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Weekend reflections

February 23rd, 2008

It’s time once again for weekend reflections.Feel free to write at greater length than for a standard comment thread. As always, civilised discussion and no coarse language.

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  1. observa
    February 23rd, 2008 at 14:12 | #1

    I see Kev has got the ACCC to turn the volume down

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23258147-12377,00.html
    Thanks for your previous, errr.. ‘input’ there Graeme. You can run along now, there’s a good chap.

  2. February 23rd, 2008 at 14:31 | #2

    as i hope you’ve all noticed, i am vastly dissatisfied with the way oz is run. indeed, if i weren’t old and comfortable, i would lead a revolution as soon as i found a second ozzie who was also dissatisfied.

    so lets approach from a different way: is there any part of the political structure you think could be improved, or are all of you convinced this is as good as mere humans deserve.

    c’mon, unburden yourselves.

  3. February 23rd, 2008 at 17:38 | #3

    Hard Choices for Labor – social justice and inflation…

    Dear friends,

    I am a writing in regard to an article which has been published in On Line Opinion.

    The paper is a call to drop plans to cut taxes – and instead to promote a bi-partisan consensus on this issue for the ‘national good’.

    Instead, I argue to raise taxes for the wealthy – to rein in conspicuous consumption – countering inflation without hurting the poor and vulnerable.

    This is one of the most critical issues facing the new government, and a real test for Labor.

    I’m hoping that participants on this blog might be interested in reading the paper – and, is possible – adding comments and contributing to debate on the On Line Opinion website.

    The article can be found at this URL:

    http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=7026

    Further debate can be had at the ‘Leftwrites’ Blog – a forum for the Australian Left:

    http://www.leftwrites.net/

    Hope to hear from you soon – contributing to the debate…

    sincerely,

    Tristan Ewins

  4. Ikonoclast
    February 24th, 2008 at 07:57 | #4

    I am going to call all kinds of criticism down on my head here. I think Al Loomis has a point. Representive democracy (at least in Aus, UK and USA) has degenerated into a “two party state” model. Only one of two parties can realistically hope to ever form government.

    Admittedly, this might be better than an unstable string of short lived minority governments as experienced by Italy. Perhaps the two party state of representative parliamentary democracy is the best we can do whilst maintaining cohesion and direction in the political process. I would hope not.

    The US is tending to the extreme model of the two party state. The Republican and Democratic parties between them maintain an almost complete hegemony on political power at the national level in the US. These parties respectively are extreme right wing* and very right wing.

    * George Bush is a dictator who stole two elections with electoral fraud.

    In Australia, the Liberal Party and the Labor party are both the avowed parties of the so-called “aspirational” class. That is to say they are the parties of affluence and the pursuit of affluence. We have two right wing capitalist parties to choose from. The differences are only at the level of common humanity and common decency. The Rudd government is at least showing some of that.

    Common humanity and common decency are very important but are not enough. We need more opportunity to change our country than the two party state system of Tweedledum and Tweedledummer gives us. The Liberal were always hostage to the interests of the big end of town, the mining and coal interests and so on. Rudd’s labour government is also clearly hostage to the needs of corporate capital.

    In summary, I agree with some of Al’s points. We ought to be looking at incremental changes to our constitution to move to a more of a direct democracy model. A fuller scientific, philosophic and political-economic education of the entire citzenry would be necessary for citizens to perform their roles in such a society.

    Of course, we ought to be careful of any direct democracy agenda being kidnapped by fundamental activists of any kind. Then again, has not our representative democracy been kidnapped by a two party hegemony backed by corporate interests?

    To my mind, our failure to grapple with the intractable problems of significant minorities, our foot-dragging on climate change policy and our excessive deference to the needs of corporate capital are all indicative of the failures of our current system.

  5. February 24th, 2008 at 08:16 | #5

    Rudd’s razor gang is set to scrap multi-billion dollar defence projects including the $6.6 billion Super Hornets. Thank God, at last. Maybe now we can review the farcical idea that the Coalition is always strong on national defense:

    Other defence white elephants in the Government’s target include the Abrams tank, three massively expensive air warfare destroyers, two huge amphibious carrier ships, dud Seasprite helicopters, unnecessary flying drones and $16billion worth of undeveloped F-35 joint strike fighters.

    Work will begin this week on the 2008 defence white paper, the biggest review of Australia’s defence priorities since the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the US. It will reassess the Howard government’s policy of spending $50billion to build a defence force that fits seamlessly into the US military machine.

