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Monday Message Board

March 30th, 2010

It’s time, once again for the Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. As usual, civilised discussion and no coarse language.

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  1. Ken Lovell
    March 30th, 2010 at 19:11 | #1

    In my last post at the old Road to Surfdom blog, I set out a case for a review of Australia’s ‘special relationship’ with the USA and expressed the hope that the then-new government would commission one. I cling to the faint hope that the ever-cautious Kevin might even do it one day. But in the mean time, it’s nice to see a bunch of British Labor MPs finally acknowledge publicly that ‘America’s relationship with Britain is no more special than with its other main allies’ (http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article7078844.ece).

  2. robert (not from UK)
    March 30th, 2010 at 21:43 | #2

    German Chancellors are not noted for their wit (although there are a few exceptions: Bismarck and Adenauer could manage sardonic jokes), but let’s hear it for ex-Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who once observed that the Anglo-American “special relationship” was so special, only the English knew it existed:


  3. James
    March 31st, 2010 at 08:56 | #3

    I heard Sam Wylie of Core Economics on PM yesterday trying an argument from condescension against the Tobin Tax (or “Robin Hood tax” as it has been called), viz, “Tim Costello and Peter Singer are very fine people but they just don’t understand sophisticated financial economics” (the way I do).
    Given that economists as distinguished as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz (both winners of the Riksbank prize in economics) and Dean Baker (one of the few to accurately call the US housing bubble and resultant crisis) and our host advocate a Tobin Tax, and Sam lacks a Riksbank medal, do you think will he accept that they understand more than he does and reverse his position? Or will the naked self interest of preserving his teaching career in “financial engineering” triumph?

  4. Chris Warren
    March 31st, 2010 at 10:29 | #4

    A Tobin-type tax (TTT) is probably the most useful thing social democratic capitalists, socialists, trade unionists, labourites and environmentalists can all agree on.

    Only capitalists and their allies within the capitalist economists fraternity tremble at the thought of a TTT.

    Left unions published “Back On Track” some time ago calling for a Tobin Tax.

    More recently the SEARCH Foundation included a Tobin Tax in its waffle. Quiggin and Stilwell are due to spruik at their Conference on 29 May. I think I have heard Stilwell support a TTT.

    Some ALP parliamentarians have tried to pursue a TTT, but the Keatingesque rightwing elements in the ALP Parliamentary Caucus stymied these efforts. In this case the TTT was sought for international issues. we now need it for domestic reasons.

    Gareth Evans and John Langmore have supported a TTT but without any real vigour.

    The issue is covered in “The Tobin Tax: Coping with financial volatility” ed ul Haq, Kaul, Grunberg.

    I assume some church groups and ACOSS would support a TTT.

    We just have to kick our ill-bred economists out of the way.

  5. James
    March 31st, 2010 at 10:40 | #5

    Chris Warren :A Tobin-type tax (TTT) is probably the most useful thing social democratic capitalists, socialists, trade unionists, labourites and environmentalists can all agree on. Only capitalists and their allies within the capitalist economists fraternity tremble at the thought of a TTT.

    That and an economic rent tax (including variants such as mining royalties tax, unimproved land value (Georgist) tax, etc).
    In fact, I think many capitalists would be in favour of both, especially if they were partly used to reduce regressive taxes (e.g. payroll, stamp duty). IMHO Most businesses find currency fluctuations and high rents to be a burden not an opportunity. But small/medium and manufacturing businesses lack political clout compared to banks, stockbrokers, currency speculators and landlords.

  6. Ken Miles
    March 31st, 2010 at 10:52 | #6

    Phill Jones and the CRU have just been cleared by a UK parlimentary committee.

    The focus on Professor Jones and CRU has been largely misplaced. On the accusations relating to Professor Jones’s refusal to share raw data and computer codes, the Committee considers that his actions were in line with common practice in the climate science community but that those practices need to change.

    On the much cited phrases in the leaked e-mails—”trick” and “hiding the decline”—the Committee considers that they were colloquial terms used in private e-mails and the balance of evidence is that they were not part of a systematic attempt to mislead.

    Insofar as the Committee was able to consider accusations of dishonesty against CRU, the Committee considers that there is no case to answer.

    The Committee found no reason in this inquiry to challenge the scientific consensus as expressed by Professor Beddington, the Government Chief Scientific Adviser, that “global warming is happening [and] that it is induced by human activity”. But this was not an inquiry into the science produced by CRU and it will be for the Scientific Appraisal Panel, announced by the University on 22 March, to determine whether the work of CRU has been soundly built.

