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Monday message board

November 14th, 2005

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

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  1. Homer Paxton
    November 14th, 2005 at 06:49 | #1

    Wednesday night is when footbal in Australia sees whether it can be gloriously happy or deep in depression agian.
    We must defeat Uruguay by two goals to go on to Germany for the only Worls cup worth mentioning.

    We can do it.

  2. jquiggin
    November 14th, 2005 at 08:10 | #2

    What happens if we win 1-0 ?

  3. Dave Ricardo
    November 14th, 2005 at 08:18 | #3

    “What happens if we win 1-0 ?”

    Penalty shoot out. You wouldn’t fancy our chances in that.

    John, care to respond to Dean Parham’s letter in the Financial Review criticising you article on productivity?

  4. Andrew
    November 14th, 2005 at 08:33 | #4

    Compulsory reading for all regular visitors. Greg Sheridan in the Weekend Australian —-

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,17217028%255E25377,00.html

    Conspiracy theorists fuel fire

    November 12, 2005
    WESTERN intelligence agencies studying the terrorist phenomenon are increasingly coming to the view that what tranforms a young man into a terrorist almost always turns on a crisis of identity.

    An alarming number of terrorists are made into terrorists during time spent in the West. As we saw in the London bombings, and are perhaps now seeing in Australia, this can come to second or even third-generation immigrants who feel insecure in the identity of their nation of citizenship, but also probably insecure in the identity of their ancestors’ homeland.

    There is really no common denominator among terrorists. They can be rich or poor, highly religious or not religious at all. The only common factor among many seems to be a crisis of identity that then runs into an identity entrepreneur, in the shape of a charismatic religious teacher or cell leader.

    The identity entrepreneur solves the identity crisis for the young men. He instructs them on their identity. They are warriors in jihad, avenging the countless crimes of the infidel against Islam.

    This is the sense in which the riots in France can have a connection with terrorism. It is not that the rioters have adopted terrorist ideology. But their nihilistic rage bespeaks a crisis of identity that is bound to find some of them falling into the hands of the identity entrepreneurs of radical jihad.

    In Australia these past two weeks have revealed something of our identity. We have a sober and capable leadership, both in the Government and in the Opposition, and among the state premiers. We have strong and capable police and national security institutions which can take action and take it lawfully, with swiftness and effect.

    On Tuesday, November 1, senior cabinet ministers convened for a hastily called meeting of the national security committee of cabinet. Most there did not know what the meeting was for and heard for the first time the disturbing intelligence on terrorist plans in Australia. It was a deliberately restricted meeting, with fewer officials than normal in attendance. Senior ministers were shocked and startled by what they were told. The NSC discussed the proposed legal amendments with the relevant legal experts. The next steps almost dictated themselves: brief Opposition leader Kim Beazley and the relevant premiers, some of whom already knew some of the information from their own police.

    What happened next was incredible. Half the media, especially the ABC, and a good portion of the intellectual class, as well as the minor parties, immediately decided that John Howard had concocted the whole thing as a stunt to distract attention from the industrial relations legislation. This is almost too insane to admit to the mainstream of discussion but it was almost the orthodoxy last week.

    There was Kerry O’Brien on the 7.30 Report, full of dark innuendo about this flow of security announcements confusing people and causing them unnecessary alarm. Media Watch, consistently among the most idiotic of ABC current affairs television shows, was even lambasting sections of the media for suggesting there would be raids soon. Lateline, after the raids, was positively seething that some journalists not employed by the ABC apparently had both better sources and better judgment about what might happen.

    But the minor parties took the lunacy the farthest, with the Greens’ Bob Brown as ever seeing dark, satanic forces behind Howard’s every move.

    This column has sometimes argued that the Democrats are the more rational third-party alternative to the Greens. But Democrats leader Lyn Allison, leading the party into oblivion, took the irrational to a kind of X-Files meta-parody by wondering aloud, after the raids, whether the Prime Minister could not have rung the state police commissioners and asked whether there was not some raid or the other that could be conducted to justify the legislative amendments.

