Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Climate Change Past and Future

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Dr Andrew Glikson is speaking on "The atmosphere: past, present and future". Dr  Glikson's field is the early history of the earth and the effects of comments and volcanoes on the atmosphere. The lead to his interest in current climate change and he has written extensively on the topic. He started his talk with the role of water in all life on earth, even that in the deepest ocean vents and then explained that oxygen was required for complex life. Dr  Glikson pointed out that the earth's temperature had been maintained due to CO2 from volcanic eruptions.

Dr  Glikson has not confined himself to academic papers, having made a submission to the Australian Senate "THE THREAT TO LIFE POSED BY ATMOSPHERIC CO2-e OVER 450 ppm” (2009):

"The scale and urgent nature of the of dangerous climate change leave law makers only two options:

Option A: Business a usual, leading to unacceptable consequences of current climate change, including extreme weather events (drought, fire, floods, cyclones) and sea level rise

Option B: Urgent deep reductions in Carbon gas emissions coupled with fast track development of CO2 draw-down technologies, possibly coupled with geo-engineered atmospheric albedo enhancement aimed at gaining time."
Regrettably, so far Australian law makers have chosen "Option A" Business as usual, which will result in adverse consequences for future generations.

Designing Defence Hi-Tech in Canberra

Greetings from the famous room N101 at the Australian National University where Merv Davis, CEO of CEA Technologies on defence technology to the software engineering students. CEA designs military radars and communication antennas in Canberra, for submarines, ships and aircraft, most notably the CEAFAR active electronically scanned array radar on Anzac Class Frigates. Merv pointed out the difficulties of being in the military business, with customers reluctant to buy a product without a track record from a relatively small company.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ethics and Climate Change Prediction

Greeting from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor John Broome is speaking on "Ethics in the IPCC process" at the Centre for Climate Economics and Policy
Professor Broome explained how the International Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) is an independent scientific organization, but taken notice of by the UNFCC, which is the relevant treaty organization on climate change. The IPCC has three working groups on science (WG1), impacts (WG2) and mitigation (WG3) of climate change. The main reports are the equivalent of 5,000 pages and there were 143,000 comments received. 
Professor Broome went to 13 meetings of 4.5 days each and worked out he was responsible for a considerable amount of carbon emissions just commuting to the meetings. ;-)

The scientists are volunteers, not paid by their work. He commented that the structure of the reports had already been decided. The recommendations are checked word by word. There were two moral philosophers included. Professor Broome wrote on "Justice, equity and responsibility" (3.3, page 12) and Professor Lukas Meyer, Graz University, Austria on "Values and wellbeing" (3.4 page 20).

Professor Broome commented on the differences between the scientific authoring approach and that of philosophers (Aristotle never wrote any refereed papers). The philosophers wrote on justice and value, which the scientists accepted, eventually. Also he commented on how the scientists and other academics wrote the detail of the reports, but there was government and political input into summaries (which is all anyone reads anyway).
I have some experience of the process of developing international standards, but not on this scale. Also I have been working recently with educators who come from the social science and have a different outlook on the world to the "hard" sciences.

Professor Broome described how the final drafts were produced with the text on the screen using Microsoft Word track changes, color coded with changes. Controversial sections are sent to a smaller "contact group" in the case of the philosopher's section taking three and half pages for three pages of text. He described how other sections got cut down due to lack of time and people.

What I found most surprising about Professor Broom's presentation was that he was generally positive about the outcome of the IPCC process. This is despite at one point describing how Saudi Arabia attempted to have a graph "censored" from the report, as it showed how the rich nations had caused the global warming problem. The Netherlands delegate attempted to outmaneuver this by having another section inserted (but the Netherlands government was un-contactable and so their delegate could not get approval).

It strikes me the IPCC process is similar to an open outcry auction system, as previously used for commodity trading. Such systems have mostly been replaced by on-line computer based systems, which are more efficient and by having a lower transaction cost, more equitable. The IPCC process excludes most of the people in the world from participating, because they cannot afford to attend the meeting.

Professor Broome described how some national delegations were in continuous voice contact with their experts at home and sending screen captures, taking instructions. If the process is to not be put on-line, then this practice should be banned, as it is inequitable. However, it would be better to put the whole process on-line.

