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Weekend reflections

April 16th, 2010

It’s time again for weekend reflections, which makes space for longer than usual comments on any topic. Civilised discussion and no coarse language please.

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  1. Freelander
    April 16th, 2010 at 16:45 | #1

    I wondered if anyone had thoughts on the Nixon Black Saturday uproar?

  2. April 16th, 2010 at 16:59 | #2

    Alan Kohler and Jessica Irvine and getting concerned about what will happen with the wealth if another mining boom comes along. Howard’s track record was hopeless. Does anyone think that Rudd (or anyone else for that matter) has it in him to manage it properly?

  3. Freelander
    April 16th, 2010 at 17:37 | #3

    The mining boom does present problems. Another one is that, although I am guessing and haven’t based this on any analysis of data, the resources sucked into the expansion of mining are, I guess, very much the same resources that are used for construction, including house building. Assuming this correct, the supply of new housing, and other construction, will continue to be squeezed for sometime with plenty of redistribution upwards via rental increases.

  4. April 16th, 2010 at 17:56 | #4

    You’re right on there Freelander. My mates in the construction industry (in WA) already reckon the backlogs are as bad as 2008.

  5. April 16th, 2010 at 19:16 | #5


    An appalling brouhaha without, as far as I can tell, any merit at all. The woman appears to be doing a reasonable job and is guilty of no prior breach of duty. She has the support it seems of the people who need her efforts. Were she to be removed and some grandstanding politician have a scalp the public would be the loser.

    The Liberals really are unspeakable.

  6. Donald Oats
    April 16th, 2010 at 19:20 | #6

    Well Freelander, my thoughts are that the media loves trying to get a controversy going. Unless Nixon’s role involved rolling up the sleeves and hands-on work, I fail to see how her popping in and out of command central, or whatever they call it, is even a talking point. The media tried very hard to stake a claim on controversy by saying she went to the pub for a meal – while people were dying! As if she was responsible personally, as if she could have run down the hill to the nearest burning property, kicked the doors in, and rescued anybody in there. Bottom line is that she has managers to do the managing, and they have staff to do the doing, and those staff have equipment to do the doing with. I would certainly not want the head of police to also be responsible for tactical on-the-ground decisions concerning emergency response – it just isn’t their role.

    There you have it.

  7. Freelander
    April 16th, 2010 at 19:42 | #7

    Her first real mistake was in not saying up front that she was not personally in charge (of those police operations) and have pointed out exactly who was on that day. Presumably someone in the Victorian police was in charge of these operations on the day, and probably would have had specialist experience that would have made them better able to handle the detail of that particular operation. Being Commissioner is not about being the best at every job in the force. Delegation is a very important part of being a senior manager.

    Having not established that, the next real mistake was not being upfront about the meal. She could have simply said, look I was not in charge of these operations, I had complete faith in the capacity of those I had chosen to handle things, and complete faith in their good judgement to keep me appraised in a timely manner of anything I needed to be made aware of.

    When authority is delegated, especially to able senior people, their ought not to be a need for a high level of continuous monitoring even in that type of crisis situation.
    Having opened the door by not being straight forward on the meal, unsurprisingly a skilful silk moved in. The media was as its usual histrionic self, as were the various self-serving commentators.

  8. paul walter
    April 16th, 2010 at 20:14 | #8

    Christine Nixon is a scapegoat: they’ve been casting around for a while for one and it looks she’s the bunny, for now.
    The real problem is the sort of corruption of policy formulation and implementation, an almost systemic failure that has occurred over the last generation: lest anyone misunderstand, I’d definitively reject the Miranda Devine tactic of blaming environmentalists- more to do with the myth of “efficent” allocation of resources in modern society and the results of that, that come later, “downstream”.

  9. Freelander
    April 16th, 2010 at 21:16 | #9

    @paul walter

    Yes. Almost all modern leadership nowadays is of the form “mistakes were made but not by me” and “mistakes were made which can only be seen in hindsight” or “in hindsight, I would have done things differently [but without the great benefit of hindsight you can’t blame me at all for what I did]” or “I am sorry you feel that I have something I should apologise for”. In a world of spin they are all too dizzy to succeed at policy formulation and implementation. After all those two things are not the core skills that got them where they are in the first place.

  10. Alice
    April 16th, 2010 at 21:44 | #10

    Sorry Foib – if we are making money out of the mining resources recovery…and higher taxes the last place I want any politician to squirrelm it away is in any global sovereign (call it what you want) shonky fund. The Govt can repair infrastructure, invest in youth education or additional infrstructure (why the hell are 50 ships queueing in our ports?).

    Forget soverign wealth funds…what a lot of garbage by writers who get a kickbacks from fund managers like MQ bank. Are we all stupid?

  11. April 16th, 2010 at 21:48 | #11


    Agree with Fran. If she wasn’t a female tall poppy, I wonder whether the media reaction wouldn’t have been markedly different.

  12. Freelander
    April 17th, 2010 at 00:45 | #12

    Given those who have managed to escape criticism it was all a bit rich.
    The ABC has an interesting piece on it:

  13. April 17th, 2010 at 07:22 | #13

    @Foib and @Freelander,

    You raise an interesting issue.

    If this country does not have the housing, infrastructural and human resources to mine our resources at the break-neck rate the mining companies, mostly foreign-owned would want to, then a Government, with the public interest at heart would simply withold approvals for the new mines until such time as those resources become available.

    The cost the rest of the community pays to allow these companies to extract our non-renewable mineral resources must be enormous: hyper-inflated housing costs, skilled labour drained from the rest of the economy, the enormous costs we pay for immigration and population growth (to the extent it is truly necessary to supply the labour necessary for mining), etc..

    Given all this and given that much of the high wages are earned by imported workers, that most of the profits are repatriated overseas, it is questionable whether the Australian communty as a whole come out ahead from the mining boom.

    And this is disregarding the fact that we are extracting non-renewable resources that will mostly be gone in decades and unavailable to future generations and the horrific planetary and local environmental costs of mining.

  14. Chris Warren
    April 17th, 2010 at 08:17 | #14

    More corrupt capitalists. This time Goldman Sachs.

    See | GFC Diagnoses |

  15. Freelander
    April 17th, 2010 at 08:36 | #15

    @Chris Warren

    What is at least positive is that a regulator is actually going after them. In the past, the norm was simply to ignore such obvious fraud. Hopefully this is a sign of things to come. There was an awful lot of fraud in the whole subprime-CDO-CDS fiasco. If all the fraud were properly pursued. the US might have another felon incarceration led recovery. Some of the current unemployed could be soaked up in the demand for prison guards.

  16. Alice
    April 17th, 2010 at 09:03 | #16

    Daggett – disturbing news coming from south of Gunnedah about mining leases granted to a chinese company which is now busy buying out farmers at windfall prices and the potential for damage to aquifiers from mining – all on food producing land. Nice and stupid isnt it?.

  17. Alice
    April 17th, 2010 at 09:07 | #17

    @Chris Warren
    Chris…as Goldman started so they continued…unchecked.

    “Senator Couzens (a liberal Michigan Republican): Did Goldman, Sachs and Company organise the Goldman Sachs Trading Corporation?

    Mr Sachs: Yes, sir.

    Senator Couzens: And it sold its stock to the public?

    Mr Sachs: A portion of it. The firm invested originally in 10% of the entire issue for the sum of $10,000,000.

    Senator Couzens: And the other 90% was sold to the public?

    Mr Sachs: Yes, sir.

    Senator Couzens: At what price?

    Mr Sachs: At 104. That is the old stock…..the stock was slit two for one.

    Senator Couzens: And what is the price of the stock now?

    Mr Sachs: Aprroximately 1 and 3/4.

    Source: Stock Exchange Practices, Hearings, April-June 1932, pp566-67

  18. Chris Warren
    April 17th, 2010 at 09:25 | #18


    yes it is positive that the regulator has the resources and intention to act.

    But I can’t help thinking that it would be more efficient for the regulation to precede the corruption (and therefore prevent it in the first place).