    What has all this to do with the vexed question of identity? It interacts with identity at several levels. First, this undergraduate paranoia and bizarre desire to see the world as an endless series of conspiracies naturally reinforces the conspiratorial world view of the radical Islamists.

    Who can blame a radical Islamist for interpreting the actions of the Australian state as malign and directed at Muslims, if even the Australian Democrats can apparently interpret the most gravely serious police actions in this light?

    In other words, what seems like just normal nonsense and tomfoolery from marginal players in Australian politics feeds into the fantasies and dark paranoia of more disturbed or dangerous players.

    This is why political leaders, and media and intellectual leaders too, have a responsibility to act and speak with some restraint.

    Of course, restraint often doesn’t get the headlines or the time on TV.

    Just imagine the incredible mess the Labor Party would be in today if Beazley had taken a Mark Latham-style populist attitude to Howard’s initial desire to amend the terrorist legislation. The ALP would be utterly unelectable now.

    Yet it’s telling, isn’t it, that while the press gallery fell in love with Latham, it can barely disguise its ennui about Beazley, its sense that politics must offer the press something more disreputable and therefore absorbing than an honest, sensible grown-up.

    The paranoid style in Australian politics has a long history and is mostly associated with the Left. It certainly exists on the Right, but because the Right is less prone to radicalism, it is much weaker there. But the Left has sought not only to oppose but to delegitimise every Centre-Right government Australia has had.

    Robert Menzies, in cahoots with the security services, was believed to have concocted the affair of the KGB defector Vladimir Petrov and his wife in order to keep poor Doc Evatt out of the Lodge. Yet this was truly insane. Petrov, a senior KGB man, defected because he thought he would be killed in the Soviet Union, as was happening to many KGB men at that time. This was all even demonstrated once in a book by Robert Manne, in one of his right-wing phases, before he became the avatar of world revolution.

    Malcolm Fraser was of course considered illegitimate because of the dismissal, despite winning three democratic elections. For a time the Left peddled the fantasy that the CIA was behind the dismissal.

    And now the Left is busily constructing its fantasy world around Howard, the most moderate and incremental of leaders, transformed into a figure of Nixonian villainy in the conspiratorial mind.

    There are three problems with this. It’s untrue and cuts no ice with the people. It reinforces darker conspiracy urges in more extreme forces. And it prevents the intellectual and media class from doing the serious job they should be doing for their society.

    No doubt it’s all Howard’s fault.

    Or perhaps George Bush’s.

  5. orang
    November 14th, 2005 at 08:42 | #5

    and I just thought they hate our freedoms.

  6. Homer Paxton
    November 14th, 2005 at 08:53 | #6

    Andrew, I don’t think we need to worry about people who have been under surveillence for over 18 months and who were raided last year.

    Moreover when the AFP were watching them little kiddies were talking to them in the car!
    Then of course we had the leak to the OZ on the Thursday.
    Hey I was scared.

    compare that to Jordan who supposedly have the best intelligence service in the Middle East.
    They knew nothing about it.

  7. lurch
    November 14th, 2005 at 09:09 | #7

    Prof Q, what are your chances of getting on the RBA Board seeing there are a vacancies coming up?

  8. Andrew
    November 14th, 2005 at 09:17 | #8

    Exactly. And it is precisely because we have a generally sensible leadership and good policing that we don’t have too much to worry about.
    I guess in Jordan – profiling a terrorist who is from, err… Jordanian ethnic background is a little different from Australia – where police only have to hang around a mosque in Lakemba…. idiots like this Bakr character may as well have shouting from the rooftops… come to think of it…. they were!

  9. jquiggin
    November 14th, 2005 at 09:24 | #9

    “Prof Q, what are your chances of getting on the RBA Board seeing there are a vacancies coming up?”

    Somewhere between zero and infinitesimal, I’d say, but maybe the betting markets know better.

