Odds and sods – part 1

An end of the year series of odds and sods

Treaties, treaties, treaties

Surprise, surprise – despite the high-flown claims of political leaders international treaties have mostly failed to produce their intended effects.

In a PNAS research article (1 August 2022) almost 30 researchers combined to evaluate what impact international treaties that aimed to foster global co-operation actually had.

Obviously as there are about 250,000 of such creatures it was impossible to study them all although every student of politics and international relations would quickly come up with some examples of failure. For Australia it would be the US-Australia free trade agreement forced upon the Australian negotiators by John Howard despite clear evidence the benefits were minimal and the disbenefits manifold.

Howard got what he saw as a vital political win and the US thanked us for sucking at negotiations.

The authors of the study in the PNAS looked at a synthesis of some 224 primary studies and meta-analysis of 82 high quality studies say finding that “treaties have mostly failed to produce their intended effects. The only exceptions are treaties governing international trade and finance which consistently produced intended effects”.

“These results are unexpected because they challenge conventional wisdom about treaties, which are widely considered as the apex mechanisms for countries to make commitments to each other,” the authors say. They go on to hope that the research might be used by national governments and international institutions to do better and achieve greater impact.

To which one might reply – the authors’ hope that things might get better will probably be unfilled, even though we should continue to hope it might.

The Melbourne Grand Prix

Yet again the Victorian Government and the Grand Prix are boasting about an extension of the Melbourne Grand Prix contract. Needless to say it comes with yet more patently absurd claims about the economic impact of the race and the continued refusal to measure the one thing which could be most easily measured – the actual attendance.

Hugo Armstrong, President of the association of sporting bodies which use Albert Park said: “As usual, there has been zero advice or consultation with the thousands of affected community members by the Grand Prix Corporation or the Victorian Government before this announcement, despite repeated approaches by clubs based in the Park.

“The Grand Prix significantly disrupts winter sports seasons, clubs lose members and money, and grounds get smashed.

“Community sport is growing massively, with more and more women and children seeking its physical, mental and social benefits. Yet investment in sporting facilities on Albert Park Lake and across the Reserve has failed for decades to keep pace with demand,” Mr Armstrong said.

“News from the Grand Prix Corporation that it has cost the State more than half a billion dollars over a decade is just further salt in the wounds.

“The Government can lose almost $80 million dollars in a weekend, year after year. If they spent that much as a one-off on facilities used by thousands of Melburnians all year round, Albert Park could live up to its status as Victoria’s biggest community sports precinct for decades,” he said.

English pollution and policy failure

If you are planning an English holiday and, weather permitting, you want to take to the lakes, rivers and beaches for pleasure it’s probably a good idea to put it off until 2063.

As the blog has mentioned before the English privatisation of water and sewerage is a classic example of government failure with prices increasing and quality declining.

The Guardian (23/12) has reported that “Targets to clean up the majority of England’s rivers, lakes and coastal waters suffering from a cocktail of agricultural and sewage pollution have been pushed back from 2027 to 2063.

“Not one English waterway, including rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters is in good ecological and chemical health at present, with pollution from water treatment plants and agriculture the key sources of the damage. The Environment Agency said on Thursday £5.3bn was being invested for the next five years to stop the further deterioration of waterways.

“But the summary documents within the plan reveal the target for all 3,651 water bodies to achieve good chemical and ecological status – a state in which they are as close to their natural state as possible – was now decades away in 2063.”


Be careful about what you wish for – or at least lay off the magic mushrooms when you are making decisions.

The grand dream of a wonderful future outside Europe with countries from Tanzania to the Marshall Islands and Australia clamouring for the unique opportunities of free trade agreements with Britain, has just for some strange reason not been realised.

There are huge queues of lorries at ports; extensive paperwork; shortages of skilled labour; and no signs that the EU is about to start pleading for the UK to come back nor that the Boris bus claims that Britain would suddenly get 350 billion pounds by getting out of the EU would eventuate. He did slightly qualify that claim later, when he said the figure might actually be an under-estimate.

75% of firms say the government’s post-Brexit trade deal with the EU has not helped them to expand their business in the last two years and a survey by the British Chambers of Commerce found that more than half (56%) of the BCC members surveyed who trade with the EU said they had experienced problems complying with new rules for exporting goods, while 45% reported issues trading in services.

All in all a really spectacular own goal.

More odds and sods tomorrow