  19. April 17th, 2010 at 10:53 | #19


    I found this story in the Sydney Morning Herald of 17 April:

    Coal brings cold comfort on the farm

    by Paul Myers

    IT’S a country community’s impossible dream but, for some, its worst nightmare.
    An overseas buyer acquires more than 20 rural properties at well above market value, turning the sellers into instant multi-millionaires. It offers to buy more land and promises to bring hundreds of new jobs to the district.

    But when the buyer is China’s – and the world’s – biggest coal company and local farmers believe the 10 million tonnes-a-year mine it wants to build will adversely affect aquifers and food production, the community is split.

    This is the dilemma facing Gunnedah, the service centre for the Liverpool Plains, arguably the richest agricultural region in the state and keeper of more than a billion tonnes of untapped steaming coal, plus huge quantities of coal seam methane gas.

    At the end it is said that the Shenhua mining company has conducted negotiations with the farmers fairly:

    Despite the opposition, most people, including Gunnedah’s mayor and reluctant sellers John and Charmian Bailey, applaud the way Shenhua has conducted its negotiations. “They’ve done the right thing,” Charmian Bailey said. “They’ve paid good money. We don’t blame them. We blame the government for selling mining leases on good farmland.”

    Nevertheless, it’s colonisation and the principle is not fundmentally different to what is going on Madang in New Guinea, where a China Metallurgical Construction has been despoliating the local environment and trampling on the rights of local landowners with the collusion of the Government of Papua New Guinea.

  20. conrad
    April 17th, 2010 at 11:27 | #20

    “Nevertheless, it’s colonisation and the principle is not fundmentally different to what is going on Madang in New Guinea”

    It is fundamentally different. Australia is a rich democratic country with a decent legal system and reasonable procedures to deal with conflicts of interest. If mining goes on there, then presumably that’s because there is a good trade-off, and not because Shenhua mining is exploiting anybody. It’s good business. Some farmers get rich to stop farming (it’s not like they are obliged to sell, and it’s not like they are selling the land cheaply), and another business that earns even more money replaces them.

  21. Freelander
    April 17th, 2010 at 11:42 | #21


    Nonsense. Although your point about legal system is correct, the relevant law only takes into account the interests of the buyer and seller, but when China buys up big there are many more interests involved. It is colonisation of Australian resources and sovereignty, and gives China a lever if ever the government wishes to make law changes that they believe are against the interests of their holdings in Australia. China or any foreign country buying up big, especially a large and powerful country, can rapidly become an undesirable foot in the door. Further down the track, despite our democracy, substantial Chinese holdings in Australia can provide the opportunity for significant pressure and control, and too vigorous exercise of our democratic rights against their perceived interests could end up with us subjected to ‘gun-ship diplomacy’. China has already demonstrated a willingness to play ‘hard ball’, in a very ruthless capitalist manner.

  22. Freelander
    April 17th, 2010 at 11:53 | #22

    If you want an example of a country whose citizens that had substantial, quazi-criminal, holdings in another country, that suffered changes detrimental to those holdings, and the consequent retaliation, here is a great example – USA and its victim Cuba.

    The sanctions against Cuba are mainly a consequence of the confiscation of the quazi-criminal holdings of US citizen’s in Cuba. I say, quazi-criminal holdings because the Cuban economy was a brown paper bag economy from top to bottom, but more so toward the top, and US property holdings were obtained through graft and corruption.

  23. conrad
    April 17th, 2010 at 13:11 | #23

    Freelander, Cuba is not a rich democratic country. I also think you’re suffering China paranoia. I remember similar arguments about Japan in the 80s (although strangely not arguments about our biggest foreign investor, the USA, who has got us into far more trouble than everyone else combined, and still does looking at Afghanistan). I also think that China having to deal with Australia (and other countries) is good and not bad, since the influence works both ways. In addition, given that Australia has some fairly unique resources, and given that the main rather obvious aim of the Chinese government is to make sure they have a stable supply of these, it’s rather hard to imagine that they could do anything to create the type of influence as your example — if they sanctioned Australia (which of course they wouldn’t, and indeed couldn’t), it would screw up their own supply of minerals, the consequences of which would be far worse than Australia losing a bit of money by not selling to them.

  24. April 17th, 2010 at 13:44 | #24

    conrad wrote :
    It is fundamentally different. Australia is a rich democratic country …

    A country whose political leaders systematically impose “elite as opposed to popular views”, as Bob Hawke put it in 1993, on virtually every major question of public policy is not a democracy in my opinion.

    Obviously a facade of democracy exists, but behind that facade almost every important decision is arrived at in meetings held behind closed doors by representatives of this country’s oligarchy and conveyed to our country’s political rulers to be announced as Government policy. How else can anyone explain how all the decisions reached, that have been so harmful to our best interests, in the last three decades have been arrived at? These include (from my above-cited article “Why Queenslanders must demand new and fair state elections” of 12 Jan 2010):

    … the removal of tariff barriers to prevent the export of Australian jobs to slave wage economies; the removal of barriers which prevented foreign companies from buying our mineral wealth; the removal of barriers to foreign investors being able to buy up Australian real estate; the deregulation of our finance sector; the privatisation of our retirement income on a model similar to the one enacted by the Chilean military junta in the 1970’s,3 the privatisation of government-owned businesses including Telstra, QANTAS and the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories; and the corporatisation or privatisation of vital resources: water and power utilities, and of infrastructure normally owned and paid for by taxpayers, such as roads and public transport.

    There have also been numerous disposals of public parkland, such as 20 hectare Royal Park in Melbourne, and the massive rezoning to urban of “Green Wedges” (environmentally beneficial low-impact rural and publicly accessible bush and recreational land).

    We have also lost publicly owned state banks, insurance companies, and local, state and national services, including road-making, land-development, public housing construction, the prison system and monopolies on marketing agricultural product – such as in the privatisation of the wheat board. The public is the poorer.

    We have also seen the imposition of the National Competition Policy on all levels of Government, the forcible amalgamation of local governments, the removal of the rights of local governments (and therefore of residents and citizens) to oppose local housing and other developments, the imposition of costly environmentally destructive projects against the wishes of the local communities, the destruction of farmland and bushland to allow the construction of mines, the threatened imposition of a Chinese-style Internet firewall, etc., etc.

    Of course, the most blatant example of how ‘democracy’ has been rigged to ensure that “elite as opposed to popular views” prevail is the way that the Queensland public were cheated out of having any say over the $15 billion fire sale at the last Queensland state election, because the newsmedia, in particular, Madonna King of Brisbane’s local ABC radio station refused to properly question Andrew Fraser and Anna Bligh over whether or not they intended to flog off more public assets during the election campaign, in spite of my having provided abundant evidence to her that this was likely to happen. See my article “Brisbane ABC suppresses alternative candidates in state elections despite listener dismay with major parties” of 30 April 2009.

    … with a decent legal system …

    It is not. It has obviously been rigged to ensure that interests of the wealthy almost always prevail over the public interest and the interests of ordinary citizens.

    How else can we explain the outrageous and astronomical $250,000 costs awarded against Senator Bob Brown last year by a Tasmanian court, or $30,000 awarded against Greens Tweed Shire Councillor Katie Milne for contesting the environmentally reckless decision by the NSW Government to impose the World Rally car races on Tweed and Kyogle shires?

    … If mining goes on there, then presumably that’s because there is a good trade-off, and not because Shenhua mining is exploiting anybody …

    As the above cited article makes clear, the farmers overwhelmingly don’t want to sell, but have been placed in a situation by the NSW Government where they have to.

    … It’s good business. Some farmers get rich to stop farming (it’s not like they are obliged to sell, and it’s not like they are selling the land cheaply), and another business that earns even more money replaces them.

    As @Freelander argued, even if they wanted to bought off, which they don’t, should it be their choice alone, and not the rest of NSW, not to mention future generations, to allow the mineral wealth to be plundered, to allow rich fertile farm land to be destroyed, to allow the possible poisoning of water aquifers extending well outside their own region and to allow yet more climate changing carbon dioxide to be poured into the world’s atmosphere by Chinese industry?

