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Race to the bottom

July 29th, 2010

I restarted the blog so I could comment on the election, but I’ve found it too depressing to do much. The major parties are engaged in a race to the bottom in every respect, announcing silly focus-group-driven policies and appealing to the worst instincts of the electorate. The mass media have encouraged this, obsessing over trivial scandals and personality issues and disregarding our real economic and social problems. The only serious hope for progress on policy is the Greens but they remain marginalised. I’ll try to offer some discussion of the Greens policies on various issues but at this point, I think, there is little reason to follow the main campaign.

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  1. July 29th, 2010 at 06:20 | #1

    I hear and feel your frustration. If it helps (and we all know it doesn’t help at all), there is much the same sentiment in Canada: Those platforms that show any kind of innovation or progress belong to parties that have no chance of forming a government while those that have a chance are nigh indistinguishable from one another except by the bobble-heads that make the talking points on TV. Even if the parties that have optimistic platforms were in a place to form government, there is the cynical realization that, to get there, they would have to compromise their positions to a degree that would make them, too, indistinguishable.

  2. Alice
    July 29th, 2010 at 06:58 | #2

    I agree it is depressing to watch the politicians “announce” policies that appear to be addressed only to this weeks media polls when the media is just so perverse anyway. Playing right into the media’s hands.

  3. Mobius Ecko
    July 29th, 2010 at 07:18 | #3

    Oh I’m so much with you on this and having always been such a keen follower of politics cannot express just how deeply disappointed and depressed I am over this campaign and the MSM’s assassination of it.

    One look no further than the current ABC’s tenacious attacks on Labor’s leaks and what Wayne Swan said last night, which really was trivial, to see what I mean.

    For heaven’s sake Howard spent tens of millions of tax payers money and scarce AFP resources each year finding and plugging leaks, but if you were to believe the ABC this is all new and unique.

    In the meantime some significant and important policy announcements slipped by, and who is the ABC blaming for this, why Julia Gillard of course for having leaks against her.

    I’ve never know political depression, but if what I’m feeling now is it then please let the election be over and done with and a pox on whoever wins.

  4. gregh
    July 29th, 2010 at 08:13 | #4

    I am of the same mind – the major parties are hopeless and represent (and encourage) the worst aspects of the community. Labor and Liberal are utterly complicit with the mass media narratives of hatred and fear. For me the critical political issue that needs addressing before progressive change is likely is media power and the abyssmal way in which that power is used. I have no idea how that can be changed in a practical sense – we need changes to ownership rules. The net seems to have helped, but I am not sure of the extent.

  5. Ken Lovell
    July 29th, 2010 at 08:42 | #5

    Can I beg all commenters to adopt a more considered use of the word ‘policy’? Every day we read about the parties releasing various ‘policies’ when in fact they are announcing initiatives, or measures, or proposals that almost universally LACK a coherent policy foundation.

    It would be a red letter day, for example, if the ALP ever released a policy on tax, or asylum seekers, or water management. Instead of a discourse that implies we are overwhelmed with policies, we ought to deplore the fact that there are hardly any.

  6. Jim Rose
    July 29th, 2010 at 08:53 | #6

    You can always watch the ABC? there is the BBC for O/S news.

    many a good middle-age leftie was ABC born and raised

    after the deregulation of media, there were more TV stations, and now a proliferation of cable news and information channels.

    Social media such as blogs might help too, but too many blog readers go to blogs where they seek confirmation of their prior views and suspicions.

    These blog readers do not like to see their views challenged, and some even get a bit hostile when they are. I face no risk of affirmation on this blog.

    Knowledge grows by being challenged, not reaffirmed.

  7. gregh
    July 29th, 2010 at 09:08 | #7

    @Jim Rose
    not really the issue I’m addressing Jim Rose – most people in Australia get their info from corporate TV news. I won’t get into the idea that people ‘freely choose’ the media they watch as the idea of ‘free choice’ is utterly unsupported.

  8. Jim Rose
    July 29th, 2010 at 09:17 | #8


    who is the we in #4 that you seek to change ownership rules?

    The same people who are competent enough to vote and drive cars also operate the TV remote.

    how did you escape your false consciouness?

  9. paul walter
    July 29th, 2010 at 09:22 | #9

    Greg H, on this issue am in agreement with your take.

  10. gregh
    July 29th, 2010 at 09:26 | #10

    “how did you escape your false consciouness?”

    Who knows? Certainly not by the exercise of free will.

  11. Jim Rose
    July 29th, 2010 at 09:35 | #11

    as you have no free choice, as you say, whose class interests are you pushing in this election?

  12. Jim Rose
    July 29th, 2010 at 09:44 | #12

    One solution to your frustation with the quality of the current election is to advocate a strong federal state.

    A vibrant federalism will mean that the stakes at any one election is less and those wreckers on the opposition benches can do less damage when they have their hands on only one of many governments.

    British Labour reconsidered federalism and the advantages of a greater division of power after 18 years of Thatcher and co., good and hard. devolution for scotland and wales, and an assembly for london.

    The Greens will not provide the great leap forward in the quality of democratic deliberation at elections because their views are deeply unpopular with the vast majority of the electorate.

  13. gregh
    July 29th, 2010 at 09:45 | #13

    @Jim Rose
    straying a bit OT – one thing I might say is – if elected, which party Labor, Liberal, or Greens would provide the least support to coporate power.

  14. Michael of Summer Hill
    July 29th, 2010 at 09:52 | #14

    John, there is no doubt that today’s polls will shake up Labor and more needs to done given that the Coalition will continue to announce more me-tooism backflip policies on the run. What the Australian public want is ‘certainty’ and a ‘pact’ with The Greens in setting a ‘price for carbon’ would be a good start.

  15. Jim Rose
    July 29th, 2010 at 09:58 | #15

    The Oz green voter can be like those 97,000 green voters who voted for Nader in Florida in 2000.

    They felt really good – a great expressive vote – an act of solidarity with the Green left, and Bush spent 8 years in the white house.

    If Abbott wins, do you really think he is certain to survive for no more than one term, and a rebuilt labour party will beat him in 2013 by going left?

  16. jquiggin
    July 29th, 2010 at 10:07 | #16

    Jim, we have preferential voting in Australia.

  17. gregh
    July 29th, 2010 at 10:11 | #17

    @Jim Rose
    I’m not convinced by the ‘wasted vote’ argument at all Jim Rose. If using such a basis I would argue that those who vote Labor while thinking they are going to get good policies based around some sort of social justice /egalitarian vision (broadly construed) are those who truly waste their vote.

    The Oz green voter can be like the Nader voters, or they can be like the Australian voters who vote in a substantial group of Greens – time will tell

  18. Chris Dodds
    July 29th, 2010 at 10:27 | #18

    In the 19th century there was a two party system where workers voted for the protectionists and the threat was that if they didnt then the free traders would get elected. In the UK and Australia some visionaries founded labour parties which were often potrayed as the greens and Nader are now. That is, wasted votes and spoilers. Until all those who despair at the ALP on enviroment, refugees and (in NSW at least) the corruption actually change their behaviour and join the greens and vote green then things wont change. It took twenty or thirty years but eventually from small beginnings the labout parties became main stream and if ever there was a need for a similar process its now.

  19. Michael of Summer Hill
    July 29th, 2010 at 10:34 | #19

    Chris Dodds, there is no doubt Labor has made a few mistakes and are now paying the penalty but it is not too late to get back ontrack. What Labor needs to do is differentiate themselves from the Coalition and a ‘pact’ with The Greens in setting a ‘price for carbon’ would be a good start.

  20. Jim Rose
    July 29th, 2010 at 10:59 | #20

    some on this blog want to vote for the greens then ensure that their preferences do not count for the major parties by repeating numbers after 1.

