Way off license

Pic borrowed from the linked article - Mikey Hamer/Lucien Alperstein

A cool piece in Cyclic Defrost about the temporary, nomadic venues of Sydney’s out music. One of the places mentioned is a few blocks from my house, it was awesome to stumble upon it one night. You could buy beer and red wine at more-or-less cost price and bands and audience sat around on the same concrete floor. A good proportion of the audience would be on the line-up at some point. Following the links from flyer to flyer, I took my visiting brother to another place in Newtown, which turned out to be someone’s flat. “It’s like they forgot everything that makes music good,” he said, “but it’s interesting to see the kind of people that get into it.” Actually a lot of the music is pretty good, and although Sydney has a reputation as a musical wasteland it seems to me like the good swampy kind of wasteland and no longer a desert.

Published in: on 19 September, 2010 at 8:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

It Came from the Desert


Sydney does a good apocalypse. Our first Spring in Sydney, a plague of Bogong moths arrived, darkened the sky, coated the balcony for several days, then went back to their migration, though we kept finding stragglers for weeks. Today was much weirder.

Published in: on 23 September, 2009 at 2:43 pm  Comments (2)  

A super talk by Mike Rafferty

One of the worst features of the federal Budget last month was the raising of the retirement age, part of what I was referring to when I mentioned the impending ‘good old-fashioned distributional struggle’. Tomorrow night Mike Rafferty’s speaking at a forum in Surry Hills. He wrote this great op-ed on the subject in the Sydney Morning Herald. If you’re interested, get in touch for the address – it’s an intimate forum in an office block near Central Station. (mikejbeggs at gmail)

Superannuation: equity, sustainability and reform

The Great Recession continues to wreak havoc around the world. Continuing sharp falls in industrial production, trade and employment offer little evidence of the ‘green shoots’ of recovery. With the huge falls on global share markets, notwithstanding recent gains, retirement incomes linked to financial market performance have been hit hard. In this MPS Forum, we examine the equity and sustainability of the current superannuation system and explore avenues for reform.

Questions to be considered:

· How does current superannuation system disproportionately benefit the well-off?

· What are the implications of changes made in 2009 budget?

· What are the myths regarding the link between an ageing population and fiscal crisis?

· Is the current superannuation system sustainable?

· What reforms might improve the system? Could ‘green bonds’ etc play a role?

Date: Wednesday, June 3

Time: 6.30pm

Mike Rafferty

Mike is a Senior Researcher in the Workplace Research Centre at the University of Sydney.

His publications include: Rafferty M and Bryan D 2006 ‘Capitalism With Derivatives: A Political Economy of Financial Derivatives, Capital and Class’, Palgrave Macmillan; and Martin R, Rafferty M and Bryan D 2008 ‘Financialization Risk and Labour’, Competition and Change, vol.12:2, pp. 121-133.

Published in: on 2 June, 2009 at 2:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Home truths

Also timely, this forum is happening tomorrow in Surry Hills, near Central Station. Get in touch for the address, it’s in an office block rather than a public venue.

The Great Australian Dream (Nightmare?)

Secure, affordable housing is fundamental to any worthwhile conception of the ‘good society’. Housing is also a source of inequality, of identity, and a locus of recurrent bouts of speculation. The powerful interplay of these factors – housing as security, as a source of identity, as a speculative asset class – combined to lay the foundations of the subprime debacle in the US. With Australia yet to feel the full force of a recession induced slump in the housing market, it is imperative that progressives consider alternatives in housing policy that prioritise social justice and attempt to reduce speculation.

Date: Wednesday, April 1

Time: 6.30pm

Guest speakers:

Frank Stilwell

How significant is housing in promoting speculation in the economy? How could the negative consequences of such speculation be reduced? Is land tax part of the solution? How would it work? Is it politically feasible in the context of the crisis?

Prof Frank Stillwell is a well known advocate of alternative economic strategies which prioritize social justice and sustainability. He has taught for 36 years at the University of Sydney and has been awarded the University’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. The author of eleven books, his research interests centre on Australian economic politics, urban and regional development and economic inequality. He is the coordinating editor of the Journal of Australian Political Economy. He is also the Economics Spokesperson for the NSW Greens Working Group.

Louise Crabtree

How have Community Land Trusts faired during the housing crash in the US? Why has the experience been different to that of other forms of property tenure? What is happening in terms of establishing CLTs in Sydney (Australia)? How can this process be expedited?

Dr Crabtree is currently Research Fellow and Research Program Coordinator at the Urban Research Centre, University of Western Sydney. She has researched and worked in urban community gardens and affordable housing in Australia and the United States and has a particular interest in the interactions between forms of property tenure and sustainable livelihoods in cities.

