Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The sublime and the ridiculous: Barnaby at Estimates

Episode 1,582 of the mining companies are talking out their backsides when they say the minerals resources rent tax and the carbon tax are going to kill the industry: “Today's Mineral Exploration Figures released by the ABS:

imageLet’s review the comments to see if the ABS has stuffed up and has the graph upside down:

The trend estimate for total mineral exploration expenditure rose 8.8% (or $60.7m) to $748.8m in the March quarter 2011. The current quarter estimate is 31.1% higher than the March quarter 2010 estimate.

Gee, 31 per cent higher than this time last year. That seems odd…

Well obviously it must all be petroleum – we know the Pilbara is finished, so let’s have a gander at the figures with the petroleum out of the equation:

The seasonally adjusted estimate of mineral exploration expenditure rose 22.2% (or $144.9m) to $797.4m in the March quarter 2011. The largest rise this quarter was in Western Australia (up 25.4% or $92.1m), followed by Queensland (up 17.4% or $22.9m).


Well… I guess they’re just doing a heap of exploring on the expectation the carbon price and MRRT won’t come in… oh and yeah, they also would’ve been doing a lot more if both industry and economy killing taxes weren’t being brought in…

Yeah… we’ll go with that. That sounds plausible.

After that idiocy let’s get to the silliness… I give you the next instalment of everyone’s favourite sitcom: Barnaby Joyce Goes to Estimates:

Let’s start off on the day of the big meow. Joyce wanted to get stuck into Treasury Secretary Dr Parkinson on the issue of the GDP figures.

Senator Wong: Thank you, Madam Chair. Those questions go to Climate Change; I think some of them were asked. Treasury, as Ms Quinn has outlined, is undertaking economic modelling in relation to mitigation policy.

Senator JOYCE: Marvellous stuff. We have had a negative quarter of growth, Dr Parkinson; why is that?

Dr Parkinson: We had a negative quarter of growth in 2001; is that what you are talking about?

Senator JOYCE: Aren't we just announcing figures today that are going to show—

Senator Wong: The national accounts will be announced at 11:30.

Senator JOYCE: Sorry?

Dr Parkinson: The national accounts will be out later today.

Senator JOYCE: Everybody knows about them. I can even tell you the figure.

Bear in mind this was about 10:30 in the morning, so “everybody” knowing the figures seemed rather an odd call by Barnaby.

Dr Parkinson: If you know the figure, I am sure that the statistician will be interested to know that—

Parkinson isn’t going to let it go though to the keeper – given that it would actually be a pretty serious offence for someone to leak the National Accounts, given the impact they have on markets.

Senator JOYCE: Would you be surprised if we had a negative—

Senator Wong: Senator Joyce, he had not finished.

Dr Parkinson: because that would be a violation of the way in which—

But not to worry, Barnaby is not concerned – because how does he know the exact GDP growth figures before they are officially released?…

Senator JOYCE: It was in the paper.


Dr Parkinson: It might be reported in the paper, Senator, but I—

Senator JOYCE: Well, how did it get out?

Senator Wong: Senator—

Dr Parkinson: Senator, excuse me!

Parkinson was not going to let Joyce off lightly. …

Dr Parkinson: The statistician will release the national accounts later this morning.

Senator JOYCE: How is it reported in the paper? How did it get out, Dr Parkinson?

Dr Parkinson: Senator, what has got out?

Parkinson at this point is rather curious as to what the hell Barnaby is talking about, given it is pretty obvious to everyone with an IQ above tepid water temperature levels that when economists in the newspaper say they estimate the GDP to fall they are… well… estimating…

Senator JOYCE: Apparently we are heading towards a negative quarter of growth, at about 0.4 per cent?

Dr Parkinson: That is your estimate, is it, Senator?

Senator JOYCE: Well, that is what is in the paper; is that right?

Dr Parkinson: Senator, I do not believe most things I read in the paper.

Quite possibly the line of Estimates.

Senator JOYCE: It will be interesting to know around about where it is, because the question will be: how did it get out?

Dr Parkinson: Senator—

Parkinson at this point is going to pretend he thinks Barnaby is not a complete idiot:

CHAIR: Senator Joyce, do you have another question? We have other senators waiting.

Dr Parkinson: Senator, you are actually making a very, very serious allegation. I do not know whether you realise it, but you are implying that somebody has leaked the national accounts. If you have any evidence, I would have thought it was incumbent upon you to report that to the AFP and the Statistician.

OK maybe the “I do not think you realise it” part suggests he was perhaps assuming Barnaby was a little bit of an idiot.

Senator JOYCE: Then I would report to them that they should read paper, Dr Parkinson, because that is where it is!