    The greens sniping at labour does not increase the chances of the ALP winning.

  21. Dave McRae
    July 29th, 2010 at 11:46 | #21

    That method of voting will now result in an informal vote. The opportunity to go 1,2,2,2 was removed some time ago.

    I do wish Greasmonkey would work on this board like some others where I can kill all posts by certain users who can BS on multiple tangents at length

  22. Michael of Summer Hill
    July 29th, 2010 at 12:09 | #22

    It’s official, ‘The State of the Climate 2009 report’ findings that global warming is humanly induced reinforces the need for urgent action and Labor should enter into and a ‘pact’ with The Greens in setting a ‘price for carbon’ ASAP.

  23. KimMac
    July 29th, 2010 at 12:21 | #23

    It’s depressing isn’t it. Politics should be engaging, stirring, passionate etc but it’s become kinda embarrassing like the squirminess you feel when someone is making a complete dill of themselves, you avert your gaze and hope for god’s sake that it’ll end.
    It’s like the government is tired and bereft of ideas after 3 or 4 terms in office and is just trying to cling to power and the opposition just wants power. I actually feel nostalgia for the time of Johnny H. who at least was willing to stake it all on a principle, belief, idea; dare I say it – the Vision Thing. In the meantime just let the campaign follow its execrable course, have a nice lie in on the 22nd and perhaps catch the news about who has won. Serve them right if it’s a hung Parliament and the Greens hold the balance of power.

  24. Michael of Summer Hill
    July 29th, 2010 at 12:27 | #24

    KimMac, are you suggesting the conclusions reached by 300 scientists from 48 countries are wrong? If so prove it.

  25. Jim Rose
    July 29th, 2010 at 12:34 | #25

    @Dave McRae
    yes, there was an extensive debate on its legality on this blog.

    green sniping at the ALP, saying that it is little better than the Libs, does not help the Left because it encourages the 20% of greens who second preference the Libs to keep doing so because a second preference for the ALP matters little, so they return home to the Libs.

    if that number of the 20% of greens who second preference the Libs increases to 30%, that adds about 1% to the two-party preferred for the Libs. important in a close election.

    if abbott wins, it will be on the back of the 20% or more of greens who second preference the Libs

    The green party is a method of splitting your vote so you can vote liberal and still feel good about yourself. The greens do not increaee the net vote for the left, the greens decrease it.

  26. Fran Barlow
    July 29th, 2010 at 12:59 | #26

    I share your sentiments PrQ.

    I will be assisting the Greens, but it doesn’t occur to me that anything good can come out of this election.

    I strongly suspect that Gillard will win, but that the victory will be pyrrhic in character, as will the win to Abbott if she happens to lose.

    We really need a whole new system for composing governance in this country.

  27. Jim Rose
    July 29th, 2010 at 13:19 | #27

    @Fran Barlow

    The Strategic Constitution by Robert D. Cooter may be of interest to you in building a bnew system. see http://press.princeton.edu/titles/6849.html

    Cooter argues that constitutional theory should focus on the real-world consequences of various constitutional provisions and choices and show how to design them.

    John elster’s On majoritarianism and rights, East European Constitutional Review [1 (3):19
    is good too as is the Elster edited Alternatives to capitalism.

  28. Donald Oats
    July 29th, 2010 at 13:51 | #28

    The most recent decade was the hottest (globally) since records began. This is the decade that supposedly cooled down from 1998 (the hottest year up to 1998) and so heralded a new age of extreme free-market views combined with the “There is no such thing as society, just individuals.” (or something like that) low-brow, knuckle-dragging view of the world.

    Some globe-trotting clown sporting a penchant for expressing association with the abode of many lords did tour every little hick town in the global village, hoping to spread neocon reality as an oleaginous layer (atop real reality) to the definitely unwashed. Some weirdo with a bizarre affliction for talking to an imaginary friend did a preference deal with Labor, and helped to block action against anthropogenic climate change, ie AGW. The Liberals also played their part, as did the Greens, in blocking any further action for several years at the least. Labor didn’t like Garnaut’s high scientific hurdle; so, instead of putting in some practice in order to clear the bar, Labor took Garnaut’s lowball political estimation of what the international politics would dictate, and made it the basis of our negotiations both in Copenhagen and with the Liberals.

    The crustier of the neocon/economic rationalists (HA!) among them, Nick Minchin in particular, got all their ducks in a row and toppled the Liberal-who-would-dare-negotiate, stealing a largely symbolic but nevertheless essential victory from the Australian People at the very last minute. May they burn in their own imaginary Hells, may they rot in infamy!

    Only one party has been steadfast in its view that it is the scientific assessment that matters most in deciding on targets to set. Only the Greens have chosen a still risky, but at least much safer option than doing nothing, scientifically based path to achieving a desired scientific outcome. Instead of playing race-to-the-bottom politics with AGW.

    In a more sane world I would probably vote Labor, although Liberals could not be ruled out; the Greens would be after Labor. But the insane world of poly-waffles winning the community away from action on AGW, instead of supporting the actions required as so many scientists have toilded to convey to the wider public. One man – Rupert Murdoch – has done more damage to the campaign to take scientifically based action on AGW, than any other I can thing of. While he may claim that his newspapers are free of editorial biase, they sure do follow a familiar, well wornd path. Then there is Chris Mitchell working for “The Australian” daily national newspaper; some climate scientist refused to share a cab with him or sumtin’, because Boy! has he got it in for formally credentialled expert climate scientists.

    Which brings us back to the elections here in Oz. The new prime minister, Ms Julia Gillard, is now copping an almost hourly pasting in the media, and daily baseball bats are dished out to her (and by extension Labor) by none other than “The Australian”. My strong feeling is that it has reached the stage where the MSM is entirely confident in itself at destroying every Labor leader. It may take time but the MSM has the patience of Methusela.

    “Whatever it takes” was one of the tacit mottos of the neocon element within the Liberal party, and in fact was a big part of why I won’t vote for them as long as any of these ministers still have a heartbeat, and that was always understood. But now the MSM, and even a few of the older guys in the Labor ministry have endorsed this approach to politics by way of their actions. Leakers of snippets of Cabinet meetins aren’t playing a straight bat.
    So, I won’t vote for them!

    Boy, I’ve been building this one up!

  29. Michael of Summer Hill
    July 29th, 2010 at 14:40 | #29

    Donald Oats, Labor can only blame themselves for getting into such a mess. But if blame is to be pointed at anyone then the boneheads calling themselves ‘advisors’ should be shown the door. Have to go.

  30. Fran Barlow
    July 29th, 2010 at 15:36 | #30

    @Jim Rose

    What little I can see from your link it doesn’t much appeal. I have some ideas based around sortition for candidates, deliberative selection for finalisation and direct democracy for macro questions.

  31. Ken Fabos
    July 29th, 2010 at 15:40 | #31

    It’s not good news for Australia that the only party that takes the science on climate and sustainability seriously is on the fringe. Good on the Greens, I hope they do well electorally and hope they perform well in parliament but against a coalition (in all but name) of Labor, LibNats and Australia’s biggest companies devoted to a quarry economy?
    When do we begin seeing mainstream politics truly taking climate seriously and starting to give us more than greenwash? Going by performance to date…. We’ve had 2 full decades of knowing we can’t keep making energy the dirty way yet we are still building coal fired power stations which don’t have any carbon price and probably won’t for another 20 years, whereupon there may be some small price incentive introduced that might result in some shift away from coal over a couple of decades after that… probably to gas, which can’t deliver the necessary long term reductions in emissions even if they replaced all coal plants right now in one hit.
    Just to begin the minimum necessary to begin changing energy production to reach the targets we should be achieving about now? I figure 20-40 years from now, 40-60 years after knowing it was necessary. That’s probably 20-40 years too late.
    Our governments will continue to spend more on motorway upgrades and backing mining exploration than on reducing emissions for the foreseeable future and I don’t think the Greens can significantly change that.

