Tag Archive for 'Peter Martin'

On being a reporter for a News Corp paper …

Anonymously faxed (!) to Crikey and from there replicated by Peter Martin, here is an internal memo from staff to management at The (Adelaide) Advertiser [Main Site, Wikipedia]:

There are many conflicting instructions, blanket bans on certain words and subjects, and a lack of trust in the reporter to choose what to focus on.
We need clearer communication about what management wants. We need early, clear direction that also incorporates flexibility when stories change throughout the day. We need to feel confident that when circumstances beyond our control change the direction of a story, we will not be verbally abused or blamed for that. Management often dictates an editorial line it wants reporters to take that is in conflict with what our contacts say. Much of a day can be wasted trying to find one person to say what management wants them to say. This is not reporting, it is fabricating news.

Here is the memo as a pdf. The document in scribd is below …

Advertiser Memo

(Brad DeLong, are you reading this?  This, if not already there, is coming to America …)

Howard and Costello

With the news that Peter Costello will not be seeking reelection, Peter Martin gives us two stories of Costello’s way of dealing with people.  The first, with Saul Eslake, the chief economist of ANZ, is interesting enough, I guess.  The second one really caught my eye:

Richard Denniss is these days the chief of staff for the Greens’ leader Bob Brown. In 2002 he was the chief of staff to the then Democrats’ leader Natasha Stott Despoja. In Mr Costello’s budget speech that year he had announced that pensioners and other concession card holders would have to pay more for their medicines. Their co-payment would climb from $3.60 to $4.60 per prescription.

The Democrats said they would oppose the measure in the Senate. Some weeks later Senator Stott Despoja and Dr Denniss were summoned to the Peter Costello’s office.

Denniss says Costello took them through page after page of laminated graphs, talking at them for the best part of an hour. The Treasurer seemed surprised to discover that they hadn’t been won over.

“At one point Costello said: Natasha, you don’t appear to understand the numbers. To which she replied: I do understand the numbers Peter, you don’t have them in the Senate and you won’t be passing this bill”.

A few days later the two were summoned to the Prime Minister’s office. Denniss says he had expected Mr Howard to be even worse.

Instead they found Howard “effusive in apologising for being late, come in sit down, can I get you a cup of tea – lots of chit chat, lots of actual conversation”.

The Prime Minister said “I know you spoke to the Treasurer last week and I’m sure he showed you all his graphs” and I understand your position: “we are trying to drive up the price of medicine for sick people, of course the Democrats are going to oppose it”.

And then he said: “How about ten cents? That wouldn’t hurt anyone.” “It absolutely floored us.”

Howard said: “Natasha, you’re the leader, I’m the leader, can’t we just settle this right now?”

Denniss says he found the Prime Minister almost impossible to resist. “His genius was to make us feel powerful.”

Costello by contrast “wanted to wield the power that had been bestowed upon him.”

I find this entirely compelling.  Costello always struck me as a technocrat.  I may not have liked Howard much (and not at all for the latter half of his time as PM), but he knew better than most what any specific audience wanted to hear.

A hint on the nature of the current global recession

It’s only for a six-month time period and (importantly) doesn’t attempt to correct for the varying policy responses across countries, but this graph highlighted by the Australian Reserve Bank’s governor, Glenn Stevens, is interesting:



Australia generally imports intermediate capital goods so in the latest numbers the fall in investment was largely balanced out by a fall in imports, while the government’s stimulus handouts probably served to keep consumption up.

As a first guess and without hunting around to see if there are numbers, I suspect that households’ spending of the handouts was also skewed more towards domestically produced goods/services over imports than has been typical for the last few years.

It would be interesting to see trade figures broken down into intermediate and final goods flows more generally.

Hat tip: Peter Martin.

More people have jobs AND the unemployment rate is higher

This is another one for my students in EC102.

Via the always-worth-reading Peter Martin, I notice that the Australian Bureau of Statistics February release of Labour Force figures contains something interesting:  The number of people with jobs increased, but the unemployment rate still went up.  Here’s the release from the ABS:

Employed Persons Unemployment Rate
Australia Feb 2009 Employment Australia Feb 2009 Unemployment Rate



  • EMPLOYMENT increased to 10,811,700
  • UNEMPLOYMENT increased to 561,100
  • UNEMPLOYMENT RATE increased to 4.9%
  • PARTICIPATION RATE increased to 65.4%



  • increased by 1,800 to 10,810,400. Full-time employment decreased by 53,800 to 7,664,200 and part-time employment increased by 55,600 to 3,146,200.


  • increased by 47,100 to 590,500. The number of persons looking for full-time work increased by 44,400 to 426,000 and the number of persons looking for part-time work increased by 2,600 to 164,500.


  • increased by 0.4 percentage points to 5.2%. The male unemployment rate increased by 0.3 percentage points to 5.1%, and the female unemployment rate increased by 0.5 percentage points to 5.3%.


  • increased by 0.2 percentage points to 65.5%.

The proximate reason is that more people want a job now than did in January.  The unemployment rate isn’t calculated using the total population, but instead uses the Labour Force, which is everybody who has a job (Employed) plus everybody who wants a job and is looking for one (Unemployed).


Employment increased by 1,800, but unemployment increased by 47,100, so the unemployment rate ($$u$$) still went up.

Peter Martin also offered a suggestion on why this happened:

We’ve lost a lot of wealth and we’re worried. So those of us who weren’t looking for work are piling in.

I generally agree, but my guess would go further. Notice two things:

  • Part-time jobs went up by 55,600 and full-time jobs fell by 53,800 (the difference is the 1,800 increase in total employment).
  • The number of people looking for part-time jobs went up by only 2,600 and the number of people looking for full-time jobs rose by 44,400 (yes, I realise that there’s 100 missing – I guess the ABS has a typo somewhere).

There are plenty of other explanations, but I think that by and large, the new entrants to the Labour Force only wanted part-time work and found it pretty-much straight away – these are households that were single-income, but have moved to two-incomes out of the concern that Peter highlights.  On the other hand, I suspect that the people that lost full-time jobs have generally remained in the unemployment pool (some will have given up entirely, perhaps calling it retirement).

The aggregate result is that the economy had a shift away from full-time and towards part-time work, although the people losing the full-time jobs are not the ones getting the new part-time work.

Georgia Senate race – it looks like a runoff

In the U.S. state of Georgia, senate races have a crude form of preferential voting:  if no candidate secures 50% of the vote, the top two candidates go into a runoff election.  It looks like that may be about to happen:

With 99 percent of precincts reporting early Wednesday afternoon, Chambliss [incumbent, Republican] had 1,841,449 votes, or 49.9 percent of the total, while Martin [Democrat] had 1,727,625 votes, or 47 percent. Libertarian Allen Buckley had 126,328 votes, or 3 percent.

It’s by no means certain – there are some 200,000 more votes to count and the whole thing needs to be certified – but if Chambliss stays below the 50% line, we could be about to have some (more) fun.

Given the visual scale of the Obama victory, it seems safe to assume that Martin would do better in the runoff.  A Martin victory would not give the Democrats the supermajority of 60 seats in the US Senate, even with the two independents, but it is nothing to be sneezed at and it’s safe to assume that if the runoff goes ahead the president-elect will be visiting Georgia in the next few weeks.