    On the mishandling of Freedom of Information (FoI) requests, the Committee considers that much of the responsibility should lie with the University, not CRU. The leaked e-mails appear to show a culture of non-disclosure at CRU and instances where information may have been deleted to avoid disclosure, particularly to climate change sceptics. The failure of the University to grasp fully the potential damage this could do and did was regrettable. The University needs to re-assess how it can support academics whose expertise in FoI requests is limited.

  7. Fran Barlow
    March 31st, 2010 at 12:22 | #7

    Finally a program that aims to cut the bloated size of the US government.

  8. Nick R
    March 31st, 2010 at 20:12 | #8

    Thanks Ken that has brightened my day.

  9. Alice
    March 31st, 2010 at 20:16 | #9

    @Fran Barlow
    Very funny Fran..this onion lot are good for a laugh!

  10. Tristan Ewins
    April 1st, 2010 at 15:44 | #10

    One comrade doth not maketh a movement…

    In this political commentary piece appearing in `Left Focus’ this week, Geoff Drechsler questions inclinations in the Australian Labor Party (ALP) to turn to ‘high profile’ ‘celebrity’ candidates. For Drechsler the real business of politics is in grassroots mobilisation and cultural struggle. If Labor is ever to return to the ‘front foot’, it is a lesson its leaders must learn…

    For more see:


  11. Ernestine Gross
    April 1st, 2010 at 19:38 | #11

    Chris Warren,

    Unions have sold out to the banks in all instances when they agreed to trade off direct deposits of wages for a trivially small wage increase. I would classify the Tobin tax on currency transactions (this is what it is in its original form) as mainstream economics. IMHO a Tobin tax in its original form is not sufficient to prevent or even significantly mitigate systemic risk in the future. The problems are technical and not ideological in nature. I am tired of people blaming economics rather than politics and the associated powers (legal and accounting profession and politicised unions and their various PR lots.)

  12. Ernestine Gross
    April 1st, 2010 at 19:39 | #12

    Ken Miles, I was very pleased to hear your good news also on local radio.

  13. Freelander
    April 1st, 2010 at 21:37 | #13

    On a different topic, I am annoyed at the prospect of the great fire wall of Australia which the government is planning to erect. The purported reason to erect it is kiddie porn which is, obviously, a laudable objective. However, apparently most of this type of porn is propagated peer-to-peer and where it is provided via websites, the porn sites regularly change their IP addresses, hence, attempting to stifle people accessing this type of porn with a great fire wall is a very expensive and almost complete waste of time.

    What is of concern is what else the great firewall is going to block. Also of concern is Minister Conroy’s unwillingness to let the public should know what is being blocked and why in each case it is being blocked. Why can’t we know what is being blocked so that we are able to judge the reasonableness of that blocking. The likelihood is that the stuff that ‘no real Scotsman’ would object to being blocked won’t be blocked because those providing and accessing that type of material are already using methods that evade blocking (peer-to-peer and frequent IP address changes) while those sites that even many ‘real Scotsman’ would not object to everyone having access to, will be blocked and we won’t know about it because Conroy and his moral majority tea swigging christian wowsers think knowing what he is blocking from us is also far too dangerous for us to know.

  14. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 1st, 2010 at 23:51 | #14

    Given that economists as distinguished as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz (both winners of the Riksbank prize in economics) and Dean Baker (one of the few to accurately call the US housing bubble and resultant crisis) and our host advocate a Tobin Tax

    You forgot to include prominant left wing economist and politician Pauline Hanson who campaigned for the same tax (under a different name) at the 1998 election. ;-)

  15. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 1st, 2010 at 23:55 | #15

    Freelander – I agree. The combination of onion routers, peer to peer, and encryption make the distribution of such material beyond the influence of any government filter. The government has no hope of stopping it but every chance of stuffing up things for ordinary web users. Conroy has been told all this but somehow thinks “doing something” is a brilliant idea.

  16. Freelander
    April 2nd, 2010 at 04:49 | #16

    TerjeP, Given Conroy can’t stop what he claims is his main target, and he knows it, his objective must be to stop other stuff he doesn’t like where posters and those who might want to read it are not going to go to those lengths to evade his Great Wall. Given that we are not going to be privy to his list of “that which must not be seen” we will be subject to an insidious piece of censorship. Also, given that Australia is such a small part of the internet, the rest of the world is not going to make much of an effort to make sure that the innocent stuff gets through their nanny wall.
    One thing that annoys me is that there is not a higher level of outrage over this in the community. Maybe that is because the purported target (the target it will miss) is kiddie porn?
    Given the silence of the opposition which has been opposing simply for the sake of it, something else that annoys me is the apparent bipartisan support for the proposal. I know this sort of censorship has strong support amongst many in the coalition. But surely there must be someone in Parliament willing to speak up loudly?
    Added to the opposition’s silence is also the silence of Rupert Murdoch’s minions and the remaining relatively free press, Fairfax et al. I suppose they don’t mind the censorship of a competing and largely superior media source that has made them unprofitable and has put them on an inevitable path to irrelevancy. Even the self labelled champions of freedom, the various libertarian ‘think tanks’. don’t see the issue as one worth shouting about. Maybe they don’t want to disturb the cosy relationship they currently enjoy with the main political parties and the traditional media? Clearly they don’t consider it a freedom worth making an effort to retain.
    There has definitely been no mandate for this, so why the silence?

