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Monday Message Board

May 19th, 2014

It’s (long past) time for another Monday Message Board. Post comments on any topic. Civil discussion and no coarse language please. Side discussions and idees fixes to the sandpits, please.

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  1. Megan
    May 19th, 2014 at 10:14 | #1

    Australians are very protective of our excellent universal healthcare system. Free market ideologues underestimate that attachment.

    I had no idea that our first neo-con PM, Hawke, introduced GP co-payments in 1991. Arguably that allowed Keating to finally overthrow him and a few months later it was dropped.

  2. Terje
    May 19th, 2014 at 12:18 | #2

    I would not call the Medicare system excellent but Australians are very protective of it. One of the reasons I think they are protective is due to fiscal illusion. The Medicare levy tricks people into thinking it’s a cheap scheme and hence a bit of a bargain. I propose we increase the levy to 10%, which would reflect the real cost, cut the general income tax rate to compensate and then in a year or two ask people again how much they like the Medicare system. I suspect the response would be very different.

  3. I used to be not trampis
    May 19th, 2014 at 13:03 | #3

    wow Terje I would.

    On any basis the system produces very good results at a low cost.

  4. David Allen
    May 19th, 2014 at 13:09 | #4

    I’ll take you up on that too Terje. Can we also put a defence levy up so we can see the enormous waste on war-toys. Which do you think people will demand be lowered?

  5. zoot
    May 19th, 2014 at 13:15 | #5

    Yeah, count me in.
    But we must include ending the subsidy to private health insurance companies. Mustn’t have any hidden factors.

  6. Troy Prideaux
    May 19th, 2014 at 13:24 | #6

    Megan :
    I had no idea that our first neo-con PM, Hawke, introduced GP co-payments in 1991. Arguably that allowed Keating to finally overthrow him and a few months later it was dropped.

    Worth noting however that Keating started out in politics righter that my golf slice and stayed there for much of the 80s.

  7. Megan
    May 19th, 2014 at 15:04 | #7

    @Troy Prideaux

    To be clear, Keating was our second, Howard our third…etc..

    I didn’t even realise the ALP had tried it on under Hawke until today, but my guess is that Keating dropped it because it was deeply unpopular rather than because he disagreed with the concept.

  8. May 19th, 2014 at 22:30 | #8

    TerjeP’s idea is silly and indicates how little he understands health insurance systems. Most single payer systems have some mixture of general revenue, private revenue and direct insurance contributions – see e.g. Japan’s, which delivers the best health in the world at very low cost, and with limited inequity. This is because funds from general revenue enable these systems to mitigate some of the problems that arise from out-of-pocket (private) revenue and direct insurance contributions. Of course TerjeP doesn’t understand that because he lives in a private universe of his own construction.

    In any case TerjeP’s proposal is highly unlikely to turn anyone off medicare. It would simply make medicare have a funding situation similar to the Japanese, German and French systems – all of which are very popular with their own populace. It would hardly cause the uproar he thinks, because the reason medicare is popular has nothing to do with its supposed fiscal illusions.

    There are some good arguments in favour of copayments. Certainly compared to Japan a $7 copayment would be small beer, and Japan has highly equitable health outcomes.

  9. Ken Fabian
    May 20th, 2014 at 10:17 | #9

    Most GP’s around here don’t bulk bill – with another $7 a visit would push the up front cost for uninsured to up around $20. Plus getting there and back and prescriptions to fill and potentially follow up visits – first consultation then tests then second consultation for test results and actions arising… it quickly inflates to a lot more than the cost of a couple of beers!

  10. May 20th, 2014 at 10:17 | #10

    A Joe Hockey’s contradiction on last night’s Q&A seems to have escaped attention. He claimed, I believe, that the infrastructure spending was the Government’s principle strategy to create jobs. Later he declared governments do not create jobs.

    Increasing unemployment is one of the successes of the Abbott Government, from car workers to public servants while reducing support for the unemployed. Joe Hockey evaded the hardship people will face without support other than private charities. The next government will have the option to set up a royal commission should any deaths result.

    I notice he made no rhetorical references such as “small governments make individuals large”, which he regaled his party fundraising audience, almost immediately after delivering the budget speech. That timing might well be the established practice in Canberra, and for that reason unremarked, but given the findings of ICAC in NSW and the connotation “Liberal Party Fundraiser” has now acquired, it might be seen in a different light.

  11. May 20th, 2014 at 10:35 | #11

    Ken, in Japan I think $20 would be the basic pre-insurance price for a standard trip to the doctors, with drugs. In terms of reducing unnecessary service use, $7 is probably too high, especially in areas with limited bulk billing. It would be a fairer decision if the budget had also introduced a requirement for all surgeries to bulk bill…

  12. Ivor
    May 20th, 2014 at 10:46 | #12


    Why do we always get nasty people who want to increase costs using fake claims such as:

    “10% would reflect the real cost.”

    Evidence or Terje-dogma? Why not 10.5 or 11%? Why not 9%?

    In effect Terje is arguing for a system where everyone only gets what they pay for – except capitalists who always get more than they pay for.

  13. Collin Street
    May 20th, 2014 at 12:38 | #13

    > Japan has highly equitable health outcomes.

    Japanese health statistics are not hugely reliable.


    [there are other problems: there's some evidence that japanese doctors may not be as skilled as in other countries, there's significant populations of extremely marginalised people -- homeless or in extreme poverty -- that tend to get missed, etc.]