  25. Freelander
    April 17th, 2010 at 13:53 | #25

    “Cuba is not a rich democratic country”… Not relevant. Neither is China. Japan didn’t and doesn’t have a large army, navy or air-force, or nuclear weapons or intercontinental ballistic missiles. Japan also has a legacy from WWII and was very much under the US thumb in that period. More recently Japan has been pretty stroppy. Their activities in relation to whaling being one example. The US does use its economic ‘weight’ and military hegemony to exploit other countries including Australia. Afghanistan and Iraq just two of many examples, and both of these have cost us significantly. The only reason we haven’t gotten the raw deal the US has dished out to others is our membership of various networks, that we don’t have the things that the US is most interested in, and, hence, they have larger fish to fry.

    “the influence works both ways”… Maybe, I guess that an ant may influence an elephant which in squishing the ant, slips on its juices and does itself an injury. Though an unlikely and expensive route to influence.

    We do have stuff that China wants resources of all kinds, not just minerals but agricultural land and so on. China can acquire strategic stocks of various resources, just as the US has. It can then turn on the screws and can also us any exercise of our democratic rights that cuts across their perceived ‘property rights’ to intervene.

    Our defense forces would last about 8 minutes with Chinese human and military resource casualties zero.

    I am not paranoid about China just a realist.
    Things don’t have to get to an intervention situation for us to worry about China’s potential for economic (and military) hegemony. We already have the US experience, and the Chinese play a more serious form of capitalism unfettered by some of the ideology that at least some in the US pay lip service to.

    We can’t look to the US to help us. Its a dwindling power and effectively lacks a real government. Not to blame Obama , but with their type of government where parties are only loose coalitions, and the administration effectively has no control over congress, quick coordinated non-military and well thought out action in response to any Chinese machinations should not be relied on.

    In looking to curb China, Australia should be developing strong relations with the EU (and anyone else) before real threats eventuate. Australia should also make sure that China doesn’t get to much of a foothold which could provide cover as justification for any undesirable actions.

  26. conrad
    April 17th, 2010 at 14:42 | #26

    Freelander & Daggett, you really are paranoid and have an extremely weird view of history. Free trade with countries like China has done wonders for Australia over the last few decades (and China for that matter), and helps pay for all of those government services and subsidies that you think are necessary. We’re miles richer than we were 30 years ago by any measure, and if it hadn’t been for Hawke and Keating, we’d be broke now. In addition, if China wanted to play nasty-guy with people, it would already have done so to Taiwan, Japan, all of the other countries that think they own the Spratley’s etc., but in the end, having a good relationship with Australia is good for them and good for us. Alternatively, knocking Japan off the map would please a fair chunk of the population, get rid of a competitor, and be fairly simple for them to do, but they haven’t done that.

    As for the rant about privatization etc. — it’s really been quite a success for some of the companies you mention, like Telstra (which actually has to give you good cheap service now), Qantas (which would probably be broke now like most government airlines otherwise), CSL (which became one of the best companies in the world), the Commonwealth Bank (where you can get a loan without grovelling to the bank manager), etc. . If I compare that to Australia post, for example, which doesn’t open on the weekend (obviously we can send our wives to pick up parcels on weekdays), the difference is stunning.

  27. Jill Rush
    April 17th, 2010 at 17:21 | #27

    Conrad – there is a huge difference between yourself and the Chinese. They are long term thinkers and you are short term. As a Telstra shareholder I find your definition of success misguided at best. The decision to leave everything to the market is short sighted because you can be quite sure that the Chinese would never be so stupid. They remember the gun boat diplomacy that they have had to contend with in the past and will make sure that they have the whip hand. Inadequate protections of the people and blind optimism are sure ways to leave the country vulnerable. The cyber attacks experienced in the last week are signs that market only responses to other nations are less than adequate.

  28. April 17th, 2010 at 17:24 | #28

    Here’s some fun:

    The Roots of Stalin in the Tea Party Movement

    Fascinating piece covering the origins of the anti-communist, pro-libertarian, climate change denying, tea-party funding astroturfing Koch Industries in — the old USSR.

    Gotta love the irony, including how they got driven to deal with Stalin after being screwed by US big business using patent law.

    Love this bit:

    Apparently everyone’s a free-market enthusiast at Koch Industries, including its spokeswoman, who recently wrote a letter to the New York Times stating that:

    “it’s a historical fact that economic freedom best fosters innovation, environmental protection and improved quality of life in a society.”

    It might be true somewhere for someone, but not for the Kochs — they owe it all to socialism and totalitarianism.

    Here is a better historical fact, one that the Kochs don’t like to repeat in public: the family’s initial wealth was not created by the harsh, creative forces of unfettered capitalism, but by the grace of the centrally planned economy of the Soviet Union. The Koch family, America’s biggest pushers of the free-market Tea Party revolution, would not be the billionaires they are today were it not for the whim of one of Stalin’s comrades.

    Irony …

  29. Chris Warren
    April 17th, 2010 at 17:28 | #29


    Unfortunately Conrad, once you deduct the increase in debt, Australia is not richer than it was 30 years ago.

    If Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke, Keating, had left the economy alone, we would have a lot more manufacturing, and less debt in Australia.

    You consistently misrepresent matters – no-one “grovelled” to a bank manager to get loans. But now many fear being foreclosed and this will increase as interest rates climb.

    If you want to take this issue seriously spend some time looking at bankruptcy trends, debt trends, and Andrew leigh’s latest work in increasing gap between rich and poor.

    Once you look at their debt levels – most capitalist economies are now broke – and the same causal tendencies are still mounting.

  30. paul walter
    April 17th, 2010 at 17:30 | #30

    You are being disingenuous, Conrad.
    Freelander and Daggett know that the even playing field nonsense is just that- the last generation has seen the misappropriation; the “privatisation” of government to big capital at the expense of communities “designed” out of the loop.
    Manufactured consent sees humanitarian and sustainability issues on the back burner, to slash, burn and run exploitation with communities left to cleanup after they’ve had their resources expropriated.
    Democracies are corpses fed off by corporatist grubs, and the law does indeed function”to protect the guilty”.
    the system is centred around the mass production of junk and the nexus with consumer commodification- this is surely not much of a culmination to evolution, but its negation.

  31. April 17th, 2010 at 18:03 | #31

    @Fran Barlow

    Of course, a lot of Libertarians, including the Lew Rockwell lot, have a low view of the Kochs for that sort of reason and think they are trying to infiltrate and take over things that really started up from grass roots.

  32. Monkey’s Uncle
    April 17th, 2010 at 18:04 | #32

    I tend to agree that the whole brouhaha about Christine Nixon seems overdone. I don’t think it really matters a great deal if she did go out for dinner. She no doubt would have been instantly contactable if needed. Not all public officials can be at the coalface around the clock.

    I suspect there is a certain amount of pandering to the politics of envy in all this. The subtext: look at this fat cat dining out at expensive restaurants. I bet you can’t afford to do that, you poor battler. Yah boo hiss!

  33. conrad
    April 17th, 2010 at 18:12 | #33

    “If Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke, Keating, had left the economy alone, we would have a lot more manufacturing, and less debt in Australia.”

    Do you mean like East Germany before the wall fell?

    “Unfortunately Conrad, once you deduct the increase in debt, Australia is not richer than it was 30 years ago.”

    Chris, can you tell me one way the average person isn’t better off these days? We have better health, education, and living standards. What more do you want?

    “Andrew leigh’s latest work in increasing gap between rich and poor.”

    As pointed out (obviously you don’t believe it since you think we arn’t richer — but even the hard left guys over at LP are willing to admit it, so you may as well assume you’re wrong), we’re all better off. The fact that some rich guys have become even richer is neither here not there to me.

  34. conrad
    April 17th, 2010 at 18:19 | #34

    “Conrad – there is a huge difference between yourself and the Chinese. They are long term thinkers and you are short term. As a Telstra shareholder I find your definition of success misguided at best. The decision to leave everything to the market is short sighted because you can be quite sure that the Chinese would never be so stupid”

    I don’t believe everything should be left to the market. There are monopolies I think need to be regulated. Also, I’m not a short term thinker. Quite the opposite. I think that the best way for some things to prosper is for the government not to run them — Just like CSL — it went from something rather tiny to the success it is now.

