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Monday Message Board

August 23rd, 2004

It’s Monday again, and time for the Monday Message Board. Post your comments on any topic (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please). I’d be interested in general reactions to the Olympics – too much sport or not enough?

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  1. still working it out
    August 23rd, 2004 at 10:09 | #1

    I got a question that I’m hoping someone can help with. As I understand it, no federal election has to be called until April next year. I guess I’m ignorant of some basic fact here, but why would Howard call an election this year? Surely he’d rather go for another six months or so. Any answer’s much appreciated.

  2. resh
    August 23rd, 2004 at 10:17 | #2

    He’ll call it when he thinks he will win – when the political climate best favours the likelihood of re-election. This will secure another term i.e a longer period of power than the remaining 6 months.

  3. MB
    August 23rd, 2004 at 10:41 | #3

    It seems to me that governments are far too obsessed with efficiency in public policy. Most of the major economic reforms of the past two
    decades have been based on the assumption–true or false–that they would improve efficiency. This was the case for the deregulation of
    the financial system, tariff cuts, industrial relations and labour market reform, microeconomic reform and the privatisation and
    corporatisation of public enterprises. It seems to me that this is a very narrow focus, and that in pursuing greater efficiency, governments have neglected other important considerations, like
    equality. For example, it might make sense to sell off a public enterprise like Telstra from the point of view of efficiency [and I’m not sure this is even true]. But it disregards the fact that a utility like telecommunications, which provides a vital service to the public, should be publicly-owned, particularly when there is a tendency towards monopoly. I think there is far too much emphasis on efficiency in public policy today and that the policy debate needs to be shifted away from an
    excessive focus on efficiency towards other equally important considerations such as equality or public accountability?

  4. still working it out
    August 23rd, 2004 at 11:01 | #4


    Thanks for that. I guess the follow on to that would be why does Howard seem to think his chances of wininng are better in mid October, as the consensus date for an election seems to be, rather than a later date?

  5. Brian Bahnisch
    August 23rd, 2004 at 11:20 | #5

    still working it out, I think Johnny is a bit confused at the moment. You can bet their marginal seat polling is not where he wants it to be, or he would have gone by now.

    A neglected fact is that he passes Bob Hawke in the PM longevity stakes on 20 December, if memory serves. I don’t actually think this is large in his thinking, but you can bet he knows about it and you never know what’s rattling around in his head.

  6. Paul Norton
    August 23rd, 2004 at 16:10 | #6

    MB, I would agree that “efficiency”, especially economic efficiency narrowly defined, cannot be the central goal of public policy. The economy is only a means to an end, efficiency is only one of a number of benchmarks by which that means should be judged, and when narrow-minded pursuit of “efficiency” (however defined) starts to undermine the achievement of the ends of public policy, it needs to be questioned.

    That said, there is also a strong case that the efficiency of firms and of the economy overall is not aided in the long run by neo-liberal policies of privatisation, deregulation, etc. Regulation for the purposes of e.g. protecting workers’ rights, environmental protection, consumer protection, preventing sex, race or age descrimination, etc., actually imposes a discipline on firms to improve their performance through technological innovation, product and service improvements, efficiency gains through better organisation, wiser use of materials and energy, etc. See Eban Goodstein’s “The Trade-Off Myth” for a clear discussion of the positive economic effects of environmental regulation.

  7. August 23rd, 2004 at 16:22 | #7

    As far as the Olympics go, I am almost a complete abstainer, which stems from missing the Samoan team enter the stadium at the opening ceremony. I tend to think, perhaps like other commenters, that the politics of the moment – the Swift boat controversy -is more interesting. We also might even have a Federal election in the next two or three months?

  8. Martin Pike
    August 23rd, 2004 at 16:38 | #8

    Wmmbb, no offense mate, but you are un-Australian. Have you considered a career in terrorism, or possibly academia? Certainly you are out of touch, and therefore pretty irrelevant. Do you drink lattes?

