Archive for September, 2006

Comment on Fabianism

September 14th, 2006 Comments off

Comments aren’t working on the post below, so I’m opening a new thread for discussion.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

The end of Fabian socialism in Australia ?

September 14th, 2006 Comments off

Reader Tristan Ewins has sent in a guest post, regarding a proposal that the Australian Fabian society remove references to socialism as an objective. While, for a range of reasons, I prefer to describe my perspective as social democratic rather than socialist, I agree with Tristan that this is an unfortunate step, which severs the society from the intellectual tradition that gave it birth and that still represents the best hope for the future.
Read more…

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Vanstone again

September 12th, 2006 39 comments

I was sent this sad story of the bloody-mindedness of DIMA under Minister Amanda Vanstone (not that her predecessor Philip Ruddock was any better). Also, last week I read this story of Vanstone using confidential files for her own (political) gain, an offence for which hundreds of public servants have rightly been sacked or disciplined.

I don’t know if it’s by coincidence or design but Howard has been very successful in putting leading so-called ‘wets’ into positions where they are forced to bankrupt themselves morally in order to succeed, or even survive politically. Vanstone is a prime example. She has spent a decade in ministerial office, in which time she has done nothing creditable, and much that is discreditable or worse. Her reward has been a tenuous hold on a Cabinet position, with no serious prospect of promotion to the inner circle.

Update The latest issue of the Monthly reports a number of cases of refugees deported rom Australia, and subsequently murdered in the countries from which they fled. No doubt, as Vanstone asserts, this was all unfortunate coincidence.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Five years on

September 11th, 2006 104 comments

Five years after the terrorist attacks on New York, the best that can be said about our situation is that it could be worse. The response from our elected leaders, and particularly the Bush Administration, has been comprehensively bungled, or worse, undermined by the pursuit of private and political advantage, and pre-existing political agendas, at the expense of a concerted attack on those who are trying to kill us. Incompetence and worse has been rife at every level from the tactical (the failure to catch bin Laden when he was surrounded) to the operational (the various stages of the Iraq occupation, starting with a Provisional Administration hired from Republican job message boards) the strategic (the whole Iraq war) and the moral (the many crimes that have blurred the difference between us and the terrorists). All of these things have squandered our resources, while acting as a recruiting banner for our enemies.

The only thing that has prevented things being even worse is the gratuitous bloodthirstiness of our enemies. Brutal attacks in Muslim countries, executions of innocent people shown on video, and the continuous suicide-terror attacks on ordinary people going about their daily business have shown their true nature, and discredited radical Islamism among many who remain deeply hostile to the US and the Bush Administration. As I mentioned a year ago, in countries like Indonesia , the Iraq war has been highly unpopular, but the great achievement of JI has been to make themselves even more unpopular.
Read more…

Categories: World Events Tags:

Monday message board

September 11th, 2006 14 comments

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

Categories: Regular Features Tags:


September 11th, 2006 1 comment

Nicholas Gruen will be talking on social production and open source in Melbourne on Wednesday. It’s for the Fabian society (impressed that Race Mathews has kept this going).


“New Models of Social Production: Open Source and its economic and social significance.�

Meeting details are 6 for 6:30pm to 8pm, Wednesday, 13 September, in Meeting Room 1, Trades Hall (Victoria Street Entrance), Cnr Lygon and Victoria Streets, Carlton. Australian Fabian Society members $6, non-members $8, concession $3.

It sounds fascinating. I’ll chase the paper and report on it if I get time.

Categories: Intellectual 'property' Tags:


September 10th, 2006 Comments off

I missed the announcement of the Hugo awards a couple of weeks ago. But I see that the winner for best novel was, as I predicted, Spin by Robert Charles Wilson. Well deserved, though I personally preferred Charles Stross’ Accelerando.

I’ve just finished Stross’ latest, Glasshouse which is also dazzling, but more of a real novel than Accelerando and might well be a candidate next time.

Categories: Books and culture Tags:

The end of the Nats

September 10th, 2006 7 comments

Although the shambolic performance of the Liberal party dominated the election campaign in Queensland, the longer-term implications of the result remain, paradoxically enough, quite good for the Libs. The most important long-term outcome of Saturday’s vote was that, although the One Nation vote finally disappeared (the one remaining MP is effectively an independent), the Nationals picked up almost none of it. Back in 1995, the last pre-Hanson state election, the Nationals got 26.3 per cent of the vote, well ahead of the Libs on 22.7. In 2006, the Nats got 17.3 per cent and the Libs 20.2 per cent.