  14. May 20th, 2014 at 15:43 | #14

    Checking with the program transcript, here is Mr Hockey’s relevant statement (Q&A:Tasmanian Youth Unemployment, 00:45:10)

    The private sector employs people. So what we’ve got to do is lift the economy – lift the economy so that the new jobs are created, right? That’s a starting point and one of the things we’re doing, for example, in Tasmania, is we’re spending a lot of money on infrastructure and we’re spending a lot of money on new initiatives that are going to help to create those jobs.

    While presumably acknowledging governments do employ people, including himself, it is not desirable that they be the direct principles in the economy as employers, although they pursue spending policies that lift the economy. The fundamental discussion is role of government and the role of corporations and their inter-relationship, including political donations and access to formulation of public policy. The ICAC reference is apposite.

    (This comment perhaps should be in the Sandpit or somewhere else)

  15. May 20th, 2014 at 15:55 | #15

    In the face of two anecdotes, Collin, Japanese health statistics are generally well-respected internationally, and Japan’s relatively low inequality is well understood. There’s a body of literature on this, you know. There are not “significant proportions” of extremely marginalized people in Japan – and there are certainly no statistics to back up this claim. Unless you want to claim that Japan’s entire vital registration system is broken (which you will be doing without evidence), I’m afraid it’s difficult to dispute the findings on health equality.

  16. J-D
    May 20th, 2014 at 16:46 | #16

    The results of a quick Web search suggest that the stigmatised ‘outcaste’ group known as burakumin could make up 1% or 2% of the Japanese population. Whether that’s a ‘significant’ proportion, I suppose, depends on your purposes. There’s definitely some basis for calling them a ‘marginalised’ group, although I expect reliable information about how their access to health services compares with that of other Japanese might be harder to come by.

  17. May 20th, 2014 at 17:52 | #17

    Good luck finding evidence of discrimination against burakumin in healthcare, J-D, or any evidence of a modern Japanese person who knows of any way to discriminate against a burakumin. And what exactly is the link between that and the relationship between Japanese healthy life expectancy and upfront healthcare payments?

  18. J-D
    May 20th, 2014 at 18:48 | #18

    Everybody knows how to discriminate against a person. It’s not a difficult thing to do. I don’t know why you imagine modern Japanese people would be an exception to this.

    I don’t know that there is any link with the subject of health care or healthy life expectancy. Maybe there isn’t. But I felt that in the context of your more general assertion about marginalised groups in Japan it was worth drawing attention to the existence of one. There are others, of course. I hope they all receive excellent health care. Maybe they do. But many people outside Japan are not even aware of the existence of burakumin, for example.

  19. sunshine
    May 20th, 2014 at 19:33 | #19

    Japan is often said to have had 20 years of stagnation ,wasted decades ,but to me it seems it would have been be a comparatively good country to live in. Everyone I know (including me) who has been there has loved it .Failure to achieve maximum possible growth is really frowned upon.

    It is frustrating that the Libs seem to be taking us down this libertarian road without being forced to clearly say so ,or explain why .They seem to be able to simply say ‘if we didnt have the courage to make the cuts now we would only have to make them later when it will be harder to do so’ .Like making the least able pay is the logical, and only, option. How can they say 500$ for 3 years for someone on 150k+ is sharing this burden- it is insulting .It is depressing to think Australians could even come close to swallowing that. The Coalition are changing the very nature of this country (yes Labor has played a part too) ,the fair go will be gone .They have no mandate to do it .For the near future we are stuffed -lots of opposition will only get it watered down a bit at best. It will still be steps in the I.P.A. U.S.A. direction.

  20. May 20th, 2014 at 19:54 | #20

    I dont’ know if I’d call the Japanese health care system the best in the world. I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s just that my impression is it could be a lot more perfecter than it is. But in terms of actual health, Japan is at the front of the world along with weird places like Hong Kong, Italy, and Australia.

  21. May 20th, 2014 at 21:04 | #21

    I propose we increase the levy to 10%, which would reflect the real cost

    The levy would then need to be roughly 10% of the taxes, not 10% of the income. So I guess shifting it from 2% to 3-4% might be a better reflection. However, if you include the surcharge, it comes pretty close to being that anyway. So if we remove the mechanisms that funnel money to the insurance companies (roll surcharge into the levy & remove insurance rebates), we’re basically set.

  22. plaasmatron
    May 20th, 2014 at 22:28 | #22

    Having lived in Australia and Japan I can attest that both systems are good. The Japanese system has people covered for 70% of their health bills up to a set limit, IIRC. THis has the advantage of not encouraging people to go to the doctor unless neccessary, but not bankrupting any who can’t afford it. The doctors in Japan were generally excellent (at least in Tokyo).

    Terjes idea of having a levy to reflect the cost of the system is ineffective. Germany, where I now reside, has a similar system where 15% of your wage is deducted toward health insurance. It is not called a tax or a levy but “insurance”. This creates the impression that one should try to get something back from their insurance “levy”, and has people visiting the doctor when not absolutely neccessary. Many old people go to the doctor for a chat because they are lonely, and because the figure they have paid for it already. (Incidentally, just this year Germany scrapped the €10 quarterly upfront visiting fee (payable on the first visit to your GP per quarter) because it was an administrative quagmire.)

    Of the three systems I have lived under, Australia’s medicare system is easily the best. The main reason is that the money for the system comes out of the general tax pool. One does not think that they should get something back from their insurance or levy that they paid for. Maybe more important is that Australians have a (generally) healthy lifestyle and good climate and are encouraged to stay fit instead of thinking that there is a medical cure for our vices.