If the IPCC is not willing to put their process on-line, then this could be done by volunteers. If the secretariat was not willing to cooperate, then volunteers amongst the delegates could transmit the video and audio from the meeting room. This could then be distributed publicly on-line and real time discussion rooms of experts, national representatives and the general public could debate the issues and make recommendations to the delegates.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Castle of Platamon

In 2008 I traveled clockwise around the Aegean, from Turkey to Greece, for a wedding at Palaios Panteleimonas. in Thrace. I  started in Istanbul, went down through Turkey, across to Rhodes, Crete, Athens, Thebes, Delphi, Platamon, Thessaloníki and back to Istanbul, by train, bus and ferry. Recently I was reminded of this by the play Antigone set in Thebes. Also only recently I found that the Castle of Platamon, where I stood on the shores of the Agean and looked at Mount Olympus, was the sight of a significant battle by ANZAC troops in WW2.

While standing at the Castle of Platamon, looking up at Mount Olympus I thought "not so impressive, where are the gods?". At that moment the clouds parted and a single shaft of sunlight shone down on the summit of Olympus. I apologized to the gods and left the hill, lest a thunderbolt followed. ;-)

Digital Services for a New Economy in Canberra

The free event "Open Data and Digital Services: Foundations for a New Information Economy" by Open Knowledge Australia is at NICTA Canberra, 2:30 to 5:30pm, 13 May 2015.
"Hear from leading speakers covering subjects related to open data and digital Government service delivery.

Learn about the foundational elements of a new information economy that is already connecting public and private sectors throughout Australia and the world."


Nicholas Gruen: Chair of Open Knowledge Australia
Jed Sundwall: Global Open Data Technical BDM for Amazon Web Services
Pia Waugh:  Director of Analytics and Discovery Layer, Digital Transformation Office
Steve Bennett: Community Contributor, Open Knowledge Australia
Steven De Costa: Open Knowledge Australia, CKAN Association and Link Digital

Drinks at 4:30pm.

Book at Eventbrite

ps: I will be discussing "Innovations in Teaching Innovation", 27 April 2015, 4pm, CSIRO seminar room in the ANU CSIT Building in Canberra:

Friday, April 24, 2015

Antigone: An Angry Young Woman

Last night I attended the opening of the play Antigone by Jean Anouilh, at the Théâtre Excentrique, in Sydney. This is loosely based on Antigone by Sophocles. Antigone, the rebellious niece of King Creon of Thebes, wants her disgraced brother Polyneices to have a decent burial. For political reasons King Creon forbids the burial. Antigone proceeds and is condemned to death, resulting in tragedy for all.

The play is presented in English, with a Greek chorus from Blacktown Girls High (in French for no apparent reason). The stage is bare, apart from two manually rotated turntables used to give a theater-in-the-round effect. The actors are in a mix of modern and ancient costumes (Antigone in stretch jeans, while her sister is in a Greek gown).

Antigone, with her alternating street wise sassy and sweet personalities reminds of Tatiana Maslany's performance in the Canadian TV series Orphan Black.

King Creonis presented as a professional politician who tries to be just, but must look to popular opinion before making a decision.

The main performances in Antigone by Jean Anouilh (Translated by Kris Shalvey and Anna Jahjah) are powerful, although Creonis did have difficulty remembering his lines at times (however, this was only the second performance).

It might have been interesting to set the play in modern day Thebes: a run down town, on the Athens to Thessaloniki rail line. This could explore the tragedy of a new Greek government, trapped between fiscal prudence and the demands of the mob.

Théâtre Excentrique at PACT is worth a visit in inner Sydney Erskineville, even if just to see the eccentric warehouse interior decoration. Come early and have a drink in the courtyard. Antigone by Jean Anouilh is on until 2 May 2015, tickets at try-booking.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Ethics of Climate Change Prediction

Professor John Broome will speak on "Ethics in the IPCC process" at the Centre for Climate Economics and Policy, Australian National University in Canberra, 5:30pm, 28 April 2015.
The Fifth Assessment Report is the first of the IPCC’s reports that has explicitly given a place to ethics. Two philosophers were included as Lead Authors for this purpose. However, an IPCC report is designed to be a review of scientific literature, and the process of writing it is organised with that aim in mind. Philosophy does not fit easily into that framework. Moreover, IPCC reports are commissioned by governments and must ultimately be approved by governments. Each sentence in the summaries for policymakers has to be explicitly approved by a consensus among all governments. This poses further difficulties for ethics in the IPCC, since ethics tends to be politically contentious.