  32. Nick G
    July 29th, 2010 at 15:57 | #32

    I couldn’t agree more, John. My only hope for this election is that The Greens get the balance of power in the Senate. I’m not sure which depresses me more though; the downward-spiral race of the major parties, or a lazy/inane press (ABC as guilty as any) for not calling shennanigans on their policies/rhetoric.

  33. July 29th, 2010 at 16:18 | #33

    Pr Q said:

    The major parties are engaged in a race to the bottom in every respect, announcing silly focus-group-driven policies and appealing to the worst instincts of the electorate. The mass media have encouraged this, obsessing over trivial scandals and personality issues and disregarding our real economic and social problems.

    The boring me-tooism and bland boiler-plated rhetoric of the major parties is the down-side of what I call “the Great Convergence”, a dialectical process in which the major parties converge on policy ideologies. This process has been underway since the latter part of the nineties, as the post-modern liberal consensus on “reform” has either collapsed or gradually been exhausted, on both economic (“class war”) and civic (“culture war”) policy fronts.

    In general the Great Convergence is a relatively benign political phenomenon because it betokens an underlying consensus about both ideological progress and insitutional processes. (For a taste of what serious partisan divergence looks like I give you the REP v DEMs in the USA.)

    Given bi-partisan ideological consensus on policy, the focus of political conflict shifts to psephological tactics of the parties (“focus-group driven policies”) and psychological defects of the politicians (“personality issues”) . These two merge in the media’s ever-present “gotcha” urge to pounce on gaffes or beat-ups (“trivial scandals”).

    As for populist pandering to the “worst instincts of the electorate” firstly, “who died and elected Pr Q Pope?” and secondly, the phrase “once bitten, twice shy” springs to mind.

    Granted its always possible (and, for Pr Q it seems, inevitable) to express disgust with the major parties inattention to “our real social and economic problems”. But AUS policy over the noughties has on the whole been fair and reasonable under both Howard-L/NP and Rudd-ALP. It would be nice if Pr Q gave the major parties credit for at least keeping the ship of state on an even keel and not to far off-course.

    Could do better, no doubt. If AUS had voted Howard back in 2007 we would be on-track to have an ETS up-and-running, instead of endless dithering. So you can’t say I didn’t tell you so.

  34. Fran Barlow
    July 29th, 2010 at 16:36 | #34

    Jack said:

    For a taste of what serious partisan divergence looks like I give you the REP v DEMs in the USA

    Pretty much what we have here. Both parties agree on most things and the bunfights are about cultural identity. Obama shot himself in the foot by pandering to even more eghregious bipartisan posturing, giving the Repugs a free pass on their atturly inept and sociopathic beheaviour for the first 8 years of the new millennium. It is not inconceivable that he will be ejected in 2012 as a result and in any event find himself with an unworkable congress for the remainder of his term. Putting questions of ethics aside the politics was dumb.

    And much the same could be said of Rudd/Gillard. Their extravagant courting of the consensus is allowed the Howard forces to escape censure and then whiteant the government. Had Rudd simply announced that when Garnaut came out, he meant to follow its recommendations down to the commas and fullstops, we would have had a functioning ETS by now. The Libs would not have dared oppose it, and if they had, they’d have been shot ducks at the snap election he could have called.

    Like Obama, the man lacked either the the ticker or the nous, which was a shame.

  35. Jim Rose
    July 29th, 2010 at 17:44 | #35

    @Fran Barlow
    Obama’s bipartisan posturing!?

    did any of his key legislation make any significant concessions to the republicans.

    did any republicans vote for any of his key legislation because of these concessions? perhaps a smallest of a handful – did they swing the vote?

    Obama was worried about losing blue-dog democracts who must be fiscal conservatives because their districts vote republican in the presidential races.

    The democracts have large majorities in both house of congress and did have 60 senators.

    remember, obama campaigned against the universal health care scheme proposed by clinton. Obama only wanted to ensure those under 18 had access to health care.

  36. July 29th, 2010 at 18:25 | #36

    @Jim Rose

    did any of his key legislation make any significant concessions to the republicans.

    Yes … health legislation significantly narrowed, climate change legislation dropped … existing military programs continued or expanded, no investigation into Bush era programs, no revelations about goings on, no review of the 2000 or 2004 elections etc …

    did any republicans vote for any of his key legislation because of these concessions?

    Some support on health — Olympia Snowe for example …

    Obama wimped out … he could have gone hard from the get go — indeed, from September 15 2008 ….

  37. gregh
    July 29th, 2010 at 18:30 | #37

    Whilst i ‘hear your words’ Fran (dang that’s patronising 🙂 )

    Do you think Obama/anyone would get there if they didn’t lack “either the the ticker or the nous”?

    My view is – at this time – the system is unable to support someone who has the ‘ticker and nous’.

  38. Ernestine Gross
    July 29th, 2010 at 18:39 | #38

    “The mass media have encouraged this (the race to the bottom)”

    Last night I watched the ABC program, The Gruen Transfer. Rightly or wrongly, I gained the impression that the PR machine of politicians or political parties consist of the same people who analyse ‘the campaign’. It is as if the politicians were merely the medium for these people to test their theories and to compete with each other in campaign strategies. (Much much much much worse than economics, in my possibly not so humble opinion).

  39. Alice
    July 29th, 2010 at 18:43 | #39

    I will be assistaing the greens even more so since the media has drawn the “religion” card out and slammed it on the table against labor. I will not be choosing my economic policies on the basis of a belief in god and frankly I dont care if they believe in the sun god Ra. This is a low ball the media is playing now – as if the low balls the major parties are playing on their own isnt bad enough.

    It truly is a race to the bottom now. The media is entirely at fault. First she isnt married and second she doesnt beleive in god. Neither am and I and neither do I but I did beleive in the mining tax.

  40. Donald Oats
    July 29th, 2010 at 19:00 | #40

    @Michael of Summer Hill

    Labor mainly have themselves to blame. I’ve seen enough of the lazy style of TV journalism, and especially the nasty biased invective that emanates from Murdoch Media, the print media in Australia being a classic example. There is sometimes a fine line between posing a question and setting an agenda in motion; MM has crossed that Rubicon by a country mile. [Apologies for mixing metaphors…my mismangle.] I believe that the media played a significant role in destabilising PM Kevin Rudd by picking off the backbenchers, one by one, and asking them questions of the sort that would make them quite naturally worried about Labor’s ability to win the election. A good example of that fine line in play.

  41. July 29th, 2010 at 19:05 | #41

    Pr Q said:

    The only serious hope for progress on policy is the Greens but they remain marginalised. I’ll try to offer some discussion of the Greens policies on various issues but at this point, I think, there is little reason to follow the main campaign.

    The GREENs certainly have better economic and ecologic policies than both the major parties. But their civic policies are a recipe for disaster – they promise a return to the bad-old days of festering remote indigenous communities, foundering people-smuggling boats and fracturing of cultural communities. And they are Luddites to boot. Not what I would call “serious hope for progress”.

    The collapse of the post-modern liberal program in the wake of 911 and the GFC has left an ideological vacum at the centre of the polity. Main-stream ideologies are treading-water or back-sliding, inadequate to navigate the minefield of post-modernism.

    Both traditional liberal nationalism and managerial social-democracy have lost the capacity to mobilise the populus. One can see this process in the EU where both Christian Democrat and Social Democrat parties are looking fairly sclerotic.

