Australia update - Melbourne, Trade Unions, climate & sustainability

The picture above is not of some Regency building in Brighton, England. It is in fact the oldest (or so I was told) Trades Union Hall in the world – the Melbourne Trades Hall. Sure is impressive, and with a lovely relaxed, unbureaucratic feel to it….

We were up at the crack of dawn to fly to Melbourne from Adelaide…newspapers full of the crisis inside the Labor government.  Julie Gillard looks to be in deep trouble over the handling of Australia’s policy on refugees. And then found the appalling tale of Babcock and Brown – Australia’s biggest ever corporate collapse –  the Ned Kellys of this age…only Ned Kelly could never have dreamed of looting so much ‘swag’.  And Kelly – whose remains have just been unearthed (see here) – was at least caught by competent Aussie cops at the time, and tried by a competent judge.   As the Sydney Morning Herald noted, the Aussie ‘watchdog’ didn’t even sniff Babcock and Brown….

Went straight from the airport to the fine Melbourne university campus for a meeting with climate and sustainability scientists and university trade union officials – to talk about financing the transformation of the economy away from fossil fuels….Not at my best after a night of fitful sleep…Then, after a nap, a wonderful evening at the above mentioned Trades Hall – it was titled Babbling in the Bar -but was in fact a lively discussion of economic policy, the financial system and the policies that Australian trades unionists should be demanding of their Labour government…..From there to the famous Lygon Street,Melbourne’s ‘Little Italy’ – for dinner at – a Vietnamese….times are a’ changin in Melbourne. And finally, after a ride on a tram and train ….sleep!

My tour of Australia - with the SEARCH Foundation

Read about my speaking tour of Australia below – from the SEARCH Foundation:

The SEARCH Foundation is currently touring eminent British economist and author Ann
Pettifor around Australia and she is visiting our shores with a warning; the GFC inducing credit
crunch is not over and Australia’s banking sector is vulnerable.

Ms Pettifor is visiting Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane for speaking
engagements over the next fortnight.

“Before the Credit Crunch of 2008-2009 Brits and Americans were convinced that the good
times could last forever. Our orthodox economists, central bankers and politicians encouraged
us in that delusion. Today millions of the unemployed, homeless and bankrupt are paying
a heavy price for the failure to understand the role of the private banking system in causing
systemic and widespread economic failure.” Ms Pettifor said.

“Australians would be well advised not to fall into the same trap.

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Financing the Green Transition – why we can afford it

Last month I gave a ‘Green Talk‘ in Bristol, organised by Climate Works.

It was wonderful to be, first of all at such a professionally and well organised event (congrats to Mark Letcher and his team). It was also fantastic to be amongst such an interesting array of speakers including John Gapper ‘the secret gardener’ who has spent the last 35 years propagating wild flowers in Brighton and Hove (watch his talk here) and Alice Ferguson and Amy Rose – two mothers with a simple but brilliant idea to get children playing outside (watch their talk here).

My talk was on how we can afford to finance the Green Transition – watch below:

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Financing the Green Economy Transition


Below is a short paper I wrote as part of work with Sir David King and the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment:

“We are capable of shutting off the sun and the stars because they do not pay a dividend. London is one of the richest cities in the history of civilization, but it cannot “afford” the highest standards of achievement of which its own living citizens are capable, because they do not “pay.”

If I had the power to-day, I should most deliberately set out to endow our capital cities with all the appurtenances of art and civilization on the highest standards of which the citizens of each were individually capable, convinced that what I could create, I could afford….

John Maynard Keynes. “National Self-Sufficiency,” The Yale Review, Vol. 22, no. 4 (June 1933), pp. 755-769.

UNEP’s latest publication, Towards a Green Economy tackles the vexed question of financing the Green Transition and estimates that

 

“to halve CO2  emissions by 2050, requires investments of approximately US$ 750 billion per year from 2010 to 2030 and US$1.6 trillion per year from 2030 to 2050. The World Economic Forum and Bloomberg New Energy Finance, on the other hand, calculate that clean energy investment needs to rise to US$ 500 billion per year by 2020 to restrict global warming to less than 2ºC, while HSBC estimates that transition to a low-carbon energy market will require US$ 10 trillion between 2010 and 2020.” (Towards a Green Economy, page 33.)

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Bankers must be made to serve the economy.....

21 February, 2010

Once again apologies for a longish absence. This is down in part, to smashing (literally) building works, to a little grandchild-minding, and to other writing commitments. But have been itching to comment on a) Greece and the EU b) Iceland (it seems the UK is easing up on the pressure); c) the progress of the global recession; and d) China-US relations…..so posts on a, b, c and d are on their way….promise.