Professor John Broome will describe how the process went from the point of view of a moral philosopher, and assess how successful the IPCC has been in its aim of taking account of the importance of ethics in responding to climate change.

 John Broome is Emeritus White’s Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Oxford, and an Adjunct Professor at ANU. He was once Professor of Economics at the University of Bristol. For the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, he was a Lead Author in Working Group 3 and a member of the Core Writing Team of the Synthesis Report.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Propose Australian Defence Force Adopt Common Uniform

This is to suggest that the Australian Air-force and Navy adopt the same Australian Multicam Camouflage Uniform (AMCU) as the Australian Army. The RAAF's recently introduced blue General Purpose Uniform (GPU) should be discontinued as it makes personnel very visible.

Tom Worthington in Disruptive Pattern Camouflage UniformAustralian air-force personnel previously wore the same Disruptive Pattern Camouflage Uniform (DPCU) as the Australian army (the photo shows me wearing the DPCU at a military exercise).

The Royal Australian Navy personnel wear a gray version of the DPCU. There was some logic to the Navy wearing a gray version of the distinctive Australian DPCU, as it showed them to be Australian personnel (the gray background is to hide grime from shipboard duties).

The new RAAF GPU is a blue version of the  Australian Multicam. The RAAF claim this is a "provides a unique and easily identifiable Air Force presence ... still effective in meeting service requirements ... non-warlike environments...". However, the Multicam pattern is worn my many nation's military and similar patterns by potential foes. When rendered in blue the pattern does not look distinctly Australian. The blue color provides no value as camouflage and would make RAAF personnel very obvious targets.

Australian Army, RAAF and RAN personnel are increasingly operating in a joint environment and one where the distinction between peace and war-fighting are blurred. It makes little sense for the joint logistics system to have to carry three uniforms, identical except for color, two of which are unsuitable for use in an operational environment.

The idea that RAAF personnel would wear a uniform not suitable for combat on a peacekeeping operation does not accord with modern practice. A militia force is not going to send advance warning of hostile intent and then politely wait while the RAAF personnel change out of their blue uniforms into camouflage, before attacking. Instead RAAF personnel will be targeted first, as they will be most visible.

A better alternative would be for the Australian Army, Navy and Air Force to wear the same camouflage uniform, with service specific head-wear and patches. The uniforms should also have removable high visibility markings. All services will require high visibility patches on their clothing for some duties, for example on the flight deck of an amphibious ship.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Asia Pacific Security and the USA

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor Andrew Hurrell, University of Oxford, is speaking on "Global Order after U.S. Hegemony: Challenges for Asia and the Pacific". Professor Hurrell, suggested the greatest challenge for scholars was to conceive what might be a new world order where the USA and other western countries are not dominant. He briefly mentioned concerns such as cyberwar.

Professor Hurrell, discussed how previous assumptions that there would be a stable world order had been overthrown and there would instead be continuing "Westphalian" challenges. Not being a historian, I am not sure what this implies. But it seems to me clear that as US and western economic dominance declines, their global power will also decline. As an example, Australia has decided to join the China backed "Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank", against the wishes of the USA.

China has progressed slowly to have a blue water navy. It may take another decade before it can mass produce aircraft carriers and perhaps even longer to produce aircraft for them. However, Professor Hurrell pointed out there are other forms of power projection. When in Samoa some years ago to teach a course, I noticed that China has given the country an impressive government building. More humorously, the locally employed guard outside the US Peace Corps compound was wearing a People's Liberation Army cap (I assume he got it cheap in the local market). 

Professor Hurrell claimed that domestic politics would become more important in the future, so that national dominance by China and India will be less significant. This sounded to me like someone from an English university hoping for a return to an era when the British Empire would manipulate the internal politics of Asia for its own ends. I suggest the opposite is more likely. At the moment a rag tag non-state group such as ISIS is able to manipulate domestic politics in Australia by the use of Internet based propaganda.