    It seems perception is a very important part of the efficiency of a health system, both on the part of the doctors and the patients/populace. Actually the verb from the German word for tax (Steuern) means “to steer”, which creates a good perception, whilst the German word for debt (Schuld) also means “blame”, “fault” or “guilt”, which obviously has negative connotations.

  23. jungney
    May 20th, 2014 at 22:57 | #23

    Medicare is fantastic. I’ve used it for a double hernia repair and a manual removal of a kidney stone. Both ops were incredibly painful. Both ops, post op, saw me given the arse from the hospital well before I ought to have been discharged in the name of efficiency and the new policy of ‘get ‘em up and get em moving and outta here’.I toughed it out. If I had been a US resident I would have been dead or choosing death in either circumstance.

  24. May 21st, 2014 at 00:08 | #24


    And/or you would be bankrupt.

    “Medical bankruptcy” (yes, it has a name in the US) is the leading cause of bankruptcy in the US at about 60% of all bankruptcies, and that includes smug people who believed that because they had “insurance” it couldn’t happen to them – until they found out about the ‘co-payments’ etc.. that aren’t covered.

    In the US you might get a bill for $34,000 for a few hours of anaesthetic on top of the cost of surgery, hospitalisation etc…

    As a teenager I did something stupid and had a nasty compound leg fracture. Ambulance was free, hospital was free (a few weeks spent there), an orthopaedic surgeon (one of the best in the city, I was later told) did the complex operation inserting a plate and screws for free, treatment for the aviral pneumonia I picked up was free, out-patient and surgery to remove the plate a year later – all free.

    I pay taxes for this and I’m buggered if I’m going to let some neo-con fascist take it away from me and anyone else who might need it.

  25. May 21st, 2014 at 00:19 | #25

    Would the world end if Australia went back to being a high taxing country with proper medicare and free universities?

    That is, has the world changed in such a way that we would be ruined if we did this?

  26. May 21st, 2014 at 00:22 | #26

    On reflection, I think I did get a bill for the ambulance – about $120 and they were very relaxed about it, I think I paid it off over a few months once I “got back on my feet”.

  27. rog
    May 21st, 2014 at 06:45 | #27

    Battle lines between conventional and solar are intensifying and the banks are involved.

    UBS said in a report last week that while removing solar incentives may cause a short term fall in the take-up of rooftop solar, by 2018 the continued fall of solar costs, and the emergence of storage as a viable option, meant that average households might find it cost competitive to leave the grid entirely.

    They, like other investment banks such as Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs, say the emphasis is on the incumbent utilities to evolve.

  28. May 21st, 2014 at 08:18 | #28

    Hi everyone, if you are interested in defending Australia’s health system from Tony Abbott, here is a link to a letter from the Australian Health Promotion Association to Tony Abbott. http://www.healthpromotion.org.au/images/stories/AHPA_letter_to_Ministers_BUDGET_2014.pdf

    The Association is urging people to write to ministers and MPs and sign petitions. I will send further links separately.

    The cuts to public health and health promotion are egregious. It looks as though the government decided to go after all programs that were set up by the former government, regardless of how well founded. It looks as if they then got worried about the backlash and decided to set up the half baked medical research fund.

    That’s one explanation anyway. Another is that all this part of a shift towards a privatised, commercialised model of health (like what the US is finally trying to get rid of, for all the reasons you have mentioned above). The medical research fund could well fit with that also.

    It could be a mixture of all three: political revenge, fear of backlash, and long term profit-making/privatising agenda. It seems to be an extraordinarily ignorant and confused approach.

  29. I used to be not trampis
    May 21st, 2014 at 09:30 | #29

    Mr Brookes,
    Australia has NEVER been a high taxing country! NEVER.

  30. peter
    May 21st, 2014 at 10:05 | #30

    Interesting to see the Social Progress Index developed by MIT researchers as a means of international measurement – outside of economics/GDP – coming out with Australia (10th) Japan (14th) and the US (16th). NZ topped the list despite a per-capita GDP of two thirds the US figure.
    The SPI measures three abilities of a country – capacity to deal with basic human needs, institutions
    to enhance quality of life and an environment for citizens reaching full potential.
    In the face of climate change I can see a lot more consideration of ‘standard of living’ declines in the future with efforts like the SPI to ‘compensate’. (Huffington Post have a link.)

  31. Hermit
    May 21st, 2014 at 10:07 | #31

    This sounds eerily like the return of the prophet in the not quite imminent future to guide us from the wilderness. A reality check is that PV installations have nosedived since 2012. See Clean Energy Regulator REC-Registry/Data-reports. As for energy storage breakthroughs I hope it’s neither the Tesla mass produced lithium battery or newer batteries like double carbon. The former is not that cheap on a lifecycle basis and the latter hasn’t been tested in public. Considering factors like possible lack of carbon tax, the gas price and economic downturn we’ll probably burn about the same amount of coal in 2018 as we do now.

  32. May 21st, 2014 at 10:24 | #32

    @Collin Street
    A country’s mortality stats are virtually unfakeable, and are a pretty good guide to general health rates; and Japan is definitely in the top bracket there – fractionally ahead of Australia for males, materially ahead for women. I wouldn’t necessarily attribute much of that to their health insurance regime, though – much more is probably due to their comparative equality.

  33. May 21st, 2014 at 10:49 | #33

    The petition mentioned above
    “Fund health and medical research with a universal, progressive and FAIR tax – NOT with a GP tax ”

    is here

    I hope some of you will consider signing it

  34. May 21st, 2014 at 12:02 | #34

    has anyone seen this image of Abbott winking – horrifying


  35. May 21st, 2014 at 12:15 | #35

    @I used to be not trampis

    Australia has NEVER been a high taxing country! NEVER.