  35. Chris Warren
    April 17th, 2010 at 19:40 | #35

    conrad :
    “If Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke, Keating, had left the economy alone, we would have a lot more manufacturing, and less debt in Australia.”
    Do you mean like East Germany before the wall fell?

    How was Australian manufacturing, ever like East Germany?

    We have better health, education, and living standards.

    What is the relevance of living standards, if per capita debt is rising continuously. Criminals can have huge living standards with bragging rights – until the logic of their situation catches up with them. Anyone can buy a higher living standard if they get more debt.

    We all want higher living standards, but not at the cost of unsustainable, increased debt (which propagandists ignore). If you ignore the debt then you can say “what else do you want”. But this is like living in a fools paradise.

    It would be far more sustainable, and ethical, for Australia to be better off with a living standard comprised of commodities manufactured by labour remunerated at the same level as, and with similar conditions, as Australian workers.

    The living standard that is dazzling you, was imported from the Third World which is based on relatively low paid, oppressed labour. If workers making computers received the same share of their productivity as in Australia – Australians would not be able to afford computers.

    You are not thinking logically. You are also misrepresenting what I said.

    As I said – if you deduct the debt – Australia is not better off than 30 years ago – 1980.

    I note that you don’t care whether the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer.

  36. Donald Oats
    April 17th, 2010 at 19:52 | #36

    The illusion of “balance” in the media concerning Climate Science is torn to shreds in this interview on the ABC Science Show. Ironic, really, given the delusiorati airing their anti-science BS on the ABC Drum recently.

    I recommend having a good read of the interview transcript or a listen to it.

  37. Jill Rush
    April 17th, 2010 at 20:08 | #37

    Re: Christine Nixon – no doubt she assessed that her presence wasn’t needed when she went to dinner. What happened was truly awful but there were many people at fault that day – I am not sure why the press seems to have decided that she is the Fall Guy.

  38. Freelander
    April 17th, 2010 at 20:44 | #38


    I have no great problem with Australia selling resources we extract, food we produce and so on to China, and some of us are indeed doing well from the incredibly cheap goods we are getting from China in return. While the good times in relation to selling resources we extract, food we produce and so on, is likely to continue as long as we (or others without a ruthless capitalist agenda) own the mines, the farms and so on, the cheap goods we get in return will not. As China pulls along side the rest of the world in terms of GDP per capita, a big transition will occur. The ‘west’ will have to re-industrialise because we will no longer get cheap goods based on the low rates of pay (unless we discover some other useful billion or so unemployed who get on the development path), we will have to pay first the longer run equilibrium price and then a premium while we re-industrialise.
    At least Australia, will still have resources and agriculture unless we sell it all to China. That will soften the transition. As for much of the rest of the west, the transition will be painful.

    As for “Telstra (which actually has to give you good cheap service now), Qantas (which would probably be broke now like most government airlines otherwise), CSL (which became one of the best companies in the world), the Commonwealth Bank (where you can get a loan without grovelling to the bank manager), etc.”, there is no evidence (except for some self serving wishful thinking masquerading as research) that their performance has been any better than it would have been without privatisation.

    In the case of Telstra the performance and productivity has been quite appalling. Prices have fallen but so what. That is simply the result of massive technical advantages in the electronics and communications industries, nothing whatsoever to do with Telstra’s privatised management whose performance both from a technical and in terms of competitive and efficient outcome has been quite appalling. As for Qantas, again there has been ongoing technical advances in that industry too. Qantas management has been relatively good both before and after privatisation. Nevertheless, after privatisation the concentration on cost cutting seems to be heading towards the situation that some are beginning to wonder if maintenance is going from ‘just in time’ to ‘almost in time’ and I am beginning to wonder whether, as a consequence, we might begin to see planes falling out of the sky. Likewise, the Commonwealth Bank was well managed before privatisation and has been well managed since, and this is another industry that has benefit massively from cost reduction due to improvements in electronics and communications, but again, in the privatised form the Commonwealth bank, like banks generally, is clawing to much in margins, is paying its senior staff too much, and hence is allocatively inefficient. You are attributing the consequences of many regulatory reforms, some of which were good, to the privatised management. You had to grovel to a bank manager regardless of ownership before the reforms. Likewise, changes to pricing and competition occurred in the airline industry, as well as excess capacity. And Telstra’s telecommunications prices and access to its infrastructure are subject to substantial regulation.
    If you simply ignore the facts then who could say that you are wrong?

  39. Alice
    April 17th, 2010 at 21:04 | #39

    Conrad says “obviously you don’t believe it since you think we arn’t richer”

    There is one big fat huge elephant in the room when you make this statement Conrad. It takes two incomes to buy a house. It didnt forty years ago.

    Plus lots of young people cant buy a house until they are in their thirties instead of their early twenties when they used to set up house and family.

    No the average person and the average family is not richer. They are poorer by half.
    The elephant Conrad – you totally ignored it. Where people’s income is going. To the mortgage, to the banks.

    But yes, the banks are much richer.

  40. Alice
    April 17th, 2010 at 21:06 | #40

    I also wish Conrad would spell “aren’t” properly. You are at uni Conrad (and I know Im a sloppy speller but thats typing speed with two fingers but I dont make the same spelling mistake twice for that reason).

  41. Alice
    April 17th, 2010 at 21:11 | #41

    I am so glad Goldman is being charged with Fraud. Bring it on and more of it (such charges) so decent people can get back to decent business with some confidence.

  42. April 17th, 2010 at 21:50 | #42

    Residents stand up to dictatorial imposition of high rise monstrosity on Milton

    In response to the overwhelming rejection by residents of plans to erect a massive 31 story residential and commercial tower atop the Milton Railway Station, Minister for Infrastructure and Planning Stirling Hinchliffe has declared the project to be of state interest and “called-in” the development approval proces so that the normal legal avenues can be bypassed. However, Concerned Residents Against Milton’s Excessive Development are determined to stand up to Hinchliffe and have called a public meeting to protest his decision.

    What you can do: Please show your support for the embattled residents of Milton by attending the meeting at 6.30PM, next Thursday at the Milton State School. More information: Ph 0404 833057, 0408 101117, enquiries[AT]cramed.org.

  43. Peter T
    April 17th, 2010 at 22:20 | #43

    The one company mentioned by Conrad and Freelander I can comment on is CSL. I had a tour and briefing on them. Their huge cost and efficiency advantages over their competitors in serum extraction lie in their investment in a radically new process and a full state-of-the-art facility designed to operate it properly. The process was developed, and the facility built, in the several years before privatisation, when they were run by stodgy bureaucrats and lacklustre government scientists.

  44. Alice
    April 17th, 2010 at 22:29 | #44

    @Peter T
    You couldnt possibly be saying Peter ..that public investment actually pays dividends could you? You could be locked up as a free market heretic for saying something like that LOL!

  45. April 18th, 2010 at 00:09 | #45


    I am not particularly interested in arguing yet again over privatisation here.

    That argument has been won over and over again. Even in the face of media’s predominant pro-privatisation propaganda an overwhelming majority has remained consistently and steadfastly opposed to privatisation in recent years.

    My essential point that you have not attempted to answer is that in our supposed ‘democracy’ the will of the majority is almost invariably ignored.

    Even if public ownership is inefficient as the neo-liberal ideoogues insist it is, it is surely still the right of the owners to retain ownership of those assets and to operate them in that way if they so choose.

    Yet our supposedly democratic governments have repeatedly ignored those wishes in previous decades.

  46. Freelander
    April 18th, 2010 at 00:51 | #46

    @Peter T

    Thanks. Very informative. CSL is one that I really knew nothing about. Unlike some who post here, I wasn’t inclined to ‘just make it all up’.