Professor Hurrell had published numerous papers and his latest book is "On Global Order: Power, Values, and the Constitution of International Society" 2008). He is also giving seminar on "Global Governance: Can the Centre Hold?"
at ANU on Wednesday afternoon.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Japan’s Ocean Surveillance of Chinese Submarines

All 162 pages of the book "The Tools of Owatatsumi: Japan’s Ocean Surveillance and Coastal Defence Capabilities" (Desmond Ball and Richard Tanter, ANU Press, 2015), are available free on-line. The book details the undersea and electronic intelligence systems run by Japan and the USA to detect Chinese military activities, particularly submarines. The authors suggest that wile effective this network is vulnerable to attack, leading to possible military escalation and use of nuclear weapons.

However, what the authors do not discuss is ways in which surveillance networks can be made less vulnerable with technological developments. Japan's manned coastal surveillance stations are, by their nature, prominently located along the coast and so vulnerable to attack. However, electronic surveillance can now be undertaken by miniaturized equipment operated by remote control, making it far less visible and vulnerable.
Table of Contents for The Tools of Owatatsumi:
  1. Introduction
  2. Post-Cold War Intrusions into Japanese Waters
  3. The JMSDF’s Ocean Surveillance Architecture
  4. The Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF)
  5. The Organisation of the JMSDF: The High Command, Fleet Bases and Regional Districts
  6. Japanese Undersea Surveillance Systems, 1920–45
  7. Technical Developments since 1945
  8. US SOSUS Stations
  9. JMSDF ELINT/Undersea Surveillance Stations
  10. Airborne Ocean Surveillance
  11. JMSDF SIGINT Collection and Ocean Surveillance Ships
  12. The US Ocean Surveillance Information System (OSIS)
  13. The Maritime Safety Agency (MSA)/ Japan Coast Guard (JCG)
  14. Assessment of Japan’s Ocean Surveillance Capabilities
From: Ball, Desmond & Tanter, Richard, (author.) (2015). The tools of Owatatsumi : Japan's ocean surveillance and coastal defence capabilities. Canberra ACT ANU Press. Retrieved from

Friday, April 17, 2015

Carbon emissions trading in China

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor Zhong Xiang Zhang (张中祥), School of Economics, Fudan University is speaking on "Carbon emissions trading in China". His paper "Carbon Emissions Trading in China: The Evolution from Pilots to a Nationwide Scheme" is also available.

China currently has seven regional pilot carbon trading schemes running (Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Hubei, Guangzhou, Shenzhen and Chongqing). Professor Zhong Xiang Zhang indicated that the government would not have a national scheme before 2017. The Chinese schemes are targeted at enterprises and include indirect emissions from electricity from outside the region. No forward or futures trading is allowed (it would be interesting to see, I suggest, if it is happening anyway, informally).

Professor Zhong Xiang Zhang notd with some amusement, that some government entities and well known companies had failed to comply with the requirements of the Beijing scheme, most notably Microsoft.

The previous Australian government was planning to link its trading scheme to that of Europe. But this was abandoned by the incoming government. government. This may have been fortunate as the European scheme has had problems. Perhaps Australia should instead join the Chinese scheme. Given the level of trade between the countries this could be workable and could be done without contradicting the Australian government anti-carbon tax rhetoric.

The Chinese central government has approved the seven pilot carbon trading schemes. These seven pilot regions are deliberately selected to be at varying stages of development and are given considerable leeway to design their own schemes. These pilot trading schemes have features in common, but vary considerably in their approach to issues such as the coverage of sectors, allocation of allowances, price uncertainty and market stabilization, potential market power of dominated players, use of offsets, and enforcement and compliance. This article explains why China opts for emissions trading, rather than carbon or environmental taxes at least initially, discusses the key common and varying features of these carbon trading pilots and their first-year performance, draws the lessons learned, discusses the potential pathways for evolution of regional pilot carbon trading schemes into a nationwide carbon trading scheme, and raises fundamental issues that must be addressed in order to make such an emissions trading scheme to work reliably and effectively and with an increasingly expanded coverage and scope.

From: Zhang, ZhongXiang (2015), Carbon Emissions Trading in China: The Evolution from Pilots to a Nationwide Scheme, CCEP Working Paper 1503, April 2015. School of Economics, Fudan University

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Bankability of Large Solar Arrays

Greetings from the Australian National University where Rhett Evans from UNSW is speaking on
"Understanding the technical justification of bankability requirements in large PV installations". He commented that photovoltaic (PV) panels are an immature product at the stage of TVs in the 1960s (bought from a specialist TV store). Also he claimed that almost all of the cost-effectiveness of PV has come from improvements in manufacturing, not from the efficiency of the cells. In his research he concentrates on the technical assessments which underpin large scale solar investment (and what can go wrong). Rhett pointed out that research shows that the major failure cost with PV is not the cells or panels, but the electronics in the inverter.