In the meantime this is the text of a letter I signed and helped draft, published in today’s Observer, and yesterday (20 Feb 2010) in the Times. It is a response to the letter written to the Sunday Times last week by 20 conservative economists, including Ken Rogoff of Harvard, Lord Megnad Desai, previously a Labour peer, and Bridget Rosewell, who was Mayor Ken Livingstone’s economic adviser.

Our letter has a number of distinguished economists as signatories, as well as my pals in the Green New Deal group – all of whom I am proud to be associated with.    See below.

Sir,

We urge the UK government not to heed the siren song of the 20 economists who, having failed to predict the crisis, now seek to advise on its resolution. The world economy is in the deepest recession since the Great Depression. In the UK, output has collapsed by £70bn on an annual basis. Under such conditions, common sense tells us that the government must compensate for the collapse in private investment and address the high level of unemployment.

The only way to restore the public finances to health is to restore the economy to health.

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Why I want to be a Labour candidate

17th January, 2009.

This was posted on the Compass site on the 16th January.

I am shortlisted for the North West Durham Parliamentary Selection. A less likely candidate you would be hard pressed to find. I am not a local big wig and did not grow up in the constituency. I don’t have the backing of big hitters – either in the party, or in the unions. Nor am I a youthful 25-year-old, ambitious for power. No, I am far more ambitious than that.

I want the people (especially the young people) of North West Durham to have a sound and stable future. I want Britain to learn from the catastrophic debacle of the financial crisis, and ensure it never happens again. The hopes, aspirations, health, jobs, businesses and climate of Britain must not be sacrificed to pay for economic failure engineered by a small elite in the City of London.

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Are the bond markets and rating agencies to be feared?

5th January, 2010

There has been much sturm and drang generated by the Guardian and others on the threat posed to government finances by the flawed and often irrational rating agencies, and by the supposedly despotic, vengeful and greedy bond markets.

Methinks they protest too much.

We at the Green New Deal group have long argued that there is no reason why governments should rely for their financing on the capricious private bond markets. Instead, we write in ‘The Cuts Won’t Work’ -  finance ministers should oblige the banks in which taxpayers have a substantial stake to lend to the Treasury at very low rates of interest.

That’s how World War II was largely financed in Britain – and no one was the worse for it. The loans were given a title: Treasury Deposit Receipts.  These TDRs – bless them – financed a war that saved Britain from the threat Nazism posed to its very existence. Today they could be used to finance the public investment needed to substitute for the collapse in private investment – and to stave off the threat posed by climate change.

Analysts on the Financial Times Lex column (FT 1st January, 2010) have obviously read our latest report, and describe our proposal as “an intriguing alternative” . Governments they write “may lean on the commercial banks in which they hold large stakes to take up the strain instead. Forcing them to purchase government bonds would help replace the market heft of central banks.”

Quite so. You read it first in the Green New Deal.

York Minster EBOR lecture

12th December 2009

At the end of last month I delivered the prestigious EBOR lecture at York. My address was entitled:

“Credit, usury and political power: chasing the moneylenders from the temple that is our democracy”

Click on the link below to read a PDF version of the full lecture:

EBOR Lecture November 25th (PDF)

Green New Deal - 'The Cuts won't work' report is published.

7th December, 2009

This is the press release from the new economics foundation:

“Two days ahead of the pre-budget report, and as the UN climate change talks open in Copenhagen – the second report from the authors of the original Green New Deal argues that the British Chancellor is likely to miss a historic opportunity to tackle public debt, create thousands of new green jobs and kick-start the transformation to a low-carbon economy.

The cuts won’t work, the Green New Deal Group’s second report shows how, contrary to the policy of all the major political parties, cutting public spending now will tip the nation into a deeper recession by increasing unemployment, reducing the tax received and limiting government funding available to kick-start the Green New Deal.

Instead a bold new programme of ‘green quantitative easing,’ rather than simply propping up failing banks, could help reduce the public debt and kick-start the transformation of the UK’s energy supply while creating thousands of new green-collar jobs.

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Times: Worst of slump yet to come, says economist

Article Published in the Times, September 1st 2009. Photo by Jon Enoch.

Ann Pettifor predicted a painful end to the good times. Now she says that only radical action can prevent further gloom

Phil Thornton

Ann Pettifor is a member of a select club — the seers who saw it all coming. Now the economist, who predicted the credit crunch as far back as 2003, believes that the worst is yet to come unless there is radical reform of the financial system.

Six years ago she parodied the International Monetary Fund’s annual economic forecast with her own — The Real World Economic Outlook. Then, in 2006, her book The Coming First World Debt Crisis, warned that rich countries were heading for a debt crisis that would overshadow anything seen in the developing world. Both were ridiculed.

With the British and world economies languishing in the worst recession since the Great Depression and with once-mighty banks reliant on government life support, she could be forgiven for being a little smug. Not a bit of it: “No, being Cassandra is not something I wish for. I hate this role of being a gloomer and doomer, as I’m an optimist by nature. But I am very pessimistic now.”

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