Home > Oz Politics, Sport > Can you run an ironman and run a country?

Can you run an ironman and run a country?

October 13th, 2013

I’m not generally a fan of political scandals: at worst, they are spurious, at best, they involve random exposure and punishment of misdeeds that usually go unchecked. But there’s one big exception for me, and that’s when political scandals intersect my sporting interests.

Last year, the high-profile case was that of Republican VP nominee, Paul Ryan, who claimed to have run marathons in his younger days, with times in the 2:50s, an impressive achievement at any age. It turned out that he had run a single marathon, in 4:01:25. As all runners know, no one who has put the effort to run a marathon makes that kind of mistake. Ryan’s time is better than either of mine (4:37 and 4:24), but I’m aiming to break four hours in the next year or two, and I have a good few decades on him.

Now there’s Tony Abbott, who seems to have claimed expenses for everything from weddings to music festivals. But the only one that really interests me is the $2100 he claimed when he went in the 2011 Port Macquarie Ironman. I couldn’t find a time for 2011, but he did the 2010 event (3.8 km swim, 180 km cycle 42.2 k run) in 14 hours, whereas I took 8 hours to do half as much in the Cairns 70.3 in June.

What strikes me about this is not so only the expenses issue (although that obviously irks me) as the training time that must be involved, and the implications for the rest of Abbott’s commitments. Preparing for a marathon or a 70.3 while working full time, even in a flexible job like mine, requires putting most other things, like social engagements, on hold. If he’s training for a full ironman and managing the commitments inherent in being a politician, it’s hard to believe he can have any significant amount of time free to study policy issues and consider the best responses (as I know, you can’t think about these things while you’re running an endurance event – there’s not enough blood flow to the brain to think about much more than keeping your legs moving).

Looking at Abbott’s actual approach to policy, the three-word slogan approach is unsurprising. He can’t have had the spare time or energy for anything better. That worked fine in Opposition, but it hasn’t been great preparation for government.

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  1. October 13th, 2013 at 07:20 | #1

    THe mythos problem and hyperbolic language are a natural consequence of politics. I tend to forgive people these stupid things. I mean, I know that once the marketing department gets hold of my bio, it’s a telephone game, and my legend grows without my active participation. 🙂 You might say we should expect more of our leaders, but they have a lousy job and there is a big difference between hyperbolic memory of one’s accomplishments, and fraudulent construction for the purpose of profit.

    I find it personally humiliating if I have to attack someone on such grounds. If I can’t do better than that, the there are better things to spend my time criticizing. 🙂

  2. Alan
    October 13th, 2013 at 07:51 | #2

    It’s easy for prime ministers to drown themselves in detail, leaving little time to think about larger issues. This is clearly what happened to Rudd, and to to a lesser extent to Gillard. It is not a minor issue if this prime minister is drowning himself in athletics instead of policy. We hire prime ministers to think about the country. A recent, and not completely insignificant example.

    As part of the Pacific Solution Howard altered the rules for New Zealanders living in Australia. The object was to people with refugee status in New Zealand travelling to Australia under the Trans-Tasman arrangements. The result (probably unintended) is that it has become exceedingly difficult for New Zealanders to qualify for Australian. Weirdly enough they have a status very close to guest workers in the EU. The children of New Zealand citizens born here also do not qualify for citizenship.

    So it’s a fairly simple problem with a fairly obvious solution. Abbot was asked about this in Bali and not only refused to make any changes, he basically refused to think about the situation at all. Ditto his answers on the expenses issue.

  3. Fergus Cameron
    October 13th, 2013 at 07:57 | #3

    A worthwhile start to a dinner table conversation, especially for those of us wanting to boast a little en passant. I don’t mind getting into the conversation by dropping in my time of almost exactly the Paul Ryan time (4 hours 1 minute) but I would want to contrive mention too of my parachute jumps especially if I could lodge them in the minds of the sober with amusing added anecdotage. As nature didn’t bless me with East African herdsmen’s genes but reason to be wary of the family heart I prepared for the marathon over a long period with care to get the preparation right without being excessive. I didn’t find that it affected my full time work adversely over a period of approx. one year. What is more I found it easy to remain very fit afterwards for a couple of years until I had an injury from a non-sporting related cause. I suspect that Abbott is, physically, just a rather superior version of you and me JQ, and that he exercises so hard so regularly that he is always much fitter than we have ever been. So, without agreeing or disagreeing about his approach to policy and thinking about it, I don’t think you have done more than raise an interesting question about him. Let’s ask him for his training schedules for the last few years, especially including the time around his Iron Man performance. BTW, is his 14 hours v. impressive? Does it suggest a training schedule which is excessive and obsessive?

    Have you read his book BTW? I haven’t but, in fairness, if you are going to characterise his approach to policy by his three word slogans which demonstrated his political skills as Opposition leader, you might care to include a dispassionate review of his book for balance.

    As for the expenses I wouldn’t want to teach grandmothers to suck eggs. I mean you, as an academic, would know that many academics show imagination quite up to the standards of the old-fashioned jouirnalists who were so famously inventive in making expense claims. Politicians, as I and many others know from sufficiently close acquaintance, are comfortable with group-think on the same subject though Ministers (outside Queensland in the bad old days) could usually behave with a bit more appearance of propriety because of what the department’s budget could cover. A 24/7 ambitious federal politician is almost certain – not being Clive Palmer – to be hard-pressed financially if he is expected to pay himself for all his activities involving being away from home (and you might even sympathise with the reality that he/she needs, or reasonably thinks he/she needs, to pay for private boarding school fees to be sure that the children are getting suffiicient quasi-parental care from suitable adults!! Especially if he lives a long way from capital cities). It is only natural to rationalise the case for reimbursement of expenses if you know what your peers’ practice is. And it is a bit tough to expect them to swear that they wouldn’t have spent their own money to go to colleague X’s wedding (especially if one were X’s leader) if it weren’t for the chance to visit the dairy co-op down the road and meet half a dozen state party bigwigs/MPs plus the Chief Commissioner of Police.

    So, irritation is right. Heavy moralising or concern about our approaching Indian standards of corruption is not.

  4. Donald Oats
    October 13th, 2013 at 08:18 | #4

    If Tony Abbott treats it as a 36.75 hour per week public service job, then it is possible to train for Iron man events and the rest of it, while doing the job. Not easy, but possible. Some people don’t need anything like 8 hours sleep per night, surviving and thriving on 4 to 5 hours per night, and if Abbott is one of them, that would also give him the necessary time for squeezing in such long endurance events and their training requirements, while making a 36.75 hour work week, and even fitting in some extra work engagements out of hours. So long as the business of being PM takes priority over his desire to train long hours, I don’t have a real issue with his doing a tough sport. If, for example, he was willing to stop in the middle of an event to attend to an urgent and unexpected issue as PM, then more than fair enough.

    On the other hand, if he is claiming that the training and the attendance at these events is part of the job, as the travel expense claims would suggest, then subtracting out the necessary time for regular training and so forth, it leaves him with perhaps 15 to 20 standard work hours per week for attending to paperwork, meetings at the office, attending parliament, attending conferences overseas, and so on. I wonder if ministers can claim overtime? Always assumed they didn’t, but maybe that assumption needs to be checked.

    Although I also wonder about how endurance sports (training) would fit with being PM and the duties that position demands, I am sympathetic to politicians and the difficulties they face with fitting in physical exercise, personal life, and their work. I’d rather see they regularly do something physical during their work week (but not as work time), than not at all.

    Finally, to play Devil’s advocate, if Tony Abbott was instead a mother (Toni?) looking after her child and also doing the role of PM, we would be loathe to criticise her as not capable of providing the necessary attention to the job, just because she was a mother. Looking after a child is something that a number of ministers/opposition members have done and do, without us accusing them of being too distracted to do their jobs. The time commitment to Iron man training is unlikely to be as significant as looking after a young child. [This is one of those rare occasions where I have defended Tony Abbott :-)]

  5. Ikonoclast
    October 13th, 2013 at 08:43 | #5

    I must have peaked too early. I ran 21 miles in 3 hrs as a 16 year old. It was an experimental training run to test if I could run a marathon. I didn’t feel I hit the wall but I was very pleased to finish. I have no idea if I could have covered another 5 or so miles successfully. I ran in 30 degree C heat, alone, on bitumen and dirt roads with no water or electrolyte intake for the duration. (At that time I had no concept of electrolyte replacement anyway and believed the myth of the era that water intake while running would give you a stitch.) I suffered no ill effects except that I was leg weary for about 2 or 3 days afterwards. I never did run a marathon BTW.

    On the topic, “leaders” and other “VIPs” are very pampered creatures. They don’t cook for themselves and certainly not for others. They don’t wash, iron, take out the trash, shop for groceries, mow the lawn, weed the garden, do handyperson repairs, paint the back fence, drive offspring around. They don’t organise themselves or their families and they have all types of personal assistants, chauffeurs etc. etc.

    I reckon ordinary people who do all the above things and were then relieved of them could train for a marathon or something similar and do a full time job as well. So I don’t reckon Tony has any excuse other than his basic stupidity for his three-word-sloganeering thinking.

  6. Fran Barlow
    October 13th, 2013 at 08:47 | #6

    I understand that in understating his time, Ryan was one-upping his brother who ran in the same event … 😉

    @donaldOats

    The time commitment to Iron man training is unlikely to be as significant as looking after a young child.

    Generally, politicans aren’t single, and most people have extended families who can step in. Moreover, family commitments aren’t nearly as optional as ironman training, which is, after all, a hobby of sorts.

    Sidebar: I always thought just eating that brand of breakfast cereal and wearing that deodorant would get you towards the head of the pack. Did Abbott have these in his expenses? 😉

  7. John Quiggin
    October 13th, 2013 at 09:24 | #7

    I mean you, as an academic, would know that many academics show imagination quite up to the standards of the old-fashioned jouirnalists who were so famously inventive in making expense claims.

    I was trying to work out an academic economists could frame an expenses claim for triathlons. Maybe as field research in economic analysis of obesity (I have actually published on this) or, more boringly, economics of sport (which I’ve never worked on).

  8. kevin1
    October 13th, 2013 at 09:32 | #8

    We may already be seeing what sort of PM he is going to be. Public admin is obviously no cakewalk nowadays what with wicked problems of various sorts, and solid attention to the workload is unavoidable.

    I think it was Don Watson, amongst others, who said of Keating that, after struggling for so long for the top job, he didn’t really know what do when he got there, and seemed quite depressed and uninterested. My tip is Abbott will find a way to justify lots of time directed to what he’s comfortable with – his physical disposition.

    So we’ll get a chairman of the board, a la Reagan, providing moral guidance ex cathedral (ex cathedra I mean…a slip of the tongue) without a lot of detail or engagement, and drawing on his 3 years in the seminary.

  9. Donald Oats
    October 13th, 2013 at 10:03 | #9

    @Fran Barlow

    Moreover, family commitments aren’t nearly as optional as ironman training, which is, after all, a hobby of sorts.