It occurs to me that PV panels, on their own, may not be a "product" at all. The emphasis has been on making solar cells which can produce electricity at a price to compete with coal fired power stations. However, consumers don't buy power from power stations, they buy it from a distributer after it has been delivered over a distribution network. Much of the cost to the consumer is not the cost of generating the power, but in allowing for peak use, distribution and the cost of selling at the retail level. The cost of electricity to the consumer is made up of (approximately) 45% wholesale, 45% network and 10% retail cost. So for power which the consumer produces for their own use on site will not be subject to the network or retail costs. Also consumers don't want power, they want hot water, cooling, cooking, lighting and gadgets. It might therefore make sense, for example, to provide heating and cooling closely coupled to the PV panels. This may not be worth retrofitting to existing individual bespoke detached houses, bit worthwhile for factory made modular homes and apartment blocks.

One of the implications for Rhett's work on Failure mode, effects, and criticality analysis (FMECA) is that perhaps inverters should be kept separate from PV panels, so they can be easily fixed.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

War-fighting by Supporting Insurgents

Greetings from the Australian National University Strategic & Defence Studies Centre, where Lieutenant Colonel Ken Gleiman, US Pacific Command/Visiting Fellow, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, is speaking on "The American Counterculture of War: Supporting foreign insurgents and the American discourse of war". LTCOL Gleiman emphasized that he was speaking as an individual scholar. He outlined the USA's history of involvement with insurgencies, arguing that while the USA started as an insurgency (backed by the French government against the British), the US government early on passed laws against its private citizens fighting abroad (although many citizens supported revolutionary movements). LTCOL Gleiman pointed out the term "filibuster" was used to describe a US citizen fighting in a foreign war.  Apart from philosophical objections, most such foreign adventures failed in their military objectives. Despite the law, and lack of success of the ventures, ordinary citizens and US military offices were tolerated and even supported by the US public and some government officials.

Moving on to the last century, LTCOL Gleiman claimed that the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) was the first US government organization authorized to support resistance movements, as late as 1942 in WW2. The OSS' methods were opposed by the US military (and of questionable operational value). The OSS was disestablished after WW2, but quickly replaced with the CIA to oppose communism by supporting insurgent groups around the world. The success of such operations was limited (apart from recently in Afghanistan). As with the OSS, the CIA's methods were not supported by the military.

LTCOL Gleiman contrasted the forms of insurgency the CIA supported with the popular revolutions which overthrew governments in Eastern Europe.

LTCOL Gleiman ended with a diagram from "The Economist" entitled "Traps for Washington", showing the complex interrelationships in conflicts in Libya, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Egypt.

LTCOL Gleiman suggested that Principal Agency Theory could be applied to supporting insurgents.

This presentation was very useful for putting current conflicts in places such as Ukraine and Syria in perspective.

Scottish Green ICT Strategy

The Scottish Government has issued "Scotland’s Digital Future: Scottish Public SectorGreen ICT Strategy" (April 2015) for their public sector. The report is largely based on the UK Government's strategy. (the same five level "ICT Sustainability Maturity Model" is used).

The report cites the Climate Change (Scotland) Act, 2009, which has a target of a 42% reduction in CO2 by 2020 and 80% by 2050. Also "Low Carbon Scotland: Meeting the Emissions Reduction Targets 2013-2027" report (2013). In terms of e-waste there is a Scottish Landfill Tax and Zero Waste Plan.

The report mentions skills requirements, but there is no specific requirement for ICT Sustainability skills of IT professionals employed or engaged by government and no targets for for having staff trained to impalement tie ICT Sustainability strategy. If the did want to train staff, the Scotti Government are welcome to make use of my "ICT Sustainability" course.