  17. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 2nd, 2010 at 08:04 | #17

    I don’t think I have ever seen the libertarian think tanks shout, on any topic. Public displays of outrage does not appear to be in their DNA. However I agree with the things you say. Most of the media opposition I have seen is voiced in PC magazines and the like.

    Other than the ETS Abbott isn’t much different to Rudd on the substance of things. Most of the differences are posture and posing and rhetorical baiting. They are a unified menace. I have said before that the only good thing about Abbott is that he isn’t Rudd but on several ugly points he is Rudd.

  18. Ernestine Gross
    April 2nd, 2010 at 09:13 | #18

    Freelander and Terje re ‘fire walling kiddies porn’.

    I find your discussion informative regarding the distinction between ethically desirable and technologically possible policy outcomes. What would be an alternative policy measure to fire walling which is more effective and avoids possible unwarrented restrictions on personal liberties that might result from fire walling? Could one have ‘burning in oil’ (an expression from game theory) laws for people who get caught producing or distributing, or viewing (more than x seconds before deleting) the undesirable stuff? For example, mandatory life in prison and confication of all private assets to pay for the prison term. How would one exclude the possibility of someone being ‘framed’.? Would mandatory community work for the rest of the working life together with confiscation of private assets in excess of $x be better? If so, why? Any other suggestions?

  19. Alice
    April 2nd, 2010 at 09:16 | #19

    Warning folks – the Daily Telegraph cars guide is full of shonky ads
    like this one
    “LEXUS – IS250, 2006, 4d sedan, 6p auto sequential, GSE20R Sports luxury…bla bla 49,500kms etc complete with photo and phone no and the amazing price of ?? Wait for it – an unbelievable $15,700

    (true market price around 30K)

    Phone nos given in the ads which are never answered…. Email addresses given – which are responded to. Information given on chassis numbers, a rego no, engine no (three identifiers necessary for revs checks).
    So the unwitting victim would be buyer revs checks the car and it comes up showing no finance owing. Victim then puts deposit down on car after email communications with shonky seller..
    result ? Money disappears, so does seller. There never was any such car for sale

    Counted at least four of such ads (there will be quite a few more in there) in Daily Telegraph carsguide today…

    But what do the Tele care so long as the scam and likely foreign advertiser pays the advertising bill?

  20. April 2nd, 2010 at 09:41 | #20

    Bernard Salt, Murdoch media insult the memory of Second World War Australians

    In 1946, US President Truman said Australia’s contribution to the Allied war effort, “On balance, the contribution made by Australia, a country having 7 millions, approximately equalled that of United States.” Yet, in 2010, Bernard Salt, a supporter of the record high immigration rate being imposed undemocratically by the Rudd Government has, in an article written for Rupert Murdoch’s “Australian” newspaper has misrepresented history in an apparent attempt to belittle and diminish this country’s proud achievements. Why?

  21. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 2nd, 2010 at 10:33 | #21

    EG – I work in IT and I run filters on the corporate network and at home. They can deter those willing to be defered but if the motive is there and you control the software on you computer (ie you have admin rights on your PC) then they can be readily circumvented. I don’t think there is a technical fix and even in corporations the issue is ultimately a cultural one. Obviously serious activity leads to dismissal or even police depending on the nature of the activity.

    I used to run a consultancy looking after the IT for businesses (mostly small firms of corporate offices). I always told my guys (and one gal) that client data privacy was paramount but if they came across child porn they should call the cops. Of course the next day I went to a client site and looked at a PC and it happened that the wall paper on the desktop depicted two young girls naked in the bath. Not kiddy porn but the guys daughters.

    The worst thing I ever saw working in IT was shown to me by a very pretty young secretary who took me into her confidence to show me something “real cool”. It was a vintage video of a small boy (probably about 5 or 6) crossing a train line and getting hit by a train. It was vulgar and I let her know in no uncertain terms. She was a bit shocked at my reaction. I was a bit shocked at her depravity. Not because I didn’t know people couldn’t be depraved but more because they would be so open about it.