    Likewise the major party Great Convergence is unlikely to end, unless there is some fundamental change in social structure or human nature(s). The major parties will continue choose the path least resistance between populist public opinion in politics and elitist private interests in policy. They rely on spin to make up the difference between style and substance.

    No major alternative ideological paradigm has stepped up to the plate vacated by post-modern liberalism. None of the parties, whether major or minor, have confronted the ideological problems thrown up by the conjunction of our evolutionary biology and revolutionary technology.

    Our old biology puts a limit on liberalism which we have now more or less come up four-square against. But our new technology gives an opportunity for political parties willing to deal with the shock of the new. The example of the post-Mao PRC run by a rolling committee of ruthless nerds, as always, instructive.

  42. Alice
    July 29th, 2010 at 19:08 | #42

    @Donald Oats
    Don – Im so over it – “nasty biased invective that emanates from Murdoch Media, the print media in Australia being a classic example.”
    I despair for the intelligence and the good economic policies prevailing in this country when there is no respect for politicians, no dignity, no fair evaluation and no objective unbiased media – when its all about smear campaigns (one side or the other) and when policies are in fact being dictated by media polls.

    Its truly pathetic. Its a real turn off. Its enough to make you vote anyone but…mostly Id like to vote Murdoch into his grave and all his henchmen with him. He rules the roost in this country and most people have lost their minds to the media bombardment.

    I see no hope.

  43. Jim Rose
    July 29th, 2010 at 19:15 | #43

    Tim Fischer and Billy mcmahon married quickly and had kids just before or just after becoming their party’s leader.

    there is nothing new in voters wanting leaders who share the same struggles as them.

    it is a short-hand way of making sure that political leaders see the world through your eyes and share your hopes and fears.

    for example, Word war 1 and World War 2 politicians were expected to see their sons serve in the military like anyone other family so that they shared the all-consuming fears of every mother and father.

    Thatcher was criticed during the falklands warfor being too quick of the mark by some male Tory leaders of World War 2 and Korean war vintage because they, but not she, had seen first hand the absolute horror of battle.

  44. July 29th, 2010 at 19:34 | #44

    Frank Barlow @ #34 said:

    Pretty much what we have here. Both parties agree on most things and the bunfights are about cultural identity.

    Wrong on both counts.

    In the US, the DEMs and the REPs are vehemently opposed to each other across the range of domestic policy planks: health care, financial regulation and climate control.

    They do have “bunfights about cultural identity” but these are based on anthropological realities, not just psephological stratagems. The parties are in constant damage control mode to prevent the Culture War from spinning out of control under the influence of their nuttier wings.

    Whilst in AUS, both parties are now in consensus on both economic, civic and strategic policies. There is virtually no daylight between the two parties on these matters and the “Class War”, “Culture War” and “War on Terror” have mostly subsided or have lapsed into uneasy truce.

    Since Abbott hastily ditched Work Choices, the only big differences between the AUS major parties are in ecologic policy. The “Climate War” will end in conditional surrender when Abbott gets roundly beaten on 21 AUG 10.

  45. Jim Rose
    July 29th, 2010 at 20:57 | #45

    @Fran Barlow
    all those backdowns you listed were because of of those bills and other actions were rather unpopular with the public which will return the house to the republicans in 2010 as punishment either in toto or in a defacto coalition with blue-dog democrats.

    there are 24 democrat and 12 republican senators up for reelection in 2012, so the democracts will lose control by then.

    what do you mean by “no review of the 2000 or 2004 elections”?

  46. Michael of Summer Hill
    July 29th, 2010 at 22:23 | #46

    Jack Strocchi, under normal circumstances this election was in the bag for Labor but now I am inclined to think that some Labor stategist cannot see beyond their noses that the Australian public want a carbon price put in place today and not tomorrow.

  47. July 30th, 2010 at 05:17 | #47

    @Jim Rose

    [what do you mean by “no review of the 2000 or 2004 elections”?]

    Both were rorted by the Repugs to ensure Bush won …

  48. Jim Rose
    July 30th, 2010 at 08:22 | #48

    @Fran Barlow

    Gore tried to steal the 2000 election through ballot box stuffing.

    there is not difference between adding illegal votes and the selective adding of legal votes.

    Gore asked for a recount only in four heavily democratic counties, not in all of Florida.

    I am sure that you would have no objection to howard asking for a recount in bennelong in 2007 in only the the four strongest liberal polling booths?

    Gore believed that every vote counts as long as it counted for him.

    No subsequent recount by newspapers using Florida FOI laws to access that ballot papers changed the fact the Bush won more votes in Florida.

  49. Fran Barlow
    July 30th, 2010 at 08:43 | #49

    @Jim Rose

    As this thread is not about voting fraud by the Repugs in 2000 and 2004, I am not going to do an extended response here. It is clear though that if the elections had been run professionally in Florida, 2000, Gore would have won comfortably, and for all we know, the first decade of the new millennium would not have been quite the disaster that it has been.

  50. Jim Rose
    July 30th, 2010 at 09:23 | #50

    @Fran Barlow
    At 30#, you champion sortition – the drawing candidates by lot i.e. a lottocracy – and the deliberative selection of candidates and direct democracy for macro questions.

    If you are losing in a representative democracy where vote trading allows minorities such as the greens to trade bloc support with others to protect and advance their interests, you will be always on the outer in a direct democracy where there no vote trading.

    Special purpose parties are formed all over the world to represent ethnic and other minorities and separatist minded regions to advance their agenda through vote trading. Examples are the NZ Maori party and Scottish, Welsh and Quebec nationalists. Do minorities get a better shot in a direct democracy where demagogues like Hanson can rule the roost?

    The deliberative selection of candidates – similar to the voir dire selection of American juries from a jury pool – is the elitist and profoundly reactionary horror that is deliberative democracy, which:
    • Demands a high level of sophisticated and disinterested discourse by citizens; and
    • Implies a much higher level of political knowledge in the electorate than is likely to be feasible in the foreseeable future.
    Spare time is precious. The working class is far too tired after work and too busy raising their families to go to meeting after meeting to listen to middle-class windbags weigh up the candidates chosen by lot.

    Will women who are mothers be able to participate and deliberate just as much as men? Gender analysis! Where is your gender analysis of your formative ideas of a lottocracy and voir dire selection?

    Is there evidence of more deliberation leading to better public policy outcomes or to reductions in social conflict? The major effect of deliberation appears to be to make group members more extreme than they were when they started to talk.

    Requiring deliberation may increase conflicts by bringing them more into the open and harm the interests of the politically weak who are less able than others to participate in deliberation.

    On sortition, who would ever have heard of Bob Brown in a lottocracy? The public must trust the standard bearers of change – their trust worthiness is slowly verified in other fields of battle and there is then a clamor for those who have proved themselves good and true to put their names forward for public office.

  51. Fran Barlow
    July 30th, 2010 at 12:45 | #51

    @Jim Rose

    How I would do it would be as follows:

    1. two year prior to required time from pool of persons willing to be a local candidate:

    a) generate randomised shortlist (say 20)
    b) exclude those with evident conflicts of interest, criminal records, dead, no longer interested/available etc
    c) top up pool as needed
    d) identify skills needed for various parts of policy formation the candidate is interested in;
    e) provide professional training modules so that policy ideas can be refined and developed
    f) provide support for candidate to develop and circulate initial set of key ideas for policy and to gather and acquire feedback
    g) Supply candidate with personal assistant(s) to manage dialog with public, publicise his/her policies
    h) Supply candidate with a stipend not less than his or her average taxable income over the past 12 months or average full-time earnings, whichever was the greater up to a maximum of twice AFTWE.