The only reason the Nats won more seats than the Libs is that their vote is concentrated in a handful of rural seats west of the Great Dividing Range. There’s no reason to think they can ever go much beyond this. Of the coastal seats they held going in to the election, Gaven went back to Labor, and they suffered big swings in several of the others, making them very marginal. The only coastal area where they did at all well was the Sunshine Coast, where the special factor of the Traveston Dam ran against Labor, and the Nats regained Gympie from on-again off-again independent Elise Roberts.

In the absence of a merger, Labor is safe for another two terms. Before the Coalition can get back in, the Libs need to win enough seats to make them the senior partner.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:


September 9th, 2006 13 comments

Early and often, used to be the motto, but I was certainly glad I only had to vote once today, after one of the least edifying campaigns I can recall. I will certainly be glad to hear no more of the phrase “can’t govern Queensland”.

There’s a sense in which the prevalence of negative campaigning shouldn’t be surprising. In a situation where both sides of politics have converged on a rather watery version of social democracy, based primarily on service delivery, the only real issue is who is better qualified to deliver those services. And, a lot of the time, it’s going to be easier to demonstrate the faults of the other side in this respect than the virtures of your own.

Anyway, it’s all over bar the counting now. With luck, that’ll be finished in time for Doctor Who.

Update It was over, for all practical purposes, with heaps time to spare. The ABC computers called the result at about 6:50, and they were pretty much spot-on. Still we went through the full ritual of a complete count, post-mortem and call of the board. An undeservedly easy win for the government, but a well-deserved loss for the Coalition.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Recently on the RSMG Blog

September 9th, 2006 4 comments

Lots more interesting stuff on the Risk and Sustainable Management Group blog including

Giving ecosystem valuation a bad name.

Wetlands, rivers and floodplains are worth around 20 times the value of agricultural production in the MDB (estimated at around $9 billion). Or 25% of the Australian GDP.$187 billion is clearly an impressive figure, considering the wetlands, rivers and floodplains of the MDB are a small part of the continent. But it is also a very suspicious one.

River Symposium

The River Symposium is underway in Brisbane with the theme ‘Managing rivers with climate change and expanding populations’.

John is making a presentation today (Wednesday) at 1:30 titled ‘Responding to climate change in the Murray Darling Basin’.

Private waste water ?

Reader Chris Dodds has alerted me to this PM&C discussion paper on potential private involvement in waste water. There’s a lot of interesting information, including discussion of issues like the role of third-party access, which is central to the continuing dispute between Sydney Water and Services Sydney, a would-be private entrant.

How best to implement environmental flows

The Australian on Tuesday and Wednesday mention a project just launched to answer the question of how best to use water for environmental purposes. Working out the best way to use the water will help decide how much money is required to purchase water (as a portfolio of water rights) for a given environmental target.

Alternative energy for Australia.

Today the UQ Sustainability Seminar Series, run by the Division of Environmental Engineering, hosted Frank Barram, Managing Director of Integrated Energy Services, on the topic “Applications, benefits and limitations of alternative energy in Australia. An economic perspective�.

Report – Rural Water Use and the Environment: The Role of Market Mechanisms

“They (Environmental Managers) need to enter markets to source water and to access the full range of water and water-related products on the same terms and conditions as other market participants.� XXII

Read and comment

Categories: Environment, Metablogging Tags:

Surprise resignation paradox

September 8th, 2006 8 comments

Tony Blair’s announcement that he will resign within a year, but that he won’t say when, is one of those absurdities that seem to be inevitable in politics, a variant on the Galbraith score. There doesn’t seem to be any satisfactory way of handling this kind of situation, since most leaders want to be seen to be making their own choice to leave, but few are willing make that choice until most of their followers already want them to go.

Categories: World Events Tags:

Weekend reflections

September 8th, 2006 17 comments

Weekend Reflections is on again. Please comment on any topic of interest (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please). Feel free to put in contributions more lengthy than for the Monday Message Board or standard comments.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

For the record

September 7th, 2006 36 comments

Most of us have seen the picture of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam in the mid-1980s, but my recollections of the extent of Republican support for Saddam at that time have always been a bit cloudy.

Saddam and Rumsfeld

This piece by Peter Galbraith, a former US ambassador to Croatia, gives chapter and verse.

Read more…

Categories: World Events Tags:

Inconvenient truths and awkward untruths

September 6th, 2006 62 comments

Al Gore’s documentary on global warming, An Inconvenient Truth is set for Australian release on 14 Septembe. I’ve already missed a couple of opportunities to see it, first at the Australian Leadership Retreat on Hayman Island a couple of weeks ago (I went on the sunset cruise instead) and then today at RiverSymposium in Brisbane (it clashed with my presentation).

In addition to the commercial release, ACF is putting on special screenings around the country, and the Brisbane event is on Friday September 15th, 7pm sharp, film starts 7.20pm, Palace Centro, 39 James St, Fortitude Valley. For all enquires email [email protected] or call toll-free on 1800 332 510.