    I think metaphorically boiling in oil is the right approach because it addresses motive not means. However I think depravity is wide spread and we ought to be cautious about locking up people on mass. Obviously for some issues the option makes sense.

  22. Chris Warren
    April 2nd, 2010 at 11:23 | #22

    @Ernestine Gross

    You have to balance blame between economic dogmas which underpin political decisions and political dogmas which underpin economic decisions.

    The dogma of Harberger triangles is used by economists to obtain political outcomes in Australia’s regulatory system. Harberger triangles are very useful if you want to push some stupid Labor minister into abolishing rent controls or into denying workers increased wages (particularly minimum wages).

    So economic dogmas can be blamed as well as stupid politics. I find it almost impossible to separate the two.

    The big dispute in economics – between objective social theory of value (neo-Marxism), and subjective individual theory of value (marginalism), is driven largely by politics.

    Politicians can also alternatively blame and evoke economics for what they want to do for other motives.

    Politics and economics coexist everywhere except in the case of Robinson Crusoe, up to the point he enslaved Friday.

  23. Freelander
    April 2nd, 2010 at 11:34 | #23

    Kiddie porn is a difficult problem. The police seem to be doing a good job online in catching culprits currently. This seems to be achieved by monitoring who is accessing material on those sorts of sites and by infiltrating rings involved in peer-to-peer distribution of the material. And this policing is scrutinised by the issues being tested in a court. Quite different to judge, jury and enforcer being wrapped up in one Minister Conroy.

    One place where I would support a very wide ban even though, again, successfully enforcing one would not be easy, is on pornographic or offensive images on mobile phones. The reason for this is that with access to the internet on mobile phones, kids and teenagers can be watching that material on public transport not only age in appropriate but also subjecting others to and in some cases intimidating others with their viewing habits. Again, such a ban is unlikely to be successful in eliminating all such behaviour although it might reduce it, but, more importantly, this is an area that requires attention and resourcing rather than whatever texts it is that Judge Conroy (like some Judge Dread) and his fellow book burners are really intent on targeting. The types of texts that they really do object to are the material on sites like Wikileaks and elsewhere where whistle-blowing material is posted, like, for example, lists of “that which must not be seen” websites or webpages which have been blocked. Or misbehaviour by politicians which is definitely material in the “that which must not be seen” category.

  24. Chris Warren
    April 2nd, 2010 at 11:37 | #24

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)


    You can probably find support for some taxation of foreign flows amongst Quadrant, News Weekly, Opus Dei, the RSL and most rightwing unions.

    But this has no relevance to the policy itself, and who cares about these groups?

  25. Freelander
    April 2nd, 2010 at 12:28 | #25

    @Ernestine Gross

    The issue isn’t firewalling kiddie porn because that can’t be done without shutting down the internet. The issue is the real targets of the great firewall which, under the guise of solving the problem of kiddie porn, which it will not and which they know it will not, will instead block a host of things that we will not even be allow to know are being blocked.
    A simple recipe for some foreign site to be blocked would be that that site post a list of “that which must not be seen”. The secret list of “that which must not be seen” is an important part of what must be blocked and not seen. If you have had experience of nanny filters in a corporate environment they block all sorts of things that they ought not to be blocking, abortion information sites and so on. What amuses me about the Federal Government’s ‘nanny filter’ for government departments is that it regularly blocks emails from the Human Rights Commission. Apparently, even having .gov.au as part of the sender’s email address is not good enough to allow this undesirable material to get through the nanny filter. Part of the blocking is accidental but part of the blocking resulting from off the shelf nanny blockers is simply the result of the petty prejudices of those who design the blocking (not infrequently religious nutters, the word nutter being redundant). This great firewall will be no different, especially given Conroy’s expressed intention not to allow the laity to know what we are being protected from.

  26. April 2nd, 2010 at 16:33 | #26

    There have not been many occasions where I agree with you, but this is one. I have no confidence that it will act to exclude the material it is ostensibly aimed at, I believe it will slow down the internet for us all and I have little confidence that, once it is in place it will not be extended.
    Personally, I think its mere existence would be a standing temptation for a government to abuse it.

  27. Freelander
    April 2nd, 2010 at 17:38 | #27

    Before we forget the real meaning of Easter…

    I must admit that I always find this time of year rather sad…

    As I know the availability of hot cross buns is coming to an end.

    Why couldn’t they have crucified him several more times?

    That way we would have more holidays and more hot cross buns. After all, he rose from the dead according to his spin doctors, they ought to have seen how many more times he could do it again. As well as keeping the hot cross buns flowing, multiple resurrections would have been truly impressive. More hot cross buns, more Easter eggs; he really should have thought more about the “little children”.