    After 1 year, candidates report on professional progress and redraft 10 areas of policy for web-based deliberative voting at secure site. Over 1 week, electors log-in and rate both the significance of the policies in their value system and their support for the policies as outlined. Each significance rating would be out of a total pool. Thus, if someone thought that “economic management” was the most important of the issues specified by the candidate and rated that as 45% of their vote, the other 9 issues could only amount to 55% combined. An algorithm would then score that elector’s candidate rating. Those who had served once before might get a slight weighting.

    At the end, the findings would be published, candidates ranked and interviewed and allowed to respond. Some might wish to alter their opinions and message, and of course, they would continue to get professional training for their future roles.

    About 1 month before the successful candidates were to take up their roles, the process described above would be repeated. Again the candidates would be scored, the two ratings summed and each candidate given pro-rata chances based on their standing in a random lotto-like selection. The candidates would be drawn out with the first successful and the others ranked. In the event one was ejected from parliament for any reason, then the first alternate would step in. When the parliament ended, the complete pool would be sent away, thanked for service and allowed to draw the stipend for a further two years tax free, so as to transition them back into regular private life.

    Ultimately, this is how the parliament would be composed.

    Direct democracy would be used to devise national plans. At the start of each year, the previous national 4-year plan, would be either affirmed or amended. If it was amended, then the plan as amended would be put to the public for affirmation. At any point in the life of the parliament the support of 10% of the public for an amendment would compel a debate on the measure, and if this was rejected, the proposers could put this to a national vote. If the measure was voted down, then neither that measure nor any substantively similar measure could be put again for 2 years. If accepted, the national plan would be amended.

    In all cases, the parliament’s task would be to work to realise the national plan through tis programs.

    Direct democracy could cause the removal from parliament of any person. In the event that 10% of the public sought removal of a particular person or persons, a recall plebiscite would be held, and if successful that person would be replaced by his or her first alternate. In the absence of proven criminal misconduct, the person would retain their stipend.

    That is how I would do this. I have no doubt that in such a system, we would get a whole range of people, including a great many like Bob Brown, and even if a given parliament were a little light on greens, direct democracy would do an end run around the logjam of those opposing worthwhile policy. The public could force matters onto the agenda. No party could run the parliament or wedge any other party, holding an issue hostage to partisan advantage. Over time, we would have an engaged and informed voter pool who believed their opinions were relevant, because even those who had failed would have been trained and become more aware of the demands of the role. Political parties could influence the composition of the parliament only by popularising ideas and persuading people to rate candidates in this way, which is of course exactly what political parties are supposed to do (as opposed to being vehicles for arbitrating state and private privileges).

    In the end, parliament would become a place where you could hope to write to members and get sensible responses, rather than cant and where rather than one tribe feeling it had lost, everyone would have to try and work out what the result meant, based on the likely alliances over various issues. We would all have to stop focusing on the trivial and tribal and start focusing on the issues.

    Gosh … now there’s a troubling thought.

  52. Jim Rose
    July 30th, 2010 at 13:40 | #52

    @Fran Barlow
    wasn’t the very purpose of the ALP from 1901, when it was initially one of several parties, and the greens, to as you say about, “holding an issue hostage to partisan advantage” because of the intensity of what those parties believed and their importance of their agendas to the wider society, once they had enough time to persuade the rest of the public of this.

    The purpose of political parties is to popularise ideas and then present a slate of pre-screened candidates committed to delivering on these ideas, to controlling each other to ensure they stay staunch, and have a defined and published world-view or ideology on what they will do when various contingencies arise. A market for assurances arises through political brand-name capital.

    Rudd is out because he destroyed his political brand-name capital by betraying the voters on signature issues. A conviction politician is one who has invested is so much brand-name capital that they know they are finished if they change their views. People vote for them because they know what they will get. When the brand is betrayed, voters punish this unfaithfulness severely – execute one, educate a thousand.

    The labour parties in Oz, NZ, and UK were forming governments a few years or decade or so after getting their first MPs elected. They had to prove themselves on the opposition benches and in prior fields of public service such as the unions and then win out at elections against other world views.

    Much in the design of constitutions is about slowing the impassioned majority down. James Madison’s main worry was that: “In all cases where a majority are united by a common interest or passion, the rights of the minority are in danger.”

    More later when I have a chance to give a considered response to your thoughtful posting.

  53. Fran Barlow
    July 30th, 2010 at 14:02 | #53

    @Jim Rose

    wasn’t the very purpose of the ALP from 1901, when it was initially one of several parties, and the greens, to as you say about, “holding an issue hostage to partisan advantage

    Now it is the opposite though. Consider this, these days, despite the fact that probably 65% favour an early exit from Afghanistan, neither party can afford to look “soft” and risk voters concerned about “national security” in marginal seats, so both parties adopt nearly identical policies, swear their respect for the job the troops are doing and utterly prevent anything like an examination of the usefulness of the occupation. Indeed, Abboott, fore reasons that have nothing to do with the wisdom of the move, is proposing more troops.

    One could cite other examples. On any issue in which a moral panic can be raised, regardless of the merits of the issue or the popular support for it, not only will neither party campaign for it — neither party will even permit a discussion that can lead anywhere. How that encourages people to pay attention to substantive issues and do their civic duty is hard to see.

    Of course, unless one puts a value on people caring about governance or notions of informed consent and legitimate mandate then that’s not a bug, but a feature.

  54. July 30th, 2010 at 14:11 | #54

    a) generate randomised shortlist (say 20)
    Controls would have to be in place, but no problem here.
    b) exclude those with evident conflicts of interest, criminal records, dead, no longer interested/available etc
    How will you define “evident conflicts of interest? Those that are evident to who, exactly?
    c) top up pool as needed
    Controls would have to be in place, but no problem here.
    d) identify skills needed for various parts of policy formation the candidate is interested in;
    Who would do this identification – for example, if the person was interested in climate science, would everyone be happy if MacIntyre did the identification?
    e) provide professional training modules so that policy ideas can be refined and developed
    Similar problem as with (d) – who does this?
    f) provide support for candidate to develop and circulate initial set of key ideas for policy and to gather and acquire feedback
    Similar problem as with (d) – who does this?
    g) Supply candidate with personal assistant(s) to manage dialog with public, publicise his/her policies
    Similar problem as with (d) – who does this?
    h) Supply candidate with a stipend not less than his or her average taxable income over the past 12 months or average full-time earnings, whichever was the greater up to a maximum of twice AFTWE.
    So – the well qualified that earn more than this would be effectively taking a pay cut to do this sort of work? You will end up with a lot of well-qualified people who may refuse to serve for financial reasons.

  55. Fran Barlow
    July 30th, 2010 at 15:08 | #55

    AR asked:

    How will you define “evident conflicts of interest? Those that are evident to who, exactly?

    If someone, for argument’s sake, earns substantial income from acting on behalf of a commercial interest e.g. as a lobbyist for some large pharmaceutical or energy or defence supplying company, that might be pertinent. In many cases, providing that the interest was on the record and he or she recused from issues directly germane, this might be allowed through. Perhaps a suitable judicial officer could consider these things and report on them to the Speaker.

    Who would do this identification – for example, if the person was interested in climate science, would everyone be happy if MacIntyre did the identification?

    It would be purely professional. Steven MacIntyre wouldn’t qualify because he has no relevant professional qualifications. That aside, a person would specify the areass in which they were especially interested — and if it included climate policy (not science because parliament is about policy rather than the science per se) then courses in the relevant fields bearing upon policy would be offered. Some of these would include a grounding of course in the basic corpus of the science and of course the argumentation, including that put by such as MacIntyre.

