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Monday message board

September 19th, 2005

It’s time, once again for the Monday Message Board. Civilised discussion and no coarse language, please.

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  1. September 19th, 2005 at 08:11 | #1

    The results of the NZ and German elections seem to confirm that “western” (whatever that means) countries are still creeping to the right. Not a landslide, sure, but still an inexorable creep to the right.

    Supporters of rightwing parties might say that’s because the populations of these countries have seen the light at last. To that I would reply that obesity is also increasing year by year- doesn’t mean it’s “right”.

  2. jquiggin
    September 19th, 2005 at 08:41 | #2

    Against that, the left just won in Norway

  3. September 19th, 2005 at 08:58 | #3

    Here’s a Monday paradox for you:

    For the last three (correct me if I am wrong) electoral terms Australia has had a solidly rightwing government.

    While for the last two terms New Zealand has had a reasonably centre-left government.

    Yet, in Australia you still have a more strongly progressive taxation system than us. And you can still see the doctor for free (or at least you could when I last lived there).

    Strange…call it the Tasman paradox if you will…

  4. Paul Norton
    September 19th, 2005 at 09:40 | #4

    The brouhaha about Latham’s diaries is having the baleful effect of diverting our attention from some outrageous developments under the Howard government.

    The Scott Parkin deportation and proposed new counter-terrorism laws is one. Another is the proposed changes to family law. See:




  5. still working it out
    September 19th, 2005 at 09:43 | #5

    From the article on the Norway election results.

    “But letting the good times roll is not really the Scandinavian way. Even at the cost of moderately higher taxes, most Norwegians on Monday seemed intent on protecting or expanding generous sick-leave, pregnancy-leave and job-security policies along with subsidized day care and free college tuition.”

    I am so envious.

  6. September 19th, 2005 at 10:58 | #6

    So am I. What do I care about a $6 tax cut, while they gut health and education? I’m beside myself that stupid Brendan Nelson got free university education while my children will be crippled with debt from the outset. I’m fearful of the future when I read American blogs and articles describing the medical costs that bankrupt American families – and the terrible system that ties medical insurance to employment. Lastly, I fear Latho has given the other side another free kick towards another term in office to keep doing it.

  7. September 19th, 2005 at 12:30 | #7

    Helen, you make it sound as if there is something wrong with “the other side” having another term in office?

  8. GDP
    September 19th, 2005 at 12:30 | #8

    Paul Norton:

    Under the current system of child support, a “non-resident” father that sees his children 30% of the time is treated for the purposes of child support calculations as if he never sees his children at all. That is despite the fact that he must maintain extra bedrooms and provide for his children while they are in his care. On top of that, the non-resident father is most likely to have lost the family home to the ex-wife in the divorce, hence will have higher costs to begin with.

    A large proportion of the proposed changes to the child support formula seek to redress this imbalance. Can you explain to me how this is an “outrageous development” by the Howard gvernment?

  9. stoptherubbish
    September 19th, 2005 at 12:59 | #9

    If you are economically vulnerable, have dependants you must provide for, and need to work long hours to keep everyone’s head above water, steve at the pub, there is indeed something wrong for you if the ‘other side’ gets another term in office. And it is not yet illegal to say so, the last time I looked.

  10. September 19th, 2005 at 13:51 | #10

    stoptherubbish, you describe me almost to a T, I sort of feel as if you are looking over my shoulder.

    However, considering the alternative at the last election (latham, what a disaster it would have been for Australia) I fail to see how on earth the latham/alp alternative is BETTER than what we already have.

    All we need now is a nice decent flat tax (al la Estonia) & our happiness/contentment would go through the roof.

  11. Ian Gould
    September 19th, 2005 at 14:18 | #11


    I tened to think that it’s a bad thing if any government, regardless of its political ideology, stays in office for too long.

    Having said that, it’s up to the Opposition to prove its a reasonable alternative and Labor pretty clearly failed to do that last time.

    I tend to think that the next election will be very difficult for the Government unless Labor makes an even bigger mess of things than they have in the recent past.

  12. wilful
    September 19th, 2005 at 14:31 | #12

    I’m not much of a grammarian, so can someone tell me, is “It’s time, once again for the Monday Message Board” missing a comma, does it have one too many, is it misplaced, or is it OK?