    These days, having children is optional, a choice not an inevitability. Once a child is in the family though, obviously they must be cared for. My point was just that the time it takes for a woman in parliament to look after their child—even if they are the sole carer—isn’t considered as a reasonable grounds to question their commitment to their job. Given that caring for a young child is almost certainly a more time consuming and demanding activity than the kind of training Tony Abbott does for his triathlons and iron man events, we should be able to grant that it is largely up to Abbott to decide where the work/life balance lies. The fact that iron man training is optional, not essential, actually works in favour of Abbott, for if he feels it necessary to cut it down or to drop it in order to manage the work, he can choose that option; on the other hand, dropping the amount of caring you do for a child, assuming you are a reasonable parent, implies someone else picking up the slack, so to speak, a child care worker, a crèche, or another parent or family member.

    In terms of the premise of the blog post, there is no doubt that doing less training per week would free up more time to concentrate upon being a PM; but this observation then invites the question as to how many hours a week we should expect a PM to put into the job, as opposed to their personal lives: 37.5hrs/week, 45, 50, 55, 60hrs/week? What is appropriate on average? I’d suggest that between 37.5 and 45 hours per week is best, if we want a PM to have 100% focus during those hours; more hours on a regular basis can have detrimental effects upon cognitive function in quite subtle ways. Paul Keating was known for his desire for early finishes, and he wasn’t a slacker, that’s for sure (whatever else you might think of him). He wanted to have a quiet place for contemplation and reflection upon major issues and policy, as that was how he worked best.

  10. Colin Carps
    October 13th, 2013 at 10:07 | #10

    @Alan
    Notice how since George W Bush, we don’t have that debate any more, that one about whether having so many really smart people in the bureaucracy would allow even a complete moron to be an OK President of the US?

    Maybe Tony Abbott will prove the same in Australia (sadly).

  11. conrad
    October 13th, 2013 at 10:56 | #11

    I think you are over-estimating the amount you need to train for events. You can easily get close to your maximum fitness by training about 10-12 hours a week, and most of what you do after that will only get you small gains. This means that if you train 1 to 1.5 hours each day on weekdays (I ride with many guys that do this — there are a number of rides around Melbourne that leave at 6am and get back at about 7am pretty much every weekday of the year) plus 5 on the weekend, you are there. This is no big deal even for relatively busy people if you are committed because half your training is done at times other people are watching TV, sleeping etc. (I place in Victorian masters cycling titles on this much training, and the guys beating me are generally not training much more). In terms of triathlon, you need to train a bit more because swimming has a very big skill component, but it’s certainly not the end of the world. If you want to go slow, you don’t even need to do a lot more.

    The other thing you are confounded here is time taken. There’s a huge genetic component to VO2 max, and if you are genetically high on this, relatively light (like Abbott is) and have okay biomechanics, you will a be an okay runner without doing much. You can be heavier and be an okay cyclist. For example, I’m lucky enough to be light and have a high VO2 max, and I can run at about 4mins/k for 20ks without much training. If I train a lot I get down to about 3:30mins/k. But the guys you see smashing it at races can run at this sort of speed on very little training. So my 10% gain in VO2 max simply gets me to a level at which these guys start.

    If you’re interested, the best popular science book on running is Tim Noakes’ Lore of Running, which goes through a lot of this.
    If you want to see how little elite runners train, you could do worse that look at papers that have studied them, one of which you can download for free here: http://mlmixrunning.com.br/artigos/Physical_and_training_characteristics_of.pdf . Males on average are running 200ks and females 160. This would equate to perhaps 14 hours a week, and these are Olympic marathon runners, not people wanting to finish in 3 hours who don’t need to get to 100% of their maximum.

  12. Terry Wiggins (wigmob)
    October 13th, 2013 at 11:38 | #12

    JQ I ran 5 marathons including one in 2:48:11, and I agree that it is easy to recall your PB (to the second) even 30 years later. To prepare for the marathons, I was training at least 12 hours a week but rather than detracting from my professional performance, I found the training high where the endorphines kick in after approximately 1 hour of intense physical effort improved my capacity to objectively consider issues that were occuring on my professional life.

    Despite the fact that I am convinved that Abbot will be the worst PM, leading the worst government ever, I can see some benefit for the country in having a very fit PM.

    However, I am still at a loss to understand how he can justify claiming that attendance at these events was government business, rather than personal expense. Similarly the weddings, family entertainment (grand finals with wife and daughters, etc) and book promotional tours.

    Most people that I know who are entitled to submit claims for expenses were required to have the claim reviewed and authorised by a higher authority (even Wal King of Leightons would have had his credit card claims reviewed by the board). Is it because the Politicians are not required to have their claims pass a sanity check before reimbursement that they get so casual in justifying the merits of the claims to themselves?

    Although I believe that there are other opposition members besides Dreyfus MHR who will be exposed as having some creative claims, it appears to be endemic within the coalition that they have their snouts firmly stuck in the public trough.

  13. Fran Barlow
    October 13th, 2013 at 11:51 | #13

    @Terry Wiggins (wigmob)

    Although I believe that there are other opposition members besides Dreyfus MHR who will be exposed as having some creative claims,

    The Dreyfus claim seems to be a rare example of an alleged administrive error that really was an administrative error. His staff claimed on his behalf the standard “away from home allowance” for him being in Canberra rather than at the ski fields (which is where he actually was on that weekend).

    Dreyfus, to his embarrassment, wasn’t aware the claim had been made and paid it back as soon as he discovered it, rather than some years after he had formed the opinion that there was nothing wrong with it.

  14. October 13th, 2013 at 12:12 | #14

    Pr Q said:

    What strikes me about this is… the training time that must be involved, and the implications for the rest of Abbott’s commitments….If he’s training for a full ironman and managing the commitments inherent in being a politician, it’s hard to believe he can have any significant amount of time free to study policy issues and consider the best responses

    Looking at Abbott’s actual approach to policy, the three-word slogan approach is unsurprising. He can’t have had the spare time or energy for anything better. That worked fine in Opposition, but it hasn’t been great preparation for government.

    The advent of an L/NP government causes Pr Q’s partisanship slip to show, again and again. [1]

    Let Abbott have as many flaws as you like, but a strong commitment to athletic recreation is not one of them. The evidence shows that high levels of personal fitness actually improve overall professional performance.

    Its just possible that Abbott is a natural born athlete, and so requires less training time to get up to speed. Some actual facts relevant to the key question of his training schedule would be helpful before going off half-cocked.

    Abbott does seem to possess super-human energy levels. His autobiographer records:

    Abbott was also a student boxer, earning two Blues for boxing while at Oxford.[21][22][23][24] During his student days he once “saved a child who was swept out to sea. Another time, he helped save children from a burning house next to a pub where he was drinking. On each occasion he disappeared before he could be properly thanked”.[25]

    Sort of a boys own adventure hero!

    In any case it is very doubtful that PMs, to get on top of their portfolio, need to spend all day long reading “a big book on policy” whilst they are in office, By the time they climb the greasy pole of success they should already know what their broad policy commitments are. The details can be worked out by bureaucrats, academics and party staff. Dont sweat the small stuff, thats what we pay policy wonks for.

    This is particularly the case with the current L/NP government, whose policy commitments are pretty minimalist: continue with what the ALP was doing, only cheaper. And axe the taxes. How hard can that be?

    You only have to look at Kevin Rudd’s ministerial career to see what an over-obsession with policy details can do to political decision making, Analysis paralysis and driving your staff up the wall.

    Its true that Abbott did not accumulate that many policy achievements during his time in the Howard ministry. But (ex-climate change) doing nothing is a kind of achievement for a Right-winger these days, at least it means they are doing nothing bad. (Abbott opposed Work Choices).

    More generally, heads of government need time out for a breather, just to get their head straight, far from the madding crowd. Ike held the record for golf rounds until Obama came along and broke it. Churchill loved to paint. JFK had lots of affairs. Reagan had his “nanna naps”. Gough took on the job of foreign minister just so he could take regular overseas trips as “mental health breaks” from his cabinet “full of f***ing clowns”.

    I’m all for holding the L/NP to account. But the errors of their ways do not stem from inadequate time to study the issues or intellectual laziness. Turnbull is pushing through a Murdoch-friendly half-baked NBN, and no one could accuse him of not hitting the books. Their interests and values differ from those of their opponents and no amount of swotting is going to change the policy outcomes all that much.

    [1] “Last Liberal”, “The Howard government breached standards of public probity on a scale never before seen with an Australian government.” These sorts of claims are more suitable to a 1970s undergraduate rag and fall beneath the normally high standards of objectivity set by the author of this blog.

  15. Fran Barlow
    October 13th, 2013 at 12:25 | #15

    @jack strocchi cited:

    The Howard government breached standards of public probity on a scale never before seen with an Australian government

    I always have some trouble with claims of this sort. To the best of my knowledge, there’s no firm research quantifying “public probity” in governance with sufficient accuracy to found a comparative claim such as this. Memories also tend to dim so some regime with some spectacular fails that is recent would probably score more highly than one three-six decades ago that was systematically loose and ad hoc.

    Let it be stipulated that the Howard regime radically failed its own boasts about probity. Its Regional Partnerships Scheme for example was not put in the shade by anything done with a whiteboard by Susan Ryan — quite the contrary.

  16. Donald Oats
    October 13th, 2013 at 12:27 | #16

    While running isn’t my thing any more, I do know of some long distance runners, and one in particular, who runs in many marathons per year—and is older than Abbott by a fair margin. At the frequency with which he enters them, the marathon itself is almost the training run for the next event, whereas for someone like myself, it would take a lot of effort to get to full marathon capacity for a single marathon, and my recovery time would be measured in weeks, not days. Some people are well-suited to training injury-free, while others not so much. As other have said, the VO2 Max achievable is a significant factor, and there is a genetic component to it. Abbott may just be well suited to the sports he has chosen, in which case the training effort required is less than for someone who likes the sport, but isn’t a great fit for it.

    Further more, Tony Abbott can do something that most academics cannot—he can delegate his work to others for them to attend to, rather than rolling up his sleeves and doing it himself. Obviously, any PM has to delegate, so it is yet another way Abbott can juggle the work and training. Whether it is reasonable to do that or not, is another issue entirely.

  17. Donald Oats
    October 13th, 2013 at 12:44 | #17

    Fran, wasn’t it Ros Kelly who did the whiteboard thing with the sports grants in 1994?

    As for the Howard rule changes back in 1996/97, it netted many of his ministers because of either undeclared shares in companies that their portfolio might influence, and because of inappropriate travel expense claims. Since Abbott and much of his cabinet were also in the Howard government during that period, it really is a disgrace to see them making the same type of inappropriate travel expense claims (and other expense claims), for all these years since then. Didn’t they get the message back then?

  18. Fran Barlow
    October 13th, 2013 at 12:58 | #18

    @donaldoats

    Fran, wasn’t it Ros Kelly who did the whiteboard thing with the sports grants in 1994?

    Yes … I think you’re right. I’m not sure why I so often confuse those two.