  28. April 2nd, 2010 at 18:39 | #28

    Ken Lovell :
    … it’s nice to see a bunch of British Labor MPs finally acknowledge publicly that…

    There is no such animal as a “British Labor MP”, any more than there are any “Australian Labour MP”s. As each is a proper name, it should be Labour in Britain and Labor in Australia, respecting the usage of those who chose the name.

  29. gregh
    April 2nd, 2010 at 19:27 | #29

    @Ernestine Gross
    The Conroy filter is either not about what it says it is about or Conroy and the govt are misguided. Anyone in net security will tell you that the filter will not work to shutdown the transmission and distribution of child pornography – search on darknet if you want a bit of info on the ‘other’ internet. Serious police investigation into the illegal sex trade – whether to counteract the abuse of children or of adults – is far more worthy of funding than the Conroy proposal

  30. April 2nd, 2010 at 20:21 | #30

    @Freelander wrote:

    One thing that annoys me is that there is not a higher level of outrage over this in the community.

    The outrage was there alright and almost certainly still is, just as much as there is outrage against the Bligh Government’s $15billion fire sale.

    The problem is that there is no leadership coming from the people who are in the best posittion to lead the fight against Mandatory Intenet filtering, namely the Greens.

    Thus far, for all his good work in exposing Mandatory Internet Filtering, Senator Scott Ludlam adamantly refuses to try to ge this issue put as a referendum question (or at least that’s what one of his staffers told me).

    If Rudd is prepared to put his health care reforms, for better or for worse, to a referendum, then why could’t the Greens just as legitimately demand that Conroy’s laws, that would give (or could potentially give, with small changes, with another concocted excuse such as 9/11, Bali or (almost) 12/25 last year) Governments total power to censor any website they consider a threat, also be put to a referendum?

    Instead the Greens’ ‘strategy’ appears to be confined to attempting to wheel and deal with a Senate that is overwhelmingly stacked with members who are committed to serving the interests of corporations, which have not interest in preserving free speech and not of the public.

    From the outset that strategy was a gamble. It appeared superficially viable when the Coalition came out against it. Since then the Coalition has become quieter and quieter, so to bank our hopes on them blocking it is folly.

    If a motion were put and carried by the Senate, then once the arguments for and against were considered, Mandatory Internet Filtering would almost certainly be voted down in a referendum.

    On the other hand, if it were not carried by the Senate, it would almost certainly give the very large section (if not an outright majority) of the public opposed to filtering, a compelling reason to vote for the Greens at the next Federal election.

    If they had done so, and if GetUp had got behind it, it would certainly have raised the profile of the issue much higher than it is now and the spotlight would be firmly back on Senator Steve Conroy.

    But the Greens refuse to even try.


  31. April 2nd, 2010 at 20:36 | #31
  32. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 2nd, 2010 at 20:40 | #32

    The problem is that people may be passionate about this issue but it won’t change their vote. If you’re a rusted on ALP voter and you hate this filter then you are unlikely to vote Liberal just because Tony Abbott decides to publicly oppose it. It is an issue that people are passionate about but it isn’t a vote changer. This is a classic example of the problem with product bundling in the political market.

  33. Freelander
    April 2nd, 2010 at 20:53 | #33

    Maybe some MPs should be targeted over the issue? If Conroy was unseated, if he is up for re-election this time, that is, then maybe they would get a message?

  34. April 2nd, 2010 at 20:56 | #34


    That’s called shouting Daggett and is considered poor ‘netiquette’. It also makes your post harder to read. Altering type attributes can be useful in emphasis but if everything is emphasised then nothing is.

  35. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 2nd, 2010 at 21:05 | #35

    Fran – I think the extensive highlighting in comment #30 was a mistake and then comment #31 was sarcastic self criticism.

  36. Freelander
    April 2nd, 2010 at 21:05 | #36

    Damn. Just out shopping and no hot cross buns! Have to wait a whole year. If only the Romans had tried replicating their experiment….

  37. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 2nd, 2010 at 21:07 | #37

    Freelander – Blame the victims. The Romans crucified plenty of people. It’s just most of them could not be bothered rising from the dead.

  38. Freelander
    April 2nd, 2010 at 21:28 | #38

    Well, I’m thinking that rising from the dead must have been quite common ‘back in the day’, because JC’s feat didn’t even make the local news. Either it didn’t happen, bite my tongue, or people were rising from the dead in such great numbers that it wasn’t even newsworthy. Josephus mentioned JC and his ignominious end but even he didn’t find it noteworthy enough to mention his death defying piece of civil disobedience. I imagine it was civil disobedience, as surely the Romans didn’t kill them simply for them to get up and ignore the incredible expense of the judicial and penal process by prancing around as if nothing had happened to them? What perplexes me is why, if Josephus did not find his rising from the dead noteworthy, why have christians made such a big deal out of it?