  9. Martin Pike
    August 23rd, 2004 at 17:00 | #9

    Besides, there is politics everywhere if you look. Watching beach volleyball the other day I was reminded, in particular by the wedged position of one of the mighty athletes’ speedos, of the balanced nature of trade negotiations with our American benefactors.

  10. Tony Healy
    August 23rd, 2004 at 17:06 | #10

    Further to Paul Norton’s comments that fair legislation actually aids the economy and efficiency, American blogger Mark Schmitt has an interesting observation that the more highly unionised a state is in the US, the less its corporations are likely to suffer litigation.


    Regards, Tony Healy

  11. Fyodor
    August 23rd, 2004 at 17:25 | #11

    [rant on]

    Martin Pike,

    Latte means milk. Is there something wrong with drinking milk?

    If you’re going to abuse people on the basis of their coffee preference, could you please get it right? “Caffe-latte” is the name of the beverage.

    [rant off]

  12. Peter F
    August 23rd, 2004 at 18:13 | #12

    Re Timing of the election.
    The conventional view – that the election would be held by October at the latest – has been largely based on the view that the PM would choose to go before the US, because of the risk of Bush’s defeat, and its possible/likely implications for Howard. The other reason that most observers have assumed that he wouldn’t wait until the New Year is the impression that “hanging on” would allow the inference that he’s resigned to defeat and just delaying the inevitable. Delay also reduces the scope for his playing ducks and drakes with the date, something which he appears to find pleasurable.
    Again, most political observers have continued to assume that the Government will be returned, and so the timing would be assumed to impact on the margin rather than the outcome. I think this assumption of a certain coalition victory is now subject to serious review. It won’t take much more polling similar to the recent past to warrant its complete reversal.

  13. August 23rd, 2004 at 19:18 | #13

    Fyodor, can I have a short macchiato with a lot of latte please?

  14. slatts
    August 23rd, 2004 at 19:57 | #14

    Someone made a sound suggestion in print somewhere today that Olympian graduates of sports institutes should be subject to a HECS-style repayment. Given that athletes like Thorpe and Pittman stand to make millions in endorsements, some form of repayment based on earnings from a particular sport would seen ti be fair.

  15. slatts
    August 23rd, 2004 at 20:01 | #15

    Yes, John, too much sport. Sports that already have an international peak event, like Wimbledon, or the soccer World Cup shouldn’t clog up the Olympics program. Then all we’d have to do would be organise a peak international event for synchronised swimming.

  16. August 23rd, 2004 at 20:45 | #16

    And rythmic gymnastics- pee-uww.

  17. Mark Bahnisch
    August 23rd, 2004 at 21:18 | #17

    I wasn’t impressed with the lack of solidarity and sympathy shown to that rower who hit the wall by her team mates (or the way the populist media treated her) – nor Thorpie’s response to losing the relay thingie to the yanks. Are we too focussed on winning at all costs?

  18. August 23rd, 2004 at 21:29 | #18

    The rower (Sally Roberts) had flaked in a previous major comp; WTF was she doing in the team- affirmative action? A couple of narcoleptics in the individual pursuit might even make it worth watching.

  19. August 23rd, 2004 at 23:42 | #19

    The 4 yearly circus that costs a lot of bread (sorry)is on again. How will you have your tedium? Rare or medium?

  20. Brian Bahnisch
    August 23rd, 2004 at 23:47 | #20

    Mark, Paul is right in that she had had the problem before, raising the question of whether she was the best available selection. OTOH she had rowed in 2000. I wonder whether she doesn’t have some sort of medical condition.

    I agree with the bloke who said that the on-site management of the issue was below par. Also the journalist who called her ‘unAustralian’ went too far. I believe there were lots of callers on radio expressing sympathy and saying the journo was unAustralian.

    The team tactics were also part of the problem. There were three of our rowing teams who went for gold, burnt themselves out and finished out of a place.

    Too much emphasis on winning IMO.