    Of course, a parliamentarian is going to need to know his or her way around adminstrative process, matters of ethics and due dligence, learn about the key stakeholders in a variety of areas, the scope of legislative power and so forth.

    This would best be done by people working for the parliament who would seek out suitable training providers and professionals to undertake the work and negotiate with the candidate over how this might be best done. After all, in the end, what we want is to give each candidate the best shot at being cjhosen and then if he or she is, effective as an MP.

    So – the well qualified that earn more than this would be effectively taking a pay cut to do this sort of work? You will end up with a lot of well-qualified people who may refuse to serve for financial reasons.

    Serving in parliament is supposed to be a public service — a civic donation, rather than a gravy train. If some of the highly privileged don’t see it as worth their while, I’m OK with that. It is from such people we get most ethical problems, and which most engender the low standing of MPs. Right now we have a parliament dominated by people who are lawyers or have business connections. As we have seen, that hasn’t worked out very well at all. They feel much closer to “Big Filth” rather than working people. And realistically, could it be otherwise as presently configured? Hardly.

    Having people who are honest and competent and who know this is not going to be a career for them — that all or most of their satisfaction will come from having done a good job — seems a much better public policy framework than having arrogant business-frendly carreerists run the show, even if they do have 20 IQ points and ten years more experience in the field than the people who get chosen.

    I don’t want mistakes — even honest ones — but I prefer that risk to things I know are simply the product of the pursuit of reckless self-interest. I think it much more likely that the parliament that would emerge from the process I’ve described would rapidly correct errors before they became costly, because amongst all of them, andf the public at large, there would be a vehicle for raising problems and offering alternative solutions that couild be considered on its merits.

    Right now, that’s simply not possible. A minister can’t admit a mistake without detroying her/his career and perhaps damaging her/his party’s fortunes at the polls. So the tendency is to cover up or deny all objections, to pretend black is white and to spin and dissemble in public. A minister can’t say: You know what … I never thought of that, but this actually that sounds like a better idea … on the other hand, this might be worth considering too because […]

    Anyone who did that would be damned as a clueless dimwit and as increasing business uncertainty. Frankly though, I’d find that refreshing, if the person in question seemed to be genuinely and robustly working through the issues and being honest about whwere he or she was with it.

  56. Fran Barlow
    July 30th, 2010 at 15:19 | #56

    Once more on MacIntyre

    If the candidate had an interest in the mining business and wanted, for example, to develop a state-based mining sector, and the retired mining executive MacIntyre were willing to develop a training program to fully inform the candidate of the challenges involved in an Australian context, then he might well have something useful to offer. Of course, that would be something the candidate him or herself would negotiate with the relevant public officer.

  57. Jim Rose
    July 30th, 2010 at 16:14 | #57

    @Fran Barlow
    A thought experiment
    Instead of 65% in favour an early exit from Afghanistan, suppose 65% is in favour tougher border protection, would the role of their elected representatives be to be ambassadors for the same 65% of their electorates or to be representatives offering their best judgments on how to run the affairs of a nation as Edmund Burke has argued for the latter.

  58. Fran Barlow
    July 30th, 2010 at 16:40 | #58

    @Jim Rose

    Instead of 65% in favour an early exit from Afghanistan, suppose 65% is in favour of tougher border protection, would the role of their elected representatives be to be ambassadors for the same 65% …

    In such circumstances I imagine that something very much like 65% of the parliament would be in favour of “tougher border protection”, whatever that meant. there would be something about it in the National Plan. One thing is certain though, the issue would not be about how given political parties messaged a relative handful ignorant xenophobes in marginal electorates.

    Instead, those that favoured tougher border protection would have to explain what it meant, not just in theory but in practice. Those that found it objectionable on any basis could stand up and say so and try to rally the public behind their position. None of those would fear speaking from their conscience because 100% of them would know that this was their one and only shot at serving the country. At the end of the discussion, we really would have had a national conversation in which people made up their minds what they wanted and proposals would have been put and won or put and lost.

    And at the end of the parliament all would depart, replaced with new folks who could, if the saw fit, resume hostilities on the issue. Parliament really would be about debating the big issues and getting everyone to have their say.

  59. July 30th, 2010 at 16:52 | #59

    So if someone expressed an interest in economics, would it be Quiggin or Kates that would get to set the education – or would you put both of them in, together with representatives of social credit, Marxism and other non-fashionable schools? Or would you trust a judicial officer to make the call?

  60. July 30th, 2010 at 18:33 | #60

    @Andrew Reynolds

    So if someone expressed an interest in economics …

    If someone who was underqualified in considering economic policy, in their opinion they might well take a university course in the areas of economics best suited to making up their cognitive deficits. They would consult with the public officer who would work out an education plan for them. If a course run by PrQ were available and he was the person best suited to their academic needs, that course might well be chosen.

    It’s important to note though that although the candidate would be wise to accept some guidance on these matters, in the end, the choice of properyl accredited programs would be up to him or her and subject to what was available at that time. The purpose of the program would not be to nudge candidates in a particular direction, as you seem to be implying, but to allow the candidates to acquire the knowlkedge and skills they felt they needed to make the best candidacy and the best of their time, should they survive sortition.

  61. Jill Rush
    July 30th, 2010 at 23:53 | #61

    “The mass media have encouraged this, obsessing over trivial scandals and personality issues and disregarding our real economic and social problems. ” The sexism in the treatment of Julia Gillard is something that is truly grotesque.

    Quite right Prof Q. The press coverage has been very different with articles rarely revealing policies but serving them up in precis form if at all to the readers and viewers. For instance the water announcements yesterday and today are both unclear.

    In the past there would have been considered analysis of the policy whereas now there is analysis of the secret coded messages of who says or doesn’t say what.

    This is not a new trend but it does seem that now it is entrenched to the point where an Abbott government is no longer unthinkable – merely because he has said very little but been photographed with children a lot.

  62. Tony Abbott for PM
    July 31st, 2010 at 10:24 | #62

    Please, the only progress the Green’s offer is a one way ticket to living standards equivalent to those of the third world.

  63. Ernestine Gross
    July 31st, 2010 at 10:49 | #63

    Tony Abbott for PM :Please, the only progress the Green’s offer is a one way ticket to living standards equivalent to those of the third world.

    You are wrong because, even if what you say about the Greens would contain a grain of truth, which I don’t say it does, they would be too late in offering ‘a one way ticket to living standards equivalent to those of the third world’ because the master minds of the GFC and those who confuse short term accounting profits with sustainable economic development have issued this ticket a long time ago. Have a look at the data on the thread on Who has gained from the inequality boom? This data indicates that the so-called developed world is approaching conditions that characterise many countries in the so-called ‘third world’. Incidentially, there is only 1 world.

    In case it is not clear to you, my post is not aimed at defending the Greens but rather at objecting to silly scare mongering.

    Who knows, the real Tony Abbott may not even like your nonsense.

  64. Alice
    July 31st, 2010 at 10:53 | #64

    @Tony Abbott for PM
    The liberals workchoices would have given most of us a one way ticket to living standards equivalent to those of the third world, whilst the captains of industry were permitted to luxuriate in excess as a reward for their powers of innovation and considerable donation prowess.

    What makes you think the Liberals in Australia have changed their core philosophies TAPM?

    Im giving the greens my vote because they are the only honest party in the country… they dont take donations and because Rupert Murdochs media shouldnt decide the countrys’ government. My vote is a vote against the strong political interfence (and bullying) by the media in Australia.

  65. Jim Rose
    July 31st, 2010 at 12:26 | #65

    @Fran Barlow
    I do not see why your reforms are needed when it is so easy to get elected to parliament and it is easiest for single issue parties.