  10. stoptherubbish
    November 14th, 2005 at 09:34 | #10

    Andrew,
    You sound just like Greg Sheriden. Isn’t it shocking that anyone could have the temerity, the absolute gall to question anything dear leader and the ever reliavble intelligence services bring us. Your riff on the ‘paranoid style’ in Australian politics is a new one on me, and I have never heard it ascribed to Australian politics before, although there is of course a book by Richard Hofstadter on the paranoid style in US politics. This book was written as a reflection, in part, on McCarthyism in the US. Nothing could be further from the issues that are exercising sensible people across the politcal spectrum when it comes to mad legisaltive schemes designed, it seems, in part, to just make everyone just shut up! . Perhaps that is where you and Greg got the idea. But as a description of Australian politics it falls wide of the mark. People can indeed be silly sometimes, but my favouirite bit of paranoid hype deployed for the purposes of raising hysteria and general mischief, is dear Gregs bon mot prior to the Iraq invasion, when he breathlessly informed listeners on ABC 702 drive, that if Saddam Hussein is not disarmed we will be facing a nuclear bomb in Sydney Harbour. Really-The problem Howard has with these laws is a matter of trust. No-one trusts him anymore. You see once you play politics with things like border security for the purposes of stoking some handy fear during an election, and once people understand they were gulled about something as serious as ‘children overboard’ and the general disgrace that was Tampa, you can never recover it. And BTW, you can be assured that the general breathlessness being deployed by Howard supporters about his laws and their necessity is being met with scepticism far beyond what you would no doubt describe as latte sippers and chardonnay drinkers. I can assure you that blue collar workers who I talked to on the Monday and Tuesday of last week opened up the discussion about these matters with the mantra ‘children overboard’. I didn’t even open my my mouth.

  11. Andrew
    November 14th, 2005 at 09:50 | #11

    You seem to have missed the point – “Isn’t it shocking that anyone could have the temerity, the absolute gall to question anything dear leader and the ever reliavble intelligence services bring us.”

    I question lots of what Howard does – and the blatant and cynical use of the children overboard affair is definitely Howard’s low point.

    But there are some people who seem to not only question ‘anything’ but ‘EVERYTHING’ he does…. people like Bob Brown for one…. Brown’s performance in parliament a couple of weeks ago was disgraceful….. Brown uses EVERYTHING for political purposes and has the ‘temerity, and aboluste gall’ to accuse Howard of that crime!

  12. Ian Gould
    November 14th, 2005 at 09:54 | #12

    “In Australia these past two weeks have revealed something of our identity. We have a sober and capable leadership, both in the Government and in the Opposition, and among the state premiers. We have strong and capable police and national security institutions which can take action and take it lawfully, with swiftness and effect.”

    I wish more people on both sides of the partisan divide could admit this.

  13. derrida derider
    November 14th, 2005 at 10:11 | #13

    “Half the media … immediately decided that John Howard had concocted the whole thing as a stunt to distract attention from the industrial relations legislation.”
    Now I wonder what in Mr Howard’s past and present behaviour could possibly have led them to conclude that?

    Fancy quoting that sycophant Greg Sheridan on national security! If he had his way we would not be allowed to question the honesty or sagacity of conservative, especially US, politicians. Power-worshippers be like him should just be ignored.

  14. Katz
    November 14th, 2005 at 10:16 | #14

    Not all Right Wingers are glove puppets of Donald Rumsfeld, just as not all left wingers think the same way on issues of national security. I guess it takes one of the former to assert seriously the latter.

    Remember when many on the Right brayed the assertion that al Qaeda was some sort of medieval remnant? Remember how they berated those of the Left who suggested that the truth was more complex than that?

    Looks like Sheridan is beginning to face up to reality about the complex nature of Islamism and the attractions of martyrdom and terrorism.

    Too bad Sheridan has already compromised himself as one of the major cheerleaders for the disastrous and illegal adventure in Iraq, which, Rumsfeld, Sheridan’s hero, has asserted is “the Central Front in the War Against Terrorism”.

    How about admitting that you have had to eat a bit of humble pie Greg.

  15. Dogz
    November 14th, 2005 at 10:49 | #15

    “John, care to respond to Dean Parham’s letter in the Financial Review criticising you article on productivity?”