    Also just getting under way is a month-long inquiry into whether Australia needs 24 F/A-18 Super Hornets to plug a gap between the retirement of the F-111s and the arrival of the F-35s in 2014. It could cost $400million to cancel the order.

    Professor Hugh White, head of Australian National University’s Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, said many of these “white elephants were designed for major battles that Australia was unlikely to be involved in”.

    “The Abrams tank was designed to battle Soviet tanks pouring across Europe,” Professor White said. “We are paying $2billion for two big amphibious transport ships which carry helicopters, 1000 troops, the Abrams tanks and were designed to invade with massive force. Where would we use them? We would do much better with four smaller vessels.”

    Paul Dibb, a former defence department chief, warned recently that defence chiefs had got what they wanted far too easily and big savings could be made in the projects.

    “The only time a nation’s defence budget should be untouchable is when there is a clearly and imminent military threat to the country. Evidently that is not the case now,” Mr Dibb said.

    The first multibillion-dollar white elephant to get the axe could be an $8.1billion navy plan to build three air warfare destroyers. They are designed to protect fleets, and Australia doesn’t have one.

    A similarly complex project to upgrade four Adelaide class guided missile frigates was labelled a “nightmare” by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. After four years and $1.4billion, the ships still can’t be cleared fit for active service and have not been allowed to be deployed to risky zones such as the Middle East.

    The two amphibious transport ships costing $1billion each could also be heading for the chop. The Rudd Government believes neighbouring nations would feel threatened as the ships could hold an invasion force.

    I think what all these massive cockups show is that Howard was never really interested in the realities of military defence from any imaginable threats to our country. He was only ever interested in the financial gains (and political posturing) that come from dealing with the US military machine and their political representatives.

    The same thing goes for the ludicrous “War” on terror. It’s now blatantly obvious that the whole farce has made every country involved into a more dangerous place, at a cost of billions to taxpayers around the globe. And yet the con-artists behind this “war” continually ignore seemingly important issues, like capturing Bin Laden or providing more than bandaid security to ports and other potential “targets”, because the truth is they know the whole thing is a joke. They don’t really care. It’s just a money-making exercise for them and their mates.

    So bravo, Kevin Rudd! Now don’t let those nasty US visitors twist your arm…!

    In other news, however, the Rudd government is still going to dole out money to oil giants:

    Energy Minister Martin Ferguson has indicated the federal government would offer incentives to help producers pay for expensive exploration projects.

    The money would be better spent on exploring alternative energy supplies, or funding subsidies for existing alternatives.

    What happens to Kev’s carbon reduction targets if we DO discover another big oil field?

    It’s not like the massively wealthy oil giants really need this kind of government money to help them find new resources to exploit: this is just another form of scam.

  6. Salient Green
    February 24th, 2008 at 09:43 | #6

    al loomis, there was a discussion on Adelaide’s
    891 recently on the term ‘the opposition’ in regards to the connotations of negativity in that term which probably inspire negative behaviour rather than a more co-operative approach.

    The term also tends to help to deny other political partys some significance as it is always ‘the government and the opposition’ the term elevating the opposition into the Government’s group rather than, ‘the Liberal Party’ which makes it part of another group which is not the Governmment.

    I hope I’ve explained it okay, and would like to see the term ‘opposition’, used nevermore.

  7. February 24th, 2008 at 09:52 | #7

    well sal, i was kind of hoping you’d say:” too right! a bas les pollies!” but after 30+ years of lurking in oz, i wasn’t hoping very hard.

    ike is on the right road, but as he is about as old as me, it looks like he won’t get there before falling off the twig.

    i’ve put another rant on olo, inspired by “nsw government corrupt?” anyone who imagines there is democracy in oz should stop by and get a different view.

  8. Salient Green
    February 24th, 2008 at 12:44 | #8

    les pollies, outre du wirh leurs têtes. Have a good sunday.

  9. MH
    February 24th, 2008 at 17:30 | #9

    After the IPCC we had Stern, then the IPCC again and here in OZ, Garnaut. As Garnaut re-states, Its Game Over.

    If you would like a cheap reference guide to what it means then buy:

    “Six Degrees” by Mark Lynas (Commended by the RealClimate group. ‘

    Then put this C02 clock of your browzer web bar:

    http://climateclock350.blogspot.com/

  10. February 24th, 2008 at 17:35 | #10

    I thought I’d better link to my recent comment at “Lowering the NAIRU” since I was delayed folowing things up and people might miss it.