    There are independents in the federal houses and in state parliaments and Nick Xenophone and Brian Harradine got quotas in their own right. Others got seats through preferences or influenced who did get elected.

    Tasmanians reject political parties in their legislative council with rarely more than two ALP members. The liberals did not even contest seats until recently. Local government is often the path for Tassie MLCs.

    The last and most powerful piece of political information we all see before we vote is the same.

    The ballot paper which contains the candidates’ names and parties that endorses them as sound and trustworthy vehicles for what a voter might want to change, keep and do.

    Citizens band together to form a political party around a common world-view.

    The defining act of parties is endorsing standard bearers at elections that best represent the ideologies and policies for which the party elicits voter support.

    Parties invest great resources into making their party names distinct and trusted brand names for certain approaches to governance.

    The ALP, Liberal Party and country party were quickly into government in various ways a few years after their founding. The Australian democrats and greens quickly won seats too.

    Even someone as ignorant, inept and unable to work with others such as Hanson won over a dozen seats in various parliaments for her rabble, and some of these lingered on past the next election as bad infections sometimes do.

    Antony Green used 2007 NSW senate results to the predicte election of Patrice Newell for the Climate Change Coalition if there had been a double dissolution in 2010.

  66. Jim Rose
    July 31st, 2010 at 16:24 | #66

    @Ernestine Gross
    Gender analysis! Gender analysis! Where is your gender analysis?

    Editing for relevance, you say “Have a look at the data on the thread on who has gained from the inequality boom? This data indicates that the so-called developed world is approaching conditions that characterise many countries in the so-called ‘third world’.”

    Gender will always be a difference in analysis, and most of all in the presentation of social and economic trends.

    The gender gap in employment, earnings, and occupations closed massively since the death throws of the good old days of the old left, the new left and the left over left, which is when Australia was briefly under Whitlam, but mostly under Menzies.

    Women have entered the labour market in unprecedented numbers into better and better paid jobs and career since the good old days ended 4 to 5 decades ago.

    Working women did not increase their labour force participation and earnings by taking more from a fixed pool of jobs and work to be done that men had previously reserved for each other and sent the displaced men to take their places back in the kitchen. Male employment rates held up with complicated ups and downs in earnings due to skill-biased technical change.

    Economic inequality has been on a roller coaster ride during the past century due to slowdowns and speedups in the demand and supply of skills. Demand has also increasing for low-paid in-person service occupations pushing up employment and the wages of low-skilled workers – see the work of David Autor.

    Australia’s gender wage gap of 17% for full-time workers is just below the OECD average of 17.6%. see http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/03/09/the-gender-wage-gap-around-the-world/

    New Zealand’s gender wage for full-time workers is second lowest in the OECD area at 10%. Obviously, the spawn of Rogernomics, labour market deregulation and low rates of union membership. Imagine how much smaller the NZ gender gap would have been if there had been no Rogernomics, no labour market deregulation and high rates of union membership? That is the question.

    p.s in measuring the quantity and quality of life, did you take into account increasing life expectancies around the globe as evidence of an inequality boom.

  67. Ernestine Gross
    July 31st, 2010 at 18:09 | #67

    @Jim Rose

    I didn’t know that you also post under the name of ‘Tony Abbott for PM’ or are you only this commenter’s assistant. Take this as a rhetorical question which does not require a reply.

    As for gender analysis, I am absolutely bored with this topic. My grandmother would be bored with it too, if she would still be alive; she was an equal during her life-time. If you continue with this gender analysis side-track, I’ll post in defence of men – well some of them – or I’ll ignore your gender analysis stuff altogether. Such are my Baysian expectations about HR-men who analyse ‘gender issues’ that I can tell you right away I have nothing good to say about them at all.

    I do know that historically females in the upper echelons of the income and wealth distribution haven’t had a big problem with gender inequality. It is the lower segments where women have a tough time, with or without gender analysis. So the overall important point is that of JQ’s post.

    You are obviously searching for other ‘inequalities’ than that which is the topic of the thread. Here are some:
    The size of houses differ
    The shoe sizes of people differ
    The hight of people differ
    The weight of people differ
    The life expectancy of people differ
    The size of noses differ among people
    etc. etc.

    But, the topic of this thread is income inequality. And, it is an important topic in Economics (other than intellectuals who qualify for v. Hayek’s notion – second-hand dealers in ideas).

  68. Alice
    July 31st, 2010 at 18:15 | #68

    @Jim Rose
    The gender gap has barely closed in 30 years JR. Where is your stats or should we take it as a given because “you say so.”
    Its still there…gender gap..alove and kicking. No one in any industrial employer sector wants to pay for child raising. Same as its ever been.
    It usually falls on Mum.

  69. Jim Rose
    July 31st, 2010 at 18:30 | #69


    see http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/[email protected]/Lookup/4102.0Chapter8002008

    on australian social trends of women.

    “In 1982, women aged 18-64 years received 31% of all income received by men and women in this age group. By 2005-06 this share had increased to 38%. Nearly all of the increase in women’s share of total income occurred in the 13 years from 1982 to 1995-96, while in the decade to 2005-06 women’s share of total income changed little”

    labour force participation increased from 48% in 1982 to 61% in 1995, and to 67% in 2005.

  70. Alice
    July 31st, 2010 at 18:39 | #70

    @Jim Rose
    So JR – there is still a gender gap huh? One hundred, two hundred years later when many women are now working??
    Be thankful for small mercies…is that it? 31% is absolutely jack JR when it should be 50%.

  71. Jim Rose
    July 31st, 2010 at 19:25 | #71

    you said “The gender gap has barely closed in 30 years”

    you are not gracious in error

  72. Jim Rose
    July 31st, 2010 at 21:21 | #72

    @Ernestine Gross
    Those on the Left seem to pride themselves on believing that they have the facts and better arguments on their side and they almost take glee in pointing out that the Right, its moral turpitude aside, is wrong on what policies make society a better place.

    Gender analysis is uncomfortable for you because it would require you to admit rapid and substantial economic and social progress for one-half of the population all around the world and much of that progress was in the decades when the hated neoliberalism was on the rise in developed and under-developed countries.

    At bottom, your response was to devalue and disempower one-half of the population. Social democrats are supposed to be about ensuring all people have the tools of freedom, opportunity and advancement. You should celebrate advances – instead you grumble.

  73. Ernestine Gross
    July 31st, 2010 at 21:40 | #73

    @Jim Rose

    And you should stop writing your presumptions about other people as if they were facts. It is simple, Jim Rose. I find your posts exceedingly boring. So please stop addressing your posts to me. Thank you.

  74. Jill Rush
    August 1st, 2010 at 00:17 | #74

    So Jim Rose #22 there had been an increase of a few percentage points when the workplace relations still recognised equal value for equal work. It was this principal which was starting to be implemented in 2006-07 so the impact wouldn’t show up in the figures you quote. However let me give you a hint it was lower than the proportion the year before. This is why Tony Abbott keeps having cook offs. He wants women to forget that under the Liberal government legislation women would be and were worse off.

  75. Alice
    August 1st, 2010 at 08:38 | #75

    @Jim Rose
    Jim Rose – to correct your obvious misunderstanding on the gender gap – The following years and numbers show one gender gap ut an important one. The actual income reported to the ATO comparing the difference between the female percentage share of physical presence in total taxpayers and their percentage share of aggregate ATO actual income. The percentage amounts show the difference between their presence as taxpayers and the percentage of aggregate income they command.
    If there was no gender gap each percentage amount would be zero.

    It has not changed at all since 1976. The gender gap is alive and well and still with us forty years after women’s liberation (and two hundred years after settlement).