    Given that he offered only a strawman defense to my points criticizing that same article, I’d say probably not. Better to stop digging now.

  16. jquiggin
    November 14th, 2005 at 11:51 | #16

    Dogz, the only point you made was that you don’t understand/believe index numbers. Fair enough, it’s a difficult topic, but you might do better to steer clear of the argument until you’ve mastered the basics. Read a good micro text or chapter 4 of my book.

  17. Dogz
    November 14th, 2005 at 12:47 | #17

    I understand the index numbers perfectly. The point I made was that it is problematic to draw conclusions about the veracity of microeconomic reform from statistics that combine areas not subject to any competition reform, with areas subject to competition reform. And telecomms is a classic example of this.

    Please do tell, where in this argument has my failure to master the so-called “basics” led me astray? This stuff is not that complex (at least not for a PhD in mathematics), so try me. I’m not frightened of partial or stochastic differential equations, or linear programming, or pretty much any other area of maths you care to pick, so please, don’t hold back (not that any of the maths is relevant for understanding my point, which just states the bleeding obvious).

    [at university, invoking "go read the textbook" or "read my essay" was always the last refuge of the losing debater (as well as being the height of arrogance). I think we need an analogue of Godwin's law: anyone using such a tactic is deemed to have automatically lost the argument.]

  18. observa
    November 14th, 2005 at 13:11 | #18

    Should them evil Murrikins run the show or not?http://finance.news.com.au/story/0,10166,17238865-31037,00.html

  19. November 14th, 2005 at 13:18 | #19

    Is anyone going to mention the evacuation and suspension of all public transport in and around Brisbane today, due to a “terrorist threat”?

  20. R J Stove
    November 14th, 2005 at 13:28 | #20

    Katz writes: “Too bad Sheridan has already compromised himself as one of the major cheerleaders for the disastrous and illegal adventure in Iraq, which, Rumsfeld, Sheridan’s hero, has asserted is ‘the Central Front in the War Against Terrorism’. How about admitting that you have had to eat a bit of humble pie Greg.”

    This would be, I presume, the same Greg Sheridan who was still grovelling to Suharto 20 years after the latter’s genocide against Sheridan’s (and my) co-religionists in East Timor began? Alas, Sheridan – far from being expected to eat humble pie – still clings to his job with a tenacity redolent of those other great freedom-loving democrats, the late Enver Hoxha and the equally cherishable Norm Gallagher. Clearly there is a limit to labour market reform after all.

  21. Jill Rush
    November 14th, 2005 at 14:14 | #21

    Whether the Terrorist threat was happy serendipity or not the introduction of an Industrial Relations bill which will completely change the Australian way of life is worthy of being debated in an atmosphere of calm. As it is the late delivery of the bill, the rush to have it passed without scrutiny – let alone amendments, the large number of pages in the “simplified” legislation, the lack of choice as to whether a collective agreement is available to new employees, the need for us all to be lawyers in conducting our working lives, means that there can be no trust that everything will be alright after the bill is passed.

    There will be new jobs created as a result of the legislation – for lawyers, accountants and stand over men – sign or else.

    The current process is seen as fair by sensible people who understand that we are a society and if you create a system that builds unfairness into it there will be people who will opt out and take drugs, commit suicide or indulge in antisocial behavior – such as terrorist behaviour.

    It took women a long time to get the concept of equal pay for equal work validated. This ideal is far from realised but the IR bill will ensure that the glass ceiling is smashed, lowered and replaced with a concrete ceiling. Not good for women and not good for the families of women who are forced to work family unfriendly hours for poor pay.

    The replacement of collective bargaining with individual contracts means that every individual will lose power whilst all contracts can be the same. It will be simpler for a few large employers,whilst introducing complexity and red tape for the many small businesses and workers affected. There is no hope of redress for any unlawful behaviour as it will be up to an individual, without means to prosecute, and hope that there is a just justice system.

    This is optimistic and most would believe that in a stoush with the legal system those with the money for clever lawyers will win. The aggrieved party will be broke before they even get to court.

