australia and RBA gets it wrong again by fellow-traveller Steve Keen.]

Housing finance in August falls as construction index slips back to black
[Australian housing finance fell in August for the second consecutive month as demand for mortgages crimped. The fall in demand came about with the removal of the FHOG and expectations of higher interest rates …]

Rising rates will increase default rate: report
[A new report by investment bank JP Morgan and Fujitsu Consulting is warning rising interest rates will lead to climbing defaults on home loans in the Australian mortgage market. The report  found housing affordability has barely improved, despite interest rates being near 50 year lows. Households remain highly indebted, with first home buyers borrowing on average 25 per cent more than they did before the global financial crisis. In a similar piece of reporting, The Sydney Morning Herald strongly suggested that rate rises could possibly effect up to 225,000 households who have been forced to take on ever larger loans.]

Price spike puts a house beyond many
[The Sydney Morning Herald reports that fewer buyers will be able to afford the typical Sydney family home thanks to the recent price spurt, according to the head of the real estate researcher Residex, John Edwards. Funding the typical $599,000 house now requires 42.2 per cent of the typical $87,700 gross household income, but a rise of 1 per cent in interest rates will put the requirement at 46.3 per cent.]

Home sellers prepared to accept less
[The West Australian reports that two-thirds of Australian home sellers would accept a discount of up to 20 per cent on their asking price, a new survey has found.]

Brisbane office glut to persist for five years
[Brisbane has the highest CBD vacancy rate nationally with about 13-15 per cent of space unfilled.]

Rising house prices only ‘hurt vulnerable’ & House prices about to soar, says Reserve Bank official
[Tony Richards, head of economic analysis at the RBA, told a conference that rising house prices do not actually benefit most owners, and tend to transfer wealth from the poor to the rich. He says housing is a zero sum game, where any benefits in rising prices for existing owners come at the direct expense of those entering the market. The main benefits of rising house prices only accrue to investors, as owner-occupiers who see the value of their current house rise will likely have to pay roughly the same increase to buy another property to live in if they move. Mr Richards further warned policymakers in Canberra that governments needed to do more to stop “undesirably strong growth” in housing prices as the economy improved: could Geonomics (with a little help from you, dear reader) be around the corner? It does seem to be almost in the air of late …]

No place to call home
[A joint report, by the Brotherhood of St Laurence and the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, adds fuel to the fire: the average benefit from capital gains tax exemptions for the top 20 per cent of incomes is almost seven times greater than for the bottom 20 per cent – tax concessions to the wealthy are pricing others out of the property market. See also: and The Australian.]

Why You’ll Soon Have More Supermarket Choices
[The law of rent in action? The dominance of the two big Australian supermarket chains, Woolworths and Coles, is likely to be challenged after the pair signed an agreement with the ACCC agreeing to end restrictive leasing practices. The decision isn’t an outright victory, since in the case of existing leases, the practice may continue for up to five years – and of course, they already have a head start (See: Supermarket agreement opens way for more competition – ACCC).]

Adelaide property tycoon tops young rich list
[See also: Ross Makris tops BRW Young Rich List. The nation’s richest young man amassed his fortune of $420 million through property investments and development (i.e., privatising publicly-created wealth). It probably helped that his father was a property billionaire. Evidently, there seems to be some confusion over at the BRW about the meaning of the words ‘entrepreneur’ and ‘rent-seeking monopolist’ …]

Can we survive the ‘recovery’?
[The other side of the coin. Also see: Recession creates greater division.]

Spectrum goes mobile & Fourth commercial TV channel ‘off agenda’
[Mobile phone companies appear to have won the battle with free-to-air television: a fourth commercial network for Australia has been finally mothballed as the Rudd government looks to unlock radio spectrum potentially worth $10 billion for new wireless technologies. The move is part of a grand bargain in which the networks have agreed that some of the spectrum they use for broadcast will go back to the government so that Canberra can auction it off to the highest bidder wanting to launch new wireless services such as 4G. Television networks effectively rent the spectrum by paying the government a percentage of gross annual revenues for the right to use it. Governments around the world, however, are pushing television companies to in effect give the spectrum back since taxpayers can win big ‘digital dividends’ in a sale of the airwaves. But better still, this surely is a perfect example of a situation to which Geonomic principle of resource rental can be readily applied …]

What recovery? – Q&A Isabelle Oderberg
[Highly regarded US economist Dr Michael Hudson (pictured above), of the University of Missouri, Kansas City, talks to Business Spectator’s Isabelle Oderberg at about the economic recovery that isn’t, and tells her:

  • The world is in the midst of a serious depression that’s continuing to spread
  • A rise in Australian interest rates would result in a financial raid that would dramatically increase the tax burden on Australian taxpayers
  • Bursting real estate bubbles and rampant debt deflation are driving economies around the world to the brink
  • The Obama administration’s determination to rescue the financial sector amounts to the “assisted suicide” of the US economy

Don’t miss Professor Hudson’s recent and excellent interview on Phillip Adams’ Late Night Live on ABC Radio!]