    I was (perhaps mistakenly) under the impression that income tax rates used to be higher. Is this wrong?

  36. TerjeP
    May 21st, 2014 at 13:53 | #36

    David Allen :
    I’ll take you up on that too Terje. Can we also put a defence levy up so we can see the enormous waste on war-toys. Which do you think people will demand be lowered?

    Hopefully they would demand we lower both.

  37. TerjeP
    May 21st, 2014 at 13:58 | #37

    “10% would reflect the real cost.”
    Evidence or Terje-dogma? Why not 10.5 or 11%? Why not 9%?

    Any of those alternate numbers would still be far more indicative than the current 1.5%. However the figure seems to be closest to 10%. To calculate this is quite simple.

    Adjusted rate = 1.5 x (federal health expenditure / revenue from current Medicare levy)

    You can get the numbers from the budget. But I’ve saved you the trouble and done the math and the answer is that a more honest Medicare levy would be 10%. Of course you could just abolish the Medicare levy instead and stop pretending it means anything at all.

  38. TerjeP
    May 21st, 2014 at 14:01 | #38

    Slightly different topic. This article on e-cigarettes caught my eye.


  39. May 21st, 2014 at 14:52 | #39

    I can’t imagine that e-cigars would catch on.

    Just wouldn’t be the same as the real thing.

  40. Debbieanne
    May 21st, 2014 at 15:15 | #40

    That man has always made me sick.
    Unbelievable, comes to mind, but is not really the truth.

    thanks for the petition link

  41. I used to be not trampis
    May 21st, 2014 at 15:19 | #41

    Mr Brookes if you are simply talking about income tax that is different to taxes as a whole

  42. J-D
    May 21st, 2014 at 15:59 | #42

    @John Brookes
    In the absence of more specific contextual information, the meaning most likely to be suggested by the expression ‘high-taxing country’ is that of a comparison to other countries, not of a comparison to the same country at a different point in its history.

  43. May 21st, 2014 at 17:06 | #43

    no I agree sadly it isn’t unbelievable – but still sets your teeth on edge doesn’t it.

    Someone I know commented that he has all the signs of a one term PM – that could be the upside I guess

  44. derrida derider
    May 21st, 2014 at 17:11 | #44

    @John Brookes

    We used to get a much bigger proportion of our revenue from income tax than other countries did (not so true now), and income tax is the most visible tax. Hence the popular impression that but our tax take was large rather than the small one by international standards that in reality it was and is.

    We currently, for example, raise about the same tax as a percent of national income as the “small government” US does (the US actually spends more than us because the gap between revenue and spending is larger there). Of course that’s after you take state level taxes in both countries into account – the Yanks have a lot more of those than us.

  45. sunshine
    May 21st, 2014 at 18:54 | #45

    Apparently the budget is far less popular with women than with men. If I could guess ,I think that is worth investigation. I think its probably part of a wider phenomena whereby ,to our peril in the longer term ,characteristics generally considered feminine are underrepresented in the public policy arena since those generally considered masculine successfully exclude them. Abbott is blokey in the extreme -wink ,wink.

  46. May 21st, 2014 at 20:08 | #46


    Maybe a reflection of the number of woman involved in drawing up the budget?

  47. May 21st, 2014 at 21:05 | #47

    I see Shrek has sued Fairfax over the “Treasurer For Sale” stories about the North Sydney Forum (or whatever it was called – the point is for $22,000 you get a certain amount of quality time with the treasurer, Hockey).

    The things have an unfortunate way of dwindling away or getting settled confidentially. In this case I think it would be lovely if Howard’s defamation amendments got a run. Howard essentially removed the dual test for a defence to a defamation action. Previously you could publish something that was defamatory of someone, and if sued you could defend the action on the basis that what you published was ‘true’ and ‘of public benefit’.

    Howard’s ‘Murdoch’ amendments removed the tricky requirement that you prove publication was to the public benefit – it simply has to be ‘true’ and away you go.

    I’m guessing the Murdoch, and other establishment media, opinionaters will suddenly forget their screeching over press freedom vis-à-vis Bolt’s “right” to vilify people (using untruths) on the basis of their race.

  48. May 21st, 2014 at 21:19 | #48


    The cigar smoker is probably upset that he is being called out. I mean, why fork out a lot of money if it won’t get you anything? The people who pay for access would be furious if it got them nothing.

  49. May 21st, 2014 at 21:23 | #49

    But back to tax. It seems that we don’t tax less than we used to, but since we seem to have a structural budget deficit, we must be spending more than we collect.

    So I guess the question becomes, “If we want to spend more, can we tax more without significant harmful effects?” I’d like to have an opinion, but I don’t know anything about this.

  50. J-D
    May 21st, 2014 at 21:33 | #50

    @John Brookes
    There are countries where the total amount collected in taxation is a substantially higher fraction of GDP than is the case in Australia, so clearly it is in some minimal sense possible. Whether they suffer significant harmful effects as a result is another question.

  51. alfred venison
    May 21st, 2014 at 21:44 | #51

    it may be difficult for fairfax to conclusively link any particular tycoon’s payment to a specific advantage gained by that tycoon from either hockey or the liberal party. fairfax will have to show more than simply say they paid 22 grand to speak with him at a function. they will have to prove that some tycoon’s 22 grand led to a specific advantage the tycoon wouldn’t have got otherwise. it could be hard for them, but if they really have that kind of evidence it would be the end of hockey, eh? -a.v.

  52. alfred venison
    May 21st, 2014 at 21:52 | #52

    and what’s a tycoon’s per diem anyway? did they blow the whole thing on lunch? -a.v.