The report also covers some principles:
Procurement principles
  • Consider extending the life of existing systems
  • Go for Services not Assets: Cloud services, virtualise, consolidate
  • Packaging reduction, re-use, repair and re-cycling methods
ICT Operations principles
  • Minimise power consumption
  • Follow data centre standards for efficient operations to help reduce
  • power consumption
  • Develop a road map for the transition from hosting own data to hosting in
  • cloud based services to further reduce power consumption
  • Reduce paper consumption
  • Embed green behaviours in operational practices and services
Disposal principles
  • Re-pair - if broken fix it
  • Re-use, Re-furbish for other purposes
  • Re-cycle
  • Clean and re-sell/donate - charitable and registered voluntary and
  • community groups
  • Dispose in line with regulations.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Digital Government in Canberra

Greetings from the Australian Computer Society Canberra Branch where Miguel Carrasco is speaking on "Accelerating the digital government transformation".

The Prime Minister and Minister for Communications announced the "Australian Government Digital Transformation Office" (DTO) on 23 January 2015:
 "... so that government services can be delivered digitally from start to finish and better serve the needs of citizens and businesses ... The DTO will operate more like a start-up than a traditional government agency, focussing on end-user needs in developing digital services.".

Miguel Carrasco commented that the Australian Communications Minister is "enamored" with the UK Government approach to digital services. This, I suggest is not new, with the former Australian Government Chief Information Officer (AGCIO), Ann Steward, having spent some time as Director e-Government in the UK Cabinet Office. The DTO has issued a draft Digital Service Standard, based on the UK Government standard.

Miguel described the setting up a DTO as acting as a "beacon for talent", but said they did not have more than six months to produce results. He claimed that the start-up talent needed was not in Canberra. But he did not acknowledge the work of the ACT Government funded Canberra Innovation Network (CBRIN) which is fostering startups in Canberra. I just came from CBRIN, where former Senator, Kate Lundy, chair of the startup company Welcomer, has  launched of a new product which could be used by government agencies, as well as corporations.

In my view, new and existing professionals can be trained to undertake start-up functions. The ANU is doing this with their TechLauncher program (I have a team of students working on an education product).

Also the ACS runs a 12 week on-line course "New Technology Alignment" on how to identify such transformations in organizations (I am tutoring the course and the students are up to week 8 at present).

One aspect of DTO is the question of how it will work with the shared service functions in government.

ps: At the moment I am designing an innovation course specially tailored for Canberra and will be discussing it in "Innovations in teaching innovation" at CSIRO ICT Centre on the ANU campus, 4pm, 27 April 2015.

Application to Helping New Employees

Greetings from the Canberra Innovation Network, in the heart of the Canberra Start-up Business Boomerang, where Welcomer Chairperson Kate Lundy is launching the WelcomeAboard product. This is an on-line service to help organizations take on new employees. The idea is to take the tedium of paper form filling out of taking on a new employee, with all the details of their bank account (where they want to be paid), tax details and superannuation. The  service is designed to work with clod based accounting packages, such as Xero.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Carbon Trading in China

Professor Zhong Xiang Zhang (张中祥), School of Economics, Fudan University, will speak on "Carbon emissions trading in China", at the Australian National University in Canberra, 1pm, 17 April 2015. His paper is available on-line:
"The Chinese central government has approved the seven pilot carbon trading schemes. These seven pilot regions are deliberately selected to be at varying stages of development and are given considerable leeway to design their own schemes. These pilot trading schemes have features in common, but vary considerably in their approach to issues such as the coverage of sectors, allocation of allowances, price uncertainty and market stabilization, potential market power of dominated players, use of offsets, and enforcement and compliance. This article explains why China opts for emissions trading, rather than carbon or environmental taxes at least initially, discusses the key common and varying features of these carbon trading pilots and their first-year performance, draws the lessons learned, discusses the potential pathways for evolution of regional pilot carbon trading schemes into a nationwide carbon trading scheme, and raises fundamental issues that must be addressed in order to make such an emissions trading scheme to work reliably and effectively and with an increasingly expanded coverage and scope."

From: Zhang, ZhongXiang (2015), Carbon Emissions Trading in China: The Evolution from Pilots to aNationwide Scheme, CCEP Working Paper 1503, April 2015. School of Economics, Fudan University.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Smart Grids

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where "Energy Conversations: Smart Grids" is being hosted with the Australian Institute of Energy (Canberra Branch).