    Typical. Sounds like the solid work and accomplishments of old fashioned stodgy bureaucrats who actually cared and tried to do a good job for Australia has been donated, at a bargain basement price, to the big end of town. I wonder what the ongoing cost is for all the services the Commonwealth and States now have to pay a premium for, to CSL, those services that they previously got at cost.

    Typical and very clever privatisation.

    Daggett’s point that the will of the majority has almost invariably been ignored is valid. The neo-liberal ideologues pursued a policy of infiltrating both sides of politics, academia and the bureaucracy with the long term objective that their ideas would be carried out regardless of who the public voted for. And they succeeded with this surreptitious approach.

    They have always had an elitist contempt for democracy, as they only believe in rights, and the only real rights they believe in are property rights. If they had their way their ideas would be written into law and the only way any of those laws could be overturned is by a unanimous vote. Some might think I have just made this up, but they would be wrong. These are the ideas of the neo-liberal ‘theorists’ and ‘philosophers’.

  47. Ernestine Gross
    April 18th, 2010 at 00:52 | #47

    Spot on, daggett, regarding ownership. Incidentally, what is the neo-liberal concept of ‘efficiency’?

  48. Freelander
    April 18th, 2010 at 01:16 | #48

    @Ernestine Gross

    Simple in two parts. First, what ever the ‘market’ outcome is. Second, they don’t really care about efficiency to quote Milton Friedman. He said in one interview, where he uncharacteristically told the truth in public, that he believed that the unfettered market was the most efficient means of production and allocation, but that he really didn’t care whether it was or it wasn’t, because the unfettered market was the only fair way to do things and any of its outcomes were therefore fair and that is all that mattered in his conception of what the best society was and the best of possible worlds.

    Really, libertarians like Friedman engaged in bait and switch. Their own justification for the policies they have promoted is based on philosophical ideas of what is fair and just, which are based on fair process without any regard for outcome, or even the fairness of the initial distribution. But to the broad public to sell the ideas they rarely argue that. Instead, they make claims about efficiency, making the cake bigger, a rising sea lifting all boats and so on. Because these arguments are not really the reasons for their support of these policies, simply means to an adoption end, they don’t really care whether they are true or not. What they care about is whether they manage to get decision makers to do what they want.

    It is simply part of the very undemocratic and elitist streak that runs though libertarianism. They certainly mustn’t believe the ‘unexamined life is not worth living’ because one thing they strenuously avoid is the examined life when it comes to their core ideas and beliefs. Not unlike all great religions.

  49. Ernestine Gross
    April 18th, 2010 at 01:26 | #49


    In short, are you telling me the term ‘efficiency’ is empty in neo-liberalism?

  50. Freelander
    April 18th, 2010 at 04:17 | #50

    Some of them know neoclassical economics. Many don’t really. But the theorists who do, don’t really care whether outcomes are efficient or not. Neo-liberalism is not about efficiency at all. It is a philosophy of process justice. Agents own property rights, ‘willingly’ enter into contracts, as long as everything happens according to what they consider ought to be the law, fine – everything is fair and just because the process was fair and just. Of course the practical analysis of real world issues quickly breaks down into sophistry.

    Take for example if you suggested that Aborigines were dispossessed of property in the past and that their ancestors should be compensated. The type of response you are likely to get from a typical (educated) libertarian is that all rather hard to prove and demonstrate who should do the compensating; the people who did the dispossessing are long dead; and anyway, to do that sort of thing would be too much of a disruption to the current system of property rights, and would ‘introduce unnecessary and undesirable uncertainty about ownership’. Hence, best to just forget about it. However, say it was an individual, not Aboriginal but of European descent, long dead, who had some property taken, then the analysis would be somewhat different. The story then would be to not allow that claim to be pursued by their ancestor would ‘introduce unnecessary and undesirable uncertainty about ownership’ in the current system of property rights. This would be a wrong that very much has to be put right for fairness and justice to prevail.

    If you have been around them or worked with them, they are very much like bible quoting bible bashers who find support in the bible for whatever they want. Similarly, a skilled and self-deluded libertarian (redundant to say self-deluded) will find support in their philosophy for whatever fits in with their petty prejudices. There is only the semblance of intellectual rigor.

    All very interesting but they can become so mechanical as they absorb the doctrine, that the worn phrases and regurgitated polemics can become rather tiresome. They do tend to take themselves very seriously and frequently have extraordinarily overblown opinions of themselves. They are typically not into real empirical research, except for those who torture data until it confesses what they believed all along. They are typically not into real model building either instead they prefer to replace the absence of solid analytics with considerable polemics and rhetorical flourish.

    Just as it must be fascinating to study exactly what makes the average religious nutter tick, so it would be fascinating to study the predilections that make people susceptible to libertarianism and the inner workings of the libertarian mind. As with any highly intelligent nutter, the sophistry generated by the highly intelligient libertarian, and their rationalisions can be quite complex and are, themselves interesting. Take for example that libertarian nutter Alan Greenspan. He is a follower, and was a close friend of Ayn Rand, a very bizzare woman and a very bizzare form of libertarianism. When things blew up he even resorted to some Randian babble in his explanation of his ‘mistake’.

    One interesting thing about nutters… The lone nutter will frequently get themselves, straightjacketed and locked up (or at least they used to before the policy decision to let them live ‘free range’ was made). When groups of nutters share their delusion it is frequently called a religion and they get tax concessions, or they form think tanks and undertake ‘research’ and also get tax concessions. There is always safety in numbers. And throughout history, societies of nutters have done well for themselves by being devote members of some system of delusion, and by using their network to exact tribute on the undeluded.

    That said, these groups of organised nutters represent a significant dead weight on the rest of society.

  51. Freelander
    April 18th, 2010 at 04:25 | #51

    In retrospect, neo-liberalism may have been at least as costly for humanity, as communism was. And, of course, it probably comes as no surprise that a number of libertarians had a previous existence as extreme leftists. This might suggest that they have great difficulty in maintaining a considered opinion.

  52. April 18th, 2010 at 08:29 | #52

    A good guide to how a particular creed of apparent nutters in 1947 at Mont Pellerin in Switzerland formed a religion then formed think tanks to gain both corporate tax concessions is George Monbiot’s How Did We Get Into This Mess? of August 2007.

    I said ‘apparent’ above, because Naomi Klein’s “The Shock Doctrine” of 2007 was confirmation that most neo-liberals don’t even believe their theory. They realise that economic neo-liberalism is no more than a rationalisation for a means to transfer wealth out of the pockets of the majority of society into the pockets of a few.

    Strikingly, no means to ascertain the efficiencies of the claimed efficiencies of privatisation have ever been put in place prior to the flogging off of our assets. So, disproving the claims of efficiency gains is difficult for opponents of privatisation.

    Nevertheless it has been done, again and again, for example in that study by Professor Bob Walker commissioned by the Queensland Trade Union movement last year.

    The claimed efficiency gains of privatisation usually turn out to be either:

    1. Efficiencies that would have been gained anyway because of technological advances; or

    2. The shifting of costs, previously borne by the publicly owned corporations onto the broader community.

    The most striking examples of the latter is the elimination of apprenticeships, cadetships and other forms of on-the-job training offered by publicly owned corporations.

    This is the main cause of the skill shortage that we faced in the last decade and which Howard, and now Rudd, have used as an excuse to massively increase our immigration intake.

    Ironically, the cost of building infrastucture in order to accommodate the new arrivals necessitated by past privatisations has become yet a further excuse to continue privatisation as Premier Anna Bligh made clear in her justification for the fire sale:

    … a State with a rapidly growing population can’t afford to ease off building the infrastructure that supports our economy and community.

    Freelander wrote:
    @Peter T
    Daggett’s point that the will of the majority has almost invariably been ignored is valid. The neo-liberal ideologues pursued a policy of infiltrating both sides of politics, academia and the bureaucracy with the long term objective that their ideas would be carried out regardless of who the public voted for. And they succeeded with this surreptitious approach.

    And because they succeed in getting either side of politics to implement their agenda, they are able claim to be non-political status and and hence claim tax concessions.