  76. Alice
    August 1st, 2010 at 08:46 | #76

    Jim Rose – if you are wondering what happened post 1998 (the John Howard years). The female statistics were not able to be ascertained as the ATO ceased reporting certain female statistics.

    This is convenient to governments who are not committed to reducing gender inequalities.

    So JR your comment that the “gender gap” has fallen since the 1970s isnt verifiable because you have no statistics at all to back such a claim. Hence I will put it straight into the “mythology” basket.

    The ATO may have resumed reporting certain female statistics now – I dont know. But “missing” female statistics are nothing new in history either.

    Apparently no females ever worked in the goldfields in the 1850s/60s.

  77. Jim Rose
    August 1st, 2010 at 10:23 | #77

    @Ernestine Gross

    more that happy to accept that you are not a social democrat

  78. Jim Rose
    August 1st, 2010 at 11:47 | #78

    You say that “So JR your comment that the “gender gap” has fallen since the 1970s isnt verifiable because you have no statistics at all to back such a claim.”

    My statistics shwoing a major increase in women’s share of total income start at the end of the 1970s – 1982 to be precise. Here is more:

    • 4102.0 – Australian Social Trends, 1998: “In 1954 women made up 23% of those employed. By 1998 their share had increased to 43%. Much of the increase has come from women with families working in part-time jobs.”

    • 4102.0 – Australian Social Trends, 1995: “Much of the difference between men’s and women’s earnings can be explained by the different hours that they work and the sorts of jobs that they do.”

    • 4102.0 – Australian Social Trends, 2001: In 1982, 33% of all income was received by women. By 1999-2000, this had increased to 38%. This growth was mainly the result of the increase in the proportion of women working.

    It is possible that the gender wage gap widened in the 1970s in the death throws of the social democratic good old days. Apparently, the Menzies era is the social democratic dreamtime.

    Indeed, the gender wage gap did widen in, for example, the USA from 1950 to the end of the 1970s after 60 years of solid progress – there is a large literature on this.

    The gender wage gap in the USA started closing again rapidly from the start of the 1980s with the onset of the darkest years of neoliberalism. If the gap had continued to widened, I am sure that Reagan would have been blamed exclusively.

    The reason for the widening of the U.S gender wage gap in the decades up to 1980 is large numbers of women entering or re-entering the work force with relative little work experience so they started in entry level jobs with lower pay. This compositional effect reduced the average wage of women.

    The gender wage gap started to close again and rapidly in the 1980s because of the much greater average work experience of working women and the greater educational qualifications of female first-time entrants.

    The wage gap is better explained by the asymmetric marriage premium. Getting married helps men’s income and makes women worse of because of career interruptions and child rearing. Women tend to anticipate this in the educational, occupational and job choices to mitigate the effects.

  79. Alice
    August 1st, 2010 at 13:50 | #79


    You cannot express the gender gap in terms of absolute increases in women’s physical workforce participation as you have with your 4102.0 stats above. The gender income gap must necessarily be expressed in percentage terms which take into account percentage increases in female workforce participation over time as I provided you at post 25.

    Of course we would expect women’s percentage increases in total share of income to accompany their percentage physical workforce participation increases.

    This is not a gender gap.

    A gender gap exists when womens physical participation percentage climbs but it still exceeds the percentage climb in their share of income…as I provided you with above for aggregate income reported to the ATO. One important aspect of those numbers is the sheer immensity of the data source (all reported ATO individual taxpayers annually). The ABS stats are based on a much smaller surveyed sample size extrapolated for a start. However, Im sure the ABS has superior gender gaps statistics available to you than those you refer to above.

    The difference cannot be explained by the work they do alone. Yes women work more part time and lower paid jobs but so do many young people. However, if it were the case that differences in work patterns explain all – then the gender gap for full time female workers in Australia is even higher as you yourself noted at 17.5%.

    The key point I make is that the gender gap as referred to in my post above has not decreased since the 1970s . Its still a mans world and women should be very careful who they give their votes to. Women’s issues have very much fallen from the policy radar since the 1970s and 1980s as well. I would even suggest under John Howards conservative leadership, women’s concerns actually took a major retrograde step but no major advances came out of the Hawke / Keating years either. I see nothing encouraging in current conservative party politics. Childcare costs are prohibitive, childraising time is ignored and women suffer major career interruptions as is obvious by the rather large gender superannuation gap.

  80. Jim Rose
    August 1st, 2010 at 15:54 | #80

    Do women earn what men earn in a similar job with similar education and experience? What is your source?

    Is there a gender wage gap between unmarried women and unmarried men? Is it as large as between married men and married women?

    Do more men than women graduate from university these days?

    Marriage and motherhood can explain a large portion of the gender pay gap.

    There is no gender gap in wages among men and women with similar family roles.

    For example, comparing the U.S. wage gap between women and men ages 35-43 who have never married and never had a child, there is a small observed gap in favor of women, which becomes insignificant after accounting for differences in skills and job and workplace characteristics. See 2005 NBER working paper “What Do Wage Differentials Tell Us about Labor Market Discrimination?” by June O’Neill.

    How can these unmarried women be earning more than unmarried men in a man’s world, as you claimed it is.

  81. Alice
    August 1st, 2010 at 16:08 | #81

    @Jim Rose
    Seems to me the gap you claim became “insignificant” JR. Perhaps one demographic has realised equality. Overall there is still a long way to go….unmarrieds who dont have children…. yet.

    I mentioned this as a major factor in the gender gap. There is no recognition for the national service that is the activity of raising children (per Menzies own words). Its not a “lifestyle choice”. Its not a “luxury”. Its not choosing a “home entertainment system”. Its a necessity for governments and business and the economy.

    If we cant afford the decision to pair and have children then things are truly grim. One child is fine, given overpopulation IMHO, but a generation with “none” may well prove a disaster to all those in retirement.

    Balance is the business as usual.

  82. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 1st, 2010 at 16:45 | #82

    Alice, ABS figures released on 20 May 2010 show that the gender pay gap has now widened to 18%.

  83. Alice
    August 1st, 2010 at 17:06 | #83

    Yes well Moshie – we have to put up with the mythologists in here dont we?
    I dont think the gender gap is really on any leader’s mind in this country – same as it ever was – we need to move to Sweden for that.

    Should be but it isnt….Its been downplayed for two decades and retrograded by JH ( like living in the fifties but without a union for protection of your man). In fact the historical record of any advance on gender inequalities is pretty abysmal in Australia. Its a blokey sort of country. Even the office for the status of women became dominated by Julie Bishop types (office for women of status). Nice liberal girls who do what they are told and think what they are told.

    Take the minimum wage legislation way back at the turn of the century. In one case a woman was deemed to be worth “two thirds of a man” in a particular occupation (how many occupations was that the case?). How long did that last?

    Only about 50 years. Every time they increased the minimum wage – the poor woman got two thirds of the increase…..

    She was better off in the late 1800s with a small core of domestic helpers instead of the 1960s going off to work with the wondrous labour saving devices (vacuum cleaners and washing machines instead of domestic help) supposedly to help the domestic goddess…

    Now – no domestic help, labour saving devices aplenty but someone still has to push, load or unload them and work in an office till 6pm as well as do the pick up / drop off run for the kids (alas few labour saving devices will auto run the kids around).

    Its no picnic and its income impairing into the long run, but its one thats completely off the policy radar. Have not heard sight nor sign of female gender gap / superannuation gap concerns in this election campaign despite the spectacular crash of Eddy Groves along with a lot of families work stability no doubt.

  84. Michael of Summer Hill
    August 1st, 2010 at 17:12 | #84

    Alice, even worse is the superannuation gender gap whereby in 2007 the average superannuation balance for men was $87,589 compared to $52,272 for women.

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