    Since Abbott and much of his cabinet were also in the Howard government during that period, it really is a disgrace to see them making the same type of inappropriate travel expense claims (and other expense claims), for all these years since then. Didn’t they get the message back then?

    Indeed.

  19. Fran Barlow
    October 13th, 2013 at 13:44 | #19

    @jack strocchi

    Let Abbott have as many flaws as you like, but a strong commitment to athletic recreation is not one of them. The evidence shows that high levels of personal fitness actually improve overall professional performance.

    I’m a little sceptical of this claim. Doubtless, being in poor physical condition, perhaps not sleeping well, and so forth would probably leed to more illness and less productive work time. Having a negative self-image also probably saps morale. Maintaining good fitness and positive self-image probably is associated with better performance at work. It’s also good for you more generally.

    That’s not the same as saying of course that being in the kind of condition that would allow you to run a marathon in 3 hours or so will improve your performance measurably over someone who is simply in excellent health and has a positive self-image.

    It might also be the case that people who are sufficiently well-organised and disciplined to engage in systematic training may also be highly systematic in their work, in which case we would again have an example of correlation being presented as causation. I’ve no doubt that of those who engage in these strenuous and ongoing fitness regimes, the vast majority are in upper middle class jobs (since they are much more likely to have the flexibility to do this). Many of these would have performance reviews as part of their career-pathing, whereas your process worker or retail assistant or entry level clerk probably won’t. People in this class sometimes ‘work out’ but one would never know if it changed their productivity.

    I tend to see Abbott’s physical exertions as trying to mount a cultural claim analogous to his parading of his daughters as assets. He knows that he can never pass himself off as intelligent or erudite — certainly not the suppository ofall wisdom — so he’s trying to project virility and masculinity, rather like Putin — as key rationales for his rule — knowing that such claims are readily embraced by conservatives and even not a few non-conservatives in a more limited sense.

    I agree that if he were to trade 10 hours of work out time for 10 hours of reading “governance for dummies” or something equally pitched at his level, the trade would not be positive. He might as well mount a bicycle for all the difference it would make.

  20. October 13th, 2013 at 13:52 | #20

    Pr Q said:

    I’m not generally a fan of political scandals: at worst, they are spurious, at best, they involve random exposure and punishment of misdeeds that usually go unchecked.

    I used to think that way, but the first hand experience of living for a decade in a state governed by a corrupt political party (NSW ALP) has had a profound effect on my attitude towards political malfeasance.

    My election post-mortem drives me to the conclusion that the moribund and corrupt nature of ALP internal party politics and state government administrations is the single biggest cause of the massive landslide it just suffered at the federal level. People seem to prefer social-democrat policies in government. But they can’t stand ALP party politics.

    The “Richo” form of Machiavellianism is a pernicious form of elitism. At best it leads to politics as pure process careerism. At worst it leads to politics becoming “the biggest business”, ala Putin and Berlusconi.

    The contrast with the relatively scandal-free and stable Howard-L/NP ministry was striking. The same three ministers (Howard, Costello, Downer) held the top three posts through the whole period in office. And most ministerial scandals did not involve personal enrichment, Nothing compared to the ALP habit of turning ex-ministers into multi-millionaires. The AWB affair was the cost of doing business in the ME, baksheesh being a local custom that all paid-up liberals must respect.

    Scandals seem to beset the ALP more than the L/NP. No one is a bigger fan of the domestic policy achievements (ex-macro-economics) of Gough Whitlam than me, But his ministry was shambolic and certainly “breached standards of public probity on a scale never before seen with an Australian government”. It was no accident that Australia’s greatest satirist struck a chord with the public when he incarnated and immortalised the Whitlam ministry’s rorts & scandals in the person of Sir Les Patterson, “Minister the Yartz”, complete with obligatory safari suit.

    In general, throughout the post-modern era, it appears that ALP governments seem to be more vulnerable to ministerial incompetence and more inclined to party corruption than their L/NP counterparts. This is apparent at both state and federal level. Think WA Inc, the NSW ALP rampant ethnic branch-stacking and “the Guilty Party” in VIC, And of course the Hawke governments shameless toadying to “the entrepreneurs” was a case of life imitating Barry Humphries art.

    The temptation to corruption appears to be stronger for the ALP than their opponents. L/NP politicians are generally drawn from richer, more successful talent pools. Which on balance tends to make them better administrators, perhaps? In any case, the Centre-Right can always go back to their own private business so they do not have to make a killing in politics. Whereas the Centre-Left only have one business that they are any good at, and thats politics. So they have to make their time in office count.

  21. conrad
    October 13th, 2013 at 14:55 | #21

    @Fran Barlow
    “I’ve no doubt that of those who engage in these strenuous and ongoing fitness regimes, the vast majority are in upper middle class jobs (since they are much more likely to have the flexibility to do this)”

    I’m sure you’re wrong on that. The two biggest bicycle racing clubs in Victoria, for example, are Carnegie-Caulfield and Brunswick. Whilst both of these are pretty rich suburbs now (what suburbs arn’t in our big cities?), historically Brunswick was a poorish Euro-migrant suburb. In addition, if I look at the older guys I cycle with, they are from a diverse range of occupations (its one of the good things about these sorts of things — you meet people in different social circles). Apart from cycling, running goes across the spectrum because it’s cheap and quick — you can get a decent workout in 30 minutes. I used to run competitively for years, and runners come from diverse backgrounds also.

    “That’s not the same as saying of course that being in the kind of condition that would allow you to run a marathon in 3 hours or so will improve your performance measurably over someone who is simply in excellent health and has a positive self-image. ”

    Since most Australians arn’t in the latter category (70% of males and 60% of females are overweight), I imagine this is not the fairest comparison to make. Of the 30% and 40% that arn’t, I imagine a fair amount really do exercise regularly, and I imagine the main difference between those wanting to run a 3 hour marathon and those that do not is genetics and motivation (c.f., fitness statess).

    Apart from that, if you look at aging and more recent studies, you’ll find that the only way to stop VO2 max decline is to exercise regularly and to exercise at reasonable intensities now and then. Similarly, the increase in adipose tissue (fat) and muscle atrophy that people used to think was inevitable in aging probably isn’t. So there probably really is some benefit to regular serious exercise, especially for older people — thus regular serious exersize contributes to excellent health and is quite possibly necessary for most people to keep it in their old age. They arn’t independent.

  22. October 13th, 2013 at 15:02 | #22

    Fran Barlow @ #19 said:

    I tend to see Abbott’s physical exertions as trying to mount a cultural claim analogous to his parading of his daughters as assets. He knows that he can never pass himself off as intelligent or erudite — certainly not the suppository ofall wisdom — so he’s trying to project virility and masculinity, rather like Putin — as key rationales for his rule — knowing that such claims are readily embraced by conservatives and even not a few non-conservatives in a more limited sense.

    It takes a special kind of “intelligent and erudite” politician to downplay the role of intelligence and erudition in politics, a political opportunity more ably exploited on the populist Right these days. Putin and Berlusconi are obvious examples. George Orwell was similarly an “anti-intellectual” intellectual.

    Nixon was par excellence a hyper-intellectual politician (far more so than Kissinger) who nonetheless built a career out of denigrating the role of egg-heads in political life. Ronald Reagan was something of a closet policy wonk but was always at pains to project the image of an “amiable dunce”. He was easily able to put one over his pointy-headed critics. But then he was no slouch in the acting department and was only too happy to lure them into pandering to their own status vanities.

    Residents of Texas (which I was for a good while) are familiar with the stereotype of the slow-drawling, cowboy-hatted attorney, winning over the jury with folksy charm. But nonetheless running rings around his fast-talking Big City adversary.

    Abbotts sporting rough diamond persona is part of that tradition, all the more so for being true to his authentic character. Although I dare say he has taken a leaf out of Bob Hawkes well-thumbed book in this department. Its no accident that they were both blokish Rhodes scholars who reached the pinnacle of political life.

    Most Right-wingers have a suspicion of excessive intellectualism which to them smacks of credentialist snobbery and the inability to get things done. The key moment of the campaign was Abbott’s faux sotto voce put-down of Rudd: “Does this guy ever shut up?”

    More generally the Left has a political image problem as, more and more, it culturally identifies with marginalized or shoulder-chipped members of society with “First World Problems” – singletons, atheists, feminists, gay activists, NESBs – anything but straight, ESB, Alpha male-headed families. The Culture Wars are all about which side of that contest holds the better status cards and therefore can draw the more swinging “aspirational” voters.

    Nothing encapsulates the Decline of the Wets more than the striking contrast between the pallid Gillard – who lacked sex appeal and maternal aura and was “partnered” by a bit of a drip husband – and the virile Abbott – surrounded by his Three Nymph fertility circus, with a strong, loyal wife by his side.

    Its rather odd that AUS, at the personal level, is slowly trending towards a fractured post-modern liberal anthropological profile. Whilst, at the political level, it is now siding with a cohesive pre-modern conservative ideological role model. Its almost as if certain forms of supposedly archaic stereo-types still have some legs. At least going by what the voters say.

  23. October 13th, 2013 at 15:04 | #23

    Fran Barlow @ #19 said:

    I tend to see Abbott’s physical exertions as trying to mount a cultural claim analogous to his parading of his daughters as assets. He knows that he can never pass himself off as intelligent or erudite — certainly not the suppository ofall wisdom — so he’s trying to project virility and masculinity, rather like Putin — as key rationales for his rule — knowing that such claims are readily embraced by conservatives and even not a few non-conservatives in a more limited sense.

    It takes a special kind of “intelligent and erudite” politician to downplay the role of intelligence and erudition in politics, a political opportunity more ably exploited on the populist Right these days. Putin and Berlusconi are obvious examples. George Orwell was similarly an “anti-intellectual” intellectual.

    Nixon was par excellence a hyper-intellectual politician (far more so than Kissinger) who nonetheless built a career out of denigrating the role of egg-heads in political life. Ronald Reagan was something of a closet policy wonk but was always at pains to project the image of an “amiable dunce”. He was easily able to put one over his pointy-headed critics. But then he was no slouch in the acting department and was only too happy to lure them into pandering to their own status vanities.

    Residents of Texas (which I was for a good while) are familiar with the stereotype of the slow-drawling, cowboy-hatted attorney, winning over the jury with folksy charm. But nonetheless running rings around his fast-talking Big City adversary.

    Abbotts sporting rough diamond persona is part of that tradition, all the more so for being true to his authentic character. Although I dare say he has taken a leaf out of Bob Hawkes well-thumbed book in this department. Its no accident that they were both blokish Rhodes scholars who reached the pinnacle of political life.

    Most Right-wingers have a suspicion of excessive intellectualism which to them smacks of credentialist snobbery and the inability to get things done. The key moment of the campaign was Abbott’s faux sotto voce put-down of Rudd: “Does this guy ever shut up?”

    More generally the Left has a political image problem as, more and more, it culturally identifies with marginalized or shoulder-chipped members of society with “First World Problems” – singletons, atheists, feminists, gay activists, NESBs – anything but straight, ESB, Alpha male-headed families. The Culture Wars are all about which side of that contest holds the better status cards and therefore can draw the more swinging “aspirational” voters.