  11. MH
    February 24th, 2008 at 17:36 | #11

    Oh and for some of you who think drought is an Oz phenomena check out this NOAA diagram:

    http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/expert_assessment/dmcurweb.gif

  12. observa
    February 25th, 2008 at 07:57 | #12

    Well Ghandi, it would seem Howard was preparing to bring the troops home from Iraq this year anyway
    http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23267538-29277,00.html
    presumably because Iraqis were beginning to take over after becoming sick to death of AQ.

    That leaves an interesting conundrum for the ‘good war’ enthusiasts like Ruddy and Co. Pretty soon, after he pulls us out of Iraq, the Coalition will be asking him why we’re still in the graveyard of empires when the Canadians are pulling out and the rest of the empires have brewer’s droop. Welcome to Groundhog Day with a different groundhog.

  13. observa
    February 25th, 2008 at 08:04 | #13

    Or you might like to think of it a bit like ‘Rollback’ Ghandi ;)

  14. observa
    February 25th, 2008 at 08:30 | #14

    Rudd’s going to be the new groundhog, simply because he took the easy short term path with his particular constituency, rather than forward thinking about the long haul. This was after all the bloke who firmly believed, like the COW, that Saddam had WMD. He’s already come out and made ther big ‘staying the course’ for democracy and freedom, yada yada in ET. That would have been OK had he coupled it with the notion that both Iraq and Afghanistan were a bit beyond our jurisdiction and we need to bring our troops home from both theatres, to concentrate on problems in our own backyard. Instead of that he played to the short term applause of his gallery and has bought into his long term problem. That will be his undoing as the Opposition gradually takes up the politically popular stick to beat him with after his short term popular Iraq withdrawal. Had he been prepared to stay a bit longer in Iraq (using the line that we broke it and we have to hang around a while longer) he could have used that as a negotiating ploy to get out of Hornets and into Raptors. Longer term he could have then prepared for a joint pullout(rollback) from both Iraq and Afghanistan jointly. He only has himself to blame for where he’s headed now.

  15. observa
    February 25th, 2008 at 09:03 | #15

    “is there any part of the political structure you think could be improved”

    Yes and when you think about the winner takes all approach and its shortcomings, that’s why I’ve advocated for some time, electing the two houses in reverse. Proportional representation for the Reps has huge payoffs as I’ve outlined before. The objectors would largely argue that the major snag could be shaky coalitions in the absence of a strong two party system. That’s nonsense as the Rann Govt’s coopting of Nats and Independent Libs to form their first Govt has shown. They’ve still retained Karlene Maywald in their second term, even with a majority. Much policy and direction is self selecting, after becoming rather obvious politically and through changed circumstance, so that democratic coalition govts would respond accordingly, largely around the centre more often than not. To the extent that any major policy problem or new direction causes major friction and dissent, that would always be settled at the ballot box anyway.

  16. February 25th, 2008 at 16:23 | #16

    is there any part of the political structure you think could be improved, or are all of you convinced this is as good as mere humans deserve.

    I’ve offered this before:-

    http://apps.facebook.com/causes/view_cause/43536?h=pln&recruiter_id=6758475

  17. February 25th, 2008 at 16:24 | #17

    p.s. The facebook cause already has one Aussie sentator as a member.

  18. Ernestine Gross
    February 25th, 2008 at 18:45 | #18

    PML, re “Lowering the NAIRU”,

    The short-term targeted wage subsidy is not aimed at lowering unemployment per se but aimed at increasing labour supply (“lowering the NAIRU, assuming it exists”). This is how I understood JQ’s proposition with which I concur. Such a ‘wage subsidy’ could equally well be named public payment for adjustment costs.

  19. February 26th, 2008 at 12:03 | #19

    Ernestine Gross, my feeling is that the aim you describe will miss, because there is too much chance for churning of the unemployed and for things to drop back after it all cuts off, as well as being slow enough acting not to do much while funds do flow out. I base this on the trial of Negative Income Tax that was carried out in the USA a few decades ago, as well as the game theoretic analysis. So, we need something faster acting, more enduring and broad based, and more sustainable until it does act – hence my suggestion of the Swales approach.

  20. Ernestine Gross
    February 28th, 2008 at 16:33 | #20

    P.M. Lawrence, It seems to me you are considering a different problem from that of the thread, namely excess supply rather than excess demand.

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