  13. Terje Petersen
    September 19th, 2005 at 15:19 | #13

    Australias “right-wing” government seems very socialist to me. They have expanded middle class welfare, increased the tax take, and they seem pretty keen to engage in social engineering.

    The only way in which the Howard government is not socialist is in government ownership. However it is still happy to dole out money to industry groups in the name of picking winners.

  14. Andrew Reynolds
    September 19th, 2005 at 15:28 | #14

    Needs one between “again” and “for”.

  15. September 19th, 2005 at 15:33 | #15

    Aaaargh! I forgot.
    It’s international Talk like a Pirate day.
    Aargh, argh, me hearties!
    Shiver me timbers.

  16. September 19th, 2005 at 15:38 | #16

    Bobby Henderson of Venganza.org:

    You may be interested to know that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s. For your interest, I have included a graph of the approximate number of pirates versus the average global temperature over the last 200 years. As you can see, there is a statistically significant inverse relationship between pirates and global temperature.

    http://www.venganza.org/index.htm – Scroll down to see the graph showing relationship between number of pirates / global temperature.

  17. Terje Petersen
    September 19th, 2005 at 16:05 | #17

    Its not often that somebody comes along and says that thousands of years of trigonometry is based on a false understanding and that there is a much easier way to do things. One that junks the need for sin and cosine and lets complex problems be solved with algebra.


    P.S. I have checked the calendar and today is not April 1st.


    This text introduces a new and simplified approach to trigonometry and a major restructuring of Euclidean geometry. It replaces cos, sin, tan and all those other transcendental trig functions with rational functions and elementary arithmetic. It develops a complete theory of planar Euclidean geometry over a general field without any reliance on `axioms’. And it shows how to apply this new theory to a wide range of practical problems from engineering, physics, surveying and calculus.

    Paradigm shifts are not easy. This sounds more revolutionary than the move to metric and SI units. Best to take a cold shower before we get too excited.

  18. observa
    September 19th, 2005 at 16:15 | #18
  19. GDP
    September 19th, 2005 at 16:42 | #19

    “Paradigm shifts are not easy. This sounds more revolutionary than the move to metric and SI units. Best to take a cold shower before we get too excited.”

    I just read chapter 1. It’s actually not as flakey as you’d think from the hype. Basically an alternative pedagogy – not a change in the fundamental theory of geometry as the hype suggests.

  20. observa
    September 19th, 2005 at 16:49 | #20
  21. September 19th, 2005 at 17:05 | #21

    I think that the ALP needs a kick in the backside. If it has any chance of winning in the next election it has to stop being the Labor Liberal party. Latham may have done the party a favour.

  22. September 19th, 2005 at 17:28 | #22

    Ender, I’d suggest it’s the Australian population that needs a kick in the backside.

    Yes, the ALP is clearly going through a gutless stage under Beazley. But lets see what it might be that would take so much political courage to do. Here’s a modest enough set: promote human rights towards all (asylum seekers included) at home, refuse to accept the legitimacy of war as a casual instrument of foreign policy, take climate change (and other serious environmental issues) seriously, prioritise equity and fairness in the land of the mythical Fair Go, modulate economic growth with a balanced set of political/social objectives, consider the welfare of producers as significant as that of consumers, emphasise evidence as a basis for social policy.

    Modest (and at least in terms of recent history *mainstream*) goals like these would seem unobjectionable enough. It seems ludicrous to suggest that espousing them would require courage. But in truth, with the lousy population Australia has created, no political party seriously intent on power would dare even float them.

  23. September 19th, 2005 at 17:44 | #23

    Cris Bennett:

    Great concept, but the rough outline of policy direction is too much like that favoured by the “uni-student” set, or the “latte set”, to ever get any votes from the masses.

  24. September 19th, 2005 at 18:14 | #24

    As opposed to many on the so-called Left, I reckon Latham has exposed the true heart of the ALP and the political and media elite.
    Read on: http://antonyloewenstein.blogspot.com/2005/09/mark-latham.html

  25. joe2
    September 19th, 2005 at 18:25 | #25

    Arrrrrr and shiver me timbers to allya pirate bloggers, like helen ya lass.
    On, “speak like a pirate day”.