    Nothing encapsulates the Decline of the Wets more than the striking contrast between the pallid Gillard – who lacked sex appeal and maternal aura and was “partnered” by a bit of a drip husband – and the virile Abbott – surrounded by his Three Nymph fertility circus, with a strong, loyal wife by his side.

    Its rather odd that AUS, at the personal level, is slowly trending towards a fractured post-modern liberal anthropological profile. Whilst, at the political level, it is now siding with a cohesive pre-modern conservative ideological role model. Its almost as if certain forms of supposedly archaic stereo-types still have some legs. At least going by what the voters say.

  24. Fran Barlow
    October 13th, 2013 at 15:08 | #24

    @conrad

    I very much favour people exercising sufficiently strenuously and regularly to maintain good muscle tone and lung capacity. I don’t go further than that but to those who do, fabulous. Your claim that regular serious exersize contributes to excellent health and is quite possibly necessary for most people to keep it in their old age sounds entirely plausible.

    I doubt that staying in shape for sub 3-hour marathons is the benchmark however.

    The last figures I saw for obese and overweight in Australia skewed heavily to the bottom of the income spectrum. “Fat capitalist pig” is a wonderfully colourful epithet but sadly, it’s the exception to the rule.

  25. October 13th, 2013 at 15:54 | #25

    My position is, never vote in a national leader who is capable of chasing you down and eating you if civilisation collaspes.

  26. Jim Rose
    October 13th, 2013 at 16:55 | #26

    Fran

    The last figures I saw for obese and overweight in Australia skewed heavily to the bottom of the income spectrum.

    the reasons behind that deserve their own thread. mckenzie wrote a nice book on the economics of obesity.

  27. Fergus Cameron
    October 13th, 2013 at 18:05 | #27

    @jack strocchi
    [I sent this as a Reply to the wrong post originally]
    Well said Jack Strocchi. But now, just as much as when Robert Michels wrote, 100 years ago, “the necessity of oligarchy” is noticeable as observable fact as well as a priori probability.

    John Button, ex-Geelong College [but a very very small man, could that be relevant] was a rarity in his day in the Labor Party. Now it is commonplace for ex-students of the oldest, traditional, private schools to be careerists in the union movement and ALP. Bill Shorten, Xavier, Richard Marles, Trinity Grammar, come to mind immediately though one could go back a little to John Cain, Scotch (but son of an ALP Premier who was more traditional Labor), Joan Kirner, Essendon and Penleigh Grammar who perhaps belonged to the early feminist intake about the time of the Vietnam War and those who thought Whitlamism was overdue, Jim Kennan, Scotch, Clyde Holding, Trinity Grammar, and more recently John Brumby and John Thwaites, Melbourne Grammar, Rob Hulls, Xavier….. But the point of contemporary difference may be the sheer careerism of those who can see a market niche in using their superior brains, education and connections to lord it over – and supposedly to serve the interests of – those who are in the bottom half of the population on some kind of combined effectiveness score of IQ+education+health+energy+focus and determination+luck who will vote for them if they don’t enjoy that splendid American delusion that all is possible and everyone can make it.

  28. Fergus Cameron
    October 13th, 2013 at 18:33 | #28

    @Fran Barlow
    ” He knows that he can never pass himself off as intelligent or erudite”

    That’s very telling about the bloggers and other amateurs who, for some reason, exude confidence about their political judgments. Because it is a great example of the underestimating of a very able politician who has learned a hell of a lot from his 20 or 35 years in politics (however you count up his activities). If you had said “he would never seek to portray himself, at least more than incidentally, as erudite or an intellectual” then you would show an intelligent appreciation of what may be important to achieving success in climbing the greasy pole and, ultimately, achieving political power. But your “pass himself off” clearly implies that you think he is neither intelligent or erudite and that, truly, is a big item of evidence about you.

    Objectively he would have to be more intelligent, by any sensible standards, as all but perhaps one in 1000 of his fellow citizens and, by his age and with his education and interests, more erudite than all but one in 10,000. So why should anyone say otherwise? Perhaps a complete misunderstanding of the performance a would be PM has to put on to win the Prime Ministership? I write as one who tended to the “he’s unelectable” school in late 2009 but then had to remember that he added quite a bit in educational proof of brains to the qualities exhibited by others who had that essential element that Malcolm Turnbull, unfortunately I thought and think, then lacked. What people like Malcolm Fraser before him – and Jeff Kennett for that matter – had was time on the job learning to be instinctive politicians who didn’t have to pause and try deep thinking before responding to the needs of the moment. Abbott, unlike Turnbull, had that advantage built in by time on the job – as a politician rather than intellectual or policy wonk. And he probably has a fair few IQ points more than either of those other successful first ministers.

    It is even possible that his, to many of us, incomprehensible religious faith helps him. The certainties of religion seem to be a motivating force which keeps people working hard in what is usually community related directions and, in Abbott’s case, as with virtually all political leaders who survive for a good length of time, religious dogmatism and attempts to give it legislative force will, predictably, disappear from view.

  29. kevin1
    October 13th, 2013 at 18:58 | #29

    @Fergus Cameron

    Yes the contest between classes has never been reducible to a two-sided contest. Michels identified the “aristocracy of labour” in 1903, as well as V Gordon Childe for Australia in “How Labor Governs” (1925), and it’s been a key analytical insight to any Trotskyist analysis you care to look at since the 1930s. A component of this is obviously the role of privileged schools in reproducing class relations.

    As we know, a major objective of privileged schools is grooming the ruling class’s next generation to put their stamp on society. Raising the confidence and ability of students emerging from the rest of the secondary education sector so they can mix it with the “natural leaders” is crucial to social progress, as well as the realisation of individual potential. It’s a subject I’m sure others with more experience at the education coalface could comment on more usefully than me.

    Presumably for electoral rather than equity reasons, Gillard and co wanted to conflate the Catholic parish schools and state schools in the funding formula. At The Conversation, Bronwyn Hinz (“Explainer: What is a ‘Gonski’ anyway?”) said “The low-SES loading is to be applied to the lowest 50% of households, not 25% as Gonski recommended, which has led to the moniker “Gonski-lite”.

    So I would be interested in views on how Labor’s embrace of “Gonski” was distorted – the outcome was not quite what his committee said, and Mr G objected to the identification of his recommendations as being Labor’s plans. How much is this reform compromised?

  30. kevin1
    October 13th, 2013 at 20:28 | #30

    Angus, old dear, please indulge me when I reflect on the sum of particularities in your extensive exchange of verbal repartee.

    As I am an Orstralian, you would know by now that we have this uncomfortable habit of cutting to the chase. I won’t generate a list of perceived deficiencies, just ask you to re-read your contributions and, if you want to influence others, “get with the program” as it exists here and now.

    If this is still unclear, have a close look at historian John Hirst’s books for enlightenment. They relate quite well to the imperial-colonial relationship including contemporary manifestations.

  31. kevin1
    October 13th, 2013 at 20:30 | #31

    Fergus, did I call you Angus? Well…what a mistake (but on whose part?)

  32. Nick
    October 13th, 2013 at 20:32 | #32

    Fergus, what you say is technically true, but for the record:

    Joan Kirner was educated at a state primary school, and attended PPLC on a scholarship. She completed year 11 and 12 at University High state school, as PPLC didn’t see fit for girls to study science.

    John Cain went to state primary schools, and then Northcote High, and completed Year 11 and 12 at Scotch College.

    Clyde Holding went to a state primary school and won a scholarship to Trinity.

    Bill Shorten was the son of a wharf worker, whose mother worked full-time as a teacher to afford to send him and his brother to Xavier on their two wages.

    Richard Marles was the son of the headmaster at Trinity. His tuition there would have been free.

    I’m sure all of their parents wanted the best education they could get for their kids, but I’m not seeing much oligarchy – and especially not its necessity – in that list of names.

  33. Ikonoclast
    October 13th, 2013 at 20:37 | #33

    @Fergus Cameron

    I would argue that the actual intellectual capacity of someone like Gillard or Abbott matters little (in an operative sense) when they dumb everything down and talk slowly in three word sentences to the electorate. Stupid is as stupid says and does. Our leaders now talk like idiots and follow policies that could only have been devised by idiots (or by intelligent people operating in a system which rewards only short-sighted idiocy). Thus while they may be intelligent their intelligence is functionally inoperative when it comes to dealing or rather failing to deal with the key real world problems.

    Their actions are locally intelligent within the closed game-system of late stage capitalism and the pursuit of near-term sectional wealth and power but globally stupid when compared to real world requirements and where the real world systems are actually headed.

  34. Alan
    October 13th, 2013 at 20:42 | #34

    Oh, I dunno, Glenn Druery indulges in ultramarathon cycling and had a bigger influence on the Senate election result than Tony Abbott.

  35. Nick
    October 13th, 2013 at 20:54 | #35

    I should add that Joan Kirner, Steve Bracks and John Brumby all chose to send their own children to government schools. So I’m not even seeing much evidence of an ‘evolution towards oligarchy’ based on recent successful Victorian Labor politicians.

  36. October 13th, 2013 at 22:55 | #36

    Comments are closed on “Sandpit”, so I would like to ask everyone to excuse this being put here.

    Please watch this film about ‘Glencore’: “Stealing Africa – Why Poverty?”

    Eternal moderation would prevent me putting up a link, but it can be found on ‘Information Clearing House”.

    It isn’t just an interesting film about some loser African country, it is really a film about what is happening to you and what you perceive to be your comfortable and secure world.

    Spoiler: I gagged when I got to the bit about Clinton granting Rich a Presidential pardon.

  37. Fergus Cameron
    October 13th, 2013 at 23:59 | #37

    @Nick
    Thanks Nick for the details. I even think they could make a difference to my diagnosis/prejudice/view of what it all means. It doesn’t change my regret at the careerism that is also infecting the LNP side of politics too now in the shape of ministerial staffers and ex-electorate office and party staff being endorsed to be MPs without “real world” experience. Rising first in the unions isn’t obviously a worse preparation for politics.

    Perhaps something could be made of John Thwaites having been the son of the Melbourne Grammar art master, rather than from a typical business or other moneyed background, though in Richard Marles’s case it would be hard to detect the same factors, partly because Trinity Grammar isn’t a school where his status would be seen to be somehow different: perhaps his mother’s line of public service is more the key if one wants to find early influences.

    One can’t help noticing that these are smart relatively “provileged” people making careers out of winning the votes of the relatively incapable and dependent. Undeniably trueish and part of the whole truth. But it is hardly natural that Jeffrey Kennett would learn to add to his genuine long held views in favour of enterprising small business people (including, not least, those wanting to become bigger) enthusiasm for FYROM not being called Macedonia because there were 130,000 people of Greek hertiage to 30,000 of Macedonian heritage in the electorate! (He also, I recall, went in to bat for the return of the Elgin Marbles to Greece! Why not Turkey? But I digress. Moi, I would say only the Louvre or the Metropolitan Museum in New York might be a more suitable place to display such important foundational artefacts of Western civilisation).