    The amount of red tape introduced by this government does keep everyone so busy that they don’t see the big issues or if they do have no energy to do anything about them. This is why conspiracy theories are beginning to gain currency – the facts fit even if the level of competence of the government does make conspiracy unlikely.

  22. jquiggin
    November 14th, 2005 at 15:23 | #22

    Dogz: you’re not a reincarnation of anon are you?

  23. Dogz
    November 14th, 2005 at 17:38 | #23

    anon who?

    this is frustrating – should I just forget about trying to get a straight answer to a straight question?

  24. November 14th, 2005 at 18:20 | #24

    The big demo is on. Expect a huge turnout in Victoria,tomorrow. There, are ‘more pissed off’, over individual contracts than anywhere in Australia. Jeff Kennett/Court introduced similar nonsense many years back and get used to it Australia.
    No brief for A.C.T.U., who have failed on ‘casualisation’ and the gap between rich and poor. Note, Steve Bracks has not changed arrangements despite control of both houses. You can work many months ,over 20 hours a week, and remain a ‘casual’.
    Forget holiday pay and sickies ,all you need is an hourly rate. Forget, language. because ‘part-time’ now means ‘casual’.
    Welcome to the brave new world.

  25. Dave Ricardo
    November 14th, 2005 at 21:53 | #25

    Whatever happened to Michael Burgess? I miss him at times like this.

  26. Andrew Reynolds
    November 14th, 2005 at 22:04 | #26

    PrQ,
    When you said “…[r]ead a good micro text or chapter 4 of my book” were you stating by inference that chapter 4 of your book is not a “good micro text” or have I missed something?

  27. November 14th, 2005 at 22:32 | #27

    I rather think I will get used to it Joe2. The casualisation is a direct consequence of the unfair dismissal laws. If those laws are revoked, welcome to full time jobs!

  28. jquiggin
    November 15th, 2005 at 06:02 | #28

    AR, my book isn’t a textbook – it just covers index number theory in the interests of providing a self-contained coverage of the micro reform debate.

  29. Homer Paxton
    November 15th, 2005 at 08:29 | #29

    good point Dave,
    come back and say something about Wednesday night and of course how liberal thought is reducing productivity and how this all links to the Muslims’ attack on Israel!!!

  30. November 15th, 2005 at 15:51 | #30

    Hope you are right Steve at the Pub. Mind you, there are many who would just like the conditions of full-timers on the basis of the amount of the time worked. Wouldn’t that be moving towards a level playing field? With the exception of Super,which is a grant from the lesser worked,to one part of the undeserving financial sector.

  31. R J Stove
    November 15th, 2005 at 22:25 | #31

    THE AGE’s website is maintaining this evening (“Protesters turn out for IR rally”) that “up to 175,000 protesters” took part in this morning’s rally in Melbourne’s CBD. (Don’t you love that weaselly construction “up to …”? Strictly speaking it could mean just one protester.)

    Another news source this afternoon said “100,000″. Certainly there were huge crowds, bigger and more demographically varied than I’ve seen in 30 years in any Australian city, dispersing by the time I got to central Melbourne around 11.30 AM.

    Anyone got more specific figures?

  32. November 16th, 2005 at 18:19 | #32

    Police estimate was 150,000 in Melbourne. They are always a bit conservative on numbers. Remember, Victoria and W.A have had the full force of proposed laws for a while.

    Dewey-Horton may already have a brief to explain to ‘battlers’, why their pay is so low.This time, as a non-goverment advertiser. Suspect, that they and Singo will be just as creative before the next election.

    Sadly, propaganda rules!

  33. James Farrell
    November 16th, 2005 at 22:12 | #33

    Hail Mark Schwarzer!

  34. Razor
    November 17th, 2005 at 13:05 | #34

    Stoptherubbish said:

    “Your riff on the ‘paranoid style’ in Australian politics is a new one on me, and I have never heard it ascribed to Australian politics before”

    As a RWDB I have the interesting experience of family dinners with ALP Politicians and staffers and Union employees. (You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your family!) I can assure you that the paranoid conspiracists are alive and well positioned in the ALP at State and Federal level and the Union movement.