  53. Ron E Joggles
    May 21st, 2014 at 21:54 | #53

    @Val I couldn’t watch it. I mean, it was loading, but I realized I just couldn’t bear to watch it – I don’t need to see video of our dreadful PM to know that he gets the AHOTY award!

  54. alfred venison
    May 21st, 2014 at 21:58 | #54

    and if you really want to corrupt a politician you make him/her south pacific chairman for the joint strike fighter corporation upon retirement. -a.v.

  55. May 21st, 2014 at 23:40 | #55

    @alfred venison

    We’ll see if/when the court process concludes.

    But, as far as I am concerned there is a strongly arguable defence that “Treasurer For Sale” can mean “Pay Money, Get Treasurer”. It doesn’t need to mean that you got some measurable and provable financial benefit – you could have had him at your kid’s birthday party for an hour dressed as a clown.

    You paid money, you got the Treasurer. The Treasurer, one way or another, offered that arrangement and accepted the money.

  56. May 22nd, 2014 at 00:06 | #56

    @alfred venison

    Apart from ICAC nobody is suggesting that there is “corruption” or illegality involved at all. How dare you!

    This is obviously completely separate from things like “Eight-By-Five”, “The Freedom Foundation”, “the Millenium Forum” and whatever other vehicles the LNP may or may not use to fund themselves and their PR. Shame on anyone suggesting their is any connection whatsoever.

  57. May 22nd, 2014 at 00:58 | #57

    To put it more succinctly:

    If the published words “Treasurer For Sale” are defamatory then the defence simply has to prove that the assertion is truthful.

    It seems to me that the facts, undisputed as far as I am aware, suggest that in return for certain payments to a ‘forum’ time with the Treasurer would be provided.

    The “North Sydney Forum” website puts it this way:

    By joining the North Sydney Forum you will have the opportunity to participate in a regular program of events including boardroom lunches with Joe Hockey

    Their price list isn’t there, but the AFR reproduced it last week, and $22,000 was the premium package.

    So, join the forum (which costs money) and have regular boardroom lunches with Joe Hockey.

    How is that not a “sale”?

    This will be an interesting legal argument.

  58. Fran Barlow
    May 22nd, 2014 at 06:07 | #58


    [So, join the forum (which costs money) and have regular boardroom lunches with Joe Hockey.
    How is that not a “sale”?]

    Maybe Hockey will argue it’s a leasing arrangement, or like timeshare. ;-)

  59. May 22nd, 2014 at 06:43 | #59

    @Ron E Joggles
    You’ve got me there – what’s AHOTY?

  60. John Quiggin
    May 22nd, 2014 at 07:06 | #60

    OTY= Of The Year.

    For the rest, this is a PG-rated blog, so it can’t be spelt out

  61. John Quiggin
    May 22nd, 2014 at 07:08 | #61

    Continuing the acryonyms, IANAL, but the High Court’s decisions on freedom of political comment mean this will be a hard one for Hockey to win. I suspect he’s working on the assumption that since “everyone does it”, it can’t be improper, a line which will be hard to sell to a jury.

  62. alfred venison
    May 22nd, 2014 at 08:04 | #62

    oh gee, you reckon its bribery, maybe its just fund raising. did the court say political comment has to be gratis or unconstrained by the state? and as for “everyone does it” wasn’t it the case a couple of years ago that you could buy time with gillard or swan at alp functions if you paid a big fee? you could sit with garrett for example for a smaller fee? honestly, fairfax will have to demonstrate something more sinister was up than you could pay money to have time with the shadow treasurer. and in parting, let me make it abundantly clear, because i’m going to work and will be unable to access this site: i am no friend of the liberals and i’m looking forward to this playing out. -a.v.

  63. J-D
    May 22nd, 2014 at 08:20 | #63

    I wonder whether Joe Hockey has heard of the Streisand Effect.

  64. Megan
    May 22nd, 2014 at 17:57 | #64

    @alfred venison

    fairfax will have to demonstrate something more sinister was up than you could pay money to have time with the shadow treasurer

    With all due respect, no they will not.

    Leaving aside the other matters which can, and no doubt will, be raised in their defence (such as the political commentary alluded to by JQ) – the threshold test is “truth”.

    The articles were very explicit in saying there was no evidence of corruption etc.., so that can only leave the headline (“Treasurer For Sale”) as the “publication” which he claims defamed him.

    Fairfax would only have to prove something more sinister if they had said something more sinister – all they said (I’m guessing this will be their argument) is that money could get access and it is true.

    PS: I would argue that whether it’s Gillard, Hockey or anyone else they could be truthfully described as being “for sale” if access at any time is predicated on payment of money.

  65. Fran Barlow
    May 22nd, 2014 at 20:30 | #65

    @alfred venison

    I have the figurative popcorn ready. This is defamation, and the rules of evidence and affirmative defence are not going to p,ay well for JoHo.

    To show defamation, JoHo will need to show that the headline unfairly diminished him in the eyes of reasonable folk — i.e. that fair minded folk who knew of him from things on the public record would think less of him and that the article lacked foundation in good faith.

    Good luckJoHo showing that. Even if he wins, he loses.

  66. alfred venison
    May 22nd, 2014 at 20:52 | #66

    this implication is arguably there in the headline and that’s what they’ll argue. what would an average reader make of that headline. honest to god, fairfax is going to get roasted.