    Those who are opposed to their agenda find it much harder to claim those same concessions.

  53. April 18th, 2010 at 08:44 | #53


    I note your post at LP …

  54. Chris Warren
    April 18th, 2010 at 08:57 | #54

    GFC comes bearing down on European regional economies, to bankrupt future generations? …

    | GFC – Bloomberg |

  55. Alice
    April 18th, 2010 at 09:35 | #55

    @Chris Warren

    Chris…the cuckoos in cloud finance land are coming home to roost arent they?.

    Recall these global financial firms sent salesmen all across the globe hawking their complex financial derivatives to governments and local councils sitting on pots of our taxes and rates. Gone are the days when prudence influenced government savings and lower returns meant safety and lower risk and it was the accepted paradigm that governments used to manage savings conservatively?.

    Oh no – all gone out the window and they launched our pooled taxes and rates into the best “financial products” the snappily dressed hawkers could offer (why get 5% when you can get 20% easily and hey guess what – its all hedged by us somehow in a way you will never understand and its completely risk free because its rated AAA by our mates in the agencies).

    So Governments across the globe, one after the other plied our funds into the hands of the merchant bankers army of suits and funds with strange names? Did they get private kickbacks for doing so? Were they in league with the banks? We will never know although we do know Goldman Sachs has been charged with fraud. Too little too late.

    The fallout is still falling.

  56. Freelander
    April 18th, 2010 at 09:50 | #56

    At least in the 19th Century snake oil salesmen got an occasional tar and feathering when the townspeople managed to catch up with them. Nowadays, unless the SEC is successful with Goldman Sachs and goes after the rest, they will continue to get away scot free.

  57. gerard
    April 18th, 2010 at 11:52 | #57

    has anyone posted this yet?

    JK Rowling’s Single Mother’s Manifesto

  58. April 18th, 2010 at 11:56 | #58

    @Fran Barlow,

    Thanks for letting me know that my post was published. It was not published immediately, however, having been first placed in a moderation queue. All this has been duly noted in an update to my blog account of this. Hopefully, if my posts must be singled out for moderation, then at least they can eventually appear on LP from this point on.

    No doubt, Concerned Residents Against Milton’s Excessive Development, who need as much publicity as they can get for their meeting on Thursday night at 6.30PM at Milton State School, will also appreciate the publication of that post.

  59. April 18th, 2010 at 13:38 | #59

    My latest post to LP is also ‘awaiting modertion’. It was posted to the article “Left reasons to oppose the net filter #nocleanfeed”. As I think it is also likely to be of interest to people here, I thought I might post it here also. Here it is:

    AndyC is spot on when he writes (@59):

    Marks @ 57: “One of the problems with a net filter is that if and when the infrastructure is in place, it can be extended far beyond its initial reach.”

    Absolutely. This is my only important objection to compulsory filtering beyond speed issues, but as objecvtions go, it is final, non-negotiable and fatal. This is not a power that I want government to have, or to use.

    Anyone who actually believes Stephen Conroy’s stated reasons for implementing the filter, when he must know will have almost neglible impact upon child pornography, is astonishingly credulous.

    The obvious reason is to take out of our hands the one means that we have as ordinary citizens to expose the lies of Governments and corporations that they use to gain public acceptance of whatever their latest policy objective may be: another war, further curtailment of civil rights, further theft of public assets, high immigration, cutting back social spending, etc.

    While we have a free Internet we still stand a very good chance of being able to tell the truth to large numbers of people and thwarting the sociopathic objectives of the corporate sector.

    Once the filter is in place that right can be taken away from any group at the whim of the Government or any of its anonymous bureaucrats and, with the assured support of the corporate newsmedia, the Government will face little effort in concocting excuses to censor sites that it feels threatened by. The most likely excuse will be to simply deem certain groups as ‘terrorist’.

    Their success at convincing the majority of the public of the guilt of the clearly innocent Schapelle Corby is one of many clear illustrations, that I could cite, of the potential of the corporate media to abuse their power in such circumstance.

    The fact that this outrageous proposal has gotten this far against overwhelming public opposition and with no electoral mandate whatsoever is yet another illustration of just how broken Australian democracy actually is. This is but the latest of many examples in past decades of state and Federal Governments imposing “elite as opposed to popular views”on almost every major policy decision, to use Bob Hawke’s infamous words, as I have described elsewhere.

    The Internet Filter is a mortal threat to what remains of democracy in this country and it is time that it was treated as such, and every legal means to block this must be at least tried.

    Our elected representatives, both in the House of Representatives and in the Senate have proven time and time again that they cannot be trusted to serve the public interest. Any strategy purely dependent upon lobbying those representatives seems unlikely to succeed, particularly given that all the Labor representatives have chosen to allow themselves to be locked into supporting this at the outset, and the Coalition has become less and less outspoken against the filter.

    This is one issue that that those few representatives who claim to be on our side, being the Greens and Senator Nick Xenophon, must insist be put to the people in a referendum.

    They must without delay put to the Senate a motion that this issue be put to the Australian people as a referendum question.

    If Rudd and Gillard are willing to put their health reforms to the public in a referendum, and if Bligh is willing to put her silly proposal to split Queensland into differnt time zones to a referendum, there should be no reason why those Senators can not every bit as legitmately demand that Mandatory Internet Filtering be put to the public as a referendum.

    Thus far my approaches to Senator Scott Ludlam have been unsuccessful and he had refused to move that motion. However, if the anti-filtering movement were to raise their voices more loudly in suport of this, then there is every reason to hope that his mind can be changed.

    Then, either that motion will be carried and the demise of Internet Filtering in the forthcoming referendum will be assured, or, if to the contrary the motion is defeated, then at least the Australian public will know which Senators are not prepared to give the public the final say on this question and the Greens and Senator Nick Xenophon will have given the Australian public a very good reason to vote for them.

  60. paul walter
    April 18th, 2010 at 15:56 | #60

    Daggett, the moderation trick means they are able to say they’ve given you a say, when they have actually held you up for so long that the context of comment can be lost.
    Come on Fran , you know full well what goes on.
    The “host” is”legion”.

  61. April 18th, 2010 at 16:06 | #61

    @paul walter

    AIUI, in order to control spammers, the software is set up to distinguish IP addresses from email addies that have been passed as legit before. When you use dynamic IP, sometimes this triggers the spaminator until a moderator can lift it and add it to the database of IP addresses seen as valid.

    In the last seven days, a total of 8 of my posts there have been held up in this way. All of them eventually passed.

  62. paul walter
    April 18th, 2010 at 16:15 | #62

    Ahhh, Fran you are about.
    Given our “mumbers are fun” conversation of the other night, did you read Anne Summers on the yanks in SMH today?

  63. Tristan Ewins
    April 18th, 2010 at 16:16 | #63

    In this week’s contribution at `Left Focus’ we search for the ‘real Tony Abbott’: interrogating the arguments and values presented in the Australian Conservative Opposition Leader’s ‘manifesto’, “Battlelines” from a progressive perspective. Debate welcome!

    See: http://leftfocus.blogspot.com/2010/04/battlelines-whats-tony-abbott-really.html

  64. April 18th, 2010 at 16:22 | #64

    @paul walter

    No Paul … do you have a link?

  65. paul walter
    April 18th, 2010 at 16:24 | #65

    All seems like the My Struggle stuff of half a century ago (avoids godwinning), eh Tris?
    For that side of politics, its currently to do with something akin to early 1945, all seiges and ruin for the dregs left of the Hanson, Howard, Murdoch, Jones push of the nineties.

  66. paul walter
    April 18th, 2010 at 16:35 | #66

    Fran, they seem to have moved it to a back burner, at least online. The article was entitled, “Tea stands for trouble as unity goes to pot”, 17/4″. and deals in part with the conspiracy theory industry, then ponders “whither now” for a place that no longer seems to know where it’s going.

