Monday, 21 November 2011

Hat-wearing etiquette's time to enter the modern era

Recently I walked into a lawn bowls club on match day wearing my black fedora-style hat.  I was told that I had to remove my hat as it was club rules. I looked around and there were the ladies sitting there with their hats on. Of course, the rules are that ladies MUST keep their hats on in the club. Hmmm.

John Brack: Collins St 5pm, 1955
Now I'm not completely opposed to etiquette, or "when in Rome..." type standards, but I am opposed to standards that are imposed that make no sense at all in 2011.  This hat issue is certainly one of those.  According to all writers on hat etiquette, when the wearing of hats was commonplace until the middle of the 20th century, there were a long list of hat wearing rules that men and women followed.  John Brack's famous painting reflects that era in "Collins St 5pm".

It's important to remember that during those times, issues of gender inequality along with class/status issues were integral to Australian, American and British culture (one might argue it hasn't much changed in Britain!). So, a man removed his hat to deference to a superior or to a woman.

If I wear a hat, do I have to relinquish sexual equality?

So, the etiquette of the mid 20th century has been largely forgotten, and now hats are making a comeback.  Those who are old enough to remember the traditions of 50 years ago expect that the same protocols should apply now. As a man, I am expected to remove my hat in the club, but the women are expected to leave theirs on.  Huh? It no longer makes any sense.

If the etiquette is about a hat being an outdoor item, then men or women should take a hat off when indoors.  Or, a more modern take on hat etiquette is "if you are in transit, leave the hat on. If you’re stopping or sitting or staying for a while, take it off." Again, that would make equal sense for men and women.

Fashion - it's the new thing

The fashion advisers are telling us guys that hats are in.  The retailers are selling us lots of cool hats, and the paparazzi are happily snapping the models indoors with their hats on in the spring carnival marquees.

Of course, the ladies wear their hats all day, but it's just as sensible if it's a men's fashion item that they should wear their hat as well.

Don't make me fight you, old bowls and RSL clubs

I'm not going to shame the bowls club I entered or the RSL club with this published policy

At no time is the following allowed -
- Hats/beanies, including bandana’s
            (ladies are allowed to wear hats when worn as a 
              fashion item, not caps etc)

But needless to say, these clubs are now out of touch with modern society. If they don't want hats worn inside - then, fine - for men and women alike.  But, hanging onto their sexist rules are just anachronistic, like some of the committee members.

OK, so hat etiquette isn't the most important topic in the world, but it still shines a light on how old traditions can undermine modern equality

Let me know what you think

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Why does Bill Evans want Australia to have a recession?

Bill Evans, Westpac
Glenn Stevens, RBA
Back in July, Westpac's chief economist Bill Evans forecast the European economic problems would slow growth and result in a decrease in official interest rates by 100 basis points.  Nobody else was predicting that, and yes, he got it right when the Reserve Bank dropped rates by 25 basis points in November. But why does he insist on interpreting every statistic through the lens of their own prediction?

By sticking to the prediction that rates will decrease by a further 75bps, Bill Evans is forecasting the cash rate to fall to 3.75%.  That is well below a neutral level, so the only reason we will get a rate that low is if Australia falls into recession. The Reserve Bank is forecasting Australia's growth to continue at trend rate of 3-3.5%, so why does Westpac continue to talk up their prediction and talk down the economy?

Stick to your guns, but be fair

I respect Bill Evans for having a view, but recent economic data is indicating that the Australian economy is turning upwards.  As new data has arrived, it seems that Westpac are only looking for evidence to support their "rates down by 75bps" view, rather than taking an objective look at the figures.

Sure, if they believe that Europe is going to hell in a handbasket, then there is a case that Australia will fall into recession.  But you can't just dismiss positive data because it doesn't fit your theory.

My call is for stable rates

For what it's worth, I think rates will stay where they are now for some time. I don't see any change in December, and the green shoots of growth give me cause to think that by February our consumer economy will be looking OK.  Combined with the very strong mining sector, and my thought that the next inflation numbers won't be quite as low as the October figures, I'm tipping no change in February as well.

Of course, if Europe really does disintegrate, then that's a different story, but unlike Bill Evans, I'd be prepared to change my view if the data do change. (Oh, and I am putting my money where my mouth is!)

Whatever your view might be, you still have a responsibility to interpret new data objectively.  I don't believe that Westpac are doing that at the moment 

Let me know what you think

Mark S

Monday, 14 November 2011

Greece and Italy set to gain proper governments from the wreckage

No more bunga bunga capitalists. No more crazy socialists.

While Greece and Italy have been forced into dramatic political change, for the first time in many years, they are set to be led by men who will govern the country with less interest into popularity.  Lucas Papademos in Greece and Italy's most likely PM Mario Monti are "technocrats".  That's political speech for "they'll get on with managing the economy".

It takes a crisis to find a leader

Not every crisis produces leaders of quality.  But serious crises do create an urgent need for change, even more urgent than an election.  The paradigm changes.

The paradigms in Greece and Italy (and a number of other European countries) has been to continue to do the  same that's always been done, just because it's always been the way.  There's even been acknowledgment that things could be better, but there's been no political will to change.

Finally, like a company in crisis who calls in the administrators, the new managers will be expected to fix the mess.  They won't expected to be popular, they won't even be expected to consult widely.  They will be expected to get the job done.

Frankly, we need more focus from our world leaders on getting the job done, and less focus on 10 second voice grabs.

Lucas and Mario - please stick to your guns and fix the mess.  The people will respect you for it.

Let me know what you think

Mark S

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Australia's carbon price legislation is a sign of growing up

After years of dithering, today's decision by the Senate to pass the Clean Energy Bill is a momentous occasion in more ways than one.  Yes, I think the policy itself is a good one, but it's the maturity as a country that has really struck a chord internationally.

So the largest polluters will pay for carbon emissions, pass on the costs to consumers who will be compensated, and clean energy innovation will thrive.  Economically and ecologically the evidence suggests this will be a positive for Australia.

Huge international interest

But what has been more compelling is the positive international response. Within 12 hours, there are over 800 global news stories covering this decision, and a variety of opinions.

BBC: Australia's Senate has approved a controversial law on pollution, after years of bitter political wrangling.
WSJ: Australia's Carbon Tax Clears Final Hurdle
Xinhua: A latest report showed the carbon tax will cost 0.98 trillion U. S. dollars on the Australian economy, or 39,086 U.S. dollars per Australian from July next year to 2050.
TVNZ: Australia passes landmark carbon tax laws

Leadership by Gillard

Whether you like the law, or dislike it; whether you see it as an economic positive or negative, this story has put Australia's leadership credentials on the global stage.  Rather than waiting to be led by the next Kyoto round, or following the path of larger countries, Prime Minister Gillard has shown real leadership.

Whether you agree with him or not, you can't ignore the power of Al Gore.  And when he says, "With this vote, the world has turned a pivotal corner in the collective effort to solve the climate crisis,” it is a clear sign that Australia is setting the agenda on a major issue.

After failing to vote for a Republic 12 years ago, finally Australia is growing up.  Whatever your views on the Clean Energy Act, we should be proud to take our place on the world stage. Oh, and it's good for our brand.

Let me know what you think