Category: Innovation

In defence of streaming services

In the world of commercial music the power balance has shifted – billions of consumers now have more pull than hundreds of thousands of recording artists.

It’s called democratisation.

The more people you have making decisions, and the more immediate the impact of those decisions, the greater the variation in choice. A large number of consumers have chosen to spend their collective music budget on a little bit of lots of different artists’ work, where previously a small number of record company executives had allocated it across a narrower spectrum on their behalf.

If anybody wants to argue that the price per impression on streaming services is too low, then it should be pointed out that the artist receives that minuscule sum every time their song is played, as opposed to an up-front lump sum when purchasing a record or CD. Divide the purchase price of a CD by the … Read the rest

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The train to Geelong

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s ambitious $4 billion plan to improve the efficiency of a train to Geelong from Melbourne is a recipe for disaster. The new line is part of a $19 billion high-speed rail plan to improve the efficiency of regional trains in Australia announced ahead of the 2018-19 budget. The nation-wide project is aimed to reduce commute times, congestion and provide greater accessibility for people living outside large cities like Melbourne.

While the Prime Minister’s goals are no doubt admirable, taxpayers should be concerned as such projects have a poor track record, are highly susceptible to cost blowouts, and indefinite timelines. Consider how since the 1980s, every Federal Government has conducted a feasibility study of constructing high-speed rail, but no high-speed rails have ever been constructed.

The Federal Government’s rail proposal for Geelong and Melbourne is expected to nearly halve commute times from 62 minutes to 32 minutes, … Read the rest

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A robot tax punishes people

Life is much better today than it ever has been in history. Since the Industrial Revolution, in particular, new technologies and labour-saving devices have benefited the average worker a great deal. Unfortunately, it seems that some people haven’t got the memo yet.

In modern history, humans have demonstrated a fear of technological progress and its consequences. The Luddites took it upon themselves to destroy looms and knitting frames, which they feared would take their jobs, and it appears as though a Labor government would like to revive the primitive practice.

The Labor Party are tipped to back a new ‘robot tax’ which flies in the face of human progress and promises to constrain the ever-rising living standards the past few hundred years have brought us.

The new tax would be aimed at funding the retraining of workers displaced by technology so they can move into jobs of equivalent conditions and … Read the rest

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Time for a new agriculture R&D model

Australian agricultural production reached AUD $60B in the 2017/18 financial year and directly employs some 370,000 people across 120,000 individual businesses. Over the past forty years the industry has gone through significant structural change including amalgamation of smaller holdings, reduction of tariffs, increased Free Trade Agreements and the emergence of large corporate production enterprises. Still, approximately 94% of the industry is family owned and operated.

Over this same period the level of innovation driven by education, production systems advancements and technology has increased exponentially. Agriculture production has always been a business first, however the demands from the downstream supply chain have placed extraordinary pressure on producers to be more efficient.

The agricultural industry in Australia is very fragmented, therefore adaption and adoption of new technology, systems and practices has historically been slow. However, this has certainly changed in the past fifteen years especially in cotton, grain and horticulture where change … Read the rest

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The liberation of the Chinese woman

How the free market freed women and entrepreneurs in Hong Kong.

The visitor to Hong Kong today sees a bustling hive of energy where even the New Yorker is a slowpoke. It’s a place where people of all races and cultures live and work in harmony. It’s also a place where, long before the change of sovereignty from Britain to China in 1997, the gweilos [“long-nosed barbarians”] were being displaced in all spheres of human action by locals. [Under British rule, only the government lagged behind — only there could the criterion of race override the criterion of ability.]

Hong Kong is one of the most successful multi-racial societies in the world. But this is a relatively recent development.

The major difference between Hong Kong and other peaceful multi-racial/multi-ethnic societies like Australia (and the US) is that in Australia minorities, over time, lose their separate tribal identities and become members … Read the rest

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Haque’s critique of capitalism would send us all to Venezuela

So, just what is wrong with Umair Haque’s article If the Point of Capitalism is to Escape Capitalism, Then What’s the Point of Capitalism?

Well there is a lot wrong with it from start to finish.

In Haque’s description of the capitalist world, people’s objectives are couched purely in materialist terms – “the worker is trying to become a manager. The manager is trying to become a capitalist.” Haque seems oblivious to the notion that capitalist societies already allow people to live on hippy communes if they wish whereas socialist societies do not allow people to opt out of the commune.

His description of capitalism as being “like a pyramid, which we’re all climbing” is mistaken.  So is his example of capitalism in its purist form, in which he labels the slave owner as the purest capitalist of all.  But what he is describing is actually a form of feudal … Read the rest

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How restricted trade hurts people

Trade is the great bringer of peace. Frederic Bastiat once said that “If goods don’t cross borders, armies will”. Restricting trade is one of the greatest acts of self-harm the state inflicts on its people.

The nature of trade is often misunderstood. Nations don’t trade with other nations. Rather, individuals in some nations trade with individuals in other nations. It may seem trifling, but it makes great deal of difference to who bears the cost of damaging trade policies.

There are many ways in which governments all over the world restrict free trade between their citizens and those of foreign countries. Most obvious is tariff barriers. These are portrayed as forcing foreign suppliers to pay a premium to supply goods locally, which consequently makes the foreign supplier more uncompetitive in the local market, saving local jobs. But this could not be further from the truth. The cost of the tariff … Read the rest

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Sex, cars and e-cigarettes

It is interesting to apply current thinking to decisions taken years ago. Whilst our greater knowledge today can make previous behaviours and thinking seem odd or plain wrong, there are also instances when applying todays approach would have stopped progress.

In the 1960’s it became apparent that seatbelts reduced harm from use of motor vehicles. Whilst the vast majority of users, got from A to B safely, there were (and still are) vehicle collisions causing death or serious injury.

Wearing seatbelts was not subjected to randomised double blind placebo trials. It was not felt that use of a seatbelt required a doctor’s prescription. Use of seatbelts did not make using vehicles harm free. We did not know if there may be long term harms from use.

Yet not only was this form of harm reduction recommended, it was made compulsory.

In the 1980’s we saw the advent of HIV/AIDS. It … Read the rest

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Can our old-school universities keep up?

One day when we look back through history and try to work out what happened to the universities, we may very well be looking hard at the current decade. At present the tertiary education system is not meeting the needs of students adequately. Complaints about the prohibitively high costs of tuition, overpaid vice-chancellors and senior managers, underemployment of students with certain degrees, the rejection of open intellectual inquiry, and the culture of promoting diversity of external characteristics rather than ideas, all point to a future decline in patronage of universities.

Some universities are trying to stay relevant and cater to the needs of students by differentiating their product from their competitor’s. The University of Melbourne and The University of Western Australia have both structured their degrees in a similar fashion to US schools. General undergraduate degrees precede a postgraduate specialist degree designed to separate you from the pack. The University Read the rest

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