  • Paul Scott – PhD Student, AI Group, Research School of Computer Science: Paul talked about how to optimize power distribution on the grid. This assumes that home have intelligent devices which can schedule power use.
  • Nick Engerer – Associate Lecturer, ANU Fenner School of Environment and Society: Mich is researching how to measure the power output of solar panels. He showed graphs of the effect of fog and clouds in Canberra on solar power output. This neatly complements Paul's research, as one is about demand for power and the other is about supply.
  • Hassan Hijazi – Senior Researcher, NICTA

Fostering the Sharing Economy in Australia

Andrew Leigh, the ALP Federal Shadow Minister for Competition, has invited comment on "Sharing the future: Getting policy right in the Age of the App" (Federal Opposition Discussion Paper, 24 March 2015). This gives an overview of the "Sharing Economy", where an on-line service can be used to allow individuals to make use of each others goods and services (for free, in return for the opportunity to borrow others for for a fee). Borrowing something from a neighbor, or renting out a room for a night, is hardly a new idea, but web based services make it possible on a global scale. The ALP paper covers the issues of: Employment and workers’ rights, Public safety and consumer protections, Accessibility, Equity, Taxation, Competition and Federal/state coordination. What is not covered is policy for encouraging Australian sharing economy ventures.

Unfortunately the pro-Australian message of the ALP's paper is somewhat weakened by it being distributed via a non-Australian web service and including only examples of non-Australian companies. The message from this might be that the Sharing Economy will consist of Australian money and jobs being funneled out of Australia to foreign multinational companies located in tax havens. It would be a good idea for the ALP to put the paper on a web server located in Australia and, even better, convert it from PDF into a more readable web page (in accordance with accessibility guidelines).

It should not be too difficult to find some Australian examples of the the Sharing Economy. I regularly attend and judge startup competitions and there are always examples of sharing economy ventures. One place to look would be the Canberra Innovation Network and GriffinAccelerator. Another place is the Telstra Muru-D Start-up Accelerator in Sydney.

Also, it would be worth having something in the policy about encouraging the creation of new sharing economy ventures. There is scope for Australia to provide products and services (including education) to support the sharing economy worldwide. There would likely be markets in China, India and Indonesia for this.

There could also be a role for government in the Sharing Economy. The Australian Digital Transformation Office (DTO) is to look at innovative ways to deliver government services. One way would be for the government to help facilitate Australians to help each other.

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Armed conflict in the South China Sea

Greetings from the ANU ASEAN Society meeting in Canberra, where Professor Leszek Buszynski and Thanh Hai Do are speaking on "Prospects and perspectives on the South China Sea Dispute". This refers to an area claimed by Brunei, the People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

Professor Buszynski said that clashes between some vessels was possible but outright war unlikely. He said this started as a post-colonial effort to define maritime boundaries which was put off until fishing and oil drilling right came up in the 1970s. The issue of sea lanes then arose. Lastly Professor Buszynski emphasized the strategic importance of the area to China and concerns Japan has over this.

Interestingly, Professor Buszynski claimed that China exaggerated the oil reserves of the area. However, independent oil and gas resource estimates indicate the South China Sea is minor in world terms.

Professor Buszynski characterizes China's claims to the South China Sea as based on history and those of the other countries on law.

Thanh Hai Do then discussed the Vietnamese perspective on the dispute. He pointed out that while countries of the region talk of peace and trade they are investing in sophisticated weapons. It occurs to me that Australia is part of this arms race, now having the most advanced amphibious warfare ship in the region (HMAS Canberra), building very advanced destroyers (with the option of anti-ballistic missile defence), has ordered stealth supersonic aircraft and, less credibly, is planning the world's most advanced conventional submarines.

Thanh Hai Do pointed out the importance of the South China Sea to regional and world trade. He then summarized harassment of non-Chinese fishing vessels by Chinese coastguard ships and interference in oil exploration.

An interesting aspect of the disputes is that China's use of large numbers of lightly armed coastguard type vessels might make the use of conventional warships in response ineffective. I suggest it might be useful for nations to instead adopt the equipment and tactics of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The Society has experience in combating fishing operations of questionable legality using a combination of harassment and public relations. This might be done at arms length with countries of the region secretly supporting non-government organizations countering Chinese harassment by using the same tactics. These NGOs would be secretly supported with intelligence information from the military force of the region.

