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Weekend reflections

April 29th, 2005

This regular feature is back again. The idea is that, over the weekend, you should post your thoughts in a more leisurely fashion than in ordinary comments or the Monday Message Board.

Please post your thoughts on any topic, at whatever length seems appropriate to you. Civilised discussion and no coarse language, please.

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  1. Paul Watson
    April 30th, 2005 at 12:44 | #1

    The upcoming Budget’s proposal to more than triple the hours spent by some unemployed in Work for the Dole programs (from 15 hours/week over 6 months to 25 hours/week over 10 months) is a doozy.
    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,15120351%255E601,00.html

    WfD programs, from personal experience, consist of doing pointless, demeaning activities. They have been proven as failures at actually getting anyone (back) into the real workforce. Making WfD virtually full-time, for some, will significantly bridge the gap between residential institutionalisation (i.e. jail) and its non-residential form in WfD, and so act as an effective incentive for crime as a career option.

    Even Intensive Assistance and Job Search Training – the more structured cognates of WfD (cognate because they are also no-exceptions compulsory) – are farcical and/or perverse in their outcomes. Here, long-term unemployed jobseeker Paul McKinnon describes the former as profoundly demotivating.
    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,15130507%255E2702,00.html

    That the latter program apparently can involve so little supervision and data control that a participant was free to upload thousands of images of child pornography seems to be of no concern to anyone, either. Acccording to Mission Australia, the fundamentalist Christian agency charged with running the Job Search Training program in question, “it was not believed that any Mission Australia *staff* were involved� [emphasis added].
    http://www.theage.com.au/news/National/Police-probe-community-centre-porn/2005/04/29/1114635752283.html

    Quite.

  2. Benno
    April 30th, 2005 at 12:53 | #2

    I think Peter Garret would make a good Prime Minister, deputy and treasurer would be Lindsay Tanner.

    Malcom Turnbull would be Opposition Leader, deputy and shadow treasurer would be Petro Georgiou. Only a couple of obstacles stand between dream turning to reality, they are Tony Abbot and Kevin Rudd. Costello is too much of a ‘smug git’ of the python variety to be elected and Beazley is a dinosaur.

    And the Greens would hold the balance of power in the senate, after the defection of Dr. Spodja. Optional preferential condorcet voting would be adopted for the HoR and optional preferential d’hondt for the senate, based on an Australia wide electorate.

    A ‘unitary’ system of government would reign supreme, with expanded councils operating out of city states. With all of this we will have builded jerusalem on Helene’s shore.

    And I will buy a pair of Mark Latham glasses, my current frames make me look too feminine.

  3. Anthony
    April 30th, 2005 at 14:30 | #3

    What a superb cartoon by Ward O’Neill in today’s Fin Review (p63). As the best cartoons do, it reveals the unvarnished truth at the centre of a situation, or of someone’s behaviour.

    O’Neill’s depiction of our PM sitting in the dirt at Gallipoli chiselling a war memorial to himself built on the new battlefield myths of Iraq, Afghanistan, East Timor and Bougainville, while being serenaded by the words of the Bee Gee’s ‘Staying Alive’ is articulate, insightful and painfully and pitifully true.

    Howard’s predilection for camouflaging the numerous shortcomings of his government – deceit, demonisation of others, destruction of public capital, dubious and divisive economic management – as well as his own lack of intellectual honesty (replaced with a brand of pragamatism uterly devoid of soul and spirituality), is damaging this country to a point beyond return.

    His clear intention, announced yesterday, to stay on in the prime ministership for at least another election bodes badly for a nation that is ceding its autonomy and authenticity to the interests of one man’s self- agrandisement.

    We cannot create a real self until our interests move beyond ourselves. Howard’s obsession with himself is now mirrored in the national behaviour, and it’s holding us all back from becoming an authentic and confident people no longer open to cynical political manipulation.

  4. Tristan McLeay
    April 30th, 2005 at 17:25 | #4

    A while ago people were talking about a Condorcet form of STV. I thought it impossible, but it turns out that such a beast exists, called CPO-STV, or the comparison of pairs of outcomes by STV. I’ve only just now found out about it and am on my way out so haven’t read it much, but it seems you take the set of STV winners, remove one and replace them with a loser, then rank them based on prefs. If the ‘loser’ is at the bottom, he truely lost; otherwise, he must’ve been unfairly eliminated!

    Anyway, this site http://accuratedemocracy.com/z_future.htm has something about it.

  5. April 30th, 2005 at 20:50 | #5

    As someone who voted for the incumbent federal government, it is disappointing to see such complete paralysis, along with yet more idle leadership speculation, when they should be focussing on administering the country calmly and sensibly, while implementing the policies that could shore up the future wellbeing of Australia.

    Now they have revealed that they now want to cut off dole payments to people who are considered not to be looking hard enough for work. As with the Howard Government’s previous attempts at welfare reform, I predict this will be a failure. So long as low income workers in transition from Centrelink lose 70c in dole for every extra dollar they earn above $142 a fortnight, there shall be no incentive to work more hours whatsoever.