Adam Farrar

What is the current trajectory of housing policy at the State and Federal levels? Have there been any positive developments since Rudd’s election? Where are the major gaps in housing policy? What should be prioritised from a campaigning perspective?

Adam has worked in the community welfare sector for more than 20 years, working in various capacities for peak bodies in areas such as the Future of Work, Urban & Regional Development, and Housing. For many years now, he has particularly worked on community housing, as Executive Directors of the National Community Housing Forum and currently as Executive Director of the NSW Federation of Housing Associations.

General questions to consider:

  1. How will (should) Australia cope with widespread mortgage defaults that may occur over the next few years?
  2. Is it possible to build a popular campaign against such measures as negative gearing, home saver accounts, first homebuyer grants etc?
  3. What policies would more effectively cater for the long-term housing needs of Australian society?
Published in: on 31 March, 2009 at 4:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

My Minsky moment

So I’m going  to give a little introductory talk on Hyman Minsky next month here in Sydney. He’s been in the news a bit lately but, regrettably, everybody else misinterprets him grievously. All welcome, but it’s in a Surry Hills office building so let me know if you want to come and I’ll let you know the secret password – hand signal combination as well as the address. Also I can pass on the readings as pdfs. It’s a double bill with Steve Keen talking about Irving Fisher, and it’s a discussion group, so that after half-an-hour or so of us talking there’s an hour of sober discussion and then we go to a local pub. Here are the details:

MPS – Meeting XIII, Wednesday March 4 at 6.30pm

Selected Readings from Irving Fisher (1867-1957) and Hyman Minsky (1919-1996)
“Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau. I do not feel there will be soon if ever a 50 or 60 point break from present levels, such as (bears) have predicted. I expect to see the stock market a good deal higher within a few months.”
– Irving Fisher, Oct. 17, 1929 
“A fundamental characteristic of our economy is that the financial system swings between robustness and fragility and these swings are an integral part of the process that generates business cycles.”
– Hyman Minksy, 1974

Irving Fisher

The Debt-Deflation Theory of Great Depressions
The Stock Market Panic in 1929
Fisher and Debt Deflation Lecture

 Hyman Minsky

Inflation, Recession, and Economic Policy, articles 1, 3 & 9
Stabilising an Unstable Economy, first couple of chapters (or as much as you can get through!)

Guest Speakers: Assoc Prof Steve Keen, UWS and Mike Beggs, PHD candidate at the University of Sydney (Steve will focus mostly on Fisher and Mike on Minsky)
Irving Fisher
Hyman Minsky
1.      How do you understand Fisher’s theory of debt deflation?
2.      What are the main elements of Minsky’s Financial Instability Hypothesis?
3.      Are there any major differences between Fisher and Minsky’s analyses?
4.      How do these theories help us understand the present crisis?
5.      What are the public policy implications of these analyses?
6.      Prepare a question for the group to discuss.

Published in: on 6 February, 2009 at 9:54 am  Comments (2)  

Abercrombie Street, wet, from above


Sydney is having a weird, wet summer. A year or two ago I would have felt gypped. It’s usually so bright here that old Sydneysiders tend to have a squint. But now I’m stuck inside writing all the time and I don’t really mind. Actually I think rain suits the neighbourhood, rusting all the corrugated iron and sluicing the dirty gutters.

I’ve lived around here almost three years now and I love it. Yesterday I was drinking at the corner pub with a friend. There’s a pub on just about every block in the inner suburbs. Takeaways are expensive – about $15 for a six-pack of cheap beer. Longnecks are a little cheaper, but still at least 150 per cent of the price of equivalent beer in New Zealand. I don’t know why, tax or liquor licensing, but it means drinking at the pub is not much more expensive. So they’re everywhere and start to fill up from lunchtime. There are two within a minute’s walk of my place, and at least five more within ten.

The one on the immediate corner is undoubtedly the seediest but it’s between my place and my friend’s so we often end up there. It has a captive clientele with two storeys of ‘studio apartments’ above it. My friend introduced me to one of the inhabitants yesterday and as it got crowded he invited us upstairs.

A South Sydney ‘studio apartment’ is a room in a boarding house. You share the bathroom and maybe a kitchen, though it’s common for the landlord to not bother with the kitchen and you are left with whatever appliances you can plug into the wall to supplement a diet of kebabs and chips. It’s a man’s world, women tend to leave as fast as they can. (I lived in one of these places for a few months until Raych joined me over here.) WordPress hasn’t sorted out scratch’n’sniff yet so you have to use your imagination: mouldering carpet and stale smoke.