Professor Buszynski pointed out that claims to the South China Sea of countries apart from China are based on international law. He characterized the Chinese claims as being unclear and with disputes between different Chinese experts. However, none of this appears to me to be of much importance in an international dispute. The current oil dispute between Australia and Timor-Leste shows that even a country such as Australia, which normally supports the rule of law, will deviate from this and engage in questionable activities, when it has the military power to do so and a lrage economic incentive.

Professor Buszynski suggested that the South China Sea dispute may be used by the Chinese military to gain funding and a location for a navy to challenge the USA. He argued that the deep parts of the South China Sea could be used for Chinese ballistic missile submarines. This ambition may not be shared by other parts of the Chinese government.

Professor Buszynski commented that ASEAN does not have a unified position on the South China Se, with Vietnam and the Philippines not receiving support from other members, apart from some recent comments from Indonesia.

Professor Buszynski commented that other countries, including Japan and India will become involved if China presses its case. He suggested that in five to seven years, if the Chinese government is feeling secure, it may be prepared to negotiate an agreement.

Monday, April 06, 2015

Developing good economic reforms

Jillian Broadbent

Jillian Broadbent, Chair of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation, will speak on "Will she be right? Macro and micro observations on economic policies" at the Australian National University, 5.30pm, 8 April 2015.

Developing good economic reforms and creating an environment that leads to wide spread community support is difficult and is becoming more so. Jillian will draw from personal experiences in the public and private sectors to discuss how Australia might better develop engagement between these sectors to cope effectively and efficiently with the increasing need for change.

Jillian Broadbent has made wide ranging contributions to both sectors including, Board member of the Reserve Bank of Australia, Chair of the Clean Energy Finance Corporation and other Board membership has included Woolworths Limited, Coca-Cola Amatil Limited, Qantas Airways Ltd, ASX Limited, Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) and Woodside Petroleum Ltd. She has also contributed extensively to the development of the arts community and served as Chairman of the National Institute of Dramatic Arts and a Trustee, Vice President and Chief Treasurer of the Art Gallery of New South Wales.


Prospect of armed conflict in the South China Sea

Professor Leszek Buszynski, Dr Andrew Carr and Thanh Hai Do will discuss "Prospects and perspectives on the South China Sea Dispute", at the Australian National National University in Canberra, 4pm, 7 April 2015.

Prospects of armed conflict over the South China Sea maritime dispute are more real than ever as regional tension has escalated to dangerous levels in recent years. The dispute affects not only the claimants involved, but also peace and security in the wider region. Hugh White estimates that it could turn into 'the biggest war for many decades, and possibly the biggest since the Second World War'. As such, it is important to be aware of its significance from a range of perspectives.
With this in mind, the ANU ASEAN Society invites you to join us in our first public lecture of the year - 'Prospects and Perspectives on the South China Sea Dispute'. We have invited three distinguished speakers who will help you gain greater understanding of dispute from the perspectives of some key actors including ASEAN, Vietnam, Australia and the US. The speakers are:
• Professor Leszek Buszynski - Lecturer at the National Security College. He has done research on the South China Sea for more than twenty years and is currently engaged in a project on the South China Sea and Australia's Regional Security Environment.
• Dr Andrew Carr - Research Fellow at the Strategic and Defence Studies Centre. His latest book Winning the Peace, Australia’s Campaigns to Change the Asia-Pacific examines how Australia has influenced Asia's security and economic order.
• Thanh Hai Do - PhD Candidate at the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs. His thesis seeks to account for Vietnam's approach to claims in the South China Sea. Thanh Hai was Deputy Director of the Centre for Political and Security Studies at the Institute for Foreign Policy and Strategic Studies, a think-tank affiliated to the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam.
The lecture will consist of presentations followed by a panel discussion during which you will be able to pose questions to our speakers.
There will be opportunity to interact with the speakers following the presentations.
Light refreshments will be provided.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Sell Products Developed for ACT to Federal Government

The ACT Government is to establish a Small Business Research Partnerships Program to help small businesses in Canberra to produce products initially for the government but which can then be sold interstate. However, I suggest this program could look closer to home and target the needs of the federal government. The idea would be to find products which can be trialled in the ACT Government and then sold to the federal government, as that is a market right here were Canberra's small businesses are. In particular, the needs of the new Digital Transformation Office (DTO) in the Australian Department of Communications for delivering digital services could be addressed.