    It’s just that these private school boys and girls do seem a bit cold-bloodedly careerist to make their choices of career path so early from a background where their peers would have been rather different in outlook and worldview. The emotions aroused by the Vietnam War were a different matter, as were choices made at a particular phase of feminism (and perhaps sexual liberation, not least for blokes) – say from the late 60s, despite the Liberal Party’s superior record in integrating women into its hierarchies. It is still possible to think of Jews as being inclined to social democracy (and even hoping that the ALP would further it) on the basis of the leftishness which comes from “remember that you were slaves in the land of Israel” and other pro-underdog elements which persist and can be emphasised. That’s just a speculation raised by assuming that Mark Dreyfus QC went to a private Jewish school though I seem to recall that Colin Rubenstein and Alan Goldberg QC and J were Liberal candidates, the latter being a Scotch old boy. (Some might have been affected by now out of date myths about certain clubs rejecting Jews as members although the Jewish grandparents of Malcolm Fraser and Jeffrey Kennett and Nick Greiner??, would make that sort of social association a bit bizarre). Now that the LNP is so heavily Catholic one can’t help wonder if that isn’t a bit off=putting, not only to Jews but to some with Protestant background…….

    So, for the moment I think I will stick with my simple prejudice that the Labor careerists from private schools who enter politics via the unions are the ones to worry about. Perhaps worry even more if they behave as Mark Latham didn’t and apply hairshirt treatment to themselves personally when stripping MPs of seriously good pension rights (or, that having been done, something truly Franciscan). Not too much chance of that to
    s fair to say. After imagining themselves post-Parliament in Washington DC for four years they will see that the taste for austerity would be difficult to re-acquire.

  38. Fergus Cameron
    October 14th, 2013 at 00:15 | #38

    @Ikonoclast

    I think something as grand as
    “Their actions are locally intelligent within the closed game-system of late stage capitalism and the pursuit of near-term sectional wealth and power but globally stupid when compared to real world requirements and where the real world systems are actually headed.”
    is a bit beyond my pay grade as the contemporary jargon has it but “late stage capitalism” stimulates a thought.

    “Late” does appear to imply that capitalism has not only developed in some direction but that it is approaching the end of capitalism. Apart from the tautologous idea that, if something complex has an end, there must previously be an approach to it, I wonder if the probable further implication that the end is nigh is true. Now that everyone who can influence anything much seems to agree that capitalism, in the sense of approximately free market tending to be competitive enterprise financed by (usually) private aggregations of capital and governed by non-government decisions, is the way for the whole word to become prosperous (which is a given goal) it doesn’t strike me as obvious that capitalism is heading to the knackery. Any alternatives, indeed any improvements or modifications, are going to have to run the gauntlet of measures which prop up the advantages of the existing and emerging haves. Suppose some superior distribution of power and set of policies could be thought up that any intelligent and perfectly dispassionate person would approve because of the evidently grave problems of the world and the absolute priority they must receive, how is it going to supersede the present system? The genius of Keynes was not able to see how far material demands would grow even though by his lofty Bloomsbury standards economic sufficiency could have been achieved to the point where people would lead good lives while working 20 hours a week. Will human nature be cured?

  39. Brian
    October 14th, 2013 at 03:39 | #39

    There is always plenty of blood flow to the brain during exercise. In fact, there was a study that showed that schizophrenics who had abnormally low blood flow to the brain improved after 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, and stayed that way for many hours.

    What drops is not blood flow, but blood sugar, and how far that drops is variable by individual. How much blood sugar is eaten up is also affected by how much, and how fast fats are released into the blood stream. Muscles can metabolize fat. Nerves can’t, and live on glucose. That’s why a significant aspect of endurance training is learning to keep going when the brain is poorly nourished, “the bonk”.

    As Conrad pointed out, genetic gifts are a big factor. How much your blood glucose is spared probably has a baseline setting that is genetic.

    That said, a full Ironman program can be done with 12 hours a week of training. http://home.trainingpeaks.com/articles/triathlon/minimalist-ironman-training.aspx That is 1:42 per day on average. That would make a schedule tight, but certainly not impossible. Most people waste 2 hours a day.

    For myself, I do a lot of thinking on long bicycle rides that are fairly intense. It’s like meditation, a kind of relaxation allows things to percolate up.

  40. October 14th, 2013 at 05:32 | #40

    I have been trying to follow the expenses affair, mainly via the ABC(RN) and so far have very little sense of how pollie expenses actually work. i caught a lengthy discussion with Waleed Ally and the RN ethics guy which was pretty opaque since how the nuts and bolts worked was left unclear. Can others help? eg Abbott’s infamous book signing trips were explained as a “staff” error. How? MsP don’t look at their expenses claim? How do you fly interstate, drive in a Comm car, stay free in a hotel and imagine you’re not getting freebies?
    I’ve tried to read up on the Pollie pedal deal and am struck by contemporary press coverage of the blokey “beers and steaks on the barbie at the caravan park” themes. Yet Abbott claims $349 per night on PPedal. Sounds like he’s coming out ahead financially since I’m assuming the event sponsors cover the beer, steaks and caravan, bike repairs, kit etc.

  41. Nick
    October 14th, 2013 at 06:46 | #41

    “Labor careerists from private schools who enter politics via the unions are the ones to worry about”

    Maybe, I really wouldn’t know. Arbib, Bitar and Howes to name a few of the more infamous younger Labor ‘power brokers’ in recent years all attended state high schools as far as I can tell.

    I’m sure there’s something in what you say, whether or not it has much to do with having a private school education. Career politicians ostensibly appearing to seek power for power’s sake, as opposed to say Dreyfus, who entered politics at the age of 50 with some 25-30 years of social justice and environmental/planning work as a barrister under his belt. I agree I’d much rather see more of the latter.

    Dreyfus was the son of two musicians (albeit rather successful ones) btw. He attended Scotch on a full scholarship.

    The problem with the idea of sports people in politics imo (to be vaguely relevant to the thread), is that they’re probably the only profession worse than actors at selling out to anyone who offers them a few dollars. They’ll put their face to just about anything.

    That said, I saw Shane Watson briefly on a kids show in Qld last week. The hosts asked him what did he like best about travelling around the world. He answered that he really enjoyed having been able to meet and get to know so many different races of people, and how great he felt sport was at bringing all those races together…I thought was pretty cool thing to say to kids.

  42. Fran Barlow
    October 14th, 2013 at 07:11 | #42

    Hmm … just heard that an Australian “ironwoman” ran a race record in Hawaii in which she did the marathon last leg in 2 hours 50 … after a 180 km bike ride and 3.8 km swim … This time was apparently faster than the winning male time on the day.

    I’m hurting just thinking about that. I’m in reasonable shape — certainly not overweight — but I’m not much good after about 500 metres …

    Apparently she met her fiance at the finish line who had just placed 5th in the mens event.

  43. Ikonoclast
    October 14th, 2013 at 07:29 | #43

    @Fergus Cameron

    Quote:- “Now that everyone who can influence anything much seems to agree that capitalism, in the sense of approximately free market tending to be competitive enterprise financed by (usually) private aggregations of capital and governed by non-government decisions, is the way for the whole word to become prosperous (which is a given goal) it doesn’t strike me as obvious that capitalism is heading to the knackery.”

    One, “everyone who can influence anything much” is a actually a small group of rich oligarchs. Obviously they agree that the current system, which makes and keeps them rich and powerful, is the right system.

    Two, even if the whole human race were to agree on something which was objectively and materially false or impossible (for example endless growth on a finite planet) this would still not make that objectively false or impossible proposition true or possible.

    Capitalism (as late stage industrial and financial capitalism) will collapse because it is predicated on endless growth in a finite system. It is running natural resources down too fast and creating waste too fast. “Too fast” in this context means too fast for the earth’s natural geological and biological systems to replenish resources and dissapate or process wastes.

    The collapse has actually commenced. As the collapse will take decades it is hard to see at first on a yearly basis. However, the troubles in the Middle East (civil wars, failing states) and Southern Europe (prolonged national economic depressions) are the first stages of collapse in those regions. None of the countries suffering these problems will ever recover economically. Similarly, India and China will never complete their capitalist revolutions. There are not enough resources left in the world for that to happen. In “resources” I include simple raw resources like oil and minerals and complex resources which are systems eg. the climate system.

  44. Fergus Cameron
    October 14th, 2013 at 09:17 | #44

    @Ikonoclast
    You have articulated your position clearly enough for me to be able to say where I disagree.

    I think you have underestimated, in common with many intelligent erudite people (that is to pick up Fran Barlow’s categories that Tony Abbott supposedly can’t be slotted into) over recent decades as well as previous millenia, the rate and consequences of technological change which should still be accelerating to the extent that it is a function of increasing numbers of educated brains being applied to increasing amounts of capital and doesn’t run into some sort of bottleneck. (Aristarchus realised many years BC that the earth was in orbit around the sun just to name one scientific development which was lost and losing is still possible for a time these days but I doubt that the overload of communications with respect to mental capacity to use all the useful stuff is going to put the rate of technological progress into reverse).

    Already the doomsayers about “peak oil” are looking to be as wrong as the Club of Rome and Paul Erlich doomsters of the 1970s. That is mostly a function of technological progress. Of course that doesn’t make hydrocarbon resources infinite but it gives mankind a lot longer to solve its problems. A hell of a lot can be expected of a world in which renewable energy is cheap and cheap to store. We could be just one or two breakthroughs away from that.

    Another problem with the expectation of things getting worse when they have so much improved, since the beginning of the Scientific Revolution, or at least the post-Malthusian possibilities that emerged with the Industrial Revolution is that the nature of people’s consumption of goods and services is changing and will change. Already Americans use less petrol for motoring (absolutely not just relative to population or GDP growth) and the digital revolution is making many of the good things available to everyone everywhere very cheaply in terms of both money and physical resources. People who watch a Rowan Atkinson video on their tablet may have to learn not to consume junk food at the same time but at least they are not hot-rodding in old gas guzzlers. People all over the Third World now have telephones at a fraction of the price that could have been predicted 20 years ago and those phones are hugely versatile.

    If as much attention to the kind of doom you are still writing about had been given 40 years ago to paying poor families everywhere to keep their young women in education and not having children until they were educated we would also be much further on the road to solving the biggest negative for our grandchildren’s enjoyment of the planet. What a pity that so much spare money and human effort has to go into preserving endangered species from despoliation of habitat by expanding populations when that could, in a less frenetically overbreeding world, have gone into looking after the aged and disabled better – for example. Still, the UN, with some credibility, is apparently predicting that population will stabiliise at a bit over 9 billion late this century. That seems plausible.

    So…. I don’t see why you say that capitalism “will collapse because it is predicated on endless growth in a finite system”. To test your proposition you could ask whether it couldn’t exist on endless invention and recycling once population growth ends. And would the ability to make a complex system like that work be one that was to be found in bureaucrats and politicians rather than the smart and enterprising who could, if lacking capital, raise a loan or obtain venture capital from the kind of financial capitalists who have kept the system going while the shysters have battened on to government supported programs and given us the sub-prime mortgage and over building in Ireland and Spain disasters? Not that you are suggesting, I appreciate, that the state capitalists of China or Russia or wherever are going to be able to save capitalism as you regard its demise as objectively determined by the treating of the finite as infinite.