    Pirate, Paul Norton makes the good point that some issues get lost when other matters take the media stage. Scott Parkin, an interesting example.
    He was considered a “threat to national security” here, and deported, despite a visa and no arrest on arrival in his homeland,Texus. He may have been up to some nasty business but he, and we, are not able to be told. Just pirate john and kim.

    Meanwhile ,’Kellog,Brown and Root’, subsidiarys of Halliburton, have donated 50,000 dollars to each of our major parties.

    Just thought to mention that, all praise to the Flying Spagehetti Monster and Aramen!

  26. September 19th, 2005 at 19:08 | #26

    *Steve at the pub: * er, isn’t that what I said?
    *Antony Loewenstein: * Your blog entry is spot on. It’s a shame that Latham’s important points about the systemic corruption of our political and media systems are going to be invisible beneath the bile and gossip. My difference from you (I imagine?) is that I think the Great Aussie Public deserves and indeed courts that corruption: “Don’t bug us with social or political issues: do kill whoever you need to keep our Urban Assault Vehicles truckin’”.

  27. lurch
    September 19th, 2005 at 19:33 | #27

    Wheres me buccaneers? Wheres me buccaneers?
    I wonder if this could be the what the Labour party should be asking itself over the Latham diaries and associated media frenzy.

  28. observa
    September 19th, 2005 at 19:41 | #28

    [...I think the Great Aussie Public deserves and indeed courts that corruption: “Don’t bug us with social or political issues: do kill whoever you need to keep our Urban Assault Vehicles truckin’�.]
    And that’s the diet the Whitlams, Hawkes and Dunstans fed them was it Cris? When did they ever get it wrong, given the choices they faced eh?

  29. Jar Jar
    September 19th, 2005 at 19:53 | #29

    Jar Jar says all we need is:

    Equal taxation treatment, equal parental rights, mens fertility rights. Then I be happy.

    Jar Jar

  30. September 19th, 2005 at 20:37 | #30

    *observa* I think the reason we are not being given the choices necessary to face the real issues of our times, is because the public are in such an extreme state of denial that it would be political suicide for any party to *offer* such choices. The public won’t let them. Imagine what would happen to any party who said that we should make the driver of policies evidence-based measures to enhance sustainability and happiness, rather than growth. They’d be slaughtered, despite the fact of the insane and dangerous nature of our current bipartisan growth-fundamentalism ideology.

    The public are getting the choices they deserve and want, by and large.

  31. observa
    September 19th, 2005 at 23:17 | #31

    “Imagine what would happen to any party who said that we should make the driver of policies evidence-based measures to enhance sustainability and happiness, rather than growth.”
    They’d be stating what almost everybody knows, that the emperor has no clothes. Problem is, they’d better have some appropriate attire at the ready, rather than running about in the nuddy themselves.

    “The public are getting the choices they deserve and want, by and large.”
    Whether they deserve the leadership they get is a moot point, but they may certainly want better.

  32. September 20th, 2005 at 07:45 | #32

    *Observa:* the poll evidence, at least, is against you. John Howard is popular. People rate petrol prices as a more significant issue to them than climate change and the worldwide collapse of ecosystems. The anecdotal evidence is against you: in my suburb, every new resident makes their first move the extirpation of all non-human life from their yard, in order to have a hosable space to park their SUV’s. People *want* what Howard is offering. Corporations and the far right have created the tame populations they cherish.

    Again: the reason “the emperer has no clothes” (assuming you mean the Federal opposition) is that they *dare* not. Their polling shows that the population want our current malevolent and destructive policies.

  33. Harry Clarke
    September 20th, 2005 at 08:53 | #33

    If half of what Mark Latham is saying is true then its good that the ALP was not elected at the last election. If less than half of what he says is true it is good that we didn’t get lumbered with a PM who has the character of Mark Latham. Either way, electors showed good past judgement.

  34. September 20th, 2005 at 10:06 | #34

    The only thing wrong with the Australian people is an absolute crisis in leadership.

    Mr Venal&Ugly faced off against Mr Mad&Narcissistic.

    Where did we get that crisis from? So many reasons. But both political parties would do well to put their houses in order. And look very carefully around the world for structures that work for their side in politics.