  39. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 2nd, 2010 at 22:22 | #39

    Freelander – government controlled media no doubt. ;-)

  40. April 2nd, 2010 at 22:41 | #40

    Madang landowners fight ecologically devastating Chinese mining invasion

    Chinese government owned China Metallurgical Construction (MCC) corporation’s efforts to establish the massively destructive Ramu Nickel mine in Madang Province, Papua New Guinea — the largest investment in metal exploration and mining by the Chinese outside of China — is in serious jeopardy. Local landowners are successfully initiating court cases and protests to demand mine tailings not be dumped into the sea — poisoning fish stocks and causing extreme ecological destruction — or the mine be stopped. (Story originally published as “Resistance Growing to Ecologically Devastating Chinese Mining Invasion of Madang, Papua New Guinea” on rainforestportal.org, to whihch above link points. Also republished here.)

    My comment: The way that the Paupau New Guineans are treated by their Government and Chinese mining companies seems not that much worse than the way Australians are treated by our Govenment and Chinese mining companies.

    Yes, thanks, TerjeP, I am gald that at least one person here was able to grasp my efforts to salvage some of my pride from my botched <bold></bold> tagging of my earlier post with an attempt at humour. I gather that neither strikeout nor underscore tags work here?

    TerjeP, so do you agree with me that Mandatory Internet Filtering should be put to the public at a referendum?

    If we think about it, ‘representative democracy’ is anything but. The only people being ‘represented’ by our politicians, are mining companies, banks, land speculators, and property developers.

    It’s well past time that Swiss-style Binding Citizens Referenda became the law in this country.

  41. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 3rd, 2010 at 06:32 | #41

    My first preference would be for the government to simply dump the policy. Baring that a binding referendum is highly likely to dump the policy so it would be an okay second best. I support democracy as a process but regardless of whether it is representative or direct it still gets things wrong.

    I think representative democracy is a brilliant concept but it has problems in practice. I have for some time now advocated that we stop electing senators and that we appoint them by sortition. This would be vastly more reresentative. It would disenfranchise the political parties. It would remove popularism from the deliberation process.

  42. April 3rd, 2010 at 06:50 | #42

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)

    I have for some time now advocated that we stop electing senators and that we appoint them by sortition.

    As you know, I’d like a hybrid deliberative voting/sortition model to apply to the whole system, and I’d simply lose the senate. We’d have a national plan developed and passed and then modified at reasonable intervals by DD. Matters of serious division could also be resolved in this way, with parliament left to work out stuff that fell outside the scope of the plan or that they could interpret as falling within it.

    And I’d get rid of the states and local councils as well.

    So we’d have a system without career politicians or plitical parties directly in the parliament and far fewer politicians in total per capita.

    Since the sortition procesess would be issues based and the resultant parliament subject to a national plan progressively carried out and unable to be gamed, negative campaigning would be a waste of time.

    A bit radical for you though as I recall.

  43. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 3rd, 2010 at 07:48 | #43

    It isn’t because it is radical that I disagree with it. I’d abolish federal tax powers which is radical so the fact that something is radical isn’t the basis on which I’d reject it. I regard myself as a radical libertarian incrementalist. Any reinvention of the system should in my book be one that can be achieved in stages with each stage being worthy in it’s own right. To replace the entire system as you outline would require a violent revolution and a period of totalitarian power unless you can break it down into more modest steps. For the moment I’ll assume you can and that your just glossing over the implementation details.

    I’d retain two houses because I think it achieves a very public process of public reflection and debate. I’d want to bolster this process with some rules that put a delay between the introduction of a bill into either house and the subsequent voting on it. I don’t think bills should be snuck in late at night and voted through without being on public display for a couple of months. Knee jerk legislation should be hampered by the system.

    I’d also retain a second house because I think it mitigates group think.

    In terms of state, federal and local government I’d shift power to the bottom. I’d give local governments constitutional standing. I’d give them the exclusive power to tax individuals and corporations. The revenue that state and federal governments could collect via fines or penalties would be strictly capped. Local governments would be required to give a fixed percentage of their revenues to the state government. The rate would varied by state referendum. In turn the states would give a fixed percentage of their revenue to the federal government and the rate would be determined by federal referendum.

  44. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 3rd, 2010 at 07:56 | #44

    p.s. A national plan is useful as a guideline but not in my view as something to be embodied in legislation. As such I wouldn’t be having a system to vote for national plans. They also entail a bundling problem. In my view direct democracy is best for very specific unbundled rule changes. So a referendum outlawing the death penalty is a good use of a referendum. A referendum to accept or reject the case mix funding formula for all public hospitals is probably a bad idea. That’s probably better figured out through representative democracy with some delagation to a beaurocracy.