    NSW Labor is gearing up its major business fundraising program for 2014-15, offering privileged access to a range of senior players, including the federal leader Bill Shorten, in a tiered pricing structure ranging from $5,000 to $15,000.

    that’s the guardian from may 5. you can get the fairfax report in the age – imo, its anodyne in comparison.

    whether the implied freedom of speech for political commentary protects political commentary that defames will be crucial & not only for this case. during the last campaign clive palmer mooted defamation action against murdoch for lying about him on fox, etc.

    btw, the ex-politician who is currently asia-pacific head tycoon for the joint strike fighter is peter reith. now there’s corruption you can shake a stick at. -a.v.

  67. May 22nd, 2014 at 21:38 | #67

    Access to the treasurer has been bought. Its wrong, and its no good Joe trying to pretend that it is not wrong.

    The fact that others do it makes no difference.

  68. Nick
    May 22nd, 2014 at 21:48 | #68

    The Age 05/05/2014

    I haven’t read the articles, and that cover doesn’t say anything to me.

    “Treasurer for sale”

    What does that mean?

  69. Nick
    May 22nd, 2014 at 21:50 | #69

    Is it this statement: “Forum took $30,000 in donations from Obeid-linked company”

    alfred, are you suggesting it’s not 100% in the public interest to know such information?

    Is that what the courts should find?

  70. alfred venison
    May 22nd, 2014 at 23:30 | #70

    my point is not that others doing is an excuse, my point is that fairfax has been easy on labor and that may be to their disadvantage in this case.

    “meet bill shorten for just $3300″ -v- “treasurer for sale”

    imo all donations from junkets should be registered with the aec. providing all donations from junkets were registered with the aec, i would have no problem with political parties holding conclaves with their “constituencies” or charging for it. -a.v.

  71. May 22nd, 2014 at 23:50 | #71

    The “starobserver” (LGBT media) had an opinion piece on June 21 2011 under the headline:

    “PM For Sale”


    In August 2010 Julia Gillard accepted an invitation to meet Brigadier Jim Wallace (retd), leader of the Australian Christian Lobby.

    Oddly enough, while she will fling herself with gay abandon into the arms of Jim Wallace or Cardinal Pell, the GLBTI community has had to stump up $31,100 for the chance of a chat with her by buying the time at a charity auction. …

    As I said – this may well be “defamatory” (diminishes reputation amongst fair minded citizens etc, etc,) BUT there is a 100% solid guarantee defence against such a claim under Australian law if the Defendant can establish “truth”.

    There are two steps (apart from “publication”):

    1. Is it defamatory?

    2. Is it true?

    If you get to 2 and answer “Yes” then it’s game over for the defamed party.

    Hockey’s claim has less legs than the cast of ‘Kandahar’.

  72. May 23rd, 2014 at 00:34 | #72

    PS: Palmer has issued his defamation claim against Qld Premier Campbell Newman (“Palmer buys Elections”).

    He and Anna Bligh quietly settled his defamation claim against her.

    Joh was briefly famous for his spectacular defamation payout from Alan Bond (when he owned channel 9) a record, at the time, $400,000.

    The deceased cannot sue for defamation. Some people have suggested that some of Joh’s defamation actions were orchestrated as a way of openly passing money that might otherwise be construed as dodgy payments.

    Alan Bond did quite well out of Queensland.

  73. alfred venison
    May 23rd, 2014 at 08:07 | #73

    well, i’ve said my two-bits, so i’m going to wait & see now. -a.v.

  74. May 23rd, 2014 at 08:53 | #74

    @John Quiggin
    Ah thanks ProfQ.

    Returning to subject of health cuts, I was discussing them with a colleague yesterday and we agreed some of the cuts to health promotion and prevention programs seem to be mainly about revenge – they’re cut because the previous government started them.

    The Australian national preventive health agency is quite small beer in funding terms, and the coag preventive programs have only a year to run. So there seems to be no point in cutting them, especially since the funding is then going to the medical research institute that is supposed to be about prevention (I don’t actually think it will be, but that’s what the press release says).

    Reminds me very much of what you (ProfQ) have been saying about right wing tribalism. Prof Peter Doherty has just called them idiots on twitter. Love it.

  75. Nick
    May 23rd, 2014 at 15:49 | #75


    I’m not sure it’s as simple as that.

    I think alfred is correct that the headline is the issue.

    “Treasurer for sale” is figurative. It’s truth value is open to interpretation.

    I’m guessing Hockey’s lawyers will argue that:

    1) The headline’s meaning is open-ended

    2) The name of a prominent ‘criminal’ was displayed in proximity to the headline

    Therefore, a reasonable person might infer that Hockey had done something illegal.

    I don’t think that holds enough water. I think Fairfax were careful not to imply illegality (those covers are remarkably tame), and the other bulleted subheadings clarify exactly what the headline refers to. Only someone who read the word “Obeid” and nothing else could arrive at that interpretation.

    But I also don’t think Hockey’s case has no legs.

    And I haven’t seen the posters for the issue. It’s quite possible they’ll be the real problem, not the cover.

  76. May 23rd, 2014 at 16:19 | #76


    As far as I’m aware Obeid hasn’t been convicted of a crime yet. And even so, if it is true that the forum accepted money from him then that is a perfect defence to whatever it is that is said to be defamatory about that aspect.

    I seem to be in the minority in my view of Hockey’s prospects, but as I said – we’ll see what the court decides if it gets that far.

  77. May 24th, 2014 at 09:04 | #77

    Libertarians are seizing on this one with glee today


    What are your thoughts John? (as someone who, unlike me, can follow the more detailed mathematical arguments)

  78. Ernestine Gross
    May 24th, 2014 at 22:23 | #78


    The “tome” has arrived at my home a few days ago. I have not finished reading it. However, I can say already that I wouldn’t pay any attention to the article you referenced.