  35. GDP
    September 20th, 2005 at 11:03 | #35

    Today we learn that Latham has retired to be “Home Dad” on a $66K parliamentary pension. For the rest of his life. Indexed.

    Please enjoy it Mark: I couldn’t be happier toiling away and not seeing my kids as much as I’d like so I can pay taxes for you to sit back and do as you please. [irony alert]

    Now the whole dummy spit makes sense. He has nothing to lose. Makes my blood boil.

  36. stoptherubbish
    September 20th, 2005 at 11:38 | #36

    I love it! Estonian flat taxes, Ukranian secret service accountability, 19th century poor laws, 18th century workplace arrangements (there is no such thing as conflict at work, only recalcitrant shirkers and mischief making third parties), and the politics of loyalty to empire (it’s important to approve the FTA because not to would be seen as a sign of disloyalty to- the US, and could endanger our security from….), and finally deportation on the grounds that a visa has been cancelled because the proper authority has made a determination that the visa should be cancelled, and since it has been cancelled then the person must be deported. This bit is worthy of Kafka. Thanks, Phil Ruddock, for giving us our very own little bit of Hapsberg Empire, right here in our very own place down under!
    This country has moved beyond satire and almost attained a level of farce suitable for putting to music. I doubt Gilbert and Sullivan could do it justice, but there may be a Swift out there somewhere who has the capacity to

  37. September 20th, 2005 at 12:35 | #37

    “The only thing wrong with the Australian people is an absolute crisis in leadership.”

    So do you believe in a million years Australian suburbanites would vote for a party that proposed anything serious to deal with our ecological crises? Or anything which would restrict their right to attack low-lying countries by driving their corporate kids to school in vast gas-guzzlers?

    Policies that actually addressed current physical realities rather than media fantasies would be driven out of existence by polls a day or two after being floated. You can’t lead people where they resolutely don’t want to go.

  38. observa
    September 20th, 2005 at 13:38 | #38

    The emperor with no clothes refers to both the majors and their various recipes for economic growth. Everyone knows this, but neither party has a coherent set of clothes to solve the problem. Basically we have to have a smaller economic pie and that means talking about how that’s going to be divvied up. You largely need market forces to do that, because big brother govt won’t wash any more. A new carefully articulated, constitutionally agreed marketplace, would do the trick. It’s a case for very good leadership, which means ignoring short term noise and selling a coherent long term strategy. It’s been done before and people have swung behind such paradigm shifts. It comes down to leadership and those leaders, eating and breathing what they preach. Granted, it may need a bigger crisis to throw up such leadership though.

  39. Ian Gould
    September 20th, 2005 at 13:56 | #39


    funny I thought we were in the middle of one of the longest economic expansions in our history with grow expected to slow only slightly in next year or so before picking up again.

  40. September 20th, 2005 at 14:07 | #40

    Check out the gold card saga on

  41. September 20th, 2005 at 15:53 | #41

    Observa, it’s something of a moot point anyway as the leadership isn’t there even if Australia might have the capacity to respond to it.

    I have nothing more than a semi-educated layperson’s hazy knowledge of economics, and am therefore somewhat neutral on the market issue. I think it’s fundamentally second-order anyway. The order of priorities to me is something like: decide what kind of values we want, decide what is physically possible with the resources available, and *then* get economists to figure out how to deliver. If a suitably modulated market is the most appropriate technology, fine.

    I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on what Australia as a society is ready for. My sense is that most Aussies just don’t want to know or hear *anything* other than acquiscense to their yapping demands for as many of the planet’s goods as are available, regardless of the consequences. Neither am I convinced that there is widespread acknowledgement of the aforesaid nakedness. Most folk seem very satisfied with the status quo, and quickly shout down anything that appears contra.

    So — agree to disagree, and the last word to you if you want it …

  42. GDP
    September 21st, 2005 at 12:09 | #42

    Again, late in the week to change topic, but does anyone else feel that the silence on Latham from PrQ is somewhat surprising? What gives?

    On that topic, another interesting piece from Janet Albrechtsen in today’s Australian:


    Accurately expresses what I (and I suspect a lot of other Australians) feel about the Latham Dummy Spit: what did he expect from politics???