Up to 700 people often live underground at one time |

Beneath the neon: Life underground in Vegas
[Beneath the jackpots and flashing lights of Las Vegas is a labyrinth of tunnels and storm water drains housing hundreds of the city’s 15,000 homeless. ABC News highlights the work of Matthew O’Brien, a Las Vegas-based author and journalist. He says violence between the homeless, coupled with the threat of flooding, make the tunnels a dangerous place to venture. Authorities overlook the situation underground, which prompted him to set up his own charity to help them. But laudable as that is, shouldn’t housing be a right, not a privilege – and an equal and human right, at that?]

Casino Capitalism as Usual
[Nero fiddles … a report highly critical of the ‘reformist’ G20 meeting in Pittsburgh not long ago now (can the participants even remeber what they promised?). For eyewitness accounts from the activist side of the fence, see: The Police Are Rioting, G20 protesters blasted by sonic cannonThe G20: An Introduction to New Non-Lethal Police Technology & Video: Provocateur Cops Disguised As Anarchists At G20, Pittsburgh.]

Global house prices: It’s life, Jim
[The latest survey of global house prices conducted by The Economist still makes for gloomy reading: house prices are creeping up again, but that may not last. And houses are still badly out of historical kilter with incomes, despite the price falls of the past two years – Australia was singled out.]

Global Financial System Shows Signs of Recovery, IMF Says
[Among the biggest risks now: governments competing with the private sector for loans in a tight credit market. The bottom line of the IMF’s latest Global Financial Stability Report bottom line: we are less than half-way through the bank write-downs – just waiting for another round of risk-aversion … see also: Desperation masked by euphoria.]

Distant isle never lost French touch
[Srilata Ravi, who holds the chair of European languages and studies at the University of Western Australia, reckons there’s no particular mystery about the modern French influence in Mauritius, even though their descendants comprise only 2per cent of the population: “They own a lot of the land and control a significant proportion of the economy” – someone should tell the economists …]

Hijacking Development Futures: “Land Development” & Reform in Vanuatu
[This AID/WATCH briefing paper provides an overview of the land situation in Vanuatu from pre-independence to today. The paper highlights how Australian interests and aid relationships are often in opposition to the needs and aspirations of the majority of Vanuatu’s indigenous peoples and risk hijacking their development futures.]

Foreclosures mark pace of enduring U.S. housing crisis
[Every 13 seconds in America, there is another foreclosure filing. That’s the rhythm of a crisis that threatens to choke off hopes for a recovery in the U.S. housing market as it destroys hundreds of billions of dollars in property values a year.]

U.S. recession over, unemployment seen at 10 percent
[Thankfully, a survey of 44 professional forecasters in the U.S. released by the National Association for Business Economics (NABE) found that 80 percent of the respondents believed the economy was growing again after four straight quarters of declines. Given these (neoclassical) economists’ recent track record, I think we can safely say: move along, people – nothing to see here …]

Housing risks still lurk even as buyers return
[Investors and homeowners in California, the most populous U.S. state and a benchmark for housing across the country, are bracing for another fall as emergency government support measures fall short or expire.]

Panel Says Obama Plan Won’t Slow Foreclosures
[A day after the Obama administration proclaimed significant progress in its effort to spare troubled homeowners from foreclosure, a Congressional Oversight Panel sharply criticised the program and declared it would leave millions of Americans vulnerable to losing their homes.]

Fall in US home sales a setback
[Demand fell unexpectedly for used homes during August, a setback for the slow recovery of the housing market and overall U.S. economy. Home resales decreased by 2.7 per cent to a 5.10 million annual rate, the National Association of Realtors said.]

US unemployment rate hits 9.8%
[Employment fell by 263,000 last month, a larger-than-expected drop, to cap a week of patchy economic data that has rattled investors betting on the economy’s renaissance. This effectively means that in the U.S. there are 6 unemployed people for every job opening …]

CIT debt swap struggles, bankruptcy looms
[CIT, a century-old company that is one of the largest lenders to thousands small and medium-size businesses, is now at the end of the road: it’s seeing little interest from bondholders in a debt exchange offer aimed at repairing its fragile balance sheet, making bankruptcy increasingly likely]

Fed Frets About Commercial Real Estate
[Many American financial institutions are inadequately protected against potential losses on commercial real-estate loans, and U.S. banking regulators are girding for a rerun of the housing-related losses now slamming thousands of banks across the country. See also: Reis: U.S. Office Vacancy Rate Hits 16.5% in Q3.]

FDIC weighs extraordinary steps to shore up fund
[For a more sceptical look, see As banks large and small continue to drop like flies, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC) – set up in the wake of the Great Depression to guarantee depositors’ funds when a bank fails – is considering borrowing billions from healthy banks! Suddenly, instead of paying for their insurance, the banks will be earning interest …]

U.S. credit card defaults rise to record: Moody’s
[The U.S. credit card charge-off rate rose to a record high in August, as more Americans lost their jobs, Moody’s Investors Service said on Wednesday, in another sign consumers remain under stress.]