    Prof Piketty is careful in describing his methodology, data sources and varying data qualities with respect to individual countries. By contrast, the article you referenced is a big blur and it does not involve a ‘mathematical argument’.

    Furthermore, the said article is written as if Prof Piketty’s book, Capital in the 21 Century, is a manifesto of some kind based solely on his data. But this is not the case. This book was written after many peer reviewed articles involving co-authors from the Uk, the USA, Germany, Sweden. Moreover, earlier studies on income and wealth distributions by different authors is integrated. This is how scholarship works.

    Finally, assuming someone finds an arithmetic error or a data recording error. The crucial question then is whether the removal of the error changes the conclusion. In comparison with the task embarked by Prof Piketty, corporate accounting is trivially easy. Still, accounting relies on the notion of ‘non-material errors’ (ie some invoices have been wrongly recorded but it does not affect the conclusion). Have a look at a short time series of national accounting data for say Australia. You will quickly note that at times the quaterly revisions are as big as or greater than the quarterly changes in macro variables.

  79. Fran Barlow
    May 25th, 2014 at 09:02 | #79

    The Telecrap byline is wrong — it is not Sam Maiden but Miranda Devine — the diabolical Ms M — but the article still is laughable:


    Equality is the latest lefty meme … Or something. Apparently the budget is not a utopian wealth redistribution scheme, as evidenced by meme-driven lefties claiming it’s a dystopian wealth redistribution scheme.

  80. Ernestine Gross
    May 25th, 2014 at 11:02 | #80

    Our Miranda Devine. She does add colour to the entertainment spectrum. Not everybody can, without blushing, make a living by conveying in words a state of dismay, or should I say hysteria.

    “Entitlement mentality” is a strange combination of words. Entitlement is, in the first instance, a word used to describe a right of an individual to something by legislation. For example, tax reductions due to negative gearing is possible because of legislation. Hence people are entitled to negatively gear an investment property as long as this legislation exists.

    The Treasurer talks about an end to the ‘entitlement mentality’ and then does exactly the opposite. He leaves negative gearing in place. I don’t know what the appropriate term is to describe this type of ‘mentality’ but it may be one which potentially sends some people ‘mental’ – those whose body reacts to contradictions.

  81. Ikonoclast
    May 25th, 2014 at 11:44 | #81

    Yes, entitlement is a strange beast. Originally, I guess en-titlement was when you got a title, for having a dad who had a title or for being who brought your Monarch booty and lands under the boot.

    The entitlement transmuted. It became not ownership of lands, goods, chattels and peasants as chattels. It became ownership of factories and the right to direct wage labour and appropriate surplus value.

    The common element has always been rich rewards to the non-working entitled owner and mere pittances to the rest; peasant, serf, indentured labourer or worker.

    Temporarily this was turned around with social democracy. But the turnaround was reversed by the forces of reaction. For the last 40 years, things have been going steadily the way of the entitled people again; the way of the capitalists, cronies, the rentiers, the non-working proprieters.

    Where next? Hmm, I wonder.

  82. Will
    May 25th, 2014 at 11:48 | #82

    @ Fran and Ernestine

    Having gone to the link and read the article, I desperately wish I hadn’t. Why is it that every time I read something written by an outright right-winger I feel like I have dropped a few IQ points? Perhaps it’s hypoxia from the gasping at the outright continuous fabrications, distortions and assertions of fact. She somehow also wove in that absolutely cloddish parable of “ten men going out for beer” which is just a tortured analogy of how the real world works.

  83. Donald Oats
    May 25th, 2014 at 12:14 | #83

    Are “Independent Public Schools” in receipt of Federal Government funding, or are they entirely a state-based affair? There seems to be a distinction made between good ol’ state public schools and IP schools, and now that my liar-liar detector is at full twitch, I am harbouring the suspicion that there is indeed a funding source(s) distinction. I am assuming that IP schools can also charge large fees from parents, etc.

    If this paradigm is correct, then it add an extra layer to the PM’s recent decision to say to the states that they have to look after funding their own education system. If IP schools do in fact receive federal funding, then they are in effect quarantined from the PM’s edict, and further more, they can leach teachers from the state schools. I hope I am entirely wrong about this, but the Western Australian news article I read on it didn’t provide the detail to figure it out. (Guess I could resort to WKSE, but then I’ll be getting hit with IP school ads for the rest of this life and the next.)

  84. Fran Barlow
    May 25th, 2014 at 15:14 | #84


    Not a tortured analogy, but rather, one like so many, that rather than illustrating an alleged relationship, is a self-serving mischaracterisation of relationships between things — i.e. pure cant.

    Those who go into the bar, and the barman too, are members of a society in which each bears the other certain duties that are implicit on each claiming them. This is often called The Golden Rule. Humans do not queue up as supplicants for benefit to some extra-cultural third party. Since humans first began living in groups, notions of community have driven them to share risk and benefit about, but this analogy acknowledges none of that.

    Nor is it the case that the basics of dignified existence can be compared with ‘beer’, albeit that the boss class and its mouthpieces, like Hockey and now Devine, regularly present it as such. This is populism adduced to cheat the populace by hiding the fundamental claim each of us makes to dignity and thus must warrant in others.

  85. May 25th, 2014 at 16:23 | #85

    @Fran Barlow

    As I don’t read anything from News Ltd, does she attribute the ‘ten guys go out for a beer’ story?

    I’m curious because it’s a piece of ultra-right US rubbish that has done the rounds for years. The earliest reference I found was 2000. Sometimes it is falsely attributed to professors of economics – it has been used as a study tool by some but never as the lesson it pretends to be.