  67. Ernestine Gross
    April 18th, 2010 at 17:13 | #67


    Tell me, in your studies of what actually goes on under the heading ‘neo-liberalism’, did you notice the phrase ‘moving forward’ being used a lot? Since this is a week-end thread, perhaps a bit of chatting about observations is allowed. I have a diagram where I mapped the actions of a (non-capitalist in the old language) corporate manager such that ‘forward’ and ‘backward’ are clearly distinguishable and the word ‘move’ has the rather precise meaning of managerial decision. The map shows that the managerial decisions correspond unambiguously to ‘moving backward’. Even with the help of this diagram, the said manager declared to want to move forward. This is one example of how I learned to appreciate the word ‘delusion’, used quite frequently on this blog-site. Not that long ago I reserved the word ‘delusion’ for the field of psychiatry. To put it milder, learning a foreign language is a trivial task when compared with trying to make sense out of what is going on in corporatist management talk. To introduce ‘balance’, I have come across many actual business people, as distinct from word merchants, who are similarly puzzled by this stuff.

    I’ve got more questions, but one at the time.

  68. BilB
    April 18th, 2010 at 17:49 | #68


    Nothing there. It is the usual “country full of crazy people” article.

  69. April 18th, 2010 at 19:05 | #69

    @Fran Barlow,

    All that happened to me before. However, because I have been blocked for nearly 4 months contrary to undertaking made to me back in December not to block me, I must remain sceptical at least until I see a few of my posts pubished without moderation. As @paul walter pointed out, holding up a post for long enough can be effectively the same as censorship.

  70. Freelander
    April 18th, 2010 at 19:18 | #70

    @Ernestine Gross

    Moving forward is not a libertarian sourced piece of meaningless babble. Sure, I would not be surprised to hear libertarians using it because they tend to be pretty superficial and given to parroting choice phrases. “Moving forward” is simply yet another piece of empty but pretentious management speak. When I hear it, and it is very much in fashion at the moment, I cringe. I am tempted to say “as opposed to?” Almost always it is redundant because they are talking about going into the future and if they do have an option of going into the past I certainly would want to know about it. What is truly sad is that “moving forward” seems to be most frequently used by those on $300K or more. Hence, you hear it ad nauseam when someone ‘important’ is being interviewed, on TV or Radio. There the opportunity to say “as opposed to?” is not provided, and is never taken by the interviewer.

    Managers need to use a lot of pretentious meaningless language in proportion to how little they know about doing their job, which frequently is not much. As the gaining of a management job is typically on the basis of an interview and is poorly correlated to any performance, speaking the tribal language is a necessity to get the job. And getting the job is most important, as is being a loyal tribal member. Doing the job is not so important at all, especially if you have the requisite skills of avoiding the blame, and moving on to the next job before the you know what hits the you know what.

  71. paul walter
    April 18th, 2010 at 19:28 | #71

    Yes Ernestine G, Freelander, “onward and upwards:” onward, ever upward”
    Have you people forgotten your” Yes Minister” primers?

  72. Freelander
    April 18th, 2010 at 19:31 | #72

    @Ernestine Gross

    And frequently when the worst cases are found out to be the disasters they are, they are simply given a generous package and glowing references and assistance to get an even better job elsewhere, where they will inflict another round of chaos.

    Unfortunately, this increasingly seems to be the way things work in many Western bureaucracies, whether those bureaucracies are in large public corporations, academia, or government. I am sure all the financial institutions responsible for the GFS where ‘vigorously’ going forward, before, on, and after the day. Unfortunately remuneration seemed to similarly go forward numerically and into their bank accounts.

  73. Ernestine Gross
    April 19th, 2010 at 08:31 | #73


    Thank you for your replies. Much appreciated. Just a clarifying question. Did you mean ‘liberertarians’ @20, p2 or neo-liberals?

  74. Freelander
    April 19th, 2010 at 08:51 | #74

    libertarians and neo-liberals are synonymous

  75. Ernestine Gross
    April 19th, 2010 at 09:24 | #75

    Freelander :libertarians and neo-liberals are synonymous

    I am not sure about that. ‘ism words’ tend to be chewing-gum words. Nevertheless, I seem to remember that JQ uses the term ‘neo-liberalism’ as a collective term for ‘economic rationalism’, Thatcherism, and Reagonomics’. The labels don’t matter to me. If you use the words ‘libertarians’ as synonymous with ‘neo-liberals’ then I only need to make clear that I am thinking about the period known in Australia as ‘economic rationalism’, which is partially characterised by ‘corporatism’ and ‘managerialism’.

    Again, thank you for your reply. I still have other questions but I don’t have time at present.

  76. Chris Warren
    April 19th, 2010 at 11:44 | #76


    “Right-wing libertarians” are synonymous with neo-liberals.

    I have seen a lot of left-wing libertarians rage against neo-liberalism.

    In fact, all these terms are camouflage and weasel concepts.

  77. Ernestine Gross
    April 19th, 2010 at 12:16 | #77

    Chris Warren and Freelander, I am not educated in politics in the sense of political history (high school history is not sufficient in my opinion to form opinions worth while writing about on this blog). Economic history, which overlaps with politics, can be read with specific questions in mind. My focus was not on politics. I accept that the ‘-ism words’ are useful labels in context; shorthand labels to organise complex material. I just wanted to signal an ambiguity in my mind. What I find interesting is that people who come from various backgrounds have made similar observations and have similar concerns, even though words get in the way at times.

  78. Fran Barlow
    April 19th, 2010 at 12:41 | #78


    putting the prefix “neo” in front of something merely conveys the idea that the movement/category amounts to a new iteration of some prior (and typically defunct/discarded) movement category.

    Thus, in art, “neoclassical” would be a return to usages of the “classical” period, perhaps inflected with contemporary themes/innovations etc … ditto neo-conservative

    Not uncommonly though, in lay usage, adding “neo” simply amounts to intellectual pretense — an attempt to suggest an insight into comparative features of the two movements/categories that the utterer lacks in practice.

  79. wilful
    April 19th, 2010 at 13:55 | #79

    I thought that debate with conrad was more than a little odd. it is definitely a pity that it happened to be a chinese resources company that is buying the land, it would be simpler, and remove any whiff of xeno/sinophobia from the thread if it had just been an Australian resources company doing it.

    But these mining companies do this sort of thing all the time, buying up otherwise productive land. I would oppose the purchases on the grounds that it’s an effing coal mine, and destroying arable land, but on the basis that “them furriners are buying OUR LAND”, which was what many of you were saying, is just crap. If you believe in private property (which I generally tend to, when sober), then the land was freely bought and sold, at a good price, and the sellers are happy, non-coerced, they have every right to sell. Would you rather stop them selling for the highest price? are you going out there to buy their property, or would you like our taxes to fund your xenophobia?

    Of course, there will be externalities, this is a planning matter. Very hard to deal with in modern societies, there will be losers (and winners) apart from the property owners. Hopefully some of the royalties will be invested locally to ameliorate these. Still, good place to get a job there now.

    As for those of you arguing that we’re in fact poorer than we were thirty or fifty years ago, okaaay, you can believe what you want, that’s rather a quaint, fact-free position to hold. Here’s the HDI estimates for the last three decades. 0.871 to 0.970. Completely apart from the property bubble we’re currently living in, we’re wealthier, healthier, freer and more educated than ever before.

    We could have kept a manufacturing industry, paying too much for shoddy goods.

  80. Freelander
    April 19th, 2010 at 15:14 | #80

    @Chris Warren

    Libertarians, neo-liberals, etc. eschew particular labels distinguishing themselves by some particular label but not other equivalent labels. They also tend to revise which particlulare label they are comfortable wearing. They do this but not in a consistent or coherent manner. The motivation for these false and fine incoherent distinctions is that each libertarian believes itself to be an ‘individual’, and therefore somewhat unique, and thus, feels, she defies categorisation. All part of the disease. Nevertheless and despite any railing to the contrary by any of the disordered, these distinctions are illusory, as is their claim to relative uniqueness.