    As to your first two pars. I think you need evidence to support your statement that “everyone who can influence anything much” is only “a small group of rich oligarchs” as well as some more definition of terms. Remember Keynes’s famous words

    “The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else. Practical men, who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influences, are usually slaves of some defunct economist.”

    That is just to poke a small hole or dent in your thesis. More to the point I would suggest that the world is altogether too complex for any small group, even if, which has clearly never the case with the very rich, they were working together to the same ends, to ensure one coherent set of policies was pursued – even just coherent in what the objective was – and that thousands of people have influence in a priori unpredictable ways, like Keating, Button, Kelty & co for example, allowing the gathering consensus on the other side of politics (Malcolm Fraser excepted) to prevail and renew the Australian economy. Many Prime Minister and Presidents and their close advisors have strikingly important degrees of influence from time to time. Whether or not you agree with that, you have I suggest missed a major part of my point in saying what I did. Even if only a very few people have influence it does matter that they won’t be inclined to do anything or support any policy that can be seen to be likely to bring capitalism to an end.

    It comes back to your view that capitalism’s fate is determined by the finite resources of the planet. I think you could join the Paul Erlich society of those hoping to be lucky enough to see their big bets falsified.

  45. Fergus Cameron
    October 14th, 2013 at 09:38 | #45

    @Nick

    “whether or not it has much to do with having a private school education”

    I suppose it would be in accordance with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs that someone with the advantage at the age of leaving school of having some money behind them, or, if not that, a better than average education (partly nature no doubt) and a message from the school that they are privileged and should seek to give public service would aim to find satisfaction in politics. It used to be something to keep in mind for more mature years, after establishing career, family and, with luck, financial security. The reasons for the change are not all obvious but presumably the lack of anxiety about falling into poverty for which there were no safety nets which dates from the 50s or, maybe the birth control revolution of the 60s, has something to do with it. Of course those factors are conducive to products of all schools being more likely to have political aims and ambitions. And if the field is becoming more competitive an early start on becoming a professional (and well connected) is obviously likely to seem like a good idea.

    BTW, Evan Walker is an interesting case if my memory is correct. I think his father was principal of a private school but he went to Melbourne High. I don’t think that Melbourne High produced an inordinate number of Labor politicians. And certainly I know/know of plenty of people who bought or leased flats in University High’s catchment area and, as it happens, they were mostly of leftish disposition – serve them right if their economic efficiency produced offspring who became IPA partisans! The Sydney selective high schools would give a bigger sample but Barwick comes to mind as a product of Fort Street! Indeed would one not associate the idea of sending one’s children to a selective high school more naturally with aspirational anti-socialists than with social democrats? I guess one would find a bit of a socio-economic crossover: greater initial prosperity tending to go with leftishness????

  46. Donald Oats
    October 14th, 2013 at 10:57 | #46

    I suspect Tony Abbott wouldn’t do much less exercise if he wasn’t in politics: he loves physical exercise for its own sake, as far as I can see. He clearly knows it plays well with some segments of the electorate for his sporting activities to be on the telly, but I’d say that for him, that is a collateral benefit of doing the exercise, not the principal aim of it. No doubt he would choose to be in events that give him the best coverage, given he is capable of doing them competently enough, and I think most pollies would make the same calculation if they were in his position. If Abbott was an excellent ballet dancer as well, I doubt we’d hear of that, for instance…

    As for his intelligence: I’m fairly sure that Tony Abbott avoids sounding intellectual for the simple reason that it won’t play well with a big chunk of the conservative support base. Keeping the message simple is his standard MO—pity the message changes with the wind direction, but it is always a simple text with plenty of subtext, aimed square at the support base. In short, Abbott is playing to his strengths where they play well in the electorate, and he tones down the aspects (like intelligent and sesquipedalian dialogue) which could come across as snobby, elitist (don’t mention the schooling) or privileged. Rudd overdid it with his “folks” term of address to the electorate, but Abbott hasn’t made that kind of a PR mistake. To what extent Abbott is a deep thinker about things, whether it is history, literature, philosophy, science (yeah, right) etc, I doubt any but his closest friends would know; he doesn’t strike me as someone inclined to pure intellectual pursuit as a pastime, and I’ve never seen a hint of it in his public life, but I couldn’t 100% rule it out. Perhaps he really does talk in words of two syllables or less in private, too; I wouldn’t know.

    While I’d rate Tony Abbott’s play for the lodge as effective (obviously), it wasn’t ingenious, it wasn’t even sincere as it treated voters like mugs; if the MSM had chosen to dig into the opposition of the day, they would have easily broken the “just say no” strategy of Abbott’s. The fault for failure of the ALP to win this last election is mainly the ALP’s, but with no small help from the MSM.

  47. October 14th, 2013 at 11:25 | #47

    @Clive newton

    Good point. While no doubt entitled to $349 per day while on the pollie pedal, his expenses would be considerably less. But I’m pretty sure he would have donated any money he didn’t use to the pollie pedal charity. Wouldn’t he?

  48. may
    October 14th, 2013 at 13:36 | #48

    Colin Carps :@Alan Notice how since George W Bush, we don’t have that debate any more, that one about whether having so many really smart people in the bureaucracy would allow even a complete moron to be an OK President of the US?
    Maybe Tony Abbott will prove the same in Australia (sadly).

    2nd try.

    trouble is the smartest guys turned out to be the smartest alecs.

  49. Fran Barlow
    October 14th, 2013 at 14:14 | #49

    @Donald Oats

    In Abbott’s case there simply was no need for him to develop any of his intellectual faculties or capacity to reason ethically beyond the fairly primitive condition in which we now observe them.

    In what now seems an age ago, I used to organise business conferences and the client base there liked repeating that “what gets measured gets paid and what gets paid gets done”. I don’t know what Abbott’s potential would be in a context in which intellectual and ethical acumen were suitably rewarded, but as we don’t live in such a world the point is surely moot.

    He has concluded, almost certainly correctly, that developing his mind would at best be a waste of time, dreadfully tedious, and quite possibly involve all sorts of hazards of the kind that befall people who are half smart. Certainly, few if any who voted for Abbott did so in admiration of his insight into the human condition or public policy related thereto.

    Rudd on the other hand, almost certainly did. So too did Gough all those years ago. The ALP appeals in part to people who value intellect — and that’s a field that has been almost totally vacated by the hard right.

    Abbott’s famous “sh|t happens” along with his famous boiling silence with Mark Kenny that day outside Parliament House is about as reflective as he is likely to ever be.

  50. Fran Barlow
    October 14th, 2013 at 14:19 | #50

    @Fergus Cameron

    That’s very telling about the bloggers and other amateurs who, for some reason, exude confidence about their political judgments. Because it is a great example of the underestimating of a very able politician who has learned a hell of a lot

    People didn’t underestimate Abbott. They radically over-estimated both the integrity of the Murdoch Press and the intellectual acumen and engagement of the wider public.

    Murdoch is a great believer in the P T Barnum’s (or was it Mencken’s?) principle that nobody ever went broke overestimating the intelligence of the public. We saw that in spades over the last 3 and a bit years.

  51. Fergus Cameron
    October 14th, 2013 at 19:01 | #51

    @Fran Barlow
    As I said above, I haven’t read his book (“Battlelines” from memory) – it doesn’t even sit on a shelf accusing me – but it seems reasonable to expect someone to have read it before expressing views about Abbott’s intellect or ideas as confidently as you do. You do after all spend time on important subjects and the mind and character of the PM for the next three years is important as you have been pointing out.

  52. Chris W
    October 14th, 2013 at 19:34 | #52

    Hi Fran,

    You might be thinking of Mark Riley (neither of the Kenny’s would ask Abbott anything remotely challenging).

    After the Ros Kelly ‘fiasco’ above you’re not looking too good with names 🙂

  53. kevin1
    October 14th, 2013 at 19:46 | #53

    @Chris W

    After the Ros Kelly ‘fiasco’ above you’re not looking too good with names

    Fiasco? Only for people who focus on trivia – do you work in the media? Isn’t this your first comment on this thread? Nothing of substance to say yet?

  54. Chris W
    October 14th, 2013 at 20:05 | #54

    Calm down kevin1 … it was a joke. I make it a point to read Fran Barlow’s posts wherever I find them (here at JQ’s, Deltoid, LP, I won’t mention Cata .. etc) because I like her take on things.

    Relax mate.

  55. Donald Oats
    October 14th, 2013 at 20:07 | #55

    @Fran Barlow

    I guess my point is that for Tony Abbott at least, it suits him to stick to words most of his followers can spell, and it would cost him to speak eruditely. From what I’ve seen of him, I have no particular reason to think he could care less about academic interests, or art—perhaps music of some sort. To the extent that he has contested the technical details of something, he distilled it into the bald statement “Climate Change is crap.” What little justification he has provided for such a conclusion, it has come from a mate’s book, “Heaven and Earth,”^fn1 and then only as talking points someone handed him. So, while I think it is a mistake to conclude that his outward demeanour is definitely his private one, it is a very good act if he is faking an inability to intellectualise, given the sheer duration of the act.

    fn1: A tedious and intellectually nihilistic piece of work. The pages are the perfect size for the littlest room in the house…

  56. Fran Barlow
    October 14th, 2013 at 20:32 | #56

    @Chris W

    You might be thinking of Mark Riley (neither of the Kennys would ask Abbott anything remotely challenging).

    Well Mark surely more likely than Chris. 😉 Still, yes, now that you mention it — I recalled the Channel 7 connection.

    After the Ros Kelly ‘fiasco’ above you’re not looking too good with names

    It seems so. I suppose Kelly and Ryan are ethnically similar — perhaps that’s it. I was watching Todd Sampson’s first show this evening and he mistakenly recalled an “Elias” as “Ben”. I suspect I know how he made that error, but you probably have to be from a Rugby League playing state to spot it.

    Thanks for the interest in my posts. Glad you find them engaging.

  57. Fran Barlow
    October 14th, 2013 at 20:37 | #57

    @Fergus Cameron

    You do after all spend time on important subjects and the mind and character of the PM for the next three years is important as you have been pointing out.

    I skimmed Battlelines in a major bookstore at Hornsby in 2009 — it was irredeemably banal. FTR, I rather doubt Abbott has 3 years to go. I doubt he will be PM in mid-2015 and I’m not even confident his party will still be in office then. I suppose we will see, but his early performance doesn’t recommend his political endurance.

  58. Robert (not from UK)
    October 14th, 2013 at 21:32 | #58

    Years ago (well before Abbott entered parliament) I was astonished to discover, by accident, that Abbott was conversant with the writings of Christopher Dawson. Few if any other politicians in Australia during recent years would have heard of Dawson, much less read any of his historiography. He was a big wheel in Catholic circles during the mid-20th century (he died in 1970) but I’m willing to bet that these days even most Catholics in Australia with a university background would not know him from a bar of soap. Anyway I must admit that I was impressed, despite my natural inclinations, by the fact that Abbott was familiar with a historian so off the beaten track. It led me to a view I have held consistently since, that Abbott’s monosyllabic demagogy is basically just an act.