    Snopes has an entry including this:

    William F. Buckley Jr. also reprinted and analyzed a version of this piece in his 21 April 2001 column for the National Review, noting only that the “parable just came in from a friend, via the Internet,” an act of appropriation that drew a stinging rebuke from The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait:
    …A few weeks ago I came across a column by William F. Buckley in the National Review Online that began: “The following parable just came in from a friend, via the Internet.” Buckley then reprinted the parable in toto, some three-hundred-words worth, and then concluded with some commentary of his own. What made this episode so odd was that Buckley apparently hadn’t bothered to check out who had written the parable to begin with. (According to my two-minute search of Lexis-Nexis, it was someone named Don Dodson of Fort Worth, Texas, in a letter to the Chicago Tribune.)

  86. Fran Barlow
    May 25th, 2014 at 22:01 | #86


    No. According to Snopes the origin of the story remains a mystery.

  87. May 25th, 2014 at 22:21 | #87

    @Fran Barlow

    No attribution?! That is typical News Ltd.

  88. Fran Barlow
    May 26th, 2014 at 00:35 | #88


    The problem is that the story has become a meme, and probably was already when people started posting it. I enjoy few things more than dumping on Murdoch, but in this case it’s entirely possible that nobody can know for sure who started it.

    The real problem is that the analogy is intellectually and ethically offensive tosh.

  89. May 26th, 2014 at 00:42 | #89

    @Fran Barlow

    That was part of my point. It’s an ancient wing-nut meme of questionable origin.

    Isn’t the real problem the fact that, today 14 years later, it is being uncritically re-run by a News Ltd hate-columnist unchallenged?

  90. kevin1
    May 26th, 2014 at 01:39 | #90

    @Will #32

    Take satisfaction that her shrill bellowing reveals the death rattle of the News media, with 2
    photos of Frances to give it relevance to today’s reader, just like the great links to stories on Bingle nudity, Jackman’s member, and Tupac’s death.

  91. alfred venison
  92. Ivor
    May 27th, 2014 at 11:45 | #92

    Libertarians are seizing on this one with glee today

    What are your thoughts John? (as someone who, unlike me, can follow the more detailed mathematical arguments)

    I have had to return my copy to the library and could not renew as someone put a request.

    However, as with climate change denialists always pop-up.

    In Australia, inequality is obviously increasing. See:


    My over view of Piketty was that:

    Capitalist inequality was obscene in first half of 20thC but was moderated after WW2 by welfare state capitalism, trade unions, and tactical need for big capitalists to divert some of their wealth to their hirelings thereby creating a new middle class.

    However by the late 70′s this was unsustainable, capitalism entered its long-run Marxist crisis and the world was captured by rightwing Fraserism, Thatcherism, Reaganism and viscious “economic rationalism”, privatisation and competition.

    Consequently inequality has increased since the 1980′s and it may be about to get a lot, lot worse.

    The Financial Times graphs (if you click through) seem to show that their supposed decline in inequality has passed through a turning point – late 70′s early 80′s.

    A turning point in inequality proxies (late 70′s early 80′s) can also be seen in Andrew Leigh’s “Battlers and Billionaires” fig2, fig4, fig6-7.

    The data is one thing, but the message is in the trend.

  93. patrickb
    May 27th, 2014 at 14:36 | #93

    Does anyone know where the figure of 1 billion dollars a month in debt repayments comes from. It’s been put about by Hockey, Abbott et al and no one seems to question it. I may be correct but I’d like to see a source. Google hasn’t assisted.

  94. Ivor
    May 27th, 2014 at 22:18 | #94

    Does anyone know where the figure of 1 billion dollars a month in debt repayments comes from. It’s been put about by Hockey, Abbott et al and no one seems to question it. I may be correct but I’d like to see a source. Google hasn’t assisted.

    Try this:


    $230 bill at 5% is 0.958 bill interest per month.

    Close enough?

  95. Patrickb
    May 27th, 2014 at 22:37 | #95

    Close enough? Not sure Ivor, where does the rate of 5% come from? Over what term is the 230 billion being borrowed? I was looking for something a little more definitive, e.g. some sort of government accounting document rather that relying on Daily Telegraph style accounting.

  96. rog
    May 28th, 2014 at 06:35 | #96

    BofE Governor Carney says that if bankers don’t lift their game capitalism is doomed.

  97. rog
    May 28th, 2014 at 06:43 | #97


    From the Budget Papers and I presume Treasury

    Net debt in 2014‑15 is estimated to decrease by $4.7 billion since the 2013‑14 MYEFO to $226.4 billion. From 2014‑15 to 2016‑17, net debt is lower compared to the 2013‑14 MYEFO. This is primarily driven by the higher value of investments held by the Government in newly established funds and other deposits. Changes in the financing requirement have also resulted in a small reduction of net debt. These decreases are partially offset by the impact of lower average yields compared to those at the 2013‑14 MYEFO, which increases the market value of Commonwealth Government Securities on issue.

  98. rog
    May 28th, 2014 at 06:48 | #98

    Also in budget papers is the public debt interest figure of $247M

  99. Patrickb
    May 28th, 2014 at 08:24 | #99

    Yes I saw that second one. It appears to me that the 1 billion a month figure is made up or at least a rhetorical device. Nonetheless it has a profound effect on some voters.

  100. Megan
    May 28th, 2014 at 08:55 | #100


    We would have a much better polity and democracy if we had a functioning media that exhibited that kind of curiosity and inquiry.

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