    I believe that what I hear them talking about – their conspiracy theories, their almost total disconnect from the views of the majority of voters, let alone other factions, their inability to understand why the majority of voters support a Federal Coalition government, their vilification of the owners of capital and the managerial classes (excluding bureaucrats) has driven me even further to the right than I used to be.

    Strangely enough, seeing what they are like also means that I haven’t joined the Liberal Party because I see no need to get over-hyped about fighting them. The sclerotic Branch structure, the Union domination of the ALP, and the factional system, and the pre-selection preference for Party Hacks rather than people with a broader life experience means I think they are little threat. I don’t give a stuff about the State government because they don’t have power over the really important issues. At the Federal level the Coalition just has to avoid losing but doing anything too stupid.

  35. November 17th, 2005 at 19:32 | #35

    Suspect the coalition is already looking pretty ‘stupid’ on many issues, Razor.

    Preselection for a person like you ,awaits, in the conservative party of your choice. Just wondering, if I said that on the internet, would I be guilty of “sedition”?

    Where do you stand on freedom of speech or should we just get over it?

  36. Razor
    November 21st, 2005 at 16:57 | #36

    joe2 – depends what you call stupid. For example, the problems in DIMIA are more than made up for by the fact that the majority of the population supports strong immigration controls. The IR campaign is the same as the GST – the usual suspects declaring the end of the world as we know it, and the Government having to sell a reasonable policy change that will ultimatley benefit all Australians.

    I can’t see your link between preselection and sedition. While my sense of self worth means that I like to think that I would have a good chance in a preselection process, my common sense tells me that being an insider in the political party helps your chances. I’m not one to suffer fools gladly and would not cope with the idiots complaing to the electoral office about crap that doesn’t matter, isn’t my responsibility etc etc etc. And lastly, I prefer to tell things how they really are without spin. If I make a commitment I like to keep it. In politics if you make apromise and then can’t keep, rarely is the true reason given (the factional deals, personality clashes etc that casue policy/funding changes). That would eat my guts out not being able to lay the truth out. Geoff Gallop is a master at it!!

    As for freedom of speech, I recognise that with freedom comes responsibility. For example, I think it is irresponsible of the media to publish the fact that bomb making material can be easily purchased from the local shops and go find the info on the net. I’m no lawyer, but I think the current slander and defamation laws are generally OK. I’m not across the argument about making then the same across the States and Federally, but there appears merit to that idea. I do believe that you shouldn’t be allowed to be a liar. As such, people who say things like “Howard lied” or “Bush lied” should be able to produce evidence. I am strongly against vilification laws such as the Victorian ones. If people want to have a go at religions or philosphies, then those religions and philosophies should be strong enough to argue their own case.

    I also believe that the debate over the proposed sedition laws is over-hyped. Sedition is all about inciting revolution against the government. Disagreeing with the Government isn’t sedition. People who voice support for the terrorists in Iraq like John Pilger are not necessarily being seditious, but shouldn’t be allowed into Australia ever again because he supported the killing of Australian Soldiers.

  37. Ian Gould
    November 21st, 2005 at 18:00 | #37

    “As for freedom of speech, I recognise that with freedom comes responsibility. For example, I think it is irresponsible of the media to publish the fact that bomb making material can be easily purchased from the local shops and go find the info on the net.”

    Hell, anyone who reads sf has probably known that since they read Farnham’s Freehold at the age of twelve.

  38. Razor
    November 21st, 2005 at 18:38 | #38

    Ian – note that while I don’t think it is responsible, I also don’t think we should regulate against it.

  39. Razor
    November 21st, 2005 at 18:43 | #39

    joe2 – If you suspect the Coalition is already looking stupid then please explain why they aren’t getting caned in the polls?

    Not that the “but” in my original post in last sentence should have been a “by not”.

  40. Razor
    November 22nd, 2005 at 13:54 | #40

    joe2 – you are a bit slow off the mark – they are now getting beaten in the polls.

    That is whty we shoudl have four year terms – so that governments can bring in reforms, allow them to take effect and then be decided upon.

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