And even the Howard government is getting in on the act. Andrew Bartlett reports a screening in Parliament House put on by Greg Hunt, who is the government’s Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment.

With the denialist position in tatters, the deplorable performance of our alleged national newspaper is in sharper relief than ever, and the Oz finally seems to be copping the criticism it deserves. Andrew Bartlett mentions it, as do Ben Oquist, Grant Young , Tim Lambert and Tim Dunlop (who focuses more on the coverage of Iraq, which is also poor).

The Oz has even attracted international attention. As Crikey reports, the Scientific American has slammed it, while the reliably silly Arts and Letters Daily gives a favorable link, as does Matt Drudge. For a comprehensive demolition, you can’t go past Real Climate.

If the Australian wants to salvage any credibility as a newspaper, it needs to correct its errors on this topic fast, and acknowledge the lapse in journalistic standards represented by its reporting and editorial comment.

Categories: Environment Tags:

Another landslide on the way?

September 5th, 2006 22 comments

The polls are predicting another landslide win for Labor in Queensland, and Centrebet is even more emphatic, with Labor as 50/1 on favorites (they’ll pay out 1.02 for a Labor win, on a dollar bet). I have mixed feelings on this.

On the one hand, the Beattie government could certainly do with a shake. On the other hand, while a massive majority has resulted in a fair degree of arrogance, the response to a narrow majority may be poll-driven populism. And on the third hand (stretching the metaphor a bit), a lot of the government’s best members are in very marginal seats. For example, I think my local member Ronan Lee is very good, but it’s unbelievable that he’s managed to win Indooropilly twice – it’s nothing down at the local shops to find more BMWs than Holdens in the car park.

In any case, the outcome looks clear, so I hope the soon-to-be-reelected government will take the signs of discontent seriously and get on with investing in physical and social infrastructure.

Categories: Oz Politics Tags:

Monday message board

September 4th, 2006 52 comments

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

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

The Oz blows it again on global warming

September 4th, 2006 122 comments

The Australian continues its deplorable coverage of global warming, in this editorial which contains more errors and misleading claims than it is possible to count, following on from an equally bad news story at the weekend.

The factual basis of the story is that the IPCC has confirmed the reality of anthropogenic global warming, tightening the error bounds around its earlier estimate of a 3 degree warming by 2100. Obviously, when you tighten error bounds, you raise the minimum estimate, but the Australian manages to mention this once in passing in its news story and not at all in its editorial.

The rest of the editorial contains allusions to all the denialist claptrap the Oz has been pushing for years now: claims that climate change is really natural (the IPCC confirms that the change we are observing is anthropogenic), suggestions that the report refutes the ‘hockey stick’ (it confirms it, even more strongly than the 2001) report, misleading references to the Medieval Warm period and so on.

At least, having publicly relied on the IPCC, the Oz might stop publishing the conspiracy-theory opinion pieces suggesting that the whole thing is a hoax.

The Australian’s coverage of this issue has been a disgrace. As a paper, it cannot be taken seriously on any scientific issue.

Categories: Environment Tags:

The Idea of a European Superstate: Military power and soft power

September 1st, 2006 14 comments

I was also going to review Glyn Morgan’s The Idea of a European Superstate: Public Justification and European Integration, but it’s fortunate I didn’t, as Henry Farrell at CT has done a better job of most of the points I was going to make. So let me make just one more point, about the implications of soft power.
Read more…

Categories: World Events Tags:

Weekend reflections

September 1st, 2006 29 comments

Weekend Reflections is on again. Please comment on any topic of interest (civilised discussion and no coarse language, please). Feel free to put in contributions more lengthy than for the Monday Message Board or standard comments.

Categories: Regular Features Tags:

Farewell to Earth Sanctuaries

September 1st, 2006 20 comments

The remaining shareholders of Earth Sanctuaries Limited, among whom I’m one, have been advised that the company is to be wound up, having been delisted. ESL, which was floated with high hopes (a little too late to catch the dotcom boom, unfortunately) was Australia’s most substantial attempt at private-sector biodiversity conservation. I suspect though, that most of the investors knew that, in all probability, they were making a donation rather than an investment (at least there’s a capital loss to offset against any more succcesful investments!). Still, there were some interesting ideas that could be useful if governments ever get around to creating price incentives for biodiversity preservation (this could include allowing the sale of animals, or at least offering to purchase them).

The big selling point of ESL for me was its founder John Wamsley and his idea of fencing reserves then eradicating all the feral pests before reintroducing native species. Wamsley is definitely one of the awkward squad, but often you have to make yourself awkward to get things done.

More from Harry Clarke at Kalimna, Jason Soon at Catallaxy and Nicholas Gruen at Troppo

Categories: Environment Tags: