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Monday message board

May 14th, 2007

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

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  1. Hermit
    May 14th, 2007 at 14:53 | #1

    Here’s a sobering thought for globalisation enthusiasts; China’s growth can be attributed not so much to low wages and entrepreneurship but to a surge in coal use http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/5/13/151248/673 the conclusion being that it will taper off quickly.

  2. Tom N.
    May 14th, 2007 at 18:58 | #2

    In its description of tonight’s episode of “Bastard Boys”, ABC On-line states straight-forwardly:

    Dock worker Sean McSwain (Anthony Hayes) is elected as the State Representative for the MUA, just as scab labour begins working on Berth 5 at Patrick’s Webb Dock in Melbourne. (emphasis added)

    Since when did abusive terms used by unionists to denigrate others become acceptable for common usage by the ABC? Would the ABC describe a show involving homosexuals by saying something like “Tonight three faggots go to the movies”?

    Edited in line with discussion policy – please note that asterisks do not make coarse language acceptable

  3. May 14th, 2007 at 19:09 | #3

    Back when China was being unsuccessful it had lower wages than it has now. So the idea that low wages is the cause of success is quite flawed. Wages are in a big way one measure of success and progress rather than being a causal factor. In Australia we have higher wages than Ethiopians not because we are less willing to do what it takes to succeed but because our economic system has given us greater success. If you want to understand Chinas pathway to success then take a look at it’s early experiments with low tax provinces and it’s move toward a market based economy.

  4. Peter Wood
    May 14th, 2007 at 21:21 | #4

    I just found a very interesting video of a 10 minute talk on the ethical dimensions of climate change.

    Basically climate change is not just one ethical question but encompasses a whole lot of questions, including what sort of stabilisation target we should tolerate; how do we allocate carbon pollution when it is reduced? Who pays for the damage? The implications of uncertainty; the role of cost benefit analysis; even discounting gets a mention.

    The is also a paper related to this talk at


  5. Tom N.
    May 14th, 2007 at 23:07 | #5


    I don’t want to get into a debate about your comments policy, John, which I broadly support. However, I would submit that it is appropriate to distinguish between the gratuitous use of coarse language and coarse language used for a legitimate effect, which is what I saw myself as trying to do. Specifically, I was making the point that just as the Corrigan strike-breaking workers might reasonably feel rightly agrieved at being labelled “scabs” by the ABC (rather than by maratime unionists, from whom one would expect nothing better), so the journalists/program makers at the ABC would no doubt feel agrieved at being labelled “leftist c**ts”. The fact that you felt a need to delete the words with the asterisks I think proves the point.


    PS: If you still feel a need to edit this post, notwithstanding the legitimate use of coarse language I submit it entails, my first preference would be for you to replace the c and the t with *s.

  6. May 14th, 2007 at 23:53 | #6

    Tom – I agree that ABC journalists are sometime silly coots. 😉

  7. Jill Rush
    May 14th, 2007 at 23:56 | #7

    In targeting bullying in public schools whilst denigrating those same institutions John Howard is at risk of totally alienating many voters.

    It seems that he has been so helpful to private schools that he has failed to notice that bullying is well entrenched in many of those august institutions. Will their grants be tied to anti bullying policies. There has been a failure in NSW which has been taken through the courts. This shouldn’t have been necessary but to feel that this incident gives him the right to interfere yet again in the public education system of all states and territories puts me in mind of a school yard bully that needs to be resisted by the states.

    We are not all the same and we don’t all want his vision of the world imposed on us in some kind of Brave New World.

    John Howard’s constant attacks on the state education system and his statements that he wants to take over the education system by withholding funds if there is no compliance is the mark of a bullying administration. If he is right in his views there is no need to issue threats as parents will choose his way.

    His way however is often poorly informed if the new report cards are any indication – far less information than previously and a marking system that leaves a lot to be desired. Why are students and parents at public schools forced down to a low common denominator set by this ignorant government?

  8. Jill Rush
    May 15th, 2007 at 00:02 | #8

    Tom if your post at 5 is any indication of you making a point using asterisks I hope that Prof Q deals with the posts decisively. Whilst you may object to the word scabs it is a legitimate descriptor. Your choice however is offensive to a broad range of people who have nothing to do with the topic. When you need to resort to coarse language to make a point you have lost the argument.

  9. swio
    May 15th, 2007 at 00:33 | #9

    Russia planning to sell Floating Nuclear Power Plants to Indonesia and Malaysia.


    I am not kidding.

  10. observa
    May 15th, 2007 at 08:59 | #10

    Tom N, You really do need to understand the difference between, what for sake of better terms, are the cool and uncool people. If you’re cool you can call someone a scab. You could even be a homosexual and call someone a faggott and that would be cool. So would being a member of the MUA and using foul language on the AB because they’re cool. You can be a cool person and say very uncool things like say Noel Pearson commenting on his tribe, saying they were a pale moral shadow of their ancestors because even though the ancestors didn’t have 2c to their name, they didn’t do uncool things with their kids. Actually he called it abuse but that was cool, although none of this would be cool if the Observa said it, or perish the thought, Pauline Hanson. What’s the difference between Pearson or the Observa saying the same thing? Well only the really, really cool people know about the nuances of those sorts of things. They’re the sorts of really really cool people that get to sit on Bracks Vilification Tribunals and the like and don’t you worry your uncool little head about that. Besides John Quiggin will pull you up when you’re being uncool here.

  11. observa
    May 15th, 2007 at 09:06 | #11

    Basically Tom it boils down to this-if you have to ask, you’re not cool.

  12. May 15th, 2007 at 09:41 | #12

    Jill, why shouldn’t students at private schools get the same amount of public funding (state + federal) as students at public schools. They are all aussie kids.

  13. Tom N.
    May 15th, 2007 at 10:22 | #13

    In what way, Jill, is the term “scab” a “legtimate” descriptor for a strike breaker?

    It is simply a revolting appelation applied to people unionists dislike by certain unionists, and now, it seems, by the ABC. Repeated use of a term in a particular way by a subset of society does not make that use of the term either right or legitimate – any more than the term I used for ABC staff is right or legitimate.

  14. gordon
    May 15th, 2007 at 10:37 | #14

    SWIO, maybe we should plop a couple of floating Russian nuclear generators in Sydney harbour to power desalination plants. Or maybe we could moor them off the coast and use the power to pump water to Brisbane and Sydney from the Gulf rivers. Sounds like a great idea! Might need scab labour to work on them, though – union members might worry about occ. health and safety too much.

  15. Hal9000
    May 15th, 2007 at 11:17 | #15

    Perhaps, Tom N, you’d prefer ‘blackleg’. On the other hand, perhaps not – since the etymology of blackleg is a nasty disease of cattle. Wiktionary gives as definition 2 of blackleg ‘a person who takes the place of striking workers, a scab’. Interesting that Corrigan and the Howard govt actually treated the scabs with the same disdain the MUA did – discarded like garbage as soon as their usefulness had passed. Perhaps the problem is that if you do something despicable, people tend to dislike you and call you nasty names.

    On the general issue of the ABC’s use of the term, Bastard Boys was a ‘point of view’ drama, that is, the action is presented from the viewpoint of various participants. From Sean’s pov, I can’t imagine him using any other term – can you?

  16. May 15th, 2007 at 11:18 | #16

    What can be done about all those scab employers who break with class solidarity and pay more wages than the rest of us can afford. Do they have no self respect. Silly coots. 🙂

  17. Tom N.
    May 15th, 2007 at 11:50 | #17

    Hal9000 – I have no problem with Bastard Boys portraying unionists and their fellow travellers using the word “scab”, as that is what they would say in actual life, just as i would have no problem with the ABC depicting some ordinary Aussie blokes using the term “faggot” to describe a homosexual male.

    What I have a problem with is the ABC using the term in a matter-of-fact way its own descriptive material – as if the term was a legitimate descriptor. Just as the ABC would not use the term “faggot” to describe a homosexual, so they should not use the term scab to describe a strike breaker.


    PS: I note in today’s Australian that Philip Adams has also used “scab” in a matter-of-fact way. Just adds to my case, really.

  18. May 15th, 2007 at 12:19 | #18

    We all know what a scab is. It is an individual of principle that ignores bullies and peer presure and avoids taking sides with a cartel so they can continue to think and act for themselves. In many ways they are quite honourable and brave people a bit like whistle blowers.

  19. NicM
    May 15th, 2007 at 13:03 | #19

    Tom N. – I think the ABC’s description is more informative of the show’s content than a bland approach. It gives the reader a sense of the style of the show. As HAL9000 puts it – its from the point of view of a union official who would use those words. Anyway, the description may have been supplied by the show’s producers. I don’t think you can point to it as evidence of left-wing bias in the ABC.

  20. melanie
    May 15th, 2007 at 19:15 | #20

    I’m curious to know precisely how the government can ban cricketers from going to Zimbabwe. By taking away their passports?

  21. Jill Rush
    May 15th, 2007 at 19:34 | #21

    Perhaps I wasn’t clear. I wasn’t discussing whether private schools should be funded – only that they should have to jump through the same hoops as public schools must to get the federal funds.

    30% of children attending private schools get 70% of the federal funds. You would think that the federal government would feel that either system should have the choice as to how those funds are spent. However there are increasing strings attached to the public schools in relation to how their 30% of funds for 70% of the children are spent. Reports, flag poles, bullying, performance pay, principals in charge are those we know about.

    Why should public schools be dictated to whilst the schools receiving the bulk of the funds have to do nothing in particular?

  22. Jill Rush
    May 15th, 2007 at 19:39 | #22

    Whilst you have taken offence at the use of the term scab it has a legitimate meaning just as the word bully has. Your term however was offensive to 50% of the population who are not involved in any way. It is a very misogynist view to think that it is very offensive to call others a girl or a bird especially when it is not true. It is in fact no better than Bill Heffernan. Funny that you should think that the term scab is worse.

  23. May 15th, 2007 at 23:23 | #23

    Jill – thanks for the clarification.

    Why should public schools be dictated to whilst the schools receiving the bulk of the funds have to do nothing in particular?

    It’s a good question

    Given that for most people the choice of public schools is restricted by geographic boundaries the disclosure of information such as bullying statistics may fascilitate a decision to exit the public system but it does not do much to fascilitate choise between alternate public schools unless you are prepared to move house.

  24. Tom N.
    May 16th, 2007 at 10:30 | #24

    Jill – simply re-asserting that the use of scab for strike-breaker is “legitimate” does not constitute an argument or substantiation that this use is legitimate. Moreover, likening the use of scab with the use of bully is a false comparison, as bully has no alternative meaning other than, well, bully. Now, if bully originally meant fester or something else such purulent or distateful, you would have a valid point. But it doesn’t, and you don’t.

  25. observa
    May 16th, 2007 at 10:51 | #25

    “Why should public schools be dictated to whilst the schools receiving the bulk of the funds have to do nothing in particular?”

    Well it may be Jill that this govt is actually interested in seeing to it that public schools are more like private ones and arresting the slide in standards and consequently bums on seats. Whether that’s a reasonable policy approach to take is a moot point, but nevertheless the critics of that stance have to be mindful of the direction of the bums over time. Public school teachers are the worst as far as abandoning the public system with their kids. I ought to know being married to one and hence their inner circle also. I’m the one that had to calm MrsO’s irrational fears when both my kids, separately decided they wanted to go public(albeit a tightly zoned high school well filtered socioeconomically by coastal house prices), rather than the private schools MrsO had so carefully chosen for them. It’s at those quintessentially delicious moments in life, when we individual free choice, market men are at our finest.

  26. Hal9000
    May 16th, 2007 at 13:52 | #26

    Observa, as the product of private schooling myself, I can attest that bullying is a celebrated tradition handed down from the British model. No doubt this is the real reason no private school will be threatened with losing its taxpayer funding on this account.

    Yesterday morning the egregious Madonna King on 612 4QR had 30 minutes of talkback on the subject. All the callers talking about their own and their offspring’s experiences with bullying were referring to private schools. All of them. King, as per usual, kept ignorantly banging on about Howard’s anti-bullying defunding threats campaign applying to all schools, public and private.

    If evidence and history are to be the basis for a standards campaign, and bullying and s*xual molestation of students are to be the targets, the whole private school system would be defunded tomorrow. Since this is quite clearly not going to happen, we may safely deduce that neither evidence nor history are the basis for John Howard’s singling out of the State education systems. Now, I reckon it’s pure ideology, but I’m happy to listen to any evidence-based counter arguments you might care to put up.

  27. observa
    May 16th, 2007 at 17:26 | #27

    The bullying thing is a beatup. There will always be the odd kid that will be a consistent target and needs our vigilance but for the vast majority it will be the odd character building exercise in growing up(in private or public schools) The lad that got the $mill payout definitely looked like the odd kid out, but you had to ask yourself what role did the parents play in making him a target of bullying? Saying no to snack time might have been a good start.

  28. May 16th, 2007 at 19:04 | #28

    The newspapers said that kid got strangled on one occassion and knocked unconscious on another. I recall having both these experiences during my school years although I was a lot older (about 8 in the first instance and 17 in the second). I was a terrible fighter at school, lacking both strength and agility. However I always chose to hit back if set apon as I’d learned early that inflicting pain on a bully reduces significantly the probability of future attack. I never went to any private schools.

    Behind the school photo of the kid in the newspaper was a sign saying “if you hit a bully then you are a bully also” or something to that effect. This is rubbish and we should not be teaching children such purile and dishonest crap. The right to defend yourself is basic. A more useful slogan would be “if you hit a bully make sure you inflict lots of pain”.

  29. May 16th, 2007 at 19:05 | #29

    Learned = learnt

  30. Jill Rush
    May 16th, 2007 at 19:49 | #30

    Tom – from the Oxford dictionary
    Scab – blackleg in a strike = legitimate usage as it carries the message to the listener or reader even if they would prefer another term instead.
    Bully – persecute or oppress etc – plus very good and a type of corned beef.

    Both words depend on the context and are quite legitimate.

    Your argument falls flat and you have still avoided the point I made about offending those who are not targeted by your comments using an asterisk which is transparent as to what is meant.

    One of the interesting things about the current polls is that it allows women to have a voice. Whilst the commentators are nearly all men women are more than half the voters. Perhaps this explains why the commentators are regularly misreading the population.

    Women are very annoyed with the federal government and the crumbs thrown to them for child care and in tax relief won’t make up for the attacks on their wages which are not keeping pace with inflation, for the attacks on the schools their kids attend which will make it harder for those children in the future, for the bullying behaviour of people like Bill Heffernan who denigrates a female leader, Tony Abbott who interferes with their right to choose whether to have a child or not, and for making life harder by ensuring a system with their husbands working longer hours than ever leaving them with a greater burden at home, or for forcing single mothers back into the workforce at a time when their lives are often in chaos and so are their children’s.

    So Tom you needn’t feel too bad – your failure to recognise the real issue is quite widespread.

  31. Tom N.
    May 17th, 2007 at 08:41 | #31

    My last word on this. You will also find, Jill, that the word that I used – ie the one with the asterisks – also appears in the dictionary, with one of its meanings being as a term of abuse. That wouldn’t make it “legitimate” for the ABC to use it to describe people it doesn’t like; nor does the fact that “scab” appears in the dictionary with the meaning you mention make it legitimate for the ABC to use in that way.

  32. May 17th, 2007 at 11:11 | #32

    Tom – the “c” word is mentioned at dictionary.com however it seems to make clear that it has been regarded as universally derogatory since around the 15th century. I think you were on safer ground with the word “faggot”.

    As an aside the term “poof” seems to me to have become less intensely derogatory over the years but you wouldn’t expect a journalist to use it to describe a homosexual man in a serious article. In verbal conversation I also notice that many people are slightly uncomfortable refering to the male genitals by it’s proper name, prefering to use many of the slang alternatives.

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