  59. Alan
    October 14th, 2013 at 22:41 | #59

    The Dawson connection is pretty easy when you consider that Abbot was heavily involved in DLP circles at one time. It’s more of a tribal tag than anything else.

  60. Fergus Cameron
    October 15th, 2013 at 03:39 | #60

    @Fran Barlow
    You are, I note, #46, still effectually saying that Abbott is deficient in more than what you regard as proper morals or political Weltanschauung or ideology which seems to mean is ain’t too bright.

    However, to move on, would you please sign up for Betfair where your bets can most clearly influence the odds available to those betting against you, or, of course making the same bets.

    I have made quite a lot of money betting on elections, often when I am properly tuned up by the need to consider voting against my personal preference. I would be pleased if you would fatten the odds that I might get if I bet, as I would, that contra your comment which has reached my Inbox but I don’t see above, the government will run its full term (even if Abbott takes the risk, which he shouldn’t, of going to a double dissolution election) and that Abbott will lead the Coalition into the next election. What I read from you was:

    “I skimmed Battlelines in a major bookstore at Hornsby in 2009 — it was irredeemably banal. FTR, I rather doubt Abbott has 3 years to go. I doubt he will be PM in mid-2015 [sic, or did you mean 2016?] and I’m not even confident his party will still be in office then. I suppose we will see, but his early performance doesn’t recommend his political endurance.”

    I got in early to bet that Howard would lost Bennelong so got quite good odds. Likewise with Obama beating Romney though the first debate made me wish I had waited for slightly better odds. Not that anyone who had seen “The Book of Mormon” and then pictured Romney as one of the goofy 19 year old Mormon missionaries could possibly have bet otherwise. I have treated it as quite a nice mark of wisdom and maturity in my political friends that they don’t snarl when I tell them that I still love them but I have made money betting that they would lose. So I can say, completely dispassionately, though I do like the idea of taking your money, if you bet against Abbott on Betfair I shall be happy to bet for him and the Coalition’s lasting at least till – yes, I go so far as to say, 2019. If Abbott isn’t PM up to the 2019 election that probably means it is because the Coalition government is in trouble. (Or maybe he will have run into a truck on his bike).

  61. Fran Barlow
    October 15th, 2013 at 06:00 | #61

    @Fergus Cameron

    1. Yes, I did mean “mid-2015”.
    2. I won’t be betting on anything this far out. At this stage, I doubt Abbott wil make three years. That’s not a prediction. As things stand, Abbott is living down to expectations. We will need to see how quickly this provokes dissent in the LNP and a narrative about LNP incompetence. Much turns on the position of the Murdochracy of course. It’s quite possible Murdoch won’t be in charge of “News” in three years either of course.

  62. Robert (not from UK)
    October 15th, 2013 at 07:46 | #62

    @Alan

    Well, I’ve never encountered any other DLP activist who had heard of Christopher Dawson, much less read him, unless he was at least 75 years old.

  63. Fran Barlow
    October 15th, 2013 at 08:40 | #63

    @Robert (not from UK)

    Abbott had attemded a seminary for a time though. Doubtless they discussed something there beyond the number of angels that can fit on the head of a pin and what the appropriate care of orphaned children entailed.

  64. Fran Barlow
    October 15th, 2013 at 08:40 | #64

    oops … attended

  65. Alan
    October 15th, 2013 at 08:48 | #65

    The angels on the head of a pin debate is actually a bit of a myth.

  66. Alan
    October 15th, 2013 at 09:00 | #66

    @Robert (not from UK)

    Santamaria adored Christopher Dawson and Abbot famously described Santamaria ‘the greatest living Australian’. A willingness to declare yourself a fanboi to an eccentric and theocratic historian is not necessarily the same as profound intellectual understanding. After all a guy who thinks Pell a great Catholic leader and Palin better qualified than Obama or McCain has a way to go to establish his credentials as a deep thinker.

  67. Robert (not from UK)
    October 15th, 2013 at 10:15 | #67

    @Alan

    Abbott’s reverence for Santamaria doesn’t seem to have been reciprocated, to judge by the fact that when Abbott asked BAS for a reference (in the early stages of his preselection campaign) he didn’t get one.

  68. Alan
    October 15th, 2013 at 10:55 | #68

    @Robert (not from UK)

    Santamaria was definitely not the greatest living Australian or anywhere near it. His version of Catholic integralism would be familiar to people like Salazar and Franco. That does not mean he was unable to tell a fanboi when he met one.

    Santamaria’s intellectual contribution and politics sic, which both Abbot and Pell celebrate, was a dreary dogmatic conformism and his organisations were run on the strictest lines of undemocratic centralism.

  69. Fergus Cameron
    October 15th, 2013 at 10:57 | #69

    @Alan

    Oh dear! Oh really? But can you give chapter and verse on Abbott on Palin v. McCain and Obama?

    Those with reservations about Obama seem to be gathering a bit of evidence over the long haul of his presidency and McCain’s critics certainly score some hits but Palin would have to be positively justified as being, perhaps, in the tradition of successful provincial politicians whom quite sensible people have applauded despite their offputting features like Joh B-P, Jeff Kennett to name just a couple of local examples.

    Perhaps it was just a part of Abbott’s instinct for PR first in most of his political utterances and part of the (intuitive) thinking would be that it was shocking and a way to bore it up his opponents. That is supported in my mind by hearing that a venerable former mandarin of forceful views and personality had expressed approval of Palin (as he has I believe of the Tea Party). It’s a kind of letting the hair down for them perhaps, also. And remember that McCain, a survivor of great experience in politics, chose Palin as his running mate. Mind you, I would concede that it was a last desperate throw and actually showed his realism: he knew he wasn’t going to win unless he took a one in twenty chance which came off.

  70. Alan
    October 15th, 2013 at 11:26 | #70

    Robert Manne writing in The Monthly

    When thick-as-bricks Sarah Palin won the vice-presidential nomination for the Republican Party, Abbott claimed with a perfectly straight face that she was an outstanding politician with greater experience than Barack Obama or John McCain and that she had just “the right stuff for high office”.

  71. Fergus Cameron
    October 15th, 2013 at 12:24 | #71

    @Alan
    What should an Australian politician of any consequence say about foreign politicians 1. that they judge extremely unlikely ever to be heard of again in a serious context [like Palin whom we went on hearing too much about but only Oprah style] 2. that might be important in the future?

    It certainly wasn’t wise of John Howard to speak as derogatorily as he did of Obama but maybe Abbott was simply doing a sensible diplomatic job on relations with the Republican Party. Of course she did have more experience of executive office than either Obama (who hadn’t even been long in the Senate and never held significant executive office) or McCain….. literally true!

  72. Alan
    October 15th, 2013 at 13:08 | #72

    Or maybe, just like his absurd praise of other rightwing notables, he was believing what he wanted to believe. Your argument might have a chance but for Santamaria, the greatest living Australian’ and all the other other clangers. Your argument also might have a chance if there was any diplomatic practice of intervening in the elections of other countries, but the wiser practice has always been to keep quiet and not interfere.

    There’s also a chance he is incapable of speaking any language but hyperbole, after all Australia has acquitted half a dozen or so best friends and closest allies and that is only in the last week.

  73. Fergus Cameron
    October 15th, 2013 at 13:40 | #73

    @Alan
    Yes the constant hyperbole business is odd and a bit worrying. I’m not particularly worried about his “greatest living Australian” for Santamaria given that one has to accept that he was once a seminarian and Santamaria acolyte. That sort of hyperbole is pretty commonplace and not silly like saying Japan was our best friend publicly. (The standard formula is “No greater friend than” for Americans about us or the Brits, or probably the Germans or……).

    I didn’t intend to imply that it was sensible to comment at all on elections in other countries but I think a bit of upbeat guff is probably acceptable unless you make people think that you really see Sarah Palin as an acceptable vice-presidential candidate!

  74. Alan
    October 15th, 2013 at 14:08 | #74

    In what possible universe is characterising an obscure ultramontanist as “greatest living Australian” not hyperbole? Perhaps Santamaria refused the reference out of sheer embarrassment.

  75. Fran Barlow
    October 15th, 2013 at 14:50 | #75

    @Alan

    The angels on the head of a pin debate is actually a bit of a myth.

    Well the link doesn’t quite say that it’s somewhat mythological. It speculates that it may have been a parody of abstruse and pointless speculation aimed at ridiculing the early ecclesiastics. These days the connotation of the term “ivory tower” comes from much the same motivation — though it is, ironically from a Biblical source that is surprisingly ribald. 😉

    I should point out that although I’m clearly having a dig at seminarian life, I have no objection to abstruse debates. They are useful mental exercises and given the utter banality of much of modern discourse, I’m reluctant to be critical, even if the notion of ‘angels’ is silly. In maths we imagine lines as having no width and composed of an infinite number of points that take up no space at all. One can have a lot of fun with purely conceptual stuff.

    My usage:

    Doubtless they discussed something there beyond the number of angels that can fit on the head of a pin …

    isn’t really an attack on discussing such things but the concession that they surely discussed some more prosaic matters in seminary as well.

  76. rog
    October 17th, 2013 at 07:15 | #76

    Greg Sheridan is running with the ‘global climate action’ is a myth meme which raises a coupe of queries.

    One is, has Sheridan allowed for current legislation and plans? I somehow doubt it.

    Importantly, should Australian Govt policy benchmarks be only as high as the global minimum? Sheridan suggests that we only need to follow the lead of nations such as India and Indonesia.

  77. rog
    October 17th, 2013 at 07:24 | #77

    Sheridan says that

    Japan has effectively abandoned plans for an ETS. No economy-wide carbon tax or ETS is operating today.

    he may or may not be right but his opinion, which is unsupported, conflicts with others

  78. October 17th, 2013 at 16:35 | #78

    Japan has nationwide taxes on fossil fuels. And I’ll mention that Japan, which already had a decent amount of solar capacity by world standards, has been installing solar capacity at a prodigious rate since Fukushima. They have installed over 10 gigawatts so far. At this rate they could overtake Australia in terms of solar capacity per capitia in under two years. Solar power also matches Japanese demand much better than nuclear power ever did. In fact, Japan built a very large amount of pumped storage capacity in order to help deal with nuclear’s inability to match demand and this will make it very easy to integrate more wind and solar capacity.

  79. October 17th, 2013 at 16:43 | #79

    Also, I’ll menton any arguement that goes, “Australia should do little about CO2 emissions because Japan,” when Japan’s emissions per capita are almost half of Australia’s, is really idiotic.