  45. boconnor
    April 3rd, 2010 at 09:21 | #45

    TerjeP (say tay-a) :
    In terms of state, federal and local government I’d shift power to the bottom. I’d give local governments constitutional standing. I’d give them the exclusive power to tax individuals and corporations.

    Hundreds of different tax rates dependng on location. The cost on market efficiency alone would be huge. Curious about the reasoning behind this and why you don’t want business taxes being levied independent of geography.

  46. April 3rd, 2010 at 11:03 | #46

    TerjeP wrote in response to my earlier post:

    My first preference would be for the government to simply dump the policy.

    Of course that would be mine also, but Conroy and the Government seem resolved to impose Mandatory Internet Filtering.

    To me, that’s unacceptable, when, as you agree, that it would be opposed by the overwhelming majority if they were fully informed on this issue.

    So, are we going to, yet again, let the Federal Government get away with imposing harmful policies opposed by the majority, in this case, one which has the potential to destroy free speech and democracy, altogether?

    It would appear that the Greens, together with the Coalition and, of course, the Labor Party, itself are willing to.

    As far as I am concerned, that simply isn’t good enough.

  47. Chris Warren
    April 3rd, 2010 at 12:00 | #47

    TerjeP (say tay-a) :
    I have for some time now advocated that we stop electing senators and that we appoint them by sortition. This would be vastly more reresentative. It would disenfranchise the political parties. It would remove popularism from the deliberation process.

    How nice, how naive;

    Any representatives chosen in this romantic fashion would be complete prisoners of their advisors and lobbyists.

    It is a direct path to politburo/mandarin dictatorship.

    There are so many other problems with this, that I don’t know where to start.

  48. April 3rd, 2010 at 12:19 | #48

    Yes, I think Chris Warren, is spot on and TerjeP is wrong.

    For all the obvious problems of election, it is far more preferable that at least our political representatives are elected.

    I thought my comment in response to a cartoon on Mandatory Internet Filtering posted to Facebook may be worth sharing:

    This cartoon is correct in a sense, but it trivialises the real threat that Mandatory Internet filtering poses.

    That threat is to give power to Governments, that are clearly serving corporations and not ordinary citizens, the power to block at will any sites they consider a threat to them.

    Obviously whether the sites are the child porn sites that Conroy claims necessitates these laws or sites expressing legitimate political viewpoints, ways to circumvent filtering can be found…. See More

    However, in the latter case, even if some are able to bypass the filter and get access to information that the Government considers a threat, the vast majority will not be able to, and so, what I believe is the true purpose of Internet Filtering will have been achieved.

    So, let’s, from now on, stop wasting so much time countering the self-serving lie that is Conroy’s case for Filtering.

    What we have to do is focus on what is almost certainly the real purpose of Filtering. Certainly, when people put Conroy’s facile arguments, we counter them at that point, but to focus on his argument is a diversion, in my view.

  49. gregh
    April 3rd, 2010 at 13:19 | #49

    @Chris Warren
    I agree – for sortition to work it must be much more widespread – private and public. The goal should be to prevent aggregation of power any and every where

  50. April 3rd, 2010 at 13:29 | #50


    And that is very much how I see it. While it obviously would not cover all public goods it could cover all those where significant collective action benefits and problems were available.

    I don’t agree that Chris has made any kind of a case for the claim that this would foster the control of mandarins or a politburo …

  51. Chris Warren
    April 3rd, 2010 at 15:22 | #51

    @Fran Barlow

    How quaint;

    Having retired from over 30 years in the Commonwealth public service, I can assure Fran that any randomly selected parliamentarian will be so well served with consultation committees, briefing papers, working parties, and guidelines etc they won’t even know what hit them.

  52. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 3rd, 2010 at 18:45 | #52

    Hundreds of different tax rates dependng on location.

    Land rates already vary by location so it wouldn’t be anything new. You’re assuming local governments would impose income taxes where as I’m betting they wouldn’t want to complicate things for businesses lest they move. In short I don’t share your concern at all.

  53. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 3rd, 2010 at 18:47 | #53

    Chris – even if you were right about the risks of capture (and I don’t think you are) there would under my scheme still be a lower house of elected representatives that for executive government. The only power my senate would have would be to veto proposed legislation.

  54. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 3rd, 2010 at 18:48 | #54

    … that form executive government …

  55. April 6th, 2010 at 11:21 | #55

    Malcolm has announced he won’t recontest Wentworth.