At this point Parkinson allows David Gruen off his leash. Gruen was already nicely warmed up from a session earlier in the morning where he had patiently explained the Senator Cormann how economic modelling works – and in the process also explained that factors like the aging of the population is actually a much bigger impact on the economy than will be a carbon price.  Gruen was going to go through it for Joyce like Joyce was a 5 year old:

Dr Gruen: Senator, what are reported in the paper, at least as I have read it, are market economists' estimates of what they think will be the March quarter outcome. That has been reported in the papers on the morning of the national accounts release for as long as I have been reading these things—which is quite a long time. There are a large number of partial indicators that have already been published; for instance, the balance of payments was published yesterday. There are a large number of partial indicators that enable market economists to make an educated guess of what they think the national accounts will be. There are a range of estimates. Many of those, as you correctly state, are that real GDP will have fallen in the March quarter; that is all true. That is different from saying, as we have taken you to say, that the papers report on what the national accounts will be. They simply report on what private market economists are estimating will be the national accounts for the March quarter.

Parkinson adds in his final point:

Dr Parkinson: And, if you read the papers in the week or the two weeks beforehand you will see quite a number of estimates, as market economists change their own forecasts for what they expect to see in the national accounts. But I go back to my point: if you believe the national accounts have been leaked, I think that is a very serious issue and I would urge you to raise with it with the Statistician and with the AFP.

Here, Joyce decided he should move on…

I should mention that when the GDP figures came out the result was negative quarter growth of 1.2. I guess that leaked figure that Joyce was putting so much store in was not exactly on the money.

The next day the episode continued but I shall leave that instalment for another day. But just remember the first thing Tony Abbott did was appoint Joyce as his Finance spokesperson (an appointment so bad, even Abbott came to realise his fault). I guess “everything was different then”.


Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Right on.

Anonymous said...

Why on earth is Barnaby given any space at all. Is he really that silly or does he put it on?cold

Anonymous said...

You've made me sad that I didn't watch -- there are days when I really need a pick-me-up belly laugh.

Barnaby could delete the need for anti-depressants!

concera vota

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who worked in Treasury for a while. He has a huge store of anecdotes about the stupidity of Barnaby at estimates. Makes him a great dinner guest!

Screendoor said...

If Barnaby looks in the papers on Fridays he will often find the coming weekend's football results have also 'got out'.

Jaeger said...

"Here, Joyce decided he should move on..." Finally! Oh, you mean to the next question? Damn.

Anonymous said...

Knew Barnaby wasn't playing with a full deck when the Gardisil vaccine came out and he swore there was no way his daughters were getting it because it would turn them into sluts.

Anonymous said...

Seeing Barnaby trying to mix it with Dr. Parkinson and Dr. Gruen is pretty funny. What was Barnaby before he became our Finance Minister in waiting? A small town accountant if I recall.

It must be hell being a public servant who actually has to deal with these no-hopers. You go to uni to do Economics, get top marks, stay on to do a Doctorate, get a high ranking job in Stats, Treasury or Finance, and then spend your time answering idiot questions from some nong who barely got through their three year Commerce degree.

Denise said...

Please start on the next installment of the Barnaby Tales. A good laugh keeps you warm on these cold Canberra days.

Russ said...

Barnaby was away the day they did Economics.

Anonymous said...

the scary part is that this fool is only a heartbeat away from power.

Lilly said...

Barnaby is a never ending source of amusement. He was an accountant before he got into politics wasn't he?
God help all those people who went to him to get their tax done each year.

Andrew said...

Barnaby proves that we truly do have a representative democracy. Unfortunately he and his mates prove that idiots are grossly over-represented.

Patricia WA said...

Like Denise, I can't wait for the next instalment, Grog. At a time when reporting of our political scene is so often unfair and depressing we still get glimpses of Barnaby to give us a lift. I always find his antics an inspiration as I've just done at

Patricia WA said...

Sorry, still wearing L plates on Linking and identifying myself. I really wanted to show Grog how he and Barnaby had inspired me!

Anonymous said...

What bothers me isn't that Joyce is a dill but that a significant number of people must think that he is worth voting for, thereby making us all suffer his presence in the Senate. But then according to the polls a majority of the population think that a coalition government presumably with Tony Abbott as PM is better for the country than the rabble in power at the moment.

Greg Jericho said...

That is gold, Screendoor!

Anonymous said...

If we are not very careful Barnyard will hold a high office in an Australian government in the future. The Oz newspaper had a piece from him on the weekend-it did not sound like Barnyard so I presume somebody a bit cleverer wrote it and he put his name to it-they are priming him, Hil