  80. Alan
    October 17th, 2013 at 17:59 | #80

    I have decided to stop paying taxes. My taxes are a tiny fraction of what goes into the treasury so it will have no impact at all. Tomorrow I think I’ll stop following the traffic laws. It may be the criminal code the day after…

  81. kevin1
    October 17th, 2013 at 18:14 | #81

    @Alan
    If you’re that fired up Alan, may I suggest you consider the “tempered radical” way and take the James Hansen route http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/02/science/james-e-hansen-retiring-from-nasa-to-fight-global-warming.html

  82. Martin Spalding
    October 17th, 2013 at 19:12 | #82

    Thanks for the post Prof Q. Some thought-provoking points & subsequent comments. I agree with the post but have to say I’m a little perplexed by a few of the comments expressed or implied (not always rebutted), namely:
    1. the expenses scandal is not really that important, or is quite complex with some grey areas
    2. Labor have a worse record than the Coalition with ethics & propriety in public office (Jack Strocchi, but not seriously challenged by anyone)
    3. the devotion of several, perhaps dozens, of hours a week to hardcore fitness is potentially an acceptable thing for a PM to do and may not impact on their time needed to tackle policy
    4. the projection of a virile, athletic, anti-intellectual image is not only successful but acceptable in a PM.

    Am I being too harsh? Because I think:
    1. The expenses stuff goes right to the heart of the pitch the Coalition made to get into govt (ie ‘adult govt’, not being like Slipper, Thomson, HSU etc). How could it not be important? After all the screeching the Tories did about such minor or non-existent scandals, why would a left-leaning site let the Abbott Govt off the hook here?
    2. I am amazed that anyone would have such short memory of the Howard era & its scandals. I refer the Faulkner speech to Parliament in late 2006 to mark the 10 yr anniversary of the Howard Govt.
    3. Surely there gets to be a point where you say ‘this many hours is keeping you from doing yr job’ – it’s just commonsense & I acknowledge most of you agree with this. I don’t sense a huge outrage about it though.
    4. Nothing wrong with a bit of indulgence in physical prowess & action stuff, but I would have thought on a thought-provoking, intellectual site there should be no acceptance whatsoever of any ‘anti-intellectual’ approach to policy & running a country. This anti-intellectual stuff is what the US conservatives have fed on for 40+ yrs, & I don’t want to even brush with it.

  83. October 17th, 2013 at 20:44 | #83

    I’ll wait until there’s an open sandpit for further discussion of energy that is neither renewable nor fossil fuel.

  84. kevin1
    October 17th, 2013 at 20:59 | #84

    @Ronald Brak

    Have you seen this pro nuclear Pandoras Promise film? Would be interested in yr comments.

  85. October 17th, 2013 at 21:01 | #85

    Who will rid me of this lack of a pit of sand?

  86. rog
    October 17th, 2013 at 21:38 | #86

    @Fergus Cameron

    As to the “any arguement that goes, “Australia should do little about CO2 emissions because Japan…

    If we applied that to global conflicts there would be no wars. When it comes to the military the “against all odds” mythology prevails* along with the precautionary principle.

    *the Simpson donkey myth springs to mind.

  87. Nathan
    October 17th, 2013 at 22:14 | #87

    @Fergus Cameron
    If you take all of the countries that emit around the same as Australia (<2%), that adds up to around 1/4 of global carbon emissions. Enough to make a significant difference to world's future temperature trajectory. Get the point?

  88. Fergus Cameron
    October 18th, 2013 at 00:13 | #88

    Sockpuppet of banned poster, deleted. No further responses, please

  89. October 18th, 2013 at 00:38 | #89

    Fergus, I’ll write a whole treatise for you on windfarms and there expensive electricity for you. Get back to you in a couple of days.

  90. Alan
    October 18th, 2013 at 01:07 | #90

    @Fergus Cameron

    I have carefully read your post explaining what I think I mean a number of times. Unfortunately I have no idea what you think I meant, although i do have a fair idea of what I think I meant.

  91. Ken Fabian
    October 18th, 2013 at 09:48 | #91

    I think we really should expect more honesty from PM Abbott. Especially on climate. I tend to see climate change as a litmus test for our elected representatives; gullible on climate being indicative of lack of good judgment overall.

    I can’t understand how our MSM journalists and interviewers can be consistently incapable of drawing Abbott or key team members out on this or why they are prepared to let the obvious – that Abbott thinks climate change science is crap and is surrounded by a team that thinks the same – is simply allowed to pass by unchallenged. Like it’s an open secret but everyone agrees not to make a fuss about it. Ultimately we the public should be shown such disrespect and contempt from our Prime Minister that he would telll us he accepts the science on climate and has full confidence in Australian scientists when he does not. If our government and it’s policies are predicated on the assumption that all the formal advice on climate is wrong and only dissenting views are considered trustworthy – and all indications that is the case – we deserve to know.

  92. Ken Fabian
    October 18th, 2013 at 09:50 | #92

    Oops “… should not be shown such disrespect and contempt from our Prime Minister…”

  93. October 18th, 2013 at 12:12 | #93

    @Martin Spalding
    I suspect the reason no-one has challenged Jack’s assertion that Labor are more corrupt that the Libs or the Nats is because no-one reads Jack’s assertions. (I certainly don’t bother.) I agree it’s risible.

  94. October 18th, 2013 at 13:03 | #94

    @Ken Fabian

    “I can’t understand how our MSM journalists and interviewers can be consistently incapable of drawing Abbott or key team members out on this or why they are prepared to let the obvious – that Abbott thinks climate change science is crap and is surrounded by a team that thinks the same – is simply allowed to pass by unchallenged.”

    Journalists and MSM have repeatedly described their role is to provide “balanced” reporting. In my opinion, when they say “balanced”, it does not matter to them even if the debate is between scientists and religious fundamentalists/political hacks. In this sense, they are being extremely honest in the sense that they do not care about the truth.

  95. Fran Barlow
    October 18th, 2013 at 13:06 | #95

    As there’s no sandpit …

    I came into work this morning only to learn that a colleague had lost a house to fire in the Blue Mountains. We’d all been worried yesterday afternoon but over night she had heard the worst.

    It’s very sad. Fortunately for her, as she volunteered, it wasn’t her only house, but it was the one she and her partner had been building for 25 years, had stayed at every second weekend and holidays for most of that time and were planning to retire to in the coming few years. She had formed close bonds with her neighbours over that time and most of them were longstanding residents for whom this was their only home. They too had lost everything and she was even more upset for them.

    I saw on the net that some people in Springwood, who had been fostering four children, had also lost their house. It’s hard to grasp fully the pain these fires cause. It goes way beyond money. You hope that these kids, who had found a caring stable place can be kept together, but you just never know.

    I teach year 7 Geography and yesterday and today I spoke to my classes, again, about climate change and why it is so important to act. I made it clear that I was not interested in telling them whom to vote for or to take shots at anyone in particular as that was not my role, but that climate change was an issue which nobody who cared about their own interests and that of their fellows or, one day, their children, could avoid, and on this day, with the sight and smell of smoke on the hills, it was exactly the right time to reflect on that. They needed, I said, to consider what kind of world they’d like to live in, and what shape they’d like the world’s ecosystem services, which we had examined in some detail over the last 12 weeks or so, to be in when they passed them onto their descendents. I remnded them that Australia is far from the only place that is being and will continue to be harmed by climate change. I reminded them of the challenges of securing food and clean water and defending against rising sea levels. I pointed them towards the piece of string encircling the room showing the time of the planet, the time of humans, the industrial age, the time of severe climate change and their lives and mine and asked them how much more string there should be and what we’d like to be able to write onto the ribbons attached to it.

    I suggested that next time someone makes light of the challenges of climate change, they ask them why they care so little for the rest of humanity, or think that there’s no problem trashing the only place in the universe we know of that supports life.

    Some say that we should not ‘politicise’ this issue. At best this is vapid populism but more commonly it’s arrant cant — uttered by people who out of stupidity, indolence, perceived personal gain or hatred say we should do nothing. As one of the kids pointed out, if someone was hurt at school and you could say that you predicted it and suggested how to change things to stop it happening, wouldn’t you be to blame if you said nothing because someone’s feelings might be hurt?

    A lightbulb had gone on.

    At times like that I am so glad to be teaching.

  96. David
    October 18th, 2013 at 13:15 | #96

    I have noticed that people who are disciplined / dedicated enough to train for ironman / triathalons etc tend to display that same level of discipline / dedication towards other aspects of work/life. (I dont!). Surely you can do better than attach Abbot because of his training?

  97. John O’Rorke
    October 18th, 2013 at 14:12 | #97

    @Ken Fabian

    Let’s try and aim our arrows precisely. There is a serious logical difficulty about

    “I think we really should expect more honesty from PM Abbott. Especially on climate. I tend to see climate change as a litmus test for our elected representatives; gullible on climate being indicative of lack of good judgment overall.”

    Is he dishonest and saying things he doesn’t believe about climate science or is he “gullible” and making bad but not dishonest judgments accordingly?

  98. John O’Rorke
    October 18th, 2013 at 14:17 | #98

    @Tom

    You quite Ken Fabian, I think, with apparent agreement but the premise is wrong. Greg Hunt has repeatedly affirmed the same view of the science as the Rudd and Gillard government’s stated views and he is the one official spokesman for the Coalition on the subject. Whatever fellow MPs (including some from all parties but the Greens) believe or suspect about the science your and Ken Fabian’s statements about Abbott would only be valid if you could quote him recently as contradicting Hunt. It would seem to follow that your views on the MSM’s approach to the Coaltion on the subject are flawed to some extent.

  99. Martin Spalding
    October 18th, 2013 at 17:55 | #99

    Fergus – what happened to your response to my four points at comment #32? I looked this morning and it was there. Refreshed the page just then and it was gone. IT problem?

    From memory you went in hard against Slipper and Thomson, mainly based on the usual allegations as yet unproven in court, and in Slipper’s case amounting to a lot less than the total parliamentary expenses wrongly claimed by Coalition figures (I think the latter is $60,000 & counting isn’t it?).

    The Faulkner speech is a must-read. Sums up the lies, broken promises, ethical breaches and dog decisions from the Howard era that many people tend to forget when trying to take the moral high-road on Labor.

    As for your attempt to radically narrow the definition of who is a ‘conservative’, by excising various strains you don’t appear to approve of, that’s fine. I don’t want to get into that debate here. The fact remains that most of those strains, whether classical, neo, paleo or otherwise, have for 40+ yrs indulged to varying degrees in the ‘rugged action hero’ ideal of a leader, and disdained the value of the intellect in solving problems.

    William F Buckley after all came up with the iconic statement: ‘I am obliged to confess I should sooner live in a society governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston telephone directory than in a society governed by the 2,000 faculty members of Harvard University’.

  100. Martin Spalding
    October 18th, 2013 at 18:07 | #100

    David @ #46 – it’s not about the training per se, it’s about the sheer amount of it. Are you saying you can never have enough? Are you saying someone’s extracurricular passions can never impact on their job?

    And it’s also the manipulation of the training to project an ‘ironman’/’action hero’ image, perhaps in a way that dissolves/absolves all other things that people might focus on. It’s part of a continuing dumbing-down strategy that fits in with the three-word slogans, the hi-vis vest photo opps, and the current strategy to stay largely invisible and keep politics off the front page.

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