    A sample:

    “Reading his book and listening to him these last few days, Latham sounds like a heartbroken adolescent who thinks he’s the first person to experience heartache. He imagines he is the first leader to be under siege from within his own party, a victim of leaks, betrayed by colleagues, gossiped about by the media.”

  43. jquiggin
    September 21st, 2005 at 12:39 | #43

    GDP, I generally agree with what you write above, but so far I’ve only seen the Denton interview, and I’ve been a bit slack about going out to get the book. It’s not yet clear to me how much of this is a retrospective dummy spit and how much is an accurate record of Latham’s thoughts at the time, and I want to clarify this before commenting.

    More generally, I don’t much like politics as blood sport, so I’m slow to comment. I found the Brogden business pretty depressing, and similarly with this.

  44. Andrew Reynolds
    September 21st, 2005 at 13:05 | #44

    Just for a change of topic for a while: given it is increasingly likely that there is life on Mars, just in a very primitive state, I am wondering what the moral viewpoint would be regarding any attempt to land on Mars. Any landing there, particularly by people, is likely to introduce new species of life to an environment that is probably quite fragile, probably leading to the extinction of the existing species there. If we went further and terraformed the planet it would almost certainly wipe out all the existing life there.
    Does the existence of any life on a planet mean that we are permanently banned from visiting? Do we make a judgement call that the existing life is not worth as much as the uses that we will put the planet to?
    The economics of terraforming are terrible, so we will leave that to one side for a while.

  45. wilful
    September 21st, 2005 at 16:53 | #45

    Andrew, while I certainly hope there is life on Mars, I’m not sure it’s very likely. And the evidence is likely to be of archaeological life, not current.

    The likelihood of humans treating another planet in a substantially different manner to the way they’re treating this one is questionable.

    But anyway, the Red/Green/Blue Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson delves into this question in great detail. I thought it was an excellent series. In fact, knowing Pr Q’s penchant for SF, I wonder whether he’s read them, and what he thought of them?

  46. Ian Gould
    September 21st, 2005 at 19:35 | #46


    The evidence from the martian meteors found in Antarctica suggest that biological material and maybe even organisms have been transferred between the planets regularly over the last billion or so years.

    So I’m relatively sanguine about the possible impact of Earth organisms -they’re hardly likely to be sufficiently well-adapted to the local environment to pose much of a threat to the locals.

  47. Ros
    September 21st, 2005 at 19:41 | #47

    Lighter moments in life.

    New gullies that did not exist in mid-2002 have appeared on a Martian sand dune. And it appears to be having an attack of global warming.


    Commenter LGF

    A rubber company in China has begun marketing condoms under the brand names Clinton and Lewinsky, apparently seeking to exploit the White House affair that led to the impeachment of America’s 42nd president.

    Spokesman Liu Wenhua of the Guangzhou Rubber Group said the company was handing out 100,000 free Clinton and Lewinsky condoms as part of a promotion to raise consumer awareness of its new products.

    “The Clinton condom will be the top of our line,” he said. “The Lewinsky condom is not quite as good.”


  48. jquiggin
    September 21st, 2005 at 21:20 | #48

    Wilful, I haven’t read the Robinson books but will look out for them.

    Ros, while in some sense it’s obvious that all products have quality differentials, I’d be pretty alarmed if I’d purchased the Lewinsky and then read this statement.

  49. Ros
    September 22nd, 2005 at 09:43 | #49

    Our relationship with China makes me nervous so reading Greg Sheridan today on the exclusion by the Chinese government of Natasha from the invite to the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs etc to visit China as part of their inquiry into Australia’s relationship with China is disturbing.

    That it would seem that the committee went anyway I find even more concerning, China is a known bully and into repression. This committee has managed to tell us a lot (inadvertantly ) about our relationship with China, and how we respond to that bullying, at least at political levels.

    They should have refused the invitation if it didn’t include committee member Despoja

  50. Andrew Reynolds
    September 22nd, 2005 at 12:15 | #50

    Maybe the Lewinsky is just that little bit thicker and therefore less sensitive.

  51. Andrew Reynolds
    September 22nd, 2005 at 14:34 | #51

    On to another topic – are you planning a post on the Japanese election result? I would have thought that a decisive result based on an explicitly economic focussed campaign in a major economy would have deserved one. The debate around the privatisation of Japan Post would be a fascinating one.

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