But that’s the smell of history. I’d say this place above the pub would have been there at least a hundred years. The one I lived in was once a Glebe mansion, probably converted in the 1930s. Today the clientele is pretty cosmopolitan, one-third immigrants, one-third local students and young labourers and one-third what you might call seasoned men of the streets. Our host was one of the last category, a guy with some serious charisma, a happy punter who gets beer bought for him all the time by young guys like us keen to hear about his talkback radio revelations. And this guy has the king of views, which these photos don’t begin to do justice to, from an outsized balcony some people would pay hundreds of dollars a week for if it wasn’t rotted through around the edges. He didn’t mind me taking these photos over the rooftops, but warned me not to step where the wood gets dark.

Published in: on 19 January, 2008 at 4:23 pm  Comments (1)  

Free NZ!

So there’s going to be a Sydney solidarity demo with those activists arrested under NZ anti-terror laws tomorrow morning, Wednesday, 8.45am, New Zealand Consulate-General, 55 Hunter Street.

The lawyer for the Tuhoe activists, Annette Sykes, did well in interviews last night and on morning TV this morning – check these out if you want to get a better sense for what is going on. The second interview also includes John Minto, veteran of the Springbok protests of the 1980s, who talks about the situation of the city activists. Warning: second presenter may induce teeth-grinding.

Published in: on 16 October, 2007 at 3:13 pm  Comments (2)  

If you see something…


From the Sydney Morning Herald

Police were also called to investigate a suspicious package in the ladies toilets of a Darling Harbour shopping complex this afternoon.

Having cordoned off the area, authorities discovered the package was a woman’s handbag left behind accidentally, and the hairspray and make-up were safely returned to its owner.

Published in: on 5 September, 2007 at 3:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya…

…but I’ve been really lazy. Raych was back in the home country, so I had the place to myself, and holed up in the spare room for a week to write some serious thesis. I know, sounds like the perfect opportunity for writing here, but I actually got some work done and didn’t feel much like writing anything else. In my downtime I did all kinds of things I don’t normally do (and for good reason) these days, eating junk, playing computer games, reading sci-fi… (Besides, Raych makes up roughly half this site’s readership, and if it weren’t for people googling ‘David Schirmer’ or ‘The Secret’ that share would be substantially higher.)

So the day Raych was getting back I left the cave to get some proper groceries, and there were cops everywhere, on the train, on bikes, in the shops… APEC has crept up on me.

Now like I said, I have hardly left my house in the last couple of weeks, so maybe I have missed all the posters and suspicious activity. And I’m not that good at predicting the size of Sydney rallies – they have consistently been bigger than expected, I suppose on account of the city being more populous than the home country. But I have heard far, far more hype about APEC protests from the police, the police commissioner, assorted politicians and newspapers than I have from the activists I maintain some loose contact with. Is it really going to be that big? It seems hard to believe. A lot of people in high places seem to really want it to be, though.

It goes without saying that all this security state stuff is outrageous. My question is, to what extent is it cynical and calculated, and to what extent do these people really believe their own hype? I have leaned towards the former. It would certainly be in Howard’s interest for some serious scuffling to break out, and the ‘current affairs’ shows, tabloids and talkback hosts are gagging for it. But such ridiculous things are being predicted that I’ve come to think there is some genuine fear there. Then I walk out the door this morning and these new ‘national security’ ads are all over the place: “KEEP AUSTRALIA SAFE. KEEP THE INFORMATION FLOWING. 1800 123 400 Trained operators take every phone call seriously. You can remain anonymous. National Security. Every detail helps.” (In the graphic, snatches of imaginary phonecalls: “I overheard them planning something… I felt like I had to let you know… They have a lot of pool supplies in the courtyard but they don’t have room for a pool… It’s unusual for him to be receiving deliveries like that, especially at that time of night… I know this person who has downloaded a lot of documents from suspicious websites…”)

Do you laugh or cry? I have to admit, again, I’m still leaning towards the former.

Published in: on 4 September, 2007 at 10:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

Planes, trains and taxis

Public-private partnerships in Sydney’s transport system notch up another glory: the cost of a train trip from the city to the airport rises 10 per cent, taking it above $13. It was already expensive, but this means that if you’re travelling with at least one other person, a taxi is just as cheap. Reports the Sydney Morning Herald:

The decision to boost ticket prices was based on Westpac’s purchase costs earlier this year: “When the business was sold the new owners paid a price for it, and the Airport Link has to service the investor’s investment.” [Airport Link head John Wilson]

Published in: on 2 August, 2007 at 10:28 am  Comments (1)