  81. Chris Warren
    April 19th, 2010 at 15:27 | #81



    You have missed the point. No-one is claiming;

    that we’re in fact poorer than we were thirty or fifty years ago, okaaay,

    The issue was conrad’s stupid assertion @26, viz:

    We’re miles richer than we were 30 years ago by any measure,

    Now you want to imply that people are just believing what ever they want! But surely if you read the relevant posts you would know that the key issue is that this assessment is based on rising per capita debt and Andrew Leigh’s recent research.

    If you look back, you will see that the issue was never presented as “believing whatever you want” or quaint fact-free position. I said that

    “If you want to take this issue seriously spend some time looking at bankruptcy trends, debt trends, and Andrew leigh’s latest work in increasing gap between rich and poor.”

    You choose to ignore this context – why? If you ignore debt and look at Australian material wealth then it looks like our living standard has risen, for example most people did not have a computer 30 years ago.

    But this is not the point. Anyone can get this result by increasing debt.

    Now you want to claim that there has been some increase, and you rather strangely point to:

    Between 1980 and 2007 Australia’s HDI rose by 0.40% annually from 0.871 to 0.970 today.

    So you want to argue the toss, based on decimal points of percentage growth! 1 in a thousand accuracy? Global growth statistics are not this robust. You data shows, to the nearest percent, that between 1980 and 2007, Australia’s HDI rose by 0%.

    In general, given all the exporting, profiteering, development, and associated activity, a improvement of less than half a percent annually over such a long tiome frame is effectively a flat-line. This does not place Australians “miles ahead” which was conrads peculiar statement. This was the point. QED.

    So why don’t you try and have another go – this time, for honesty’s sake, at least addressing the problem of increasing per-capita debt.

  82. Chris Warren
    April 19th, 2010 at 15:38 | #82


    For what it is worth:

    Rightwing libertarians = “Randites” – Tea-Party tosspots

    Leftwing libertarians = “Anarchists” – hippie tosspots.

    These differences are not illusory, and each is quite unique relative to the other.

  83. wilful
    April 19th, 2010 at 15:52 | #83

    Chris, in case your maths isn’t quite up to it (so it seems), that’s an 11 percent increase in HDI, to third in the world.

    I find it impossible to believe that someone can honestly think that we’re no better off than in 1980. On so many different measures, that is so obviously untrue. We live longer. We are healthier while we are alive. We eat more (too much often!). Absolute poverty has declined. Our houses are filled with stuff that we clearly want. We are more educated.

    And all you have to say is that it’s all a chimera due to debt?

  84. Fran Barlow
    April 19th, 2010 at 15:56 | #84


    Our houses are filled with stuff that we clearly want.

    And in many cases, stuff we wish we don’t want and hadn’t bought 😉

  85. Fran Barlow
    April 19th, 2010 at 15:57 | #85

    oops …

    stuff we don’t want and wish we hadn’t bought 😉

  86. Freelander
    April 19th, 2010 at 16:14 | #86

    @Chris Warren

    Agreed. The left wing libertarians are different and I wouldn’t really classify them in with the other lot. It is worth distinguishing between libertarian followers of Rand and the (right-wing) libertarians who do not follow her. And yes I suppose like a person with moles on their skin, each is different in their way with different distinguishing petty prejudices. But then we’re all unique, but some of us are more unique than others.

  87. Chris Warren
    April 19th, 2010 at 16:36 | #87

    wilful :
    Chris, in case your maths isn’t quite up to it (so it seems), that’s an 11 percent increase in HDI, to third in the world.

    Please show me where my maths seems not to be “up to it”.

    My statement was in effect: To the nearest percent – 0.4% is zero. QED.

    And all you have to say is that it’s all a chimera due to debt?

    Yes; If you refer back I said that anyone can get this wealth if they rely on increasing per capita debt. It is not a chimera.

    There are other factors, such as the increased participation of oppressed Third World labour in our domestic standard of living.

    But increased debt is the killer.

    If you ignore this you are only looking at short-term appearances, themselves based on the destruction of all Europe, and exploitation of (a somewhat angry) Third World.

    But of course, some would like to ignore debt. This is their mistake.

  88. paul walter
    April 19th, 2010 at 17:42 | #88

    “Hippie tosspots”, eh?
    wow, man!

  89. Alice
    April 19th, 2010 at 22:50 | #89

    @Fran Barlow
    Unfortunately Fran some of that stuff we dont want and wish we hadnt bought may also be full of toxins we didnt even know existed. Hey who cares about that except “hippie tosspots” LOL? Lets not talk about it… or someone might suggest Govts got off their tosspots and regulated the toxins out of consumer spending and that will cost jobs even though in a free market those lovely flexible workers are supposed to pick up, move and do something more productive.

  90. paul walter
    April 20th, 2010 at 00:08 | #90

    Neo liberalism is valorised, alibied infantile selfishness; “self will run riot”. It is at best a feeble justification for spite, meanness and self centred ness.
    Where is the decentering element in this dogma?”

  91. April 20th, 2010 at 00:25 | #91

    How about we look at this another way? To put it in the sort of language you are employing, socialism is founded on a presumption that without someone exercising strong control over us, we will all descend into a valorised, alibied infantile selfishness; “self will run riot”. BTW – the socialists and the conservatives agree on this. They just cannot agree which field it is in which we will act in that way.
    What a sad, sorry way to look at your fellow human beings.
    In reality, though – liberals (or at least me, I cannot speak for all) tend to believe that humans are fully capable of behaving generally correctly when the restrictions of society are the main restrictions imposed on our freedom. I do not believe that we need strong government control of our lives to make us behave in a generally correct way.

  92. paul walter
    April 20th, 2010 at 01:31 | #92

    Na, just a few guidelines, to remind business that others maybe affected by their activities, as with the coal mining in the Hunter on 4 Corners last week, Andrew, #41.
    But they won’t follow them when they get their way on dereg. And when they have control of government apparatus, they get their sockpuppets in “government”, as functionary for big business, to no more exert themselves than fly to the moon, as the Carmel Tebbutt example demonstrated.
    You’d agree the amount of “wastage” in the global system is a factor in delaying the amelioration of third world poverty? And the development of sustainability as a necessary underpinning for the future?
    Now, back to Hartcher article in SMH concerning Goldman Sachs and Greece.

  93. Freelander
    April 20th, 2010 at 01:51 | #93

    @Fran Barlow

    True, much pretense in the neo-liberal. The liberal in it and libertarianism is simply a fraud. They certainly aren’t liberal. And they also lay claim to be in the tradition of various long deads who, because of their current state, can’t defend their legacy. All just a part of their spin.

    Look at the naughty boy above, claiming to be a “liberal”. Infantile selfishness is not exactly liberal. Neo and liberal are simply part of the spin.

  94. paul walter
    April 20th, 2010 at 02:11 | #94

    Freelander, its a very old theology now, derived of a mix of Ricardian tight-ass and Byronic romanticism.
    It is prior to the sort of insights that Marx, Freud, Weber, Durkheim and Darwin, et al offered in their later critiques of 19th century civilisation, as to human subjectivity and existence, even devaluing Neitzsche, in diluting from true freedom, reduced to egotism and narcissism. it is so part and parcel of our conceptual superstructures as they relate to system reification and individuation and commodification of “others”.
    Neoliberalism is preferable to liberalsim for the current system because that then can deny even the better impulses of old liberalism that sort to improve rather than just
    ‘hold on”, as with Hobbesians.

  95. Freelander
    April 20th, 2010 at 02:35 | #95

    Gimme that old time religion!

  96. Freelander
    April 20th, 2010 at 02:38 | #96

    No matter how bad evil self-centred or a complete a hole a person is, they like to feel good about themselves and morally justified. This is the role of many of these nastyism political philosophies.

  97. Freelander
    April 20th, 2010 at 03:08 | #97

    And, in braking news from the US… Cattle prods to the ready…


  98. paul walter
    April 20th, 2010 at 03:25 | #98

    What I get from THAT, Freelander, is the need for the utmost “good times”, if not better, from now on…

  99. Freelander
    April 20th, 2010 at 03:57 | #99

    But in Canada, they are arming themselves with cattle prods, just in case.

  100. paul walter
    April 20th, 2010 at 04:43 | #100

    I have a far better idea…

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