    In 1998, the federal government spent $50 billion on welfare – that figure is now well over $80 billion, and it has gone up from 37% of the federal budget to over 44% in that time. This is a basic indicator of how much trouble we are in right now, and it’s only going to get worse.

    I’m not sure of the most cost efficient way to cut welfare spending and get more people into work, but it’s becoming increasingly clear that the Federal Government will waste its political capital on a few piecemeal, reactive measures that will achieve absolutely nothing (except, of course, an expansion in the discretionary powers of Centrelink).

  6. Benno
    April 30th, 2005 at 20:51 | #6

    Thank you very much sir.

  7. Benno
    April 30th, 2005 at 20:53 | #7

    So why did you vote for them? I really am interested.

  8. May 1st, 2005 at 00:02 | #8

    Firstly, because I had an inkling Mark Latham would be nothing short of an administrative and policy disaster, and even more inept than Gough Whitlam. His subsequent behaviour (plus the likely content of his forthcoming book) confirms this in spades. I believe Labor would have won with Beazley, who anyhow has the potential to be a competent Prime Minister if he gets up in 2007.

    Secondly, because I’m a reactionary kulturkampfer who supports wedge politics on principle.

    Any further questions?

  9. May 1st, 2005 at 03:50 | #9

    Let the famous Tah’s victory over the Highlanders be noted. Decisive. Commanding. Sydney is standing up, at last, in world rugby – dare we hope! Car’n the Tahs, nearly there.

  10. Benno
    May 1st, 2005 at 10:04 | #10

    Well the person at mumble.com.au agrees with you, have you seen the lemmings? They are well worth a look. I was pretty much the opposite and considered Mark Latham a head-kicking, class-warfare person with a good turn-of-phrase who was going to shove private schools down the toilet where they belong. Unfortunately it appears hard to win an election on such a true and honest platform. Did you notice that this time around there was a clear difference in policy between both parties? Last time around Labor and Liberal were ideologically indistinguishable. Not that it did them much good of course.

    Well what about Marky Mark’s wedge politics? He had plenty of them himself, pity Australians are selfish though, and only support wedges that keep them in the black, pun intended.

  11. May 1st, 2005 at 12:12 | #11

    If that’s what you think Mark Latham’s platform was, then it’s perfectly obvious why hid DID lose. It’s interesting to note that while his policy detail was generally not headkicking, and nor was he actually going to “shove private schools down the toilet”, many people assumed he wanted to do all that anyway. Clearly if his “turn of phrase” made him appear much more extreme than he actually was, he must have been a bigger failure than first thought.

    As Mumble notes, Latham did not “differentiate” Labor or offer a distinguishable “alternative” – he was simply a much more erratic version of the status quo. So much for “conviction politics”. The guy was a madman with a thousand half-baked policy ideas that he adopted and discarded whenever his mood changed, and it is a credit to the ALP that they realised this and put the adults back in charge.

  12. May 1st, 2005 at 13:47 | #12

    Steve – you mean the gerontocracy.

    It is always hard to distinguish between the morale and excitement of our local gang and the national feeling, but I did get the sense that Latham was comparatively attractive both to women and to younger people. And he was up against a leader who is a genuinely unattractive man – a small whiney squirt with a scrunched up face texta’d all over with the word “evasive”.

    It is worth saying because it is tempting to play the hindsight game and read present events back into the pre-election perceptions. The electorate stuck to Little Johnny because of fear and financial insecurity, and the old memes of trust and reliability adhere both to the conservatives and to an incumbent government.

    I presume the real game of politics nowadays is to be a “version of the status quo”. That is, to accept that the electorate has shifted to the right, and to emphasise that this will continue but the new ALP government will do the same old stuff better, and with more compassion.

    This whole idea of a rightwards shift might be a titanic misapprehension, but we will never get the chance to really find out, although the SDP in Britain is actually campaigning on raising taxes for the rich. So they are at least challenging the notion.

  13. gordon
    May 1st, 2005 at 15:09 | #13

    After watching the ALP’s attempts to win an election by offending nobody and offering (or appearing to offer) everything that everybody wanted, and the resulting predictable failure, I described the party to my son (now a legal adult) as “a mob of whores looking for a client”. The change to the Beazley leadership has made no difference so far as I can see. I haven’t given first preference to Labor since 1987. Nor will I do so until they develop a set of policies aimed at more than keeping the relics of the Keating government in well-paid idleness.

    Steve Edwards, who agonizes over the cost of welfare, may join with me in suggesting that such a set of policies might well include developing (or redeveloping) adequate industrial employment in this country to afford jobs to the unemployed.

  14. May 1st, 2005 at 15:11 | #14

    The Liberals won by telling a whole bunch of whoppers about interest rates that no Liberal Party member of my acquaintance actually believed. This was intellectually dishonest, but it served the useful purpose of keeping a certified psychopath out of office.

    The fact remains that if Latham did differentiate on policy, it was on marginal, peripheral issues. He wanted to introduce anti-vilification laws along Victorian lines, introduce parenting classes, ban plastic bags, ban food advertising during children’s television and much, much more – effectively he proposed to turn the federal government into everyone’s compulsory agony aunt.