  21. Mark Upcher
    August 24th, 2004 at 00:00 | #21

    I’m interested to get some views on how ANZUS is being interpreted in the light of last weeks Downer induced debacle. Downer should not have said what he said for diplomatic reasons and his timing was dreadful.
    But I always thought ANZUS only meant we had some obligation to go to the US’s aid in the event of an unprovoked attack on the US (which to some extent justified our support in Afghanistan), but did not mean that we would always support the US in a situation where US became involved in a conflict between other parties (eg. China-Taiwan) or for whatever reason the US launched an attack on another country or regime (eg. the Iraq war).
    Is there any difference between the “spirit” of ANZUS and the letter of the agreement?

  22. kyan gadac
    August 24th, 2004 at 00:01 | #22

    I think sport as a communal event fulfils very important maintenance tasks for the Australian psyche and cosnequently the Australian economy. Apart from the obvious bonding and patriotism, it acts as a brake against intellectual elitism, which explains it’s popularity in this country. As such, it provides a tremendous boost to the working poor, and since these people do all the real work, it contributes to the real economy.

    Of course, since they don’t get paid very much, their improvements in productivity doesn’t show up in the national accounts. Doesn’t mean it’s not important though.

    Although sport can be hijacked by commercial interests – it’s nearly always to the detriment of the sport, as many an administrator has found out. This fact alone ensures that sport is (almost)the only valid reason for watching commercial television (well, OK, I am gonna watch Murray Wheelan, I hate it when their advertising works!)

    But sport and art, as recreational reflections of our lives, should probably be balanced. Undoubtedly there are times when there’s too much sport, just as there are times when there’s never enough.

  23. August 24th, 2004 at 02:04 | #23

    What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?


  24. Martin Pike
    August 24th, 2004 at 13:20 | #24

    Fyodor, chill bruss, if you look at my comments you will see that I was being sarcastic. I completely support what wmmbb said. In fact after I posted them my immediate thought was that the sarcasm was so obvious it was banal.

    I know what latte means in italian, it is simply an abbreviation. Like not asking for a “coca cola drink” when you want a coke. Relax- try a chamomile tea =)

  25. Fyodor
    August 24th, 2004 at 13:53 | #25

    Martin Pike,

    I know – I was just messin’, and did not mean to target you in particular. Apologies if I came across too harsh – probably excessive caffe relative to latte.

  26. Martin Pike
    August 24th, 2004 at 14:08 | #26

    Just as long as it isn’t starbucks- check out the discussion further up…

    Ciao Bello

  27. Fyodor
    August 24th, 2004 at 14:44 | #27

    Don’t get me started on Starbucks. I used to wonder where they got their name: from the Pequod’s first mate, or that blond dude from Battlestar Galactica. Given the ersatz tackiness of their stores, I always assumed the latter, but apparently it’s the former.

    Incidentally, in reference to the other thread, Starbucks only opened their first store after one of their managers came back from a trip to Milan and decided to copy an italian coffee house. Now the Americans think they invented “coffee culture”. Spew.

  28. Martin Pike
    August 24th, 2004 at 15:21 | #28

    I’m chewing my hand to avoid writing something base and anti-american here…

  29. August 24th, 2004 at 16:25 | #29

    A couple of narcoleptics.. forgotten though it seems to be, the Paralympics are on immediately after the Big Event, so various kinds of people with disabilities get to strive mightily while the meedja dismantle their cameras..

    I think. Or did it happen before? Hey, do we have athletes there?

    Useless fact number five million: Did you know that croquet was pulled from the Olympics because in the Paris games of 1900 it got only one spectator?

  30. Martin Pike
    August 24th, 2004 at 16:40 | #30

    I watched the men’s final table tennis last night, and it was as funny as- and this is a more apt simile than you might think- a premature ejac in a porn film.

    Basically the two guys crouched really low over the table, one makes a tiny move to hit the ball, and misfires, sending it under the table, and it is all over, the other guy gets gold…

  31. Blair s Fairman
    August 24th, 2004 at 18:26 | #31

    Croquet was pulled but it was replaced in 1904 with even stranger game called Roque which nobody even bothed to record the rules for, so there is one olympic sport that the IOC has no idea how it was played.

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