    I say good riddance to him.

    Ultimately, Turnbull’s role was going to be to put a more saleable face on what was a reactionary party. While annoying Abbott (or whoever is in charge at the time of the next election) would have been of some amusement value, it wasn’t so much that I would have the slightest sympathy for him.

    He was, plainly, a lot more intelligent than the coalition incumbent. Yet he participated in the xenophobic and misanthropic hysteria over “boat people” for reasons which at best were purely opportunistic. He wailed illiterate nonsense on “debt”. Had he not been rolled, he would have been circulating guff over the insulation program. He was of course in favour of that giant scam “clean coal” and favoured the CPRS polluter handouts and pushed for even more than the CPRS ultimately offered. He had nothing to say about spending megabucks in defence procurement. He favoured continuing the Afghan adventure. He had nothing substantial to say on health.

    This was no accident because he was simply the head of an organisation that somehow thought that they only had to wait a while for normal services to be resumed and for the born-to-rule to be recover the plush leather seats. With his blockpartners — the moronic Hockey and the equally mindless spruiker Pyne fancied that he might just do it.

    So really, going back to merchant w*nking (as opposed to the political variant) is probably where he is best suited.

  56. April 6th, 2010 at 11:29 | #56

    @Chris Warren

    Having retired from over 30 years in the Commonwealth public service, I can assure Fran that any randomly selected parliamentarian will be so well served with consultation committees, briefing papers, working parties, and guidelines etc they won’t even know what hit them.

    In my process, the potential candidates would spend the two years before they were due being trained to make sense of the demands of office, getting across the usages of the PS and would be reporting on what they had learned, precisely so that those doing the deliberative voting on the merits of each could be properly informed about them. Some might well drop out when they saw what was involved and realised it was a lot harder than they had supposed and others would become excellent politicians. Best of all, everyone, failed or not, would be in a position to carry their hard-won knowledge into their peer groups, resulting in a progressive improvement in the quality of debate over public policy.

  57. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 6th, 2010 at 12:14 | #57

    Fran – that approach risks capture by the public service. The tail should not teach the dog to wag. In so far as things needing to be learnt they should be learnt on the job with input from more experienced peers.

  58. April 6th, 2010 at 12:38 | #58

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)

    that approach risks capture by the public service. The tail should not teach the dog to wag

    That’s a risk that one trades against the possibility of having someone in charge whose ignorance makes them fit for capture either by the same bureaucrats or by even more sinister forces, or else open to complete stupidity.

  59. TerjeP (say tay-a)
    April 6th, 2010 at 12:46 | #59

    Fran – which is probably why I wouldn’t use sortition for the executive branch but only for legislative review. And if senators sit for long staggered terms then the senate will have a body of experienced hands.

    I also feel that even if your model was a good idea it would be best to tackle reform in stages with sortition for legislative review being the obvious place to start.

  60. April 6th, 2010 at 13:10 | #60

    @TerjeP (say tay-a)

    I don’t have a fixed view about whether the executive should be chosen in this way, though I am inclined to think it a good idea. Certainly the executive would ultimately be answerable to the legislature as a whole and of course, the the demands of direct democracy. It seems likely that having executives chosen more or less by popular mandate would serve to clarify the main sets of policy options around which coalitions within the legislature might emerge and simplify the business of day to day policy development.

  61. BilB
    April 7th, 2010 at 07:43 | #61

    Here is an interesting ABC interview with transcript


  62. April 7th, 2010 at 11:53 | #62

    More from the teabagger fringe …

    ‘Let the violence begin’: death threats against Sen. Patty Murray

    Choice quotes:

    I hope you realize there’s a target on your back now, Wilson told Murray in a message recorded on the morning of March 22, according to an FBI affidavit. There are many people out there that want you dead. Just remember that as you are politicing [sic] for your reelection. It only takes one piece of lead… Kill the … senator! Kill the … senator! I’ll donate the lead. Now that you’ve passed your healthcare bill, let the violence begin

    I hope somebody kills you, and I hope somebody kills [the president], he said. You are signing my death warrant, so I want to sign yours

    How long do you think you can hide?… It could be a senior citizen, could be a veteran, could be a mad momma, an upset momma, [...] By your attempts to overtake this country with socialism, somebody’s gonna get to you one way or another and blow your … brains out, and I hope it does happen. If I have the chance, I would do it. [...]You low-life, backstabbing, lying, cheating politicians are going to be held accountable. And hopefully it is with your life

    Wilson admitted that he carries a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver. He said he will not “blink” when confronted. It’s not a threat, it’s a guarantee

    You would laugh if this were satire, yet the truth is stranger than satire. This is where right wing libertarianism leads.

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