    Before the election he actually went on record and ridiculed calls for Labor to have an economic policy – he said that was “old politics”, out of touch with the electorate, wheras the new politics was about reading to children. The only conclusion I can reach from his behaviour is that Mark Latham wanted to preserve the status quo – with a few minor adjustments designed to guarentee public sector employment for the ALP’s supporters in an expanded government bureaucracy.

    If that is supposed to be the renewal of social democracy, me and my fellow reactionaries can rest easy.

    On the other hand, Beazley does actually pose a grave threat to the federal government, and has a very good chance of taking the prize in 2007. I know John Quiggin hates Beazley, but the fact remains that Howard won by only 14 seats in 2001 even after the dastardly ragheads blew up New York and tried to stage a UNHCR-supported invasion of the Northern Territory.

    By contrast, in 2004, public sentiment was shifting in favour of the heathen, and a rising number of Australians were actually advancing treasonous arguments that human rights are somehow applicable to non-Christians. Despite this growing climate of appeasement and self-flagellation, the best Marky Mark could do was hand Howard a 24 seat majority.

  15. May 1st, 2005 at 20:31 | #15

    Cqn you show me a crusading opposition that has opposed small government economic rationalism/ belt the prisoners/ piss off the illegal immigrants/ target welfare and actually won an election in the anglosphere?

    I suppose Helen Clarke might count, but I think the previous government was in a very very poor state. Tony Blair? New Labour is slightly wet Tory, as far as I can see.

    It seems to me this is the dilemma of socially progressive parties. Stand up for something and get flushed away.

  16. Tristan McLeay
    May 1st, 2005 at 22:23 | #16

    Pardon my ignorance, but I’ve seen the word ‘wet’ thrown around here and there a bit. What’s it mean?

  17. observa
    May 1st, 2005 at 22:30 | #17

    “it was on marginal, peripheral issues. He wanted to introduce anti-vilification laws along Victorian lines, introduce parenting classes, ban plastic bags, ban food advertising during children’s television and much, much more – effectively he proposed to turn the federal government into everyone’s compulsory agony aunt. ”

    You don’t have to worry Steve. The agony aunt is alive and well. Last weekend’s Sat Advertiser had a beaming Mike Rann on the front page, complete with baby and reading a copy of Mem Fox’s ‘Possum Magic’. This was to announce a $1mill program to give every newborn in SA a free book, which of course had to be authored and illustrated in SA. If at first you don’t succeed with Lithium eh Mem?

    Look at the squawking over the Fed’s move to cut back on IVF. As Costello pointed out this morning, medical advice showed the success rate of IVF for women over 42 was 2% and hence the restrictions. Now local Health Minister Lea Stevens has only recently come out and stated health is ‘stuffed’, yet look at the howls when the pollies try to introduce any rational cutbacks. No wonder our leaders get cynical about the electorate. Don’t hold your breath for any serious rational attack on Federal spending with a pliable Senate. Coalition backenchers will see to that, just as Labor ones would if the situation were reversed. The science of bumbling along.

  18. observa
    May 1st, 2005 at 22:34 | #18

    Wet means limp Tristan just as cardboard goes when damp. No guts in it mate.

  19. Paul Norton
    May 2nd, 2005 at 09:53 | #19

    Paul Watson wrote:

    “The upcoming Budget’s proposal to more than triple the hours spent by some unemployed in Work for the Dole programs (from 15 hours/week over 6 months to 25 hours/week over 10 months) is a doozy. WfD programs, from personal experience, consist of doing pointless, demeaning activities.”

    But Paul, there are literally billions of rocks in Australia that still haven’t been painted, and the ones that have been are starting to flake in the sun.

  20. Benno
    May 2nd, 2005 at 09:59 | #20

    Wet means cheap thrills and childish excitement for people who aren’t up to the real thing. Mostly has sexual connotations, but not in anything I’ve read on this website thank allah.

  21. May 2nd, 2005 at 10:10 | #21

    Since other people have stolen my role as class clown, I had better get serious. Wets are a branch of old fashioned liberals who are not hard line economic rationalists. They are conservatives who believe in protection and the role of government.

    They have been hunted down and killed, and their skins are nailed to wall in many a corporate board room.

    I suppose they can be compared to paleocons as opposed to neocons.

  22. May 2nd, 2005 at 10:55 | #22

    Meanwhile, down in the footnote department, the ‘wet/dry’ terms have a more interesting history than that.

    The terms were recently made popular, I understand, within Thatcher’s cabinet. Yet this overlooks the earlier Australian use, as detailed by Gavin Souter in his Lion and Kangaroo.

    If you had a dog, NSW premier and free-trader, George Reid, once said, you did not teach it to swim or give it any support, you just threw it into the water to see how it went. Protectionists, Reid said, believed in keeping the dog dry. According to similar Australian logic that leads to people with red hair to being called ‘blue’, Reid became known as “Dry Dog Reid”. In this reading, it is only by an extension of the reversing joke that social and liberal democrats can be called ‘wets’.

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