US Income Gap Widens as Poor Take Hit in Recession
[U.S. Census data show that the recession has hit middle-income and poor families hardest, widening the economic gap between the richest and poorest Americans as job layoffs ravage household budgets. See also: Income Inequality Is At An All-Time High: STUDY.]

In Need of Cash, Arizona Puts Offices on Sale
[The U.S. states that saw the greatest excesses during the housing bubble are the same ones feeling the most pain today. Many other states see no end in sight to their diving tax revenues.]

The demise of the dollar
[Writing in The Independent UK, Robert Fisk claims that Arab states have launched secret moves with China, Russia and France to stop using the US currency for oil trading. For more commentary see: Oil trading may be done without dollar, Plans to Move Away From Dollar Pricing of Oil, & So Long, Dollar, It’s Been Real (Sort of). For a different take, see Obama’s Secret Jobs Plan –  the one where the fall in the dollar restarts the manufacturing sector and he wins the midterm elections …]

Eurozone economy shrinks by 0.2%
[Economic activity in the eurozone shrank by 0.2% between April and June – worse than originally thought – according to official figures.]

Eurozone jobless continues rising
[The unemployment rate across the 16 countries that use the euro has risen again as the effects of the recession continue to be felt. August’s seasonally adjusted rate rose to 9.6%, compared with 9.5% in the previous month, official figures show. It was highest in Spain, with a rate of 18.9%, and Latvia, with a rate of 18.3%. The number of people without a job in the eurozone is now 15.2 million.]

Solar Panel Tariff May Further Strain U.S.-China Trade
[Companies that import solar panels to the United States are facing up to US$70 million in unexpected tariffs.]

Strong growth in China’s housing markets
[Boosted by direct government intervention aimed at boosting the housing market, housing sales and property prices rose in H1 2009. It was a quick recovery from house price falls observed in H2 2008.]

How China Cooks Its Books
[It’s an open secret that China has doctored its economic and financial statistics since the time of Mao. But if the rest of the world does not rebound, China risks the bursting of asset bubbles in property and stocks, declining domestic consumption, and rising unemployment.]

China leads accusation that rich nations are trying to sabotage climate treaty
[From the Guardian UK: angry statement from 131 countries at climate talks in Bangkok claims rich nations are rejecting historical responsibilities.]

India’s housing bubble
[Like the name suggests, a blog that tracks India’s housing bubble.]

4 degrees warming ‘likely’ without carbon cuts
[A study by Britain’s Met Office Hadley Centre concluded that global temperatures may be 4 degrees Celsius hotter by the mid-2050s if current greenhouse gas emissions trends continue. It echoes a United Nations report last week which found climate changes were outpacing worst-case scenarios forecast in 2007 by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).]

Two meter sea level rise unstoppable: experts
[A rise of at least two meters in the world’s sea levels is now almost unstoppable, experts told a climate conference at Oxford University. Join the Geonomic dots on that one …]

Climate talks stumble in Bangkok
[The latest round of global climate talks closed in Bangkok with little concrete progress on the big issues and renewed strife over fundamental legal questions about how to structure an agreement.]

Enough of poverty – here comes progress:

São Paulo’s Next Move
[In 2007, São Paulo (Brazil) banned all outdoor advertising in 2007 to reclaim its visual and mental environment by denying corporations the right to disseminate their messages throughout the urban landscape.In effort to overcome the bland concrete jungle and the gaping faces of empty billboards left behind by the commercial vacuum, the city began legalising the work of some of its famous graffiti artists. And now for the first time, São Paulo has approved a permanent outdoor art exhibition. The project, dubbed RojoOut, is bringing the city to life with colorful installations in 11 locations.

Back To The Land In Detroit?
[Detroit’s population has plummeted. Huge swaths of land lie vacant. Houses have gone feral. But Streetsblog Network member Planning Pool sees the city’s radically distressed circumstances in a different way – as an opportunity …]

Singapore moves quickly to burst the bubble that Greenspan missed
[Mr “We Can’t Detect Bubbles” probably never thought he could learn a thing or three from an economy of 4.8 million people consistently ranked among the 10 freest in the world. This week, Singapore’s National Development Minister, Mah Bow Tan, unveiled measures to prevent excessive price swings in real estate. Will we learn from Singapore’s speculation-managing example …?]


$1 rent families welcomed to Wycheproof
[Two families have been chosen from hundreds of applicants to move into farmhouses in a small town in Western Victoria, as part of a project to attract new residents. See: Wycheproof Farm Rental]

Surreal Estate: Buy a House in Detroit for Under $5000

Really green power – running an electric circuit from trees
[Researchers at the University of Washington (UW) have taken the term ‘green power’ literally by running an electric circuit from the power generated by trees. Sure, there isn’t much electrical power to harness, but the researchers say it should be enough to run wireless sensors that could be used to detect environmental conditions or forest fires and could also be used to gauge a tree’s health

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